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arts & crafts

Pickled Mission Figs


We have several mission fig trees growing wild on the ranch. As a little kid, I spent a massive amount of time climbing and hanging out in the huge, cool fig tree canopies. I have lovely memories of my cousins coming over and playing with me as well, so figs always remind me of that. And pig enemas, but that is for a different post.img_5199

Around the first of August, when the main crop of missions ripen, I get to picking and canning. I’m not a fan of eating figs because of the pig thing I mentioned above, but I enjoy picking them because it reminds me of being a kid. Plus anything I can grow or glean needs to be canned or pickled, because it does.

Last summer I tried this recipe and everyone loved it. I was told these figs were great as a snack, with charcuterie, on salads, etc. I made them again this year just to compliment my charcuterie plates and so I could blog the recipe for you.

 Pickled Mission Figs *

  • 4 quarts firm, ripe figs
  • 5 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 1 star anise (optional)
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
Figs soaking in their hot water bath.

Figs soaking in their hot water bath.

Boil water and pour over figs, let stand until cool. Combine 3 cups of sugar and 2 quarts of water and heat until the sugar dissolves. And the figs and gently cook for 30 minutes.  Add 2 cups sugar and vinegar. Tie spices (except for the vanilla bean just thrown that right in with the figs after you slice it open) in a spice bag and add to the figs. Simmer for about an hour.

Despite the hot vinegar, this does smell good.

Despite the hot vinegar, this does smell good.

Cover the figs and let stand in a cool place for 12-24 hours.  Bring back up to a simmer. Pack the figs into sterilized pint or quart jars. leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process 15 minutes in boiling-water canner.

Pickled figs

Pickled figs

 

You might also want to try:

Homemade Balsamic Figs

Pickled Figs 

Mrs. Little’s Pickled Figs

*based on the Ball Blue Canning Book recipe

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Blueberry-Meyer Lemon Jam

Recently, our local blueberry farm opened their gates to the U-pick crowd. Well, being the foodie I am, I had to go. My friend and I loaded up and spent a scant hour picking a bucket of blueberries. I was then faced with the daunting task of making several pounds of blueberries into stuff before they went bad. I succeeded. I ate a whole bunch, then I pickled a whole bunch, then I made this wonderful jam, and the rest I froze for pancakes.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

This is what a blueberry farm in Northern California looks like.

I think this is now my third favorite jam I make. Which is really saying something since I think I make close to 30 different kinds (I don’t have a problem). I used Meyer Lemons because we have several trees here on the ranch, so they are free in addition to being delicious.

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

The spoils of my picking! Glorious!

Blueberry Meyer Lemon Jam*

  • 3 cups blueberries, mashed to make about 2 1/2 cups
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1.5 tsps. Meyer Lemon zest, grated
  • 1 Tbsp. Meyer Lemon juice
  • A whisper of butter (to prevent foaming)
  • 1 package (3 oz) liquid pectin
Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

Blueberries, lemon zest and juice ready to be made into jammy goodness.

Add blueberries, sugar, lemon zest, butter and juice in a jam pot. Bring to a roiling boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute.  Remove from heat. Add to sterilized jars and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

This jam would be breathtaking on a scone, cheesecake or even on toast. It’s light, crisp with a hint of tart. It’s lovely and I ended up making two batches because it’s going to make great gifts.

IMG_3666

*based on Southern Living’s recipe

You also might wanna try:

Blueberry Jam with Mint

Blueberry Mojito Jam 

 

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7 of my Favorite Things 2015

Welcome to my new annual post where I share some of my favorite things from the past year. They say word of mouth is the best advertisement, so maybe Lucchese will throw me a bone and hook me up with some boots (ha ha). Maybe this will help with your Christmas shopping. Without further ado let’s start! I’ve made it easy to check out each of these items, I’ve linked back to their respective websites, so happy shopping!

