Monthly Archives: October 2012

Cranberry Curd 2012 (with recipe)

Hey there, everybody.
So you may recall (or not) that, one year ago today, I did a guest-post over at Charmed, I’m Sure that featured my (addapted not-very-far from Nigella Lawson’s) recipe for Cranberry Curd.
Basically, I’m trying to find ways of using vinegar, temperate-climate sour fruit, and other locally-produceable Sour Stuff in lieu of lemon juice (and other citrus) when I’m cooking.
This is not always easy, but it can definitely be done.
Being a lover of the sour stuff, and a lover of the creamy, eggy, not-quite-custard-like stuff that is Lemon Curd, and having a tendency to make preserves as gifts for people come Secular Xmas, I set about making cranberry curd.
This year I did things a little (only a little) differently than last year.
The main difference is that, rather than putting the stewed cranberries through a food processor, I strained them through a sieve. This takes longer, yes, and you wind up with about 2C of cranberry skins and similar that didn’t make it through the straining process, but you also wind up with a much, much smoother finished product. So I say go with the sieve option, if you can do so. 🙂
I also made a slightly bigger batch. Behold:
Cranberry Curd 2012
1.5 lbs raw cranberries (basically a bag and a half) + 1.5 C water
1 C + 0.33 C granulated sugar (separated)
0.33 C salted butter
5 eggs, well beaten
1) In a large (pasta, not sauce) pot, stew the cranberries and the water together for about 10-15 minutes, on medium-low, stirring occasionally in order to (a) break up the cranberries, and (b) prevent everything from either boiling over OR burning to the bottom of the pot.
2) When the berries are mushy and most of the water has evaporated, ladle your berries, in batches, into a sieve and strain them through the sieve’s mesh into a large bowl. By the time you’re done (about 3 batches, but you can do more if you like), you should have a bowl of very smooth cranberry purree, and a sieve full of cranberry skins and seeds and similar. (I plan to compost my skins directly, but others may be inclined to feed them to the chickens, run them through a lot of hot water to make a sort of cranberry tea, or do something else with them. Choose your own adventure).
3) After first making sure that there aren’t any errant skins or what-have-you still in the pot, return the very smooth cranberry purree to the stove and add 1C sugar, stirring until well-disolved.
4) Add the butter to the pot and turn the heat on. Stir gently until the butter is melted and the mixture feels smooth (not gritty – gritty means that there’s still undisolved sugar in there).
5) In a separate receptical (I used a glass 2C measuring cup), beat all five eggs with the separate 0.33C sugar. I used an immersion blender and it worked really well. The idea is to get a really, REALLY smoothly blended egg-and-sugar mixture, which helps to prevent a lot of the Problems that can crop up when making fruit curd (most of which are a result of the eggs curdling “wrong” or otherwise not quite getting incorporated into the fruit very well).
6) Add the egg mixture to the cranberry mixture and stir gently but briskly together until very well incorporated. Keep stirring after you’ve reached this point.
6.5) This is the point where, if you’re going to be canning this stuff – which I recommend because it’s delicious and, if you enjoy it, you’ll probably want to have multiple jars on hand – you will want to get your jars (and lids and rings) sterilized. I sterilize my jars using a boiling-water/steam bath on the stove. It’s relatively quick and you can do it while the curd is thickening up (see step seven) rather than having to plan in advance and run the dishwasher on “hot” to get your jars properly clean. This recipe makes a scant five cups so you wants five 1C jars or their equivalent on hand when you start sterilizing. 🙂
7) Continue stirring – you may find that a whisk works well here, but I just used a silicone spatula, and that worked fine. Eventually, the curd will (a) turn a marginally paler shade of dark pink, and (b) thicken up and start to bubble/boil. In theory, you aren’t supposed to let the mixture boil, BUT I find that, if it’s bubbling and popping at least a little bit, I know it’s reached the point where I feel safe and happy canning it (hot water bath) for future use. So that’s the marker I use.
8) Using a wide-mouth funnel, ladle the thickened curd into your sterilized jars, leaving a little bit of “head-room”. (With a 1C jar, I typically do this by filling the jar up to just below where the rin starts, rather than all the way up to the rim, but YMMV).
9) Cap the jars and screw on the rings. Process them, upside down, in a boiling-water/steam bath for a good ten (or a few more than ten) minutes.
10) Allow the jars to cool on a wire rack. You’ll hear the “plunk” as they seal. (If they don’t seal, then you will need to re-process them or else just store them in the fridge and use them up quickly – think a couple of weeks rather than half a year).
NOTE: Cranberries and sugar mean a good, LOW pH for this preserve. However it’s also got a lot of eggs in it, so I’m inclined to say “Use it up in six months rather than in a year”. YMMV, but that’s what I stick with. (That said, the stuff is so good, it’s easy to use up fast).

