I’ll have some garden pictures soon — it’s been a strange summer in the garden. Summer started so late, and then got hot fairly quickly, so some things, like the peas didn’t really work this summer. I got a few peas, but the vines burned up before they could really produce much.The arugula bolted as well — it was a thick hedge of 2-3 foot tall plants with pretty flowers, but by that point the leaves are so bitter they’re only good cooked, and frankly, the arugula was crowding out the peppers in that bed. So, out they came and into the compost.
The turnips, on the other hand, produced bales of greens. I got a few turnips as well, but I really grow them for the greens. By this weekend though, they were going to seed, and it was time to pull them out. So out came a bushel of turnips, and I spent a hot Sunday morning cooking down greens to freeze for winter. After a lot of experimentation with blanching and freezing greens, I’ve finally come around to just cooking them like I would (some onion, garlic, hot pepper, a little nutmeg and a big splash of cream). Then I freeze them in individual portions, and seal them with the vacuum sealer. So, that was one project.
I also made more yogurt. In the heat I haven’t really been keeping up with my milk deliveries and I had a little over a half gallon left this week. So, yogurt — that’s easy. Heat the milk, add half a pint leftover from the last batch, pack in jars and put in the little cooler filled with warm water until it sets. I’ve become quite addicted to my own yogurt made from local unpasteurized whole milk. I don’t know if it’s the quality of protein from those Jersey cows, but the yogurt sets up almost like it’s been gelatinized — a nice solid block of yogurt floating in whey that I pour off for the dogs.
The cherries are also in, although not in the kind of quantities we saw last year. There’s a grove of sour cherry trees down the street from me in an empty lot. So Sunday I took my bucket and picked just under five pounds of cherries. They’re so ripe that pitting them is a cinch — just pop the pits out with your thumbnail. I used my beautiful French jam pot and added 3/4 of a pound of sugar for every pound of fruit — the peel of one lemon and that’s it. I just cooked them until they gave up their juice then put them up in jars. I did this last year and it was great — all winter I ate cherries and yogurt and granola for breakfast. They were also handy for the occasional pie or cake.
I need to take some photos of the tomatoes — I used the French method of training them up a string and cutting off all but the main vine. This is supposed to force the plants to put all their energy into fruit and not into greenery — so far, it looks like it’s working. I’ve got big bunches of heavy green fruit.
So, it was the typical hot summer weekend putting up food for winter. It’s always kind of a drag to be in the kitchen when it’s 90 degrees outside, but it’s worth it to be able to eat my own food in the dead of winter — vegetables and fruit that I know the origins of — I know how it was grown and everyone who touched it and exactly what’s in that freezer package. It’s one of the funny consequences of growing a garden — I’ve become much more skeptical about grocery produce — where’d it come from? who touched it? how far did it come on a truck? how long has it been dead? Given the choice between strange produce, and something from my own backyard, well, if it means one or two hot Sundays in my kitchen, then it’s worth it to me …