Thursday, August 8, 2013

Canning projects!

Even after filling my largest mixing bowl, the tree was still overloaded with fruit!

In the middle of May, all of the loquats on our tree were ripe. What's a loquat? It's a tiny, yellow-orange fruit that's both sweet and tart, with a few large seeds in the center. There were about a billion of them on the tree, and I couldn't stand to watch them ripen and die like they did the year before, so I decided to be a hero and turn them into jam.

There are nearly no recipes online for anything loquat-related. Why? Because they're awful to prepare. I harvested 6 pounds or so and spent the next 3 hours blanching, peeling, seeding, and chopping only to yield a dozen 4oz jars and 2 half-pints. My fingers were stained from the seeds, and they ached from the repetitive motions of peeling, etc. (Sorry for the lack of in-progress photos. I did this all on my own and my hands were far too sticky to touch a camera!)

The work was worth it, but not something I think I'll ever repeat. I decided to add to the complexity of the flavor with some ginger. Fresh, candied, and powdered. The result was a bit stiffer than I'd hoped, since the loquats were naturally high in pectin. Oops. The flavor was fantastic, though, and so far, I've used the Triple Ginger Loquat Preserves as a glaze for oven-roasted salmon (yum) and as a topping for pound cake.

My first solo canning project- I was so relieved and excited when the lids ALL sealed! Success!

Recipe and more canning adventures after the jump...

A fresh start...

Our first sunset in our new town, just before we arrived at the house.

Two weeks ago, with 3 vehicles, 4 friends, a sister, and our critters in tow, Declan and I left our long-time home of Vista, California to start a new life in Corvallis, Oregon.

The traveling and settling in parts were fantastic- like a week-long sleepover with some of our dearest friends and Declan's youngest sister. It was really humbling that people were so willing to help us- that they love us so much that they'd sit in a car for 2 straight days with us and drive with us to our new home. We arrived in Corvallis around 9:00 pm on the 25th of July. We all worked together and in 45 minutes or so, we had all the boxes and furniture out of the truck and into our new house. For the next few days, we worked on getting the house set up- finding the last bits of necessary furniture to replace the Craigslist pieces we left behind, organizing and re-organizing the kitchen, and hanging artwork. We went to the Farmers Market, ate at some great local places, rode bikes, and got to know the town a little bit- with people we love. Saying goodbye when we drove everyone to the airport was awful. Coming home to a silent house was difficult after it was so pleasantly full for so many days. I really had enjoyed waking up early and making breakfast for a houseful of friends.

Going to work at our new Trader Joe's was scary (for me). For the past 7 years that I've been with the company, I've been pretty much exclusively a sign artist- with a tiny art room (with a door), an iHome, and every color marker known to man. I was able to use my creative skills and earn a steady income with benefits. In order to get the transfer to the Corvallis store, I had to agree to be a regular "Crew Member." At the Oceanside store, I spent maybe 30% of each day helping the rest of the crew- breaking down pallets, working up product, running a register here and there- but NEVER all day. And never without the ability to hide in my sign room for a bit and shut the door to be alone. For an introvert like myself, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Yesterday was my first shift without Declan. I definitely cried all the way to work- and then on the sales floor later on, in front of co-workers and a manager. Thankfully, people were cool about it, but seriously? I'm 27 years old. The work isn't difficult or anything, it's just so different from what I'm used to, and that, coupled with a new crew of people and a new store in a new town... I'm trying to be optimistic, but I know that "it just takes some time." So, while I wait, I'll do some re-cap blog posts of what I've done so far this Summer- posts I didn't get to write because I was too busy tackling this move.

Suki loves it here. So many windows to sit in!

Thanks for reading, guys.