Sunday, December 27, 2009

Make what you eat...

...Eat what you make!

I don't know about you, but when I have a spare 45 minutes, I think, What could I can? Today it was cranberries.

Mmm, home-made cranberry sauce! Good on turkey, pork, in a spoon, on ice cream...all year long, too—or as long as it lasts in the pantry.

And yeah, I see I need to wash my windows. Someday.

Frittata Sunday!

So, technically, only the garlic and the eggs in the baking dish came from my back yard. But on this lovely rainy and sunshiney Sunday I made a vegetable-and-cheese frittata and a couple of jars of cranberry sauce. If you want to put some up before cranberries disappear from the supermarket shelves, try this original-to-me recipe:

Suzanne's Cranberry Relish

4 c. whole cranberries
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
1 can pineapple chunks (or crushed pineapple if you don't want a chunky sauce)
juice and zest from one lemon
juice and zest from one orange
1/8 c. fresh grated ginger (or less, to taste, if you are not a ginger fanatic)

Combine it all in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the cranberries start to pop. Reduce to low/med-low and continue to cook until you can pop all the cranberries with the back of a spoon. You can either can it now, or take it off the heat and refrigerate it overnight, which will jell it up, as it's pretty runny right off the stove. Makes approximately 6 cups.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Don't worry, scum is normal.

Or so says Mother Earth News in their article on home-made sauerkraut.

I love sauerkraut. The tang, the association with hot dogs (and, by extension, fairs), its working-class, good-natured yumminess. Even though I posted a sauerkraut recipe I saw in the San Francisco Chronicle, I have been strangely reluctant to make any this year. I think I found the recipe, and the concept of home 'kraut as presented in the Food section a little too daunting.

But we got a huge head of Napa cabbage in this week's farm box—either the freebie, abandoned CSA box our neighbor gave us, or the one we subscribe to; I can't remember. Even with the crispy duck Greg brought back from the Bay Area, for two people a whole head of cabbage goes a long way.

All roads were leading to sauerkraut.

So ignoring my previously-posted recipe, I trolled the Internet, landing in short order at Mother Earth News. Over the past two years of canning, I have to say that MEN and Pick Your Own have been my best, most-reliable sources for non-fussy canning. If the accompanying pictures of my food preparation area don't horrify you, you'll probably find something you like on those sites, too. Well worth checking out.

Anyway, on to the sauerkraut. Back when I read the article in the Chron, I did a little surfing looking for real 'kraut crocks. Nice, but pricey! I'd take one if I got it free—it'd look great sitting on my granite-top counters next to my Viking stove...ha!—but I went the poor-(wo)man's route: my lowly crockpot.

A crock pot, a cabbage, some salt, a cutting board and a knife or two. That is all you need.

Well, none of my "small plates" fit inside my little crockpot, so I ended up inverting the lid. That should work, as the 'pot was pretty full. We'll see.

I didn't feel like washing off any large rocks, so I filled a couple of plastic bags with water, then put that in a ziploc bag. Please don't leak!

Here's the recipe I used from Mother Earth News:

Sauerkraut Recipes

By Nathan Poell

Simple Sauerkraut

2 large heads of cabbage (about 5 pounds)
2 to 3 tbsp noniodized salt

Grate 1 cabbage and place in a crock or plastic bucket. Sprinkle half the salt over the cabbage. Grate the second cabbage, then add it to the crock along with the rest of the salt. Crush the mixture with your hands until liquid comes out of the cabbage freely. Place a plate on top of the cabbage, then a weight on top of the plate. Cover the container and check after 2 days. Scoop the scum off the top, repack and check every 3 days. After 2 weeks, sample the kraut to see if it tastes ready to eat. The flavor will continue to mature for the next several weeks. Canning or refrigerating the sauerkraut will extend its shelf life. Yields about 2 quarts.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Preparing for Fall

I hate to say it on any day where it's both sunny and in the 60s, but I can smell autumn just around the corner. In between my job, cleaning my house, and face-time with my family and friends, it's a tight squeeze for canning. I am sadly behind in my blackberry gathering. At this rate we'll run out of jam sometime in February. I did score 5 lbs of late-season pickling cucumbers, and I gave up on getting decent ripe tomatoes so I should get more green tomato pickles, but...sigh. Summer's just a busy season, no doubt about it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

NY Hot Pepper Relish

20-30 peppers
1 or 2 onions
5-10 cloves garlic
2 c. white vinegar
1.5 c. water
1 tb sugar
2 tsp salt

Roast, de-skin and de-seed the peppers, chop and put in a big saucepan or pot. Dice the onion and garlic, add it to the pot. Put all the other ingredients into the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer it for 20 minutes, then ladle into sterilized glass jars. Process the jars. Later, get some good-quality buns and sausages. Invite your friends over and grill up the 'dogs. Top with exotic mustards, perhaps homemade sauerkraut, and this pepper relish. Garnish with a few cold ones and some tunes.

