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Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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  1. Not just the tomatoes--the entire plant turns black and collapses into mush. So I have to grow them in pots at the south-facing edge of the portal to keep them out of the majority of the rain. Seems to work, but planting them out in the full-sun garden would be much better. But short of a temporary greenhouse type structure, I'm stuck with growing in pots. And we do have some pretty heavy hail during thunderstorms...
  2. Clearly more research is in order. In any case due to the coronavirus I'm not going to be driving to Santa Clara any time soon, so there's an opportunity for due diligence. I know that the artisans work the copper in a wood fire, which doesn't get hot enough to melt it. If I want to cook down the jam it will just take longer, and for the one jelly (chile perón, also know as chile manzana) that requires pectin I know that I have to boil the mixture to above 200, which at 7200 feet isn't easy. I don't think I'd melt the copper, though it might distort a little. Thanks, everyone.
  3. I looked at the Mauviel website and saw copper pans identical to what I can buy in Santa Clara, down to the riveted handles. Amazing--but further proof that good designs exist everywhere. I have used a stainless pan with a copper pad but that's as close as I've gotten to actually cooking in a copper vessel. Any tips about managing the heat? The copper is much thinner than my big pan and I worry about scorching the jam.
  4. I have been hearing about using copper vessels for making jam and jelly. Is there an advantage over conventional stainless pans? I live very close to Santa Clara del Cobre, where what seems like the entire population is engaged in either making or selling all kinds of copper products, from small decorative pieces to huge kettles for making carnitas and everything in between . So I could easily convert from my traditional cookware--stainless--to copper if there's a real advantage. Thanks for your advice/ideas.
  5. Back in Salida, Colorado the saying was, "Don't plant tomatoes until all the snow is off Methodist Mountain." Turns out there's a little bitty crevasse that holds the snow longer than the rest of the mountain. I got caught by that once because we couldn't see the crevasse from our house. You had to go into town to see it. Timing is vital when you're trying to get a jump on a short growing season.
  6. Does anyone remember Henry Mitchell? He wrote a gardening column ("Earthman") for the Washington Post for many years (he passed away in 1993, while dividing iris, as I recall) that I discovered by accident when we were in DC for several weeks in 1983. Crusty old dude, very opinionated and ultimately totally charming. He wrote The Essential Earthman, which I've given to many of my gardening friends. I wonder if it's still in print? His focus was primarily ornamentals though he did dabble in vegetables from time to time. From him I learned to be less timid--you don't like that plant? Tear it out and replace it with something you do like. That silver maple blocking all the sun from your garden? Cut it down (he hated silver maples). And he had very strong opinions about roses. I think I'll look for my copy of the book and spend some quality time with it. We're in full gardening mode now--because of the virus we pay our gardener to stay safely at home, so we're on the hook for all the watering and pruning, sweeping up of leaves, etc. (We have no shortage of compost material.) And we planted vegetables for the first time in 10 years, in large heavy plastic troughs. I gardened for 29 years in Colorado, at 7200 feet, which made it very hard to get tomatoes to finish. Interestingly we now live at the same altitude in Pátzcuaro, but because we're much farther south I don't have to worry about late and early freezes like I struggled with in Colorado. The rainy season is tricky--tomatoes planted out in the open turn black by mid-July after days of rain, and cloudy skies keep some things from maturing normally. But I don't care--I can do this year-round! I've just signed up for the AWayToGarden newsletter, to get more inspiration now that we're doing our own gardening for as long as the virus, and our energy, lasts. And I'll look for her contributions in the Times.
