Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pickles from the Farm Share

This week, I needed to get the farm share early. We are still working through last week's share, but there's not too much left. Mainly just the greens, which take time. Today's share consisted of another head of garlic, 2.5 pounds potatoes, 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch spring onions, 2 pounds zucchini, 3 pounds cucumbers, 4 turnips, a head of fennel, and some flowers. First thing I did when I got home was start a half-batch of bread and butter pickles, using almost all the cucumbers, the spring onions and 2 heads of garlic (I had one from last week).  After dinner and their 3.5 hour soak in salt, I made the pickles, using the same recipe for "Old Fashioned Bread and Butters" on page 95 in The Joy of Pickling. For fair purposes, as I intend to enter the 2 half-pint jars in the fair, there were 7 pickling cukes (just under 3 pounds), 2 heads of garlic and 5 spring onions (10 oz).

For dinner, I sautéed zucchini and carrots with scallions and a shallot and served them over chicken tortellini and a homemade alfredo sauce (2 eggs, 1 pint light cream, some pepper and nutmeg, and parmesan cheese, simmered until thick) and topped with shredded fresh basil. Fairly easy and quick, and everyone loved at least part of it - as you can imagine, the 10 year old had issues with the cooked vegetables. But did eat the cucumber and raw carrots at least...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

So Plentiful!

Last year, we missed blueberry season by being out of the country. A reasonable excuse, but it meant that we were close to running out of wild blueberry jam. As in, we had one jar of sauce and no jam left!

Overall, this year has been fantastic for berries, and the blueberry patch was no exception. I think it has to do with how harsh a winter it was combined with the really beautiful weather we've had in the last month. Every different tree seems to have gone crazy with their respective seeds, fruits or flowers. In the past, we've had to roam all over our preferred picking area for 3-4 hours to get 4 quarts of berries. Today it took us 2.5 hours and we hardly moved; I think we stayed in a 50 foot by 50 foot region. We filled our containers all the way to the top, so in all we netted about 4.5 quarts.

Getting up so early in the morning not only beats the heat of the day, but because there are fewer people around, you can hear the birds and insects as they call to each other. In the distance are strains of music and the occasional shriek of laughter coming from the beach at the lake in the center of the forest. Every once in a while I'd hear the high pitched whine of a fly or the medium toned buzz of a bumble bee. Once a dragonfly passed by with it's lower, lazy sounding hum. We picked mostly in silence, enjoying the morning.

After we got home, I made a batch of blueberry muffins and set aside 4 cups of berries for the freezer. I still have 3 cups left over from 2013, which are going to get used up first. Everyone ate a few handfuls of berries and, with the remaining 12 cups of berries, I made 2 batches of blueberry jam with powdered pectin. I think this might be the first time I didn't use liquid pectin for this so I ended up having to use more blueberries in order to get enough jam to last us for the year. Or two. Who knows what next year's harvest will be?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Very, Very Patient

When we first saw this recipe for Wintergreen Ice Cream on Hank Shaw's blog, in 2012, my elder child asked if we could make it. Yes, I said, when we have enough wintergreen berries. And when I have (or find) my ice cream maker. The project got put on the back burner and even when we finally amassed enough berries (it took over a year and many different locations; I stored the berries in the freezer) I never got my act together.

Today I picked up that (now) 13 year old from a week of camp and it seemed like the right time to make this. Actually, I started around 6 am and had the base all made and in the fridge before we had to leave and get the child. After we got home, I put the base in the ice cream maker and let it do its thing for 30 minutes. When it was done, I poured the ice cream into a washed out ice cream carton and folded in chocolate chips that I'd run through a little chopper thing (Black & Decker, 1.5 cup chopper. Really useful.). It was the same chopper thing I used to chop up the frozen wintergreen berries. I chose not to strain the ice cream, hoping for a little pink color. It's a little bit pink. Not very. That's fine.

The recipe called for 2 ounces of berries, after making the ice cream I think I have an ounce left. Maybe I'll collect some more this fall and make this again. It's really a nice flavor. The 13 year old loved it, as did the rest of us. Sorry it took so long to make it!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A New Thing to Do Together

We found the robin's egg on our exploration
So, as long as the cooking project is something that is (a) in the 10 year old's preferred food list and (b) able to be eaten right away then I get help on said project. This morning we postponed breakfast long enough to bake cinnamon swirl bread, which took a few hours, and I got a lot of help. The 10 year old is an expert kneader and cinnamon sprinkler.

We then ate breakfast outside, after exploring the yard and doing a little weeding while the bread baked. It is so gorgeous outside today, I had to make sure we spent some part of the day outdoors!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cornichons and Gherkins

This morning, I made Sweet Gherkins using the recipe on page 306 of Preserving Summer's Bounty. It called for honey, which might just be the first time I've ever canned anything with honey in it. Basically, after soaking the little cucumbers overnight in ice water, I cooked them in a mixture of cider vinegar, turmeric, pickling spices, cinnamon and celery seeds. To this mixture, 2 cups of honey are added. That's a lot of honey. I used up the local honey I'd bought for the bees and then added in some more *gasp* store-bought organic honey. The recipe says it makes 10-11 pints, but I only got 4 and a half, so I don't know what's going on there.

