Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pumpkin Pie

On Friday my eyes fell on some lovely little sugar pumpkins at the farmers market and visions of pie swam in my head.
It should be noted that my people do not do pie. I can't ever remember having a home made one in a Slavic context. I used my Baba's hideous Corell mixing bowl anyway though; it is suspiciously similar to the color of the finished pie.
So last winter I set out to master pie making and stumbled across a wonderful pumpkin pie recipe in my Larrousse Country Cooking that calls for crushed clove and real maple syrup.
So there is a significant amount of scraping.
The the pumpkin is baked at 350 for a hour and a half.
Until it looks like this.
The skin just peels off (though as you might imagine it is really hot) and then there is the fun of mashing with the pastry cutter.
Because the puree is really wet it needs to drain through a cheese cloth for twenty to thirty minutes which lets it cool down. Apparantly squeezing out as much water as possible is really important.
You get enough to make one pie from a pumpkin with a 10 inch diameter (though I make rather large pies 8 inches might do the trick.

The puree is mixed with all the ingredients and poured into the shell.

This pie was very finicky and took a solid hour and 45 minutes to bake though a shallower pie dish speeds things up to usually a little more than an hour at 325 degrees.
It turned out nicely and now I need to go to work.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Elias and Pirohi

So Elias has been a perfectly charming puppy lately to the point where we say, "cage" and he runs into his kennel. We would never have expected this a year ago.
As you can see he has everything a dog could want; internet access, a glow ball to chase at night, and a down comforter to sleep under.

Today the adorableness of Eli compounded because as we were getting ready to leave the house he went into his kennel without being told to. Flopper came into my room came looking very confused and asked who told Eli to go into his kennel.

We suspect he'll soon figure out how to feed himself.
Until then he waits expectantly at my feet whenever I cook anything. Today it was some 40 pirohi. He never looks directly at you though it's more "I'm conveniently here and you conveniently have food".
There was Eli as if to remind me that he too like cheesey mashed potato pirohi filling.

He's such a cute little furball.


Friday, September 28, 2007


Normally I don't blog about stash acquisitions because frankly I don't have the money to afford yarn noteworthy enough to warrant talking about. Every now and again the local economic realities of St Closet work in my favor. You see people here are really cheap about their yarn and there are two LYS in town , Bonnies and Gruber's. Gruber's carries a lot of work horse yarn Rowan, Cascade, Opal, and the unsightly novelty yarns while Bonnie's has upper end stuff and a greater variety of fiber so Malabrigo, Manos, Louisa Harding, Lorna's Laces etc.. The long and short of it is that periodically Bonnie up and buys some very nice yarn but because people are cheap here it just won't sell. More often than not this happens with sock yarn and this makes me a very happy man because I get good sock yarn for 10 dollars a skein as opposed to $15.
This time it was Araucania Ranco in a lovely variegated purple. Apparently the company is noted for a back to basics (whatever that means) approach and uses vegetable dyes.
I think I'll make one of the fancier patterns out of Knitting Vintage Socks maybe for my mom.
As an interesting historical not Aracaunia was an "undeclared state" for a few years in the 1860's when the Mapuche of what is now Chile named a French adventurer their king. He was promptly kidnapped and deported to France but mounted several unsuccessful attempts to reclaim his throne. His descendants still hold their titles and are active in representing the Mapuche in the UN. The rest of the world thought the guy was insane and so didn't take him terribly seriously.


I Love When Bill Clinton Gets Angry.

Seriously I'll vote for Hilary just to have him playing Cardinal Richelieu.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dr. Nayanga says ...

In my History of South Africa course the professor just said "I am about to hand you my master piece, If you a christian it should be your bible, muslim your koran, and if you are atheist your nothingess." in regards to a handout.

and " It is a very long flight to South Africa, 17 hours from New York; you eat and sleep and try to forget about life."

and "I am 65 I don't need to go to the bathroom often or I don't notice when I do. You are young so you might need to go; if anyone pees their pants it will be me."

"Misfortunes do not come singly but in Battalions" regarding the fall of the Apartheid South African Government; Shakespearian references make me smile.

