Monday, June 27, 2011

Krauts and Pickles

Making lacto-fermented mixtures or pickling is an easy and extremely healthy way to use your extra vegis.  You can really use any vegetable mixture but it is important to use the best quality organic vegis, pure sea salt, and filtered water.  My favorite traditional sauerkraut is made with green or purple cabbage.  I also recently tried this sea kraut variation for my seaweed loving children.  Begin by rinsing your cabbage.  Remove the outer leaves and set aside, then slice the cabbage thinly.

Use any type of edible sea vegetable,  I happened to have this huge bag of wild Japanese wakame
(I purchased pre-nuclear meltdown) in my pantry that needs to get used up.  If you can harvest your own even better!

Add to your chopped cabbage one tbls. sea salt and as much sea weed as you like, I added about one cup.  (Remember the dried sea weed will rehydrate and become much larger.)

Now mix and smash with your hands, a pestle, or a potato masher.  Whatever method, you just want to pulverize the cabbage mixture until it is wilted and the juices are released.  The volume of the mixture will decrease significantly. 

Fill a clean glass jar with the kraut leaving about an inch space at the top, the vegetables and their juices will expand slightly during fermentation.  You can pack it in but not too tightly.  If there is not enough liquid to cover the kraut then make a brine with one quart filtered water and one tbls. salt.  I usually boil a cup of water and dissolve the salt in that then add the other 3 cups of room temperature water so I don't have to wait for the whole thing to cool.  (Do not add hot liquid to the jar.)  Pour the brine into the jar until it is covering the kraut.  

 Now you can take the extra cabbage leaf and carefully push the sides down into the jar to cover the kraut and keep it submerged under the brine.  You may have to push gently to get it to all fit in there.  Everything should be submerged under the brine to prevent molding. 

Seal your jars tightly and leave in room temperature place of about 72 degrees for a few days to a week.  More time is needed if it is colder and less if it is warm.  After 2-4 days at room temperature it needs to be stored in a cool dark place-about 40 degrees. 

Next I tried some fermented greens.  There really is no end to what combinations you can make.  I had a lot of dinosaur kale in the garden.  It looked like the aphids were beginning to move in so I decided to harvest. 

After washing thoroughly I chopped them finely, adding some sliced leeks.

Then using the same process as above, I salted and pressed them.  Put them in the jars and added the brine.  I'm excited to see how they turn out.  Use these krauts as condiments on your dinner table, add to salads, or just eat plain in small amounts. 

One more recipe we tried recently that turned out well was a zucchini pickle from Recipes For Living In Big Sur, by The Big Sur Historical Society (a really great book, by the way, if you are interested in California history).  I made mention in an earlier post of a certain excess of zucchini these days.  This recipe can be made with any surplus garden vegi. 

2 lb zucchini sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
1/4 cup salt
1 pint white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp turmeric
1.4 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp mustard seed

Slice zucchini lengthwise.  Cut slices in quarters if zucchini is large.  Cover zucchini, onions, and salt with water.  Let stand 1 hour, then drain.  Mix remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Pour over zucchini and onions.  Let stand 1 hour.  Then boil 3 minutes.  Pour into hot jars and seal.  (Makes about 3 pints).

Note:  I changed the recipe a bit and added ginger and curry pwd as my spices instead of celery, turmeric, and mustard.  It turned out really yummy but I will definitely use way less sugar next time.  (I like sour pickles better than sweet.)  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Strawberry Picking

strawberry field with ocean view

Our family has a tradition that, for me, signifies the arrival of summer.  Driving down the coast to Davenport and picking ripe, red strawberries.  The destination:  Swanton Berry Farm, a little north of Santa Cruz, is an organic farm with fields that span up and down highway 1.  Depending on the time of year you can pick olallieberries, strawberries, or kiwis. 

moving through the rows looking for, and tasting the best specimens

You will love this place, the view is amazing and to make a day of it we usually visit both the strawberry and olallieberry fields and then hit the beach.  On the way home...the Flying Fish Grill in Half Moon Bay has the some of the best fish tacos ever!

Picking all of those berries was a good reminder of how privileged we are.  It is hard work bending over all of the plants, that type of work definitely leaves you with a backache.  All the while we were picking, the field to the left full of migrant workers striping plants of their fruit.  It is very humbling to remember that it is a privilege to be there for fun and not to have to be working to for wages. 

With all of this beautiful fruit we came home and made jam,  (of course, we also had to make strawberry shortcake!)  To make jam, wash and chop fresh strawberries, as many as you like. 

Add strawberries to a clean stock pot along with the sweetener of your choice (organic sugar, agave, honey, etc.).  I don't usually measure I just add sweetener then taste.  Simmer on medium heat until the liquid begins to release from the fruit.  Do not add water.  Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for awhile with lid off, stirring occasionally until the jam becomes thick and fruit is less chunky. 

Once the mixture begins to thicken a bit you can add a packet of fruit pectin or one tbls. per pint of liquid of kosher gelatin.  Stir well until all dissolved, when the jam is nice and thick pour into clean, sterilized glass jars.  At this point you can let it cool and refrigerate or freeze, or can your jam and store in your pantry.  If the jam turns out a bit runnier then store bought jam, don't fret.  Spoon over hot pancakes or french toast.  It is heavenly that way!  Enjoy...

