Monthly Archives: June 2011

A Day of Firsts

First sunflower opened.

First black swallowtail caterpillar.

First summer harvest.

Today was a good day indeed.

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Filed under Micro-farming, The Critters

Pickled Garlic Scapes

In case you haven’t noticed I’ve been on a garlic scape binge for the past week or so.  I’ve been searching the interwebs high and low, hunting and gathering all recipes featuring their use.  In addition to adding scapes to sautéed veggie medleys I’ve made bean dip, salted herbs, pesto, and now I’ve pickled them!

Dilly Scapesadapted from Ball’s Blue Book of Canning Dilly Bean recipe

6-7 bunches of garlic scapes cut into 4 1/2″ segments (the flower pods and curly sections were reserved for freezing and sauteing)

1/4 cup pickling salt

2-1/2 cups white vinegar

2-1/2 cups water

1 tsp cayenne pepper, divided

6 cloves of garlic, sliced in half and divided (obviously not necessary since scapes are garlic, but I like to snack on pickled garlic too!)

4 tsp dill seed, divided

2 tsp whole peppercorns, divided

Combine salt, vinegar and water in a large pot and bring to a boil.  In hot sterilized pint jars add 3 slices of garlic, 1/2 tsp peppercorns, 1 tsp dill seed and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper to each jar; pack garlic scapes into jars lengthwise.  Ladle hot liquid over scapes, leaving 1/4” headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust two-piece caps to finger-tip tight.  Process pints 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.  Yields 4 pints.

The brine will take several weeks to develop so I won’t open a jar till mid July, which at that time my beans should be about ready.  If I like the recipe I will use it for dilly beans as well!

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Filed under Boiling-Water Bath Canning, Pickling, Vegetarian

Garlic Scape Pesto

I’m a sucker for pesto: basil, cilantro, walnuts, or pine nuts, doesn’t much matter because I love it all!  So just imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon one made from garlic scapes.  :)

Garlic Scape Pestoadapted from the Washington Post

2 cup garlic scapes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

2/3 cup walnuts

1-1/2 cups olive oil

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1 tsp salt

black pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor combine scapes and walnuts, puree until smooth.  Slowly drizzle olive oil into the bowl and continue to process ’til well incorporated.  Transfer to a medium bowl, add parm, salt, and pepper.  Add to cooked pasta, sautéed vegetables, omelets, mashed potatoes, or spread on pizza as a substitute for red sauce!  Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for a year… if it lasts that long!

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Filed under Spices & Sauces, Vegetarian

Les Herbes Salées

Salt as a means of food preservation is one of the oldest methods still being practiced.  Egyptians used salt during the mummification process as well as in food storage, and throughout much of history salt was considered more precious than gold!  Salted herbs are very popular, especially in French Canadian cuisine.  Wanting to reconnect with a bit of my heritage (kind of obvious with a name like Danielle Renee, never mind the fact my grandfather dropped the “s” from our name because it sounded too French.  Dude, you are French.) I thought it would be a fun way to preserve some of this year’s garlic scapes.  Obviously this is not a technique I will be practicing very often.

Salt preservation works by drawing out the moisture from the fresh herbs creating a brine; this environment becomes inhospitable to harmful organisms, such as bacteria and fungus, causing dehydration through osmosis.  This pint jar will last me several years and since I rarely consume anything processed or traditionally canned my sodium intake is very low, so it all balances out.  Besides it’s not like I’m going to be sprinkling it on my morning granola!

Salted Herbs

1/4 cup pickling salt for every 1 cup fresh herbs

In a clean mason jar alternate layers of chopped herbs and salt, starting and ending with salt.  Set in a cool dry place for a month while the brine develops.  Use as needed.

Once my herbs mature a bit more I may create a blend with rosemary, basil, chives, parsley, oregano and celery.  I thought it would be a nice way to flavor soups, veggies and stews.

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BEHOLD! The awesomeness of dehydrated strawberries.

I introduced Cecelia to dehydrated strawberries last week; as soon as that glorious flavor hit her taste buds her eyes enlarged, she raised her brow and that little hand went back into the jar for more!  “Pretty awesome, huh Cece?”  She smiled and nodded back in silence.  Those little chewy bites of fruit have the ability to magically transport you to a whole other plane of existence.  Yeah, they really are that good!

Strawberries can be dehydrated in various ways: I use my food dehydrator but they can also be placed in a very low-heat oven for several hours.  It may be faster to use an oven, however, I’m sure that method uses more energy.