I love historians.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Produce and Socks

The gardening season is coming to a close here is St. Closet, Mn. All and all I think it was a fairly successful little garden. I got decent amount of everything though not nearly so much as I would have liked and my Roma's were decimated by blossom end rot until last month. Peppers and herbs were profuse and my bell peppers have actually produced a second crop of little peppers. We planted 9 eggplants and got 4 fruits from them I think the growing season here just isn't long enough because all of the plants are now producing fruit there just isn't enough time for them to grow. I'll have to make something with all the green tomatos that are left in the garden though I think I'll get a few striped Romas yet.
On the knitting side of things I have been working on the eternal sweater and have managed to pull apart and reknit the collar three times. Elizabeth Zimmerman has amazing designs and obtuse directions. When I was in DC Dan was kind enough to give me a bounty of yarn and I have been working on a pair of socks for him out of Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks.
The Gentleman's Half Hose in the Ringwood pattern knit on #1's though originally on #00's dating from an issue of Weldon's published in 1898. Dan has developed a love of New England and I thought the reference to the stitch pattern being from Ringwood, New Hampshire would tickle his fancy.
I'm loving this yarn ,whose provenance I have forgotten; it's wool, hand spun, and hand painted, and am a bit saddened that the second sock is not striping but think it will turn out rather lovely. I'm starting the second sock because I'm not certain there will be enough yarn and would rather the foot be in black and the toes return to the original colors then have color shift happen half way down the foot.

Hopefully they'll be done by November when I go to DC for a wedding.


Knitting in Saint Joseph and an ugly apple pie

Yesterday evening Flopper organized a knitting circle. There were seven of us all connected through the School of Theology at Saint John's. Things were knit and there a lovely time was had. Flopper s concentrating on his knitting.

One of our craftspeople was not knitting but rather embroidering in a phenomenally intricate way. She also had a spelunking light so that she could see her embroidery better which I would imagine becomes more of an issue as a person ages.

It was really fun to look up from my socks and see a little Australian woman donning mining equipment. :)

Today after going to class and the gym I decided to bake a pie; because what else do you do after a 500 calorie workout on the cross trainer? The apples came from the St. Joe farmer's market (next week I'm going to make pumpkin pie filling with prodice from there and maybe can it).
I never make enough crust to do a pretty lattice work.

It is a rather ugly pie but I'll wager it will taste good.

Off to my night class; I think a post about the garden and knitting is in order for tonight though.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Give Jelly and You Shall Recieve Twofold maybe Threefold

Today Flopper and I wandered down to Minneapolis to escape Saint Closet for the afternoon and drop off some of last weeks jelly. One of the wonderful things about making things by hand is that there is no economic scale to it. You generally receive something in kind and it is an exchange of warmth as opposed to a means of making a living.

Peat Moss is always a dear and he and his partner Ben are both amazing. I came to give him two jars of jelly and a chutney and was given a canvas bag filled with goodies.
Two jars of pear chutney, a jar of pear butter, two jars of homemade yogurt (I'm excited to have the cultures), eggs from their backyard flock and most uniquely maple syrup mead from Ben's parents in upstate New York. I think I feel a new alcohol experiment in the works.

I also picked up a copy of "The Splendid Table" and am looking forward to trying a few recipes out.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

8 weird things about me

At the behest of Kyle here are 8 things about me that are somewhat odd.

1. I am the one the last scions of a ghost town. This is where I grew up. Mine fire ; fun times . To make money in the summers I used to give tours to yuppies. There are 2 other people my age from Centralia and 3 younger. Before the mine fire it was a town of 1200. As I understand it the Silent Hill storyline is based on my hometown. People come and make these hilarious home videos.

2. I really enjoy playing with molten metal and am particularly good at precision cutting using a torch inside a solid piece of metal. I've written in 2 inch thick steel. The trick is to heat the metal to just the right temperature and then blast the liquid metal out with a jet of air.

3. My nickname in high school was Mary; go figure.

4.I'm an environmental learner. Or what Howard Gardener describes as a naturalist learner; basically if I am put somewhere I innately pick up on the patterns around me and that process is my primary method of acquiring knowledge. It was a bitch for my teachers to deal with because schools are very sterile environments ,there just wasn't enough there to occupy me, so I was always trying to do something else. Now I just knit in class. You learn these things after a few years of education theory : )

5. My oddest collection is probably my historical rubble. When a friend goes to somewhere fascinating I have them commit archaeological theft for me. A pot shard or rock is usually the result. My favorite piece right now is a shard from Masada given to me by Flopper's mother.

6. My first and greatest musical love goes to ska. I also subsequently find musicians tremendously attractive. This is Eastern Standard Time out of DC.

7. I've an extremely sensitive palate ; as in oh yes undertones of hazelnut sensitive. My favourite food for minutiae is honey. I have kept different varieties of honey for specific purposes up to five or six at a time my current favorite is blueberry. I really hope to have a hive some day.

