Monday, June 4, 2012


I have always wanted a Sedum garden spilling out over the edges of an urn. Included here are sieboldii and Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks).


Lettuces as pretty as any flowers.

                                                          Clematis. (Thank you, Diana)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How to Plant a (Mother's Day) Tree

My Mother's Day present arrived early this week. It is a 2" caliper Red Sunset Maple (Acer Rubrum Frank's Red). A year ago we lost a gigantic oak tree that shaded our bedroom.  Today we planted the new tree that will, in a few years, take over the shade duty of  the oak. 
First we (actually, Terry) had to remove 2 Burning Bush shrubs to make room for the new tree.
He put the soil on a tarp so that it would be easier to put back into the hole and not get lost in the grass.
Behind Terry you can see slices of the oak logs that still need to be split and moved to the garage.
Next, we rolled the tree into the new hole, first measuring the height of the root ball and the depth of the hole. Ideally, you want the base of the trunk just above the soil line. Many trees and shrubs die from being planted too deep.

Once the tree is in the hole and you maneuver it so that the 'best side' is facing in the desired direction, you remove the twine and top burlap.

Here Terry is scraping away excess soil to expose the root flare of the trunk.  Next you fold back the tops of the wire basket to allow the roots to grow out of the root ball. Then we shoveled the soil back, tamping with our feet after every layer, and mixing in Sweet Peat.
The last step is watering with a slow trickle for about 20 minutes.
Happy Mother's Day to me!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jelly Time

I almost missed these currants. Another day and the birds would have gotten them. There has been so much weeding to do in the garden that I never noticed that they were ready.  So on Saturday I took my time and enjoyed this process of making jelly. When we bought this property 39 years ago there were 4 currant bushes too close to a spruce tree.  What can you do with 2 cups of currants? Almost nothing. Then Terry transplanted them to an open space as part of the garden and I added 4 more bare root plants that I got at Marc's a few years ago.  Now I can pick enough to make 1 batch of jelly which makes me very happy. You need 6 1/2 cups of juice for that.
 You need to sort through and remove the stems and then put them into a pot to simmer along with some water to simmer.  I prefer a low sugar recipe. The standard recipes call for an amazing amount of sugar to juice. I used to actually use 7 cups of sugar to 4 cups of juice for grape jelly. I always read that if you did not use those exact proportions the jelly would not "set". Then I learned about low sugar recipes and there is no turning back now.  Here is the recipe (from Sure.Jell):

Makes about 8 (1 cup) jars
You will need:
6 1/2 cups prepared juice (from about 5 qts. or 7 lbs. of fully ripe currants
1 1/2 cups water
4 1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl, divided
1 box Sure Jell for Less or No Sugar Needed (pink box)

Bring boiling water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water. Rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat.  LEt stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars before filling.

Remove stems and crush currants thoroughly, one layer at a time.  Place in large saucepan; stir in water.  Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 min., stirring occasionally.  Place 3 layers of damp cheesecloth or a jelly bag over a large bowl. Pour prepared fruit into bag and set over bowl to drip.  When cool enough, squeeze gently. 

I squeezed a little more than "gently" as I wanted to get every last drop out of these precious berries.
Measure exactly 6 1/2 cups juice into a 6 or 8 qt. saucepan. If necessary, add up to 1/2 cup water to get exact measure.

Mix 1/4 cup of the sugar (from the measured amount in bowl) and pectin in small bowl. Add to fruit in pan; mix well.  Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in remaining 4 1/4 cups sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch from top.  Wipe jar rims and threads.  Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands on tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. Water must cover jars by 1-2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary. Cover; bring water to a gentle boil. Process 5 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely.  After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger.  If lid springs back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.
There is nothing more satisfying than hearing that "PING" when the jar seals. Such sweet sounds in the summer! 

...........And such good eating all winter.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Not your mother's ham recipe..............

This is a tasty recipe worth the effort if you want to enjoy pork unsmoked and less salty.  Our family loves Pernil and this recipe is almost as good as that.

Cuban Lechon Asado            

(Roasted Fresh Ham)

8 pound fresh ham (pork leg or butt) Ours was from Sand Farm, of course.
1 head garlic, broken into cloves, peeled and minced
1 T. salt
1 1/2 t. oregano
1 /2 t. pepper
bay leaf
1 T. olive oil
1 c. sour orange juice
1/4 c. dry sherry
2 large onions, thinly sliced

1.  The day before, trim excess fat, make shallow slits, and rub the mash made with all of the above except     the sliced onions. Place in large zip lock bag and refrigerate overnight.
2.  Next day - pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
3.  Drain roast, pat dry and reserve marinade. Place in non -reactive heavy roasting pan. Cook for one hour, turning once or twice to brown all sides.
4.  Reduce oven to 325 degrees.  Pour marinade and onions over pork.  Tent pan with foil and continue roasting, basting from time to time until almost cooked, about an hour or 2 more.  Add water or sherry if pan dries out.
5.  Uncover roast and continue cooking until internal temperature is at least 150 degrees.  Let stand for 10 min. before carving.

