Monthly Archives: September 2012

Maple Pumpkin Butter – Recipe

I’ve spent the last 24 hours or so making pumpkin butter.

That’s not entirely accurate, but it works.

Pumpkin butter is made the same way you make other fruit butters, although – probably because even steamed pumpkin isn’t all that juicy compared to a lot of fruits – it tends to get “buttery” faster than, say, apples or peaches. What I mean to say is that, while it takes roughly the same amount of time for the fruit pulp to “cook down”, less of the pulp itself is water, so you end up with a little more fruit butter than you would, otherwise.

In this case, six cups of steamed pie-pumpkin cooked down to about four cups of pumpkin butter, despite the use of a liquid sweetener for the majority of the sugar-content. I’m planning on using some of it in wintery desserts – think hot crepes with whipped cream, dark chocolate drizzle, and pumpkin butter for Imbolg or Valentine’s Day – but will probably also give some away as hostess gifts while I’m in Toronto over Thanksgiving.

Here’s the recipe:

~*~

6 C steamed pie-pumpkin[1]
1 C maple syrup
1/2 C granulated OR brown sugar
2-3 tbsp apple cider vinegar[2]
1/2 tsp each: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and ginger
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional – I didn’t use it, but it might be nice)

Directions

1) Throw everything into a slow-cooker

2) Turn the slow-cooker onto it’s HIGH setting. Leave the lid askew so that what water there is can slowly evaporate. Let it cook for about six hours.

3) Give it a stir every hour or so, scrape down the sides, and generally keep things from starting to burn to the bottom or get too crunchy on the top

4) After six hours (or not – keep an eye on the consistency because YMMV and also you may like your fruit butters thicker – or saucier – than I like mine) sterilize four 1C jars (or 8 half-cup jars, or a mixture of the two), plus their caps and rings, in a boiling-water/steam bath

5) Using a wide-mouth funnel (not required, but it makes things a lot easier), scoop the butter into your sterilized jars

6) Cap the jars and process them for a good ten minutes in a boiling-water/steam bath

7) Allow your jars to cool. You’ll hear the “plunk” as the lids seal. (If they don’t do this, just eat the butter up within a couple of weeks, and make sure to store it in the fridge. Or re-process it. Either way).

~*~

So there you have it. Pumpkin butter.
I find that, because this is made with winter squash – a savoury fruit, if you will – the fruit butter is more complexly flavoured (there’s umami in there, and an earthiness that tempers the sweetness) than others.

What are you doing with your pumpkins this year?

Photo by Kathy McGraw
Used under Creative Commons License

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] This was approximately two tiny pie pumpkins plus one large-ish one, for those keeping track. Based on this, I’m guessing that a medium-sized pie-pumpkin would yield about three cups of steamed pulp.

[2] Fruit butters have a lower pH than jam and jelly. And pumpkin isn’t exactly the most acidic thing out there. Do not skip the vinegar!

I is for Invocation of Self – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Hey folks!

So I’m about three quarters of the way through Dark Moon Rising: Pagan Bdsm & the Ordeal Path, which is a book about using BDSM techniques in Pagan rituals. It’s… Okay, sometimes it’s a bit of a stretch. But other times, it’s really appropriate and fitting, and the editor has included some really well-thought-out (mostly group-oriented) sample rituals that could be quite beautiful and very effective if your ritual group is also full of kinksters.

However. What I was actually looking for when I bought it (I bought the e-book version, fyi) was a book on how to use Pagan ritual techniques in BDSM encounters. Specifically I was looking for ways to draw down my Domme Self[1] into my own body.

There is some stuff out there that helps with this. Lee Harrington’s piece, “Receiving Puja“, talks about drawing one’s own holy self into one’s body. There are parts of Evolutionary Witchcraft that pertain to this as well. And, yes, there’s a chapter in Dark Moon Rising that talks about Becoming God and, to a point, how to suffuse yourself with divinity in order to make that happen.

If people have other suggestions/resources on how to go about doing this, and want to pass them on, that would be awesome. 🙂

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] For those who don’t read the Kinky Blog: My Domme Self is, typically, about seven years old and is A Princess. However. That’s not the only side of her that exists. My Monster – the boggy river creature who lives among the weeds and the murk – she’s in there too. And so is the mother of the universe, the one that comes with a feeling of vastness, of being able to contain anything and everything. And that’s the feeling/existence that I’m trying to learn how to invoke – or possibly evoke – at will.

Go-To Preserves that Make Great Gifts – Cooking For People Who Don’t Carnival #3

So it’s Autumn Equinox (or there-abouts) and, aptly or otherwise, I’m talking about food preservation today.

