Apricot Sage Bread

September 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

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Today was officially sage harvesting day (all those other days were just warm-ups). There was also a neighborhood potluck tonight, and I was planning to bring banana bread but it needed a friend. And I had apricots leftover from the Habanero Gold pepper jelly (except the 2/3 cup I already cut up to make a second and third batch, by Lester’s request). So,

Apricot Sage Bread
Loosely adapted from Bittman’s quick bread recipe, but made as follows instead of cutting the butter into the dry ingredients. Makes two loaves, or make muffins (probably about a dozen) and reduce the baking time.
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about 6 loosely packed tablespoons of chopped fresh sage leaves
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1.5 cups milk
1.5 cups chopped dried apricots
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8×5 bread pans.
  2. Cream together the butter, sugar, and sage. This releases some of the sage oils into the butter.
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  4. Mix in milk, eggs, and almond extract.
  5. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  6. Gently mix dry into wet ingredients in a few additions, adding more as soon as the last addition is moistened. Avoid over-mixing.
  7. Fold in apricots.
  8. Pour into prepared baking pans. Bake 50-55 minutes at 350 degrees.
  9. Allow to cool before slicing, unless you are pulling it out of the oven moments before the potluck (oops).
  10. This turned out to be a nice tea bread style. I actually doubled the sage in the recipe above, because I only put in half as much the first time around and it could use more (and would use up more of this overabundance of sage, haha). And the almond flavor did not come through strongly but I think it adds a nice additional flavor that plays well with apricots. Enjoy!

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Sage Harvest Wreath

September 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here’s a quick end of the season project for those of us lucky enough to have abundant herb harvests. My sage went crazy this year, so I will have plenty for making sage butter (sage + butter, freezer then frying pan) with lots left over. I decided to dry it, but why not let it be decorative too?

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You’ll need:

  • lots of sage sprigs, the longer the better
  • wreath form – I have a few made from last year’s grapevine, but you can get them at a craft store or even use a hanger bent into a ring
  • craft wire or twist ties
  • wire cutters if using wire
  • hanging wire if needed

I neglected to take photos of the assembly but there’s not much to it. Tie one sprig about 1/3 of the way from the tip to your wreath form with the twist tie or a short piece of wire; you can slide the wire down so it hides under some of the leaves. Add the next sprig overlapping the first, placing the tie so it holds down the top 1/3 of the new one and the bottom 1/3 of the previous one. Repeat like this around the ring, tucking the stems under each other and adjusting as needed until you have the look you like.

Hang and enjoy the wreath while it dries, then remove leaves as needed for cooking!

Anyone made dried herb wreaths from other herbs? How do you preserve your herb harvest at the end of the season?

CSA Week 13: Peach Sage Jam and Peachy Simple Syrup

September 19, 2012 § 3 Comments

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Where did the summer go? Somehow it’s week 13 of the CSA, and everyone is going back to school, and this afternoon I actually put on a sweater and made a mug of tea. I don’t like it. (Well, I love tea, but it’s the principle of the thing.) So I am holding on to summer as long as I can, and I hereby declare it is not fall… it’s harvest season.

the haul:
peaches
cabbage
kale
corn
lettuce
hot peppers
bell peppers
eggplant

Peach Sage Jam

scaled-down (three half-pint yield) and adapted from the Peach Rosemary Jam recipe from Mes Confitures, courtesy of the Star Tribune

3 pounds peaches = 2.25 pounds peeled and pitted –> 2 pounds total, 1.5 pounds peeled and pitted
4 cups sugar –> 2 2/3 cups
2 T lemon juice –> 1 T plus 1 t
a large sprig of sage

  1. Wash and peel the peaches… Supposedly you can score the peels, dip them in boiling water for a minute, then in cold water, and then they “slide right off.” I wimped out and used my vegetable peeler, which was just fine for this few peaches.
  2. Chop the peaches into 1/4 inch cubes.
  3. Bring the peaches, lemon juice, and sugar just to a simmer over medium heat.
  4. Pour into a ceramic or glass bowl, and add the sage sprig.
  5. Macerate for four hours at room temperature or till tomorrow in the fridge.
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  7. Drain and reserve the liquid from the solids. Bring the liquid to a boil then continue boiling until a candy thermometer registers 221 degrees. It will thicken and the color will deepen. Skim intermittently.
  8. Add back the solids (I took out the sage at this point, but keep it in longer for even stronger flavor.) Bring back to a boil for about five minutes, and then start testing the set using the chilled plate test (a channel dragged through a cooled drop of jam should not run back together).
  9. Ladle into jars with 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes.

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Peachy Simple Syrup
And because I can’t let a good thing go to waste, I used the leftover peach peels and pits to make a peachy simple syrup – apparently industrious canners used them for peach peel and pit jelly back in the day. I did it pretty much the same way I made my sage flower simple syrup (which is half way to sage flower jelly).

  1. Take all those beautiful peels (and less-beautiful pits) and add water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
  3. Add a splash of lemon juice – maybe about half a teaspoon of lemon juice per cup of water (this is very approximate).
  4. Let steep for about half an hour.
  5. Strain through a strainer, cheesecloth, teabag, or whatever you’ve got. Squeeze to get all the juices out.
  6. Measure out your volume of water, and add an equal volume of sugar. Heat until the sugar dissolves.
  7. Keep in the fridge, or water bath process for 10 minutes. It’s that simple!

