Preserved Food – Mixed Greens Blog Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest Thu, 17 Nov 2016 02:01:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Umami at the Winter Farmers Market Mon, 20 Jan 2014 01:00:14 +0000 umeboshi plums

In the middle of January, it amazes me that we still have a farmers market on Saturdays in the University District. I go every chance I get but I’ll have to admit that I’ve started looking for something different to mix things up and add a little umami deliciousness to our table. If you’re feeling that way too — grateful that we have local fresh food but slightly tired of the same old, same old, my suggestion is to high tail it over to Mair Farm Taki’s market table to check out their latest offerings. For starters, where else can you get 7 different varieties of winter squash — cut and whole?

Winter squasj    winter squash

winter squash   Winter squash

I bought some Sunshine (squash) but I know what you’re thinking — even with 7 different choices, it’s going to take more than a new variety of winter squash to get me excited. Winter squash with the addition of one magical ingredient I found there — homemade umeboshi plums, pickled with shiso, no less, was exactly the new taste I was looking for. They’re on the pricey side but a little goes a long way and I know of no other place in Seattle where you can find them home grown and homemade. Complex, tangy, salty all at the same time and now I’m in umami heaven. I’ve started chopping them up and adding them to practically everything I eat.

Squash and Tofu with Umeboshi Plums

I can’t even imagine Melissa Clark’s Sweet-and Spicy Tofu and Squash without chopped umeboshi plums.

Roasted Squash and Tofu with Umeboshi Plums

Ingredients: 1 package extra-firm tofu/ 1 small or 1/2 large winter squash, seeded and cut into 1/2″ thick half moons – I peeled mine but you don’t have to/ 1 1/2 T soy sauce/ 1/2 t sriracha or other hot sauce/ 1/4 cup oil – I used olive oil but peanut was recommended/ 1 T honey (optional) /2 or 3 chopped umeboshi plums/ 1T toasted sesame seeds/ Salt & pepper.

Directions: Weigh tofu down – I use a couple of wooden cutting boards on top and let it drain for a while/ Heat oven to 425/ In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sriracha, olive oil and honey, if you’re using it/ Remove 3 tablespoons of the mixture and save for the tofu/ Spread squash on large baking sheet and pour mixture over it/ Sprinkle with salt & pepper and toss well/ Roast for about 20 minutes until bottoms are golden brown/ Flip over and roast the other side for about 10 minutes/ Transfer squash to a large bowl/ Adjust oven heat to broil/ Toss tofu with marinade and broil for about 4 minutes each side, until golden and crispy around the edges/ Toss tofu with squash, sesame seeds, umeboshi plums, any leftover marinade or additional soy sauce.

This is a relatively easy vegetarian recipe that can serve as a main dish, especially on a bed of rice and with greens on the side. And speaking of easy, the same roasted beets you’ve been making all year take on a whole new complexity with the addition of chopped umeboshi plums and some rice vinegar. Not my original idea but thanks to the lovely ladies at Canal House, I’ve discovered my favorite beets — ever, especially nice with the golden beets from Nash’s Organic Farm.

Beets with Umeboshi Plums

When I spoke to the vendor at Mair Farm, who I assume is Mr. Taki, about how he eats these delicious plums, he said to chop them up and serve on rice with a little vinegar. Basically the same recipe as the beets. I’ve seen photos of Japanese rice balls that have a whole plum in the center, same idea but with a hidden treasure.

Rice with Umeboshi Plums

Now that I’m an umeboshi-lover I decided to add it to other savory ingredients to make a umami dressing. It’s delicious on rice, fish, spinach and other greens, you name it.

Umami Dressing

Ingredients: 2T white miso/ 1T tahini/ 3T rice vinegar/ 2 chopped umeboshi plums/ 1 T lime juice/ 1T lemon juice/ 2 t finely chopped ginger.

Directions: Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and thick.

Umami Salad Dressing

If you look hard enough, there are all kinds of interesting local ingredients to experiment with, even in the dead of winter. Next on my list, another umami favorite– dried mushrooms.


Tomato Love Gone Bad Mon, 07 Oct 2013 00:00:48 +0000 I love tomatoes. I wish I could eat them three times a day, 365 days a year.  Thankfully, I cannot – there ‘s usually a price to pay for such indulgence. And it’s more than that.


As the northern hemisphere moves into dark tomato-less months, eating fresh tomatoes becomes a dilemma. This is a Mixed Greens repost from 2009 focusing on the true cost of winter tomatoes.

