Black Currant Coffee Cake (and Syrup)

Okay, so today, on the way home from my contract-job, I stopped and picked about two cups of black currants off a wayside bush that I discovered last weekend. The upshot of this is that I now have about 1½ cups (in a pint jar) of black currant syrup cooling (after processing) on my counter AND about a quarter cup (maybe a third of a cup?) of black currant pulp (and tiny, tiny, crunchy seeds) left over from getting the juice out of the berries to begin with.
Now, while some fruits might become kind of bland and bitter and gross after you’ve leached the juice out of them (I admit I’m theorizing here, and thinking mostly of apples and pears), black currants are (a) kind of bitter – along with very sour – to begin with, and (b) have Flavour to spare, even after being boiled for an hour and then smushed into something resembling paté (at least if paté were maroon).
Readers, I did not want to just chuck the maroon paté into the compost bin with the stems and leaves and such-like.
So I cooked up (literally – ahaha) the following coffee cake to put it to use. I’ll know if it’s any good in about 30-45 minutes (here’s hoping).
Black Currant Coffee Cake
½ C whole wheat pastry flour
½ C polished wheat (white) all-purpose flour
½ C ground almonds
1 C granulated sugar
1 tbsp cassonade (maple sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Pinch Salt
¼ C mashed black currant pulp
1 egg
½ C oil, scant (think “minus one tablespoon” when measuring)
½ C plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix everything together in a big bowl
Bake in a greased pan at 350F for an hour (or until it smells done)
Allow to cool
Serve with fruit preserves, vanilla yoghurt, Black Raspberry Thunder ice cream, whipped cream, or whatever suits your fancy
Anyway, that was my adventure today. :-)
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

N is for No-Thingness – Pagan Blog Project 2014

A while back, I did a big tarot reading to go looking for my Shadow and how to fully integrate that part of me with the “upper” part of myself.
The second part of that reading was a “Key” spread which positioned “No-Thingness” (V of Major Arcana, in my deck) as my “yin aspect”.
At the time I didn’t have a clue what that was about, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to, well, think out loud, basically, and see what I can come up with.
The short version of this is that the receptive part of myself is The Hierophant. This card is… “right action” ( possibly something to do with my previous “Making Time” post?). It’s spirituality, mentoring, and Doing the Right Thing. Depending on the deck, this can be tied up with orthopraxy, with unthinkingly/stubbornly adhering to a particular set of rules, but it can also about (apparently) the union of conscious and unconscious (which… fits a LOT with why I did the reading, so okay), with group identity, with the carrying out, and passing on, of traditions and rituals (why am I thinking of Leather Tribe now…).
I’ve tended to understand The Hierophant as being in the same realm as the King and Queen of Air (Swords) – Control and Morality, in my deck – and with words/orders coming down from On High for the plebes to follow. But “No-Thingness” as it appears in my deck has always put me in mind of the dark from-which everything is born, the Great Potential which is the source of all things. In either case, I tend not to understand this card in terms of receptivity.
It leaves me wondering if my opening up to the union of my upper and deeper selves would be facilitated best (or most easily? Not necessarily the same thing) through ritual and Tribe involvement. Meh? Yes? Maybe?
Not sure.
Anyway. That’s where my wandering thoughts have taken me this time around.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

