Thursday, April 26, 2012

As New Antique Coppers

Last evening from 5-8pm we held the first Encinitas Station Market farmers market in San Diego, which my friend Raquel is managing.  I can not begin to tell you the amount of work that goes into opening a farmers market, let’s start with the permitting aspect, which took a year and a half!  I will have more pics to show you of the amazing vendors from this market soon, as well as some of the decorative aspects of the market as I have been working in a stylist role for the market.

Two of my favorite farmers, Kevin & Kim from Kawano Farms were there, and I floated the idea of another deal on a flat of strawberries to make more jam.  Kevin is great guy, and it seems he also has a soft spot for organic strawberry jam….so I left last evening with a full flat from him (“here, you don’t have enough,” he said, as he spread two more baskets on top of the flat), in exchange for bringing a large jam jar to the market on Sunday.  A new farmer Daniel also gave me a three pack of his strawberries, so of course today I got busy with an even larger batch of jam from 17 free small baskets, which I will give to family and market friends this weekend, this time in 12 smaller jars~


With all the “color added” foods we have today, including farmed salmon, I love seeing “no color added” foods~


I am not sure if you noticed the top photo has a few pieces of copper in it.  Here below are the trio of all purpose stock pots (fait tout in French, as they are indeed for everything) that I used at Christmas.  The one top left is from a large set I got at an Upper East Side thrift store for $75 (stamped for a now defunct NYC store and Made in France), the XL and petit ones are 19thC and purchased from my friend Guy.  The linings are rather black and the XL was really in need of relining.  Guy lives in Brittany and has collected antique copper for decades, and even he does not know anyone who can retin the old pots in France, and if they could, he said, it would surely be expensive.  Personally, I want all of my old coppers to be functional, not just decorative, and I have been buying with the idea of retinning many of them. And so, in January my suitcases on the return contained the first series of pots to be retinned here. 


I sent a series of casseroles, the two fait touts and an oval roaster to Jim at East Coast Tinning.  I just got them back after a short few weeks turnaround time.  I could not believe it; they look AMAZING!!  Thank you Jim!!!  Here is the XL fait tout.  This pot is 12” tall and 11” in diameter and now sits with pride on my range as there is no cabinet big enough to hold it~


The formerly blackened and worn lining and lid are now pristine~


Retinning is done by hand; here you can see the marks of the hand-wiped tin; this is excellent work, it looks like new inside and no worries about cooking with this….if you use copper pots you will learn not to use metal utensils and not to cook “dry” (without oil or sauces) as this can cause the tin to bubble and the copper to show through (=bad!)… 


I used the XL fait tout today for all of the berries…it still only filled the pot half way…and after making the jam the pot cleaned up perfectly…


I have always admired the old French coppers with their monograms.  Jim will do this for you too, for $20.  As I don’t plan to resell any of these pieces, I had mine monogrammed…I settled on A.D for my stamp... 


Jim also polishes each of the pieces for a small cost.  I’m keeping this in mind for some of my other antique pieces that Guy will spend days polishing before sending to me….maybe next time I will just send them to Jim for a polish, which I can then easily maintain.  Visit Jim’s website HERE to see the calculator for cost.  I will say that the cost to retin is very reasonable in my opinion.  Even with the cost of retinning, these old pieces are a fraction of the cost of the new equivalents, and of course the new ones don’t come with details like 19thC dovetail joinery~ 


If you like vintage cookware, give the old coppers you see a second look if the copper itself is intact and of heavy gauge.  Jim can surely fix them up for you!  Would love to hear from any of you who also collect…

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Strawberry Jamboree

On Sunday at the market, Kevin from Kawano Farm offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse.  An entire flat of strawberries…for $2. “Day-old,” he said.  I have been holding out for some of the really small French-style berries from Sage Mountain, but of course I snapped up the flat from Kevin.  I’ve been to their farm and seen these berries growing…they are really good…


I saved a few baskets for eating, but got to work Sunday evening on a pot of strawberry preserves.  While I love the taste of the smaller berries, the medium-large ones we get in California also make a a great preserve because the berries hold their shape quite well when cooked.


