pen rainbow

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tuesday's Cupboard—2012 White Pomegranate Jelly


 An early 2012 harvest & golden white pomegranate jelly

5-1/2 oz. Italian jars from Sur La Table
I love this time of year!  The days grow shorter, the nights grow cooler, and it's time to pick white pomegranates from our tree in Boulder City, Nevada.  

More Water, Less Often
We had a good crop this year.  I changed the watering cycle from short daily waterings twice a day (before sunrise and at 9 p.m.) to longer, deeper watering cycles four times a week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday) twice a day during the peak summer months.


I followed SNWA (Southern Nevada Water Authority) seasonal watering schedules, and the plants thrived.  The cedars and the rosemarys are spectacularly fragrant, and the lantana are full of tiny lilac blossoms.  The asparagus ferns are lush, and even the slow-growing nandinas have filled out.  I've never seen the fan palm more beautiful!      

Leaffooted Bugs
What causes them?
Last year for the first time, the white pom tree was invaded by leaffooted bugs.  These large, nasty varmints are easily identifiable relatives of the common stink bug.  They are called leaffooted bugs because of the small, flat, leaf-shaped growths on their back legs.  BC versions are usually charcoal-gray or brown with a single prominent reddish or whitish stripe on their backs.  I'm fairly certain that the infestation resulted from  heavy mulching with redwood bark around all of the garden boxes.  They winter in leaves and tree bark, and mulch is the perfect place to lay eggs.  They basically suck the juice out of all kinds of fruit, especially tomatoes, citrus, and nut trees.

Non-Toxic Ways to Get Rid of Them
A bird-friendly yard.  Because we don't have cats around the property, and because I don't use toxic chemicals in the yard, we have an abundance of birds, including mourning doves, starlings, finches, sparrows, and hummingbirds.  Birds are an effective natural defense against leaffooted bugs, and for the most part, I rely on them to keep the LF bug population in check.  I did not have a problem with leaffooted bugs until I started using mulch and leaving it in place from one year to the next.  

Replace mulch every year.  As a preventative for next year's crop, I'm going to rake out all of the old redwood bark, let the ground breathe for a couple of months until December, then make use of the pine needles that are piling up from my neighbor's tree.  Pine needle mulch is light and airy, and the small amount of residual oil left in the dried leaves provides a natural pest deterrent.  Birds also use pine needles for nesting, so it will also attract them to where the leaffooted bugs are hiding.

Other recommendations are to...
1.  Vacuum them off with a hand-vac;
2.  Pick them off every day and toss them into a bucket of soapy water; 
3.  Flick them off with your thumb & forefinger; and  
4.  Plant ladybug and lacewing friendly plants that will attract natural predators to eat the nymphs.  
5.  Some people plant sunflowers and artichokes as a diversion, but planting anything that attracts leaffooted bugs may bring them in from nearby yards, as well.  

Early Harvest
Leaffooted bugs usually appear in late summer and early fall.  In BC, I usually see them in August when the fruit is starting to turn from bright green to pinkish-yellow.  By mid-September this year, our poms were ripe and ready to pick, and the leaffooted bugs were at it, again.  It's been a relatively mild season, so the fruit ripened earlier than usual.  I usually pick our white poms in October.    

Making White Pom Jelly  

Remove the bugs
Leaffooted bugs are slow, and the nymphs are bright red (about the size of ants), so they're easy to catch.  First, I removed all of the bugs.  Then, I rinsed all of the poms in cool water, let them dry, then picked them over and rinsed them again.

Juice the fruit
Pomegranates are surprisingly easy to juice.  Their thin skin is easy to slice, and even the smaller ones are easy to handle.  I got about 6 cups of juice this year from around 30 small-to-medium sized poms.

Strain out the pulp
I used 4 layers of new, clean cheesecloth and strained the juice into 2 quart jars.  I let the juice sit (covered) in the fridge for 2 days, then poured off the clear juice from the solids at the bottom of the jars.  For crystal clear juice like my mother and grandmother used to make, I could have strained it one more time through a jelly cloth, but it was clear enough for me.  I wanted to retain some of the beautiful yellow color.

Canning Day!
I really like making pom jelly because all of the work is up front in the prep.  By the time that the juice is made, the kitchen is clean, and all of the equipment is ready—making the jelly is easy!  