I found the original recipe, posted way back in 2005, on The Cutting Board forum and pretty much used it straight up, except it called for red cherry peppers and I had on hand a mongrel assortment of peppers from the Saturday farmer's market. The poster notes that, "here in upstate NY, when you order sub sandwiches, unless you specify, you will get a sauce like this on them. It's got a good flavor but, IT'S VERY HOT."

Let's hope so. I can hardly wait to try it over a bratwurst.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I wonder how many...

...pints of pickles 14 pounds of cucumbers makes?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Farewell, June

Spent the last weekend in June canning, and looking with anticipation to the high days of summer: peaches are just coming in, and plums, blueberries, and local blackberries (rubus ursinus) are just around the corner. The farmer's market finally has more than lettuce and vegetable starts, so I bought some pickling cukes, picked some strawberries, and started in...

Yum: strawberry jam, peach jam, bread and butter pickles, pickled onion, rajas, pickled beets, pickled radishes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tater Tower

Shamelessly stolen from Jane Tunks article in the San Francisco Chronicle:
The landless gardener doesn't have to be limited to window boxes sprouting herbs or containers full of lettuce.

Even apartment dwellers with nothing more than a few square feet of cement can cultivate a small crop. Among the easiest garden projects for a small space is a potato tower, sheltered inside a plastic garbage can or chicken wire. Layering potatoes and soil takes advantage of vertical space, while maintaining a small footprint.

Or the lazy gardener with a weed-filled yard. And a surplus of chicken-wire remnants.

The easy-to-follow instructions are for a garbage-can tower or a chicken-wire tower. See?

Those bulk-bin bag ties cluttering my bottom drawer? Perfect for closing the chicken wire. And for attaching it to the chicken wire fence for support.

I raked up all the old straw laying around the yard for the dry mulch, grabbed some of the pea/vetch mix from the fallow raised beds for the green mulch, and used the old pile of potting soil growing weeds and cat poop for the dirt. Oh. I also had a box of very old, very sprouted potatoes sitting in the mud room. Sometimes it pays to be untidy.

The finished Tater Tower. (That's the duck pond to the left; I refill it with clean water once a week.) Oh, and please don't think I bought the Compost Tumbler in the background—heavens, no! A friend gave it to me; it was too small for his yard. (!)

It was so easy I built a second one before I got distracted. But I still have chicken wire (and straw and green mulch and poop-enriched dirt) so I think I'll build a few more.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pickled Asparagus

8 c vinegar
8 c water
4 t sugar
2 t pepper
8 t salt
2 t dill
1-2 cloves garlic per quart
2 or more dried Japanese red peppers per quart

Wash asparagus in cool water. Cut into spears (6" for quarts, 4" for pints)

Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, pepper and dill. Heat to a boil.

Pack asparagus tightly into jars with tips down. Put 1-2 cloves of garlic and 2 or more red peppers into each jar (the more red peppers the hotter the asparagus). Cover with boiling brine to within 1/2 inch from top of jar. Clean the rim of each jar and seal with lid.

Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.

It's asparagus season! What are you waiting for? (Recipe courtesy of katewood, a commenter on

Brined Snap Beans

Makes 1 gallon

Total time: 2 weeks

More subtle than vinegar-pickled green beans, this recipe is adapted from "Joy of Pickling," by Linda Ziedrich (Harvard Common Press, 1998), who says to use the freshest green beans you can find. Alicia Preston likes to make this recipe with trimmed asparagus as well.

  • 2 pounds tender young snap beans, trimmed
  • 6 small dried chile peppers
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 12 black peppercorns, crushed
  • 6 dill sprigs
  • 1/2 cup pickling salt or 3/4 cup kosher salt
  • 3 quarts water

Instructions: Layer beans, chile peppers, garlic, peppercorns and dill in a 1-gallon jar. Dissolve salt in the water and pour enough brine over the beans to cover them. Push a freezer bag into the mouth of the jar and pour the remaining brine into the bag. Seal the bag. Store at room temperature with the top of the container loosely covered.

