Happy Valentine’s Day!

Credit: 1909 Valentine’s card by Chordboard, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Valentine’s Day!
by Lynne Roberts

Happy Valentine’s Day to all you lovers of people, pets, plants, pizza, and world peace!!

Ever wonder about the origins of Valentine’s Day, once you’ve had a chance to buy your beloveds, friends, family and work mates those beautiful bouquets of flowers, pots of plants, plant and gardening books, and one single perfect flower bud??

Well, me neither, but in the interest of knowledge for you dear readers, I looked up the real history of Saint Valentine, and the origin of the celebration…

The “origin” stories are all shrouded in mystery.  There were three different Christian saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all martyred by the Emperor Claudius… Thanks to the actions of a prisoner named “Valentine,” possibly a Roman soldier, who sent a “love” letter to a young girl who he was in love with (possibly the daughter of his jailer), we now have the custom of sending love letters to those whom we love…Valentine signed his love note “From your Valentine,” and a great tradition was born…

By the Middle Ages, St Valentine had become the most popular saint in both France and England.

St Valentine’s feast was placed in the middle of February, in order to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of LUPERCALIA, a fun fertility festival dedicated to Fannus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus…

During the Middle Ages, people believed that February 14 was the beginning of the mating season for birds, and thus, Valentine’s Day became a day for romance—for everyone!

Geoffrey Chaucer, renowned English poet (Canterbury Tales), recorded St. Valentine’s Day as a day of romantic celebration in his poem “Parliament of Foules:”(1375)

“…when every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

Written valentine cards and greetings appeared after 1400, the first written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, after his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.

Cupid, chubby little naked cherub, shooting arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers, first appeared in the Hellenistic period.  By mid-18th century, English and French friends and lovers, all exchanged small tokens of affection or handwritten notes to each other, and by 1900, with improvements in printing and technology, printed cards replaced written letters.

America began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700’s.

In the 1840’s, the American, Esther Howland, began selling the first mass-produced valentines in the United States. She is known as the “Mother of the Valentine;” she used real lace, ribbons, and pictures to create her valentines.

So, all you amorous souls, send your friends, sweeties, spouses your own special valentine greetings: cards, plants, flowers, gardening supplies, today and throughout this week.

Source: (A&E Television networks, published, 12/22/2009)

Mini-Seed Shelters

Starting in March—Due to CV-19, Home Grown NM is offering two Mini-Seed Shelters this year. If you are looking for free seeds for your vegetable or flower garden, come to one of these the Mini-Seed Shelters in lieu of our annual Seed Exchange. Please bring any seeds you may have to share. It is not necessary but helps keep our seed supply going.

MARCH-APRIL March 6th thru April-25th–WEEKENDS ONLY   Time: 10 am—5 pm

Mini-Seed Shelters (as supplies last)

Two Locations:
The Seed Shelter • 1539 Burro Lane • Santa Fe (access off Quail View Lane)

Railyard Park Seed Shelter: 701 Callejon (behind SITE Santa Fe outside Railyard park classroom) • Santa Fe
Fee: FREE for everyone!

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Also the Seed Library is responding to pandemic-related library closures by again locating “Mini Seed Libraries” at 9 locations throughout the county starting in March and continuing through May or as long as seed supplies last.

March 6–May 31 WEEKENDS ONLY, 10 am–5 pm (as supplies last)

2021 Mini-Seed Library locations:

Main Library—145 Washington Avenue • Santa Fe (Located under the portal)

LaFarge Library—1730 Llano Street • Santa Fe (Located under the portal)

Southside Public Library—6599 Jaguar Drive • Santa Fe
(Located under the portal)

Reunity Resources Farm—1829 San Ysidro Crossing • Santa Fe
(Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to noon.
Call to confirm (505)-490-1047)

Santa Fe County Fairgrounds—3229 Rodeo Road • Santa Fe
(Located outside the white gate)

La Tienda at Eldorado—7 Caliente Road • Santa Fe (Monday-Saturday 10-5)

Galisteo, NM—Galisteo Park—The park is adjacent to church at the junction of NM Routes 41 and 42.