I read this article and was reminded of our expectation that we’ll have what we want to eat whenever we want it whatever the cost.  Seasonal? Say what? Yes I love tomatoes, but not more than people. Read this: Politics of the Plate:  The Price of Tomatoes.

My grandmother’s garden in eastern Washington was a haven for a tomato lover. I was small and everything in her garden was big.  Tomato plants loomed as I stood eye-to-eye with many a crimson fruit, my grandmother nearby with a saltshaker in her apron pocket and a paring knife.  Always the apron, the salt and a knife.  She’d pick a few, hand my brother and me each one – we’d lick a spot on the tomato, sprinkle with a dab of salt, take a bite and slurp into the warm deliciousness of a vine-ripened tomato. And then another. Experiences indelibly imbued with an understanding of her love for us and for gardening, her flowers, vegetables, fruit, trees – all things growing.

Late in the season she canned quart jars of tomatoes that carried all of us through winter. I must have been a teenager when I started helping her with that and continued nearly every summer until she died at the age of one hundred. In my twenties I had my doubts, but wanted to make her happy. What’s up, we can buy these at the store nowadays, I probably thought. Through her nineties she was still game; we preserved her tomatoes and peaches as always. Even then she remained in charge of the canning ritual. Seriously. Impassioned gardener and cook she was – and more.

So eventually I was on my own with this and faced a decision:  how serious was I about canning tomatoes?  Not many in my generation preserved anything at all.  But there was never a real debate – by then it was embedded in my genetic culinary code.

I now have my own versions of tomato preservation. I usually can a few jars, make roasted tomato sauce and freeze it, and dry cherry tomatoes. When in a hurry we cut tomatoes into large chunks, put into zip lock bags and into the freezer. Those tomatoes are at the base of this tomato soup.


In western Washington now, we manage to grow an abundant crop of tomatoes each year in the backyard.  We eat plenty during the summer months, but there are always too many, and in late August and September the preserving begins. Green tomatoes in October end up on a windowsill, maybe they’ll ripen, or become the base for green tomato chutney.

All of this meandering to remind both myself, who is longing for a good fresh tomato, and readers that there are other possibilities for this fruit in winter that don’t require the tasteless off-season variety. And fresh, local, seasonal tomatoes will come around again next summer in all their delicious glory – I’m thinking about 250+ days from now, but who’s counting. Tomato soup using what’s been preserved fits for fall and winter.

tomato-soup-2 tomato-soup-3

A Tomato Soup Recipe

Start with a quart of sauce – already reduced and intensified in flavor; or a couple of quarts,  28 oz. cans from the store; or whole uncooked frozen tomatoes tossed willy-nilly into the freezer in a September rush.

Finely chop half a medium onion and sauté slowly in butter and olive oil (with some bulb fennel finely chopped if you happen to have it); add a couple of minced cloves of garlic (and a finely minced jalapeno if you fancy); cook until onions and garlic are soft and translucent; add fresh thyme or rosemary (a tiny amount) which are in many gardens now, a pinch of dried oregano, basil or dill; curry or cumin would be fine. This wintry soup is open-minded about flavorings. However . . . I remind myself to be cautious. Personally, I want the tomato to prevail. If you feel that way too, go lightly with whatever herbs you choose.

Add the tomatoes, stir together with water or stock to create a desirable consistency, 2 – 4 cups of liquid, or more, depending on preference for thick or thin, an intense or less intense tomato flavor.  (Milk or cream may also be added later on.) Parmesan rind sitting in the fridge? Add it to the mix and remove before blending. Simmer together for fifteen minutes or so – longer to reduce liquid from canned tomatoes.  Allow the soup to cool slightly and using a blending apparatus of your choice blend to a desired consistency. I like some texture, therefore I blend just enough to break up the biggest chunks of tomato into small bits, but you could go all the way to smooth and silky. Return blended soup to the pan, reheat and add a little milk or cream (or not), a dab of sour cream if you choose, croutons or cheesy crackers.

In the meantime you’ve made a grilled cheese sandwich on the side. Right?

