Peach Butter

August 10, 2009

Every year I make peach jam of some sort– one year it was peach and ginger, last year lemony peach (lemon zest and lemon balm, verbena, thyme). This year I decided to try something a little different– peach butter. The recipe is simple– 4 1/2 lbs medium peaches, peeled, seeded, chopped, boiled 20 minutes with 1/2 c. water and then run through a food processor (I used my stick blender).  Measure out the pulp (should be about 8 cups), add 4 cups sugar, the juice and zest of one lemon, and boil it down until it’s of spreadable consistency.  I added a teaspoon of ground cardamom and a splash of vanilla, too.  It’s that last step– boiling it down– that takes a while.  I expected a couple of hours, it was more like the better part of the day.  Definitely not a quick project. Lots of stirring towards the end to make sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom.  Some minor peach burns from spatters as it became thicker.   But the result! I may never go back to peach jam. The flavor was so bright and concentrated– peach jam with the volume turned up several notches. I got about 6 pints in the end, one of them in the form of 4oz jars for gift-giving, but I may not be able to bring myself to give any of it away.  My peach butter. All mine.

Carnivorous plants update: Something ate one of the pitchers on my S.  rubra, the venus flytraps seem to have survived my unnecessary repotting– one seems to have been trod upon by a cat-sized foot, not clear yet how well it will recover. One of the flytraps caught a housefly– you can see the little fly eyeballs staring out, cold and lifeless.  The sundew has dew and is thriving. The only one still in question is the Nep, still don’t know if it’s acclimating or dying a slow death.

Carnivorous plants!

July 31, 2009

Well, the plants I ordered finally arrived…the seller had apparently had some difficulties with a computer virus that had knocked him instantaneously back into the 20th century. But anyway, once that was straintened out, my CPs (that stands for ‘Carnivorous Plants’, btw, not ‘Complementizer Phrases’) arrived forthwith.  2 flytraps, a sundew (D. dielsiana), 2 pitcher plants (S. rubra and S x Dixie Lace), a pinguicula, and Nepenthes copelandii.

Now is the time to form your betting pools with respect to how many of the plants I will kill, how soon, and in what order. Personally, I think it’s a toss-up between the Nepenthes (just because it’s my favorite, that means it has to be the first to go, right?) and the flytraps (because I repotted them, and then 15 minutes later read that I should not repot them). On the bright side, it’s nice and humid and sunny where I’ve got them, they’re in a 1:1 sand/peat mix, and I water only with distilled water.  Skipping over the total newbie mistakes, moving on to the intermediate-newbie mistakes. I am only a second level carnivorous plant grower, I fear. *sigh*

My Sarracenia purpurea continues to thrive, at least. Growing a new pitcher every other week, it seems like!

I’ve had a compost bin pretty much ever since we bought this house , but I’ve been pretty lazy about it. I threw in kitchen scraps during the summer, and then a bunch of sticks, twigs, and woody shrub trimmings. Then it got wasps, and I left it alone for a year. It rapidly became all sticks. I never could figure out how I was supposed to get the good compost out of the bottom of it.  I never turned it, never paid any attention to what sorts of things I was putting in.  The beginning of this year, it was a mess. I was determined that something must be done.

I discovered the Compost Forum over at GardenWeb, and quickly became obsessed with the idea of rehabilitating my pile and getting some good use out of it.  The first thing I learned was that if I wanted all those sticks to go away, I’d need to add more greens (for me, this means weeds, tea leaves, veggie trimmings, banana peels, citrus peels, the occasional pumpkin)…but not too many, or it would get too wet (especially with all this rain we’ve been having) and just stink. So I learned to add in some shredded cardboard, paper, or dry leaves to balance out the greens.

Anyway, all of this is just to say that just last week I finally felt the warmth the pile was generating, and today I finally turned the bin– actually, I was moving it to a new location since we may be enlarging the deck, and the previous location was right next to it in the to-be work zone. Anyway, all the stuff from the top went to the bottom, stuff from the edges went to the middle, and it’s all fluffed up now. Lord, what I found living in there!  Let’s just say I was really glad I was wearing gloves. All the life is a good sign, though…even unearthed a couple of big mama earthworms toward the bottom of the pile, which couldn’t have made me happier. Best of all, I now have a few good inches of nice dark soil left from the bottom of the old locale that I can use in my garden.

