Thursday, August 27, 2009

Artisan lifestyle, herbs, pressure cooker, squash, pickles and harvest

SUBURBAN FARMING: I intended to blog everyday about what we are doing. Then I forgot how much work it is to get everything harvested and canned and dried and prepared for the winter. So, apologies for being to busy to blog. Here's an update....... I learned to use the pressure cooker my grandmother gave me and was delighted to discover that it was handed down to her by my great grandmother. I was also delighted that I did not blow up the house while using it. Yes I admit... I was afraid that would happen. So afraid it took me two years to pull it out of the box and use it. When I did pull it out, I discovered that my grandmother had written lots of little notes all the way through the instructions to make the process easier. God! I love that woman! My first foray into pressure cooker canning wielded four jars of green beans. So Yay for GRANNY.
PICKLES:We are getting tons of cucumbers from the four plants we put it. Last year the pickles I made were very tasty but a little too soft for my liking. So I did a lot of research and came up with many ways to make crisp pickles. We dont want to add any chemicals or commercial products to our food so everything we did had to be natural and organic. The gist of what I read was that its the sugars in the cukes that make pickles mushy and those sugars need to be nutralized. Several things will nuetralize the sugars.... Here's the list: Brining in a 5% solution (whatever you do... do NOT use table is iodized and will rot every cucumber in the bucket, in a matter of hours). Grape leaves, small red,hot peppers, garlic and dill all nuetralize the sugars. So we used them all! Each jar was packed with a sprig of dill, one grape leaf,2 cloves of garlic and at least one pepper. We also added 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seed for flavoring. Our vinegar solution was a ratio of 2/3 cups white vinegar to 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/2 tablespoon salt. We boiled 6 cups of the solution with 2 little bags (coffee filters tied with plastic bag wire) pickleing spices to throw in and let boil. Jimmy was out in the garden dealing with herbs and came in at the last minute with some coriander and threw it in the pot. He was so excited about his coriander that I couldnt tell him no... So, we will see what his mad scientist experimenting does to our pickles.
HERBS:The dill we used came from our garden this year. I learned a lesson about dill. You dont need to grow six plants to have enough for one year. You do need 6 parsley plants. So, next year we plant 6 parsley and 2 dill. The oregano we planted last year tried to take over the garden this year. We have a big enough rosemary bush to give us a photographic memory! We need four more tarragon plants, 4 more thyme plants and a lot more garlic! We need a whole bed of chamomile to get enough to get us through the winter. One sage plant is enough if you dont kill it! Herb day is my favorite all through the summer! We do it every two weeks. Stripping the dried herbs and putting them in the 1920's canning jars with glass lids is a joy! Cutting the fresh herbs, washing them and then hanging them in the kitchen.... makes the whole house smell wonderful! For aromatherapy.... its great. Everyone is easier to get along with on herb day.
MORE PRESERVING TO COME: this week its pickling beets and drying beans,carrots and onions. We will also be curing our winter squash. and a note on squash... not that many this year. We expected to be under siege by now but our squash... unlike years in the past where they were many but small... are huge but few!
So that's my update. I'll try to keep up better but with harvest upon us it will depend on time!

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