Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A colorful harvest

It's a little early for root crops, but I decided to thin out my carrot and beet beds. Instead of pulling out little starts and throwing them away, I wait a bit. Then I pull out the biggest ones and eat them when they are baby-sized and tender.

The Vidalia onions I planted from seed had stopped growing tops. So I think they are done. Maybe I'm supposed to save these pearl onions and plant them as sets next year. Nope, I'm going to eat them.

I planted a different variety of rainbow carrots this year. Last year I used Burpee's rainbow mix. It was the seeds of several varieties mixed together in one packet. This year I found an interesting offering in the R.H. Shumway seed catalog. All the carrots are the same variety, but that one variety produces many colors of carrots. The babies I pulled were light yellow and orange.

The beet patch was looking crowded, so I pulled a few of the larger ones. They're chioggia beets and feature a bullseye inside. So I had to cut one open. So pretty!

It's the height of bean season, and I've got lots of pretty varieties - Cherokee wax, dragon tongue, contender, and blue lake pole beans.

I only have two eggplant plants. With the large, dark varieties I don't usually get to harvest until late August or September. But I've already had about ten of these smaller lavender ones. I'll be stuffing these babies with tomatoes, onions, basil and bread crumbs for dinner with a veg-aholic friend.

I have so many cucumbers I don't know what to do! Yes, I do. Pickles, of course! I react to something (maybe tumeric) in store-bought pickles. So I'm trying to make enough homemade pickles to last until next year's cucumber crop comes in. Here's a rerun of my pickle recipe, with a few new tips.

Kay's Dill Pickles

2 C water
1 C cider vinegar
2 T sea salt (non-iodized)
1 bunch of dill for each jar
1/4 t mustard seeds for each jar

This recipe makes enough brine for about three pints of pickles. If you have lots of cucumbers, double or triple this recipe. For my last batch, I tripled it. It made six pints and two quarts.

Boil the first three ingredients for five minutes. Sterilize jars in boiling water. Cool and dry the jars. (Or just run the jars and lids through the dishwasher, like I do.) Put a bunch of dill and 1/4 t mustard seeds in the bottom of each jar. Fill with (room temperature) cucumber slices. Really pack them in! Pour the hot brine into the jars over the cucumbers. Leave leftover brine in the pan. Let the jars of cucumbers and brine stand for 10 minutes. Pour the liquid from the jars back into the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil for 10 minutes.

Fill a Dutch oven or large pot half-full with water. Bring it to a boil while your brine is cooking down.

Pour the reduced brine back over the cucumber slices, to 1/4 inch from the top of the jar. Clean and dry the jar threads and seal with lids. Set your boiling water off the heat. Set the sealed jars into the pan of water. Water need not cover the jars. It's fine if the water comes 1/2 to 2/3 up on the jars. Do not process or cook. Let the jars cool completely in this pan of water.

Here's what I do next: go to bed! When I wake up the next morning, the jars have sealed and cooled down. These pickles are tasty if you eat them right away, but they're better if you wait a week or so.

Use ONLY stainless steel or enamel coated pots for making pickles, and plastic or stainless steel utensils. Since I have a well, I use bottled water in the brine. I reuse old pickle jars. The rubber seals on the lids will hold up for two or three picklings. Glass quart mayonnaise jars can be reused. You can buy metal rings and lids in the canning section of most grocery stores.

I use the brine without fresh dill or mustard seed to pickle asparagus, using the same method. Then I use the pickled asparagus in place of artichokes in my Greek salads.

Last week I bravely ventured out of town for the first time since going gluten free. I attended the Midwest Writers Workshop at Ball State University in Muncie, IN. Because my body is still VERY sensitive to some foods, I took all my meals with me. The kitchen staff was great! They let me store my food in their refrigerator and reheat meals in their microwave. They also prepared gluten free meals for two other workshop attendees.

I am REALLY glad I went! I got to meet Bill Fitzhugh, a favorite (funny!) mystery author, and get good advice from lots of authors and agents. I feel like I'm finally ready to write fiction, just as soon as I get a break from the gardens.


Gluten Free Steve said...

Your garden produces such wonderful looking veggies - I am so jealous. And your pickles - I am on a pickle binge right now. I just bought some bread and butter pickles. Homemade ones sound good - I might have to stop being lazy and try to make some. Keep up the great blogging - it makes me hungry and crave "good" fresh food.

Gluti Girl said...

I am so jealous of your garden!! Your vegetables are beautiful. So glad you had a good trip out of town. I grew up in Muncie! I haven't been there in several years.

Maureen "Hold The Gluten" said...

What a perfect post!! The cucumbers in our garden are almost ready for picking and now I know just what to do with them :)