Prolific Peppers & Bee Stings


I spied a particularly fat and juicy blackberry in the patch yesterday. As I reached over to pick it, a bee swooped in and stung me right in the armpit. Ouch! A paste of baking soda and water works like magic to take the pain away. Luckily, it was just a honey bee that stung me. I saw this ominous looking creature in there today and backed off. Does anyone know what this is?
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This summer has been so dry here. The gardens are looking very stressed and haggard. The cucumber patch finally succumbed to powdery mildew so I cleared it out and discovered a metropolis of moles. Ugh… my nemesis. They’ve infiltrated the blueberry bushes too.
Calendulas are still plugging away. I add the dried petals to the soap I make.. they retain their color and shape beautifully. The rest of the heads, I steep in jojoba, olive or grapeseed oil. After a month or so, I strain the oil and use it as a base for skin cream.
The heirloom Napolitan peppers I had so much trouble getting to sprout earlier,ended up being good little producers. 15 plants yielded over 100 peppers. I’ve had my fill of them so I’m seeding, coring and slicing these and whatever else comes in and popping them into the freezer to use over the winter. The seeds I’ll save for next year.
It’s cool out today. I have chicken soup bubbling on the stove and oatmeal cookies baking in the oven. My kitchen smells so good. I’m going to pack it all up and bring it to my daughter.
I hope all of you are having a wonderful day! Thanks for stopping by:)

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Northhampton, MA


Recently we took a day trip to Northhampton, Massachusettes.  Smith college is there, an all women college that has  a long list of well known alumnai including Sylvia Plath, Barbara Bush, Gloria Steinham, Julia Child and Nancy Reagan.  According to Wikipedia, North Hampton is the most  politically liberal, medium sized city in the U.S.  Wikipedia also says “North Hampton is known as an academic, artistic, musical and counterculture hub.”

As we walked down the Main street, we were approached by quite a few political and social activists with petitions and homeless people asking for donations.  There were also some talented musicians performing.  We happened to run into a Farmers’ Market, on our way to Thorne’s Marketplace.  Thorne’s Marketplace was  built in 1873 and was originally a dry goods store that expanded into a huge department store and was later converted into a shopping center.  It was pretty cool.   A lot of the period details have been preserved and there are lots of interesting little stores and restaurants inside.

We had lunch at Paul and Elizabeth’s.  It’s a family owned restaurant in Thorne’s that has been around since 1978.  Originally it was a vegetarian restaurant but they recently expanded their menu to include seafood. They use locally sourced and organic ingredients.  Their breads were delicious and the food was fresh and tasted like home.

North Hampton is a lot different from the other little cities and towns that I’ve been to.  I knew nothing about it until I got there.  It seems very “crunchy” with lots of patchouli wafting through the air, lol.  There was a lot of traffic but hardly any people walking around or in the stores and restaurants.  Maybe that was because I visited on a Tuesday, in the summer.  Once college starts up, it probably comes alive.

Blackberries, Dilly Beans and Babies


I stayed with my daughter for a few days, helping with her new baby.    I’d forgotten how exhausting being on call around the clock with a newborn can be.  It was good to be a mommy again, fixing  healthy meals for my daughter and pampering her a little.   Keeping her company at 3 am in a cozy nursery while she fed the baby  was special and kind of emotional.  Lots of memories from when she was little and  hopes and dreams for our new little girl.

I came home to bring my youngest back to college.  She’s all settled in and I’m catching up here.

The last of the beans, cucumbers and red peppers are picked. I made a couple more batches of pickles and dilly beans. Everything that was left, I fermented together and added garlic, onions and fennel seeds. Since my tomato crop is so sad this year, I won’t be pulling out my food mill any time soon. Any extra tomatoes I have this year, I’m just coring and freezing whole…..I learned this from my blogger friend from New Gardener Blues last year.   It’s a good tip… so quick and easy.

The blackberry crop is wonderful. I made a batch of jam and have lots of blackberries in the freezer with still more to pick on the bushes. The second flush of raspberries looks good too.
The mornings are cold and the very first leaves are starting to turn. There’s still lots of cabbage and kale in the garden. The pears are knobby but I’ll put them to good use and I might even get a few peaches.
It’s good cleaning weather. Now that everyone is gone again, I’m starting the fall cleaning and organizing. That includes tackling the attic. There’s lots of good coats and things to donate up there, before the weather gets really cold.

Pickling


I’ve gotten over 20 pounds of cucumbers and they’re still coming so it’s pickle time. Last year I cultured all my vegetables using sea salt and whey. This year, I’m doing a little experimenting. I brined the whole cucumbers in a sea salt solution for 3 days and then transferred them to the refrigerator. They’re nice and crunchy. The spears I also brined in a sea salt solution and I added a starter culture… Caldwell’s. For the relish and beans, I used the starter culture as well. Everything came out crisp and flavorful. The crispiness is due to the sea salt. The starter culture supposedly increases the nutritional value and the strains of beneficial bacteria.
I prefer cultured vegetables to canned because of the nutritional benefits. They offer a lot more in the way of vitamins and minerals and increasing healthy gut microbes. A lot has been written on that subject by Dr. Mercola  and Sally Fallon. I recently read the book, ‘Brain Maker’ by David Perlmutter, MD. He’s a neurologist and also a big proponent for implementing cultured foods in the diet. It was a good read and had some interesting cultured food recipes that I’ll be trying soon.

Avery Grace


We have a new,sweet baby girl in our family. She arrived this weekend. It was a tough delivery but both my daughter and her little one are doing fine, thank God.
I’m holding my first grand baby for the first time. I still can’t believe it.

Red Currant Jam & Cucumbers

I should have made pickles today, I have loads of cucumbers. But… there was a beautiful bag of frozen red currants in the freezer that’s been calling my name. This is the first year my red currant bush fruited. It only yielded about 4 cups, not even enough to make a pie with. Still, I wanted to make something special with the berries.
I remembered making grape jelly with my Grandmother. We had an arbor in the back yard that was loaded with dark purple, thick skinned grapes. They were so delicious. Jelly day started early, picking and preparing the grapes and sterilizing our jars and lids. The kitchen steamed up and smelled all sugary, like candy. In a few hours we had rows of glistening purple jars lining the counters. That gave me the idea of making a jar of jelly.

I  found a beautiful page on the Internet :  David Lebovitz, living the sweet life in Paris , that gave  simple and perfect  instructions.

I gently cooked the currants until they were soft, then put them through a food mill.   Weighing the juice on a postal scale, I came up with 6 ounces.  The ratio between fruit and  sugar for jelly is 1 to 1 so I knew I needed 6 ounces of organic cane sugar, which I also weighed out.

I brought the juice to a boil and skimmed off the scum that came to the top and stirred in  the sugar.  Everything was then brought to a boil  for 5 minutes.  It was at the perfect jelly stage!  Everything took less than an hour.

When my daughter came home, I made us a snack.  Homemade, buttered sourdough toast with red currant jelly and a cucumber smoothie, lol.  I don’t want to waste these cucumbers!  A combination of cucumber, frozen pineapple, frozen blueberries, a squirt of lemon juice and a spoonful of honey made a  really good and refreshing drink.