Tag Archives: fermenting

Summer and the Height of the CSA Season

Tomato and cucumber salad

Salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper, onion and Bragg’s cider vinegar, salt and pepper.

We’ve had a few rainy days.  The first since July 1 and I love every second of it.  Although irrigation keeps the crops lush, the grass around the fields, the trees and wildflowers have all had their heads bowed for weeks.  There have been many insects, birds and amphibians finding an oasis at our irrigation headers when we are watering.  It had become the miniature Serengeti watering hole; a good place to view all of the local creatures.

I have been waiting for a rainy day to get caught up with paperwork, canning, cleaning and updating our blog.  I need more rainy days.  I need many of them.  I am starting with the blog.  When I am out in the fields, weeding, harvesting and spending time with the plants, I often think of things that I would love to tell everyone about them.  (I really can’t say I ever think that much about cleaning or paperwork, at least not when they are out of sight.)  Then I come inside to make dinner and ‘POOF’, the thoughts are gone.

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini Pancakes

I do, however, manage to get excited about the armload of vegetables that I bring in for dinner each night.  Our meals are almost always later in the evening (much later than they should be) and the goal  is often to make something in a short time frame with a quick thought to what is needed the most that day; carbs, protein or something light?  Then I look at my husband and consider how much longer he can go without food; are we in an emergency situation?  (He is a hard worker, but sadly, not a chef.) If so, the solution usually involves eggs and/or tortillas or pulling some bacon out of the freezer for BLT’s and O’s (onions). If we have a little time to spare, a frittata, omelet or Quiche or a quick stir-fry, likely seasoned with ginger, soy sauce, chili and sesame oil.

I love to cook, but let’s be clear that I don’t make any claims to being a great cook.  I can’t say that I really ever measure ingredients, so if I think that a meal is worthy of writing down, doing so after the meal has been made is tricky.  I think adjusting recipes to suit one’s taste is the best way to cook unless you are unfamiliar with the spices that are called for.  I find that this principle rarely works when baking though.  A pinch of this and a handful of that usually ends poorly. Someone told me once that cooking is an art and baking is a science and that flipped the light switch on for me.  Now I have an excuse to avoid baking (too scientific) unless it involves free artistic license after the science project has been completed!

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Quesadilla with purslane leaves

Before I pat myself on the back again for cooking though, I have to emphasize that it is hard to fail if you are working with the best and the freshest organic produce.  I think that the only way to ruin a meal that starts with fresh, organic vegetables is to overcook or burn it badly, spill the salt into it or mistake the cayenne pepper for paprika.  (Too many jalapenos might ruin it for some, too.) Once you learn what fresh, clean food tastes like and you become accustomed to eating it on a regular basis, your body will send out the “danger” signal when you eat processed foods.  The trick there is not ignoring that warning when you hear it and you will be adding years on to your life.

We are halfway through our CSA season.  School will be starting soon, days will be shorter and for many, time to cook will be challenging.  I am hoping that our members have been getting in the habit of putting great meals together from their CSA boxes each week and will continue to do that as the days shrink into the next seasons.

Here are a few of the quick meals and other things that we have made this summer:

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A Lovely Winter Day

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the extended warm spell (I went for a long walk in a tee shirt last Wednesday!)  However, I have to admit that winter’s late arrival brings me equal joy.  Now that we have 6 or so inches of white fluffy snow and an excuse to stay inside and fire up the stove I can once again settle in to cut up some of the delicious veggies that we have been storing.

3 days later, my cabbage and carrot kraut is a bubbling, fermenting brew- I can’t wait!

Wednesday night I finally started my first batch of fermenting cabbage (sauerkraut) with cabbage and carrots that I have been saving just for that purpose.  Thursday night’s snowstorm was perfect for a delicious veggie beef stew and today, with a cup of rosehip tea from our farm’s wild roses and our own lovely bees, I see that it is time to bring this blogging up to date!

One of the things that I love to do inside in the winter is (no, not housework) making broth and soup and revisiting summer through jars of canned goods and root cellar booty.  Broth-making is ongoing here.  Somehow we can always find a use for it, so what we don’t use right away we freeze.  The flavors of the broth vary with what is available; in fall the fragrant and deep green celery leaf enriches veggie broth, in winter, it’s more mellow relative, celeriac (celery root), gives a more subtle flavor.  Onions, red and yellow have distinct flavors.  Red onions, the kind used in salads, cook up very sweet and yellow are savory.  Deep orange carrots, grown in rich organic soil, are so sweet and fulfilling.  The Queen of all root storage vegetables, the rutabaga, is in many of the things that we cook.  We even love it raw; it is crisp and delicious!

An easy veggie broth can be made in small amounts by using the parts that you usually discard; the root ends and skins of onions, carrot ends and peels, leaves of celery and stems of greens …yum!  Just make sure to wash the veggies well before preparing and drop them into a pot of water with some seasoning and herbs.

In late fall, there are always a few hanger’s-on in the field that are destined to be added to a hot pot of water.  Celery is one of them.  So in early December, I declared a day of broth-making and retrieved the remaining celery and herbs and made a day of it.

Veggie broth; 5-6 med. onions, 3 or 4 carrots, 4 potatoes, celery leaf, parsley, 1.2 tsp whole peppercorns 2-3 bay leaf, 1 celery root, chunked, fresh thyme sprigs salt 4-5 allspice berries and 4 qts. water.

Fragrant chicken broth

Chicken broth; similar to veggie broth, but with a whole, lovingly raised, free-range stewing hen or the carcass of a roasted chicken.  You can cut the veggie quantity in half or more.  Sometimes I add a little sage to the broth.

One of my favorite broths is Southeast Asian Vegetable Stock.  The credit for this one goes to Moosewood.  We had lots of lemongrass to use up in the fall; a key ingredient in this broth.  I love to sip on a cup of this or add shelled Edamame to it for a little something extra.

3 cup and 1 cup containers of broth, ready for the freezer.

Southeast Asian Vegetable Stock