Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hot Turtle Love

Last year, I suspected that Barry the Boxturtle might be a Barbara when I spotted him laying eggs. Yah think???

But there was a part of me that said, "Wait a minute, could it be that we have TWO resident turtles?" And this past weekend pretty much confirmed there is indeed a Barry and a Barbara.

Get a room you two!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pickled Asparagus (Again)

Can Jam Challenge #5

I don’t know what the heck happened to the asparagus this season. Usually, asparagus is $3.99 a pound or HIGHER in Florida, comes from Peru, and tastes like shoelaces. But there’s a small window of opportunity every spring where I can buy it for around $1.49 a pound and I could even drive to where it was grown. It would be a long drive, but I digress.

But this year, NADA. Nature’s french-fries never dropped below $2.50 this year and I was lucky if they came from California. Mostly, it stayed around $3 and up per pound in all my groceries. And there’s no such thing as a “farmers market” that sells organic or local asparagus in Florida.


What the heck happened? Was it the hard winter? Are farmers not growing the stuff? Was there a disease or insect problem? Is there a cycle on production?

And I don’t even want to GO THERE on rhubarb. There was ‘nar a stalk to be found in any of the groceries, and the one rare glimpse I did see, wrapped in styrofoam and cellophane, cost around $7.00 for 5 STALKS!!!

Plus, I don’t like the stuff, so that’s no big loss for me (hee-hee).

Canned pickled asparagus
So, in keeping with the sprit of local and available ingredients, I’m afraid this month’s Can Jam Challenge will contain a visit from the ghost of post’s past. Besides, I can’t think of anything I would rather do when preserving asparagus than pickle it. It’s my favorite.

Until next year, I guess I’ll have to pickle more cukes!

Pickled Asparagus
Recipe source: The Joy of Pickling
Makes 5, 12 oz. jars

3 lbs of fresh asparagus (sometimes I need more or less, depending on spear thickness)
5 garlic cloves, peeled
15 allspice berries
50 black peppercorn berries
20 coriander seeds
Red pepper flakes
2 ½ cups white wine vinegar
2 ½ cups water
2 ½ tsp canning salt
2 T sugar

Trim asparagus to fit inside canning jars, giving ½ inch of space from the tip of the spears to the top of the jar. Prepare jars for hot water bath canning. In a saucepot, mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar; bring to a boil. When brine has boiled, fill each hot jar with 1 garlic clove, 3 allspice berries, 10 black peppercorns, 4 coriander seeds, a dash or two of the red pepper flakes, and a pinch of nutmeg. Fill jars with asparagus spears, tips up, till comfortably full without packing. Ladle brine into jars, giving ½ inch headspace; top jars with prepared lids, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Wait 4-6 weeks before eating.

**Note: If you don't want to process for canning, just pour the hot brine over the asparagus and keep in the refridgerator.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Garden Snacks!

The garden is back to its beautiful prime, including these adorable, little tomatoes I call my "garden snacks." I don't plant these; they grow willy-nilly every year, but mostly concentrate in one area of the garden. I snack on them as I go about pulling weeds, trimming this or that. They're smaller than typical grape tomatoes and they're delicious!

I received the mother plants as a gift in a plant swap years ago at Seminole Springs Nursery. I wish I remembered the name of who gave them to me. All I remember was his name was Tom and something about "friends-don't-let-friends-plant-Tom's-Tomatoes," and here we are.

Every year they sprout up on their own and I laugh. For the longest time, I couldn't grow tomatoes and these babies popped up without any help. They're a welcome, cheerful, and tasty gift that keeps on giving!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Apple Cider and Rosemary Ice Pops

I cannot begin to explain how much I LOVE these popsicles! They are so refreshing and tasty I have to really try hard to only eat just one per day.

Apple cider and rosemary ice pops

Remember that little comment I made about summer being just around the corner? Well it’s here and these popsicles will definitely keep you cool. These would be perfect as a dessert for a grown-up barbeque or summer dinner.

Apple Cider and Rosemary Ice Pops
Recipe Source: Bon Appetit

4 cups apple juice or cider
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 whole cloves
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine apple juice, water, sugar, rosemary, and spices in a saucepan and heat medium-high, till mixture reaches a boil. Reduce temperature to a light simmer and reduce mixture to 3 ½ cups, 20 to 25 minutes. Strain into a 4-cup measuring cup and cool to room temperature. Stir in vinegar and extract. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight or till set.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Good and The Bad - Part II

I’m not sure you can tell in the picture, but that is a bathtub FULL OF CUCUMBERS.

A couple of years ago, I learned the hard way that pickling season in Florida does not equal the same pickling season for the rest of the country. At the time, I experimented with a fermented pickle recipe, which required several days of open air fermenting, adding new brine, and skimming scum.

All my pickle peeps were claiming these pickles were the bee’s knees, so I promptly went out and picked up 3 bushels of fresh cukes. I was anxious to have quarts and quarts of delicious, home-fermented dill pickles, so I gave it a shot.

Now, by the time early-season cukes are ready in Florida (May), the weather is already on the verge of hot-as-balls. As of this past weekend, the temps were already in the mid-to-upper 90’s, so you can imagine what temperatures like this can do to fermenting cucumbers. After the third day of my “pickle experiment,” my husband and I walked into the house to a smell that resembled fresh road kill and rotting vegetables. The fruit flies were having a party, and we weren’t invited.

It took many trips to the compost pile and many hours of cleaning, scrubbing, and disinfecting to clean up the mess. Now, several years later, I know that fermenting vegetables require very COOL temps, and we have a very short, if any, window of opportunity in the Sunshine State. I did; however, successfully make some awesome sauerkraut this past winter!

Pickle season is upon us again, and I am looking forward to another stab at making the perfect pickle. I’m almost there!

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