Jam Jam Jam

straws

On Friday, my 9-year old and I made jam using strawberries and rhubarb (with a little mint thrown in) from the garden. We got seven pints of delicious jam! He took the lead, hulling strawberries, sterilizing the jars, cooking the jam and preparing the pot for the canning. I made green soup at the same time. It was fun and all came out great.

Here’s our basic jam recipe which seems to work pretty well with the different fruits we’ve picked (strawberries, rhubarb, plums, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, and tomatoes!). 

Ingredients: 

2 c. fruit
1 c. sugar
1 t. Pomona’s Universal Pectin*
1 t. Pomona’s calcium water (come with the Pomona’s packet and you mix it up)
Thai or italian basil or mint to taste, finely chopped (we like basil in blueberries, mint in strawberries and rhubarb, ginger/clove/cinnamon in tomatoes). 
Some people also add a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice but I haven’t bothered with this as of late.

(normally I do 6 – 8 c. of fruit in a 3 quart pan, but these — above — are the base proportions).


Directions: 

1) In a large pot, boil water and sterilize jars and lids (this is the same pot that you’ll boil the jam in after it’s ready). 

2) Heat fruit and calcium water at low heat until they get mushy and star to break down and bubble.

3) Add sugar (with pectin mixed in) to fruit and cook at a medium boil for at least 3 minutes. If you’re adding basil or other flavoring, add it with the fruit. Stir only as necessary so jam doesn’t settle on the bottom.

4) Take a bit of your jam and stick it in the freezer for a few minutes and test to make sure it sets up. (It usually does, but better test up front then have to redo your jam later). If it has not set, boil longer and/or add pectin to your mixture. You can also sense whether your jam is setting by observing the extent to which the jam from your stirring spoon (once it’s sitting for a minute or two while you’re not stirring firms up).

5) spoon the jam into jars (with a sterile implement and clean hands), leaving 1/4” of space at the top. If there’s jam on the rim, outside, or in that 1/4” space, wipe it off with a super-clean cloth in hot water or with a super-clean finger.

6) close lids firmly and boil (with 1” of water at least over the tops) in your large pot for 10 minutes. (I use a vegetable strainer at the bottom of my large pot to support the jar and boil 4-5 jars at a time).

7)  remove your jars and let them cool — you’ll hear the tops pop. 

Comments:

This method has worked quite well across a variety of fruits. I have never had spoilage. I have had batches that didn’t take (or didn’t take very well) but the testing in the freezer seems to eliminate this. I tried making all sorts of jams without pectin (in this case, I usually add lemon or lime juice and have tried making natural pectin from citrus seeds, as I recall) and it worked sometimes and sometimes not. In any case, requires more boiling and I guess I like my fruit not to be overdone (though it is thoroughly cooked). You can always try a little less pectin for fruits that naturally have more pectin. Enjoy!

* I use Pomona’s pectin — it’s supposed to be a natural, low-sugar pectin, though my recipes are not really low sugar. You can also use Ball pectin but I find I have to use more to get a batch to thicken.

First Harvest

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Picked the first fruits of the garden this weekend and cooked them up into a vegetable sautée and a rhubarb crumble. Delicious!

Above: bok choy, pea tendrils (both bought from Russos as plants about a month ago), asparagus, chives, and rhubarb (all perennials).

This year, I’ll be adding some new vegetables — okra, watercress, brussel sprouts and lebanese squash (similar to kousa squash) — to accompany lettuce, spinach, cauliflower (you can eat the leaves too and they are abundant), tomatoes, long green and purple beans (an easy-growing favorite), peas, and peppers. I’ve also put verbena, lemon balm, and a new kind of mint into the garden. The thyme bush is going gangbusters: did you know you can make tea out of thyme? More pics to come.

A Salad a Day

About November when temperatures drop, my mood seems to drop with them. A number of years back I tried an all-raw diet, but found it difficult to maintain and very high in oil and nuts. I found that a salad a day was enough to keep my spirits up and made me feel both vital and nourished. Having done this now for a number of years, I thought I’d chronicle these salads in all their beauty.

January 17, 2014

January 17, 2014

romaine, baby spinach, roasted brussel sprouts, home-made dhokla, home-made sauerkraut, chickpeas, trader joe's greek feta dressing.

January 23, 2014

January 23, 2014

Baby spinach, romaine, Trader Joe's greek feta dressing, home-made left-over Poha with Tofu and roasted veggies.

January 24, 2014

January 24, 2014

I admit there's not much salad on this plate (there is some) but this is lunch on a rare date with my husband at Ritu Ki Rasoi.

January 25, 2014

January 25, 2014

Salad with Nassir and Randa. Romaine, baby greens, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sale & pepper.

January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014

Romaine, baby greens, seed mixture (raw flax seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seeds), greek feta dressing, and pao bhaji (savory indian potato in an iggy's brioche roll with sautéed sesame jalapenas).

January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014

Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak (onions, tomato, indian spices).

January 28, 2014

January 28, 2014

Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, cucumber, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak.

