Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spoon Carving and Campfire Cooking

Sixteen Successfully Seasoned Spoon Carvers

On August 23, Joe Brien of Lost Arts workshops demonstrated how to light a fire without matches. We used flint and steel to create a spark in charcloth, then friction of a bow drill to ignite a bit of wood. The tiny ember was carefully transferred to a tinder pack of very fine combustible materials and encouraged to burn with a light breath of air. Once we got a fire started we turned to our spoons.

Starting with pre-cut blanks of easy-to-carve basswood, we learned to keep a safe distance from our neighbors, to carve away from ourselves, and to work with the grain of the wood. Sometimes we levered against an angle of the spoon to round corners and edges.

We left the bowl of the spoon to be hollowed with a live ember from the fire. Holding the ember in place with a scrap of wood, we blew on the coal until the area we wished to remove was charred and brittle. Then we scraped away the burned wood with our wood scrap and/or sandpaper.

Wyatt Whiteman of 1760's Farm House prepared a vegetable stew in a cast iron dutch oven hung over the fire by a tripod The soup and spoons were finished in time for lunch.

For Wyatt's DVD on Hearth Cooking: 1760farmhouse
Visit lostartworkshops for info on Joe's workshops.
Joe's presentation was funded by individual donations and
a grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Yes! We Can Can

Yes! We Can Can
Saturday s August 8 and 22 Wyatt Whiteman taught a group of canners in canning tomato's, peaches, pickled beets and dilly beans. The essentials: "when in doubt [of food's goodness after canning and time] throw it out". Get the Ball Blue Book the Guide to Home Canning and Freezing "it's the king of canning books"
For more details see last year's canning report.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Contra Dance Music Workshop

At 3 o'clock on August 1st a group of 13 musicians gathered at the Cornwall Town Hall for a workshop led by contra dance caller and musician David Kaynor.

And, as in all musical gatherings, the first thing we did was tune up.

Starting with the song Simple Gifts and then introducing ourselves.

Some scales, arpeggios and tune sketches in the key of G followed. Once we knew the tune, as much harmonization as possible was encouraged. “If in the key of G and you’re playing any note in the G scale and it doesn’t sound right, it’s only one note away from one that does”

We learned a foot tapping rhythm. If you’re right-handed, start with your right foot counting 1, 2, 3, 4. On 1 tap right heel on floor. 2, pause 3, right toe 4, left foot. If left-handed start with your left foot.

Than attempting to do it while playing a tune. There was no sheet music so it was an exercise in playing by ear as well. Over all a fun, well taught and well enjoyed time.

August 1 Contra Dance

Contra Dance August 1st. Music by Still the Homegrown Band.
Caller David Kaynor.
Pianist Debra Tyler, Fiddlers Jane Prentice and Mickey Koth,
Concertina player Jim Prentice,
Golrified Washtub Bass Michael Prentice,
Guitar Kathy Lyon, and add-ons from the workshop.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Jam Session

On July 11, jam-making enthusiasts Joanne Wojtusiak and Brent Prindle shared some of their sweet techniques with us at an Old Style Life Skills Series workshop held at Local Farm in Cornwall, CT. Although it is ideal to make jam whenever fruit is in season and plentiful, we learned that it is fine to freeze it to use at a more convenient time in the future.

For example, Joanne brought rhubarb that she had frozen earlier this year to make the following recipe for about 5 8oz jars of Rhubarb Ginger Jam:

2 ½ # of rhubarb stems cut into 1” pieces (fresh or frozen)

3 cups sugar

1 T fresh ginger – grated

1 T crystallized ginger – finely chopped

1 ½ lemons – zest and juice

Layer rhubarb and sugar in a bowl and cover with a dish towel; allow to stand overnight at room temperature (often referred to as “weeping”).

Combine sugar and rhubarb mixture with lemon juice and zest and fresh and crystallized ginger and bring to a boil while stirring frequently. Continue to boil for 30-40 minutes (sometimes it takes even longer) or until it gels (this typically occurs when the mixture reaches 220 degrees F). You can also test for gelling by seeing if the mixture will coat the back of a spoon. Using Brent's digital thermometer made this step VERY easy.

