peely sauce

When I make the decision to not do a step in an already-established process, it usually gets me in trouble. Like not pressing my hems before sewing or estimating on 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder or not priming my bathroom walls before painting. But, *sometimes* it works magically.

Last Monday I made applesauce and I didn't peel the apples. And I made the best gol darn applesauce I have ever made. Montana macintosh apples in October are the most exquisite tasting fruit I have ever touched my lips to. And a huge part of the magic is in the thin, sexy pink skin. The lipstick-colored peel bleeds through to the sun-kissed flesh.

Montana macs are crisp but not like granny. They yield to the bite as if begging the biter to bite harder. The finish is unusually matte, even when compared to other unsprayed fruit. With a nearly perfectly round profile, there is just the slightest darling dip where it was once attached to a tree.

So I googled "applesauce with peel" and only found a few mentions on random blogs and that was enough of a reassurance to me. I was mostly concerned with it messing with the ph or processing time but I just cooked the pehjesus out of the sauce and we'll eat it quickly anyway. It is for my bug and she could live on tofu, applesauce, raisins and mozzarella. I don't think it makes a difference anyway. But all the botulism gossip always makes me a bit panicky when not following a canning recipe.

I got to use Andy's grandma's canning jars. I love LOVE hot, clean jars in my drying rack waiting to be stuffed with this year's plenty. They are so faithful. If these jars could talk...they are old. I wonder what's been in them over the years and what conversations were spilled as they were filled.

The apples were a gift from a friend and left in my backyard along with a giant box of pears that I still need to preserve. Speaking of gifts left in our backyard, one of our art professors from college cleaned out her studio a few weeks back and drove around Missoula delivering her work. One day, we received this leaning against our fence when we got home from work along with a voice mail that said, Do whatever you want with it. It'd be great in your backyard. So now we have a painting with life jackets overlooking the cement slab I like to call our patio.

The sauce is a so sweet blush color and bug can't get enough. I just cooked them apples down and them used the immersion blender I worship. It was brainless and so satisfying to lean over the stove for hours. And I think bug's sickness went quickly because she inhaled all that fall in the form of steam from the boiling water canner.

*happy halloween* BOO


when life gives you chocolate dog poo, make applesauce

I am taking the day off of work today and am quickly realizing it will not be the day I had anticipated.

Bug is sick. Her first sickness and I am feeling guilty because, in thinking it was a minor cold, I drug her up a mountain yesterday afternoon. And now I can't help but wonder if her insane seal bark cough is because I wanted to trek up Wood's Gulch. Anyway, she is sleeping and when she wakes we will decide our day. The above pic is not from yesterday but an illustration of what we look like when we hike.

And the other reason my day is changing course? Well. I bought a giant five pound bag of candy for our trick-or-treaters and we cracked into the sugary goodness last night after dinner. And I made the mistake of leaving it out on the floor...

Alice helped herself to two and a half pounds of candy and wrappers. She doesn't much care for the Three Musketeers. We found several lying all about the house.

So today I will be at the pediatrician's office and monitoring Alice's hopefully-shiny, wrapper-filled poo. Also planing to bake bread and make applesauce with this gorgeous box of Bitterroot macs.

With a Monday morning like this, I can't wait to see what the rest of the week will bring.


last harvest

Today was my last harvest. In the rain-sun-rain I grabbed the last of my carrots, beets and cabbage and yanked the leathery, sorry tomato, pepper and basil plants.

I am ready for hardy soups and flannel sheets. Partly because I am excited to start over next spring. And the only way that can happen is if the soil freezes and absorbs this year's organic material (how do worms survive? I always picture them in tiny sleeping bags with a straw that poke out of the crusty surface to bring them air while they are frozen and immobile).

The truth is I am disappointed with how my garden wound down this year. My tomatoes worsened and definitely had bacterial spot or maybe blight. I didn't investigate too much because they were still producing and the season was ending and I have a really full life right now and didn't prioritize my plot as I would have liked. sigh. After harvest the tomato plants went straight in the trash. Tragic because they are one of the best over-winter garden loungers, warding off weed-seed germination with their thick web of wilted greens.

I am very satisfied to have purchased a pumpkin instead of having a pushy plant that bullies all the other veggies in my modest plot. Bug and I went to our neighborhood farm to pick it out. She also helped me pick out some green tomatoes because I made an extra giant batch of Green Tomato Relish Salsa Delish. Anyone else super disappointed with Ball's new canning lids?

On Monday I get boxes of apples and pears from a generous friend so the preserving continues. We won't starve this winter. In fact, we will eat local fruit and veggies for several months at least. I feel great about that.

So, it's on to making that quilt that has been in pieces in my basement, painting my hallway, skiing and holidays which means eating and drinking and kissing on my loved ones. And then, it's almost spring and time to pour over seed catalogs into the wee hours of the morning while Andy pleads babe, please turn out the light and go to sleep. And, THEN it's spring and time for arugula and rhubarb.

And so it will be the beginning of it all again. Next year I will have potatoes that'll make Idaho swoon and garlic! I, for the first time ever (pathetic, I know) am planting garlic. Today.


the next season

We had our first frost last Wednesday and, of course, I wasn't prepared even though I knew it was coming and every gardener in western Montana was saying up late at night making sauce and pesto and relish. Last year, I nearly lost tomatoes. This year, the basil went down hard.

I didn't get home from work on Wednesday until after 9pm and, well, basil harvest just escaped me. I always feel so guilty and irresponsible when I let this happen. These little seeds all full of hope that, for months, I nourished into statuesque, healthy bushes. And, then, I recklessly killed them.

In other yup-its-fall news, we turned our heat on for the first time this season and have been eating a lot of soup. The chickens egg laying has slowed but we still get one or two a day. I have been sewing (well, piecing together thrifted items with the use of some store-bought fleece, pipe cleaners (are they really used to clean pipes?) and electrical tape) bug's halloween costume. You best believe she will be the cutest damn bee you ever did see.

I have been blanching and freezing and canning like a mad woman. Most of the fruit I got for free: plums from mullet neighbor, apples from a giant tree on city property that Andy and I snuck up on one Sunday morning, the most gorgeous apricots you've ever seen from friends. I bought corn from the farm five blocks from my house.

Our freezer if full. Behind the plums, apples and corn is a red biohazard bag containing my placenta. It's true. I am hoping to get it in the ground with some daffodils before the soil is frozen. Andy will be glad to see that go....but seriously, how could I just throw it away? It was an organ my body grew that sustained my bug for 10 months.

I peeled, cored and blanched the apples to freeze. It was a sticky, many day process. I have enough for seven pies this winter. I halved and froze bags of plums ready for cobbler. I made butters: peach, plum and apricot. Froze the corn.

Next, the green tomato relish I relish so. But first, a little getaway for our little family. Today we go to stay at a friend's house up in Seeley where there will be snow on our hike and homemade pizza on our plates. Wishing everyone a warm and full fall weekend.


only in montana: camping, a wedding and prison art shopping in one weekend

Last weekend we went back to the Big Hole valley for a little camp adventure/wedding/hiking/patagonia outlet shopping/crazy people watching.

Seriously, people who camp down there are nuts. There was the lady last year who had a dog named Hitler who she spoke to in German. This year, the looney couple with the metal detectors who spent the Entire Weekend searching for pennies and nickles and lots of can tops and sometimes a ring or something and the belchy guy in the fleece sweatshirt with a buck and doe painted on the chest. But then I wonder, do all of these insane people with generators running all day and big spectacles from 1987 and ill-fitting clothing and bad late-night manners think we are looney? Us with our coleman camp stove and a tent and down jackets and a spayed dog on a leash? Probably they are writting on their blogs about how how *crazy* we are.

Anyway. The Big Hole is one of my favorite places to run and I had packed my stuff. On Saturday morning, Andy took bug fishing and I took Alice out on the dirt road the two of us know so well. The air smelled of skunk and sage.

At first I felt hurried. I guess just because I have been so hurried for a few months now but, seriously, why in the hell did I feel so tense? I decided to hike instead of run. I was able to let it go thanks to Alice and her frolicking-I-live-in-the-momentness. She always teaches me important lessons when I pay attention. It was like the old days. It was great.

And, my Amazing Dog can cross a cattle guard like nobody's business.

We had a great time at Claire and Luke's wedding on the most gorgeous river in the whole world. And only in Montana do you get to pack fur-lined boots, flip flops and heels for the same trip.

It was really effing cold at night. And bug's first camp experience. She rocked it save for a two hour stint that was no fun at all. And, of course, we made the jaunt to Dillon for the pati outlet and didn't find a damn thing so I bought a hat that bug can wear in like seven years just to prove to Andy that the extra jaunt was so worth it.

And then! We finally hit the Montana State Prison Arts & Crafts Hobby Store when it was open! I have been yearning to patronize this establishment in Deer Lodge for years and never ever been there between the hours of 11 and 4. It contains jewelry, knitted and crocheted items, drawings, paintings, metal work and tons and tons of horse hair belts, belt buckles, bridles, etc. made my those imprisoned. I think the idea is that the art making is a positive outlet for the prisoners and a way for them to make some cash in the big house. They get 75% of the sale. I scored some gorgeous earrings. I wish I had bought the crocheted monkey for bug. It did feel strange to hold items made by people who could have committed horrible crimes. That part was weird, spooky and kind of exciting.

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