Thursday, July 28, 2011

Picked a Peck of Peppers

As I mentioned in the earlier post I missed a couple of days of harvesting and today managed to catch up. I might have planted too many pepper plants! In the back are jalapeno and in the middle are Mariachi (about half the heat of a jalapeno but a nice thick walled pepper). Front left are pasilla (var. Holy Mole) also called chile negro and of course the orange devils in the front are the deadly habanero. Now the trick is to get them put by somehow. I've still got plenty of jalapenos pickled from last year so I am leaning toward making hot sauce... maybe with a compination of habanero and jalapeno. I have never made a mole sauce which is where you are supposed to use the pasilla pepper. The other option is to dry them for use in making something over the winter. The big red peppers on the right are a variety called Carmen and are nice and sweet like my friend of the same name. Madam gave her a quart of dill pickles a couple of days ago and she promptly ate the whole thing. I upped the ante with a gallon but this time I got eggs from her chickens in return and yes they were very nice for breakfast this morning over good old Heinz Vegetarian beans and toasted ciabatta. It doesn't hurt, of course, that I fried them in Kerry Gold Irish butter. Yes, I know Kerry Gold is too good/expensive to cook with but what a luxury!
Since I have two straight days off it also means bread baking and I have a refreshed sourdough starter that is ready to become whole wheat bread. I'll make the dough tonight and let it rest in the fridge overnight and then form loaves and bake it tomorrow. If you bake bread at home and haven't tried letting it ferment overnight in the fridge instead of quickly on the counter then you should try it. Makes a world of difference in the flavor and texture. The cold doesn't stop the yeast but slows it down and allows for a full development of taste. Worth the extra 12 or 14 hours in every way. I also use the same overnight rest for my pizza dough and I'll put my pizza dough up against anyone's.

Out Of Control

This butternut squash got a little carried away and it is not even the largest we've picked. They don't usually get such long necks but I thought it was interesting. It is at least a pot of soup!

Don't Miss A Couple of Days

Madam and I missed a couple of days of harvesting which we got to this morning. As you can see we spent several hours just picking. Two bushels of tomatoes and other stuff. I spent the afternoon making Roma tomato filets which are now in jars but still a full day of work tomorrow putting the rest by. what you see is today's harvest and doesn't include an equal about of tomatoes that are loading down the dining room table.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Really Hot

Really hot here in Georgia and I am taking the full force of it at work. The corporate policy of relieving cashiers outside every hour when the heat is at dangerously high levels has been ignored for the last two days while I, of course, have been the outside garden center cashier. Two full days in the high humidity and upper 90's with no respite. No explanation from the PTB, naturally. I have the evening shift today (4 -1030) so it might be a little better but it will still be 97 or 98 at 4pm when I clock in but the good thing is that I have two days off tomorrow and Friday. Hooray! as I need a rest.

Not A Flower

Hummingbird in my face.
No, red shirt.
Never mind!

Not Rational

I don't why I keep expecting something rational to happen with respect to the debt ceiling deal. Rational things happen when rational people come together and hammer out reasonable compromise. In the debt ceiling talks we don't have this. What we do have is a politically centrist White House trying to reach a rational compromise with irrational people(meaning the ultra conservative/teahadist bunch). This is no different than the discussions over climate change. One side, the rational one, has the backing of the facts and consensus of  an overwhelming majority of scientists. There is no question that human activity is having a negative effect on global climate and that it is getting more serious. That's the real world. On the other hand you have the climate change deniers who, in spite of all evidence otherwise, are insisting that just the opposite is true. They have a separate reality that is not based on fact and observable phenomena and to try to reach some rational agreement is impossible...they are not in the same universe. The same applies to the debt ceiling talks. The radical right doesn't agree with a majority of the world's economists and insist that the debt ceiling is no big deal...they are living in a separate reality untouched by facts and figures and therefore can't be reasoned with. We should expect the worse but I will say that were I Mr. Obama I would just rule the debt ceiling doesn't exist by virtue of the "full and credit" language in the Constitution and dare anyone to challenge me. The majority of the American people believe this and would back the President.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Speaking of Crunch

Well, another week ends with no real movement on raising the debt ceiling. It sure would be nice to be like the GOP and decide that in spite of running up huge debts on your credit cards you can just decide to not pay them. People just don't seem to be talking about the fact that we are not talking about NEW spending just about paying for spending already committed to by Congress. Two wars, a huge tax cut and a Medicare drug bill all on the old plastic.
It is not looking like there will be any resolution either and if there is I am not taking bets on who will blink but as batshit crazy as the GOP is I doubt it will be them. It is going to get ugly.

