Sunday, June 7, 2009

The berries are becoming more cordial

Today was the first weekly shaking of the berry cordial. Spork and I pulled it out of the cabinet this afternoon and noted a few changes from last week: the vodka has become pinkish, the blackberries have turned red and the raspberries have turned white. The sugar at the bottom of the jar was almost completely dissolved, too. One shake down, seven more to go.

Before shaking

After shaking. Note the white raspberries.

We are harvesting more berries than we can eat right now, so Spork resorted to freezing some for future use. I broke with cobbler/pie tradition this week and baked a clafoutis (or flognarde, since it's made from berries). It is one of the best smelling things to have ever graced my oven. It was yummy, but I regretted not having some vanilla ice cream to go with it.

Crusty, oozy berry goodness

The garden is finally beginning to produce. It's been a strange spring - even the farmers' market produce is behind. I've only had one bird-pecked tomato so far, but lots of yellow wax beans, summer squash and eggplants.

Ichiban eggplant showing flea beetle damage on the leaves

My butterfly garden, while messy, is very bloomy. I can't get enough of the passionflowers, which I find to be almost hypnotic. I originally grew them only because they are larval host plants for gulf fritillary butterflies, but now I love their complex flowers.

Passiflora incarnata

Bee balm with one of the skipper butterflies

My sister, Terri, has two new puppies, Taz and Buckley. It's great for me because I get to play with puppies, but my shoes aren't destroyed in the process. The pups are 1/2 schnauzer and 1/2 catahoula. The rescue group Terri adopted them from told her these would be small dogs, but Buckley has the feet and legs of a Clydesdale. Mmmm-hmmmm. They are mighty cute, though.

Taz (front) and Buckley, with hand model

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Birthday goodness

This year's birth celebration (I celebrate for a week, minimum) started out with a bang. Spork's uncle Joe, expert kayak builder and chess guru, had emailed that he was sending some sunflower cuttings so when I went to the post office and found the Key of Joy in the mail box, I was very excited. When the Key of Joy revealed a 5 pound package, I thought I might need to pick up another jar of rooting hormone on the drive home.

Helianthus debilis, aka beach sunflower

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the package contained a tiny bag of sunflower cuttings and a really cool piece of wooden inlay, which Spork later told me was called an intarsia.

Cutest birthday intarsia ever

I am so tickled by this! It was a complete surprise to me and I am so touched that he went to that much effort for me. Bonus points all around: 1) it was a surprise 2) it was a surprise that came in the mail 3) it was a birthday surprise that came in the mail and 4) it has a kitty on it! It's the best! I smile every time I look at it. :)

On the culinary front, Spork asked me what kind of cake I wanted and I requested a coconut cake with lemon curd filling. He donned his manly Triumph apron and made the entire thing from scratch, right down to the lemon curd! It was so good that I volunteered him to be the official cake baker from now on. For some reason, he didn't seem to relish that idea.

Spork's coconut cake (with lemon curd filling)

My girl Daisy helped me open my presents. Then moved on to shredding random papers.

After many days of cake (in addition to Spork's cake, Becky provided a super-evil raspberry amaretto cake and my mom made a red velvet cake), I couldn't face the idea of cobbler-ing the enormous quantity of berries that had accumulated in the refrigerator. It was time, I decided, to try my recipe for blackberry cordial, slightly modified to mixed berry cordial (blackberries, raspberries and boysenberries).

Day 1 of the mixed berry cordial

For this recipe, you pour a cup of sugar into the bottom of a large jar. Top that with 4 cups of berries (washed and patted dry), then pour in 4 cups of vodka. Place in a dark cupboard for 8 weeks, shaking once a week. Strain through a sieve, then through a coffee filter. Store in glass bottles.

I've never made this before, so I overlooked the bit about 8 weeks of waiting and shaking. I'm sure it will be worth it, though.