So that’s been my bit of cookery for today. Enjoy this stuff on pancakes or waffles, baked into a coffee cake, or used in place of traditional lemon curd to make dessert bars (like these ones) or in a filled cupcake or a tart.
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

Ricotta! (Or: Adventures in Cheese-Making – Part One)

So today I made my first attempt at Making Cheese.
Like many people (apparently) I started with the kind of cheese that you can make with (a) milk, (b) salt, and (c) acid. The kind that doesn’t have much wait-time between doing the kitchen chemistry and actually getting to eat your product (we’re talking hours as opposed to months, or even years, here, folks).

I used the recipe over at Smitten Kitchen and… so far it seems to be going well. I’m cautiously optimistic, if you will. 🙂

I went with the 3C milk + 1 C cream recipe, and I used a cloth napkin rather than cheese cloth (I don’t have cheese cloth and, hey, what you’re going for is a piece of cloth that will let the liquid drain out while retaining as much of the solids as possible), and have since switched the partially-drained proto-cheese to a reuseable mesh coffee filter purchased for exactly this purpose.

It’s still draining, but so far it’s yeilded a few cups of whey (which are now being turned into maple brioche-esque bread for this evening’s feast of roast duck and other goodies) and the cheese is… about the consistency of good yoghurt.
Given that, I’m assuming it will act kind of like yoghurt and, if I were to leave it in the fridge to futher drain overnight, it would end up with the thick, slightly dry consistency of yoghurt cheese – which takes about 4-6 hours to drain.
So I’m betting that, by the time my dinner guest arrives, I’ll have actually-cheese-like ricotta on hand (I’m going to blend it with some maple syrup or honey, and a hint of vanilla, and serve it over poached pears).

Right now, I’ve got about half of it sitting in the mesh coffee filter, which itself is sitting in a sceive. There’s a paper coffee filter on top of the cheese mixture and, on top of that, is a weight (a tin of bamboo shoots) to help “encourage” the excess whey to vacate the premacies. It seems to be working (though I don’t want to loose too much of the solids while it’s happening… and that’s a bit of a risk at this point, or so I’m guessing).

Anyway. Adventures in cheese-making! Eventually I’ll try kitchen mozzerella or something else that requires (eek!) rennet but, for the moment, we’re all good.