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Roasted Tomato Sauce, A Walk in the Park Mon, 02 Sep 2013 00:00:16 +0000  tomatoes-on-the-vine-2 tomatoes-on-the-vine-1

In the day or two before leaving on vacation I’m running around like crazy, and really, I wouldn’t mind a walk in the park. I’ll be in *Desolation Sound, maybe kayaking, maybe swimming or tide pooling as this post is published, but in the meantime I have all these tomatoes on the vine that need attention and a post to write before leaving at the crack of dawn tomorrow.

tomatoes-on-the-vine-4 tomatoes-on-the-vine-3

I had a couple of those pull your hair out moments when you wonder if putting the vacation together is even worth it. (Oh, it so is.) A pile of tasks and I wanted to create an efficient – aka, get it done in a hurry – post that could be published in my absence, something that would be worthwhile, but take just a minute to write. Voilà. Roasted tomato sauce, since the sauce-making itself also meets the ‘get it done in a hurry’ criteria. I tripped upon this method and it may be the best sauce yet, both for its lusciousness and ease.

Tomatoes continue to flourish in the heat of late summer, and I don’t want to waste a single one. Pressed for time, I roasted a pile of tomatoes a few weeks ago, put them in empty yogurt containers and then the freezer. Quick and easy.  Next time I roasted tomatoes I wondered what I’d get if I pureed them with an immersion blender after roasting. Seeds and skin almost disappeared, and tomatoes were transformed into a smooth silky sauce with the richness of roasting at its heart. Just unbelievably delicious, this is about as easy as it gets if you want to preserve tomatoes as sauce.

This is a reposting of one of our Top Twenty seasonal recipes; the vacation too, from the past, but also worth repeating.

If you don’t have them in the backyard, buy a bunch of tomato ‘seconds’ at the farmers market.


Late Summer’s Roasted Tomato Sauce Recipe

Fresh tomatoes, amount is variable, but not more than a single layer on the baking sheet, any color, slightly under- or over-ripe are OK too.

roasted-tomato-sauce-1 roasted-tomato-sauce-3 roasted-tomato-sauce-4 roasted-tomato-sauce-5

Ingredients: Cut tomatoes into large bite-sized chunks/ 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, chopped/ Olive oil, salt & pepper to taste/ Parchment paper to cover the baking sheet.

Juiciness develops during roasting so use a shallow pan with an edge.

Directions: Place tomatoes on parchment-lined shallow baking pan, sprinkle liberally with olive oil and chopped garlic, salt & pepper/ Roast at 425º for 30-40 minutes – tomatoes should begin to char, liquid reduce/ Remove from oven, and after a few minutes, carefully gather short edges of parchment (creating a sort of funnel), and pour tomatoes and all drippings into a large bowl.

Cool a bit and process in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth or to desired consistency/ It will be thick and gorgeous – liquid can be added later to thin sauce as needed/ Freeze, can, or use immediately. I roasted two batches, two baking pans full, which yielded a little more than 2 quarts of sauce that’s imbued with the flavors of garlic and olive oil, salt & pepper.

There’s just a hint of seed and skin in the background. See what you think. Run it through a sieve before freezing to eliminate all of that. I happen to like it and think the pureed seeds and skin are healthy background noise. * 8/2015 update: Run blended roasted tomatoes through a fine sieve as a final step. Takes just a few minutes and eliminates hundreds of seeds.

I added a 1/2 cup of milk to a cup of this sauce the other day, reheated it and had the most amazing bowl of tomato soup. I thought I’d died and gone to, well, Desolation Sound. How sweet it is.  From this base there’s pizza sauce, marinara, soup, pasta dishes every which way . . . Freeze in quart containers or process in canning jars and put them in the pantry.

Enjoy the waning days of summer – it will be autumn soon.


*Desolation Sound – if this is desolation then bring it on! Captain Vancouver, possibly manic depressive goes the story, was in a deep depression when he ‘discovered’ and named the Sound. On the coastline of British Columbia, about 210 miles north of Seattle, and maybe 100 miles north of Vancouver, B.C., it’s spectacular, somewhat isolated, certainly not desolate. We’re grateful to be here.

Oyster in the wild  Kayaking Desolation Sound  Mink, 2012  7359


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Spring Flings From the Garden: Rhubarb & Rosemary, Sorrel & Chives Sun, 22 Apr 2012 23:27:04 +0000 Fresh young mounds of sorrel and rhubarb beckon from the backyard, all dewy and green. While winter veggies are on the wane, they are garden sirens. For god’s sake, we’re at our prime, have your way with us!

Rhubarb’s easy. I grew up loving its sauce and pie, and there was a brief moment in time when I could actually crawl beneath its large wrinkly leaves and hide. Just me and the bugs.  While we claim its stalks for weeks on end and do absolutely nothing  to enhance its health, for some reason our 20+ year-old rhubarb plant is magnificent every year. We worship that plant for its culinary value and maybe that’s enough, our emotional support.

