Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Condiments - so many condiments

I'm not as bad as Sean.  He needs a separate small fridge for just his condiments.  He can barely get any real food into the fridge, it's ridiculous!

I need ideas on how to use my condiments - I know there are ones that you just always have to have available like - like - like what?

My fridge door

What can I make with all this?

Jam:  strawberry, raspberry, vanilla rhubarb, fig, apple butter
Syrup: strawberry
Chutney: apple nut
Preserved lemon puree (this is a staple to always have)
Tomato:  powder, sun dried in oil, dehydrated not in oil
Dulche de leche sauce
Hot sauce
Hot pepper relish
Zucchini relish
PIckles:  Dilly beans, zucchini, bread and butter, cornichon
Lemon, lime, key lime juice
Dijon mustard - 2 kinds
Rhubarb Vodka
Fish sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Curry paste
Pickled green peppercorns
Almond oil (bought to make homemade bath scrub)

Peach Vinegar

Sean also has peach vinegar and loves it - I don't know what he is using it for since I only make vinaigrette with it.

I need ideas!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Rooting DC

Today, Sean and I went to the gardening festival called Rooting DC.  This was the 6th annual gardening forum held by this group but last year was the first time I had ever heard of it.  I wasn't able to make it last year but this time around it was held at Woodrow Wilson High School, which happens to be where my Beanie One goes to high school.

As you walked into the high school, there were a number of groups set up with tables in the atrium.  I gathered a lot of information - more for Emma since she needs to come up with an idea for her Gold Award for girl scouts and I thought she could contact some of the gardening groups for possible projects.  Community Forklift had a table (we love this place!) and I discovered that they have a small grant program for community gardens. I will be following up to see if I can get garden tools and wheelbarrows for my Friendship Gardens.

Rain chain made with materials from Community Forklift

I talked to among others, folks from the Anacostia Riverkeepers, DC State Fair, DC Field to Fork Network and the Neighborhood Farm Initiative.

The workshops presented information on a wide range of topics from composting to square foot gardening to cooking to beekeeping and canning.

The first workshop we attended was an introduction to canning.  Why you ask since I already know how to can?  I don't know! I thought I would learn something new but alas, I did not.  The woman who led the session was an experienced canner but amateur public speaker.  I walked out saying to Sean that I could have taught the class better (he replied, of course you could have honey).  The presenter did hold her canning tongs differently than me so maybe I have been doing that wrong all along.  I think I will contact the organizers and see how I can get on the schedule!

Canning tongs.  I have been holding them by the red end and grabbing the tops of the jars with the black ends - the presenter today held them by black handles and grabbed by red parts!  Have I been doing it wrong all these years?

The second workshop was on succession planting and it was led by two lovely young women who were farmers - Their slant was more for the large scale gardener who would do several plantings of a vegetable in order to have enough to sell at the farmer's market or CSA.  It was interesting to see all the different kinds of charts they presented to keep track of your plants.  This is where I definitely fall down on the job.  I have tried and failed over the years to figure out a way to keep track of my plants and how they do.  I have tried online tools, a notebook, taking pictures - I start but never finish.  I just remember in my head where I had planted everything the year before and try to do crop rotation.  It's a full time job to just keep records and my energy wanes.  I will look at some of the resources they provided, especially from Johnny's Seeds in Maine.  Last year I tried the garden planner from Mother Earth News but alas did not follow through.  The other problem I have in my garden is managing the space better - so when the peas are done, what can I plant there?  Barbara Damrosch has a good chapter about this in her Garden Primer book.  I did learn from this workshop that if you have a bed that will be empty for just a month or so, you can plant buckwheat as a fast growing cover crop. I will give that a try this year.

The third workshop was on how to build a raised bed structure.  It was led by a the executive director of Groundwork Anacostia River DC.  He talked about his group and how they help out community gardeners with bed design and building.  There were a few high school interns with the group who put together a raised bed.  Simple and easy and the cost not much if you used reclaimed wood (Community Forklift!).  I don't have raised beds in my community garden (building them with wine bottles, pictures to come) but this workshop made me think I (or more likely Sean) could build a couple of small beds for my backyard.