Go me! 😀

Meliad the Birch Maiden

I is for Incense – Pagan Blog Project 2012

Okay, this is a bit of an easy target, but here goes. I is for Incense. I’m sure you’re familiar with the image of the jewelry-bedecked, incense-wreathed Modern (and often very new) Witch. Terry Pratchett has a lot of fun with this image, although I do kind of wonder if it’s still accurate. (See, for example, Miss Sugar’s post where, apparently, they’re all hipsters now? So maybe less with the silver jewelery than when I was a whipper-snapper).
But anyway.
Incense. It’s a great way to energetically clean your house, and I try to do it at least every six weeks or so, plus whenever things are feeling kind of tense and gross and in need of a quick sweep. (Miss Sugar – who I’m apparently internet-stalking today – says that when you can’t physically clean your house, giving it an energetic scrub will go a long way. This seems to be the case, in my experience, so let’s go with it).
The trick with incense is that, well, you burn it. So if you’ve got a particularly sensitive smoke detector, pets with small lungs[1], or are having some respiratory difficulties[2], filling your house with smoke may not be the best plan.
That said, I find that wandering around the place with a burning incense stick, wafting it into all the nooks and crannies, framing my doors, windows, mirrors, drains, and faucets with it and drawing Xs over them with it, while muttering protective incantations (I tend to go with “only love may enter here” because it’s quick, easy, and to-the-point. You may want to use something else).
Now, being a crafty type, something I would like to try is Making My Own Incense.
Big shock.
And I like the idea of making specifically incense cones because they don’t take up much space, you can burn them in a tart-pan if you want to, and – while getting them to stay upright as you wave them around, smoking your house, is a little difficult (maybe I can use some kind of goo/gum to make that happen?), they are generally easier to clean up after than both incense sticks and foil-wrapped bundles of dried herbs. Plus you don’t need to invest in those little charcoal tablets, either, which is handy.
I found the following video tutorial on Youtube:

But, of course, this brings up some questions. Questions like: Do I have to use Makko powder? Really? Can I just use, like, very fine (cedar or other) sawdust, or some kind of flour, instead? You’re basically looking for something that burs evenly and sticks together after it gets a bit wet, right?

This other tutorial – which I can’t embed and which is 17 minutes long (the How To part is actually only about two or three minutes long, starting at minute 13) and talks you through a specific incense – has a different way of doing things that doesn’t call for makko, but does call for a big heap of salt (or sand or what-have-you), a receptical, and a rolled up paper tube. (It’s also about using what you’ve got in your spice cupboard, which – kitchen witch that I am – I rather like).

So that’s a place to start.

I like the idea of making my own incense, mostly because I like to make things in general, but also because it does let me (a) use what I actually have available in my kitchen and/or what I have available as far as what-all’s growing in the neighbourhood, and (b) can taylor my incense to what I want it to do. (I have incense sticks in “purification” but I have no idea what the Active Ingredients in this one are, I’m just kind of taking them on faith, so to speak). So it would be nice to make my own.

Anywhoo. That’s my chatter on incense, one of its uses, and my desire to make some of my own. YAY!

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] And by “small”, I mean “smaller than a very small parrot’s”, because we’ve got a Senegal, and she does just fine, even with incense burning right beside her… though she does tend to make the Smoke Detector noise when we do that.

[2] Like the ones I’m having right now.

Welcome to Amazon Creations :-D

So I have (finally) relaunched my Etsy Store. This time with more than six items in the shop, and a stockpile of photographs so that I can keep adding new products every couple of days in order to Keep Things Interesting.

Come visit my shiny new store! I make buckets of crafts but, for now, Amazon Creations is carrying my myth-and-nature-inspired jewelry! Go check it out! 😀

Currently listed as In Stock are a collection inspired, as it happens, by this old post of mine. More to follow.

Thanks for taking a look at my goodies. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

The Curious Crafts Show – It’s Tomorrow! :-D

I’ve spent the day prepping for the craft show I’m in tomorrow.

I’m inching ever-closer to petrolium-free packaging. This makes me happy.

I’ve got 100% beeswax votive candles in 4-pack gift boxes – four candles nestled in black tissue paper, packed into a white 100%-recycled cardboard gift box and tied with (acrylic, sadly) multi-hued yarn.

I’ve got fizzing bath treats in “Pumpkin Spice”, “Chocolate Mousse”, and “Elizabeth’s Cookies[1]” full of coconut oil and cocoa butter, packaged in pretty, reuseable mesh (but, alas, polyester) bags[2].

