Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer in the Midnight Kitchen




Getting ready to preserve the Concord grapes. I separate them from the stem, rinse them in cold water, and let them dry. Next thing I am tackling is preserving grape leaves for dolmas and other things.

Dear Friends,

Oh those sleepless nights... what good can come of them? Plenty! It is my time to sit in the kitchen rocker, find a great recipe, sip some tea, then get up and cook. During those dark and quiet hours I create a maelstrom of foods, syrups, liqueurs, dashed across the walls, counters, and of course, in small, sticky pools on the old wooden floors. What a mess, but also, what a joy to create and have something wonderful waiting for me when I wake in the morning. Jeff loves to smell all the good things I've cooked up and he doesn't bemoan the fact that his feet often stick to the floor.





During summer's bounty there are so many projects to accomplish. I'll show you just a few of my favorites. I am bad about following recipes, though I LOVE to read cookbooks, so these are experiments and done for food, fun, and for future projects, maybe even my own book of treasured recipes and projects.


These are a few of the zillions of seedless Concords dangling from our arbor. It is hard to believe that I planted the six of them from cuttings smaller than a pencil. Now they are 10 feet tall and trail and climb 30 feet of arbors and posts.


The birds harvest plenty of our grapes and let us claim the remainders. During cold winter days I will drink in the sunshine and scent of grapes whenever I open a jar of concentrate, syrup, or jelly. Oh, and that fabulous fruit leather–it is wonderful and is simply made of the leftover pulp, spread in a thin sheet and left to dry in our old, gas oven. I dried this for two days and two nights, cut this into 12 pieces, and rolled it. I store my leathers in tall glass apothecary jars to keep them from rehydrating.


The Midnight Kitchen smells divine!


This is one of my midnight experiments–whole grapes and sugar canned for a juice concentrate. We'll see how this turns out. It must age for a month before I open and test one.


I also freeze bags of the fresh grapes. My old pal Carolyn Germain is the one who taught me what great and healthy treats they are. I love the crunch and pop of a frozen grape. You can add whole grapes to summer lemonades, sangria, etc. 


Summer's bounty is rich in edible flowers...


...and herbs, lemons, and limes (the last of the crop). I use these for my edible flower cheeses...


This is a soft yogurt cheese that drips through a sieve for two days (in the refrigerator). 


For inspiration I often turn to this old preserving book by Nora Carey. The recipes are great and the photographs will make you rush out to your garden to do a major redesign.


Home Sweet Home

I just returned from the American Library Association Conference in Las Vegas. I felt like a goat in roller skates there...out of place, out of my element. The good thing was that I got a chance to meet many of my old friends and new friends who are authors and illustrators. I am a huge fan of artist Melissa Sweet, who was there signing a few of her books. Also got to actually see my new book Running Out of Night (Random House, November 2014) on a bookshelf! Woot hoot. I couldn't believe it.

I did a mini-book signing of my Workman Publishing books, visited with librarians from everywhere, and had a ball. 

On Friday night Random House hosted a birthday party for Batman, who just turned 75. About 400 of us crowded into the Venetian Hotel and celebrated Batman with lots of food, fun, wine, and huge Batman-birthday cakes. 

The flight home from Las Vegas to the Central Coast took only 51 minutes. What a difference and culture shock. I was so happy to return to my sweet husband, my gardens, and my family. Heaven-on-earth here.

The Great Cheese Book Give-Away

Ok, so now that I've written about some of my summer projects I want to encourage YOU to do some of your own. My publicist at Workman Publishing has pledged two copies of this fabulous little book to two lucky winners. Simply "follow" me at the bottom of this page, leave a comment on this posting (not on Facebook), and in ten days we will do a random drawing for winners. The books will be mailed out by Workman to your snail mail address, so please, if you comment anonymously, leave a real name and e-mail address or other contact information.


This book is concisely written, with great directions, photographs, and recipes. You'll love it and so will your friends and family when you start spoiling them with your creations.

Please stop by for a visit, leave a comment (they're always appreciated), and visit me on Facebook and at SharonLovejoy.com.

Sharon


64 comments:

Anonymous said...

Lovely post and lovely sounding book. I am always looking for new cheese recipes. You can reach me at cathi.l@comcast.net. Cathi

Steph Johnson said...

