Saturday, March 28, 2015

At Least We're Still Eating

Though there's still between six and 12 inches of snow on the ground in most spots and we're nowhere near ready to plant any spring crops outdoors, we still have plenty of last year's harvest stores to enjoy for dinner. To wit:

Along with filet or perch we had garlic green beans and sweet corn fritters. Despite not having a great green bean harvest last summer, we still had enough frozen beans to last through this long winter. We also still have a good deal of garlic, though some of it is beginning to sprout, which gives it kind of a greenish flavor. 

The corn fritters were made possible by some frozen corn from our bumper crop of sweet corn this summer. These are basically pancakes with corn in them, but fried in a half inch of oil. Kirk made them from a recipe in The Good Housekeeping All-American Cookbook, but there's a very similar recipe here. Just use regular salt and skip the sugar if you use fresh or frozen sweet corn from a farm--that's plenty sweet enough. 

We also found three pears that (full disclosure) we totally forgot about in the crisper drawer of the fridge. You have to chill pears for a few weeks and then let them ripen at room temperature. We got the chilling part down, but then forgot to get them out to ripen.

That meant that the pears weren't exactly prize specimens any more. Two were quite hard; the other was pretty soft (though still intact). Kirk decided to bake them.

There weren't enough for a full galette, so Kirk decided to bake them into a custard tart. He stresses that this was one big experiment, but I thought it was pretty good. The pear flavor was nice and bright, and their texture was fine. Here's how he made it (adjusted to include a few things learned in said experiment).

Start with an ordinary, homemade pie crust in a shallow tart pan. Blind bake it for 15-20 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 eggs, 1 cup of milk, 1 tsp. cornstarch, 1/4 tsp. vanilla and 1/8 tsp. almond extract. Mix well, until eggs are well beaten, and set aside.

Peel, core, and thinly slice pears. Spread evenly on bottom of the pre-baked pastry shell and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Pour the custard over the pears.

Bake at 400 degree for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes or until custard is set. Cool thoroughly before serving; refrigerate any leftovers.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

So Many Seedlings

It occurs to me that my last post was a little depressing, what with all the broken glass and hail. Things really aren't all that bad. Despite the way this winter insists on hanging around, we have a lot of new growth on our seed-starting shelf:

Four whole trays of onions and leeks are getting bigger each day. They have their secondary leaves now and have been fertilized once already with some nutrient-rich aquarium water.

These are brand new salad seedlings, which include arugula, spinach, lettuce and beets for greens. These germinated quickly, but will need to ride out several more weeks indoors until the cold frame soil warms up. The weather the past few days has not been helpful in this department as lows have been in the teens. We also need to replace some glass on the cold frames to trap the heat they'll need to survive, so we're not expecting fresh salads any time soon.

Our cabbage and broccoli seedlings are looking really good this year. This weekend they should be ready to start hardening off, provided we have afternoon temperatures above freezing. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

If You Don't Like The Weather...

…just wait a minute. 

Or so the saying goes about the fickle New England weather.

Trouble is, I was enjoying the weather this afternoon, and didn't need a change, thank you very much. Tiegan and I took a walk after school and had a lovely time: balmy breezes, warm(ish) sunshine, pleasant conversation. About a block from home, though, it started to sprinkle.

By the time we got home, it was lightly raining. No big deal. 

I went to check the sap buckets, and they were overflowing thanks to the warm afternoon. I was getting a little wet while I transferred the sap to the big buckets, and since we had so much, I had to get another one to of the basement, wash it out, and dig some more holes in our snowbank/refrigeration system:

Just as I was sliding that last bucket into place, an icy gust of wind nearly knocked me over.

And then I was pelted in the face with a barrage of hail.


The temperature dropped like a stone: 20 degrees in just a couple hours, and it's still falling. The arctic blast also caught our cold frame:

So now we're out another window covering, since this one is all smashed. 

This all feels like a big step backwards, despite spring being just a couple days away. Harumph.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The New Maple Sugaring Set Up

With just a few warm(ish) days, the snow pack has melted significantly since Kirk first dug out a place for the fire pit on the patio back in February:

And, as you can see, Kirk set up the fire pit and our evaporator system to start boiling sap today. Last year we used any old bricks we had lying around for the floor, but today Kirk bought some fire bricks for an upgrade:

Now the cinderblock box has a fireproof floor to protect the patio and an inner wall to protect the cinderblocks. It makes the area for firewood smaller, but I think it's better insulated, so it produces just as much heat.

This is normally a weekend project, but Kirk had off today, so he decided to get a jump on boiling our first 7 gallons of sap before more sleet and snow arrive over the weekend.

We cannot catch a break on the weather.

Despite the fact that it is still most definitely winter, we're slowly but surely getting our spring projects underway. As I write this, the sap is on the cusp of becoming syrup and is now in a big pot on the stove to finish the job (a thermometer and better temperature control is important, as explained here). The fire outside is down to embers, and we are getting ready for chicken soup and dumplings. All stock pots have been enlisted and the house is pleasantly steamy and aromatic. 

We'll jar up the syrup tomorrow and be ready for pancakes on Sunday!