Tag Archives: farming

Making Pickles

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In the past my attempts to make dill pickles by canning, using vinegar recipes, have resulted in pickles with that have a decent flavor but are too mushy to really enjoy. I really haven’t even attempted to make pickles in a several years because we have had horrible cucumber crops. We had pretty much decided not to grow cucumbers as it seemed that no sooner would the cucumber start growing well then the cucumber beetles would arrive, the cucumber plants would then begin turning brown, apparently from bacterial wilt, and dying before we could harvest more that a couple of cukes.

When starting plants this spring my husband came across a packet of pickling cucumber seeds and decided to give it one more try. We aren’t really sure what has made the difference this year but the cucumber plants are flourishing. It could be that this variety of cucumbers is disease resistance, or that the cucumbers were planted later and the cucumber beetles missed out, or possibly a combination of the two. No matter the reason, we are grateful for the productive crop.

It was about three weeks ago when my husband brought me a bag with more than a half dozen nice size cukes from our garden. With more cucumbers than we would eat in a couple of days I knew I needed to make pickles. There were not enough to can a batch of the vinegar pickles, and as I said I was never happy with my past results, so I decided to try fermented pickles.  I use this recipe. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-kosher-dill-pickles/  I didn’t have enough to warrant the use of my 2 gallon crock so I decided to use a 1/2 gallon canning jar. I picked a horseradish leaf to use to add tannins, my husband picked me some dill and I peeled a couple bulbs of garlic to add. I didn’t add any other spices because in my opinion garlic and dill is all that is needed to make a great pickle.

Since I didn’t have a fermenting weight that would fit inside a jar to hold the vegetables down under the brine, I read about using a smaller jar to nest inside the wide mouth jar and decided that would work. It would have worked perfectly well except I discovered that all of my smaller canning jars were in use. I needed to improvise.  I used an ice tea glass and although it sat quite above the rim of the canning jar, it was heavy enough to hold the pickles under the brine. I then covered the jar, glass and all, with a dish towel.

I left them on the kitchen counter where I could keep an eye on things. By the next day I could see bubbles in the liquid and on the following day the liquid began turning cloudy. This is what should be happening. I wasn’t sure when they would be done, but since the temperature in my kitchen these days is higher then the recommended 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, I decided that two more days on the counter was enough. My goal was nice crispy pickles. I removed the towel and the glass, put a canning lid on the jar and put them in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile I read a few more article about fermenting cucumbers and when my husband brought home another batch of cukes I immediately washed them, trimmed the flower end and put them in a bowl of ice water, until I was ready for them.

For the second batch I used the same recipe and the same process except I didn’t have any more 1/2 gallon jars so they were split between two wide mouth quart jars. The second batch was basically the same as the first – they began bubbling on day two, turned cloudy on day three and on day five I refrigerated them.

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The third batch of cucumbers that my husband brought home had gotten quite large so I decided to experiment with cucumber spears and slices. I used the same recipe and the same method. At this point they are cloudy and bubbling on my kitchen counter. I will refrigerate them tomorrow.

As for the taste test, last weekend we decided just to have cold turkey and swiss sandwiches for dinner and my husband decided that we had to have a pickle with our sandwich. I cut one in half and placed a half on each of our plates. I waited for him to try it first. “You nailed it!” he exclaimed after taking the first bite of his pickle. These pickle turned out just as I hoped, crisp with the garlic and dill flavor.

 

 

 

 

A Garden Dinner

Over the last week we have been so busy with digging and storing garlic to dry that some of the things we would normally do fell by the wayside. Two of those things include planning and preparing a good dinner and tending the garden. We finished up the garlic tasks yesterday morning and decided it was time to play catch up. My husband worked in the garden – weeding, harvesting, and thinning rows. He brought home a nice size bag of fresh veggies that we decided to incorporate into our dinner. I cleaned the veggies and prepared them for our meal. This is what was on the menu. All of the vegetables and herbs were home grown.

Salad – Three types of lettuce, radish, cucumber

Salad Dressing – Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, garlic, onion powder, sea salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar

Garlic mashed potatoes – I minced several cloves of garlic, mixed the minced garlic with 1/2 stick of butter, then mixed it into the mashed potatoes.

Baby beets with beet greens – The beets in the garden needed to be thinned so even though the beets were only about 1 inch my husband brought them home. After cleaning them I trimmed the long roots off the cut the leaves off leaving a couple inches of the stem attached to the beet. I put the greens and the beets in the steamer and cooked until the beets were tender.

