Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Brilliant Son

This is a link to an article about my son and his sandwich cart in Nashville.  I've bragged about him before, but I just can't help myself!  I'm so proud of him and all the hard work he's done to get where he is.  If the link doesn't work, simply go to and look for the Chef du Jour article.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Okra Update and Injury

  This past week in the Preservation Kitchen has been a busy one.  We've got 1178 jars of pickled okra, but have also been making a lot of blueberry jam, over 200 jars.  We still have 5426 jars of okra to go, a daunting number, and one I'm going to have to report to Chef Feathers.  I just don't think we're going to be able to finish by ourselves before okra is out of season, especially with this relentless heat.  We'll have to get the pickling/jamming company we've been talking with to take it over, or I fear mutiny.  Abby and Dustin are as tired of okra as I am, and my thumb is twice its normal size, due to my okra stuffing technique.   Abby's breaking out in a rash and has had to start wearing gloves to handle the prickly, slimy stuff.

Thumb, shown actual size and color:  Ouch 
  My thumb is so sore, I couldn't start in on my stack of white blouses.  Normally, I walk Bella two miles in the morning, after coffee and before my shower.  Today, it's 83, with a zillion percent humidity.  There is no way I'm walking in that, though that's a little difficult to explain to Bella.  So, I thought I'd sew a little before work.  I couldn't even push a pin into interfacing!  
White blouses waiting
  Today, I'm getting at least 30 gallons of blueberries delivered, and washing and labeling the 222 jars of okra we pickled yesterday.  Blackberries are almost done, due to the heat, but I have about 50 pounds of them ready to go today, as well.  So, full day, even without okra stuffing!
  Stay cool, drink lots of liquids and hope for rain!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Only the beginning

When I came in this morning, there was okra everywhere.  There was so much okra, it was trying to escape from its boxes.

And it seems like a lot.  Well, it is a lot.  But even though we pickled 528 jars, we still need 6024 more.  Now, I'm not the biggest okra fan around.  A lot of people think it's yummy--you know who you are--and I admit to eating some since I've moved to the south, and even making mmmmmm sounds.  I want to fit in, after all.  But it's hairy and prickly and mucilaginous.  I don't trust people who are any one of those three things.  Why would I eat a vegetable that's all three?
  My thumb hurts from pushing it down into the jars.  My thumbnail is blackened with the slime.  It took three washings to get my hands to stop being slippery.  I'm not whining.  I'm just trying to imagine 6024 more jars.  And it took me the better part of the day to wipe all the jars, date them, label them and pack them into boxes.

But it's done.  Someone has instructions to pick it up tomorrow and put it away before it's replaced with more.  I have the next two days off, which I assure you will be absolutely okra-free.  I will weave and sew and clean and launder, hang out with friends and read a book.  If I see any okra, I will turn away.

Friday, July 16, 2010


  Today was the start of Okra-Palooza, that very, very local festival taking place in the preserve kitchen at Blackberry Farm.  You didn't hear of it?  Didn't get your tickets?  Aren't dressed for it?  Don't feel badly!  It was by invitation only, three invitations maximum.  We are making 6,604 jars of pickled okra for an outside customer, and okra is currently at the height of the season.  300 pounds of okra came in, at the very same time that 6,000 jars came rolling in.
  Abby and I finished labeling all the jam made in the last two days just in time, too.  The tables were clear, cleaned and sanitized.  The boys--okay, they're mostly in the 30's, but they're boys to me--got the jars off the truck and pushed them over to the loading dock.  I called around and walked around the restaurant with the Chef, finding room for the jars.  Eric brought in the okra, and Abby started washing it.  Dustin and Eric shuffled jar boxes here and there, stacked as high as was safe.  I started washing jars and traying them up.  I called the jar company and asked where the 7,000 lids were.  They are on their way, but from a different location; they'll be here Tuesday.  I sure hope so!  Because the other 6,000 pounds of okra start pouring in on Thursday!
  Abby, Dustin and I stuffed four cases of okra into jars, got the water boiling in the tilt skillet, made the brine and sealed the jars.
  We have the first 111 jars done.  Only 6493 to go!  We can do it!  I'm pretty sure...

Monday, July 12, 2010

SOMEONE wove it!

I haven't been weaving at home this week.  I've been waiting for the last yarn for the Clinch Valley afghan, which I should get tomorrow, and I can't wind Jennifer's warp by myself.  So, I've been sewing!  Today was the perfect day to stay in the sewing room, while the rain fell and my furry entourage hovered nearby.

