Preserving Analysis, Summer-Fall 2017

September 24, 2017

Good stuff:

  • Fresh tomato sauce, cooked and frozen
  • Conserva di pomodori (homemade tomato paste), salted and oil-topped in fridge, no-salt in freezer
  • Sundried tomatoes
  • Bruschetta in a jar (only make one recipe though, we won’t eat it fast enough)
  • Basil pesto, frozen (trade/give away most of it, we eat it but produce far more than we can eat)
  • Kimchee kraut (for me, he’s not a kimchee fan)
  • Apple butter
  • Dried and ground chiles (from last year)
  • Zucchini — shredded and frozen for zucchini bread
  • Zucchini chips
  • Dried mushrooms — made from the get-rid-of-’em cheap bin ones from the grocery store. Well worth the $1 and the time on the dehydrator for adding oomph to sauces and soups and stuff
  • Dried cherries — purchased from Costco, pitted and dried. Luckily put away or they would already be gone. Much cheaper than buying that quantity myself, and no sugar added. I should make muffins.

Stuff that may or may not be worth the effort:

  • Zucchini sott’olio — delicious but five days worth of work for a small jar. I am all for slow food, but I have limits. Also takes up space in the fridge. Might be worth doing one jar a year, or several jars all at once, but not more than that.
  • Dried pepper chunks — we still have some from last year. They are delicious, I just keep forgetting we have them.
  • Apple liqueur (?). Still resting, check back in a few months. The liqueurs are tasty but we don’t drink them very fast.

Stuff that doesn’t work:

  • Fermented condiments (hot pepper paste, basil paste) — we don’t eat them fast enough, and there’s plenty fresh most of the year
  • Roasted plum tomatoes, canned — canned is great but we have so much fresh-frozen tomato sauce we’re probably not going to get to these
  • Regular dried eggplant and dried zucchini, they don’t get used
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Weekly Homestead Report (9/11/17-9/18/17)

September 24, 2017

Weather: Still in the 90s. What can I say? It’s September in SoCal.

Harvested: Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, roasting peppers, French strawberries, raspberries (a few).

Cooked: Baba ghanoush.

What we’re eating: ham and green onion quiche, baba ghanoush, lots of leftovers — why? We’re headed out of town. That’s why this post is late too. Expect a second one to follow shortly.

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Weekly Homestead Report (Sept 4 – 11, 2017)

September 11, 2017

Weather: Thankfully a little cooler. Still humid. Someone tell the weatherrman I want a refund.

Harvested: Tomatoes (roughly sixteen pounds’ worth), zucchini, bell peppers, basil, eggplants — about ten! Must be headed toward fall.

Cooked: Marinated zucchini with garlic, hot peppers, and basil, conserva di pomidori,  yogurt. Ate mostly leftovers this week. There will be lots more cooking this upcoming week.

Planting: Nothing yet, still too hot, but starting to plan ahead. Beans are still sprouting and seem to be growing well so far.

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Weekly Homestead Report (August 28-September 4, 2017)

September 4, 2017

Weather: Scorching! Highs in the 100°F+ zone, lows in the high 60°Fs. No rain in sight. Normal for this time of year, but erk. Fire season. Hoping things stay calm.

Cooked: Healthy apple crumble with apples from Volcan Valley Farm — twice!, Nectarine and Beet Salad with Pistachio Dressing (adapted from Eating Well), tomato and eggplant quiche, yogurt, acquacotta (tomato and mushroom soup), sourdough fig and tangelo bread (Sift), avocado toast with eggs, bacon, and shredded cabbage (yum), sourdough sandwich bread, caprese salad, and the husband made smoked shrimp. Mmmmmm.

Planted last week and sprouting now: Royal Burgundy beans, Tavera beans

Harvested: Tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, Italian roasting peppers, zucchini, basil, lemon cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, hot peppers

Traded: Basil for artisan bread

Reading for food inspiration: King Arthur Flour’s fall magazine, Sift.

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I have a confession to make.