Dehydrated Strawberries

strawberries, washed hulled and halved (if your berries are very large you may need to quarter them)

1/2 c honey

1/2 c sugar

1 1/2 c boiling water

Bring water to a boil, remove from heat and add sugar; stir until dissolved.  Allow simple syrup to cool a bit (5 minutes) then add honey; stir to incorporate.  Dip sliced berries into fruit pretreatment solution (see bottom of page for various methods) then place on a tray in a single layer.  Be sure your berries are not touching one another.

Place your dehydrator on the recommended fruit/veggie setting, mine is 135°F (I usually set it for just above that temperature).  Since strawberries are mainly composed of water it takes a while for them to finish, usually 8-12 hours.  Once the berries become flat and almost leathery they are done.

Remove from trays and store in an air-tight container.  Try to not eat them all that first day!

Fruit pretreatment is not required but it helps to maintain dried fruits top quality.  Some fruits like apples, peaches and apricots will rapidly oxidize and turn brown once they are exposed to the air.  There are various methods for pre-treating fruit: mix 1 tsp absorbic acid (or 3000 mg vit. C tablets, crushed) with 2 cups water  and soak fruit for 3-5 minutes, make a dip by mixing 1 cup honey, 1 cup water and the juice of one lemon, or make a simple syrup with sugar and honey as I did.

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Garden Growth: Mid June

I’m having a hard time accepting the reality that summer is just a few short days away!  Um, pardon me, Father Time?  Would you mind slowing things down just a bit?  You see, I’d like to savor these last few days of Spring because once Summer rolls in my mind automatically jumps ahead to begin preparations for Fall.   And with these thoughts of Fall I’m painfully reminded that winter is right around the corner.  See, it’s not even Summer and already I’m thinking of Winter!  UGH!  Sometimes I really hate the way my brain works!

But enough about the neurotic workings of my cerebral cortex, lets focus on the task at hand: bringing you up to speed on the progress of this year’s garden(s)!  Last night I spent another 2 hours mulching the garden.  No, I’m still not done with that project.  But in my defense I’ve got a lot of ground to cover!  I’d say about 90% is done, I still have some planting to do and it is senseless to cover an area that I am just going to have to reopen for seeds.  Plus, I tend to get lost in thought; several times I caught myself standing there contemplating crop rotation, succession plantings, and trellis placement.  Forethought is essential to maximizing crop yields and pest prevention, especially when you grow organically!  Or at least that is my excuse for perpetual garden daydreaming! :)

You may want to stand back, for I shall now open the photo floodgate!

 Excuse my weeds, I have yet to properly mulch this end since I will be ripping out the peas and trellises over the next few days.  My sugar snaps are working on their grand finale, and after one more thorough sweep through the golden sweet peas I’ll pull them.

Towards the back you can see the golden sweet peas leaning into the bush peas.  After my third horizontal garden incident I gave up.  If it were earlier in the season I would have fixed it (again), but since I’m pulling them in a few days why bother.  The bush peas are still producing but I’m not sure for how much longer.  This was my first year growing this variety and honestly I’m just not all that impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, they are yummy, but I think I prefer both the look and taste of trellised sugar snaps.

Next to the bush peas are two mini rows of carrots, behind that are a few heads of flame lettuce, other wise referred to as “clown head”.  :)  Then there are the brassicas.  So far I’ve harvested about 5 smallish crowns from the green sprouting broccoli.  The violetto cauliflower and romanesco broccoli have done nothing, and I’m assuming they probably won’t due to the rapid increase in temperature we experienced a few weeks back.  Brassicas hate the heat and it went from April to July during the end of May beginning of June.

After I harvest the crown I pull the plants.  If it were earlier in the season or Fall I’d keep them for the small offshoots, but I need the space since most of my cucurbits will be transplanted here.

You can see on the left side of the picture where I’ve begun pulling plants.  The dark areas were mulched last night.  Those four green spots towards the middle are celery and behind that are a few short rows of beets and carrots.  Next are Brussels sprouts, again not too hopeful on a harvest, and behind that is Swiss chard.  Then starts the tomatoes!

This is the same picture as above just taken from the other side.  One the left is the Swiss chard, the open patch is four rows of newly sown french breakfast radish seeds; I’m planning on pickling them.  Next are Detroit dark red beets; I started harvesting those and the cylinder beets (hidden in the pea rows) last Wednesday.  My mom and niece had stopped by that evening so I showed Cecelia how to pull beets and then sent a bunch home with my mom.

