Tag Archives: preserves

Sour Kraut: The Adventure Continues!

So, back in the summer, I learned how to make sour kraut at a Queering613 workshop. (It was a tonne of fun, and I made a few new friends, which was also pretty great). We’ve been eating it for months, because I made a big jar off it, and it was time to top it up a couple of weeks ago.
 
I transferred everything to my spiffy Fermentation Crock (a gift from a pottery-making friend who is just as DIY as I am, if not more-so), topped it up with salt water and fresh cabbage, and let it sit for a week or so.
 
Woops.
 
Reader, I let things get mouldy. O.O
 
Now, if you’ve been reading this for a while, you know that I am generally not a “Throw It Out, It’s Ruined!” kind of gal. I have scooped out the spoiled stuff (which was above-water-level, as is to be expected[1]) added a cup of filtered whey (from my last batch of kefir – see, I told you I’d mention whey in a follow-up post) and 2tbsp salt dissolved in some filtered (boiled and cooled, actually, which seems to be working just fine, at least when it comes to making kombucha) water and… we’ll see if this works.
Fingers crossed.
 
I hope it works. I don’t want to have to compost the entire batch, and I do want to be able to serve sour kraut with perogies in the near future, plus use it to make sandwiches (it goes really well with garlicky hummus, and I think it would be good on a roast pork sammie as well) when my wife and I are working in the shop.
 
I’m really interested in continuing to make fermented veggie pickles. I’d like make some rutabaga & beet pickles (like you eat with shawarma) and to try lacto-fermenting as’kibwan'[3] using either a recipe like this or just working it the way I do my sour kraut (similar to this). I’m interested in using diced chard and kale stems (which I typically dice and freeze, and then chuck into stews and braises) to make a chunky, crunchy kraut for sandwiches, too, that I could also chuck into stir-fries or braises in lieu of needing to add vinegar for “brightness”. I’m even thinking about trying to make fermented hummus using whey and maybe kombucha-vinegar (instead of lemon juice)… just for the heck of it, really.
I mean, we’ll see if I do any of this. But it’s on my mind, and they are things I’d like to try.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Sour kraut is an anarobic[2] ferment, so it’s only good (or safe, for that matter) to eat if you’re keeping it submerged. Which is why fermentation crocks often involve a weighted lid that fits inside the crock, rather than on top of it.
 
[2] Meaning “needs to be kept away from air” in order to ferment properly. Kefir is an example of an arobic ferment, that needs air circulation to properly do its thing.
 
[3] I have yet to dig my sunchokes – which are maybe called as’kibwan’, or something close to it(?), in Anishnaabemowin (local indigenous language – I figure it’s an indigenous-to-the-area plant, might as well use its real name) – out of the back yard, though it’s warm enough to day that I can probably do so. I admit to be a bit nervous about storing my (current) favourite root crop. I don’t (yet) have a bucket of sand that I can stick them in, so I’m looking at blanching-&-freezing and pickling in the interim.

Adventures in Cheese-Making, Part Five: Kefir (this time with kefir grains!)

So I’ve started making kefir.
Kefir isn’t technically a cheese (although, strictly speaking, none of the cultured dairy I’ve made, including the ricotta, has been “cheese” because none of it has involved any kind of rennet? Who knows), but it is a cultured milk product that is vaguely related to yoghurt, so I’m putting it under this heading.
Why Kefir? My wife, who is generally not a fan of anything less cheese-like than old cheddar or a fairly firm blue, asked me this the other day. It is, after all, basically just milk that’s Gone Off in a very specific way. Here’s (essentially – I’ve expanded it a little bit) what I told her:
 