January 29, 2014

January 29, 2014

baby spinach, mashed avocado, olive oil, salt, pepper

February 3rd, 214

February 3rd, 214

romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, trader joe's goddess dressing

February 2nd, 2014

February 2nd, 2014

romaine, ras seeds, ranch dressing, leftover fruit salad

February 1st, 2014

February 1st, 2014

romaine, cucumber, salt, pepper, raw seeds

January 31st, 2014

January 31st, 2014

romaine, seeds, olive oil, granny smith apples

romaine, baby spinach, roasted brussel sprouts, home-made dhokla, home-made sauerkraut, chickpeas, trader joe's greek feta dressing.Baby spinach, romaine, Trader Joe's greek feta dressing, home-made left-over Poha with Tofu and roasted veggies.I admit there's not much salad on this plate (there is some) but this is lunch on a rare date with my husband at Ritu Ki Rasoi.Salad with Nassir and Randa. Romaine, baby greens, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sale & pepper.Romaine, baby greens, seed mixture (raw flax seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seeds), greek feta dressing, and pao bhaji (savory indian potato in an iggy's brioche roll with sautéed sesame jalapenas).Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak (onions, tomato, indian spices).Romaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, cucumber, greek dressing, basmati rice and chic pea shaak.baby spinach, mashed avocado, olive oil, salt, pepperromaine, baby spinach, raw seeds, trader joe's goddess dressingromaine, ras seeds, ranch dressing, leftover fruit saladromaine, cucumber, salt, pepper, raw seedsromaine, seeds, olive oil, granny smith apples

Chocolate Pie

I cut out this recipe years ago and recently brought this pie to Thanksgiving. This recipe is nice in that it is simple, gluten-free, and can be adapted to be vegan as well (just substitute coconut oil for butter and coconut milk for heavy cream). This pie is rich — almost like fudge, and benefits from the use of high-quality semi-sweet chocolate (e.g. Caillebaut). Enjoy!

chocolatepie

The Five Remembrances via Allen Ginsberg

We’ve been reading Fear by Thich Nhat Nanh in sangha and this week I have to present on the chapter on the Five Remembrances, which are as follows:

1) I am subject to aging; I have not gone beyond aging;
2) I am subject to illness; I have not gone beyond illness;
3) I am subject to death; I have not gone beyond death;
4) All that is dear to me, and everyone I love, are of the nature to change. I will grow different, separate from all that is dear and appealing to me.
5) I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir.

Interestingly, Wikipaedia is a pretty good source for context on the five remembrances as is this 2005 article in Yoga Journal by Frank Jude Boccio.

As I was working with the Five Remembrances, a song kept coming into my head — “Father Death Blues” by Allen Ginsberg, which I first heard live from Ginsberg himself in 1988 at a Jack Kerouac Festival in Lowell, MA. For me, Ginsberg’s catchy, dirge-like composition captures much of the essence of this practice: keep close to death in order to realize the preciousness of life.

Here is Ginsberg accompanying himself on the harmonium (and Indian instrument that’s closest to an accordion that he uses here in a drone-like fashion). I did my own (somewhat abbreviated version) with guitar below.

Father Death Blues Cover, by Rachael

Key Lime Pie

keylime

This is a super-easy, eggless key lime pie that I made for my son’s 9th birthday. Delicious! Friends were asking for the recipe so I’m writing it up. I don’t like to cook with eggs and turns out eggs are not at all essential to this recipe. I’ve adapted this recipe from this recipe by Jennifer McHenry of answers.com. Thanks, Jennifer.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (this was equivalent to 1 “pack” (of four) in the box I bought
6 – 8 T fat (I used 6 T. coconut oil and 2 T butter, but you could use all butter, olive oil, or combine fats)
1/3 c. sugar (option) (Jennifer’s recipe, above, uses sugar, but my husband assured me this isn’t necessary and the crust probably hold together better without the sugar).

Crush graham crackers (I used a cuisinart or blender) add sugar (if using) then add desired fat until mixture starts to take shape.

Spread mixture into a 9” pie plate, pulling it up into the edge.
Put in the freezer for at least 1 hour.
Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

Filling

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 pack (8 oz). cream cheese, softened
1/2 t. vanilla
2/3 c. key lime juice (if you don’t have key limes, regular limes work fine)
zest of 1/2 lime (I recommend using organic limes if you want to add zest, and washing limes carefully before zesting).

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour into baked pie crust, smooth of the top with a spatula (if necessary/desired) and refrigerate.