Forgive me if this posts twice...my phone is acting wonkadoo...but thanks for the chance...this book will be fun for homeschool projects :)

Diana Schmied said...

Beautiful pictures! I've been picking blueberries daily for about 3 weeks now. I use some fresh, and freeze some. I grow a native scuppernong grape, of which I have high hopes of harvesting a few this year -- if the birds leave me some. And -- cheese in an hour. Sounds good to me. I have made paneer, but would like to make some others.

Sharon Calvert said...

Sharon, posts such as this leave me feeling a bit shame-faced; where do you get your energy?! Canning and preserving seem so time-consuming and laborious, but the rewards must be so sweet. The one-hour cheeses sound intriguing; is your yogurt cheese one of the recipes in the book? Looks yummy, and beautiful with the edible petals. Thanks for another giveaway opportunity!

Sharon in Alabama

Mary Ayers said...

Just loved this post! Always get excited when your blog is in my feeder. The book looks so interesting would love to have, so generous! Been wanting to try my hand at making cheese. I've been picking blueberries here in rural Pa. So delicious and bountiful. Thanks again for such a lovely post.Enjoy the season

Anonymous said...

I would love to win this beautiful book!!!!

Julie Marie said...

Hello dear cousin... what a delightful post!... I love seeing and hearing about your midnight kitchen... I bet it smells Heavenly!... soo many grapes, lucky you!... your jars look so pretty sitting there... I made some fresh black raspberry jam last week and we are savoring that too... your flower cheese is so pretty as well... I am soo excited for you that you got to see your new book Running Out of Night on a bookshelf!... I just can hardly wait to get my own copy come Fall... wish I could sit in your quiet little corner in your rocking chair and chat with you as you stirred up magically delicious things... Happy Summertime!... much love, xoxo Julie Marie

Julie Marie said...

P.S. YES PLEASE write a book of your favorite recipes and projects!!!!!.... xoxoxo

Anonymous said...

yummmmm. pass the cheese, please!! xo thea

Lorrie said...

You are so energetic. I find that when I can't sleep, I get up and discover that I'm sleepier than I thought. Your midnight kitchen sounds wonderfully productive. I have one jar of Concord juice concentrate left on the basement shelf and I'm looking forward to making more come August. It was great to open in the winter.
Making cheese would be a great project.

Jenny said...

It's good to know your grapes. A few years ago I was visiting my daughter in her new home which had a grape Arbor full of purple grapes. I thought...grape jam. After making it which didn't gel, I found out they were for making wine. The tasty syrup went on pancakes. I like yours better. Thanks for posting. xo Jenny

From the Kitchen said...

What a lovely post my friend! I've been known to spend time in the night kitchen myself. I have a copper jam pot very like yours. In fact, it looks exactly like yours. It was given to me by a dear friend who carted it to her new home in the U.S. from Hungary after the revolution. Judith was one of my kitchen mentors. When I use the old copper pot, I remember her well.

Best,
Bonnie

Deborah @A Garden in The Shire said...

It is that canning and preserving time of year. I am quite envious of your grape harvest and you are being so productive! Time and ripening fruit wait for no one! Love yogurt cheese, and love that it can be seasoned according to whatever you want it to be.
Waving from Across The Pond in Wales

Candice Black said...

I really enjoyed your Midnight Kitchen post! The grapes remind me of growing up and eating them right off the vine in the hot summers. I could almost smell and taste them, the pictures are gorgeous and I wish I could just pluck one of those grapes off and taste it. Cheese one of my favorites, I have often thought about trying to make cheese, this book would be the perfect way to get started. Summers bounty is a wonderful thing! Thank you so much Sharon for sharing and reminding us of all Summers yummy goodness!

Linda Hoye said...

Lovely, and so inspiring and inviting as always. I love the little Audrey-like figurine atop your stove! These days my kitchen is filled with jars of jam and cherry pie filling, The dehydrator is humming as it dries cherries. Freshly cut herbs are spread out own towels drying. Every day's garden harvest adorns the countertop as I plan dinner with fresh ingredients. This time of year is so fulfilling!

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Beautiful post! I love your old fashioned kitchen! I would love to try some of these cheese recipes --please toss my hat into the ring!
V

Melody said...

