Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It Started Off Bad

Peach Rum Sauce
It all started with yesterday, which I might point out was a good day. On Monday I picked the rest of the peaches on the tree and had about 15 pounds of them on my dining room table. Yesterday I decided I'd can one thing a day to reduce the pile somewhat, but not feel like I was spending all my time canning. So I made the above Peach Rum Sauce. Oh it tastes good. I used the Ball recipe, except I left out one cup of sugar. Really it didn't need it.

Before I went to bed I sliced up another batch of peaches for a slow cooker vanilla peach butter. When I got up in the morning it didn't smell right. It had burned. I've made slow cooker butters before and I'd never had that trouble. On closer inspection I saw my trouble. I make the butter by turning it to high for an hour or so to get it going. Then before going to bed I'm supposed to turn it to low. Well that never happened. So instead of wonderful goodness, I had a mess to clean up.

I figured I had enough to make one more batch of something from the peaches, but if I added something I might get two. I had seen a blackberry patch on one of my morning walks with lots of blackberries in it and I thought blackberry peach preserves sounded really good. So I took my morning walk with the dog. We jumped off the boardwalk to the tall weeds below. I let the dog off the leash so he could have fun. I went into the patch. What I found was a mass of moldy berries.

After braving all those nasty thorns - and boy do blackberries have vicious thorns - I found just one that was ripe and not moldy. What a waste of a bunch of blackberries. Not even the wild life got to eat them. If I lived close I think I'd go in and prune the brambles in early summer so I could harvest regularly. However it is about a mile from my house, so I'll just regret the waste of good berries. At least the dog had a blast running around the area and rolling in the wet weeds.

Back home I decided I'd just make some plain chunky peach butter/preserves. It really is half way between them. A preserve like this won't hold together like a jam does. Jams need sugar, acid, and pectin to set and I was lacking the sugar. So the results are very soft, almost like a butter except for the chunks. I don't really use a recipe for something like this. I wanted just peaches at this point. No vanilla, no blackberries - well OK maybe I wanted the blackberries but I was going to make it plain. Not even some lemon juice. And very very little sugar. Each cup it made has less than a tablespoon of added sugar. I wanted something I could eat that I didn't have to think about how bad it was for me (like a jam which is pretty much flavored sugar). I really am trying to cut my sugar down and I've done a pretty good job.

There are several ways to make preserves. 1. You can just chop up the fruit and boil it down. 2. You can do the really slow way, which is to heat it up for 5-15 minutes and then let it sit and cool down. Repeat until it is thick enough for you liking. 3. And the last way, the one that I used, is to macerate the fruit and the strain it out. Boil down the liquid fast to 220F. Add the fruit back in and cook for a short time until it is ready.

The last method keeps more of the nutrients of the fruit as it isn't hot as long. It also preserves the shape of the fruit more. But I wasn't after the last one. After adding the fruit I used a stick blender for just a couple of whizzes. I didn't want big chunks as I wanted to be able to eat it with almond butter (I miss peanut butter but sadly it is a legume) on a sandwich. I also had to modify the first step of macerating the fruit. Usually you just pour sugar over the fruit and the liquid comes out. I only used a 1/4 cup of sugar for the whole thing. That wouldn't work. So I poured the sugar over it and heated it up to boiling. That got the juices to start flowing. Then I scooped out the fruit. As more liquid came out of the fruit I continued to add it to the boiling pot. I think it worked pretty well. And it tastes delicious. Much more tart than a typical preserve, but full of peach flavor. Yum.

At least the end of the morning was better than the start. Each of the four jars pinged as soon as they got out of the hot water. I don't think anyone who cans can keep from smiling when she hears that sound. Oh and that last jar with the black lid is for the fridge. I'm going to have that sandwich for lunch tomorrow. As for the peaches. I have sixteen left on the counter. I want to eat the last of them fresh. I'm hoping they last for 4 days as I've been eating about 4 a day. One in the morning in my smoothie. And three in the afternoon for a snack. No matter how good peach preserves are, they don't beat a fresh ripe dripping peach.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What It Takes to Plant Some Bok Choy

This morning I decided the bok choy and choy sum had to get into the ground. But the spot that I wanted them to go into was filled with a lot of scallions. In other years I've used them up much earlier as I would make things like Peking raviolis (the Bostonian name for a gyoza). I no longer eat soy sauce and to me the ginger soy sauce is what makes a gyoza, without it, I was no longer inspired to make them. So my scallions sat there all summer long. Occasionally one or two would be used up. Mostly they just were happy forming bunches and getting bigger as they tend to do. I picked all the ones in the middle and left the ones on the sides. I even moved a few to another location in the garden.

