Friday, January 30, 2015

"Sensational" Fruits of Winter

Mounds of heavy snow fell on Monday night into all day Tuesday creating blizzard conditions.  Howling winds blew our power out at midnight.  In the morning, there was no freshly brewed coffee. Thankfully, I was able to light my gas stove to boil water for some instant Starbucks as I am unable to function without my daily shot in the arm.  I also managed to make toast in a cast iron skillet.  I was feeling very "pioneer woman" about it all until I got annoyed that the power outage lasted well into the day and the heat in our house plummeted to (gasp!) 54 degrees before civilized life and t.v. watching was restored at 4:30pm.
As the snow swirled around looking for a place to settle, before we were able to go out and shovel a path and while the kids somehow managed to occupy themselves without the help of electronics (shocking!) I actually had the brief luxury of hiding in the office wrapped in my pink fleece robe and a woolly scarf while I cracked open and read a book that Val had passed along to me quite a while ago but I had not yet given myself the opportunity to lounge around and look at it.
"Sensational Preserves" by Hilare Walden is fancy and at the same time accessible.  There are some recipes that are a bit exotic to me but look easy enough to execute like "Mushroom Ketchup" and "Ginger Wine" that I can't wait to well as tried and true favorites, basic recipes for fruit jams, jellies and chutneys.
Most of the time, I only think about preserving in the summer months as Val has usually done.  Beginning with strawberry jam in late June when Andrews Farm down the street, is bursting with deep red berries just begging to be put up and enjoyed on a cold winter day like this one and finishing off in August with piccalilli and pickled beets.
But this year I've got bigger plans.  I want to dry more tomatoes, pack them in a jar and cover them with fruity olive oil, mix spice rubs using plants from my garden (or Val's if mine are not successful!) and bottle up some barbecue or other types of sauces for my friends to unwrap at Christmas.  I'm excited just thinking about it!
Since I don't want to wait on this canning project, (I never want to wait for anything.) the chapter titled, "Citrus Fruits" is calling to me now while oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes are in abundance at the supermarket.  That is as long as the produce trucks can make it through all of this snow.
I'm not sure yet about "Preserved Lemons" although the recipe looks easy enough to give it a try, or the "Sweet and Sour Lime Pickle".  I definitely have my eye on what Hilare refers to as "typically English fruit curds".  I imagine slathering the sweet, buttery curd on warm toast or dolloping it into a crusty tarte shell, topping it all off with cold whipped cream.
I think I'll begin with lemon since that is a favorite with most of my people, or perhaps tangerine?  I'll have to decide as I peruse the aisles of the produce section of Stop n Shop and dream up my big citrus plans.  I hope there is enough parking cleared for me at the store once I finally am able to dig my car out of the snow.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Forcing Springtime

 Before it's officially ready to bloom, I like to cut a branch of forsythia and place it in a vase inside my house to "force" the buds to open in the heat of the indoors.
 This is what my mind does in January. It tries to force, to will spring to come earlier than planned.
 Oh, I look forward to that first week of the new year, the kids going back to school, the hectic pace of December over, the holidays and school vacation finally behind me.  I can't wait to get to my "projects" that have been hanging over my head: clean out the cellar, finally cull through 6 years of Ava and Declan's artwork and school papers, organize my office....  De-clutter for once and for all, already!! Finally put together those photo albums I have been thinking about since the newborn years so that the kids can enjoy them.  (So many pictures now that the world has gone digital!) And then that day comes, the first day back at school for the kids, the first day of peace and quiet for me and Stella and all I want to do is leave the house to have coffee with a friend or even better, brew up a cup of tea and watch the "Real Housewives of Wherever" as long as I don't have to face having to begin the list of long, daunting projects that loom ahead in my immediate future.
  I long for spring to arrive with it's allure and excuse to get outside.  "I need to work in the yard!  It's such a beautiful day, I shouldn't be inside wasting it, cleaning up all this crap!"  And then I secretly admit to myself that this type of attitude led to the office and the cellar becoming a potential feature on an episode of "Hoarding: Buried Alive".  Instead of focusing on the photo book project that keeps growing out of neglect, I find myself reading past issues of gardening magazines that Val has passed on to me.  (Could she be contributing to the problem, rather than helping with the solution?  Is it wrong for me to try place the blame on her?)  With every article and picture of flower garden pathways, I dream of new outdoor projects, seeds to plant and how to transform my outdoor space.  While I am burrowing into my couch pillows and losing myself in stories of flora and fauna, I should really be deciding what to keep and what to throw into a big black trash bag.  My messy indoor space is calling me, taunting me.
  "It's such hard work for me!" I wail.  I'm attached in some bizarre way to every object I come across that was for now unknown reasons put aside for safe keeping.  Just like the sage seedlings that I planted late last summer then brought indoors hoping that they might grow over the winter, although they are barely limping along and likely won't make it to be planted into the ground when the earth is soft and warm, again, I cannot bring myself to dump them in the compost with the orange peels and the coffee grounds.  If I dread the sage dumping, how can I bring myself to throw away the perfect spelling tests and paper mache "objets d'art" made by my own little cherubs?  I find it nearly impossible to give up the "stuff" and move on.
  But I must persevere!
  Everyday I try and check off at least one task on my list.  These tasks are bite sized as I would never be able to attempt  an entry as all encompassing as "Clean the basement".  Instead, "Clean one shelf in the white bookcase" is much more likely for me.  The other day, I surprised myself and managed to reorganize not just one but ALL of the shelves in this particular spot.  One might think that the momentum would have propelled me further, to clean another space.  Not the case.  My exuberance waned quickly.  I stopped and rewarded my weak self with a cup of strong tea.  I put my feet up, clicked on those Housewives and began to thumb through "Country Gardens: Early Spring 2013".  Perhaps this is just the inspiration I need to keep plugging along on this winter project to be ready in time for the ground to thaw and the forsythia to show it's first buds.