I don’t have a lot of freezer space (or pantry space, for that matter – and I definitely don’t have a root cellar). So if I’m going to preserve the bounty of summer, I need to use hot water canning: The kind of preserves that you make by lowering the pH of the food until it can safely be stored without refrigeration.

If you look at my Recipes Tag, you’ll find a lot of recipes for jams, curds, pickles, chutneys and the like. All of these are (A) easy, (B) small batches[1], and (C) based on the technique of lowering the pH of the food in question.

If you’re planning on doing home-canning, it’s important to consider the kinds of preserves that you’ll actually use.
For example: I have two pints of grape jelly (from 2011) sitting in my cupboard that I know I will not be using – unless I figure out how to turn them into tarts (I believe that corn starch needs to be added in…?) – BUT, this being my house, we’ve already gone through about one-and-a-half pints of garlic-dill cucumber pickles since I started making them in [https://birchtreemaiden.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/garlic-dill-cucumber-pickles-2012-recipe/]July. So I know not to bother with grape jelly ever again (oh well…) but will make BUCKETS of garlic-dills every year.

That said, I do try to strike a balance between “stuff I know I’ll use” and “stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time”. So I made tomato sauce – which I will use, but mostly I know I’ll use it because I canned it in half-cup jars which can be used up all in one go, rather than in pint-jars that will drown my pasta in Too Much Tomato or else will sit in the fridge, unused, for weeks at a time after they’ve been opened. I made choke-cherry jelly – which I haven’t done before, but suspect I will enjoy, and balsamic peach pickles (same deal).
But I also made strawberry-rhubarb jam and peach-apricot chutney, and will be making cranberry curd come October… because I know we’ll use those up at home and I know that people won’t give me the side-eye if I hand them out as hostess gifts.

That’s the thing.
Home-canned goods can get weird looks and a lot of uncertainty from a lot of people. I served my sister’s home-made pickled asparagus at a party one year, and I actually got asked if I was “foisting”.
I wasn’t.
What I’m getting at, however, is that not everyone is going to be gung-ho about accepting (and then consuming) preserved fruits/veggies that they aren’t already at least slightly familiar with.
But! People who will raise eyebrows at a gifted jar of dilly beans or pickled rutabaga spears will happily accept home-made cucumber-dills. Folks who awkwardly thank you for that green tomato chutney (“Oh… You shouldn’t have…”) will jump at salsas; and jams, jellies and even chutneys (when they’re made with sweet summer fruits) are always a hit.

With all that in mind, here’s my quick list of go-to preserves that make great gifts:
Sour Cherry Jam
Apple Butter (also works with pears and peaches)
Garlic-Dill Cucumber Pickles
Spicy Peach Chutney
AND
Cranberry Curd (this one’s a slightly mangled guest-post over at Charmed I’m Sure).

Photo: llsimon53/Creative Commons

TTFN,
Meliad.

[1] Variety is the spice of life, and it makes Living On Cans a whole lot more enjoyable. So I do tiny-batch canning – the kind of thing where you never make more than about 6C of Whatever at a given time.

H is for Hearth and Household – Pagan Blog Project 2012

I read somewhere that Hearth Witches like to make things on the stove.

Well, that’s me to a tee. (Thense why half of this blog is about recipes and, probably, why I make my own soap and similar).

Right now the seasons are changing – big time – it’s Autumn Equinox, yes, so the Wheel is Officially Turning. But my bare feet are cold, and my bean vines are turning to mush because of the cold over-night temperatures. I have rainbow chard that needs to come in, and I have boots that need greasing, both before tomorrow night. It’s not flip-flop weather anymore. I’m craving hot chocolate rather than ice cream. It’s getting to the point where I want to curl up under a cozy duvet, soak in a hot bath, slow-cook meals – not because they create less heat than the oven, but because they’ll fill my house with their all-day simmer and delicious, warm smells.

And so this brings me to my hearth.

My desperately messy home that’s been getting neglected while my Servant works on her business plan and I go on work-travel. We’ve got social events tonight, and I’m working until 7:30, but the house needs attention. Time vacuum every room in the house, weed the wardrobe, pack away the sandals, and give the parrot’s cage a good pre-winter scrub. Time to smoke the apartment with cedar or dragon’s blood, light up all the altars, and make my offerings.

I think it’s incredibly handy that the Wheel of the Year has feast days happening roughly every six weeks. Because that’s about how long I can go before the clutter really starts getting to me and I need to give the place a good clean. Wanting to use the dining room table for a Nice Dinner and having a High Holy Day available to give me the excuse to pull out the vacuum cleaner (and hand it off to my Servant)… doesn’t hurt in that department.