My first beet harvest of the season.

L-R Cream Sausage (the first to mature, I’ve harvested 4 so far) then it’s Amish paste, hillbilly, Cherokee purple and finally green zebra.  I’m hoping to have staggered them enough so that they are don’t mature at once, but I doubt it!

Hillbilly tomatoes

On the left are purple tomatillos, then ground/husk cherries (my first year growing both).  I’m planning on starting more ground cherries later today.  I knew they were small but had no idea they were tiny!  I’d like to can some and with just two plants I don’t think they will produce enough…especially since the ones that have ripened never make it out of the garden! hehehe  After the cherries is a row of red swan beans and beets (too small to see).

Purple Tomatillo

Red Swan Beans

I’ve decided to try things a little differently this year in hopes to not have everything ready for harvest/canning all at once.  Next week I will be calculating harvest dates and putting in my “canning” beans, carrots and beets.  Hopefully by the time they reach maturity I will have the bulk of my tomatoes canned, sauced and salsafied!

You can barely see them but at the bottom center are my Boston pickling cucumbers .  I’m hoping I got them into the ground late enough so I don’t have another attack of bacterial wilt like last year!  What a mess that turned out to be!!

Malbar spinach, although technically it’s not spinach, it is a tropical perennial that tastes just like spinach.  It is part of my edible landscaping, which will vine up the arbor next to my roses.

Chinese five color peppers.  Another new variety I’m growing this year.  I have a bed of peppers and eggplants but this is the only one doing anything worth photographing!

My front side yard where I ripped out the ivy to create more growing space.  I have two rows of onions, cipollini and red, alongside my Russian red and scotch blue curled kale.  Towards the back are patty pan squash.

I have more squash varieties and onions in another bed but the onions have not broken ground so I didn’t take any pictures.  I also have basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, cilantro and a few others scattered about the property.  I ended up running out of light so I’ll have to photograph them later.  However, I think this post is more than enough to tide you over till my next garden growth post! :)

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Food Feature: Garlic Scapes

Garlic, a member of the allium family, comes in two forms: hardneck and softneck.  Hardneck varieties will develop something called a scape, softnecks will not.  When the scapes grow tall and form a pod they are cut off to redirect the plant’s energy back into the bulb and not into producing a flower.

Scapes, which resemble that of a pig’s curly tail, are edible and taste just like garlic, only more mild.  Typically you can find them at farmers’ markets towards the end of Spring.  Over the past few years scapes have been gaining in popularity (as they should!), however their season is short, like blink and you miss it, short!  Whenever this curly green edible oddity is found at market people seem to gravitate towards it asking “what is that? AND what in the world do you do with it?”  Those same customers would return the following weekend raving over their scape purchase wanting more.  By then their time had passed.  Like I said, blink and you miss them!

If you are fortunate enough to stumble upon garlic scapes, buy them!  All of them.  I stocked up this year (so prepare yourselves for a slew of recipes!) and have been eating them daily.  Typically I toss them into a veggie medley of snap peas, broccoli, and kale.   A friend found a bean dip recipe featuring scapes and shared it with me.  I’m so glad she did because it is awesome!  I made a few personal adjustments and doubled the recipe.  For the past three days I’ve been enjoying it slathered on the fresh-baked baguettes I made Sunday morning!  Delish!!

Northern Bean and Garlic Scape Dipadapted from sauced

4 cups great northern beans, cooked (I used the pressure cooker I scored at the second-hand shop during last month’s travels.  2 cups of dried beans + 8 cups of water and a splash of olive oil processed for 25 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure = 4 cups of cooked beans)

2/3 cup garlic scapes, chopped

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/8 cup olive oil

2 tbsp lime juice

3 tbsp water

1 tsp coarse salt, I used alaea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste, I used a peppercorn medley

handful of fresh basil, chopped  I was originally going to use cilantro (hence the lime juice) but it is now coriander, so I went with basil.

Puree scapes with lime juice and salt in a food processor; add beans and basil, puree again.  Slowly drizzle oils into processor, add water by the tablespoon until desired dip consistency is achieved.  Spread on toasted bread, crackers, or pita chips and sprinkle a bit of course salt and pepper on top. Enjoy!

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Filed under Food Feature, Vegan, Vegetarian

Apple Rhubarb Chutney

I’ve been exploiting rhubarb every which way from Sunday!  After making three different batches of jam, I thought I’d move onto chutney!

