Posted by: beyonddinner | January 10, 2011

Food preservation update

We had some good luck this year with food preservation – which is a relief, because last year we didn’t have very much success.  Take a look at all the different kinds of things we put up.

From left to right:  Pickled beets (6 quarts), red salsa (~6 pints), salsa verde (~20 pints (we gave away lots!)), tomatoes (4 quarts), pickled zucchini (~6 pints), peaches (4 quarts), strawberry jam (~12 pints, also have given away lots of this), ground cherry jam (1 pint), blackberry jam (2 pints), and frozen pesto (~4 pints).  We also made some refrigerator pickles and dried some thyme, oregano, sage and lavender.

We haven’t had a bad batch yet – so far it’s all delicious!  It really helps that we got produce from two gardens instead of one.  Last year we only had enough of green beans and cucumbers to can.  This year those crops didn’t do as well, so we didn’t end up canning any of those.  Next year I hope we see more tomatoes and pick more peaches.  Also, I’ve decided that you can’t have too much pesto – that stuff is awesome.  I think we have too many jars of salsa verde so we’ll have to cut back on our tomatillo plants.

Posted by: beyonddinner | December 31, 2010

Cleaning grains

This year we subscribed to the Pioneer Valley Grain and Bean CSA for the 2nd time and picked up our share in November.   We picked up about 90-ish pounds of various grains and a few pounds of beans (Arikara, Jacob’s Cattle, and Tiger Eye varieties).  Last year we didn’t do much to clean the grains (besides picking out the obvious things that didn’t belong), but this year we decided to give cleaning a try to see if it changed the quality of the flour we get.  Here’s the process we used.

First a photo of the grain (a hard red winter wheat) before cleaning:

The black dots have got to go – they are various seeds that have gotten into the wheat.

We put a few cups of the grain in a large bowl and filled with water.  This grain is particularly “dirty”, but it shows the cleaning process really well in these photos.  It is the dirtiest of all the grains by a large margin – the rest of the grains will be much easier to do.

Once you agitate the water and grain a bit, you can see a bunch of stuff floats to the top.  We used a strainer to remove that. Next we spread out the grains onto some small window screens that we propped up on some overturned bowls to ensure good air flow.

Once the grain substantially dried out we picked out the remaining black seeds and other obvious impurities – this was a pain and took some time.  Here’s what it looks like now:

Much better!

Now that we’ve done some baking with cleaned and sifted ground wheat – we are hooked.  It’s just enough better to go through with cleaning the rest of it.  Thankfully most of the grains are much cleaner than this bunch – the rinsing and skimming off of the floating chaff and seeds seems to do the trick for most of it.



Posted by: beyonddinner | November 28, 2010

Honey and candles

On our future farm I would love to have some bees.  Having some sweetener as part of our crops is very appealing to me.  Our future farm is several years away for us, but I got to have a little taste (!) of the bee keeping life this weekend when we picked up our honey share at the Reseka Apiaries warehouse.  The warehouse also contains all kinds of bee supplies – it was fun to see the hats, the extractors, the supers and everything.  Here’s Noah sporting bee-keeping fashion…

Here’s what we got in our share:

Six pounds of honey, two tapers, a pillar, and six votive candles –  I love that the CSA includes the candles as well.  We also purchased a jar of honey that has pollen mixed in.  Starting in January Pat and Noah will start taking a teaspoon a day – there’s some evidence that doing this will reduce the effects of spring allergies – from which both Pat and Noah suffer.  Sounds like a yummy experiment to try.  We’ll have to report back later.

Posted by: beyonddinner | October 30, 2010

Soup, glorious soup!

Our friend, Joel Henry visited us recently as he launched his newly created, from scratch, soup company, Fig Food.  I had the good fortune to buy some of his prepared soups from the Whole Foods in Boston recently:

It was exciting to see my friend’s creations somewhere where I could buy them.  These are amazing soups – yummy, organic, sourced from the U.S. and 100% plant based – very sustainably created, and I’m proud to have them in my cupboards.    My favorites so far are the Yucatan Black Bean and the Umbrian Lentil soupds.  Try them out.   Way to go Joel!!

Posted by: beyonddinner | October 23, 2010

I’m back – and tomatillos!

It’s been a mighty long time, but it’s time to be back, and this time I’ll be joined in posting by my husband, Pat.  We do so much around food and growing things, that we want to start recording it again.

Today we went to our community garden plot, mostly to plant garlic (more than 50 cloves planted!), but we also decided to take out the tomatillo plants.  While we haven’t had a frost yet, it could come any day – so we thought we’d put these particular plants to bed.

At this garden we grew two tomatillo plants and they have been amazing producers.  I’ve made several pints of salsa fresca from them and eight pints of salsa verde already, so we were a little shocked that when we finished harvesting them we had this many:

We weighed the bowl – there’s 20 pounds of tomatillos in there!    It probably adds up to more than 600 fruits.  Gosh. It’s overwhelming!  So I took our largest pot and started to make up another batch of salsa verde.  I filled the pot, but it only just dented that enormous pile.  Looks like we have a few more batches ahead of us!

I used two habaneros in this batch as well as four or five serrano peppers from the garden.  Needless to say – it came out a little spicy!  I labeled them hot :-).

We also made some applesauce for the first time, using a foley food mill from my mother-in-law that my husband has fond memories using as a child to process apples from the apple tree in their yard.  No sugar added and it is a delicious, sweet, sauce.  We didn’t have very many apples on hand, so we are going to save the quart that we canned for Thanksgiving dinner this year.  Yum!!

Posted by: beyonddinner | November 2, 2009

Preservation and garden updates

Pat and I have tried our hand at a couple of preservation projects this season.  We had a bumper crop of green beans, so we’ve frozen a bunch and pickled about 8 jars.  We also fermented a few jars of beets and made some pickles.

