Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blueberry Butter

This is lovely, rich, sweet, and ever so faintly tart with a hint of lemon. Even with such a large batch, I simply did not make enough. It's lovely on toast, waffles, and pancakes, of course, but is also amazing on ice cream, stirred into oatmeal, and spooned between layers of muffin batter and baked.

16 cups frozen blueberries

½ cup lemon Juice

3 cups Maple syrup

2 tsp Cinnamon

Run the still frozen blueberries through food processor, and grind them into chunks, but don't puree them.

Pour just the blueberries into a large crock pot, and cook on high, covered, until hot. It should steam slightly, but not bubble; about 150 degrees F.

Uncover, and continue to cook the blueberries on high until they thicken, and the butter reduces by one quarter to one third.

Add all of the other ingredients, bring back to temp, and cook down until desired consistency is achieved.

Sterilize 16 quarter pint jars, bands, and lids.

Spoon the hot blueberry butter into the jars, place on lids and tighten the bands to fingertip tight.

Process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes (15 for high altitude), then remove the canner lid and let jars cool in the canner for 5 more minutes.

Remove the jars, and set on a wire rack to cool.

Leave them undisturbed for 12 hours. Check all of the seals before storing. 
As always, can at your own risk.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Banana Butter

This is a long-awaited and much-promised recipe. This stuff is amazing. I wanted to show you a beautiful full jar, but, well, I just can't seem to keep it in the house long enough to photograph it. This was as close as I could get. When spread over the top of buttered toast, it tastes like a cross between banana bread and cinnamon rolls. It is, by far, the most favorite recipe in the house. It's also perfect for using up those few leftover mushy bananas. You can throw them, unpeeled, into the freezer, and just thaw and peel them when you have enough. This recipe is easily multiplied, but as bananas don't really have a season here in the Northeast, I honestly don't bother.

1 ½ cups Mashed Ultra-ripe Banana (about 4 whole bananas)
3 Tbsp Maple Syrup
¾ tsp Lemon Juice
1/8 tsp Vanilla Extract
¾ tsp Cinnamon
1/16 tsp Nutmeg
1/8 tsp Salt

Pour mashed banana into crock pot, and cook on low, with lid off, stirring about every half hour to an hour, until banana is slightly drier than desired finished product. About 8-10 hours. The idea is to slowly caramelize the banana, before adding any other ingredients.
Add remaining ingredients, and stir thoroughly.
Adjust consistency if necessary by cooking down or adding water. Cook on high, covered, until banana butter is steaming.

Sterilize one 8 ounce jar and lid.
Pack banana butter into the hot jar, leaving ¼ inch head space. Cover with lid, screw band to fingertip tight, and let it cool completely on the counter. This is not shelf stable, so just place it in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Make Do and Mend

I went through my yarn stash yesterday. Decades of accumulation, a wealth of fiber, honestly more wool than you can shake a stick at. I've been piling it up for, um, mumble years, and then there's all the yarn I inherited from my grandmother. Holy cow. Boxes and bins, and bags of the stuff. It was time. I had reached the point where I wanted to work in the studio, and I couldn't even walk in there. So, I took a day and did it. It took me 7 hours just to pull out all the yarn, decide whether or not to keep it, then sort what I wanted by fiber content and weight. All the little leftover balls have one home now, and all of my sock yarn is in one big plastic bin. Within an hour, all the discarded yarn was boxed up and waiting to be sent out to friends who will put it to good use. Not a single skein is left in limbo. Bliss.

All of the old half-finished projects have been sorted, and I've decided to keep ONE. It was a scarf I started twelve years ago, and yesterday I finished it, and hung it around my husband's neck. The rest of the projects will be ripped out and re-skeined, destined for other purposes. That was a hard, but necessary decision. In order to work, I really need to be organized.

I also need to be realistic about my past and future fiber purchases. Because let me tell you, for the last year, I've sort of been out of control with the fiber purchases. And though I've just cut down the amount of yarn I own by about half, there is still so much that I know it's going to take me a good while to get through. Maybe years. I'm counting the fiber waiting to be spun by the sheep, now. Seriously, you can measure my waiting stash in pounds, forget ounces. And though I have every intention of getting through it all at some point, by spinning fine I get through about two ounces a day if I'm lucky, and do nothing else. Go ahead and do the math, I'll be crying in the corner. A good friend of mine said, “You're going to have to start seriously weaving.” And I thought to myself, “She's right, because I'll never get through it all by knitting.”

And that was when I came to some hard realizations. I was buying fiber FAR faster than I could use it. By leaps and bounds, in fact. The other realization I had was that I have everything I need to do any project I want. Seriously, I have a bin for lace yarn, and I've never knit lace in my life. I have books for it too, and all of that filed under the category of “someday”. Trust me when I tell you that that is the tiniest tip of a very large iceberg. I mean, what on earth am I doing?!?

It's time for a moratorium on fiber purchases. Whatever is in my stash is what I get to work with until it gets down to a manageable size, because this is just not healthy for me. Over the course of going through the yarn I found stuff I didn't even know I had, stuff I had bought more of, because I didn't know it was in there. No, just no, I refuse to live like this, stacking stuff in the basement long past the point of usefulness.

But it's not easy. I have just fallen in love with a line of hand dyed commercial top, a blend of merino, cashmere and silk that spins and knits up like kitten fur. Every person in the house has been petting it, no joke, and I've promised various articles to nearly everyone. So, maybe I'll just get some of that. I can make an exception, just one, right? Woah, did you see what I almost did there? No. Danger Will Robinson.

Do you hear that whining sound? Yeah. This is hard. But... how do you justify buying more, when you already have plenty? Is this in keeping with the way I want to live my life? It's time to put my big-girl panties on and admit the truth. No, no it's not. Not even remotely. I got caught up in plain old consumerism, and that's the truth. It jumped right out and mugged me.

It's time to take an old phrase out and use it. One of my favorites. Make do and mend. The truth is that all of the yarn I kept is beautiful, and all of the fiber waiting to be spun is lovely and will make beautiful things, from mittens and scarves to rugs. These are all projects that have been waiting in the wings, and there is no reason in the world why I can't do them instead of buying new fiber to do something else. And if a project occurs to me that I don't have the yarn for? Well, it could happen. I only have maybe two sweaters-worth of matching yarn, my projects run higher to socks. But it's not even a hardship to work around at this point. I can either spin what I need, or the project can just plain wait. As for the perpetual dearth of wool socks in the house, well, I have a whole bin full of yarn for those, and everyone is just going to have to live with the colors I have, instead of new and different ones. This goes for Christmas presents as well.

As for the second part, mend, I'm going to have to make some time for that. During the yarn purge I found lots of socks that had been stuck downstairs in my studio because they had blown a hole or two. What an excellent opportunity to get some more socks into circulation. After all, my grandmother considered darning an even more essential skill than knitting itself. I stuck all the socks with gaping holes, their matching balls of leftovers, and my darning egg into a basket, and took them upstairs to mend. With the little leftover balls all in one spot in the studio, I think it'll be far easier to get motivated about darning the hand made socks.

So this morning I sat in my chair, drank tea, and darned my socks. The first pair had one hole, two balding spots, and had already been mended once. Sheesh. I hadn't even knit them myself, they were a gift from my Auntie, and all the more precious for it. (Yes Vicki, another hole. I know, I know, I really need to take the sandpaper out of my shoes.) I felt centered again, and in balance. And I realized that not only did it never occur to my family to throw away those holey socks instead of fixing them, but that I was using my grandmother's venerated darning needle to do it. So maybe I'm going to be ok after all.