APPLES!!!

Kaleb Haulin’ the Fall Harvest

I took the family and went down south to my parents’ house yesterday. It was a glorious fall day with the sun shining and the birds chirping. They have 11 apple trees behind their house, and more apples than they know what to do with. Every year they press, peel, cook or freeze a few hundred pounds of apples. I would guesstimate we picked right around 60 pounds for ourselves, and it only took about 10 minutes. I love free stuff. And they’re organic. Not certified, but trust me they’re organic.

We are gonna be making all sorts of apple concoctions. We just finished applesauce. I’m gonna make apple butter, pies, and some cider if I can get a press to use. I hope I have a big enough chest freezer for all the stuff I’m making this winter. I have some big plans to fill it up. Now back to that applesauce. It only took about 45 minutes from start to finish. Easy as pie? No. Easy as applesauce.

Applesauce

3-4 Lbs Apples (Any varieties will do)

1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar

2 Cups Water

3/4 C Brown Sugar (not packed)

1 T Vanilla Extract

2 T Cinnamon

2 t Nutmeg

1 t Kosher Salt

Peel and core apples and place in pot. Add vinegar and water. Bring to a boil and simmer until they start to break down. I used a potato masher to break them down more to get the consistency I wanted. Add the spices and mix.

(If the consistency isn’t what you want, you can let it cook down to thicken, or add a little more water to thin it out. Just make sure not to burn it.)

Beat the Beet

So I have had a few people ask me questions about beets. How to grow them. When they are ready to harvest. How to cook beets. What to do with beets. So I figured I should do something on beets. The best thing about beets. They are easy. They don’t transplant easily, but starting from seed is simple and easy. It’s recommended that you plant them in raised beds or pots for a few reasons. One is that they are a hardy plant that you can grow year round, but prefer cooler months. This means that with a raised bed they are allowed to be planted earlier in the spring when the ground may be too cold to plant from seed. Also, they need lots of water to grow, so watering often is important, but getting that water down to the root (where the beet actually is), without water logging the soil is much easier to do with potting soil, which tends to drain much better than our natural soil, tilled or not. Potting soil is of a more consistent quality, with no rocks or roots to get in the way and infringe on the space of these edible roots systems. The same goes for anything that develops underground (carrots, potatoes, radishes).

When purchasing seeds, they come in clumps of what are actually 4-6 seeds. When planting, just push a finger down about an inch and a half and drop the whole cluster of seeds in. Lightly slide your hand across the top, covering the holes without compacting the soil. Water lightly so the soil is evenly damp. When the seeds have sprouted and the leaves are 2″ or taller, thin the leaves with a pair of scissors just above the level of the soil without disrupting the one strongest leaf. This way, you don’t have to worry about whether all the seeds will sprout, and those leaves you’re trimming are very edible and very delicious in salads so don’t worry about the waste.

After that, just keep the soil moist until about 2 weeks before you want to harvest. Cutting back on water will allow the beets to dry out some and concentrate their flavors more. The beets are ready to harvest at pretty much any point. Don’t pull them too soon or the planting is a waste though. If you pull them too big and they less sweet and woodier. Somewhere between and 1 1/2 inches and 2 1/2 inches is the sweet spot, depending on the variety. The easiest way to tell is to just pull the soil away a little from the top and gently feel the size. If it’s not ready yet, just replace the top soil and wait. When you do finally pull them from the soil, trim off the stalks making sure to leave about an inch intact. Doing so will keep them from bleeding all of their juice out when cooked. The juice is where all the sugars and flavors are.

Once you harvest them, just clean them up a little and store them in your fridge until you are ready to use. When you are ready to eat them, there are a number of ways you can prep them. Roasted are my favorite, but steamed, pickled, and even raw are popular as well. The easiest way to roast them is to just place them in a roasting pan and place in a 4oo° oven until they are fork tender (cook time depends on size). When they are done, let them cool to a temperature you can handle, and remove the skins using a damp paper towel. I recommend this over a regular towel because its a bit messy.

Once roasted and skinned, you can do with them as you will. Add them to a salad, saute with some onions and herbs, pickle them, the possibilities are nearly endless.

The Baking Cook

Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish

So as a cook, I hate baking. But making my own bread is something that I have wanted to do for a while now, but haven’t known enough about it to do it. I know a little something about it, and have successfully brewed up a few batches at home, along with a sour dough starter (Audrey) chillin’ in my fridge, but they weren’t anything to write home about. Dense and flavorless, they held up to being called bread solely on the fact that you couldn’t call it anything else. Baking bread is kind of like growing vegetables. You’re working with nothing but variables, and you won’t know the outcome until it’s too late to change anything. I just picked up the book, Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish. He is the owner of a local bakery, Ken’s Artisan Bakery, and Pizza Kitchen, Ken’s Artisan Pizza.

This book is awesome! Not only does it explain how to make bread (mixing, kneading, folding, proofing, shaping, and baking), but also how everything affects the outcome of the dough. He doesn’t just tell you how to make bread. He teaches you how to create bread, how to learn from what the bread is telling you, and how to adjust to have the outcome you want. How to tweak the recipe for your needs and wants. If you are at all interested in baking bread, or even if you are a professional baker, he has wrote this book to help you at all levels of skill, experience, and knowledge. I feel this is a must have for anyone interested in baking.

Garlic and Onions and Shallots Oh My!!!

French Red Shallots

‘Tis the season to plant things in the garden. Apparently. So I have noticed over the last few days talking about the excitement of this time of year. As the leaves finish falling from the trees and the rain begins to fall, people are starting to plant. AGAIN!!! Are these people just hard core gardeners or are they on to something? I think it may be a bit of both. Yes many of these people are spending more time on their gardens than I spend on sleep, but that’s not to say that we can’t join the fun on a smaller scale. We don’t all need twenty different varieties of alliums, but there’s nothing wrong with planting a few onions and garlics to appease the culinary gods.