Pojoaque,NM—Pojoaque Valley Irrigation District Office, 9 Cities of Gold Road, Pojoaque.

EdgewoodEdgewood Senior Center, 114 Quail Tr., Edgewood, NM,
(at Community Garden inside hoop house)

Get the PDF version HERE: MINI-SEED STATION LOCATIONS

 

Culinary Herbs in the New Mexican Garden

Culinary Herbs in the New Mexican Garden
by guest writer, Deborah Madison

One of the rewards of life itself is tending a small garden plot of herbs.  I think of herbs as adjectives for they modify what you put them with. And I also think of them as the lively boarder collies of the plant world, the nippy little buggers that can transform your basic vegetables into wonders.  A carrot changes depending on whether you’ve paired it with earthy thyme, clean bracing parsley, lively lovage, early sage or mint, aromatic basils, or a lemony herb, like lemon verbena.  Mix dill, parsley, basil and cilantro together and you have a pretty striking super-herb that’s both familiar and exotic.

Many herbs are perennials, like lovage, thyme, sage, rosemary and sorrel, which is very convenient because once you’ve got them going they come back each year.  Some that are perennials in warmer places are treated like  annuals here. Marjoram in one such herb that I’m thinking of.  Many herbs tolerate poor soil and even abuse and neglect.

Annuals are generally pretty easy to grow. You can buy starts or you can also grow them from seed.  Anise, cumin, and caraway —all from the cupboard—do well enough here. Regardless, compare fresh with what you get in the supermarket, which are those nasty little plastic packages which hold a few herbs and costs at least $3.  If the herb is sorrel, there are, at most, a worthless 8 leaves, and they are often spoiled since they give off a great deal of moisture which causes them to wilt. Buying herbs in a plastic container is one of the most disheartening and costly things, you can do.  If you’re on a food budget, you’re not going to be buying herbs.  And yet, herbs are one of the most useful, delightful and functional plants you can grow. Here are some of my favorite herbs.

Annual Herbs

Cilantro/Coriander— I’m grew mine from seeds I collected from a plant that volunteered in the garden path last year. Despite the heat it is doing very well and has made plenty of green coriander “balls” that are so good with beets.

Cumin — The umbel flowers and seeds are so good with so many summer vegetables —eggplant, carrots, potatoes, beets, and so forth. And you can grow cumin!

Anise —you can plant these with seeds from the market if you like.  I did when writing Vegetable Literacy. They make a small delicate umbel-like flower.

Dill—I was impressed that this does very well in the Master Gardeners vegetable garden as a volunteer where it doesn’t’ even get water!  There is nothing better than fresh summery dill and its pretty golden umbels.

Chervil —“Chervil or parsley” are often called for in French recipes but chervil has a different, anise-like flavor.  It’s a lovely delicate spring herb and often paired with parsley tarragon and chives to make fines herbes. Basils— All kinds are easy to grow and each kind has its own flavor and characteristic. I was amazed the first time—years ago— I went to the botanical garden on the big Island of Hawaii and saw all these different kinds of basil that we are now familiar with.

Marjoram—Think of using marjoram wherever basil is called for. It’s summery in the same way.  And very different from Its relative oregano. Sweeter.

Lemon verbena—(Treat as an annual here)  Especially good with stone fruits!

Perennial Herbs

Lovage—my favorite herb, I think, but it’s challenging to grow here because it likes water. Tastes like a wild cross between celery can parley, but better.

Parsley—it’s such a basic herb – why not walk outside and pick it? Also it is a good host for the catepillars that fee our songbirds.

Angelica –I adore angelica (Bob Pennington has a huge on at Agua Fria) but
I’ve never been good at growing it.  The stems are traditionally candied and used in French desserts. To me it tastes like pine.

Oregano —a good summer and winter herb that does well here.

Salad Burnet—lovely with cucumbers and as a garnish for little sandwicihes.

Sage—I plant the culinary variety rather than the variegated. It’s the perfect herb to pair with winter squash and potatoes and its  purple flowers in spring have a mint-like flavor.

