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July 2017: The Month in Tom and Holly

Life in Philly

This wasn’t a bad July, all things considered. Despite being hot most of the month, it wasn’t intolerable, and some days were even nice out. We were able to spend a nice evening on a friend’s rooftop, and also take a nice walk on the Schuylkill in the evening, topped off with some ice cream enjoyed outside at the Gray’s Ferry Triangles. I still have had half days on Fridays this month, some of which I’ve spent on errands like doctor appointments and going to the SEPTA office to deal with my lost key card, but I still squeezed in a bit of pampering (threading and a pedicure) as well as a nice quiet lunch by myself at Walnut St Cafe.

Demolition at The Royal
South Philly rooftop view
Schuylkill walk
Ice cream at Igloo

Farmers’ Markets

The month started auspiciously, as we made it back from New York in time to still go to the Saturday farmers’ market and get our Shore Catch seafood. Still, we didn’t get any tomatoes until the second weekend of the month, and we weren’t able to get into full tomato bounty until the very last farmers’ market of the month. We’ve really been enjoying all the other summer fruit and vegetables, though, and I’ve been doing lots of preserving (see DIY below).

July 8
July 15
July 22
July 29

Wine

I decided to make a separate section for wine since I started up a monthly wine club subscription from the state store. Not that I want to support the state store, but I figured I may as well try to see what they have to offer. I got the “Aficionado” level subscription, which is medium-priced – a little more than what I typically pay for state store wines, but still very reasonable for the type of quality that would make a subscription worthwhile. I hope it results in us trying (and enjoying) some slightly higher level wines that I wouldn’t have ordinarily splurged for. The cheaper “Discovery” level just looked like crap wines, which I can get anytime. Anyway, the first month was all California, which I might have rolled my eyes at if it were all Napa & Sonoma, but at least one was Central Coast. We got a very nice Rhone blend from Paso, and a Napa chardonnay that was surprisingly not over-oaked. I liked them both and look forward to seeing what we get next month, though I do hope they mix in some imported wines and that it doesn’t always end up being domestic.

July wine club

As long as I’m talking about wine, it’s also worth mentioning that I ordered a few wines from Tablas Creek, one of the few wineries I like who ship to PA: their Picpoul Blanc, which I had been wanting to try for years, and their Vermentino, which is so perfect for summer. The picpoul was very good; much more substantial and full-bodied than French versions, but not mind-blowing enough that I would have to get it again right away. While I was at it, I ordered some of Tablas’s olive oil, which is my latest favorite EVOO.

Dining In

We made a lot of fun things this month, including:

soaked buttermilk pancakes, topped with duck egg
brats from Rieker’s, homemade sauerkraut
Roast chicken with plums and sprouted lentil salad (Photo by Tom Ipri)
Caprese
corn fritters

Dining Out

After returning from our trip to New York at the end of June, we spent most of 4th of July weekend indoors to stay out of the heat, but we did make it out a few times, including drinks & snacks at Tria Fitler Square, breakfast at Hungry Pigeon, and dinner at Audrey Claire.

Early in the month, we got delivery from Philadelphia Chutney Co for the first time. We’ve been wanting to go there for years and I only recently figured out that they deliver. I was having a hankering for dosas – it turns out dosas don’t transport that well, but they were still good, and the other dishes we ordered (lamb tikka masala and veggie korma) were delicious.

We went up to the Northeast a few times, and had a delicious meal as usual at Moonstruck. I also met a friend for happy hour at Root in Northern Liberties, which was great.

Finally, we got back into regular visits to Jet Wine Bar on Sundays, where we love hanging out with Amanda, and we’ve enjoyed the food from Chef Yasi.

Audrey Claire
Amaro tasting at Plenty
Delivery from Philadelphia Chutney Co
Moonstruck
Jet Wine Bar

DIY

This was another busy month of DIY food projects, both fermenting and canning. Unless stated otherwise, recipes are from Saving the Season, Ferment Your Vegetables, or DIY Fermentation.

