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!)