My recipe:  Canning, Freezing & Drying, Pickling Smoking — A Sunset Cook Book, Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, California ©1982

Pomegranate Jelly Recipe

Clean Jars & Equipment
Prepare 6 half-pint canning jars.  For this recipe, I always end up with 5 jars, plus a working glass for immediate home use.  If you use 4 oz. jars, plan on 11 canned and 1 spare for the fridge.  


Boil jars for 15 mins to sterilize_scald lids & rings until ready to use

If you are new to canning, start with new jars, lids & rings.  Always check the jar rims for nicks and cracks, and do not use lids or rings with dents or rust.  Discard (recycle) any damaged jars, lids or rings.  You want a firm seal between the rim of the jar and the inside of the lid, so don't compromise on the quality of your canning jars.  I run everything through a dishwasher cycle, then as instructed in my cookbook, I immerse the clean jars in the canning kettle covered by 2 inches of water & boil them for 15 minutes to sterilize.  Immerse clean lids & bands in scalding water and keep them in scalding hot water until ready to use.

Funnels, tongs, jar grabber, 1/2 c. metal measuring cup, clean towels

Set your canning tools up on a clean kitchen counter next to the stovetop.  I use a heat-proof counter protector covered by an old, clean dishtowel for the canning area.  Have another area set up on a heat-proof surface with a clean dishtowel for the cooling area.  

Ingredients

•  3-1/2 cups pomegranate juice (red or white poms, fresh or bottled)
•  1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh or bottled)
•  1 pkg. (1.75 oz.) powdered pectin
•  4-1/2 cups ultrafine white sugar

Make It
1.  Combine pomegranate juice, lemon juice and pectin in a 4 or 5-quart pot.
  
2.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  
3.  Stir in sugar until well blended; it will be a glossy, clear color with a little foam on top.

4.  Return to a boil over medium-high heat and continue boiling, uncovered and stirring occasionally for 2 minutes.  Watch it constantly so that it doesn't foam over.  If the foam starts to build up, lift the pot up to reduce the foam, and quickly return it to the heat.  Remove from the heat immediately when the time is up.

Fresh powdered pectin (1 box for this recipe)
Can It

5.  Remove the jelly from the heat & let it stand for a minute to allow the foam to congeal.  Then, carefully skim off the foam with a large spoon into a small bowl or glass measuring cup.  Remove as much as you can (it will skim off easily) and discard the foam.
  
6.  Remove a hot jar from the canning kettle with your jar grabber.  With a firm grip on the jar grabber, quickly tip it upside down to let any water run out, and place it on your canning surface.  Position your funnel slightly into the mouth of the jar, and use the 1/2 c. metal measuring cup to fill it with hot jelly up to 1/8 inch from the rim.

7.  Use a clean, hot washcloth to carefully wipe off the rim of the jar.

8.  Remove a hot lid from the scalding water & place it on top of the hot rim (keep a dull dinner knife handy to separate lids).
  
9.   Remove a hot ring from the scalding water and screw it onto the jar as tightly as you comfortably can.  Use a clean, dry dishtowel to give it a final twist and move it to the cooling area.  

No Need to Process

10.  You don't need to process this jelly.  Too much heat will affect the pectin's ability to create a good jell point.  Cool the jars away from drafts on a clean dishtowel.
  
11.  Listen for the tell-tale *pop* as each jar creates a seal.
  
12.  Label & store in a cool, dark area, or in the fridge after the jars are completely cooled and sealed.   

Happy canning!

Neat quilted 4 oz. Kerr jars from Ace Hardware
  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Monday: The Reading Corner—Letters To The Sperm Donor

I'm back...


First, I want to begin by saying, "It's good to be back at the keyboard!"  Yay!  As some of you may know, I've been taking a 52-week online Photoshop class called, Beyond Layers, by Kim Klassen.  It started on January 8th, and we are given two or more assignments each week.  I've been posting my pix in the Friday Art Gallery, but if you want to take a look at everything I've done so far—all 336 items—you can go to my flikr page.    

My New Year's resolution was to learn something new this year.  Specfically, I wanted to expand my PS skills with the intention of adding to my own online store.  The logistics of setting up an online retail site requires homework, as well.  It's all coming together, though, so stay tuned!  I'll post links on my blog when it's up and running.

