Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011

A cantaloupe melon sits in 100 ears of corn

The last half of July at our place is known for three things:  melons, sweet corn, and tomatoes.  We could add a heat wave or two in there just for fun, but when these come, they come relentlessly!  Finally, those first juicy, cool, flavor-bursting melons are rolling in.  Our first honeydew looked more like a small watermelon weighing in over 10 lbs; we picked eight melons during a four-day period.  One year we used a melon baller to fill quart freezer bags with melon balls, but we never could remember to take them out of the freezer in time to thaw for our fruit salads.  Eating frozen melon balls in winter is like having a hot roast dinner during a summer heat wave, so we prefer melons fresh and enjoy them when they come.  

Sweet corn 'Gotta Have It'
blanched and ready to freeze
 Although we made two plantings of sweet corn two weeks apart, they ripened one week apart due to the second half receiving more growing degree days.  What that meant for us was picking another 100 ears of sweet corn, blanching and freezing, and giving a lot away.  The variety we grew is called ‘Gotta Have It,’ which lives up to its name, especially for pesky corn ear worms; thankfully they bother only the tip which can be cut out.  Other than planting resistant varieties, the only methods of ear worm control are pesticides or oil, neither of which we want to use.  On this round we froze several dozen ears whole on the cob to save time.  We estimate we pulled 250 ears of corn out of a 20 ft. x 20 ft. space.  Any future dinner guests will be treated to…corn!

Somewhere this week we found time to pull onions and leave them to cure in a sunny dry corner of the garden.  Their space has been overrun by melon vines anyway.  In the Fall we always turn up a few onions that we overlooked.  Dill seed, dry and brown, was gathered and tucked away in an envelope labeled for next March’s planting.

We de-skinned and canned these plumb tomatoes for use in chili, spaghetti, goulash, cabbage rolls, and other tomato-based recipes; there is nothing like pulling a jar of July's sunshine summer best out of the pantry in the dead of winter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Recipe: Overnight Kosher Dills

No brining, fermenting, or cooking required!

If you like Claussen brand refrigerator dill pickles, then give these a try; you may just agree they are better! They are mild and surprisingly crunchy. Can't go wrong with fresh ingredients in this simple recipe. Comment from a pickle-maker: "I've been making pickles for years but haven't found that just-right recipe; this is the one I've been looking for. These pickles are unbelievable!"

Step 1
Go to the garden, farmer's stand, or market and find

  • 20 - 25 small warted pickling cucumbers (wash and de-spine)
  • 5 bunches of dill weed or stems with seed heads
  • 1 large fresh head of garlic

Choose 20 - 25 small warted pickling cucumbers. The variety pictured here is an heirloom called "Russian Pickling."

Step 2
Using kitchen scissors, cut dill weed or seed heads into 2-inch pieces. Peel 7 large cloves of garlic and press, mince, or slice. Add garlic to dill.

Chop dill into a non-reactive 3-gallon container (DO NOT USE METAL).
Step 3
To make pickling brine: 

  • Add 4 quarts (1 gallon) distilled or filtered water to a non-reactive pot on the stove top. 
  • Add 2/3 cup coarse Kosher salt.
  • Add 1 cup white vinegar. 
  • Turn heat on "high" to boil.

Measure 2/3 cup of coarse Kosher salt and add to 4 quarts water on stove top.

Measure 1 cup white vinegar and add to water and salt on stove top to make pickling brine.
Step 4
While pickling brine is heating, cut stem and blossom ends off cucumbers. Slice into spears (quarter length-wise) or chips, or leave small cucumbers whole. Add to dill and garlic in 3-gallon non-reactive container.

Cut or chop cucumbers any way you like them. Small cucumbers can even be left whole.
Step 5
When pickling brine comes to a full rolling boil on stove top, carefully pour over cut cucumbers in 3-gallon non-reactive container. Cover and insulate container with towels to keep warm for at least 4 hours.

Pour boiling brine over cucumbers. Cover and let sit for at least 4 hours.
Step 6
When pickles have cooled, move to the refrigerator overnight. Keep covered.

Definitely looking like pickles now!

Step 7
Begin trying pickles after 24 hours (they will sink when ready rather than float). Keep refrigerated, and enjoy within 2 weeks.

