Delicious Recipes with Sicilian Serpent Squash – Soup or Curry

Fresh Sicilian Serpentine SquashMaybe you have seen this amazing vegetable at a Farmer’s Market or maybe you even grow it yourself in your garden?  It has many different names such as serpent zucchini, italian squash, serpent of Sicily, zucchetta, calabash, and other names. They can be usedSelf-Healed end of a sicilian serpent squash like zucchini or summer squash, taste great, stay fresh for 2 weeks without refrigeration, and their most amazing feature is that they self-heal.   Just cut off as much as you want to use and leave the remaining portion out on your kitchen counter.  In no time, the end will dry and seal in the moisture and freshness of the left-over portion. when ready to use more, cut off another piece and discard the dried end.

So don’t hesitate, grab one and take it home.  Here’s my favorite EASY recipe that’s a hit at our table every time.  Add a different liquid and spice to make it either a soup or a curry (great over rice and pasta).

Serves 4
1 tablespoon of olive oil, heat
2 onions, chopped, add and cook until soft
1/2 of a serpent squash, peeled and cut into bite size pieces, add and stir
1 large package sliced button mushrooms, add and stir

For soup: add 2 chicken or vegetable flavor cubes and 2-3 cups water.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Freezes and reheats well.
For curry: add 3 tablespoons curry powder and 2-3 cups milk. Simmer for 15 minutes. Serve over pasta or with rice.  Freezes and reheats well.

Homemade Satsuma Citrus Orange Marmalade Recipe

Homemade Satsuma Marmalade

Just as the taste of a homegrown tomato cannot compare to the grocery store version, so too is it with homemade marmalade where the flavor pops on your tongue.

Satsuma Marmalade

Satsuma Marmalade

This recipe is simple, delicious and a great recipe for beginning canners. 100% deliciousness in a jar that goes perfectly on toast, saltines, chicken, pork, with coconut shrimp, and, and, and…
Tie a pretty ribbon around the top and it makes a great gift at any time.

Ingredients:

  • 12 Satsumas (about 2.5 pounds, can substitute Mandarin or Clementine oranges),  quartered and thinly sliced, discard any seeds.
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice, discard any seeds
  • 6 cups of water
  • 4 pounds of sugarTools: jelly jars, candy thermometer, funnel.

Equipment:

  • Saucepan
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Jelly Jars, Lids, and Rings
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Ladle
  • Funnel

1. Wash the fruit with warm water and scrub with a brush to remove any dirt, grime or sprays that may have been used on the fruit beforeSimmering sliced Satsumas harvest.

2. Quarter and cut the satsumas into thin slices.

3.  In a heavy saucepan add water, all the fruit and lemon (zest and juice). Bring to boil and then simmer for 35-45 minutes until peel is tender.

4. Prepare your jars.

5. Remove pot from heat and add the sugar. NOTE: the rinds will stop softening once the sugar has been added, be sure it is to you desired tenderness before adding sugar.2016-12-06-09-41-30-small

6. Over medium heat, bring the fruit/sugar mixture up to boiling – stirring constantly. Cook to the jellying point (222 degrees F on a candy thermometer). Once the temperature starts rising over 212 degrees, it will take an additional 30-45 minutes to get to this point.  Do not rush here as your marmalade will not set if you are impatient.

7. Ladle hot marmalade into jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids. Process for 5 minutes in a waterbath canner.

8. Check seals when cool and label. ENJOY!

Satsuma Marmalade going...going...gone

Satsuma Marmalade going…going…gone

Chestnuts – Fresh from the Garden

Fresh Chestnuts
The chestnuts are looking great this year!  They feel solid and I have been picking them them this morning.  Picking chestnuts is a prickly affair, one best wears heavy shoes and gloves. If you are fortunate to have a chestnut tree in your garden, it’s well worth the effort!

chestnuts

 

Once harvested, the nuts are  washed and then soaked in hot water (120-125F) for 30 minutes. Any nuts that float to the top are considered ‘not good’ and are discarded. They are then cooled, dried and stored at 35-40F in cloth bags. They will keep for weeks until ready to roast.




