Thursday, September 19, 2013

Oregon: South

The culminating big trip of the summer was five nights camping in Southern Oregon with Provo (we grew up together; our parents were friends before either of us was born), her partner Jeremy, and canine companion Griffin. Despite being an Oregonian for ten years, I had never explored the southern reaches of the state. We only saw a fraction of it, of course, but it was pretty incredible. Inland, to Crater Lake and the Rogue River, with incredible warm clear nights and unbelievable stargazing. Coastal, to Coos Bay and lighthouses and beaches and sea lions (and lots of fog. This is Oregon, after all). In good company, excellent weather, and a most excellent lack of mosquitoes, here are a few things 1,000 miles of driving led us to.

The Rogue River...wild and scenic, indeed.
Camping on Lost Creek Lake, a reservoir of the Rogue

The Rogue squeezing through an impossibly narrow gorge

The jaw-dropping blue and perfect reflections of Crater Lake

Two nights of potatoes, onions and carrots cooked in foil in the fire...
...and the detritus of one of our many meals of fresh seafood

Puppy dog eyes, truly.

A perfect beach seat

The jawbone of a humpback whale.

We found an unexpected and beautiful botanic garden overlooking the ocean

Longing for a zoom lens at Simpson Reef...those are hundreds of sea lions (their barking made an incredible racket that we could hear from our campground two miles away), and the white dots on the near rocks are harbor seals.

The Umpqua River Light

A moment of sun in Winchester Bay

The coast from Heceta Head

Heceta Head Light

And the gorgeous keeper's house at Heceta's a B & B! Yes, please.

I'm off to Spokane this weekend for a wedding and to see my family, and then, with the days getting a bit shorter and a chill in the air, I'll be home for the foreseeable future, enjoying fall in Portland. But man, what an excellent summer this has been!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Canning pickled peppers

(I did this canning and wrote this post prior to my most recent trip- a week in Southern Oregon- I'm slow this week and will have photos and an account of that sometime soon. But my mind is very much on preserving and settling in for fall right now, so this post very much fits with my current mood!)

My repertoire of canned things is fairly limited at this point, my staples being peaches, dilly beans, jam, and pickled peppers. Having spicy pickled peppers from my garden on hand through the winter is very fulfilling; they make a great addition to tacos, chili, and cornbread (I lay them on top of the cornbread in the pan so they bake into the top crust). After canning, hot peppers like jalapeños lose some of their fire. I can eat these straight from the jar, they are nice and spicy but not painfully so!

I don’t know what the origin of this recipe is. I copied it over from the one in my parents’ recipe box, which didn’t have a source on it; my recipe card only says “from Dad.” However, it’s a nice simple recipe. Compared to canning fruit or something that needs lots of processing, this hardly feels like work.

Disclaimer: I am not a canning expert, and anyone new to canning should do some extra reading about the safety of canned food and the specific canning methods needed for different types of foods. While I have never had any problem with this recipe, I cannot guarantee that the product will be 100% safe for eating and take no responsibility for the results of anyone else’s use of this recipe.

Makes 2 pints (the batch I photographed was only 1 ½ pints)

2 pints hot peppers (Jalapeños or Serranos work great; I threw in some green Aci Sivris too)
1/3 cup salt, plus a teaspoon more
1 quart water

Pickling Liquid
½ clove garlic, diced
½ Tbsp horseradish
2 ½ cups vinegar
½ cup water
1/16 cup sugar

Canning Equipment
Canning kettle
Canning rack
Jar tongs
Canning funnel
Measuring cup/ladle
Clean dry cloth or dishrag
Four half-pint jars
Four canning lids and rings

Slice the peppers into coins and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Dissolve the salt in one quart of water, and pour over the peppers. Cover and let sit 12-16 hours in a cool place. 

After the peppers have sat for 12-16 hours, fill your canning kettle with enough water for the boiling water bath (the water should cover up the jars completely), and get it heating up. 

