Gardening in January

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Jan 142018
two image collage of the raised beds, before and after

Left: The raised bed (double height) in its original shaded spot. Right: One of the new beds, moved into the sun.

It seems like every January has at least one day that makes us all a little hopeful that winter won’t last forever, and today was that day, with clear blue skies, temperatures up into the 60’s and a hint of spring in the air. I took advantage of the beautiful weather to embark on a gardening project I’ve been planning since fall, when we had two sickly trees taken out of our back yard. The trees, along our eastern fence, blocked much of the morning and midday light from half of the yard, and now that they’re out I finally have somewhere besides my back patio to grow vegetables.

I had an old raised bed in another part of the garden that never got enough sun, so today I took it apart and started to move it (and the soil) to the new sunny patch. I’m halfway through, but since tomorrow’s a holiday and it’s supposed to be nice again I’ll have plenty of time to finish. While I was out there I had an epiphany about using the old posts from a wood pile to frame and support a raspberry patch, now that its in the sun. Here’s a highly professional mock-up of what that would look like:

raspberry patch mockup

The only problem with this plan is that its right atop our pachamanca pit, so I might not win this round – we’ll see!

Jan 232013

The man of the house had a birthday a few days ago, and I made one of his favorite all-time cakes – this berry cake I first made last summer. At the time I adapted the recipe from one I found on (who had reprinted it from Bon Appétit, July 1986). I knew blackberries would be hard to come by at this time of year, so I made some changes again and came up with this Raspberry Lime Pound Cake. It’s gotten rave reviews – I like the raspberry / lime combo more than the blackberry / lemon one, although that’s good too. 

One note – I used Raspberry di Amore liqueur because we had it on hand and I felt that it really boosted the raspberry flavor. I wouldn’t go out and buy a big bottle of it though, so feel free to substitute with something else. You might use Chambord or Raspberry schnapps, or leave it out all together. Otherwise you could add vanilla or almond extract, which would alter the taste but would still taste nice – but cut it down to a teaspoon of either of those or it will be too strong.

Raspberry Lime Pound Cake

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 ¼ cup (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
5 large eggs
1 Tbs Raspberry di Amore liqueur
2 tsp lime zest (from 3 medium limes – save the lime juice for the glaze)
2 cups plus 8 Tbs all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 cups raspberries

Lime Syrup
1/3 cup lime juice (from 3 medium limes)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
11/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
zest and juice from one medium lime
Prepare a 9-cup bundt pan by greasing and flouring the pan. 

Rinse the berries (especially if they’re hand-picked), toss them with two tablespoons of flour and set them aside.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating after each egg until combined, then add the liqueur and lime zest and beat for another minute or so on medium speed until they are well mixed.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then add the dry ingredients to the egg/sugar/butter mixture in the large bowl and beat briefly just to combine. Then fold in the floured berries to the mix and pour/scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan.

Put the pan into a cold oven and turn the oven on to 300 degrees F (I used convection) and bake the cake for 70 minutes – test it at that point and if a skewer or toothpick comes out clean the cake is done. 

While the cake is baking mix the lime juice and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely. Let the cake cool for five minutes in the pan, and then invert it onto a plate or rack and brush the lime syrup over the cake, letting it absorb into the cake. Then let the cake cool completely before glazing it.

For the glaze, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl, then zest a medium lime into the sugar. Squeeze about half the lime into the sugar and whisk well, then add more lime juice if needed to make a glaze. I’m kind of a disaster with making glazes – I find I always get it a bit too stiff or a bit too thin.

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