Archive | August, 2010

Its like a concert tour but with sketchbooks…

31 Aug

Have you heard about The Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project?Anyone in the world can sign up to receive a sketchbook in the mail and fill it with whatever their heart desires. Here is the brilliant part… Continue reading

Summer Strawberry Harvest…

19 Aug

If you are wondering what to do with a bumper harvest of summer strawberries from the farmer’s market or from your own back yard then this is the post for you.Our Californian garden has bestowed upon us a ludicrously generous amount of beautiful strawberries this year, so many that I have been struggling to use them up fresh before they go bad! So, I decided to do some preserving and a little investigation in to the difference between a jam and a traditional preserve…First up, strawberry jam. I used 2lbs of the bigger berries and 4 cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon to yield three generous sized jars of deliciousness.

I added a mix of brown and white sugar to the rinsed and sliced strawberries in a heavy based pan added the lemon and brought the whole lot to a slow boil.Once all the sugar had dissolved I set a timer for 8 minutes until I did my first wrinkle test*. Because I wanted the fruit to really breakdown to a nice spreadable consistency I kept the pan on the heat for another 5 minutes and then left it to cool.Here is the result of my labors…On a different day once my bountiful plants had had a chance to recover and produce lots of new little fruit I started again with the preserve. The difference with a preserve is that the fruit are used whole and remain intact and hopefully suspended in the sugary mixture looking wonderful. So that’s the theory…First I gently removed any dirt form the smaller and slightly under ripe fruit with a damp piece of kitchen towel and placed them and the white sugar and lemon juice (all in the same quantities as the jam recipe) in the pan and brought them to a boil without disturbing them.Once all the sugar had dissolved I gently stirred the mixture and left it to boil for six minutes until its crinkle test. The berries needed more time so I boiled the mixture for a further two minutes until I was happy with it. During this second time on the heat my mixture really lost some of its bright red vibrancy which is a shame as the clearer the mix is the better to see the floating berries.I added a little pat of butter which dispersed the scum that had collected and it helped to clear the jam a little. Once it had cooled a little I poured the mixture gently into the slightly warmed jars. I used the jars fresh out of the dishwasher but I wonder if the berries would be better suspended in truly warmed jars. I have heard the rule of thumb about warm preserves going into warmed jars but I didn’t ever see the point. I think I may have just found it…Hey Ho, the preserve still looks pretty great and you know what, it tastes delicious and full of lovely Santa Cruz sunshine! I think this haul should last us until next Summer but if you’ve got any tips for me between now and then, let me know…

* A wrinkle test is the way you can have a preview of the consistency of the set jam without having to cool the whole batch. Before you begin, put a couple of saucers in the freezer and after the first boiling put a little jam on one of them. Once its completely cool you can push the jam with your finger and if it crinkles up nicely and looks pretty convincingly like jam then you are good to go!