Saturday, October 25, 2008

Green Tomato Pickles (updated)

This one's from

4 quarts sliced green tomatoes
1 quart sliced yellow onion
1 quart sliced red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper
1 cup pickling salt

First, realize your tomatoes are not going to ripen before this year's first frost. Accept the inevitable and pick them for canning as-is.

After slicing and salting let sit for 4-6 hours (to remove excess moisture). Drain off and discard the salty water. Add to the tomatoes/onions/peppers:

2 lbs brown sugar
6 cups vinegar
1/3 cup mustard seed
1/4 cup celery seed
1 tsp black pepper
And, in a bag:
1 tb allspice
1 tsp cloves

Bring it all to a boil then simmer for another 20 minutes. Put it in sterilized glass jars—add a dried red chili to each jar for a spicy kick—and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes.

Now to me, that sounds like a lot of brown sugar. Two pounds? Jesus. Since I'm sick today and not venturing outside, I'm making this now in my kitchen. I'm going to try it with half the sugar called for; I'll let you know how that turns out.


Well, I ended up using all two pounds of sugar called for; those salt-kissed tomatoes looked like they needed it. But I tossed that recipe in the trash. Why? Boiling those tomatoes results in tomato mush. Tried it again with tomato wedges placed in the sterilized jars with the pickling solution poured on top. Better, but I still ended up with over a quart of pickling solution. Made some more pickles, still had solution left. Finally got tired and poured it onto the compost heap and gave the rest of the green tomatoes away on Craigslist. Oh, well!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Taste of Apples

...I ate an insane number of apples - at least a dozen, with a wide and exotic range of flavors. The Hodges, who have three generations of family living on the farm, all said that they never get tired of eating apples. I can understand because I was delighted to come home with a big bag of many varieties and exerted a lot of will power to only eat three Honey Crisps today.

It was interesting to learn that the Red Delicious is the most popular apple in this country. It’s probably the only one that I didn’t like. I think that even the best Red Delicious tastes kind of like a potato, and it’s really sad that most children in the United States associate that flavor as “apple”. I see it as a metaphor for what has become misguidedly important - and what’s wrong- with so many other things in America - It’s valued for its beauty, rejected if it’s blemished, thick skinned and lacking flavor. Still, it’s the one that is held up as the favorite...

Read the full post here. And if you like, love, or admire horses, check out the rest of Victoria's blog while you're there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Escape from Berkeley

It is a classic road rally, 600 miles from the liberal embrace of Berkeley to the anything-goes lights of Las Vegas. No speeding is allowed, or in some cases even possible. And if you stop to refuel, it had better be in someone’s trash.

On Saturday, five teams began the Escape From Berkeley, maybe the world’s most eco-friendly motor race, driving all manner of alternative-fuel-burning jalopies, roadsters, and even a frying oil-fueled Mercedes-Benz, with a single goal: to complete the race using no petroleum.

“Gentlemen, start your whatever they are,” the M.C. shouted to begin the race, which offers the winner $5,000.The final catch of the race is that participants — artists, environmentalists and even a cattle farmer from Alabama — have to find or scavenge their go-go juice, whether it is used vegetable oil from restaurants or twigs and sticks from the side of the road. All the vehicles, which had to be street legal, were allowed to start with a single gallon of whatever fuel they used.

“We’re just going to hang out in front of Ace Hardware and beg,” said Ben Wedlock, who was riding a two-man bicycle, augmented by a one-horsepower electric motor that runs on ethanol.

Read the full article by Jesse McKinley in today's New York Times. Or, follow the action on the Escape From Berkeley website.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fresh food in the city? No problem!

Those of us who grew up in the middle of cities know how difficult it can be to find fresh, quality produce at the corner grocery—any inner-city grocery, really. So for me it's heart-warming to read about someone making a difference:

In spring, Simon Richard planted 700 seeds in his Bernal Heights garage. Within weeks, shoots and leaves of artisan edibles such as Romano beans, arugula and, of course, lots of heirloom tomatoes were hardy enough to be transplanted into a field.

