Monthly Archives: August 2012

corn and black bean salsa

Good news! When I opened the pressure canner wendesday morning* I had nine pretty little jars of corn and black bean salsa. (I feel like I should note that I’ve never had a jar shatter in any canner. But I have had older jars blow their bottoms off (twice, and some of my jars are decades old) and I had some “limited edition” ball jars where the lids would jiggle off 50% of the time.)

corn salsa3

So YAY! The fresh salsa tastes pretty good (I had half a jar extra which is sitting in my fridge) but I guess I can’t really speak to the texture of the final product, since there is even more cooking during the canning process.

The other thing I should say is that I totally made up the recipe. That’s the great thing about pressure canning. You don’t have to worry about acidity, sugar levels, or anything else. All you have to do is:
Cut stuff up small enough that it heats all the way through.
Cover the stuff in liquid so the heat is distributed evenly.
Don’t add any thickeners that will screw up the heat transfer.
Cook for the full length required for the longest ingredient present.

With those great caveats I’m going to offer up the recipe. I’ll report back when I’ve opened a jar and let you know how the texture turns out.

Ingredients
3C sweet corn
2C cooked black beans
1C diced tomatoes
1C diced onion
1C lime or lemon juice
1/2C cilantro
1/3 of a hot pepper
1/2T salt
9 half-pint jars

corn salsa ingredients

Ingredient Prep
I’m giving all the ingredients in their final proportions. You can use either canned beans, or dried beans from the store. If you have dried beans rinse and soak them overnight first. Next rinse them and cook in clean water for 45 minutes. They were on the firm side of cooked when I added them to the salsa.

For your sweet corn I’d say 3C is going to be between 3 and 5 ears of corn, depending on how big each ear is, and how carefully you cut off the kernels. There are a lot of tips online for cutting kernels off cobs, but here’s what I’ve found works best:

cutting corn

I have a small cutting board inside a big roasting pan. The kernels fall off the cob in sheets and tend to go EVERYWHERE. The roasting pan is big enough to catch them all.

Ok, ingredient prep is the most hands-on, time-consuming part of this process. Once you’ve gotten everything chopped, diced, rinsed, and measured throw it all into a sauce pan. Bring it up to a quick simmer and adjust the seasonings to your own taste. I’m a wimp when it comes to hot peppers, you might want more. Or you might want basil if you can’t taste cilantro properly**. Good news with pressure canning is you can change anything you want. Heck, you could add water instead of the lemon or lime juice, but I think they add to the flavor.

Canning
Prepare your pressure canner according to it’s directions. Get the water up to a simmer, heat your jars, lids, bands, etc…
Spoon the salsa mix into your jars leaving 1 inch of head space. Be CERTAIN to add enough liquid to cover all the ingredients. I know fresh salsa isn’t so wet, but for home canning you need that liquid to spread the heat throughout the jar properly. Check for and get rid of any air bubbles. Place in the canner.

Put the lid on so the steam can vent and bring to a hard boil. Let the steam vent for the correct amount of time (varies based on canner size) Then shut the pressure valve/put the weight on.

Once the canner is up to pressure keep it there for 55 minutes. If you’re using larger jars check the time needed for sweet corn in your jar size and use that. When the time is up turn off the heat and let the pressure drop slowly. (This is the part where I went to bed) After the jars are cool check your seals and take pretty, pretty pictures of your new salsa.

corn salsa

Or just eat it over chips. Your call.

(All these photos were taken with the Nikon D60. I’ve quickly moved passed the “I’m so confused and lost!” stage into the “This is such a cool toy and there’s so much to learn!” stage. The prep photos were all taken in the dark of night, so while the quality isn’t quite as good I think it’s MILES better than my point and shoot could do. I’m pretty sure I need one of these for myself. You should all go buy knitting patterns so I can afford one…)

corn salsa2

*It takes a long time for the pressure to let out. I turned that sucker off and just went to bed.

**People who say cilantro tastes like soap are missing the gene that lets the rest of us enjoy it. True fact.

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overcompensating

Ok, so my corn crop failed. Is that a good reason to go a little crazy at the farm stand? Apparently the answer is YES! I had originally thought that I’d get 4 dozen ears of corn to put in the freezer. Then I read on Knitspot* that Anne got 10 quarts of corn out of just 3 dozen ears. I almost reconsidered…

corn on my counter

Then Farmer Nick told me that if I was willing to buy in bulk I could get a whole bag of corn for $24. I’m not very good at passing up that kind of a deal…

So I’ve been processing corn a LOT in the last week. A full bag is somewhere between 6 and 8 dozen ears (I lost count on the first day)

I now have 4 quarts of corn frozen in the blanching broth – these will be for soups and chowders. I have another 2 quarts frozen (also in my plastic freezer boxes) for casseroles and shepard’s pie (so designated because they’re frozen in blocks, and hard to separate out.)

corn in the freezer

I have SIX quarts of corn which was frozen on cookie sheets and the broken up and poured into glass quart jars. I have been either blanching and freezing or breaking up and storing corn almost every night. I have another two loaded cookie sheets that still need to be put in jars- so that’ll probably bring my total to 9 quarts of corn niblets.

