Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The garden's still chugging along!

Paprika slowly ripening.
Weeks ago, before our hard freezes, I covered the paprika plants because they were laden with very slow-ripening fruit and I didn't want to lose it if I could hang on to it... and I decided to cover some of the nearby flowers, just to keep some color in the garden, and because the cosmos got such a late start blooming, I felt bad for them... The results are here, or some of them at least. A row of paprika is just about ready, and a huge chunk in the center of the now mostly-dead garden is alive with color, and buzzing with insects. It's really quite striking, even from the road. Despite the hard freezes, I was surprised yesterday to pull a pound of red roma tomatoes off the otherwise dead vines of those plants. I'd left them uncovered, thinking I was just giving up on the unripened fruit... but somehow it survived. There are a few other things still growing in the garden: celery, some greens, radishes and other things. I'm certain the potatoes I planted are still in the ground... and hopefully they're not rotting... we've had a lot of rain the past two months! In fact, although today is forecast to hit 80, that is after several days of rain and thunderstorms... I'm not complaining, of course... we need the rain, and I love the storms!

So that's what's going on outside in the garden. Indoors, I am nearly finished processing the bounty from the garden. I froze ten pounds of peppers the other day (Jalapeno & Maule's Red Hot) and have frozen at least ten pounds of little roma tomatoes. Last night I dried the last of the mint... in the microwave. I had read that it was an effective way to dry herbs, and since my dehydrator broke over the winter, I figured it was worth a shot. And I am very impressed with the results: I placed the leaves in between two paper towels and microwaved on high for 2 minutes. The result: vibrantly green, perfectly dry herbs. I think I may have a new method of saving the herbs from my garden! Two weeks ago, a friend came by and we spent a gorgeous (and windy) afternoon canning. Cherry Tomatoes, nearly ten pints of roasted salsa with Tomatoes, Onions, Tomatillos, assorted Peppers, and Cilantro. Only the cilantro wasn't from the garden, unfortunately. We also made two quarts of Ratatouille with peppers, eggplants and tomatoes from the garden. And about five pints of pickled pepperoncini I grew... All told, we had almost 25 pints of canned deliciousness for about six hours of work... not too bad. 
Cosmos and marigolds still blooming!

Monday, October 1, 2012


From top left: Lemon balm, Basil Osmin, Purple Basil, Variegated Sage, Lettuce Leaf Basil, Chocolate Mint, Lemon Basil, Mint.
I've been making herb infusions of vodka for years, and yesterday afternoon, two friends joined me in making them out at the farmhouse. I'd assembled a large variety of fresh-picked herbs and we gathered together the spices we'd need. After an initial toast of two-year-old (and perfectly mellow and lovely) basil liqueur, we commenced to infusing. The infusions I made are shown below. Clockwise from upper left: Aquavit, Lemon-Coriander, Mint Bourbon, Purple Basil, Lemon Balm, Sage-Lemon. The Lemon-Coriander and Sage-Lemon are going to be Snaps, delicious Scandinavian concoctions meant to be slammed quickly. You get a warm feeling in your chest followed by the lingering flavor of the herbs. The Aquavit will be aged for a few weeks before I filter it and begin slowly drinking it. Again, it's meant to be more of a shot than a sipper, but the times I've made it before I've enjoyed sipping it and savoring the mixture of spices (caraway, cumin, star anise, cinnamon, dill, coriander among others). The Lemon Balm infusion is bound to be turned into a liqueur with the addition of a simple syrup and a few more months' aging. I'm going to leave the Purple Basil as an infusion, removing the leaves once they've imparted their color and flavor to the vodka. It'll be wonderful as a martini or with soda water... And the mint bourbon will be for the holidays, We had herbs leftover (those that I didn't send home with my friends, I chopped up and froze in a little water to be used this winter) and more ideas than we had vodka for. We used a couple of great books as recipes and advice: Kitchen of Light by Andreas Viestad and Infused by Leigh Beisch. Making these concoctions was a wonderful way to spend a beautiful autumn day with friends at the farm...
The infusions infusing.