Foliage, Garlic Festival & Ferments

The weekly, local  Farmer’s Markets are coming to an end.  My Dad and I went to his town’s market and I was excited to see that almost everyone there was selling organic produce .   I got some squash, giant apples and tomatillos . I never tried tomatillos before.  The lady selling them said they are very easy to grow and make a good jam or green salsa. They’re also nice just as a bit of tang in a salad.  I fermented mine with some of  the last pickings from the garden.. red peppers, green tomatoes and garlic.  I  fermented some carrots with grated ginger too.

The local Garlic Festival  was held this past weekend. I try not to miss it because I buy  my planting garlic from the same farmer there every year. Besides ordinary cloves there is every garlic thing you can imagine…garlic ice cream, pickles, breads, kimchis, oils, vinegars, cheese, relishes, spreads and jellies.  They also have vendors selling their crafts, honey, maple syrup, soap and produce.  Did I mention lots of food trucks ?  Our Garlic Festival started out with about 15 tables and a few curious people poking around.  Now it’s huge, attracts more than 10,000 visitors and even has an official Garlic Queen.

Cream Cheese, Quilts, Cars & Gratitude


Clearing through the attic last week, I found a treasure. When my girls were little I used to make their clothes. Whatever material was left was cut into patches to make simple quilts. I found a bag of these patches, wrinkled but otherwise perfect. I ironed them and sewed them together into a quilt.  I showed it to my daughters this weekend and it brought back such nice memories for all of us.  My middle daughter is the most sentimental of my 3 so I’ll do some hand quilting on this and have it done for her by Christmas.
I’ve been wanting to make my own cheese so I started with an easy one..cream cheese. It was just a matter of getting the milk to the right temperature, adding the culture and letting it sit until the whey separated. Then I set it to drain. It came out delicious.

Now that gardening season is over, I’ve been putting aside time to take walks.  There’s woods, fields and streams right outside my door and this time of year is especially beautiful.
I’m mad at myself for not taking better care of my car.  It’s 9 years old and the road treatments for snow have created a big rust problem.  I should have  rinsed it down and parked it  out of the elements but I never did.  Soon I’ll be traveling a lot to help my daughter take care of her baby since she has to go back to work.  I was hoping to trade in my jeep and get something newer but the rust has devalued it.   Lesson learned.  The money part is a problem but what bothers me most  is that I didn’t care properly for something that I was lucky to have.  Poor stewardship.  To me , that says there’s a lack of gratitude.  Not a good thing.  I started this blog for the opportunity to stay focused and thankful for all the wonderful things in this world and in my life.  It’s been  so great to see, read, learn things and make blog friends from all over the world.   Thank you all!

Peach Butter, Sauerkraut & “Pumpkin” Bread

I had a fun day at my friend’s house. She brought home cabbage,kale, purple cabbage and lots of squash from her sister’s organic farm. We spent the morning making fermented sauerkraut with the kale and cabbages. While we were chopping and salting, we had her oven filled with baking squash..Delicatas, Hubbards and Butternuts. Once the squash were cooked and cooled we skinned and seeded them and mashed the pulp. With that, we made lots of “pumpkin” bread. She added cranberries and nuts to some of the loaves. Once baked and cooled, most of the loaves went into the freezer along with the mashed squash that was left over.
My own squash crop was dismal but I did have a volunteer vine that grew from the compost I added to the asparagus bed. I let it go and it turned out to be acorn squash that yielded a few nice little gifts.
I harvested a delicious basket of peaches from the tree my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day. After eating our fill, I made a couple of jars of peach butter from what was left. I cooked about 12 smallish peaches, pitted but not peeled, on top of the stove with a little bit of water until they were soft. Then I put the mixture through the food mill. I ended up with 3 cups of pulp and juice. I added 1 1/2 cups of sugar (2 to 1 ratio), cinnamon,allspice and ginger to the pulp and simmered it slowly and gently on top of the stove until it was thick, stirring it so it wouldn’t burn. Then I poured it into hot, sterilized jars, sealed them up and processed them in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. It came out delicious!  I think  it will be really good on fresh, warm buttermilk biscuits .