So, I love yoghurt. I love it on pancakes. I love using it instead of sour milk to make coffee cakes and muffins and stuff. I love it as a base for a creamy salad dressing for winter veggies[1]. I love it with maple syrup and frozen service berries as a breakfast. It’s fantastic. It’s also expensive as fuck. Plain yoghurt that isn’t full of thickeners, but also isn’t Organic, runs about $3/kg. A kilogram of yoghurt, at my house, lasts about 2 days, if I use it as a breakfast food. Longer if I use it as a topping or a dressing, but it’s primarily a protein source and major meal component, when I have my druthers. I’m not down for spending $10 a week on yoghurt. But I’m buying a $6 gallon of milk every week anyway and, over the summer, I was having about 1L of every gallon go bad on me. So I thought: Why don’t I make yoghurt?
Except that, every time I try to make yoghurt[4] all I get is a skiff of yoghurt floating on top of a litre+ of whey. Not helpful. That, or I thicken the milk with powdered milk (not cheap) which gets me yoghurt, yes, but it gets me chalky yoghurt that I don’t want to eat as a breakfast food.
So I decided to look up mesophilic[5] dairy cultures and try my hand at those.

 
And try, I did!
My first attempt was actually using powdered “kefir starter” which… works. Ish. But the kefir I got wasn’t very thick. Basically, a powdered starter will only ferment the milk up to a certain point, and that point was a little runnier / more watery than I liked.
But then! A friend of mine arrived at my birthday party (about 2 weeks ago) bearing a jar of milk for me. Floating in the milk were a few tablespoons of kefir grains happily getting their ferment on. 😀
Woohoo!
So, as they say, it was on. I set the jar down on top of my chest freezer (warm, out of direct light, not likely to get knocked over) and let it do its thing for a few days. The kefir grains did their job fantastically (maybe too fantastically?) and I wound up over-fermenting things just a little bit.
This isn’t the end of the world, especially if you’re wanting thick kefir to begin with, but it did mean that – after I poured off most of the whey (kefir totally separates into curds and whey, fyi – it doesn’t mean something’s gone wrong, that’s normal and your kefir is okay) – I actually had trouble separating the curds, which I wanted to use in lieu of chevre, from the kefir grains (which you have to strain out, so that you can ferment more milk).
 
Kefir grains, by the way, are a SCOBY. They’re like the weird jellyfish/pancake thing that develops in, and creates, kombucha, but rather than being a jellyfish/pancake, a kefir SCOBY is dozens (or more!) of translucent little blobs like tapioca pearls[6].
 
So I bugged my fermento/DIY friends on FB and they all gave me suggestions for how to handle this little problem.
What I ended up doing was the easiest option possible.
I transferred everything except the poured-off whey (more on that in a follow-up post) into a larger jar – the one I’d first fermented sour kraut in, as it happens (don’t worry, I washed it VERY well to avoid flavour-crossing) – topped that jar up with milk, and let it sit, covered in a clean dish cloth, for another few days.
After enough time had passed that my ferment was starting to separate, I poured off some of the whey, but kept some in the jar. I shook everything up a little bit, and then tried straining the grains again.
 
Behold!
 

Using a plastic mesh strainer (kefir, like other SCOBYs, doesn't do well with metal equipment) and a plastic funnel to strain kefir into a 1L mason jar.  Mesh strainer contains clumps of kefir grains, which will be reserved to make the next batch of milk kefir.

Using a plastic mesh strainer (kefir, like other SCOBYs, doesn’t do well with metal equipment) a plastic funnel, and a wooden spoon to gently strain kefir into a 1L mason jar. Mesh strainer contains clumps of kefir grains, which will be reserved to make the next batch of milk kefir.


&nbs;
Suffice to say, it worked.
What I ended up with, once I’d strained the kefir into a clean, 1L mason jar, was about 3C of drinkable fermented milk. (If I want something more like a cheese, I would need to ferment my kefir longer, drain off more of the whey, and put a little more work into pushing the curds through the strainer to separate them from the kefir grains).
 
Which brings me to: So, How Was It?
 
