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Fall Garden Report

fallbeets This fall at Chez Siberia has been ‘one for the books’ as they say. We are within a couple of weeks of Thanksgiving (US) and it frankly is a beautiful sunny day in the upper 50s. As a matter of fact, I did some gardening earlier today when I discovered that I’d missed a couple of garlic bulbs in the garden and they’d all sprouted (more on that in another paragraph here). For anyone out there who is somehow doubting that there is climate change, I have to say that our garden certainly shows that the climate is not what it used to be. When your Aunty was just a young person, by this time up here, we already had snow on the ground and it was sticking. The ground might now have been frozen all the way down but the top couple of inches were probably frozen enough that the snow did not melt. As a matter of fact, we used to take a yearly trip down to just north of New York City and the temperatures there on Thanksgiving Day were colder than it is here today. We definitely had to wear our winter coats in New York – no one is wearing a winter coat here today – it’s in the 50s.

This is not to say that we have not had any hard frosts – we’ve had several temperatures down to the low 20s here, which killed off anything not hardy – but certain veggies in the garden are still going strong, so I recommend them to anyone who is thinking about doing some fall vegetable gardening next year – if these will survive for us here, I think we’re safe in saying that they will do ok for anyone south of the Canadian border. (more…)

Peppers to Paprika

paprika1Well our gardening season took a long time to finish up. The peppers just seemed to hang there and not turn red (or yellow or whatever color the particular peppers were meant to be), but finally we got enough ripe ones or mostly ripe ones that I decided that we were tempting fate (i.e., a frost) here if I left them on the plants any longer. So, this week, I tore up all the pepper plants and hung them upside down in the greenhouse (this will ‘mature’ the peppers a bit, let them give off a bit of moisture and some of them will get more ripe) and then yesterday, the DH and I started to process the sweet ones for paprika. (more…)

OK, so you’ve got a garden – what are you going to do with it?

tomatopasta1OK, so here we are, at what, for us here at Chez Siberia, is well on the way to the prime production time out there in the garden. And frankly, even though we’ve been doing this for (ahem) 35 years, we, too get the shakes when we look out there (and our garden is not that big, truly, folks) and see all that stuff that has somehow been produced through seeds, sun, and water.

It’s humbling, truly. (more…)

Pickling time

Now, I would not necessarily say that you can make pickles out of anything, but considering the fact that you can make pickles out of watermelon rind and zucchini, I think it’s not a real stretch to say so. At this point in the gardening season, the veggies out there are pumping out amazing amounts of stuff and there is no way for us to keep up with eating it fresh, so here at Chez Siberia, we tend to freeze and can (or, more technically speaking, jar) things when they are at their best. Today’s been busy – the DH and I have already done up zucchini bread and butter pickles
zucchini pickles
and were left with a dutch oven full of the pickling liquid.

The DH, not one to allow good pickling liquid to go wanting a use, ran out to the garden, and came back thirty minutes later with a huge bag of green beans with the suggestion that we pickle those too.

oooookay. Far be it from me to argue about this because although I LOVE fresh green beans from the garden, we have never had good luck with freezing them (I think they have the texture and taste of paper towels, frankly) and I think I have at least a dozen big jars of beans that we canned a very long time ago (and they are fine – the seals are intact, no bulges, leaking, etc. No discoloration and the cloves of garlic in the jars look perfect) which sit, lonely, in the dark of the pickle cellar downstairs. So, it’s obvious to ME that no one is going crazy for canned green beans.

But green bean pickles? Hmmmmm, that might be a winner and I’m certainly willing to try.

This is as much of an experiment as anything else but here is what we did and we’ll see how they come out.

For a big bowl of beans, washed, tops and tails trimmed and sliced on the diagonal (because I dote on diagonals):
Sprinkle 1/2 cup of canning or coarse salt and mix thoroughly, cover with ice and cover the bowl and allow to sit for three hours. Then rinse thoroughly three times.

Meanwhile, wash several canning jars and put into an oven preheated to 200 degrees F until hot. Put matching sized lids and rings into water in a saucepan and heat until simmering. Turn the heat off.

Put into a big pot (like, dutch oven sized):
3 cups of white vinegar
3 cups of white sugar
2 tsp. celery seed
2 tsp. mustard seed
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. dried ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Once you’ve rinsed the beans, bring the pickling liquid to a boil, throw in the beans and reduce heat. When it comes back to a simmer, keep it at a simmer for 2 minutes. While it’s simmering, get your funnel, spoon etc. ready.

Ladle the beans into the hot jars to within 1/4 inch of the top edge. Clean off the edge with a clean, wet paper towel, and then put on a lid and band and tighten down. Process the way you do all other pickles (water bath for 5 min. or whatever is your favorite method).

We’ll report back on how these turn out.
Bon appetit!!