It feels like the season of Gathering In is already upon us. Normally, I don’t think of that starting until November, but we are going to a get-together tonight, and from here on in, it’s chosen phamily, origin phamily, birthdays and celebrations, right up until some time past February. I hope it’s a good season. Bright windows in the dark, full larders and plentiful feasting, with lots of cozy days spent crafting and creating over tea and stories with my People around me.

Things You Can Do With Preserves – Peach-Apple Butter Edition

I made comfort food last night. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tinned tomato soup. I made the soup with milk (and cream), and threw in some fresh basil from the garden. The sandwiches, however:

One slice of (wonder) bread was spread thinly with a nice, hot mustard. The other was dotted with little blobs of home-made peach-apple butter. Add cheap, mild cheddar cheese[1] from the convenient store and grill on the sandwich-grill plates of the waffle iron.

Zowie. O.O

That worked.

So: If you’ve made jar upon jar of fruit butter and are looking for something to do with it that goes beyond using it as a substitute for jam, try spreading it on a savoury sandwich – cheddar cheese, roast turkey, a nice, smoked ham…

Give it a whirl.

TTFN,
Meliad. 🙂

[1] Can you imagine what this would be like done on, say cinnamon-raisin egg-bread with a really great aged cheddar? Foodgasm. Definitely.

The Curious Craft Show (Oct 14, 2012) – I’m In It! :-D

Hey everybody!

So I just got some fabulous news!

A while back, I applied for a juried craft show. I don’t do that too often because, well, I make jewelry and soap and candles. And candles and soap are… not that photographically impressive (since their appeal lies in the smell of beeswax, or the smell of combined essential oils that evoke things like Winter Solstice – that’s peppermint, juniper, and cinnamon, fyi – or what-have-you) and everybody makes jewelry. So, yeah, while I know my stuff is good, I also know that I’ll be up against a LOT of other people doing somewhat similar things.
That said, I know my work is good.

And, handily, the Curious Craft Collective knows my work is good, too!

A Curious Craft Show (and Swap)
Sunday, October 14th, 2012
11am – 4pm
Jack Purcell Community Centre

I will be selling Amazon Creations – luxurious hand-made soaps and bath-bombs; pure beeswax tea lights and votive candles made with paper core wicks and set in 100% reusable metal containers; poetry-inspired and pagan-themed jewelry; and lots of other goodies – at the Curious Craft Show on Sunday, October 14th, 2012 at Jack Purcell Community Centre, from 11am to 4pm.

H is for Herbs – Pagan Blog Project 2012

So…
In addition to Lamb’s Quarters (wild amaranth) and some Relative of Dandelion, I’ve got a further unidentified, windborn plant growing in with my cucumbers and nasturtium.

It has white flowers, a bit like tomato flowers, and round fruits that look like very, very tiny tomatoes. It also has leaves that look a bit like a small version of the leaves of an eggplant.
So I’m pretty sure that this is a nightshade family plant.

So I looked it up using Google Images.

Solanum Nigrum… Or whatever it is that’s growing in my garden.

European Black Nightshade.
It might also be Hoe/Harry Nightshade. Not sure.
It’s not Woody Nightshade (which is a vine with tomato-like, purple flowers), and it’s not Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna) – which has bell-like, purple flowers, and leaves that are more like those of a hot pepper plant. (It’s also bigger than the stuff growing in my garden, by the sounds of things, but I don’t know that for sure).

I gather (er, from the internet) that Solanum Nigrum is a sedative, anti-convulsive, and anti-cancerous drug. Topically, the juice of the leaves can be used to help get rid of shingles (adult-chicken-pox) and other skin problems.

The stuff that makes nightshades toxic is… unevenly distributed through the leaves, berries, flowers, and roots of Solanum Nigrum, so it’s hard to be really sure what kind of a dose you’re getting. So possibly, if you’re using this for medical purposes, doing so toppically is a better way to go[1].

Magically speaking, you could carry the dried herb on your person, or place it under your pillow, to help you get over an ex-sweetheart. You could also hang it (hidden) around your house to protect it from general nastiness, rotten intentions, and people who mean you no good. It can (I think) technically cause vertigo and delirium but it ain’t got nothin’ on its cousins, so use something else if you want to experiment with flying ointment.
Solanum Nigrum, like other nightshades, can be used in spells concerning Glamoury and also in rituals pertaining to, or honouring, the dead.

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

[1] That said, you can aparently boil the hell out of the leaves and eat them like spinach. None the less, I’m inclined to treat this the way I treat Motherwort: You can technically put it in your mouth but… only under specific circumstances and don’t treat it like food.