How to roast
chestnuts
chestnunts on baking sheetslitting chestnut
1. preheat the oven to 425F  
2. cut a Y slit into each nut

3. line cookie sheet with foil and spread out the nuts in a single layer
4. fold up the foil, leaving opening on the sides, then add 1/2 cup waterPeeled Chestnuts
5. roast for ~20 minutes
6. take out of oven, peel and enjoy

Roasted nuts can be shelled and frozen for later use.  Shelling is much easier when the nuts are hot. I leave the pan in the oven and get 2-3 nuts out at a time, then pack them in ziplock bags and put in the freezer.

Odenwälder Kochkäse – German Cooked Cheese – Recipe

One of our favorite foods when visiting Germany is Kochkäse, a creamy, semi-liquid cheese that is served on bread, on top of Schnitzel, or it can be eaten like a dip with crackers.  There is no shortage of recipes, most of them use ingredients impossible to find in the US, take weeks to prepare, or are complete fails in the flavor department.
For the last 20 years I have tried to make this delicacy here in Chattanooga. For the first time…..SUCCESS…Here’s my recipe using Greek Yogurt.

Koch Käse with crackers

Koch Käse with crackers

Ingredients:
1 Large (35.3 ounce) container 2% Fage Greek Yogurt
2 1/2 teaspoons Natron (Baking Soda)
2 teaspoons Salt
2 tablespoons Butter
2 teaspoons caraways seeds (if desired)

Yogurt with Natron and Salt

Yogurt with Natron and Salt

Instructions:
1. Strain the yogurt in the fridge overnight.
Line a strainer with cheesecloth (a kitchen towel, coffee filter or clean handkerchief will do too). Set the strainer over a bowl and pour the yogurt into the lined strainer.
2. Pour the thick yogurt into a bowl and mix well with the Natron and Salt, using a wooden spoon.  Cover the bowl and let sit out on the counter at room temperature.  Stir every few hours until the mixture is translucent. This process will take about 24 hours.
3. Pour the mixture into a pot, add 2 tablespoons Butter. Stir constantly and slowly warm on VERY LOW setting until it has the consistency of vanilla pudding.  DO NOT let this mixture get hot or it will curdle.  If desired, add caraway seeds.
4. Pour into containers and store covered in fridge, will keep 2 weeks.

Finished Kochkäse

Finished Kochkäse

Mixing It Up

One of the things I love about Belle’s garden is the way that she has mixed edibles with ornamentals, and perennials with annuals. You will find fruit trees and brugmansia, tomatoes and jade plants, and many other examples of food-producing plants alongside ornamentals in Belle’s beautiful garden.

In my own garden, I try to emulate Belle’s permaculture-esque approach. One trellis supports sweet autumn clematis, another provides a structure for a grape vine. Each spring, I sprinkle zinnia seeds betwixt and between the perennials in my garden. Rosemary and sage grow next to coneflowers and rose bushes. I even have a small patch of asparagus, which offers beauty (those fern-like fronds are gorgeous), delicious salad additions, and the sturdiness of a perennial.

There are so many reasons to garden, and we each have our own set of wishes and desires when we bring together soil, seeds, roots, water, and sunshine. My grandparents had a bit of an on-going battle regarding gardening for food or for pleasure. My grandmother loved flowers and throughout my life she planted all sorts of things. My grandfather, though, somehow thought growing flowers was wasteful. He preferred to see any gardening efforts go toward growing vegetables.

Asparagus, Penstemon, and Lilies growing in a tangle.

Asparagus, Penstemon, and Lilies growing in a tangle.

Happily, there is a middle ground, and Belle demonstrates it wonderfully. Pathways that twist and turn amongst the flowers, fruit trees, berry bushes, and vegetables offer surprises no matter which way you look. My favorite time to visit Belle is during her spring driveway sale. At that time, there is an area behind her house that is filled with purple iris and columbine. It is breathtaking — even though she doesn’t have any edibles mixed in that particular area!

