Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wild Blackcap Jelly From Bramble to Jar

When we moved to this house a little over 8 years ago there were tons of wild blackcaps (ie. wild black raspberries, wild blackberries) Each year has been an on or off year, depending on what I'm not quite sure. Last spring our landlord cut down a bunch of trees for us since they have started blocking the sun. He took down a couple nastier cedars out back and in doing so knocked a lot of our blackcap patch out. They grew back plus some, but no berries. Since berries like these grow on 2nd year canes, we have an enormous crop this year!! The picking has never been so good!

We pick about 2 pints to 2-3 quarts a day depending on what's ripe and how horrible the mosquitoes are biting that day! See below!

In the last couple years Ball has started making their pectin and putting it into containers instead of the boxes. Well I prefer the boxes, so we bought up all of them we could find two years ago and I'm still using them. Plus a few years before that they changed some of the recipes! Why?! I can't understand this, the ones they had worked great. It's jam/jelly, processing times don't change. I didn't like how the new recipes tasted and looked all over online to find the old ones and couldn't. Then one day I cleaned out my bag and found an old sheet of recipes from the box! I always had one on me so I'd know how many quarts of fruit to buy when I was out. I had it laminated to keep it since it's such thin crappy paper. But now I can use the older ones I prefer, like for grape. But sadly the hot pepper one I liked isn't on this one. Oh well, at least I got the grape and others I prefer! Also if anyone from Ball is reading this, please bring back the boxes!!!!!!!!! I'm not sure what to do when I run out!? The new containers require the new recipes, and also cost a lot more money per batch! PLEASE bring them back!

Now I use the blackberry recipe for these not the raspberry. If you want the old one here you go. Not sure if the new one has changed or not?

3 quarts of berries, crush one layer at a time with a potato masher in a large stock pot (meaning large and tall if you have one it may not like much but it boils up pretty good!) and simmer for 10 minutes covered. Use a jelly bag and strain them, it takes a long time to do this and I get impatient, they say squeezing the bag causes cloudy jelly. It's never happened to me. Squeeze away, but you'll have purple hands for a day or so! Measure out 3 1/2 cups of the juice and pour into that same stock pot, add the box of pectin, 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice.  Stir constantly bringing it to a hard boil that you can't stir down. Add 5 cups of sugar and keep stirring until it's a hard boil again. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized 8oz jars. (I put them in the water bath pot and bring it to a boil while I cook the jelly.) Cover the jars with the lids and rings and boil in a water bath for 10 minutes, with the water covering the jars by at least an inch. Remove and place on a towel, then allow to cool for 24 hours and check the seals. They also say not to store the jars with the lids on them, but I leave them on. I've never lost a seal yet. 

The one of me is gross, sorry, but no one believes me when I tell them how bad they can get. The day we took these shots I was talking with our neighbor for about 15-20 minutes. When we got in Jeremy stopped counting at 48 bites as he was covering me in calamine lotion, he got 4 the neighbor got none. sigh. I'm going to die of the plague by a mosquito bite. I just know it.
one of our patches this year

a days picking, notice the bottle of calamine behind it!
the finished product!
Some other wonderful stuff you can make with wild blackcaps!
And forewarning, these bug bites are horrible!
see what I mean?! the other day I had one on my forehead that was the size of a $.50 piece! That one on my elbow is one bite, look how huge it is!!!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cinnamon Pie? Never Heard of it... Until Now!!!

For some strange reason my post with one of the highest hit counts is still the Psych Fries Quatro Queso Dos Fritos. I really don't know why aside from the fact that those of us who love this show are so obsessed we'll look all over the web for a freakin' recipe. Well who am I to not help you once more! I will post this again too... Next I must mention that the screen shots here where taken off my TV with my camera, they are not in any way my images, aside from my taking the photo of the image, they are images of the actual show which I'm posting here to hopefully get you to go watch it or buy the DVDs! I also took them to show everyone what inspired this post.

OK guys, if you saw the Dual Spires episode you'll be online right at this moment looking for a cinnamon pie recipe. Am I right? We of course did the same thing! We found a few and combined them into one delicious recipe that will provoke your inner baker and get you into the kitchen to try some of this wonderful pie! Trust me! You will love this pie! Take that first bite and try NOT to make this face...
As a back story for those of you who haven't seen this episode yet and are just fans of my lame ass blog, it's the shows homage to Twin Peaks, they got 7 cast members from Twin Peaks to guest star on this episode! So if you loved Twin Peaks, make sure to check this out! It's not a mean show making fun of it, it's quite well done! 

