Thursday, June 26, 2014

project 52:39

ink and acrylic on paper

Okay, I really like this one. This one went out late, because of the time involved in making it, and because of everything that was happening last week; I was sketching in the kitchen, between and during rounds of cooking, hoping to send my brother a Midsommar postcard that would arrive right on time, as we were celebrating over here - but, alas, I couldn't quite make it all happen. Oh well, better late than never, eh? But I quite like how it turned out - the sun is taken from a 19th-Century Flammarion engraving (roughly), and I've encircled it with a flower crown of sorts, made of poppies and grasses and roses and peonies and hypericum berries and lavender and daisies and any number of things I thought to put in it.

And now that this is out and a series of meetings and volunteering work that took over the first part of my week are done, it's Thursday and I finally feel like the Midsommar rush is over - and man, am I ever tired. I have a long list to get to today, a freelancing project that I need to finish and mail tomorrow, and another one coming sometime next week. Before it arrives, I'm hoping to really dig in and make a good start on a 30-page article that I pledged to write and edit/shape with my adviser this summer. Things are pretty crazy these days. Summer is like that, though - isn't it? Everything happens all at once, while the sun shines we are superhuman.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

preserved 2014: candied angelica stems

There now, isn't that a pretty sight? And one of my favorites, too: candied angelica stems. I planted two more plants last year, so I could harvest this year - and lucky me, I planted them in a partly shady area. This plant seems to like a bit of shade, and it definitely likes a good drink of water, which makes it an easy plant to grow here in the wet and gloomy Pacific Northwest.

I have a tendency to grab these when I want something sweet, but I'm trying to save a bunch for my fruitcakes this year (so I made two batches - the second one is still drying). A longer version of this recipe can be found in full here, in last year's post. It's a simple, if time-consuming, process. The stalks are harvested before they turn purple at the base. Leaves are removed and they are cut into lengths (whatever you like! I usually do between 3 and 5 inches. They are soaked in cool water for eight hours, then drained. Bring water and baking soda (1 tsp baking soda per quart of water) to a boil; add the stems and cook for five minutes, then shock in an ice bath. Once cool, drain the stalks and peel the outer layer of skin and strings and discard. Bring a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) to boil on the stove. Add the stalks and cook for about 3 minutes. Allow to cool, uncovered, on the stove. When completely cool, cover and place in the refrigerator for two days. After two days, remove the stalks, and bring the syrup back to a boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and return the stems to the syrup. Allow to cool, uncovered. When cool, cover and replace in refrigerator. After two more days, take out the pan, remove the stalks, and bring the syrup to a boil for a third time. This time, add the stalks and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, drain the stalks, and place on a baking sheet (or this year, I'm using the drying racks of my food dehydrator) and allow to stand for about 4 days until they are mostly dry. Pack into a jar and store away from heat and light.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

first fruits foraged 2014: salmonberries and strawberries (of the frais de bois variety)

Ah, last night! I'm sorry! I was scrubbing chair cushions and the front walk, managed to squeeze in my workout before Cass got home from work, started dinner while he went out for a short 15-minute session on the elliptical, then he came back and we ate and I was asleep maybe 30 minutes later. Woof! Such a day!

Today, not so much. The cool mornings make it hard to get up the motivation and I admit, I'm having one of those days when the unemployment situation really gets me down. It's hard to keep one's chin up. But let's not talk about that. It does no one any good and I'm doing my very best to keep myself cheered up today.

Instead, let's look at these beautiful ruby-red berries, shall we? I thought today merited a two-fer, seeing as I missed yesterday's second post (but I *did* take more pictures - and more today, too; if my improvised plan for dinner tonight turns out tasty - and not gross - I'll share the recipe tomorrow). The top is salmonberry jam. Not a lot of salmonberry jam, but a few jars. I also put one 12-ounce jar in the fridge for Saturday's panna cotta, which we'll serve with the alpine strawberry/wild strawberry/frais de bois (whatever you want to call it) compote below. There really is nothing like an alpine strawberry: they're tiny, and just packed with an unbelievable amount of natural sugar. They make a nice contrast to the panna cotta (which is slightly sour, owing to the inclusion of buttermilk in the recipe), and such a nice taste of the wilds. This is a big half-gallon jar. I actually canned and processed the strawberries this year, since we picked them two weeks before the party and I didn't want to risk the berries - or the compote - going off before the big event. I've been storing them in the fridge, though I suppose there's no real need to. I just feel weird having canned something with so very much space left in the jar.