Within 3 days you should see tiny bubbles rising. If scum forms on top of the brine, skim it off daily and rinse off the brine bag.

Pickles should be ready in about 2 weeks, when the bubbling has stopped and the beans taste sour. Remove brine bag, skim off any scum, and cap the jar. Refrigerate.

( just keeps spreading the love.)

Peach Chutney

Makes 1 quart

Total time: 1 1/2-2 1/2 days

This recipe for spicy, fresh chutney is adapted from "Full Moon Feast," by Jessica Prentice (Chelsea Green, 2006). It can also be made with unpeeled chopped tomatoes. It's great with roasted meats or Indian dishes.

  • 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
  • 1/4 cup boiling filtered water
  • 8 to 10 peaches, peeled and cut into small dice
  • -- Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon powdered turmeric or one 1-inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon Sucanat or rapadura (see Note)
  • 1/4 cup yogurt whey (see Note)
  • 4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Instructions: Put the fenugreek seeds in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let them soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Put the peach pieces in a large bowl. Drain the water from the fenugreek seeds and add the seeds to the peaches. Squeeze the lemon juice over the peaches.

In a small cast-iron skillet, toast the cumin, mustard and fennel seeds over medium heat until they begin to smell fragrant. Add the seeds to the peaches with the ginger, turmeric, Sucanat, yogurt whey, salt and cayenne. Stir thoroughly and taste. The mixture should be salty.

Transfer to a 2-quart jar and gently weigh down the top of the chutney so the liquid rises above the solids by filling a small, narrow jar with water and setting it inside the other jar so that it gently pushes the chutney down but allows the liquid to come to the top.

Ferment at room temperature at least overnight. If it is hot, 24 hours may be enough. If it is cool or just warm, ferment for 48 hours. Chutney can be eaten immediately or can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.

Note: To make yogurt whey, take 2 cups of live-culture whole milk yogurt and pour it into a colander or strainer lined with cheesecloth set above a bowl or pot. Let drip for up to 8 hours in the refrigerator. The whey will be in the bowl and the yogurt in the cheesecloth can be used like cream cheese.

Sucanat and rapadura are both types of unrefined cane sugar that can be found at natural foods stores such as Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.

Per 2 tablespoons: 25 calories, 0 protein, 5 g carbohydrate, 0 fat, 0 cholesterol, 268 mg sodium, 1 g fiber.

(Another recipe courtesy of Way to go, folks!)


Makes 3-4 pints

Total time: 2 weeks

This delicious sauerkraut is from Kathryn Lukas, adapted from a recipe in "Nourishing Traditions," by Sally Fallon (NewTrends Publishing, 2001). Lukas' general rule is to use 1.5 percent by weight of salt in proportion to the cabbage. Serve with all kinds of meats and sandwiches, or toss into salads for a crunch and a slight tang.

  • 1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

Instructions: Clean 3 to 4 wide-mouth pint jars and canning lids and rings in sudsy water.

Quarter the cabbage, then remove the core. Reserve 4 flat pieces to top each jar of the kraut. Thinly slice using a large sharp knife, mandoline or food processor.

Place in a large bowl with the caraway and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt and let sit for at least 20 minutes. Squeeze the sauerkraut, while tossing, to help break it down and release juices.

Taste the sauerkraut; it should be very salty. If needed add more salt.

Very tightly pack the sauerkraut into the jars, using a clean fist or a wooden spoon to push the cabbage down as far as it will go. Fill to no more than 1 inch from the top and cover with any juices in the bowl. If there are not enough juices to completely cover the cabbage, add a little bit of water. Cover each jar with the reserved cabbage leaf, then close the lid tightly.

Place jars on a plate in case they overflow slightly and put in a cool cupboard or pantry; the ideal temperature is 60°-64°. If liquid comes out, open the jars and add a bit more filtered water. Check and taste after 1 week then again after 1 1/2-2 weeks. If it's sour enough for your liking, refrigerate or eat immediately. Or, let sit another week or less to increase the sour flavor. Keep refrigerated.

(Recipe courtesy of Thanks, guys!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Strawberry Jam

4 c. mashed strawberries
1/2 c. sugar or to taste
2 tsp calcium water
2 tsp Pomoma's Pectin

Sterilize your canning jars and lids in a vat of boiling water. While that's on, slice, dice, food process or otherwise mash the strawberries*. Put the fruit in a pan with the calcium water that comes with Pomona's Pectin and heat over medium-high until it reaches a boil.