First, I finished the latest peasant blouse, one I've been working on in short bursts all week.
I love it!  I made a skirt from this fabric five or so years ago, and had a lot of scraps left, enough to make this blouse.  The pattern is the same peasant blouse I've been making lately, shortened.  Then, I dug out a blouse I started a few years ago and set aside because I'd gained too much weight to wear it.
It fits now--thanks, Bella!--and it looks much cuter on than it does in this picture.  
The next one was disappointing.  Mom gave me a linen dress she'd cut out, a long dress with pin tucks in the bodice and a tie at the back.  I didn't like it and didn't want it as a dress, but the fabric is gorgeous, sort of shiny, peach linen.  I cut off the bodice to make into a blouse, and used the leftover from the skirt to cut out another blouse.  This is the bodice, and it just looks awful on me!  It's much prettier on the hanger!  I've just started on the other blouse, a pattern I know it will look good in, having made it three times previously.  This blouse will probably have to go to Goodwill, because there's no sense in putting it in the closet!
I wanted to take pictures at work, because we've been so incredibly busy with all the summer fruit and vegetables, but I realized I've posted similar photos before, and just because I get excited every morning when I see the beautiful colors, it doesn't necessarily follow that you will!  This week, we made more white nectarine preserves, more blueberry jam, more wild blackberry preserves and lots of bread and butter pickles.  They're all so beautiful, and they all smell so good!  Trust me on this!

Monday, July 5, 2010


Mmmmmmm... July!  My favorite month!  And not just because it closes with a bang, my birthday!  I love all the fruits and veggies that are at their best in July.   I love the long days, intensely blue skies, reasons to jump in cold streams, windows open at night to listen to a million creaks and whistles and croaks.
  I haven't been weaving this week.  The last person to share their yarn for the afghan project just brought it to Pat, and I'm waiting for her to finish with it.  The turned overshot is still waiting to be threaded, waiting for my little brain to work out how to proceed.  The other night, as I drifted off to sleep, I did ponder it, and had a tiny breakthrough, but honestly, I'd rather sew.
  Friday, Mom cleaned out her fabric stash and gave me piles and piles of luscious linen.  It's in the dryer right now, and will be pressed later today.  I've been through my patterns for the right blouses, skirts and jackets to make, and need to make a trip to JoAnn's for more patterns, lots of thread and a few zippers.  My fingers itch to get started making my new summer collection!
  Mom and I will be barbecuing later today, since I worked all day yesterday.  The nectarines above became the first stage of preserves, as did 50 pounds of plums.  52 pounds of blueberries delivered at 8 yesterday morning are now 90 jars of jam.  Lots of guests peered through the window at my progress, and I smiled and waved, but was secretly glad I couldn't let them in.  The FDA prohibits the general unwashed public in my kitchen when I'm jamming, so I only have to be cordial in short doses.  That suits my personality best, as most of you know!
  I leave you with more white nectarines, waiting for their bath of boiling water, then ice water to lose their peels yesterday:
Happy July!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Avalanche of Summer Fruit

  All Winter and Spring long, I knew this would happen, and I was a little nervous, but it's so much easier with someone helping!  Absolutely EVERYTHING is ripe this week!  When I took this picture, wild blackberry preserves were cooling on the far table, white nectarines--preserved in the foreground and raw in the very back--are ready and blueberries from down the road were in the kettle.
Abby was pitting plums most of the afternoon, a tedious process, and with these Santa Rosa plums, the pit is half the fruit!  But we ended up with over 35 pound of fruit from 50 pounds, and it's going to be jam today.  It's one of the only fruits I need to add pectin to, to make it stand up a bit.  Cherries, peaches and plums contain absolutely no natural pectin, so they need a little help.  I count on the peaches' bulk of fruit to make up the difference, but these plums, because I mill out the peels, don't have much else to make up for it.  I just ordered--at 4:25 a.m.!--a case of Granny Smith apples to make apple pectin before I cook these to jam.  Equal pounds of green apples cooked whole in water, strained twice, will make enough pectin to the weight of these plums to make them set up.  Confusing sentence...  but it works.
  I brought the plums, with sugar and lemon juice, to their first boil late yesterday, and the color afterwards was so beautiful!  But I wanted to get home, so no photo.  Maybe today!
  I will leave you with the color of white nectarine preserves, glowing orange in their jars.

We spooned this over our pancakes at lunch, and it was like biting into summer.