Canning Pear Nectar

This fall, I was the surprised recipient of a beautiful bushel of pears from what we think is a Seckle Pear tree. That gift, however, did not come co-bundled with an abundance of time. I was determined that this gift would not sit too long while I put it off until the pears were passed perfectly ripe and had moved into “uh oh.”

HomegrownPears1

To hustle along, I decided to not can them as whole pears, but as nectar. Making nectar is a much easier process than canning whole fruit, as it does not require peeling. It begins with making a loose pear sauce much the same way one would apple sauce by bringing to a simmer pear quarters and water and cooking until the pears are either tender or falling apart. Pear varieties will differ in whether they stay together once they are fully cooked or fall apart – just like apples.

With the addition of lemon juice and sugar plus a hot pack canning process, pear nectar emerges. I’ll use it all winter long in smoothies instead of honey, as a juice for brunch, a foundation for mixed drinks, combined with ginger ale for a special drink for the girls and, well, I let you know what else I come up with!

Annie
Thank you, friend Glen. I’m glad we are both good at sharing.

Eco-Friendly, Green and Local – What’s Next?

As a food writer and business owner I’m constantly challenged by what the next new idea is. It used to be that we were on the leading edge of things. We were one of the first 50 businesses in Maine to receive the Leadership in Hospitality award from the Department of Environmental Protection. Our “It’s All About the Food Cruises,” where 90% of our food came from within 100 miles of us, were the first of their kind in our area. Even composting and recycling on the boat — which trust me, took some effort to figure out — are places where we led the way.

But now that everyone and every business is “green” — or at least they say they are — where do we go from here to be a leader? Likewise, everyone is talking about how local they are. Now that we buy entire sides of local beef and pork, raise nearly half of our veggies in the garden and buy almost all the rest from a CSA, what’s next? Raising our own animals? On 0.6 acres of land? That’s “zero point six” acres, not 6 acres. Not likely. Perhaps we should have hens on the boat like they used to do on the ships that sailed around the world; from the beginning of the voyage those early sailors carried many of the animals that would become their sustenance.

Then my mind wanders to what prompted us to go green, local and sustainable to begin with. At the core, it was about providing a clean environment and healthy food for our family. In the end, the business received the benefit as well, but initially, all I wanted was to avoid hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and chemicals in our food.

We began with the goal of healthy food for our family and in the process created a healthy food experience for our guests and for our schooner business.  Do we relish being a leader? Definitely. And will we keep looking for the next new good things for our family…AND for our schooner?  Absolutely.  And, in the meantime, we can also bask in the enjoyment of what we’ve created.  To love walking in the gardens early in the morning with a cup of coffee and deciding what is to be harvested for the next trip.  To know that the bulk of what we are serving and eating is full of that which is good for us.  And to enjoy the literal and figurative fruits of our creations.

I can be satisfied with that.  Absolutely.

 

Chloe Harvesting Sailing Morning

Gardening Duo 1

Gardening Duo 2

Rhubarb Champagne Jam

While there isn’t much time for anything in between trips, I do try to squeeze in a smidge to process jam that we make on the boat.  I’ll make a big batch there and then bring it home to process in a water bath.  While it’s an effort to do it, I’m always so grateful in the middle of the winter that I was able to eek out the time.

This batch came from a bunch of Champagne that was open but left behind by a family celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary.  It happened to coincide with the rhubarb coming into full swing.  The combination is a lovely one with the tang of the rhubarb softened slightly by the fruity Champagne.  In any case, I love the color of it and it’s pretty special on our biscuits.
Rhubarb Champagne Jam 3

Rhubarb Champagne Jam 2

Rhubarb Champagne Jam 1
Rhubarb Champagne Jam
4 1/2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup champagne
1 box SureJell
1/2 teaspoon butter
6 1/2 cups sugar

Have all canning equipment and jars ready, sterilized and waiting in hot water.

In a medium stock pot bring the rhubarb and champagne to a boil.  Add SureJell and bring to a boil again.  Add the butter and the sugar and bring to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and transfer to the hot canning jars.  Screw the lids on hand tight and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars carefully from the hot water and set on a towel spread out over the counter top.  Let cool.  Make sure the lids all ‘pop’ before storing for the winter.

Makes 7 or 8, 8-ounce jars

Annie
We be jammin’

New Compost Bins from Shipping Pallets

 

After coming home from a trip to witness no less than 30 seagulls feasting on our out-of-control compost pile, some fist shaking ensued and then some head scratching.  How could we compost the many and weekly 5 gallon buckets of vegetables scraps that come off the Riggin all summer long and have the compost meal du jour, enticing as it is, be less attractive or available to our critters?  The result were these shipping pallets — free from the local dump.  We started out nailing them together and then found that it was far easier to use polypropylene line to marry the unmatched ends together.  They’ll be topped with a sheet of luan plywood and all of a sudden, the seagull restaurant is closed! New Compost Bins 1

New Compost Bins 2Annie
Happy in my tidier yard

Roasted Radishes

Radishes are one of those vegetables that I’ve always wanted to like, but… never have… until recently, when I began growing them for immediate gratification.  The days to germination for radishes is 7 to 10 days, so they have my heart just for the small feeling of success that comes every time a row of baby leaves emerge.