The chopped candied ginger gives this rhubarb jam recipe extra pizazz!

Peel the fresh ginger root before grating it so the grater doesn't get clogged.

Brent brought frozen blueberries for Blueberry Jam. Unlike rhubarb, blueberries are low in acid. Equal amounts of blueberries and sugar will not set without added pectin.

Pectin packages contain recipes that are really sure fire and easy to follow. Joanne stressed that for best results, never vary the amount of sugar and pectin. However, both she and Brent concurred that jams and jellies never fail. If they do not fully gel, they merely become sauce for ice cream or glaze for meats, fruits, cake, or vegetables. The following recipe from the Ball powdered pectin product makes about 6 8oz jars:

4 cups crushed blueberries (use a potato masher)

2 T lemon juice

1 package of dry pectin

4 cups sugar

Combine blueberries and lemon juice and gradually add pectin. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.

Add entire measure of sugar and stir to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Have the sugar measured and ready to dump into the fruit and pectin mixture all at once. You can speed the process by preheating the sugar in a 350 degree oven.

Remove from heat and skim off foam. (1/2 t of butter or margarine can be added while cooking to reduce foaming).

Ladle into clean, warm jars taking care not to spill any jam on rim (clean rim if necessary); place hot lid on top and apply ring, but not too tightly. Turn upside down for 5 minutes to seal.

It is important that the jars and lids are steaming hot when using this method. Brent is using a jar-holding tool to transfer jars from their boiling hot water bath to the filling station.

He uses a magnetic screw driver to "grab" the flat metal lids out of the bath to place on the jars. Here, we are using Joanne's "pen" magnet to do the same.

When the jars are cool, turn right side up and check for seal by pressing down on the lid; there should be no give.

You may also use a water bath to seal jars and process for 10 minutes instead.

You can try a no-pectin version of Blueberry Jam by adding a 1/2c of 5% acidity vinegar (preferably an herb or spice infused one like anise or ginger) to 4 cups of blueberries and 3 cups of sugar.

Liquid pectin recipes often use more sugar than the powdered pectin recipes. Brent shared the following liquid pectin recipe for mint jelly.

1/2 cup vinegar

1 cupwater

1/2 cup mint leaves

green coloring

3 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup liquid pectin

Combine vinegar, water, mint leaves and enough coloring to give tint desired. Add sugar, stir, and bring to a boil. Add pectin at once, stirring constantly, and bring to a full boil for 1/2 minute. Strain off mint leaves and pour into glasses. (Makes about 6 6oz. jars)

Although the recipe calls for whole mint leaves, Joanne likes to chop them in order to release more flavor. We learned to layer several leaves and roll them up for easy slicing.

Not using coloring results in a pale, tannish jelly.

We also made a jam of gooseberries.

Many of our workshop participants asked about recipes using less sugar. After the workshop, Joanne checked her recipes and sent us the following. She reports that it is delicious!!

Low Sugar Apricot Jam (using kernels)

1 kg (or 2# plus a few) apricots

1 1/3 C sugar

¼ C water

2 T lemon juice (fresh if possible)

Use a heavy bottomed enamel or stainless steel pot (this recipe can burn easily). Melt sugar and water and bring to a boil and simmer until clear and slightly thickened.

Halve the apricots (twisting them apart is easier than cutting) and save 5 pits so you can crack them open (use a nutcracker or hammer) and remove the “kernel” inside the pit. These kernels have a very distinct almond flavor. Wrap the kernels in cheesecloth and add to the pot. Add half the apricots to the syrup/kernel mixture and simmer until the fruit is falling apart; then add the rest of the apricots and cook until they are almost falling apart. The cooking takes nearly an hour.

Add the lemon juice and cook for 5 more minutes. Remove the kernels in the cheesecloth and jar up.

NOTE: Each 8oz jar contained nearly a pound of fresh apricots when finished.