It was. Fermented. It was really fermented.
See, I’ve been drinking a lot of those 1L bottle of “yop” style kefir that you can get at the grocery store. I love them, they are delicious. But they’re also pasturized. Meaning that, yes, they’re not fizzy. But, more to the point, they’re not actively boozy anymore.
That’s pretty relevant.
Especially when you’ve (mixed it with some maple syrup and (fake) vanilla extract, and) packed it as your lunch f
or a day of modeling. In a high school. For an exam.
>.>
Yeah.
I’m a light-weight, but I didn’t think I was that much of a light-weight. O.O
 
I’ve since learned that Kefir isn’t a “beginner” pro-biotic ferment like Sour Kraut. It can give you headaches and digestive issues for the first few days, if you’re not used to it, and it’s… wise to start slowly. So maybe my having started with 2C of the stuff had something to do with why I was dizzy. Then again, maybe the kefir, alone, wasn’t enough food to cover an afternoon of physical labour and rapid changes in planes/levels (lots of 30-second poses) and I should have brought nuts or other carbs with me as well. Not sure.
Regardless, the very definite alcohol smell threw me for a loop.
That said, I’m still enjoying it. (Felt weird about having it on school grounds, which I’m pretty sure is Not Allowed, mind you). It fizzes on my tongue like a weak mimosa, if that helpful for giving you an idea of what the ferment level is. 🙂
 
Beyond that? If you have Texture Issues, kefir may not be for you. At least not as a beverage. (As a beverage: Shake it well, but not TOO well, because even after straining the grains and a lot of the whey out, and storing it in the fridge, a jar with a lid screwed on will be under pressure! Let the gas off every 1-2 days or so to avoid exploding jars). It’s grainy. Tiny curds suspended in liquid. Not smooth like the grocery store stuff (I don’t know how they get it smooth, but I suspect it involves some kind of thickener like carageenan). You might enjoy it as a cheese spread though, maybe blended with garlic and thyme to be used a bagel or as a topping for beets, or else sweetened and baked into a torte or even used as frosting for red velvet cupcakes.
 
I’m currently drinking the last of my first batch of kefir, while my second batch ferments away in its jar on top of the freezer. I look forward to incorporating kefir (and kefir products – like strained soft cheese, or using the whey to kick-start other fermenation projects) into our meals. 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Combine diced raw apples and steamed diced celeriac, toss with plain yoghurt plus some prepared mustard and ground nutmeg. Serve. It’s amazing. Also works for khol slaw with carrots and cabbage. Also works as a cheaper-than-goat-cheese topping for boiled beets and/or perogies.
 
[2] Possibly because I was drinking iced herbal-fruit teas (no milk), rather than hot chai (which I put milk in), and that was just enough of a change for me to lose a litre every week to spoilage[3].
 
[3] Not the end of the world. I can use gone-off milk to make coffee cakes, same as I use yoghurt. But I don’t necessarily want to be baking in August, either.
 
[4] Which is thermophilic, meaning that you have to heat the milk up and keep it at a fairly consistently warmer-than-room-temperature, but cooler than the “keep warm” setting on my slow-cooker, temperature while the culture is doing its thing.
 
[5] Meaning that the culture does it’s thing at room temperature.
 
[6] Which you can also use to make water kefir, coconut milk kefir, and, in a neat twist, even grape juice kefir (apparently). A friend of mine has heard tell of fermenting grape juice kefir for a day or two specifically to stain the SCOBY grains purple so that they’re easier to see. I haven’t tried this, myself, but I’m kind of curious. Could I make a cherry-berry “country wine” cordial using kefir grains? Inquiring minds want to know!

