Monday, July 23, 2012

Busy Busy!

How does it always work out that, the more I have to say, the less time I have to say it?

Last week was just a little busy, and, yes, I'm just a little behind on making some posts.  Vegetable season is in full swing, and I've been busy freezing greens, beans, and broccoli to eat over the winter.  My garden is also starting to produce, and I've picked four or five nice sized cucumbers, and about three tomatoes already.  Outside of that I've mostly got squash, which I am clearly going to have a bumper crop of.  And by "bumper crop" I mean the vines are taking over my yard.  Seriously.  They're going up over the fence into the neighbor's yard!
Pretty sure these want to eat me Little Shop style.
This fence is 7 feet tall.  The big leaves are are about 2-3 feet across.

If I disappear for more than a week, send a search party into the vines to look for me.  I should be okay.  There's more than enough zucchini in there to feed a small village.

This week, my CSA box included:

  • Broccoli
  • Beet Greens
  • Beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant 
  • Cucumbers 
  • Zucchini
  • Beets
  • Green Onions
  • Bell Pepper

 The beet greens immediately got washed and frozen to put into a stew in the winter.  I don't have time to eat all this food!
Sink full of beet greens.

Blanched beet greens headed towards the freezer.

For the beet stems, I decided to try something new.  I found a recipe for Swiss Chard Stem quick pickles, and decided to try replacing the Swiss Chard with Beet stems.

These are amazing.  They are everything I wanted the pickled rhubarb to be.  They're sweet and spicy and a little crunchy.  I haven't used them in anything yet, but I'm sure they will be delicious in a salad.  Maybe with some watermelon and feta cheese.

My only disappointment was that, while the stems were tightly packed into the jars while raw, the moment the hot liquid hit them and loosened them up a little, they suddenly took up far less space.  This left me with a lot of liquid to not very many pickles at all.  I guess that's the way it has to be, but it seems so wasteful.

Okay, looking at this picture I can see where
I could have packed these tighter.

This is quite a perfect recipe in my mind, too, because we really don't use the stems.  Beets, eaten.  Leaves, eaten.  But stems usually make it into the compost pile.  So finding a use for them is ideal.  Especially when it's delicious use.

Pickled Beet Stems:
(Makes 1 pint refrigerator pickles)
  • 1 1/2 cup beet stems
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar (I used half brown, because I ran out of white)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • 6 whole allspice berries
Trim stems of any greens, and trim to fit in jars.  Pack into two half pint jars.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Pour over the stems, trying to split the spices evenly between the jars.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days to allow the flavors to marry.

These sealed themselves in the fridge.  Does that mean that I can keep them outside of the fridge?  Please don't do that, because you might get sick, but if you know the answer, please do let me know.  Is sealing enough?  I know that the amount of acid is important to preservation, and these are basically packed in vinegar, so will they survive outside of the fridge?  I would like to eat these all winter.  I would like to make a salad of these mixed with pickled watermelon rinds, over a little bit of spicy arugula, and maybe some goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.  In January, that might be the best thing I've ever eaten.

We've also had the opportunity (challenge) of working a lot of fresh vegetables into our daily meals.  I am finding a CSA to be a great value for it's money - when I figure that the particular box I got cost $385,  my first delivery came in the first week of June, and deliveries end "in November" - let's put that at 22 weeks.  That would be through the last week of October.  That's $17.50 a week.  Can you imagine trying to buy all the veggies I listed above for $17.50?

On the other hand, if you hate wasting food and don't have time to freeze/can, you might go crazy.  Because it is a LOT of food.

I don't have a recipe for this, but it was really good.  First full sized tomato of the season = grilled flat iron steak sandwich with lettuce and tomato.  I also mixed some basil into the mayo

Mmm... Flat Iron Steak Sandwich

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