Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tools of the Trade

You don't need to spend a lot of money to get involved in canning. Just retrofit a big stockpot and away you go! There are one or two inexpensive tools, though, that make the job a lot easier. Here's a little video about that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Row Covers for Fall

I have been using spun-bonded row covers for years on my fall garden. They keep greens and root crops fresh deep into the winter, even under snow. This year I decided to suspend them on hoops rather than lay them directly on the greens, for better air circulation. I made two kinds of hoops: plastic and wire. In this video you can see how I made the hoop houses or low tunnels for the row covers. The plastic tubing hoops are sturdier, but they are more expensive to make than the wire hoops.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kiwi-Apple Chutney; Canning

I got some locally grown hardy kiwis from a friend with a large hardy kiwi vine, and I decided to make some chutney with the kiwis and some Arkansas Black apples I got from another local grower. I adapted the recipe below from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

It's okay to adapt ingredients and spices a little bit from a canning recipe, but you can't alter the amount of vinegar in the recipe: that determines the acidity of the batch, and the acidity has to be sufficient to make the recipe safe to can in a boiling water bath. So, I kept the amount of vinegar the same and just altered the ratio of kiwis to apples, and I substituted some balsamic vinegar and white vinegar for the cider vinegar called for in the recipe. (Most vinegar has about the same amount of acidity.) I also substituted chopped butternut squash for the raisins, because I didn't have any raisins. I figured the butternut squash would add some sweetness, as the raisins would have.

Here's what I ended up using. This recipe made five half-pint jars of chutney.

4 cups of chopped kiwis
5 cups of peeled, cored, diced apples
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup peeled diced butternut squash
1 large clove of elephant garlic
1 teaspoon peeled diced fresh gingerroot
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Combine the kiwi, apple, onions, vinegar, sugar, brown sugar, squash, garlic and gingerroot. Bring to a boil and simmer for thirty minutes. Add the spices, and simmer another ten minutes.

Sterilize the jars and lids. Ladle the chutney into the jars, leaving a 1/4 inch clearance. Wipe the rim with a wet napkin. Put the lids and bands on the jars and place them in the canning kettle. Process for ten minutes at a rolling boil.

Remove the jars and cool on the counter. Check to see that they all sealed.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Soup Cooked in a Pumpkin

Ever since I saw an article in Martha Stewart Living years ago about gilded pumpkins containing soup, I've wanted to make a pumpkin with soup inside, minus the gilding, which just seems de trop. It turns out that Chef Marian, of The Victory Garden Cookbook, had a recipe all along in the chapter on pumpkins. Today I tried it, with an adorable small pumpkin that was given to me by a friend. It was grown by the farmers who run her community supported agriculture share.

It turned out to be quite easy to cook soup in a pumpkin. I made a little video about it. The pumpkin is a Tan Cheese pumpkin, and it's very tasty. You start out by cutting a top out of the pumpkin and scraping the seeds out, just as you do to carve a pumpkin for Halloween. You oil the inside of the pumpkin and bake it in the oven, empty, with the lid on, for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Then you take it out, add a little rice and sauteed vegetables to the inside of the pumpkin, plus chicken broth to fill the pumpkin, replace the top, and roast again for 45 minutes to an hour, with the soup inside.