Sorrel in salad with a dressing that suits it perfectly, and a sauce that’s excellent with salmon are my go-to sorrel recipes. I add it to soup willy-nilly, but sometimes slow down and make a lovely Green Goddess Soup with it. The creamy chive salad dressing created by Gourmet specifically for sorrel is delicious. Recipe below.

Both distinctive and beautiful in the garden, the leaves of rhubarb and sorrel are unique in form but they have oxalic acid in common. Oxalic acid can be a healthy tonic to a point and is found in many greens, but the leaves of rhubarb contain enough to be seriously toxic. Don’t eat them! Their ruby red stalks are a different story. And the leaves of sorrel can definitely be eaten, though you wouldn’t want to eat bowls of it on a daily basis.

Rhubarb crisp – family favorite – will be on the table tonight along with a salad of sorrel and spring greens. Both rhubarb and sorrel have other worthy incarnations, some of which have been posted here in years past. Rhubarb Recipe Reunion, Rhubarb Crisp, Green Goddess Soup, So-Sorrely, Rhubarb Cocktails Rule.

Here are two recipes from the archives of Gourmet, Rhubarb Rosemary *Jelly that’s a delicious alternative to mint jelly for accompanying meat or with soft cheese and crackers; and a creamy chive salad dressing especially for sorrel. Seasonal ingredients for both are currently available in backyard veggie gardens and farmer’s markets.

Rhubarb Rosemary Jelly Recipe


Equipment: 3 or 4 sterilized ½ pint jars, lids and seals. Or, store jelly in unsealed jars and consume within a couple of weeks.

Ingredients: 1 pound (3 C) trimmed rhubarb/ 1 ¾ C water/ 3 ¼ C sugar ( I used 2 ½ C)/ 1/3 C white-wine vinegar/ 3 T chopped fresh rosemary/ 2, ¼ ounce envelopes of unflavored gelatin.

*Note: With all due respect to Gourmet, now that I’ve made this and tried an alternative, I would recommend omitting the gelatin altogether. The end product is more like a soft jam or jelly and less like jello. More appealing in my opinion.

 Made w/o gelatin.

So, you could proceed without the gelatin: follow directions below, but after rhubarb mixture has simmered strain it through the sieve  without having added gelatin, and then simmer that strained liquid for another few minutes, until it’s reduced by about half. Instead of discarding the cooked rhubarb, combine it with some of the thickened syrup. *There will probably be extra syrup. Transformed from a jelly to more of a chutney, it’s delicious and not at all like jello. I’m just saying. Pour it into a jar or two, refrigerate, and consume within three weeks. Perfect with meat, cheese, and all by itself for dessert.

Or, proceed the Gourmet way and use the gelatin.

Directions: Cut rhubarb crosswise into ½ in slices to measure 3 cups/ Place cut rhubarb, sugar, vinegar and rosemary in a saucepan, bring to a boil uncovered and simmer 15 minutes/ In the meantime, sprinkle gelatin over ¼ C water and let soften/ Prepare a large bowl with sieve for straining cooked sauce/ Place jars, lids and seals in a pan of simmering water and sterilize until jelly is ready.

When rhubarb has cooked and softened, remove from heat, add the gelatin mix, stir in and then pour the mixture through a fine sieve into large bowl/ Press on solids to extract every little bit of juice, skim off any foam that accumulates in the bowl/ While still piping hot, pour rhubarb jelly into containers, wipe rims with a clean, damp cloth, place seal and lid on each and tighten/ These should seal and will keep in the fridge for 2 months, unsealed 2 – 3 weeks/ Either way, they should be kept chilled, but serve at room temperature.

Gourmet, April 1999  Made w/gelatin.

*The other benefit to making the rhubarb rosemary compote instead of jelly is that there is extra syrup, which, when mixed with tonic and a little gin, or not, is an irresistible pink drink.


Creamy Chive Salad Dressing Recipe


Combine 6 – 8 cups of fresh salad greens of any kind, including 3 or 4 cups of sorrel. Enough for 2 large or 4 smaller servings.

Ingredients: 1/4 C whole-milk yogurt/ 1 T olive oil, lemon juice, minced shallot, finely chopped chives/ 1 t sugar, 1/2 t Dijon mustard, 1/4 t salt/ Combine and whisk together. I mix the dressing right in the salad bowl and then add greens and toss just before serving.

