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Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

Zucchinis Galore

zucchini-harvestIt’s August, and that means we’ve got plenty of zucchinis… in fact, we may have a few zucchinis too many.  One of our favorite ways to use a bunch of these prolific vegetables each year is in a big batch of zucchini relish.  We love using the relish all year long on sausages, hot dogs, and mixed with mayonnaise to make tartar sauce.  This year, I adapted our family’s recipe, souring it via natural fermentation.  Enjoy!

Canned Zucchini Relish

  • zucchini-relish-shredded-mixtureGrind the following ingredients using the grater attachment of your food processor (the one you might use making latkes):
    -10 cups summer squash or zucchini
    -4 cups onion
    -1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper
  • Add 5 tablespoons salt.  Mix and let stand, covered, overnight.  Drain and rinse in cold water (don’t worry about getting rid of every drop… some moisture will help in the canning process).  Place in a large pot with:
    -2 1/4 cups distilled vinegar
    -4 cups sugar
    -1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, mustard, turmeric, cornstarch
    -1/2 teaspoon pepper, celery seed
  • Bring to boil, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.  Stir occasionally to help all of the air out.  By the end of the 30 minutes, most of the air or bubbles should have escaped from your mixture.
  • With ladle and funnel, fill hot sterilized canning jars and cap  -or-  fill jars and can in hot water bath for 10 minutes. 

annual-supply-of-relish

Naturally Fermented Zucchini Relish

  • soured-mixtureGrind the following ingredients using the grater attachment of your food processor (the one you might use making latkes):
    -5 cups summer squash or zucchini
    -2 cups onion
    -1 red bell pepper
  • Pack into a 1/2 gallon ball jar with 1 tablespoon sea salt and 1/2 cup fermented pickle/sauerkraut brine or whey.  Cover and let sit, stirring to release bubbles daily, until sour.  This took about 5 days for me.  It can vary, depending on the temperature of your house and your preferred level of sourness.
  • After souring, in a large bowl, mix:
    -Shredded mixture
    -1 cup sugar
    -1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, mustard, turmeric
    -a dash of pepper and celery seed
  • Repack mixture into 1/2 gallon glass jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.

fermented-relish

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Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Harvest, Preserve, and Use Those Herbs!

Dried-Herbs
Dill, anise hyssop, chamomile, lemon grass, and mixed tea for presents

Growing your own herbs is easy and can save a lot of money.  Often only a sprig or leaf of an herb is needed in a recipe – buying an entire bunch or box at the store is expensive, usually forces you to buy too much, and the product is often wilty and old.  Cooking with freshly picked herbs results in flavorful dishes and even adds nutrition to your meals.  Many herbs are easy to grow right in the ground, in pots on a porch or on a windowsill (in fact, they often “grow like weeds”).  Drying herbs from your garden is also easy and will allow you to stock your cupboard for flavoring winter cooking and brewing beautiful herbal teas.

Herb Pruning DiagramYoung healthy leaves are the best ones to harvest!  They are tender and flavorful at this time of year. Think about what you’d like in your cupboard this winter.  Then harvest and dry the herbs you’d like now.  With most plants – including basil, mint family herbs, nettle, and tarragon – pinching tops off actually results in a more productive and bushy plant.  Check out the diagram to the right to harvest young leaf tips while boosting future yield.  For flowering plants, harvest newly open blooms and your plant will continue to flower through the summer.

fresh-tea
Fresh herb bundle brewing in a Ball Jar

What herbs are good for tea?  We love anise hyssop flowers, chamomile flowers, mint, lemon grass, lemon balm, raspberry leaf, nettle, sumac berries, and sage.   Fresh leaves stay intact in your cup or tea pot, so you don’t even need a tea strainer (left).  This year I’m also going to try bee balm petals, catnip leaves, echinacea flowers, calendula petals, and red clover flowers.  If you harvest and dry healthy tender herbs and flowers now, you’ll appreciate it in the winter!

What herbs are good for cooking?  We always make sure to have dill, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, and tarragon in the pantry.  Parsley, basil, and cilantro lose a lot of flavor when dried, so we freeze them in olive oil instead.

Check out past posts to: Learn how to dry or preseve herbs and flowers from your garden.  Also, if you have young seedlings growing, remember this spring garden tip from last year: Keep Garden Pests Under Control!

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Home Gardens Recipes

Preserving herbs and flowers

Chamomile in full bloom – ready to harvest

It’s the time of year that backyard gardeners start to think about preserving their garden harvest for the winter.  We’ve canned our first batch of pickles and frozen blanched spinach, green beans, and broccoli.  As you begin to harvest the bounty of your summer garden, don’t forget the herbs!  We dry them for later use in cooking and for herbal tea.

The best time to harvest leaves or flowers is in the mid morning, when the dew has dried but the plant is not dried out or stressed by afternoon sun.  Pick fresh growth and full newly-opened blossoms.  Older leaves are woodier and older blossoms fall apart easily.  It’s best to harvest clean leaves to avoid the need to wash them after harvesting.  Leaves should be completely dry before dehydrating.

There are several methods for preserving herbs.  Most of the herbs bought in the store have been dried.  If you live in a dry climate, bunching and hanging herbs in a dry warm place is simple and will work great.  We’ve covered our hanging herb bunches with paper bags to allow for air flow but keep off the dust.

In the Northeast, however, we are blessed with humidity during the mid and late summer.  Using a dehydrator is a standard way for you to do this at home.  We have one with stackable trays that works well for herbs.  A few years ago, however, we realized that the pilot light of our stove (which is on at all times) keeps the oven at about 110 degrees. Perfect for drying things out!  We

Chamomile blossoms spread on a cookie tray and ready to go in the pilot light-lit oven.

place herbs on cookie trays in the oven (without turning it on) for about 24 hours.  We use this method for chamomile and anise hyssop blossoms, and lemon grass, mint, tarragon, sage, oregano and rosemary leaves.  We love using the camomile, anise hyssop, mint, and lemon grass for home-grown herbal tea blends.  The other green herbs are perfect for flavoring soups, stews, and sauces.  They’re often fresher and more flavorful than anything you can find on a store shelf.

 

This basil is just starting to show signs of flower bud formation – harvest before flowers form to allow for branching and future growth.

For basil and other delicate and high-moisture leaves, chopping and packing in olive oil can be a better way to preserve the rich but fragile flavors.  Other moisture-rich herbs include cilantro and chives.  Once dried, they seem to loose much of their spark.  We freeze pesto (recipe below) and green sauce, but it’s also just as effective to simply chop/food process a single herb (use about 2 cups) and mix with olive oil (use about 1/3 cup).  Put the resulting paste in small plastic containers and drizzle a bit of additional olive oil on top so that no herbs are exposed to the air.  This will keep your herbs protected in flavorful until you’re ready to use them in the winter.

Pesto
Combine the following ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a paste is formed:
-2 cups Basil
-1/2+ cup grated Parmesan (best to buy as a wedge and grate it yourself)
-3/4 cup Olive Oil
-1/4 cup Pine Nuts
-2+ cloves Garlic
Enjoy fresh or spoon into small plastic containers, cover surfice in additional olive oil, and freeze