Monday, August 30, 2010

csa box:: week 11

I had a sick little boy in the house last week, so I am a few days behind posting last weeks CSA box. You can tell we are getting to end of summer!

in the box this week:: a variety of tomatoes and peppers, a leek, summer squash, beets, kale, tomatillos, carrots, melon and beans.

extras this week:: slicing tomatoes, melon, parlsey, mushrooms!

What was in your last CSA box?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

csa box: week 10

This week is the half way mark for our CSA season - so much goodness still to come!

in the box this week:: pears, variety of tomatoes, purple cabbage, 3 kinds of peppers, lettuce, garlic, basil, parsley, delicata squash, yellow squash, melon, sweet corn

extras:: carrots, basil, mushrooms

What is in your box this week?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

red raspberry time.

They are here! While just beginning to ripen, I see a lot of red raspberries in our future. Jams, jellies, frozen...

I love how easy raspberries are to grow, how little space you really need for a decent return, and how delicious they are picked right from your own back yard. Yum.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

CSA Box:: Week 9

Another week another great box!

In the box this week:: watermelon, beets, cucumber, banana & jalapeno peppers, summer squash/zucchini, a variety of tomatoes, sweet corn, carrots, lettuce, garlic

extras:: onions, garlic, parsley, mushrooms, and...a case of tomatoes

While I didn't necessarily like our previous CSA farm any less just because the pickup was at a delivery point in town (someones garage), for me there is just something more substantial and more real to picking up right at the farm. I always love walking through the barn, counting or weighing each item, and putting it into my box. The boys help me with the box, weigh things, write on the chalkboard, chat with the farm person, and hunt for bugs in the flowers. And each week we can see what 'extras' are available - garlic, onions, pickling cucumbers, sweet corn, tomatoes - always enough for canning and preserving!

This week we picked up a case of tomatoes - cracked/ripe. As soon as we got home I rinsed them all off, cored them, and popped them into my large canning pot to simmer away.

We have a lot of tomatoes growing in our garden, but with a small yard never enough to make everything we want for the winter, so we always pick up extras. We make pizza sauce, ketchup, pasta sauce, caponata, and more. And as we go through the end of the season we freeze diced tomatoes, make lots of salsa and can whole tomatoes. There is something very satisfying about going from garden or farm to pot to canning jar. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way, and that I am not the only one who had tomato seeds plastered all over the kitchen this week. :) Ahhh, summer!

What is in your CSA box this week? What are you harvesting from your garden?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

home made vanilla extract.

One of the easiest things to make at home is vanilla extract. Most recipes call for the more common use of vodka and vanilla beans to make vanilla extract. While that makes a liquid that tastes just like what you buy at the store, I like making mine with dark rum. The rich aroma and mild sweetness really adds a nice fat vanilla essence to baked goodies. It is very very easy, and after you make your own, you won't ever want to buy bottles from the store again!

I make it in small batches, but you can easily double/triple if you want.

1 cup good quality dark rum (you can use a lighter rum if you prefer)
2 whole fresh vanilla beans
pint canning jar & lid

Put the rum into your canning jar. Slice the vanilla pods in half, and remove the seeds with the edge of your knife. Add the seeds to the jar. Plop the vanilla pod right into the jar alongside what you scraped off. Put the lid on the jar, and shake hard. Label the lid and put a date on it and place it in a dark cabinet at room temp. Let sit for a month minimum, shaking it from time to time. After a month, I start using it - and I keep the pods in the jar so that the flavor continues to develop. The flavor intensifies if you let it sit longer (3 months+). You can wait longer before using, but I find that I get the full vanilla extract aroma in a month or two!

I like the organic vanilla beans from Mountain Rose Herbs. They are plump and moist - not the hard dried out things you find at your grocery store - and their prices are great!

Monday, August 9, 2010

rum cherry compote.

I have a sweet surprise to share with you. One of my favorite summer fruits is cherries. We always buy both sweet and sour cherries when they are in season - to eat fresh, can, and freeze. We have made this a few times already in the past few is so good over pound cake (my favorite combo was over coconut pound cake - oh yes), with ice cream, and would be great with a good pancake. This is an adult cherry reduction that is oh, so, good.

I started by pitting and slicing in half about 1 cup of sweet cherries. Put them in a canning jar, add about 1 Tbsp of honey or a raw sugar, and fill just to cover the cherries with dark rum. I added the seeds and pod of 1/3 a vanilla bean - you could also just add 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract. Let soak for a few hours.

Pour the mixture in a small saucepan, and turn heat to high. Bring it to a boil and keep it rolling for a minute or two. Turn down to medium (stir!), and let simmer for another 7-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it - it should be simmering, not boiling. This cooks off the alcohol a bit, softens the cherries, and reduces the liquid to a nice syrupy consistency.

Let cool a little and serve! There is a nice round aroma of the rum, but without any alcohol mouth burn. Such a rich cherry flavor - and not too sweet. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

in the kitchen.

