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 .

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Freezing Apples, Crisp & a Happy Picture


Organic apples were on sale at our local market last week for $1 a pound. I bought 6 pounds of them and froze them for baking. They can be frozen whole but it’s a pain to peel and core them frozen or defrosted. I peel, core and slice them first, then freeze them. They aren’t good raw once they’re frozen but they are great cooked. The only thing is, they give out more liquid than the fresh ones would. I counteract that by adding arrowroot flour to the apples so the juice thickens up instead of being watery. Corn starch is another option but I prefer arrowroot. I use it to thicken gravy too.
The apples in the freezer came in handy today when my daughter called to say she was dropping by this afternoon for a quick visit. I filled an 8×8 baking dish with a mixture of frozen apples, 2T of arrowroot, 1/8 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Then I made a quick, standard crisp topping -3/4 cup brown sugar combined with 3/4 cup flour and 2t cinnamon. Add 1/2 cup butter. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (like making pie crust) until everything is mixed together and crumbly. Scatter this over the apples and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the apples are tender. *This topping is delicious with pears and peaches too!
By the time my daughter got here, the kitchen smelled like cinnamon and apples. I made some tea and showed her the picture I finished for the nursery I’m planning upstairs. We had the apple crisp warm and I whipped up a little cream to top it off.

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.

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.

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.

Summer Day

Lazy was a 4 letter word, according to my Grandmother..one of the worst. When I was taught how to do something, my Mother would say, “do it right or not at all…do it again.” When I’d finally get it right she’d say,”now do it faster.”

Those lessons have a way of sticking with me. I don’t want to be a slacker but on the other hand, there are some days when getting lots of  things done quickly and efficiently just doesn’t happen.

Yesterday, I was picking currants and the frogs were making a racket.  I ended up visiting with them for a long time. I started weeding but there were so many bumblebees I couldn’t resist trying to take beautiful pictures of them like the ones I see on Derrick J. Knight’s blog. (his photos are fabulous, I’ll spare you mine). Then I had the urge to try to pet the bumblebees.. I read on Mary Tang’s blog that people actually do that.   The bees kept buzzing away from me but I’ll try again another time.

Back in the house, I started cleaning but got distracted looking around my house thinking about redecorating and changes I want to make. That led to a rummage through my material.

Time got away from me so for dinner, I just made a salad. Kale, greens raw peas and pods from the garden with tomato, chopped onions and feta cheese. I thinned out plain yogurt with pickle juice and added some minced garlic which made a surprisingly good salad dressing.

After dinner, I had some laughs with my cousins and read for a while.

Definitely not a productive day but a good one, nonetheless.

Sweet Violet Simple Syrup

Violets are in full bloom throughout the garden so I made some sweet violet syrup.  A spoonful in a cup of herbal or darjeeling tea  is  delicious.  A splash in a glass of iced water adds a tinge of color, subtle flavor and a  bit of sweetness.  It can be added to fruit salads, lemonade, iced tea or cocktails.

I picked violets without the stems and washed them in cold water.  Then I loosely packed the flowers into a clean glass jar and covered them with boiling water.   Eight hours later, I strained the infused water and measured it . There was 3 cups.  I put the violets, infused water and 3 cups of sugar (same measurement as the infused water) into a non reactive pan and stirred it over low heat until all the sugar was dissolved.  I added the juice of 1 lemon.  (Lemon is optional. I like the taste  better with the lemon but it does change the color of the syrup,  giving it a pinkish hue instead of purple.)  I strained the violets out with a  fine mesh strainer and poured the syrup into a sterilized glass jar. Once it cooled down, it went into the fridge where it will be stored.

I should probably mention that violets that may have been exposed to pesticides, lawn fertilizers or sprays should never be used.   Also, I took some shortcuts from traditional methods. I infused the violets for 8 hours  and most recipes recommend  letting them sit for 24 hours.  I used  organic cane sugar  which isn’t pure white and  I didn’t remove the green parts  at the bases of the flowers,  probably compromising the color of the syrup.  Here’s a link for a recipe without the shortcuts  and with some more good ideas on how to use the syrup.

