Tuesday, July 29, 2014

C for Chinese Pears

ABC Wednesday
July 30th, 2014
The letter is C and it stands here for Chinese (Asian) Pears.

The Chinese Asian Pear is called the Shinto Pear, and it is delicious!


Asian pears are super crunchy, more like crisp apples than other pears, 
and they look more like apples, too.

There are many varieties of Asian pears -  the ones post commonly available in North America
are a very matte, tan color with a bit more texture and roughness to the skin than other apples or pears.

They are great for eating raw, especially when sliced or diced and added to salads.  
They have more of a crisp-apple texture than the soft grainy pear.
They are heavy for their size and have no give when you squeeze them -
they are supposed to be crisp!

I am lucky in that at least once a year I get to have one or two
Chinese pears grown by a generous friend of #3 son
and I enjoy them raw, sliced with cheese and a crisp biscuit.

However, if you should happen to have a glut of them and are looking
for a recipe ...........!

This is a sweet and savoury dish, popular in south-west China.

Lay about 1 1/2 pounds of ham, cut into thin slices, in a steamproof dish.  
Sprinkle with a quarter cup of brown sugar and steam for 25 minutes,
adding more water as needed.

When the ham is nearly finished cooking combine a quarter cup of light soy sauce
with two tablespoons of water and two tablespoons of honey
in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, - keep warm.

Add two Chinese pears, cut into four pieces. 
Brush the pears and ham slices with some of the sauce and steam for five more minutes.

Pour the remainder of the sauce over and garnish with two green onions,
cut into thirds, - or however your heart desires
if you want to be creative.....

I was amazed at how many different varieties of Asian Pears there are.
The best known is probably the Nijisseiki which ripens in mid September
and is also known as 20th Century.

But in the order of ripening there is the Ichiban Nashi, the Kosui, Shinseiki, Mishirasu, 
Chojuro, Shinseiho, the Kikusui, Shinko (as pictured below) the very large Nitaka,
a round shaped Chinese pear called Seuri and the Korean Giant,
very large, attractive orange-brown russet, sweet and juicy
with a long storage life.

All this wonderful information about Asian pears that produce well west of the Cascades
 came from ' wm@hartmannursery.com '  (email address, of course)


For more things you never knew before that start with C visit
here at ABC Wednesday, with thanks to Denise, Roger
and all helpers, - and don't forget to visit around!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Contemplation

Contemplating, this, that and the other thing.....

That seems to be the way it goes these days, although I am trying to discipline myself to finish July's big task by the end of the month so I can devote August to spinning and weaving.

I have a book entitled 'Contemplative Aging - a way of being in Later Life.  It is written by a man (more on that aspect later) - Edmund Sherman, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Albany, where he was Professor of Social Welfare before his retirement.

Edmund is espousing  the meditative approach to old age.  He welcomes the 'interior' life, characterized by greater engagement in recollection and reverie, rather than in action; a 'turning away from competition and achievement toward the more elemental and sacred aspects of life'; to shift direction from the mode of doing to the mode of being.

I started to read this book a few months ago, but put it aside, being too involved in the anticipation of 'doing' and accomplishing many of the things that I seem to now have time for.  And yet it touches a chord with me -
I do have periods of great  memories;  thinking of those early formative years of my childhood, and then of the wonderful years of our marriage, and family times.  I try to cultivate a certain stillness, and  a mindfulness in all I do, but am not yet ready to sink into a Buddha like contemplation of life's meaning.

My big task this month (inspired by the approach of my 90th birthday) has been to finish working on my 'Departure Papers' - my will, my wishes, a service, all the details a family has to cope with after a 'departure' - but my reason for doing this is quite a common sense one, - I want it done and finished so I can put it aside with a feeling that it will be there when needed, and then GET ON WITH LIFE!!!!

Has anybody else got ancient enough that this way of contemplative life has occurred to them?  I think it is perhaps more prevelant in men (they don't have the care of a home to keep them busy no matter how old they are...) and probably in more scholarly men whose activity during their lifetime has been mostly in their mind and less in physical action.