(If you don't have a prolific-enough patch to give you several cups of fruit at a time, you could pad it out with strawberries from the store, or add a second type of fruit (pineapple, rhubarb, mango), or just use little jars.)

In a separate bowl combine the sugar and the pectin. Add all at once to the boiling fruit and stir well. When the fruit again reaches a boil, take it off the heat and pour it into the sterilized glass jars. Seal, heat in a water bath for ten minutes, and let cool.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Jars, jars, jars!

We all know I'm cheap. I prefer to get my canning jars for free or for well under the dollar they cost me retail.

But for gift-giving it's nice to have a fancy jar. Or a jar that will pass through airport security. I decided to take a look online at what was available.

quattro stagioni canning jarBormioli Rocco Quattro Stagioni canning jars

(although I can't tell from the website what kind of lids they use!)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Free is good

I declare canning season officially open: a friend's neighbor had two boxes of put-out lemons on his sidewalk last week. We took them all, shared them with our pal, and made 9 1/2 pints of marmalade out of the rest.

Here's last year's tally from the May 2008-April 2009 season:

  • Applesauce - 20
  • Jam, blackberry - 20.5
  • Jam, plum - 1
  • Jam, strawberry - 6
  • Jam, white nectarine - 2
  • Chutney, pepper - 3
  • Marmalade, lemon - 9
  • Chutney, fruit - 8.5
  • Relish, green tomato - 3
  • Relish, cranberry - 12
  • Green Beans - 5
  • Jalapeno rings - 6
  • Red Pepper jelly - 3
  • Tomato Sauce - 35
  • Pickles, jalapenos - 2
  • Pickles, cucumber - 1
  • Pickles, green tomato - 7
  • Pickles, zucchini - 4

Let the canning begin!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

So close to canning season!

Mid-April in Northern California, and the vegetable starts, berry canes, and fruit trees are going in, waiting, waiting for summer canning season.

I bought tomato starts today—yeah, even after last year's tomato disaster. Sungolds do well, so I got more of those, and since the green tomato pickles were so well received, I figured why not plant a few full-size tomatoes? Either they ripen and we have fresh tomatoes (and more canned sauce), or they don't, and we have a new batch of pickles.

The green tomato pickle recipe we like best is one I adapted from a recipe off the Internet; here it is:

Green Tomato Pickles

4 quarts green tomatoes, quartered
1 quart sliced yellow onion
1 quart sliced red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper
2 cups serrano chiles
1 cup pickling salt

Put the pieces of tomato, onion, and pepper in a non-reactive bowl, cover with the salt and let sit for 4-6 hours (to remove excess moisture). Drain off and discard the salty water. In a pan, combine:

2 lbs brown sugar
6 cups vinegar
1/3 cup mustard seed
1 tsp black pepper

Bring it all to a boil then simmer for another 10 minutes. Pack the tomatoes, onions, and peppers into sterilized glass jars, with 1 or 2 or 3 or more chiles per jar for an extra kick. Fill the jars with the hot vinegar solution, and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes. Let the jars cool, then store in your pantry to enjoy throughout the year.

Speaking of pantries, I organized mine not too long ago. You can see from the list on the left that I canned about 142 pints of food last year. We have 50 left. And like I said, I'm getting ready for summer: I joined a fruit CSA. I'm scouring thrift stores for used jars. I got a bulk order of Pomona's Pectin. I tripled the amount of strawberries in the yard, and expanded the number of raised beds. Sadly, I don't think I'll get to clearing enough of the yard to put in any fruit trees.

But there's always next year.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Keeping Chickens

The San Francisco Chronicle jumps on the backyard chicken bandwagon:

Once you've had a few backyard hens, Duncan said, there is no substitute for the taste of a homegrown egg and the company of quietly clucking chickens.

Duncan has found that not only does her little hen flock supply healthful pure protein from the coop, but she also saves money.

"They pay for their own food, we get our eggs for free, and there's a little money left over," she said.

I'm already up $20.85 so far this year, thanks to those egg-laying machines, the ducks. Three days this week, I got three duck eggs from two Campbell ducks. Whoa.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Graywater Gardens

Okay, this is cool: not only using the graywater from your washing machine to irrigate you garden, but using your neighbor's graywater!

On one end of the big base trough, a musical sculpture comprising a C-shaped copper pipe, a pale terra-cotta base and a bowl that looks like a huge rust-finished wok spills water into the tub holding the upper story of plants. From there it overflows into the base, and from there?

