Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ancho Apple Butter

Fall in New England means apples. There has been a steady stream of the things running through the house for about a month now. Our housemates have been canning up a storm, but this week we finally got around to some apple projects of our own. When we started canning, this crate of apples from a friend's property was full. As you can see, we're making progress. More on other canning projects later.

First up: ancho apple butter. I got the idea (and the base recipe) from a blog I much admire: Tigress in a Jam. Really a go-to blog for canning ideas and insight into the joy of preserving, for lack of a better word, the tradition of preserving food.

Though I take no credit for the brilliance of the flavor combo, I did make some changes to the recipe, so I'll share my own with you:

Ancho Apple Butter

10 lbs apples, stemmed and quartered
18 allspice berries
1 package dried ancho chiles

1. Stem and quarter apples. Place apple quarters and 2 cups cold water in a non-reactive (stainless or enameled iron) stock pot and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until apples are soft - about 20 minutes.

2. When apples are soft all the way through take off the heat and pass them through a food mill. Return the sauce to the pot. Add allspice. Simmer for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

3. Transfer to a crock pot set to high and cook for 12 hours. (You could do this immediately after milling the apples, but simmering seemed to cut some time off the process).

4. In the morning, place the ancho chiles in a bowl with enough hot water to cover. When soft, blend the contents.

5. The apple butter is done when it has reached a dark brown color and a thick consistency. Add ancho chile paste to taste.

6. Prep canner and jars and place in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Weekend Getaway - Whittled Down Style

 An opportunity arose to cat sit in a quiet rural area near here. Since we live in a group house with 7 people, we welcomed the idea of a weekend in the woods, alone (well, plus 2 cats). The first thing I wanted to do with my extra elbow room was cook. We had a local dinner of bread, cheese, apples, and sausage (wine from elsewhere), and another of local lamb stew with veggies from our CSA (in their pre-stew state in the picture). I have been so busy with my new job that I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen, and oh how I've missed it.
We encountered these fellows on our morning walk. Western MA is pretty amazing in the fall. On the drive home, I was struck by the simplicity of our mini "vacation". We did a favor for some friends, who in turn let us stay in their beautiful home (and even treated us to pizza!). Even though we were less than an hour from home, the weekend provided frugal fun and some much needed fresh air.

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Compost Bin from Pallets

Our house came with one of those black plastic composter dealies (the kind that really doesn't work). Even our housemate, with a degree in plant and soil science, couldn't get it to work. So she collected some stray pallets and chicken wire and enlisted our help to throw together a new and improved compost bin.

It didn't take long to screw the pallets together and add a chicken wire gate for the front. 

Note old bin on left.
The new bin is much bigger than the old one (and much more functional). And with the new bin came the opportunity to rebuild the pile, carefully controlling layers of "green" and "brown". Now the pile is steaming hot. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010


This blog is about sustainable, simple living. One of the most effective ways to live more sustainably is to limit consumption of new products. Opting out of unnecessary consumption saves you money, reduces packaging waste, and decreases dependence on products produced unsustainably by companies with horrible human rights and environmental records.

Which is why I find nothing more offensive than "greenwashing", when a product or activity is labeled "green" to encourage guilt-free purchases. Greenwashing can make Wal-mart look like the conscientious consumer's best friend, or make beauty products full of petroleum products look good for the environment (and your skin).

I recently came across a woman named Lisa Beres who works for a PR firm and gets paid to promote "green" products on TV stations across the country. And we're not talking about ads. We're talking about on the NEWS. Watching her makes my skin crawl and makes me feel not only for the future of "green", but for the future of our country's news system. How this blatant sales pitch is acceptable fodder for the morning news is beyond me. If you are as bothered as I am, you can express your disapproval over at mediaFAIL, where the lovely Miss Beres is currently featured.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Building a Radio Station, Building a Movement

Some of you know that I have long been involved with community radio and media reform work. I recently attended my FIFTH Prometheus Radio Barnraising, to help build a new community radio station from start to finish in three days. I have now been lucky enough to help build stations in NH, MA, OR, SC, and now Hudson, NY. Because working for better local media relates so closely to the themes of community building I often write about here, I thought you might want to check out my musings on the event over at New Public Media.

Fall is for Festivals

It's my first New England fall in several years, and I'm loving the cool weather and general gorgeousness. After a week of rain, the weather decided to cooperate for the weekend, and we had two absolutely gorgeous days to enjoy. Monday? Back to rain.

At any rate, we celebrated fall on Saturday at the Garlic and Arts Festival, where we taste tested everything from raw garlic to garlic ice cream. I even had my first taste of pawpaw, a fruit I have been dying to try for years. Sadly, I didn't document my first bite, but we saved the seeds and will attempt to sprout some seedlings.
Garlic Fest "stinkin' volunteer"

I began my Sunday morning with a yoga class taught by my very talented co-worker. Still feeling the yoga bliss, Tristan and I met up with my sister and rode the 5 miles or so from our home to the annual Bike Fest. Oh, and did I mention that my sister just moved to town from Colorado? I'm loving living so close to her!

We couldn't have asked for better riding weather, and the bike path was covered in colorful fall leaves. At the fest, we enjoyed some local beer and bbq and listened to the musical stylings of our housemates of The Primate Fiasco.