Directions: Combine a bowl full of salad greens and sorrel torn into bite-sized pieces, a healthy handful of parsley and 2 tablespoons of fresh tarragon coarsely chopped. Mix thoroughly, toss with all or some of the dressing according to taste. Serve immediately with plenty of freshly ground pepper.

 Gourmet, May 2003


While crinkly rhubarb leaves are in full glory, there are pear, apple and cherry blossoms, lilacs ready to burst forth. Hello Spring!


Last ditch plunder from the garden . . . pesto Mon, 10 Oct 2011 01:00:25 +0000 Miraculous, since basil hates cool weather, that it hasn’t turned funky this past week. The opportune moment to preserve it might have been two or three weeks ago, but now will work. Turning our relatively small patch of basil into pesto will take about an hour and provide delicious flavor to dishes all winter long, with spaghetti, pizza, in sauces, soup, salad dressing, smeared on to crackers or crostini.

These days pesto is made with a variety of greens, like parsley, spinach, kale, peas, though the classic version is with basil. Pesto is a generic Italian term for pounding, originally with a mortar and pestle – still such a satisfying tool. Garlic and pine nuts were pounded into a creamy texture and then salt and basil added, then Parmigiano-Reggiano and enough olive oil to make a smooth consistency. Perfect for embellishing a steaming bowl of pasta. Pesto is still made with these same basic ingredients, though often in a food processor, and we’ve made almost any nut an option as well as a variety of substitutes for the basil. I found a recipe for Basil Cream the other day in the Tassajara Cookbook which is pesto-like and made with cashews. NUM.

I’m thinking that if I have basil in my garden this week, so do some local farmers. It’s not too late to make pesto. Be a squirrel and store some for winter, or don’t store it. Make any of these pestos in just a few minutes and use right away to renew the appeal of anything grilled or steamed, a bowl of pasta, bread or crackers. Store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze any extra.

A Classic Basil Pesto Recipe

Ingredients: 5 – 6 cups basil leaves/ 1/3 C pine nuts, 1/3 C walnuts or 2/3 C of one or the other/ 7 cloves of garlic, less if you prefer/ 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese/ 1 1/4 cup olive oil/ 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper.

Directions: Place nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in blender and process/ Add basil and while processing slowly add olive oil/ Add cheese and process until smooth. That’s it.

Pour into small containers, label and freeze. Or pour into ice cube trays, freeze, then remove and place frozen cubes in a larger container. Return to freezer and use one or several cubes as needed.

If you’re up for the mortar and pestle version, follow the anecdotal directions above. Then, if you can still lift an arm, pat yourself on the back.

Frozen cubes of basil pesto.

Two more pesto-like spreads from the Tassajara Cookbook:

Basil, Walnut, and Sun-Dried Tomato Spread Recipe

1 cup each basil, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, and olive oil. 3 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon each dried oregano and dill, and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Rehydrate the sun-dried tomatoes before processing if necessary. Process until smooth.  Delicious on grilled vegetables, baked potato or crostini.

Basil Cream Recipe

1 cup cashews to 9 or 10 cups fresh basil, 1/4 C lemon juice, 1 tablespoon miso, some olive oil, pepper, 4 – 5 fresh spinach leaves. Grind cashews, add remaining ingredients and enough olive oil to make a creamy consistency. Tassajara Cookbook recommends this in place of mayo on sandwiches, with grilled vegetables or tofu, and pasta.


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Peachy Mornings on the Horizon Thu, 10 Sep 2009 08:07:51 +0000

. . . thanks to Billy.


In the pouring rain we dashed in and out of our farmers market the other morning with solid intention to buy only what we needed for dill pickle making – cukes, garlic and fresh dill. We accomplished that, plus some cauliflower, at Whistling Train Farm where Shelley had it all. So we had our hands full, literally: 20 pounds of cucumbers plus a few accessory products and an afternoon of pickle making before us.


Things went awry, in the nicest way, when Bob ambled over to say hello to Billy, a Tonasket farmer and beloved Market vendor. Urban farmer Bob, and our garden, benefit from occasional chats with Billy, and Billy’s curious about how Seattle’s tomato-growers are faring each summer. He brings farming advice, along with tomatoes, peppers, basil and peaches, to Farmers Markets here every weekend. We Seattleites are his fans, lining up for tomatoes and peppers – his culinary autograph.

