Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gardening Floyd: The Cherries Are In!

The sweet cherries are in and ready to pick at Levering Orchard.  As far as I know, Levering’s is the nearest pick-your-own cherry orchard to Floyd.

Michael and I went picking yesterday.  The trees are loaded!  We picked 20 lbs in about an hour or so (a little over a 3 liquid gallon bucket full) from the ground reaching into the trees.  There are ladders into the trees and staff to move and set them as you wish if you’re into climbing.  Cherries were $2.50/lb at the orchard as compared with $6/lb at the market yesterday.  Hours are: Monday thru Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Sunday: 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you go, wear comfortable clothes for bending and stretching, good supportive shoes with traction, sun screen/bug repellent (although the bugs weren’t bad yesterday), hat/bandana, and maybe a raincoat.  Take along a water bottle too.

To get there:  Go south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to just past milepost 193.  Turn left on to Orchard Gap Road.  Rap’s Convenience Store is right there on the corner.  Drive approximately 2 miles down the mountain.  Take your time, the road winds and is steep!  You’ll see the large sign for the turn off to the orchard on your right.  It took us about 45 minutes to get there from Floyd.  Maybe not that long.

On my cherry preserving list:
Dehydrated cherries (currently in the dehydrator)
Cherry Pie Filling
Cherry Jam
Boozy Cherries
Black Forest Preserves

I'll be preserving these over the next week and will have recipes and photos.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Hands On Classes!

Eating Floyd is presenting the first of a series of seasonal home food preservation classes:

Preserving Floyd

We Be Jammin'!

Saturday, June 11th, at 2PM

Click on the Home Food Preservation Classes Tab above for more information.  Class size is limited.
Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Strawberries Part III - We Be Jammin'!

Making strawberry jam is a primer for making all kinds of jams and jellies.  The fruits may change but the technique remains pretty much the same.

If you read the last post on pectin you'll know that I prefer low/no sugar pectin that already contains the necessary calcium, and this post will be about strawberry jam and it's variations using Ball brand Low/No Sugar pectin.

Preserving Floyd: Canning Essentials - Pectin

No matter what groups you may move in, belong to, participate with, somewhere in that group there's always a tempest raging in a teapot.  Among home preservers that teapot tempest is Pectin.  To use vs not to use, commercial vs home made, regular vs low/no sugar.

I hope to do a little clarifying.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge May: Coriander

Pullum Frontonianum/Apicus Chicken/Chicken a la Fronto

While searching for a recipe heavy on the coriander for this month's challenge, I came across Apicus chicken.  This brought back a whole lot of memories.  Michael and I once belonged to an historical society that did early medieval to late renaissance re-enactment.  A period feast was almost always a feature of their events and there were many accomplished cooks with a great interest in researching and redacting period recipes for their menus.  Apicus Chicken is one of these recipes.  It is a Roman recipe from a period cookbook written by Marcus Gavius Apicius.  This is a pretty close translation of the original recipe:

1 fresh chicken
100 ml oil
200 ml liquamen
1 branch of leek
fresh dill, saturei, coriander, and pepper to taste

Start to fry the chicken and season with a mixture of liquamen and oil, together with bunches of dill, leek, saturei, and coriander.  Then cook in the oven.  When the chicken is done, moisten a plate with defrutum, put chicken on it, sprinkle pepper on it , and serve.

I needed to turn this recipe into something everybody could use.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Husbanding Floyd: "Girl, You'll Be A Pullet Soon"

Technically, I suppose they already are.  Pullets, that is.  In a few days they'll be 9 weeks old and they are doing great.
Hi Mom!  Hi Dad!
We were told that the chicks imprint on and call Mother the first thing they see after hatching.  If that isn't a brooder hen it's whatever's available.  We figured for our chicks it was probably a pair of hands in white latex gloves.  Judging from the way they act when we approach their coop, they really did imprint on us!  As soon as they hear our voices, they run out of the coop or away from whatever they're doing and gather in the corner closest to our approach.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Herbal Vinegars and Maple Vinegar

It's been raining pretty steadily for a month now.  Every once in awhile the sun will deign to peek through, a patch of blue might appear.  But mostly it's gray and drizzling if not downright pouring.  Everyone's behind.  You can't plow, till, seed, or transplant because the ground is just too wet.  Water gushes up along the edges of my wellies just walking across the lawn.  The earth is saturated.  People are getting grumpy.

I think this is affecting the local strawberry crop.  For two days now I've been searching my usual sources and there's none to be had.  I'm hoping the berries have just slowed down until the sun returns.  I'm praying they're not rotting in the fields.

On the other hand, the perennial herbs are flourishing!  They need to be cut back now!  In order to use up a good bit of them I'm going to start steeping jugs of herbal vinegars.  It's just way too easy and takes no time at all.  And it will keep me busy until the strawberries return.

Preserving Floyd: DON'T THROW THAT OUT!!

I'm so in the habit of doing this that it's become second nature to me and I often forget to mention it.  While pouring some of the leftover Strawberry Vanilla syrup over some bananas for dessert I realized I didn't put this tip in the post:

Don't throw out the leftover syrup from canning!

