Monday, July 26, 2010


I broke in my new quart canner yesterday - I put away 11 quarts of whole tomatoes from my parent's garden. Lovely, juicy, sweet, tangy tomatoes, oh how I love them!

I'm planning on doing lots of whole tomatoes, tomato juice, as well as some marinara sauce this summer. The quart canner will really come in handy, as I can now process bigger batches in bigger jars. Bring 'em on!

Cherry Pie

I come from a pie making family - both sides, grandmas, aunts, mother - they all are masters at the art of the pie. I have always been mystified by pies, specifically the crust. To be honest, it's intimidated me; I have always thought it to be some magical act when everything came together in a perfect combination of flaky, crunchy, and tender. For this reason I've shied away from making pies. I tried once in college without huge success and have been reticent ever since.

Well, this past week I came to the conclusion that I cannot call myself a part of my family unless I master this tradition. I decided to use some of the tart cherries that I froze several weeks ago and make a cherry pie, a classic for my family.

I followed my mother's detailed recipe with only slight difficulty getting the dough rolled out big enough to cover the bottom and top crusts. My crimping technique on the outside crust is going to need some honing, but at least I get some extra points for attempting a cherry design on the top, right?

As for the final product, well, do I really need to say anything...?


This past weekend I finally got to do something I've been wanting to do for a while - make jam with three generations of my family - my grandma, my mother and her sisters, and myself.

We went to a delightful brunch at the Tea Cozy Cottage and then went back to my parent's house to make a batch of fresh peach jam together. I bought quite a few pounds of mouth-watering Carolina peaches from Pipkins Market. My aunts and I pitted, peeled, and sliced while Grandma served in a supervisory role and also helped crush the peaches. Mom made sure all of the canning equipment was at-the-ready, and we all took turns stirring the unctuous jam until it was ready to jar. I ladled, my aunts assembled the lids and rings, and we all sat around in anticipation until every last lid had clicked.

I learned quite a few tricks and techniques that will help me to be a better canner, while saving me time to boot. It was such a special day - I'm so glad to have such beautiful wise women in my life.

CSA: Week 12

Sadly there was no CSA pickup this week - Jerry and Elizabeth had a flat tire on their truck and weren't able to make it in time for the market. Just glad they're safe - flat tires are not fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Sweet Jesus..."

...those are the words that came out of my mouth right after I bit into a slice of this bad boy...

I know one of my recent posts claimed the "biggest tomato I've ever grown" title, but I have to say, THIS is the biggest tomato I've ever grown - Aunt Ruby's German Green. It was big as my hand and weighed at least a couple of pounds.

I can also quite honestly say it's the BEST tomato I've ever tasted - now that's really saying something - this girl has had a lot of tomatoes in her 28 years. The flavor was just fantastic - citrus, tartness, just the right amount of sweet, and a subtle little something "else" that I can't put my finger on. Some people describe it as "spice" but I wouldn't say it's spice in the traditional sense. God, I'm drooling just remembering it...

I will DEFINITELY be growing this variety again.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bring on the Mule Team

The fourth variety of tomato that I planted this year finally had its first ripe fruit - Mule Team. It was initially the first plant to develop green tomatoes, but due to some squirrel interference, it's been the fourth plant to ripen. It was about the size of a tennis ball and would be perfect for salads or sandwiches - a nice personal sized tomato.

The only variety I'm waiting on yet is Aunt Ruby's German Green - there are some HUGE fruits on the vine that are almost ready for picking. Just a few more days...

The tomato bed is in high gear right now - about every day I'm able to go out and pick a nice slicer and a handful of cherries. I'm so glad that the changes I've made to the growing area have been for the better - using the raised beds as well as using the green plastic netting to keep the critters away. I will definitely be using these techniques in the years to come.

Also exciting - the first eggplant finally set this week. He's about the size of a golf ball.

The mint and oregano have gone to flower. I usually try to keep herb flowers pinched so their taste is sweeter, but they are so pretty and whimsical in the garden, I had to just let them bloom.

On a disappointing note, I had to pull the zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumber plants due to massive bug damage - cucumber beetle and squash vine borer. This is the second year in a row that I've had to do this - I'm starting to wonder if I need to investigate alternative methods to organic gardening for these types of plants? I hate to say it, but I'm tired of not being able to grow these garden staples. *sigh*

Oddly enough the butternut squash plants have been left relatively unharmed. They have full run of the bed all to themselves, so I'm expecting good things!

