Paper Bag Herbs

An essential part of any veg garden is herbs & in our second year of gardening ours was relatively successful. I say relatively because we had some great bounty and some skinny & skimpy little ones.

Basil & coriander? Not so much this year. Now basil & coriander are kind of important to a great summer garden. I mean you can make neither a caprese salad nor delicious fresh salsa with a conspicuous lack of basil or coriander. Succulent summer tomatoes sit neglected with none if these tasty herbs to dress them up and take them out.

Our lack of these essential herbs was so conspicuous this year that I ended up yanking out the spindly, wilted, crinkle-edged basil & coriander plants by midsummer. Salsa and salads were dressed by herbs from the market or even-gasp-the grocery store.

That being said we had an overabundance of marjoram. I’m sorry, let me rephrase that–you know Audrey, the mutant plant from Little Shop of Horrors? Picture that, but a little more fragrant and that’s what we’re talking about here.

We overwintered the marjoram as well as thyme, sage & tarragon. All of these did pretty well & this year we also added rosemary & lavender. All of these herbs did well.

None of these goes great with tomatoes.

However these herbs are great in lots of other recipes which is why our herb harvest is now drying, upside-down, housed in paper bags in my closet. If I had another dark, cool place like a basement or a pantry they’d be drying there, but no. Now every time I reach for a sweater I have to push some the makeshift drying rack (a wire hanger) out of the way.

Oh, and my clothes smell kinda earthly & aromatic. That’s not weird, right?

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Joys and Tribulations of Canning

The Labour Day weekend bring the first thoughts of fall and with it the harvest. It seems appropriate to find ways to preserve the harvest and so Mum and I set about our second round of canning projects.

This weekend it was jalapeƱo-mint jelly and sweet and sour garlic jelly. The mint came from our local Amish produce stand but apart from that everything else came from the bounty of our land.

Ahem, right, what I mean to say is that we had a lot of garlic that somehow (well, I think I know how, actually. I think I harvested it too late) didn’t have it’s outer white papery skin. While this doesn’t present a problem for eating it, it doesn’t make it ideal for storage and so begs to be consumed all at once. While garlic pie and garlic stew and your standard vampire-repellant all seem like great ideas, we settled on a sweet and sour garlic jelly.

One if the best parts about canning is creating the roiling concoction of vinegar, sugar and spices that present both the promise of deliciousness and the risk of danger. In the case of the garlic jelly the recipe called for 50 cloves of garlic to be boiled with 3 cups of while wine vinegar and then left to sit for about a day. If you’ve ever wondered what a medieval doctor’s place of business might have smelled like my guess is that.

Apart from the overwhelming odor permeating the small cottage, everything else went as planned. Hey, we’re practically becoming pros at this! The boiling water bath, the sterilizing the jars, the careful ladeling of the boiling sugar syrup. Check, check and check.

Except for the actual jelly part. So far both jellies are still kinda just liquid in the jars. They look nice. They taste good. But they’re not jelly. They’re barely sauce.

It apparently can take 2 weeks for your jelly to set and I’m hoping this will solve our problem. If not it’ll be back to the drawing board for our jellies to try to re-set them.

Either that or… Garlic juice anyone?