Category Archives: Portland

Midnight Blackberry

It’s that time of year again! I’ll be obsessed with blackberry jam making until further notice.

Midnight Blackberry Jam

4 cups blackberries (picked down the road)
3 1/3 cups sugar
juice of 1 lemon
about 1 T of lavender (picked from front porch)
a secret ingredient that shall not be named

Put all ingredients in a pot, turn burner on low and let the sugar dissolve, making sure to stir. Then turn up the heat and let the pot boil away. I love watching the vibrant color of the pot of boiling blackberries! Stir often to keep the jam from scorching.

I’ve adapted this recipe slightly from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess Her Blackberry Jam recipe was the first jam I ever made, because she was the first person who made jam-making sound easy peasy. Why? Because she didn’t use a thermometer, which for some reason totally puts me off making anything that requires the tool. I’d rather use my own senses to tell if something’s done. Nigella taught me the “saucer method” wherein you stick a saucer in the freezer as you begin your preparation. To test the jam, “splodge teaspoons of jam onto it.” I stick my plate (or saucer if you will) back in the freezer for about a minute, then push it with my finger and when it wrinkles it’s done. This is usually about 20 minutes from when it starts boiling.

It took me a few summers before I started canning, because it all seemed way too intimidating. But last summer our fridge reached maximum jam capacity and I knew I’d either have to stop making it or learn to can. I also had some people far away who had to hear me keep talking about all this jam but weren’t able to taste it unless they took a trip to Portland. I read a few different online canning tutorials and enlisted the help of my aunt to watch over me as I processed jars for the first time since she’d at least seen older relatives do it when she was young. The second I heard my first “ping” as the jars sealed after their hot water bath, I was ecstatic. I’m still amazed at how thrilling that sound can be. Ping! Success!

I also learned that I didn’t need a bazillion canning tools to get started. I got a jar lifter (essential, trust me you do not want to drop a hot jar of jam) and a magic wand (not quite as essential but cheap and I liked the sound of it, but basically you just need a magnet long enough to grab your lids without burning yourself on hot water). The rest, you can improvise with a well equipped kitchen. Don’t be a slave to overconsumption corporate culture!

Information about canning is abundant online these days. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has detailed guidelines and instructions.

I also recently checked out Ashley English’s Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving from my public library which includes great step by step instructions for both hot water bath and pressure canner (which are needed for low-acid preservation). Her book also has some great looking new recipes I’m excited about checking out, like Peach & Lavender Butter…mmmm. Check out Ashley’s page too!


Pioneer Woman!

One night last summer I stayed up until dawn reading Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, Pioneer Woman’s love story with her Marlboro Man. I was hooked. I fell in love with her blog, photography and recipes. I was warned by my friend Erin that I would love her, hate her and want to be her.

Tonight she came to Portland!  (She’s the one on the left, smiling.)

She’s just as sweet and cute as you’d expect and I am pretty sure that based on the hundreds of people who came to see her tonight she could start her own cult.  I was forewarned about the possibility of being stampeded by housewives in the book store, yet still somehow felt unprepared.  Maybe because I didn’t have a diaper bags packed with necessities for a serious camp out.

Pioneer Woman (aka Ree Drummond) was a little late arriving and the poor patient man who had to keep the crowd at bay, announced that she would be arriving soon, that she’d gotten into some traffic problems, her Jag broke down and so she was being helicoptered in.  An unsure woman with a stroller in front of me, turned around and said, “Is he serious?”  Hmmm….

I was making sure to keep on the outskirts of the crowd, though I was able to eventually find an empty ladder among the shelves, and snap the above photo while she did a Q&A session.

I stayed almost 2 hours until my poor feet and hungry tummy just couldn’t stand it any longer (and the place was still packed).  Sorry PW, maybe we’ll meet some other time!

My New Obsession: Portland Food Carts

I am obsessed with the food carts in Portland – in particular, now The Grilled Cheese Grill. My boyfriend and I went yesterday during a lovely springtime stroll on Alberta. It was the perfect day. I hate to admit it but we are sickeningly in love, it’s gross. Take a newly in love couple, add a sunny warm spring day in Oregon – flowers are blooming, birds are singing. Add the most freakin awesome grilled cheese ever and get instant euphoric explosion!

The Grilled Cheese Grill sits on a lot with covered picnic tables, cheeses grilled to perfection in a converted Airstream trailer and an old school bus for indoor dining. You can go simple or gourmet, the grillers appeal to both young and old taste buds here and we went for “The Pops” – Havarti with tomato slices and honey mustard on wheat. Their obscene food trademark though seems to be The Cheesus Burger – a burger with two grilled cheese sandwiches for buns – OMG! We stepped on the bus and waited for our order, marvelling at the pimped out dining car with its psychdellic roof mural and Zappa-esque music on the stereo. This didn’t exactly take me back to my childhood, but to some other way cooler girl’s childhood perhaps.

At any rate, I just had to express my newfound love for the GCG! If you’re in Portland, you must experience this cheesy treat!