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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

Having explained how my wedding jam-making process developed in the last two posts, this third one is just taking a look at the three additional flavors I did in tiny batches. The majority of my fruit donors had blackcurrants and redcurrants, since those are the most commonly grown in ...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


Next up after the blackcurrants were the redcurrants. In Finland, these are usually used in desserts, while the blackcurrants are usually juiced. Both are not so often made into jam, apparently. I ended up trading some with a coworker for her apple jam and her kids were excited by the novelty...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

Flashback time! This post is technically from 2011, but since I took these photos in the middle of being a one-woman wedding production team, I didn’t so much get around to writing it up back then. One month went by, then another… you know how procrastination snowballs. Then last ...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


I’m pretty sure this was my very first baby smoothie, made back in February. I had actually intended to make it for myself and share it with the baby, but he ended up liking them so much that I had to keep it up after we started. Now he looks indignant if he doesn’t get offered a...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.


Jelly is one of those things that I rarely use, but will usually stock for the occasional irrational craving (which often leads to my using a whole jar in a week). I can’t say I’ve looked very hard for it at the supermarket these past few years, but I’m pretty sure that the ...

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Hey, WordPress has an integrated push-to-Twitter feature now! One less plugin to worry about, pretty cool. For all I know, this could have happened last year, but it’s new to me :-)

So yeah. We have a few mature apple trees. We knew this meant we would be getting some fruit in the fall, but I don’t think we really comprehended exactly how much that would be. Turns out, the answer is “more than one person should try to pick with a plastic grocery bag while balancing on a chair and stepstool.” Below, a pictorial timeline of last year’s apple experience.

06062012moreappleblossoms
06062012 appleblossoms
06062012 bigappletree

06062012 mediumappletree
08012012hedgie
08012012hedgie02

08012012hedgie03
08312012 appleharvest
08312012 appleharvest01

09022012 appleharvest
09022012 lotsofapples
09102012 apple harvest


I’m still trying to pin down the exact names of the varieties, since I was mostly told that they were “the typical old-fashioned Finnish ones” and that there was one for cooking and one for eating. The tree that I managed to harvest (more or less) had tart light green apples that turned yellowish as they matured. I rather liked them raw. They were mostly juiced, with some made into compote.

applejuice01

Some juice-making activity going on up there. I had a juicer attachment on my stand mixer, so decided to juice first, then cook. This helped me to avoid having to strain a boiling-hot pulpy sodden mess afterwards. Since I was going to be storing (well, freezing) the juice for a while, I figured giving it a good boil would make it keep better.

applejuice02

I also tossed in a tiny bit of citric acid to help the juice keep its color and for any incidental preservative properties. All that foam at the top of the juice is from impurities coming to the surface during the cooking. That got scooped out before bottling.

t_appjuice03

Homemade apple juice! I’ve got about 15 of these 1.5L bottles in the freezer. It’s a little bit sour, so I do mix in a splash of simple syrup before serving. This stuff is especially good served hot and spiced during the winter.

Finally the actual totals for the 2012 apple harvest:

8/31/2012 – 2730g + 3660g + 2620g + 3840g + 4900g
9/01/2012 – 6.4kg
9/02/2012 – 6.4kg + 4.4kg + 6.1kg + 8.1kg + 5.7kg + 7.4kg + 5.4kg
9/03/2012 – 5.2kg + 6.1kg + 7.9kg + 3.5kg

For a total of 90.35 kg or 199.188 pounds of apples. That’s about 4.15 bushels. Furthermore, consider that I only picked about 2/3 of total apples on one tree, and threw out/discarded at least 1/3 of what was picked. Yeah, that’s a lot of apples.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

One of the things about growing up in an Asian-American household? Bread wasn’t so much of a staple item the way it was in many of my friends’ families. Sure, my mom would occasionally buy a loaf or two to make our sandwiches when we were younger and still took brown paper bags with us in the mornings. Once we started making or buying our own lunches around junior high, though, even that became a rare commodity. Between the dorm cafeterias, countless takeout places and my mom’s sizable culinary contributions in the following years, I never had much cause to do extensive grocery shopping. So it was that I hadn’t really touched a retail loaf of bread for almost a decade by the time T and I first went to the supermarket together. I had to do a double take at the number of loaves, rolls, and baguettes that went into the shopping cart. Hearing him talk about the lack of bread variety in American markets just left me puzzled. Then we went to a supermarket in Finland during my first visit here and I finally understood what he was talking about — the bread section in our most-visited store has 4 jam-packed aisles, several bins, and a fully-outfitted factory-style bakery that constantly pumps out new items all day, every day of the week, to replenish the rapidly emptying racks.

So why would I even bother to make bread, given the mind-boggling amount that is available to purchase here? Well, cost is one reason — a tiny, perfectly rectangular loaf of sliced processed white bread runs about €1.50, a bag of specialty rolls usually costs €2-€2.75, and a large ciabatta or baguette comes in at €3. A rather hefty-sized (easily double the size of the things at the store) homemade loaf made with quality ingredients comes to €0.68, and I could easily have shaved off another 10-15 cents if I’d used less spendy ingredients. Plus the cost of electricity (which costs a lot less here than in the US, actually)  to run the mixer and the oven, I guess. Mitigated by the fact that I usually do two loaves simultaneously. All of which are made completely irrelevant by the lovely aroma of baking carbs in the air, the joy of pulling out a gorgeous loaf of your own creation, and the taste of freshly buttered bread that steams as you slice it. Give it a try — it’s hard to go back to the packaged stuff.

