...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


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The past two days, hot as it continues to be, I've been preserving.  It's cherry and green bean time and the grand totals are cherries: 10 quarts, 9 pints; dilly beans: 2 quarts, 9 pints, 2-12 oz. jars.  Until our cherry trees really start to produce I'll be purchasing these fruits from Door County Fruit, a regional grower who sells at the South Shore Farmers' Market in our neighborhood.  Last weekend I pre-ordered a whole lug of sweet dark cherries to can just like my Gramma did in a simple syrup.  Both the cherries and dilly beans are memories in a jar for me and my family.  My Gram also made dilly beans--she was known for them.  I always joke that when we were cleaning out her house after she and my Grampa passed, no one was fighting over the fine china, but the last jar of Lucille's signature dilly beans was a point of contention.  The recipe below isn't from her files, but tastes exactly like her beans.

Dilly Beans
From the UW-Extension Wisconsin Safe Food Preservation Series' Homemade Pickles and Relishes
Yield: 7-8 pints

4 qts. whole green or wax beans (about 4 lbs.), trimmed
8 fresh dill heads, or 1 1/2 t. dill seed or dill weed per jar
8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 small dried hot pepper per jar (optional...I do not add this)
Pickling Solution:
4 c. white vinegar (5% acetic acid)
4 c. water
1/2 c. canning and pickling salt

Wash pint canning jars.  Keep hot until filled.  Wash beans thoroughly and drain.  Cut into lengths to fit pint jars.  In each hot pint jar, place dill, garlic, and pepper (if desired).  Pack beans upright, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Prepare pickling solution of vinegar, water, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour boiling hot pickling solution over beans, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Remove bubbles with a rubber spatula.  Wipe jar rims with a clean, damp cloth.  Cap jars with pretreated (sterilized) lids.  Adjust lids.  Process in boiling water canner 10 min. for pints.

I used a combination of our Provider bush beans and Rattlesnake pole beans.  I love putting the pole beans in quart jars so we can appreciate how long and beautifully these beans grow.  One good thing about these pole beans, which double as dried beans if left on the trellis, is that if you go a couple of days without harvesting, those beans become the ones that will stay on, grow large, and eventually be dried for the beans inside the pod.  The disadvantage of that is the more you pick, the more energy goes into growing new beans.  Your choice depending on how you like to use them.  One of my goals this year is to grow more dry beans.

I finished these preserves just in time to make room in the fridge for our first delivery from Pinehold Gardens, our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Ben always says you know that it's CSA season, or at least summer, when the refrigerator is in various states of disarray on a weekly basis.  My therapy is cleaning and organizing the fridge (truly) so hopefully it won't get so out of control very soon. Tonight I made a dish using as many of these fresh new ingredients as possible.  I also added some eggplant I had leftover from a cooking class earlier this week.

Grilled Zucchini, Eggplant, and Bell Pepper Fattoush
Adapted from a recipe printed in Bon Appetit.  Fattoush is a Middle Eastern version of panzanella, Italian bread salad.
Serves 4-6

On the Grill (or a grill pan on the stovetop):

1 eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 4 pieces, salted and set aside on paper towel
3 medium bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, quartered
4-5 slender zucchini and/or summer squash (about 1 lb.), trimmed, cut lengthwise in half
2 5- to 6-inch pitas, each cut horizontally into 2 disks
Grapeseed oil (for grilling)

Prepare grill (medium heat).  Brush eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and pitas on both sides with oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.  Grill peppers and zucchini until slightly charred and just tender, turning often, about 6 min.  Transfer vegetables to foil-lined baking sheet.  Grill bread until lightly charred and just crisp, turning often, about 3 min.  Transfer to sheet with veggies and cool.  Tear bread into 1-inch pieces.

For the Dish:
1 8-ounce cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
12 cherry tomatoes, each halved or 1 slicing tomato cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 c. pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
1/2 c. (packed) fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
1 4-ounce piece feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut peppers, zucchini, and eggplant into 1/2-inch cubes.  Place in a large bowl.  Add cucumber, tomatoes, green onions, olives, mint, and cilantro and toss to combine.  Add bread pieces.  Whisk 1/2 c. oil, lemon juice, and cumin in small bowl to blend.  Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.  Add dressing to salad; toss to coat.  Add feta and gently mix into salad.  Transfer salad to large bowl and serve.

We've also been trying to keep up with what's growing in our own garden.  Last night I cooked the first of our Red Russian kale to make a vegetarian entree.

Potato, Kale, and Swiss Chard Skillet Cake
Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet 
Serves 4-6

1 lb. (total) kale and swiss chard, stems removed
1 stick (1/2 c.) butter, 6 of the T. melted and cooled
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. pepper
2 lbs. potatoes (4 medium)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Blanch kale and swiss chard for about 1 min.  Drain, let cool, squeeze out excess moisture.  Heat 2 T. butter in skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then add garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until golden, about 1 min.  Add greens, season, and saute, stirring until greens are tender, about 4 min.  Transfer to a bowl and wipe the skillet clean.  Thinly slice the potatoes and work quickly to prevent them from discoloring.  Generously brush bottom of skillet with melted butter and cover with 1/3 of potato slices, overlapping slightly.  Dab potatoes w/ some of melted butter. Spread half of kale over potatoes and season lightly with s&p.  Cover with half of remaining potatoes and dab with butter, then top with remaining kale.  Season.  Top w/ remaining potatoes and season.  Put foil over top of of potatoes and weight down with another skillet.  Cook over medium-high heat approx. 10 min. then place in oven and cook about 15 min. or until the top browns.  Cool slightly.  Cut and serve.

We have delicate edible flowers coming out of our garden now.  Yesterday I mentioned the calendula.  Last night I picked some borage flowers (slight cucumber flavor) to add to our salad.  They can also be candied and would be beautiful garnishing a chiffon cake.


  1. A) that Fattoush looks delish
    B) saw this on Design*Sponge and thought of you! And thought of the fact that I need to do this to test my new skills :)


  2. I'm a new canner, and was looking for classes and/or canning recipes and stumbled across your blog. I think I saw you at the South Shore Farmers Market with your cherries! I remember seeing a woman with a wagon full of cherries...it had to be you! I ended up getting quite a few cherries myself. Do you pit them before you can them?

    And, I'm also a new member in Pinehold Garden's CSA! I'll have to keep a close eye on your blog for recipe ideas.