Wednesday, November 25, 2020

My First Pie!

2020: a year like none other. If this were a normal year I would be preparing to host my family right now: cleaning, moving furniture around, chopping vegetables. It's not a normal year, and we decided to atomize our Thanksgiving this year: each household celebrating separately. Normally I make the hearty foods, my sister & brother-in-law bring the salad, and my sister-in-law makes pies. 

Well, I'm skipping salad; I love it but Doug has no interest, and it's really only good the first day, so there would be a ton of waste. It's not like I could freeze it! We're having a turkey (it's 12.5 lbs, and it actually a bit comical to look at; it's like a miniature), stuffing, potatoes, brussels sprouts...and pumpkin pie. 

I've never made a pie of any kind before. People keep telling me it's easy, but then there are all these confusing things like, you have to bake it 3 different ways? But it just didn't seem like Thanksgiving without it, so I decided to give pie a chance. 

I decided store-bought crust would have to do, because pastry is notoriously tricky to get right. I bought a box of pre-rolled rounds. That actually turned out to be the troublesome part - I didn't know it would shrink! So after I had partially baked the crust I noticed it was now too small for the pan & tried to slap on some patches. Good thing this pie will not be entering any beauty contests! 

Here'd the filling recipe, from my sister-in-law, the reigning queen of pies in our family: 

Aces High Farm Pumpkin Pie Filling
1 can (1 lb.) pumpkin (One Pie is best, from just up the road in Fairfield, Maine)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger 
1/4 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 c. evaporated milk or light cream


Preheat oven to 425F. Prepare pastry. Beat eggs slightly, then beat in  remaining ingredients. Pour into crust. Bake 15 minutes. *Then, reduce heat to 350F and bake 45 minutes more or until a toothpick inserted into the filling comes out clean. Serve each slice with a dollop of whipped cream on top if desired.

Important notes:

*It's a good idea after the first 15 minutes of baking to cover the
 pie crust with strips of aluminum foil to prevent burning.

So, it's out! Boy is this an ugly pie. Smells good, though! I'll report back tomorrow on the important bit: how it tastes. 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Oven's Mouth, Boothbay, Maine, October 2020


We are blessed to live in Maine during these Covid times, where there are lots of things to do outdoors, and for free. The Oven's Mouth Preserve in Boothbay is one such thing. I wish this video could be scratch & sniff! The piney woods, the briny rivers; you can just feel the tension leaving your body at the scent. 

My favorite thing about Oven's Mouth, though, is the incredible teal color of the water of the Back & Cross rivers. 

Enjoy! 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

An Embarrassment of Spuds

 When you think fall in Maine, you might think of apple picking. (And you wouldn't be wrong! It is a fun fall activity and fresh-fresh-fresh apples are just incredible.) Another fall harvest is just as plentiful, though. The French name translates to "apples of the earth:" potatoes.

There are no pick-your-own potato farms that I know of, it being a messier and less picturesque activity, but farm stands are full of native potatoes, and in the grocery store the prices can't be beat. 

How to take advantage of all this bounty, when the two of us can only eat so many potatoes? (Especially when the apples are beckoning, as well!) In the past when I have tried to freeze stews or soups that contain potatoes, the results have been...not great. The potato chunks have a weird spongy texture. Trying to freeze raw potatoes has not gone any better - those were somehow both grainy and mushy. 

I knew I must be doing something wrong, because frozen french fries and hash browns are a thing. I can't flash-freeze, but I can blanche, which, it turns out, is the secret to home freezing potatoes. Here's how:

Cut the potatoes into wedges. It doesn't have to be exactly this size and shape, but you don't want your chunks too small, because you don't want them to get too thoroughly cooked before freezing. 



Put a big pot of water on the stove on high. Set a timer for 2 minutes. 


While waiting for the water to boil, fill a bigger pot with cold water & ice cubes. This is the ice bath to stop the potatoes from continuing to cook after you drain them. 

Once the water on the stove boils, put in the potatoes and start the timer. 

