July 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
I was in a sour mood the other day. So, I made pickles.
I’ve been wanting to make pickles for a year or so, ever since I had an excess of small beets produced in our garden last year. I even kept the beets in a sealed bag in the fridge for several months, thinking I’d make pickled beets at some point. I didn’t. I searched for the just-right pickling recipe for so long, my beets eventually went bad.
And it’s not like I haven’t pickled anything before. I have. Pickled green cherry tomatoes. They were delicious. But still, there was something intimidating about the thought of making pickled beets.
I had had my eye on a Moosewood recipe for pickled red onions. I kept putting it off and putting it off. Then I spotted a recipe in Martha Stewart Living for pickled onions, radishes and snap peas – cocktail pickles. It got me thinking. Finally this week I decided to bite the bullet and pickle up some red onions.
I examined the Moosewood recipe – it called for brown sugar – and I examined the Martha recipe – white sugar. And then I dug out that old pickled green cherry tomato recipe – salt. I considered them all – and decided to go with this.
Two jars of the one-pint jelly variety.
1 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbs packed brown sugar
-Boil the above and let cool.
-In each jar place
– 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
-1/2 tsp black peppercorns
-1/2 tsp mustard seeds
-1 bay leaf
-1 garlic clove
-1 sneaky dried chili pepper optional
While I was boiling the liquid, I realized I didn’t have red onions. Digging through the hydrator drawers, I found an older head of red cabbage and a carrot. I shredded enough cabbage to lightly pack one jar, and julienned a carrot to fit into the other jar. I divided the vinegar liquid between the two jars, and it was enough to cover the veggies. I covered the jars with lids and tightened with the rings, and popped them into the fridge. A day later, I had a taste of the results. And I have to say, not bad.
March 18, 2011 § 1 Comment
Slow food – either in the home or in a restaurant – is something I believe in. It’s flavorful, aromatic, enjoyable and really hits all the senses. I get that – and I absolutely love it.
I am, however, a big big believer in the really sloooow food movement. In fact, I’m working on a spinach salad right now. Should be ready in about 40 days, if we get some good weather.
You guessed it – I’m growing the spinach myself.
Spinach is one of those cool-season crops that you can start as early as March. It’s a tough character and can take chilly weather. Think of it as a Patriots linesman at Gillette in January with short sleeves and lovin’ it. Yes, it’s mild outside today – what plant doesn’t love 65F? – but temps will drop, believe me. And spinach will be able to handle the temp fluctuations.
I have a garden plot in the Washington-Rutland Community Garden – aka the Gazebo Garden – right across the street from Flour Bakery in the South End. Our plot is one of about 40 in the fenced-in lot, former site of I believe three rowhouses from back in the day. At roughly 15 ft x 30 ft, it’s one of the largest plots in the garden. And, after more than three decades as a community garden, I’m still finding bits of broken glass and the occasional spark plug while digging around.
I know I said spinach can handle coldish weather, but it certainly does respond when given a bit of warmth. I’m helping my spinach seeds along by creating some warmth with a coldframe. This is the concept: It’s an enclosed space topped with a clear material like glass or plastic. When I was a kid my parents made a coldframe by creating a rectangle with hay bales and then putting old glass windows on top. Sunlight comes in, heats up the space, and the plants grow while the air outside is still chilly.
Hay bales? Old window frames? I’m not down on the farm anymore – I needed to find another solution.
Last year I made a 2ft x 3ft x 2ft wooden box, filled it with organic soil and grew my carrots in it. Why I did that is a story for another time. But, there it was, sitting there in my garden, unused and topless. And I had one of those light-bulb-going-on-over-my-head moments: Put a piece of plexiglass on top and make a coldframe!
So, the plexiglass top has been in place since Sunday, covering newly sown rows of carrots and spinach. I checked on it today and the soil was nice and warm – something that seeds trying to germinate would really appreciate. I propped the lid open just a tad, too. More for the photo than to cool down the interior. And, because the top was on during Wednesday’s rain, I had to water it, too.
So, here it is propped open. In a perfect world, the plexiglass would be attached to the frame and there would be a device that would allow the top to be opened in varying increments. Actually, in a perfect world the top would open automatically in response to a solar and temperature sensor. But, this’ll do.
About those spinach seeds: I sowed just one row last Sunday. This weekend I’ll sow another, and so on until the end of April. That way I’m not stampeded by a crop of spinach all at once. I may let the first two batches mature in the box but eventually the box will fill up. At that time I’ll just transplant the seedlings out into the ground. If this year’s crop is anything like last year’s, I may have some to share with you.