25 July 2010

cream of the crop

the term "livin' high on the hog," i believe refers to certain premium cuts of meat, which happen to be located in the higher sections of the animal. as a (mostly) vegetarian, that phrase isn't exactly apropos. but, i will say, that given the current (rather dismal) economic climate of our household (which i won't go into here), damn--do we live well?! the abundance of a garden can make you feel like a queen. in the peak of the summer, a meal that prominently features fresh tomatoes and sweet corn, is about as good as it gets, as far as i'm concerned. that's what we had last night.

i've already told you that our corn is over eight feet tall. well, the ears are getting so fat, that every time it rains, several stalks just topple over. i think this is because 1) the stalks, being so laden with ears of corn, are very heavy, and when they collect extra water in their foliage and silks, it just become too much for the shallow roots to support, and 2) because the corn was planted in mounds (as recommended for the 3 sisters garden) there is a bit of washing-away-of-soil (erosion?) when it rains, making it even more difficult for those roots to keep the stalks upright. in any case, it is quite distressing when it happens, and carl and i have been out there in the mud, searching for any scrap of something tall enough, and sturdy enough to support bundles of corn stalks.

the plants don't seem any worse for the wear having been down, and then back up again. they look healthy and lush, and yesterday, we pulled back some husk, and determined it was time to give it a taste. carl got the water boiling, and i went out to choose the four biggest ones. after a quick shucking, into the water they went.

we served them with a stunning ensalata caprese, featuring a lovely heirloom tomato, and our fresh basil, plus a serving of perfectly sauteed chanterelles (you can't see them, but they are in the bowls that look black in this photo). the corn was sweet and had that wonderful pop! crunch! that i think you can only get from freshly picked. it might be even better in a day or two.

this past week has also been full of pickle making and catsup, and sour kraut to-die-for. cherry tomatoes are great for catsup, because you really have to put them through some sort of food mill or strainer, to get the skins off anyway, so you might as well make sauce or catsup. plus they are sweet, and we have SO MANY of them. it takes a lot of tomatoes to make a little bit of catusp. i think the ratio works out to about one quart of tomatoes = one half pint of condiment. but it is super yummy, and tastes just like...well, catsup. or, ketchup-- whatever you call it. it tastes like what i'm used to when i open a store-bought bottle, only mine doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in it.

and, i am so in love with pickling! i have been making micro-batches (carl calls them boutique) of pickled okra, and french style cornichons (made from baby cucumbers). so far, i haven't made a pickle i didn't like. i canned one full batch, and somehow forgot to put the dill in the jars (!) (though there was dill seed in the spice ball that went into the vinegar). i also worry that they won't be as crisp as the fridge kind. i've been told that putting a grape leaf in each jar, will keep the snap, so i did that.

i'll try them six weeks from now, and let you know. we had a lot of fun with the kids in the banneker youth garden club, harvesting cucumbers from their garden (plus dill, coriander, onion, hot peppers) and making pickles together in their kitchen. i could not believe how excited those kids got about pickles.

most of the fall crops are in the ground, or started in the basement. i've planted carrots, beets, bush beans, cilantro and basil. the brassicas like to be started indoors this time of year, where it is cooler. once the weather cools down a little bit, or they are strong enough to withstand the heat, i can transplant them outside. i'll also plant some lettuce and spinach, but not in these sweltering temperatures.

the warmth has been good for berries. the ground cherries are producing baskets full every day, and we've already started dipping them in chocolate. we also picked the first of the rare, but astonishing, red raspberries, from the two plants that jack gave us this spring (this picture's for you MEP). he was right, they did produce this year! to me, they are like precious gems. the taste of a red raz, like no other food, takes me back to my grandmother's garden. it used to be that you couldn't really find red raspberries in the stores. as a child, i associated them exclusively with my grandmother, and i loved them more than any other fruit. still do.

with the finest ingredients in the world at our finger tips, we really do feel like royalty!


ugly_one_with_the_jewels said...

september 30 is just around the corner. pls consider a shipment to morse st!

Anonymous said...

You are definitely the most amazing urban homesteader I've ever known...not to mention an incredible cook! Yup, homegrown corn has no comparison. :)

Do you have a catsup recipe that you recommend?

mep said...

Of course, I am in awe of your raspberries--thanks for the photo! I bought some good ones at Costco yesterday, but how could they begin to compare to homegrown?

Your caprese salad looks truly fit for a queen.

And the corn . . . the corn! I have been obsessed with corn this summer.

I'm a big pickle girl too (eating, not making my own, but someday, I hope). Have you read A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg? She includes some tales of pickling and some recipes that sound completely wonderful.

All hail, cake, queen of the garden and kitchen! As ever, I bow down before you and your amazing garden.

cake said...

i will keep that in mind.

Teresa, my catsup recipe comes from _stocking up_ put out by the rodale press. i highly recommend it, but suggest that you not use *hot* paprika. that was the kind we had, and now our catsup is a bit too spicy! i can send you the recipe.

mep, i urge you to make a batch of refrigerator pickles! if you make freezer jam, fridge pickles are even easier. no canning involved. just a couple a pickles, some garlic and spices, plus vinegar, water and salt heated up on the stove. if you love pickles, try it! it's fun.
i just did a search for refrigerator pickles online, and picked one that sounded good.

Anonymous said...

Hey Cake, the library has Stocking Up III...I wonder if the Catsup recipe will be in that? I'll check and if it's not, I'll ask you for your recipe...thanks! :)