grape jam!!

This was a good decision.

Compared with strawberry or peach jam (in which you cook mashed fruit with sugar and pectin, then can it), grape jelly and grape jam are both a total pain in the butt. I’m here to tell you that I am a Grape Jam convert.

Jelly: Pick grapes from stems, put in pan and cook down.  Place cooked grapes into a jelly bag (or a pillow case tied to something up high, with a bowl underneath it) and wait, wait, wait for the juice to drip out.  Do not squeeze the bag or your jelly will be cloudy.  Heat the juice, add sugar and pectin, cook it, can it.  Whew.

Jam: Pick grapes from stems.  Take each grape individually in your hand and squeeze out the insides into one pan, and put the skin in another.  Repeat 85,839,385 times.  Cook each pan separately.  Put the cooked innards through a food mill to get the seeds out. Combine the innies with the outties and cook some more with sugar and lemon juice.  Cook until the jam reaches the gel stage, which for me was at least 20 minutes.  Can it. Three hours! Whew.

I’m convinced now that grape jam is worth the work.

Food-by-the-side-of-the-road alert (adding a tag for this because it’s a common theme even if I haven’t yet written about it): I bought my grapes from a dude selling them across from the Voke school in our town.  I saw him last year but neglected to buy any. I’m glad I did!  $5 for enough grapes to make 9 half-pints of jam.

I had two fears about grape jam:

One, that it would be runny.  Sandwiches with my grape jelly from last year are best eaten over the sink, because they drip, drip, drip.  Forget about making a sandwich ahead of time–the bread will get soaked through in a few minutes.  My grape jam is nice and thick and I put gobs of it on a sandwich for lunch last week.  When I ate the sandwich hours later, the bread was still dry and there were no drips!

Two, grape jam has grape skins in it, and I was afraid it would be gross.  You need to use the skins because that’s where the good stuff is–the natural pectin, the purple color, and the concord-y flavor is all in or just under the skin.  But when I boiled the skins they looked really gross, pale and floating in a pot of purple juice.  For the purposes of science I decided to follow the recipe as directed (and not strain the skin out or blend the pot of skins with an immersion blender).  My fear was unfounded!  They manage to disappear in the jam, just adding some nice subtle texture.

Grape! Jam!

In praise of a cheap knife

I happened upon this article last week. It claims that “a great knife costs no more than a food processor,” and features the five best knives the authors could find, ranging from $165 to $395.

Two things. One, my food processor isn’t the best, but it does the job and cost less than $40.  Now I’m curious about these $400 food processors. Am I missing something?

And two, do you know how many good knives I could buy for $165?  Continue reading

Taco night! (and taco beef)

Taco night!! It’s awesome.  It took me way too long to figure this out.  If taco night isn’t in your dinner rotation, it should be. It’s tasty, cheap, healthy, variable and flexible and whether it’s meaty, cheesy or vegan, taco night is always delicious. It’s easy to keep the ingredients for taco night in the house, so you can throw it together quickly. Continue reading

CSA vegetable (plus sausage!) pasta

Here’s with garlic bread!something I threw together for dinner a couple weeks ago.

I had a bunch of vegetables from my farm share that had to be used up.  I love broccoli raab, but I think it needs to be combined with something rich and salty…like italian sausage! I do think this would work as a vegan dish, by omitting the sausage–but I would increase the olive oil and garlic. Continue reading

Red pepper pile, part 2: how to roast peppers

Conventional instructions are to put a whole pepper on top of your gas stove, right on the flame.  Let it char, turn it with tongs, and when the whole thing is blackened, put it in a paper bag and let it cool, while it steams itself in the bag.  Take the pepper out and you’ve got a slippery, wiggly pepper, and blackened skin that flakes off in a thousand little pieces.  The blackened skin flakes get all over the sink and your hands. Stop doing this! Continue reading

Red pepper pile, part 1

pile 'o peppersLast summer I got serious about peppers. I bought ten extra pounds from my CSA and chopped, roasted and froze them.  I ran out in February, and made a mental note to get very, very serious in 2011.  Behold twenty-seven pounds of organic red peppers!

Bell peppers (red, green and otherwise) are on the list of vegetables and fruits that I’ll only buy organic.  Conventionally grown peppers carry pesticide residues you can’t wash off–carcinogens, hormone disruptors, reproductive toxins–yummy! But organic peppers in the grocery store can cost $8 per pound, and they’re imported from thousands of miles away.  When locally grown food is fresher AND cheaper, it makes those supermarket peppers look a lot less attractive. Continue reading

Two new documentaries to watch

It looks like American Meat will take a while to be distributed widely, but I’m excited to see it.  Looks like the film explores the tricky issue of unaffordable pastured meat–hooray!

And Ingredients is available to watch instantly on Netflix. It looks like it’s been out a while, but I just heard about it recently.  Locavores and urban food deserts, narrated by Lilith? I’ll be watching this one too.

Buns for 19

Labor Day picnic: burgers, dogs, and veggie sausages. I was tasked with making the buns.

The bumpier looking ones on the left were made with my standard no-knead bread dough.

For the others I used a typical (kneaded!) dough recipe that uses onion powder, butter and a bit too much sugar.  I’ll make those again, with less sugar.  The no-knead bread is great, but they are pretty crusty and chewy, and sometimes burgers can’t stand up to the bread.  These were nice and soft.

More bread talk coming soon…

Grape jam?

I made grape jelly last summer and it’s pretty runny.  I’m no expert jellymaker so I’m sure I did something wrong.  What about grape jam, though? It seems like the better way to go because you don’t throw out the grapes after letting the juice drip out.  I’m gonna try it.

This site says: “I make jam because making jelly from real fruit (as opposed to bottled or frozen fruit juice, bought from the store) is a complete waste of good food. Jelly is merely sugar-intense fruit-flavored water boiled to the jelly point, whereas jam contains the pulp and the inner skin vitamin and flavor rich part of the grapes. It’s got a richer texture and a lot more flavor than jelly, and produces some excellent grape must for use in fermenting basalmic and wine vinegars.”

Who wants my must?