"We use it to irrigate this part of the garden," Hurd said, pointing out the slope downhill from the fountain. "We're going to add more riparian plants - water lovers - and I'm going to build a willow-stake fence to replace this one that's falling down."

In such a wet spot, as along a creekside where they generally grow, willow branches that are just stuck into the ground can be relied upon to root and grow. What you get is a fence that can be maintained with pruning shears, never needs painting, won't fall over and will furnish branches for art and fun, and twigs to make willow water....

Water approaches the copper "C" piped from a buried cistern - a barrel with a sump pump. There's a lid; when we visited, it was taken off to show the works. That water comes from the washing machine of Hurd's next-door neighbor, Annie Leonard.

The living fountain system does more than move water around; it cleans it. It's a very simple graywater filtration system that wastes no precious garden space on ugly machinery. The first level is a terra cotta pipe filled with sand. The most active filters are the roots of those plants in the tiered hanging gardens. (Hurd claims no technology so far can match the filtration strength of certain plant roots.) She'll have water emerging from the planters tested to see if it's legally clean enough for irrigating vegetables.

I can't wait to try this in my backyard, 'cause while I don't have a washer...oh yes, my neighbor does.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Free Money

The photo is from—click here for the full post. Really, though, the post attached to the photo isn't worth reading; what is interesting is DC's lack of a bottle deposit. After big events in metropolitan California, those money-earning cans and bottles are gone. Either the waste companies take 'em away, or the can men get them. I personally root for the can men. California reclaims about 61 percent of its recyclables, which is good, but Oregon kicks our ass with an 84-percent reclamation rate—and Iowa, Vermot, and Michigan have rates in the 90s. That's some motivated recyclers.

I'm a so-so recycler, and I still pull enough cans and bottles out of my trash (and off the street on which I live) to pay for my dump fees. Put a little effort into it and I could throw in a trip to the taco wagon as well.

Check it out at the Bottle Bill Resource Guide.

Almost-free Chicken Soup

1-2 lemons
roast chicken carcass

Toss the roast chicken carcass in a pot with some water and simmer until what meat's left falls off the bones. Pull everything out of the pot with a slotted spoon and remove all the bones and gristle. Discard the bones and gristle, and put what you kept back into the pot of stock. Add whatever vegetables are on hand, and simmer with a lid on. Zest and juice the lemons, adding both to the pot. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of rice, depending on how much rice you like in your soup. Add as much or as little pepper as you like. Saute thinly-sliced garlic and onion in the butter and add that to the soup pot. When the rice is cooked and you're hungry, it's ready to eat.

I made this on Sunday, because one of the guys in my Saturday gaming group brought a couple of rotisserie chickens to share that he got free at work (he works at a market). I already had four carrots, half an onion, some garlic and the rice on hand, plus two lemons—one from the free shelf at work, the other I found on the sidewalk the day before; it was still good, so I took it home. I went to the store and bought a leafy bunch of celery, so all in all this soup, which I just finished today for lunch, cost me 79 cents. And I only used half of the celery in the soup. So call it three days' worth of meals for 40 cents. W00t!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Green Bean Pickles

Green beans
White vinegar
Black peppercorns

Wash and snip the ends from your green beans. Pack them tightly into sterilized jars, adding 1/2 tsp black peppercorns per pint jar, along with a generous strip of lemon rind (with as much of the white pith removed as practical). Fill with white vinegar and bathe in hot water for 5-10 minutes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Quiet of Winter

Now that winter's here, I've hardly been canning at all. (Cranberry relish, if you must know. And we've eaten all that I put up, so I must make more before the cranberries disappear from the store shelves.) Instead, we've been sampling this year's produce.

The pickled duck eggs have had mixed reviews. I'd think they'd do better if my samplers were drinking more beer during the taste testing, but with the cold weather we move to wines instead. I think I'll put the rest aside until summer. Additionally, I found a couple of coworkers who really like duck eggs, and are buying the fresh ones as fast as my ducks can pump 'em out. So probably no more pickled eggs.

The green beans were a big hit. I will definitely put up more of those next year. Recipe forthcoming!

Another recipe I'll post soon is one for red-pepper chutney, also well-received. And it works great as a meat marinade, too.

Another surprising hit is the pickled green tomatoes. Yes! After griping about the recipe, and gazing forlornly at the jars in my pantry, we finally cracked one open just after Thanksgiving. The pickles made from quarter-sliced tomatoes are definitely better than the sliced ones; they look better on a plate, and they have a bit more body. So I won't be too terribly sad next summer if my tomato plants crap out again.