  1. Obviously my Lucchese boots made this list. I have several (cough, cough) pairs of cowboy boots. My Lucchese are by far the most comfortable and eye catching. I wear them when I want to be noticed and they never fail me.
My Luccheses. Love.

My Luccheses. Love.

 2. My Dogeared necklace. I’m a big fan of quirky, handmade or unusual jewelry. Not only are they cool, it’s a good conversation starter. My WTF (where’s the food without the farmer) necklace has started all kinds of conversations about food and farming. My favorite place to buy Dogeared jewelry is at my local shop called Ruby’s.

Because sometimes a Girl needs to be reminded that she is a badass.

Because sometimes a Girl needs to be reminded that she is a badass.

3. I received Marrakesh Endz Argan and Hemp Oil Therapy in one of the beauty boxes I get every month. I have fine, long, blonde hair so a detangler/leave-in conditioner is a must for me especially because working outside like I do has a tendency to really dry out my hair. This stuff is miracle in a bottle and it smells good. It makes me have shiny princess hair and I dig that.

Hair crack.

Hair crack.

  1. When I went to Europe I experienced bidet use for the first time. I now understand why they think we are dirty Americans. Once you go bidet you can’t go back. This bidet attaches right onto your toilet and is amazing. I installed it myself in about 10 minutes and never looked back. 
    Don't question me. Just buy it.

    Don’t question me. Just buy it.

    5. The knife I didn’t know I needed. I used my havalon for everything. From skinning things to castrating things. I feel like a surgeon and I like it. You don’t sharpen the blade, you put on a new one. It’s a great gift for the outdoors man or woman in your life. 

I love my havalon.

I love my havalon.



6. Umai Dry kit. I’ve wanted to learn how to do charcuterie for years. It has intimidated me though. Something about giving myself e.coli or something. So when this company contacted me about doing a review for this blog, I was all about it. I made lomo, prosciuttini and bresaola – it was delicious. This is a great product to learn with. I highly recommend it.

Bresaola

Bresaola

7. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory – I read this book last year, but it stayed with me. It talks about an fact of life most of us won’t talk about, death. It’s done with humor and a frankness that I really appreciated.

by Caitlin Doughty

by Caitlin Doughty

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UMAi Dry – Lomo Part I

One of the perks of having a blog is sometimes companies contact you to review a product. I’m pretty picky about what products I’ll review, it generally has to fit into the wine, meat or boots categories. Back in May I was contacted by the UMAi Dry company. I had never heard of them before, but once I lurked them a whisper, I got super excited. This was right up my alley.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

My UMAi charcuterie kit.

You see, ever since I’ve gotten into heritage pork, I’ve developed an intense interest in charcuterie. I really want to make some superior pork products. You know, like super fancy iberian ham that I can’t afford. But I have a healthy fear of listeria and other food born illnesses. That’s why I’ve been rather hesitant to dip my toes into the cured meat party.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

My loin before and after the cure was applied.

UMAi Dry sent me a kit with everything I needed (except the meat) to make my own charcuterie. I started with Lomo because it took the least amount of time to cure. I figured I would work my way up to prosciutto and bresaola as my confidence grew.

My cure mixture.

My cure mixture.

I was able to watch some videos before I actually started the curing process. Their website had plenty of resources. Which made me feel pretty confident about what I was about to do and definitely took much of my hesitation about this away. I went to my local butcher shop, and bought my pork loin. Next time I will use my own pork, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t screw this up before I do that.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it's coat of paprika.

After my loin cured for two weeks and then in it’s coat of paprika.

Once the pork was purchased, it was as easy as mixing all the ingredients together, rubbing it on the meat and leaving it alone. No intense math, no fancy equipment I can’t afford, nothing scary at all! To quote the great Tom Petty “the waiting is the hardest part.”

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

My Lomo in the special curing bag included in the kit.

