afterbirth::panjeeree

long before audumla licked the salt that shaped buri, before vasilisa walked the path to and from baba yaga’s hut, before sita burned herself on a blazing pyre, before isis went in search of osiris’s chopped up body, there was mummy jaan:: the good mother of my heart:: my mother’s mother who combed my hair with gentle yet firm hands, making loose braids of my curly locks while telling me stories that all began with “yekee bood, yekee na bood” and often made no sense:: farsi tales about opening doors and the breeze blowing in and solomon and elephants coming to play that would break their tusks in the arena along with mullah’s riding donkeys backwards through the bazaars:: i loved listening to her telling them before she’d tie off the end of my braid and pat my shoulder to indicate she was done. then i’d get to comb her hair and braid it.

she was a petite woman with bird like bones, yet her jaw was set and her hands were strong::rippled with knotty veins, big knuckles and a pebble for a wrist bone, where her bangles would jangle in sixes. her feet were the same in short heeled pointy open toed slippers that click clacked on the cement floors; toes bent toward each other and an enormous bone pushing her big toe at an odd 45 degree angle inward. all day she’d be in darted floral kameezes, shalwars to match with a solid chiffon dupatta, draped in a U on her slight chest, going over her shoulders where the ends would dangle down her back. we loved playing in her closet, my sister and i, where she had a rainbow of these dupattas in so many shades and tones of fuchsia, magenta, cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, indigo, pthalo blue::blue, to fall awake into. she was generous with her clothes, giving us saris to dress up in while we’d watch as she’d put on her blouse and petticoat, do her hair up in a bun with U shaped pins and motias to sweeten the air, line her eyes with surmaa, freshen up her mouth, then tie her sari on in the evenings; ready for tea time in the garden where my grandfather waited for her, all ways his bride.

she was generous in the kitchen too, where she’d give us coconut water fresh from coconuts off the trees out back and the best part::: soft fleshy pulp from the empty nut, mmmm!! if you’ve found your way here, what i have for you is a recipe for simply put::making good milk to feed your baby. of course this assumes you breastfeed and if you don’t, there’s excellent writing woven into the web to convince you of its benefits, and if you aren’t looking to be convinced or aren’t a woman::: well it’s really tasty regardless and will warm you up in the winter as it’s a heaty treat! it’s what my mother and aunts ate, and my grandmother and great grandmother, and other mothers, aunts, and grandmothers and great grandmothers in a spiral of women long before i can remember the smells of coconut shreds toasting golden, pistachios roasting purplish green alongside creamy sesame seeds crackling and popping during those long afternoons that mummy jaan would be moving stuff in and out and around the stovetop on her black tavvaa, stirring and shaking, and she’d give me some of the nuts to eat while she did her work:::she was such a busy lady in that oh so big seeming kitchen, where you’d need to be with a big pan and wooden spoon in hand to make this postpartum breastmilk manna, that is at once nutritious, nourishing, and delicious!

it’s a nut and seed mixture that promotes lactation and healing for mothers postpartum, while being warming in more ways than one. there are variations on the ingredients that go into making it, along with exact recipes and specific proportions. the way i came to it was through childbirth and experimentation::this rendering being the one i like best and made most recently for my sister to enjoy after she had her baby boy. it is my summer soulstice sharing, which is when my beloved Grand Mother passed on a dozen years ago to be united with her groom. give it a try, play with it, the proportions can be adjusted to suit your taste buds; above all enjoy the making! it’s name is panjeeree, panj meaning five, it’s a stellar food for eating . . . .

For approximately 1 gallon, enough to eat for 6 weeks postpartum plus extra to share, you’ll need:

a large mortar and pestle or a grinder, like you use to grind coffee beans (but not the one you’ve ground coffee beans in)

a really wide large frying pan or wok

a small frying pan

a big mixing bowl

a cookie sheet or two

a wooden spoon

1 lb. cream of wheat (a.k.a sooji at indian groceries, i use bob’s red mill cream of wheat)

1 stick or 4 oz. butter (or ghee)

1 cup shelled pistachios

1 cup raw almonds

1 cup pumpkin seeds (or chaar maghaz if you go to an indian grocer for supplies)

1 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut

1/4 cup white sesame seeds

1/8 cup white poppy seed (khus khus at indian groceries, it has to be white poppy seed and is optional)

1/8 cup gum arabic (optional, it’s available as gondh at indian grocery stores)

2 tsp. – 1 tbsp. green cardamom seeds crushed/powdered

1 – 2 cups sugar

Warm the oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and roast them until they’re fragrant, stirring and shaking to prevent scorching. Remove and cool. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and the pumpkin seeds on another (these take less time) and roast them until slightly toasty, golden, and aromatic . . .. remember to shake and stir. Once they’re all cool, grind them up and keep aside.

Heat the small frying pan on medium-low heat till nice and Hot, then add the sesame seeds and stir. They’ll crackle and quickly turn to a golden color, remove and cool. If using the poppy seeds add them to the same pan and repeat the process, then add the gum arabic (if using) and shake or stir it around . . . it should pop and change from amber/gem like to popcornish and white, which is when it’s done. Remove and cool this too. Once cool, grind all these up by hand if that’s what you fancy or in the grinder. Set aside.