Sorrel—Plant in a big pot or in the ground.  It’s a tart herb.

Rosemary—Plant near a southern facing wall. Arp works well but you can plant a lot of varieties.

Mints of all kinds— (Useful —but I confess – these are a challenge for me!)

Chives, garlic chives, and their blossoms—Pretty and somehow essential

Tarragon—one of the first herbs to come up; always good with vegetables and in salads.  Has a strong licorice flavor.

Rue—not for eating, but the black Swallowtail caterpillars love it. Good to plant near roses.

Anise Hyssop—Makes a lovely tea! Has purple flowers.

Thymes of all kinds—Thyme even lemon thyme is grounding and especially good with sweet vegetables.

And don’t forget Deborah Madison has a new book out–An Onion in My Pocket, a memoir about her life which is great read!

Welcome to 2021!

WELCOME TO 2021!
by Jannine Cabossel/Chairperson
Home Grown New Mexico

Welcome to a new year! Last year was quite a year and I for one am looking forward to a new year that is not so stressful! Corona Virus was and still is rampant but appears that most of us will be able to get the vaccine in the first 6 months which will ease my mind.  Just waiting till they call me up! Home Grown New Mexico came to a screeching halt with our events and classes last year and now we are working on what we can do for this year to feed our souls. So what’s new with HGNM?

Regarding the Seed Exchange-We can’t have our normal HGNM Seed Exchange that we had every year in March, but last year we had a mini-seed shelter station where people could pick up/drop off seeds and it seemed to work well. It was just in the nick of time as many of the nurseries and national seed companies got cleaned out of seeds with many people wanting to grow their own food last year.

This year we will have two seed shelter stations. We are also coordinating with Santa Fe Extension Master Gardeners/The Seed Library. We are all in the process of getting our seed station locations nailed down which we will share later.  So, everyone who wants some seeds should be able to get some. MG/Seed Library will have many stations. Our two seed shelters will be open on weekends only, starting Saturday March 6 and will be open hopefully thru end of April. It will be unmanned so we ask only take what you need to plant for this season (no hoarding please). Still working out the details and will let you know as soon as everything is finalized.

We are changing our membership back to a calendar year which will be good from Jan 1-December 31. Since everyone’s membership has by now expired, we felt it’s a good time to switch back. It was too hard to track it the other way. All 14 people who bought memberships last year will be rolled into this year since we had cancel all events and everyone has been notified. Please consider becoming a member to support us. A bonus is members will get a deep discount on all events/classes. Plus it is tax deductible. Memberships cost will remain the same with individual memberships costing $35 and families/couples costing $60. You can join and pay here online. Just click on MEMBERSHIP in the top menu for details on joining.

Something new in 2020 was the board wrote interesting articles on here on our website since we couldn’t offer classes. This year we will do the same till the classes start. We have gotten lots of positive responses. If you want to read the previous articles, just scroll backwards on our site to catch up.

Our Board of Directors had our first meeting for 2021 to discuss classes/dates and we decided that we are NOT going to have any indoor classes this year but instead we are opting for outdoor events/classes to keep everyone safe. These events will start in June. At least that’s the plan. Our events/classes this year will start in June and go through Sept or October and awaiting confirmation. As far as what events/classes are we going to have? Well, we are working out those details too and will let you know as soon as things are finalized in the next few weeks but the plan is we’ll be back and I can’t wait!

Saving Green Tomatoes

 

Saving Green Tomatoes by Jannine Cabossel, the Tomato Lady

Now is the time to finish picking your ripe and green tomatoes as next week it will be in the 20s at night. If you wait till after a hard freeze, it will be too late.

How to save green tomatoes
If you have an abundance of green tomatoes on the vine, you still can bring them inside your house to finishing ripening them (not in a cold garage). Here’s how I do it although there are many ways to save them, I find using paper bags from the grocery store (yes that’s why you’ve been saving all those bags!) works really well.

