Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Plum good

The last of my wild plums went into jam jars today.

Wild plum jam is one of those things you need a big spatula for -- to scrape out every last bit of goodness from pans and bowls right into your mouth. This jam tastes ever so slightly sour, which is awesome with the sweetness.

And homemade jam is one of those things that just gets everywhere and makes everything sticky. Not so good in fly season, which seems to have burgeoned here today. Thus washing those piles of dishes and the countertops is a particular necessity. So is covering sterilized jars and then sticky filled jars with a dish towel while they sit out waiting for the next step.

As you look at my real-life photos of jars sealed with plastic wrap and labeled with masking tape, you'll note that I do not pretend to be one of those clever food blog photographers who know how to adjust lighting and place that shimmering blob of jam off-center just so for the perfect shot.

Nor do I see any need to print out cute clip-art labels to make my shelves or, in this case, freezer, more attractive. My homespun philosophy for just about anything here on the ranch is: use duck tape for general use and masking tape for kitchen use. I learned this from watching my rancher neighbor fix things. If it doesn't work after you hit it with a wrench (or even if it does), wrap it with duck tape.

He doesn't hang out in the kitchen, so I discovered the masking tape thing myself. The bit of tape you've used as a label will neatly peel off, making the jar ready for its next use.

Wild Plum Freezer Jam
Agricultural Extension Agency, Washington State University

3 cups wild plums (finely mashed or sieved*) -- about 3 pounds
6 cups sugar
1 box powdered pectin
1 cup water

Combine fruit and sugar. Let stand about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put powdered pectin and water into a large pot and boil rapidly for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add the fruit and stir about 2 minutes.

Pour into jars; tighten lids.

Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours or until jelled.

Store in freezer or refrigerator.

Yield: 9 cups

* I pitted my plums and then whirled them in my Vitamix (a blender would work) until skins were in small shreds.

And in the end, the proof of anything you make in the kitchen is in the eating.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Plum something . . .

I'm not sure if I made plum sauce, per the recipe I sort of followed, or plum ketchup. Either way, it is tasty and pretty darn near free!

Foraging friend, Jackie, kindly picked a gallon of wild plums for me and thus I ended up with about 5 pounds of delicious fruit. Well, wild plums are kind of tart/sour, but not so bad when fully ripe as they are now.

The plum cake I made a while ago was good, but I wanted something that would last longer. A search on the Internet led me to the FatFree Vegan Kitchen, where I found an enticing Wild Plum Sauce recipe.

Although the recipe says to plop the plums whole into a pan, cover with water, and simmer until the skins pop, then press through a colander, I opted to spend about 10 minutes jabbing the soft fruit with the tip of a knife and slipping out the seed. A large portion of the wild plum is its seed. As you can see in the photo, these plums are small and therefore somtimes called cherry plums.

I cooked the plums for about 15 minutes while I chopped garlic (from my own garden) and ginger root.

I put the plums into my mighty Vitamix and created a wholesome pulp. This went back into the pan, with the garlic and ginger root that I had sauteed per the recipe, stirred in the called-for cayenne, soy sauce, and onion powder, and let simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.

It really thickened! All that skin, I suppose. My advice about this recipe: if you keep the skins on, be prepared to add sugar and salt. I stirred in a fistful or so of brown sugar, which made it "sweet and sour" instead of just "sour."

I doubled the recipe and got about 3 cups of . . . plum stuff.

I'm eating it right away (I do love it on my all-time favorite food, roasted potatoes), but also freezing some. I'm not sure if freezing will really work, so I have my fingers crossed. If it does, I'm set for winter!

Now I still have 3 pounds of plums left. Perhaps I will make freezer jam tomorrow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Around Ilwaco

I enjoyed spending time in Ilwaco, Wash., with long-time friend, Skyler, whom I've known since we were 12 years old and who is an enthusiastic resident of the town, a real thinks-of-everything tour guide. She should turn pro.

My time on the Long Beach Peninsula (Ilwaco is at the southern tip) was pretty much divided into three parts, as follows.

Friday -- raining

I got to see the "real" Ilwaco, the one the locals all enjoy while tourists flee for dry cover in motels and Marsh's Free Museum in Long Beach.

The first stop was the Old Towne Trading Post on Lake Street, where Lucky patiently sits waiting for a dog biscuit (hint: there are some complimentary ones on the counter inside). The people food is good, too. In case you're wondering, Lucky was so named when now-owner Chester rescued him as he was heading for the animal shelter.

Across the street is the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum (be sure to look at this website: very nicely done!), filled with interesting displays of the area's history. Skyler rushed me past Indian artifacts and Coast Guard items to show me the display that represents an old coastal town. I love peeking in the windows of old towns!

Afterward we looked at the spiffy narrow gauge railroad car built in 1885 that once hauled passengers along the peninsula on what was called the Clamshell Railroad. You can also watch a miniature train run through a diorama depicting the peninsula in 1925. It costs a quarter to make the train go. Do not be upset if the train derails; apparently, this happens frequently. Consider it a bonus thrill.

