In town, there is a business called “Uncork and Create“. I’ll make up some of the history but mostly, it started as a place where an artist walks a group of people through doing a painting…everyone does the same painting with their own unique touches. Wine and snacks are welcome and it’s a fairly social gathering. They have since branched out from painting into all sorts of cooking/food classes.
Emily got me a gift certificate to go to one of their classes for Christmas. I am no cook, but I do like wine and sweets, so when I saw that they were offering a class on making chocolate truffles, I decided it was a perfect opportunity to give the place a try!
My class was offered on Valentine’s Day so taking it was either a really good idea or a really bad idea. I figured that if I arrived home with a pile of homemade truffles for my Valentine, I would be off the hook.
They have a local chef prepare a few easy recipes and we dug in with ingredients and kitcheny tools and stuff needed to make our recipes. The chef was a fun woman who was easy going and clearly enjoyed what she was doing. She teased and played and taught us some tricks for proper chocolate coating. There were a number of ingredients she brought so we could customize our truffles also. Several couples attended so I was at the “singles table”. We all agreed to customize our truffles with Grand Marnier orange liqueur. We tasted it and decided it wasn’t flavorful enough so we added more…and more. Well, you get the idea.
Once the truffle ganache is mixed, we had to refrigerate it so it would set up…chef came to our table after a bit and asked us how much hooch we had added to our mix…it turns out our mix was slow to set up…ooops! It wasn’t that much was it?
We finally got everything pulled together and made some really delicious truffles. I guess they aren’t as beautiful as I had hoped but for my first go at it, I was pleased. I had a lot of fun and really enjoyed my time at the event. I won’t be able to make these things too often though or I’ll either be three sheets to the wind or overweight!
Emily and I are having problems. We’ve been married for 20 years now, and this problem has festered beneath the surface for as long as we have been together. She thinks that she is right and I know I am right. I just don’t know that we can ever come to an agreement on this.
You see, she likes bananas when they are obscenely green. Truly, it is a crime against nature. I prefer bananas as God intended them…yellow with slight hints of brown. Although we have not yet sought out counseling for this problem, we may have come across a solution. I am not sure why it didn’t occur to us until this week, but Emily and I are planning to start buying two bunches of bananas at a time…one that she will (incorrectly) eat immediately, and one that I will let age (like fine wine) for a few days and then eat. We should be able to manage our troubles this way. It appears she will not open her eyes to what is good and right, so I think our best shot is to accommodate her imperfections as best we can!
Like many folks, I typically get irritated when I see the big box stores roll out Christmas stuff before Halloween. I mean, seriously, why do they do that? I am still trying to wrap my mind around the end of summer (though these freaking cold temps are helping to make it feel real to me now!) I cannot possibly contemplate Halloween already, let alone Christmas!
Anyhow, soccer season is finally coming to an end. I don’ know if I ever mentioned it but I am the head coach for the middle school soccer team where Isaac attends. We have had a great year and are in the play-offs for the county championship next week. It’s dark early now and as I have regular work during the day, our soccer time is limited…and increasingly cold. After practice is over, we are usually pretty well shot.
I was delighted last night as I returned home, to discover that Emily had been to the store and found eggnog! And not just any eggnog but the very best eggnog of all, Southern Comfort eggnog! Please, people at Southern Comfort, make a product page so I can keep up to date on when and where I can find your eggnog! I would marry it if I weren’t otherwise attached to my wife and kids! It’s amazing stuff! Nectar of the gods I sometimes call it!
The Southern Comfort eggnog replaced my exhaustion as it coursed through my system and made me awake and alive once again! I am still not quite ready for Christmas (or even Halloween really) but Southern Comfort eggnog will soothe my soul through both Halloween and Christmas! Bless you Southern Comfort, bless you!
I hope, dear friends, that you don’t mind hearing a little more about my sorghum. You see, I am just so happy to have followed this whole process through from getting the cane mill to planting to finished product. I am already planning a much larger patch for next year so we should have a really nice bit of syrup by next fall.
A few people have asked me where I got the sorghum idea…I was reading Mother Earth News magazine and saw an article on the topic. I was intrigued and started my mill hunt. I found that sorghum is finding a new life in people reviving the art of sorghum making and I just had to be a part of that.
Finally, last night we got to really enjoy the fruit of our labor…I made sorghum cookies! Holy cow they are good! I stole the recipe from here.
Best Sorghum Cookies
1/2 cup margarine (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sorghum
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream margarine (or butter), shortening, and sugar. Beat in sorghum and eggs; set mixture aside.
3. In an another large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. Blend thoroughly with wire whisk.
4. Gradually mix flour mixture into creamed ingredients until dough is blended and smooth.
5. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Dip tops in granulated sugar; place 2 1/2-inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool on wire rack.