Winter look of Belle's mixed garden with columbine and iris

Winter look of Belle’s mixed garden with columbine and iris

 

 

 

Snow, Ice, and Strawberry Dreaming

Some people love winter. They say things like, “Snow! Sweaters! Hot chocolate!” and smile. I’m not one of those people. I don’t own the proper clothing — it seems crazy to buy expensive boots that I might need for one week out of an entire year. No. I’m a thin-blooded southerner who handles heat far better than cold!

For me, the absolute worst part of winter is February. The majority of this week in Chattanooga the temperature is unlikely to rise above freezing. At my house there is a thin blanket of snow on the ground. The few, sad flower stalks leftover from last year in my garden are coated in ice. The little pond is frozen over.

icy garden

What is a gardener to do?

Plan, of course. And dream. I’m using part of this week to draw a map of the berry patch my family will build this summer. We have blueberry bushes, wild raspberries and blackberries to tame, and we are ordering strawberry plants. We will have a much larger garden this year than usual so there is quite a lot of planning to do. This forced “thinking time” is probably a good idea!

Eventually, we hope to be able to offer a “U-Pick” berry option, so we are trying to think about the future as well as the upcoming season. With all of that in mind, I’m going to plant the strawberries in gutters. I will set three foot tall posts every ten feet or so, drill holes in the gutters for drainage, and attach them to the posts.

Then, I will fill the gutters with soil and strawberry plants. The benefits of this system are that weed control will be much easier, no bending to pick berries will be required, and it will be easy to snip the runners.

There are drawbacks, as well. Watering will be an absolute requirement. There are several irrigation systems that could work, and I will be investigating them this summer. One intriguing design I’ve looked at included a second set of gutters running beneath the one with the plants in it. The bottom gutter would be filled with water with some sort of mechanism that would allow the roots to wick up water.

Strawberries themselves are a promise of spring. Already, we are getting some pretty good Californian strawberries in the grocery stores. That alone is enough to give me hope that the ice, snow, and freezing temperatures will soon be gone!

Here are some places you can learn more about growing strawberries in gutters, if you are interested:

http://www.hometalk.com/3481953/planting-strawberries-in-old-gutters

http://www.harryhelmet.com/strawberry-gutters-forever/

http://www.organicauthority.com/organic-gardening/grow-a-gutter-garden.html

 

Jeff’s Favorite Cake – Recipe

Time: 20 minutes prep, 25 minutes bake, 10 minutes finish
Difficulty: Easy2014-11-27 09.17.44 (Small)Step 1:

100 g butter
100 g sugar
1 package vanilla sugar
4 Egg yolk (large)
200 g flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Mix butter, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla sugar and beat till fluffy, add in flour and baking powder and stir till smooth.  Spread across TWO springform bottoms, this is a very thin base!

Step 2:

4 egg whites
200 g sugar
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
Make meringue and
spread onto both dough bases.80 g sliced almonds – sprinkle on top of meringue then bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Let cool.

Step 3:

1 pint whipping cream
2014-11-27 09.11.08 (Small) 2 packages whip-it
 1-2 package vanilla sugar
Mix together and whip cream until stiff peaks form, fold in fruit (mandarin oranges, gooseberries, currants, blueberries, etc) and spread on bottom layer of the cake.  Cut the second layer into desired number of slices and put on top. Use a sharp knife and cut the cake all the way through.
 

 

 

The Apple Jelly Saga — Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my first attempt at making apple jelly. (spoiler alert: it didn’t go well) As promised, this is the sequel to that post. It’s a good thing the apple trees were productive this year…

The Second Attempt

Making true apple jelly means extracting the juice from the apples. In all my research, it seemed that most folks cooked the apples until tender then hung them in a cheesecloth bag or strainer over night and let the juice drip down into a bowl.

Since making the jelly on my own was a failure, I decided to get the family involved on the second attempt. The apple trees grow on the family farm, after all. We didn’t have any cheesecloth, but we did find a new, clean, white undershirt — you know the kind commonly called a “wife beater.”

We cooked down the apples, then pulled the shirt over a huge mixing bowl. Of course when we put the apples into the shirt, it just fell down to the bottom. Since we are creative people, and there were about 10 of us trying to come up with a solution, we knew there had to be a way! There was: duct tape.