Hello and a bagful of sweet peppers lead to a box of peaches given by Billy, for my birthday he said. It just so happens that it’s barely past my birthday season – good call Billy. So, with 20 pounds of cukes plus a big box full of ripe peaches, plans changed. First the dills and then peach preserves.

He suggested canning this particular variety, and I must say he pulled my heartstrings there. My grandmother – I know that I mention her frequently, she was an awesome presence in my life – canned peaches every summer right about now and I often helped out. We ate them all winter long. Sometimes just a bowlful, sometimes with cottage cheese, sometimes in a little peachy tart which she would make in a minute. I swear. But truthfully, except for sentimental reasons, I’m just not that into canning peaches.

Peach jam, however, is another matter. peach-jam-2 I’m a coffee, toast & jam aficionado. It’s my morning fling, my kick-start, my moment of zen. Or just another bad habit. Haven’t made peach jam in a while (ever?), but I knew I wanted plain and simple, just the peaches and the inevitable sugar. Fresh or candied ginger or orange can be a delectable addition. Another time perhaps.

I was surprised that it wasn’t so easy to find a plain peach jam recipe, even in our trusty putting food by-type cookbooks. Nothing at all in Joy of Cooking. I resorted to what my mom and grandma used to do, which was to use the recipe inside the pectin package as a guide. Except that, but of course, I ignored their dire warnings about following the recipe exactly, crossed my fingers and forged ahead using a lot less sugar than suggested.

Two batches, two versions, both reviewed below. The batch using pectin thickened beautifully even with about half the sugar suggested; second batch without any pectin at all thickened, it’s acceptable, and a little runny. The trick to some success with each version, I think, was that I cooked it vigorously for fifteen minutes, allowing it to reduce and thicken naturally. This is definitely a traditional cooked jam.

Peach Jam, Version #1 (w/pectin)

9 C sliced peaches

6 C sugar (rather than 11 cups!)

6 T lemon juice

2 pkg. regular pectin

Stir ingredients together in a pot, turn the heat on high and bring to a rolling boil/ Adjust heat accordingly, stir often and maintain a steady boil for another 15 – 20 minutes/ Mixture will reduce and gradually thicken/ It can be tested on an icy cold dish (placed in freezer 30 minutes previously); drip some of the liquid on to the frosty dish and in a few moments the jam will cool to about its final consistency/ Smash peaches into smaller bits with a potato masher if desired/ Place boiling hot jam into sterilized jars, screw on sterilized seals and lids. Some sources say this enough. If jam mixture and jars are hot they will automatically seal and preserve.

Or, process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. (Consult a reliable source for more detail on these procedures.) Or, just put it in a jar, store it in the fridge and eat it up. It will be fine for about a month. Small batch jam is a great way to make a quick jar or two without much fuss – adjust ingredient amounts accordingly.

Honestly, if you’re at all hesitant about the whole jam making thing, consider making a small batch. It requires about half an hour, and will yield a few cups of fresh jam that can be stored in the fridge, slathered on toast or drizzled over ice cream. Worth it.


Peach Jam, Version #2 (w/o pectin)

6 C sliced peaches

3 C sugar

3 T lemon juice

Proceed as above, minus the pectin, boiling mixture vigorously for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring often and then testing on a frosty dish. Final result is slightly runny, but we thought it fine.

A  3rd version, using low-sugar pectin and directions followed exactly, resulted in an overly gelatinous jam, in my opinion. Definitely the worst of the three batches. Never again. Or did I make a mistake somewhere in this process?

We’re freezing peaches too: peeled, sliced and laid out in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet until frozen, then placed into zip lock bags. freezing-peaches

Fruit smoothies in the wings, a piece of toast and jam, a cuppa java. Peachy.


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Putting food by . . . Pickles Thu, 27 Aug 2009 08:15:05 +0000 Summer’s waning and you just want to kick back, have another vacation weekend, another picnic, tweak the garden, spend time with a daughter, a husband, a friend . . . but nay, produce beckons.



For some veggies the annual, seasonal show is over. But in late August and September there are a few fruits and vegetables in particular that command attention. That’s how it is if you’re blessed – or cursed – with this thing about preserving food, inherited from generations of grand mothers and fathers who put food by. What we preserve is minuscule in comparison, but when I open a jar or grab something summery out of the freezer mid-winter, I tip my hat to the example they set. Survival used to be the impetus for gathering and preserving food, and I suppose we could make a case for that now, but mostly it’s the pleasure of growing and preserving one’s own clean, uncomplicated food.

