A Year of Picnics


The Essential Book of Homesteading
















  • Oh what a long strange trip its been Exactly onehellip
  • Stay frosty Huxley but dont grow up too fast okay?hellip
  • In 10 days Alistair and I fly from Asheville tohellip
  • Tminus 3 months to liftoff and Southern From Scratch ishellip
  • We made snow cream sundaes and hot chocolate and watchedhellip
  • I went in for the coconut cake SO! GOOD! andhellip
  • Cold as ice Hominy Creek which runs beside our roadhellip
  • Snow day snow cream sundae making me all kinds ofhellip
  • Suffice to say Alistair dominated my feed in 2017 Seemshellip
  • Hello darkness my old friend The cold comfort of winterhellip
  • When I think about my intentions and resolutions for thehellip

my sponsors

budha hill natural toysImagine Childhood
Imagine ChildhoodBlissful Belly
Sponsorship Information

blog archive

  • 2017
  • 2016
  • 2015
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012
  • 2011
  • 2010
  • 2009
  • 2008

Monthly Archives: January 2010

Bohemien Rhapsody

I love a good story. I also love a good cocktail. When the good story and the good cocktail interact, well, then I’m pretty much smitten.

Such was the case recently with a beverage encountered whilst dining with my lovely editor, and best gal pal, Nicole. She was graciously treating me to dinner at The Admiral, a little gem of a restaurant/bar in West Asheville that set up shop just over a year ago and has since experienced wild success (I just firmed up a Valentine’s Day reservation there today, which will undoubtedly be sublime in every imaginable way). We’d both opted to have one of their signature cocktails, “The Admiralflower.” It was love at first sip. A mixture of St. Germain, champagne, and lemons, I would gladly, and liberally, drink the Admiralflower to the exclusion of all other beverages (while I might regret it the next morning, I would accept my forthcoming hair-of-the-dog fate willingly).

Here’s the bit about the good story/good cocktail intersection. For those of you unfamiliar with St. Germain, it is an artisanal French liquor made from hand-picked elderflower blossoms. You can read the story in detail here, but the gist of it goes something like this: Every year, for but a few ephemeral Spring days, a handful of Frenchmen, known as “un bohemien” (there are only 40-50 in the world), handpick wild elderflower blossoms in the French Alps, and then bicycle those blossoms (BICYCLE THEM!!!) in large sacks down the mountainside, where they sell the blossoms at market. Can’t you just see it: mustachioed, craggy-faced, cigarette-lipped “Bohemiens“, delicately cradling fragrant elderflower blossoms, undoubtedly wearing berets and frayed blazers with suede elbow patches all the while?

I can’t imagine anything so decidedly slow-paced and anachronistic, where beverages are concerned. This appeals to me on so many levels-the loving attention to something fragile and delicate, the fleeting nature of the blossoms and the powerhouse of fragrance they exude, the emphasis on region and season and preservation. The fact that St. Germain possesses one of the most exquisitely palate-pleasing flavors I have ever encountered (you know how honeysuckle smells? that’s how St. Germain tastes) just seals the deal. I know what I’ll be drinking on Valentine’s Day.

*Image from here.

Winter Citrus Can Jam

I don’t know if it’s the recent prolonged cold spell, or simply the usual drab, dullness of winter, but I can’t seem to get enough citrus in my life these days. I’m not alone here, either. Studio Choo’s recent Citrus & Rosemary post, along with Grace’s nod (both on Design Sponge) to the puckery fruits bear witness to just how enamored many of us seem to be lately with all things citrus. Even the New York Times’ own Mark Bittman recently posted this recipe extolling the unparalleled flavor of the brightly colored orbs (with a hint of tarragon, no less-genius!).

And for good reason. Winter is peak time for a number of citrus fruits. From clementines to honeybells (I hate to pick favorites, but, if backed into a corner and forced to choose camps, I’d choose honeybells), grocery stores and produce stands are currently offering a veritable orchard of citrus delights. I’m just as large an advocate of eating seasonally as I am eating locally, and the season for citrus is right now. The nutritional profile and flavor of offerings from Temple oranges to Honey tangerines are top tier. And so, today’s small measure is all about enjoying, and whenever possible, extending (via home canning) the deliciousness of winter citrus.

My husband and I both have family in Florida. Mine recently festooned us in person with a smattering of everything from meyer lemons to grapefruits and kumquats, while his just shipped us our annual allotment from a neighboring orchard. Suffice to say, we’re awash in a world of citrus. To use up our glorious orbs, I made this Roasted Orange Tart. I’ve squeezed fresh juice for breakfast. I’m considering a citrus trifle from this lady. I also padded around in my p.j.’s earlier this week and created a Triple Citrus & Star Anise Marmalade.

As a participant in the ongoing year-long Can Jam challenge hosted by blogger Tigress in a Jam (as well as Tigress In a Pickle), I knew I needed to concoct something citrusy anyways. Each month, Tigress (or her participants) choose one seasonally available ingredient to render into a canned item. This month’s selection was the general category of “citrus.” Lucky me. I’ve got everything I need on hand, and then some. The sweet and sour blend is perfect for hot buttered toast, the anise giving it just the perfect hint of licorice-y sweetness and intrigue. You could also plop a dollop into thumbprint cookies or even spoon some over roasted chicken.

In the meantime, I’ve still got that mountain of citrus to contend with. Any suggestions you might have would be immensely appreciated!