How to pick tomatoes that will ripen

First you can tell which green tomatoes will probably ripen fully by looking at them. If you see the green is getting lighter on the sides, it will probably ripen as it has started the ripening process. Some have very dark tops and that is ok as long as the sides are a lighter shade of green. Also I just pick the bigger tomatoes as they are usually further along in the growing process versus the small totally dark immature tomatoes.

Use paper bags to ripen them

Place 2-3 layers of rock hard green tomatoes in bags as shown above-no more  that a couple of layers because as they ripen, you don’t want the ones ripening underneath to get crushed. Also discard any that have blemishes.

 

Place tomatoes that are just starting to get color in another bag and move the ones that are starting to color up from the ‘green’ bag. Look into your ‘green’ tomato bag every few days and move them to the ‘just starting to color’ bags.

Important tip: Put a slice or two of apple (any color) in each bag. The apple slice will release ethylene gas which is a natural ripening hormone that is in many fruits. It will speed up the ripening process of your tomatoes in your paper bags. Replace apple slices as needed. It really works!

 

Close up all the bags so the apple does it’s work and none of the gas is released. I fold the paper bags over several times and then I put either something on top of the bags to keep them closed or I shove them under a rack to help keep them closed as shown above.

The trick is you must inspect the bags every few days and move them to another bag as necessary. If you just put them in the bag and forget about them, you might wind up with a bunch of the ripen ones squished with the heavier unripened ones on top.

Once they have changed color but still hard, you should take them out of the bag and put them on the counter to finish ripening. Never put a ripe tomato in the refrigerator. A cold refrigerator dampens the taste.

This method is really good on extending the tomato season once the weather is too cold. They will never be quite as good as the sun-ripened ones but are still about 200% better than store bought ones. I use a lot of them that get a little too soft for pasta sauces and eat the rest.

Solar Oven Cookery

Solar Oven Cookery
by Alessandra Haines
September 2020

Looking back on this extraordinary summer of environmental and social turmoil a bright spot (quite literally!) has been regularly cooking in the solar oven. It is super easy, safe and versatile. It’s near impossible to burn anything and can be left unattended while you are out. No fossil fuels are used and no fumes are produced.

The oven I have been working with is a Sun Oven. It is basically an insulated box with a glass top and mylar reflectors. It works very well for patio use and is easy to move about and store. There are many varieties of commercial solar ovens available and a plethora of DYI designs. It is an incredibly simple device with really nothing to break down or go wrong.

The beauty of solar cooking is that you can eat well and NOT HEAT UP THE HOUSE!!!! As our temperatures rise keeping our interiors cooler in the summer is paramount. We all know that fossil fuel powered AC is not really a solution to a warming climate!

There are things that cook especially well in the solar oven that require long cooking times and I probably wouldn’t bother to cook in the regular oven or stove top in the heat of the summer.

For example, it works very well for any type of simmered soups or stock, stew, posole, cassoulet and polenta. Dried beans can be cooked in 2-3 hours with no soaking. Simmering only requires about 220F so even if the sun is less than optimal your liquid based dish will cook.

It’s perfect for roasting or baking: potatoes, yams, beets, turnips, carrots,
tomato, summer or winter squash as well as any type of casserole, enchiladas etc.

For baking anything in the 350-400F range is possible. My solar oven tends to max out at 350F so if its a cookie that wants 400F it might just take a bit longer. Smaller baked goods will cook faster. For example, banana muffins might be a better choice than a huge loaf of banana bread. The temperature can be adjusted by adjusting the angle of the oven to the sun and by cracking the lid open a bit which also releases condensation on the glass.

Cooking outdoors with the sun does require you pay attention to the weather. On occasion, if it clouds up, you may have to finish up your baked potatoes or whatever inside in the kitchen oven. The optimal cooking window is from about 11 am to 4 pm.

Cookware should be dark and heat absorbing rather than reflective such as foil or stainless steel.

Dark enamelware (black, red, blue, dark green) heats up the quickest as it is lightweight.

Cast iron or dark clay cookers also work very well and a black enamel toaster oven tray is the perfect size for roasting vegetables.

