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Maraschino Cherries – Pt. 1

June 29, 2011

Are you ready to make maraschino cherries?  So am I!! I just hope it works out as well as it sounds.  I’m following the directions I found here.  I’ve got more than 4.5lbs of cherries, I ran out and bought yet MORE sugar as we are just about done with the 25lb bag we got last year, and I’m ready to see if this works!

To start, I pitted all 4.5 lbs of cherries after rinsing them carefully and picking out any “going bad” cherries.

The pitted cherries will be soaked overnight in a brine solution of:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tbsp pickling salt
  • 4-1/2 pounds pitted sweet cherries

Tomorrow comes the sugar!

 

 

Cherry Season

June 27, 2011

This past weekend cherry season started up here, and we headed to Fix Bros. to PYO! I have big plans for cherries this season and none of them include making cherry jam! (I have enough from previous years still sitting in my pantry).  This year I managed to convince my dad to come picking with us, and he did so mainly because he loved that cherry jam I gave my parents last year SO MUCH he wants to make some of his own.

K wants to make another batch of his cherry wine this year so we needed to pick 18lbs alone just for that! I have my eyes on a variety of other things, so we ended up with 35lbs!

The rain that occurred EVERY. SINGLE.DAY last week had done a number on the cherries. The ones on top of the hills were delicious, where the cherry trees at the bottoms were waterlogged, and many were moldy.  You could tell the difference in weight too!  A bag of cherries we picked from the bottom of the hill weighed only 8lbs, but from the top of the hill weighed 12.

Still, we found many beauties!

This year, cherries were later than normal, so we ended up picking the first week, whereas we usually pick the second.  (Yes, isn’t it amazing that cherry season lasts only 2 weeks per year?) There were so many more Ranier cherries than I’m used to! They’re usually all picked out by the time we go.

Look at the beautiful colors. The Rainiers are obviously on the right, and the sweet cherries on the left.  I thought I might actually have enough for a small jar of Rainer cherry jam, but we decided to save them for eating throughout the week instead.

Tonight, while K worked on his cherry wine, I spent much of the evening pitting another 5lbs for my next cherry project- Maraschino cherries!  It’s a 3 day process, but stay tuned to see if I can do it right!

 

Locally Grown Beer

June 22, 2011

Catching up on my Google news alerts, I came across this one from May…

The Union Square Greenmarket in NYC has started selling its first locally grown beer!  Tundra Brewery in Stamford NY (somewhere between Oneonta and Albany) grows its own barley and hops and flavors its ale with the farm’s own maple syrup.

Training the hops to climb up the trees/poles

Read more: Beer Straight Off the Farm

I’m not sure if Tundra Brewery is available to visit, but so far it can be bought at certain NYC farmers’ markets and ‘Wichcraft Sandwich shops in NYC.  I hope they open near where they live soon so us upstaters can try a product that comes from our own backyard!

 

* – The above pictures and more information can be found on Tundra Brewery’s facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tundra-Brewery/215241468495290

Make Your Own Hand Soap

June 20, 2011

When we bought our home a few years ago (egads, almost 5! Where did the time go?) I, feeling all domestic and very adult for the first time in my young adult life, went out to the store to look for hand soap to go in my new, adult bathrooms.  There were lots of choices, and I admit I found myself leaning towards the pretty pastel ones, of peach and lavender.  But even despite the dozens of choices, I noticed that the one thing they all had in common was that they were antibacterial.  I actually couldn’t find one that WASN’T antibacterial.

In the world of today, where hand sanitizer can be found on everyone’s desk and there are dispensers on every wall (they are at work, I swear) it’s hard to remember that antibacterial is not the cure-all for everything in life.

Triclosan is the main ingredient in antibacterial items, which include not only soaps, but also things like cutting boards, cosmetics, and even childrens’ toys. The problem is that antibacterial properties are intended to inhibit (or destroy) the growth of other microorganisms, but people forget than some microorganisms are good for us.  Probiotics anyone?

Ever since I bought those hand soap bottles years ago, I’ve been refilling them with castile soap in an effort to reuse the bottles but use non-antibacterial soap.  Castile soap isn’t the cheapest, but I buy in bulk and dilute with water and it lasts a long time.

An old hand soap bottle, labels peeled off and washed out.

I buy my castile soap in bulk to cut packaging waste, but I’ve had this batch for years now, and it’s started to crystallize.  No worries.

Castile soap doesn’t go bad.  Just give it a stir to mix everything back together.