Now warm the large pan/wok on the stovetop, melt the butter/ghee in it till they’re hot and pour in the cream of wheat and stir stir stir fry it till golden brown and aromatic . . . . you might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Pay attention and stir, as it can scorch quicker than a blink! I like to add the sugar and cardamom to it just as it turns golden, stirring it all together then pouring into a very big mixing bowl where batches can be married if needed. Taste it so it’s sweet enough to your liking (it’s going to get less sweet when all the other ingredients get added, so it usually starts out seemingly too sweet . . . . same with the cardamom, I like mine strongly spiced, but you can use less for a milder hint or more if that’s how you like it). Once you’ve got this in a mixing bowl add all the other ingredients and mix them up real good.

Bottle or store in glass containers, making sure it’s cool, and keep in the fridge or a cool, dry place.

Now for the yummy part:: pour a mug of at least 8 oz. milk (or almond milk, soymilk, rice milk , etc.) into a small pot and add between 1 – 2 tbsp. of this mixture to the liquid. stir till warm, pour back into the mug, and enjoy . . . keep a spoon handy to stir and eat the bottom bits with!! i drank this once (ok sometimes twice) a day for 6 weeks after birth and then till it was gone; my kids have dranken it too and eaten a spoon here and there . . . . my sister says she sprinkles it on cooked couscous, drizzles on maple syrup and then pours milk over it when she doesn’t want it warm; sounds good indeed 🙂

bon appetit and a good solstice to you wherever you be.

eveningprim

Grilled Ham!

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We have an acquaintance who has a small farm.  He has snowy white geese with bright orange beaks, brown-black huge nosed guinea hogs that eat all their kitchen scraps and scrub and whatever they can dig into (they’ve cleared the garden space where the potatoes grow and all the underbrush just from rooting around,  it’s quite a sight . . . .  beats tilling and hand digging if you have a small farm, as opposed to a big garden *wink*, and if you’re into turning over/disturbing the soil in the first place) and really good potatoes that we dug up last fall.  We got a bone in ham from him that I thought I’d like to cook on the grill.  So I did.  Like this:

I rubbed a mix of 1 tbsp. cinnamon, 1 tbsp. thyme, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, and 1 tbsp. turbinado sugar into an uncooked 6 lb. bone in ham

Heated up the gas grill on medium-low (between 250- 300 degrees).

Placed the ham fat side down on the grill for about 5 minutes till it was smoking and sizzling!

Moved it to foil with tongs and wrapped it.

Left it on the grill cooking while dead applewood chips were prepped, added to grill in foil, and burnt.

Added green applewood shavings to the coals in the dead applewood foil packet, got smokey!

Opened the ham foil a bit, added a cup of water half way through.

Kept cooking and adding green applewood to the coals.

The ham was done in about 3 1/2 to 4 hours.  The temperature inside the ham was about 145 – 150, lower by the bone (saved that for split pea soup in the fall or winter).

The lid was closed unless I was adding wood/checking on the ham.

It was THE BEST ham ever and would’ve been just as good with hickory chips or some other chips or even none at all, maybe with a whole peach tucked into the foil instead 🙂

Maybe I’ll try it on a live fire or in a pit next time . . .

Pickled turnips

We like turnips in apple soup. We like them mashed with carrots. Also steamed, then sautéed in butter with garlic and honey, kind of caramelized. Having partaken of turnips in these ways and still there’s turnips left, the last ones pulled actually; I thought I’d pickle them for later. Here’s what I did:

Peeled and quartered approximately 2 dozen turnips
Peeled and quartered 6 beets, they were small to medium sized
Peeled 8 garlic cloves
Chopped a handful of celery leaves
Boiled 2 cups water with 2 cups apple cider vinegar plus 1 tbsp. sea salt and ½ cup honey
Washed 2 quart jars

I layered the jars with beets, turnips, garlic, and the celery leaves, repeating till each jar was full. Then I poured the hot vinegar/water mixture over top, right till the rims and capped the jars. Now they’re sitting in the basement, waiting at least 3 weeks before we open them up. We’ll probably wait till winter to do so.  Once they’re opened, they’ll go in the fridge until finished.

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Peaches and Bear

Peaches and bear have what in common exactly?  Well, they both grow real fine in these mountains that we live in, bears like peaches, and the children are like bears in a blueberry patch around canned peaches, that’s all.  Down the road from us is a peach orchard where we bought 3 bushels of peaches yesterday.  Two of those bushels are now 21 quarts of peach halves, 7 quarts of peach sauce (I use the skins for the sauce, then bake with it or pour it over pancakes, waffles, pound cake, etc.), and 2 gallons of sliced, frozen peaches for smoothies and pies.  Pretty good for two days of canning; here’s hoping they make it till winter before getting eaten all up!