When I lived in Paris, I spent many weekends at the country home of some friends outside of the city.  The house was run by Sylvienne, who resided on site as gardienne.  She also did all of the cooking single-handedly, preparing one marvelous and hearty meal after the other during each of our visits.  The large kitchen was her domain, and she darted around preparing all this food.  She would shoo us out of the kitchen if we came to help, but one day I did ask her if she could recommend a good cookbook.  She produced this book, and told me it would be the only cookbook I would ever need~


If you follow my blog a little you know that I am a fan of French cooking and especially Julia Child. But if you have her cookbooks, you will notice Julia doesn’t do confitures or other seemingly basic French recipes; MTAoFC is generally more elevated cuisine though there are some overlaps.  Interestingly, Henri Pellaprat, the author of this cookbook, was a founder of the Cordon Bleu, where Julia learned to cook.  I also have an original edition 1936 copy, which contains even more text than the one above that I bought in Paris shortly after Sylvienne’s recommendation almost 20 years ago~


So this is what I sometimes refer to as my “Old” French Cookbook.  The recipes are generally very simple and sometimes rely on proportions rather than exact measurements.  This is the cookbook I use for all my confiture recipes.  Ready?  Here we go.  You need berries and sugar and a little water, that’s it.  Strawberry preserves take less sugar than some other recipes and marmelades.  Start with one kilo or about two heaping cups of sugar~


Put the sugar in a large casserole or bassine a confiture if you are so lucky to own one (this will be my next purchase from Guy!).  Add just enough water to start the sugar melting.  I use half a cup of water; the recipe is forgiving and so it doesn’t really matter how little or how much water you use, as I will explain later~


Boil the sugar and the water until the sugar is melted and the syrup you have made is clear~


Wash and tip your berries while the sugar begins to cook.  A rule of thumb for strawberry preserves is twice the weight of berries as sugar.  In this case I used 2+ cups or two pounds of sugar and about six baskets of berries~


Drop the berries in the syrup and turn the heat down very low.  At first the syrup will not cover the berries; that’s ok.  The syrup will pull the water and the juice (not to mention the color) from the berries.  Stir occasionally and gently; I do not mash the berries but leave them whole.  Keep the heat very low and do not let the mixture boil.


When the berries have given up most of their juice, use a skimmer to lift the berries out of the pot.  If the berries are small, this can be in ten or fifteen minutes.  In the case of these larger berries, it is about half an hour.


Turn the heat back up and boil the syrup down in volume.  You want to thicken the sauce that will go with the preserved berries in the jar.


After the volume of the syrup has been reduced and the syrup is thickening up, drop the berries back in the syrup and turn the heat off.  Let sit for about twenty minutes.  Then skim the berries again into a separate bowl and boil the syrup down further.  Remember when I said don’t worry if you have more or less water?  If you needed more water to cover the berries you can just boil it off at this stage. 


At the end of the third round of skimming the berries, put the berries into jars; cooking the berries this way results in whole berries, in most cases though they have lost much of their size due to losing their water weight; you could mash them a little if you don’t like the whole berries~


You can boil the syrup again to make it as thick or thin as you want; when it gets to looking like this, it will be pretty thick when it has cooled in the jar.  Be careful not to let it boil over~


You are probably wondering why I don’t have a finished photo of the trio of jars.  Well, actually I left them in the cooking pot overnight and filled these three jars with the warm jam on Monday morning while I went to get a baguette.  The pots had not even cooled before my parents consumed the entire baguette and one small pot of jam for breakfast.  For dessert Monday night, they had a second pot, over ice cream.IMG_6474

Today is Tuesday and they had most of the third pot with another baguette this morning, with my father eating the last of the whole berries with a spoon out of the jar.  Today I made a second batch of jam with the rest of the berries, and they again had a pot for dessert with ice cream tonight, and Mom has now asked for more pots for her Mother’s Day brunch.  Dad says that was pretty good, but “Isn’t it just about cherry season now?”

