Friday, July 25, 2014

Pole Beans

Here you see four nice sturdy tepees for the beans to climb.  Having your beans up in the air on poles makes them easier to harvest and keeps them cleaner: there is no chance of garden soil splashing up on them.

When choosing your seeds, read the labels or seed catalog to be sure you have a climbing variety.  (To the left in the photo you can see the other type, called "bush beans.")

But even among the climbing varieties some are better climbers than others.

Leftmost in the photo are "Nor'easeter" beans, a large flat green bean. They've climbed two tepees, one obscuring the other with its exuberant growth.  To the right are two tepees with "Fortex" beans. These are a pencil thin green bean, more tender and tasty than the Nor'easters.  But they are reluctant to go up the poles, and sprawl on the ground, tendrils curling around each other, creating a dense mass. And for the second year in a row we seem to be losing the plants to Japanese Beetles.

So each year we plant more than we need, since crop failure is to be expected but cannot be predicted... rugged as these tepees are, we did have one blow right over in a hurricane one year.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pie Crust

This is a basic pie crust demonstration, to make a double crust pie or two single crust pies or tarts (8 - 10.") The recipe is adapted from Martha Stuart's classic Pies and Tarts. For this demonstration I'm making an herbed crust for savory tarts. For a dessert pie, leave out the herbs, and add 1 teaspoon sugar if you wish.

Before you begin, read through the recipe at least once. Then get out all of the ingredients and implements called for. One key to success in cooking is to have all of your ingredients on hand (by that I mean out and on the counter) before you begin a project. Nothing is more frustrating than starting a cooking project only to find out that the bottle of vanilla is empty, or the can of baking get the picture.
Here you go:

2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme and oregano (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (two sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
2 lightly buttered pie or tart pans
Place the dry ingredients, including the butter, in the food processor and pulse or process til the mixture has the texture of coarse meal. You could also use a pastry blender to combine the ingredients to the coarse meal stage.

Add the ice water drop by drop through the feed tube with the machine running, till the mixture just holds together. (No more than 30 seconds.)

Squeeze a bit of dough in your hand: if it doesn't stick together, add a bit more water by the same method.

Turn dough out onto a piece of (unbleached) wax paper and divide into two parts. Clump each part into a ball like you are packing a snowball. Then flatten it into a disc shape, each on its own piece of wax paper

Wrap each disc in wax paper, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

When dough is chilled, roll it out on a well floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 of an inch.

Fold dough in half to make it easier to place into the pie pan. Lift and move it with a metal spatula such as you would use to flip a burger.

(If you are making a two-crust pie and your two dough balls are not exactly the same size, use the larger one to line the pan, and the smaller one for the top.)

Unfold your dough and voila! a perfect pie crust! Tidy up the edges and crimp by hand to build up the sides in whatever pattern pleases you.

If you're not going to use the pie shell right away, wrap or bag and refrigerate for up to one day. For longer storage, wrap well and freeze.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Consider Celeriac

It's not the prettiest of vegetables.

Chances are good that if I asked you, you couldn't even name this chubby little root vegetable with all these tiny roots and root hairs abounding upon it.
(At least not before you read the title of this article.) 

But it's late January, and time to be ordering your seeds. So I am asking you to consider growing celeriac this year.  Also known as "celery root," celeriac is somehow related to celery, and has a very similar flavor.  One reason I grow celeriac instead of celery is that you can overwinter it just as you would carrots: buried in sand in the root cellar, or in the drawer of an extra refrigerator. 
And secondly, truth be told, any celery I have ever grown was too tough to be edible, and I love the flavor of celery in my soups.  

This little guy has been in a plastic bag in the spare fridge since late September.  See the little sprout coming out, he's ready to grow!  Sorry, dude, but you're headed for the soup pot. 

Celeriac at the Willi Food Co-op.
(Thank you, iPhone!)

If I'm going to convince you to grow some celeriac, I have to show you how easy and versatile it is to cook with.  So let's make some mushroom barley soup!  You can find some celery root at your local food co-op or grocery store.  At the latter venue it may be wrapped in saran wrap so that you don't know...dirty.

Before we begin to prepare the vegetables, set a kettle of water on to boil.  If you don't have a large kettle, put 3/4 cup barley, a bay leaf, and 3 quarts of water in a soup pot and place on high heat to begin cooking the barley.

Now, the celeriac you see on the cutting board in a prior photo has been trimmed of roots and leaves and sprayed blasted with the garden hose to remove as much soil as possible, but clearly, some soil still clings to the roots.  So, under running water, pare down the outer skin, removing all roots and any dark areas.

Now, set this little beauty aside and prepare your mushrooms.  I have here organic white button mushrooms from the Willimantic Food Co-op.  To wash mushrooms, run each one under tap, gently brushing away any dirt that you see.  Set on a comfy fabric towel to drain. 

The stem of the mushroom is usually quite tough; I like to slice the stem into little discs, then proceed to slice the caps.
Set these aside and chop one medium onion and three cloves of garlic.  Also chop the celariac.  Celariac has the consistency of a carrot, so it is harder to slice than, say, a mushroom.   Begin by cutting off the top and the bottom.  Then cut in half so you have a flat side to use as a base.  Now just cut into dice.

In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons butter or oil and saute the onions, garlic, and chopped celeriac.  I had some fresh cilantro on hand, so I threw that in as well. At this time I also add about one teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano. Add salt if you use it, and freshly ground black pepper. 
Toss in the mushrooms and cook and stir until the onions are golden and translucent.

Add to the barley and water in the stock pot and cook at a slow boil until the barley is soft, about 45 minutes to an hour. Enjoy!!
If you enjoy "Preserving the Harvest's" tips on growing, cooking, and preserving your own food in order to walk more gently on the planet... buzz on by the Patchwork Living Blogging Bee and find other blogs that will help you move towards the personal independence gained by achieving a more frugal and sustainable lifestyle!!