Monday, August 15, 2016

Thimbleberry Jam

When I was a student at Michigan Tech, I spent a couple summers in the Keweenaw, and I vowed back then that I would someday make my own thimbleberry jam.    It finally happened!

Thimbleberries...from the watercolor journal of Marilynn Brandenburger
check out her work here

Growing up downstate, I had never heard of thimbleberries, which I'd describe as a floral, tart raspberry with smaller seeds.   They are also much easier to pick than raspberries, because they have no thorns.   They come into season in the beginning to mid August, and so I planned a trip to our place on Lake Superior to hopefully be timed with the ripening of the berries.   All the souvenir shops in the Keweenaw sell thimbleberry jam, but my favorite place to get it is the Jam Pot  a bakery and preserves spot in Eagle River.   I've always been inspired by their preserves...everything from wild gathered chokecherry and bilberries and rose hips to thimbleberry, their most popular.    It's currently selling for $18 a jar.    I noticed American Spoon is selling it for $23 a half pint.   So I put the family, and our friends Ray and Jen who were up visiting, to work picking berries.   

Thanks to the internet, I found that thimbleberries, unlike raspberries, don't need added pectin.   The recipes I found said to use equal volumes of berries and sugar and to bring it to a boil.   I decided to use equal amounts of sugar and berries by weight instead.   Thimbleberries are very fragile -- we collected them in bags and then put them in a bucket.    They turn into a a sludge almost immediately upon picking them  I poured them and their juice onto a cookie sheet to pick out any detritus (twigs, stems, the occasional tick) and them combined it with an equal part by weight of sugar.   I brought the mixture to a boil for 3 minutes, which seemed to be the average out there on the internet.

After 3 minutes of stirring constantly, I put the jam in hot half pint jars with 1/2 inch headspace and processed for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.   

 We picked 7 lbs of berries, which resulted in 22 half pints of jam.....that's about $400 worth of jam!  

Friday, July 08, 2016

Pollinator Garden

Today I planted a pollinator garden to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service and to take my mind and heart off of the horrible violence in the news today.    I'm tired of reading preachy facebook posts from people who think they know all the answers.   I sure know I don't have all the answers, but I got some seeds from the NPS, and planted them in the garden of our lake house, which is on the shore of Lake Superior in the Keweenaw.   Hope they grow!

The seed pack included lupinus perennis aka wild lupine which I see growing all over the Keweenaw. There was also Asclepias tuberosa  which we know as butterfly weed, Rudbeckia hirta or black eyed Susan, Monarda fistulosa, which is wild bergamot and Solidago canadensis or Canadian goldenrod.  Here's my garden located on the map!

To find out more about the project, check out the Pollinator Project.    Also you can get free seeds from the National Park Service.   Find your park!  Hopefully, a year from now I will see some flowers in my garden and remember that even though there is evil in the world, there is also good people and love and flowers.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Strawberry Shortcake with Sweet Cream Biscuits and Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

I got home from a business trip yesterday with strawberries on my mind.  We've had odd weather this spring, and a local berry farm said it was important to pick berries now while we can.  So I took their good advice and stopped there to pick some on my way home from the airport.

I was looking for a recipe like Zingerman's Sweet Cream Biscuits but found an easier recipe on The Kitchn that required just one bowl.   I was tired after all that travel after all, plus I liked that it was a bit lighter with just heavy cream for all the fat.   And I could save some for whipped cream on top.

Cream Biscuits

Makes 8 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (divided)

Place a layer of parchment paper across the bottom and up 2 sides of an 8x8-inch pan. Preheat oven to 425°F.  In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients until combined. Add the cream: Pour in all but 1/4 cup of the cream. Stir until the dough is shaggy, then add the remaining cream and stir to combine. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds, just until it all comes together. Form the dough: Shape dough into a rectangle, about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Cut it in half lengthwise, then cut each piece into 4 pieces horizontally. Place each of the pieces in the prepared pan. Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden.

I still had some berries left, so I tried David Leibovitz's strawberry yogurt.  He's right, this isn't frozen yogurt you can get at the mall.   I can't wait to check out his book The Perfect Scoop.  I made some changes to make it easier and quicker.  

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
makes 1 quart

1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup  sugar
 2 teaspoons vodka
1 cup plain 2 % milk Greek style yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 3o minutes, stirring every so often. Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender r. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

I love strawberry season!