Foraged Flavors of Santa Fe

Our friends at Slow Foods Santa Fe are putting on the following event:

Foraged Flavors of Santa Fe/ZOOM Event

Speaker: Ellen ZachosDate: Tuesday October 6Time: 5:00-6:30 pm
For more info on this upcoming event and to sign up,
go to: Foraged Flavors of Santa Fe

 

D0-It-Yourself Solar Fountain

DO-IT-YOURSELF SOLAR FOUNTAIN
by Teri Buhl

One of the best things you can do to encourage wildlife in your yard is to create water sources.  For migrating birds, especially in the Southwest, fresh water is a lifesaver.  According to the Audubon Society, “fall” migration is a protracted experience, starting as early as mid-June and lasting until the early days of January. Such a long migration season provides birders plenty of opportunities to witness the spectacle and joy of birds on the move.  Peak fall migration occurs from mid-August to mid-October.  Cornell Lab of Ornithology researchers used cloud and radar data to estimate that 4.7 billion birds leave the U.S. over the southern border, heading to the tropics.  As stewards of wildlife, we can help a big percentage of our flying friends make a successful journey by supplying water when they need a rest stop.

This project is easy, it has a spray head that hummingbirds like, a center bowl for drinking, and a ring/bowl that larger birds can use for bathing.  In addition, a solar panel means that you don’t need to be near an electrical outlet.  Last, but not least, it’s a closed system that’s easy to clean and maintain.  What’s not to like?  Here’s what you need:

A 5-gallon bucket $5 – 10
A 13-inch diameter plastic chip and dip tray $1 – 3
A solar fountain kit, minimum of 2 watts of power $20 – 35
1 to 2 feet of 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch plastic tubing $1 – 5

You’re going to put holes in the chip and dip tray to allow water to drain back into the bucket, and can use either a drill or a soldering iron.   Any self-respecting do-it-yourselfer probably already has these tools on hand.  If not, visit your nearest Habitat for Humanity Restore and ask about their tool lending counter – they’ll be happy to help you.

Good luck and happy birding!

STEP 1
Find a place near a sunny spot for your bucket, and fill it to about 4 inches from the top.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 2
Check to make sure your chip/dip tray fits your bucket properly.

 

 

STEP 3

Mark the drainage hole locations on the back of the chip/dip tray using the ejection pin and molding marks as a guide.  Start with 12 holes – you can always make more later.  (This need not be perfect.)

 

 

 

STEP 4

Drill the holes using a 1/16 to 1/8” drill bit.  Make one “pilot” hole in the center of the dip bowl of the tray.  You can use a soldering iron for the holes if you prefer.

 

 

 

 

STEP 5

Choose a drill bit the size of your fountain stem, probably 3/8 to 1/2″, and make a hole in the center using the pilot hole as a guide.

 

 

STEP 6

Fit the fountain stem into the center of the tray.  It needs to be just above the water level line to spray properly.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 7

Most pump kits have small segmented pipes that you can size to the height of a container or pot.  Assemble these to the pump and place the pump in the bottom of the bucket.

 

STEP 8

Cut a relief slot in the bucket rim for the pump cord.  A round file works well for this.

 

 

 

 

STEP 9

You may need to buy an extra piece of tubing depending on your pump kit.  Use it to connect the pump piping to the fountain stem – see next photo.

 

STEP 10

The tubing needs to be long enough to lift the tray to add more water.

 

 

 

 

 

STEP 11

Solar panels come with hardware for ground or wall mounting.  If you use a ground stake, find a sunny place and face the panel to solar south.  The tilt should be about 30 degrees or less for maximum sun exposure throughout the day.

 

 

 

STEP 12

Keep your pump wet, grab a drink, sit back, and enjoy watching all the birds use your new fountain!

 

Making Herb Vinegars

Left to right: Dill weed and seeds, Empress of India nasturtium flowers and leaves, basil-oregano-garlic, tarragon, purple basil-oregano-garlic, Alaska nasturtium flowers and leaves, and Black Velvet nasturtium flowers and leaves. All were made using white wine vinegar except for basil-oregano-garlic, which is in cider vinegar.