Apple Rhubarb Chutney  from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving

4 C diced pealed cored apples, treated to prevent browning (I used a mix of Ambrosia and Braeburn)

4 C sugar

2 C rhubarb

1/2 C water

grated zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 C dried cranberries

1 Tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 Tsp ground nutmeg

In a large stainless steel sauce pan, combine apples, sugar, rhubarb, water and lemon zest and juice.  Bring to a hard boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.  Add cranberries, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Boil gently, stirring frequently, until thick enough to mound on a spoon.

Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles; wipe rim, center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger-tip tight.

Submerge in a BWB canner and process for 10  minutes (or your recommended altitude time).  Remove from canner, place on a wire rack, and allow seals to set and to cool for 12-24 hours.

I ended up grilling a piece of chicken (yes, you read that right: chicken) for dinner last night and slathered some on top.  It was awesome!!

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Filed under Boiling-Water Bath Canning, Chutney, Vegan, Vegetarian

Changing things because I can!

Did you know that June 9th is National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day?  I won’t lie, I’m very fond of pie, it ranks right up there with my love for cake.  The problem is if I bake a pie, I’m going to eat a pie.  The entire pie.  But (probably) not all in one sitting (hopefully)!

Since I’ve never been one to conform to the norm, I’m changing things around; from here on out, June 9th will now be known as Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam Day!  So there you have it.  Happy Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam Day everyone!!  (And if it just so happens that another day is already reserved for Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam Day, than celebrate we shall, twice!)

Strawberry-rhubarb jam on fresh-baked strawberry bread!

Low Sugar Strawberry-Rhubarb Jama melding of Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving and Sure-Jell low sugar pectin jam recipes 

2 cups crushed hulled strawberries

2 cups chopped rhubarb

4 tbsp lemon juice

1 pkg Sure-Jell low sugar/no sugar pectin

4 cups sugar

In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan combine strawberries, rhubarb, and lemon juice.  In a small bowl combine pectin with 1/2 cup sugar, whisk into fruit mixture until dissolved.  Bring to a boil over hight heat, stirring frequently.  Add remaining sugar and bring back to a hard rolling boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles; wipe rim and center lid on jar.  Screw band on until fingertip-tight.  Submerge jars in canner (be sure the water level is covering the lids), cover and process in boiling water for 10 minutes (or your current altitude recommended time).  Remove canner lid; wait 5 minutes, then remove jars.  Allow to cool on a wire rack, undisturbed for 12-24 hours.  Remove bands and store.

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Filed under Boiling-Water Bath Canning, Jam & Jelly, Vegan, Vegetarian

Strawberry Bread

I have a confession to make; I suffer from seasonal gluttony disorder, especially when it comes to strawberries!  I just can’t help myself, I have to put them in everything.  All the time!  I’m also guilty of squirreling them away, whether they’re frozen, in assorted jams, or dehydrated!

Sunday I noticed I had quite a few over-ripe bananas in my kitchen, so I thought banana nut bread.  Then my seasonal gluttony kicked in and I immediately switched gears from bananas to strawberries.

I used a basic bread recipe and gave it a complete overhaul; what I ended up with were two very dense, moist, almost dessert-like loaves of bread.   Then add a slathering of my strawberry-rhubarb jam and it was dessert!!

Strawberry Bread

2 C mashed strawberries, frozen or fresh

1/4 C oat bran

1/4 C flax seed meal

1-1/2 C all-purpose flour

1 C whole wheat flour

1-1/3 C raw sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1/4 C sunflower oil

1/4 C coconut oil

1/4 C apple sauce

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 Tsp vanilla extract

1 Tsp cinnamon

1 Tsp baking soda

1 Tsp salt

1 C chopped walnuts (which I totally spaced on and didn’t realize until the loaf pans were in the oven)

In a medium bowl, combine strawberries, orange juice, vanilla, and 1/3 C sugar; mix and set aside to allow the strawberries to release their juices.  In a large bowl, combine flours, flax meal, oat bran, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt; whisk to incorporate.  Make a large well in dry ingredients and add strawberry mixture, oils, apple sauce, eggs, and remaining sugar; stir well, add walnuts, stir again.  Pour into two well-greased loaf pans (I use spectrum shortening) and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for 50 minutes or until a toothpick can be inserted into the loaf and comes out clean.  Remove bread from pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

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