  7. Your episode, Smithy, with the freezer eruption reminded me of the time we were driving our Class B van to a birthday party in the mountains (this was when we still lived in Colorado). I had made a cake (Marcella Hazan's Fresh Pear Tart, p.589 in Essentials) in a 10-x14 Pyrex baking dish and stashed it in the fridge. These refrigerators are half-sized and are placed under the counter or microwave about a couple of inches off the floor. (You have no idea how much I covet your fridge and freezer...) The road was a typical curvy mountain road, and at one particularly tight left curve the refrigerator door popped open and the cake launched itself across the floor and ended up at the foot of the door. Along with several other things, none of which was as important as the cake. No broken dish, just a slightly mussed up cake. After the party we drove directly to a hardware store to buy one of those slide locks and installed it on the door, which you might consider for your fridge. Latching it is now on my departure checklist. By the way, that's a wonderful cake. I've made it so many times the book falls open at that page. I make a streusel topping with pine nuts that kind of fancies-up the cake. Oh, and I add a tsp. of almond extract to the batter, which enhances the pear flavor, I find. Hazan comments that this cake is so simple that only an active campaign of sabotage could ruin it. That's my kind of cake!
  8. Around here in the campo the locals plant the three sisters in their fields. These are all local varieties, even the corn, with seeds saved from the previous season. The squash is a very large acorn-type with dry flesh that rambles around the corn stalks, and the beans use the corn for support. At the end of the season the harvest provides just about everything folks need over the winter. In many ways they're better supplied than we are. Right about now the corn is starting to sprout and the other 2 can't be far behind. Soon the rains will start and the countryside will turn bright green. By the way, all local native varieties are generally called "Criollo," which includes corn, beans, squash, avocado (the favored Hass variety is grafted onto Criollo rootstock). This is very heartwarming for an old seed saver like me.
  9. The governor of our state, Michoacán, just ordered a lock down. Masks are obligatory, though I'm afraid to say I think most people are not complying. My husband and I have masks that we wear whenever we leave the house. Today, however, we took the dog for an outing--a lot of running around for her, a nice walk in the country for us--without masks. Whether we can do that in future weeks remains to be seem. Clearly the governor doesn't have a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois mix on his hands. This dog need exercise. I don't know if the governor's decree allows for exercising a young dog. I guess we'll find out. But we allowed some liberties--in the case of buying food we are still allowed to shop, of course. I will avoid the mercado, which I dearly love, because it's too crowded for social distancing purposes. Produce is available in the neighborhood, and sometimes the larger grocery stores have OK produce, but protein remains an issue. My husband bought 2 chicken breasts on the bone yesterday that I'll prepare tomorrow, but the quality isn't what I have been accustomed to buy in the mercado from my regular vendor (a family--mom, daughter, son). We shop at Costco in Morelia for the kinds of things--goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, bags of lemons (rare here), arrachera (skirt steak), big flats of portabello mushrooms, among others--that we can't find here or with better quality than the local fare. In the case of the arrachera, Costco's is a great deal better than the best from my favorite carnecería. For years we avoided Costco but finally succumbed. Oddly enough, when panic buying started in the US (and here), our Costco had mountains of toilet paper. Every end cap was floor to ceiling. Paper towels, however, and wipes were nowhere to be seen. We're going tomorrow and I hope they will have restocked. The problem I'm having is how boring the food I'm preparing is. I have half a ton of various beans and a good supply of pasta, but I am having trouble making meals from them. I read recipes from people who seem not to have noticed that there's a pandemic going on, and while I acknowledge that it's a form of entertainment to read those recipes it makes me sad. We've planted a vegetable garden, but that will take time to mature (although the spinach is growing nicely). So I guess what I'm saying is that I sympathize with everyone's struggles to get food. We won't starve, but we may die of boredom.
  10. Many years ago I had a recipe that used no-boil lasagna sheets for the pasta. Make the filling, make the sauce, hydrate the pasta sheets, roll up, cover with sauce and bake. Like egg roll wrappers but thicker, as I recall. The beauty part of the noodles is that they wait for you in the pantry until you're ready, and if you only want to serve one or two people you can quickly put together dinner. Unlike egg roll wrappers, which have a shelf life. I have some in the pantry, and I think I might try this again--if I can get some of the ingredients for the filling, which is problematic these days.
