Dark Days Challenge #1

Scarlet Turnip and Green Onions make a yummy salad.

Well, so far it does not seem that this is so difficult.  I have not actually made the meal but am reporting as I go.  First thing on the stove is a pot of yummy mixed greens from our Locally Grown service.  The greens include, mustard, Swiss Chard, kale, and collards.  There are Locally Grown groups all over.  The link to the one here is http://conyers.locallygrown.net/.  It works like this:  They post the list of what is available in the area on Sunday night and you have until Tuesday evening to choose what you want.  They go around and pick up the items from the producers and you go pick up your stuff from them on Friday evening.  There are many farmers and other producers that are involved in the program, so you get a lot of variety.  The people who run it here really do a good job of providing lots of good produce and other locally made items like cheese, and meat and craft items and bread and salsa and even canned goods that are made from locally grown food.  So that is what makes my winters much easier.  Also there is the fact that I live in North Georgia, near Atlanta, where it does get cold but we are pretty much able to have something growing in the garden year round. 

My CSA has stopped except for a couple of holiday deliveries.  I have some scarlet turnips from the last delivery.  I am going to use some in the salad and roast some in the oven.  It should start back up in April or May, but that will be long after this challenge is over.  I also still have some sweet potatoes from the CSA.  They will go into this meal today. 

Scarlet Turnips and Sweet Potatoes roasting in the oven.

These are my rules for the Dark Days Challenge.  I won’t rely on lots of canned goods because my summer just did not allow me to do that this year.  I consider local to be  anything grown in Georgia or grown within 150 miles of where I live.  Because I am in North Georgia that will mean that I could get items from the edge of Tennesse or South Carolina.  I have not done that, but I could.  I will use a few non-local items in these meals and they will be:  olive oil or other vegetable oil; salt and pepper; vinegar; boxed organic chicken broth when I don’t have a local chicken from which to make stock.  I will try my best to have those local chickens and their stock for these meals.  I have locally grown and milled polenta and I may use corn meal, flour, polenta and rice from Anson Mills.  You should see a link to their website on the side.  They grow organic, historically authentic grains that would have been grown in the Southeast from Colonial times up until the Civil War.  They do grow many of their items in Georgia and the Carolinas, in fact a farmer I know here in Newton County is one of their growers.  What I use from them will not be the main part of the meal, only used for thickening or such.  I’ll check on where the rice is grown; that may be within my limits set out above.  If I need some parmesan cheese in anything, I will use that.  There is no good local substitute for that.  I expect that I will not choose recipes that call for parmesan.  I will use local honey for a sweetener when that makes sense.  For all my cooking, I use the local honey or organic sugar made in Florida, so that is not as bad as sugar from Brazil.  It’s not Georgia, I know, but I don’t use a lot of it and probably will not use any for this challenge

Today, I am trying my hand at making butter from the local cream that is available.  It turned out to be very easy.  I did it in the food processor.  I ended up not having anything to put butter on, but at least I have some for toast in the morning.  I think I got all the milk out of it.  You really have to mash it a lot. 

Butter in a bowl.

So everythng was pretty simple.  I fried some locally grown and made sausage, which was very tasty.  It was not so hot as indicated on the package, but it was good.  We had a simple salad of mixed lettuce, diced scarlet turnip and green onions, with just a little olive oil and Bragg’s organic cider vinegar on top.  We had a bowl of greens and the roasted root vegetables.  I like this Dark Days Challenge.

A plate and a bowl. A satisfying meal.

Salad

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I’m Back!

Well, it was a tough summer and I had many distractions and temptations that have kept me away from the blog and away from living a purely local life.  But things are more under control now and I am about to get back to business.  I fell out of the can jam because I just could not get the canning done over the last few months, but I intend to finish out the year.  That is at least I will do the last month of December.  I need to get over to Tigress’ blog and see what has been happening there.

There are even more sources for lots of local foods available around here so we will be taking advantage of those, even through the winter.  That is the beauty of living in the south; there is always something available.  Since I love greens, the winter stuff suits me just fine.  So, I will soon be putting recipes and local food information back up on this site.

I have also rediscovered an old love of mine:  knitting.  It has been my therapy through the hectic and crazy summer and fall.  I’ll be showing off some of the pieces I have made and maybe even posting some of the patterns for those.  So now this will not only be a source of info about local and seasonal food, but also a source of inspiration for creating your own Christmas gifts and garments for your family. 

So hang in there with me.  I’ll be posting regularly, but you’ll never know what it will be.

July Can Jam – Zesty Zucchini Relish

Cooking in the pot.

Cucurbits.  They are some of my favorite things.  I remember lovely watermelon rind preserves from my childhood.  I thought that would be good to make.  My mother never would make them.  She said they were too much trouble.  When faced with the reality, the thought of peeling and chopping all that watermelon suddenly made me understand how she felt.

