Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

A Favorite Way to Preserve Zucchini

One of my favorite cookbooks is “My Calabria” by Rosetta Constantino with Janet Fletcher. A favorite cookbook is one I want to read, which draws me into the author’s world, tell stories that are relevant to the food it presents, and provides context for recipes. […]

2019 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia. Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts and a Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches 2019 is shaping up to be a very intense year for honey. Winter ended mild with no late frost; temperatures and rainfall for […]

Strawberry Mousse Forever

Strawberry Mousse Forever

The strawberry mousse is one of of those desserts that is so simple, so utterly reliant on the goodness of strawberries that it is either spectacular… or a total let down when made with sub-par strawberries. In which latter case, no doctoring can make it taste good. So! Select local fragrant completely ripe strawberries either those you’ve grown, you pick at a pick-your-own operation, or you purchase at a true farmers’ market. If you can smell the fragrance of a few quarts of berries a couple of feet away, those are the right berries for this dessert. Otherwise, pass and make chocolate mousse instead.

You may certainly serve the mousse in a clear glass, with or without strawberry coulis or fresh berries. With or without brownies crumbs at the bottom. with or without strawberry gelatin: make a little more of the strawberry/gelatin mixture than needed and use it at the bottom (and/or the top of) the mousse. But wait! it’s so much more versatile. You can also:

  • freeze it it a loaf pan (lined with parchment for easy removal), and slice before serving for a semi-freddo type of dessert. Add a few marinated strawberries and their juice to finish the plate, and maybe a small scoop of dark chocolate ganache.
  • pour in in a graham cracker crust (especially one made with chocolate crackers), let set and pipe rosettes of freshly whipped creme fraiche or minty whipped cream just before serving.
  • once set, put in a pastry bag, and pipe small amount in chocolate shells for the cutest tartelettes.

And the best part? When you have an abundance of strawberries (such as after a visit to a PYO), you can freeze berries in pre-measured quantities, so all you have to do is thaw and puree. Or better yet, which is what I do, is puree, and freeze the puree in measured amount. So, I can actually make this dessert year around with superior strawberries. I just won’t have fresh strawberries to garnish it. But you know, in February…. I can deal with that. There is something very satisfying with strawberry mousse that tastes of last May when still in the grip of winter but the cusp of spring.

Strawberry Mousse

Recipe based on Strawberry Mousse with Kirsch recipe by Faye Levy in her book “Dessert Sensations Straight From France”.

  • 1.5 lb (675 g) strawberries
  • 1 packet gelatin powder (7 g)
  • 1/2 Cup of water (125 ml)
  • 2/3 Cup sugar (135 g)
  • 1 Cup whipping cream, very cold (250 ml)
  1. Wash, hull, and trim strawberries. Puree in blender until very smooth. Weigh and reserve 375 g for the recipe. Save the rest, if any, for another use such as coulis or strawberry gelatin to garnish of the mousse (see pix) (or adjust recipe to make more)
  2. Sprinkle gelatin on 1/4 C (65 ml) cold water and let it get soft about 5 minutes.
  3. Bring sugar and remaining water to boil in a small sauce pan. Boil 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Thoroughly whisk in the softened gelatin. Let rest a few minutes. Then whisk the gelatin in the strawberry puree, constantly whisking to ensure the gelatin is well mixed. Strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any possible lumps.
  4. Set the bowl in a larger bowl of cold (not iced) water, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken but is not set – maybe 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whip cream until firm. Fold into strawberry mixture.
  6. Chill in a large bowl (it will take longer) or individual glasses for at least 4 hours before serving.

Roasted Strawberry Ice-cream

Roasted Strawberry Ice-cream

I picked 42 lbs of strawberries at Green Truck Farms earlier this week. Granted 10 lbs went to Chef John MacPhearson and his hyper seasonal and really excellent restaurant Three Blacksmiths, and 4 lbs went to friends. That still leaves me 28 lbs. 10 lbs […]

Le Temps Des Conserves (My preservation calendar)

I am fairly serious about preserving food. In fact a few years ago, there was an article about me in the local newspaper.  Kay Beatty wrote it and took the pictures. There is a rhythm to it, throughout the year. One does not built a […]

It snows in March

It snows in March

We are all tired of the grayness and wetness that has been our unusual lot in the Virginia northern Piedmont over the last year. Our winter has not been particularly cold, the temperatures dipped below 10F ( -12C) only a few times, and briefly at that. But it has been grey, cloudy, foggy even when not raining or snowing – with too few sunny clear crisp days – and so it seems this winter is never going to end. Wet snow fell yesterday March 8 on ground already saturated.

Still… looking back at the last few years, snow in mid-March is pretty common.

March 18, 2013

March 6, 2014

March 8, 2015

March 2016.

No snow that I can tell the entire month. In fact so warm that we had good looking garlic on march 2, lunch on the porch on March 9, daffodils in full bloom March 16

March 2017: I did not keep good records!

March 21, 2018

A cold dry gray winter. Light snow the first day of spring, March 21. but forced forsythia blooming on March 15

Chilled Sorrel Soup

Chilled Sorrel Soup

French (or garden) sorrel is a super hardy perennial potherb with a bright pleasant tartness. It grows in my unheated hoop house even in the harshest  winters providing refreshingly tart leaves for our winter salads. It is one of the first vegetables I harvest outside: […]

2018  Honey Harvest

2018 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia. [by Keith Rowand] Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts and a Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches 2017 might have been a special year for honey; our harvest was about 900 pounds for 30 colonies. In 2018, […]

Honeybee Colony Record Keeping

Hive notes on a split colony
Hive notes on a split colony

The one tool I carry whenever I go to the bee yard is a Sharpie permanent marker.

As a “sideliner” beekeeper, I’m responsible for about 25 colonies.

A simple method for keeping track of colony health using a sharpie and spiral notebook.
A simple method for keeping track of colony health using a sharpie and spiral notebook.

There is no way I can remember all the details and needs of each colony, so recordkeeping and a system for reminders is essential. The basic tool for my system is a sharpie and the back side of each colonies bottom hive body.

Logged notes for 26 colonies, their health, and special needs.
Logged notes for 26 colonies, their health, and special needs.

A spiral notebook and highlighters complete the supplies.

On the back of each colony I make note of the age and source of the queen, a dated ‘score’ for Bees-Honey-Queen, varroa counts, and any other bit of information I think useful. As soon as I complete an inspection or chore on a colony, I pull out the sharpie and write down anything relevant. As part of post-work cleanup in any beeyard, I copy my notes into the spiral notebook.

Here’s my system. (more…)

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Wrapping in Northern Virginia

Wrapping colonies for winter is a THING. Some beekeepers wrap, some don’t. Catalogs and magazines have advertisements for wrapping products and even heaters. Before wrapping, the number one question a beekeeper has to address ‘WHAT IS WINTER LIKE HERE?’ Winter in Georgia is different from […]