M is for Making Time – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Last week, I wrote about Magic and Making Do. Kitchen Magic, in other words. This time – regardless of when I hit the “publish” button – I’m writing about making time. Because I haven’t been making time. Not for a couple of months. And now I’m working a contract – a job that eats a lot of time, whether I want it to or not, whether it needs me to, or not – and I don’t have the long stretches of quasi-empty hours available to fill with whatever I need to fill them with. Everything gets squished into the three-and-a-bit hours between getting home from my 9-5 and the time when I need to crawl into bed if I’m going to get enough sleep before I have to get up and get myself out the door. I don’t (currently) have the luxury of lighting candles in mid-afternoon, and being available to keep them from both snuffing themselves out by accident or burning out of control (unlikely, but still: candles are open flames, even if they’re small ones) while I also do laundry, work on The Novel, study up on Sacred Kink or spirit work, or what-have-you, concoct a low-and-slow meal for dinner (still hours away), make a new batch of bread, follow up on personal emails… you name it.
Unsurprisingly, I regret both not having the time right now, but also not having made the time, when I had it in abundance, to make those regular offerings, to keep going on my Practice (as the hip kids like to call it).
Gordon has a piece on making your Ideal Day a reality. Sometimes I indulge myself by daydreaming about such a day. What would it look like? How would I spend it? Of course, there are a zillion different Ideal Days, depending on the season and on what has my focus at the moment. Some ideal days are spent harvesting and canning, singing as I work in the garden, dancing in the kitchen while I prep a dinner that’s heavy on the raw veggies, and eating that meal on the porch with my sweetie, with no time at all spent on devotions or physical exercise outside of those practical activities that act as both if (when) I get my headspace right. Some ideal days are spent on the modeling dais, or in front of the camera, then editing, posting, and promoting my work. They include “personal maintenance” to the tune of long baths, yoga classes, and pedicures, but dinner is a luxurious yet affordable meal out (at a friend’s house and involving grocery-store purchased pot-luck additions, or at a restaurant in the neighbourhood) rather than something I cooked myself, and there is nothing contemplative or holy about it unless I really want to think of Making Art (or getting femmed up to the nines) as a sacred or meditative activity (which it definitely can be, but frequently isn’t in my case). Some ideal days are spent curled up on the doubles-as-a-rocket-heater banquet (of my dreams), listening to Lee Harrington or Del Tashlin talk about faith and spirit and holy sexuality while working on my latest knitting/sewing project, or else practicing trance-work, doing divination, putting together custom talismans, all while the locally-ethically-raised shoulder roast braises in the oven, the bread rises on the counter (or possibly in the warming oven that is part of the banquet), the offering candles burn, and the summer rain (or winter snow) falls steadily outside. And some ideal days are spent scribbling thousands of words on my latest piece of fiction, interrupted only by the lightning strike of a poem here and there, while riding the fancy, first class train to the next destination on my Book Tour and my bank account grows fat (or at least “fed”) on regular royalties cheques and reading fees and, if I remember, I acknowledge how blessed I am to be living this life, doing what I do, doing what I love, and making a career of it, too.
What I’m saying is that (A) my ideal day isn’t just one day, and also contains more things than will actually fit into just one day… and also that (B) the devotional aspects of those ideal days, those idea devotions, aren’t often recognizable as Devotions outside of my own decision to treat them as such.
But… I feel better, for a given definition of “better” that isn’t necessarily a good definition (one where my increased sense of well-being is tied to a mix of “good doggie” feelings and a certain degree of not-exactly-self-righteous “orthopraxy” rather than to actual communion or connection, study or practice, or even just the anchor provided by taking the time centre and to ground).
So. How do I make the time?
By not hitting the snooze button
By keeping the computer off for longer (and possibly leaving a note on Social Media that I’ll be checking email less frequently for the time being)
By pushing past the self-consciousness that leaves me feeling silly or foolish for boiling water in the mornings
By getting my head right
By breathing in the moment (I know that sounds really Woo, and it is, but bear with me) and doing multiple little centerings through-out the day, rather than one big one at a specific time or place – like the years-old, often forgotten, decision to do 10 minutes of yoga (or similar) every day, because it’ll make me feel better if I do
Meliad the Birch Maiden

M is for Magic and Making-Do – Pagan Blog Project 2014

So here I am, looking down the neck of a two-week contract for-which I’m primarily extremely thankful – income is important, and this is close enough to home to be able to walk at least some of the time – even if the thought of being back on the Temp Agencies’ roster with no clear end in sight is not all that encouraging. (That said, I did just find out that my contract is walking distance from home, which is fanTAStic news, so there’s that!)
It’s strange to be “looking for work” in a more permanent sense after spending nearly four years in one job. I catch myself thinking “Damn, I shouldn’t have put all my eggs in one basket like that, I was really relying on those monthly paycheques”… as if accepting a permanent position and believing it to be permanent isn’t what most people in my country are striving for, if not full-out doing. It’s a funny space to be in, mentally, this visceral knowing that (a) lots of diverse income streams are the safe bet, even when it’s important that at least one of them (ideally a mininum of two) be reliable and fairly fixed, while also (b) getting the impression that this is not how Most People approach “career building” (if I can call it that).
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L is for Lunation (Pagan Blog Project 2014) – OR – Full Moon: Serviceberry Moon Crests

