Saints Preserve Us

Sometimes I get all excited about an idea and I have to do it right away. That’s kind if how I got this year when thinking about doing some canning and preserving.

Luckily my Mum is patient, knowledgable and has been dealing with me for 30-ahem-mumble-mumble years and knows what to do when I say “let’s make preserves this weekend, ok, great! Fun! I’m ready, let’s go!”

Last year we make roughly a ton of green tomato chutney courtesy of the tomatoes that never ripened in my front yard. It was delicious and fun to make.

When I say fun, I should probably admit that Mum did most of the heavy lifting in terms of the let’s-make-sure-everyone-we-give-this-to-doesn’t-die-of-botulism side of things. I specialize in the enthusiasm, chopping, and stirring departments.

With our overwhelming garden successes this year it was hard to pick the best candidate for preserving. Sorry, what I meant to say there was that the only thing we had remotely enough of to do anything with was jalapeño peppers.

There is only so much salsa a person can make and so with our pile of jalapenos (under 1 lb.) we decided against filling them with cream cheese and wrapping them in bacon which is what we did last year and made some jalapeño jelly.

And after a hot hour in the kitchen over boiling pots of liquid on the hottest weekend in the last few we have 5 spectacular jars of a sweet and spicy concoction. The jars have a lovely light green colour with flecks of darker green suspended throughout.

And it’s all the more sweet because not only did we can it ourselves but we grew the peppers too.

If anyone had a bumper jalapeño crop I’ll make another batch 🙂

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Onions Making Me Cry

Usually onions make a person cry when that person is chopping them in prep for a delicious meal like a flavorful pasta sauce or a hearty chili.

Well when it comes to these onions I’m crying before I’ve even picked up a knife because they just won’t grow. Or I should say they just didn’t grow. Or I should say they grew, but not past the size of shallots. Sigh. Let the tears begin.

As you can see from the photo we planted a lovely array of white and red onions this year and their colour was great, their stalks were green and straight and their bulbs never grew past the size of a quarter. Yes, that is a quarter in the photo to show scale. I repeat, sigh.

I don’t know what went wrong. We chopped off the scapes when we were supposed to, we weeded, we watered, we loved them and spoke kindly to them.

The puzzling other thing is that our other underground crops like garlic and potatoes did well, so it’s not like we can’t grow things underground.

Last year our onions had a similar fate. Stunted. Relegated to faux-shallot status with none of the complex and alluring flavor of that delicious little gem, and all of the densely-packed bitterness you’d imagine of an onion never able to live up to it’s true potential.

Any advice from onion experts out there?

Now pardon me while I… Sniff… Reach for a… Sniff… Tissue…

Braiding Garlic

Last fall we planted garlic for the first time. We stopped in at the Agway in Ithaca for a non-garlic related errand and upon entering were greeted with bins of garlic cloves for planting.

I thought to myself Ooh! Garlic! We should plant garlic! How cool would it be to plant garlic, then it’ll grow and then we’ll have garlic. That we planted ourselves! Actually, I probably said that out loud too.

(It should be noted that this is my approach to about everything in the garden, maybe with the exception of kale. I think my attitude towards kale was more like Ooh! Maybe the evil rabbit/woodchuck/deer will eat the kale instead of veggies that I really like!)

So we planted the little garlic cloves that you plant (which look remarkably similar to the ones you eat) in the fall of last year and then we waited. A long time. Which is tough for those of us with short attention spans.

We finally dug it up about 2 weeks ago and were quit happy with the results. I mean, the looked like garlic. A bit small maybe, but definitely garlicky.

And the began the process of curing them so they’ll last longer– this transforms them into the garlic with the dry, papery, white skins that you’re familiar with. I just lay them out on a laundry drying rack for 2 weeks on the screened-in porch and it worked well. Except for the more waiting part which didn’t go well with the aforementioned no attention span part.

But… Yesterday I realized that the requisite 2 week curing period was up and it was time to make the requisite garlic braid which will look all folksy and sweet and be a great way to store the garlic throughout the year. I had read about how to braid garlic but I thought to myself I know how to braid hair… How different could this be? Um, so the answer to that is, um, pretty different. But I proceeded pretending that the dry garlic stems was hair that I was French braiding and the result was… Well, a bit lopsided and kooky looking, but serviceable for my first-ever garlic braid.

For the record, hair is easier.

Salt potatoes!

We in eastern Ontario are used to poutine being our favourite regional potato dish, but down here in the Finger Lakes there’s a tradition in potatoes that gives poutine a run for it’s
money in taste, calories and sodium content.

What could be simpler and more delicious that taking adorable new potatoes and boiling them in water with a crapload of salt in it? Nothing, I tell you, and it’s one of the surest signs of summer too.

It’s apparently a product of local salt miners getting creative/resourceful around the lunch hour. For a great article with more factual accuracies than you’re likely to get on this blog check out the latest issue of Edible Finger Lakes.

Many folks around here grew up eating this delicacy and in the last 2 weeks I’ve been here I can attest to their pervasiveness. I think I’ve had them at least 4 times, including an incredibly butter-drenched serving at the Lodi Library Fundraising chicken BBQ. My arteries are not pleased with me at all.

And folks, here’s a wee tip: it IS possible to have too much of a good thing (trust me. “put in a ton of salt and then just when you think you’ve put in too much, keep going” were the words that led to inedibly salty potatoes. So tragic; so, so salty).

Here’s the ratio discovered by making careful notes from consuming the last bag of salt potatoes: 5 pounds potatoes, boiled in 4 quarts of water with 1 cup of salt for 20 minutes.

Yum.