When the timer goes off, drain hte potatoes in a colander and put them immediately into the ice bath. Leave them in the ice bath for a few minutes, them scoop them back into the colander with a slotted spoon. Let them drain completely, then divide them into freezer bags and pop them into the freezer. 


Frozen potatoes will stay good for about a year - not that I need to worry about that, I expect we will eat these sometime in the bleak midwinter. That's the point of buying lots while they are cheap - then you save on shopping when you have less money. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

This Much I Can Do

 

There's so much awful in the world that we are powerless to help, it feels good to do one thing - even a tiny thing - to make things better. Or, more accurately, to help mitigate how bad they can get. 

In the past I've been spotty about my annual flu vaccination. For most of my adult life I haven't had health insurance, so this is a relatively new habit for me; I think I am *finally* associating the turning of the leaves with "get a flu shot," in addition to "bring in the hose," "get sandbags for the truck," and "put away the hammock." 

This year, of course, it's doubly important: the overlap of the coronavirus pandemic with the normal flu season is likely to be a bitch. The symptoms are very similar, and the last thing our healthcare system needs is twice as many coughing people running out to get tested, and the last thing anybody needs is to get both viruses at once. 

More than 200,000 Americans are dead. There is nothing we can do for them, and honestly there is very little we as individuals can do to prevent the next 200,000 deaths. (The government could do a LOT, but they probably won't, not before January, anyway.) But this is one thing - one tiny thing - that could save lives. 

Monday, September 7, 2020

Sunday, September 6, 2020

You Can Pickle Anything!

 

It wasn't a great year for gardening - too dry - but the trusty Sun Golds did come through in a big way. They are extra-sweet cherry tomatoes that produce continuously from early August right up until frost. 

I recently learned that you can pickle pretty much any vegetable. (Probably other stuff, too but ew.) I decided to give it a try. These are refrigerator pickles - I didn't get in the whole boil-the-jars-like-our-ancestors-did stuff. 

Pickled Sun Gold Tomatoes 

About 20 Sun Gold or other sweet variety cherry tomatoes
1 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tarragon
2 cloves garlic, peeled


Fill Mason jar with cherry tomatoes. Fill jar with a 1/2 inch to an inch of space. Mix vinegar, sugar, tarragon and salt in a saucepan; bring to light boil. Boil for 1 minute. Let cool about 10 minutes; pour over tomatoes. Push garlic cloves under the surface of the vinegar. Screw on lid & let sit in refrigerator for a week before using. 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Bike Acadia!

Somehow I grew up in Maine without knowing about the Acadia Carriage Trails. I love biking so this was


an oversight of some significance! My husband mentioned them to me on our way home from a visit Downeast. I looked into it and it turns out they are a well-known hiking and especially biking destination. They are on the National Register if Historic Places, having been built by John Rockefeller in conjunction with the National Park Service, in the early to mid 20th century. 57 miles of packed crushed gravel roads wind between the ponds and mountains.

Acadia is not a compact park. It consists of several separate areas, and even the main area is an irregular lobed shape that winds in and out of the settled areas of Mount Desert Island. The town of Otter Creek is completely surrounded by parkland, for example. We entered the park at the Hull Cove Visitors Center. 

We took the Witch Hole Pond Loop, and the Eagle Lake Loop on purpose...and the Paradise Hill Loop by accident. I don't know which of the ponds was Witch Hole! But they were all beautiful. 

My bike (on the left) is at least 25 years old. I bought it used in 1994 for $200 - it seemed like an extravagant amount at the time but has earned its cost many times over. Doug's bike is also secondhand. One of the reasons I love biking is, you don't need fancy gear or special shoes or dedicated clothes. Any bike, any shoes, (almost) any clothes, and you are in business. 
We saw these two turtles basking together. They are Painted Turtles - the larger on about as big as those get, in Maine, the small one the smallest I've ever seen in the wild. 





When we found ourselves at the Duck Brook Bridge we declared ourselves officially lost. This was a little alarming - you can get pretty lost in 57 miles of road, and it was getting late in the day. Luckily there was a map kiosk at the bridge, that showed us where we went wrong. 
There's still so much of Acadia to see! Next time I will print a map, though. :)