Who knew I could ever get so excited about rot?

…and more dandelions

April 21, 2009

Tried dandelion pesto yesterday. With walnuts. You know the drill– a couple cloves garlic, a dash of olive oil, some toasted walnuts, and a handful of greens. Not bad, considering that I thought the greens would be too bitter at this point. 

I made a pasta dish with garlic, wine, sundried tomatoes, white beans (cannellini I canned last week), and the pesto. I think it would be better as a plain old bean dish rather than over pasta, but that’s not the point– the point is, the dandelion pesto worked pretty well in it.  Not at all like eating your lawn. That said, neither was it quite as exciting as I had hoped, so I added a couple of tablespoonsful of basil pesto to help it out. The dominant flavor was still dandelion, though.

Pretty sure I won’t be mixing up big batches of it and freezing it the way I do basil and oregano pestos.  It was good, but not must-have-it-all-year-round good.  Something to look forward to having once or twice every spring? Definitely.

Dandelion cuisine

April 20, 2009

I keep thinking I’ll come back here and talk about marketing some more, but I’ve found I’m just not into that at the moment. Spring has hit, I’m into cooking.  And also getting ready for art shows, but mostly spring and gardening and cooking.

Since we never put chemicals on our lawn (yes, it shows), and since (relatedly) we always have a bumper crop of dandelions, this year I remembered to try cooking with them before they got too big. A couple of weeks ago I had a go at the greens. Observations: a) not bad! And eating them makes me feel virtuous and redeems my weedy lawn somewhat; b) they’re a bit much as the only green in a salad, but an excellent component when mixed with others; c)  I just can’t bring myself to eat plain sauteed greens, meh; d) soup! I’ve been really into bean soups lately– made one with black eyed peas, onions, curry, smoked sausage or ham, and some dandelion greens thrown in and I think that’s the winner.  They add a nice layer of subtle flavor to the broth, and a lot of nutrition. 

If you search the internet for dandelion recipes, it seems like you get the same handful of recipes that everyone’s copied from each other. No one seems to be doing much innovating in this department.  What I want to inspire me is Iron Chef: Battle Dandelion.  Now the greens in the yard are getting a bit big and going to flower, which if I believe what they say means that they will be more bitter and less tasty. I’m going to have to check this out for myself, I think. 

Experiment 2 was dandelion flowers. There are three recipes out there (maybe four, depending on how you count) for these: wine, jelly/syrup, fritters.  I gave the syrup a try, figuring that that would be the easiest thing to do to give me the best idea about the flavor and whether I would like it enough to bother with anything else. Result? Not worth the work. It’s a pretty golden color, but not very interesting.  Flowers in a salad or as garnish would be fine, but that’s about it in my book. 

The other often-cited use for dandelion is the roasting and grinding of the root for some sort of hot beverage. I’m not even gonna bother, though I’ll keep it in mind if any post-apolcalyptic scenarios preventing tea importation develop.

January 7, 2009

In the end, it all worked out ok. Nothing had fallen over in the canner; only one hadn’t sealed properly because I had put the band on cockeyed to begin with. Hooray! Canning is fun. Beans for all.

Came across this site after a mention on the ADS-L of “guerilla gardening” as one of the Australian Word of the Year nominees by Macquarie Dictionary.  I had done something a lot like this as a teenager when we first moved from the boat to a house. There was a little boring park about 2 blocks away from me, and I tried surreptitiously planting some coleus there. They got mowed as soon as the city came through, and I sort of gave it up. How these people find the energy to keep at it when the fruits of their labor get continually uprooted, I don’t know.  Looks like my mistake was to only plant a couple of things in a random, non-delimited location. The key may be making a nice display so that it’s clear it’s intentional.

Who knows, this year if my garlic chives and oregano are as abundant as they were last year (and why wouldn’t they be?), perhaps Bloomington will sprout an extra garden or two here and there….