CSA: Week 11

I really feel like I made out like a bandit this week - I could barely carry the basket back to my car it was so heavy! I guess we picked a good year to introduce ourselves to CSAs - the years with ideal growing seasons are naturally going to produce fuller baskets.

I think I'm going to make a pasta salad tonight using a lot of the fresh veggies here - good eats for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This past weekend I picked up my 10-lb tub of tart Michigan cherries from Rouster's Apple House. They had been grown and picked in Traverse City, then pitted and packed fresh in their own juice.

Yet another memory from my childhood is of my grandma's tart cherry tree in her side yard. She lives on a century-old farm in Hamilton, Ohio. Every year around this time my family would grab a step-ladder or two, several buckets, and would pick pounds and pounds of the lip-puckering flame red fruit. My mom would freeze countless containers each year for cherry pies, cherry cobbler, and other delicious old-timey desserts. Needless to say, I have a deep rooted fondness for tart cherries.

In my ongoing effort to explore different kinds of jams that stray from the beaten path, I made a batch of tart cherry jam on Saturday. The recipe called for liquid pectin rather than powdered - something I've never used before. The jam didn't set up quite as well as it could have, but the taste is wonderful. Maybe next time I'll try it with powdered pectin instead. The pantry is starting to reach full capacity for jam and it's only July!

In other news, today I picked the BIGGEST TOMATO I'VE EVER GROWN! It's a Carbon variety and is just slightly bigger than a baseball. I picked it a day or two green because all of the rain we had today had made it split - I didn't want it to rot on the vine. A couple days on the counter to ripen up and it will be good eats!

Also pictured are more Sungold Select cherry tomatoes, as well as my first two Riesentraube tomatoes (top right). The Riesentraubes were really tasty - a very classic tomato taste, but not as high of a sugar content as the Sungolds.

A week or so ago I had swathed the tomato raised bed with several layers of pliable green plastic netting to keep the squirrels and birds out. It may not be the prettiest way to keep the critters away, but it has been working perfectly. No more half-eaten green tomatoes laying in the yard; the only ones who will be enjoying this garden will be myself and my husband, dammit!

CSA: Week 10

This week we had the option to substitute extra veggies for the eggs - I opted for the white pattypan squash and a pint of cherry tomatoes, both of which are long gone two days later!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Zucchini Debut

Despite the onslaught of cucumber beatles this year, the zucchini plants are finally starting to fruit! There is one larger zucchini as well as a smaller one. Grow babies, grow!

I also picked the first couple of ripe tomatoes this morning! The Sungold Select won the race. The first homegrown tomato of each year is always a special occasion, and this did not disappoint. Warm, sweet, tart, a pop of flavor bursting in your mouth.

Summer is officially here...

CSA: Week 9

This weekend the Hyde Park Farmer's Market was held in Hyde Park Square for July 4th. The Eaton Farm's booth was right in front of Graeter's - how tempting is that?

Such a bounty of produce for the coming week!

Summer Berries

This past Friday my mom and I went to Stokes Berry Farm to pick raspberries together. It was an absolutely gorgeous morning, not too hot, a nice breeze blowing. We picked black raspberries, red raspberries, and blackberries - a new crop for Stokes this year. Ambrosia!

Since we were so close, we decided to hop over to Iron's Fruit Farm to get some fresh blueberries and apples. I've had my mind set on making a batch of Blueberry Lime Jam this summer, and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity. When we arrived, they had just received quite a few pints of freshly picked blueberries from their fields out back. It doesn't get much more "field to plate" than that.

When I got home later that day, I did up a batch of the jam, and it's absolutely delicious - tart, tangy, and sweet, it would be great for toast, pancakes, and even ice cream.

It was great to be able to share a day with my mom picking berries - it brought back a lot of memories from when we were kids and she would take us on day trips. More parents should do these sorts of things with their kids, it's something that they will carry with them forever. Thanks Mom!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blackberry Lily

This was one of my wild card plants I bought this spring - a blackberry lily. Apparently the seed pods look like blackberries when they are mature.

The first bloom opened yesterday and I can't believe how exotic it looks, almost like an orchid - pretty boy!