Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Turning (Rose) Water into Wine

A few weeks back our wild rose bushes were in full bloom.  There were enough flowers to fill many, many quart containers and the smell was divine.  I stopped picking after about 2 quarts of petals had been harvested (my eldest daughter was done getting pricked by the thorns at that point) and brought them inside to make rosewater.  


I had it in my head that I'd be using the 2 quarts of rosewater that I ended up making in tons of different recipes, but then my fascination with strawberries took over and I lost track of time.  A few  weeks later, my rosewater was still sitting in the refridgerator, looking forlorn...  and I decided to use the whole container in one go!

The result was an amazing smelling sweet rose petal wine!

Rambling Rose Water Wine
2 quarts prepared rose water
2 quarts water
2 lbs white sugar
1 cup white grape juice
1 package wine yeast
1 tsp pectic enzyme
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 1/2 cups orange juice (or 1 1/4 cup white grape juice with a splash of lemon juice in it) at room temperature
1 tsp acid blend

Bring rose water and regular water to a boil in a large pot.  Add the sugar and grape juice concentrate.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Let sit, well covered for 24 hours.

In a jar make a yeast starter culture by combining the wine yeast, pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient, and juice of choice.  Cover and shake vigorously.  Let stand 1 to 3 hours, until bubbly.  Then add to the must.

Add the acid blend and pour the mixture into a food-grade plastic bucket.  Cover loosely and allow to sit for 1 week.  Rack the liquid into a 1 gallon airlocked fermentation vessel.  When fermentation has stopped, rack the wine into bottles.  

Wait at least 6 months before sampling.

Monday, July 21, 2014

And, Just Like That, Harvest Season Is Upon Us. OMG Zucchini and Blackberries!

Starting at around the 4th of July, our wild black raspberries were ripening.  The bushes have been yielding a bit more than a quart every-other-day and we've been gorging on them, and filling the freezer with the rest.  I plan on making wine, and jam as I have in the past, and they're also fantastic with
(soy)icecream or used instead/alongside strawberries over shortcake. 


I'll include the wine and jam recipes as I get around to them.

Another garden staple around here has been zucchini!  If you've ever grown this vegetable, or know anyone who does, you know that once they start producing, LOOK OUT because they'll take over your entire kitchen!  There's never a shortage around here despite the fact that I haven't actually grown any for the last few years.  I got a bagful at the farmer's market for .75 each and have been playing happily ever since. 

So far I have made zucchini soup, zucchini bread, sliced zucchini on the grill, zucchini in kabobs, and sausage/zucchini pizza on the grill.  The recipes for soup and bread are designed specifically to use up zucchini.  Like, those HUGE ones you can't figure out what else to do with!

Ur-Oma's Zucchini Soup
modified so it's Paleo!
 3 lbs chopped zucchini (or a bit more)
1/4 lb chopped bacon
2 cloves chopped garlic *or 1 garlic scape, if you can get one*
                                                   Seasalt to taste
black pepper to taste

*garlic scapes are a little past prime this time of year.  I got a dozen of HUGE tough/almost woody ones from the market for $1.00.  They're great for pickling and that's what I'm intending them for in the next few days.  I used a scape in this soup recipe, and then had to strain it out at the end before serving*

In a large pot, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil at medium heat.  When the zucchini are fork tender, remove the garlic scape, and puree the soup in batches.  Serve with crusty garlic bread and enjoy!!


 
This recipe could easily be doubled if you really REALLY want to use up some zucchini, and it freezes beautifully.
 

Zucchini then proceeded to made it's way into our dessert on Sunday night.  The kids LOVE this bread!

OMG What Do I Do With This HUGE Zucchini ?! Bread

  3 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup honey
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup olive oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 tsp lemon juice



Preheat oven to 350 f.  combine eggs, oil, water, zucchini, cinnamon, honey, sugar, and lemon juice. 


 Mix wet ingredients into the remaining dry ingredients. 


Bake in 2 seperate loaf pans that have been well oiled and floured.  

Bake for 1 hour, or until a knife comes out clean.  

This recipe can easily be doubled as well and freezes nicely.
Enjoy!





Monday, July 14, 2014

Strawberry season going out with a BANG! Strawberry Rhubarb preserves and Fresh Strawberry Cake with "buttercream" Frosting

Well, strawberry season is winding down, and I thought it best to have it go out with a BANG this year.  I made the last of the strawberry harvest into preserves with some leftover rhubarb that I had frozen a couple of weeks back.  And, I'd also like to take this opportunity to share my favorite cake recipe, ever.  This cake doesn't screw around or make excuses.  It's a full-blown from scratch birthday cake-style treat that includes Dairy-free buttercream frosting. 

We'll start off with the preserves.  If you aren't making your own preserves ( jam and jelly) yet, you really should.  It's incredibly easy and doesn't take as much time as you might think.  I made 5 jars of Strawberry- Rhubarb Jam that I'm keeping in the refridgerator.  The first jar disappeared after about 3 days, and another jar could easily be used as an AMAZING strawberry cake layer filling/ fruit topper.

Honestly, I just follow the recipe on the Certo pectin box, but I'll write it down here just you can all see how easy it is:

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam.  Preserving The Season!
1 package Certo liquid fruit pectin
2 pints strawberries cored and crushed
1 lb chopped rhubarb stalks
6 1/2 cups white sugar


5 pint mason jars with rings and caps.  

Wash out your jars  and lids with hot soapy (antibacterial) water.  Set aside to dry.  Prepare your fruit and put it in a large pot.  Stir in the sugar and bring the mixture to a rolling boil on medium heat. 

 Add Certo and return to a full boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Ladle your mixture into the jars and cap.  Leave on the counter to cool and seal themselves.  Store in the refridgerator until you're ready to use them.




Enjoy as is, OR use as a filling between the layers of this EPIC fresh strawberry cake:

Fresh Strawberry Layer Cake with Buttercream Frosting
Modified from http://www.jasonandshawnda.com/foodiebride/archives/1088
  • 24 oz very ripe strawberries, hulled (or no-sugar-added frozen strawberries)
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (optional)
  •  
  • For the cake:
  • 1/3 cup Soymilk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp Earthbalance brand Margarine (1 1/2 sticks), at room temp
  1. Hull, slice and toss fresh strawberries with a teaspoon or two of sugar and cover. Let them sit at room temperature until juicy.
  2. Puree strawberry mixture  in a blender 
  3. Reserve 3/4 cup puree for the cake.
  4. Use leftover puree to fill the cake or fold into the frosting, if desired. OR use some of the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam from the above recipe!
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8- or 9-inch pans: oil and flour the pans well
  6. In a small bowl, combine puree, soymilk, eggs, and vanilla and mix with a fork until well blended. In  the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and mix to combine. Continue beating at slow speed and add butter. Mix until combined and resembling moist crumbs.
  7. Add wet ingredients and beat at medium speed for about 1 minute or until  evenly combined. Stop mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl and hand beat for 30 more seconds.
  8. Divide the batter evenly among the pans
  9. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (time will vary). Let cakes rest in pan for about 10 minutes and turn out onto wire racks. Let cakes cool completely before frosting!

Dairy-Free Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 cup Earth Balance Margarine (or Palm-oil based Shortening *contains no transfat)
  • 4 cups corn-free confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 T. plain unsweetened almond milk or soymilk
In a large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, cream the margarine until fluffy. Add the confectioners sugar gradually, beating at a low speed until combined. Turn up the speed to high, add the remaining ingredients, and beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Chill slightly before using.



Assemble your cake!  Put the Jam layer in between the two cake layers, and then frost with buttercream!

I hope you all enjoyed strawberry season as much as I did this year!   


Saturday, July 12, 2014

What's Strawberry Season Without Strawberry Shortcake?


We made our annual obligatory strawberry shortcake and it's super-easy, super tastey, and loved by everyone in our household.


Strawberry Shortcake
modified from Food Network's recipe

2 cups All Purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons Margarine (I use Earth Balance)
2 tablespoons shortening (Earth Balance brand)
3/4 cup Soy Milk
Melted Margarine to brush shortcakes
Sliced Strawberries in sugar

Soy Ice Cream, if desired (and my kids ate it with whipped cream and sprinkles!)



Heat oven to 400 f.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in margarine and shortening. Mix in Soymilk. Drop by large spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. 
 
Bake for 15 minutes or until brown. 
 
Cool and eat with berries,  and/ or Soy Icecream.   I find that if you make a syrup with the berries natural juice and sugar, you don't even need the icecream... unless, of course, you want to add it!