Maters and More Maters

Got a day off but it will be spent in the kitchen dealing with a gazillion tomatoes. I estimate a couple of gallons of tomato sauce will be the end result. I also have to do another batch of some kind of pickle...probably bread and butter or I will lose a bunch of cukes. I have a years worth of dills made so far so any more of those are definitely out of the question. There are also many, many peppers of several varieties that need attention. Last summer I didn't have a job so I had the time but this year it is a crunch.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back To Work

Well, my little three day holiday is over but I got a lot done. Nice batch of sourdough bread, garden and yard work and even chipped away at a bit of the "honey-do". Our Greek friend came by yesterday to collect some tomatoes, eggplant and other garden goodies and seeing her inspired me to go Greek for dinner last night and I went with papoutsakia or "little slippers" since I am overrun with eggplant. I am not a huge fan of aubergine but this is a really nice dish and it works well with the Japanese type eggplant I have. Eggplant halves stuffed with a melange of lamb and veal, tomatoes, onion, garlic and just a hint of cloves and cinnamon all covered with a thick bechamel and baked. Very nice! Thanks for the inspiration Anastasia!
Since we are also overrun with tomatoes we are going for a Insalata Caprese tonight and the leftover papoutsakia.
Anyhow, back to work tomorrow and Thursday and off again Friday.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I actually have three straight days off! Early work in the garden after I got a batch of sourdough bread going and another gallon and a half of pickles. Goddess knows what I am going to do with all these pickles!  The weather has turned a bit cooler for the weekend so it is quite nice out. I even managed lunch right in the garden. Cherry tomatoes, an ear of corn right from the stalk, a small green pepper and a bit of melon...lovely.
Going to spend the rest of the afternoon reading. I go in spurts of reading like this. I just finished the complete Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, some of which I have on the Kindle but not all are available, and the rest in dead tree form. Since I am into Anne right now I have picked up the Talent series, and I am on the second book of that "The Rowan" after whipping through Pegasus in Flight yesterday. Next Damia, Damia's Children and finally Lyon's Pride. I've read all these before but every once in a while I feel the need to revisit them. I'll do the same with Asimov in the near future and read the entire extended Foundation series again. Then it will probably be either Heinlen and the future history stories or E.E. "Doc" Smith and the Lensmen series. Going to have to see what's available for the Kindle or I will have to resort to the old paperbacks which are pretty well used and I am not sure they will take another reading without falling apart.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Snow Today

Wishful thinking! After five straight days of work...Monday and Tuesday were all day in the outside garden center with record high temperatures...I'm not looking forward to a day in my own garden with continuing high temps but a lot of work needs doing and I must water at minimum since everything is showing the strain of the murderous heat. It should be noted that after I did my full two days outside at a register the company decided on Wednesday that staff needs to rotated indoors every hour when we are under a heat advisory. My timing is impeccable.
If you are in one of the areas under the heat gun please be careful and watch for signs of heat stress. I know I will probably not last outside past about 1 or 2 pm today but I will have plenty of water and a hat.
We'll chat later.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Blueberry Jam Today

Had a wad of blueberries to process and we wound up with 30 half pints of jam. It turned out very nice and I used a low sugar recipe which gives the jam a real berry kick. Took the better part of an afternoon since you can only make jams and jellies in small batches successfully. It took three batches of 3 and half pounds of berries each to wind up with the 30 half pints. For each 10 cups of berries(3.5 pounds) I used 4.5 cups of sugar, 1/4 cups of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of water and followed the instructions in the box of no sugar Sure-Jell. Bring the berries, pectin, lemon juice and water to a rolling boil add the sugar and bring back to a rolling boil and boil for a minute. Pack in sterile 1/2 pint jars and seal with new lids. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Actually a very easy recipe and it turns out delicious jam.

Madam has already had a PBJ with the tiny amount of jam left in the pot and pronounced in luscious.