  11. Just returned from the mercado and can report that, at least for the moment, everything seems normal. A few empty spaces where normally there have been vendors, but otherwise as usual. Whether this will continue remains to be seen. But in any case I'm confident that we will be able to find fresh ingredients. I think México is just at the beginning of the outbreak, so we'll have to keep an eye on how things progress. And we're well supplied with toilet paper (and Nutella). N.
  12. We went to the Costco in Morelia this morning. At 10:30 the parking lot wasn't very full, but inside the store was another story. Fortunately the store had an ample supple of toilet paper--mountains of it--which was a good thing, because people were loading up. A few gringos but mostly Mexican. Overflowing shopping carts, ours included. I had a list of nonperishables so as to lay in a supply, but most of my fresh food I'll get in our mercado. This assumes that the vendors will have something to sell. Vamos a ver (we shall see). I really don't know how that big jar of Nutella ended up in our cart this morning. There has been very little information from the Mexican government about the spread of the virus. I see people in the street wearing masks, but that's not unusual here--people wear masks when they're sick and nobody thinks it's strange. Given how much Mexicans mistrust their government, I imagine the number of cases will be vastly under reported. Tomorrow I'm going to the mercado to see what the impact on the local food supply has been. I've been out of touch with a broken wrist (which makes typing a challenge) and haven't gone food shopping for several weeks. I need a good supply of beans, some fruit and vegs, shrimp for the freezer (butter poached shrimp is on the menu for next week), a couple of chicken breasts. N.
  13. We use an AeroPress--delicious coffee and simple cleanup. Much easier than the French Press, too. N.
  14. Specifically, what to do with the little bits of nutmeg after you've grated most of it. There's a point when I don't want to risk the skin on my fingers and I just grab a new piece, but now I have a collection of little pointy bits of perfectly good nutmeg. Any ideas? Maybe embed them in sugar the way you'd do with a truffle in rice? Nancy
  15. I agree--she's clearly proud of her ponche. I especially loved at the end when she said that a little tequila or what they add in the countryside, "pikete," would be good. I'm not sure what that is--sounds dangerous! She was fearless while peeling and cutting the caña (sugar cane). I intend to buy it already peeled because I have less confidence in my knife skills than she has. There are huge amounts of sugar cane in the mercado, in 10-foot lengths, that are being sawn into smaller chunks on a table saw. Naturally there is plenty of protection for the operator (ha!). Also in the mercado are generous amounts of forest moss (harvested locally) and mountains of Spanish moss, which are used to decorate a wood-framed creche populated by plastic animals and the Holy Family. And strings of twinkling lights have migrated south from the US. More and more of our neighbors have decorated their houses with lights. Given that electricity is expensive here, it's a good thing that someone invented LEDs! Last night we attended a group posada, though it was a day early--they officially start tonight, on the 16th and go to the 24th. This was more than the usual posada, in that it included all parts of our colonia (larger than a neighborhood). There was a sound system blaring at top volume, tables and chairs in the street (blocking it, of course), and lots of food. Chicken tinga (my weakness), guacamole, vegetable salads, lots of ponche, soft drinks and something extra from various hip flasks (mezcal). Other neighbors, opting to have a more personal, definitely quieter, evening, built fires in the street and grouped chairs around them so folks could gossip and enjoy the evening. I saw a bottle of Johnny Walker Red being passed around to add to the ponche. Aguinaldos (bags of candy) were passed out to all comers, not just the kids, and then there was a piñata. The littlest kids go first, and it's really cute to watch them poke feebly at this thing bouncing around on the rope. Older kids get blindfolded and spun around 3 times before they're released to have a try. Sooner or later, after a lot of frustration and laughter, someone gives it a big enough whack to break it and the candy spills out. I always feel sorry for the kid who breaks it because by the time they realize it and take off the blindfold most of the candy has gone to the bystanders.
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