Friday, September 29, 2006

More cheerfully

Here's the nice new Italian sausage recipe I've worked up. It's heavy on the fennel, just the way we like it.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE

2 1/2 lb. pork meat and fat
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. white wine
3 Tbs. finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbs. fennel seed, lightly crushed
1 tsp. (or a little more, to taste) red pepper flakes
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt

Grind the meat and fat coarsely, then add the remaining ingredients and work them through with your hands. Don't reduce it to mush, but do distribute the ingredients evenly.
Fry up a test patty. Taste and adjust seasonings. Fry up another test patty. Taste. Repeat as necessary.
Stuff into casings or freeze in bulk.

Futility

Remember how I finally defeated the squash bugs and squash vine borers? Well, now I have these.

*beats head against wall*

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I like the cut of their jib

Anyone else want to join in?

Mountain vacation


North Georgia's mountains are hardly even mountains in the grand scheme of things. They are not the sort of mountains you hire a sherpa to navigate; rather, they are gentle, woodsy uprisings whose main effect is to create bendy, fun-to-drive roads and to make the air a little bit clearer so that you feel really good all of the sudden. They are peppered with horse-riding stables and river-tubing liveries and state parks. And, unfortunately, tourists--but that is to be expected, I guess.

The tourists are the reason J and I chose a nice quiet Monday to heed the call of the Georgia mountains. It is apple season, after all, and as we discovered last year, that in itself is reason enough to go to the town of Ellijay.

Last year we had a sudden bout of "English" weather on the day of our trip--which was actually rather refreshing, since it was warm and muggy back home. But this time we really lucked out: It was 75, breezy, and mostly sunny, with clouds so striking and unusual that I had to keep reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road.

Before lunchtime we were in good ol' Mack Aaron's Apple House, picking up half-bushel and peck bags of Mutsus and Stayman Winesaps and greedily purchasing multiple fried pies for later. Every apple we sampled was delicious, and I don't mean Red Delicious. I managed to get a sugar rush just from apples.

The only disappointment was the cider, which was insipid. I guess I shouldn't expect great things, since the varieties that make good eating are not the same ones that make good cider.

We visited most of the other apple houses along that stretch of Highway 52, and I managed to find some Cameos and Empires for my apple collection. Then it was time for lunch.

The Mexican place we'd enjoyed last year was closed for renovations, so we were forced to experiment with a little sandwich shop across the road. It was just, y'know, sandwiches, but we appreciated a note on the menu that said they tried to use local or organic produce whenever possible. And when we had finished our entrees, the friendly proprietor came around with the Most Gorgeous Banana Cake Of All Time, piled with great shiny heaps of sour cream frosting. We couldn't possibly have any, of course, since we had all those fried pies in the car. But I very nearly bought a slice to go, and now I kind of wish I had.

Antiquing was next on the itinerary. We didn't buy much, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

And finally we headed home...except that we didn't. I got an idea in my head that I wanted to see downtown Dahlonega, so I took a turn off the main road. Quickly we realized we didn't want to go to Dahlonega after all, because it was 18 miles. But just as we were looking for a place to turn around, we saw a sign for Burt's Farm. "Pumpkins," it said.

That was an understatement. Our first eyeful was of wheelbarrows, hundreds of them, with a sign that said you weren't allowed to navigate one unless you were 15 or older. And then the pumpkins began, and continued as far as the eye could see. A good acre of them were the giant, prizewinning kind that aren't any good to eat. But plenty more were of the kind I prefer--the kind that are both beautiful and edible.

I came away with a Long Island Cheese, a Kuri, two Sweetie Pies, and a lovely blue-grey-green pumpkin whose name they told me, but which I promptly forgot and now can't find anywhere on the internet. It's similar to some of the Australian blue pumpkins, so I will treat it accordingly.

What was strange is how bright the place was. Technicolor. We walked around almost stunned by the combination of the clear air and the riotous hues. "The s.o. has to see this," I said. J echoed the sentiment regarding her husband.

So we are thinking: Another trip to the mountains in October? After all, we'll need Halloween pumpkins, and the Yates and Arkansas Black apples will be ripe...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Finally!

