Showing posts from August, 2013

Flower Friday: August 30, 2013

Another kinda lame Flower Friday, but I am on vacation. Instead of vases of flowers that will definitely be dead by the time we get back, here's what the cutting garden looks like in its current, pre-cut state:

Here you can see short marigolds in the front, tall orange cosmos in the back, and some pink zinnias mixed in.

This is from another angle: The cosmos are on the right, with zinnias in the middle and black-eyed Susans to the left. Not much going on here in the way of perennials lately, although I do have some echinacea, salvia, and veronica trying to make a go at a second flowering. I hope so — I don't think there will be much left for September and October unless I pick up some new annuals to round out the fall.

Road Food

We're making our way down the shore for the holiday weekend, and I have packed a lot of garden road food for the trip:

Roughly clockwise from the top, we have cherry tomatoes, cantaloupe slices, strawberries and a few early-ripening grapes, green beans and carrots, peaches and apples, a box of salsa, and more green beans. 
Also, I made sandwiches for the road — we're not a picket-line crossing kind of family (it's Labor Day weekend, y'all), so road food is going to be homemade today:

Cucumber and dill sandwiches and caprese sandwiches with Ukrainian yellow tomatoes. And plain butter bread for Jonas, who inexplicably does not like sandwiches. But with all the snacks above, we should be in good shape!


The kids had their first day of school today — before Labor Day, which is an unfathomable act of cruelty in my book. Since I don't start until next week, I have a couple days to myself this week. I'm trying to wrap up the projects I didn't get to this summer, but I also needed to get through some piles of vegetables to preserve them. After freezing some extra eggplant and okra, I decided to do something with our early apples: 

These are Snow (an heirloom variety on our 4-in-1 tree) and some windfall Galas that are ready early. They are pretty tiny, and some have blemishes (organic growing and all), so I decided just to sauce these up. I only had 1 1/4 pounds of apples, so this is a nice, manageable batch to work with.
First, quarter (or halve, if you have teeny-weeny apples like some of these) apples and remove the stems, and cut out any blemishes if necessary. 
Next, put the apples in a saucepan and add just enough water to keep them from sticking (mine aren't covere…

Brined Pickles: A Follow-Up Report

It occurs to me that I never wrote about how our brined kosher dills turned out. Since I started those back in mid-July, we have made a bunch more fermented pickles. First, a look at how the original batch turned out:

This is what they look like after three weeks of fermenting in the crock. I pulled them out of the crock and gave them a quick rinse, then strained the brine into a pot to boil it. 
(Now, I know that boiling it kills all the good bacteria from the fermentation process, making this no longer a "living food" and blahblahblah. But we don't have enough room in our refrigerator for 10 gallons of pickles chilling in their living brine. Gotta can them, and that means boiling it all up. It doesn't really change the flavor, which is my main purpose here.)
Anyway, after boiling the strained brine, you pack the pickles in hot jars, pour the brine over them, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. 

As you can see, the brine is a bit cloudy. It s…

Flower Friday: August 23, 2013

I have to admit that this week's flower post is seriously lame. The kids are away at camp, and we used the time to finish the walls of our renovation. That is a dirty, dusty, terrible job, and it didn't leave me with much energy for flower arranging. 
And where would I put them? The house is a construction-zone disaster, and I can't even blame the kids.
Anyway, yesterday I went out and cut a handful of snapdragons and some matching zinnias for our bedroom (a safe haven from the dust). By next week the house should be back in our control, with running water and working appliances and everything — including flowers.

Snapdragons and zinnia.

No-Cook Dinner

We busted our asses today to finish the walls of our renovation so that we can have our kitchen back as soon as possible. We should be able to clean everything up by tomorrow night and be back in business for pickling and otherwise preserving all the food that is currently just sitting on the dining room table. This is not to say that our project is done — ha! — but at least we'll be able to use the kitchen while we finish.
In the meantime, though: no cooking. To get any food at all requires peeling back a bunch of dropcloths and digging around to find things we moved to another room. It's not that fun.
Still, we managed a pretty great dinner anyway. It's simple but delicious, because it allows some fresh garden ingredients to shine without much preparation:

Our first cantaloupe was ready today (you can tell they are ripe because they slip from the vine without any resistance), so we picked up some proscuitto to wrap around it — salty-sweet perfection! We also had some ca…

Summer Tarts

The kids are off to camp and the kitchen is closed for business for the next few days while we try to finish the lion's share of our renovation before they get home. Right now everything but the fridge is covered with a drop cloth, and the doors are sealed off in plastic while we finish with joint compound hell on the seams of the drywall. It makes a lot of dust when you sand it, so we'll be eating out for the next couple of days.
We did enjoy a last, easy garden dinner before the shut down, though. Two new veggie tarts:

We've made these on puffpastrybefore, and they are delicious in all seasons. The tart on the left is heirloom tomato (Moskvich and Ukrainian Yellow) with hard mozzarella beneath and basil on top. The tart on the right is Swiss chard with peaches, garlic, and goat cheese. This one is savory despite the bits of sweet peaches, which was a nice change from all of the peach desserts we've had recently. 
These are so good I almost wish we weren't eating…

Groundhog Damage

Earlier this summer, I blamed a baby skunk (and its presumed nearby family) for destroying our broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Despite putting a fence around our brassica bed, we were still losing branches off of those crops:

But not, as you can clearly see in the photo above, any nibbles off the cabbages. What a strange creature! It takes all the trouble to get in around the fencing, and nibbles on less-than-ideal remnants of broccoli and Brussels sprouts while completely ignoring big, beautiful cabbages than are a foot away.
Well, up until earlier this week, that is. That's when, during a stroll to the compost pile, I discovered that A) the skunk had finally sampled a bit of a cabbage, and B) it's not a skunk at all, but a groundhog!
He saw me and ran, giving away his point of entry in the process.

So clearly there's a major weakness in our chicken wire fencing around the "C." The "doorway" to the keyhole just has loose fencing stretched across it, an…

Flower Friday: August 16, 2013

Not too much to choose from right now — just the late-summer annuals are still going strong. The marigolds and zinnias also last pretty long in the vase, so I don't need to replace the bouquets as often. That's good, since I'm busy dealing with peaches, pickles, and tomatoes right now.

Zinnias and hosta leaves.

Brown-eyed Susans, snapdragons, echinacea, and zinnia.

Marigolds and zinnias.

Just Peachy!

Ten days ago I picked our first peaches, and today Kirk and I picked our last ones off of the Reliance tree. We did another round of canning tonight, which leaves us just one last fruit bowl of peaches for the year to eat fresh (well, until the handful of Fingerlakes peaches on our other tree ripen in September). Along the way, we also did some sweet cooking with the peaches. Here are the recipes:
Garden Peach Pie
You don't need to add much when the peaches are perfectly ripe and sweet:

I actually made two peach pies over the past week, and might make a third if we still have enough peaches left by the time the second one is gone!
For the crust, I use Martha Stewart's recipe, which is a great basic. The reason I could stand to make two pies in one week has a lot to do with using our new best kitchen tool to make the crust lickety-split.  While the crust is chilling in the fridge, make the filling. For this you will need:
16 small peaches 1/4 cup rose syrup 2-4 Tbs. sweet cicely

A Year of Corn

Last year, we had very little corn. Between the squirrels and a generalized failure to pollinate thanks to a failed succession-planting scheme, we pretty much got just a couple handfuls of kernels to throw in some salsa.
This year, we have some corn:

The ears are small, and it's just not as much as you'd hope for from 132 square feet of planting area. Each stalk only produced a single ear at the most, and many not even that. I realize that planting corn in a garden is difficult because you really need a big block of it to ensure pollination, but in the Red House we planted just six stalks one year, and got two or three big, fat ears on each one. So it's not impossible.
Next year we'll try a different variety for what could be a last effort at sweet corn.
Yesterday I brought in all the corn that looked even close to ready, since I could see it was starting to be picked at (I presume by squirrels, but it could be birds). Sometimes our defense against critters is lazy, b…

Scenes From a Summer Harvest

You know how traditionally women did certain household chores on certain days? Like washing on Mondays, ironing on Tuesdays? If you think I'm making this up, you didn't read enough Little House in the Big Woods as a kid.
Well, I kind of have that this summer. Harvest on Mondays and Thursdays, deal with said harvest on Tuesdays and Fridays. 
So after yesterday's picking over of the garden and orchard, here's what I had:

Another twenty or thirty pounds of peaches, plus all our red and yellow onions on the counter behind them.

Here's a better view. The bags are full of drying herbs and last year's mustard seeds, which I still haven't completely threshed out yet because it's a giant pain. The onions are easy — they just need to sit out in the warm air to cure before we store them in the basement. 

A refill on the fruit bowl, now with nectarines in addition to peaches. (Oh, and one windfallen-but-perfectly-ripe Gala apple to the right.)

Also harvested and b…

Sweet Cicely

I forgot to write about sweet cicely earlier this summer — I just found an unfinished post today. This is totally belated, since sweet cicely is at its best in spring and early summer:

Sweet cicely is a perennial herb that does fine in moist shade for us. I keep it in a shady corner of the cutting garden, where not many flowers will grow anyway. It does flower prettily, but it's the leaves that are great — they have a very sweet anise flavor. It has a history of medicinal uses, but was also commonly used in medieval England to sweeten underripe fruit and (naturally sour) rhubarb.

And that was my first use for it: as sweetener in a strawberry rhubarb crisp. These photos are from back in late June, but our everbearing strawberries are coming on strong again for their second round, and we always have lots of rhubarb, so we could just pretend I made this over the weekend, right?

The great thing about sweet cicely is that is can replace a lot (typically half) of the sugar in your reci…

It's a Process

We're still working our way through the peach harvest. We're eating as many as we can fresh and giving some away, but we also have to process most of them. Peaches have a pretty short shelf life, so despite being in the midst of a big home renovation project — one that has a major impact on the kitchen, I might add — we had to get it done. I already made jam the other day, and tonight Kirk and I tag-teamed another 15-20 pounds of peaches in a pair of canning projects.
First up, chutney:

The recipe I am using is from River Cottage: Courgette and Peach Chutney. In case you're not fancy, "courgette" is British-talk for zucchini. A big recipe that burns through lots of peaches and a giant zucchini? Brilliant. 
So in the pot above is the rough chop of zucchini, onion, and peach. These peaches were first blanched, peeled, and pitted by pulling them apart with my hands. That should give you an idea of how much they have softened over the past couple days — this was all…