Green Tomato Chutney 2016 Recipe

So, I’m about to run out of the house to do laundry, but I wanted to get this down. I finally got around to making my green tomato chutney (after, what, a month of saying I was going to get to it?), and put it in the slow-cooker to do it’s thing while I’m out this afternoon.
The recipe is a little different from last year’s, because I have slightly fewer tomatoes (my mistake – I waited too long, due to having run out of canning jars, and the first batch I harvested went moldy), and slightly different ingredients on hand, and also because my garlic basically dried to the hardness of cashews in the fridge, but here’s what I did:
 
 
Green Tomato Chutney 2016
 
~10 C green cherry tomatoes (halved, if they’re bigger than your thumb-nail)
8 garlic cloves, rough-chopped (very rough… um…)
1 yellow onion, diced
5 apples, diced
 
1 C cider vinegar
1 C kombucha vinegar (yep, I totally trying this out)
3 C white sugar
 
¼ C prepared mustard
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
20 grinds of black pepper
 
 
DIRECTIONS
Put everything in the slow-cooker and set it on “low”. Let it do it’s thing for 24 hours and see where everything is at. If it smells tangy and zippy and tastes good, turn up the heat ’til it’s bubbling. Sterilize some 1C jars, can and process in a boiling water-bath for 10 minutes. Allow to cool (listen for the “plunk” that tells you the jars have sealed properly). Let sit for at least a month before opening to allow everything to get even more flavourfully mixed.
Enjoy!
 
I have no idea how many jars of chutney this will make, but I’m guessing about 6-8. Fingers crossed!
 
I’m glad I got around to doing this. Green-tomato chutney is a really great way to get tasty, edible veggies into your system over winter, it adds a lovely tangy flavour to pork, turkey, cheese, and even tuna sandwiches,and it lets me get a second harvest from my cherry tomatoes (some of which are sitting in a bowl, with an apple, ripening indoors) after the season is well and truly done.
Green tomatoes from the garden + onions & apples (both pretty inexpensive, if you buy them, and apples can often be found on urban trees either growing wild, or planted so long ago that the current owners don’t know what to do with all the food that’s suddenly available) make for an inexpensive preserve that let’s you use free bounty and “hard luck harvests” to make something delicious.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Wild Rice Pilaf + Sage Pesto Recipes

So, for the pervy-queer Thanksgiving Potluck, I roasted a turkey (also: my gravy brings all the pervs to the yard, I’m just saying) and made the following vegan dish that is (a) delicious, and (b) does not contain gluten or soy or nuts (though adding walnuts or pecans or even toasted Himalayan Balsam seeds would be an excellent addition) but DOES (c) contain white beans, so it’s definitely not Paleo, but can be made so very, very easily (drop the beans and add a bunch of nuts and/or extra seeds, basically).
 
Wild Rice Pilaf
 
INGREDIENTS:
1 C raw wild rice
4 C water
Pinch salt
+
2 C cooked white kidney beans or other white beans such as Great Northern (I just used 1 tin of same, drained & very well rinsed, but feel free to cook your own)
1/2 C cider vinegar
+
3 C diced butternut squash (I used pre-diced stuff from the store, but you do you)
2-3 sprigs fresh sage, shredded (or used the dried stuff, as you will)
+
2 apples (Cortland recommended, but I used McIntosh and it was just dandy)
1/4 C dried cranberries (sweetened)
1/4 C pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp prepared grainy mustard
1 tsp ground nutmeg (note: if you are going for Super Local, and have these available, you can use dried, ground spice berries in place of the nutmeg. The flavour (in theory – I haven’t tried this yet) is a combination of nutmeg and black pepper and should work well in this dish).
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) In the bottom of a double boiler combine the wild rice, water, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for upwards of an hour.
 
2) In the top of the double boiler, while the wild rice is cooking, combine the diced squash and the sage. Allow to steam for 20-30 minutes. Squash should be easily pierced with a fork, but not straight-up falling apart.
 
3) While the squash is steaming and the wild rice is cooking, in a large (1 gallon would make this very easy) bowl or casserole dish combine the cooked white beans and the cider vinegar.
 
4) Core and dice the apples and add to the bean mixture
 
5) Add the dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds and toss it all together like a salad
 
6) Add the cooked squash and sage, as well as the mustard and nutmeg. Toss again then cover with a plate or the lid of the casserole dish.
 
7) When the wild rice is done, add it to the mixture in the large bowl and toss until well-combined. The whole thing should smell gloriously of nutmeg and mustard and apples and all the other good things that are in it.
 