Zucchini Relish.  That sounded yummy to me.  All the vegetables, except the onion and carrots were grown in my yard.  I found the recipe in Well Preserved by Mary Ann Dragan.  If you only knew what I’ve been through this past week, you’d be amazed that I did this at all.  But in an effort to restore a sense of normalcy to my life, I set about to grate and chop a bunch of veggies into a tasty, spicy treat.  I have already eaten a big spoonful on my purple hull peas and it is very good.  So here goes with the recipe:

  • 6 cups grated, unpeeled zucchini
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 2 cups finely chopped onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 – 3 finely chopped, seeded jalapeno peppers
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups herb vinegar
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp, each, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry English mustard

Combine the vegetables and pickling salt in a large bowl.  Mix well.  Cover with ice and let sit in refrigerator overnight. 

The next day, prepare the preserving jars.  Drain the vegetables, rinse well and squeeze out, using cheesecloth lined colander. 

Combine sugar and 1 1/2 cups of vinegar and spices in preserving pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Stir in the drained vegetables.  Reduce the heat to medium and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.  In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and mustard.  Pour in the remaining half cup of vinegar and stir ’til smooth.  Pour into relish.  Cook another 5 minutes, stirring, until liquid thickens.

Remove from heat.  Spoon into prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Wipe the rims and put tops on jars.  Process in hot water bath 15 minutes.  Makes 4 pint jars.

I love the color.

Can Jam Strawberries

 

Well, it turned out more like Strawberry Syrup than Jam, but it tastes really good and I think pancakes with Strawberry Balsamic Syrup will be delicious.  The vinegar adds a really nice layer of flavor.  The strawberries were locally grown and organic.  The process went quite smoothly, but one thing I would do differently is to crush the berries.  The recipe never says to do that and so they really float in the syrup.  I hope the challenge for next month will be something. . . . . oh, I don’t know; they say you should be careful what you wish for.  I’ll just wait and see.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

from Eugenia Bone’s Well-Preserved

  • 8 cups washed and hulled Strawberries
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 5 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Pour the strawberries into a large, deep, heavy pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once the strawberries are boiling, add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved.  The sugar tends to burn on the bottom, so keep it moving until it is thoroughly dissolved.  Bring to a boil and then add the butter.  (The addition of butter keeps the foam volume down.)  Turn the heat down to medium low and boil the jam gently for 40 minutes, until thickened to a loose, soft jam.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar.  Pour into half pint jars and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. 

Jars of Jam.

June in the Garden

Sorry I have been missing in action.  Things have been crazy around my house and it is time for Summer Reading Club at work.  By the time I get through one of those days, I am exhausted.  But my garden has been growing with or without me.  I went out this morning and made some pictures that I would like to share. 

Sungold tomatoes almost ripe.

The tomato jungle in front of the porch.

Basil in the herb garden.

A cucurbit that volunteered under the blueberries.

This is what the fruit looks like. I think it is a butternut squash.

Chickens.

One ripe blackberry.

Artichoke?!

Amish Paste Tomatoes.

Baby Pears

Swiss Chard

Black Mission Figs.

The original three beds of my garden with peppers in the front, squash in the middle and okra in the back bed.

Pesticides on your food.

Find out what's on your food at: whatsonmyfood.org

There’s more stuff in the news every day about the effects of pesticides in our foods.  The website above tells you what is on all kinds of foods.  The information comes from research studies and government data.  It is at least a starting place that may convince you to try to eat as organically as possible.  My husband has type 1 diabetes and Addison’s disease, both of which are auto-immune diseases in which particular hormone systems are being destroyed.  I don’t know, but I suspect that a lifetime of eating foods sprayed with hormone disruptors might have something to do with this.  So if you want to know as well as possible what is on your food, check out the website and also look at http://www.localharvest.org/ to find sources of local organic food in your area.  Just click on the map and it will zoom in on your area.

Tigress’ Can Jam Asparagus Pickles

Cold pack asparagus spears.

Asparagus pickles.  What else could it be?  I live in the south.  Rhubarb doesn’t grow here.  Asparagus does.  It was all that I could get.  And I could not find a recipe for anything other than pickles.   It turns out, I’ve got a lot of pickles so far in this Can Jam.  I wonder what will be next.  I have tasted the pickled carrots, I guess I should go taste the pickled scallions.  Now that I have my mouth back again, I could do that.  My front teeth still aren’t right.  They will have to have crowns and that will take a while.  I don’t have sharp front teeth anymore.  They don’t incise very well.  They kind of mush stuff up.  I have to wait a month to try these.  They look very nice though.   And so here is my version of the recipe from Eugenia Bone’s Well Preserved:

3 bunches of asparagus
1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar with 5 percent acidity
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 garlic cloves whole
1 teaspoon dill seed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
Trim the asparagus to fit in wide mouth pint jars to allow for 1/2 inch head space.  Place about 2 inches of water in a wide pot.  Heat to boiling.  Lay asparagus in pot and cook til it comes back to a boil.  Remove asparagus and dunk in ice water.  Set aside.
Prepare 2 jars for preserving.  Pack with asparagus and garlic cloves.  Combine vinegar and other ingredients with 1 1/2 cups water.  Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve salt.  Pour into jars with 1/2 inch head space.  Place lids and rings on jars.  Process in hot water bath 10 minutes.In the hot water bath.

In the hot water bath.