Recipe: Overnight Kosher Dills

  • 20-25 pickling cucumbers (small size)
  • 5 large fresh dill weed branches or green seed heads with stems, chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic (1/2 of a large head or more), sliced or minced
  • 4 quarts (1 gallon) distilled water
  • 2/3 cup Kosher salt
  • 1 cup white vinegar

Start with firm, fresh, warted pickling cucumbers: bloated cucumbers will not pickle as well. Wash and de-spine, cut off ends, and slice into quarters or chips; very small cucumbers can be pickled whole. Layer cucumbers in a three-gallon non-reactive ceramic or plastic tub with dill and garlic. 

In the meantime boil 1 gallon distilled water with salt and vinegar. Pour boiling hot solution over cucumbers, cover, and let sit for at least 4 hours.  

Move to the refrigerator overnight and begin trying pickles after 24 hours. If they last that long, these should keep for up to two weeks refrigerated. No brining, fermenting, or cooking required!

Monday, July 18, 2011

July 18, 2011

The Almanac called for a wet summer, and it’s been wetter than many years in recent memory.  We received nearly three inches of rain this week, making the garden appear rather jungle-like.  None of our large melons split, thanks to consistent watering even during dry spells.  This week has been much like last week, only more so.  In about one month’s time, we rake in enough food to last our family all year.

We gave up canning extra green beans in order to harvest the first half of our corn crop.  Bryan picked more than 100 ears of sweet corn, which isn’t even half of the first planting.  There is more than twice this much still to come.  We blanched it (and helped ourselves to some fresh), cut from the cob, and froze it - 12 quarts!  We made such a mess in the kitchen; corn kernels and spurts landed all over the floor from one end to another and up the refrigerator door.  We had to mop and wash everything down before it dried into a sticky mess.  What are we going to do with all the corn that's still coming!  We've never seen a harvest like this - many of the stalks have 3, 4, or 5 ears growing on them, and many produced side shoots that are bearing sizeable ears themselves.  The only difference this year was the incorporation of “green manure,” a red clover cover crop.  That stuff really works! 

We ended up canning green beans after all – our winter pantry should thank us.  Hate to admit it, but weeding is long overdue; we haven’t had time.  When does the resident gardener come to do chores?  We’ll put it on his list.  Garden mulch is the only thing keeping weeds from growing with wild abandon.

The first 12-ft.-tall sunflowers are blooming, fruits of harvest are ripening, and cicadas are buzzing from tree to tree as midsummer winds down.  All nature is preparing for the harvest to come.  These cute mini pumpkins now decorate what was our Spring pea fence.  They will ripen no larger than the palm of your hand, and as a true C. pepo are delicious to eat baked in their own jackets.

Monday, July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011

Welcome to the dog days of summer--we're feeling it.  The first of July brought red ripe tomatoes and a bushel of bell peppers; sweet corn was not long behind.  Harvest baskets like these are becoming a daily event--the culmination of summer rain and sunshine, organic practices, and season-long planning.  Organic is not always as romantic as vibrant photos appear:  we could have pictured the dozen or more bell peppers with insect holes that were relegated to our compost bin; some insect damage is tolerable for the sake of a balanced ecological environment.  (Insecticides kill both bad bugs and the good kind that provide natural pest control and pollination).  Palmetto Acres Garden is producing much more than we can consume fresh, and some planning for the winter-to-come will enable us to enjoy our surplus when the garden is a frozen heap.
The bushel of bell peppers were halved or chopped, frozen, and individually wrapped and freezer bagged.  Cucumbers were pickled with dill and garlic and canned in jars.  Green beans are pressure canned in quart jars.  We ensure that everything is harvested at its peak ripeness when it is preserved.  For the present time we are keeping up with corn fresh on the cob and tomatoes in garden spaghetti sauce and salsa.
Carrots remain fresh in the ground through winter, so we pull up only what we need.  Still waiting on that first melon, but our first tree-ripened peach was a sweet treat.  Dill seed heads are turning brown and will be saved to plant new dill next year.  Gladiolas are adding to the riot of summer color, masking some of the garden's lush and overgrown appearance.  Pumpkins are setting fruit, soft and green now, but swelling with purpose toward a September harvest. 
Too early to think about Fall?  Not if we want brussels sprouts, cabbages, and root crops to enjoy later.  Brussels sprouts take on average 120 days to harvest, so add that up:  it's time to start seed indoors now.  These are one of the few vegetables that can be harvested all winter long.

About Me

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Dedicated to the responsible production and preservation of healthy home-grown food to the glory of God. Isaiah 55:10 The rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater. Organic, or not? We try to raise vegetables organically, using compost and manure. The addition of chickens to our hobby farm means plenty of organic nitrogen to compost! This site gives credible reference to planting information contained in the Farmer's Almanac (