Speaking of bear, one of our neighbour’s is a bear hunter.  He has a pack of hounds and a pack of friends with their own packs of various dogs, and together they all hunt bear, well the dogs hunt and the men shoot, or something like that.  We’ve had a couple of incidents with dogs chasing bear through our garden over the past two seasons, though the hunters are quick to oblige by gathering up their dogs at the sound of gunshots coming from our place . . .we’re learning mountain talk I guess, gunshots mean “Come git yer dawg ‘fore yer dawgs doggone” or they can mean “dinner time, come on home”, depending on the situation  🙂  Anyway, while chatting with the good man’s wife the other day, we got to talking about all the bear, bear skins, mounted bear heads, and eating bear.  Turns out (and she’s the first person to have said this to me)  bear meat is really delicious . . . .but only if cooked a particular way, which was passed on to her from an old mountain woman, and she passed on to me, and I to you, so:

First the bear meat has to be cooked in a pot of half water-half cider vinegar until the liquid is next to all gone.  Then this is repeated two more times, for a total of three times.  After this the meat can be cooked any way you please and it will be tasty and tender, without the fatty, heavy, greasy, and yes even disgusting taste that it apparently has otherwise.  Now to score some bear meat to try this out with!!  Maybe with peach cobbler on the side . . . .

Kimchi

The napa cabbages have grown jy-normous!  Harvested six and had no room for any of them in the fridge, so did what I usually do:  make kimchi with most of it, and keep a bags worth in the fridge for stir frying or soup.  It’s really easy to make and all that’s needed, aside from the napa cabbage, is garlic, ginger, onion, chilli flakes, salt, and fish sauce . . . . which I use according to how gingery or garlicky or spicy or fishy I want it.

First the cabbages have to be de-leafed and washed, leaf by leaf.  I stack them on the counter as I wash them.  Then they get shredded as best as possible with a knife, and put in a 5 gallon bucket.  Six napa cabbages will fill a 5 gallon bucket to the top.  As the bucket gets filled, salt gets sprinkled over top and mixed in.  Each cabbage takes 1/2 cup of salt, so use accordingly.  Once everything’s salted and done, the bucket gets filled with cold water and the cabbage sits for about 4 hours or longer; I left it out overnight.

Now we make a paste out of the garlic, ginger, onion, chilli flakes, and fish sauce.  The cabbage is drained and lightly rinsed.  It’ll be about 1/3 full in the 5 gallon bucket.  Always surprising to see how it shrinks!  The paste is rubbed all over the leaves, then I pack it into 1 gallon jars and put the jars in the basement for 2-10 days, or until I see little bubbles inside.  Then it goes into the fridge, where it stays until eaten up . . . .we all like it on it’s own but with brown rice it’s even yummier, especially with a bit of beef.  Sometimes I’ve added shredded carrots and apples and beets to the cabbages in the pasting stage, and the combination is really good, but when those aren’t on hand napa cabbage still makes good kimchi on her own :0)

Flower Essence (Bloodroot)

Bloodroot has been catching my eye this past week, quite persistently.  Little and low to the ground, there’s something very determined and cheerful about Bloodroot.  White petals and yolk yellow dotty middles, they open and close and open every day, the leaves curled up around the stems like a cape.

I thought I’d make a flower essence with a few of the flowers, so one morning, before the sun was hot and at its brightest, we all set out with a glass jar of spring water.  Bloodroot grows prolifically on a bank along the roadside and we picked seven flowers from where they grew in large numbers, being mindful not to let our shadows fall upon them.  We had poured a 1/4 cup of water from the jar into a shallow glass bowl, and we covered the water’s surface with the flowers.  These were brought home and put in a sunny spot for 5 hours, enough time for water and bloodroot to marry :0)

I picked out the petals and poured Bloodroot Mother Essence into a clean, used 1 oz. tincture bottle.  I then put 2 drops of this into another clean, used 1 oz. tincture bottle that was filled with brandy first.  Once capped, the bottle was shaken for a little bit.  This is the Stock Water.  I took 2 drops of this and put it in yet another clean, used 1 oz. tincture bottle, added 1 teaspoon of brandy, and then filled it with more spring water.  Capped, this too was shaken.  And this is Bloodroot Flower Essence that I partook of and will partake of until Bloodroot says , no more . . . . . this method can be used for making flower essences with different flowers.  I’m curious to see what calls to me this year and what they all have to say!

The Mother, Stock, and Flower Essences made this way keep for quite a long time, but it’s best to make a small amount at a time . . . .  I like this way as it means I’m using what I make and picking very little of what’s given.  Keep in mind that the 1/4 cup of water goes a long way at 2 drops at a time in making the final essence, I’ll probably start with 1/8 cup next time.  Also, always gather wildflowers from a spot that is ABUNDANT (as in at least 200 plants in an area, that way they have enough vitality to share a bit with you without endangering themselves) and pick flowers from more than one plant when possible.

Now, what flowers are calling you these days?  Even if you cannot make flower essence married with water and light, just meditating on or being in company with flowers provides an essential interlude to remember :0)