Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The month of September should be renamed Picktober. It is high season for harvesting and preserving. This year, I'm working on a new (to me) method though. With cucumbers hitting the market in force, I have turned into a pickling fool.

I started with the batch on the left. Straight forward, lacto-fermented pickles. They smelled so good after the first week that I went ahead and pickled some more stuff, starting with okra. Yep, okra. I'd had some about two years ago from a market vendor and they just floored me. With only the barest hint of slime, but crunchy and spiced oh so nice, I made a mental note: make these. So, here we are, one big half gallon of it later. Oh, and the last jar is what happens when you trade stuff, come home with various cucumber varieties and chuck them all together. I haven't sampled these yet, but I suspect they'll be just fine.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the main body of the post, right. Time for tomatillo talk. Last year, I planted tomatillos, and as suspected many sprouts poked their heads out of the ground and reported for duty this year. Elder monkey watered them often early in the season, convinced she had planted them. They flourished. For comparison, I was given two tomatillo plants this year that when I transplanted, were much larger than the volunteers. They are puny compared to these robust creatures now.

Speaking of now, these plants are producing fruit like mad. Little dude and I went ouside and picked ourselves a nice bowl full. I was lacking any onions or peppers from the yard this year, so I was not thinking about sauce. Then it hit me: pickle them! Hell yeah, that's gotta be good right? I hit the bookshelf for a pickled tomatillo recipe for guidance. None. Damn. Not fazed by the lack of instruction, I consulted my own senses and went on.

The first batch of cucumber pickles were done and came out great. I used some of the leftover brine to start the tomatillos going. I added a few whole jalapeƱos, a few teeth of garlic and a sprig of epazote. While I was at it, in another bowl I hacked up some carrots and peeled more garlic, got out some more jalapeƱos, then collected some oregano twigs from the yard. The pickling sickness was really setting in about this point.

One short week later, everything was no longer bubbling and the brine was nice and cloudy. I tasted a few tillos and was stoked by their taste, but not really their texture. No worries though, as blending them up was now the plan. I drained everything and then dumped it in the food processor. Hitting blend for a while, it needed a tad more moisture so I gave it a splash or two of the brine. Getting nearer the consistency I was looking for, I gave it another little splish. Just by the fumes, my nose could tell it was going to be hot as hell.

Tangy from the ferment, not too salty, and indeed hot, but not unpleasantly so. Now, it goes on everything. I start my morning with a dash on the eggs. At lunch, leftover rice sure is nice. For dinner, anything. As long as it can go with some mind-bendingly easy to make, love that I ran this kind of experiment, pickled salsa verde.
(fade to the sound of a bag of chips being popped, mild diabolical laughter, then enthusiastic cookie monster-esque noshing......)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

pick-up truck

My pick-up truck. I can haul all sorts of stuff home on it. In particular, I enjoy pedaling home with the bartered bounty from the farmers' market. I bring various fermented goods (english muffins, beer, cider) and as was the case here (August '08), came home with not only food but also building materials. I was in need of bamboo (at least, in theory) for my garden projects. At first, I wasn't sure how I'd get the bundle of eight foot lengths on my truck, but some careful bungee work made for a solid haul. Not wanting to challenge other bikes to a jousting contest, I made my way slowly home among quieter streets. I was so proud arriving, I asked for a photo.

The following month, there was a clearance sale on soybeans. They were cheap! With a beer involved, I think they were a buck a plant. I brought ten home. It was not unlike lurking behind a hunting blind. (The perspective is bad here, but riding home at 5+ feet in width, I made sure to ride way out in the middle of the lanes.) Testing my camouflage, I took busier streets. It was a breezy day and the plant stems blew all this way and that. It brought back thoughts of having a sling-shot as a kid. It was so much fun, I took a picture when I got home.

The beginning of August this year found the farmers' market once again overflowing with fruit and veggies. Well, it was overflowing before that, but by August, the seems burst and if you are around when things close up at the end of the night, you might find yourself coming home with 20 pounds of tomatoes, 20 pounds of peaches, a cooler with a few pounds of tofu, cheese, leftover thai food, and a canvas bag of various veggies. Overall haul was near 80 pounds, including a backpack not pictured.

Then, this load. Damn. I think it took me twenty minutes just to get it strapped on my truck. Requiring no less than five bungee cords, two panniers, two plastic milk crates, and one small wooden crate. 60+ pounds at least, but fluffier than the last load. I made sure to check all the bolts on my racks before taking off. Making it home, safely, yet again, I took a moment to be thankful for my able-bodied-ness in regularly bringing such stuff to it's temporary home, where it will be ingested and recycled, turning into fuel to pump my legs back to the market.

I love my truck.