Thursday, January 20, 2011

A New Kind of Candy

I have been wrestling with a wicked head cold all week long.  Thankfully I am feeling 100% from the neck down, but from the neck up I am miserable and pathetic, you all know that look....watery eyes, chapped nose and upper lip, and the nasally voice that no one can understand.  Nothing like a good cold to put the brakes on one's indoor seed sowing and canning intentions.  I would scatter seeds and dusty soil-less mix with every sneeze.  Gathering supplies out in the cold shed is not so appealing.  Trying to make a final decision on what tomato varieties to sow is not so appealing.  Juggling hot jars and boiling liquids is not so appealing.  Hmph.

This lack of gardening happenings is however, a good opportunity to do something else I have been meaning to do, which is to show you all a fun gift I received over Christmas:

Those are not candy coated confections, but instead are clay and compost coated seeds.  My sister thoughtfully chose the 'Herbal Tea Selection', and I just think this garden candy is fabulous!

Lemon Balm, Stinging Nettle, Borage, and Chamomile bon bons.  These garden truffles have even been dusted with things like coffee, pepper, and cinnamon- the creators organic method of trying to keep pests  from enjoying your garden confections.

Love it!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hammering out the details.....

Has anyone else out there had some heirloom tomato varieties go awry?

I have two varieties I grew out last year, one received in an on-line trade ("Pink Brandywine"), the other purchased from a small professional heirloom seed saver ("Amazon Chocolate"), that should have been potato leafed, but were not.  I know various genetic traits can be expressed in unstable varieties, and also, mis-labeling on seed the packet and on my end can certainly occur.  The problem is that this leaves me wondering what I actually grew.  And asking questions, like will the seeds I saved produce the same strain or will something new be expressed?  Will the original seed packet produce the same crop as the first?

None of these worries are large, but when a gardener is only growing 2 slicing tomato varieties, that gardener does not have room for experimentation.  (At least I don't!)  So, I am just wondering as I get set up to start seeds today, and am finalizing the varieties to be sown, does anyone else have this problem often, or is it a rare occurrence?

And if you experience this, is it only with 'saved seed', or do commercial heirloom seeds sometimes become unstable genetically as well?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Bread Trials

If only you all could smell my house right now.  This bread baking is not good for the diet.  My stomach is rumbling, and my mouth is watering over the aroma of baking bread.  I was inspired to get off my heiny and bake a loaf after reading the latest bread post by Thomas over at A Growing Tradition on his whole wheat baguettes.  They look a-m-a-z-i-n-g.

I bought the Tassajara Bread Book book quite some time ago, with the intention of baking from scratch more often.  But I just hadn't gotten around to actually trying a recipe.  My yeast in the freezer is at least 2 years old, and my supply of flours is nothing to brag about, but no matter, I started off with a simple white whole wheat loaf.  (

After careful mixing, kneading, rising, punching, rising, more kneading, and lastly, more rising, the dough was plopped into my favorite pan ever (an Emile Henry dutch oven) and put in the oven.

(Before being set in a cozy place to rise.)

(Before going in the oven.)

After 30 minutes I checked on the loaf and much to my surprise it had risen up to the lid as it baked, luckily it didn't stick-  what a waste of a morning that would have been!  So I hindered the full rising of this bread by putting it the dutch oven (who's purpose is to lend a nice, crunchy crust), and the recipe isn't intended to be an artisan loaf in the first place, so I think that was just a poor decision on my part overall.

(See all those 'dots' on the loaf?  They are the impression of underside of the lid.  Whoopsy!)

Ahh, the joyous lessons of bread baking, lets just hope she tastes half as good as she smells!!

Monday, January 10, 2011


I finally dug the in-season-frozen peaches out of the freezer today and put them to good use.  The stars aligned and I had clean jars, all necessary ingredients, time, and motivation at hand.  Back when it was peach season I was in no mood to can.  Now in the cold months of winter I get exited about boiling water and simmering down jams and relishes for 40 minutes over the stove.   Very excited.  Today I made "Sun Relish" (peaches and peppers) and "Peach Lavender Jam", both from this cookbook: The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving: Over 300 Delicious Recipes (9781552094891): Ellie Topp, Margaret Howard: Books

Still have blueberries and strawberries waiting in the freezer, but that will have to wait for another day.

Sun Relish reducing:
The finished product ready for a taste test.  The book suggests serving with things like 
cheddar or cream cheese.  I am also thinking it would compliment some Mahi Mahi burgers.
The empty jam pot.  The steeping lavender smelled amazing, 
and the resulting jam is both unusual and delicious.  I am dying to try it on a warm biscuit or pop-over.


Sun Relish- Makes 4 cups; recipe courtesy of The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.

6 peaches (peeled, pitted and chopped)
6 sweet yellow, and 1 hot yellow pepper (seeded & chopped)
1 lemon, halved
1/2 C white wine vinegar
2 1/2 C granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp pickling salt

Place peaches,  peppers, lemon and vinegar in saucepan.  Bring to a boil over med-high heat, reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered for 30 minutes, or until softened.  Remove and discard lemon, addsugar and salt; return to a boil.  Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes until mixture thickens stirring frequently.  (Note: I had to reduce for much longer, probably because I started with frozen peaches.)

Ladle into jars leaving 1/2 inch head space; process 10 minutes for half-pint, or 15 minutes for pint jars.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Garden Goodies

I ordered some supplies from Lee Valley, and I can't wait to put them to use!  First, I ordered a bulb sprayer/duster.  This I plan on using with my kaolin clay as a non-harmful pesticide on the apple trees and cole crops.  From what I understand the clay basically tricks the pests into not liking their chosen crop, the layer of clay on the leaves or fruit fools them a bit.  I also ordered some three and four-arm cane connectors for constructing cages to hold bird netting over the strawberries, blueberries, etc....

(Yes, my coffee table is clean though it looks filthy.  The finish is just beyond 'used and abused'.)

 (photos taken from Lee Valley on-line catalog)

The kids have taken to the rubber cane connectors within minutes of the package being opened, turns out they double as building blocks on the off season.  :)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Beginings

I had started working on a photographic walk through of last year's garden days ago, but I just lost motivation half-way through.

Yesterday evening I couldn't help but peruse the web for cooking/canning/gardening books that I had yet to discover I could not live without.  I of course found a few.  Christmas cash is always a good excuse to update my library!  I ordered a couple of things and one book is on reserve for pick-up at the book store.  I was taken aback by all the new books on preserving and cooking with fresh garden ingredients, I guess the publishers are finally catching up with the times.  Here is what I decided on: Saving the Seasons: How to Can, Freeze, or Dry Almost Anything (9780836195125): Mary Clemens Meyer, Susanna Meyer: Books Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry (9781584798644): Liana Krissoff, Rinne Allen: Books Fast, Fresh & Green (9780811865661): Susie Middleton: Books A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table (9781616877323): Molly Wizenberg: Books

The first book linked is from the Simply In Season and More with Less people, and I can not express how excited I am to see it since I love that series of books.     The recipes in the Fast, Fresh, and Green seem to be just what I am after....simple recipes using ingredients I have out in the garden at any given moment.  I am sure many of these new recipes will be posted here over the next gardening season.

And lastly, I went to bed and dreamed of chard and mixed greens last night.  Rows of bright, beautiful Rainbow Chard.  Tossing together bowls of mixed greens and simple vinaigrettes.....yummm.  My garden fantasies have officially begun!