Blueberry Cordial & Water Hyacinths


It’s been weeks since we’ve had rain. Temperatures have been in the 90’s for a while now. Berries shriveled on the canes, the gardens are brown and crispy. I’ve had to be careful about watering, we have a well. I’m trying to save the newly planted fruit trees, bushes and some vegetables I’d yet to harvest. That may not even be possible.

At least the water hyacinths are cheerful.  Once it gets cold, I’ll snap off a few plants and overwinter them in a basin of water in the basement.   They multiply quickly in the spring and the roots make good breeding habitat for the goldfish.
I squeaked out one last jar of fermented dilly beans. These things are delicious. Next year I’m expanding my bean plot.
I have black currants steeping in vodka for a few weeks now. Soon it will be ready to finish off and bottle for Christmas cordial. I came across a recipe for blueberry cordial in an old herbal almanac and decided to try it with some frozen blueberries. Cordials are easy to make. It’s basically a matter of crushing the fruit and totally immersing it in alcohol. I used gin for the blueberries. Keep it sealed in a dark, cool place and shake the mixture daily. In a few weeks strain it, discard the fruit and add a simple syrup (water and sugar) to the strained alcohol, to taste. At this point, bottle it up, seal in sterilized glass and set it away for a couple months. Once it’s opened, it should be kept in the refrigerator. Of course, if at any point mold shows up, (very unlikely) everything should be discarded.

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.

Hibiscus, Harvest & Sourdough

All the hibiscus are blooming. A few  raspberries and green beans are still trickling in. The cucumbers are taking over with a vengeance. Once again, my squash succumbed to mildew and I wish I had planted more potatoes.

The sourdough starter I made last week was ready to use Monday and I baked its first loaf of bread yesterday. I stuck with the recipe from, My Sister’s Kitchen. It never does me wrong.

Sourdough & Detergent

I neglected my sourdough starter for too long and it died. I started a new batch today and I’ll be able to start using it next week. I made it the old fashioned way, following Sally Fallon’s instructions in ” Nourishing Traditions”. I ground 2 cups of rye into flour and added 2 cups of cold water. The mixture stays covered with a clean cloth and will be kept on the kitchen counter. For the next 6 days I’ll transfer the starter into a clean bowl and add a cup of rye flour and a cup of water.  It will get bubbly. Then it will settle down a bit and be ready for me to use for bread and baked goods. After that, I’ll keep it refrigerated and fed with rye flour and water . Hopefully, it will last for years, unless I abandon it again.

Two or three times a year, I make laundry detergent.  One batch makes 5 gallons.   I was getting low  so I made that too.  It took about 20 minutes and it has to stand for 24 hours.  Tomorrow I’ll fill up my milk cartons and be set for a while.

Fruit Toppings & Keeping Flowers

A few weeks ago I made strawberry topping for ice cream sundaes. There was some left so I refrigerated it used it to top the yogurt and kefir I make. It was delicious.  I decided to do a healthier version with the small amount (1 cup) of gooseberries I harvested. I mashed and cooked them down for a few minutes and then once they were cooled, I stirred in raw honey. Heat kills the enzymes in the honey. Had I been sweetening with sugar, I would’ve just added the sugar in the beginning with the berries. I’ll keep this gooseberry topping in the fridge and make blueberry and strawberry as well.

Flowers are so pretty I wish they would last forever. My cousin told me that Mod Podge preserves fresh flowers. I printed out some quotes that I like in a dimension for bookmarks. Then I decorated them with fresh flowers and glued and sealed them with Mod Podge. (Elmer’s or white glue works just as well but needs to be thinned a little bit with water.)

I posted about our losing my cousin John a few weeks ago. His daughter Stacey (she is so much like her Dad), sent me roses. I wanted to keep them so I made rosepetal beads . The link gives easy directions and a wonderful story of how they were used in Medieval times. The only ingredients were 4 cups of petals and water. They were very easy to make. I strung them on a chain that I wear with my Grandfather’s wedding ring and a few other things that are meaningful to me. Body heat imparts the rose fragrance. It’s a beautiful reminder to me of people that I love so much.