Making Herb Vinegars

by Mike McGeary

In the late 1950s my family moved from a farm in Portland, Oregon, to the semi-arid, high-desert town of Bend, where my mother started to grow flower and herb plants for sale. She also made and sold vinegars infused with a variety of herbs, flowers, and seeds. One of my fondest memories of returning home was seeing the picture window in the kitchen filled with different colored herb vinegars on glass shelves. I inherited her herb vinegar recipes and notes, and her go-to book, The Art of Cooking with Herbs and Spices, by Milo Miloradovich (Doubleday, 1950), with additional recipes she wrote down inside the book’s front and back covers.

My wife and I have been making our own herb vinegars since the mid-1970s. It’s fun and easy, and the flavored vinegars make wonderful salad dressings and marinades. Adding just a dash will perk up many dishes, such as coleslaw, sautéed beet greens, or steamed vegetables.

The Basic Process
The process for infusing vinegar is straightforward. The following is a brief overview of that process. The rest of this article provides additional information and more detailed instructions.

Use a clean wide-mouth glass jar, or other nonreactive container, into which you put your fresh herbs or flowers or seeds of choice. Then fill the jar with the vinegar you have selected. Let the infusion sit, tightly capped, in a warm place. Shake it daily. After 10 days to 2 weeks, sample for flavor. If you want a stronger flavor, let it infuse a little longer, or replace the herbs with fresh herbs. When you are happy with the taste, strain the vinegar into a narrow-neck bottle and cap or cork it tightly. The herb vinegar is ready to use, but it will last at least 3–6 months.

Choosing Your Ingredients
We use store-bought vinegars, primarily cider and white wine vinegar, but you can also use red wine, champagne, sherry, and rice wine vinegar. Most recipes specify a type of vinegar, but you can be creative and substitute another vinegar for a different taste. Distilled white vinegar is basically the same quality regardless of the brand, but the other vinegars are generally better the higher the quality of wine or cider used to make it, which is reflected in the price.

Ingredients that are commonly used in making flavored vinegar include basil, purple basil, borage, salad burnet, chive blossoms, nasturtium flowers, dill, lemon balm, marjoram, spearmint, orange mint, rosemary, tarragon, scented geranium leaves, thyme, and lemon thyme. They can be used singly or in combination. Our favorite is basil-oregano-garlic.

Purple basil, chive blossoms, and nasturtium flowers each add a beautiful color to their distinctive flavor. The color shows best in white wine or other clear vinegars.

You can also add seeds or other flavorings. The most commonly used are garlic, dill seed, pepper corns, celery seed, coriander seed, caraway seed, lemon zest, onion or shallots, and horseradish. In fact, any one of these ingredients can be used to make an infused vinegar (see, for example, the recipe for celery seed vinegar, below).

Preparing the Herbs
Fresh herbs provide the most flavor. You can grow them in your garden or buy them at the farmers’ market or grocery store. Herbs from your garden should be picked before the plants start to flower, when their flavor is at its peak. It is best to pick them early in the morning.

You don’t have to wash the herbs unless they are dirty. In that case, rinse them in water, and spin dry them or blot them with a towel before putting them in the jar.

Preparing the Infusion
It is important to use only nonreactive (i.e., glass, ceramic, and stainless steel) containers, lids and stoppers, and utensils when working with vinegar. Glass, ceramic, and stainless steel will not react with the vinegar, but clear glass jars are best—all the better to see what is happening inside the jar. It is also a good idea to attach a note to the jar or lid listing the ingredients, type of vinegar, and date of infusion.

We use one-quart canning jars and plastic lids, washed in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher. Loosely pack the jars with the leafy herbs, bruising them a bit, by twisting them to help release the oil. For nasturtium vinegars, we put in a handful of leaves and a half-dozen or so flowers. You can add more flowers to deepen the color. Add any additional ingredients such as seeds or garlic, then fill the jar with vinegar.

