Monday, December 28, 2009

Harvest Monday - December 28, 2009

Harvest Monday is here again! My garden is slow to produce at this time of year and I've been even slower to pick. I came down with a nasty head cold last week. It made me want to stay inside where it was somewhat warm and it also took away most of my desire to cook or eat. Lucky for my husband there were leftovers and lots of cheese and bread on hand.

Before my head got too clogged up I harvested a bowl of Meyer lemons and put up a batch of preserved lemons. Can't wait 'til they're ready, they already have a lucious aroma. (I'm on the mend, I can smell things again!)

Yesterday I got out to the garden and picked another bunch of Piracicaba broccoli. I tried to arrange it this time so that you can see the florets.

Each bud in a floret is called a "bead". You can see that the Piracicaba beads are larger than typical broccoli beads. Most of the shoots I picked yesterday were a little more full blown than I would usually let them get, I just wasn't feeling up to getting out in the garden when they should have been harvested.

Fortunately, I've found that even when the beads start to open up, like you can see below, that the broccoli is still good eating.

I also harvested a lot of Opal Creek Golden snap peas. A lot of them have frost scars on them and are not very pretty, but they are still suprisingly crisp and tasty. There's a couple Kefe Beinwil snow peas buried in there also.

The snap pea plants are still growing well. Birds have been munching on the tender top growth but there are a lot of new shoots growing lower on the vines. This is a nice surprise, I expected the cold weather to knock the plants down and I was hoping that I would get regrowth in the spring. It's going to be interesting to see how they fare in the next few months. The snow peas aren't growing as vigorously, but they are still hanging in there and are also pushing out new shoots from the bases of the plants.

Other than lemons, broccoli, and peas I've been harvesting parsley, thyme, sage, and bay leaves. Funny, I don't normally mention my herb harvests for Harvest Monday, but the pickings are so slim at this time of year....

Hey, I almost forgot, I found some perfectly good peppers on my scraggly frost nipped, but hanging in there, Aleppo chile pepper plant. Here's two of the six that I picked yesterday, the rest went into a spicy Indian cauliflower (store bought) dish that I made last night to take to dinner with some friends.

If you would like to show off your harvests, join in the fun at Daphne's Dandelions. Or just head on over there to see what other garden bloggers have harvested in the last week.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Harvest Monday - December 21, 2009

It's Harvest Monday again and the pickings have been getting slim around here. A couple of excuses for not harvesting very much are that my husband and I were away for a few days celebrating our 20th anniversary and the holiday social scene has meant evenings out so I haven't had to cook very much. Even so, if I had been around there wouldn't have been much more to show.

So here's what came out of the garden in the past week...

A bunch of Piracicaba broccoli shoots.

A basketful of Tuscan arugula.

And... that's all folks!

If you would like to see what other garden bloggers have been harvesting lately head on over to Daphne's Dandelions.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Meyer Lemon Curd and Experiments with Candied Peels

I've posted this recipe before, but it's so easy and good that I want to bring it to your attention again.

I made a batch a couple of days ago and today I made a second batch of it and decided to try using eggs from my chickens. My birds are young and are just starting to lay which means that their eggs are on the small side. I've not adjusted the recipe here, but I did make an adjustment for my small eggs today. Most recipes are standardized to use "large" eggs. When you buy a dozen large eggs they are supposed to weigh a total of about 24 ounces and each individual egg should weigh about 2 ounces. It took 5 eggs from my girls to make just over 8 ounces, or the equivalent of the 4 large eggs called for in the recipe.

Meyer Lemon Curd

1 cup meyer lemon juice
1 cup sugar
peel from 1 meyer lemon, removed with a vegetable peeler
3/4 cup butter
4 large eggs

Put the lemon juice, sugar, lemon peel, and butter in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cook, stirring with a silicone spatula or a spoon until the sugar dissolves and the butter melts.

Whisk the eggs lightly in a separate bowl, don't over beat, you don't want a lot of air bubbles. Stir in about a cup of the warm lemon mixture to temper the eggs, then stir the egg mixture into the rest of the lemon mixture. Cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (160 F.). Strain through a seive into a clean bowl and discard the peels.

Ladle into hot, sterilized 1 cup canning jars and cap with scalded new lids and rings. Cool and then refrigerate. Should keep in the refrigerator for at least a couple of weeks if the lids seal properly.

Makes 3 cups.

The only other thing I did differently today was to skip the double boiler method and cook the curd in a saucepan directly over medium low heat. It's quicker that way but also easier to overcook the curd. You need to have the seive and bowl set up next to the stove so that you can pour the curd out of the pan the instant it looks done. It also helps to have made curd at least once so that you know what it looks like when it is cooked enough. I noticed today that it looked done before the thermometer quite got up to temperature.

The different colors of the two batches of curd that I've made is remarkable. The only difference between the two batches is the eggs, the jar on the right was made with very good store bought eggs and the other jars with my girls' eggs.

The yolks of those lovely eggs are more orange than yellow.

I hate to waste the lemon peels, they really are delicious, so I've been experimenting with making candied peels. The recipe I'm tinkering with is in the newest edition of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

After I juiced the lemons for the curd, I cut the hollow lemons in half again and pulled out the membranes that were attached to the insides of the peels, then I cut the peels in half again.

The recipe calls for blanching the peels twice and then gently cooking them in a syrup. The peels are then left to cool in the syrup overnight, rewarmed and then drained and tossed with granulated sugar. I left the sugar coated peels out on waxed paper at room temperature to dry for 24 hours, turning them once. For the first batch I skipped the blanching process since the meyer lemon peels are not very bitter. The end product did end up with a touch of bitterness so today I blanched the peels once before cooking them in the sugar syrup.

Here's the batch I'm making today simmering in the syrup.