Especially if you've poached or otherwise cooked the fruit in it.  If you have a half a pint or more leftover put it in a jar and can it along with the rest of the batch.  Use it in these ways:
* Stir a few tablespoons into a glass of sparkling water for "soda"
* Use it as a sweetener for hot and iced teas
*  Makes a great glaze for pork, poultry, fish
* Use it as an ingredient in BBQ sauces
* Use it as an ingredient in vinaigrettes
* Make sorbet, sherbert, or ice cream with it
* Drizzle on cakes, waffles, pancakes
* Use as a flavored simple syrup in cocktails
These are just some of the uses the leftover syrups come in handy for.

Don't throw out the leftover pulp from jelly making!

Sieve or mill the pulp to get rid of seeds and any whole or pieces of spices that may be in there.  Taste the pulp and sweeten and spice it to taste.  If you have a dehydrator, spread the pulp out 1/4" thick on the fruit leather sheets or cover the rack with plastic wrap and spread the pulp out on that.  Dehydrate at 135F until the leather is no longer sticky or squishy but dry and pliable.  If you don't have a dehydrator, preheat the oven at it's lowest setting with the oven door ajar.  Cover a baking sheet with plastic wrap and spread the pulp 1/4" thick on it.  Place in the oven.  Remove it when the leather is no longer sticky or squishy but dry and pliable.  You'll have to watch it more closely in the oven.
When dry and cool, remove the leather from the plastic and lay on a sheet of wax or parchment paper the size of the leather.  Roll up tightly into a cylinder and tape along the length of the seam.  Cut into 1 1/2" pieces and store in an airtight container.  Kids love these "fruit roll-ups"!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Strawberries! Part II Whole Strawberries in Vanilla Syrup

Whole Strawberries in Vanilla Syrup is a very versatile preserve.  We mix it into plain yogurt, drizzle it over ice cream, waffles and pancakes, use it as an ingredient in homemade strawberry ice cream, top pound cakes and shortcakes, and serve it with chevre, fontainbleu, or brie.  I usually make 3-4 pints but we ran out early this past winter so this year I'm upping it to 6 pints.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Home Canning Essentials

Home processing of food sealed in jars to be shelf-stable and stored at room temperature is a simple and safe method of preservation as long as a few simple rules are adhered to.  The busiest months of the canning year are about to begin and it's good to start off with some basics for the novices out there embarking on their first canning adventures.

#1 Most Important Rule - All safe canning (both water bath and pressure canning) comes down to two facts: Acidity and Temperature.
Most fruits are considered high acid (except for tomatoes which are on the acidity cusp) and can be processed in a boiling water bath which will bring the internal temperature of the jars to 212F (the temperature of boiling water).  No matter how long you leave a jar in a boiling water bath the internal temp will never rise above 212F.  The length of time in the bath specified in a recipe is how long it takes for the heat to penetrate the density of the canned product and raise it to 212F.

Most vegetables (and meats) are low acid and must be processed in a pressure canner where temperatures above 212F can be achieved.  Steam under pressure becomes hotter than plain boiling water.  For example, water boiling under 10 pounds of pressure (a typical poundage for many pressure canned foods) reaches a temperature of 240F.  Again, the time specified in the recipe is how long it takes to raise the heat in the center of the jar to the desired temperature.  In recipes for pressure canned food you will find both the pounds pressure and the length of time to be held at that pressure specified. Below is a chart showing the acidity of some foods.

High Acidity Foods
Using Boiling-Water Bath or
Pressure Canning (for less processing)
Low Acidity Foods
Using Pressure Canning Only
Apples Plums Artichokes (Jerusalem) Mushrooms
Apricots Raspberries Asparagus Okra
Blackberries Rhubarb Beans (green or yellow) Parsnips
Blueberries Strawberries Beets Peas
Cranberries Pineapple Broccoli Peas (snap)
Cherries Tomatoes (with acid added) Brussels Sprouts Peppers
Cucumbers (pickled) Cabbage Potatoes
Grapefruit Carrots Pumpkin
Grapes Cauliflower Spinach
Nectarines Corn Squash (summer)
Oranges Eggplant Squash (winter)
Peaches Figs Sweet Potatoes
Pears Lima Beans
Chart courtesy of

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Preserving Floyd: Strawberries! Part I

High on my Retirement Bucket List is to spend a spring following the strawberry harvest from the moment it begins in Florida until the moment it ends in Maine.  I just love strawberries!
 This week strawberries started showing up at a couple of Floyd's road side stands.  They aren't Floyd county strawberries yet but they are close to home.  Just south of Floyd the Blue Ridge Mountains drop abruptly into North Carolina.  It's a steep escarpment that appears dramatically in sight whether your approach is by air into Roanoke, driving north up Interstate 77, or actually weaving your way up to Floyd from the south on one of the many back roads or Rt 8.  This sudden drop in altitude allows Patrick County, our immediate neighbor just a few miles to the south, to be in a much warmer growing zone.  Thus, they bring many of their fruits to our markets 2-3 weeks ahead of our own Floyd County fruit.

I start preserving (and eating!) strawberries as soon as they show up.  I freeze, dehydrate, jam, and whole preserve in syrup.  This post will cover dehydrating and freezing, the two simplest preservation methods for strawberries.  Strawberry jam, leather, and whole strawberry preserves will have their own posts.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Outside the Jar: Jammin' Oat Squares

If you're looking for a healthy granola bar recipe, this is not the one you're looking for.  Click back to your search page now.  On the other hand, if you're looking for buttery, melt in your mouth, rich, jam and oat goodness, read on!