8) Serve hot (ideally) OR chilled.
 
This dish works as both a main and a side.
It goes well with chokecherry chutney and sage pesto (below), too. 😉
 
NOTE: If you want to fancy it up a little:
Leave the squash out (I do still recommend cooking the fresh sage, though) and, instead, bake delecata, sweet-baby, or other miniature squash halves in the oven for an hour while the wild rice is cooking. (When I do this, I splosh a quarter-cup of apple juice into each of the squash cavities so that the flesh is tender and easy to scoop when they’re done). Stuff the squash halves with the wild rice mixture and serve garnished with sprigs of fresh sage. If you wanted to do this as a fancy center-piece dish, I would suggest using something like a cupcake tower to display the stuffed squash halves before plating them at the table.
 
 
Sage Pesto
 
INGREDIENTS:
4C fresh sage
1 C pumpkin seeds
4 cloves garlic
¼ C nutritional yeast
½ C cooked white kidney beans OR cooked green lentils
¼ C apple cider vinegar
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch salt
Grind black pepper
¼ C oil
 
 
DIRECTIONS:
 
1) Pulse the pumpkin seeds in a food processor until they are grainy but well-smashed (this takes waaaaaay less time than making pumpkinseed butter, fyi)
 
2) Add the sage, cooked lentils, garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper
 
3) Blend until well-combined
 
4) With the motor running, drizzle in the oil
 
5) Spoon into ice-cube trays for freezing (works great) and/or pop some into a half-cup jar for fridge storage (I don’t know how long this will stay fresh, as I keep mine in the freezer to use as-needed, but if you want to serve it with stuffed squash, for example, within a day or two, this is an easy way to do it).
 
This stuff is lovely-and-delicious as the “sauce” for a pasta dish, mixed into scrambled eggs, spread (lightly) onto a chicken/turkey/roast-pork sandwich, blended into a bean dip/spread, stirred into root-veggies blender soups (rutabaga-cauliflower or carrot-apple would both be amazing with this), or, y’know, used as a condiment/topping/garnish for baked miniature winter squash stuffed with wild rice pilaf.

Chokecherry Chutney / Plum Relish and The Reason for the Season (of the Witch)

Hello!
So, today I ran a canning workshop which, alas, did not have a great turn-out. BUT the lovely thing about running a canning workshop is that either (a) you get a big group and you all geek about canning and you have waaaaay less stuff to cary home than you originally brought OR (b) you get a small group and you all geek about canning and you get to bring home a whole bunch of preserves that you didn’t have to mess up your own kitchen to make. (The ACO, where I ran the thing, has a dish-washer and TWO STOVES. It was great!)
So I’m counting it as a win. 🙂
 
My one co-canner and I nattered about canning (of course), about how satisfying it is, about our respective not-distant-at-all farming ancestors, and about familial and cultural food traditions… and on my way home, I realized: we were talking about what this time of year is about. About the harvest, about getting the family (chosen or origin or both) together, about sharing, about where and whom we come from.
It was really wonderful.
 
Anyway. I had about 5 cups of chokecherry purree put aside for today, so I ended up re-jigging last year’s recipe into something a little more plum-heavy. You can call it Choke Cherry Chutney if you want to, but you could also call it Plum Relish. Either way, it tastes amazing, and I have six jars of it put up in my cupboard. 😉
Enjoy!
 
~*~
 
Chokecherry Chutney 2016 (AKA Plum Relish)
 
Ingredients
30+ blue plums, pitted and diced (leave the skins on, it’s fine)
+
5 C chokecherry puree
1½ C red wine vinegar
+
4 medium onions, diced
+
2 C dried (sweetened) cranberries
+
2 C granulated sugar
2 tbsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
 
 
Directions
 
Well in advance:
Pick chokecherries – you will need 3 litres to start with. This will take anywhere from 2 hours to a couple of days, depending on how abundant the chokecherry trees are being in a given year.
 