At last I'm getting a decent harvest of summer squash! These are ready to eat, and there are more in the wings. Here's how I finally nailed it:

(1) Successive plantings until the crop happens to coincide with a natural dip in squash bug population (and an absence of squash vine borers).

(2) Planting squashes far away from one another, mixed in with other plants such as tomatoes and radishes.

(3) Patrolling the garden every single morning, while the insects are sluggish, picking the bugs off and dropping them into a jar of soapy water (this is also how I finally got ahead of the leaf-footed bugs that were blemishing the tomatoes).

Hah.

I am taking a few things to the Oconee Farmer's Market in the morning, but these are not among them. They are ours, all ours. In fact, we already ate the zucchini, and it was delicious.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Loot

Blogger throttled my last attempt to post, so I'm slapping this up quickly in hopes of outwitting it. Here, at least, is a photo of the contents of the gift bags the s.o. and I got at Stitch 'n' Pitch! What a fantastic experience.

Best part: Two elderly bearded gentleman a couple of rows behind us, knitting gorgeous stuff. One wore a t-shirt that said "Man enough to knit, strong enough to purl." The cameramen kept putting them up on the big screen (which, at Turner Field, is mightily big).

Second best part: A woman in the row in front of us cross-stitching a very complex and (admittedly) very beautiful science fiction motif. I have decided that sci-fi/fantasy cross-stitchers are the true badasses of the hobby world, blissfully double-geeking their way through life.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Linky linky

Here's a really inspiring and informative forum on how to change what's wrong with our food industry.

And, if you like, here's what I've just written for the Eat Local Challenge blog.

Also: My radicchio has sprouted! It is camera-defyingly tiny.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Time flies when you're having fun


How can One Local Summer be over so soon? Do it again next year, Liz. I'll be there with bells on.

I went to the DeKalb Farmer's Market today. It's so pleasurable to shop there--the foodstuffs are all meticulously labeled with their place of origin, and so many of them are southern! I bought a bunch of things: Georgia shrimp, Georgia whole wheat flour, Georgia muscadines, Georgia zipper peas. I am easily tempted.

Here are some more of the spoils:

TROUT MEUNIERE

Farmed rainbow trout - north Georgia (about 125 miles)

STEWED BEANS

Pole beans - North Carolina (distance unknown)
Sungold tomatoes - our own (0 miles)
Vidalia onions - middle Georgia (about 125-150 miles)

WARM POTATO SALAD WITH SORREL

Potatoes and sorrel - our own (0 miles)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Up to no good, as usual

I've just received packages from two seed companies: Johnny's, and Gourmet Seed International. I guess that explains why I've been standing out in a steady rain with a trowel in my hand. I'm late planting some of my fall seeds. Again.

From Johnny's:

Oliver F1 hybrid brussels sprouts - This is what I was standing outside planting. I knew I was way, way late in getting them, so I purchased a super-early hybrid in hopes of ekeing out Christmas veggies. It won't work, of course--the cold will slow them down too fast and too early--but I think a few of them will stagger to maturity in the early spring, which is what happened this year.

Edonis F1 hybrid Charentais melon - For next spring. Supposed to be resistant to some of the various wilts and blights we get, which will make them an improvement over the plain Charentais melons we grew this year. I am trying Charentais again because, even though they performed poorly this year (due to several factors ranging from drought to poor placement), they were one of the few cucurbits that the squash bugs didn't care about. That in itself makes them SOLID GOLD, baby.

Tiptop F1 hybrid green acorn squash - Bought because I read somewhere that acorn squashes were remarkably tough in the face of squash bug attacks. Will find out if this is apocryphal next spring.

Stinging nettle - My importation of this annoying plant is final, resounding proof that watching the River Cottage shows over and over has warped my brain. I picture myself making nettle gnocchi just like Hugh. To doubters, I point to the fact that my Greek cookbook has several recipes that actually call for nettles.

Baby Pam pumpkin - Supposed to be the ultimate pie pumpkin. Say no more, eh? Also small and early, which may help me to harvest some before they all die from squash bugs and vine borers.

Estiva F1 hybrid tomato and Valley Girl F1 hybrid tomato - Both chosen for their potential as early-spring hoophouse tomatoes. Did I mention that we're going to try to start selling at the farmer's market? Oh, I didn't? Well, we are.

