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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Punk? Not so much.

The new groups are not concerned
With what there is to be learned
They got Burton suits, ha you think it's funny
Turning rebellion into money

from "White Man in the Hammersmith Palais" by Joe Strummer (I presume)

The clogged blogosphere of foodies, locavores, urban homesteaders, DIYers, and OTHers* renders my offerings invisible. I could try to gain a wider audience by joining the pinterested, or by linking to one of the other sites that aggregates such blogs, but I am too lazy and egotistical, not to mention dis-inclined. The ramps to fame, or at least garnering large numbers of eyeballs, prove too steep for my shiftless self. Make a logo, develop a not-off-the-shelf design, pay for a domain, suck up to corporations so they'll give me some swag to review or re-gift, and most dangerous of all, fall into the pond of self-deception, in which this platform can somehow become a revenue generator or a stepping stone to a book contract. 

Among my bookmarks is one such site, where people turn in their recipes, DIY tips, and so on. There's actually some useful stuff there, and I do check it out fairly regularly. The name of it is "Punk Domestics," which appealed to me before I really began to understand what it is. The name, which rings oxymoronic to begin with in my book (I grew up in a time and place where "domestics" were servants, usually darker than the, uh, dare I say, masters?), also fails to live up to anything like the spirit of punks, much less the "hardcore" ethos their blurb claims they embody. 

For starters, to submit anything, you're supposed to log in, get your ID, join the queue. And yes, submission is the name of the game, oddly enough, for any posting must comply with a list of rules. You are then encouraged to get a Punk Domestics "badge" to display on your blog, so you can funnel eyeballs to their site, which has a lot of ads.

But not just ads. Entire blog posts that are plugs. Like the William Sonomas give-away. A post that waxes eloquent about how this upscale mall denizen is embracing the DIY movement with darling canning jars and such, marketed as the "Agrarian" line. [Clever name, I will admit, harkening to a simpler time, a garden-ey feeling, and of course for the  baby boomers with fuzzy memories and their kids with vague historical understandings, it evokes the rhyming Aquarian age.] All you have to do to win it is drive up the site's numbers with comments, or post something on twitter or pinterest, whatever it takes to increase revenue at Punk Domestics, which just happens to admit that they've "done some copywriting for Williams-Sonoma, including for the Agrarian line." If you can stomach it, visit the offending link 

I'd rather wallow in non-commercial, self-righteous, obscurity. Even if the readership consists mostly of myself, trying to recall how I made that meal or canned those things, it feels better than shilling for a company catering to privileged dilettantes. Those people have people to cook for them, and mostly only take it upon themselves when it will create a show. I'm more interested in food, basically.

*Other Things Homespun-ers

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Strawberry Jam. So simple you should learn some Hawaiian while you make it.

Mmmm...splattery goodness. Maika'i

Back by the Chesapeake where I grew up, strawberries have long since been picked or baked by the unrelenting sun, but here in the Northwest, they're going strong. This year, I was lucky enough to get enough from the home garden to make a batch of jam without curtailing my daughters' grazing. Like most foods I really love, jam is pretty simple to make. So simple, that maybe you can learn some Hawaiian while you do it. Here's a dictionary to help you.

Dump the following into a big steel stock pot:
  • 11 cups  of  berries (hap-hazardly & half-heartedly smash 'em down prior to measuring, but whole-heartedly ku'i da buggas with a potato masher once they’re into the kettle)
  • 4.5 cups of sugar

I brought this up to a low boil while distracted by other tasks, so it coulda been done faster, but longer only means more time for everything to come all miko (your dictionaries tend to speak of salt with this word, but I've heard it used to convey the idea of something marinating, sitting together while flavors blend and soak through), which I think for jam means a better chance of it coming pa’a, and not all he’e.

Speaking of which, it was around this time that I added 
  • Pectin (powder kind) - 1 regular and 1 of supposedly no-sugar-needed [given my results, maybe you should add another]

Then I let it boil quietly for a little while longer, until one time when I took out the spoon, the sugar-red clung well enough, and I began putting out the jars.
Did I mention that I was sterilizing jars in the canner this whole time? No? Well I was, but not to turn around and plop them back in the boiling bath for processing. My grandmothers sealed strawberry jam with molten paraffin, using a can with a bent-rim spout to pour the wax onto the jarred jam; the can sits in a small pot of hot water, so that drips won’t burst into flame.

The yield is 7 pints, maybe a little less. There was not all that much foam to scrape off the post-pectin boil, and some jam managed to find its way onto the kettle, the jam-pouring big measuring cup, the spoon, the counter, my sweatshirt, and some other place that I will only discover weeks from today. So the yield would be a solid 7 pints to a cook whose frugality extends to actually being neat.

Now, 7 pints of jam is a pretty small amount, but it came from a 3rd-year patch of my own planting, so I’m pretty happy. A day’s easy picking from 27 square feet, give or take, mellowing and softening in the fridge for a couple of days, working toward miko, and now it’s jam. Not a bad small side project for a weekend.

How was this jam? A little he'e, to be honest, but I couldn’t be bothered to do more than throw in whatever pectin was at hand, and it didn’t end up as syrup, at least. A day in the fridge before serving helps, and it’s possible to make a sandwich with it, which satisfies the kids’ main criterion. If your own requirement is to have a thicker jam, the  find another recipe, or throw in another pack o pectin, and maybe more sugar,...whatever works.

The flavor, on the other hand, is ono. I have no idea what variety the berries are, but they are medium sized, and red to the core, no pulp, all juicy. Mmmm. If you’ve been comparing recipes, you’ve noticed that I don’t use as much sugar as some people, because my tongue likes a tang, but it’s plenty sweet.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Nice Slice

Has the quality of Hass improved, or is it the shipping time, or could it have just been so long since I've lived in Kona that my avocado aficionado qualifications have expired? Regardlessly, happy am I over the state of grocery store avocados in the northwest in this year of faux-Mayan doom, 2012. Is the Thriftway avo as fine as a mayan? Mebbe not, but it's a slippery treat of a slice, that tastes mighty nice.

Say you're a working person. It's the pen-penultimate day to Cinco de Julio, and you forgot to put the puerco in the crock-pot this morning. You've jammed at work to make your holiday free of worries, and you come home later than usual to no supper. You could steam some rice, saute something to go with it, or maybe go the noodle route...Or, you could skip carbs and remember that jumbo avo sitting behind the onions in the bread bowl, further obscured by tomatoes and a half of a demi-baguette. 

Your thumb flips the stem-nub off with just enough resistance to tell you that this alligator pear is  nott en-rotten, the  your other hand sinks knife through skin and down-to the ridiculous testiculous seed of this most cyclopian scrotumly of fruit-packets. Cut the Greenwich and it's opposite longitude, pull half the fruit off and swack the blade into said seed, then twisting to remove it from remaining half. Fling it wherever suits you.

Then you cut slices onto a plate. Splash some hot sauce (Ingredients: water, chiles, salt, vinegar--anything more is an abomination), and squeeze some lime (from a fruit, dammit! Not an abominalous plastic thingy). Yumm. Hot-tangy slipperyous goodness. Healthier than pork-fat, and nearly as tasty.