Purple Glazer Garlic

Now don’t get too excited. (like these folks). These plants aren’t fast growing, but that’s the beauty of them. Just like everything else in life, with patience, comes reward. You plant them in the fall (pointy end facing the sky) with some well draining soil and a little

Stuttgarter Yellow Onion Starters

fertilizer in a sunny spot, and come spring, you can have a head start on your garden. That’s it. Add a little more fertilizer when the weather starts to warm and they begin to sprout, and water through the summer. These plants have a natural smell that detours pests. They are a low maintenance plant that even the most novice gardener can tackle.

So how do you choose what to plant? Well, in the case of garlic, there are two main types. Softneck and hardneck. If you prefer to have a stock of garlic that will last, softneck is your choice. If those more intense flavors and aromas are what you are looking for, then hardneck is your choice. If you’re like me, and want the best of both worlds, then grow both. Onions and shallots are chosen more based on color, potency, and size. Choose for what you like, and what you want to make.

I found this fantastic online sight that sells all kinds of varieties of seed garlic, onion starts, shallots, and all sorts of other vegetables to grow. They have a lot of how to information on their sight along with books and tools to help with the process. The best part about this sight though (well in my opinion) is the live chat they offer. They are prompt and very knowledgeable about their products. So what are you still doing here? Get out there and start planting your alliums before the weather gets worse!

One Stop Shop

So I was searching out some new people to follow and came across this chick. Some of it is a little over the top, and some of it is down right useless seeing as to she is in a completely different climate than us, but she takes a lot of great photos and is very diligent about posting. Also she recently blogged about making some how to videos in her garden that are in the process of being edited, and will be sharing the links when they are up. I am personally looking forward to those more than reading the posts, which she has a lot of. I do much better seeing how something is done, rather than being told, so those will be great for me.

It is a huge blog with many different topics and insight into a lot of different subjects, and she has been blogging since 2006, so there are hundreds of post to look through, and I am excited to spend some time on there. She even give links to other blogs and garden websites, stores, and seed sites. It is almost an all in one website for gardeners. She gives you a lot of information, and what she doesn’t give you, she give you a link to someone that does.

NON-GMO!!! It’s the Portland way!

Well, not just Portland, but I haven’t been anywhere where people were more well informed as a whole, plus, it’s just fun to say. I’m no left wing nut, and I’m no rebel without a cause (well maybe a little on the later, but more bratty, and less politically), but the thought of GMOs and Monsanto seeds making their way into my personal garden isn’t a pleasant one. As the idea of being a home gardener began to develop and create traction, the thought of purchasing GMO seeds never crossed my mind. Aren’t these big business companies? Don’t they sell trillions of seeds to those large production farmers? Why would they be selling to my local gardening store? Well they do. And they don’t tell you. Scary huh?

 

I was doing my usual “tour de internet” (I should trademark that), searching out helpful gardening info, when I came across a fellow blogger. One of their older posts about gardening is what actually caught my eye, but when I visited the blog’s main page to view other post in the hopes of gaining more knowledge, I noticed a section dedicated to the avoidance of GMOs/Monsanto, and I was intrigued. Why would a home gardener be so involved in the fight against big business Monsanto? So I delved deeper into her blog. The information is a little scattered at times, but it seems to be well researched and very informative. They even give a list of places to buy, along with a list of places to avoid buying seeds.

I’m not going to go into great detail as to what GMO’s or Monsanto are because that is not what this blog is about, and i don’t want to jump into such a never ending and emotion provoking subject, but I felt this blog post I found pertained enough to the subject at hand, that I felt I would share it, mostly for the list of good and bad seed suppliers, but if you track back a few posts, you will also find more posts pertaining to the subject of gardening. Who knows, the author may pop up again if I feel another post is worth mentioning on here.

Dennis’ 7 Dees

The idea of starting a kitchen garden is a very daunting task for myself, as well as for many of you as I may suspect. Where to start? What to know? How to do it? Which direction to take the adventure? All of these are questions many of us have. Thankfully, in this day and age, with the internet and all, we have so many sources of information at hand that it is hard to get to all of them. So I have decided to take the time to search out as many of them as possible to bring the best of the best to a singular location (a.k.a. here at my blog), to help consolidate this cluster f*ck of information we are bombarded with. <– Notice the classiness of the well placed * to keep this G rated for the sheltered and the young folk. 

So as a way to pay homage to those that have helped me so early in this journey, I would like to start by not only giving thanks to the people at Dennis’ 7 Dees, but also give notice to their blog which I have been able to easily navigate and find great information. Not only are they a local company, which is a big plus for people in this region, but the information they give us will directly correlate to the work we are doing here in the PacNW, but they are great at responding to questions on their posts, giving us the ability to follow up and delve deeper into a subject that we are passionate about or just plain intrigued by.

I don’t know about you, but when the rain starts to fall faster than the leaves, and the cold begins to settle into my bones, the thought of starting a garden quickly fades into a hot cup of coffee and a football game on the plasma. This post may have just saved my drive to continue with the goal of creating a successful kitchen garden. Cleverly titled, “A tale of Two Kales”, which is in reference to the change in seasons we are just coming into, they talk about the idea of growing winter vegetables (leafy greens, onions, garlic, shallots). So, just because the weather is turning crummy, doesn’t mean the thought of gardening has to. Check them out, and feel free to ask questions. If I don’t know (which I probably won’t since I’m the FNG of gardening), I will be the one to search out the best answer from the many of sources I am continuing to gather.