Hmm… peachy simple syrup, Amaretto, and vanilla seltzer, anyone? That is officially called “The Science Nerd” because I came up with it when I remembered that they actually use compounds derived from peach or cherry pits to make natural almond flavoring… This one is just a Peachy Martini:
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(Sorry about the blurry picture – and that was pre-martini! – but I had to show off my “new” cocktail set: set of probably-’70s cocktail glasses I adopted from my parents’ basement, and an early 1950s shaker I was obsessing about on eBay)

Anybody out there made peach peel and pit jelly? Anybody not even bother to peel their peaches and live to tell the tale? Anybody with more jamming experience than me know how to keep the fruit from floating to the top?

Peach Sage Jam, Peachy Simple Syrup on Punk Domestics

Sage Blossoms Part 2: Simple Syrup

June 18, 2012 § 8 Comments

I don’t know anything about cocktails. I’m that girl who walks up to a well-stocked bar and says “I’d like something… with lime…” I don’t know my Cointreau from my Curacao (okay, I do actually know that much). But I’d like to learn, because (1) cocktails are delicious and (2) cocktails are another way I can use my canning creations!

I never liked martinis until I made a dirty gin martini with the brine from last year’s rosemary pickled green beans. So good.

So remember how in part one when I made sage blossom jelly I said that I picked all the sage blossoms off individually instead of pruning off the entire flowering stem? Well, I’m glad I did – because the whole plant re-bloomed within a couple days! I already had enough jars of my beautiful pale pink jelly to keep me and my croissants happy for a little while, so on to new horizons: sage blossom simple syrup.

As it turns out, simple syrup is really simple. I used a basic 1:1 liquid:sugar ratio, and the same steeping technique as for the jelly. Simple syrup will keep in the fridge for quite a while according to what I read online, but my fridge has a lot of half-full jars of tasty odds and ends already. I figured if you can put up fruit preserved in simple syrup, surely you can put up simple syrup preserved in simple syrup. And now I have a secret weapon to unleash in the depths of the next New England winter: pry open a jar, and sunshine and birdsong will magically fill the world once more. Right?

2 cups sage blossoms
2 1/4 cups water
2 T lemon juice
2 cups sugar

1. Clean blossoms. Bring water to boil and pour over the blossoms in a heat-safe bowl.
2. Cry a little when the beautiful purple blossoms turn brown. (Remember this part?)
3. Add the lemon juice now. Rejoice when the blossom-water turns pink! (This part will never get old)
4. Steep overnight.
5. Strain through a jelly bag if you have it, or in my case a tea filter bag. You should have about two cups of liquid.
6. Bring the liquid and sugar to a full rolling boil. Ladle into jars with 1/8 inch headspace and process for 10 minutes.

I took a Mason jar of this to a barbecue at a friend’s house in a swanky part of town. Her backyard is an urban oasis of hanging lanterns and ivy creeping up weathered brick walls. We sat around her firepit toasting marshmallows and drinking this pale pink refresher (proportions very approximate, mix to your taste) while her giant fuzzy dog napped on our feet.

1/2 oz sage blossom simple syrup
1 oz vodka
Squeeze of lime
Splash of soda water

Shake syrup and vodka with ice in a cocktail shaker, strain into glass. Top with lime and soda water. Serve with lime wedge and giant fuzzy dog (optional but recommended).

What’s in your sage blossom syrup cocktail, and what would you name it? What are your tips for a cocktail beginner?

Sage Blossoms Part 2: Simple Syrup on Punk Domestics

Sage Blossoms Part 1: Jelly

June 16, 2012 § 18 Comments

My sage blossomed! Such a gorgeous color, and such a nice addition to the green-on-green of the spring edible garden (before the explosion of red that will surely come when my tomato plants become overburdened with incredible quantities of tomatoes for once this time, right?). But being me, I couldn’t just admire them. I had to eat them. Or more accurately: put them up, then eat them. I ate a few right off the plant, and was surprised by their sweetness, with a subtle sagey undertone. So… sage blossom jelly.

I picked over the entire plant rather than cutting off the blossoms, using two hands to pull the purple blossoms out of the papery purple-green casings (sepals?). I got about two cups in the end.

I was inspired by this post about sage blossom syrup and she was inspired by this peony(!) jelly. Otherwise I used the mint jelly recipe off the Certo liquid pectin package except for adding the lemon juice before steeping.

2 cups sage blossoms
2 1/4 cups water
2 T lemon juice
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 pouch Certo liquid pectin
1/2 tsp butter

1. Clean blossoms. Bring water to boil and pour over the blossoms in a heat-safe bowl.
2. Cry a little when the beautiful purple blossoms turn brown.
3. Add the lemon juice now. Rejoice when the blossom-water turns pink! (This is why you add it now – it doesn’t work later, as I found out the hard way in another batch.)
4. Steep overnight.
5. Strain through a jelly bag if you have it, or in my case a tea filter bag. You should have about two cups of liquid.
6. Continue with the Certo cooked jam and jelly instructions: bring the liquid, sugar, and butter to a full rolling boil. Stir in the pectin, boil one minute, remove from heat, and skim. Ladle into jars with 1/8 inch headspace and process for 5 minutes.

I got two half-pints and four of my new cute little four-ounce jars out of this batch.

Suggested uses: on croissants because I’m fancy, as major-bonus-points gifts to friends who are also fancy, paired with a mild cheese like a goat cheese or brie, on a spoon for dessert… what would you do with it?

Sage Blossoms Part 1: Jelly on Punk Domestics

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