These are beds the Groundwork Green team helped to build at a community garden in Ward 7.  Notice how the boards are joined in the corners.  Very clever.

I had a fun time at the forum and Sean is always a good sport about coming with me.  

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Trust your instincts

Because when you don't this is what happens

I've had about 3 lbs of hot peppers in the freezer since last summer.  

My gardening buddy grows hot peppers and he was away most of last summer so I harvested them.  The past couple of years, I have made a kind of hot sauce but I wanted to do something different this year.  I found a recipe for a kind of hot pepper condiment that looked good.  So today was the day.  The peppers sat in the fridge overnight to defrost.

Sean was a trooper and cut the stems off, then put them in the blender/food processor to grind fine.

We opened the kitchen door, put on gloves and a mask and the smell was not too bad.  The paste looked pretty good too.

We put the peppers in jars, added some salt and covered with heated white vinegar.

Here is where I did not listen to myself.  There jars came out of the boiling water hot, the vinegar was hot yet when I touched the jars to screw on the lids, the jars were stone cold.  Huh?  I said why are these jars cold and Sean answered, well the peppers were half frozen.  I'm thinking to myself, ok, if I put cold jars back into the hot boiling water, they are going to break.  So what did I do? I put the cold jars into the hot water and THEY BROKE!  Well, 2 out of the 4 jars broke and let me tell you, the vapors from two broken jars of hot peppers drove Sean and I outside.

Stupid, stupid stupid. I should have taken the time to start over and heat up the pepper mixture and then repack the jars.

2 jars survived, plus a half filled one that I didn't process.  Lesson learned.

Spring is almost here

I always love when the Hellebores bloom.  I was taking out the recycling and glanced over at the plants and saw they were in bloom.  Spring planting is not far behind

A couple of weeks ago, Sean and I went to the Community Forklift.    He loves this place.  It is a funky place to wander around and think of projects.  We were looking for a new window for the cold frame and something to put down between the pavement stones.  The bonus was seeing some bicycle rims so I can make a new trellis.

I want to do something like this

On Saturday, Sean put the new window on the cold frame

The seeds have arrived! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Porkfest 2013

Porkfest 2013 happened on Saturday night.  The first Porkfest happened in 2010 - during the Blizzard we had - snowmageddon.  Sherry and Rose came over, walking through the snow to enjoy pork - the meal was recreated a couple of weeks late to include Joan and Megan.  So began Porkfest.

Every fall, I buy 1/2 hog from Farmer Allan.  This year he used a new butcher so I didn't quite get the variety I have had in the past.  This year, it was sausage links, bacon, bulk sausage, ground pork, pork loin roasts (bone in) and fresh ham roasts.  Also a couple of packages of ribs, 3 containers of lard and the pigs feet.

For this year's fest, I tried to make pork and chili stew but it came out as shredded pork.  I used a Martha Stewart recipe found here.  Sean let me use his slow cooker and added some spices such as chili powder, ancho powder and cumin seeds. I only used 1 jalapeno pepper and it was plenty hot.  Cooked for 12 hours, let sit in the fridge for another day and then shredded the pork.  Not pretty but this is what it looked like before it started cooking

I made the Silver Palate macaroni and cheese recipe, King Arthur Baking book Maple cornbread (baked into muffins), salad and my homemade pickles.  The award winning dilly beans and a pungent zucchini pickle made with lime.  The cobbler recipe is from Cook's Illustrated.

Joan - excited about pork

The girls - Emma, Rose and Megan

Enjoying the meal.  Brian was with us, you can see the splash of red of his T-shirt to the right of Megan.

The meal!

Berry Cobbler - blueberries, sour cherries, blackberries, all picked last summer.

Emma and Sherry, enjoying cobbler