This was the first of many preserving runs this summer and we've barely dented the stuff from last year.

No Jobs

Really lousy jobs report this morning...only 18K jobs added last month and now the unemployment rate is at 9.2%. I don't expect to anything improve until we get all the people in Washington sedated with a little electroshock therapy thrown in for good measure. The GOP says the new job numbers mean absolutely no new taxes which will allow them to drag out the debt ceiling disaster until even more of the last minute. All these bad numbers which scream for investment and spending and nothing is coming out of DC except deficit insanity.

I sure as hell never thought I would be around to see the country in such a mess but when Bush was selected in 2000 I felt a definite disturbance in the force and should have seen the writing on the wall.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Remembering the Fourth

Happy Fourth of July. I hope everyone has a great holiday. Play safe and travel safe. Please remember that the "official" food for Independence Day is the hot dog. You must have at least one dog today even if you also have a burger or something else. Please also note that a proper "tube steak" requires mustard, onion, chili and cole slaw and absolutely no ketchup. I will allow mustard and sauerkraut as a substitute for those that insist. However, it must be good brown mustard and fresh kraut not canned. Also, the dog must be grilled over and open fire and should be slightly toasted. For those not having access to an open fire I will allow it to be plugged into a 115vac wall outlet for a minute or so but be careful.

This time of year always brings back memories of the 4th of July summers of my younger days. Andy (my younger brother) and I were always sent to Narrows, Va to spend a few weeks or a month with our paternal grand parents. Ruby and Burt.  The Fourth was celebrated in a big way and it was required that the extended family all got together in the Narrows Town Park known as "The Boom" (loggers used to float big logs down Wolf Creek and they would collect in the deep water of the mill pond. When the big logs would crash into logs already there there would be a big "boom' hence the name.) There was usually around twenty of the family gathering with all the traditional picnic dishes. Burgers and dogs on the grill but also always fried chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, pickles and such. Always one or two of Grandmother's famous cakes like Lane or Lady Baltimore. Oh and for sure a fresh blackberry cobbler and homemade ice cream...most likely peach. Lots of fun and a swim in "The Boom", at least until you were forced out because your lips were blue from the cold mountain water. Not sure such times exist anymore except maybe in a few small towns. Pleasant memories.

You guessed it....I have to work today from 1130a to least it is time and a half. No picnic for me and no swim in "The Boom". 

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Cold Water Dill Pickles

The pickling cucumbers had a sudden flush and we wound up with a couple of gallons of perfectly sized cukes for pickles this morning. I have an old family recipe for cold water dill pickles that is really easy and it makes very nice pickles.

All it takes per gallon of pickles is:
8 cups of cold water
2 cups of cider vinegar
3/4 cups kosher or pickling salt
1 tsp alum
1tsp cream of tartar
4 large sprigs of dill heads(flowers)

This will make enough brine for a gallon jar of pickles. As you can see I had two nice 1 gallon pickle jars rescued from somewhere so I had to make two batches of brine. Make up the brine using the water, salt and vinegar making sure all the salt is dissolved. Wash, but don't soak the cukes and pack in the jars with two heads of dill on the bottom and two heads on top. Put the dill and alum in the jars and fill the jars to cover the cukes. Cover loosely and leave at room temperature for 6 or 7 days. You can then refrigerate and keep them for several months or longer. The pickles work in the jar and there is no rinsing or anything else required. Feel free to add garlic or hot peppers or any other herbs or seasoning you like. Just don't alter the vinegar, salt, water mixture and don't leave out the alum and cream of tartar. This is an old fashioned way of pickling. If you don't have gallon jars you can use any 1gallon non reactive container. That means no aluminum. I could have just as easily used a pickle crock. If your cukes are small enough you can easily do this in quart jars as well. You also don't have to put them in the fridge but they will continue to ferment and won't last as long.
Even if you don't have a garden, this time of year pickling cucumbers should be in the farmer's markets as is fresh dill so you can still give making good old fashioned pickles a try.

You should also remember that pickling was just another method our ancestors had of making the garden last beyond the summer season. Cucumbers seem to come all at once in the garden and they would go to waste without a good way of preserving them. It doesn't hurt that they taste pretty good as well. Now I just have to wait a week.