Miscellaneous-Sour-Fruit(s) Curd

Originally, I’d planned to make this a straight-up ground-cherry curd, since ground cherries are (a) local, and (b) citrusy. However. Ground cherries are also (c) expensive, and (d) small… and also (e) not that citrusy once they’ve been cooked for ten minutes. So I actually ended up doing a “general mixed fruit curd” using what I had on hand[1].

~*~

Ingredients
½ C butter
6 eggs
2 C granulated sugar
¾ C sour fruit, pureed[1]
½ tsp orange extract (optional – also tequila might work nicely here)
Pinch salt

Directions

1) In 4+ cup saucepan, cook the fruit – possibly with a little vinegar (I used pear cider vinegar, but whatever) until soft and falling apart.

2) Put the fruit through a food-mill (or use one of those immersion-blender things – that’s what I did) and puree until smooth[2].

3) Combine the pureed fruit, in the sauce pan, with the butter and the (optional) orange extract, and allow the butter to melt, on low heat.

4) While the butter is melting, combine the eggs, the sugar, and the pinch of salt in a bowl or – better – in the tall, narrow container that (hopefully) came with the immersion blender, should you be so lucky as to have one.

5) Use the immersion blender (or a hand mixer – use what you’ve got) to blend the eggs and sugar into a well-integrated goo. It should be… not quite the right colour for egg yolk, but still fairly yellow/orange (if you’re using turbinado sugar instead of white-sugar sugar, the colour will be darker than what I’ve described, though probably not by much).

6) Slowly add the egg mixture to the bubbling fruit mixture, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula (I used a silicone one, and it worked just great) to prevent things from sticking to the bottom[3].

7) At this point, you should sterilize your jars. This recipe makes about four cups so that’s one Litre jar OR two pint jars OR four half-pint jars OR eight (roughly[1]) half-cup jars, or some combination of the above that you happen to have on hand. I went for the half-cup jars because I like to give this stuff out as presents, and so the more units the better.

7a) Anyway. At this point, you should sterilize your jars (while continuing to stir the curd, seriously) along with their lids and rings.
I sterilize mine in a boiling-water steam bath (you put them, mouth down, in a frying pan full of water and bring the water to a boil. The steam, which is way hotter than the water, does the sterilizing, and you don’t have to deal with a giant vat of boiling water on your stove. That said, do what you will. You can also clean them in a dish-washer that has a hot-wash/sterilize setting, for example.

8) The curd (which you need to have kept stirring), should be getting nice and thick now. This is when you take it OFF the heat.

9) Using a clean (steam-sterilized) spoon and a wide-mouth funnel, scoop/pour the curd into your jars. Cap them, and then process them upside-down in a boiling-water/steam bath for about 10 minutes[4].

10) Allow the jars to cool on a wire rack. You’ll hear the “plunk” as they seal. (If you don’t hear this, and they don’t seal, you will need to process them again… or just eat a lot of fruit curd over the course of the next couple of weeks and keep the stuff in the fridge).

~*~

So there you have it. Miscellaneous Sour Fruit Curd. You can make this with raspberries, blackberries, cranberries[5], sour cherries, and no few other bits and pieces if you happen to have them on hand.

The curd I made, using raspberries, lemon, and ground cherries is a pale pink colour, flecked with bright red where the raspberry pulp clung to its seeds. If I’d used only ground cherries – with a hint of pear vinegar, most likely – I’d have wound up with a mildly-flavoured curd with a pale yellow colour that was due as much to the egg yolks as the fruit. When I do this with cranberries (did it last year, and it was a big hit with my family), I’ll get a medium/dark pink colour and a sharper taste. It all depends on what you use. Theoretically you could do something utterly luscious using pears or nectarines but… I’d rather cook those down into fruit butters, to be honest.

Anywhoo. Onwards and upwards.

TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] I used ¼ C mashed ground cherries, ¼ C lemon pulp and juice, and ¼ C frozen raspberries. Except that I didn’t actually use an entire quarter-cup of the raspberries and, as such, my yield was more like 3¾ C of curd… than four.

[2] If you want to avoid having seeds in your curd, and are using a fruit like raspberries or service berries, you would do well to strain the pureed fruit through a sieve or a cheesecloth or something. I didn’t and my curd has these bright red flecks where the raspberry pulp clung to the seeds. It depends on the look that you’re going for. Personally, I’ll opt for straining it, next time.

[3] Most curd recipes say that you should do this in a double-boiler. You can if you want to. I get impatient so I just do it right on the heat. In theory, you’ll get a smoother curd if you use the double-boiler method, though.

[4] I tend to process fruit butters and stuff with eggs in it for longer periods than I do jams and pickles. I’m not actually sure if this is necessary, but it makes me feel better. 🙂

[5] Which I’ll be doing in another month or two, fyi.