Whole Wheat Scallion Pancake missing a bite - I was hungry

That morning I still hadn't gotten around to planting my seed. The scallions were calling me. What do you do with a couple of pounds of scallions? I figured scallion pancakes were in order. I'd never made them myself before. Sadly one serving, which is all I made, only uses a quarter of a cup of scallions and only the green part. I really have my work cut out for me trying to use those up. I'd make a scallion soup, kind of like a leek and potato soup, but I can't eat potatoes either. I'll eventually figure out what to pair with it. Worse comes to worse, I'll caramelize them a bit and toss them on a pizza.

Stomach full I went out to survey my spot. I cleaned it up and added a bit of fertilizer. Then I tried to find some netting. I couldn't find any that had been used before in the shed. I didn't want to cut a new bit just to keep the butterflies off for a couple of months.

Beautiful kale losing its light at the end of the row even at midday

So I liberated what I had protecting my kale. I don't like to keep the cover on the kale for very long. The aphids like to take it over too much in the fall. I need to let the good bugs in as much as possible. I was going to wait for a week or two more to let the plants get a bit stronger before risking caterpillars. Usually my kale isn't bothered that much by the caterpillars, but one year they ate the seedlings down to nubs, so now while they are seedlings they get a bit of protection.

Finally my bok choy was planted. I alternated rows of bok choy and choy sum. The choy sum won't be in as long I think. So it will free up some elbow room when it gets pulled.

I really like the view of it through the holes of foliage that I cut down on Sunday (though some gardener really ought to close her shed). It was a really beautiful day. Usually I have to wait for late afternoon to admire the light on the garden. But I guess the sun is now low enough in the sky now for it to be lovely even at high noon.

Making Seasonings

Once a year I redo the herbs in my spice draw. I toss out the year old ones and dry some new ones. Often the last ones to get tossed are my onion and garlic powder. I could have dried the garlic powder much earlier, but I didn't seem to get to it until now. And making it was desperate as I ran out of my seasoned salt and needed to make more. I don't dehydrate either onions or garlic in the house as it would be a bit too much to take. I pick a nice day and plug it in outside. Once it is well dehydrated I grind it up in a coffee grinder that I only use for herbs and spices.

Once the garlic and onions were done, I could do a couple mixes that I use all the time. One is seasoned salt and the other is Italian seasonings. Though I do have recipes for them, in general I tend to change them each year to suit my current tastes.

The Italian seasonings is from an Allrecipes recipe. But I don't like as much marjoram as it calls for so I use a third of what they call for. I also add a teaspoon of both onion powder and garlic powder. One year I think I added lavender to the mix. I like making this mix as everything in it come from the garden.

Seasoned salt isn't quite the same as less than half of it comes from the garden (I certainly don't grow salt,sugar, or turmeric), but I find it useful for some things, like making rice when I don't want plain but I don't really want a real seasoned rice. I don't remember where I got my seasoned salt recipe from, but in general I can't have the commercially prepared ones as they tend to have paprika in it (and I can't eat peppers). I was going to add some celery leaves to the mix this year, but forgot to put them in. I might have to go and fix that now. I just wish I had more space in my drawer so I could make more mixes besides the basic ones. I used to make a chicken spice mix that was good. I know I can't have the same one anymore as I'm sure it had paprika. But I could make one similar if I tried. Or I could play around with other people's mixes. Do any of you make your own spice mixes or do you just use the individual spices when you cook?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Harvest Monday 18 August 2014

I have so many of the typical harvest baskets. So I'll give you a very unrepresentative sample. Usually it is cucumbers, beans, basil, and sometimes chard or broccoli. This one has some root crops - turnips and beets. Though I took photos of them all, I'll spare you the repetition. Even I'm bored of them at this point and that is saying a lot since I never get bored of seeing the fresh veggies even if it is just beans and cukes.

What I will show you are the things I'm really loving this week. That would of course be corn. We eat it fresh most days. Oh it is so so good. My husband is constantly raving about it. The top basket is mostly the last of the first section of corn planted. The second basket is the first of the second planting of corn. There were more baskets this week as I pick it fresh everyday just before dinner, but those were the biggest.

I have to show off the peaches. I harvested over 14 pounds of them last week and I probably have the same amount left on the tree. I do have to split these with my townhouse mates as they are part of the landscaping for our yard. But I still have enough to do some preserving. Though I'm doing my best to eat a lot of them fresh with juice dripping down my chin. That really is the best way to eat a peach.

The last harvest I'll share is the last batch of onions. They were finally cured and dried so I could braid them and store them in the basement. I've been really shocked by the harvest totals this year. Especially when I look at last year's totals.

Variety20132014
Ailsa Craig16.2817.30
Redwing7.5211.89
Copra17.6435.94
Total41.4465.13

All of the onions had about the same amount of plants in the same set up as the year before. With the same fertilizer and treatment. There was only one thing different. I put netting over the onions to keep the onion maggots out of the patch. I can't believe how well it worked. The Ailsa Craig obviously isn't much affected by them, but the Copras, which are my main storage onion are obviously seriously set back by them. I know I've mentioned it before, but my Copras are really the best I have ever seen them. They show no signs of rot either. Any of them. Unlike in previous years. Then I'd make sure to eat the questionable ones first. Needless to say, I'll continue with the netting every year.

And though the yield of the Ailsa Craig onions aren't really different, they taste better this year. I was thinking of switching to a different variety because I wasn't fond of their taste as much as other sweet onions. But this year they all tasted great. So good in fact that I've been eating them constantly. As a sweet onion they don't store well. Though they are one of the best keepers for sweet onions. They last about 2 months in storage. In the past I often lost onions because I couldn't finish them up in time. But I only have a handful of them left. They will be gone way before the end of September this year.

And if you wish to compare onion varieties. The AC and RW onions have the same number of plants and the same conditions. There are exactly twice as many Copra onions, but it is hard to compare because I put the Copras closer to the path, which means they have more sun. Even with that though I'm surprised that the Copras out performed the AC onions (by a hair). The AC onions are a large sweet onion. They can get just huge. They got big, but none of them were huge.

  • Alliums: 26.73 lbs
  • Beans: 1.20 lbs
  • Broccoli: 0.96 lbs
  • Corn: 11.23 lbs
  • Cucumbers 12.68 lbs
  • Greens: 1.17 lbs
  • Herbs: 0.20 lbs
  • Roots: 1.85 lbs
  • Squash, Summer: 1.21 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 57.23 lbs
  • Yearly Total: 337.98 lbs
  • Yearly Tally: $425.98

  • Fruit
  • Raspberries: 0.33 lbs
  • Peaches: 14.34 lbs
  • Weekly Total: 14.67 lbs, $46.87
  • Yearly total: 27.57 lbs, $102.12

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to show off, add your name and link to Mr Linky below.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Down They Come

After Removal

I had one huge wall of beans, but the Kentucky Wonder beans started with rust and it was just getting worse. They were producing, but not a lot. I decided they needed to come out along with the yard long beans next to them (they too were infected badly, in addition the KW beans had sent over vines and were mixing into them). I left up the Golden Gate beans. I've liked those beans. They keep putting out more flowers. It probably isn't enough to make much of a meal now, but we will see.

As you can see the chard in front of the beans now gets a lot more light. Well some of it at any rate. I noticed its production had dropped. I think with the less light due to the season and due to the beans was a bit much for it. I'm also detecting a bit of rot on the stems that isn't normal. This is the first time I've tried to grow chard with beans to the SE side of them. I knew it might hurt their production, but before this it hadn't. Behind the beans was some scraggly lettuce that I tried to grow over the summer. Not very well either. I figured the lack of light in the section would be enough to keep it going, but I'm not sure it got enough water. Now that some beans are out and the lettuce is out, I might rip out some of those onions as I'd like to use the section for some baby Asian greens. If so I'd better get to seeding them soon.

Right next to the bean bed is the cucumber and zucchini bed. I keep getting way, way too many cukes. So I figured I'd pull half the patch. That will also give more light to the area so my Asian greens will grow better. I've given away a lot of cucumbers. I'm getting sick of eating them every day and I love cucumbers. It is weird that I want to take down my beans and cucumbers because they are two of the veggies that I can count on every day. I guess I'm ready for a change. It is almost that season.

Maybe tomorrow I'll finally remove the hoops from the zucchini section now that I can reach it better. I really don't need those up. Funny how I don't notice it in the garden, but it is glaring in one of the photos.

The third thing I took down this weekend was the tarp that covered my drying onions. They looked very good. So I trimmed them up and braided them. They are now stored in the basement. I looked over the numbers and I did very very well in onions this year. I'll be more detailed about that in my Harvest Monday post.

Again I still left some work for myself. I haven't taken down the onion rack. But I'm sure I'll get to it this week. Then maybe I can deal with the compost. It won't be long before I need it to put over the beds in the fall.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Single Serving Peach Cobbler

I've been eating peaches every day. Usually I have a snack in the afternoon and peaches are the star. Yesterday it was three peaches. Yum. But I figured I could eat more. I certainly have them. So I made a peach cobbler. Not a huge big thing. I created a fruit cobbler recipe that makes just one ramekin of cobbler. I can use up small bits of fruit. And since it is just me eating it, I don't have to deal with a large cobbler that is too much to eat. And each time I make it is is fresh. I wish I had taken a photo of it last night. But it was gobbled up too fast. Oh my was it good. That decided me. I was going to preserve some peaches so I could eat this in the winter, when I really need the fresh taste of peaches and there aren't a ton of them on my counter.

Peaches are acidic fruit so as long as it is just fruit, sugar, and lemon juice, I'm all set with doing a water bath can of these. It doesn't matter the proportions. My cobbler last night was a touch too sweet and I used 1 1/2 T of sugar to 3/4 c+ of peaches. This time I used 6 cups cut up and smooshed down peaches with 3/8 c sugar, and 2 T lemon juice. Just for the record that is still a bit too sweet. I'm wondering if these peaches need sugar at all. They are very sweet as is. I figured I'd needs some as I'm adding lemon juice. Maybe next time I'll try just 1/4 c sugar. I know I'm making a dessert, but a balance is good.

I cooked it down for about 4 minutes. The big question for me was how long to water bath can them. Peach jam has a processing time of 10 minutes. Canned peaches are 20 minutes. They aren't as cooked down as a jam, but certainly more than a peach half. So I split the difference at 15 minutes.

I made 5 1/2 half pints. I thought a cup was the perfect size for my mini cobbler so I used the cup sized jam jars. And that nice orange color to my peaches is made because I do not remove the skins on my peaches. They are home grown and not sprayed. Why waste the most nutritious part? Even if it is dessert. I wipe the fuzz off of them before I cut them up and they pretty much disappear into the peaches by the time they are cooked.

I always think of cobblers as a very American dessert if old fashioned. I don't know if it is true or not. For all I know it originally came from another country. But in our country cobbler is a very traditional dish and depending on where in the country you come from, you make it differently. In the south they tend to make a more cake like cobbler. Here in the north it is more of a biscuit type of cobbler. I'm from the north so that is the kind that I grew up with.

Last year I was into making fruit crisps which is a wholly different and also similar dessert. It is easier to make small batches of that as there is no buttermilk (or anything wet except butter) in the topping. I just had a batch of the topping made up and stored in the fridge. When I wanted some I tossed some fruit, sugar, and cornstarch into the ramekin and then sprinkled on the topping.

But a cobbler must be made fresh every time. And it is best hot out of the oven. So a single serving is the way to go if you have no one to share it with. I think the best cobbers are made with buttermilk (of the northern versions at least, there are some really good southern ones made with egg as the liquid, but you can't do those single serving) . Buttermilk is not something I have in my fridge on a regular basis. So I've made the recipe to use 2 tablespoons of buttermilk. I buy a container of buttermilk and freeze it in my ice cube trays which are exactly 2 tablespoons in size. Every time I want to make cobbler I defrost one. Since I figured out this trick I've dispensed with crisps as cobblers are so much yummier. At least I think so.

Oh and since my cobbler is a generic fruit cobbler some of the ingredients have ranges. If you use a very sweet fruit, use the lower amount of sugar. If it is rhubarb use the highest. If it is a wet fruit like peaches use the most cornstarch if it is drier like blueberries use the least. And the last one is lemon juice. If it is really tart like a gooseberry, leave it out. If it needs that tartness kick add it in. Basically use your good judgement.

Late posted photo of tonight's cobbler

Daphne's Single Serving Fruit Cobbler

  • Filling:
  • 3/4c tightly packed, slightly mashed fruit (or 1 c more loosely packed fruit that will cook down)
  • 0 to 1 T lemon juice
  • 1/2 to 1 T cornstarch
  • 1/2 to 3 T sugar
  • Topping:
  • 1/4 c flour
  • t sugar
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/8 t salt
  • T butter
  • 2 T buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Mix up the filling ingredients and put in a large ramekin.

Combine all but the last ingredients for the topping and either cut the butter into it or use a small food processor so the butter is no bigger than a small pea. (I smoosh it with a fork until it is right.) Add buttermilk. Mix until combined. Put over the top of the fruit. Bake 25 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.

Enjoy!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Repairing the Damage

Staked Fennel

We had a storm come through on Wednesday. It dropped about 1.5" of rain which we sorely needed. But with the wind and rain a few things got knocked over. Nothing was all that bad except the fennel. It is blooming and setting seed right now and it has a lot of heavy blooms. In fact I can't believe all the blooms on it. But I had no stakes to prop them up with. So I first had to recover some from the corn patch.

Most of the corn in this patch has been harvested, but I hadn't cut down the finished stalks. Or removed the bamboo stakes that I put in after another storm knocked all the corn down. So I went about doing that.

Now that a lot of the plants have been removed, the squash will be happier. It was really trying to invade the paths. In fact it got away from me as it always does.

One branch went up and over my poor current bush and over the fence. After propping up the zinnias on the one side with some string and taking out the corn plants on the other. I found a lot of fruit in there. So my poor current will have to live in the shade for the rest of the year. I haven't seen a lot of the squash set, so any that have will stay.

If you remember from before I said this corn was setting two ears per stalk. That is true. But the second ear usually look like the one above or even less developed. A few have been edible but not many. The first ears are all perfect, but not these ones. So the stalks left have second ears that might do something. I'm hoping.

The wasps on the fennel were swarming around the flowers as I staked them up. There was even a white faced hornet (never fear they are very gentle hornets). I really wanted to take a photo of them, but couldn't get the silly camera to focus on them. Then a downy woodpecker landed on one of the stakes in the cleared out corn bed. He happily sat there for a while. I sort of got him in focus. I really need my husband's good camera for this. A point and shoot doesn't do focus on small things well. But this bird has been visiting every day now since the sunflower has ripened some seed. Sometimes I'll walk by the plant and not notice him (since the flowers are 8' high), but then I hear him fly off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Peaches

Can you say PEACHES? This is one over abundance that I will never complain about. I picked these off my tree yesterday morning. There are still a lot of peaches left on the tree. So I'm celebrating. Since the trees are part of the landscaping these are split between my townhouse mates and me. So they get half and I get half. They have four people that have to share them all, but here it is just me as my husband doesn't eat peaches (yes crazy I know). So I get a lot all to myself. And nope I'm not sharing.

I ate two yesterday and three today. I'm trying to eat the ripest ones first. Some will need a few days to ripen on the counter. But I'm really hoping that there will be more than I can eat. I want to be able to preserve them for the first time ever. Should I just can plain peaches to eat at lunch? Should I can a mix for peach cobbler? Should I make a peach rum sauce? Peach jam? Peach butter? Peach syrup? Peach leather? Peach cordial? Or just freeze them plain for my smoothies? Argggghh so many choices. What would you make?