Dominos, Snow & Salad Dressing

Last night my daughters came over for dinner and a game of Mexican Train Dominoes.  With temperatures in the negative digits, 2 feet of snow on the ground and a forecast predicting more snow for 3 straight days, I needed some fun.  Plus, I got to to send care packages home with my girls.

We had escalloped potatoes with ham and a  big salad with homemade dressing and some side fixings.   Instead of mixing all the salad ingredients together, I  put everything on the table like a salad bar.  Mixed lettuce, tomatoes and celery went together in a big bowl  and  then onions, blue cheese, dried cranberries, nuts, avocado, peppers were in their own smaller bowls. Everyone added what they liked to their own salads. I made a basic creamy garlic salad dressing by mixing these ingredients together in a jar:

  • 1 small, raw garlic clove, mashed (sprinkle a little sea salt on the garlic before you mash it up to pull the juices out of it)
  • 4 Tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons mayonaise
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (  I used apple cider vinegar but white wine vinegar is good too)
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • salt and pepper to taste

This tastes better if it’s made a few hours ahead and even better made the night before.  It will stay about a week in the fridge.   Shake the jar before serving.

For dessert I made vanilla cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting.

I’m ready for the snow.

 

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Home remedies, Starting seeds & a Pug

Schools are already being cancelled for tomorrow because another foot of snow is supposedly on its way!  Milk sold out today at the grocery store but they have plenty of cactus seeds.

May 31  is the date here when we are deemed safe from frosts.   I save all plastic containers that can be used to start seeds indoors.  A  large, screw in hook is a handy device to create drainage holes.  It easily makes a hole in thick or thin containers without cracking the plastic.  It’s too early to start seeds for my garden but I thought it would be fun to try sprouting some cactus. (cactusses?, cacti?)

There’s been a lot of  cold and flu remedies, natural antibiotic and ‘master tonic’ recipes floating around on the internet.  I’m not sure I would subscribe to those claims but the ingredients looked interesting so  I made a quick vinegar tincture with garlic, ginger, horseradish and a little bit of  hot pepper.  That combination will surely open the sinuses but I’m thinking a couple spoonfuls would  give a good punch to a smoothie, dipping sauce or salad dressing.

I think our dog  Harvey might be feeling a little depressed over getting another snowstorm.

 

 

odds & ends

I’d rather be gardening….but that is a long way off !  Reading this morning’s  post of  one of the bloggers I follow, Johnwhays, renewed my resolve to enjoy these cold winter days and put them to good use.

I finished a pillow I was making and it adds a cheerful note to this funny chair that I painted and reupholstered earlier.  I removed the back from some earrings I had and gorilla glued them onto the ends of the arms.   I don’t go for “high style” here, (obviously, lol),  I lean more toward the whimsical….things that make me happy

I made my weekly batch of kefir in this big, 8 cup glass jar. For any of you out there that want to make your own kefir and haven’t gotten your own kefir grains or don’t want to deal with maintaining them..dehydrated kefir starter works great and it’s quick and convenient. Eventually, I will get a hold of some live kefir grains  but this is  fine for now.

A while back  I learned from another blogger, Agnes from Gaiainaction , that it’s possible to start plants from  grocery-store bought ginger and tumeric  and that she had done it.  I potted some up and will keep them moist.   Hopefully, if I can keep myself from poking at them, they will be growing in no time!

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Williamsburg Farmers Market

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Williamsburg  Farmers Market giftsofnature@cox.net

Williamsburg Farmers Market
giftsofnature@cox.net

I had such a fun morning today! I went to the Williamsburg Farmers Market. It’s right in the middle of Historic Williamsburg, in Merchant Square. There is live music, happy people, delicious food, gorgeous flowers and I was able to bring my little dog Flora along!

It is a wonderful Farmers Market, they have so many different things, all locally grown, made or harvested. Continue reading

Cultured Pickles

Lacto fermented pickles...instructional

Lacto fermented pickles…instructional

My little pickling cukes are growing fast. I can pick 4 or 5 of them at a time and make a quick quart of cultured pickles. After you do it a few times, it is so easy and takes no time at all! You just slice them up, pop them into a clean jar with a few ingredients and you have a healthy jar of snacks with the added benefit of all the healthy probiotics that comes with cultured foods. Here goes: Continue reading