Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let's try this again!

I have had so much fun posting once a week to my weaving group's blog, Loomy Tunes, that I have decided to go ahead with this blog on my own.  Life has changed enormously since my first posting.  My hair is short, for one thing.  I have new pets, a new house--almost 2 years ago-- a new job, a new relationship.  So, on to the next adventure!

I don't bake for a living anymore, for one thing.  I'm now called The Preservationist, a fancy title for the person who cans.  I make jams, jellies, pickles and preserves, all day long.

This is what my kitchen looks like when I've been busy.  This weekend, I made 255 jars of blackberry jam, and I'm not sure how much work that sounds like, but it took from 8:30 in the morning until 5:15 in the late afternoon, running full tilt.  Five batches, 300 pounds of berries, 150 pounds of sugar and 150 ounces of lemon juice.  One of the things I like about this job is that, at the end of the day, I usually have something to show for what I've done.

Yesterday, I prepped lemon thyme marmalade.  I washed the lemons, peeled them with a vegetable peeler and cut off all the white pith.  I cut the zest into fat cubes and blanched it all 3 times, bringing it all to a full, rolling boil, boiling for 3 minutes, draining and rinsing in cold water until it was all cold.  Thursday, when I return from my days off, I'll cut the segments out the membranes, put the membranes in a cheesecloth bag and put it all, segments, zest and cheesecloth bag, in the kettle with half its weight in sugar added.  I'll boil that for 10 minutes, pour it out into big buckets and refrigerate it over night.  Friday, I'll pour it back into the kettle, add half its weight in sugar, stir well and boil it for 10 minutes.   I'll pour it into clean buckets and back into the fridge it'll go.  Saturday, it goes back in the kettle, and I'll cook it until the sugar concentration is 65%.  I will turn off the kettle, throw in a fistful of Thyme leaves and stir well.  I'll pour it into jars, seal the jars and sigh with happiness.

The day before, I made pickled beets and strawberries.  This is a picture I took last year when I made them the first time.  This time, they came out much darker--no idea why--but I forgot to bring my camera.  The recipe is based on my boss's beet and strawberry salad, his strong suggestion that I pickle them and my dessert background.  I toss a bunch of strawberries with lemon and sugar in a big metal bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it over a pan of boiling water.   In about an hour, the strawberries have exuded all their lovely juice into a clear strawberry consomme.  I drain the ugly dead-looking strawberries out and use the consomme in the pickling liquid, with distilled vinegar, pink peppercorns, black mustard seed, salt, sugar and pickling spice (cinnamon, allspice, cloves, hot peppers, black and green peppercorns, fenugreek, celery seed).  I thinly slice peeled beets and thickly slice more strawberries.  When the liquid has boiled for 3 minutes, I throw in the beets and take it off the heat.  The messy part begins when I cram the beets into the jars and put strawberries in between layers of beets.  Pour in the liquid and put the lids on, while everything is covered with gorgeous hot pink sticky liquid.  I put them in the tilt skillet, a humungous frying pan kind of thing, that is filled with boiling water, lined with an oven rack to keep them off the surface of the skillet.  I boil them for 25 minutes, let them sit in hot water for 5 minutes and take them out to cool on towel-lined sheet pans.  The next day, they're cool enough to wipe the jars, label them and put them away until someone orders them.

This morning, my day off, I'm working on this, making some sourdough bread and getting ready to go to the center to meet my weaving buddies.  Bella wants desperately to go for a walk and can't understand why I've been sitting so long in one place.  The sourdough is from a starter I made 6 years ago, when I first moved to Tennessee and wanted to change the way we made bread at the hotel.  I took 8 ounces of Belgian dark beer, made in a yeasty cave over there and mixed it with 8 ounces of unbleached flour.  I let it fester for a week, then fed it twice a day for a week.  When I brought it into work, it exploded on the passenger seat of my car, a mess that never completely came out of the upholstery.  That starter lives on, in two forms--one "liquid," one "stiff"--but I no longer make the bread.  My friend, Krissy, does that and teaches other to do it, too.  She's carried the bread program far beyond my aspirations, but I still get to go over and steal a little starter now and then!

Time to get on with my day!  I'll send this out to the blogosphere, and hope that someone out there enjoys it!


LA said...

You Go, Girl!!! I hope you keep this up. Do you want me to link you to the TW blog??? I can, you know. BTW, the pickled beets and strawberries sounds very interesting. When I was growing up, we canned pickled beets every summer. That's the only way I like them!

Maggie said...

You're my first follower!

Tina said...

Way to go Maggie, now we will be able to keep up with what's shaking at work!