I am a workaholic. Almost every waking minute of every day, I’m either working in the garden, planting seeds, making jam and jelly, cooking, researching new recipes, feeding the chickens, picking flowers, planting flowers, playing in the compost pile…. the list could literally go on forever. Over the past few days, though, the news coming out of Japan seems more and more bleak and I am getting more and more distracted. I am supposed to be planting flower seeds in the greenhouse right now, and planning summer gardens.
The LA Times is reporting that a plume of radiation is heading across the ocean right for us, but that it’s totally fine. (Small amounts of radiation headed for california, but no health risk seen, March 17) In a column intended to answer questions about the radiation risks, the New York Times offered this information to a concerned Oakland resident:
. . . experts I’ve interviewed strongly doubt that there will be any significant risk on the West Coast, and say there is no reason to take the potassium iodide unless high levels of radioactive iodine develop. But again, scientists consider high levels unlikely in the United States. In addition, about 98 percent of a person’s dose comes from drinking contaminated milk, and if fallout were to reach here (again, unlikely) most people could protect themselves by not drinking milk or eating dairy products. Children are much more vulnerable than adults.
— Denise Grady, Health Reporter
So if I understand correctly, as long as we don’t drink any milk everything will be okay? What?
I understand that the general gist of things is that we’re probably going to be fine. Do I trust the government to keep me accurately informed if the situation changes for the worse? Kind of. Not really. Meanwhile I am sitting in my living room watching P. Diddy and Ke$ha on MTV and reading St. Patricks Day green food recipes. The violent contrast between what I see on the news and what I see here, in my house, out in my garden, in my neighborhood, is surreal, and kind of makes my brain hurt. I end up thinking about really strange things…
Reaction #1: Instinctually run through the Civilization Collapse Checklist: food and water, firearms and ammunition, camping gear, flashlights and lots of spare batteries, a good knife and basic tools, the first aid kit, and lots of seeds for future gardens. Got it, done. The Crazy Flag flies high here, it’s true. I think this is a side-effect of living off the grid, since we actually have these supplies on hand anyway.
Reaction #2, now that the important stuff is taken care of as best as I know how. Make Beer Jelly: I don’t know where this idea came from, but if you’re in the mood to push on through the bad news, celebrate St. Patty’s, and make some pretty crazy jelly, I guess this is a great idea. It’s really unique jelly and a little bit weird, but kind of brilliant too.
Stout Beer Jelly
I used Guinness for this recipe, and I can already taste the grilled cheese sandwich with pumpernickel bread, jelly, cheddar cheese and sliced apples. It would also work well as a glaze for grilled lamb. Or tossed with roasted parsnips and bacon. The possibilities are endless. I have had very mixed reviews on this one so far, with some people going completely crazy about it and others deciding it was “too weird.” In the next few weeks, though, it will definitely show up at the farmers market, in a slightly more refined form with some fruit and spices.
makes: 7 half pint jars
skill level: easy
- 2 12 ounce bottles of stout beer (I used Guinness)
- 1 package powdered Sure-Jell pectin (I’m usually a pectin snob, but you know what? We’re making beer jelly here. So screw it).
- 3 1/2 cups sugar
1. Bring canner to a boil. Wash jars and lids. Put lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water with the canner.
2. In a large, non-reactive pot, bring the beer and powdered pectin to a rolling boil. It will be very frothy, that’s normal. Stir in sugar and bring back to a rolling boil. Cook on high heat for two full minutes.
3. Pour hot jelly into jars. It will still be very frothy. I decided to leave a thick layer of foam on top of the jellies to imitate the way dark beer looks in a glass, but you could certainly skim it off with a spoon if you like. I only wanted a little froth on top, so I ladled the jelly into jars and led the air bubbles rise to the top for a few minutes before I screwed the lids on. Wipe rims clean, screw on lids, and process half pint jars for 5 minutes.
4. Crack open another beer, toast some pumpernickel or rye bread, spread on some cream cheese and your new beer jelly, and eat up!