Store in tightly covered container to maintain softness.
I wrote a few weeks ago about wanting to grow, process and eat sorghum. The first step in that process is, of course, planting some sorghum seed. Really, before that, we had to prepare some ground to plant. Larry, Granny Sue’s husband turned over a bit of earth at our place. I don’t know if you have ever tried to cultivate a new piece of land for garden space, but it is bone jarring, punishing work if you don’t have big equipment. One could certainly take to it with a rototiller and it will work but you’ll feel a new kind of pain. Anyhow, Larry ran his plow and tractor over a nice chunk of our land to do the initial “turn-over” which I followed up with a smaller tiller to break up the ground further.
I got about half way done with the tilling when another neighbor, Tim, stopped by with his tractor which he used to save my life finish tilling the land. Everything was bone dry and dusty which made this whole process a messy endeavor. Still, Emily and the kids pitched rocks into the woods while I set up the rows and drove row stakes. We carefully planted a dozen or so rows of Sugar Drip sorghum seed. Sugar Drip is an old-time variety good for our part of the country. It matures in around 102 days and makes nice sweet 8-10 foot tall stalks. I ordered seeds from 2 well known heirloom seed suppliers and one says it is a rare breed while the other says it is common across the South. Who knows?
So, we marked our rows and planted the beautiful little seeds (which we will collect from our plants this year and save for next year) and covered them carefully with the freshly tilled dust dirt. Luckily, it rained some this week so things should start growing well. Sorghum is an African native so prefers warm temperatures but does well in heat and dry once it is established.
I have learned that sorghum is one of the top grain crops grown around the world. Varieties can be used for syrup but most sorghum is planted as fodder for animals or as grain for daily consumption by humans. Many people are considering using it to make biofuel as it thrives in most warm locations. For folks with gluten allergies, it also is a common grain source for gluten free beer (hmmm…another project?).
So, our sorghum is in the ground though possibly a little early. I will keep a close eye on its progress but am hopeful for some awesome looking cane in a few months. Now, I really have to get back on track with restoring those cane mills I have sitting out in my yard!
We planted a garden at our property this year (we used to garden at Emily’s grandparents’ place) and it was a terrible failure…mostly. The only semi-success was a patch of sunflowers we planted. I really love sunflowers (and really, pretty much all yellow flowers) so I was delighted that if only one thing could succeed, it was the sunflowers.
Sunflowers are absolutely beautiful when in their prime, but I don’t know if you ever noticed just how cool they are when they are done flowering and ready to harvest. I love looking at patterns that sort of draw your attention and refuse to let you look away…know what I mean? Ripe sunflower seeds create just such a pattern.
I don’t know if they are like snowflakes, but if you look at several sunflower heads, each is a little different. A month or more ago, my Dad and I harvested the seeds. It was sort of sad to mess up the patterns but I really love to eat sunflower seeds too! Although the sunflowers are way past yellow, they are still about the best flowers I know. I mean seriously…flowers you can eat?! Awesome!
I was headed home from harvesting honey on Sunday when I passed a friend on the road as I was coming off the ridge. I skidded to a stop on the gravel road (which is always a thrill!) and we talked about bees and stuff. Last week, my friend had offered for me to come pick grapes from his vines. I ran out of time last week, but my friend offered again and I took him up on it!
We picked a basket full of grapes without even working at it and I have to tell you, the smell of freshly picked, perfectly ripe grapes is incredible. I sort of hated to get out of the car, the smell was so incredible. If they made fresh grape cologne, I would consider wearing cologne. I would not consider it long as I do not like cologne at all, but I would consider it…it was that incredible.
Imagine my surprise Tuesday night when I walked into the house and smelled the grapes that Emily and Abigail were cooking into grape juice (and soon to be jelly!). The house was heavenly! Have you noticed how bad store-bought grape jelly is? It used to taste grapey and pretty good but now it just tastes purpley. It is awful.
Ok, sorry…sidetracked. Anyhow, I used to freak out when I saw my mom and grandma canning grape juice. They always added a few grape into the jars and as they sat upon the shelves in the cellar, I swore it looked like jars of eyeballs. No, in our grape juice, there will be no eyeballs. Our jelly will be grapey and the sun will continue to rise in the east. This is just how things should be.
We are like the Olympics here Among the Hills (.com!). With much pomp and circumstance, we harvested the honey so laboriously produced by my bees. I use both my English and my French when I work the bees and I always win gold…liquid gold! Emily’s Dad helped me harvest about half of the frames of honey and then I got the other half on Sunday morning. Usually pulling the honey off of the hives is a hot, hard, stressful job. Beesuits are made of heavy cotton and we usually seem to time the harvest for the hottest day in August. The bees are rarely happy about having their stash removed and honey is heavy. This year was a little different…it wasn’t hot. Not very hot anyhow. Honestly, it really is hot and hard work but this year was probably the best and easiest honey-pull I have ever done!