Why yes, it’s another two-for-one post because I got Stuff on my mind right now that is eating up a lot of mental bandwidth, if you will. Continue reading

Well… I Guess This Means It’s Canning Season…

I bought two baskets of Ontario miniature cucumbers today, and am brining about 2/3 of them (cut into spears) for this year’s batch of garlic-dill cucumber pickles[1] and the rest of-which will be chopped up and fresh-eaten in salads[2] over the next four days or so.
I also picked up a few golden zucchini – also Ontario-grown – and blanched two out of three of them. They’re sliced into super-thin rounds and freezing (not exactly IQF, unfortunately, but close) in the chest freezer[3] along-side a couple of cups worth of local alleyway raspberries, all of which will be transferred to freezer bags in the next 24 hours or so. My plan for the next hour is to wander over to a neglected patch of red currants (not quite in my neighbourhood, but close) and collect enough for a pie and, potentially, enough to freeze a few for later use.
I admit what’s more likley to happen on that front is that I’ll use last year’s red currant hoard (such as it is) in the pie, and freeze this year’s bunch to make (months from now) a simple, sweet-tart fruit sauce that more-or-less works in lieu of cranberry sauce. Or possibly another pie, or possibly an addition to breakfast muffins or a struesel loaf or something. You get the idea.
Anyway. With these projects under way, I think it’s safe to say that Canning Season is upon us – or at least upon me in edging-towards-full force.
Right now I have:
2 C asparagus relish
2 C black currant curd (made with ribena – aka black currant simple syrup – about a month ago)
2 L (or so) frozen serviceberries
1-2 C (flattened out in a single freezer bag) edamole (made from previously frozen edamame)
1-2 C (flattened out in a single freezer bag) Vietnamese Garlic pesto
2-3 C frozen (well, freezing) golden zucchini rounds[4]
2 C frozen (freezing) raspberries (hoping to collect more early next week, if I can swing it)
6+ pints (3+ litres) of cucumber spears – currently brining, but the end result will be pickles
…Plus the preserves I have in the cupboard, still, from last Summer – four cups of fruit butter, two and a half cups of various jams, a pint of cucumber pickles + a half-cup jar of raddish pickles, two cups of chutney, and an acient jar of grape jelly that I need to find a use for ASAP. (Got suggestions? I’m wondering if I can use it, mixed with some red wine vinegar, as some kind of a glaze…)
As for that red currant pie… Taking this and this as my starting points, I’m aiming for:
2-3 C red currants, washed, stemmed, and tossed in –> 2 tbsp flour
0.5 C sugar (or more to taste – red currants are pretty sour on their own)
0.25 C plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.5 C black currant curd
1 single-crust pie shell – possibly a crumb-crust made with ground almonds, brown sugar, a little flour, and some butter (likely)
Spread pie-shell with black currant curd
Combine upper ingredients in a bowl, then dump into pie-shell (on top of curd)
Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes
Allow to cool for half an hour (to set)
Serve. Possibly with vanilla yoghurt OR whipped cream OR chocolate (or vanilla or berry) ice cream. Enjoy. :-D
Meliad the Birch Maiden
[1] The irony, if you can call it that, being that finding Ontario garlic at the moment is going to be a tad tricky. (I’ll have to check the Parkdale Market – possibly today – to see if anyone has some uncured stuff up for sale). Woops. :-\
[2] Specifically, think diced cukes + red kidney beans + cooked quinoa (or couscous) + dried herbs (dill and cilantro, probably, plus some of my frozen Vietnamese Garlic pesto) + plain yoghurt. It’s basically a meal, and I like it that way. :-D
[3] I am so freaking glad that we have this, I can’t even begin to express it! Stocking up! Without having to cover everything in sugar! :-D :-D :-D
[4] The idea is to have them on hand – along with (I hope) some frozen roasted-and-diced eggplant and a lot of different blanched-and-frozen greens (muffin-cup sized “pucks” of them), and as many jars of crushed/sauced tomatoes as I can manage to create – for making stews and braises over the winter and into the spring.

L is for Layers (Me and My Shadow) – Pagan Blog Project 2014

Okay, my dears. So I finally did the two tarot spreads I’d been promising myself I’d do since last week’s Kick in the Pants.
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