Grilled pork chops – Since we don’t raise our own pork (yet) the pork chops were not something we produced, but they were seasoned with minced garlic and fresh dill. They complimented our garden dinner nicely.

My husband and I MMM’ed and wowed as we ate our dinner and even after dinner we continued to rave about how much we enjoyed the meal. We could truly taste the nutrition in the foods we were eating. Honestly, my favorite fresh garden vegetable is probably potatoes. They have flavor and texture that I have never found in store bought potatoes and are definitely worth the work it takes to grow them.

If you are growing a garden this year I hope that you too are enjoying the fruits or vegetables of your labor.

Tonight’s menu will include potato salad, sautéed swiss chard with garlic and grilled Italian sausage.

A Year In Growing Garlic (Part IX)

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I just wanted to do a quick update to let you know that we have started our harvest and at this time we are up to our ponytails in garlic. Well, I am up to my ponytail in garlic, but my husband who doesn’t have a ponytail is in just as deep.

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To harvest the garlic we have to dig it out of the ground, remove most of the dirt from each bulb, tie the bulbs in bundles the store them in their drying area where they will remain for about three weeks or so until the bulbs are cured. There really is a lot of work involved, at least if you are growing 1000’s of bulbs of garlic.

So if I seem to be MIA for the next week or so there is no need to worry or send a search party or anything. If you do send a search party we will probably hand them a shovel or give a quick tutorial on how to clean and bundle the garlic and put them to work. Hmm, on second thought, go ahead and send the search party. 🙂

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I will do a more in depth post about this as time allows, but I just though I would let you know that if you are growing garlic and have not yet dug it up, you probably want to do it soon. If the bottom leaves are turning brown and drying up it is probably time. A good way to be sure it to do a test dig. If the bulbs are a decent size and have formed cloves it is time to harvest.

 

Garlic Scapes at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace

In case you missed my previous post about garlic scapes and are scratching your head thinking garlic what?

Garlic scapes are the seed heads produced by hardneck garlic varieties. They appear in the spring, and if left to grow they will flower and produce dozens of tiny garlic bubils (seeds). Most growers cut the scape off the garlic plant in order to allow the garlic to put more energy into growing a bigger bulb. If cut early the scapes are tender and delicious. They are said to have the same nutritional value as garlic bulbs, and although they possess a milder flavor when cooked, they are a culinary delight. They are great roasted, grilled, stir fried or used raw in dips, salads and pesto. To discover great garlic scape recipes simply do an internet search for garlic scape recipes. They are only available for a short time in the spring but can be preserved by freezing or pickling.

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Yesterday I spent many hours cutting and bundling more than 1500 garlic scapes.

This morning my worked paid off as we delivered the garlic scapes to the Nino Salvaggio Saint Clair Shores, Michigan store.  http://www.ninosalvaggio.com/

The scapes were set out for sale immediately. It was encouraging that the employees at Nino Salvaggio were eager to learn what the scapes were and how they can be used, and they can now share this information with their customers.

We would like to send out a big thank you to Nino Salvaggio for helping us get our garlic scapes into the hands of those who will use them. If you shop at Nino Salvaggio you, too, might want to let them know that you appreciate their efforts to support local farmers while making quality products available to the customers.

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Eating Our Strawberries?

When we discovered that some of our ripe strawberries were being eaten, before we had a chance to pick them, I assumed it was slugs.  Slugs are notorious for invading strawberry patches.  I began saving our coffee grounds separate from the other compost and spreading them around the strawberry plants to deter the slugs. Since I didn’t have enough coffee grounds to do them all at once I wasn’t surprised that I was still seeing eaten berries.

Earlier this week while I was watering garlic and my husband was watering strawberries, he called me over to the strawberry patch. “Want to see some baby bunnies?’ he asked. I grabbed my camera.

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There are at least four of them. My husband found their nest, a small hole in the ground, hidden in an area where the strawberry plants are thick. It is well camouflaged as are the baby bunnies. They are very difficult to see until they start moving around.

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I can’t say for sure that there are no slugs eating the berries, and I have also found a few bugs which I assume are sap beetles, http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fphg/strawberries/insects-mites/sap-beetle  but I suspect the majority of the eaten berries are providing yummy meals to these cute little critters who couldn’t care less about the coffee grounds.