Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rhubarb Mint Cobbler

While JA and the kids were at VBS, Ezekiel and I took on a cooking project.  Again, trying to use what I have available in my yard, I googled rhubarb and mint and found this recipe.  However, after I went out and picked what I could (without stripping my rhubarb in an unhealthy manner, I could only get 1 pound of rhubarb (you shouldn't pick more than a third of a rhubarb plant at a time).  Thus, I am going to share the recipe here that I halved. Since, unless you have several rhubarb plants, you won't be able to harvest much more than a pound at a time (I have two plants).

Mommy's helper in picking the mint.
 We picked the rhubarb and the mint, and then washed and trimmed the rhubarb and rinsed the mint.  Remember to make sure you don't have any leaves left on the rhubarb.  I don't want you to get sick.  I actually found a fresh leaf growing up at the bottom of one of my stalks when I washed it.

 I then sliced the rhubarb, and chopped up the mint (1/4 cup) with my Pampered chef Food Chopper.   Add rhubarb, mint, and 1/4 cup, 1 tbsp, 1-3/4 tsp of sugar (I used splenda since I ran out of sugar yesterday!).  Add 1 tbsp of butter (oops, I guess I forgot something).
The rhubarb, mint, and splenda ready for the oven (forgot to add the butter).

Make sure you add the butter as this will help keep the rhubarb from sticking to the pan.  Place your pan in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven when rhubarb is soft and bubbly around the edges and stir with a rubber spatula.

While the rhubarb is cooking mix up your biscuit mixture - I would recommend using the full biscuit recipe if you like biscuits.  I halved the recipe, and think I ended up with too little biscuit mixture, so if I was making the full recipe with two pounds of rhubarb I would recommend doubling this.  Mix 1 cup of flour (I used fresh ground whole wheat flour), 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 5 tablespoons of sugar, and four tablespoons of butter. Mix together until the butter has the size of a grain of rice.  Then add 1/2 cup of milk (less one tablespoon - I just poured the milk just below the rim of the measuring cup).  Mix until the dough gathers in clumps (you may want to just use the spatula for this.)  Divide dough into eight equal pieces (ok, I know where my problem came -- I didn't divide the number of pieces in half :).  Lightly form each piece into a shaggy disk the size of a sausage patty.

Arrange biscuits on top of the hot rhubarb and sprinkle them with sugar (oops, another aspect I missed in the recipe - Hopefully all of you are better at following recipes than I am.)  Put the dish back in the oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until the biscuits are nicely browned.  Serve warm with vanilla or strawberry ice cream.
Now to take the small pan next door for my neighbor.  She is always showering us with cookies and fresh produce.  Now to return the favor.  Feel free to share what you have cooked up recently from what you found in your yard!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mulberry Syrup

Today began my first day of canning for the summer.  On the corner of the church's property we have a Mulberry Tree.  Over the past couple of years I have had minor uses for the mulberries - put them in pancakes, and mash them up and cook them with sugar to make a jammy syrup.  However, I've never put up any of the mulberries for use during the rest of the year (OK, maybe  I did freeze a small sour cream container of the jam type syrup).

This year is going to be different.  One of the things I am trying to do this year is figure out how I can take some of the things around us and use them for food and maybe even some of our staples or gifts for the rest of the year.

On to the discussion of the mulberries:

Picking mulberries is no fun.  Most of the branches are too high for us to reach, and the ground is littered with mulberries, so we have to either go barefoot and have purple feet, or have our shoes stained purple.  Most of us choose to go barefoot.  It also takes a really long time to handpick the berries.  We could be out at the tree for an hour and only have the bottom of the bucket filled.  So, we developed a new approach.

Armed with a tarp, three children, and two pails JA and I took on the mulberry tree today.  We spread the tarp out under the tree and two of us held the corners of the tarp close to the road (the ground slopes and we didn't want to get the mulberries off the tree just to feed them to the road).  Then we took turns shaking the tree.  One person would shake the tree and the rest of us would get pelted by flying mulberries -- Take note where purple clothes or clothes you don't care about getting stained.

After we finished shaking the tree, we ended up with about two ice cream pails full of mulberries.  The kids headed out to the backyard to play while I went inside to get to work.  I started by soaking the mulberries (to get the bugs and spiders to float to the top (we really don't need the extra protein).  Then I rinsed off the berries and put them in a pot filled with water (just to the top of the berries) and brought to a rolling boil.

After they began to boil I pulled them off the heat.  Now came the fun part.  Turning this mulberry mush to syrup.  I tried mashing the mulberries -- no luck.  I tried straining them -- This was working but taking a really long time.  you see, mulberries have a lot of seeds and they are edible, but they tend to get stuck in my teeth so I didn't want a lot of seeds in my syrup.  Finally I remembered the juicer we bought back in our Northland days (we were trying to be healthier by juicing raw fruits and veggies -- then we decided the expense was more than the little bit of juice we got was worth).

After digging the juicer out of the basement, I poured the mulberry/water mixture in, and within minutes I had 19 cups of mulberry juice (a lot more than I had expected to get).  I poured the juice into a stock pot, added 25 cups of sugar (The recipe I was using called for a 1:2 ratio of mulberry juice to sugar).  I'm glad I ran out of sugar because this syrup is sweet enough.

I brought the syrup to a rolling boil and pulled it from the heat.  Poured into jars and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 - 15 minutes (the second batch a bit longer because of an episode I'll share with you later).  The final result was 17 1/2 pints of mulberry syrup.

Thursday we are going to go back out and shake down some more mulberries and I'm going to try my hand at mulberry jam.  Now to see if I can find a sugar free jam recipe since I have no more sugar in the house :)

Cost break down - $7.68 - sugar and $4.50 (probably less) lids = $12.18 for 17.5 pints of organic fruit syrup :)