Combine the ingredients for the pickling liquid in a saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes (it's going to smell really acidic, so open a window or turn on a fan :). Drain the peppers and rinse thoroughly. While the pickling liquid is simmering, sterilize the jars and lids (do this in the canning kettle once the water bath has reached boiling).

Pack the jars with peppers, and pour the boiling hot pickling liquid over the peppers, leaving ¼ inch of headspace. 

Wipe the rims of the jars with a dry cloth. Place the lids and rings on the jars (tighten the rings all the way, then loosen one quarter turn). Process half-pints (or pints) for 10 minutes in the boiling water bath. 

Remove the jars from the bath with the jar tongs, and tighten the rings down all the way (use a dish towel to protect your hands from the hot jars). Let the jars cool, then remove the rings and check that all lids are sealed. I use the BPA-free Tattler lids and seals. For these, you just have to give the lids a tug and make sure they won’t come off. If you use standard metal canning lids, press the center of the lids. If the lid presses down and makes a noise, it hasn’t sealed properly (with these lids, you’ll often hear a “pop” sound while the jars are cooling, as the jars seal). These jars should be secured with a ring again and stored in the fridge and used first. Jars that have sealed properly can be stored in the cupboard until they are opened, and after that they will need to be closed with a canning ring and stored in the fridge. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Spicy Sour Salmon Soup

It's been raining here, and (dare I say it?) starting to feel a bit like fall. Hence, soup. This recipe has been a staple in my family since I was a kid; I'm pretty sure my mom invented it (and its alliterative name). It is, as advertised, spicy and sour, lemony and garlicky and delicious. Also it's a quick and easy soup to make. This works best with a nice fresh piece of salmon that holds its texture well.

Makes approximately 8 servings


2-3 quarts vegetable stock
1 good-sized salmon fillet (1-2 pounds is a good amount)
Juice of 1 large lemon
6 cloves garlic
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
soy sauce (optional)
hot chili sauce or chili oil
green onions or cilantro (optional)

1. Peel and dice the garlic and ginger. Slice the salmon from the skin (keep the skin to one side) and cut into 1/2 inch cubes, removing any bones.
2. Heat the stock in a large soup pot with the salmon skin, garlic and ginger, and soy sauce and chili oil to taste. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes to build the flavor.

3. Use tongs to remove the salmon skin and discard.
4. Add the cubes of salmon and lemon juice. Simmer for 3 minutes, just until the pieces of salmon turn opaque. Salt to taste and remove from heat.

5. Ladle into bowls, top with green onions or cilantro as a garnish, and enjoy!

This soup is also very tasty with rice or noodles added to it. I prefer it served with rice and greens on the side. I like to get the soup spicy enough that my face starts to sweat a little while I eat it, without my mouth being totally on fire. Whatever your tolerance for spiciness, you should feel thoroughly warmed after having this for dinner!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Butchart Gardens

Holy wow. I walked through the whole thing twice and gaped the whole time. Sunken garden, rose garden, Japanese garden, Mediterranean garden, a huge bank of dahlias (mostly taller than me and many with blossoms bigger than my head) where I spent an inordinate amount of was worth every penny. An easy journey by public transit, the Butchart Gardens are about 20 km north of Victoria, and it was nice to see other parts of the city and countryside on the way up the Saanich Peninsula. The story behind the gardens is that the wife of a local businessman started landscaping an old limestone quarry at their property to make it less unsightly, and the whole thing expanded from there. I'm so glad I went to see it. For me, my camera, and my love of flowers and gardening, it was a bit of a paradise. Here's a ridiculous number of photos, honed down from the 180 that I took while I was there:

It's been a heck of a trip, and this definitely felt like its crowning glory. So much beauty all packed into one place. Now I'm going to head off to find some dinner and take one last walk around the harbor and soak up the liveliness of this city all evening before I head home tomorrow.

Cheers, Victoria, you've been rad. 'Til next time, then.