29 July 2015

spiced vanilla plum jam

After the little plum gleaning trip I did on Sunday with a friend of mine, I have copious amounts of small wild plums. I'm talking a good couple of pounds here! I had no definite plans or recipes that I wanted to make with these bright little fruits, but I knew whatever jam I was going to cook had to involve vanilla. I found this recipe online and while my version might have follow it quite closely, I still wanted to share this recipe. 

I have used agar agar only once before when making raspberry jam. Even the mention of the ingredient brings back such wonderfully strong memories of a farm I worked on in France. I remember standing over a hot stove, stirring a giant pot of raspberries with both hands, listening to Timber Timbre on the radio... That was the only other time I have used agar agar, but I gotta say this experimentation with the algae-based agent was a success. The trick is not to overcook the jam and trust in its gelling powers; all will be well when the jam cools, trust me. 

For this batch I think I added too much clove. It's a very strong spice so I also recommend adding it "to taste" instead of just trusting the recipe. I never trust recipes... That might be a bad thing. Not only does the orange zest contribute pectin to the jam but it adds a much needed alternate flavour, because basic plum can be a little boring. The vanilla bean and cinnamon tie everything together and you are left with something sweet, spicy, and rich where all the flavours mingle in the sugary goodness that is homemade jam. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 lbs wild red plums
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon agar agar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • zest and juice of one orange

  1. Wash and dry the plums gently with a tea towel or paper towel so as not to bruise the fruit.
    Place the whole plums in a large cooking pot, the pits will be removed while cooking.
  2. Cook gently for approximately 25 minutes or until the plums are soft and pulpy. Using a slotted spoon (or potato masher), squish the softened plums so the pits are loosened and can be spooned out.
  3. Add the sugar, agar agar, and lemon juice, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Bring the jam quickly back to the boil and cook for approximately another 20 minutes or until the jam is thick and reaches setting point. Make sure you're always stirring; you don't want the fruit or sugar to burn.
  5. Pour into warm dry sterilised screw cap mason jars. Fill until around 1cm from the top. Finger-tighten and, using a tea towel as to not burn yourself, turn the jars upside down and let cool for at least 4 hours. 
  6. Label the jam jars and allow them to rest for 2 weeks. Then enjoy!

19 July 2015

sunday night roundup | #2

Hello, hello! I hope you had a very lovely week filled with sunshine, adventures, and good drinks.



The past couple of weeks were pretty great overall! I managed to make it to the art gallery with my dad to see the Italian religious exhibit and got a couple of swims in throughout the week. Otherwise I have just been working (#nannylife) and reading. One of my goals for my twentieth year is to read all the Harry Potter books because when I was younger I only made it halfway through Order of the Phoenix then I quit and just stuck to the films. BUT I've been reading since last Wednesday and I just started Prisoner of Azkaban. I'm swept up in the magic all over again.

I also went plum gleaning with a friend recently and now I have about 3 pounds of little red plums just waiting to be canned. Jams and chutneys are in my future.

Oh, and I did a little garlic haulin' from our garden! This years crop is a few weeks early, but you can never have too much garlic.

Without further rambling, here are some internet-y things that have interested me in this past week! 
And finally, some tunes to get you in the mood to dance, go wild, and let loose. All rap/hip hop this time- some of my favourites and some new ones. But all with a sick beat to fuel whatever needs fuelin'.



Until next time... 

10 July 2015

developing a green thumb




They say there is nothing more therapeutic than gardening, and I have to say I agree. If you're every feeling stressed or upset or just generally out of whack, I highly suggest weeding. There is nothing more satisfying that tearing out plants by the roots. Bonus points if you're able to pull out one with a large stubborn tap root. 

The only time I would garden would be when my mother would force me to and I would half-heartedly move pots around or dig holes then stop after half an hour. Yet recently I've been inspired to grow my own food myself (mostly for the prospect of carrots, let's be honest). I'm a total advocate for home gardens, I thinks not only a great skill to have but you are in control of what you want to grow, weather permitting. 

I'm lucky enough to have room in our backyard to for my own little garden plot! So far I have around 5 small rows of lettuces, pak choi, and kale. They're absolutely adorable at the moment, my little seedling babies, and I can't wait till they're fully grown. Now I've expanded my bed to a small raised area which will be used for carrots but since the soil isn't warm enough yet I decided to plant radishes. Not only are they crispy and wonderful on salads but they have a growth life of 20-25 days. That's nothing! This means I'll be enjoying them by mid June! Can you tell I'm excited??

I'm extremely lucky to have a mother, who is a total green thumb, that can answer all my growing questions and who has an entire library gardening books that I can reference. If you're new to gardening or want to start growing your own food, here are a few things I have learned so far: 
  • Fence the beds with wire or some other mesh if needed. Garden beds are very attractive litter boxes for cats. I've learned that the hard way. 
  • If you don't have enough space, you can use a plastic container. Salad mixes usually come in them that you can easily reuse. Just fill it with some potting soil and seed it! Be careful how much you plant though, you don't want it to become too crowded. I would say 3 seeds per row in a 9''x5''x4'' container. 
  • Be patient. You don't want to pick them too early. I know they look delicious and adorable but the flavour strengthens as they grow!
  • Grow what you want. There is nothing more boring than waiting and watching something grow that you aren't interested in. Which leads me to my last point...
  • Use heirloom varieties. There is a lot of information out there on heirloom varieties of plants that is easily accessible. The benefits of these particular seeds is that the final plant will be something beautiful and unique ( have you seen those striped tomatoes??) instead of manufactured. It also shows support against the monoculture seed and crop producers. Always a plus. 
Have you been cultivating a green thumb too? Succulents are always and perfectly acceptable.



5 July 2015

sunday night roundup

So many of the blogs I read and love create lists of things they come across, enjoy, and feel the need to share with the rest of the world. I've been wanting to do something like that for a while, and on a weekly basis, so here it goes! The inner list-fanatic in me is ecstatic.
  • My friend gave me Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks for my birthday a couple weeks back. It's such an amazing read; she nails the definition of feminism simply without being simplistic. Here are some quotes to get you hooked.
  • This post by Happyolks about cobbler, self-love, and nature has got me feelin' all sorts of inspired.
  • These beautifully simple date squares are just calling out to be made for a picnic/potluck! 
  • This Portland farmer's instagram... I don't even know where to begin. Baby goats everywhere! Except now all I want to do now is finish my degree as soon as possible and run off to start a farm with lots of goats. 
  • The best beach/sport sunscreens as decided by the Environmental Working Group. Very, very important since this summer is one of the hottest yet, especially where I live. I'm going to keep an eye out for the Jason Naturals one now...