100 Days

 

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Somehow in the mess of the world, I lost sight of the fact that IT’S OCTOBER.

And you know what that means??????

100 days of Holidays has officially begun!

We have red trees and orange trees and yellow trees and yes, that is SUPER early for us, but everyone is saying the 30 days of Smoke (which is quickly becoming another part of the Oregon social calendar) is to blame.

I’ll take it. The skies are blue and the clouds are fluffy and white and the smokey days of August seem so far away.

I am not coming at you with Halloween decor, or recipes for 10,000 things to do with an apple.

I’m going to start you off gently.

  1. It’s time to ask your kids what they want to be for Halloween. It is. I’m sorry.
  2. Go to this website and order the world’s greatest coffee: http://www.doorcountycoffee.com. I recommend Wisconsin Harvest and a BIG 5 LB BAG of Door County Christmas.

That’s it, friends. Two things. Ease into the crazy.

I’ll be back later with the stuff about the apples. In the meantime:

26 days til Halloween

48 days til Thanksgiving

81 days til Christmas.

 

Reblog: Welcome Autumn! ~ Dana

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Last year I shared my recipe for A Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread and today, since I’m up to my elbows in cowgirl costume sewing and SAT essay scoring, I’m sharing it with you again.  Like many of you, Autumn is my favorite season, and I cannot wait for some cooler temperatures here in Southern California.  Those of you who are feeling fall already, enjoy it for me!  

Look out folks.  In just one short week, Autumn will finally be here!  And no, I don’t mean just the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks (although that is quickly becoming one of my favorite things of autumn!).

I’ve always loved autumn, and when I moved to Austria, I fell in love with it even more.  The changing of the seasons is visible everywhere there. The local restaurants begin to change their menus to represent the seasonal fare.  My favorite restaurant in our town had something called Wild Woche or Wild Week in which they slow-roasted venison, wild boar, wild hare, all of which had been caught in our forest, and served them up in wonderful, hearty sauces, with earthy root vegetables, all meant to fatten the townspeople up, steeling us against the harsh winter that was sure to come.

But more than the beautiful colors, the comfort food, the inviting scents, there’s just something different in the air once autumn comes.  I’ve always felt it, that magic electricity.  It’s like in Mary Poppins when Burt sings “Winds in the East, mist comin’ in, like somethin’ is brewin’, about to begin!”

The 22nd of September is the Autumnal Equinox, a time of equal light and equal darkness.  The balance has tipped and we descend into darkness.  This happens not only literally as the nights are now longer than the days, but for many people, it happens in a spiritual sense as well.

The bright warm days of summer, which beckon us outdoors to the beach, the mountains, or even just the backyard, are over.  As the temperatures cool, we turn our focus inside, many of us decorating for fall and burning pumpkin-scented candles.  Our tendency, when things get dark, it to turn on more light, to fill our already busy schedules with even more things.

But I invite you this autumn to take some time in the darkness, to sit quietly with your soul and take stock of what you have done this year.  How have you grown?  What seeds did you sow in the spring and tend in the summer that are now coming to harvest?  How can you prepare yourself for the craziness that the holiday season can bring on?

Pull out your favorite snuggly sweater or blanket.  Get some pumpkins to put on your front porch.  Put some gourds on your mantle.  Make some of your favorite comfort foods.  And if you want a new favorite fall recipe, I’m sharing my very best one with you, A Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread.  And have a glorious autumn, everyone!

A Kitchen Witch’s Pumpkin Spice Bread

Ingredients:

2 cups pureed pumpkin (fresh roasted or canned)

3 cups sugar

1 cup water

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

3 1/3 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ teaspoon ground cloves

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil, and eggs.  Beat until well mixed.  Measure flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and ground cloves into a separate bowl, and stir until combined.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture, beating until smooth.

Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans and dust with flour.  Evenly divide the batter between the two pans.  Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool 10-15 minutes then remove from pans by inverting them onto a rack and tapping the bottoms.  Slice and serve plain, buttered, or with cream cheese.

Fall Canning ~ Jen

In Southern California, one of the harbingers of Fall is the Santa Ana winds.

These winds blow strong and unbelievably dry for days at a time, sometimes cold, but mostly hot, hot, hot.  If you are not from So Cal, you may have heard this term related to some huge, catastrophic brush fire that occurred near Los Angeles. Every Southern Californian knows to scan the horizon often on days that the Santa Anas blow.

