What I’ve been up to…

Hey everyone!  So, as promised, I’m back to blogging, hopefully regularly.  Here’s what food things I’ve been up to recently:

1. I got water kefir grains from a lovely woman I met through Boston Ferments back in September, and I’ve been making water kefir regularly even since.

2. At the Fermentation Festival, I got a kombucha SCOBY and have also been brewing booch continuously ever since.  There’s a lot of fermented drinks going on in Casa de Kelly.

3. I made fermented hot sauce for Christmas gifts this year from the recipe at Killer Pickles and it came out sooo yummy!  I also fermented two kinds of mustard, which also came out very tasty.

4. I made kimchi for the first time back in… October?  Maybe?  It didn’t last very long because I couldn’t stop putting it on and in EVERYTHING.  Seriously.  Tacos, sandwiches, pasta, rice, whatever.  I really wish I had made more.  One quart was *not* sufficient.

5. I wrote a paper about wild fermentation for one of my courses, whoo!

I’m missing many things, but you get the jist.  Fermentation has consumed my existence, basically.  Although I did some canning too (applesauce and roasted onion and sage jam from Putting Up With Erin, to name just two).

This year, my resolution is to build up my pantry.  We moved to a wonderful apartment in Boston with a large kitchen (well, larger than my old one anyway) with a pantry.  Like a real pantry with shelves and cabinets and the whole thing.  My dream is to have the shelves lined with things I preserved myself.  I want to put up a serious portion of our canned goods this year.  This might be a bit over zealous–I am in grad school and working full time–but I like to hold myself to pretty high expectations, even if I can’t always meet them.  I just got a new catalog from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds (which is a wonderful company if you’re not already familiar–go check them out!), and I’m really hoping to grow more things than I’ve been able to grow in the past.  My garden last year basically fell victim to some absurd wind, both in NJ where it’s usually not that windy and in Boston where it is always obscenely windy, so I didn’t get to consume much of what I grew.  I’m very determined to change that this year.  Maybe if I can enlist Michael for some assistance…

I also got some awesome kitchen things as gifts this year.  Michael gave me a pasta machine and drying rack, which I’m so excited to try out, and a kitchen scale (finally!!).  His parents got me a much-needed immersion blender, and my family members bought me some amazing looking cookbooks.  I’m starting to think about what I want to preserve come canning season, and I know some of these books will come in handy for that.

I think that’s all for now.  I just found out that a winter market is starting up in my neighborhood, and the first day is tomorrow, so I’ll be heading there to grab whatever wonderful things I can find.  I’ll be sure to update with whatever project I’m inspired to try.

I’m still alive, I swear!

Hey there, internet!  Long time no see!  That’s a lie, actually, I’m online pretty much constantly, but I haven’t been blogging, obviously.  I applied to, and was accepted into, and began taking classes in, the Gastronomy MLA program at Boston University, so life has been a little hectic.  Yes, I relocated to Boston, and I now spend my days studying everything related to food.  It’s been amazing and wild and fun and hectic and occasionally frustrating, but mostly wonderful.  The first semester is almost over and I’ve already learned so much.  It’s been an amazing experience.

I’ve also been canning!  And fermenting!  Especially fermenting, actually.  I’m now brewing kombucha and water kefir continuously.  I’ve made pickles, krauts, the aforementioned fermented beverages, kimchi, and even soy yogurt.  I’m quite possibly obsessed with fermentation.  In fact, I hardly did any canning this summer!  I made vanilla rhubarb jam, (not so dilly) beans, apple sauce, cranberry sauce, roasted onion and sage jam, two batches of beans, and that’s about it.  Oops.  It was a little much, moving during canning season.  This summer should be much more productive in that department.  I’m making it a goal to attempt to preserve a more significant portion of our food supply this coming year.  We have a wonderful farmer’s market in my neighborhood, so I’ll make sure I get there every week (or something close to it) to stock up on things and do large batches.  And I really need to make sure I can some tomatoes this summer.  Fortunately, Michael’s bosses are super cool Italian guys who grow and can their own tomatoes, so I’ve ended up with six quarts of those (two were just gifted to us, and four were bartered for cranberry sauce–it’s a pretty great life).