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dolmades: From Foraging, To Table

Back in June I picked and pickled a jar of wild grape leaves when I found them newly growing on the vines in the hedgerow by our house.  A couple weeks later, I've decided to turn them into dolmades!  They were fairly easy to put together, and I loved the flavor combination.

Upstate New York Wild Dolmades
1 cup al dente cooked brown rice
1 onion chopped fine
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp dry parsley
olive oil to coat pan

Cook onion, fennel seed, garlic and parsley with olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat until onion becomes translucent.  Mix in brown rice over low heat.  
Transfer filling mixture into a bowl and let cool. 

Open the jar of grape leaves and spread each individual leaf out on a flat surface.   Reserve the liquid in the jar.

There should be just enough filling for an entire jar of leaves (about 30-40, depending on the size of the leaves).

Roll filling inside of the leaves to form little "cigar" shapes

 and put the formed dolmades into a skillet.  Fill the skillet with the liquid from the grape leaf jar and additional clear water until liquid is half way up the dolmades.  
Cover and simmer on low until the grape leaves are fork tender (very quick for early-season leaves).  

Either eat warm, or chill and serve. 

Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nettle Beer Is Ready: The results from my Summer Solstice weed walk

The Summer Solstice was a busy day around here! And the beer that resulted from my nettle harvest is ready (in just under 2 weeks).  It's carbonated, zingy with a large dose of citrus, and has the bitterness of mature nettle that is reminiscent of Cascade hops.

*side-note*    Mature stinging nettle, in our area, is bitter. Not completely unpalatable...but my kids and husband did not appreciate it in the soup that I made.  If you're using your nettle in a food recipe that you do not want to be mildly bitter, use young nettle early in the season.  I'll be trying this again next May, since I now know where there's a large patch of it.

And now, on to the beer!

Summer Solstice Nettle Beer
24 oz nettle tops (approximately 2 Wegmans Club Pack Salad Mix containers)
 1 gallon water 
1 lb. white sugar
Juice of two lemons
 Beer yeast

 ** Safety note:  ALWAYS wear gloves when handling raw nettles!  They sting like crazy!  Once the nettles have been boiled for a few minutes, their sting is deactivated, and they are safe to handle.**

Boil the nettles for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a colander or sieve into a sterilised foodgrade plastic bucket.  There'll be a little leftover in your pot. 

Stir in the sugar  until dissolved. Leave to cool to room temperature. Pour cooled mixture into a 1 gallon carboy (there will be come leftover) and add the lemon juice and the yeast. Cap with an airlock.

Let it ferment for about 10 days, or until it stops bubbling.  

Ready to drink at this point, or you can siphon it off into bottles and chill it in the refridgerator. 





 The leftover nettle "tea" is great plant food before you add the sugar and other ingredients.  My girls watered the flowers with our leftovers.






Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fresh Strawberry Wine Homebrew






We picked 6 quarts of strawberries on the Summer Solstice, as you may recall.  2 for eating (and pancakes), 2 for wine, and 2 for strawberry rhubarb jam. 

I got the wine going right away that day and it has been wildly fermenting ever since!  Yep, needed a blowoff tube again with this batch.  Never a dull moment around here!

So here's the recipe for preserving the flavor of the Summer Solstice, that'll be ready just in time for the Winter Solstice... when we can ALL use a little more sunshine (or at least a reminder of it).

Summer Solstice Strawberry Wine
2 quarts strawberries
2 1/2 lbs white sugar
1 package wine yeast
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 1/2 cups orange juice
the juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon strong black tea (or 1/2 tsp grape tannin)

Wash and hull berries and put them in a 2 gallon container.  I used a stainless steel pot, but it's suggested that you use a plastic foodgrade container/bucket.  

Mash the sugar into the berries, then add 2 quarts of water.  Let the mixture stand covered with a kitchen towel for 24 hours. 

Stir mixture and then strain the liquid into a 2 gallon carboy (I actually put mine in a 3 liter carboy... and had to discard some of the liquid to make it fit). 

In a mason jar, make a yeast starter culture by combining the wine yeast, yeast nutrient, and orange juice.  Cover, shake vigorously, and let stand for about an hour until it gets bubbly; then add to the must.

Add the lemon juice and tea stir with a skewer or chopstick, and airlock the fermentation vessel.  Allow the mixture to ferment to completion.



When it has finished fermenting (no more bubbles are coming out of the airlock), bottle, cork, and cellar the wine.

Wait at least 6 months before sampling.