September 1, 2017

I write in my cookbooks. Shock. Horror. And you should too.
No one is going to judge you for that. In fact, if for some reason your cookbook ends up being given to someone else, they’ll probably be delighted to see your notes. I know I always am when I find a used cookbook. Why?

It saves you from having to remember how you tweaked a recipe last time to accommodate the fact that you didn’t have the right kind of herbs or vegetables, or if you thought it needed more heat, or if the order of the directions was confusing and there was a better way to put it together. Seeing someone else’s notes not only gives you insight into how other people cook (and boy that is useful!), it gives you some idea ahead of time as to any pitfalls in the recipe or how good the recipe is.

I have recipes scribbled on that say ‘delicious!’ and some that say ‘needs work’. ‘Needs work’ is often damning. It usually means I won’t make that recipe again, because it was bland, boring, or needs too much experimentation to fix into something that suits my palate. If the recipe is something I can tweak with confidence, usually it gets a scribble of ‘next time try’ instead.

In the age of the internet, it may surprise you to know that I prefer cookbooks and binders for my recipes. Generally I love technology and keeping things updated and sorted. I’m an organized type. I still use the internet to find recipes, but anything I use gets printed out, slid into a page protector, cooked, and then scribbled on if necessary. Why? Sounds like extra work, right?

The internet isn’t permanent.

I have pages printed out that are long gone and would have to be found with the WayBack Machine, if it even still has them in cache. (I’m looking at you, What Geeks Eat.) Yes, I could save those to my Pintrest, or use some recipe software. I’ve yet to find recipe software I truly like, and I’ve tried several different ones at this point. If MyFitnessPal integrated a real recipe program instead of just ingredients for nutritional information, and if they let you easily convert your recipes to foods that you could share with others, I’d be all over that.

But also, I don’t really like having to touch my electronics while I’m cooking. I’m not too worried about a couple of crumbs or a drip of olive oil on a cookbook or a sheet protector, especially if I’m taking notes as I cook. My iPad, on the other hand, is a little less rugged.

So for now, it’s cookbooks and binders. Well scribbled on. Someday I’d like to put together a binder of all the things we really like to eat, so that I’ve got it all in one place, but I do get concerned that we’d limit what we ate more if I did. It hasn’t been happening very quickly.

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It’s Apple Season!

August 31, 2017

Here in southern California, apple season has just hit full stride. We don’t have any apple trees at our place, so we hauled ourselves off to Julian this past weekend.

Ah, Julian. A picturesque town in the mountains, known for Girl Scout camps, Boy Scout camps, church camps — did we mention camping? — and apples. Actually, way back when, Julian did pears (and gold, but that’s another story). It was one of the leading pear growers in the nation, and pears ship more easily than apples. But as technology improved, apple orchards were planted instead. When I was a kid, Julian apples were a big deal. That was where you went for apple picking and amazing pies. As I grew up, though, between drought and lack of interest, the industry dwindled.

Luckily, it never died out. Today, with the revival of interest in hard cider and local food, Julian’s apple growers have a very enthusiastic market for their apples.

The husband and I went to Volcan Valley Apple Farm for apple picking. Owned by former San Diego mayor and talk show radio host Roger Hedgecock, Volcan Valley is a handsome orchard, sporting Empire, Gravenstein, Newton Pippin, and my favorite, Jonathan apples.

The apple trees are espaliered for easy picking, and you can spot the orchard at a distance from the glitter of the flash tape used to keep the birds off the apples. $24 got us two hefty bags of apples, easily twelve to thirteen pounds’ worth. There were pies for sale, but I had in mind to make my own delicious apple desserts, so we passed on that. Besides, since you’re allowed to taste-test (make sure you eat the whole apple, don’t waste food!), we were already full by the time we were done.

The apples are fantastic. I have missed Jonathans so much. You can’t buy them in the store; they don’t ship well. The few I’ve had storebought (and oh, they have been rare) have been underripe and underwhelming. A proper Jonathan apple as a terrific red-skinned improvement on a Granny Smith — sweet-tart, crisp, complex, great for eating out of hand and also for baking.