So, it’s tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, and apples that clamor for preservation in my world. Starting about now throughout September, we dry several batches of cherry tomatoes, roast & freeze some for sauce, make a traditional tomato sauce and green tomato chutney; we make dill pickles, this year bread & butter pickles too; we have enough basil for batches of pesto that we freeze in cubes or 1/2 pint containers; and finally, apples become sauce and chutney.

It makes for a few busy evenings and Sundays, made social and fun when like-minded friends are part of the plan. Get together and make enough for two, three families and reap the rewards mid-winter.

Dill-pickle making has become an annual homage to a grandmother who made these every year. Making Dill Pickles is a link to last year’s post about this late summer ritual.


 Orva is my dad’s cousin I’ve known and loved all my life. Though not officially an aunt, she’s Aunt Ovra to me. She’s 98 and going strong, still canning applesauce and her Bread & Butter pickles.


Her mother and my grandmother were sisters who lived to be 93 and 100, and their adventures together in the wild are still retold at every family gathering. Like the snake pit event where, each with a pitchfork, they tossed snakes from the pit and then shoveled them into burlap bags – part of their jewelry-making scheme. Not kidding. Amazing women they were, poets and cowgirls too, and domestically speaking, they preserved everything in sight.

Orva has her own stories. A shotgun might be involved some of the time, but when we visit her farmhouse in Oregon’s wine country she has dinner organized and it always consists of a pile of local produce, some of it from her own garden. She makes these Bread & Butter pickles and we eat them by the handful right out of her refrigerated crock. After a telephone consultation I made my own batch of her pickles, also called sweet and sours. Flavorings can be played with a little. Add hot pepper to the mix, whole garlic cloves, celery, a cinnamon stick. Preserve these in a 10-minute hot water bath, or, unprocessed, they’re fine in the fridge for a month or more.

Orva’s Bread & Butter Pickle Recipe


Ingredients: 3# pickling cucumbers from the farmers’ market; 1 large onion; mustard seed; celery seed; turmeric; whole allspice; sugar; vinegar.


Directions: Since Orva salts and refrigerates her cucumbers before processing, I do too. Many recipes call for this salt and icing process, some don’t. You can skip this if you prefer, though it supposedly improves crispness.

Clean cucumbers/ Chop into chunky or thin slices, along with a finely or coarsely chopped large onion/ Place together in a large bowl, add 1/4 C kosher or pickling salt and mix together/ Place a lightweight kitchen towel over the cucumbers and onions, and then cover with 2″ of ice/ Place in the refrigerator for 4 – 6 hours/ Remove from the fridge, rinse thoroughly, and then rinse again/ Place cucumbers and onion in quart jars or one large crock.

While cukes are in the fridge, make the brine in a large, non-reactive pot. Mix 1 1/2 C white distilled vinegar, 1 1/4 C apple cider vinegar, 2 1/2 C sugar (or to taste, I used 1 3/4 C), 1 T mustard seeds, 1 t celery seeds, 1/2 t turmeric, 8or 10 allspice berries, and some finely chopped jalapeño if that sounds good/ Heat to simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves/ While piping hot, pour the brine over the rinsed cucumbers, cover and refrigerate/ They’re ready to eat in a few hours and will last in the fridge for a month, maybe more/ Or, these can be processed in a hot water bath and then stored in the pantry for up to a year – consult a reliable canning book for specific directions.

We’ll devour a bunch of these next weekend at a family gathering, I’ll put some in 1/2 pint jars and share with friends, and they’re delicious on a tuna sandwich, in potato salad, or chopped finely as a relish. bread-butter-pickles

Vegetables pickled, tomatoes canned, frozen or dried, basil whipped into pesto, apples simmered into sauce, and the list goes on. Store some food, be a squirrel, have a delicious winter.

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Planting Tomatoes Wed, 20 May 2009 02:42:02 +0000 Tomatoes are in. I mean in the ground, tucked in for their season. A relief when they’re snugged into little raised beds, blanketed by compost and red plastic, fertilized, safe and sound right where they belong, in our backyard. Already statuesque artichokes are standing guard nearby. We provide plenty of TLC these first few weeks, after that not so much.



Welcome back Sungolds, Sweet 100, Prudens Purple, Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Fourth of July, Green Zebra, Striped German, Vintage Wine, Jauna Flamme, Japanese Truffle,  Golden Pear, Yellow and Red Brandywine, and Amish Paste. When I was a kid tomatoes simply appeared some time in early July and the effort I expended was twisting the ripe ones off and indulging in the juicy snack that would leave me forever smitten. Reality is that there’s some effort involved at the beginning, but so worth it if . . . you appreciate a serious tomahto.

