Thursday, September 29, 2011

Autumn has Arrived: Seasonal Food

I am now 3 and 1/2 months into this adventure to grow my own and eat local. Since June 1st the only produce that has been bought at a store has been bananas and avocados. These things just don't grown in New England. I've learned to expand the range of vegetables I cook and eat. I've also gained an education in where my local farms are, what they grow and how. The CISA website is a good resource to get started.

So what does mid-September look like for eating local and growing your own. Around here is looks like raspberries from River Valley Farm in Whately, MA, strawberries from Warner Farm in Sunderland, apples from Quonquont Farm in Whately. This led to a few more batches of jam and fruit leather.

September also looks like  a large chest freezer full of greens, corn, cherry tomatoes, fruit, jam, peppers and summer squash. The stores of potatoes, carrots, garlic and onions are growing. They sit in the root cellar along with canned fruits, pickles, ketchup, BBQ sauce, tomato sauce and soups. The last of the heirloom tomatoes came our way this week and made beautiful green, yellow, orange and red sundried tomatoes. So far so good.

We were happy to see some broccoli in our CSA share this week along with butternut squash. I am definitely going to have to find a local source for more cauliflower and broccoli to put away for winter.

Out in the garden the season was just to warm and wet for the broccoli I planted in the garden. I had huge plants but not heads of broccoli or cauliflower. The carrots and brussell sprouts are coming along nicely. I still have plenty of kale and collards growing. I picked the last of the beets, cucumbers, beans and radishes. I still have some cherry tomatoes that are ripening on the vine. They can't take much more cold weather though.

Atreyu, age 11, and I have begun indoor gardening. He has been seed saving all summer. We have yummy peppers, bell peppers, tom-tom cherry tomatoes and red cherry tomatoes growing in the window sill. We also have ornamental peppers that are edible and have quite a kick. We will be planting some lettuce and arugula this week.

Meanwhile here is the favorite recipe around here this week:

Berry Cake This can be made with blueberries, raspberries or strawberries. This is a really moist, melt in your mouth kind of cake. you may need to adjust the flour a little depending on how large your eggs are. I've also made it with honey instead of sugar and whole wheat flour and it works just fine.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup berries

beat butter and sugar.
add eggs and mix
in a second bowl mix dry ingredients
add wet ingredients to dry alternating with milk
add berries
bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes in 8x8 pan

Thursday, September 8, 2011

From Backyard to Root Cellar

corn for freezing
This was a busy week for harvesting and putting up food. The first apples and pears were ready for harvest from our trees. From the garden came cherry tomatoes, kale, collards, shell beans and snap peas. From the local CSA came 40lbs of heirloom tomatoes, 7 dozen corn, 50lbs of peaches, a large basket of okras and loads of peppers. Getting all this food preserved and stored away was quite the yummy project.

This week I made peach and apple fruit leather, canned pears in light syrup, peaches in light syrup, made 2 dozen jars of peach jam, dried banana chips, "sundried" a dozen jars of tomatoes, blanched, canned and froze corn kernels, cobs, kale, collards and okra, made BBQ sauce, made two large batches of tomato soup and special batch of yellow tomato soup made from all those beautiful yellow heirlooms. I also made our now weekly regulars: 2 loaves of buttermilk bread, cream cheese, cottage cheese and garlic/chive cheese spread. There is a LOT of food in this house!

The colors were amazing! My family enjoyed a beautiful and yummy plate of Okra, Corn, Yummy Peppers (yes that really is their name) and Tomatoes. Here are some of my families favorite recipes from this weeks food adventure. Hope you enjoy them.

okra casserole
Fried Okra, Corn, Peppers and Tomatoes Casserole

  • okra (chopped into 1/4 inch pieces)
  • corn
  • yellow yummy or sweet peppers (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
  • cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • black peppercorn (whole)
  • garlic (minced)
  • basil (minced, fresh or dried)

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and let it get hot. Once the oil is hot toss in the okra, a few black peppercorns and the garlic. Let the okra cook through for a few minutes. Add the yellow peppers, corn and basil and let it all cook up while tossing it together. Last add the tomatoes and toss them in for about another minute. Salt to taste. Remove from the heat, eat and enjoy! It is also yummy if you add some Parmesan cheese when you add the tomatoes. I served our okra casserole with French couscous, Parmesan cheese and steamed broccoli.  Truly wonderful.

Tomato Soup
Tomato Soup
There is simply nothing better than warm soup on those chilly late fall days.

  • 8-10 pounds of tomatoes (use a combo of slicing tomatoes and paste tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons of canning salt
  • 1 tablespoon of citric acid  (or lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (or honey)
Yellow Tomato Soup
Core the tomatoes and cut them into 2 or 3 pieces. Toss them into a large pot. (no need to blanch or peel).  Add 1/2 cup of water and put on medium heat with a tight fitting lid. Stir now and then. When the tomatoes start to get really soft take a stick blender and blend them. Add the broth, salt, citric acid and sugar. You could also optionally add basil, chives, scallions, garlic or other spices at this point. We like to make plain tomato soup and add things to it when we heat it up to eat. Cook on medium/low for another 3 hours with the lid on tightly.When done pour through a colander into quart or pint canning jars and process 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts in boiling waterbath.

yellow heirloom tomatoes
When we heat up the soup later we like to add a bit of milk or whey powder, some sliced cherry tomatoes and grated cheese. We made a special batch this week all from beautiful yellow tomatoes. It tastes almost the same but the color is amazing. 

The thick paste you leave behind when you run it through the colander makes great tomato paste. I like to put it back in the pot and flavor with garlic, basil and oregano. Simmer it for a few hours to finish thickening and can this tomato paste for later.

canned peaches
Peaches in Syrup

in a medium size pan boil some water. Drop two or three peaches in at a time and leave for 1 minute. Take them out and put them into a bowl of ice water. Then take them out of the water, take a knife and just scrape/peel the skins right off. Cut up and take out the pits. Add 2 tablespoons of fruit fresh to the peaches and toss. (this keeps them from turning brown).

Make a light syrup with 2 cups of sugar for every 5 cups of water. For extra light syrup us 1 1/4 cup sugar to 5 cups water. If you want to use honey use 1 cup honey to 4 cups water. Make enough to cover your peaches. Heat the syrup on the stove until it is warm. Toss in the peaches  layer at a time and heat until warm all the way through. Scoop the peaches out into sterilized canning jars and cover with syrup leaving a 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles and process in waterbath 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.