Apocalypse Averted

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I went outside the other day.  It was terrible.  I don’t think I’ll do it again for a while.  Not that I’m having much better luck indoors.  A delightful side effect of these frigid temperatures: reduced amperage to my cable box.  Or something like that.  Translation: my connection freezes every 45 seconds, making it extremely irritating to try to watch TV as I only get about 1/17th of every story on the news.

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So I had nothing left to do except hunker down and make food like the end of the world was imminent.  I made LOTS of tomato soup, which Eugene and I feasted on for several meals, and homemade meat sauce.  I froze most of it so now I have a very full freezer and I’m tomatoed out.

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Tomato soup with grilled cheese…

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Tomato soup with garlic bread…

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Naturally, I also had to make something sweet. I decided to make those peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies.  My recipe made 20 cookies but I only had 17 kisses (don’t ask me how that happened) so I had to improvise a little.  I adorned the 3 kiss-less cookies with a row of chocolate chips.  Eugene said she actually preferred this set-up because the chocolate was more manageable and evenly distributed.  I can see her point, but the cookies are totally not as cute without the kisses.

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Scarlett thought these drastic times called for drastic measures and the relaxation of house rules like the one about her not being allowed on my coats or the table and especially not both at the same time.

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She was wrong.  Busted.

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Gus is having a hard time coping.

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Things were getting really rough.  It was so cold that the water draining from Eugene’s car was frozen mid-air.

In fact, conditions were so bad that Eugene casually mentioned something about how she thinks ironing is “kind of therapeutic.”  I think she kind of slipped on some ice and hit her head.

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Thankfully, when the sun comes up tomorrow it will be over 50 degrees.  Back to some sense of normalcy…or as close to normal as things get around here.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

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The Garden: Progress Report #8

I went to up to Kentucky to visit the grandparents this week.  And I FINALLY had a mess of beans to pick out of the garden! I headed over to Granny and Papa’s from Grandmother’s Thursday morning, and not long … Continue reading

The Garden: Progress Report #7

My first year gardening with Papa has been a bittersweet one.  I began the season excited about finding the Partridge head beans in the deep freeze and eager to learn from Papa.  While I have learned a lot from Papa, … Continue reading

Scatterbrained

Hi there, I’m having trouble coming up with a nice, cohesive story to share today so I’m just going to offer a few photos, thoughts and comments that may or may not make any sense collectively and/or individually.  It has … Continue reading

One Lovely Blog Award

This has been an exciting week for the Sugarlump! Thank you to LubbyGirl at http://remissionary.wordpress.com/ for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award!  I am so honored that you thought of me for this award.  Thank you, thank you! … Continue reading

The Garden: Progress Report #3

I visited the garden at the end of last week to check on its progress.  I had shown up to my grandparents’ house in a cotton summer dress so I changed into a white Hanes t-shirt, athletic shorts and my Crocs to go around to the garden.  This was Papa’s response to my outfit:

“That’s a mighty casual outfit to garden in.”

I didn’t really know what to make of this comment considering I viewed gardening as a very casual event and thus thought I had dressed appropriately.

After many hours of reflection, I believe Papa thought perhaps that I should be wearing full pants and boots to minimize bug-bites and such.

That’s all I can come up with.  I really don’t think Papa thought I should be wearing anything formal for gardening.

ANYWAY…

Things are moving along nicely and looking a little less patchy than they did on my last visit.

The romaine lettuce had taken a turn for the worse.  Some animal had nearly demolished it.

The beets are huge! Or at least much larger than last time.

Papa has caged his tomatoes as the plants started to shoot up.

A few of the plants even have baby tomatoes!

I don’t know why I’m so excited about this.  I don’t even like tomatoes.  But I guess it shows that the garden is growing so I do like that.

The onions haven’t changed much.

The cabbage looks beautiful.  Too bad I don’t like cabbage.  Why can’t the animals eat this instead of the good stuff??

My brussel sprout plants are looking big and leafy!  I think we’re supposed to cut these leaves off once the plants start to sprout…the sprouts.   I’d better figure that out soon.

Here are all of the beans that Papa planted.  In the middle and right rows are the pole beans:  speckled limas, half-runners, and partridge heads(!). On the left we have poor house beans, which are heirlooms and have been in the family for generations.  They are bush beans.

I got word from Papa a few days ago that the poor house beans were devoured by some groundhogs.  Poor, poor house beans.

This is a photo I took pre-massacre.

Papa had found some patridge head seed in the deep freeze from 1997 (literally) and he wasn’t sure that they would come up so he planted as many as 8 in a hill (he normally does 3).

Oh boy did they come up!  So much so, in fact, that I had to thin them so the plants produce well.  This broke my heart to pull up perfectly good bean plants, but I guess if it means more actual beans, it’s worth it.  It still made me sad.

Here are the roma beans.  They have filled out considerably.  They were looking a little patchy last time.

Even though the bean plants look small, it was time to stick ‘em!

So Papa brought some bamboo sticks down from the barn.

And we worked down the rows making little teepees for the beans.  I think it looks real purty.

I stepped back to admire our handywork and then I heard a “hhhmppppflllll.”

Oh hello there.  Our supervisor was pleased with our work as well.

After the sticks were in place, Papa gave me the job of thinning the beans (if there were more than 3 plants around each stick) and then mounding up the dirt at the base of the sticks to tuck in the beans.

This was the first time I had used a hoe. Pretty handy tool if you ask me.

Above are some of the partridge head casualties of the thinning.  Sad.

Here is the finished product.  Not too shabby.

Now let’s get some beans growing!

Y’all come back!