And on top of all that I just made 9 half pints (that’s a little bit more than 2 quarts in case you were wondering) of corn and black bean salsa. Hopefully. The pressure canner is cooling in my kitchen but hasn’t released yet. So hopefully it’s full of pretty jars of home canned salsa, and not a horrible mass of broken glass and veggies. What’ll it be? Find out tomorrow!

I love Knitspot. Not only is Anne an amazing designer who I look up to: she also has a garden and puts up even more produce than I do.
I wonder if I could convince her to raise chickens…

sneak peak*

Remember the speedy little autumn sweater I was knitting? It’s done! Yep, that was pretty speedy. It was speedy even though I ripped out the top bit SIX times. On the seventh try I finally got the right combination of raglan shaping, short rows in the back, texture and yarn in the collar, and the pleats in the shoulders.

sneak peak

It was the sort of thing that just happens when designing. I’d swatched the texture and the pleats. I know plenty about short rows and raglan shapes. But pulling all four features together in a way that works? That just takes frogging a few times.

So the garment is done, and waiting for me to get around to blocking it. The pattern however?

pattern notes

-could use some work. One size (mine) is figured. And it was all done by hand, in pen, using the calculator on my phone. This is not how I usually design.

Hopefully, this won’t be impossible to grade. I THINK I’ve planned things well. All the pattern features work in units of 8 (trim on the hem and sleeve cuffs) 4 (raglan shaping, trim on the neckline) and 2 (shoulder short rows) – so it seems like they should all fit together. Right? Let’s hope so…

*If by “sneak peak” you understand I’m showing you a bunch of intentionally blurry photos. Enjoy!

new challenge

I have a new challenge. It’s a Nikon D60 with the standard 18-55mm lens and a 70-300mm tele-macro lens (meaning it does far away shots AND macro shots)

nikon

It belongs to my friend Calley. But she’s generously loaned it to me for the next two weeks. Right now I’m at the stage where I barely understand all the displays and I should probably just be shooting in auto mode, except the whole point here is I want to learn more details!

So far, I’ve managed some pretty fun depth of field shots:

glads and coneflowers
coneflowers and glads

But I’m still struggling with the aperture and shutter speed settings. I mean I KNOW what those things are supposed to do. But the effects of changing the settings are much more subtle than making the same changes on my fancy point and shoot. Again that’s the whole POINT of playing with a DLSR, but still, the learning curve is steep.

And that’s not even touching on the new things I need to learn now that I’m importing camera RAW files into photo shop instead of the silly little jpgs from my own camera…

Across the Universe

The first cause of discord is difference.
The second cause of discord is lack of a strong leader.
The third cause of discord is individual thought.

Across the Universe is the first book in this trilogy by Beth Revis.

Across the Universe on Goodreads

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Godspeed is a ship carrying frozen passengers to a new Earth. But it is also a generation ship, with crew who will live, have families, and die within its walls.

Amy was supposed to be frozen until the ship landed, but something has happened and she woke up early. But she was lucky, other frozen passenger are unplugged and left to die.

Across the Universe follows Amy as she, and the future leader Elder, attempt to figure out what is going on, who is killing the frozen passengers, and how to stop them.

It also explores deep ideas, what sort of society might evolve in such an inclosed biosphere. How would this society deal with an outsider? And how will Amy adjust to her new life separate from everyone she’s ever known?

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

A Million Suns by Beth Revis

A Million Suns is the second book in the trilogy.

Amy and Elder are still working together. Elder’s society is breaking out of it’s stupor, and not everyone is happy about the changes. In fact, everyone has a bone to pick with him about something. Meanwhile Amy and Elder need to figure out what is wrong with the elderly Godspeed. They need to figure it out before the people all go stir-crazy.

I read Across the Universe back when it first came out. When I discovered both audio books available at my library I re-listened to the first before checking out the second. I love the way Beth Revis spins out her tale, providing enough clues to keep the reader guessing, giving us hints but never giving the full story away. I can not WAIT for the third book (Shades of Earth) to come out, but I’ll have to, because it isn’t due on shelves until January.

*I’ve linked to Amazon for ease, but please check your local book store first!

Sweet Spot

I was knitting with a friend awhile back when she made a comment about speedy knitting. Her theory is that everyone has a sweet spot – a spot at which they knit their fastest.

The sweet spot isn’t necessarily related to the biggest gauge, or the smoothest needles. It’s a point where, for whatever reason, the yarn and needle combination make for fast knitting.