Alright. More tomorrow! I will continue to be dutiful and get back on top of things around here! Keep your fingers crossed that dinner isn't a disaster - sometimes, when I experiment, it's not successful. I hope, based on the number of hours I've already put in today, that this isn't one of those times!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

project 52:38

acrylic and nail polish on paper

Ugh, okay, I know, this month is SO getting away from me. Last week was a blur of freelance work, this week is a blur of housework, gardening, cooking, and hanging party decor as we gear up for Midsommar on Saturday. However, that does mean lots of pictures of food in the next few days. In fact, we'll start today; I will post again this evening, just to kick things off. That's right, this month is getting back on track!

But to the card at hand. I can't believe this is week 38 already. This project has been such a great process. I'm looking forward to having the extra five hours (approx) back every week after I finish in September, but  I'm really enjoying looking at the images in the folder on my desktop for this project, as it fills up. It must be pretty cool to hold all of the originals in your hands, together.

Last week, Cass and I were out berry picking in the mountains with his folks. I feel like I finally proved myself somehow as a forager, because the alpine strawberry pickings were pretty lean, and I suggested we go back to a place where we usually go for huckleberries and/or blackberries - because I remembered noting last year that there were alpine strawberry plants clustered there, some with a few mummified berries left on the plants. I was surprised they went along with it, trusted my suggestion - but the whole family did, and we went out and found a great clutch of alpine strawberries. We picked for a couple of hours in the sunshine, and as we loaded back up into the car afterward, Cass found this gorgeous Golden Bupestrid (aka Golden Jewel Beetle) on some gravel. We snapped some quick photos - it was so sparkly! - before it flew away. So here, rendered in pointillistic acrylic, is a Golden Bupestrid for my brother, the memory of a golden summer day spent just the way golden summer days should be: out enjoying the sunshine and those fleeting treats of the season, wild berries.

Friday, June 13, 2014

project 52:37

acrylic and nail polish on paper

Wow ... what happened to this week?

Sorry about that. Lots of freelancing, and a fair amount of Midsommar prep (photos forthcoming) and some seasonal, non-Midsommar-related food preservation (candied angelica, anyone?) completely absorbed my days this week. I crashed in bed around 9pm most nights, completely exhausted. Woof! What a week!

This was last week's postcard, though I missed the postman and so it didn't actually go out until Monday this week. The line came from Nicola Griffith's Hild, which I just finished last week. I loved this book, my first experience of historical fiction. If you are like me, and enjoy reading books with lots of sensory details and much attention paid to the natural environment (flora, fauna), I think you might like this book. If you like books with strong female protagonists, and down-to-earth interpretations of "magic" (Hild's uncanny predictions are all based in careful observation - not anything supernatural at all, just a watchful eye and a sharp mind, able to make sense of patterns), I think you might like this book. And if you're kind of mildly obsessed with medieval Britian (even though you *know* it was a violent and unstable period, and probably not all that fun to live through/during), you might like this book. =) I personally can't wait for Griffith to  (hopefully?) churn out a second volume - she indicates in the afterword that she is already starting on the next chapter of Hild's life, and I am so hungry for more!

Monday, June 2, 2014

project 52:36

ink and acrylic on watercolor paper

Last week's card was inspired by a little bit of obsession. One day, while doing a bit of internet research to check up on the contents of a salad I'd enjoyed at a local restaurant and was recreating at home, I stumbled across a description of a meal at the Willows Inn on Lummi Island, here in Washington, which had incorporated something called an "apple caper," a pickled immature apple bud. Intrigued, I did more research - into the Willows Inn tasting menu from last winter, scanning for photos and description; into apple capers and uses of immature apple buds, looking for recipes (or, at the very least, precedents); reading up on Blaine Wetzel, chef at the Willows Inn, looking for a cookbook. This idea possessed me for more than a week, and spilled over into my card as well. The card started with an illustration of those immature buds and the center of my obsession (the name, "apple caper") front and center. I worked the brief description of the apple caper from the original blog post into the background, though it has been blurred, obscured, interrupted, and even overwritten. Over this is a line from T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding" that I think of often - and especially when I discover something new right under my own nose:

           And the children in the apple-tree

           Not known, because not looked for
           But heard, half-heard in the stillness
           Between two waves of the sea.

I did eventually find a recipe from a woman who was lacto-fermenting green crab apples to make a kind of South Indian pickle, modeled on the traditional mango pickle. I used her salt and acid proportions, selected my own spices, and a jar of apple capers is currently fermenting and pickling in the sunlight on my window sill for the next two weeks. If they turn out okay, I'll post a recipe and process here - in case you, too, are gripped with the apple caper obsession!