In the meantime, I'm going to start with something fun and interesting for Monday's Reading Corner called,  Letters From Daddy.  They are my earliest writings to my father, a very mysterious person, kind of like the big green head, Oz.  He is a highly manic individual who probably shouldn't have ever become a dad in the first place.  But, that's what people did in 1957, and at the age of 22, I was born, and we've been related ever since.  I have to say that my dad really is an interesting guy with a wicked sense of humor.  I think that he sees my sister and me as mutants who managed to survive having him and my mother as parents. In that way, he is proud of us.

I begin with 6-year old me, the organized little project manager, a pint-sized, stressed-out First Grader who channeled Stewie Griffin from The Family Guy... 

Tall DiDDY

"Deiar Mather and Father.
I am having so Much fun.
can I  staY oBer nitht?

tell the Other Kids I will be houm.
Plese Tall Tham. OK.
I Want You To Tall Tham.
Tall Tham OK.
Plese tall Tham.

AND Tall tham I am Going to eat.
I Will Be houm Soon.
and Tall Daddy To.

Tall the Kids that I ate here.
Dont Por Git To Tall Daddy OK.
Plese Do Not foR GiG To Tall DiDDY.
and I Will call You UP.

Sign troi - Alta - Jones."




Enter Daddy.  This letter is dated, August 27, 1963, writtten in my dad's absolutely perfect, artistic penmanship to me and my three younger sibs.  He was 28 and had moved to Omaha to find a new job and to buy a house.  My mom and the rest of us were still living in Las Vegas.  He was supporting a wife and four children on $2.74 an hour.  Weekly take-home would have been less than $100 after taxes.  I was almost 6 years old, and my sibs were ages 4, 3 and 2.  Apparently, we were old enough to comprehend financial planning.

"...the circumstances of my separation..."
A nice way of saying that he got fired.

"Dear Kids:
Your daddy's been real busy this last week.  I've had to take two physicals (one for the telephone company and one for Union Pacific) and two tests (one for the telephone company and one for IBM).  I passed the physicals, and the guy said I did very good on my tests.  I haven't heard from IBM yet, but I think I did all right on their tests, too.

I'm starting work tomorrow for Pullman at $2.74 an hour.  I wasn't able to start sooner because of the tests and everything.  I don't have too much hope of going to work for Pacific Telephone because of the circumstances of my separation from SNT, but I figured that I might as well try.  

You kids be good and mind your mother.  

Bye for now,
Daddy"


A month later, I dictated this letter to my mother who wrote it in pencil on a heart-shaped piece of construction paper...

"Dear Daddy,
I love you very much.  I have been a good girl.  I like my teacher.  I drew a picture for you.  I will have a surprise for you on the back of this.  

How is it up there?  I want you to see something that I made at school.  It is good coloring.  Did you start your job yet?  I've got to go now, dear Daddy.

Signed, 
Troi"

And, this one printed by me on lined notepad paper the following Spring (1964)...



"Dear Daddy, 
I saw a helicopter land in the yard at Helens.  

I got your letter.  I drew the Robin because I wanted to.  It was the best one.  Mommy liked it, so I said, "Thank you."  Do you like it?  I have to go now.

With love,
Troi"


By Christmas of '64, my dad had been gone for fourteen months.  I bit my nails because I didn't like it when my mom cut them... 

"Dear Daddy,

I have not ben biting my nails.  Did you get the letter from me?  I made an agel at scoohl.  We got are Christmas tree.  And prettyed it up.

Good-by

Love, 
Troi"

At this point, we were living with my dad's parents.  We lived there for a few months until my dad bought a house and we moved to Omaha in January 1965.  This is a letter from him to me, dated December 19, 1964...

"Dear Troi,

I just received your nice letter in the mail today.  You really did a good job of drawing God, Josaf and Merry.

I hope you have been a good girl so Santa will bring you lots of toys on Christmas.

So long for now,

Love,
Daddy"


And finally, this one from me dated July 30, 1969, Las Vegas.  We had been living in Nebraska for four and a half years, and my mom's mother paid to fly her and the kids out to Vegas for a two-week visit.  My dad was driving from Omaha to pick us up.  Our cat, Nestor, died under suspicious circumstances while we were gone.  My dad probably had something to do with it.  At least, I always suspected that he was responsible for poor Nestor's disappearance, and I expressed my doubts in this letter.  I typed it on my grandmother's typewriter, which was a special privilege because the kids were not allowed to play with it.  I was 11 years old at the time and on my way up the secretarial ladder!  


"Dear Daddy,

If Hester [my cat] gets distemper, call us.  (Or, if Leeroy or Tuko gets it.)  I don't think it was distemper because animals aren't supposed to get it after their first year.