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Asparagus for Breakfast


So thankful to wake up to sunshine, flowers and WATER! Our water was restored yesterday. Early in the morning until late afternoon.. all weekend long, this small business owner worked to replace our water pump and tank. The pump was 200 feet down into the ground! I am so thankful to him. He went above and beyond what I expected. There are still business owners that care, do excellent work and have a lot of integrity.
The flowering trees are still blooming, the currant bushes are in blossom too. The funny fritillaries didn’t seem to help my mole problem but I like the whimsical note they bring.
Asparagus is coming in. There’s nothing like it….freshly picked from the garden, blanched in boiling water just until the color turns very bright so it is tender yet slightly crisp. I melt a little butter on it and add a sprinkle of sea salt. I had it first thing this morning, out in the garden with some coffee and cream.
I planted the apple trees this weekend. A few years ago, my cousin in South Carolina gave me an odd tip; when planting fruit trees, she adds a handful or 2 of dry dog food into the hole. I’ve done it ever since. I wonder if that is a common thing?
Happy Spring!

Getting Ready

Baking, cleaning, finishing up a few things to go in the Easter baskets,continuing to sow seeds for the garden…today was the beginning of a busy week.  I made Laurie’s  ginger-carrot soup from Notes from the Hinterland  and it was delicious!  We’re still getting snow..flurries mostly and the temperatures are cold so chances are that we wont be having any daffodils or tulips anytime soon ouside.  Luckily, the indoor plants are doing their best to make up for it.

Cabbage Patch, Calendula & Diamataceous Earth

I may have been a little over enthusiastic in sowing the seeds for my cabbage patch.  I have over 60 little plants.  Cabbage is great for saurkraut, of course,  and if you make your own you can add all sort of good things to it…carrots, kale, onions..even oranges.  Delicious!  I like to stir fry cabbage in coconut oil. It is  sweet, a little crunchy and doesn’t smell like sulfur when cooked this way.  Onions, fresh garlic and sea salt taste great with it.   Pea pods make a great addition too.

I have a lot of calendula started too.  Fresh calendula petals added to stir fries, salads..even fruit salads make things look pretty and add extra nutrition.  Dried petals retain their shape and color when added to glycerine soaps, vinegars and oils.  In the garden, they  are workhorses and make terrific companion plants.

I notice the fruit flies beginning to hover and multiply over my seedlings.  A little food grade Diamataceous earth sprinkled on the potting bench will take care of that problem in no time.  It’s non toxic and safe for pets.  Once it gets wet it is no longer effective. In the past, I’ve had issues with ants and japanese beetles in my old house.  Last year I sprinkled Diamataceous earth in all the windowsills, along the perimeters of the cellar and on top of the beams.  It really worked .

Speaking of Cabbage Patches and little sprouts…my daughter is having a baby!  The first grandchild!  I added the last stitch to this happy little quilt last night.

Spring Flowers, Winter Thaw

The first flower has  sprung!  Most of the snow in the front yard has melted.  The back yard is still  snowy but a heat wave of 60 degrees is coming so that should be gone soon.  I was working in the front gardens today, mostly pruning and cleaning.  After just a couple of hours, I realized that  I  am out of shape.  I cooked up a batch of vegetables in some of my chicken broth and ran it through the blender when the vegetable were tender.  Vitamin packed and good for the bones!   I am excited that have a lot of work ahead of me and I want to be up for it.

Away with the Grey

The grey was getting to me.  Dark skies,freezing rain, slush…my daughter laying on the couch eating contraband poptarts..lights off and TV blaring… ugh, too depressing

Gone are the days when I could turn off the television and set her onto something productive so I lured her up from the couch and away from poptarts with the offer of an afternoon of beauty.  We started off with yoga….I have a nice instuctional video that has waves and sea gulls in the background. It drowned out the sound of sleet pelting our windows. Then, I mixed up an avocado and honey  facial. It was easy to make and  our skin felt  refreshed and rosy.  (it was a little chunky and awkward to apply, next time I’ll run it through the blender).

Next came  the “Dead Sea Detoxifier and Relaxant”.  In other words, a hot bath with sea salts added.  I added 2 tablespoons of castor oil to 1 cup of Dead Sea Salts.   Castor oil doesn’t  leave the greasy residue in the tub like the other oils.  Epsom salts can be substituted for the Dead Sea Salts and castor oil is optional.  The salts are high in minerals which are absorbed  by the body during the bath.  There’s a good amount of magnesium which relaxes muscles.  I added some lavender oil to the mix and lit a beeswax candle near the bathtub.

While my daughter soaked away, hopefully leaching some of the college toxins out of herself,  I spent the rest of my ‘afternoon of beauty” looking at garden catalogues .  Lavender and honey in the air, poptarts in the garbage..