Shawn and Gus get a message about a cinnamon festival, and of course being lovers of all things food especially cinnamon they go. Gus talks a lot about getting monkey bread, which is something my mother showed me how to make only a couple years ago, why she did not make it for us as kids I will never know, and will hold this against her forever! What Gus winds up with is a loaf of what looks to be cinnamon bread, not monkey bread. Which every time I watch the episode bothers me quite a bit. Two people who love this stuff so much should know the difference! 
This is not monkey bread!

Maudette: Isn’t cherry the best?
Gus: The best what?
Maudette: Everything, silly.
While there they come across a murder and find out they were actually e-mailed to solve it, not to come to the festival. 

Instead of getting paid in cash, they're paid in all the cinnamon pie they can eat, and apple cider they can drink. Which knowing them... well... you get the idea! There is a ton of pie eaten in this episode! 
Shawn: Dude, take it easy, that's your 7th piece.
Gus: You know I get hungry when I get freaked out. Besides, you've had 5.
Shawn: Exactly, I believe in portion control.


Shawn: Wow Jules, you've got to order a piece of this pie!
Juliet: I did, you guys immediately ate it.
Seeing their faces when they take that first bite of pie, made us pause the show and look online for the perfect recipe since neither of us even knew there was a such thing as cinnamon pie! It's a combo of about 4 different recipes we found and this seems to work quite well. But be careful, it's addictive and you may just eat the entire thing in one short weekend! Or one short day.

Cinnamon Pie
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or more to taste!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
2 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 unbaked pie crust (homemade please if you can!! I would give you my recipe but Martha Stewart may not like me posting it here. I use hers from her pie cookbook- it's basically butter, flour sugar and water contact me for more info)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl mix the sugars, flour, cinnamon, and salt, making sure there are no clumps. In a large bowl whisk the egg, then add the butter, and vanilla. Mix in the flour mixture and combine well. Then add the milk and cream and whisk everything together. (I find whisking it adds enough air to the custard to make it fairly fluffy instead of somewhat soggy) Pour mixture into the pie crust and bake at 400 for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for 45 minutes longer. Let cool. Refrigerate any leftovers, not that there will be!!

And here's what you get!
Eating more and more pie!
Again like I said with the last episode, please make sure to watch this episode and others from Psych. Especially if you're about our age (mid to late 30's) you'll LOVE the references throughout every episode!

As for the Twin Peaks references, here are a few more... Now go out and watch Psych!!!


Monday, January 28, 2013

Fries Quatro Queso Dos Fritos!!!

OK I need to start off apologizing for taking so long to post again. It's been a stressful month here, between job issues and health issues and other issues it's just been crazy. No excuse I know, and this is kind of therapy in a twisted way so I know I should post more.

Next I must mention that the screen shots here where taken off my TV with my camera, they are not in any way my images, aside from my taking the photo of the image, they are images of the actual show which I'm posting here to hopefully get you to go watch it or buy the DVDs! I also took them to show everyone what inspired this post. One of my MOST favorite TV shows is Psych. For those of you who don't know about it, it's on USA, not sure what time as we buy the DVDs. It's about a guy who is a fake psychic detective and due to him being our age a lot of what happens and what is talked about is stuff that we talk about and went through growing up. It's almost scary at times. Shawn, the "psychic", will say something that I've said in the past, like I always say "nip it in the butt" not bud. Bud just doesn't sound right. In one episode he said it the same way and Jeremy and I just looked at each other and laughed because he always teases me about saying it that way. Gus is his pharmaceutical sales rep side kick. The show is a great thing to watch when you just need to laugh.

OK in this episode called Truer Lies from 2009, we meet a chronic liar that Shawn feels sympathy for since he himself is a liar. In it Lyin' Ryan talks about a dish he ate at a restaurant that we just had to see if we could make...

Lyin' Ryan: ... The night before, I went to this restaurant to get a basket of these things called Fries Quatro Queso Dos Fritos. You know, the ones where they inject potatoes with a four cheese mixture, fry them three quarters of the way, pull them out, batter them, fry them again, and then serve them with bacon and an ancho chili sour cream...