In three weeks my Lomo will be done. I’m already planning the wine and cheese-board that will accompany my cured pork product. In the meantime I’m going to start my prosciutto and bresaola! I’ll keep you all updated on how things go!

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

My Lomo resting in my refrigerator for four weeks.

I’ve had fun with this kit. I’ve already learned a lot about charcuterie, and can’t wait to get more involved. This kit is perfect for someone like me, someone that has an intense interest in cured meats, but is just a little too timid to jump right in. My next blog will cover the taste of my lomo and my full review of this UMAi Dry product.

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Recipe: Meyer Vanilla Lemonade

One of the many benefits of living in California is the citrus!!!! Because of this I have a collections of dwarf citrus trees in my front yard. I have several Meyer lemon trees because they are my favorite. Meyer lemons are a cross between a lemon and mandarin or orange. They are sweeter than your average lemon and have a thinner skin. One of my favorite things to do with these lemons is make lemonade.

Lemonade in my AgHag chalice.

Lemonade in my AgHag chalice.

Meyer-Vanilla Lemonade

6 to 7 Meyer lemons (about one cup of juice, although I prefer one cup running over)
3/4 cup vanilla sugar*
5 cups water, divided
Ice

This smells like sunshine.

This smells like sunshine.

Bring one cup of water and sugar to a boil to make a simple syrup. Remove from heat and cool. Squeeze lemons, making sure to remove the seeds.
Add cooled simple syrup, lemon juice, and water into a pitcher and mix well. Serve over ice and with a lemon slice.

*Vanilla sugar is just sugar that I keep in a jar with a few gutted vanilla beans. It’s lovely for pastries, drinks and baked goods. It has a slight vanilla flavor that really compliments most things. You could add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the lemonade if you are using plain sugar. But I highly recommend getting a jar of vanilla sugar going for your pantry.

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Recipe: The Best Freaking Snack Mix Ever aka “AgHag Chex Mix”

If you are into “clean” eating, low calorie, or unprocessed food, move along, nothing to see here. However, if you are into delicious snack food, that brings you a great sense of joy and happiness, you are in the right place.

Chex mix has always brought me inner food peace. From my Great Aunt Mary’s mix as a child, to the stuff you buy in the store, I have never met a chex mix I didn’t love. Whenever I have felt ill or not hungry, chex mix can usually be counted on to make me feel better. It’s my spirit food animal. If I am ever on death row, this will be requested as part of my last meal.

Oh, chex mix, how I love you.

Oh, chex mix, how I love you.

Lately I have been on a huge Chex Mix kick. I’ve been making about a batch a week. My friends are getting care packages of it. Every time I make it just a whisper different. You see, that is the beauty of making your own chex mix. You can do anything you want! You can add your favorite things! This is currently how I am making my favorite batch.

AgHag Chex Mix

For “The Mix”

3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
2 cups Wheat Chex cereal
2 cups cheese-its
2 cups Bugles
2 cups cheerios (I prefer the store brand actually, it has more nutritional value, read the label!)
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
1 cup cashews
2 cup pretzels

 For “The Sauce”

1 cube of butter
1/2 cup worcestershire
1/4 cup hot sauce (tapatio, rooster sauce or tabasco sauce work just fine)
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 package of ranch mix (keep this separate)

Don't make it all pretty like this, just dump it in a big pile, it makes it easier to mix. I did this purely for a pretty photo.

Don’t make it all pretty like this, just dump it in a big pile, it makes it easier to mix. I did this purely for a pretty photo.

 

1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

2. Melt the butter. Add the next 7 ingredients for the sauce to your melted butter.

3. In a large 9×13 sheet cake pan, mix together all 9 of the cereals, nuts and chips.

4. Toss “the sauce” and “the mix” together until coated. Be gentle, as you don’t want to crush your cereals. After everything is coated, open up your ranch mix and gently sprinkle that over your sheet pan, gently toss again.

Step 4: the dry ranch mix being incorporated. This is an important step, don't skip it!