Triple Citrus & Star Anise Marmalade

Yield: Approximately 7 pint jars.

The Goods:

-4 tangerines

-4 oranges

-4 lemons

-6 c. water

-6 star anise

-6 c. granulated sugar

The Deal:

Place two small plates in the freezer (these will be used later to test for gelling).

-Quarter all of the fruits. Once quartered, separate the peel from the flesh. Chop the flesh up into small pieces, removing seeds as you see them. Place seeds in a muslin tea bag. The seeds contain a good deal of pectin and will aid in thickening the marmalade. Thinly slice the peel into long strips, then cut the strips into smaller, 1/2-inch pieces.

-Put seed bag, fruit flesh, sliced peel, and water in a heavy, large stainless steel soup or stock pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 5 minutes, cover, and remove from heat. Allow to cool at room temperature overnight or for at least 8 hours.

-Remove lid from pot, and place over medium heat. Add star anise. Bring mixture to a gentle simmer; cook for 15 minutes. Add sugar, stir, and continue cooking over low heat for 45 minutes or until mixture reaches 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer.

-About 30 minutes into the cooking time, you’ll want to begin prepping the canner, jars, and lids. Sterilize 7 pint-sized mason jars, lids, and screw. Fill a canner or large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to boiling point. Place lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, remove from stovetop, and set aside.

-Test for gelling. Remove one plate from the freezer and spoon about 1 tsp. of the marmalade onto it. Place back in the freezer and wait two minutes. Remove the plate from the freezer and push the edge of the marmalade with your fingertip. If it is gelled properly, the surface will wrinkle a bit. If it fails to wrinkle, or is obviously still runny, continue cooking the marmalade for 5 minutes longer and then repeat the test.

– Place hot jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. Remove seed bag from marmalade, squeezing to remove any juices. With the help of a canning funnel, pack marmalade into jars, reserving ¼ -inch headspace. I added one star anise to each jar for aesthetic purposes, but feel free to just remove and compost them if you’d prefer. Use a non-metallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.

– Using a jar lifter, place jars in canner. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Remember to adjust for altitude. Check to se that the jars have sealed properly, label, and store in a cool, dark area.

*This article is cross-posted today on Design Sponge.

Sowing the Seeds

There’s a chill in the air, we had a new delivery of firewood for the wood stove earlier in the week, we’re cooking wintery things like pureed celeriac, beets, turnips, blue potatoes, and rutabaga (Glenn) and creme carmel bread pudding (me) and yet lately all I can think about is getting back into the garden and growing things. While we don’t typically have truly harsh winters here (the protracted recent cold snap notwithstanding), they’re just long enough that I start getting antsy right about now for warm soil, budding green shoots, and dirt-stained knees on my pants.

Fortunately, I have seed catalogues to curl up with and savor. For the crops that I want to get a jump start on, like tomatoes, I’ll collect a variety of seeds, tuck them into some potting soil, and then gently coax them into being underneath fluorescent lighting. This month’s Hobby Farm Home has an easy tutorial on building your own indoor seed starting “condo,”as they call it.

Asheville has a great, local seed source I’ve mentioned on here before called Sow True Seeds. I just put in an order for a catalogue today. In addition to Sow True, other seed companies I routinely order from include:
Also, my blogging buddy Kristen, over in the Bay Area, turned me on to Kitazawa Seed Co., a California supplier specializing in Asian vegetables.

Do you have suppliers that you especially enjoy? Anyone specializing in unusual or heirloom varieties? For fruit and nut trees and bushes, I particularly like Stark Brothers.

The rush to get a flavorful, fragrant, and visually appealing garden is on!

*Image from here.

And the Kumquat 5-Spice Marmalade Goes To…

Kate, who blogs over at Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking. Congratulations! And thank you so very much to all of you who commented. Sounds like there’s a lot of kumquat novices out there. Now’s the ideal time of year, though, to seize the golden orbs and experience their heady rush of sweet and sour!

I’ll be back again the first Monday of February for another giveaway. Hard to believe we’re getting so close to the publication of the first two books in the Homemade Living series! Keeping Chickens and Canning & Preserving will be available for purchase in mere months!

Being & Nothingness

We’ve had a miniature warm-up here the past few days, just enough to begin coaxing some of the remaining snow and ice to start slacking off a little. Hopefully, the frozen springs in our driveway (rendering it into a flowing sheet of ice more at home in Siberia than western N.C.) will begin to ease up. Makes it hard to get deliveries of chimney parts or throw dinner parties when the drivers are worrying about slipping off of the icy, climbing stretch and plunging headfirst into the creek running adjacent to it. 

My Design Sponge “Small Measures with Ashley” post is up. This week: “The Art of Loafing.” My tendency to over-plan and then over-stress about not fulfilling all of my plans has been over-ridden lately by enjoying just being. The frigid weather forcing me indoors has definitely helped in that department. When it’s dark and freezing outside at 6 p.m., who wouldn’t want to take an extra-long bath, slowly sip a glass of wine while staring into the wood stove, or curl up in bed with a good read? 

May your weekends all be filled with open spaces, day-planner-free days, and pointless contentment! Oh, and don’t forget to enter this month’s “Small Measure Can-Do Giveaway” to try and win my Kumquat 5-Spice Marmalade. Deadline for entry is midnight on Monday. 
*Image from here.