Monthly Archives: July 2010

Pie in a Jar

It’s blueberry season, people. I’ve been waiting quite patiently for this time to come back around and it’s finally here! The weather has finally warmed up enough to ripen those beautiful berries and the U-pick farms around Washington are open for business! I could not be more thrilled, which is why I went to Bryant Blueberry Farm in Arlington on Thursday and picked my first 28 pounds of blueberries.

Ok now, I know what you’re thinking. 28 pounds of blueberries?! Quoting my bff, “What does one do with 28 pounds of blueberries?” That’s a perfectly valid and logical question. So to start, I have to explain the oatmeal debacle. Last year’s blueberries ruined us for plain oatmeal. Jake and I were going along just fine, eating plain old oatmeal everyday before work until I started putting blueberries in it. Later in the year, I’d make it with frozen blueberries that I’d preserved from my picking and it was equally delicious. And then, when we finally depleted our blueberry reserves and had to start eating plain oatmeal again, it was a total letdown. It’s like this episode on Seinfeld when Elaine and Jerry are on the same flight, but Elaine is in the mundane, crowded coach seat and Jerry is in the decadent first class seat. He tells her he’s been in first class and knows what it’s like now and can’t possibly go back! Having blueberries in your oatmeal is like flying first class; I can’t go back to coach now! So, Jake, being the smarty mathematician that he is, dutifully calculated how many pounds of blueberries I’d have to pick in order for us to eat a 1/4 cup of blueberries in our oatmeal every weekday of the year until blueberry season comes again. According to his calculations, I’m going to have to pick around 51 pounds! I know, you probably think I am crazy to be actually contemplating picking 51 pounds of blueberries for oatmeal. Having blueberries in your oatmeal everyday is not a necessity – I realize this. However, if it means I get the day started off right with some antioxidants and a smile, plus have an amazing time picking each and every one of them (at only $2 a pound for organic, local berries), I think it might be worth it.
So, because I couldn’t possibly store all of those berries without enjoying some of them while they’re especially ripe and spectacular, I put some of them to immediate use this weekend. I made blueberry butter. And by making said blueberry butter, I officially became a canner! That’s right – I made a canning recipe that I processed using the boiling water method and can proudly say that I’ll be storing those goods on the shelf, thank you very much! And the result (because yes, I already opened one jar – can you blame me??) – toast never had it so good! Believe me, if you think apple butter is good, try this recipe ASAP. It is phenomenal!!
Blueberry Butter
Adapted from Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter, foodinjars.com
According to Ashley in Canning and Preserving with Ashley English, the book I’ve been reading before bed (yep, I’m just puttin’ it all out there now), a fruit butter is “a fruit and sugar mixture where cooked fruit is pureed and then combined with sugar and heated until smooth and velvety.”

I’m finding that a frying pan splatter screen is a valuable canning tool. This recipe makes a mess. Oh! And note to self – don’t wear white while simmering this dark blue butter!

I highly recommend that you check out the original recipe for this butter, which uses a slow cooker. I will most definitely try it out some time. Naturally, I had ten million projects going on at once when I made this, so I just made it on the stove. But, it turned out delicious all the same – like pie in a jar without the crust!
Makes approximately 3 pints
8 cups of pureed blueberries (about 12 cups of fresh blueberries)*
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Put the blueberry puree, sugar and spices in a stockpot and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about an hour, until the mixture has cooked down and is dark and smooth. Make sure to stir often so the mixture does not stick or burn.
Ladle the blueberry butter into your sterilized mason jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
*Blueberries puree beautifully in a blender, no added liquid necessary.

Tin Can Lanterns

I’ve got art on the brain for some reason. This may be obvious, considering my last post and the newly added page to this blog, The Art. It’s just such a big part of my garden and my life, it’s gotta be part of this blog. So, my latest endeavor to beautify my space has been to create more garden lanterns.

I started creating mason jar lanterns last year after reading this post of Willi’s. I put lids on the jars in the fall to keep the rain out of them and they held up just great through the winter. Of course, I don’t light them during the cold and rainy winter months, but they make me happy just seeing them hanging in the trees. They keep me thinking about the sun that is soon to come.
This year, I’ve moved on to tin cans a la Martha Stewart. And I love them! They are just so precious and easy to make. Plus, they’re green – transforming recyclable tin cans into functional art!
Just rinse out the can, fill it up with water (leaving about 3/4 of an inch of space from the top), and stick it in the freezer until frozen solid. The frozen water helps the cans keep their shape. Then, using a variety of nails to create different sized holes, pound a design into your can with a hammer. Don’t forget to add two holes near the top on both sides of the can for the hanging wire. I forgot to do that on the first one and when I tried to pound them in later, I completely dented the can. Now it’s resigned to be a table lantern.
I used some thick, but pliable wire to create simple hangers and used my needle nose pliers to bend a spiral shape into the ends of the wires, a feature that also keeps the hanger attached to the can!
I have the tin can and mason jar lanterns hanging all over the maple and apple tree out front and when they’re all lit, it’s the most welcoming and cozy sight I’ve ever seen in the city. Makes me feel like I should have a porch swing!

My Mosaic Mural

Those of you that have been in my garden know that art abounds around here. I think one of the things I love the most about having a big yard is having space to decorate outdoors. I love me some color and even more, I love mosaics! (Remember these and this? Oh! And who could forget him?) I was blown away by Gaudi’s mosaics when I studied abroad in Spain during my college years, so when I came back to the states, I immediately found a mosaic stepping stone class. That class created a monster and I have since been mosaicing an abundance of surfaces around my home, inside and out. Well, this month marks the three year anniversary of my biggest project yet, a 12 foot by 5 foot tumbled stained glass mosaic mural, which adorns the back wall of my detached garage and is the backdrop for my patio. It took me exactly 31 days to complete, the whole month of July 2007. I worked for six to eight hours a day putting up every piece by hand, and three years later, I’m still loving every one!

The blank canvas, before

Tile backerboard and a quick sketch

Mountains and a tree line, an idea which didn’t come about until a quick trip to Bedrock for more glass. I was driving over the hill towards Ballard, saw the beautiful Olympics in the distance, and thought, Yes! That’s what I need! A tree line!

Treeline complete. The interminable application of grass blades begins.

Filling in the tree and…more grass.


Another tree!



Blue skies with pieces of mirror to reflect the natural sunlight

Yep, more grass


Sunshine and Ria’s bluebird, a little tribute to my bff, Radhi.

Complete!

Thousands of blades of glass, which I cut by hand out of four different shades of green stained glass


What’s a barbecue without the mustard?

It has been so sunny and beautiful lately. I love summer in Seattle! And to make things even better, I’ve got time off to do all my projects. So, I’ve finally made a couple of recipes from the super cool book, Jam it, Pickle it, Can it. I made mustard!

To make this classic barbecue condiment, I mixed together organic yellow mustard powder, sugar, vinegar, and salt. I let it sit in a cool, dark place for two weeks and just in time for my dad’s birthday barbecue, the mustard was ready!

It’s delicious – tastes like dijon honey mustard. The consistency is a little odd. It’s thick like peanut butter, so you have to spread it with a knife. I spread it on the crust before baking the delicious Romanesco cauliflower tart with carmelized onions I made for dinner tonight. I was raving after every bite!

Tonight, I made the recipe for ketchup. It has to sit over night, but judging by the taste I had while it was simmering, it’s going to be delicious too. I had no idea mustard and ketchup could taste so good!