Monday, June 20, 2011

All About Wool maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime,
 if we live simply and wisely.
-H.D. Thoreau
cleaned, combed, and dyed wool roving ready to be spun or felted

Yesterday I had the opportunity to volunteer for a wonderful event at the Oakland Museum called FELT, the first of a four part series called the Seed Circus, including sheep and felt, foraging, pickling and fermentation, and the fall harvest.  Sponsored by The Greenhorns, a land-based non profit serving young farmers across America, this event educated all about wool from the livestock to the spindle.  There were some local artists doing wet felted rugs and clothing, even a farmer who brought two of his East Friesian sheep to demonstrate sheering.  I learned that East Friesians are a good breed for both wool  and dairy.  We took home a big bag of the freshly sheered wool (pictured below).  It was surprising to feel how oily it is and pretty stinky too, but once picked and washed will make nice material for felting projects.  Needless to say we had a great time.  Check the links for dates on the next three events to come. 

raw wool fresh off of the sheep

It Takes a Eat a Zucchini?

I found this zucchini hiding in the garden tonight after two hot days.  I have heard of these monstrosities getting dropped off secretly on neighbors doorsteps but have not yet grown one myself until now.  This squash is most probably destined for the dehydrator.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Harvesting Potatoes

If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest.
-Douglas Jerrold

Friday we harvested the potatoes we planted on February 5th.  The bed was an experiment...I needed somewhere to put all the straw and manure from the goat stalls.  We had been spreading it around the fruit trees in the orchard but after awhile I needed somewhere else to put it so I started layering the goat bedding in a large pile with horse manure in a partly sunny spot.  Kind of like sheet mulching but not as intentional.  After a couple of months of doing this the bed was looking really nice so I made the border with hog fencing and stakes, then in went some potatoes (4lbs.).  California White and Russet Norkotah to be exact.  I am amazed at how well the potatoes like the manure. 

potato patch in the beginning, just emerging

The leafy tops of the plants grew together to create a living mulch so we only had to water every couple of weeks (it also rained so much!)

growing really lush greens

I was worried that all the nitrogen from the horse manure would produce super growth in the green tops of the plants but not so much in the underground parts.  We were more than pleasantly surprised when we dug under the soil!

first look into into the soil

I learned that in our soil, the California White grew much larger than the Russet and produced more as well.  Also learned we can plant much closer together next time.  There was a lot of empty space. 

newly harvested potato patch, I'm sure we missed some 

Pam Pierce of Golden Gate Gardening says after harvesting put unwashed potatoes in a warm, dry place for a few hours then brush off most of the dirt and store in a dark, dry, cool place (about 60 degrees F) for 2 weeks.  After this curing period move them to a dark, humid, cooler (40 degrees F) spot with good air circulation.

feels like about 60 lbs

Monday, June 13, 2011

Marching To Our Own Beet

Lately I've been thinking about all the work we put into this place, how hard it is, and how much fun we have.  The word that expresses it all is GRATITUDE.  I was once told that gratitude necessitates blessing.  This is a wise truth that I remind myself daily.  Spending so much time working at home, it often feels like we are in our own world.  As our neighbor said to us yesterday with a smile, "You know you guys are living in the 19th century."  (I was thinking it may not be too long until we are all living like we are in the 19th century.)  Well, we are definitely doing our own thing and loving it.  Yasir just harvested some beets from one of his first double dug beds.  They sure are massively bigger than the ones I planted in the kitchen garden last year.  And sweet as can be.  More kudos for double digging.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chicken Woes

To clip or not to clip, that is the question around here these days.  At least that is what is on my mind every time I look at our beautiful chickens confined to the 5' x 10' chicken tractor.  Sure they get plenty of food and their needs are met but I miss seeing them freely roaming the landscape.  We have a section of property that is fenced off for the goats which is perfect for the chickens to free range.  The problem is that they fly over the 8 foot fence, beaks smiling (if that's possible).  My latest proposition  is to clip their wings.  They can free range and be happy.  No scratching in my garden...everyone is happy.  Unfortunately I am out numbered 3 to 1.  Dad and kids are adamant that clipping is cruel.  Well, they can't fly in the chicken tractor I say.  So I will be working on them to change their minds...What do you all think?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sheet Mulching Part 3

So the debate between the double digging and the sheet mulching experiment is settled.  Even though I accept double digging as the best option for soil preparation in the long run, the sheet mulched beds in the squash patch have done extraordinarily well.  The prep was super easy and we planted straight into the freshly made beds. We made the beds and planted in early march and we are harvesting large zucchini already.  I don't think this is the best option for all vegis but the zuchs and pumpkins seems to like it just fine.  Tomatoes are doing well too. 

pink banana squash

(Re-cap on the recipe: nice thick layer of horse manure, cover with cardboard, lay on a generous amount of straw, water well until soaked through, then add a few inches of compost, plant seedlings)

It's only the beginning of the season and we have more zucchini than we can eat.  After making the traditional quick bread I decided to try chips in the dehydrator.  They are delicious.  A great way to process any excess vegis but especially those extra large zucchini you find hiding in the garden. 
Slice thinly and dehydrate plain or brush with olive oil and sprinkle on a pinch of sea salt.  (If you don't have a dehydrator you can do this on a cookie sheet in the oven on warm over night.)  Store in an air tight glass jar. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Place to Play

In our back yard there is an old shed we use mainly to store our bicycles.  It has been an eyesore to me from the beginning so I decided to transform this rusty old structure into a summer playhouse for our boys. 

After a good dusting and sweeping, several coats of paint (we mixed a couple of colors to come up with something bright), and an old throw rug set down, it is a wonderfully fun place for their imaginations to create.

left over paint mixed to make a vibrant green
almost finished just needs some curtains and flowers in the barrels

The boys made a worm bin out of an old farm sink.  They are already harvesting the juice for their gardens!

Currently our little rock enthusiast has set up shop in his new clubhouse to display his extensive collection.  It feels so satisfying to create something new out of something old. 

rocks displayed on a rabbit skin

 found antler and homemade spear