Warm from the inside

 

I woke up to snow this morning! I never checked the weather report so it came as a complete surprise. I guess I’ll spend some time shoveling today before everything turns into a frozen, crusty mess..it’s still soo cold.
Yesterday I made a good, warming soup. A bunch of kale, 2 carrots, 2 small potatoes, a tuber of tumeric and a 3 inch chunk of ginger root all went into a pot with homemade chicken stock. Everything was brought to a boil and then simmered until the carrots were tender. When it cooled down a bit, I pureed the whole lot. It tasted good.. a little,spicy, warm and kind of exotic to my New England taste buds. Sea salt, black pepper and a teaspoon of coconut oil made it even better. I’ve been trying to think of ways to incorporate fresh tumeric into my diet..it has so many health benefits: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and there’s a lot of studies showing it may improve brain function and increase endorphins. I’m in! Maybe I wont feel crabby and sore from shoveling this snow:)
My daughter is still home with me for a few more days. Last night we watched the first of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy together and we turned this year’s Christmas cards into next year’s gift tags. Tonight is part 2. I do love having her back home.

Doldrums & Super-juice


I was away for a week with my whole family, (almost), including the dogs! I loved being all together again. It was so much fun.
This morning was a different story. The long car ride home yesterday, the too-quiet house, a week of vacation food ….I felt like a blob.
The temperature was 22 degrees and the wind was terrible. I decided I’d rather face the bitter cold than the dreary prospect of taking down the Christmas decorations so I headed out to our local organic market.
The produce department invigorated and inspired me. (pathetic, I know) Overwhelmed by healthy thoughts, I gathered up ingredients to make a real powerhouse juice… Watercress, wheatgrass, carrots and a nice fat pineapple. Pineapple is a great anti- inflammatory and good for digestion. Beets would have made a healthy addition as they are good blood purifiers but I can’t stand the taste of them. I also picked up a good looking ginger rhizome, raw honey and a bottle of raw, organic apple cider vinegar.
When I got home, I pulled out one of my Christmas presents…a little Ninja juicer. Doubting if it could handle a raw carrot, I threw it in along with some pineapple and my greens. Wanting to hit the whole color spectrum, I added some frozen berries from my garden. It was smooth and delicious! Quick, easy and clean up was a snap. The rest of the pineapple was cut up into cubes and frozen.
Then, I diced up about an inch of the ginger and added it to 2 cups of boiled water. I covered it and left it to steep for a couple hours. Later, I added a teaspoon of honey and 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, mixed it until the honey dissolved and drank it with ice. It tasted really good and clean, very refreshing. I had bought a bottled drink in an expensive gourmet store while I was away that had these same ingredients, except they used stevia instead of honey. It was advertised as being good for detoxifying, digestion and clearing the sinuses. My version tasted a lot like theirs and cost practically nothing.
Still avoiding the Christmas decorations, I cleaned out the fridge and noticed the eggs were getting close to expiring. I made some custard. Organic milk and cream, pasture raised eggs and substituting sucanat for sugar… healthy dessert for tonight.
I stuck the eggshells into the oven when the custard was almost done,that makes them clean and easy to crumble. I keep a jar of powdered eggshells under the sink and add them to boost my seedlings when they get transplanted into the garden. The garden…I can’t wait

Garden Update, Fresh Tomato Sauce recipe

Fermenting cucumbers, sprouting spelt grains, kefir, zucchini, tomatoes

Fermenting cucumbers, sprouting spelt grains, kefir, zucchini, tomatoes

September is here!   Beans and cucumbers are slowing down, as are the blackberries.  Sadly, most of my summer squash, including the spaghetti squash were struck once again by my nemesis, the squash borer.  My harvest has been sparse there.  On a happier note, even though they are really late, tomatoes Continue reading

Best, Fresh, Green Bean Recipe

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Every day I am picking green beans! There’s nothing like fresh garden beans! I am blanching and freezing a lot of them but I am eating as many as I can because they just seem to lose so much in texture and flavor once they are frozen.

I like fresh string beans to have a little crunch, to be a nice bright green and seasoned simply with butter and salt when I eat them. I follow Julia Child’s recipe to make this happen. Julia knows best! These are simple and delicious!

1. Add enough water to a saucepan sufficient to cover beans…. And bring to boil, without beans

2. Wash and cut the tips off your beans. When water is boiled, add the beans to it, just until the water returns to the boil OR until the beans turn a bright green, whatever comes first.

3. Quickly drain your beans. Put them back into the hot, empty saucepan and stir them up a couple times. This will evaporate any excess water.

4. Add a tablespoon of butter. As soon as the butter is melted, transfer to a serving dish, add a little salt and watch them disappear!! They are delicious, quick and easy.

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