One of the BEST scents in the world... ripe concord grapes! Mmmmm, i love grape jelly, but i've never made grape leather! What a fabulous thing! (if your grape are seedless, crunchy otherwise.)
Happy July to you! :))))

Pom Pom said...

It's awesome that you are a midnight chef!
I love the color of the cabinets. What's the name of that shade? Brand? xo

JR Bush said...

I sent a comment a couple of days ago and
for some reason, I don't think it went through.
First time commenter! Love your blog,
especially your California gardens. Please keep
us up to date on what is happening there.
I have really been working in mine but the
battle with the deer is very disheartening.
Thanks, Julia

JR Bush said...

Don't know why I can't get through.
First time commenter. I'm sure it's
something I'm doing wrong. I
especially love your California
garden. Please keep us posted on
how it's doing. Thanks, Julia

Kristina said...

I taught myself how to can and preserve foods and look forward to it every year! My garden is finally coming along and just yesterday, I harvested the season's first zucchini, cucumbers, and green beans. I am going to plant a grape arbor next year and look forward to making grape jelly. The wild chokecherries are starting to ripen along the roads and fencerows so I imagine a couple days of picking and making chokecherry jelly are in my future!
Kristina

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Thanks Julia.

My garden is suffering from lack of water, but we haul out buckets of shower water, etc. to keep it going.

I try to write about LIFE and try to focus on things that others can also do.

I appreciate your visit and comment. Please come back!

Sharon

Vee said...

The Midnight Kitchen sounds like a great recipe book itself. Too bad about the insomnia, though. I think your approach is more sane than mine. I'll do nearly anything to get to sleep short of a ball-peen hammer.

Anonymous said...

Hello, so happy just found your blog and will follow it really really enjoyed reading all about your grapes etc..would love your book. thank you
csitter@msn.com

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

I'm a little late stopping by. So much for the hazy lazy days of summer, life seems to speed up around here. ;)

I would be willing to walk on sticky floors for all that yummy-ness!

Last year I had an abundance of nasturtiums (did not plant in time this year) so I made nasturtium compound butter adding a handful of flowers and leaves to each stick of salted butter. They turned out to be fabulous for veggies as well as meat!

Khadijah said...

We are raising our first four dairy goats, and cheesemaking is high on our list of things to do with all of the good milk! All of the good stuff you have cooking in your kitchen sounds lovely. So far, I am freezing our berries, I am hoping to can some as well.

Donna OShaughnessy said...

I've been a follower for some time, always love to see pictures of your beautiful home and your craftiness. We are raw milk farmers in Illinois and would love a book on making cheese. Please enter me and thanks so much for your blog!

Leslie Robertson said...

It's always such a pleasure to read your blog, Sharon. I made the edible flower yogurt cheese the last time you posted about it (some time ago) and got raves at the potluck I attended. Am eager to check out the cheese book--thank for that recommendation.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Leslie,

Well, you never know...you just might be one of the lucky winners.

I am reading my copy of the book and enjoying it so much. Will be doing many of the projects.

Doesn't it make you feel good to accomplish something simple and earthy like this?

Cheers,
Sharon

Anonymous said...

Foolproof in the title is always encouraging. So far I've put up 4 pints of mixed berry/cherry jam. I had great plans for a lug of peaches, but we've been eating them so quickly I don't think any will get preserved (except as a happy summer memory). Gala gwurdthe2nd@hotmail.com

cheris said...

Oooh... maybe our cheese-making will be more successful than Texas summer gardening.
;)

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I always learn from you.
Thank you for the recent visit.
Take care
The cheese I must try :)

Heidi Borchers said...

So excited about this cheese book....want to share with my granddaughter....we love cheese! And love that these are one hour ones. Thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Susy says:
Sharon, have you ever made Grape pie with your concord grapes? It is a favorite in my family! I would love to see the Cheese book and play in the Midnight Kitchen!!!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Susy,

NO! I would love the recipe.

The grapes are being stolen by every critter in the neighborhood, but I am still able to pick a few every day. They're fabulous.

Thanks for stopping by,

Sharon

It's Just Dottie said...

I would like to make cheese and I would love to win that book...

Joan Martin Fee said...

The book sounds intriguing - chesse in a hour! How delightful.

