Saturday, September 23, 2017

Harvest Season - Part 5 - Pickled Beets

I wish I could have harvested my own beets this year! I planted them a couple of times & all I grew were some very small leaves - most likely they were shaded too much by the peas. Adjustments will be made to next year's planting plan.

This year's beets turned out very well - tried some this morning as I can never wait to see how the flavours all blend together!

* 10 pounds beets (I had a few left over as they didn't fit in the pot, so I would say I used about 8 to 8 1/2 pounds)
* 2 cups reserved cooking liquid from the beets
* 3 cups pickling vinegar
* 5 cups apple cider vinegar
* 3 Tbsp salt
* 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 black cardamom pod, 1 tsp all spice berries, 1 tsp whole cloves
* 2 tsp black peppercorns
* 2 tsp dry mustard
* 1 cup sugar

Cook the beets - whole - til just tender. Some recipes call for 30 minutes, some for 1 hour. It depends
on how tender-soft or firm you like your beets. I cook mine for 30 minutes. It also depends on how large your beets are. I picked a bag of beets that were relatively uniform in size for easier cooking.

Make sure to reserve some of that liquid! Adds extra flavour to your brine! (I wash the beets before boiling them to ensure there is no dirt on them). Strain the beets & then let them cool so you can peel them. This year, the peels came off easily - I used a paper towel to assist & help keep my hands from becoming too stained.

Chop the beets, fill your jars & add the hot brine. I hot water bathed the jars for only 5 minutes as I cut the beets smaller than I've done previously & they were also tender so I didn't want to over-cook them & have mushy beets.

I ended up with 10 (500 ml) jars that sealed up nicely. There are 4 of these large beets left in the fridge & I think I might try a batch of pickled beets using rice vinegar! Someone suggested it & I'm always up for trying something new! I don't think my beets ever taste the same from year to year - which is fine. After eating that many pickles over the year, it's nice for a change with the new season's produce.

Happy Autumn!!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Fall Blooms

~ marigolds & sweet alyssum ~
 Sometimes you just need to sit & relax in the gardens after harvesting the fruits & veggies of your labour & just enjoy the remaining flowers.

I'm glad to see some flowers bounced back after such a hot & dry summer.
~ sunflowers ~

~ Autumn Sedum ~

~ calendula edging the veggie bed ~

~ lavender rebloomed ~

~ marigolds ~

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Harvest Season - Part 4 - Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I love a home-grown tomato. And this year, I'm finally growing my own in quantities more than I thought.
I have large sandwich worthy tomatoes.

I have cherry sized tomatoes that are just like candy when picked fresh & eaten still warm from the sun.

I usually end up with a harvest once a week of ripe, ready-to-eat tomatoes that we can't eat all in one meal.

So, I thought I would try oven roasted tomatoes with fresh herbs & garlic.

I cut up all the ripe tomatoes, added a sprinkle of kosher salt, chopped up whatever fresh herbs I have growing right now: rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme, winter savory, basil, chives & shiso. Added in some chopped garlic & a very good drizzle of avocado oil.

I then roasted it in a rather low temperature oven (about 200 to 250 degrees Celcius) for an hour or 2. I could have roasted it higher & for longer, but this was my first time trying this, so I wanted to be able to play around with adjustments.

Of course, by the time things were done, it was very late in the day so I don't have photos of the end product. But it all fit into a jam jar & is sitting in the fridge waiting to be used with eggs or in salsas or salads or on pasta.

I will play around with the flavours, temperature & length of time I roast the tomatoes as I continue to harvest. Of course, I will take time to enjoy a great tomato sandwich or sliced tomatoes drizzled with a grand dark balsamic vinegar. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Harvest Season - Part 3 - Pickled Runner Beans

As you might recall, I didn't get the runner bean seeds in the ground until almost the end of June.
And they were really slow to sprout & get growing. I thought for sure we'd not be eating beans until the end of September... but I've been harvesting small amounts for about a week now, so I'm pleasantly surprised.

The bean tower is quite large - the insects and hummingbirds enjoy all the blooms, but I think I may have planted a few too many seeds thinking that not all of them would germinate & sprout. I think they all grew...

We don't eat all the beans we harvest (even with the help of the dog), so what do you do with all those beans? I'm loath to freeze them as I've discovered freezer-burnt beans several years later after forgetting they were there!

Pickled beans seemed like a better alternative.

* 2 pounds fresh beans (trim the tops & bottoms to fit into your jars)
   * 3 cups water
   * 3 cups pickling vinegar
   * 1/4 cup salt
   * 1-2 Tbsp sugar
   * 4 cloves garlic - smashed & chopped fine
   * 2 tsp mustard seeds
   * 1 tsp peppercorns plus a few allspice berries & a couple bay leaves

Bring your hot water bath to a boil & keep simmering while you fill your jars. Since I haven't made pickled beans before I decided to put some fresh dill in 3 of the jars & some cayenne pepper into the other 3 for a bit more of a spicy kick.