But this was not just busywork of an overambitious backyard gardener. By midsummer, the fruits (and vegetables) of Richard's labor filled the bins at Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco's Mission District, where Richard is the produce manager.

Bi-Rite has long been recognized for its commitment to local, seasonal produce, but it may be the first market to actually grow its own food. Though Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, Monterey Market in Berkeley, Draeger's on the Peninsula, Whole Foods and other Bay Area markets buy some produce directly from farms, Richard and Bi-Rite's owner Sam Mogannam are taking the farm-to-table philosophy a step further, growing their own produce on one-third of an acre in Sonoma.

Read the full article (with photos!) in today's San Francisco Chronicle by Jane Tunks.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Busy Sunday

Saturday's farmer market expedition was again fruitful, netting a 20-lb box of ugly tomatoes for a buck a pound, and a 20-lb box of ugly red peppers for $12 (and a big bag of jalapenos for $8). So today I got down to it:

That's half a day's labor on my kitchen table. Left to right: apple/peach chutney from leftover fruits I found in the kitchen; pickled jalapeno rings; pasta sauce; lemon marmalade from what was left over from starting a batch of lemoncino; and a couple of jars of Mara's red pepper jelly.

Not pictured is the batch of bread I made today using Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, sent to me by a good friend.

Also not pictured is the glass of wine by my keyboard and the fuzzy slippers on my feet.

My hands feel like I grabbed a bunch of stinging nettles and squeezed hard.

Fruit Chutney

2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup ginger (fresh or candied), sliced thin
1/3 cup onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 tsp mustard seed
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups or so diced fruit

Combine it all in a saucepan and cook over medium-low until the fruit is soft. Fill sterilized canning jars and process.

The chutney comes out sweet and spicy, which I like. It's also a great way to use up odds and ends of fruit—today it was apples and pears, but I've also used this with plums to good effect. And if you have a little more or a little less than four cups of fruit, the recipe is quite forgiving.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Small But Fruitful Plot

In 2006, Kraus persuaded the Public Utilities Commission to grant her access to the unused land for a one-year trial period. In exchange, her organization found applicants in search of fertile ground and committed to growing food sustainably and providing educational opportunities.

After the first year proved to be a success, Kraus secured a nine-year lease agreement with the SFPUC, which granted $65,000 to cover basic infrastructure costs. The utility has been consistently supportive, she said. The 18 acres, all recently certified organic, are now occupied by six farming projects of varying sizes, including a containerized fig-growing operation and a garden producing for a Pleasanton buying cooperative. All tenants pay a modest rent.

"I think the basic idea is we need to share resources," said Peter Rudnick, the project's farm manager, who helped start Green Gulch Farm in Marin County 30 years ago with his wife, author Wendy Johnson.

"It's no longer (true) that people can just go out and buy land," Rudnick said. "When public agencies have land, it's really a benefit for everyone's land-use needs, especially for people to come out and grow food."

From the San Francisco Chronicle. Follow the link to read the entire article.

How did these folks find this land? Through Farmlink! Check it out.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mara's Red Pepper Jelly

1.5 lbs red peppers
3 jalapeno peppers
2 Hungarian hot peppers (the yellow ones)
1.5 cups cider vinegar
6 cups sugar
2 tsp Pomona's Pectin

Seed all the peppers. Finely chop the jalapeno and Hungarian peppers. Cut the ends off the red peppers; finely chop the ends, julienne the bodies.

In a bowl mix the sugar and pectin; set aside. Combine the cider vinegar and peppers in a pan and bring to a boil for 3 minutes, then add the sugar/pectin mixture and heat to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the contents into sterilized glass canning jars, process, and set aside to cool.

Feel free to substitute peppers for a less- or more-spicy result. Or, if you can't get jalapenos or Hungarian peppers in your area. And remember that chickens consider pepper seeds a treat!

Mara says the jelly goes great on bagels and cream cheese, and I have to agree: