On the continuum of slow cooking drying and slow-roasting are pretty near the end of the tail. In arid, sunny regions an oven isn’t even necessary and the sun stands in. But with an oven at hand and the recurring problem of what to do with its residual heat (see my post on making Chardonnay Apple Butter) I used it to roast/dry sweet and hot red peppers.
I went to Highland Farms the week after Labour Day in search of a bushel of tomatoes for tomato sauce. They were all sold out but had sweet red bell peppers by the bushel–that’s 36.36875L to be absolutely exact. I bought one of these, took it to the cottage and divided the peppers between six pans that went into the oven after a pizza session. The fire had died down but there were still hot coals near the back of the oven. (more…)
I think I have finally entered the secret brotherhood of homemade cornichon and gherkin makers. My specific goal was not sweet gherkins (which are the right size but way too sweet) or just small versions of a dill pickle but what I wanted is the intensely sour french cornichon that graces my favourite protein delivery system: the charcuterie plate.
The hardcore, pure acid required recipe that I started looking for back in February is, not surprisingly, from Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail cookbook. It doesn’t explicitly call for them the idea of needing black, elbow-length laboratory gloves to make pickles appealed to my inner Alton Brown. Problem is that I don’t have the first idea where I could find pure acetic acid and also, after some quick math, I’m not sure there’s any point. (more…)
May was probably drier than is strictly optimal for my vegetable garden but June has brought even hotter temperatures (particularly warm nighttime temperatures) and a more optimal amount of rain.
In my vegetable garden at the cottage I have even been lucky with weeds. I learned to identify the edible lambs’ quarters and the runner up for most prevalent “weed” is an unruly (though fragrant) crop of dill. My selection of vegetables has also been fortuitous because I have temporarily abandoned spinach and radishes–both lovers of cool weather–for more beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.
Witkiem beans with their black spotted, white flowers
Those who follow my Twitter feed (@ortdavid) may have seen some pictures I tweeted last weekend of the garden at the cottage. When we got there at an ungodly early hour there was still a heavy dusting of fresh snow on the ground but in the garden green and purple asparagus were poking through the soil and were having none of this held-over winter.
Solitary asparagus spear being kept company by a strawberry plant
Alex–cousin, cottage neighbour, fellow culinary schemer–and I decided to collaborate (we often compete in the world of vegetable gardening) on planting a bed of asparagus. In late spring 2008 we planted some Isla asparagus that I had started from seed and some asparagus crowns that he found at a gardening centre. The first year they produced these wispy crosses between a fern and a baby pine tree. In the second year, 2009, they were a bit more substantial but still too small to harvest. But, this our third year is supposed to be when we can finally take a limited harvest for eating a sample of the future (some sites say decades) of asparagus bounty. (more…)
Last view of the garden covered in frost in October
Winter has finally taken hold in full force here in Toronto. There has been snow on the ground for several weeks and overnight temperatures are regularly in the double-digit negatives but I’m thinking about gardening. Last year I had started seeds (parsley and lettuce) by Valentine’s Day and while I don’t know if I’ll be quite as ambitious this year it is definitely the right time to start planning the garden. But first I need to do a final wrap-up post for last year’s garden. I hope this will at least provide a green reminder that the ground isn’t always frozen and white.
Peas dried and saved from the 2008 garden
Peas: After a pretty successful crop in 2008 I saved some peas and planted them this spring. This first experiment for me in seed-saving had very mixed results. I’m confident that the peas were properly dried and stored because they germinated in the ground and produced healthy shoots. I was surprised and frustrated to return to the cottage one late-June weekend to find that all of the shoots (along with their handful of nascent flowers) had disappeared. I strongly suspect that birds who managed to foil the pea defenses that I improvised from bent sticks (a la Jamie Oliver) ate the tasty shoots. I haven’t yet seen a bird in (or even near) our garden but vigilance is definitely not constant at a weekend, cottage garden in the spring.
Peas are a contender for garden space in 2010. Working both for and against them is the fact that they make such a delicious in-garden snack–I eat my fair share and it makes it easier to recruit weeding helpers but it cuts into crop size. (more…)