Wash the chokecherries, discarding any stems, leaves, and other detritus
 
Simmer chokecherries in a little water, covered, for half an hour, poke at them with a fork occasionally
 
Strain chokecherries & liquid through a sieve (or a food mill, or an apple-sauce strainer, or a colander with very small holes… you get the idea), scraping the sides to make sure you get as much pulp in with the juice as possible (this will take about an hour if you’re using a sieve, it will probably take less time if you’re using a food mill or an apple sauce strainer). The goal here is to remove the pits (which, like all almond-related fruits, have cyanide in them) and get a smooth chokecherry base for your preserve.
 
Day Of:
Wash, pit, and dice the plums
 
Peel and dice the onions
 
Combine all the ingredients in a wide, ideally deep, pot (this stuff will splatter)
 
Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent things from sticking to the bottom (leave the lid off the pot, at least a bit, to let the liquid cook down faster)
 
Sterilize a doezen 1C jars + lids and rings – you can do this in a dish-washer, by boiling them in a water bath, or by baking the jars (you still have to boil the lids and rings) in an oven set to 225F for 20 minutes.
 
When the chutney is bubbling and nicely thickened (the liquidy part will sort of glob together a little before dripping off a spoon and/or when you stir the mixture, you’ll be able to see the bottom of the pan for just a second before the mix oozes back in to fill the space), ladle it into your sterilized jars.
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
 
Allow to cool, listening for the “plunk” that tells you they’ve properly sealed.

Tomato-Peach (Nectarine & Apricot, Actually) Salsa 2016

Hey!
 
So today I started my tomato-canning extravaganza. Last year I tried to do it all in one go, and it was an awesome marathon that I did with an awesome friend. This year, I’m doing things a little bit more lightly (and late enough in the tomato year that I can get 20lbs of romas for $10 at the market – woohoo!) and processing one 20lb box per weekend.
 
Today, I did a little over 2L salsa (with another 4L(?) crushed tomatoes cooking down on the stove as we speak). I used last year’s Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes starting point and adapted the salsa recipe for what I had available.

Tomato-Peach Salsa

Start with ~2L Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes (or what I had in my 1-gallon pot after I’d cooked everything down to the point where it was thick, but not too-much-so).
Dice 1 small-medium yellow cooking onion and rough-chop 4 large cloves of garlic.
Pit and dice six ripe nectarines (you end up with about 3C of diced fruit – I went with nectarines because leaving the skin is much less bother).
Using scissors, snip 3 mild dried chili peppers (I used dried New Mexico chilies, but you could also dice up ~4 fresh jalapenos if you wanted to)
Crush up half a cup of dried tomatoes (which I had left-over from last year, and which will help to make the salsa nice and chunky)
Dice 8 dried apricots so that they’re nice and small (if you have LOTS of nectarines, feel free to skip this and add another cup of fresh fruit, but I wanted to keep some for fresh-eating + see above re: adding dried stuff will help things to thicken and be Nice And Chunky)
Add everything to the crushed tomatoes and mix until well incorporated
Add to the mixture: 1.5 tbsp dried cilantro, 1.5 tbsp dried basil, and 0.5 tbsp dried red chili flakes
Cook down (over low heat, otherwise it will totally scorch to the bottom of the pot) until the mixture has thickened up nicely
While the salsa thickens, sterilize some pint jars. I used a water-bath this year
Into each pint jar, add: 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 dried very-hot chili pepper (I used dried Arbol chilies, but you could use fresh Thai/Bird chilies if you wanted to)
Pour/ladel salsa into hot, sterilized jars
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 15-20 minutes
Pull the jars out of the bath and let them cool (listen for the that tells you they’ve sealed properly)
 
Makes 4.5 PINTS or a little over 2L. I probably could have stretched this to 5 pints if I’d added another diced nectarine, another half-cup of crumbled dried tomatoes, and another (small) onion, but c’est la vie.
 