Then, after the other cucumbers had sat in salt for a day, they were ready to become cornichons. This recipe comes from page 90 of The Joy of Pickling. These cornichons are pickled but not canned. After rinsing and drying the cucumbers, they are packed into a quart jar with 4 shallots, 2 dried chilies, 1 bay leaf, 10 peppercorns, and 2 sprigs of fresh tarragon. Then the jar is filled with white wine vinegar. I finished my bottle of white wine vinegar so had to top off the jar with some tarragon vinegar instead. Now it sits on the shelf for a month before eating them. With paté.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Little Tiny

We went down to visit my parents today, so we stopped by the farm near their place which has pickling cukes and peaches in their respective seasons. I was lucky enough to snag the last peck of teeny tiny cucumbers, the ones that are 1-2 inches long, for canning. I hadn't been planning on doing this today, so I wasn't entirely prepared, but I had enough to get started.

I have set aside 1.25 pounds of the very smallest (yes, I sorted the whole peck) to make cornichons. They are currently salted and resting for a day. They will be ready to work with around 5 pm tomorrow. I had a few cucumbers from the farm share and I added the largest of this new bag of cukes to make a half-batch of bread and butter pickles; these were sliced along with one onion and 1.5 heads of spring garlic and mixed with salt and ice and sat for 2.5 hours while we had dinner. 2 quarts were put into a jar with garlic, dill seed, a chili pepper, and brine and they will ferment into half-sours. There is also a batch of "Favorite Dill Pickles" (see below) and the rest will be made into gherkins; which are currently sitting with ice water in the fridge. Tomorrow I'll finish those up.

Before dinner, I made the batch of dill pickles - using the recipe on page 133 of The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving. These have garlic, dill seeds, mustard seeds, and a little sugar in addition to the vinegar-water-salt brine. The recipe made 6 pints, not 4, as I left the cukes whole. I had to make an extra half-batch of the brine in order to fill the jars. Two jars have been set aside for the fair, as long as they taste good when we open them up.

After dinner, I finished the bread and butter pickles: using the recipe on page 95 in The Joy of Pickling, but cut in half, the only other change was using the spring garlic. I hope it isn't too overwhelming to have the garlic flavor but I thought it'd be nice. Half a batch makes 4 pints.

That should be plenty of cucumber pickles for this season!

Not Bad for a Cell Phone

The bees are really busy today - it's very warm and sunny. I found one at work in the yard:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Blueberry Season

The 13-year-old went blueberry picking the other day with a friend. I found a tremendously large bag of berries in the fridge when I got home, and we decided I should make a pie. Here's the filling:

6 cups blueberries
6 T. tapioca
1.25 cups dark brown sugar
juice from half a lemon

The tapioca is definitely better than cornstarch for keeping the pie from being too runny, but some of the tapioca pearls did not get incorporated into the filling as completely as I expected. The crust was half butter, half lard, and the pie was baked, covered, at 425 for 20 minutes, then at 375 for another 15 minutes before removing the foil and baking for another 30 minutes at 375. I also made a cheese tart and a jam tart. We had those for snacks. Yum!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lots of New Bees

They look like they're coming at me!
As expected, when the new bees developed enough, they started washboarding. I wasn't quite prepared for how many of them there would be. Not only are there at least 60 on the doorstep, there are tons inside the hive, also exhibiting the same behavior. In fact, there are bees inside are just hanging off the comb, maybe they have recently emerged from their cells? There are so many bees at the entrance that the forager bees are having a hard time finding a spot to land. Quite often, they just land on the other bees. I guess in about a month I should expect to see a dramatic increase in honey production as these bees age?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Bee and Farm Updates

Close up of bees with capped cells (pupae) and larvae
First, the bees: I pulled out a comb again today - I really took my time and was able to get a good look at one of the combs. While I couldn't see any eggs, I certainly could see larva and capped cells. I took a few photos and was able to study them later to make sure there weren't any mites or anything bad. I also wore only the medical gloves as I'd felt too clumsy with the gardening gloves, that seemed to go fine. Whenever the bees would get agitated, I would stop and stay very still and the bees would eventually settle down. I don't think I crushed any trying to get it all closed again, either. I consider that a win.

Second, the farm: today's share consisted of 1 bunch each of komatsuna and collard greens, one head of spring garlic, 6 garlic scapes, 1 bunch scallions, 3 heads of lettuce, 3 quarts shell peas, 1 quart each snap and snow peas, 35-45 fava beans (but someone who didn't want hers gave me her share of favas, too, so I picked 82 pods), dill and cilantro and 1 pint of strawberries, if you could find any. I picked very few berries, less than a cup I think.
Honey in the upper left, just a bit!

When I got home, I shelled the favas and the peas while sitting outside and enjoying the breeze. The favas were blanched and are waiting to be made into baghali polo (rice with fava beans and dill) and the peas were cooked tonight with chopped garlic scapes and then finished with salt, butter and dill. For dinner we assembled our own salads: lettuce, carrots, mulberries (from my tree), strawberries, Hakurei turnips, sliced meats (chicken, pork, or sausages) and the cooked peas. I used more of that champagne vinaigrette which works really well with peas.