Step 4: the dry ranch mix being incorporated. This is an important step, don’t skip it!

 

5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring the mixture every 15 minutes.

6. Store in an airtight container, that is if you have any left.

Again, Friends, use this recipe only for good. It has great and powerful juju. It is also perfect for Ranch Days, soccer games, movies, Super Bowls and field trips.

 

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Cold Blue Mountain: NPR, Tiny Desk and World Domination

Cold Blue Mountain by Michelle Camy

Cold Blue Mountain by Michelle Camy

Do you remember last summer when I posted the blog about my friends in the band Cold Blue Mountain? When they made a video and let me cook AND be in it?

So.much.fun. Beef, beer and bikinis!

So.much.fun. Beef, beer and bikinis!

They did it again! You see NPR is having a contest – the winner gets to play in the NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, so CBM took the plunge and entered! Guess what?

NPR even tweeted at Cold Blue Mountain, it was pretty exciting.

NPR even tweeted at Cold Blue Mountain, it was pretty exciting.

They were the first metal entry and actually made it on NPR’s music page! Talk about fame! I mean, I know I am super bias, but I think they should win (if they do win, I am so leaving the ranch to go with them I can watch! (they don’t know that yet, so shhhhhhh)).

The Tiny Desk video:

Even if they don’t win, they are still doing some pretty exciting stuff! They are about to embark on huge tour! They are leaving the safe and warm embrace of Chico, California to share their musical talents with most of the United States. I am so excited for them, but kinda bummed that they are going to be gone so long! I’m going to be lonely.

If you get the chance, I recommend you catch a show! Or at least go hang out with them. Despite this being pretty heavy screaming music, these are pretty much some of the nicest guys ever. Plus I worry about them and will need updates to make sure they are doing well, washing their socks, underwear and beards.

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Apricot Jalapeno Jam

My friend Aaron and I, this year! (We've been friends for like over a decade now!)

My friend Aaron and I, this year! (We’ve been friends for, like, over a decade now!)

Everyone needs a friend like Aaron. Aaron is my friend from college that everyone liked and everyone knew. For some reason, he stayed friends with me and pretty much fulfills my happy place when it comes to food. He works in production agriculture so he hooks this girl up with wonderful things like walnuts, oils, and apricots! I try and keep him elbow deep in jam and jelly – everyone seems happy so far.

Aaron apricots! I spent a good two weeks processing these, it was dreamy!

Aaron apricots! I spent a good two weeks processing these, it was dreamy!

Aaron got me something like 40 pounds of apricots this year. I love apricots, they are sweet little golden nuggets of warm delicious goodness. They made a fabulous jam. And jam I did! I made plain apricot, ginger, vanilla, but the best was apricot jalapeno! Something about sweet and spicy brings me joy. 

Apricot-Jalapeno Jam 

  • 3  cups finely chopped apricots (about 25 medium)
  • ½ cup minced jalapeno
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 3-oz pouch liquid pectin
  • 1/2 tsp butter (optional, it keeps the foam down)
  • 5-3/4 cups sugar

 

Instead of chopping the jalapenos and apricots, I just toss them in my trusty cuisinart.

Instead of chopping the jalapenos and apricots, I just toss them in my trusty cuisinart.

Mix apricots, jalapeno, lemon juice and sugar in large saucepan. Add butter. Bring to a rolling boil, one that cannot be stirred down. Add pectin and boil hard for one minute. Remove from heat and skim any foam. Place in jars, adjust lids and bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

The best jam I made all summer, hands down. It tastes like summer!

The best jam I made all summer, hands down. It tastes like summer! This makes about 7 half pints.

Serve this jam on cream cheese with wheat thins, or as a marinade on chicken or pork. It’s so good!

Adapted from here.

