Garden thoughts in January.

I like to plant tomatillos in my garden every summer for a variety of reasons.  For starters, I love salsa verde, which is made of tomatillos.  They are also a wickedly cool looking plant to have in the garden, because of their dramatically hanging fruit which look like little lanterns.

IMG_0632I just spent a few hours over several days looking for a good shot of a tomatillo plant, combing through the last four years of summer garden shots and that is the best shot I had.  And it’s not even mine, it’s Leni’s (from summer 2012).  Continue reading

It’s not just me apparently.

After doing some reading as well as talking to some of my chef friends, I made an adjustment to my pickled peaches recipe in that I cut the processing time by half to 10 minutes for a pint.  Most pickle recipes have a 10 minute processing time, some as short as 5 minutes.  In reading every pickled peach recipe I have been able to track down, I’ve seen a wide range of processing times.   In comparing them all, I looked at the amount of vinegar used.  I found recipes similar to mine had a shorter processing time, so I tried it out.  The resulting pickles have been much firmer, as you can see in the pie I made with them. Continue reading

DONE.

After fourteen years of being put off and a month of living in a mess, the dining room is DONE.

Alright, so there are still some little details to be addressed, like painting the radiator, swapping out the outlets (as recommended by the inspection when we bought the house), replacing the outlet covers and finishing the the french doors.  But these are things that can happen with the room back in use. Continue reading

Summering.

DSCN2307I’m taking a wee break from watching paint dry (as I type this, the dining room ceiling is DONE and the first coat of Parakeet Green on the lower half of the walls is drying) to say hello out there.    We have thoroughly immersed ourselves in summer here, with sleeping in, long days at the pool and late dinners at the picnic table.   The garden has suddenly gone gangbusters, which has not gone unnoticed by the squirrels, who are knocking on the back door looking for handouts again.   Bugs helped themselves to an entire row of kale,  much to my horror and Edie’s delight.  (Apparently I’ve been serving a few too many greens lately).   Saturday I swapped some of my strawberry jam for things like Stephanie’s Green Bean Relish and Hunter’s Lemon, Onion & Oregano Jam.   Those treats will be served up for dinner one night soon along with bread & cheese.  I love summer dinner.  I love summer.  Those lazy days where sometimes the best thing you can do is just hit the pool with a good book in hand and a bag full of treats to nibble on all day long……

We are definitely soaking it up.

As local as it gets.

DSCN1846We have a cherry tree in our front yard.  The neighborhood critters tend to get to it before we do, leaving us not more than a handful of cherries, at best.

This spring the tree was loaded.  You could see it walking down the street.  We had hope there would be enough for all of us.  Tuesday I had a bite of a cherry, realized they were not quite ripe yet, and noticed the tree was still loaded – a good sign.

Friday morning,  there was much activity at the tree.  Every bird & squirrel within a 6 block radius was feasting.  I ran out with my basket and picked everything within reach without a ladder.  I noticed a good deal of the fruit had some sort of funk, which was a bummer and the remaining fruit wasn’t entirely ripe, but I was going to get a crop off that tree dammit.

DSCN2000Two pounds later, I did.

Since they were mostly underripe, I knew cooking them was the way to go.  Having picked 8 pounds of strawberries later that day from our little garden patch, I thought about combining the two.

DSCN2003Yes, you read that right.  EIGHT POUNDS of berries from our little strawberry patch in one day.  Two pounds the day before that.  It’s been a banner year for strawberries.

Where was I? Oh that’s right, cherries.  First, I had to pit the cherries.  I got this little pitter last summer at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

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It pits four cherries at a time, popping the seeds out into a tray underneath.  That’s practically doing it in bulk when you think about it AND it keeps clean up to a minimum.  DSCN2005I love this thing.  I strongly recommend it, especially if you are considering doing anything with cherries this summer.

DSCN2027After pitting the cherries, I chopped up an equal amount of strawberries, added sugar and let it macerate overnight.  I found this great post on Northwest Edible Life on making pectin free jam without a recipe that I used as a guideline.  Because my cherries were not fully ripe, I went with 1/2 cup sugar for each pound of fruit.

DSCN2030The resulting jam is sweeter than I expected it to be, with big chunks of fruit.

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I packed it in 4 oz jars, trying to stretch out the yield as much as I could.   The result?  8 lovely jars of what we are calling “Greenleaf Cherry Berry”.  I’m beyond excited that we grew enough fruit to make jam with this year.  Take that squirrels.DSCN2058

Spread on sourdough toast for breakfast, it’s quite lovely if I do say so myself.

Cherry Berry Jam

2 pounds cherries, pitted & chopped

2 pounds strawberries, chopped

Combine the fruit in a non-reactive bowl with 1-2 cups of sugar.  Cover and refrigerate overnight (or longer).  Simmer on stove top, stirring occasionally.  As the fruit starts to fall apart, you can mash it if you’d like.  Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice and cook until it is ‘set’.  Pack into jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield – 4 pints.