8. There are about 25 icons around the house and I haven't bought any of them for myself. This is what happens when loving people learn you like a particular art form.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Robert Jordan and The Wheel of Time

Every bibliophile has their fetish. You know the questionable literary love that makes others shake their heads in dismay. Mine is fantasy fiction. We're talking dragons, knights and magic. Now I have two divisions of fantasy; high and low.
Low fantasy would be the cheap seemingly endless series such as Dragonlance or the Forgotten Realms. 300 page excursions through tried and true plot devices with some character development. Hardly great literature. I read them in an afternoon and don't touch them for years. Think RA Salvatore and Terry Pratchett.

High Fantasy is another beast all together. High fantasy is characterized by flawlessly creating an entire world complete with history and cultures by a single author. JRR Tolkien and Middle Earth, Anne McCaffery and Pern, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Darkover, Brooks and Shannara, and finally Robert Jordan and the Wheel of Time make up the five worlds that I would characterize as high fantasy; there may be others (I hope so) but I've yet to encounter them. There are a few series that have come close Weis and Hickman's Deathsgate series or L.E. Modestritt's Order and Chaos books or Piers Anthony and his Incarnations all come close but don't quite meet the bar. I study high fantasy and reread these books almost annually.
Unfortunately Robert Jordan passed away on the 16th of September before completing the 12th and final book of The Wheel of Time Series; he was 58. The Wheel of Time is a megalithic series topping 8000 pages and written over the course of the last 17 years. I had picked the first volume "The Eye of the World" off my shelf and was going to read it this evening happening upon the news of Jordan's death while trying to find out when the final book would be released. It was my practice to reread the series before every new release.
I have been reading these books since 9th grade and am terribly saddened that the work will not be finished. The basis of these unwieldy tomes is the standard apocalyptic battle but into that Jordan threw a karmic cycle of rebirth and a Taoist "One Power" instead of the usual magic system. Every book began as follows with a different beginning that was not the beginning but a beginning. Cultures, character development, maps, societal institutions, the series is an amazing if immense work."The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age , called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, and age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not the beginning . There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning."

I would imagine they will release the chapters he had completed for the final book but finishing the series with any integrity seems impossible. I believe he may be the first of my favorite authors to die in my lifetime. It's a peculiar experience.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cabbage as an allegory for Life

No seriously the cabbage and the cabbage butterfly to be specific. Apparently an allegory for migration.
It says right here.
It was a pretty little installation at St. John's in Collegeville.
I thought it was delightfully eclectic.


Jelly Dillemas and Chutney

In life somethings just refuse to gel. In my case it was the jelly I made. The wild grape did what it was supposed to do but the choke cherry plum medley and the wild plum just didn't want to cooperate. So yesterday I opened all the jars reheated the jelly and doubled the amount of pectin.
That satisfied the Choke cherries but the plums are still being stubborn in a few instances.

Yesterday I also made chutney from green apples and green tomatoes.

On Sunday while Dan and I were bus making jelly Flopper was kind enough to chop the neccesary 2lbs of green tomato and 4 lbs of apples.

That mixture was left out for 24 hours and after my jelly debacle I set to cooking it.

The recipe called for.

2 C white wine vinegar
12 pearl onions (chopped finely)
2 TS of black pepper
2 TS of mustard
and 1/2 lb of sugar

All of which were boiled for twenty minutes. I wanted something with more spice and so added a teaspoon of smoked paprika.
All that was tossed onto the tomato/apple mixture in my small dutch oven and left to cook for 45 minutes on medium.
The book claims this chutney will keep for "many years" which is slightly frightening.
I'll be giving most of it away to friends in the cities and DC and of course Principal Dan gets 3 or 4 jars.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Abundance of Jelly

So a few weeks ago in Raulag , MN we went picking fruits and returned with a bounty of wild plums, wild grapes and choke cherries.
While we were there we cleaned,
and then strained
and hung up the various scalding fruit to drip overnight.
Resulting in these jars of jelly which dwelt in my fridge until today. There was a 1/2 gallon each of plum and grape juice and maybe a quart of chokecherry juice.

Today Dan came over and after a few calls to friends we set out making our jelly. I had no idea how much sugar is in jelly it is phenomenal. We used a solid 18 or 19 lbs of the stuff.
Here is my back. not sure when this picture was taken.
The fruit juice is mixed with tons of sugar and pectin and poured into the jars which were sterilized.
Then we flipped the jars upside down to seal the jars shut.
Eli lurked under the table for most of the afternoon looking mildly interested in the activities.

When all things were finished we had made a solid 36 jars of jelly in 12 and 16 ounce sizes for a total of 4 gallons all together. It looks like they are setting nicely.

Dan spoke of how he thought this was a "thin space" where he felt connected to his mother and grandmother and we all had a lovely time .