Showing posts from September, 2015

Wine and Chicken

If you've noticed I've been having a little trouble keeping up lately, well … you're right. We're in the middle of a major (and overdue) kitchen remodel, and things are in a state of utter discombobulation around here:

We're slowly putting it back together again, but in the meantime, we haven't been able to stay on top of our typical fall food preservation activities. Most things are already done: tomatoes are canned, green beans, okra and broccoli are frozen. But our fruit is just sitting around, waiting to be eaten. We have lots of apples and pears, and they are doing alright since they have a reasonable shelf life — though we'd love to whip up some pies! We're having real trouble keeping up with the small fruit: the second round of raspberries and a third round of strawberries, plus all of our grapes. Normally we'd be in high jam season right now, but we can barely get a dinner together, and it's no fun at all to do the dishes in the second-…

Worth the Wait

Just as I was about to give up on our young ladies giving us any eggs at all, there's this:

The large egg is a normal-sized egg. The smaller one is maybe 2/3 the size — definitely a first attempt by one of the girls. 
The mystery (unless you catch a hen in the nesting box) is always about figuring out which egg came from which bird. The big egg above looks like one of Sally's regular eggs, a sort of pinkish brown. It was also warm in the nesting box when I picked it up.
Sally was nowhere near the henhouse, but Louisa Catherine (our Gold-Laced Wyandotte) was standing on the ramp, looking slightly confused. Some quick research revealed that, yes indeedy, Wyandottes lay pinkish brown eggs. 
Sally, by the way, is in the middle of a molt, and hasn't laid in a couple weeks (a sad fact that led us to buy an incredibly disappointing carton of eggs last week). Though she's a champion layer, I'd be surprised if she randomly popped out an egg in the middle of dropping all he…

Pink Potatoes

Our potatoes this year grew quickly, flowered, and died back, leaving us a pretty decent harvest under the ground. We've left them there because they're nice and safe under ground until we're ready to cure them for storage. We did dig up one bed that was planted with Kennebecs and Adirondack Reds:

The Adirondack Reds are new to us this year. I ordered them from Johnny's as a replacement for our Red Pontiac potatoes, which we ate last winter instead of saving any for seed. Unlike the Red Pontiacs, these red potatoes are colored all the way through the flesh, which made for some colorful mashed potatoes:

This meal brought back a strong, visceral memory of the first time I ate dinner at a friend's house. My first grade best friend Wendy loved mashed potatoes (I did not), and she especially loved them with ketchup. She stirred huge squirts of ketchup into her snow white mashed potatoes until they turned bright pink. I had never seen such a thing, and promptly lost my …

Flower Friday: September 18, 2015

Still lots of flowers to enjoy during these beautiful September days. This really is the very best time of year here in Newburyport, for flowers and people alike.

Roses, snapdragons, strawflower, and foxglove

Tomato Apple Chutney

This weekend, as always, we had a lot of picking to do. Our harvest is spreading across several tables and counters now. From the orchard we have lots of apples and pears:

And from the kitchen garden we have an assortment of other (technical) fruits, including tomatoes, bell peppers. cucumbers, zucchini, and eggplant:

The past two years we made and canned a delicious peach and zucchini chutney at the height of summer to preserve those outsized harvests. It's one of my all-time favorite foods, and I love it with some cheese, crackers, and pickles for a winter lunch. 
This year we will not have any, so when our last jars are gone, we'll be out of that particular chutney for a few years, until a new peach tree begins to bear
So we went back to the drawing board to find a new chutney recipe with ingredients that we actually have. Mid-September tomatoes and apples? Check.
The Ball Book has a tomato apple chutney recipe, as does River Cottage. Since Hugh (Kirk's favorite) rec…

The Pear Harvest

A couple weekends ago I saw a yellow pear on the ground. It's always a solid sign that fruits are ripe when they start falling off the trees of their own accord, so I went out to check the rest. Sure enough, the pears easily separated from their stems, so I walked away with a basketful:

The green pears are our Moonglow pears, and this is our first-ever crop of them now that the tree is finally bearing. We chose this variety because they ripen early, in late August. This tree's harvest was meant to coincide with our late peaches to make peachy pear jam. Alas, our peach trees died and we had no peach harvest this year, so we'll have to find something else to do with our pears instead. 
The funny thing about pears is that you actually have to pick them before they are fully ripe, and it can be hard to tell when they're ready (which is why that first one ended up on the ground). The stems will weaken to the point where they'll break when you bend the pear 90 degrees. …

The Barter Economy

What's the price of maple syrup? I'm not sure how much we're talking about in USD, since we haven't bought any in a few years, but we just traded some for four (!!) live lobsters (okay, so one was missing a claw, but still).

One of the doctors Kirk works with has a boat, and this spring he took a pint of this year's maple syrup in trade for the promise of summer fish. We were hoping for some blue fish, but with the season coming to an end, he hadn't gotten much of anything. So a couple nights ago he came to the door with a cooler full of lobsters from his traps. We kept them in a bowl in the mini fridge on the porch (no need to terrify the children), and tonight Kirk steamed them up:

I will admit that I have no interest in cracking open a lobster and fighting to dig out the meat, and Kirk did yeoman's work on picking all four of these. After putting the shells and legs into a pot with celery, carrots, onion and parsley to make some lobster stock for future…

Green Grapes, Blue Jays and Black Birds

Last weekend we discovered, midway through a fierce badminton game in the back yard, that our green grapes were ripe:

They looked nice and plump, but the only way to to tell with a green grape is to eat it. If you're wrong, You will have the face-puckering experience of eating a sour grape. (That taste, by the way, is a combination of citrus-sour and tongue-smacking tannin.) We screwed our courage to the sticking place and tried one, this time with happy results.
Our green grapes are seedless Himrods, and they have a complex sweetness that's a little floral and honey-flavored in addition to their fruitiness. They ripen early, so are good to go some time in August. 
Alas, we did not figure this out before the birds did. When we looked more closely over the grape vines to find all the rest of our Himrods, this was all that was left:

It's been an unusually active year for birds in our garden, especially blue jays. As we searched the arbor for our missing grapes, Kirk also re…

Flower Friday: September 4, 2015

Some old favorites along with a new flower this week. The zinnias are enormous, with great big blooms as well as long stems. These have suddenly shot up to five feet high, and I'm not at all sure why. In other news, the strawflowers are finally here. These are some of the flowers I started from seed back in the winter, and I was beginning to doubt I'd ever see them bloom. They're worth the wait!


Strawflower and Chinese forget-me-not