Her sweet spot is US 5 or 6 needles, my sweet spot seems to be US 8 or 9’s. Worked with worsted or aran weight yarn I’m SPEEDY! I get a bit slower when handling bigger yarn and needles, same for smaller needles.

But if I were to test, with the same brand needles, and the same type of yarn (merino, for instance is way faster than cotton at any gauge) and the same pattern – I’m quite sure I’m fastest with the worsted/aran/US8/US9 combo.

What about you? Do you think that every knitter has a sweet spot? What’s yours?

cross pollination blues

I need someone to write the cross-pollination blues. Because I’ve got ’em…

cross polination issues

Remember back when a summer storm blew over all my corn stalks, and I had to tie them up with cotton yarn? And I was all whiny and worried about whether or not I’d get corn? Yup. My corn did NOT cross pollinate.

Luckily there’s a farm stand near by that’s currently selling corn for $4 a dozen. I think I’ll get 3 or 4…

Whoops

Saturday I was volunteering at the library when I was hit with a design idea like it was a ray of light beaming down out of the sky.

Saturday afternoon I may have been writing one pattern, but I kept getting side-tracked by the new a-line sweater I wanted to be knitting. Not, mind you, that I have TIME to for another SWEATER design. I’ve got designs planned as far out as December 2013! No, that’s not a typo, that’s more than a year from now.

But you know what? I’m pretty much on track for all of those. In fact, I’m waiting for yarn at the moment. So would it hurt if maybe I just swatched a little? I could use something from the deep stash for a change, right?

Saturday night I was swatching, and rolling skeins into balls of yarn.

Sunday morning I awoke early. I couldn’t get back to sleep because my brain wanted that new sweater NOW.*

decreases

By 7:30 Sunday night I’d knit 13 inches of a sweater body. Yup. And it’s not like I shirked on my other duties! I went to church, walked the dogs, ran a load of laundry, swept the WHOLE upstairs of the house, AND cleaned the kitchen. I even went canoeing with Neil. That part really doesn’t count though, because by “canoeing” I mean he paddled and I knit. In fact I knit in every available moment. I knit while water boiled for dinner. I knit in the car to the lake. I knit and knit and knit.

And I’m going to go knit some more right now.

*My current pie-in-the-sky goal is to have the pattern done by October. I can think of about a dozen GOOD things that could happen to stop that, nevermind the problems that could come up…

long time coming

I published a new design today, my Nymphaea shawl. This little shawl is worked from the top down. Designed specifically for self striping yarns the pattern directs you to work an eyelet row whenever the colorway changes.

nymphaea zoomed

Each shawl made from this pattern will be unique, and will perfectly match the colorways in the yarn! You can favorite and queue it on Ravelry here.

nymphaea tip

This pattern has been waiting in the wings for a looong time. Crystal Palace sent me the Sausalito yarn back when it was first released. That was 2010. I know, I know, I said it was a long time!

I knit the shawl up quickly enough, and then I thought it might be different enough for Knitty. Sadly Amy Singer couldn’t find space for it (although it was held for consideration twice!)

nymphaea arc

By then I’d moved on to other projects. I knew I wanted to release it in summer, and last summer I was kinda busy with my e-book of fingerless mitts. So the poor little shawl just kept waiting.

nymphaea gaze

This summer I knew it was time! But when my editor saw the PDF she kindly informed me that my photography had improved so much I probably shouldn’t use the original photos*. I had kept the shawl over the back of my favorite chair, where I can pull it over my shoulders any time I feel a bit cold. Before I could take any new pictures I had to wash and re-block the shawl.

nymphaea looped

Once it was washed I remembered how much I love this pattern! Nothing like a bath to spruce up a bit of knitting. Neil and I took it to nearby Metcalf pond and got some pretty new photos and I’m really excited to share this shawl with all of you!

nymphaea artsy

Nymphaea is a really simple shawl to knit up. I loved working on it when I needed a break from patterns that were draining my brain power. This small shawl uses 3 skeins of Sausalito, and you could knit a full sized shawl with 4 skeins.

*it’s a good problem to have

word association

Let’s play a word association game! I’m trying to name a pattern I plan to release in September. For reasons only my subconscious could explain* this pattern is tied to the book Alice in Wonderland.

Alice in Wonderland peak

So I’m looking for an Alice-in-Wonderland-y type name. Really, my biggest problem is that Cheshire is already used 22 times on Ravelry.

So what do you think? Got a word that might make a good name for this pattern**? I’m more likely to choose your suggestion if it’s just 1-2 words, unique is good too, and it should be subtle, but not too subtle. I reserve the right to not use any suggestions if I don’t like them. But if I choose yours I’ll give you a free copy of the pattern! I’ll make a choice sometime between now and September (how’s that for vague?)

*And it’s not giving away any of its secrets…
**I’m not telling you what kind of pattern on purpose, I don’t want to box in any brilliant ideas.