Saturday, May 30, 2009

3-minute post

Halfway through my eggs yesterday morning I thought why haven't I ever done a post about this? Now, it is true that chopped up runny eggs are not the most photogenic lot, but the point ain't how it looks. Taste, my friends, is the point with these eggs. Truly free-range, fried to gooey perfection, then tossed in with mangled hunks of toasted english muffin love. I eat this whenever possible, which if I bother to think, is about once a week.

Watering the yard after the scrum-diddle-dee-umptious breakfast, I looked up and saw this beauty. On top of it's charming looks, it's a volunteer that popped up a few months back. I just love volunteers. Their tough, easy to plant, and in this case, the purtiest damn thing in the whole yard.

Putting the yummy eggs and dandy flower experience together, it was one hell of a nice start to a friday morning. We finished watering, then came back inside and plugged the kids into their favorite video from the library. Then I did one of my favorite things, and started making red sauce.

Life, is good.

Monday, May 25, 2009

strawberry pie

A comment on a post two years old reminded me of something; strawberry crack sauce season is upon us. Lo and behold, we've got a bunch of berries out front as the calendar predicts, so I whipped up a dough and chucked it in the fridge. Then I wrangled up the monkeys and put them to work. Giving them each an unbreakable container to collect with, we went out front and each chose a spot to start.

Asking the monkeys to show me what they picked revealed no big surprises. At 2 years, little dude is getting the hang of picking the ripe ones, yet still manages to eat the red ones first, while at 5.5 years big girl is just about an expert. Luckily for him, he seems to have an iron gut when it comes to eating well over a dozen strawberries. Red or not. For her, the years more experience means she has a touch of patience and a sense of delayed gratification. Or more simply put, she understands that just about any fruit is better with some sugar and dough wrapped around it.

I looked at the bounty, considered what I tasted while picking, and made a few mental notes. These don't seem as sweet as in the past, nor as big. I've heard that farmers plant fresh each year, since the young, new plants give the most robust, tastiest berries. Maybe, just maybe after 4 years or so, it is time to plant anew like the professionals do. I brought them inside, gave them a gentle wash and got out some in-gree-junts.

I tossed the berries with a touch of sugar and some runny rhubarb marmalade that I made sometime last year and canned. I rolled the dough out and put it in a tart pan. Plop goes the berry glop, then a little bakey-bake and voila! Nothing too fancy here, but damn satisfying. Yard fruit, 1/2 whole wheat crust, legal child labor and a new name. You see, when I put it on the rack to cool, little dude pulled at my leg and said "up peas." Then he took a look at the pie and said "peet-zuh." I laughed, gave him a little tickle and said it was some funny pizza then. He smiled, pointed at it, started nodding slowly and said "drawberry pizza Dada."

There you have it. Strawberry pizza. Well, technically, a strawberry tart with a touch of rhubarb and orange marmalade, but hey, who really cares. It tasted great, used an old canned good, and gave me a new food category.

Just think, dessert pizza!

Monday, May 11, 2009

stinging nettles 23, me 1

Ha stinging nettles! It is time I begin to even the score. For years now you have brushed my bare legs while hiking, leaving me with a not so pleasant burning sensation. Well, your ass is mine now. I've implemented a plan to use some fermentation to put your poison to work.
For me.
Yeah, you heard it.

Going on a few years now, I've wanted to harvest nettles in the spring and make some pasta with it. They grow all over the place around here (if you look in the right places that is) and thanks to a yearly ritual of camping out for Mother's Day, I know where to find them. Finally, this year, I'm doing something with them. It ain't pasta though.
It's beer. (Is this really a surprise?)

I bought a book a while back called Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. (With a title like that, what's not to like?) But really, I bought it to have some mead recipes and guidance for fermentation experimentation. Well, I was reading about nettles healing properties toward arthritic and rheumatic conditions and thinking about collecting them, when I ran across a few beer recipes. Sweet! Then I remembered that my wife has been having a bothersome hip that the doctor chalked up to "getting older." Hell, if at our age aches and pains don't just mean cure them anymore, but more like just deal with it, then sheeeeiiittt, it couldn't hurt putting a little hand gathered medicine into some beer and using it as a curative tonic now, could it?

Gathered and washed, they weren't so tough looking. More like fuzzy and maybe even working toward approachable. It took me a few versions of latex and gardening gloves in conjunction with some fresh burning and mild swearing before I figured out my technique, but, hey, I like learning things the hard way sometimes. With the ouchie part over, now I'll tend to the brew by keeping it in the "happy range" of yeastie beastie temperatures. Then I'll bottle it. Then I'll drink it. Whether it works for my sweetie's hip or not, only time will tell. What I know for sure is that the tide has turned for the nettles. I've scored my first point of my life against them. And when that first sip of the curative brew hits my lips, I'll give myself another point. Then I'll take another sip. Then I'll give myself another point and soon there after, probably forget all about any aches and pains.

Already, the stings don't seem so bad.........

Mid-June Update:

Oooooh, Maaah, Gaaaah, this stuff is nuts! And crazy. Crazy, but like, good. Part brown ale, part root beer, with a strong yeast profile, definite hoppy-ness and that vegetal something or other from the nettles, it somehow still manages to fall firmly within the beery camp. The first sip tried was loaded with anticipation, but we jumped the gun and tried a touch too early. It wasn't quite carbonated right and the flavors still seemed a bit separate. Kinda like chili the first day sometimes. Then a week later, while enjoying this deliciousness of super beefy burger on homemade buns with thyme sauteed summer squash, we tried it again. It was just right. All the crazy flavors working together.
Nettles, your days are numbered.