Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fall/Winter Garden in a Coldframe

My fall/winter garden
This is my 4 x 8 foot cold frame, planted with salad greens and some peas.  The peas are to fix nitrogen into the soil that the salad greens gobble up.  Plus, I'll probably get a handful of pods to use in a stir fry.

I planted Buttercrunch lettuce, spinach, and rainbow chard in August.  It got very dry and hot and I forgot to water for a few days and the spinach was toast.  Replanted it and 2 weeks ago, planted more lettuce, spinach, and chard. 

Since the rest of the garden beds (I have over a dozen) have been put to bed for the season, and all of that produce has been put up, it's been nice to go out and pick a fresh salad.  A little basalmic vinegar and some croutons and I'm in heaven.  Last year I had fresh salad until January when the temps finally got cold.  I'm hoping to be able to say the same this year.

In November, I'll plant some more spinach and chard.  Those plants will sort of hibernate until late January/February and then they'll take off and I'll have fresh greens again by March.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvest is Done!

About 100 jars of canned garden goodness has been put up.
As of last week, I finished freezing and canning all of the garden fruits and vegetables and got most of the garden clean-up done.  Then my family went on a weekend vacation to relax.  Weekend vacation meaning we went tent camping and hiking for three days. 

In year's past, I have pressure canned green beans as well as carrots, but this year, I only canned the carrots and ended up freezing 50 meals of green beans.  Seems my family prefers their beans a smidge more al dente than canning achieves. 

In my pantry, I made applesauce, apple butter, apple jelly, grape jelly, raspberry jalapeno jelly, raspberry syrup, mulberry syrup, carrots, orange rhubarb jelly, hamburger dill pickles, and a  million jars of salsa.  The freezer is full of shredded zucchini, apples for baking, green beans, cilantro, chives, spinach, and swiss chard.  The basement laundry room is full of over a dozen spaghetti squash. The only thing left to do is to continue cutting and drying herbs.

Luckily for our families, they'll be getting some garden goodness for Christmas this year, as they do every year.  We love that we can turn a simple plant into a delicious treat for someone to enjoy.

Most of my canning recipes are from the Ball Blue Book.  Simple and easy to follow.  If you don't have a canner, you can always just use a tall pasta pot with a folded dish towel on the bottom to set the jars on so they don't break. You don't have to spend lots of money to try out canning.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fall is Here

Summer ends with Labor Day, at least in my mind.  Waking up to 46F temperatures on the 1st day of school made today feel like fall.  Tonight's dinner of paella will feature vegetables from my gardens: tomatoes, squash, green beans, carrots, peas, and onions.

Cooking in the fall is easy.  I just walk out to my gardens, pick what's ready, and the meal practically makes itself.  It's a cook's dream to have freshly picked, organic food, just footsteps from the kitchen-for pennies.

With my kids in school all day, this leaves me space to get a lot of canning and preserving done.  having six hours of uninterrupted time is great.  In the fall, I usually pack those six hours full.  I'm always a bit annoyed when I need to get canning done on the weekend because it means I will have people underfoot and asking me questions while I'm trying to cope with peeling and seeding 30 pounds of tomatoes. I work better alone.  :-)

This is the time of year for harvesting and drying our hops that we use in our home brewed beer.  Also this fall, I'm going to attempt to make my own hard cider.  I do not have an apple press so I can guarantee there will be cursing as I try to squeeze apple chunks through cheesecloth.

This weekend, I'll likely do a big push to get much of my canning done for the season.  My tomatoes look like hell-they have late blight this year-and I'm hoping the fruits ripen before the plants completely die.  Unfortunately, this area is prone to that damn soil spore.

My paella:

I don't make a "real" paella as the rest of my family does not care for the browned crunchy bottom, so it's more a "rice with things" as Mark Bittman says.

2 cups rice
3.5 cups broth (you can use water, but it'll taste better with broth)
1-1.5 cups of veg

I brown an onion and some garlic in olive oil, dump in the veg to saute a bit, then the rice until it gets glossy.  Add in HOT liquid and bring to a boil.    Cover, lower the heat and 30-40 minutes later, it's done.  Season to taste.  You probably won't need salt if you use commercially made broth.