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Archive for October, 2008

First Frost

When we got up this morning, there was a thick layer of frost on our cars.   This wasn’t a little rinky-dink frost either, the grass sounded like I was walking on broken glass.   It’s our first one we’ve had so far, though there have been other frosts very close by.  We live on a little hill, so that makes a difference I suppose.  I’ve been anticipating our first frost since October 10th, so I feel like I got 13 extra days. 

Good enough for me!  Two of my green peppers made it to full red and I was able to leave my beans on the vine long enough to get a grocery bag full of mature pods that I’ll shell.  Sadly, none of them made it to full dry, though many of them have leathery, almost dry pods.  I’d like to save some for seed.  Can I let those dry fully off the vine and still use them for seed?  Anyone know?

As of now the only thing I’ve still got in the ground are carrots and Jerusalem Artichokes.  My peas were still bearing as of last night, but that frost may have killed them (it’s pitch black when I leave for work in the morning, so I wasn’t able to check them).  They never really did much anyway.  I think I maybe got 20-30 pods off of them?  Ah well…experiment completed!

My garlic still needs to be planted.  Hopefully I’ll get to that this weekend.

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Green Tomatoes

Last night we dropped by the farm to make sure a check I had left for the managers was found. We’re signing up for 2 chickens and some farm-raised pork that we’ll receive in November and this was my deposit check.

Everything looks very different. We had a couple of evenings of frost in the lower gardens, so everything in the main gardens are dead. It was strange to see the piles of blackening tomato vines lying in the fields. We’re going to go over later to help her pull them up.

Next weekend we’re having a celebration at the farm for the year that we’ve had, so we’ve all been asked to bring a dish to share. I’m making my famous southern biscuits and I also thought I would make green tomatoes if we had any left from the farm. Connie (the manager) told me that she was expecting to have a few more frosts before next weekend, so she said that I should probably pick the tomatoes while I was there and store them in a dark place. She said to take whatever we wanted since they didn’t have anything to do with them.

She said she hadn’t been back to the upper garden in a few days, but she suspected there were probably some up there (It’s up on the highest point of the farm, so there wasn’t any frost there). Pete and I headed up with a cloth bag to see if we could scavenge a few. We should have brought more bags. The plants up there were collapsing under the weight of their tomatoes. The ground beneath the plants was littered with freshly-dropped green and barely-ripened tomatoes. And they were perfect. We’ve had many, many delicious tomatoes from the farm, but very few perfectly beautiful ones. These look like grocery store tomatoes.

Pete was having a fit and we quickly picked more than enough green tomatoes for the party next weekend. But then we couldn’t stop ourselves. We picked up an awful lot of the large tomatoes that were on the ground and every Brandywine and Amish Paste we could find. I kept saying to Pete “Stop! We can’t carry anymore! This is too much for us!” even as I was stuffing my shirt full of tomatoes. We couldn’t stop ourselves! How do you leave a perfect 1.5lb Brandywine to rot on the ground!?

Eventually when they were falling out of the pockets we had made from our shirts we gave up. We had been out there for about 10 minutes.

As we were carrying the bag back (one on each handle) it actually broke it was so full! We went back into the barn to show Connie what we had managed to pick in such a short time and she said “Please! Take them! They’ll never ripen in time.  At least they won’t die in the fields!” We offered to come back and pick some to give to the food shelter or something and she said that she already offered but they didn’t want to take any green tomatoes…can you believe that?

So now I have this:

Which is what I had left after I pulled out every pristine and unripe green tomato and put them in my storage room:

So my plans of fried green tomatoes will account for about…I don’t know…maybe 15 of those.  Which means that I still have about 40 lbs. of tomatoes to deal with.

I’ve heard that they will keep green for up to a month as long as you pull out the ripening tomatoes and keep them cool and dark.  Anyone have experience holding green tomatoes?  I’d actually prefer to delay the ripening for as long as possible.

Anyone have a recipe for pickling green tomatoes?  I’ve still got empty mason jars!

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Canning Green Beans

 

Here I am finally telling you about my green beans!

A few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me from Alabama for my Birthday.  One of my gifts was a pressure canner which was incredibly exciting.  I have a boiling water canner, but I was feeling limited in my options (and I never want to can another tomato again OH MY GOD).  Thanks to our continuous rainy, cool weather we had over the weekend they were here, we decided to try out the new canner.  I had a good amount of green beans, so that seemed like the appropriate thing to can.

I had never done any pressure canning, so Daddy had to show me what to do.  I generally trust his judgement when it comes to things like this, because he is a microbiologist AND my father, and the combination of those two things make it very unlikely that he will poison me with Botulism unintentionally.

First, we rinsed and snapped the beans.  I have a tendency, when I’m cooking, to snap my beans in rather large pieces since I enjoy the way they look on my plate.   Daddy explained to me that smaller pieces were better since more can fit in the jar that way.  Otherwise, there is a lot of empty space.  My mother said that she liked the way large pieces looked in the jars, but I was short on pints so smaller pieces won the day.

We packed them cold then filled the jars with tap water. 

Next we added a half a teaspoon of salt to each pint jar.  This apparently keeps down bacteria?  I don’t know…I forgot what he told me here.