OK, not bad as I made the equivalent of eight pots of jam for 25 cents each + the cost of sugar, but I seriously doubt that all that sugar is good for my parents!  Tomorrow I will see Kevin again but think I will probably hold off on getting another bargain flat of berries…

By the way you will notice none of these jars have lids.  You can cover them French-style with just a little plastic wrap and keep them in the cupboard.  You can also use the classic Ball or LeParfait jars if you like.

Tomorrow morning I will see if I can add a pic of the finished jars.  The jam is delicious and not like anything store-bought, and the color is very pretty, so this makes a great gift if you can manage the time to make it….

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Happy Earth Day, Laguna Style

Though Laguna Beach is my hometown, it seems I rarely get involved in local events.  Too busy, or overcommitted?  I don’t know.  But I was really glad that I got involved in styling our Earth Day lounge today.  “The Lounge” evolved during the course of the day; here is how it looked around 10am, with these seating areas facing the stage~ 


There was lots of comfy seating, lots of stacked crates and crated edibles and flowers, not to mention a few tree stumps and chairs from the garden off to the side~


I wondered if anyone would sit in the lavender chair, but yes, there was usually one and sometimes two happy occupants of the chair!


Everyone was curious it seemed, and wanted to smell and touch the chair, no matter if it meant they got lavender buds all over their butts~


One thing that really amazed me today was how many photos people were taking, on all kinds of phones, cameras and iPads, usually after touching the chairs or the table…the objects were all whimsical, tactile and fresh…a great draw..I’d like to do this on a larger scale sometime…~


It was a toss up in popularity between the three items…the mossy chair, the leaf table and lavender chair….people took photos of the objects and often with their companions sitting on the chair or leaning a head in next to it….


there were a few other fun items like an urn with a muffin top of sprouts…


even the flowering crates at the street entrance got a photo op~


Mostly, though, people just sat in these chairs and smiled….especially the mossy chair as it is really old and very comfy, especially with a layer of moss~


I love this chair, notice how everyone wants to touch it~


As for the rest of the seating, it was full all day~


At the entrance to the street, Chris (left) and Billy (right, with our Volunteer Police in between) made a great chalkboard sandwich board for drawings and messages….GREAT idea…


La petite here drawing the Earth….this was a really nice feature~


there were plenty of activities for the kids, including seeding newspaper cups, ready to plant~


And courtesy of one of my favorites, the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, Max Isles brought us the Water Shed, to teach kids about where our water comes from and how to use it wisely.  Using a series of pumps with varying resistance representing the range of our water sources from the Colorado River to rainwater collection, the Water Shed shows kids how to become water-wise.  This is brilliant…a far cry from the Ricky the Raindrop we learned about in school, though even that concept stuck with me for life!


Kids…having fun…I think these are Alyssa S.’s boys?~


Elsewhere, the girls were hamming it up in their hats and newspaper pots….go girls!


And at the stage, we enjoyed great music all day..violin,  with crate for music stand~


Flamenco guitar….well, ok, it seems not everyone enjoyed the music, or was it just too loud?~


Billy filled in throughout the day, between managing bike tours of the Transition Laguna Gardens~


We had a string of other great music, all day, have a seat in the lounge to listen~


Here is Billy again, now on guitar and harmonica…of course I had to get the crates in to frame the shot~


So many people there today…I noticed this young man seemingly homeless enjoying the music…is he 18 years old? Not much more.  With his adoring dog and soon joined by a friend.  Earth Day for one and all~


Seems everyone loved the music, including the pugs, who turned to give me a nice shot~


Years ago, Laguna looked more like this~


We still have a little of the old Greeter Spirit with people like this~


And kids dressed up like Abalone (left) and Kelp (right)~


Not to mention a Bag Monster~


a drum parade in~


…drum circle and hula hoop party~


Ya; you go kids…when I was your age I listened to the Hare Krishna march through town…it’s nice to see some basic rhythm and clean fun in town…maybe Laguna has not changed so much?


What I can tell you is that EVERYONE had a great time at the Laguna Beach Earth Day 2012….looking forward to it in 2013….


Tomorrow we are celebrating Earth Day in Rancho Santa Fe at the farmers market.  Smaller lounge, and I am sampling food while selling baskets.  Enjoy your weekend & Love Your Earth~