 
~*~
 
And there you have it.
I use my salsa for dipping chips (duh), but I also use it in place of diced tomatoes when I want to do a nice, thick ragu – add some curry powder & cinnamon/nutmeg + left-over meat and/or tinned beans and serve it over rice.
 
Enjoy!

New Moon – Apple Moon Begins

I harvested pears today.
 
My over-the-fence neighbour has a big pear tree in their back yard. The kind of thing they might have planted 40-odd years ago, as newlyweds. This year – probably due to the drought conditions – a big branch broke part-way, and ended up hanging low over the fence into the yard I share with my heavily-gardening neighbour (the branch, I though, was semi-supported by her enormous squash-trellis, though that may not have been the case after all).
 
Anyway. I talked to the pear-tree neighbour, and then I talked to the squash-trellis neighbour, and then my wife got her ladder back from a friend, and today I picked as many pears as I could reach (not actually that many – maybe 6-7 dozen?) and, after dropping 2 dozen off with the squash-trellis neighbour (the pear-tree neighbour had assured me that they had more than enough on their side of the fence and happily invited me to harvest what I could reach), I chopped up most of the rest and put them through the food processor.
 
2/3 of the puree are bubbling away in my slow-cooker, and the remaining third will be doing the same thing, this time tomorrow. It’s all being made into pear butter (with a little bit of nutmeg, some balsamic vinegar, and some maple sugar thrown in). I don’t know if I’ll get any apples for making apple butter, so having this on hand is pretty great. YAY for free food!
 
Also in the realm of opportunisit harvesting, I’ve got a lot of choke cherries (and choke-cherry purree) in my freezer, which will be used to make at-home preserves, but may also be incorporated into a chokecherry-chutney-based canning workshop that I might (fingers crossed) get to run for local queers. I hope so. (If not: more chokecherry preserves for me. I don’t mind).
Likewise, I’ve got half a dozen one-cup jars of crab-apple jelly in the cupboard, after picking crab apples across from the laundromat last week. I’m inclined to make another batch but stick a dried chili into each jar, because I think that would taste pretty swell.
 
So! New Moon! Solar Eclipse! Mercury in Retrograde (again…)!
Chani says that now is a big time for Scorpio-me and my friendships – some of them are growing, some of them are kick-starting, some of them are coming out of the woodwork (and some of them aren’t), and tells me (here, and in my Cancer-Rising) that I need to honour the in-between and “trust the ebb and flow of connections” which… that’s pretty accurate, actually. I’ve been having a wonderful spate of connections-with-new-friends and reconnections-with-pre-existing-friends, and I am loving it. I feel “popular”, if you can believe it. Which is weird, and I kind of don’t want to jinx it? I’m hoping I can keep building these relationships because…
 
…Because I have a weird (or, y’know, not weird…?) habit of self-isolating and thinking that I’m less likely to get hurt if I’m “on my own” and I’m noticing that, hey, just because I’m not frantically chasing after an emotionally unavailable partner or spending hours of my time trying to work out what their unspoken rules are just so I can maintain a relationship with them… that doesn’t mean I’m “on my own”. Quite the opposite.
What it does mean is that I’m not exhausting myself and have space and time to build and strengthen relationships that are based on mutuality and that are with people whose interests and passions and values overlap my own to a noticeable degree.
 
It’s pretty fucking great.
 
Which is not to say I don’t still spiral and spin my wheels when a new friends unexpectedly drops off the map. All of that “honour the in-between” stuff is something I have a hell of a time doing. My Life Coach is fore-warning me that Step Three is probably going to be All About the Boundaries[1], and managing All The Feelings around those abbs and flows and uncertainties is very much on my “things to learn” list because I’m very, very bad at.
So, yeah. Chani’s Scorpio scope is feeling pretty spot-on right now.
 
Corina, over at Autostraddle, asks me (and all you other Scorpios) which secrets it’s time to share, and points out that “what you decide to share can help you feel lighter, freer, and much closer to the ones you share them with”. (See also: Brené Brown’s whole “shame thrives in secrecy” stuff). I’m digging into my brain and trying to root out the stuff I want to let go of. Easier said than done.
 
