...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.


Adventures with Apples

My apple processing efforts this year have been ones of days-long deliberation over what exactly to do with them.  The apple butter took at least three days for me to cook, make the butter, then find time to can it.  The wild apples I picked last Sunday were no different.  They sat in the quarter bushel basket on my counter for a couple days looking beautiful, then I cooked them down and they sat in the pot another 2-3 days until I finally decided that I would NOT can them.  It's always a challenge to squeeze this homesteading activity in between Vera's naps (I don't like her playing in or passing through the kitchen when the kettle is boiling hot--and sometimes splashing out--within her reach...not to mention, canning usually requires my full attention and so does an 18-month-old.)  I knew I wouldn't get a huge amount of sauce from this harvest and probably wasn't going to get seconds from my favorite orchard (they're using all of this year's seconds to meet the demand for cider.)  It's more in line with my urban homesteading ideals anyway to use what's in our vicinity, so I think it's meant to be that I don't acquire more for sauce.  Making applesauce is most important to me for baking purposes (though Vera would beg to differ)--I sometimes substitute it for half the amount of oil in a recipe, which cuts back on my vegetable oil bill and adds another local ingredient to my baked goods.  So with the sauce I rendered, I portioned it into 1/4 and 1/2 cup amounts and froze it in muffin pans.  When these solidify, I'll put the portions into freezer bags then dole out what I need for baking...and Vera will probably get to eat some as well.  The following is my favorite recipe in which to use applesauce.  Perhaps you have zucchini surviving in your garden or see you'll see it at the next farmers' market.  We got a large one in our CSA box this week.  Shred and freeze the zukes to use this winter in zucchini bread--label the freezer bag(s) with the amount(s) called for in the recipe--or bake it today and enjoy this weekend.  I do some mad freezing of zucchini throughout the summer.  Once, Ben walked in the door right as I was furiously feeding these into the food processor and said "Whoa!" explaining that it was like the last scene from "Fargo" when the guy's feeding the body through the wood shredder.

Glazed Zucchini Bread
Makes one 9x5-inch or three 5 1/2x3-inch loaves

Adapted from The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger

6 T. vegetable oil
6 T. applesauce
1 1/2 c. sugar (or xylitol)
3 large eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. grated zucchini
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
1 c. (4 oz.) walnuts, chopped, or raisins (dark or golden), plumped and drained

Brandy Glaze:
1/4 c. sugar (or xylitol)
1/4 c. brandy or cognac

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour loaf pans.  In a medium bowl, using a whisk or electric mixer, combine oil and sugar.  Beat hard until light colored and creamy about 1 min.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat again until well combined.  Fold in grated zucchini and stir until evenly distributed.  In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and walnuts or raisins.  Add zucchini-egg-mixture and stir to combine.  Beat just until batter is evenly combined and creamy in consistency, about 1 min.  Spoon batter into pan.  Place pan in center of oven; bake 65-75 min. for large loaf, 40-50 min. for small loaves, or until  tops are firm, loaves pull away from sides of pans and knife/skewer inserted into center comes out clean.  Let loaves stand in pan(s) 5 min.

To prepare glaze: Combine sugar and brandy in a small saucepan.  Cook over low heat just until sugar dissolves.  Set aside.  Pierce hot loaves, top to bottom with a bamboo skewer or metal cake tester about 10 times.  Pour on the warm glaze immediately.  Cool in pan 30 min. before removing to finish cooling on rack.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Spicy Dill Carrots
This week I achieved my goal of canning dilly carrots with our own carrots and hot peppers.  Just a few pints, but enough to accompany our dilly beans on a relish tray at our Sunday dinner parties.  I also spontaneously canned some onion and fennel relish using a fennel bulb from last week's CSA box.  Just a few jars of relish that could be processed for the same amount of time as the carrots, I was able to process a full batch in the kettle.

Onion and Fennel Relish
Makes 6 half-pints

2 lbs. large onions, peeled and cut into eighths
A 2-inch piece gingerroot, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 medium-sized fennel bulbs, trimmed, outer layer removed if discolored
1 t. fennel seeds
1 t. crushed dried rosemary
1/2 c. sugar (or xylitol)
1/2 c. rice wine vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 c. water
1 T. dried tarragon

In small batches, combine onion, ginger, and fennel in a food processor and pulse rapidly until finely chopped.  Transfer to large pot, add fennel seeds, rosemary, sugar, vinegar, and water, and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Cover, reduce heat, simmer 15 min.  Uncover, stir in tarragon, and cook until most of liquid has evaporated, about 15-20 min.  While relish is cooking, prepare jars, lids, and bands for canning.  Fill each jar with relish, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.  Pack relish into jars, remove air bubbles and wipe rims.  Place lids and rings on jars and process for 10 min. in a hot water bath canner.  Cool, check seals, label, and store.

I still haven't identified all of the wild berries I spotted on our foraging trip last Sunday so I e-mailed photos of these potential goodies to the foraging expert at the Urban Ecology Center, Matt Flower.  (With a name like that he's destined to study nature--kind of like my dad's college geology teacher, Dr. Lava or my college wine professor, Dr. Vine.  Reminds me of how our European ancestors earned their last names based on their trades.)  I'm hoping to get a response soon so I can return to the park to harvest.  I'm currently consulting my wild edible food guides and online resources to no avail.

It feels like it will be a chilly weekend.  I'm looking forward to planting more fall greens in the garden to accompany the arugula, beets, mustards, and lettuce I seeded on Wednesday.  Sunday we have plans to host some Chicago friends for Sunday brunch.  More details on that after the weekend.  Enjoy the weather!

1 comment:

  1. oh my goodness - i made the onion and fennel relish this weekend (fennel from my garden) and it was so tasty. I actually made butterfly porkchops in the oven. Once done, cut up some bluecheese on top of it and used some of my mashed potatoes over that. I placed the relish on the side and forked up some relish and my chop combo/cheese and...WOW...what a flavor. Thank you Annie for the relish recipe!