Joan Martin Fee said...

Cheese in an hour!?!

Teri said...

I would love to learn how to make awesome cheese to enjoy with my summer delights from my garden!

kj said...

I deserve this book because I love all cheese and because I am cheeky, ah, cheesy.

Los Vegas ? Slot machines. Buffets. Paul anka. :-)

Love love
kj

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Yep KJ, you are cheeky, but lovable.
S

The Schragl's said...

I love cheese and I love homemade cheese! Thanks for the entry in your giveaway!

Teri said...

I left a comment on your FB page too but I never thought about making cheese. I guess it would be really great to have this book and see if I actually COULD make cheese. In my dreams?? I hope so!!

Jenny Patterson said...

I would love to win this book!

Laurie Garza said...

I'd love to learn to make cheese, one of my favorite foods!

Anonymous said...

So far, so good. I have managed to access and navigate to Blog site, which I appreciate for your great variety of inspirational as well as botanical/food items! I would love the new cheese book. Sincerely, Consuelo

Anonymous said...

I am hoping to be incompetion for that wonderful cheese book, as soon as I am approved as a regular commentator. Sincerely, Consuelo

468 Croyden Ln. Cambria CA 93428

Martha Ellen said...

I'm loving the Midnight Kitchen in your home. When I can't sleep I try to be as quiet as possible. My husband is such a light sleeper there would be two of us awake if I started to piddle around in the kitchen. ♥

Classes n Camps said...

This Is Awesome.

Little Bird said...

Wow! It is now that time of the season when everything starts drawing us, first to the garden with baskets and buckets....and then to the kitchen! Fast & furious! Cukes, zukes, tomatoes, green chiles, & greens galore...and before we know it, the plums, peaches and apples...yikes! Thank goodness for those late nights you are talking about. Always, Sharon, you inspire me. Thanks very much!

Heather LeFebvre said...

Look at all your amazing food! That's terrific that you used to quote so much of RL Stevenson! I'm almost done with the book. It's been very good. I will have to keep an eye out for Sara Midda's newest book. Thanks for mentioning it!

stacey said...

I keep picturing
Maurice Sendak's little fellow from The Night Kitchen as I read your post. I tried ricotta and failed so must gather my courage and try again. I have yogurt making down to a science though. I hope Cal Poly offers another cheese making course, the first one filled up!

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Stacey,

I hope so too! But, there will be other classes around so keep on the alert. One might be taught out on a wonderful ranch. No firm details yet.

Thanks for stopping by!

S

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Stacey,

I hope so too! But, there will be other classes around so keep on the alert. One might be taught out on a wonderful ranch. No firm details yet.

Thanks for stopping by!

S

sue said...

would love to win a book--getting together with friends to make cheese! say, "CHEEEESE!"

Gert said...

Love your posts! You have lots to do this summer! I would love to win one of those books, they look very interesting!
I am a follower!

Blessings,
Gert

Anonymous said...

Love cheese...and your books!
Smiles,
Donna Besst

Pat S. said...

Love your blog , but it's difficult to leave a comment here compared to other sites. This is my second attempt. So here I go ---

Pat S. said...

Love your blog, reminds me of simpler times, not easier but , simpler !

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Pat,

You're so right! I always tell Jeff that it takes a lot of work to live a simple life.

Cheers and good luck!

Sharon

Robin said...

Sharon, you always inspire me with your projects. I could just smell the concord grapes and love the taste of the same. The picture of the cheese with the edible flowers was just lovely! I love the taste of our Indiana Oliver wine, Soft Rose. One can just taste the concord grapes in it. I was also intrigued by your "grape leather" nothing is wasted. Thank you for a great post. Robin

Trout Lures said...

oh wow tasty berries...

kj said...

hello!

it's such a whirlwind summer i had to reread this entire post to see if i already left a comment. then i laughed at the comment i forgot i'd left. :^)

i love the thought of you and the stove up at midnight cooking and puttering away, not to mention the joy of frozen grapes.

i'm glad you're having a good summer. next summer, meet me on the corner of somewhere in maine. i'll be waiting.

love love
kj

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

This whole post was a revelation. I can't believe how much you managed to get done during the course of a sleepless night. you're an inspiration to me. also, love the photos!