Spring Garden 2011: A Time to Reap

The spring/summer of 2011 garden's "Ultimate Form"

September has brought with it cooler days and cooler nights and that has slowed down the garden as well. We haven’t harvested a zucchini or tomato in weeks and the beans and cucumbers have begun to wither on their own. It is getting late in the season anyway and D is excited to put the fall/winter garden.  So, today we did a complete once over of the garden harvesting everything we found and then pulled it all out. The harvest turned out to be mostly green tomatoes; Diana has never had any before and I figure now is the perfect time to introduce them to her (fried, of course).

Half way there... Hey, stop staring at my wife!

In addition to tearing out the garden I turned over the soil,   “harvested” all the compost that was made this year (about a bucket and a half), and cleared out 1/3 of the vermiculture composter. The compost and worm castings and compost were then worked into the garden plot and everything was lightly watered. We’re going to let it lie for a week, or so, and then plant the winter garden. Much like last year we are going to plant a lot of greens (chard, spinach, kale, arugula, celery, etc.) I only hope that this year isn’t as wet as the last…

Soil enriched, turned and watered. I'll probably manure it too before we plant the winter garden.

Last fruits. All those reds tomatoes were completely hidden. That is what I get for growing monstrous tomato plants...

...and just a little more

Lastly, we found a couple of these enormous caterpillars while tearing everything out. These guys were as long and thick as my index finger! Anyone recognize it?

Is this a Caterpie or a Weedle?

 

Homemade Enchiladas

If only my crap camera and skills did this meal justice!

Everyone loves enchiladas, or they should. My mom makes hers from scratch using a recipe from my dad’s side of the family. My dad comes from the Gila Valley in Arizona; they’ve been there for generations. I’ve asked my Grandma as well as Great Aunts and Uncles where this recipe comes from but no one seems to know. It’s always been around; in pretty much the same form though various branches of the family have tweaked it here or there. These enchiladas are my favorite meal of all time. Growing up we had them about once a month and whenever I visit home mom will usually make them as she knows I love them.

I know how to make these enchiladas. I have the recipe and have done so before. The problem is one of storage. The recipe for the sauce that has come down to us is not small, it makes over a quart of the stuff! If I had a family of four or five that wouldn’t be an issue but, there are only the two of us here. Freezing the sauce does something to it that changes its texture and I don’t have a canner (yet). So, most of the time we go without.

My mom is now canning the sauce!

I went home over last weekend for a good friend’s wedding and while there my mom handed me the can above and asked, “how many pints of this can you carry back with you?” My first response was, “As much as I can fit into this suitcase! I will mail my personal effects home!” She wasn’t buying that line, though… So we settled on four pints of the canned enchilada sauce. I had to check my bags (damned TSA) but eating enchiladas tonight was completely worth it.

The sauce with cooked ground beef added. You can't can it with the meat

Don't forget to accessorize!

rolling your enchiladas is for the feeble minded. You've got to layer them

I don’t know if this is breaking some family tradition or not… But, I can’t share with you how great this meal tastes and then not give you the opportunity to experience it yourself! So I’m including the recipe below! I warn you it makes a lot and is skimpy on the details, but then aren’t all things that are passed down from generation to generation?

Howard Family Enchilada Sauce

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 46 oz can of tomato juice
  • 46 oz of water
  • 1 can El Pato sauce
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 soup spoonful of sugar
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • cumin
  • oregano
  • chili powder
  • salt and pepper

You make a thick roux from the flour and shortening and then brown it (it is easier to thin the sauce than it is to thicken it so you want to error on the thick side here) once the rue has browned you add in the other ingredients, stirring constantly. Once all the ingredients are incorporated you may season the sauce. After seasoning throw in the already cooked beef. Raise the sauce to a boil and then let simmer for at least an hour.

To prepare enchiladas: soften corn tortillas in hot oil, a quick dip in and then out will be sufficient. Blot them if you want to cut down on oil. Layer the tortillas, sauce, cheese, and diced onions (three or four layers is sufficient). Top with lettuce. Be as generous or as stingy as you want with the sauce during layering. I’ve had it both ways and both are good. I usually run generous, though.

 

I Made Zucchini Bread or Cake

Not delicious yet...

I can only eat grilled, boiled, or fried zucchini so much before I just want to rip the plants out of the garden and throw them on the compost heap. Thankfully, those aren’t the only ways to prepare zucchini; you can also put the vegetable into baked goods such as cakes and breads. In fact, I’d say you can put zucchini in to just about anything the vegetable is mostly water and has little to no flavor of its own so it makes excellent filler. This morning while I was poking around in the fridge for breakfast I noticed one of our zucchinis was getting soft and failing to find anything to eat I decided I could use said limp zucchini to make bread. I dug out my mom’s recipe for the stuff and went to work! This is a really simple recipe so I’m just going to include it here at the top of the post instead of the bottom. (Unlike other cooking blogs that make you scroll through dozens of pictures of the dogs and kids and endless text that gets you no closer to the recipe you’re actually looking for.) Continue reading

My First Pickling

I'm going to call them gourmet pickled cucumbers

I don’t know what it is about hot weather that makes me think about pickles. Maybe it’s all the barbequing or the desire for food that doesn’t have to be cooked over the food or the need for a chilled snack? Maybe all of these. Whatever it is when the temperature starts climbing into the high 80s, low 90s my mind turns to pickles. The local food co-op sells these locally made New York deli pickles that are wonderful and I’ve been hitting them all summer to satisfy my craving… Until a few weeks back when I decided that I should make my own pickles. The internet is full of recipes, easy ones, an pickling by itself is not difficult at all. Also, pickling cucumbers had just started showing up on grocery shelves. I mentioned this to D and last weekend she came back from the store with two pounds of pickling cucumbers and a bag full of spices. She even found a recipe that looked promising…

So, I made some pickles!

First, you need to find some pickles these are kirbys

half or quarter them...

Cram them vertically into a sanitized jar of some sort

Add your spice/pickling mix

Get your brine boiling

Pour the boiling brine into the jar with the cucumbers

Seal the jar, let it cool until it’s room temperature and then throw into the fridge for 24 hours.

This is the part where you eat them!

It's generally at this point I wish I had a better camera and some photography skills...

Thanks to Punk Domestics for providing the recipe it worked perfectly! I did change it by omitting the garlic, onions, and dill (in the future I’ll put those back in.) Though, in the future I think I will use white vinegar instead of apple cider which is a little too strong for my tastes…