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But roasted — now that’s a different story.  Roasting radishes, just as with any other root vegetable, brings out all of the sugars and softens the flavors.  And they are lovely this way.  They almost taste like potatoes — not quite mind you — but enough to ease any lingering doubt that these “mini root vegetables” can be a star.

Roasted Radishes

2 bunches radishes, de-stemmed and cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and then carefully add the radishes.  Sprinkle with salt and cover.  “Stir” every minute or two by holding the handle of the pan and the lid with potholder and shake the pan like your grandmother used to do for popcorn.  Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the radishes are browned on the outside and very tender on the inside.

Eating Spring Dug Root Vegetables – Parsnip Latkes

How fun to have both harvested the last of the parsnips on the same day that I planted next spring’s crop.  In playing around with these ivory beauties, I created a couple of new recipes for a column:  Parsnip Latkes, Root Vegetable Soup, Roasted Parsnips and Collard Greens.

Parsnip Latkes

Annie
Gone Digging

Elderberries – Takes Me Back

Okay, these shrubs are huge.  When I think shrub, I imagine bushy, low to the ground, reachable… manageable even.  In contrast, the reality of my elderberry bushes are heading-to-the-sky enormous and this is only year three.  On the other hand, I have a huge amount of juicy, aubergine berries to go with my out-of-control shrubs.

With those berries, what will I make?  A perfectly balanced sweet and tart pie with a flaky, buttery crust?  Elderberry syrup for both our mile-high pancake stacks or our viral ailments during the winter months?  Gem-like elderberry jam or jelly for shockingly purple smoothies or homemade bread and butter?  Maybe all three given the amount of berries we have.

The tiny treasures that are elderberries pack a powerful punch in both flavor and health benefits.  My grandmother used to make pies and jams the recipes for which are both on the blog already.

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StrainingElderberries

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StrainingElderberries3

Grilled Aspragus, Carrots and Radishes with Lemon Aioli – plus Radish and Red Onion Salsa

I used to seriously dislike radishes.  They are so sneaky – pretty, alluring red and then, BAM, hot-peppery-cabbage taste.  However, before you go nodding your head with the “uh, huh, sista,” consider a radish that’s not been sitting in a bag for two weeks waiting for some unsuspecting person who loves colorful food to put them in their shopping cart.  What if instead, you found them at a farmer’s market.  They’d been picked the day before, grown in cool weather, were small and not woody.  THEN you would feel how I currently feel about radishes.

Garden Radishes

I am in love with them.  I put them in my salads, roast them, make salsa with them and dip them in aioli.  They are still a tiny bit peppery and when they are paired with baguette and good butter, the nutty taste of them is enhanced and boy, is that good.  Of course, I will admit, that almost anything paired with baguette and butter is better than on it’s own, but hey, it’s all good.

So I took my radish show on the road to the Maine Ingredient and paired a Radish and Red Onion Salsa with Fish Tacos plus Homemade Tortillas, Refried Pinto Beans and a Pineapple and Red Pepper Salsa.

Grilled Asparagus, Carrots and Radishes with Lemon Aioli
For this recipe you will need either a grill pan or a cast iron skillet which can be placed directly over the grill.

1/2 pound asparagus, ends removed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths; about half a bunch
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks the size of the asparagus or thinner; about 3 carrots
1 bunch radishes, ends and tips removed and cut into quarters
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Make a direct heat fire or heat the grill to medium-high heat.  In a large bowl, combine all of the vegetables and coat with oil, salt and pepper.  When the fire is ready, place the grill pan or skillet onto the grill and allow to heat, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Place the veggies on the grill pan or skillet.  Keep a constant eye, moving the veggies around frequently.  Remove those that are seared on the exterior to the original bowl.  The asparagus will be done first, the carrots next and the radishes last.

Serve immediately with Lemon Aioli

Serves 4 to 6

Lemon Aioli
1 small clove garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest, zest from about one lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
dash Worcestershire
1/8 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Ever so slowly, while the motor is running, add the oil.  After about a minute of dribbling the oil in, you can add it more quickly.

Makes a little over 1/2 cup

Herbs Arrive in the Garden

Some silent but beautiful signs of spring and life in the garden…  Hello, old friends.

PerennialHorseradish
Horseradish – the leaves are sprouting and the roots are just peaking out of the soil.
PerennialLovage
Lovage – An old fashioned herb similar to celery in taste.
PerennialTarragon
Russian Tarragon – Not the lovely French culinary herb, but tall and wispy all the same.
PerennialChives
Chives – Add them to everything!

Thank you for the small changes I see everyday

Thank you.  Thank you for the sun, the warm weather, the seeds that are sprouting and the really simple plastic covers that are making it all possible.  Thank you for it all.  It’s such a blessing to walk in the garden everyday and delight in new growth and green.

The plastic is a new idea this year and it’s working.  When it’s rainy, it protects the seeds from hard rains which wash away the little gems.  When it’s sunny, the plastic serves to retain moisture and buffer the wind on our windy property.

Simple, easy, perfect.  Thank you.

SeedsGrowing1
Radishes, spinach and lettuce coming up under the mini-greenhouse.
SeedsGrowing2
Tiny, tender pea shoots. Salad here we come!
YardCleanUp
Moved the greenhouse which still needs to be covered. All of the beds in the background are seeded and sprouting!
AnniePowerTool1a
Making good use of the chipper/shredder. Love that thing.