Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blues and Bay

Over two years ago my father gave me all his canning equipment.  I finally got around to using the equipment this week.  I bought myself a new cookbook for canning inspiration and was very excited to make the cover recipe.  I made the Blues and Bay recipe from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.  As it is blueberry season, it was perfect timing.  I had a lovely time blueberry picking but had to cut it short because someone had cranky pants.  I did pick just enough for this recipe.  I hope to make it back out to pick if this insane heat ever subsides.

Please keep in mind that this was a first time attempt at canning and I really don’t know what I am doing.  I do know how to read and follow a recipe so I did just that.  It seemed way easier than it should be which leads me to believe that I did something wrong.

I was excited by this recipe because of the combination of blueberries and bay leaf, something I would not think to put together.  I really wish this recipe had a yield.  The amount of berries filled 4 jars but the amount of liquid only filled 2.  I did spill some liquid and maybe I could have fit more berries into fewer jars but I did not want to smoosh the berries.  The recipe said not to smoosh, actually “Pack them firmly, without crushing”. 

I was eager to try out the fruits of my labor and was not disappointed.  We enjoyed this canned fruit with some fresh homemade chevre.   It was also delicious with coconut pancakes and later enjoyed with vanilla ice cream. The liquid was watery, not sure if it is supposed to be that way.  The recipe said to make a “fruit syrup” but not how much to reduce it by or how long too cook it.  I am excited to try out the other jars and see if the bay leaf flavor intensifies. My first attempt was not a totally success or failure but it was a delicious start.

Back in the saddle

On May 25th 2012, I decided to get back into cheesemaking by making my favorite, rosemary feta.  I opened up my cheese notebook to discover that the last time I made cheese was September 8th 2010!  At the time I was about 4 weeks pregnant.  I took a break from cheesemaking because I did not have to time to devote to making cheese or driving 2 hours to get the milk.

This first attempt at cheesemaking after 20 months off was a total failure.  What I made was a milky slop that would not coagulate because my rennet and cultures were dead.  Rennet and cheese cultures do have expiration dates and they are not a joke.  Everything I had was expired but I wanted to see if there might be some viability.  I had a lot of supplies that had to be trashed, very sad.  I wish I had had the forethought to give it all to someone who would use them instead of letting it all go to waste.

I did learn to buy my rennet and cultures in smaller amounts.  Liquid rennet will last for a year in the refrigerator and most cultures will last about 2 years in the freezer.  I have since made some chevre, I should have let it drain longer.  I also made some rosemary feta but added to much salt to the brine so the texture was too soft.  But at least I am getting back into the swing of things.

I did make some cajeta which was a delicious success!  Sometimes I don’t know what to do with just 2 quarts of goat’s milk but now I do.  I think I will be giving everyone on my Christmas list a jar of this decadent caramel.  Another failure was this rosemary honey goat milk ice cream, I left out the strawberries.  The texture was icy and I had never seen one whole egg used in an ice cream recipe.  The recipe did not say to strain the mixture before turning but I did because the egg white left an unappetizing film.  I will keep attempting to recreate the delicious rosemary honey goat milk gelato from Capogiro and once I have it cracked, I will tell you all about it!