Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peach Melon Conserve

This is a jar of peach-melon conserve, our all time favorite condiment.  Although my recipe calls this a "conserve," it doesn't have the consistency of a jam, and we just call it "ice cream sauce." It is the perfect gift for any occasion and I'll give you a step by step tutorial on how to make it.

The melons we grow are not strictly a cantaloupe, but are a "Butterscotch" melon called "Serenade."  We buy the seeds from Johnny's Selected Seeds in Winslow, Maine.  Johnny's is an employee owned company and is a member of the Safe Seed Initiative.  As such they pledge to never knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered or modified seeds or plants.
Serenade is a smooth skinned melon with pale orange flesh.
Here's how:

In an 8 - 10 quart kettle, combine three cups chopped peaches with the chopped rind of one orange and two tablespoons of orange juice.  Use slightly under-ripe peaches for their higher pectin content.  Add three cups chopped melon and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.
 Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and bring again to a full rolling boil. Boil uncovered for ten minutes.
Note that I am wearing a thick rubber glove
to protect my hand from the heat given off
by the boiling fruit.

Add 1/2 t. ground nutmeg and 1/4 t. salt and boil another 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and quickly skim off any foam with a metal spoon.
Fill canning jars to within 1/2 inch of rim.

Use a clean damp cloth to clean the rim of the canning jar. 
Anything left on the rim could keep the jar from sealing during the canning process. 

Apply clean, brand new lids and tightly screw on the jar rings.

Use a jar lifter to place the jars into the basket of the water bath canner.
Process for ten minutes.
This recipe makes seven half pints of conserve.

Here we made a triple batch.  We filled twenty jars and processed three canner loads.  Nineteen of twenty jars sealed.  One did not and will need to be refrigerated until used. 
If you have never done water bath canning before, please refer to the "Ball Blue Book" guide to home canning and freezing.  Canning is not rocket science but neither is it foolproof. There is more to know than I can provide in this blog format so please don't risk spoilage or foodborne illness. 
You can also learn about water bath canning at

This recipe is also fantastic with traditional cantaloupe melon!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Best Raw Sauce

This is the month to enjoy fresh and easy pasta sauces! This one is a tad messy to make, but well worth the effort.  Make this sauce with fully ripe tomatoes and marinate for one to four hours at room temperature.  It is a wet but chunky sauce, best with angel hair or other thin pasta shapes.  The sauce here was made with big chunky paste tomatoes, but use whatever you have in the garden, or from the farmer's market.  If you do have to shop for your tomatoes, remember never to refrigerate them; their flavor vanishes in the cold.

Here's what you need to make the sauce:
3 - 4 Tbsp. olive oil
2 - 3 tsp. ume or balsamic vinegar
2 -3 lbs. ripe, fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
one small onion
one clove garlic
salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh basil for garnish
To peel and seed the tomatoes, parboil them for 45 seconds and then place them on a cutting board to cool.  (A cutting board with a trough for catching jiuces is really a necessity here.)
While the tomatoes are cooling, mince the onion and garlic and put them in a lovely ceramic dish with a cover that you have purchased from a local artisan.
Here's the fun part, especially if you were never allowed to get dirty or messy as a kid.  Locate yourself over or right next to your compost bucket.  Pick up a tomato and with a paring knife cut out the stem and green shoulder area.  You will find that the skin now slips off easily and can be discarded.

 Now cut the tomato into quarters, hold it over the compost bucket, and slide your finger down the length of the tomato to remove the seeds and liquid.  Return the tomato to the cutting board and chop into chunks.

Scoop up the chunks and add them to the lovely handmade dish.  Notice that most of the tomato liquid has been left behind, either in the compost bucket or on the cutting board.  (To minimize your mess, think this step through for the equipment you have available.)

Add oil and vinegar, salt and pepper.  Stir well to mix all ingredients.  Cover sauce and allow to marinate for one to four hours at room temperature.  This is a delicate sauce, so you will need more per pound of pasta than you would need of a thick, cooked down sauce.  About three cups per pound is fine.

This recipe adapted from Harrowsmith Country Life magazine.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dried Tomatoes

Sun dried tomatoes in just about anything are popular around here.  But let me tell you I am no fan of sun drying them.  Been there, tried that.  They do attract flies, and suffice it to say, the experience prompted us to purchase a food dehydrator.  It runs on electricity, and it takes up space, but it has earned its keep over the years.

In past years we have dried tomatoes to the point where they can be stored simply in a jar on a shelf.  But the texture of tomatoes at that stage of dryness is crispy, and not that appealing.  So we dry them to a state of chewiness, then pack them into the freezer.

The tomatoes we grow for drying are called "Principe Borgese." They are a small tomato, with a low water content and thick flesh.  We also grow two types of "cherry" tomatoes, and dry any extras of those we have on hand, once the dryer is going.  They turn out somewhat tougher, being mostly skin and seeds once the water is gone. 

The drying process is simple: cut the tomatoes in half, and line them up skin side down on the drier racks.  (If you put them on with the cut side down, they stick to the mesh and make it hard to clean up.)
Then they go into the dryer at the "fruit" setting, 135 degrees, for about two days.  We don't leave the dehydrator going overnight or when we leave home, so the timing varies.

The food dehydrator is a somewhat insulated box with a heating element and a fan to circulate the air. 
One convenient feature is that the door is attached magnetically, and comes right off for loading.

But, as I mentioned earlier, we bag up the dried tomatoes and put them in the freezer, so the degree of dryness is not really critical.  The ones you see here are still soft, but are dry enough that, when you go to use them, you can shake out just the amount you need. Their flavor is unbelievable!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Robbie Heidinger Lacto-fermentation Crocks

On a recent visit to to Western Massachusetts to visit friends, we stopped by the home and studio of ceramic artist Robbie Heidinger.  Kurt and Robbie are old friends and we wanted to pay a surprise visit to her open studio event.