Years ago now, Bob researched tomato growing, gleaned from his own and our tomato experiences, and devised the version that has become our tomato-growing gospel.

planting-tomatoes-5-09-2-11 We pull out winter’s brassicas and shovel fava greens into the bed along with *Steve Solomon’s not-so-secret fertilizer formula.


For years we grew our own starts. Now we get them from Billy, Stoney Plains and Langley Farms at the Farmers Market. They flourish in the comfort of homemade compost, red plastic groundcover, and a stylish PVC framed cloche which provides warmth and protection for a few weeks. And then we hope for sun and warmth.


By late June they’re robust, as in busting through the top of the cloche, and we set them free. They’ll need a few doses of fish fertilizer (mixed with water and sprinkled directly on to plants) and regular watering through July – after that we cut back on the water. We wait and watch, doting parents nipping and comforting periodically, pruning some indeterminants. Eventually we’ll pluck the season’s first, maybe a day or two sooner than we should, close our eyes and experience SUMMER via a sun-warmed and vine-ripened tomato.



PNW backyard tomatoes begin their run sometime in July, gain momentum into mid-September and bear fruit through October, not so sweet as mid-August, but still, tomatoes. Once they get going, if you have enough plants you can eat them off the vine every which way and still have plenty to freeze, dry or can. (Eight tomato plants per person was the guide for previous generations who preserved everything possible.) They’re as good, maybe better, mid-winter. Preservation intensifies their flavor and expedites a small carbon foodprint mid-winter. If there’s space, it’s worth planting a few extra and preserving some. In the meantime indulge them just a little, hope for warm sun, and wait for that first succulent bite of summer.

Last October’s final tomato:   planting-tomatoes-5-09

From Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, Steve Solomon’s Complete Guide to Natural Gardening, *Steve Solomon’s not-so-secret fertilizer formula. (This is the guy who started Territorial Seed Co.)

Complete organic fertilizer – all measures by volume, not by weight.

4 parts seed or fish meal
1 part dolomite lime
1 part rock phosphate or 1/2 part bone meal
1 part kelp meal
He suggests adjustments for certain conditions, but this is the basic recipe.

Steve Solomon’s web page

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Tomato Grazing All Year Long Wed, 28 May 2008 11:26:20 +0000 As usual we’ve planted a lot of tomatoes. I always wonder if maybe this year, maybe finally we’ve gone too far, too many tomatoes. But that’s never the case.


IMG_0935.JPG preserved tomatoes 4

I heard the other day that eight tomato plants per person was the guide for previous generations who preserved everything possible, including tomatoes, for winter consumption. Our sixteen plants don’t seem so outrageous after all.

We eat fresh tomatoes every which way throughout August and then begin to preserve big batches starting in late summer. When you preserve fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes the improvement in flavor over anything you can buy in the store is astonishing. If you wonder, ‘is it worth the effort’, trust me it is.

I’m dazzled by their scarlet presence in the pantry so I usually can a few jars, but truthfully, freezing and drying are far easier. We dry any extra cherry tomatoes that aren’t eaten fresh, especially the Sungolds, and keep them in the freezer in zip lock bags. We freeze tomato sauce in quart containers. I read somewhere recently that sun-dried tomatoes are now passé in the culinary world. Say what? No matter, the point of today’s post is to plant an idea about preserving tomatoes this year, late summer. It’s almost June, three months to get used to the idea.

Here’s some encouragement:

Dried Sungolds with a smashed clove of garlic, sprinkled with a little salt, then covered with olive oil and left to marinate a bit – our friends know about these delicacies and mid-winter they arrive anticipating olive oiled tomatoes before dinner with some bread. For just that delectable culinary moment, I’m master of the universe, drunk with tomato power while guests are transported into a summery tomato graze. (I have to share the limelight with Bob, who truly is the master of our garden universe.)

December-January 10

There’s just one last quart from last summer’s bounty. I’ll make something that features tomatoes pure and simple, like tomato soup, or Marinara sauce with spinach linguini, or strain it and make some killer Bloody Mary’s, or some Herbfarm tomato salsa, or . . . one quart left and tomato neurosis begins.

We’ll revisit this topic with details about ‘how to’ when the time is ripe (heh-heh).

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