It's in the Bag, Gluten Free & The WoW Diet

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Snow Vineyard

Does anybody know what time it is? It's jelly time! Now, I know what you're thinking, "Bagette, you're mistaken. Everyone knows you make jelly in the fall, when the FRUIT is on." The masses may make jelly in the fall, but around here that's not how we roll. The explanation is simple. By the time traditional jelly time rolls around, The Bag Lady is tired from canning everything she can get her hands on (we've had to rescue the cat a few times.) So, in a miraculous feat of defying mother nature, AND rotating our food storage, we jelly-ize in the early summer.

You see, jams are made with fresh or frozen fruits, but jellies are made from juice. Hence, you can make jelly whenever the mood strikes. In our humble backyard, we have a small vineyard. "Snow Vineyard" consists of 7 vines. We have Concord, Zinfandel, and lovely little white grapes. The juice from the white grapes has a pink blush to it, and is our favorite to drink, it's not as sweet as the Concord. Sadly, we've all forgotten the name. If you're interested in starting your own vineyard, leave a comment and we'll do some research. Our vines grow up the fence, so they don't take much space. The first year yields no harvest. You have to pluck the baby grapes off, or the weight will break the vine. Juice output increases each year. Last year our vines were 4 years old and we averaged 11 quarts of juice per vine.

"Snow Vineyard"

Awww, how cute! This bunch of baby grapes is about 2 inches long.

Anyways, back to how we make jelly in the early summer. After the first fall frost, we harvest the grapes and The Bag Lady begins juicing. Through the winter and spring, we have a good stock of red juice for cooking (it's a good substitute for red wine) and white juice for drinking (thank you little mystery grape.) Come March-May, The Bag Lady bottles rhubarb, and makes strawberry freezer jam. Most people would then come to a canning lull. How does one fill this lull? Grape jelly.

The Bag Lady launches into grape jelly, with the juice that was canned last fall. It's super quick and easy, about 20 minutes a batch. I believe we're on batch 12 today, and she's only been at it for 1.5 hours yesterday and 4.5 today. The house is filled with the rich, luxurious, robust, earthy aroma of simmering juice. The jelly is lovely as well, in fact, it seems to stimulate the appetite.

Summer Grape Jelly
3 1/2 cup grape juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 package MCP powdered pectin (the pectin camp is fiercely divided between MCP and Sure Gel, but we fall in the MCP camp)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon butter (This is TOP SECRET. It cuts down on the foam, besides, butter makes everything better)
5 1/3 cup sugar

In a stainless steel stock pot, combine everything EXCEPT sugar. On high heat, whisk continuously until boiling. Add sugar. Continue whisking, when the mixture comes to a full boil whisk another 2 minutes. Pour the boiling mixture directly into prepared canning jars. Wipe lip of jar clean, and secure with lid and ring. Now, the USDA extension service suggests a boiling water bath to seal jars...However, sources we will not mention simply tip the jars over (lid side down) for 5 minutes, then right the jar, and allow to cool. The heat from the boiling jelly should seal the jar. You'll hear a nice little "ping" when the jar seals. Be sure to check your lids and make sure the lid does not compress. If it does, the jar is not sealed, and it should be refrigerated and eaten. Oh darn. Label your jars and store!

"Would you like to come to my quarters for some toast?"

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

French Bread

Hello friends! Sorry it's been awhile since the last post. I've been running around San Francisco eating sourdough bread and award winning Japanese cream puffs. I also saw the sights. Now I'm back and you are first on my priority list. As you've been reading It's In the Bag, you've probably noticed a lack of recipes for breads or desserts, this was due to a limited page allotment. Today we are remedying the problem!

The Bag Lady's french bread is absolutely superb. The perfectly crisp crust is complimented by the chewy inside. Hot from the oven, slathered with butter, creamy swiss, or dipped in balsamic vinegar and oil--it is heavenly. Bread probably shouldn't be the main focus of a meal, but this tends to be the show stopper. The biggest perk? It's amazingly simple to make. The recipe makes 2 loaves. We usually eat a whole loaf the first day, and use the 2nd to make bruschetta when it gets a little drier.

French Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teas salt
1 Tbl sugar
2 1/4 teas (1 packet) yeast
3-4 cups flour

Combine warm water, salt, and sugar, stir until dissolved. Add yeast and give it a stir. Stir in 3 cups of flour. Gradually add more flour until the dough is no longer sticky, but remains soft and pliable. Do not add too much flour.

Knead for 3 minutes on a lightly floured counter. Place dough in an oiled bowl and roll it about until lightly covered. Seal bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise for approximately 1-1 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size. Remove dough from bowl and shape into loaves. Place in a french bread pan, or on a cookie sheet dusted with corn meal. If you desire decorative cuts, lightly score top of loaf with a sharp knife/razor blade. Allow loaves to rise for another 30 minutes.

Place an empty metal pie pan on the bottom oven rack. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pan with loaves on middle rack and pour one cup of boiling water into the pie pan(good steam clouds produce a crisp crust.) Bake for 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when golden brown and produces a hollow sound when thumped. Let loaves cool 20-30 minutes before slicing.

Don't forget, if you're in Provo/Orem this week stop by and see us at Barnes & Noble or Costco! Please see the side bar for exact times and addresses.