...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.


Rarely a Dull Moment

This past week I was feeling like my life had downshifted a bit.  The vast majority of the preserving is done, I felt caught up on other big tasks that had stared me down in previous weeks, and Vera was making a habit of daily three-hour naps.  But as I've eluded to in the past, I don't fare extremely well (so far, though I'm working on this) without having some sort of project to busy my hands.

Fresh Olives
A couple of weeks ago I made an impulse buy on a trip to Glorioso's prior to our weekly music class.  They had fresh olives for sale!  (You know you're a food geek when...)  These lovely green fruits came with a short set of instructions on how to brine olives.  I've never tried it, nor had I thought I would when I got out of bed that day, but I'm going for it.  So far I'm still in the soaking stage after having pricked them all.  This will leech out some of the bitterness, which I tasted by the way.  I love bitter flavors, but WHOOOO! it was BIT-TER!  We'll see where this whole experiment goes.  An elderly gentleman who had apparently gotten just as excited about this project at one point in his life shared some discouraging words with me as I bagged and weighed my olives.  Oh well, if it doesn't work, I'll consider it a step in the learning process.  And if it does work, then I'm that much more of a food dork.

I've been enjoying the transition to fall foods lately.  Our meals have gradually faded from tomatoes and sweet corn into winter squash, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, and cauliflower.  This past week I put a twist on red cabbage.  I was happy with the results and thrilled to find another way to incorporate more bacon into my diet.
Mmm, bacon crust...

Braised Cabbage Cobbler (Gluten-Free)
Serves 6-8

2 T. butter or bacon fat
4 c. shredded red or green cabbage
1/2 c. sliced onions
2 c. chopped, peeled tart apples
1/4 c. water
3 T. brown sugar
1 T. cider vinegar
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/8 t. salt, or to taste
1/8 t. pepper

Cobbler Batter:
1/2 lb. bacon, coarsely chopped
2 large eggs
3 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems removed
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 c. milk (of your choosing)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour (or regular wheat flour is you're tolerant)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease a pie plate with butter or olive oil and place in the oven to heat.

For the cabbage:  In a 3-quart saucepan, melt butter/bacon fat over medium-high heat.  Add cabbage and onions; cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 min.  Add apples; cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 min.  Add water, brown sugar, vinegar, cloves, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 4 min.  Set aside.

For cobbler batter: In a food processor add bacon, eggs, shallots, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper.  Pulse a few times to chop.  Add milk and flour and mix into a smooth batter.  Remove dish from oven.  Pour half the batter into the plate.  With a slotted spoon, pile the cabbage on top and press down slightly.  Pour remaining batter on top of cabbage and bake for 45-50 min. or until golden brown on top.  Let cool slightly and serve (I added a dollop of sour cream on top because I didn't think there was enough fat from the bacon and bacon fat. :) )

In other project news, I taught two urban homesteading classes this past week and had a great time learning from my students, as is usually the case.  Tuesday night we made herbal oils and vinegars in the beautiful jars I found on Monday's field trip to American Science and Surplus.  I made a couple of samples at home with what was available in my garden.  I may not have grown the gorgeous fennel bulbs I dreamed of as I sowed the seeds earlier this season, but the fronds are still great for tossing into salads as well as dropping into a bottle of vinegar.  I also plucked the remaining nasturtium flowers from my overgrown bed, whizzed them in the food processor then sealed them in a tiny jar with extra-virgin olive oil.  (Note:  If you're making your own herbal oils, you MUST keep them refrigerated.  Store-bought herbal oils are commercially processed allowing them to be shelf stable, but I DO NOT recommend trying that at home!  It's the perfect environment for bacterial spores to grow like crazy if left at room. temp.)

Nasturtium Oil
Fennel Vinegar and Nasturtium Oil
Last night I taught another round of Preserving Wild Edibles where we grabbed the last of the staghorn sumac living lakeside and turned it into a sparkling red jelly.  After first making the concentrated "juice" that we'd need to transform this wild thing into a spread, we added a bit of sugar and sipped a local beverage "Sumac-ade."  Tangy like lemonade maybe, but much more astringent.  I wonder if it holds the same beneficial phenolic compounds as wine in all its tannic-ness.  After processing our jelly, we were discussing what other wild edibles are still hanging around on these cold days.  That lead to a conversation about putting the garden to sleep.  I personally haven't taken any steps to turn my raised beds over for the season.  I'm still harvesting turnips, kale, chard, herbs, kohlrabi, dried beans, beets, squash, tomatillos, green tomatoes, sunchokes, etc.  We heard one comment about some people having already ripped out any annuals that may still linger and cutting back the remaining perennials.  Tossing everything to the curb for city pick-up, many folks have called in quits by now in their gardens almost as if to say, "I'm done for the year, let's move on, let's roll out the holiday decorations," which is the last  thing I want to think about at this point.  I will continue to appreciate the green left on the urban homestead and I may just miss (as usual) the city's last leaf/yard waste collection in mid-November.  We'll have to haul our cuttings to the farm for composting, but I'm willing to do so if it means I can enjoy all that our garden has provided this year for just a little bit longer.

Sumac Jelly

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