I've found that you have to be careful not to cook the peels too long in the syrup or they become too chewey. And the thinner the peels, the easier it seems to be to over cook them. It would have been nice if the lemons had skins that were a little thicker.

The first batch tastes quite good now that I've dipped the pieces in some some 72%  bittersweet chocolate...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Harvest Monday - December 14, 2009

Two nights with temperatures as low as 28F means the end of pepper season. I stripped my pepper plants the afternoon before the big freeze, which fortunately wasn't as cold as the original forecast (15F!!). Here's the last of the Piment Doux Long des Landes, Purple Marconis, and the Aji Pancas.

And this basket has the last of the Aji de la Tierras, Habanero Long Chocolates, Rocotillos, Christmas Bells, Chihuacle Amarillos, and one green Donkey Ears.

I'm waiting to see how all the pepper plants fared. Sometimes it's just the top growth and outer branches that get frost killed. If the lower part of the plants survive and don't succumb to something fungal there's a chance they might come back in the spring. I'll just leave them in their ugly frost scarred condition for now.

The remaining Aji Angelos also got stripped from the plants but I didn't get around to photographing them.

I was also concerned that the meyer lemons might get freeze damaged so I picked a bunch of lemons from the outer branches.

Some of these have been used to make lemon curd and I'm experimenting with candied lemon peels. There's still loads of lemons left on the tree and they seem to be unfazed by the freeze.

Here's what a lot of my harvests are going to be looking like in the coming weeks - green. This is Portuguese Dairyman's Kale.

And another bunch of Piracicaba broccoli shoots.

There are broccoli buds hiding in all that greenery. I don't strip off the leaves from the broccoli shoots. The leaves are tender and every bit as tasty as the buds so I cook the shoots with all the leaves attached.

If you would like to see what other garden bloggers harvested this week go on over to Daphne's Dandelions, our host for Harvest Mondays.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snowy Santa Lucia Mountain Range

Here's my contribution to all the posts about the first snow of the year. Granted, it's not in my back yard, nor even in my neighborhood, but it is within sight of my garden.

Snow dusted peaks in the Santa Lucia range.

The nearest peak, the name of which I haven't figured out yet, is about 8 miles away as the crow flies. Those peaks are all over 2000 feet high. I have to admit, I prefer experiencing the snow at a distance.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ooooh Baby, It Was Cold Last Night!

Well, cold for us California weather wimps. And thank goodness it was not as cold as the original weather forcast that sent me scrambling to protect some of my babies.

You start seeing ghostly things like this cropping up in gardens around here at this time of year.

It didn't get any colder than the low we experienced a few nights ago, but it stayed at that low longer.

Long enough to freeze standing water.

And put a film of frost on a lot of surfaces.

Some of the plants look quite pretty in their frosty coats.

I'm not sure how the lettuce will bear the cold.

And the peas will definitely suffer.
I tried to protect the crowns of the plants,
but the tops are likely done for.

I also tried to protect the base of the passion vine.
The tops didn't look too bad.
I'm not sure about the fruit though.

The Aji Pineapple is under wraps.

The baby chard looks ok inside its water bottle cloche.

The pepper bed is a sorry sight.

And you won't be seeing this forgotten basket of peppers
 on the Harvest Monday post.

At least I remembered to turn off the water
and remove the wand from the hose.

The basil is nothing but a memory now.

The squash plants atop the compost are cold,
but it's wam inside!

The ghosts seen in the light of day.

It's time to go back out and see how it looks now that the sun is out and things have thawed out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Harvest Monday - December 7, 2009

This could be one of the last colorful Harvest Monday posts of the season. It's pouring rain and forcasted to get as low as 23F tonight and tomorrow morning, a big mass of freezing arctic air is about to settle down upon the region. I need to force myself out into the cold wet wet garden to strip the pepper and pea plants....

In the meantime, here's most of what got harvested in the last week.

I finally photographed a picking of kale! This is Portuguese Dairyman's kale. I got the seeds through SSE from a Northern California gardener who got his seeds from his Portuguese neighbor who brought the seeds from the Azores. It is a delicious kale and I'm planning on (hoping to...) save seeds this spring. There's also a small bunch of Piracicaba broccoli on the right.

Another selection of peppers: Marconi Purples on the tray, working clockwise from the Marconis, Aji Dulce Yellow, Aji Dulce #1, Puerto Rico No Burn with Pimento de Cheiro (tiny yellow), Zavory (red) and Datil (yellow).

A giant red scallion.

More peppers: from the upper left and working clockwise, Aji Panca, Chihuacle Amarillo, Aji Argentina (from a neglected 2 year old plant, many of which started drying on the plant), Habanero Long Chocolate, Aji Pineapple (another 2 year old plant), and Aji Dulce Yellow.

More peppers: Christmas Bell (C. baccatum) on top and Piment Doux Long des Landes sweet peppers on the bottom, and one last Chihuacle negro over there on the left.

Opal Creek Golden snap peas. I harvested another similar amount and then after the nighttime temperature dipped somewhere below 28F the other night I harvested a few more that had been a bit damaged by the low temps.

And another big overgrown scallion. I also harvested one more big red one yesterday that I didn't photograph.

And the Magadalena Big Cheese and Berrettina Piacentina squash had to be harvested because the plants were killed the other night.

Hmm, what else did I harvest... More Aji Angelos and a small picking of Pimento de Padrons. That's the last of the Padrons, the pods still on the plants are squishy from the freeze the other night. And a few more Petaluma Gold Rush beans. Parsley, parsley, but I do love parsley...

So what are you harvesting now? Join in the fun at Daphne's Dandelions.

Ug, now I need to get warm and waterproof and get out into that cold ,wet and cold and wet garden....