As serendipity would have it, she was featuring a new collection of...would you believe... fermentation crocks.

Like everything Robbie creates, these are absolutely gorgeous.  As well as her mastery of handbuilding and glazing technique, she has an amazing eye for color, line and texture.

These crocks are unique in that the lid fits inside the crock, rather than resting on top.

Thus, when you fill the crock with vegetables and brine, the top will weigh down the veggies and keep them "underwater." This is a tad more elegant than the canning jar on a plate solution described in my posting of lacto-fermented pickles so if you budget allows, go for it!

You can visit Robbie's website at
                                                                                                                                                                    In the garden in Westhampton...  



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Freezing Peaches

Here at Full Circle Farm, we do have a half dozen peach trees of various sizes. But the squirrels generally carry off the lion's share of peaches way before they ripen. 

So for freezing we purchase seconds from High Hill Orchard in Meriden, Connecticut, a 20 pound case at a time. While not organic, these peaches are ecologically grown with a minimum of spray.

If you have adequate freezer space available, freezing is easier than canning, and yields an equally satisfying product.
To prepare your peaches you will need:
  • wide mouth pint can/freeze jars
  • sugar or preferred sweetener
  • ascorbic acid (vitamin C)
  • unbleached wax paper

Cut small sheets of wax paper and crumple them to roughly
the size and shape of the canning jar lid.
Peel your peaches and slice them into a large measuring cup.  When you get a full quart of peaches, pour them into a large bowl.
Since we often purchase "seconds," we take care to cut out any bad spots
as we peel and slice the peaches.
Now add one Tablespoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of ascorbic acid and mix well.  Let these ingredients sit in the bowl for awhile, so the sugar and vitamin C crystals dissolve into the peach juice.  Sitting for about the time it takes to slice the next quart of peaches is about right.  (Check to see that graininess has disappeared.)

Now fill your jar, leaving 1/2 - 5/8" for expansion, and tuck your wax paper neatly into the jar opening.  The idea is to keep the peaches from touching the air within the jar and turning brown, purely a cosmetic concern.  The peaches are not "bad" if some brown-ness happens.
Jar with wax paper filler on top.
Clean the top rim of the jar with a clean soft cloth; put on the lid and screw on the ring.  Unlike water bath canning, it is not critical to use brand new lids for this process.

If you look closely, you can see the wax paper smooshed into the top layer of the peaches.
Pop your jars into the freezer and enjoy your peaches all winter!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Freezing Corn

The corn we grow for freezing is "True Gold," an open pollinated variety. This means it is not a hybrid, and therefore we can save the seed from year to year, saving us the cost of new seed every year.  But more than that, it's about helping to maintain the seedstock so that our grandchildren (the hypothetical ones) will have open  pollinated corn available to them also.

True Gold an old fashioned corn that has not been genetically  manipulated for a higher sugar content.  Unlike hybrids such as "Kandy Corn," it doesn't taste like candy.  It tastes like corn.  We like it.                 

Here on stove tops and countertops you see the cast of characters in our process for freezing corn.  From left to right: paper grocery bag full of corn on the cob, tea kettle for for replenishing blanching water, large pan of water for blanching, bowls and boxes for stripping and packing the corn, and large compost bucket for cobs.

This is a special tool for stripping the corn off the cob,
Facing to the right in this photo is the blade. 
It's very sharp: this tool must be used and stored with care.

To begin the process, we boil water in the large pan. and blanch the corn, on the cob, four at a time for two minutes.  Then the ears are dropped into ice water to cool, and stripped into a large bowl.

As the kernels are cut from the cob, they drop through
the opening on the knife and into the bowl.

From here it is a simple matter to fill the boxes.  I use a small dieters' scale to keep the weight just under 16 ounces.  If the boxes get too full they will bulge once frozen, and no longer stack neatly in the freezer.
One and a half large grocery bags full of corn made 15 pounds of corn for the freezer.  When labeling and folding the boxes, we estimate one box for every four ears.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Freezer Tomato Sauce

When August arrives the tomatoes come in heavy.  So do the squash, eggplant, and peppers. Rather than canning tomatoes or tomato sauce, we make a ratatouille and freeze it in one quart containers.  We don't cook it down at this point, while the weather is hot.  In the winter when the wood cookstove is going, we thaw out two or three quarts of ratatouille, cook it down to the consistency of tomato sauce and use it on pasta or homemade pizza.

Also we don't add the garlic or other herbs to the mix before freezing, as freezing degrades their quality.

Here is the process we use.  We use whatever vegetables we need to process, rather than following an exact recipe.

First of all we parboil the tomatoes by cooking them
for 45 seconds in rapidly boiling water.

The skins become very loose in the parboiling process.  Once they are cool enough to handle, cut out the stem area and green "shoulders," and slip off the skins. 

Cut the tomato into quarters and hold over the compost bucket. With your thumb, push out the seeds and liquid.

Cut you tomato quarters into chunks and add them to a large saucepan or dutch oven. Start cooking your tomatoes down over medium heat,
stirring often to avoid scorching.

Adding shredded zucchini will help to thicken the sauce.

Add cubed eggplant, sliced summer squash, chopped onions and peppers.  Cook down till vegetables are heated through but still somewhat crunchy.
Now you have a great basis for ratatouille or marinara sauce.  Allow to cool and then pack into containers and freeze.  When winter comes, add minced garlic, dried oregano and basil, and cook down to the consistency you like for tomato sauce.  Make use of the cooking down energy to heat your home!