One of Mama's dogs is going to have pups [we called our grandmother, Mama].  There is a little bante chicken that is going to hatch chicks.  Mama said I could raise it when it hatches.  Are we going to get another kitten?  Mom said she dosn't know.

How is the paving?  [Our street was being paved while we were gone.]  Woud you bring my green robe, the one with the yellow ribbon?

Save all your beer-can tops.  I'm collecting them now.  Well, so long.

See you latter.

Love,
Troi"


What These Letters Say Now

These early communications reveal a family history that I was unaware of until now.  It is clear that my parents got a lot of help from their parents.  By the end of their 20's, my mom and dad had four kids spaced 15 months apart, which they had no business doing given their unstable finances.  My earliest memories are from a time when we lived with my mom's family in North Las Vegas, predating the first letter in 1963.  It looks like for about two years, we were living with one set of grandparents or the other.  My mom would have been between the ages of 23 and 25 and my dad between the ages of 27 and 29.  

Why is this relevant now?  It's relevant because our 24-year old son moved back in with us in January after three years of living on his own in NYC.  Not a day goes by that we don't think about the big picture, adultescents moving back in with their parents, and how much we parents allow them to take advantage of us.  

These letters illustrate how much Boomers changed the landscape for ourselves and for the next generation.  I never heard my grandparents complain about the time that we spent living with them.  In fact, it seemed to have the opposite effect, creating cherished memories, lifelong bonds, and continuity between the generations.

Boomers set out to do better than our parents, and we did.  We are a more involved, focused, and compassionate generation.  We are big picture thinkers with the collective goal of changing the future for the better.  We invent ways to make that happen.  But, we've transferred a set of expectations, along with our very high standards, onto the next generation.  This goes against the approach our grandparents took, which frankly, was a more open, accepting, patient, and respectful way of dealing with 20-Something adult children.  Our grandparents' generation may have had a more realistic way of looking at things.  Let's face it, even when we were buying houses and starting businesses in our twenties, we still did some pretty darn stupid things.  Boomers invented designer baby clothes and reality television.  I'm not sure how either of those adds to a brighter future.

I'm seeing it through the lens of my own personal experience, and certainly, not every family in my grandparents' generation opened their homes to the their sons, daughters, in-laws, and grandchildren.  It was a different time, but it wasn't that long ago, and now, we expect our children to follow a straight line into adulthood.  We built opportunties for them, and all they had to do was sit down and put the keys in the ignition.  Like forcing a square peg into a round hole, we want our children to follow the path that we created for them while we carefully planned and executed our own goals.

And, the biggest surprise, for me at least, is that the Millennials aren't out slaying dragons every day.  Unlike their maximizer parents, this is a generation of satisficers (a term coined by U.S. Nobel-laureate, Herbert Simon in his 1982 book, Models of Bounded Rationality and Other Topics in Economics).  They aim for adequate results over optimum achievement.  They choose what is familiar and hassle-free.  The research suggests that maximizers are never really content with their choices because of their exhaustive approach to decision-making, whereas satisficers tend to be relatively happy with their decisions.  They are content to live with the kinds of flaws and foibles that my grandparents' generation chose to overlook, but Boomers tackle with zeal and mindfulness.     

As a parent, I tried to clear the way for my kids.  We worked hard to avoid the overwhelming, soul-crushing defeats, the kind that block all hope of a better future.  First on my list, financial security.  My parents never had enough money and fought about it constantly.  Second on my list, a secure marriage.  My parents got married too early and should have ended it long before they did.  Third on my list, a stable homelife.  My dad was a functional alcoholic and somehow managed to support the family with help from my mom who worked as a bartender when we were teenagers.  I wanted nothing to do with any of that.

Now, I find myself navigating in uncharted waters, but perhaps not.  These innocent letters may offer a real solution, which is to simply accept our situation and deal with it.  It is part of being a family, it's just not going according to plan.  The solution is not neat, or easy, or quick, or entirely predictable.  It is uncomplicated.  My generation overcomplicates everything, because we think in complex terms.  To view life in uncomplicated terms means that we have to throw away our basic way of problem-solving, and I think we resist going there. 

What these letters have shown me is that we just have to make the best of imperfect people in an imperfect situation.  Follow the example of the Greatest Generation—forge ahead, take care of business, and choose your battles.  I never saw my grandparents worry about anything! They just got through whatever was going on.