I am currently hooked on a variation of Sophistimom’s Basic White Bread recipe, which I do a double batch of every other week or so. She has gorgeous how-to pictures that feature her adorable kids helping out, so it’s definitely worth hopping over there to see how to make a loaf properly. She has more detailed instructions, as well as suggestions on how to use the same recipe to make dinner rolls, hot dog and hamburger buns. To see how it went down in my less well-lighted Finnish kitchen, read on…

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

Keeping it short today, since we’re still dealing with the aftermath of a three-week bout of cold/flu. I’ve lately been prone to fall asleep at the most inconvenient times of day, thanks to the interesting medication cocktail I’m on. As a result, there has been no real rhyme or reason to my posting this month, though I still try to toss out whatever happens to be going on in the kitchen as time permits.

I mentioned in my previous baked pork chops post that I’ve been using homemade Italian bread crumbs for breading and frying stuff now, since it’s not really something they stock in stores here. The stuff is so simple to make that I’m actually surprised I never considered it before — I guess we just never really had a lot of bread around when I was growing up, so it never occurred to me to come up with ways to deal with the stale bits. By the time I started cooking for myself, I didn’t have a food processor so it was easier to buy the stuff in canisters at the store. Times change, huh?

A batch ready for breading some pork chops, made using the very simple Italian Bread Crumbs recipe at CDKitchen. I can’t believe I actually paid money for this stuff at the market when the ingredients were sitting there all along.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

I dusted off another dinner recipe requiring condensed cream soup this past weekend, so it’s time to break out the substitutions notebook! This is the second version of homemade condensed cream of chicken soup I’ll be trying out. The first attempt last month, for use in enchiladas, ended on an ambivalent note. That cream ended up a bit milder than I would have liked, and there were a couple of issues with consistency and proportion which would keep me from using that as a go-to recipe. It was serviceable, but I found myself wanting to test out other options.

So along comes contestant number two! This Homemade Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup came from Tammy’s Recipes, and is a considerable improvement over the last one. Tammy has quite a few homemade versions of various staples that I look forward to trying in the future. The consistency of this mix was good, the instructions were simple, the proportions were accurate, and — best of all — it was very flavorful! I look forward to seeing how this works with my upcoming dish — I think it’ll be perfect. Three easy steps, behind the cut.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

There are a lot of seasoning mixes that I used to take for granted back in the US, when they were easy to come by in large jars on any supermarket shelf. I recently dug up a few recipes that called for such seasonings and realized that I could no longer get the brand name versions by just going across the street. Luckily, the internet provided — in the form of homemade seasoning mix recipes that are pretty darn close, if not perfect matches. As usual, they are much cheaper than the retail versions and are rather fun to make! I might just mix up some of these and package them nicely to put in holiday gift baskets this year.

To the left, Emeril’s Essence Creole seasoning mix. To the right, Old Bay seafood seasoning mix. On the top, a very nice Italian seasoning mix. All three whipped up in the space of fifteen minutes using only measuring spoons, plastic bags, and a bit of food processor action. I made smallish batches, just enough for a couple of recipes each, so that my supply would stay fresh. They’re all made from spices and herbs that I already have on hand, so there’s no point in making too much and having it go stale. That was always the most annoying part of buying a whole canister of the stuff at the market — worrying that you wouldn’t use it all before it lost its punch. For recipes and more pictures, click on!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden. Please leave any comments there.

A little over a year ago, Emmuzka and I had a short chat about the lack of condensed soups in certain areas after I’d posted a recipe using condensed cream of chicken soup. I took that as a cue to look up and bookmark a small list of homemade substitutes for the ingredient, so I was conveniently able to bust them out again earlier this week when my enchilada recipe (coming tomorrow) called for it. There are a few different ones, so I figured I’d give them each a try and then report on the varying results before coming to a conclusion as to what worked the best.

Starting with the simplest recipe first, I used Cream Soup Substitute II from About.com. It comes remarkably close to looking like milk gravy and is actually made in a somewhat similar manner. It required substantial tweaking, but the consistency is spot-on for condensed soup, and it refrigerates into the same sort of jiggly mass as well. The chicken taste is very mild and the minimal seasoning allows it to blend seamlessly into whatever recipe you are using it for. When using this recipe in the future, I’d probably use more bouillon to give it a stronger chicken flavor.

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Mirrored from Velvet Kerfuffle Kitchen and Garden.

You might have noticed that I go through a lot of shellfish in my day-to-day preparations. In quite a few of the previous posts, I’ve also mentioned that you want to save the shells and/or carcass remnants of consumed critters for stock. I suppose now would be as good a time as any to show how I usually make that stock.

Shellfish stock is awesome. It’s great as a soup and sauce base, it adds flavor to rice and pasta, and can be used in place of water to give anything you’re cooking a quick boost. I always have a supply of frozen stock — chicken, vegetable, and shellfish — on hand in the fridge for last-minute recipe tweaking. You could buy the powdered bouillion cubes or canned/boxed stuff at the grocery store, but the fresh stuff is so easy to make and so much tastier (less preservatives, yo) that I really don’t see the point. It also makes you feel good about not letting anything go to waste in your kitchen. Try it out, you’ll never go back to the supermarket stuff!

Here’s a big pot of newly made shellfish stock (lobster, crawfish and shrimp), strained and cooling off. You won’t get that dark, rich color out of a box. Making stock doesn’t rely too much on set recipes — it developed as a way to use up what was in the kitchen and get the most out of it before it was binned. There are a few things you should do to get the best results, but the rest is all up to personal creativity and taste. My ingredients list varies every time I make a pot, so no batch ever turns out the same, but it always falls into the same realm of distilled seafoody goodness.

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