Some recipes call for heating the vinegar before adding it, but that is not necessary when using fresh ingredients. Using dried herbs or crushed seeds, however, would be a reason to heat the vinegar (see recipe for celery seed vinegar, below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shake the jar each day to keep the herbs covered and distribute the flavor. (To prevent leakage, you can place a piece of plastic wrap over the jar before putting the lid on, as shown in the photo below. Check for flavor after two weeks. If you want a stronger flavor, you can add fresh herbs or simply let it sit for another week or two. If you think the flavor is too strong, you can dilute it by adding a small amount of water.

Decanting the Infused Vinegar
When the vinegar suits your taste, you are ready to decant it into clean, dry glass bottles. First, line a funnel with a double layer of cheese cloth, or other filter (we find that coffee filters result in a clearer vinegar). Pour the infused vinegar through the funnel until the bottle is full, and then cap it with a cork. Discard the solids.

Dressing It Up
We are always looking for interesting bottles—at yard sales and thrift stores—that are embossed with pretty designs, or have a distinctive shape, although any clear glass bottle works just fine.

When selling her vinegars, my mother put the appropriate fresh herb sprig, or blossom or flower, in each bottle. That adds a lovely touch and helps identify the contents, but unless you use the vinegar fairly quickly, they will fade. Usually, we don’t bother, but this time, because I am now trying to “sell” you on making your own herb vinegars, we placed some sprigs in a few of the bottles.

Finally, you can be creative with labels. We hang the label from a string around the neck of the bottle, so we don’t have to soak it off to refill the bottle the next year.

Some Recipes
Basil-Oregano-Garlic Vinegar

  • Fill 1-quart jar with roughly equal amounts of oregano and basil leaves and tender stems
  • Add 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Fill jar with apple cider vinegar
  • After 2 weeks (or longer if a stronger flavor is desired), strain the infused vinegar into a bottle and seal tightly with a cork

Tarragon Vinegar

  • Fill 1-quart jar with tarragon leaves and tender stems
  • Fill jar with white wine (or champagne) vinegar
  • After 2 weeks (or longer if a stronger flavor is desired), strain the infused vinegar into a bottle and seal tightly with a cork

Basil or Purple Basil Vinegar

  • Fill 1-quart jar with basil leaves and tender stems

[Even a small amount of opal basil will produce a beautiful pinkish-red color]

  • Fill jar with white wine (or champagne or rice wine) vinegar
  • After 2 weeks (or longer if a stronger flavor is desired), strain the infused vinegar into a bottle and seal tightly with a cork

Nasturtium and Garlic Vinegar

  • In 1-quart jar, put at least 6 or 7 nasturtium flowers and handful of nasturtium leaves

[The more flowers used, the deeper the color; the more leaves used, the stronger the flavor]

  • Add 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • Fill jar with white wine (or champagne or rice wine) vinegar
  • After 2 weeks (or longer if a stronger flavor is desired), strain the infused vinegar into a bottle and seal tightly with a cork

Celery Seed Vinegar

  • In 1-quart jar, put 2 ounces celery seed (or other aromatic seed, e.g., dill or caraway), crushed in a mortar with pestle, to release essential oil
  • Heat white wine or (distilled white)vinegar to almost boiling and fill the jar with the vinegar
  • After 2 weeks (or longer if a stronger flavor is desired), strain the infused vinegar into a bottle and seal tightly with a cork

ENJOY!

When Life Gives You Cucumbers, Make Pickles!

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU CUCUMBERS, MAKE PICKLES!
by Teri Buhl

All year long, people ask me how to pickle or ferment cucumbers. In summer, when cucumbers are just beginning to come in for harvest, they’re still small and perfect for fermentation, especially if you don’t have enough for a whole crock (which I’ll get to shortly). In a few weeks, when you have more cukes than you know what to do with, process/can them in a vinegar-based solution and make dill pickles (or ferment them). Toward the end of the harvest, those irregular shapes and sizes are perfect for bread and butter pickles and relishes. End of the season cucumbers often have a bitter edge, so use recipes designed to mitigate that bitterness by soaking overnight and/or sweetening the pot.

