Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
The exhibit started with a look at how dining styles have changed since the late 1800s. Back then, families all gathered around a dinner table, which was often decorated with a centerpiece and full place setting. All the courses were served at once, so the table was full of food. Families dressed up for supper. They bought meat from a local butcher, who cut the carcass in front of the customers to their specifications.
Canning was essential to Iowans back before refrigeration to preserve the garden bounty. Here's a display of canned foods, including meats.
Notice the sauerkraut slicer in the bottom left-hand corner. I'd love to find a working one of those to play around with in my kitchen.
The exhibit featured a quote from one Iowa n who remembered her grandmother always had cookies, bars and pies in the ice box ready for grandkids and guests. Reminded me of my grandmother, who always had a plate of bars at the table when I came over to visit. She was a terrific baker.
Also on display were antique food containers, such as this Wheaties cereal box.
The exhibit ended with a look at today's fast-food lifestyle. Convenience has certainly changed the way Iowans eat today. And like the exhibit says, it makes you wonder what we have lost in terms of quality and diversity in our diets.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
It's definitely a postage stamp-size garden. This year, I planted carrots, bush beans, bush cucumbers and baby acorn squash from seed. It's looking nice and green in mid-July.
I planted more lettuce this weekend for a fall crop. I also planted edible flowers, nasturium this spring, just for fun. The yellow and orange blooms open up every night when I get home from work.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I bought the home-canning kit specifically because I wanted to learn how to make pickles. But it's been a little trickier to learn than I thought it would be. First, you have to find the right cucumbers. The cucumbers at the grocery store won't work, because they are usually coated in a wax that makes pickling impossible (or so I've read).
I've been buying cucumbers at the farmers' market, but I haven't been able to find the gherkin-size cucumbers that my recipes call for. So I've been slicing the cucumbers up to get them to fit in the jar.
I'm lucky to have a "wild" dill patch growing in my garden. It's wild because I planted dill in these spots about two to three years ago, and the dill just keeps coming back each year with a vengeance. I later learned that dill can take over a garden if you're not careful, so it's best to plant it in a container. But it's too late for me now. I just keep pulling out the new dill shoots before they get too big. Here's what the dill looks like once it's seeded:
According to the recipe, I placed one sprig of dill in each jar, along with one garlic clove and a slice of jalapeno (at my husband's request). Overall, it was a pretty simple recipe: Just boil 2 c. water, 2. cups vinegar, 2 Tbls. pickling salt and 1 Tbl. sugar, then add the liquid to the jars stuffed with cucumbers. Here's the end result:
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I also was very excited to find multiple sets of rosette irons. I grew up in a small North Iowa town where everyone, I mean everyone, was of Norwegian heritage. At family gatherings, my grandmother served potato lefse, romegrot and the infamously stinky lutefisk, a cod fish that's "preserved" in lye. It's absolutely awful, but a lot of my family members love it.
Many women in town would place rosettes on their Christmas cookie trays. Rosettes are hard to describe -- kind of a lighter version of a funnel cake. (Lighter in texture, not calories.) To make, you coat the rosette iron in a pancake-like batter, then put the coated iron in frying oil. The finished rosette is crispy like a cracker and dusted with powdered sugar.
I had an 80-year-old Iowa woman tell me that the best rosette irons are the old ones. The new irons are flimsy compared to the heavy cast-iron ones they made before the 1970s.
I found several different antique rosette irons, in various conditions. I decided on the one pictured below, mostly because it wasn't so covered with gunk. (But maybe gunk is a good thing, I don't know.)
As you can see, the "patty" iron came in its original box and included a recipe.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
On Friday night, I stayed up until midnight making apricot jam. I loaded up on apricots at our local grocery store. Apricot jam is my husband's favorite, so I wanted to learn how to make it at home.
It was surprisingly easy to make -- now that I have a little practice. I placed the apricots in boiling water for 30 seconds to loosen up the peels. Then I plunged the fruit in a bowl of ice-water to stop them from cooking. The peels came off easily, and the apricots were ripe and easy to cut and mash. I used a recipe from the "175 Best Jams, Jellies, Marmalades and Other Soft Spreads" book, which I received as a promotional freebie at work.
The jam looks great, although I have to admit I haven't tasted it yet. We're still finishing up a jar of the peach jam I made last weekend. My husband is loving the peach jam; he actually likes that it's a little softer than the jam you buy in the store.
Of course, to go along with all this homemade jam, I made my favorite white dinner rolls. They look great right out of the oven.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I've got big reverse-homemaking plans for this weekend. I checked out a copy of "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" at the local library, and I've got a month to experiment with the recipes before I need to turn the book back in. I'm also going to make more jam; I bought a bunch of apricots at the grocery store.
Friday, July 3, 2009
I planted baby acorn squash, bush beans, picklebush cucumbers and marigolds for a little color.
The bush beans are really growing fast and are starting to take over the small space:
The cucumbers, which I'm growing for pickles, are struggling. But a few plants grew quite a bit in the last week:
I'm really excited about the baby acorn squash. It's a new variety; I think it's called honey bear, or something like that. But I know squash and pumpkins can be hard to grow, and I'm a little worried about the yellow spots I see on the squash and the cucumbers:
I'm trying to grow a tomato plant in a hanging container this year. It's funny how the plant is curling itself upright:
One of the cool things about our 100-year-plus-old house is that we have several old-fashioned, cottage-garden flower varieties in our yard. We've been told that this climbing rose is at least 40 years old:
Finally, I wanted to give an update on my latest canning adventure. I stayed up past midnight last night trying to make peach jam for the first time. The peaches were terrible to work with; they weren't ripe, and they were hard to slice and pit. In my frustration, I forgot to measure out the peaches for the recipe. As a result, the peach jam turned out runny. But it still looks good in the jar: