Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tranquil Tuesday: E's Birthday

We are still without power and it happens to be E's. birthday. This is a repost from last year. Eric, you make earthquakes, hurricanes and power outages fun. You are my favorite. Hurry home so we can talk a long romantic walk around the Inner Harbor by moonlight. Happy 38th Birthday!
Mrs. Somerville

Posted 8/30/10
Happy Birthday to my sweet husband fondly known as E, E-Boogie, Charlie, Uncle Charlie, Somerville and recently @MrBaltiville on Twitter.

I was recently in LA and got to hang out with one of our best men. Todd reminded me of our wedding day and how E's voice cracked while saying his vows. He said he could just tell that we were really, truly in love. It is a day I'll never forget and this photo says it all. E had just yelled a resounding, "Whoooohoo!" walking down the aisle and the photographer nailed my reaction. You are the most incredible man I've ever known. My nephew Brett after seeing this photo said, "You guys look so happy." It's pretty awesome that we found each other. And today I celebrate you with a list of things I love about you.

You are my compass when I get lost.

Your smile warms my heart.

You dance around the island at Stone Hill dance party U.S.A.'s.

I love how you really get to know people everywhere we go. You are an amazing listener.

You work harder than anyone I know. Your dedication to your job is truly admirable, even though I miss your face a bunch I do appreciate how much pride you take in your profession.

You have a great sense of humor.

You have really, really great friends.

You love to travel. I love that you have lived all over the world and that you live for the beach.

I love that we enjoy the same kind of stuff. Hiking in the rain for instance.

I love that my friends and family LOVE you. 

I love that you have a great eye for design, work on your car, go to the junk yard and fix anything that is broken. It's hot.

You are so friendly and helpful.

You love the finer things in life. Good wine.

Great food and conversation.


You love Stone Hill.

You love to cook and inspire others to cook.

You love your family. And I'm so lucky that your family loved me and made me feel welcome the first time you introduced us.

You finished your Masters this year. I'm so proud of you.

It has been an incredible year. You deserve all the best on your birthday and this year. Cheers to you my sweet friend. I love you.

Thanks to Jean and Charles for bringing Eric into the world 37 years ago today.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pears 2011 and One Year of Stone Hill Farm Blog

Exactly a year ago today I braved the new world of blogging and started Stone Hill Farm with my Pear Chutney recipe. It's our "blog'aversary."

In perfect timing for the anniversary last weekend my friend Carla came over to help me can pears for this season. She has been to many a party where we serve the chutney over cream cheese with wheat thins and wanted to learn how to make it for herself. I needed a little help from my tall husband to get the primo pears from the top limbs. All of the pears are gone now. We had to pick them before the birds and squirrels got them.

I'm not sure the variety of these pears but they were so sweet this year and ripened beautifully. 

Carla and I donned my mother's vintage 1976 aprons and got to work. I think it is important to wear long sleeves while canning. Carla started peeling the lemon zest and I boiled the jars.

We have air conditioning in the kitchen this year so it was delightful and a far cry from that fateful first canning experience. Carla has fond memories of her family canning when she was little. There is nothing to it really and she was a fast study. She did research before hand coming very prepared. 

She even sharpened my knives. No one was hurt during the canning of the pears this year even though we look crazy.

We had a fun little photo shoot with E.

The recipe and directions can be found here from a year ago today. I didn't walk through the process of canning last year. Start by sterilizing the jars and lift carefully with the tongs.

Place on a clean dry cloth to cool and do not touch anything but the sides. 

I used a large lobster pot that holds seven jars at a time. You know when they are done when they start to rattle but should really be boiled for 10-15 minutes.

Next are the lids. This lid separator is the best little gadget and can be found at hardware stores or Walmart. I boiled the rings too but now that I think about it, I'm not sure if they actually need to be sterilized since they don't touch any of the contents inside the jar.

You can see the lids near the dish towels in this photo.

Dump the lids on another towel to cool off and dry. Do not touch the lids at all after boiling. 

Use this magnet thing if you need to move the lids.

While you are boiling your jars and lids start the chutney in two dutch oven sized pots .

We split the contents evenly between pots and went according to the recipe...kind of. You get the hang of it after a few years and this year we referred to the recipe but weren't exact. The onion, curry, ginger mix goes first.

I went a little heavy handed on the red pepper flakes but Carla and I thought the extra heat was a great touch in the end. This is a spicy condiment with sweet mixed in. It's the most fun food combo of all time in my opinion.

I skipped the apricots and added golden and normal raisins.

Then we added some peeled pears and some with the skins. I wouldn't use overly ripe pears. I think it will just turn to mush. 

Used two bags of pecans this year. Carla didn't remember the nuts from the recipe. I had forgotten last year that I added them too. It does seem odd but I think they add a great dimension of flavor.

Once all the jars are cool move them closer to the stove to fill.

We had a lovely brunch that E. cooked for us while we waited for the chutney to reduce on the stove. Carla was impressed that he knew how to make such a great frittata!

After brunch the chutney was rich and the pears were soft. We were ready and I let Carla have the honors of filling the jars so she could get the hang of it. 

The funnel is the most important. 

This chutney doesn't have a ton of juice. Try to give each a half jar of juice if you can. It is totally okay that it isn't that soupy.

After they are all filled use the magnet thing and place the lids on the tops without touching anything but the magnet "wand". The chutney was still hot hot and so were the jars. This is okay.

Place the rings on each jar by hand making sure you don't touch inside the ring. Bad luck. Then use all your might and close the mothers with this jar buster tool. The jar will be hot so use a towel if you need to hold on tight. You can also let them all cool before closing. Holy popping veins Batgirl!

Have a system so you know what jars are sealed and what jars are ready for boiling.

Make sure to have fun in the kitchen too even if you look a hot mess! Carla, my lipstick didn't help. Ha.

When the lids are sealed and ready to go lower the jars into the water with the rubber dipped tongs. I gave Carla a new blue set that we got to test run.

Open a bottle of wine and toast to the good, hard work. Each set of jars needs to boil for thirty minutes. A glass of wine is a great way to pass the time.

When they are done boiling and removed from the water they should pop after about 15 minutes. I have no idea why the lids on the left look "dusty". Maybe the dish towel lint? If they don't pop, re-boil them for another 30 minutes. They will keep for a year if you are smart enough to stock up. We had our last jar two weeks ago at a party!

We made enough so that we could each have 17 lovely jars of pear chutney. I know a few friends who are calling dibs already.

Thanks E. for picking the perfect pears. Carla, I loved having you in the kitchen all day long with me. Next time I'll boil the jars first so it won't take so long. Thank you so much for your help. Blog friends, it has been so nice getting to "know" you over the past year. We have battened down the hatches and are hoping for minimal damages in Baltimore during this hurricane or tropical storm or whatever. I must say the breeze is lovely right now at 1:00 p.m. Our prayers go to all of our friends up and down the East Coast especially our Asbury Park buds.