So many of my friends have been commenting that they can feel Autumn in the air. Autumn is the season of cups. Even if we’re not there yet – still in the slightly manic sprint of canning all the things, and slightly giddy with the abundance all those gleaming jars and packed freezer-bags imply/display – the nights are getting longer and cooler and I can smell the Gathering In on its way. We may be in Fruit Time right now (and I am trying to get out dancing as often as possible while I still can!), but Root Time – with its introspection and icy roads – is coming. What kind of stuff is going to come bubbling to the surface of my internal swamp as the temperatures drop?
 
I’ve had three (or more) weeks off from my wife’s workshop – an unexpected vacation that is about to come to an end Big Time – and I’ve been socializing and going to writers’ groups and all sorts of things. It’s been wonderful. I hope I can keep it up once I’m back to making harnesses a couple of days a week (you’ve got to wonder about my time-management skills, if two days of work per week puts such a crimp in my creative output, social life, and home-making projects…). Fingers crossed.
 
This year’s tomato-canning marathon will probably be chopped into 2-3 weekends, rather than doing a 2-3 day sprint all at once. Salsa, crushed tomatoes, and sauce, with an emphasis on the first two. Maybe some pickled cherries while I’m at it. I’m excited – of all things – to do the repetitive tasks involved with a heavy run of canning. Keeping my hands busy (knitting does the same thing, so does prepping harness webbing) frequently results in a poem or two percolating away at the same time, and I’ve got high hopes for the next chunk of “How to Cook a Heart”.
 
Harvest season is very much upon us. My house smells like pears and nutmeg and maple sugar. I have books to read and people to geek out with about them. My wife and I have new bedsheets (among other things). Life is pretty amazing.
 
 
~*~
 
Motion: There has been a LOT of walking lately (my hips and feet are sore as a result). Also body-scan exercises that, while not exactly “motion” in the sense that I was thinking when I started writing these prompts, are definitely meant to get me into my body. So far, so good? I think?
 
Attention: Trying to spot my spirals before they start (or at least before they start getting out of hand). Reading She is Sitting in the Night (Oliver Pickle, Metonym Press), which is a Little Book that offers a reinterpretation of Thea’s Tarot – the whole idea is that this piece of actively queer tarot (that is a product of its time) is being re-understood by someone a generation later (this second interpretation is also a product of its time). It’s neat to read a Little Book for a tarot deck I don’t have. It’s one more angle on the cards, one more scrap to add to my mental collage of what each of the cards means.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for scary-but-necessary conversations with my wife (and ensuing changes that are working out quite nicely, thanks). Thankful for awesome people who want to hang out with me (who knew?). Thankful for folks who return emails/messages/etc quickly, because I find that very validating. 😉 Thankful for free pears from the neighbour. Thankful for free fruit on city trees. Thankful for a poetry-critique group that had suggestions for how to fix my poems (YAY!). Thankful for slightly cooler temperatures and LOTS of overnight rain falling (and the four butternut squashes that are just, juuuuust starting to develope-as-fruits on my squash vine).
 
Inspiration: Using (or continuing to use) the suit of Earth as a skeletal structure for poetry. I’ve been diving deep into tarot meanings, trying to get my head around how the fours (or the sevens, or the nines) work together and complement each other (and related to the corresponding cards in the MA).
 
Creation: See above. Poetry comes. Not easily, necessarily, but the struture is helping. So is having a critique group to go to every three weeks – it means I need to come up with two new poems (and polish them) every three weeks, and it helps to have the deadline.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Boundaries 101 = Where I start and You have to stop. Boundaries 201 = Where YOU start and I have to stop. Boundaries 301 = How to handle it (gracefully and ideally with as little grief as possible) when there is a gap between where I stop and where You stop, and I want to close the gap and You don’t and how do I stop offering you every damn thing when you are not stepping up and matching me? Yeah… Boundaries 301 is not something I’m good at, at all