Tuesday, September 29, 2009

B is for Basil

And Basket.

And a basket with basil.

With the temps hovering in the high 30's at night, I thought it best to harvest all of my basil before I lost it due to a freeze. Ideally, you want to harvest your basil before it begins blooming. It is said that once the basil blooms it changes the flavor somewhat. Being the great rule follower that I am, I generally push that a bit. And if I see some blooms and Im not ready to use my basil then I just pinch the blooms off and that gives me a few more days.

So, after I hauled all that basil inside, I then decided to take it back out to the patio so I could cut of all the roots.

But, before I could do that G wanted to pick out some basil plants for grammy.

A little discussion over just which ones are going to go in the bag.

This one, while upside down, must have made the cut.

Grammy listening very intently to my instruction on how to make the pesto.

After I gave grammy her basil and she made her way home that meant that I had to get to work. Sigh. The weighing of the basil begins.

This is what one pound of basil looks like.

This is what one boy doing his homework and five pounds of basil looks like.

I decided to dry all this basil since I have some pesto stored in the freezer already.

Most of the basil I tied into little bundles of about 2 stems or so.

I did read tho, that you could tear the leaves off the stem, and put them in a dish and dry them out that way. Making sure to toss them around a bit every day to help them dry out. I thought I would give that a try this time as well and see which process I preferred.

After doing that, I grabbed my trusty stool and headed downstairs.

Then I hung all my little bundles up.

It normally takes about a week to dry them out fully. And they will begin to brown and look not very pretty. But thats okay. Once they are thoroughly dry all you have to do is strip all the leaves off the stems and smash them up a bit. Store them in an airtight container and you can have freshly dried basil all winter long. It makes a very nice addition to pasta sauces, pizza sauces, and many kinds of soups.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fun in the morning

Its always a fun time when you get to go hang out with your kids at school.

J's class has been studying Native Americans and they thought it would be fun and interesting to host their own potlatch.

So, some time ago, he brought home a little cookbook that was filled with all kinds of Native American recipes. The item he chose to bring was called Honey Corn Cakes.

Here. Take a peek.

I got out my trusty griddle and began heating it up.

All the while I mixed all the ingredients.

Dont they look yummy?

I lined my dish with some parchment paper in hopes that the little cakes wouldnt stick.

Fill her up.

I got them all cooked and and transferred them to my little heated portable thingie and headed out to the school.

A festive little table with all kinds of good things lined up to try.

So happy to see me! (please note that hes the only one with stuff strewn all over his space)

Tasting a salmon cake. While this picture is not very convincing, I can honestly say that he really liked those salmon cakes.

Which is why he is in line again...for the third time....

And when the teacher went around the room and asked everyone what their favorite item was, J, devoted to his salmon cake at this point, of course, said the salmon cakes. But it didnt end there. He then went on to say that he wasnt surprised at all that he liked the salmon cake, because he really enjoys fish. However, he doesnt see the opportunity arising to have them again anytime soon because his dad had a bad experience with salmon when he was growing up.

See, the story, as I know it was that when S was younger salmon patties were cooked at his house only when his
dad(J's grandpa) had gotten in "trouble". Those were the nights that his mom(J's grandma) decided that salmon patties were in order. And evidently S didnt like the salmon patties either. And he carries this story with him to this day.... But clearly, this story didnt have a negative impact on J!

A fun time was had by all and as you can see....everyone loved the Honey Corn Cakes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For the love of Pumpkins

I heart pumpkins. Maybe because one of my favorite colors is orange? Maybe because they are so fun to grow in the garden? Maybe because it means that fall is right around the corner? Maybe because I love eating things that are made with pumpkin? I cant know.

What I do know is that my pumpkins had been harvested for about 10 days and it was time to process them into yummy, orange goodness.

You start with a freshly bathed pumpkin.

Cut it in half. This can prove to be a challenge, especially if you have a larger variety of pumpkin. Just make sure you have a really sharp knife. That helps a lot.

Scoop out all the seeds and scrape out as much of the stringy pulp as you can.

Place them cut side down onto a baking sheet. I actually coat my baking sheet with a bit of cooking spray so that the pumpkins dont stick to the sheet.

Put them into a 350 degree oven for about one hour. (and I assume no liability if this does not turn out for you unless it is exactly 930 when you do it.)

When you can easily pierce them with a fork then you know they are good to go.

Let them cool until they are easy to handle. Id say about 20 min or so.

Scoop out all the cooked flesh.

At this point, I cover my bowls of pumpkin with a towel and let them set for an hour or so. I find that this helps draw out some of the extra moisture that most squash contain.

Then I place the cooked pumpkin into a colander to drain off the excess liquid.

After that I puree the cooked pumpkin in the food processor until it is smooth.

Most preserving information that you read strongly suggests not to preserve pumpkin by canning it. So, I store all of mine in freezer bags.

This time I processed 6 pie pumpkins and ended up with 24 cups of cooked pumpkin. You can use it for pies, breads, muffins, waffles, cakes....That should last me well until next season....right?

And if cooking and preserving pumpkins isnt for you, well, find a friend that has a lovely flock of amazing chickens and put those pumpkins in a box...then send that box to that friend....she will know what to do with those pumpkins when they arrive. Not that I did that. But its a good idea. Im just sayin.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Garden Update

We have had some pretty mild temps here lately, but it has been super dry. Overall the garden seems to be slowing down, however, it definitely has some plants that are still hard at work.

What used to be the lovely bed of pumpkins is now quite empty.

The pumpkins started going downhill quite a few weeks ago, due mainly to powdery mildew, I believe, but also I think some insects made their way in as well.

Sadly, what began as about 15 pumpkins initially, dwindled down to these 6. They are very pretty little guys, but time will tell if they got mature enough to actually cook with them.

You can see several of these sweet, little melons still laying around.

And there are even lots of little flowers popping up to make me think that things are still trying to make it.

But, when you look at the overall picture, the plants just dont seem to have it in them any longer.

The basil beckons me with its lovely aroma every time I walk past. I think thats its way of reminding me that I need to make it into pesto before it goes to seed. Its on my list of things to do this week. I have already made one batch. But clearly, I have enough to make much more.

The green beans have really slowed down.

I did get a handful this afternoon.

And this row of beans was one that we planted a month or so ago when we noticed that our initial batch of beans was beginning to taper off.

When I looked today they had some very pretty beans waiting for me.

Quite a few it looks like. I hope we get a good harvest off of them before the first frost arrives.

And wow. I have really enjoyed these peppers. They are very prolific plants and the peppers are very sweet and crispy. And really? I chose them based solely on their name. "Lipstick Peppers". How can you not like that name?

My pickling cucumbers look really bad.

But still seem to want to share their love with me. I have been very, very happy with this variety, "Diamant".

And, of course, not to be forgotten, are my tomatoes. The San Marzanos have proven to be a great sauce tomato. Very meaty and not too many seeds. BUT, Im just not sure that I want to deal with the BER(blossom end rot) every year.

I leave you with this great little cherry tomato called, Isis Candy.

And is it ever sweet. The little guy just loves to pop these in his mouth as we are out harvesting. This will for sure be in my garden next season.