This is traditionally served with black bean soup and white rice.  For dessert, a rich flan!
(recipe: Evelyn Athens)

Monday, March 28, 2011


We are thinking a lot about nests these days.  A pair of red-shouldered hawks have made a large nest near our house. We should have known something big was going on. They were so loud every day. Now I know that that is a sign of mating, and that hawks are monogomous and that red-shouldered hawks use greenery in their nests and that they lay 2-3 eggs, and that the female is larger than the male.  I was happy to see the remnants of our fall taxus pruning put to such good use.

Here she is in the nest. Hawks are about 19" tall so she is quite visible from far away.  Just before sunset she flew down to a lower branch where she was met by her mate who brought her dinner - a small animal of some sort. He left, she ate and then went back up to the nest.

I will be happy when the woods green up, but sad that my view will be obstructed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas (Pierogi Day)

For many years my Mom, Aunt Rose, my daughters Hannah, Anne and Liz and niece, Kristin, and I have set aside a day before Christmas Eve to make pierogis. This Ukranian/Polish dumpling is made from a circle of noodle dough with a  potato filling.

The next step is to fold the circle in half, stretching the circle of dough over the filling, being careful to pinch the edges of dough together using a little flour on your finger tips.  The result of the inadequately-closed pierogi is that it opens in the boiling water - making a very watery potato soup.

This is the master pierogi-maker at work.  I learned to put them on floured dish towels as we make them so they do not stick. One pierogi cannot touch another one on the tray or they grow into one bigger pierogi that will not be separated.  All this from years of experience!
 The filling we like to use starts with mashed potatoes. No liquid is added to the potatoes. Cooked sauerkraut that is well-drained is added along with chopped onions, sauteed in butter, grated cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. This year we used our own home-made sauerkraut and onions that we grew.

Anne and Kristin are really good at this. There are no pictures of me rolling out the dough and cutting the circles with a drinking glass. It was all I could do to keep up with these three.

Once they are all made we par-boil them in swirling, salted water, just until they float to the top.

After draining and cooling a little, I put them into freezer bags (12 to a gallon bag), set the bags on baking trays to keep their cute little shapes, then put them in the freezer until Christmas Eve.

They will be cooked again on Christmas Eve, this time until the pasta is tender and the filling is heated through.  Over the top goes onions sauteed in butter and a dollop of sour cream.  We eat a lot of them, and then not again until the NEXT Christmas Eve.

There are other foods on the table....breaded fish, peas and sweet bread, but you already know enough about those.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thankful for Leftovers

Liz and the turkey arrived on Wednesday morning as scheduled along with 3 pounds of fresh cranberries. We're talking the real deal cranberries from Cape Cod. She had ice packs in the bottom and the turkey was double-bagged. Continental Airlines had information on their website pertaining to transporting poultry. Who knew? So it was no big deal - the ticket counter person asked what was in the cooler, she said 'a turkey' and that was that. Off it went on the conveyor.

The brining went well. We used a recipe that required 2 cups of Kosher salt and 1 cup of brown sugar per gallon of water. It took a little over 3 gallons to cover the turkey so we are talking lots of salt and sugar. Then there was the question of what container to use. A 5 gal. plastic bucket would be too narrow, not letting the brine move freely around the entire turkey. Do we take the shelves out of the downstairs refrigerator to contain the bucket? Alas, the same cooler that Liz brought the turkey in would work best. Since it was very cold outside, we put the cooler on the screened porch with the lid open. Next issue - the turkey floated to the top of the brine. To keep it submerged we put 2 large pieces of firewood on top of the folded plastic bags and said goodnight to the bird.
                                             Liz made two cranberry sauces.

In the morning I made the traditional bread stuffing to go inside the turkey and my favorite artichoke, sausage and parmesan cheese stuffing using sourdough bread from Anne's bakery as a side dish.
Anne made our first course of French Onion Soup - not too heavy -  topped with Blackbird French baguette toasts and grated Gruyere.
 There was sweet potato gratin and roasted brussels sprouts with red onions, mashed potatoes, green beans with onions, mushroom and giblet gravies, cranberry sauces and sweet bread.

And then......dessert. Peanut Butter and Pumpkin Pies.  Anne's friend, Julia, brought amazing Hungarian pastries filled with apricot, nut and prune fillings, but we ate them all before I thought of taking a picture.
I must say that, as the cook, I enjoyed Friday's leftovers much more. Not that there was anything wrong with Thanksgiving - I loved it - but Friday was quiet and I savored every bite.