  • fermented slow pickled red onion – this looked cool, as it involve spiking a red onion with whole cloves, like I used to do with oranges when I was a kid, making air fresheners for Christmas. But it was WAY too clove-y and I ended up tossing it.
  • fermented carrots with garlic, onion, za’atar, & Aleppo pepper – this was a made-up fermented pickle that turned out pretty well, but it bubbled like crazy, and the carrots got too soft, even though it was only a week before I put it in the fridge.
  • cultured buttermilk from DIY Fermentation – for this I had to buy buttermilk culture, and I learned about clabbering! I was worried that my apartment would be too cool (thanks to air conditioning) but it clabbered perfectly fine, and the result was marvelous. We made buttermilk pancakes, buttermilk chicken, and buttermilk biscuits, plus I had a little buttermilk leftover to culture some cream for cultured butter. I would definitely make my own buttermilk again rather than buying store bought.
  • fermented raspberry vinegar from DIY Fermentation – this is a 6 week ferment, so I started it, but it won’t be done until next month. So far so good, and it smells great. The only problem is it attracts fruit flies!
  • fermented tomato salsa from Ferment Your Vegetables – I love this so much, and now that tomatoes are back in season, I had to make more.
  • fermented tomato sauce from Ferment Your Vegetables – ditto.
  • fermented peach chutney from DIY Fermentation – sorry, but this was terrible. I think I will steer clear of fermented fruit (other than wine/vinegar and tomato stuff) – I don’t really care for the taste or texture, plus using whey as a starter is a pain in the ass and I’m too lazy at this point to try water kefir.
  • sprouted lentils – I followed some basic sprouting instructions online in order to make the sprouted lentil salad from The Indian Family Kitchen. I’m glad I looked it up – turns out that 1/2 cup lentils easily yielded 4 cups of sprouts after about 3-4 days. I did buy some sprouting lids but otherwise no special equipment, just a quart jar tipped upside down into a bowl, moved into a colander for the last day.
  • peaches in grappa syrup (cold pack) from Preserving Italy – had to buy grappa from the state store, oh darn, hope it won’t go to waste…
  • four pepper jelly – this was a belated follow-up on the Food In Jars Mastery Challenge from March – I was just waiting for peppers to be in season. I haven’t tried the jar that I processed, but I had some leftover that went straight to the fridge and it’s marvelous. My first jelly success!
  • pickled melon (cold pack) from Preserving Italy – this was inspired by a visit to Tria Fitler Square in which we had pickled melon & prosciutto crostini. I got a very ripe cantaloupe from the Fitler Square farmers’ market and made 1 pint – it’s very spicy and the melon is super soft. I’d do this again but would prefer honeydew melon, slightly less ripe.
  • blueberry chutney – I wanted to make a chutney, and this was inspired by a blueberry chutney I loved from the Pike Place Market in Seattle back in the day. I wasn’t sure if this recipe was safe for canning so I just put it in the fridge (haven’t tried it yet)
  • fermented green beans – I was thumbing through Saving the Season and saw that the author recommended making fermented green bean pickles over canned green bean pickles. Other than a green bean kimchi, I don’t think I had fermented green beans before, so I was intrigued. Since I’m fairly comfortable with vegetable fermentation at this point, I didn’t feel the need to follow a recipe very closely, so I used some flavors that worked really well in a canned green bean recipe I had made last month, including red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Normally I only ferment vegetables for about 1 week but this one I’m letting go for 2 weeks so I’ll have to report back next month.
  • blueberry gin jam from Saving the Season – I wanted to do more with blueberries and this recipe called out to me due to the gin. I haven’t tried it yet but I hope it’s awesome. Also, this recipe required a food mill, which I had wanted to buy in order to make tomato sauce, but this pushed me over the edge to actually make the purchase.
  • Asian plum sauce – I had some leftover plums and so this was very small batch, but enough to can 1/4 pint. I haven’t opened it yet but I’m actually kind of excited for it.
  • cultured butter from DIY Fermentation – I’ve been making homemade butter for years, but I had never cultured it before. I took advantage of my homemade buttermilk in order to culture some cream and then make butter. It takes an extra day, but I love the richness.
  • Peach marsala almond conserve from Preserving Italy  – there’s so many things I want to make from peaches, but this one stood out due to the marsala. This is another batch that I haven’t tried but look forward to enjoying later.
  • bread & butter pickles – first and foremost, I still don’t understand why these are called bread & butter. I’ve fermented cucumber pickles several times, which have turned out well, but I was intrigued by the idea of a canned pickle that would last longer. We’ll see how these taste in winter!
  • crushed tomatoes from Saving the Season – I want to try a lot more preserved tomato recipes over the next few months, but this was my first attempt. I figure we use crushed tomatoes on a pretty much weekly basis, so this was a logical place to start. I followed the instructions but still got big time separation between solids and liquids after the water bath. I’m sure it will still taste fine, but this needs more practice.
  • peaches in syrup (hot pack) from Saving the Season – again, I want to do all the peach recipes, but this was particularly appealing due to 1) the addition of Earl Grey tea,  2) the option to add brandy (I used bourbon), and 3) this month’s Food in Jars Mastery Challenge was hot pack, and so I wanted to get more practice with hot pack preserves.
  • peach chutney from Saving the Season – see above, I want to preserve ALL THE PEACHES. I mostly followed the recipe from Saving the Season, but I also took some inspiration from the mango chutney recipe in The Indian Family Kitchen. As with some of the other preserves from this month, I haven’t tried it yet, so I’ll have to report back later.
  • nectarine murraba – this was another lovely sounding recipe, but it didn’t say it was safe for canning, so it’s in the fridge. I look forward to having it with some chicken or fish or cheese snackies.
homemade cultured buttermilk
homemade fermented raspberry vinegar in progress
July preserves (photo by Tom Ipri)

Books

If you look at last year, before we got our Kindles, there were plenty of months where I didn’t read (or finish) a single book, so it’s a reflection of the Kindle that I now feel bad about “only” reading 4 books this month. All of this month’s books were acquired via the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Overdrive service, which I am loving.

  • Tarkin – not bad as far as Star Wars novels go, but also not that memorable. It was good context for the character, especially after reading Catalyst and Rogue One last month.
  • Half a War – I wasn’t prepared to shell out the money for this, but thanks to the library, I was able to finish the final book of this series. As with the second book, this book introduces a new strong female POV character, so I liked that. It provided some awkward closure for the main characters from Books 1 and 2, so in a way it was satisfying, but in a way, meh.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces – oh my goodness. I had heard of this book but honestly had no idea what it was about. I’m so glad Tom borrowed it from the library and was able to share it with me via our shared Kindle library. This is certainly the best example of American literature I have read in a very long time. Just hilarious and genius. READ IT.
  • Adnan’s Story – as an Undisclosed podcast listener, this was mandatory reading, but again, it wasn’t something I had really wanted to shell out for so I was glad to get it via the library. By the end, I was totally underwhelmed. The writing was fine, and I enjoyed learning more about Rabia’s personal life. I liked the specifically Muslim perspective she was able to provide to some events of the case, which were illuminating. But overall, if you’ve listened to Undisclosed, there wasn’t that much new information. And unfortunately I just find it really difficult to engage with non-fiction.

Last Month’s Update