SMALL SCALE FERMENTATION

Half-Sour Pickle

Before humans discovered pasteurization, we fermented almost everything – intentionally or not! Yeast and lacto-bacilli are everywhere, and these opportunists are what make fermentation possible. I grew up in the Detroit area, and every Jewish or New York style deli had a big jar on the counter with beautiful, delicious “half-sour” pickles floating in it (also called Kosher Dills). A half-sour simply means that the cucumber has been in the brine for a few days and is still crisp and mostly bright green. Once fully fermented and olive green in color, they’re called full-sours.

Full-Sour Pickle

 

When we humans lived in a mostly agrarian society, our equipment was geared toward large batches of produce, so fermentation crocks were large, e.g., crocks and barrels. My first pickling crock was an expensive 5-gallon vessel, and I guarded it with my life! Today, we’re fortunate to have companies that make pickling in a 1-quart, half-gallon, or 1-gallon jar easy and relatively inexpensive. These jars are small enough to sit on your kitchen counter and most are glass, so you can watch what’s happening. They are also more sanitary and easier to clean than the equipment used by our grandparents.

In the recipe below, use a 1-quart mason jar with a ring, fermentation lid, and air lock to make pickles in 3 to 10 days. Once fermented to your taste, they need to be refrigerated to stop the fermentation process.   This recipe contains tannins (green tea leaves) to help maintain crispness, something I leaned from Karen Diggs at KrautSource.com. A saltier brine also tends to help keep pickles crisper.

Fermented Cucumber Dills

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups filtered water
1 – 2 Tablespoons high quality sea salt (Kosher salt is not standardized like sea salt is)
6 – 8 Kirby, Persian, or small cucumbers
2 sprigs fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dill seeds
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
5 – 6 cloves of peeled garlic
1 teaspoon loose green tea leaves or 1 grape or fig leaf (for crunchiness)

Directions

  1. Boil the water and pour into a non-reactive bowl. Stir in the salt and allow to completely cool.
  2. Trim off 1/4 inch of the blossom end of the cucumbers and poke a hole in the other end.
  3. Place all seasonings and garlic into a wide mouth quart mason jar, then pack in the cucumbers vertically. Cucumbers that are longer than the jar’s shoulder can be trimmed, but cut thick slices.
  4. Cover the contents with brine until it reaches about 1-inch over the top of the cucumbers.
  5. Place lid, ring, and airlock onto jar. Make sure enough water is in the airlock or moat at all times to keep out fruit flies and airborne bacteria. Ferment 3 to 10 days at a temperature between 65 – 80o
  6. When finished, replace fermentation system with a non-reactive lid, and refrigerate. Eat within 6 months.

Notes: Conventional wisdom says to keep the container out of direct sunlight, but UV light kills bacteria, so this is a point of debate. You can taste your pickles at 3 days to check on progress. If any white (Kahm) mold forms, simply remove it – it’s harmless. More rarely, anything pink, red, black, or slimy should be disposed of – these can be harmful if eaten, and are usually a result of not having washed your produce or not having cleaned the equipment properly. Garlic has wonderful anti-bacterial properties and should be included in fermentation whenever appropriate.

If you are a Do-It-Your selfer, you can buy a plastic Mason jar lid, drill a hole in it, and put an airlock/grommet in it. Otherwise, you can find fermentation equipment at these links (and more). I’ve used them all and consider the first two systems the best, because they’re made of stainless, can be sterilized, and last a lifetime. Rubber and silicon are less expensive, but are subject to splits, peeling, and contamination over time. HAPPY FERMENTING!

THE FOLLOWING LINKS have equipment choices in many price ranges:

https://www.krautsource.com/collections/frontpage (Superb stainless airlock system)

https://www.farmandfleet.com/products/1316699-ball-2-pack-fermentation-replacement-pack.html (Stainless/plastic airlock system)

https://masonjarlifestyle.com/product-category/mason-jar-fermentation/ (Silicone lids with glass weights)

https://www.farmcurious.com/products/farmcurious-fermenting-set-with-recap-2-pack (Plastic system with lid that can go straight to refrigerator)