Saturday, September 25, 2010

Planting Garlic

I took advantage of the warm (77!), sunny day and planted my garlic. Since it's supposed to be a cold winter, and the rest of September seemed like October, it was probably a good time to plant.

While researching garlic bulb spacing, I ran across this site by Colorado State University which shows a study on bulb spacing and irrigation. They say that six-inch bulb spacing is the way to go, rather than the three-to-four inch spacing that I've been using. While I've been getting okay bulbs, I'd prefer larger ones.

So I spaced the bulbs six inches apart in "rows" eight inches apart across my four-foot beds. I had Thing 2 help set the bulbs, only having to rescue a few that were upside-down.

I spent a good portion of the day weeding out one of the herb beds and cleaning up around the front of the house. Mr. E trimmed a tree and sheared the hedges, so our house looks a little more cared-for. He also cut me some muchly needed kindling. Tomorrow is supposed to be cool and wet, and I think a fire in the wood stove would be nice.

Thing 2 and I looked to see if the squirrels left us any filberts from our tree. Usually there are quite a few left on the ground for us. This year, however, I couldn't find a single one. Not one! It makes me wonder if this is a sign of the kind of winter we're going to be having....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

First Day of Fall

The first day of fall 2010 finds me in the kitchen. It's a dreary day, drizzle with a high of only 55 degrees here. I had to turn the heat on, or face a very grumpy Thing 2. Even with the heat on, he's cold. "Put a sweatshirt on," I say, and hear a grumble in response. I wish we could have at least had a warm fall to make up for our lackluster summer.

I'm in the process of preserving as much as possible right now. I have about 60 pounds of apples to deal with at the moment. I haven't even had the time to weigh them all, and so have only been doing it as I use them.

Today I dried about eight pounds of apples. Eight pounds fills my dehydrator trays, which in turn fill one one-gallon ziploc bag once dry. I dried another eight pounds a couple of days ago, and will do another two or more batches this week. Thing 2 loves to have them in oatmeal, and prefers eating dried apples to fresh.

I peel, core and slice them on my contraption that's used for such purposes. It takes under an hour to fill the trays, and another six hours before they're dry. Then, into a ziploc they go, as much air squeezed out as possible, and they stay in pretty good shape for months in the pantry.

I was going to order Clear Jel from Amazon, but they were sold out already, and I have no clue where to find it around here. I wish I had some to can apple pie filling. If anyone in the Seattle area knows of a place that carries it, let me know! I'm thinking applesauce this weekend at any rate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pantry Shelves

The problem with canning my own produce is that I wind up with a lot of it. I want that strawberry jam to last a year, so I put up several half-pint jars. And then there's chutneys, apple butter, apple pear butter, pickle relish, and mint jelly. And also many quarts of applesauce, peaches and pears. By September and October, by pantry is getting nice and full. The shelves are all loaded with summer's bounty.

Yesterday, while in the kitchen, I heard a strange popping sound. Just one loud "pop" followed by another several hours later. I couldn't figure out where it was coming from. At one point I looked at our wall-mounted pantry shelves, and although they didn't look quite right, I couldn't see anything really wrong with them. I did think "I really need to re-adjust the shelves and get nicer brackets." I guess the pantry agreed with me.

While I was picking up Thing 1 from soccer last evening, the whole set of shelves ripped itself from the wall anchors and crashed to the floor.

Amazingly, only one jar of mint jelly broke. But you can imagine the state of my kitchen right now, as I have all the stuff from over 50 square feet of shelving strewn about the kitchen and dining room. I guess I really did need to clean it out. I just wasn't planning on doing it RIGHT NOW.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Palm Zipper

I picked up the Palm Zipper by Chef'n in a kitchen store in Ashland, Oregon this summer. Thing 1 just got his braces on, and would not be able to eat corn on the cob for the next two years. (What? No sweet corn? Inconceivable!) And after he's done with braces, Thing 2 will be in the same boat.

I've tried using various methods to get corn off the cob so I could freeze it. I've used the corn cutter that looks like a giant bobby pin with a circle of steel in the middle of it - the cobs never really fit correctly, especially the really fat ones. I've tried cutting it off the cob with a knife, which results in lots of half-kernals, kernals with the tops sliced off, etc. Not to mention the fact that I always feel like one of my fingers is in danger of getting sliced. I needed something better.

So last night I tried the Palm Zipper for the first time (yeah, the corn is that late this year). Woo-hoo! I love it! The thing is wicked sharp. It slices through the corn like a hot knife through butter. Given my history with sharp objects, I didn't hold the ear in the palm of my hand, but set one end on a plate, and held it upright with a corn holder on the other end. Zip zip zip. It only takes off two rows at a time, and could maybe be a little bit deeper, but full kernals came right off the cob with very little waste. I also like the fact that it's nice and small - no big mandolin-style set-up. It's a keeper in my book.