So what did I do with those? Well, we’ve been eating some of them raw, because who wouldn’t? I also made an apple crumble, borrowing the recipe from Amy’s Healthy Baking. It’s a good base recipe, but since these apples are more-tart and less juicy, I added a tablespoon of vanilla sugar to the filling and swapped the spices for my homemade apple pie spice. I also didn’t need all the cornstarch her recipe called for. It turned out a touch dry, so next time I’ll use less.

Aside from that, I’ve got some apple liqueur resting on the counter, and plans for either another crumble or some more apple butter in my near future.

I’m looking forward to posting updates about the liqueur when it’s ready!

 

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Weekly Homestead Report

August 28, 2017

Picked this week: tomatoes (oh goodness so many tomatoes), zucchini, Italian roasting peppers, a few strawberries and raspberries, apples at Volcan Valley Apple Farm (full post coming later when I have time to sit down)

Preserved: bruschetta in a jar (Ball canning), kimchee kraut (The Joy of Pickling), apple liqueur

Traded: tomatoes for homemade bread, tomatoes for mason jars and lemon verbena, yet more tomatoes for butternut squash, pesto for figs

Repaired: drip line for sprinklers (the ends keep coming undone, I need to get more of the end turnback thingies)

Pulled: a dying zucchini plant, the Sweet 100s tomato plant (neither sweet nor 100s, unfortunately, guess it didn’t like it here)

Cooked: crockpot chicken and chorizo with red peppers (The Mediterranean Slow Cooker), ham and green onion quiche (BH&G), roasted eggplant Parmesan (my own recipe, but forgot to take a picture of the end result, d’oh!), lots of pesto (also my own recipe).

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Theme under construction

August 26, 2017

The WordPress update borked my site and made my theme disappear. I’m working on fixing it, please stand by!

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Dealing Tomatoes out of a ’95 Tercel

August 24, 2017

You ever have one of those days where you look at your garden and go “well … shoot”? 


I hit “overrun with tomatoes” more than once this summer. I made over a gallon of dried tomatoes. Three quarts of roasted tomatoes. Two batches of conserva. Two gallons of tomato sauce that went into the freezer. Seven half-pints of “Bruschetta In A Jar”, which is Ball Canning’s fancy way of saying “pickled tomatoes to stick on toast when you’re out of fresh tomatoes”.

And still they came.

Normally my extras go to my parents, but they were unavailable and I was getting desperate. Turns out, lucky for me, that there are a bunch of active barter groups in my area. My pitiful plea for help did not go unanswered. In fact, it was happily answered with fresh bread, mason jars, and lemon verbena for my tomatoes, with possible eggs and butternut squash in the future.

It did feel like a drug deal. There I was, sitting in the Del Taco parking lot, my trunk loaded up with clandestine tomatoes, waiting for a stranger to come by and take them off my hands. Turned out the stranger was fantastic, and so was the bread. So was the next stranger, and the mason jars and lemon verbena.

Am I looking forward to being overrun with tomatoes again next week? I just might be.

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This is a test of the emergency broadcast system —

May 10, 2017

Well, no, not really. Actually, it’s a check to see if my nifty WordPress app is crossposting to Tumblr correctly. Fingers crossed, it is. If you’re a Tumblr fan, you can find me over there at http://auntiepasto.tumblr.com.

Where’ve I been? Busy. With about a bajillion things. Drainage ditch did get cleared. Veggie beds did get built! And planted, even. Pix of those will be forthcoming sometime soon now that I’ve got this thing rejiggered.

Better yet, we figured out how to handle the husband’s diabetes and my minor weight issues via calorie counting and exercise tracking. What does that mean? Well, for me, it means that the kitchen is no longer a massive source of stress where I never know if what I just made will screw up his blood sugar. Boy, was that demoralizing, especially given how much I love to bake. For you, it means I’ll be back to posting tasty things I’ve invented, or borrowed and kitbashed into something I like.

I want to write some more book reviews, too. I get a steady stream of cookbooks from the library, but not always enough time to make things out of them … I definitely want to do more of that!

Thanks for your patience, whoever’s still listening. I’m here, I’m alive, and things are picking back up.

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