Click above for videos of how we remove the cappings from the honey.
Sunday afternoon Emily’s grandparents helped Emily, Abigail and me extract 2/3 of the honey. Extracting honey involves a good bit of work and it is quite sticky but the benefits are awesome! This year’s honey tastes better than any honey I have ever harvested!
I am not sure what nectar sources the bees found out at the property (I can call it a farm now…we did agriculture out there!), but besides the awesome taste, most of the honey is as black as coffee. We actually got two different colors of honey but the dark sort of intrigues me. It’s unlike any honey we have ever gotten!
Anyhow, we took a bunch of pics and a few videos of the extraction process. It’s hard to get pics of that part of the process when we pull the honey from the hives. As you might guess, my mind is focused on other things. You will have to imagine that part. Anyhow, aside from being exhausted, it is fantastic to spend time with family, working together. For me, that is the real gold medal for me!
As many families do, we ate breakfast for supper the other night. We had a bunch of biscuits, eggs and sausage. It is not uncommon for us to eat that sort of thing, especially when we are going to be busy. It’s fast and sooooo good. Anyhow, we made a mess of biscuits. I mean, we made a bunch of good-sized biscuits because we like to eat the left-overs the next day for breakfast.
So, I will come back to that in a minute. But have you met my son, Isaac? Isaac is going on 13 and most certainly in the transition from boy to young man. It takes a tremendous amount of sleep and food to fuel such a transition apparently. We have noticed that Isaac tends to graze all day long and still sit down and eat a full meal by adult standards. In fact, he may eat a full meal by a giant’s standard. He almost always eats more than I do and I am not a bean pole. I suppose I was like that around his age too but I certainly do not remember it being so.
Anyhow, back to the biscuits…we started with 15 nice sized biscuits. Emily and I had each had 2 and Abigail had 1. As we cleared the table, we noticed the number remaining in the basket…now if your math is up to snuff, you will quickly calculate that Isaac ate 7 biscuits along with his two eggs and 4 pieces of sausage. Seven biscuits! I think the only reason he stopped at 7 was that Abigail fussed at him, complaining that she would have none to eat for breakfast the next day!
Well, I am glad that we are in a position to feed the boy what he need to fuel his growth into young-manhood. I only hope that the store and our garden can keep up with the demand!
EDIT: Emily just informed me that she only had 1 biscuit so Isaac actually had 8 biscuits!
Across the street from the building where I work, a new Middle Eastern market opened. My company recently moved to the new location as well so we definitely wanted to make friends with the folks who own the market…you know, being neighborly. The guys who own it are super friendly and a lot of fun. A co-worker and I were in there the other day and one of the owners took us around through the store and showed us a lot of the goods they sold. We talked about different foods and cooking and a little bit of everything. As we were talking, he opened a bottle of olive oil and a bag of bread and another of green za’atar (which I learned, is wheat, thyme, sumac and sesame). We dipped our bread and ate way too much standing around goofing off.
Our friend watched us eat every bite, trying to tell if we liked it or if we were about to run out the door. He suggested some spicy pickles and awesome hummus and all sorts of other things. We loaded our baskets with all sorts of things. I think we passed the test because he finally took us over to the jars of makdous (check this out…Arabic for makdous: المكدوس It’s sort of pretty. I love wikipedia). I am not sure if you folks have ever seen a jar of makdous but it looks as if it belongs in a biology lab. I could only describe it in fairly crude terms which I won’t directly mention…hmm…let’s just call it the dead things in oil.
Our friend showed us one brand and said that we could bring them back if we didn’t like it. I am not one to shy away from much of anything so we bought a jar and headed back to the office. I read the label and makdous is in fact, eggplants stuffed with walnuts and spices and packed in oil. I ate the pickles and the hummus and za’atar. Finally, the makdous was calling to me. I tried one…and then I had to have another…and then another. Holy moley, makdous is awesome. Not everyone in the office who tried the foods that day liked them, but I think that was to be expected.
I went back the next day to buy another jar of makdous and my friend smiled. He said that he and his business partner debated after we left whether our tongues would be suited to their foods. Jar #2 sealed the deal that I was adventurous and interested. I went in again on my favorite holiday of all (Groundhog day), and my friend called me over to the cooler. His wife had made tabbouleh and he brought a container for me to try. I ate the entire container for supper tonight (along with hummus and all sorts of other things). I want to take him some uniquely American dish that he might not have had. I suspect that we will have lots of fun sharing food and conversation! It’s bad to have a food place right across the street though…both my tongue and my wallet may be pushed to their limits!