My apologies for blurry photos (I guess the derailed train did upset me after all; my hands were shaking), but I thought you'd like to see parts of the diorama, including the wreck.

After the excitement of the museum, Skyler led me along the port, where rows of boats, many of them fishing vessels, are docked. There are also plenty of art galleries and places to eat (we enjoyed fish at OleBob's) and of course a book store, Time Enough Books, with its own dog. Look carefully at the sign and see if you recognize how the store got its name (hint: Twilight Zone).

Saturday -- not raining . . . until afternoon

After a soggy grey Friday, Saturday dawned bright and sunny, to the joy and relief of the vendors at the Ilwaco Saturday Market.

I'll show you just a few of the photos I took. I heartily recommend a visit when it opens again the first weekend in May. Its location next to the docks is spectacular, and the variety of items for sale will thrill shoppers. Unfortunately, there's not much produce or even baked goods, so you can't honestly call it a farmers market. Still, it's a fun place to hang out on a Saturday morning.

In the afternoon, I stopped at the lavender farm just south of town, which was an adventure all its own and which I wrote about in my September 18 blog.

Then it started raining. Well, what do you expect?


Woven into the days of my visit were extraordinary meals. Here are some I remember well.

A tight squeeze in this tiny cafe, but wonderful food, great atmosphere. I enjoyed lunch with my friend Carolyn, who lives in Astoria -- across the Columbia River from the peninsula-- and so it was good company as well as delicious food. I stuffed myself with a savory crepe and then peanut butter pie for dessert. On the menu was hot milk with honey -- soothing! Just be sure to stir occasionally; I found most of my honey at the bottom of the cup after I drank the milk.

I was too busy eating to remember to take photos, so here's what was left.

The Depot, Seaview

Charming, friendly, great food. Also crowded, but that's to be expected since they have so much to offer.

I also ate sea beans, grown wild on the beach, for the first time (see first photo below). It's delicious, a rare treat. I've since found out that it is also called sea asparagus, which gives you an idea of how it tastes.

Good food, attractively presented, but you feel like you're dining in a deli. They should make up their minds: lower the prices or spiff up the atmosphere.

Enjoy your own visit

To learn more about what's happening on the Long Beach peninsula, funbeach.com is the go-to website. For more about Ilwaco, including plenty of great photos, the Facebook page Discover Ilwaco is tops.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lavender adventure

I visited the Long Beach Peninsula in southwest Washington this past week. While at the Ilwaco Saturday Market I paused to buy a delicious-looking lavender-laced cookie. I was immediately urged to visit the Painted Lady Lavender Farm just east of town. You can't miss it if you watch for the colorful sign.

Inside the gate is a wondrous paradise.

Immediately I was swept up in the warm embrace (er, figuratively speaking, alas) of Pierre, from Provence, France, who is spending the year as a guest artist on the farm. He picked bits of lemon balm, rosemary, and various lavenders for me as he guided me through the fragrant gardens. By the end of the tour I had a charming bouquet.

A guest cottage that doubles, upon request, as a tea house for your private party, looked enticing in the sun-streaked shadows.

But then I turned to my right and was awestruck. Pierre is building an outdoor bathroom. He explained that when finished, it will be open to the stars above.

The romantic mood was jarred by the arrival of Tom, a massive turkey who jealously guards his chickens, one of whom he was running after.

Pierre told me that Tom leaves women alone, but he does not like men. I was touched when Pierre stepped protectively between me and Tom, but I watched with inevitable amusement as he tried to chase the turkey away with a trembling hand. I apologize to the handsome Pierre for not getting a better photo of him, perhaps when he was glowing with pride over his amazing stone work around the bathtub.

Tom was not amused by the chase. He flew onto a nearby roof and watched Pierre walk away.

Pierre proceeded to show me some of his nice art that is for sale in the gift shop and also gave me a sample of lemon curd flavored with lavender buds. I was just falling in love when the next guest arrived and I was forgotten like last year's lavender bouquet.

I do recommend the tour, which has something for everyone: beauty, fragrance, art, edibles, and high farm adventure. Will Tom get Pierre on the next tour?

Painted Lady Lavender Farm
1664 Highway 101 South
Ilwaco, Washington 98624

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coeur d'Alene farmers market

Yes, Coeur d'Alene is in Idaho, and I was there . . . on my way to visit the Washington coast.

This thriving market is two blocks long right in the middle of town. There are plenty of vegetables and other food stuffs, such as artisan bread, oven-baked pizza, and cupcakes (!!!).

The cupcakes, made fresh each market day by Shawna of Sweet B Cupcakes, are amazing. If you are anywhere near this market, stop by to grab one. Or get every flavor. I wish now I had stocked up, but at the time I was in a hurry and only bought the Good Morning, Cupcake (bacon-studded maple variety). It really tastes like bacon and pancakes, only better, because it is a cupcake. (yay!)

While I think blissful thoughts of that lovely treat, here are some photos you can look at, a kind of stroll through the market, keeping in mind that there were lots more veggies.

5th Street, between Sherman and Front
May 12 - September 29
Wednesday, 4 pm - 7 pm