...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.


Preserving Marathon

Sweet and Sour Pickled Carrots all from our garden

Beginnings of Eggplant Tomato Relish
After typing that post title, I had a thought--wouldn't it be fun to have a preservation marathon sometime?  Like an all-night dance marathon, but with batches and dozens of jarred local fruits and veggies to show for it.  Well, we may not have plans for an official activity, but the majority of my weekend seemed like good training for such an athletic event.  I'm self-diagnosed with "Obsessive Preserving Disorder."  Maybe they will give me my own reality show to air right after "Obsessive Hoarders."  I was on such a roll from Thursday through Sunday and I can't say I minded for a single second being in a hot kitchen that long.  I love cooking and preserving and could do it all day!  Thursday I put up Eggplant Tomato Relish and into the weekend I finished Cantaloupe Jam, Persian Pickled Beans, canned tomatoes for my CSA farmers, Sweet and Sour Spiced Pickles, blanched and frozen green and yellow beans from our garden, and "Souper Mix"--an herb combo to use in soups...surely I'm forgetting something.  The soup seasoning mix is a great way to preserve herbs and could be adapted to your liking.

Souper Mix
Makes 3-4 8-oz. jars

Adapted from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook.  When using, keep in mind that this is a very salty mixture intended to sit in for your usual sea salt, kosher salt, of regular table salt.  Add gingerly to start. Wash, trim, and peel (when necessary) vegetables.  Keep in mind that this book says to seal it and put it on a shelf, but I'm not convinced--even with the salt content--that it's a shelf-stable product.  I suggest freezing.

9 oz. leek
7 oz. fennel (I used the fronds and tender stems)
7 oz. carrot
9 oz. celery (with leaves) or celery root
2 oz. dried tomatoes
Frozen in saved glass peanut butter jars
2 or 3 garlic cloves
3 1/2 oz. parsley
3 1/2 oz. cilantro
3/4 c. plus 1 T. salt

In batches, process all ingredients in a food processor until well blended.  The result will be a moist, granular paste.  Spoon into sterilized jars, allowing about 3/4-inch headspace.  Screw on lid tightly and freeze.  To use: stir about 1 t. into 1 c. of hot water before adding to soups, casseroles, stews, etc.

Another recipe on my list this past weekend was "Squash-a-mole."  Nothing like guacamole, but very much tasting like roasted corn-a-mole.  I'm not usually a follower of celebrity chefs, but as I was waiting for a massage on Friday I flipped through a copy of Rachel Ray's magazine and found this idea amid a slew of other summer squash and zucchini recipes.  And with the proliferation of those vegetables, who can't use another recipe idea?

Makes 4-6 servings

Adapted from Rachel Ray.  I used this as a spread inside some cheese/mushroom/olive/swiss chard quesadillas.  You could also use it as a garnish for the quesadillas, a dip, a southwestern pizza sauce, "pasta sauce," on grilled cheese, on bruschetta...the possibilities are endless.  I used one of those baseball bat size summer squashes to make this.  Typically at that size, they're not much use for anything but shredding for bread.  I am planning to bring home some more big'uns from the farmers' market later today and make a few batches to freeze.

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lb. yellow summer squash, sliced
1 lb. zucchini, sliced (you can also sub. more yellow squash)
1 yellow onion, coarsely sliced
6 unpeeled cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 c. toasted walnuts (could sub. pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, etc.)
2 T. fresh thyme leaves or 1 T. dried
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss sliced squash and zucchini lightly in olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place under preheated broiler for 20 min.  Tossing occasionally.  (They can also be grilled.)  Process all ingredients in a food processor and season to taste.  All I can say is yum!

So speaking of squash, I didn't know they grew on trees.  Actually, they only do that at our place.  My neighbor and I were lamenting earlier this season about how our winter squash plants seemed to be all male--there were no signs of fruits from any blossoms.  But then--patience people--a couple of weeks ago I finally found two starting to overtake our back lawn.  And just yesterday I saw that another one's vine had happily crept into the cherry tree and is dangling from a branch between our yard and our neighbor's.  Now we can both have a good laugh.  This will be the first year growing winter squash so I am excited to see how to cure and store them all winter.

Cushaw squash laying in the garden

...When Squash Grows on Trees...
I've also been busy shelling dry beans with the help of my little bean counter again.  The red limas have been extremely productive in their tiny space.  I harvested and shucked three more varieties today for a satisfying harvest thus far.

Clockwise from upper L: Red Limas, White Limas and Cannelini, Black Turtle Beans, Ireland Creek Annie
Ireland Creek Annie--heirloom beans I scored at a seed swap this year.  
Black Turtle Beans
Cannelini and White Limas
Last Wednesday night was the second annual Community Pie sharing event at the Washington Park bandshell during the summer concert series.  Our group prepared almost two dozen pies using fruit from across the city that would otherwise have gone to waste--mulberry, rhubarb, serviceberry, blueberry, strawberry, etc.  We enjoyed the bluesy sounds of Reverend Raven and the Chain-smoking Altar Boys while a diverse groups of folks enjoyed pie and danced.  We had some new helpers this year that I hope will stick around for upcoming fruit gathering and pie events.
New Pie All-stars: Hannah, Katie, and Rebecca.  Make that ROCK stars!

Community Pie--where everyone gets a piece of the pie!
Plenty to go around
One of my favorite people--local food activist and urban gardener,
 Sharon Adams from Walnut Way

1 comment:

  1. I hope to see a pantry update soon! I can only imagine that your pantry is stocked and colorfilled for the winter months.