Then we tightened the lids

Then I proceeded to take 25 “artsy” pictures of my green beans.  OF GREEN BEANS!  Does that seem really sad to you?  I have to say it does to me.  Look how pretty they are though!  I’m not sorry…

Then into the pressure canner my lovely little beans went. 

I had never used a pressure canner before, so it was a total learning experience to me.  It kinda freaked me out, because I was certain it was going to explode everywhere (especially after my mom told me a story of a pinto bean clogging her steam vent once which caused the entire pressure gauge system to blow off and shoot a geyser of hot pinto bean stew all over her kitchen.  Thanks mom), but there were no mishaps.  It did send the cat into an absolute tizzy what with the hissing and rattling that was going on. 

We cooked them for 20 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure.

After we took them out, they clearly lost their beauty, turning into a vaguely-grey mass of beans.  Well, they will be yummy if not beautiful come January. 

The coolest thing about the pressure canning was that the jars continued to boil for almost a half-an-hour after we took them out of the canner.  That was amazing to me.

So!  My first attempt at canning was a success!  Hurrah!

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DO IT!

If you haven’t registered yet, you are running out of time.

You have to vote.  You have to care.

Go do it now.

I don’t care who you vote for (OK, that’s a lie) but you have to do it.  Voting is the most important thing we can do as Americans.  DO IT.

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Last night when Pete picked me up at the train station he told me that the woman who runs our CSA had called.  She asked him if we could come over and talk to her about a few things that needed fixing up around the farm.  She told him “Tell Taylor I’ve got some leeks for her!”  Boy does she ever know how to make me come running.

I’m having a love affair with Leeks.  I only discovered them a few years ago and this year I’ve really fallen for them.  They have the mildest, creamiest onion flavor that I just adore and they are delicious in everything I’ve ever put them in- soups, casseroles, quiches.  Really, they can be use anywhere an onion can be used.  Bonus points for the fact that they are essentially the Welsh national vegetable, and I have a similar love affair with Wales. 

So we came home from the farm last night a few leeks (and green tomatoes, Amish Paste tomatoes, and Acorn Squash) richer.  I had a few potatoes from the farmer’s market in my pantry, a few carrots from the garden in my fridge that I needed to use, and a few pieces of leftover pot roast from this weekend that were too small to be used for much, so I thought a soup was in order.  I just kind of made it up as I went along, and it turned out to be one of the best soups I’ve ever had.  I did have the forethought to write down the ingredients, so here you go:

Ingredients: (And these are pretty fluid.  I have a tendency to just toss things in without really measuring them, so read all of these with an “about” in the front of them)

2 Tbsp Butter (I used homemade)

2 Tbsp Olive Oil (obviously not homemade)

2-3 Medium leeks, chopped- about 3 cups (from our CSA)

2 cups diced carrots (from our garden)

2 large cloves minced garlic (from the farmer’s market)

5 small potatoes, diced- about 4-5 cups (from the farmer’s market)

6 cups of liquid- any type of broth, stock or water (we used 4 cups of chicken stock that was left in our pantry from the past winter- but it was organic, I swear!- and 2.5 cups of beef stock.  Except that it wasn’t really beef stock.  I used the liquid from the pot roast we made and watered it down a little bit.  It was extrememly rich, which probably accounts for how substantial the soup seemed)

1.5 cups of shredded left over roast, or any other type of meat (Now this wasn’t quite local, but it was certainly sustainably grown.  It came from the cow my parents raised last year.  I brought home the roast on the airplane last time I was in Alabama.  And she was certainly free-range.  Somehow she escaped the field she lived in and was missing for about two weeks.  Daddy actually went to the police station to file a missing cow report!  That the officer didn’t even blink should be an indication of how rural the town my parents live in is.   One day she just showed back up- about 40 lbs lighter and with sticks and brambles all in her hair and tail.  When they opened the gate to try and herd her back in, she ran gleefully back into the confines of the fence.  I guess she was glad to be home.)

1 Tbsp floured butter (butter kneaded with about 2 Tbsp of flour)

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1.  Chop the leeks into small pieces.  Dice the carrots.

2.  In a large, heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and butter until it begins to bubble over medium  heat.  Toss in the leeks and garlic.  Saute, stiring frequently, until the leeks begin to wilt and brown slightly.  Add the carrots and continue to saute about five minutes, stirring occasionally.

3.  Add the potatoes to the pot and stir to combine.  Continue cooking until potatoes begin to slightly soften, about 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

4.  Add liquids to the pot and bring to a heavy simmer.  Cover and cook until potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.   Once potatoes are soft, mash a few of them into the soup (I just smushed them against the side of the pot with the spoon).

5.  Stir in beef to heat.

6.  Add floured butter in pieces while stirring constantly.  Bring soup back to a boil.  This will thicken the broth.  If you would like to thicken it further, dip a small about of broth into a seperate bowl and mix in 1-2 Tbsp of flour until it is disolved into the liquid.  Add back to the soup pot.  You can adjust this to your liking.  Season to taste.

7.  All Done!  Enjoy!

 

I made enough that we were able to freeze most of it- about 10-12 cups, probably.  I will be divine served over rice or quinoa, which will help stretch it.  I was really pleased that we managed to make it almost totally from local ingredients (with the exception of the oil, chicken stock, flour, salt and pepper.  And the beef if you’re being picky!) 

If y’all find yourselves with some leeks, I hope you try the recipe out.

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