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Cold Blue Mountain: The Strongest Will

Chico is one of those little towns with a pretty awesome art’s scene. We have music, theater, galleries, famous people – there is a thriving little culture here. Unfortunately, despite my fondest wishes and feeble tries, it is not a culture I am apart of. My talents are more agricultural based. However, I think this has worked to most of our advantages. I often supply various food items for various shows. In fact, I got to cook for this video!

Seriously, you wish you were here.

Seriously, you wish you were here.

My goals for this summer was to swim and fish – regularly. I’ve swam twice and I guess you can say I fished when I used a bucket to scoop out a fish when I was irrigating (I released it back into the creek). It was a busy summer on the Ranch.  But when I heard Cold Blue Mountain was filming a video, I demanded a day off from the cows so I could cook for this video! Plus I knew I could swim. In chlorine. Perfect.

Pay no attention to my rancher's tan. Pay attention to the BEEF!

Pay no attention to my rancher’s tan. Pay attention to the BEEF!

In addition to Brown Ranch Beef, I made potato salad and tomato, onion and cucumber salad from our garden veggies! I also got to bust out some pickles and peppers I canned, and some jam and jelly. I simply love to cook for a crowd. It’s a good challenge. It ended up being a really awesome day! I got to hang out with fun, artistic people, I got to cook and swim!

My favorite picture from the day.

My favorite picture from the day.

Cold Blue Mountain is yet another band Daniel Taylor is a member of, (as you recall he’s posted here before). This band is a whisper more, um…..heavy….than I am used to, which is funny to me because these are some of the nicest, most sensitive dudes I know! Please enjoy this video and thank you, CBM, for letting me be apart of it!

Seriously, they sent handmade thank you cards.

Seriously nicest metal band I know, they sent handmade thank you cards.

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Chokecherry Jelly

A few weeks ago, my Dad was reminiscing with me about family history and family members long dead and gone. I was lucky enough to meet some of these people when I was small. I have some hazy memories of certain encounters. I am constantly trying to strengthen these memories by pestering people who remember more than I do, or connecting by recipes, because taste and smell seem to bring memories galloping back.

I battled beard and mountain lions for these chokecherries! See the broken limbs?  From a bear!

I battled bears and mountain lions for these chokecherries! See the broken limbs? From a bear!

My Dad was telling me about cutting firewood for his Aunties and doing various “chores” for them like picking fruit, killing wild game, etc. Dad mentioned he used to pick a lot of chokecherries and gooseberries for jelly making. Immediately I perked up and demanded to know more.

This is what chokecherries look like.

This is what chokecherries look like.

I had vague memories of riding my horse and picking something for jelly when I was very small. I was little, therefore, super short, and couldn’t reach the fruit. But, like any enterprising young ranch kid, you found ways around that. I can’t remember much about this memory, like what berry, how old I was, or who we were picking them for, but I do remember riding my horse Sequoia.

Some of the biggest bear poo I've ever seen. I had all my cowdogs with me, just in case!

Some of the biggest bear poo I’ve ever seen. I had all my cowdogs with me, just in case!

I spent so much time on our mountain ranch this summer I was unable to devote as much time to my passions of gardening and canning. However when Dad taught me what a chokecherry bush looked like, I knew I had the opportunity to make up for lost canning time! During the middle of the afternoon, when it was too hot to do much else, I picked chokecherries, lots and lots.

Seriously, I went overboard. Typical.

Seriously, I went overboard. Typical.

 

Chokecherry Jelly

  • 3 cups chokecherry juice
  • 6 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 box (2 pouches) liquid pectin
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon butter (to prevent foaming)

Pour juice, sugar and butter into large heavy saucepan and stir to mix. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Bring to a full, rolling boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir and skim off foam.  Add almond extract. Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal with two-piece canning lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

This jelly is delicious. The almond extract really adds a lovely layer of flavor. Since I picked so many chokecherries I am attempting to make wine. Stay tuned as I am just a few more weeks from trying it, and if it’s good, I’ll show you how I did it!

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