Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Big Day in the Kitchen

Yesterday was a big canning/cooking/baking day. My friend's two children are spending two weeks with us, Bala is 14, Subhadra is 11. It is such fun to have them! Bala is spending time with my husband, learning about guy stuff, and Subhadra is about the most creative young lady I've ever met.

Seems like they don't have mulberry trees in North Carolina, and our numerous bird-planted trees are a big hit with them. Since the trees are so loaded with fruit this year, we decided in the spirit of frugal living, to make some mulberry jelly. Well, who would have thought? It is one of the best jellies I've ever had! I tried one batch the old way, without the pectin, but the flavor was a bit too strong, and here is the best recipe we found:

Mulberry jelly

Juice ripe mulberries until you have 4 c juice
add 2 3/4 c evaporated cane juice mixed with 4 t pectin
4 t calcium water (comes with the pectin - I use Pamona's)

Boil, fill into sterilized jars. Taaadaaa!

We also made some old style strawberry jam, without pectin, I love that concentrated sweet strawberry flavor! It is going to be such treasure in the winter...

I haven't been letting my children eat much sweets because they are a little sick, but yesterday my mother-in-law was entertaining dear guests, so we made some jelly filled cookies. Well, how ironic, since my home-made jam becomes liquid when I bake, I brought some Smuckers, something I never do, on the very day of making 25 jars of my own jelly! And guess what: it still melted and flowed out of the cookies. They were still very good, but more like glazed than filled. Does anyone know of some kind of jam recipe that is good for cooking?

Well, anyway, it was a large recipe, and it still got all ate up by 5 in the afternoon, and we had a great time with the girls making them.

Hungarian Flaky Jam-filled cookies

3 c flour (I used 2 c white and 1 c whole wheat)
14 T cold butter
2 1/2 t yeast
pinch of salt
enough sour cream to make a nice pliable dough

Grate butter with big hole grater into flour, mix everything and make a dough quickly and gently. Form into a rectangle, cover and put it into the fridge for an hour.

On lightly floured surface, roll it out to 1/4 inch thick, cut into small rectangles, fill with jelly of your choice (we used apricot), pinch opposite corners, lay it on buttered baking sheet and bake at 395 F till straw colored.

These are rich but very flaky and delicious!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crocheted Doll Hammock

I wanted to make a dolly hammock for my daughter, and I had the book Toymaking with Children, but I couldn't figure out the pattern, so I came up with my own. This is the first pattern that I created that I actually wrote down, and I am thrilled to be able to share it. You are welcome to use it, but please do not sell this pattern. Thank you.

If you'd rather buy it than make it, please visit my etsy store :)

One note: please bear in mind that English is not my first language. I tried my best to be very clear in the description of the pattern and added a lot of pictures to avoid misunderstanding. All you patterns writers/readers out there, you are more than welcome to help me correct the wording of this one.

Hammock is worked in Lovers' Knot stitch. Instructions here

So, here we go:

I used a 5.5 mm crochet needle and a worsted weight cotton yarn. The loops between the knots were 3/4 inches long (or 1 inch from the middle of one knot to the middle of the next knot). The resulting hammock measures 12 x 30 inches without the handles, which accommodates a lot of little dolly friends, but is probably a bit too long if you are making it for just one dolly. To downsize it, make the first row with less knots,/but be sure to make an uneven number of knots - I'd say about 21 knots for a 12-16 doll/, or use crochet thread with a smaller needle, or make the loops shorter /the hammock will have a closer wave/.

Row 1: make 31 knots, chain 3, turn

Row 2: make 1 knot, single crochet into 1st knot from needle [make 2 knots, skip 1 knot, single crochet into next knot] until end of row, make 2 knots, single crochet into beginning of 1st loop, chain 3, turn

Row 3-23: make 1 knot, single crochet into next knot [make 2 knots,skip 1 knot, single crochet into next knot] until end of row, make 2 knots, single crochet into 3rd stitch of chain, chain 3, turn

Row 24: working on the shorter side of piece, single crochet into every stich (47 stiches), chain 1, turn
Row 25: double crochet into 1st stitch, [chain 1, skip one stitch, double crochet into next stitch] till end of row

Row 26: working on the longer side of piece chain 1, slip stitch into next single crochet, chain 2, single crochet into next knot [chain 5, skip 1 knot, single crochet into next knot] till end of row, chain 5, single crochet into next chain stitch, chain 1

Row 27: working on the short side of piece, single crochet into every stitch (46 stitches), chain 3, turn
Row 28: skip next stitch, [double crochet into next stitch, chain one] till end of row
Row 29: chain 108 stitches (or less or more, according to how long you want the hanging loops to be), single crochet into other corner of short side

Row 30: slip stitch to single crochet underneath, working on the long side of piece chain 3, single crochet into next knot [chain 5, skip next knot, single crochet into next knot] across, lip stitch to end of row
Row 31: chain 108, attach chain to other corner of short side of work and


Your doll hammock!

Cut yarn, work in ends. Now you just need two pieces of dowel or thin branches from a tree that you peel, sand and finish with beeswax, thread it through the chain created by the double crochet stitches on the two short end, secure the ends - you can do this by carving a small groove 1/2 inch from the ends of the dowels and wrapping yarn in it and then sawing the ends of that yarn to the hammock. Hang it from two chairs, tree branches, put dolly in it, rock and hum a lullaby.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Cottage Cheese

I've attempted to make cottage cheese several times over the years just remembering how my mom used to make it, and it was all right. However, I am one of those people who for some strange reason feel they need to understand how things work before they can fully take advantage of them. Which is all the more strange, seeing that I am a crafty person.

Anyhow, this time I actually researched and made FANTASTIC home-made cottage cheese.

Why bother? My reasons are:

- We have a nice Amish place near us where we get raw organic milk straight from the cows. Buying from them helps them and saves money for us. Not to speak of the unmatched flavor of pure, fresh milk and home-made milk products.
- I love sour cream but hate buying the plastic containers it comes in. Same stands for cottage cheese.
- By making my own milk products I am directly in control of the ingredients.
- Also, making my own milk products makes me feel like a domestic goddess.

So, here is how I did it:

Home-made cottage cheese recipe

I used 1 gallon of milk, let it stand in the fridge for about 12 hours (overnight) and took the cream off the top carefully with a little ladle.

Heat the milk gently to 104 F in a stainless steel pot, then cover lightly (with a kitchen towel or a cheesecloth) and let it sit in a warm place until it jells. This should take one to two days. First the milk will sour as the sugar in the milk turns into lactic acid but it should not be foul. The acidity creates the jelling as it separates the protein in the milk. This jelled milk is smooth and very healthy and we used to eat it with bread for dinner.

Next, you very gently and slowly warm the milk to 104 to 108 F, gently stirring it now and then. Stirring will help the cheese separate and not stick together. When the cheese and the whey separated, pour the whole thing through a cheesecloth-lined colander. Rinse the curds under lukewarm running water for a couple of minutes until the water runs clear. Let it drip for 15 minutes, then put it in a bowl, and mix it with a little salt and cream or sour cream, if desired.

I wanted to take pictures, but it was all gobbled up before I could get the camera.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Glorious Morning

We've been having the most beautiful spring here in central Pa this year and we are spending all waking hours outside. How can anyone be sad when you wake up to pictures like this:

Inviting me to go outside and greet my flowers

Good morning, beautifuls!

Once outside, Gopi and I picked strawberries. The first big bowl this year!!! yummmm.....

Let me close with one of my favorite poems that always comes to mind on days like this,

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

Have a glorious morning, everyone!