Lassiter's reaction
Shawn: Can this be true?
Gus: No way.
Shawn: I mean, is it even possible?
Gus: I couldn't imagine it.
Shawn: There's no way you can prepare a fry like that. That'd be way too much for the human palate to manage.
Gus: It would be a flavor seizure.
Then of course Shawn and Gus go to the restaurant to order these wonderful fries and fall in love! But remember they don't travel well!
In these screen shots the fries looked to be breaded not battered so we breaded them instead.

Here's how we did it! (no measurements, it's easy to kind of figure it out as you go depending on how many potatoes you're doing)

Fries Quatro Queso Dos Fritos

small white potatoes (use white not yukon or red!!)
salt and pepper
shredded mexican blend four cheese
bread crumbs
cayenne pepper
sour cream
bacon (fried crisp and diced)
ancho chili powder (or cayenne)

Heat veggie oil in a heavy pot to 350 deep enough to cover the potatoes. Wash the potatoes and score them on one side to keep track of how to put them back together. Then slice the potato in half through the score. Using a melon baller remove the center of the potato to about 1/4",  season with salt and pepper. Then fill with the 4 cheese mixture. Put the potatoes back together lining up the score marks and use toothpicks to hold them together.

Fry the potatoes in the oil keeping the temp as close as possible, you may have to do this in a few batches. Fry for about 5-10 minutes, or until tender, again depending on how big your potatoes are.

Using a spider or slotted spoon remove the potatoes and drain on a paper plate. When cool enough to quickly grab, gently pull the toothpicks out. Then allow to cool a bit longer.

While cooling mix the sour cream, ancho, scallions and bacon in a bowl, reserving some of the bacon and scallion for garnish. 

In a bowl beat the egg. In another bowl put enough flour in to coat the potatoes, then in another bowl put enough breadcrumbs in to do the same. Dredge the potatoes into the flour then the egg, then the breadcrumbs.

Then fry again until golden brown, about 1-3 minutes. Serve warm with the ancho sour cream.


OK now that I've got your interest peaked go a head and try these yourself! Then do yourself another favor and watch Psych! It really is a very funny show!

8-10-13: Since the Psych fans have made this my most popular post here is a link for them, and the rest of you who love awesome flavor- it's my post for the cinnamon pie they eat during the Dual Spires episode!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Star Trails How To-By Popular Demand

OK so there has been a big interest on how I do my star trails on a few forums and other sites I go to. I'll start off by saying star trails are much easier with film. If I still had my old shutter release I would try to do them again that way, but I don't so I'm sticking with digital.With film there was no digital noise to deal with, you opened the shutter and left it for hours.

I started doing the star trails again with my 30D, then kept it up through the 60D and now with the OM-D. The only difference I see so far is a slight bit more noise and the battery life of the OM-D isn't that great so you have to keep an eye on that. The 60D I could go for hours, with the OM-D I have yet to try longer then an hour and a half. If you happen to have a battery grip for your camera the better, then you don't have to worry since you can't really change batteries while doing this or you'll have a space in between your trails that even the best software and photoshopping won't be able to fix.

First thing, check the weather forecast. You will obviously need clear skies. The example image I'm working with for this post will show why you need them to be clear. Then check the moon phase. New moon up to just before a 1/4 is ok, you can get away with a half if it rises fairly late. Remember with how long you'll be shooting any amount of extra light will effect your image. Sometimes light is good, sometimes not. Last night the weather site I looked up, which shall remain nameless weather dot com, said it would be clear with a few very light passing clouds later on. Well I could only shoot for 30 minutes before the thick clouds rolled in and ruined the shot. They're never right, I don't know why I keep using them. Oh well. I'll just try again another night. I wanted to use the full moon and yes even the brightness of Jupiter to help with the ugly orange lights where I was shooting. Sometimes I've found the moon's coolish glow will help cool down those horrible orangeish security lights people have all over. I'll state the obvious again, please dress for the weather. I do 80% of my star trails in late fall, winter and early spring due to the early sunset times. Some nights it gets down below zero and when you're standing in the middle of a field it gets mighty cold! Last night I wore two layers of pants, two sweatshirts, a jacket, hat, two hoods, two pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves a heating pad since my back was bothering me and I was still cold at 35 degrees.

Items you will need: a camera with a BULB setting and with a fully charged battery, a good tripod, a shutter release (I got one with this great digital timer, but the battery died after only 3 hours of use (I did two different trails photos keeping the battery out of the device between shots)- it was supposed to last 3 months!- luckily it still works without the battery as a manual release since the company was jerky and wouldn't exchange the battery for me) a flash light and something to keep track of time. Also you may want a compass if you will have trouble locating north. Some people I've talked to also carry a baseball bat or something like this. I have never needed it, knock on wood, but some have to keep animals away. Last night something ran at me and clapping my hands scared it off again, but you never know. One last thing is a ziplock bag or large plastic bag that the camera will fit in. If you're going from 10 degrees back into a 70 degree house you'll get condensation and moisture may get into the cameras electrical stuff. I put it in the bag just to be safe for an hour or more depending on how cold it is.

After you scout out a location and get the weather ok, and are ready to go, think about what you'll be doing for the hour+. My husband comes with me often and he brings a little book light and a book to read, I just pace to keep warm! I have tried the digital release and just left the camera in the front yard to shoot, but I felt really disconnected. I felt like I wasn't part of the photo. I really need to be there and doing the "work".

Plan to get to your location just before sunset, this way you can set everything up, get the focus right and take a quick snap to see if you like the looks of it. Then prepare to wait. From sunset to full dark can seem like 2 hours. This is when you may need a book. Once it's almost full dark and you can see some stars you can start taking the photos. I find that doing is sometimes good so you get the idea of how it'll work, but may not be able to use the images. Sometimes they make the sky too blue for me. But sometimes it's fun to have a tinge of sunset in the image. Try it, if you don't like it then just don't add them to the final image.

Now the details on how to take the images. These are what I personally do. You can change things to your liking. I'm just stubborn and have been doing it this way since going digital and won't change unless I see something else that may work better for me. Set your camera's noise filter to low and make sure you set the noise reduction OFF. Not having this off will tell your camera to take a second photo with the same settings but in black to help keep the noise down. But then you'll have HUGE spaces in your photo. I'll be talking about doing this yourself later. I use the lowest possible ISO, which on the OM-D is sadly 200. Using a lower ISO will give you less noise in the image.  Use an f/stop depending on how much you want in focus in the image. Mine is normally set up to 5.6 since I use a wide angle lens and set the camera up a bit from my subject. I will show you the difference in just getting trails and actually having a subject in the image in the photos below. I have gone up to 6.3 but never higher yet. The shutter is of course set to BULB. I set the tripod up and get everything in focus then make sure it's switched to MF, not AF, you don't want un-needed hunting in the dark to slow you down. Once it's all set up and ready to go, just lock the shutter open and set the timer for ten minutes. After the ten minutes unlock then lock again as fast as you can. If you wait too long you'll get spacing between your trails. The software is getting better at fixing that spacing, but you really still need to do it as fast as possible. Keep doing this for as long as you want. I try to do a minimum of an hour, three hours is a lot of fun, but I try to keep those closer to home so I can drag out a lawn chair, or if it's my yard I can sit inside where it's warm and can still see the camera. After you shoot the images you want keep everything set up and put the lens cap back on then shoot another 1-3 images of black. Like the noise reduction this will help deal with the noise, but not a whole lot. I've seen some people say they shoot 20 black images. I've never done more then 3. Maybe it's just me. You do what works for you. The idea behind doing this now is to have the battery and camera the same colder temp. I'm not sure of the science behind it. I've shot one shot and edited it slightly in photoshop to make more black images and the photo came out the same. So I'm not 100% sure this really needs to be done as strictly as some say. My issue with it is I've noticed that there are some pixels that will come out in the same spot on every black image. It's not like they move around and will disappear. They'll be in every shot.

When you're done pack everything up and go warm up! When the camera is at room temp, or like me, the next day, you can check all your photos and open up StarStaX This is free software that I use. It's awesome! I suck at putting images together so this really works well for me. Yes it may be slightly cheating, but hey, it works and allows me to do this without getting mad and pushing my computer off my desk in frustration. Basically once you download the software open it up, there will be VERY simple buttons, you click the one to open all your trails photos and another for the dark images. You then press the one to process them all, then save it to you computer. If you don't like the few lighter ones you may have taken before full dark just unclick them and process again. Easy peasey!

After I save them to my computer I open them in photoshop and do my normal processing. Sometimes going darker helps the sky, but you lose some of the fainter trails. Same with going lighter, they can sometimes blend in too much. You won't really have a same technique with every image, each one will have to be done on it's own.

My next trails may be with a pond. I'm hoping if it's calm enough it may reflect some of the trails in the water! I really don't know if it'll work, but I'm excited to try! That's what so fun about photography, the ability to have tons of fun! With my health many things have become very hard for me to do, including photography. It's harder and harder to do what I want with it, but the creativity of it still excites me!  It may take me triple the time to get to my favorite waterfall compared to last year, but that wonderful photo I get makes it worth it. The same with the trails. I can't stay up late, but when winter comes and I can do it a little earlier it's so exciting to see those images come together!

I'm sorry to say that the example I'm using for this post sucks. If the sky had kept clear like the forecast said it would have been much better. But it's what I have to work with. You'll just have to use your imagination. Here is the set-up photo to make sure everything is in focus and that I like the composition.  Yes those are deer in the field on the other side of the garden wall. Seeing the clouds coming in I decided not to move the camera to get the north star in better since I won't see it anyway.

Here are the 3 photos I managed to take before the clouds got so thick I couldn't do anymore. I would normally have 6+ images here.
Then here is the dark image.
After putting them through the StarStaX software and editing the final image in photoshop here is is result! You can see the horrible orange lights, but you can also see that the moon added some more light even though it wasn't very bright yet. I will try this spot again when it's a better clear sky.
Here are some more examples of final images. They are large images too, I have printed them to 16x20 and could have gone larger, they look great!
This one has green dots in the bottom black area which are fireflies. I'd really like to try this one again.
Here is one of my 1st digital attempts not sure how my set-ups were going to be.
Again dumb luck got the north star in the middle of this shot! The Orange glow is from a town/city about 10 miles from me.
Here is what happens when you forget your shutter release! I had to do 30 sec shots instead of 10 min, see how fuzzy it looks? This is another shot that will be redone at some point.
an example of a somewhat boring foreground, but the car lights make it interesting
one from my back deck
this is the one I tried with the digital release I still feel a disconnect like I didn't take it.
One recent one is now a favorite! I was worried about the lights, but it came out great! I want to re-shoot for a longer time, I have another angle that I'd like to try too. But asking them to stay open real late for me seems like an inconvenience. 
Here is a 3 hour one which I love! As you can see the moon light took that orange glow away.
Here you can see how you can get spacing between the trails.
This one too has too much spacing.
Here is another 30 sec shots instead of the 10 minutes. This was a test before I got the release. The tree is glowing from "painting" it with a flash light!
These are also painted with a flash light
still star photos are fun too!
What happens when you're shooting still stars and your husband accidentally turns on the christmas lights in the middle of the shot! Aurora Borealis in your front yard!
Jeremy reading while I'm shooting.

For the still star photos here's my set-up: camera set up to the highest ISO you feel comfortable with without getting too much noise, I use anywhere from 1250-1600 usually. Open up the lens as bright as it'll go, my 12-50 kit lens which I use for these shots now, opens up to 3.5 and set the shutter to 30 sec. Basically shoot as wide as you can as when you start getting long focal lengths the stars will start to elongate. you can futz around with the time and the ISO to make sure you get nice points for your stars. you will notice that the stars around the edges will still elongate. Again everything is up to you. Its not film, you don't have 24-36 exposures to get it right, there is no developing costs. Just keep messing around and have fun!  For the "painted" stuff, set it up for the still star photo and use a flash light from behind the camera and shine it on whatever you want to light up. Try different color gels. Try LED and see the funky blues you can get. Another shot I plan is to re-shoot that tree that's painted. I want to set up the 30 sec painted shot then very quickly do the trails shot and put them together for a better looking shot. I'll post all these shots once I get them done! The weather looks poor for the next week or so at least! Too bad!

I'm sure there is stuff I forgot to mention here so I will add to this post when I think of more. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask, I'll post the replies to help others who may have the same questions.