Thoughts on a Sunday night

Summertime is very busy for everyone, but here are a few thoughts.
1. This is a sawhorse. One of the things on my ‘to do’ list (which is becoming more urgent as time goes on, as I get older) is getting more involved in woodworking. On an odd chance, I searched on ‘wood working classes’ in my area and found a terrific place which frankly caters to women. Hammerstone School of Carpentry for Women They have lots of courses, but the basic carpentry one attracted me the most. I can tell you that after two full days of swinging hammers and using everything from power saws to hand saws in the company of women just like me (well, not JUST like me; I was the granny of us all), (more…)

Timely suggestions

OK, folks, sometimes it is good to, as they say in the classical music biz, ‘recapitulate the theme’ before we go on to the ‘variations.’ In your Aunty’s case this weekend, it hit me (literally; the calendar fell off the fridge) that we are now half-way through August, which means many things to many families:
1. School will be starting soon and many of you will be head-first in those lists that get sent out from schools for what your child is expected to have with them when they go back (if they have not gone back already – some school districts have started I think).
2. Even though it is still warm (and still very warm) in many places (except for our readers in Australia and NZ who are moving into the spring), fall and winter are making their inevitable march.

So, as I seem to do every August, your dear Old Aunty is here today to remind you of a couple of things which may be useful in terms of the next 8 weeks or so (depending on where you live):

First, it is still warm, which means that we have a window of opportunity (as they say) to use substances such as caulk, paint, wood putty and so on, which require temperatures of at least 55 degrees F to cure.

Second, if you have been cudgeling yourselves over the head with doing something about making your home more energy efficient, now is a bloody good time to actually take steps to doing it. There is literally nothing worse than laying on your back in a crawl space in December putting in insulation (well, actually, there IS something worse and that is laying on your back on a filthy barn floor when it’s 0 degrees F. at 2 a.m. and trying to help a ewe have her lambs. But we don’t do that anymore, hey nonnie nonnie and a fiddle-dee-dee). Doing this in August, September or October is much less nasty.

If you’ve been thinking about getting into canning or freezing (even if you don’t have a garden yourself), now as as good a time as any to do this. First – the farmers markets are exploding with gorgeous produce and so-called ‘U pick” is humming out there with fruits and veggies. Check with your county Cooperative Extension to see if they are having any canning, freezing, jam making etc. sorts of classes.

Let’s say you do have a freezer – now is a very good time to check it out and bring all the older stuff (you DO label what you put in there with what it is and when you put it in, right?) to the top or the front (depending on what sort of freezer you have) so that you can use it up before winter starts.

If you have a garden or beds or planters of plants, you may look out and feel that all the flowers are looking just a tad peaked at this point. Deadhead the perennials and cut back the annuals and give everything a good dose of organic fertilizer like compost tea or fish emulsion in water. That should give them a good pick-me-up to carry them into the fall.

For those folks looking for some posts to help them along, here you go:
Saving Energy
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2012/01/07/saving-energy-basement-windows/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2011/09/03/its-that-time-of-the-year/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2010/08/12/55-keep-your-eyes-on-the-thermometer/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2009/10/08/to-do-list-caulk-now/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2011/12/17/give-the-gift-of-warm-feet-part-1/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2011/12/18/the-gift-of-warm-feet-part-2-fiberglass/

Freezing, Canning
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2010/08/22/overwhelmed-with-tomatoes/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2009/05/30/introduction-to-canning/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2009/05/28/be-prepared-introduction-to-anxiety-part-one/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2009/08/02/wmd-zucchini-time/
http://www.kitchencountereconomics.com/2009/06/01/the-exploding-pressure-canner-and-other-kitchen-myths/

Enjoy!

Currant Affair

What you see in the photo here are what are referred to as black currants, one of the members of the ribes family (which also includes red and white currants and gooseberries), which are a woody flowering plant native to Central and Northern Europe. Red currants are much much smaller (which makes them tedious to pick) – some of these on our bushes rival reasonably large blueberries in size. Currant root and seeds (and the fruits are really, really seedy) are high in alpha and gamma linoleic acid. Currants themselves are very high in Vit. C and have high levels of phytochemicals which have shown anti-inflammatory properties. (more…)

Garden Planning: The end dictates the beginning

1939 NJ bean pickers (courtesy Lib. of Congress)

Not that Aunt Toby would ever discourage anyone from gardening (digging around in the dirt is your Aunty’s favorite sport), but let’s be realistic about this: If what you are looking to end up with this year from your gardening is a houseful of food, then a whole lot of thought has to go into the planning NOW (actually, it might have even been last month, but I know you’ll forgive me). (more…)

Where Aunt Toby tells you to give up canned goods for the holidays

In the Northern Hemisphere, right now is the coldest, darkest, most depressing time of the year, which is why we have people doing everything from lighting bonfires, stringing electric lights, and entertaining anyone who wanders by with food and drink. All in the service of bringing back the sun (or the spring, or whatever belief system you ascribe to). And since most of us do not have time to do much of anything at this time of the year, what with all the bonfire lighting and light stringing and carol singing (who WAS Carol, by the way? Why aren’t these songs called “Barbara” or “Ermentrude” or some other woman’s name?), any ideas which will help in the time saving area are worthy indeed. Here is one.

Slow cooker. (more…)

Apple Sauce

Now, you are asking yourselves, “Why bother making apple sauce? I can buy apple sauce.” That’s true. But making apple sauce is as easy as falling off the proverbial log and this way, you know what’s going into it. If you are a package or jar label reader (and most of us are NOT), and you are looking at what is probably America’s number one basic apple sauce in a jar, you will see this: (more…)

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