Anywho, now that I’m having food adventures regularly, I want to get back to writing about them.  I have two weeks of classes left for this semester, which means that I still have term papers to write, so I may be a bit quiet over the next couple of weeks, but then I’ll be on break and probably baking/canning/fermenting up a storm for Christmas gifts, so I should have a fair amount to say then.  I swear I’ll be back, though.  I’m alive.  I’m just buried under a stack of (virtual) textbooks.

Not to count the chickens prematurely, but…

I just successfully pressure canned four pints of garbanzo beans!  Woooohoooo!

Last week, my mother sent me a new pressure canner as an early birthday present.  It’s a 23 quart Presto model, which is enormous but wonderful.  I just moments ago turned the heat off of the stove after a successful 75 minutes at 12 pounds of pressure (it was a little high the whole time–I was really aiming for 11–but better too high than too low).  Now I’m just going to let the canner depressurize over night and hope that they seal properly.  No explosions.  No scary safety vent action.  I’M SO EXCITED!

Also, my sauerkraut came out quite well.  I promise to post pictures later.  Now it’s time to go to bed!

Another list of thoughts

Sorry, I don’t have a proper post in me right now, but I do have some thoughts.  Here they are:

1.  I’m working on sauerkraut for the first time.  It’s on day five of fermentation right now.  Theoretically it’ll be ready on the 18th, but I’ll probably let it go longer for maximum tastiness.  This is my first experiment in fermentation.

2.  Speaking of fermentation, I think I want to try making kombucha.  I need to get my hands on a SCOBY, though.  Maybe I’ll ask Amanda at Phickle for one, since she’s local to me.

3.  I opened that last jar of herbed pickled asparagus tonight, and it’s soooo goooood!  I forgot how much I loved these.  I’m totally making multiple batches of this as soon as the asparagus starts popping up.

4.  My mother ordered me a new canner as a super early birthday present!  Yay!  I’ll have to give it a test run in the coming weeks.

5.  I baked some bread today and it was lovely.

6.  I’m obsessed with the idea of making tea jelly, but I’m out of half pint jars right now.  I officially gave away too many of them at Christmas.  =P  I’ll have to go buy some so I can do this.

That’s all for now!

I am officially terrified of my pressure canner

So last night’s foray into pressure canning went almost as badly as these things can go.  Almost.  No one got injured, so it wasn’t a complete disaster, but it was still pretty bad.  Here’s what happened.

I heated up my jars and cooked my beans, per the directions.  I filled the jars and got ready for processing.  I put the jars into the canner and locked on the lid.  Then I let the steam vent for 15 minutes, per the instructions.  And then I was too terrified to close the vent myself with the weighted gauge, so I got Michael to do it for me.  I have a hilarious photo of him in his “safety gear” because I spooked him so badly by being terrified of doing it myself.  I’ll post the photo later, I promise.  Then I waited a few minutes until the gauge started rocking.  That took about five minutes, and then I started the timer.  75 minutes of processing time.  I finally felt pretty relieved at this point, as nothing had blown up yet.  I just needed the pressure to maintain at that level for 75 minutes, and then let the canner cool (overnight, it was pretty late), and then I’d have tasty beans, yay!

Wrong.  So I stayed in the kitchen the whole time just to make sure the gauge was still rocking, so I could know for sure the pressure stayed at the right level.  Unfortunately, at about the 50 minute mark, the canner dropped pressure.  The weight wasn’t rocking anymore.  I wasn’t really sure what to do.  I emailed the lovely Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars about the issue, and she suggested it might be an issue with the gasket.  I turned up the heat on the stove to try to bring the pressure back up.  It worked for a few minutes, but then the pressure dropped again.  I turned the heat up again.  Same thing.  And then my safety vent blew and steam shot out of it like a volcano.  That is not an exaggeration.