But then, who knows what old men who sit on a bank and fish are thinking of during those long periods when they wait for a bite???



Anyway, I am looking forward to re-warping my loom and making some more silk rag rugs this fall, and planting some more tulip and daffodil bulbs, and getting back to fall activities - seeing friends, going out for lunch,  - but perhaps in the morning, over coffee, I will contemplate the day to come.  And in the evening, when I take my book to bed, I may drift off to thoughts of perspective and the eventual 'cosmic union with the spirit of the universe.

In the meantime my motto is Carpe Diem!!!!  In moderation, and with a faint salute to Edmund Sherman and his 'way of being in later life'.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

B is for Blueberries

ABC Wednesday
July 23, 2014

The letter is B which stands for Blueberry



That beautiful berry that grows so prolificly here in the Similkameen but most especially 
in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

The stores and fruit stands of  the valley are awash with blue these days, and I have my own stash safely in the freezer, frozen on trays so that when I pour them into small bags they rattle around on their own, rather than making a great icy clump that presents me with problems when I go to add a few to my morning cereal.

I have a lovely recipe for you today.  I haven't tried it, but the thoughts of hot, hot days, company coming and the prospects of preparing a sweet for dessert immediately make me think 
this would be a perfect choice!!

It is called 'Berry Bliss Pudding'


and is made thusly.......

Combine three and one half cups of blueberries with a third of a cup of sugar, two teaspoons of lemon zest and two tablespoons of lemon juice.  Set over medium heat and bring to a boil, cooking until the berries begin to let off their juices but still retain their shape, - probably about THREE minutes.  Drain and reserve the juice.

Line a three cup capacity bowl with plastic wrap hanging over the sides.

Roll six slices of white sandwich bread (crust removed) with a rolling pin.  Dip each slice into the reserved juice and line the bowl with five pieces of bread, overlapping slightly.  Press the edges of the slices together so that THERE ARE NO GAPS.

Pour in the stewed fruit and cover the top with the remaining piece of bread.

Press down firmly.....

Wrap the top with the overhanging plastic wrap, then press down again.  Place a small plate on the top and weigh it down with a large can of beans or tomatoes.  Refrigerate until the pudding is firm, at least forty minutes. (If you are clever you can make this the day before and refrigerate until ready to serve)

Now you can remove the can and plate, turn the pudding upside down on to a serving dish.  Garnish with fresh berries, slice and serve with yogurt, or ice cream or whipped cream, - whatever your heart desires.

What could be easier on a warm summer's day - well, Jello maybe, but it does lack a bit of savoir faire.

For more great Bs visit here at ABC Wednesday, with thanks to Denise and Roger and all helpers.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just a little update on the Garden

Mainly pictorial......

It has been so hot, - I am only in the garden early in the morning and in the comparative coolness of the evening.  Except for the middle of the day when I must go out and water pots and move the hoses that drip on trees and shrubs - like the Rose of Sharon which lives close to the house and cannot be watered with a sprinkler.

It is glorious - here is this morning's picture of the fresh blooms.  I have the old faded blooms sitting in a huge glass jar on the porch, in the sun, making natural dye,  along with the jar that holds the remnants of the day lilies that line the front fence.



Now that the Lilies have faded and gone the garden is embracing the yellows that come with midsummer...




and the patio at the back is slowly being devoured by the great vines of the pumpkin and squash and cucumber.  Alas, that is pretty well all they are, - lovely vines whose fruit forms but then withers away.







The Abraham Darby is beginning it's second flush, and the new bee balm I planted this year is a lovely shade of wine in contrast to the scarlet plant that is roaming through the raised bed.







The nicotania that scents the evening so seductively...



and a dahlia my eldest granddaughter gave me on mother's day that has exceeded in height 
any dahlia I have ever seen before!!!!!







 The barn flowers in the far corner of the back garden, where the compost bins live.

and some apricots, not quite ripe but leaning across the neighbour's fence and making my mouth water!!!