Garden June 15 2013

Garden May 24 2013

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Strawberries

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Julie's garlic going gangbusters

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Rhubarb gone wild (even after I cut a bunch of stems about a week ago to make a tart)

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Italian lettuce mix

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Cauliflower grown from seed

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Home-made trellises (metal conduit, 4' rebar, and nylon string) for tomatoes, peas, and beans

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Jacob's Ladder

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First Iris (upper left)

Mums gone wild

Mums gone wild

Mum Madness

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Raised Beds on Front Strip

Raised Beds on Front Strip

Raised Beds out Front

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First Peony

StrawberriesJulie's garlic going gangbustersRhubarb gone wild (even after I cut a bunch of stems about a week ago to make a tart)Italian lettuce mixCauliflower grown from seedHome-made trellises (metal conduit, 4' rebar, and nylon string) for tomatoes, peas, and beansJacob's LadderFirst Iris (upper left)Mum MadnessIMG_3204IMG_3201Raised Beds out FrontFirst Peony

These are the same photos — different type of display

Building and Renovation Resources

I’ve had a number of requests for information on where we got this or that item for our house (and previous renovations). Here’s a list! Feel free to email me at rachael (at) wordarountown (dot) come if you have any specific questions or want recommendations for contractors. In this project as in previous ones, I’ve aimed for high quality, high design and, to the extent possible, environmentally responsible materials at reasonable prices.

Modular Home Builder

Huntington Homes, VT. I can’t speak more highly of these folks. Great to work with, a quality product, outstanding sales and design liaison.

Kitchen Cabinets

We used IKEA boxes and hardware (you can order the cabinets without doors) with custom doors from Scherrs in North Dakota. This is a fantastic combination. The overall product is excellent (IKEA cabs consistently rated very highly on consumer reports) and door quality is much higher/better quality than IKEA while being cost competitive (even when you include shipping). I can’t be happier with the result and the Scherrs people have been great to work with over the years.

Kitchen Hardware

Pulls from MyKnobs.com Asbury Collection and knobs also from MyKnobs.com Liberty Nu-Deco.

Countertops

In this last project, we used IKEA Numerar oak butchblock for our kitchen counters. After extensive online research, we sealed them with Waterlox. Though I bought the “low VOC” sealant this product is now low VOC — it’s very strong in smell and I was happy that we had a couple months before move-in. It took more than that for the smell to go away. That being said, the counters are looking great 9 months later, though we are careful not to leave water on them.

Flooring

We used pre-finished 2 1/4” wood flooring from Green River Lumber (in Great Barrington, MA) that I bought from Highland Hardwoods in Southern New Hampshire. They delivered the flooring. Beautiful product — my contractor thought it was fantastic and the pricing was similar to Lumber Liquidators. We got red birch flooring from Green River Lumber in our last home and it was also exquisite. We used cork flooring from iFloor for upstairs.

Tile

For this house and the last, I got floor tile from Stone Tile Depot. Even with the cost of shipping (from a New Jersey warehouse the tile is very good quality and very price competitive. Great value.

Range Hood

From what I can tell, Euro Kitchen has the most stylish, reasonably priced, and nice quality (i.e. quiet and powerful) range hoods out there. We’ve used them in both of our last projects and have been very happy.

Lighting fixtures

I got light fixtures from Lighting Direct, Overstock.com and occasionally IKEA. Nice selection and good prices.

Bath Fixtures

Grohe. Nice design, high quality, reasonable price. The best value for modern, high quality fixtures that I’ve seen. I ordered through Faucetdirect and customer service and price were excellent (they shipped a number of items directly to Huntington Homes.

Paint Colors

(all by Benjamin Moore)

Exterior: Butterscotch
Exterior Trim: Beesewax
Front Door: Blue Nova
Entry area and hallways: You are My Sunshine
Baths: Moonlight
Living Room: Grape Green
Dining Room/Kitchen: Hibiscus
Guest Rooms: Light House
Master Bedroom and Mohan’s Room: Beesewax

Gathas

"Little Paper Houses"  Photo Credit: Stephanie Beck
“Little Paper Houses” Photo Credit: Stephanie Beck


Gathas are small chants, prayers, or songs that we can repeat during the day to keep us present and moving in a positive direction. They work on our habit energy, on our unconscious mind, to help us transform in fundamental ways. I’ve attached audio files since I tend to have music in me, but they can be spoken or simply thought as well — whatever works for you.

Work Gatha

(adapted from quizlet):

May this work be done in a spirit of generosity,
Not driven by ego, greed, or delusion.
May kindness sustain us and prevail in conflict.
And compassion guide us and lead us to understanding.
May we rejoice in the successes of others.
And remain unmoved by praise or blame.

Related quote (from the bhagavadgita):

“We are only entitle to the act, not the fruit of the act”

Gratitude Gatha

(adapted from The Plum Village Chant Book)

It can be nice to do this gatha in the morning when you wake up in the evening before going to bed (and anywhere in between)

(note: the three jewels are the buddha, the dharma (the teaching/the path) and the sangha (the beloved community), the ten directions are N, S, E, W, NE, SE, SW, NW, up, and down)

In gratitude to our mother and father who have given us life
We bow deeply before the three jewels in the ten directions.
In gratitude to our teachers who have shown us the way to
love, understand, and live deeply in the present moment
We bow deeply before the three jewels in the ten directions.
In gratitude to our friends who walk with us along the path
We bow deeply before the three jewels in the ten directions.
In gratitude to all beings in the animal plant and mineral worlds
We bow deeply before the three jewels in the ten directions.