Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy 1st Blog Birthday: A Year in Review

A year ago today I finally figured out a way to alleviate some of the pressure from being unemployed as well as found a way to talk about books and food as much as and whenever I wanted to.  Thus The Literary Foodie was born.  Though I am not exactly what anyone would call consistent I absolutely love this blog.  I love that it has me learning/trying/tasting/seeing new things.  I also love that it has helped me meet new people, in person and virtually, as well as kept my family over in New York more involved in the things that I am doing here is California.

Moving away from everyone you love, and everything you know is incredibly hard.  This blog was one of the things that made it not only easier but a pleasure.  I hope you have all enjoyed it as much as I have, and I hope you will all stick with me for many more to come.  For kicks and giggles you should go check out my very first post, And So I Begin, and see just how hopeful and earnest it is, I think it’s pretty cute.

Happy 1st Birthday The Literary Foodie!!

And here are some interesting factoids about the blog:

The most popular post so far is my Valentines Day Post, The Food of Love, talking about romantic food and recommending some romantic reads.

After that was my post, A New Family Member, and Emptying the Fridge, about getting my dog and getting ready to move.  I am pretty sure that one was popular because everyone was hoping I was pregnant.

By far the most popular pages have been Food Fiction and Food Memoirs with Fiction coming in first.

The country with the most Literary Foodie readers is (obviously) the USA followed in order by Russia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Poland, India and Australia.  Can't deny that I have been pretty darned excited each time a new country gets added to the list.  

The Google searches bringing people to my page have been the interesting, and sometimes pretty funny.  The most common has been people searching for Isabella Allende books, which I completely understand because she is incredible.  There has also been: equipping a kitchen, literary restaurant in NYC, and how to rediscover passion for writing.  I am pretty sure none of these folks were looking for me when they did their search, but find me they did.  I would like to think they were pleasantly surprised.

So far my favorite post to write was, Pick Your damn Fruit or How I love Winter in Sacramento.  Followed in second place by one of my very first posts, As I Stare Into the Fridge.

So, again thank you all for joining me I hope you have been enjoying as much as I have.  Know that I love all of your feedback, and welcome any questions.  Here's to another year!

What have been some of your favorites over the past year?  Is there anything you would like to see?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Fear of Canning: Spiced Lemon Fig Jam

This is one of those things that I don’t tend to talk about, because once it is out there, there is no taking it back, and honestly I would rather not find out that I am actually alone in this.  Here it goes anyway, I have found my 20’s to be rife with insecurities.  Most people seem to reminisce and romanticize their 20’s so much that at points I have felt like I must be doing it all wrong, thus the insecurities.  Though I am finding my way more, and refining my once vibrant confidence I still find those moments when uncertainty seems to be trailing my every move.  I am in awe of the confidence that I vibrated with in my teens, some of it certainly an act, but so much so that I believed it myself.  Back then I didn’t doubt anything.  I honestly can’t wait until I stop feeling so nervous about each new undertaking.

A very over-ripe Fig

Most of it has had to do with the idea of being an adult and realizing that I have no idea what that entails.  As I mentioned recently for the first few years out of college I worked in a bookstore, which I absolutely loved.  With that, though, came disapproval from my parents and (so I thought) judgment from others.  Why was I working in retail with my degree, why wasn’t I making more money?  With the best of intentions, these types of questions tended to cement the fact that I felt like I was doing it all wrong.  At the time and still sometimes now it always felt like everyone else had it down and it was just me stumbling around. 

I know better than all of this of course.  I look back at each new thing that I was scared to try, certain that I was going to do it wrong, and many of those same things are second nature to me now.  More often than not it turns out that I am very good at many new things, and I know how to ask the right questions so that I learn how to do whatever it is correctly.  For some reason I still go into the unknown with some serious insecurity.  I will say that after making the move from New York to California my confidence has risen considerably.  I mean really I did that and survived/succeeded what else can really knock me down?  Besides canning that is.

I have wanted to start canning for years, sometime around the time my husband started working on farms and bringing me home excess amounts of whatever was in season.  But each season and each year has found me too nervous/unsure/insecure to actually try to can anything.  I blame it on the fact that I think about things too much, and then to make is worse I research.  When you research canning you find out that if you don’t do it right you make people sick.  Bad sick.  Making people sick is not something that I am interested in, especially people outside of my household.  My husband will probably forgive me, but what about the people that I give these canned goodies to?  It was all just too much for me to handle, and since I didn’t have anyone to actually teach me to can I never tried. 

Last year I made a refrigerator fig jam that was pretty incredible, and I got very anxious that I did not know how to can it so that I would have it all year.  So, this year when fig season came around I vowed to learn how to can so that I would have the jam all year.  I read a lot, I googled a lot, and in the end I feel pretty foolish that I did not try this a long time ago.  I did have trouble with the fact that most of the fig jams out there were pretty strait forward with minimal ingredients but I found a few to give me an idea that last years recipe was right on, I just had to actually can it.  So I went out and got a big pot with a tray in the bottom, some Ball jars, and a jar lifter.  In the end we jarred three different batches of jam, one batch of marinated roasted peppers, pickled carrots, and pickled grapes.  Hopefully we will be making some regular pickles pretty soon too.  Now that I actually bit the bullet and learned how to can I seem to want to “put up” everything.  So, at the age of 27 I have gotten over one more hang up and learned to can.

 How old were you when you started canning?

What kind of cooking fears do you have?

This was one of the many books that I referenced to figure out what I was doing:

Shop Indie Bookstores

And this site helped answer a lot of my question.

Spiced Lemon Fig Jam
Though the recipe is my own I followed the process here

24 medium figs chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ packet pectin*
½ cup water
Zest of 2 lemons
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons honey
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Prepare your jars and lids for canning.

In a medium pot bring lemon juice, pectin, water and figs to a rolling boil.

Add remaining ingredients, stirring occasionally bring pot back to a boil & allow to boil for 1 minute.

Turn off heat and skim foam from top of jam, allow jam to sit for five minutes.

Take jars from hot water and line up on counter, using a funnel fill each jar, leaving a ¼ inch at the top.

Remove air bubbles from jars.

Put on and tighten lids, and process jars in boiling water for 5-10 minutes

*I used a minimal amount of pectin because I felt like I had to use it, this is not a runny jam so next time I don’t think I am going to use any at all.  It’s all up to you and what you prefer.

I also think that more spice could be added to this with nice results, let me know any combos you try out.

Of course now that I have figured it out some other great Sacramento food bloggers have been putting out some fig jam recipes, you can check them out here and here.