Thursday, August 25, 2011

Just Plain Corny

Let's admit it, we all feel a little corny sometimes.

My moment was yesterday when, in a fit of produce passion, I took a day off work and drove 3+ hours to procure four dozen ears of the sweetest sweet corn I've tasted in years. Family members near my grandparent's old farm outside of Columbus are farmers - the real deal - the kind of deal that makes me jealous. One of their main crops this time of year is Incredible sweet corn. Yes, Incredible is the actual name and oh, what an apt name it is.

Growing up the ONLY sweet corn that was worth growing was Sweet Illini. Somewhere along the way we all started growing Incredible and haven't looked back. It's probably the sweetest corn you'll ever taste, if you're lucky enough to get your hot little hands on some. Thankfully I was so lucky.

Four dozen ears, a couple of boiling pots of water, a smattering of corn kernels on the floor, and some fabulous new reusable
Ball BPA-free freezing containers later, and I have set myself up with plenty of corn for the rest of the year.

While I was visiting the farm, I also picked up several pounds of fresh green beans to freeze. It's amazing how sweet vegetables can be when they are picked and eaten within a few hours. I blanched, trimmed, cut, and froze these guys the same way as the corn - they will be perfect for stir fry, soups, or just plain with some salt and pepper.

Thank you Howard and Louise!

From Cucumber to Relish

I'll say it - pickles are intimidating...

Now don't get fresh, they really are. I've heard one too many horror stories about home canners pickling up pounds of gorgeous cucs and ending up with batches of mush on their hands. For this reason I've always been gun shy of canning pickles. Until I find out the secret to making crisp crunchy pickles I am going to stick with my latest concoction - sweet n'hot relish.

I'm not a relish fanatic but every now and then it hits the spot like nothing else - pile it on a Field Roast Frankfurter with ketchup, mustard, and onion, top a Luna Burger with it, or make a killer batch of thousand island dressing for some veg reubens - the possibilities are endless.

I used quite a few pounds of small pickling cucs, green and red bell peppers, onion, a couple jalapenos from the garden, a few cloves of garlic, and of course all those yummy pickling spices - cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and mustard seed. Some people like a finer dice on their relish, but I like it when you have nice little chunky nubs. About the only trouble I ran across was my own impatience at having to let the relish brine overnight.

Sweet, vinegary, spicy goodness!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

She Strikes Again

Yes, you heard it here first, the Mad Canner has struck again.

And oh what a strike it was - an entire bushel worth in one day - yes, you heard me correctly, a whole bushel of tomatoes. I have my wonderful mother to thank for these beauties - hand delivered with care.

Is that a 3-gallon brew kettle that's supposed to be used for brewing beer? Yes.

Is it being used to cook three gallons of tomato juice? Yes.

Am I crazy? Am I mad? Am I neurotic and slightly obsessed?

Yes, without a doubt.

Now that the canning bug has officially bit me, I'm gearing up for a batch of roma tomato-infused marinara sauce as well as my first crack at pickle-relish. I've got my eyes on a sweet relish recipe that is just begging to be jazzed up with a little heat. Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Little George

It's incredible how many baby Lazarus lizards we've been seeing around the yard lately. The hubs saw a dozen or so when he mowed the lawn today and I happened to have a close encounter with one while I was preparing the fall garden and doing some weeding.

About the size of my pinkie finger, squirmy, and cute as a button - George must be busy makin' babies this year!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Love Affair with Hyssop

Last year my mother and I discovered the gorgeousness of hyssop for the first time. Otherwise known as hummingbird mint, this variety of minty, anisey, licoricey, root-beery scented herb has been thriving in the drier, sunnier corners of our gardens, much to our delight.

There are many varieties of hyssop, some wild, some hybrids. Last year we both lovingly planted Sunset hyssops from Greenfield Plant Farm - it's thriving this year with almost a three-foot radius!

This year we expanded our horizons with Tutti Frutti, Mexican, Coronado, and Anise hyssops.

Hues of rusty orange, magenta, deep purple, and indigo blue paint the garden in warm, desert sunset colors. The butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and other insects go crazy for the delicate trumpet-like flowers. This is the first year I've spotted hummingbirds in the garden - both male and female - and I have hyssop to thank for that.

It's an unexpected surprise to be working in the dirt, gently brushing up against one of the feathery bushes, and immediately having a waft of deliciously aromatic potpourri perfume the space around you. If you've got the room and you've got the sun, give these hardy guys a try.