Blogger is loath to put pictures where I place them, but there, - one must be content
with what technology one can master
and accept the rest philosophically.......

Today is cooler - tomorrow it might rain.  The garden will be happy, as will I!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A is for Apricots

ABC Wednesday
July 16th, 2014

The letter is A  for Apricots



The middle of July brings apricots to the Similkameen - probably my favourite fruit.  Love them with almonds, or ginger - well, just with almost everything.


For breakfast I have toast made from a lovely apricot / pepper bread that Sid and Sharon 
sell at the Farmer's market,
 and any chance I get I make apricot pie from the fruit stored in the freezer when the time is right!!


The hot weather we are currently enjoying/enduring reminds me of the days we picked apricots in the orchard when the weather was invariably over 100 degrees fahrenheit.

Whoever was out first claimed the Dinosaur - a mechanical picking machine with a bucket to stand in and soar through the branches and a large attached bag in which to place the fruit.
  The slow pokes all used ladders!!!


One day, when home alone, I was using this wonderful machine for picking apricots and hit a bump as I was moving it.  We tipped, in slow motion, the Dinosaur and I.  Not hurt, but it certainly put the wind up the first one home to come up the road and see the Dinosaur resting on its side in the orchard!!

Here is a nice recipe for Apricot Clafoti  from Canadian Living
a variation on the old fashioned apricot upside down cake I used to make......



The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of butter, four eggs, 1/3 cup of lavender honey (but I'm sure any other honey would be just fine) and a vanilla bean split in half 
(if you don't keep vanilla beans in the pantry try a tsp of the liquid kind).

Whisk the eggs and honey, add the vanilla and stir in 1 tablespoon of brandy and 1 cup of flour.  Whisk in the milk to form a smooth batter.

In a mixing bowl toss the apricots (halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick) with one half a cup of sugar.  Place them in an buttered oven-proof 13x9 dish (the recipe says it should be oval, but I am sure a rectangular dish will result in the same delicious results).

Pour the egg mixture over the apricots and place in the oven, baking for 40-45 minutes at 350 degrees.  

Cool for five minutes before serving with a scoop of ice cream 
garnished with almonds and confectioner's sugar.

I have not tried this recipe, but how can you miss with APRICOTS.

For more As click here to visit Denise and Roger at ABC Wednesday
as we start another amazing round through the Alphabet.

Monday, July 14, 2014

News of the day....

I woke at a quarter to five, opened my eyes to the west window,
 and there were clouds in the sky!!

I didn't immediately spring from bed and find the camera to take a picture, 
but this is more or less what they looked like

 and I did give a small sigh of relief.

It has been so scorching HOT!!

I turned over and and closed my eyes and thought about cool, refreshing weather.
Maybe even a drop or two of rain....

The thought soon got me up and I retrieved the outside pillows on the blue bench.

By seven it had started to thunder, - quietly, in the distance.
Enough to disturb Callie, who looked around a little wild eyed......

By seven-thirty the thunder was quite ominous.
Callie had retreated to safety, under the blankets!
And then the rain started.
A wonderful downpour, clattering on the tin roof of the sunroom
and splashing up as it hit the patio in lovely little fountains.

That only lasted for ten minutes or so.  The thunder went away
but the rain continued, gently and with great generosity as it nourished the dry soil.

Callie came out, Dot and Frank came for coffee, somewhere in the distance
the siren from a fire engine sounded for a very short while.

Everybody went about their business, and Callie ventured outside after the rain had stopped.

Later in the morning a telephone call informed me that the reason for the
short time the siren sounded was that it only had to go from the firehall,
a block up the street to the Red Bridge Pub.



The Red Bridge Pub is/was located in an heritage building which has stood on this corner of 7th and Veterans for over one hundred years, having been moved from Upper Keremeos by Mr. George Kirby, the Postmaster and Innkeeper there ca 1906 in anticipation of the V.V and E. Railway passing through
close to the Similkameen River. It was then known as the Kirby Hotel.