Sugarlump

Strawberry Shortcake for Breakfast

Several years back, Grandmother and Aunt Anna introduced me to strawberry freezer jam, which I of course ate on a warm biscuit for breakfast just as I normally do with other homemade jams.  It didn’t take me long to realize that this was basically strawberry shortcake in breakfast form.

Let me show you how to get some of this in your life.

First, we make the jam.

You will need fruit pectin to make the jam nice and thick.  You may need more than one package, depending on how many pints of jam you would like to make.  The instructions for how to make this jam as well as the ingredients and their quantities can be found in this box or here online, but I will take you through the steps with pictures because I think you’re swell.

You will also need some clean mason jars with lids.  I forgot to take a picture of these, but I’m sure you know what they look like if you’re interested in making jam.

Next, you must procure some strawberries.  But not just any strawberries.

It is absolutely CRITICAL that you start with fresh and perfectly ripe berries.  If you do a little drive-by test with your nose, you should be able to smell their sweetness.  It also doesn’t hurt to take a bite of one of the berries to confirm that on the inside they are not tough and white and tart, but instead juicy and red and sweet.

You don’t actually need this many berries unless you want to make over a dozen pints of jam, which you very well might once you taste this jam on a biscuit.  Grandmother and I got a little ahead of ourselves on the quantity of berries we purchased and probably only used ¼ of this box for 4 pints of jam.  We did, however, manage to eat the leftover berries for dessert in the form of strawberry shortcake just to mix things up. Ha.

Once you have determined that these berries are indeed perfectly ripe and sweet, please wash them.

Then, hull the strawberries to remove the greenery.

Measure out 2 full cups of strawberries.  Really pack them in so you maximize the strawberry-ness.

This is the fun part (other than the most fun part: eating the jam):  Mash the strawberries until completely broken down.   I suppose there are several ways to do this, but a potato masher is my weapon of choice.

Once the berries are mashed up well, add an absurd amount of sugar (4 cups).

Mix the sugar into the berries until dissolved and give them some alone time for 10 minutes.  Stir the mixture every now and then and make sure they are behaving.

Meanwhile, pour the package of pectin into a small pot and add ¾ cup of water.

Bring to a boil over high heat and stir the heck out of it so it doesn’t stick and burn or lump up.  Once the mixture starts to boil, continue cooking for 1 minute and you’d best not stop stirring.

Then carefully pour the hot, thickened pectin into the strawberry mixture after its 10 minutes is up.

(Its dissolving 10 minutes, that is. Its 15 minutes of fame, however, has only just begun).

Stir this mixture for a few minutes until everything is dissolved together.

Next, please save your heart some ache and use a funnel when pouring the jam into the jars.  This will drastically reduce the amount of jam that spills onto your counter, your paper towel usage, and, of course, the amount of jam that tragically will never make it to a biscuit.

Using, a ladle, pour the jam into the jars, leaving at least at least a half an inch below the rim of the jar as the jam may expand in the freezer.   Though it is tempting, filling the jars to the top with jam may lead to a misfortune similar to that warned against in the previous paragraph regarding the funnel.

Once you have successfully ladled all of the jam into the jars using a funnel, place the lids on the jars and allow allow them to sit on the counter for 24 hours before putting them in the freezer.

These keep for up to 1 year, which means you can enjoy this piece of heaven on a biscuit in the dead of winter.

Speaking of biscuits, let’s make some so we can eat what is effectively strawberry shortcake for breakfast.

(I suppose you could eat this any time of day, but I think it’s more fun to feel like you are getting away with eating dessert for breakfast.  But that’s just me.)

These are Grandmother’s wonderful biscuits.  They are small in diameter and relatively flat, which maximizes the surface area that develops a nice crust and minimizes any fluffy nonsense that gets in the way of the jam to biscuit ratio.

For the record, I have nothing against fluffy biscuits.  I actually prefer them with sausage gravy because they sop up all of the savory wonderfulness sausage gravy has to offer.  So, I guess it’s a texture thing.

ANYWAY, you would probably like me to stop blabbering on and tell you how to make the perfect strawberry freezer jam companion biscuit.

I’d be delighted.

First, measure out 1 cup of flour and dump it in a mixing bowl.

Then, please tell everyone to avert their eyes as you add 3 tablespoons of vegetable shortening (Crisco) to the bowl.

After you’ve extracted the shortening from the measuring spoon using CLEAN fingers, use your Crisco-ed finger to grease the flat cast iron skillet.  This was my great-grandmother’s and it’s the only skillet I’ve ever seen Grandmother use to bake biscuits in the 23 years that I’ve been enjoying them.

Translation: This skillet is very old and results in delicious biscuits without fail.  Try to find yourself one immediately.

Using a pastry blender, cut in the shortening until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Add about 1/3 cup of milk and stir the ingredients together until combined.  It’s best to add most of the milk and hold a little bit back until you can gauge the moisture level of the dough.  You want it to be moistened, but not overly sticky or wet.

Using your hands, knead the dough 4 or 5 times and add more milk if necessary. Don’t overwork it, but knead the dough until it looks right.  It looks right when it looks like this.

The turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and press it down until it’s about ½” thick.  Or, if you’re real fancy, use a rolling pin.

Then, use a SMALL biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits.  (See tangent above for rationale).

Place the cut out biscuit dough on the greased skillet and pop it in the oven on 425 until biscuits begin to turn golden brown, about 10 minutes.

These actually rose more than normal, but they still tasted good.

This is what the biscuit and jam (and butter if you’re absurd like me) looks like assembled and partially eaten.   I had to take a bite to show you what it looked like on the inside.  That, and I was so excited I forgot to take a picture until I had taken a bite.

That’s what strawberry shortcake for breakfast can do to you.  Or, FOR you, depending on if you are a biscuit half-eaten or half-left-to-eat kind of person.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump