Monday, September 1, 2014

Green Salsa

My tomatillos, much like the tomatoes, have been doing great this season.  The peppers, not so much, so it's good that I dehydrated a lot from last year's bumper crop.  I've been able to combine them with the fresh tomatillos, shallots, and flat leaf parsley to make a batch of Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde is fantastic, a very green salsa made simply from combining the aforementioned ingredients with a pinch of salt, white vinegar and a little water, and then allowing it all to simmer for an hour.  After that, a quick whizz with the immersion blender turns soft chunks into a smooth puree.  You can then can this mixture or put it into freezer-safe jars and store it in the freezer until needed.  I love adding this to my Green Rabbit Chili, or using it in posole-inspired Mexican Layered Lasagna. 

If you wind up with a lot of tomatillos, and too little time, you can always freeze the tomatillos whole (after removing their papery husks and giving them a rinse) and process them later.  I've made a great Salsa Verde in the middle of winter, using the crockpot set to warm overnight.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Glorious Heirlooms

My tomatoes are coming in strongly.  I think, in another week, the harvest will be done for this year.  The other morning, with some of the Orange Banana paste tomatoes and Pink Brandywine round tomatoes, I made a batch of Bruschetta in a Jar.  It's a great recipe, found in the Ball Canning Book, and one of my favorite ways to use all kinds of tomatoes.  It calls for plum, but I find any tomato will work, particularly if you opt to scoop out the seeds before you chop them.

Since both these tomatoes did so well, I definitely saved seeds.  This will be the fourth year I've saved my Pink Brandywines, and the first for the Orange Banana.  They were a great find in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog, and a definite keeper!  I've got two jars filled with tomato-seed goop, fermenting away.  With any luck, they'll yield a whole lot of viable seed for next year's crop plus some to share.
If you've never saved tomato seeds before, it is very easy.  You simply scoop out the seeds and the "gel" that surrounds them, and pop them into a clean jar.  I add a little amount of water, give them a stir, and then set them aside.  They'll ferment over a week or two, eventually growing moldy scum on top of the jar.  To harvest the seeds, you peel of the moldy bit, and then pull out any remaining debris in the top of the jar.  The seeds will have fallen to the bottom of the jar, so you simply tip them out into a fine sieve and rinse, rinse, rinse and rinse some more.  Once they are clean and free of any pulp, spread them onto a paper plate or a flattened coffee filter.  They should be left to dry for a month or two (they'll shatter when bent, when they are dry enough) and then store them in a jar or paper envelope in a cool dark spot.

A side note about saving tomato seeds:  this works best from heirloom varieties, that breed true.  You can save seeds from hybridized tomatoes, certainly, but the offspring (grown as next year's crop) may be nothing at all like the fruit you grew the summer before.  You never know what you might get: something great, or something horrible. I opt to grow heirloom tomato varieties in my garden, but as gardening is a lifestyle of infinite variety, you could try to save some hybrid seeds and maybe even discover a new favorite!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Loaned Books

I borrowed this book a while back from an excellent friend (thanks, Gretchen!), and I am sorry to say I have yet to return it.  I really should find my own copy.  It's a great little book, full of tidbits and stories and some simple, excellent recipes for homemade wines.  I just followed one for making plum wine, which is happily burping away in the fermentation bucket, and if everything goes right it should be a highly drinkable potion in about a year's time.

There's all kinds of recipes in there: carrot wine, peapod wine, bean that one could have some interesting side effects!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Exciting Developments

Yes, I know.  I have another project on the brew.

I love films.  Any film, really, but I am particularly fond of documentaries.  There's something about a peek into another life, another world, another experience that just appeals to me.  I watch them often, at least two or three a week, and there are so many out there, just waiting...

So I decided, I can't be the only person who likes them.  And then I happened to discover that there are several out there that are available for public showings at no charge...and then it hit me.  Fall is coming.  Winter is coming.  That time of year where we folks in northern climes crawl under the quilts, open a giant box of Cheez-Its, and vanish from society until the spring thaws arrive.  How about scheduling a film showing, once a month, October through March (skipping December, because, really, who has time during the holidays?  So much eggnog, so little time...), on an evening with discussion, friends, coffee/tea, and something to nosh on?

Oh yes please.

And so, I've been busily sending out emails, making some calls, acquiring any needed permissions, making arrangements for a location, et cetera, et cetera.  That is how the HRTI Fall/Winter Film Series was born.  Five months, five films, all fun.  I can hardly wait!   I have to firm up one remaining film, and then all shall be revealed on the Hay River Transition Initiative website (and other local avenues).

I do so love it when something I envision comes to fruition.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer's End

This past weekend, a new sound entered the summer chorus.  Adding to the chirp of crickets and whistles of returning chickadees, the cicadas have announced themselves with their shrill calls.  I can always tell when summer is winding to a close when they arrive.  In addition to tell-tale signs like the blooming of asters, ragweed and goldenrod, these old bugs serve to tell me that fall is nearly upon us.

Of course, that makes my urge to "put up" kick into overdrive.  Every day now ends with either picking, preparing or processing garden harvests for storing.  The dehydrator is constantly whirring away, and it's hardly worth putting the canner to bed on its shelf.  I'm constantly washing bowls, pots, shredders and tools like wooden spoons and canning lids.  I love it.

Unfortunately, harvest season falls on the start back to my work life as well.  I'm not sure who decided that was a good plan, but they obviously didn't consult me. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fruit Cages

Every year, something eats my strawberries.  One bite taken out of each beautiful fruit, ruining it for me.  It's so unfair.

I've tried netting (which whatever it is can still poke its beak through) and I've tried diligent picking.  Still, something eats them.  I starting to wonder if it is mice...but I'm suspecting bluebirds.  I don't mind sharing the raspberries, as there are more than enough of those to go around, but my small strawberry patch is MINE dang it.  I'd like to get more than 12 good fruits in a season.

So I have an idea.  I want to make fruit cages like the ones in this video:
 Start watching at 1:47 and you'll see the gloriousness.  I think I can work on these over the winter, and have them ready for spring.  I think I may redo the sides of the beds as well.  Right now, they are rounded landscaping timbers, which work great but I think are perhaps allowing critters to crawl underneath. 

Gardening.  It's warfare, people.  Me against the critters that want to eat all my strawberries.  I'm going to do my best to win next season.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tomatoes Everywhere

Tomato season has finally arrived!  I was starting to think my tomatoes would never change over from persistent green to ripe red (or orange, depending on the variety).  But now, my patience is paying off with a glut of delightful Pink Brandywine (third generation of my own saved seeds), Orange Banana (a gorgeous orange paste heirloom tomato, meaty and full of flavor) and dozens of fat Principe Borghese drying tomatoes, which I slice and pop into the dehydrator.  I wish my solar dehydrator hadn't bit the dust via a large tree branch smashing it to bits as it fell, but luckily my electric dehydrator works good enough to give me a stash of dried tomatoes to squirrel away for winter months.

So far, I've made a couple small batches of salsa.  I think there are more on the way this week--which makes me very happy about my stash of dried hot peppers.  My peppers this year did nothing much, I think it was too cool for their liking, but I have jalapenos, cherry bomb and some crazy super hot pepper I call Kim's Mystery Pepper (after my lovely friend who grows them) in storage.  All I do is rehydrate them in hot water for an hour or so, chop up, and add to the salsa.  They work just as nicely as fresh ones, and when you're canning the lot anyway, what does it really matter if they are fresh from the garden this year, or last?  The salsa comes out lovely regardless.  And when life hands you tomatoes, salsa is where it's at.