While Visions of Sugar Plums Danced. . .

While Visions of Sugar Plums Danced. . .

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Too Much Information/Too Many Ingredients or, Of Viruses and Apple Chutney or, I'm Baaack in the Kitchen Agaaain

(This post also appears on After Artist's Way - Portrait of a Sometimes Poet, another blog of mine.)

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That's how I'm feeling today.


Mostly because of all of this business surrounding the swine flu, or H1N1, as we are calling it in effort at political correctness. My son has diabetes, and I have asthma, so neither of us can be vaccinated until the shots become available. Reason: the flu mist contains live virus, and the shot form, the killed virus. What with all of the news and hubbub these days, I think we probably all know that.

So, the two of us elected to miss a Halloween dress-up/local band party last night. I don't know who was the more disappointed, but after DH pointed out that 90 % of people showing up in local clinics of late are there because of this virus. And I concluded that if anything were to happen to DS, I'd never forgive myself. We stayed home - DS, to watch the newly released dvd of Transformers, and me, to can chutney with a friend.

So, this canning thing. It started out as an innocent endeavor, somewhere around 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon. I'd made some Indian Apple Chutney two weekends before, and all went quite well. DF and I tried a new recipe yesterday - this one with tomato paste in it. While I sliced cucumbers to make a quite batch of dill pickles, DF prepared the ingredients for the chutney.

The pickling went very well, except for the fact that I needed to make a touch more syrup to complete a 6th jar, but no matter. They look great, with one grape leaf at the bottom, one clove of garlic and teaspoon of dill seeds (I'd forgotten the dill heads and the Missouri Health Extensions said this was a doable substitute: 3 tsp. dill seeds to 3 heads of fresh dill).

Once I was in the canning stages, DF headed home briefly to let the dogs run. When she came back, I'd dumped the cut and chopped ingredients into the pot and was moving on to adding the liquids.

I love looking at the mixture of apples, garlic, onions, raisins and spices in the pot before it cooks. Fresh and vibrant. Then the softening phase, where the liquids begin to be absorbed, the apples release their juices, the raisins plump. There is nothing like the pungent scent of chutney in progress, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar and spices filling the kitchen, the living room, the upstairs hallway. Even our bedroom.

The chutney continued to cook, but lo and behold, it was too watery. It didn't seem to be thickening the way a good chutney should. So, we let it simmer while we cooked chicken curry (which we sat down to eat with spaghetti squash and cucumber salad). And when we were done, the dishes still on the table, we checked the chutney pot to find it still not thickened, the fruit softening beyond the the chunky stage. In an effort to coax it into shape, we busily chopped more apples, added more onions and raisins. DF needed to return home to care for her dogs, and I said not to worry - I was sure the chutney was just about ready to can.

After she left, I added more apples from my crisper (where we store the Liberties from our tree). Now the mix of apples was more diverse - two or three kinds from her trees, and these Liberties from ours. There was a half onion left, so I added that, and the rest of the tomato paste. Already the (now sauce) was beginning to thicken. I tested for flavor, added more cumin, cayenne, ginger, and another half cup of sugar. At around 9 pm, I pronounced it ready to can.

At 10:17, three batches later, no lids un-sealed, I went to bed. On the counter: 25 containers of chutney: about 32 cups worth.

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Really, I *did* have the little jar of applesauce I'd been saving for the vicar on the table. Trouble is, it's still there. Next Sunday! All Saints Day - the day I also need to remember to bring photos of my grandparents to add to the table of those whom it is important never to forget.

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This morning at church, I learned that even the regular flu shots are hard to come by. I've had both DD and DS vaccinated, just not myself and DH. And as I type, my skin is prickling, DS is very tired (with a high glucose reading), and DD is wiped out and feeling crummy, too. DH appears to be fine, knock on wood.

This morning at church, I also had some of the best brownies I've had in a long time. At coffee hour, I made it my mission to track down the baker and interrogate her until I wrested the recipe from her. It was actually a lot easier than all that. I found her in the kitchen, the empty (and quite large) platter awaiting washing. She confessed she used a Ghirardelli brownie *mix* and topped them with a simple butter and cocoa icing (homemade). We agreed that when using good chocolate, you can't go too wrong, and these are very very heavenly. Oh, and I should mention that this dear baker added a little bit of cinnamon to her icing, which made them all the more special.

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I swore today was going to be a writing day. A reading day. But it has been more of a trouble-shooting day. A day to listen, a day to figure out why, after downloading and installing both Photoshop CS3 and CS4 neither of them want to cooperate. Is it a Snow Leopard thing? First, CS3 refused to open, and then, when we tried installing the trial version of CS4, it didn't like the photos we tried dropping into it. To make a long and boring story short, I'm waiting for an answer from the folks I *bought* CS3 from, and DS finally did get something usable from CS4.

Tomorrow, after work, I am determined to do a little writing/revising. Maybe something about chutney, about pickles brining in dill and grape leaves. Nothing whatsoever about Photoshop woes, and definitely not a word about H1N1.

I'll let you know how that goes.


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