Once the brine had boiled for about 10 minutes & the jars were filled with raw beans & a few extra peppercorns, I poured the brine into a large glass measuring cup - leaving the chopped up garlic in the pot. I then scooped the garlic into the jars, along with a few of the mustard seeds.

The jars were filled up with the hot brine, the lids put on finger tight & then put into the hot water bath for about 8 minutes. I have them cooling on the counter & will wait a couple of weeks before opening one to see what the flavour & consistency of the beans are. It will be a rather long 2 weeks but I'll mark it on the calendar so I don't forget & so I can also let you know how it worked out.

I'll probably be harvesting a whole lot more beans over those 2 weeks, so I might be making up some more jars of pickled beans...

Here's my little helper - Chili... she kept jumping on the counter to see what's going on, so I hauled the kitchen chair over for viewing from a much more safe place.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Harvest Season - Part 2b - Fermented Apple Soda

 This is very similar to the crab apple kvass I made a few weeks ago, with a twist on a few more herbs from the garden.

I used up the apples that had those blemishes on the skin - some of the bruising did go down into the flesh a wee bit, but it will not affect the taste of the end product at all, as it will all break down into a fermented pulp.

I gathered fragrant rose petals, a few sprigs of lemon balm, some flowers & leaves off my anise hyssop, flowers from my salvias & calendulas & some fresh reblooming lavender flowers.

The apples I coarse chopped & all this went into a large glass jar with some chopped ginger & fresh ground cinnamon & cardamom (left-over from my spiced coffee I was making). I poured about 1 cup of local honey over the top & filled up the jar with cool water.

This will be stirred 2 or 3 times a day for about a week, depending on how the flavouring starts to mature and how quickly it starts to ferment. I have a cloth over the top of the jar - not a tight lid, as I want air to mix and mingle with the brew.

It smells divine already!!
I'm looking forward to the Autumn Equinox next week when this brew should be ready for pouring over ice & enjoying...

PS - this is what the crab apple kvass turned out to look like once I strained out all the pulp. I did add a handful of blackberries to the brew.

This was a stunning brew & something great to share with friends in the garden...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Harvest Season - Part 2a - Dried Apples

I haven't yet invested in a food dehydrator but the oven works well enough for small batches of things.

What to do with apples that won't store long fresh? Dried apples!

 I used my mandolin to slice them a consistent thickness & it takes very little time to slice up only 4 apples. I did not peel or core the apples - did not seem very necessary. They were then soaked in lemon water for about a half hour, dried off & put onto parchment lined cookie sheets to go into an oven that was warmed to 200 degrees Celcius.

I sprinkled some cinnamon on top, but that's purely optional.

They went in for an hour - you can prop the door of the oven open a bit with a wooden spoon to allow moisture to escape as you want to evenly dry the apple slices. Flip the slices over & dry for another hour. If you want crisper slices, leave in for a further hour or if it was super-late in the day, turn the oven off, close the door with slices still inside & package them up in the morning.

I was only able to do about 4 large apples at a time, so this would be a long process if wanting to any sort of amount. If you have a quiet evening planned at home, it is something super-easy to do! I put each batch into a large ziplock bag & store in a dark cupboard. They should keep this way for several months.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Harvest Season - Part 2 - Apples

I still haven't figured out what variety of apples we are growing,
but I'm learning new things about fruit trees every year. I figure I'll eventually figure out what they are, but that's not a top priority right now as we are just enjoying being able to grow some very tasty, crunchy, sweet-tart apples with very little effort.

This spring, after pollination, there were a lot of wee apples developing. I thinned them heavily. I could have removed a few more, but the tree didn't need stalking this year to keep from tipping over.

We've been watching for apples to drop off the tree to help tell us when they are ready to pick, since we don't know if they are an early apple or late apple... One key we use is when they start to take on this lovely red colour. I was also checking the apples for flavour & to see when the seeds had turned brown in the core.

Apple Harvest Day just so happened on the day I was stung in the hand by a wasp while at work. So I was picking apples with an ice pack wrapped around my hand.

I ended up with a total harvest this season of about 25 pounds of apples. I didn't weigh the largest apple, but you can see, that it's a meal-sized piece of fruit!!

I'm not sure what is causing this brown bruising on the outside of the
apples, but the ones with this were removed from the rest of the harvest & I'm using them first. The bruising does not go very far into the flesh, but it's rather unsightly. Research time this winter!

The rest of the apples are rest in the garage in a single layer & I'll probably be using them up over the next couple of weeks in baking and cooking recipes.