Monday, July 25, 2011

How does your garden grow?

...with no silver bells or cockle shells, but we have a lot of vegetables!! This summer we've had the absolute best weather for our garden. Everything is growing really well with little to no true pests.

Sunny sunflower:
Sweet dumpling:
In addition to all of those squash-types, we have items like this lovely cotton plant with a bud:
...and a baby eggplant:
Lastly, there are the wonderful insects that patrol the area. This lovely little fellow is looking back at the camera...
Stay green! :)


Yesterday we went up north to Frankfort to pick tart cherries at this orchard. It was a lovely day for it--not too hot, and not too humid. Michael and I picked 50 lbs of cherries and then had a lovely chat with one of the orchard owners. She asked us if we had ever had "cherry bounce" before, and we said no. Next came the mason jar filled with "cherry bounce". 
All I can say for that is to enjoy (it's delicious!) and be very, very careful. ;)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Busy July...

Whew! July has been a very, very busy month! Michael and I purchased a half of a cow share through Green Pastures in Coopersville, and we receive 1.5 gallons of luxurious, raw cow milk each week. With our unpasteurized milk we have made yoghurt, ice cream, and, best of all, curds and whey. We let the milk sit out for three days before it had separated significantly, and then we strained out the whey from the curds. Those chunky little curds got all smooshed together to make cream cheese and the whey was set aside for lacto-fermenting veggies later on. To be honest, I was pretty nervous about eating the cream cheese that was made only by letting the milk sour. We spread the cheese on some homemade crackers and topped it with some of last summer's red jalapeno jelly and oh boy, was that good! I didn't think twice about devouring the last of the crackers with some cheese.

If you have some form of access to raw grass-fed cow's milk or raw goat milk, I highly recommend you  take the opportunity. So many people are terrified to drink unpasteurized milk, but the reality is that before the late 1800's when pasteurization was "invented", everybody drank or used raw milk. Not only does raw milk taste better, it is also better tolerated by those folks who are somewhat lactose intolerant. Raw milk contains the enzyme lactase, which helps digest the milk sugar lactose, which in turn helps those who cannot digest lactose to actually be able to consume it and have little to none ill-effects. That being said, if you are lactose-intolerant, try drinking raw milk in very small amounts to see how it affects your body first rather than consuming lots and assuming that you will be free of side effects.

There will be more talk here of milk, of that I am sure, but there will also be talk of fruits and veggies as well. Tomorrow Michael and I are going to Frankfort to pick organic tart cherries and enjoy a picnic lunch. My hope is that we can pick 50 lbs of sour cherries for drying, freezing, and juicing. I am very sure we can reach that goal...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dilly beans!!

...So I usually don't care for canned beans--that includes the home-canned ones. They always end up too mushy and flavorless. In fact, I still have several jars of canned green beans from two years ago, and I doubt they'll be eaten.

While I was complaining about canned beans last night at work, my friend Karlee asked me if I'd ever had dilly beans. The answer to that is "no", but it just so happens that I love dill, garlic, vinegar, and pickled things in general, so...why would I dislike dilly beans? Given that we have an abundance of green beans and wax beans,
I decided that I should pickle some of them. I picked just about 2 lbs of greens/waxes for pickling.
Here they are, all packed in jars and ready to be processed.
Following their 10 minute boiling water bath...
Thanks for the idea, Karlee! I can't wait to taste them!!

On another exciting note, I picked our first cucumber of the season today. 
So many good things to eat!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

making your own vanilla extract

While looking through the recipe archive of one of my favorite blogs, I came across this fantastic recipe. Homemade vanilla extract? Yes, please! An INEXPENSIVE homemade vanilla extract? Double yes, please! The vanilla extract that I usually purchase is the "Simply Organic" brand, and it ranges from $9.99 to $10.99 for four ounces. I was very excited to find this particular recipe because it will cost about the same amount for me to make eight ounces of vanilla extract as it would as if I had just purchased the four ounce bottle--that's double the extract for half of the price! Not only is it less expensive to make your own vanilla extract, but it is also very easy.

The tools that you need to make your own vanilla extract are:
Mason jar with tight-fitting lid (I like the "Ball" brand plastic, screw-top lids)
3-4 vanilla beans
1 cup measure
1 cup alcohol (I used rum)
Slice vanilla beans lengthwise to reveal seeds. Once sliced, chop them into 1 inch pieces. Look at those tiny seeds!!
Put all of the chopped vanilla bean pieces into your mason jar.
Add one cup of your alcohol of choice.
Screw your lid on very tightly and shake 'er up!
Store in your cupboard until the vanilla bean goodness has been fully extracted! Ann Marie of CHEESESLAVE, the author of this recipe, suggests storing your vanilla extract for at least eight weeks before using. 


Sunday, July 3, 2011

the food that is grown

The most wonderful part of tending to a garden is when the food that you've grown is ready to eat.  A large salad was on my mind, and the peas were the first to be picked.
The romaine was next on my "shopping" list, so I went to the aisle where it was located. I picked two, tall hearts of romaine--one for Michael and one for me.
What next for our salad, you ask? A beet, of course! I've been watching this particular beet rather closely, as it has been growing much more quickly than its brothers. I decided that it was a perfect size for slicing onto a salad, and so it was plucked from the earth.  In addition to the beet root itself, I also used the spinach-like leaves in the salad. The leaves are so full of nutrients! It would be a shame to discard them. In addition to the nutrients they provide, they also add a nice splash of color to an otherwise "all-green" salad.
While picking the largest beet, I noticed that there was a particularly tasty-looking wild plant growing nearby. It was wood sorrel, a flashy and lemony addition to any dish. It is so tasty!
Time to prepare those greens...

Friday, July 1, 2011

collecting the fruits of the mulberry tree

Today I had the most wonderful fortune of collecting mulberries from the trees and bushes around our neighborhood. It is somewhat tasking to collect them by simply "picking", since they tend to detach from their branches and fall to the ground, so I shook the branches and let them fall onto a broken down cardboard box. In this way, I was able to gather around two quarts of berries--the perfect amount to crush and, with a little honey and lemon juice, make them into mulberry jam.

For those of you who may be interested in making mulberry jam, I will post a recipe later.

Today was my final day of healing from strep throat and some mild bronchitis. I am glad that I was able to spend the day collecting food for later on in the year!