I’ve got three kinds of soap – unscented castille soap, “Winter Solstice” (peppermint, cinnamon, and juniper), and “Pomander” (sweet orange and clove – a perpetual favourite, I find), all of which are wrapped in waxed paper[3] and tucked into small, draw-string burlap bags.

No lip-balm this time around (it’s coming, don’t worry), but I do have a heap of new jewelry. My Honey Month collection is finished at last (YAY!) and will be proudly on display… with any luck, said display will be my new, deconstructable jewelry stand featuring a gorgeous peice of live-edged oak and made by my young lady. 😀

So. Long story short: If you’re in Ottawa, do drop by the show tomorrow. 😀

See you at Jack Purcell!

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] Which, yes, are named after the lemon-rosemary shortbread cookies made by musician Elizabeth Bruce.

[2] I’m thinking that, if I can get ahold of some reuseable tea-bags (kind of like these?), that would probably work. I just want something that has a finer weave than the little burlap bags I use for my soaps.

[3] Probably waxed with parafin wax. Maybe I can use butcher’s paper in future?

Blessings and Renovations

We drove back from Toronto on Monday and, coming home, were treated to an amazing[1] display of the Northern Lights.
I live in a city, and I’m definitely located in southern Canada. I’d never seen the Northern Lights before. My sweetheart has seen them in the Near North, where they show up purple and red, but I was astounded to see even just the shimmering veils of green that can appear in our southern skies.
“Kind of Amazing” is putting it mildly.

It’s autumn. I keep saying that. I think the summer has sped by so quickly that I’m still trying to catch up. A cold rain is falling fairly heavily outside and I’m grateful that, for the most part, the guys who are in replacing our (30+ years old, insulation-free) windows are done. It means I’ve got an east-facing wall again, and the place is starting to feel warm after four hours of nothing to keep the chill from coming in.

Photo by Mel Mazone
Via Wiki Commons

I’m drinking a lot of hot tea and dreaming of cozy, casual evenings involving homemade soups, slow-cooked stews, baked fruit desserts, candle-light, and good company. But before any of that can happen (other than, possibly, the tea), I’ll need to put the house back in order. Put the unicycles and the stacked balcony furniture back outside, unpack from our Toronto trip[1], put the furniture back in place, vacuum the floors and the rugs and, oh yeah, re-bless the house and put the wards up again.
That’ll be the big deal.
I’ll probably use dragon’s blood for the incense, light up all my altars (possibly with parafin candles, though, I admit. I’m almost out of beeswax tea lights and need to make more in order to have enough for everyone), and burn one of my “love, sex, happiness, and extra cash” candles in Boroslava the Parlour Stove while I’m at it.

Wish me luck!
Meliad the Birch Maiden. 🙂

[1] We saw the Northern Lights on the way home! It was amazing! I’d never seen them before! 😀

Autumn Musings

Harvest Moon was full over the weekend – a lot of my neighbours were eating Moon Cakes and having family/phamily parties to mark the occasion. My sweetie and I took the opportunity to go and fetch the canoe back from the private campground where we’d stored it over the summer (which wound up involving slightly less Naked Camping than we’d originally expected when we brought it up there).

It’s well and truely Autumn now. Cold in the morning, and dark too. We’re talking about investing in a new bedroom lamp (one that can take a hundred-watt lightbulb… or a 23-watt full-spectrum compact fluorescent lightbulb – like maybe these – as the case may be) and a timer to help our dark-addled bodies realize that it’s morning.

I’ve got two pounds of cranberries sitting in my crisper, about to become seven or eight cups of Cranberry Curd, and some turkey (not a whole one) defrosting for a roast dinner tonight[1]… but all I want to do is huddle under blankets, drink hot chocolate and chai, and finish Dark Moon Rising.

Oh well. Better get cooking. 🙂

Meliad the Birch Maiden.

[1] I’m thinking buttery boiled potatoes and balsamic-beets to go with it, as it happens.