Frozen beans seem to be OK, though a couple of batches may have been blanched for too long.  The pickled beans are tasty, though next year I’ll have to cut back on the mustard seed used – it’s really strong in this batch!   We tried the pickles for the first time tonight and they are really good!  We’ll definitely have to make many more next year.  The fermented beets, on the other hand, were a terrible failure.  They fermented just fine, but I guess they are an acquired taste.  My family has not acquired that taste yet – blech.

We have a bunch of herbs drying out in a bunch of paper bags on the tops of our cabinets.  We’ll probably be able to take those out soon and fill our spice jars and then some.  We also expect to have harvested seeds from our radishes, green beans, fennel plants, and cilantro.

Yesterday Pat made it to the garden and brought back another big harvest.  The greens are still going strong on Halloween!  We got collards, kale, chard, New Zealand spinach, cauliflower greens and one head of cauliflower.  Boy I wish we had planted more a little bit earlier in July/August for an even bigger and longer fall harvest.  We’ve missed out on a fall harvest of lettuce, spinach and beets for instance.

Still though – it’s been a nice fall for locally, sustainably produced food for us.

Posted by: beyonddinner | November 2, 2009

Meet ups

Today Pat and I did something new.  We attended a meetup of the Urban Homesteader’s League who put on a workshop about lasagna mulching and building cold frames.  Since one of my goals this year was to learn about extending the season, this was a great opportunity.  We were there with about 20 people at a house in Cambridge.  We spent the afternoon building two raised beds and then helping with building a hoop house frame on another raised bed.

This house in Cambridge has a nice side yard, but has lead contaminated soil.  We had some 2×6 lumber to build the raised beds and started the layers by laying down some landscape fabric.  Next went on some coarse yard waste – branch trimmings, old squash vines and the like.  Next we put in some chopped fruit that had been discarded at the nearby Harvest Co-op.  On top of that went 2 layers of cardboard which we wet thoroughly.  Old lettuce, also from the Harvest went on next, followed by some chicken manure mixed with sand and some seaweed from Ipswich, brought by our instructor Charlotte.  We then added a bit of compost and soil and topped with another layer of cardboard, wet down again.  The last layer, before we ran out of material, was ripped up newspaper mixed with leaves which was then topped with more compost and soil.  You would think that would fill up the 6 inch beds, but amazingly there was still room left.  The family that lives there will continue to add more materials as they become available.

After that we worked on a new hoop house.  There were four 10-foot lengths of electrical conduit that were bent using a cool, old conduit bending tool into a shape with a pointed top.  These were attached to an 8-inch deep raised bed with two brackets on each side of each frame piece.  The tops were then joined together with a 1×2 board with more brackets.  Next went on the clear plastic sheeting, which was held down by another board on top of the 1×2.  The plastic sides will be weighted down by a board attached to its length, which can be lifted to get into the bed.  We didn’t get to see how they were going to close of the ends though.

We learned many things today and met a bunch of really cool people, many of whom arrived by bicycle to the event.  We are looking forward to more meetups!

Posted by: beyonddinner | October 4, 2009

Bags for grain

Last weekend, Noah, Pat and I took a drive to Shutesbury, to the home of the folks who are pulling together the grain and bean CSA.  They were having a sewing bee to make some bags to hold the grain and beans that they will be distributing soon.   Along with chatting and getting to know each other, we managed to also make a few bags.  Ella, their little girl, was adorable.  Noah was taken with the farm animals – Cole the giant, super-friendly, draft horse, the two sheep, the cat and the two dogs.  Pat and I enjoyed the company and seeing people really walking the talk – fun stuff!  We got to see the hand mill that they have at home that looks like it works great.

Here’s a picture of some drawstring grain bags I made at home to add to the pile.  The small bags hold about 5 pounds, while the large ones hold about 15.

100_2206The goal for this year is that every CSA member gets at least one homemade bag.  I like that idea!

We did learn this week that they will be able to accommodate the entire waiting list – so we are in to get about 150 pounds of locally grown grains and beans.  Woo hoo!

Posted by: beyonddinner | September 4, 2009

Black bean harvest

One of the experiments we did in our garden this year was to try to grow black beans and chickpeas.  The chickpeas failed to germinate, but the black beans came through.  Here’s our harvest so far from two square feet of black bean plants.

black bean harvest

black bean harvest

There are still 10 or so pods (sticking up from the bowl) that we are waiting to dry out a little before taking out the beans.  So it looks like we got enough for a meal out of our little experiment!  The beans are shiny and black – I can’t wait to eat them.

We probably eat about a meal of black beans every week or so, so I think we would need about 100+ square feet of black beans to feed us for a year.  Something to aspire to 🙂

Posted by: beyonddinner | August 30, 2009

first ever canning attempt

I did it!  I’ve officially preserved some of our garden bounty.  Right now our wall o’ beans is producing like crazy, so I had a few pounds that we haven’t been able to incorporate into our meals.  So I followed this recipe and made these:


I think that I could have packed more beans in each one, but aren’t they beautiful?  The little brown dots are black mustard seeds that I put in along with a clove of garlic and pepper with the water/vinegar/salt mix.

This is one of the goals I posted back when I started this blog – to preserve some of what we’ve grown.

Getting ready to can the beans meant doing a little shopping.  First I got the jars and the jar-lifter-tool-thingie that allows you to get them out of the boiling water.  When I got home I measured all of our pots and horrors! none of our pots were tall enough for the quart jars.  Today I biked (see our Choosing No Car blog) over to a nearby kitchen/bath store where I got a lobster pot and got it home on my front bike basket with some ingenious bungee cord looping.

Coming soon, black beans from our garden!

Older Posts »