Tauro F1 hybrid radicchio - Absolutely have to attempt this gorgeous pastel-colored radicchio. Johnny's sent an entire page of literature on how to grow it. The text suggested starting them indoors and then transplanting them, so there are two little six-packs germinating in the kitchen as we speak. The late planting should be no problem because radicchio matures quickly and is not at all bothered by frost.

From Gourmet Seed:

Mr. Fothergill's Easy Grow Bean Collection - Four kinds of beans (one wax bush, one green bush, one green climbing, one purple climbing) for one low price. Couldn't resist. Like the tomatoes, some of these will be planted super-early in the hoophouse.

Parmex carrots - Our standard. Mustn't ever run out of these seeds.

Meraviglia delle 4 Stagioni lettuce - AKA Merveille des Quatre Saisons, but these are Bavicchi seeds, so it's all in Italian. I love Bavicchi seeds above all others, mostly (I admit) for the spectacularly pretty packets, but also for the broad selection of seeds that usually aren't available in the States. Some of the breeds don't do well here, but I get a lot of joy from trying them all. Some end up working beautifully. So anyway, I bought a packet of this gorgeous red-painted lettuce because it's just about time to plant lettuce here. Finally.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Russian volume

Of the Time-Life Foods of the World series, of course. I've been delving into it, for no other reason than that I haven't much before.

Two useful items have turned up. One is a Georgian (as in Republic of, not as in State of) method for frying small chickens flat under a weight. We think we'll try it sometime this week. The s.o. has decided it's time for one of the extra roosters to go. It's awfully crowded and roostery in Chicken Land.

The other is the page on infused vodkas. The flavors are all extremely intriguing: lemon peel, tea, pepper, tart cherry pit, anise seed, sweet cherry, buffalo grass. I decided I wanted to try making an infused vodka immediately. I started scrounging around in the kitchen. The tart cherries my mom and I buy every year come pre-pitted, so they were no help, but luckily tart cherry pits are sold as a spice called mahlab, which I had bought some of a while ago on a whim.

Sampled on its own, mahlab tastes stale and vaguely unpleasant. But I smashed some with a pestle, steeped it in vodka overnight, strained it out with a jelly bag, and bingo! We now have half a pint of assertively cherry-almondy vodka. I like.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A few of our favorite things


The turkeys: New pasture every other day

The chickens: Dust baths

The ducks: Kiddie pool

The dogs: Evening rawhide chewie time

Me: Perfect crisp new sheets

The s.o.: Flame weeder!!!!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

OLS 11: Eggs!


How long have I been working on this "Eat Local" thing? More than a year now, right? Well, some things take time. I've been trying forever to get hold of some non-factory eggs around here, and I've finally done it--in the second-to-last week of One Local Summer, and probably a week or two before our own hens start laying. Better late than never, I say!

The eggs came from a friend of a friend in Lexington, Ga., who keeps Rhode Island Reds and Araucanas and absolutely dotes on them. I like knowing that.

The other thing that's happening right now is that the peppers in our garden are going completely crazy. We have pickled, dried, and frozen plenty of them. But the Italian frying peppers--some green, some red--are just begging to be eaten fresh. Begging, perhaps, to be combined with the very last two links of the Italian sausage we made in January.

Here's what I made:

ITALIAN FRITTATA

Italian frying peppers - our own (0 miles)
Eggs and garlic - Lexington, Ga. (25 miles)
Italian sausage - homemade from Dyal Farms pork, Cobbtown, Ga. (132 mi.)

STEWED EGGPLANT (actually leftover from previous night's dinner; this time I served it cold like a relish)

Eggplant, Sungold tomatoes, green beans, and basil - our own (0 miles)
Garlic - Lexington, Ga. (25 miles)
Vidalia onions - middle Georgia (about 125-150 miles)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

I'm gonna hurt tomorrow

I am a sweaty, dirty mess. I just finished digging up our potato bed, which has been a weedy eyesore for some time. As those of you who've been following along at home are aware, I've been digging potatoes from the bed for weeks now. I've been using them quite liberally.

And today, in cleaning it out, I found an additional 20 pounds of potatoes.

I think it's safe to mark this down as a success.