You can put as little as 2 teaspoons of castile soap per bottle and fill the rest with water for a soapy squirt whenever you need. It’s a little too liquidy for me though, so I put about 1/3-1/2 castile soap with the water.  I also buy unscented castile soap, so I add some lavender oil for a lovely smell.  It lasts a very long time and I’m not bringing triclosan into my house!

Hello Again

June 19, 2011

Oh my friends. It has been awhile. It has been a very tough few months.  I could not begin to tell you it, nor do I want to (nor do you really want to hear it).  So, moving on it is. I apologize for my sudden reappearance and original disappearance. I had high hopes in May, but life got away from me.

And now it’s nearly July, and what do I have for you?  Not much yet, but things should be picking up soon.  The garden is in full swing, but it is a far cry from last year. A very late start, a terrible spring (wait, what spring? It jumped from winter to summer) and it doesn’t look like we will have much, if any, peas this summer.  Oh well…there’s always the fall.  The tomatoes (and garlic) are coming along jumpingly!

Also, it’s cherry season! And I do not plan on jamming this summer as I have so much in my pantry right now from the last two years, it’s almost frightening.  But I have lots of plans for cherries we’ll be picking soon anyway! Stay tuned.

So…I’m coming back.  Forcing myself, in a way, because this is something I love and when I get into it I really enjoy it. Sometimes you have to force yourself out of your funk to remember those things that make you happy. It’s hard, but occasionally you get a glimpse of that feeling and it makes you want to do it some more.

More preserving, more green living ideas, and we’ll see what I can make of this.  I’ve got to get back to the crunchiness that makes me happy.

Springtime is Here!

May 1, 2011

After a very long winter, and what seemed like a month of rain, K and I finally got out to the garden with the help of our friend, A, who will be “farming” 1/3 of our plot with us this season. We’re a month behind, but we finally planted green peas and onions and more garlic (we have garlic from last year doing really well).  We’ve started a bunch of other seeds at the house, including pumpkin, winter squash, cucumbers, tomatillos, peppers and more, and we’ll be buying tomato seedlings at the market in a few weeks when the danger of frost has passed.

Today was the first outdoor day at the Greenmarket, with new vendors and new foods! Every year it feels like the market gets bigger and bigger! And of course, those delicacies that can only be found for a few weeks in the wild each year:

Ramps! Glorious ramps! Ramps are wild leeks, and they are tasty in many recipes! You can check out a recipe for Ramp and Buttermilk Biscuits here.

For the first time ever, Barber had Fiddleheads!

Fiddleheads are the young, tightly wound leaves of the Ostrich Fern that can be eating just like any other green, by frying or boiling or steaming.  To prepare fiddleheads, remove all the brown, papery bits, and wash the fiddleheads several times in clean, potable water. Discard water.  Bring clean, slightly salted water to a boil, and boil steadily for 10 minutes, or steam for 20 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t eat them raw – it may cause food poisoning. Then you can saute them like spinach or asparagus the way you like it!

A new vendor showed at the market today – a pasta maker using local, organic pasta! OMG!

Man, I forgot to write down the name of the farm the wheat comes from, but it’s also locally milled by Flour City Milling.  The pasta is a pricey at $8/lb, but we decided to try it at least once.  And given that it’s all local, I can see why it’s so pricey.

We got 100% emmer fettucine, which is a kind of wheat very close to farro. Higher in fiber than normal whole wheat, it’s very healthy for you (but not good for wheat allergies or celiac sufferers).  Can’t wait to try it later this week.

We still have some green beans in the freezer, but other than that, our freezer is pretty bare of veggies.  Luckily, spring time is here with its plethora of greens and it’s only going to get better now!

Sprouting Seeds…

April 20, 2011

…Or rather, one.

That’s right. I’ve planted a total of 10 seedlings so far this year. I haven’t even started my tomatilloes yet.  But this little zucchini plant doesn’t care how much of a slacker I’ve been!

The rain has been keeping us away from the garden. If I had raised beds, this wouldn’t be so much of a problem, but since we don’t, mucking around through the mud is not my idea of a good time unless for a good reason (like taking care of already sprouted plants).  But we haven’t even planted our peas yet. Uh oh.

However, we did pick up 10 gallons of chicken manure from Phil (Coopers Ark Farm) at the Greenmarket the other week.  It stunk so badly we brought it to the garden right away (I’m not sure why we thought we could store it in our garage for a week before we went back to the garden?) Um, no.

I’m sure the manure AND the rain have turned our garden into a great smelling pit of blackness :)

Hopefully it will just make everything grow even better later on.