So, that was terrifying.  Turns out the gasket was cracked.  I’ve decided to replace my canner, however.  I’ve had a few too many terrifying experiences with this one.  Yikes.

Pressure canning

For those readers out there who don’t know me personally, this will be a new story.  For those of you who do, you already know this one.  Feel free to skim.

Last summer, I was canning some pickled asparagus I had made (using a recipe from Ashley English’s Homemade Living Canning 101 book) in my brand new-to-me canner my grandmother gave me.  It’s an 8 quart Mirro-Matic (does that brand even exist anymore?!) pressure canner, and I was soooo excited to use it!  The thing is, I didn’t really understand that you can do water bath canning in any large pot with a lid, basically.  I thought you had to use a canner.  Like the pressure canner I had just received.  Disaster ensued.

An 8 quart canner really isn’t large enough to hold enough water to completely cover three pint jars and not be at risk of boiling over.  And locking the lid in place over all that?  Terrible idea.  Naturally, I got scalded.  Badly.  Badly.  My right arm, stomach, and right breast all received 2nd degree burns, and I still have the scars (at least) six months later.

So I’ve been a little afraid to actually try pressure canning.  Of course, now I know why what I did was wrong, but it still makes me a bit nervous.  And yet, here I am, pressure canning some black beans for the very first time.  So far, I’m injury-free, but I’m definitely still nervous.  I’m currently venting the pot and am going to start timing it pretty soon.  I’ll post an update on my beans (and well-being) later.

The beginning is a wonderful place to start

Thanks for joining me in this collection of my thoughts, recipes, and miscellany.  I’ve started this little blog as a way to channel some of my enthusiasm about food–both as an academic subject and as that tasty stuff I shove in my mouth.  I’d expect to see here documentation of my latest food adventures (in canning, baking, pickling, and dining), and my ideas about being an ethical eater.  I’ve been a vegan for nearly eight years (when did I get this old?!), and I’ve recently become pretty enthralled of the local food movement.  I can’t really call myself a “locavore,” because I’m really not there (yet?).  I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Wegmans.  I still buy some processed foods (I’m looking at you, Daiya!).  I’ve been guilty of buying tomatoes in the wintertime.  I swear I’m getting better, though, and I’m hoping this summer to try to take some more steps towards food self-sufficiency (more on that another time, though).

I began canning because I read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I became obsessed with the idea of reducing my food dependency, both on other regions and on other people.  I began just by trying to do more of my own cooking, from scratch!, than eating out or eating processed foods.  But I’ve always been a crafty person, and I love diy-ing, so when I tried a family friend’s homemade pickles, I knew I had a new project.  I made my own pickles, which were a little too salty perhaps, but otherwise a success, I asked my facebook friends, “If I can pickle, can I can?” and received a lot of encouragement from my foodie facebook friends.  The journey began.  I borrowed Ashley English’s Homemade Living: Canning and Preserving with Ashley English from the local library.  My first project was the Peach and Lavender Butter pictured in the header of this blog, made with the help of my mother.  I’ve been hooked ever since.

So what’s in my pantry now?  Well, I have one jar left of that Peach and Lavender Butter, which I’ve decided to save for late winter/early spring as a treat for the coming summer.  There’s one jar left of the amazing Herbed Pickled Asparagus I made with Michael in the summer, another item being saved for an early taste of spring.  There’s a jar of Pickled Cranberries, and at least one left of Spiced Cranberry Jam, which came out a little thicker than intended, but is still very tasty.  There’s one last jar of Apple Cider Jam, which I gave out as Christmas gifts to great acclaim.  I’ve also just started a sourdough starter a few days ago, so I’m hoping to try my hand at sourdough bread in the coming week.

So pull up a chair and a cup of hot tea.  There’s more to come!