Busybusybusy

This has been a busy week.

I had to work six days in a row (which wasn’t a surprise, just the way schedules worked out), and given my job (I’m a librarian), it was also no surprise that the days just before and after the release of HP7 were a little crazy.  What I didn’t expect was that I’d be so busy with food, as well.

It’s high summer, which means that everyone with a kitchen obsession is preserving frantically, hoping to save some of the bounty for the wretched, frozen days of winter.  In my house, that mostly means freezing fruit, and occasionally making the odd batch of tomato sauce or refrigerator pickles.  I sometimes make concentrated fruit purees or applesauce, but almost never jam or jelly; we don’t eat a lot of toast, here, so it would be a bit of a waste.  (I made some lovely quince jam last year, but I’ve still got two jars of it left, out of the three I made). 

Pounds and POUNDS of berries and stone fruits have gone into the freezer this last week.  I’ve got gallons of blueberries and raspberries, 2 gallons of black raspberries, 2 gallons of currants, 1 quart of gooseberries, 1 gallon of apricots, 1 gallon of peaches, 1 quart of sweet cherries and an ungodly, too-embarassing-to-admit amount of sour cherries.  I even made some applesauce with the earliest yellow transparent apples.  There is very little room left in the free-standing chest freezer.

Since the wedding, though, I’ve been thinking about another kind of preserving.  There’s no way that I could say what item we served at the reception was the most popular, but the guests demolished my first attempts at homemade liqueur, some to a rather unexpected extent.  Given that evidence indicating that I didn’t do such a bad job at liqueur making, I’ve been planning to try it again.  (I suppose it might be considered a stretch to claim that liqueur-making is preserving, but if it does nothing else, vodka certainly preserves anything you put into it). 

Given #1. my adoration of fresh currants, and #2. the plethora of currants that I have in the freezer (a direct result of #1, since, in fear of missing the year’s harvest, I asked a friend to pick some up at the farmer’s market while I was on the honeymoon, and came back to a fridge packed full), a currant liqueur seemed a natural. I love eating red currants out of hand (or out of freezer bag, as the case may be), and I have several recipes to try that call for white currants, so the black currants became my choice for liqueur.  I did some research (ie, looked at a couple of my cookbooks and clicked around on the Internet) and decided to make cassis.  (Or at least something cassis-like.  No recipe was definitive and so I just mashed together a recipe that purported to be for cassis and one that I liked the sound of that was just designated “currant liqueur”).

The next step was certainly easy enough.  I put 4 cups of black currants in a big mason jar, added 4 cups of vodka, a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, a splash of red wine and another splash of simple syrup.  The jar is now stashed in a dark corner of Teacherman’s study, a room that really is turning into The Cave of Alcohol–it’s where I aged the wedding liqueurs and where Teacherman ages his homemade beer and mead.  (He is out of town for two weeks and there is a frothing carboy of mead on his desk.  Technically I’m not supposed to have to do anything to it, but still–I wish it wasn’t so alive).  In any case, the jar will stay in the study for at least three months, deepening and becoming empurpled, until we decide it’s ready for consumption.  Already the color is leaching from the fruit into the vodka, making it lovely to behold. 

Freezing fruit and flavoring vodka, though, is not what tipped my kitchen adventures into the realm of the frantic.  On Tuesday night, freezer-diving to check my quantity of black currants, I realized that I had ten chicken carcasses at the bottom of the receptacle, not to mention a few odd, limbless chicken backs (left over from making butterflied chicken),  and the skeletal remains of three grilled-chicken-wing-pig-outs.  I save all of these things for stock-making, but, obviously, I hadn’t made stock in quite some time.  I needed the freezer space, so out came the foil-wrapped detritus and down came the crock-pot. 

Yes, the crock-pot.  As previously mentioned, work was crazy this week, and I didn’t have time, even in the evenings, to attend to a pot on the stove.  Unfortunately, my crock-pot isn’t that big.  It’ll hold a nice 3 1/2 lb chicken (or the stripped remains of two), but nothing more. 

It took seven day to use up all the bones.  Each batch contained an onion, skin still on, cut into 2-4 pieces; a few stalks of celery, broken in half; a couple of carrots, snapped in two if large; a thumb-knuckle pinch of whole peppercorns; and however many packages of frozen chicken bones I could wedge into the pot.  The fridge was never without a big mixing bowl of cooling stock, and the freezer was constantly full of ice-cube trays turning the gelatinized aspic into stock cubes.  The last batch of cooled stock has gone into the ice cube trays to freeze solid, later to be added to the terrifying quantity of frozen stock lying cheek-by-jowl with all of that frozen fruit. 

I certainly hope there aren’t any other freezable summer fruits that I’ve fogotten about, or I’ll have to buy another freezer.

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Published in: on July 30, 2007 at 3:39 pm  Leave a Comment