While I love trying new recipes and often do, for a lot of my canning and fermenting, I do still rely on my trusted/tested recipes. Here are a few things we are making this summer, which I have made many times before.

lacto-fermented pickles:
Not vinegar based, nice and crunchy, mildly salty, not twangy like vinegar pickles.
lacto-fermented garlic::
I basically use the recipe from Nourishing Traditions. Take up to about 12 heads of garlic, remove the outer skin and then bake the cloves in an oven until the rest of the skin can easily be removed. The garlic is not mushy soft, but slightly soft and aromatic and beginning to look less opaque. Put the cloves in a clean jar. Mix together a few teaspoons of dried herbs (I used dried oregano and rosemary from my garden), 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 2 tablespoons of whey, and about 1/2 cup of water (If you don't have whey, increase salt to 4 tsp). Pour the liquid over the garlic, and add more water if the garlic isn't covered. Screw lid on tightly, keep at room temp for about 2-3 days, then put in the fridge. I crunch on these like they are candy. More mild garlic flavor, and oh so good.
refrigerator pickles::
A vinegar based fridge pickle. Great for small batches.
purple kraut::
I like having more than one type of kraut, and this is a nice mild version which is great as a side dish.

I have a few recipes coming up that I have promised :: pickled beets, pickled daikon, and freezer pickles!

Friday, August 6, 2010

CSA Box: week 8

With no other clues, I would be able to tell it was August by just the contents of my CSA box. The box, so heavy was practically dragged along, much heavier than I am 'supposed' to carry. Once home, the counters loaded, the dehydrator packed, the fridge full, and pots going to blanch and freeze. CSA day is much more than a pickup, it is also cleaning, sorting, preserving, and planning the week ahead!

In the box this week:: 2 types of onions, cabbage, garlic, beets, summer squash, 2 types of lettuce, banana peppers, green peppers, jalapeno pepper, basil, sweet corn, melon, swiss chard, cucumbers, and many kinds of tomatoes!

We are heading out for a few day 'staycation' so I didn't get much extra this week as I won' t have time for food preservation this weekend. So the only extras are mushrooms, garlic, parsley, and oregano!

What was in your CSA box this week, or what is in season in your garden?

Thursday, August 5, 2010


This is the time of year when we are plucking ripe tomatoes from the vine just about every day, but we are not yet in buckets-full for sauces or canning. There is nothing better than a sliced tomato, warm from the garden, with just a sprinkling of sea salt and a grind of pepper. I often stand at the counter after coming in from the garden, sampling the tomatoes (I love to grow new varieties every year).

As the early weeks go on, I make tomato salads, add tomatoes to dinner, toss together small batches of salsa, and of course start to make panzanella. A Panzenella uses good stale bread, which just soaks up the flavors and cuts the acidity of the tomatoes. It is a perfect summer salad.

To make the 'croutons':
I use bread that is hard - usually a French baguette, or a nice Italian rustic loaf. Slice the bread, lightly coat in olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and toast in a toaster oven for 5 or so minutes. When out of the toaster, cut into cubes (if you don't have a toaster oven, a regular oven set to 350ºF is fine). If you can cut your bread into cubes from the start - go for it. I find that baguettes in particular can be hard to cut when stale, and the toasting with olive oil makes them crispy, but easier to cut.

2 large or 3-4 medium slicing tomatoes, cubed
1 small mild onion, very thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
3 cups of croutons
3-4 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
5 Tbsp olive oil
Sea salt & pepper to taste
10-15 basil leaves - depending on how big/variety of basil you have, sliced
a few sprigs of parsley, chopped

Make your croutons. While they are in the toaster, cut your tomatoes, garlic and onions and put into a large bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of salt to get the tomato juices going. Add the balsamic and olive oil. When the croutons are out of the toaster and have cooled, toss them in with the bowl of ingredients. Make sure you toss/stir for a few minutes, to be sure that the croutons are evenly coated in the tomato/oil/vinegar mix. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Let sit for about 10 minutes, stirring here and there. Add the parsley and basil and stir. Taste, and add more salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately!

Other good additions to a panzanella:: sliced cucumber or peppers.

This is not an exact recipe - depending on how big or how juicy your tomatoes are you can tweak how much vinegar/oil you add to get your bread to soak it up nicely. It should soak in fully, but not have a lot of standing liquid. If your tomatoes are small or more meaty than juicy, just add an extra one!

Monday, August 2, 2010

summer cabbage.

While I love making sauerkraut, when we are getting one head of cabbage at a time in our CSA box I often find that head of cabbage sitting on my counter longer than I would like. One of my favorite recipes that uses that whole cabbage head is my take on a German style Apples & Cabbage. It tastes great as a side dish fresh out of the pot steamy hot, and is also good the next day cold from the fridge.

4 cups thinly sliced red or green cabbage
2 1/2 cups peeled/sliced apples (tart)
1 large sliced red onion
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider or beer (I use hard cider)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds & coriander seeds, ground (or you could go more traditional and use caraway seeds)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
pinch of nutmeg
ground fresh pepper to taste

Put the cabbage, apples, onion and cider/beer into a saucepan. Cover and cook on medium heat until everything is tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, reduce heat to simmer, and cook another 30 minutes. Add more beer/cider if needed to keep everything from sticking to the pan. Season to taste.


Did you know :: Red cabbage contains a lot more protective phytonutrients than white cabbage, and "The vitamin C equivalent, a measure of antioxidant capacity, of red cabbages is six to eight times higher than that of white cabbage." Red cabbage may be beneficial in prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. In addition to being packed with Vitamin C, red cabbage is a good source of fiber, manganese, folate, vitamin B6, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids and a decent source of thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), calcium, potassium, magnesium, and even vitamin A!