The South Similkameen Museum  has a nice picture of the old hotel on its website, but I can't copy it without permission, - I can only tell you how elegant it looked, three stories with a small water tower on the south west corner, pristine and newly painted - up the road next to the Hardware store, is a wagon, a driver
two horses, and some ladies in long skirts chatting with the driver.

Later   -     I am now able to add a picture sent to me from the Chilcotin by our youngest son, Vince,
who has this picture of the original hotel in the background, behind the [stagecoach]?


and a drawing he did of a later boardwalk and verandah around the building.


Thank you Vince!

Although I understand the use of the building has degenerated somewhat in the last few years
when we first moved to Keremeos in 1951 it was a respectable two story hotel with a registry
desk and rooms on the second floor.

Of course it had a bar and pub, - a divided pub when we first frequented it,
with ladies on one side and gentlemen on the other.

It was a bustling establishment, - the town was booming and well settled with young veterans
who were wont to have their after-work pint on the way home to supper.
Charles informed me that it was 'the place to do business' and no doubt it was
as you were always sure of seeing whoever you needed to some time during the week.

It went through a period when the proprietor provided dinners and socials
for various organizations, and I remember fondly McGee's roast beef and white sauced onions.

I imagine our children and our grandchildren have different memories.  The hotel grew old
and despite repairs the second floor was condemned and eventually removed
 (as the third storey had been previously).
It had been used in later years mainly as a batchelor's residence.
The hotel continued to have guests in an annex on the first floor, but mainly it became just a pub,
 with restaurant and bar and liquor store attached, and a new name.

It is sad to see the historic buildings of the town disappear in such a conflagration, but
hopefully the memories will linger on.  This particular pub, along with many others, I am sure,
had a particular charm about time.  Somehow it elongated itself
as you walked in the door, until it gradually disappeared amidst good times
and conversation, and just another for the road.....

Many a wife at dinner time put her husband's plate over a simmering pot of water
and covered it with a bowl, and many a husband, when she finally phoned the pub,
quickly said 'tell her I just left!!!'

I see a little blue sky fringing the top of the mountain.  I fear the hot weather
is about to return, but alas, the sun will not shine on the Red Bridge Pub.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Summer evenings

Along about nine o'clock it begins to get dusk.  - I have opened the house to what I hope will be fresh cool air after the heavy somnolence of the July afternoon.

Yes!  It is cool.  Callie and I traverse the long hallway, through the sunroom, and follow the beautiful scent of the nicotiana growing by the back door and in all sorts of hidden places in the garden.  Although it is hard to hide the nicotiana, - it is three feet tall and waves its branches with their cool white fragrant blossoms to catch any movement of air, so when darkness finally falls they are still a ghostly presence perfuming the garden and
floating their fragrance through any open window.



I have taken to breaking off a small sprig of the flowers and putting it in the bathroom, along with some daisies and sweet peas, and when I awaken in the night I immediately have this lovely feeling of being surrounded by exotic perfumes.

And then, of course, there was the moon last night - just appearing over the crest of the dragon's tail attached to K mountain, and lying southward down the valley.  Beautiful!!!  Like a great white mother-of-pearl button.  The loveliest picture I could find was one taken by Janis Dority, who lives in a valley much like this one, except in California.  I have borrowed it from Facebook, where she posted it.....



Today the weatherman promises extremely hot weather, - probably into the 40s (C).

I have a Celebration of Life to attend early in the afternoon and have set out my
dark glasses and my straw hat so that when the celebration site becomes too warm
I can gather them together and walk home, just a block away,
and the A/C and a nice cool drink of Orange Brandy 
 will welcome me.

I have put a tempting Lancashire Hot Pot in the slow cooker, having discovered 
some very nice lamb shanks at the meat counter yesterday, and made a fruit salad with
end of the week strawberries and bananas and melon and raspberries from the garden....

Looking forward to another sweet evening and dear memories.