But these winds also signal a change in the weather. Summer is over, no matter how warm the temps during the day. The nights are cooler and backyard pools no longer hold the heat. The rest of the nation is digging out their jeans and sweatshirts—and it has snowed in the Rocky Mountains—and we’re still wearing shorts. But it’s Fall for sure when those Santa Ana winds blow. And when they do, I am pulled to my kitchen by thoughts of cinnamon, apples and pumpkins.

The other day, I pulled Dana with me. Over the weekend, my family made a quick jaunt to our local apple tree mecca, Oak Glen and picked 30 lbs of apples. Oak Glen is this special place, like someone carved a piece out of Colonial Massachusetts and plopped it down in the low mountains of San Bernardino.

Braeburns at Riley's Apple Farm in Oak Glen

Braeburns at Riley’s Apple Farm in Oak Glen

Miss Annie picking her first apples!

Miss Annie picking her first apples!

In a few weeks, these trees will be a gorgeous shade of yellow

In a few weeks, these trees will be a gorgeous shade of yellow

Mr. Scarecrow guarding the pumpkin patch

I called Dana and invited her to come over and make apple butter and apple pie filling. She’s never canned before and we both thought this would be a good time for her to see what it’s all about.

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We peeled and cored and sliced. Then we did it some more. Sixty apples are a LOT of apples to face down. But we did it.

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A natural hazard of cooking with organic apples: stowaways.

A natural hazard of cooking with organic apples: stowaways.

And since we were on such a roll, I roasted a pumpkin and made some pumpkin butter.

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Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Butter

Six hours of cooking and canning got us six half pints of apple butter, four half pints of pumpkin butter, three half pints of applesauce, three quarts of apple pie filling and enough pumpkin puree to make muffins or bread. Whew!*

All my canning recipes were from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.

Apple Butter:

4 lbs apples

4 cups sugar (I used 2 for a lower sugar option)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

I also added 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Wash apples; peel, core and quarter. Combine apples and two cups of water in a pot; simmer until apples are soft. Using a food mill or food processor, process apples until they are pureed.

Combine the pureed apples, sugar and spices in pot. Cook on low until mixtures darkens and thickens (usually two hours or more). Stir about every 15 minutes to prevent burning on the bottom.

Apple Sauce:

2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs apples

Water

Sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)

Wash, peel, core and quarter apples; simmer in pot with just enough water to prevent sticking; mash apples in pot; add sugar and spices (optional); bring applesauce to a boil.

Apples for Baking:

10 to 12 lbs of apples

Ball Fresh Fruit Protector

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Wash, core and peel apples; cut them lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices; treat with Fresh Fruit to prevent darkening (see directions on package).

Meanwhile, combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a large pot, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Drain apples and add to mixture. Simmer for five minutes before water processing.

Roasted Pumpkin

Take a pumpkin, any pumpkin (most recipes suggest sugar pumpkins for baking, but I have used the ones they sell for jack o’ lanterns with no problems). Cut off the stem, then cut the pumpkin in half. Clean the pulp and seeds, set aside. Place the two halves face down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and scrap flesh from inside. Puree in a food processor.

This is exactly what comes out of the can when you buy pumpkin in a store. Proceed to your favorite pumpkin recipe!

Pumpkin Butter (courtesy of www.eatingbirdfood.com)

  • 5 cups fresh pumpkin puree (or 1 29 ounce + 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (or sucanat)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • Pinch of sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a crock pot/slow cooker and stir to mix well.
  2. Set on low heat and cover loosely, leaving a little space for the steam to escape so the mixture can reduce and thicken.
  3. Cook for about 6 hours. The pumpkin butter should have cooked down and thickened. If it’s not as thick as you would like it, just take the lid completely off and let it cook for another 30-45 minutes.
  4. Let cool, remove from crock pot and put pumpkin butter into jars or airtight containers.The pumpkin butter will last a week or so in the fridge, but you can also freezer preserve it by storing it freezer safe containers (or jars).

* I am not a canning expert. If you are interested in canning, please visit www.freshpreservingstore.com for products and guides, or www.foodinjars.com for recipes and how-to. Also, turns out it’s not safe to water process pumpkin butter at home, because of the chemistry.