We taped the shirt to the bowl so that it wouldn’t fall down, put the apples in, and covered the whole mess. The next day…there was about ¼ cup of juice in the bottom of the bowl. I still don’t understand why our brilliant idea didn’t work. But, since it takes about 7 cups of juice to make a batch of jelly we were out of luck. Again.

At this point, I was ready to abandon the entire idea of making a sweet, preserved treat from the apples. I was leaning heavily toward slicing them and making half-cooked pies to freeze and use all winter. Because apple pie, right?

The Third Attempt

Then, I came across this recipe for Rosemary Infused Apple Preserves, and noticed that

I left the rosemary instead of removing it like the recipe instructed.

I left the rosemary instead of removing it like the recipe instructed.

you used the whole apple — no need to extract the juice! I had to try one more time. Happily, the same day I made preserves, I’d promised to show a cousin how to bake homemade bread. We ended up with fresh, hot bread and homemade preserves. At the same time! It was a moment of culinary bliss.

This recipe resulted in something that seemed more like applesauce than it did anything else — but the most flavorful applesauce I’ve ever had. Since I’m a rebel, I didn’t really follow the recipe. Here’s what I did instead:

  • Peel, core, and chop the apples
  • Cook until they are soft, with a few sprigs of rosemary
  • Taste
  • Add the desired amount of sugar (I used significantly less than the recipe called for)
  • Squeeze the juice of a lemon in
  • Cook until the sugar is dissolved
  • Mash and stir until you have a consistency you like
  • Load into clean, sterilized jars and process in a water bath


I haven’t tried it yet, but these preserves would be delicious with a strong cheese. Or maybe with a pork roast. Definitely on breakfast toast. Next year, I’m skipping the jelly attempts and going straight for these preserves!

The Apple Jelly Saga – Part 1

Last winter, I planted several apple trees — two in my yard, and four at the family farm. Of the two in my yard, one is doing spectacularly. It needs to be pruned, but is healthy and growing well. The other was the victim of a small accident — my husband cut down a small mimosa growing on our fence line and it fell directly onto the apple tree, breaking most of its tender branches and splitting the trunk all the way down to about a foot off the ground. But it came back! I couldn’t believe it when I found new growth all around where it had been split. We’ll see what it does next year.

Of the trees at the farm, one appears to be dead, another is living but suffering, and two others are doing well. I’ve tried to identify the pests and/or disease that killed the first one, but apples are susceptible to so many different things. We are lucky to also have two fully mature, producing trees at the farm! They are old — they’ve been there as long as I can

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

They may not be grocery store pretty, but they are farm fresh delicious!

remember — and no one is sure what variety they are. The fruit is small, splotchy red, and very slightly tart.

This year, they both produced heavily so I decided to try my hand at making apple jelly. Then I read some recipes and decided to try apple preserves instead! What I actually ended up with could be more accurately described as apple flavored syrup with pieces of apple…Here’s the recipe I (sort of) followed: http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/caramel-apple-jam.

I say “sort of” because I did things out of order, which, no doubt, was the downfall of my preserves. I put everything in the pot together and simmered it until the apples were tender, then brought it to a boil and then put it in sterilized jars. It didn’t gel. Live and learn,

The jars look nice, anyway!

The jars look nice, anyway!

my friends.

On a positive note, that apple syrup will be perfect for sweetening oatmeal and for eating with pancakes. AND — there are plenty of apples left to try again. This time, I’m going to go with a traditional jelly recipe, and follow the instructions much more closely. I’ll let you guys know how it works out!

 

Saving the Heat

Have you enjoyed a plentiful pepper harvest this year? Are you wondering what in the world to do with all your peppers? Recently a Green Thumbs Galore customer mentioned that he and his wife uses ice cube trays to freeze peppers. Over the winter they use more cubes for hotter dishes. We thought it was a brilliant idea!

One lesson that I learned the hard way is that it is best to wear gloves when you’re working with peppers. Some people say that rubbing lime juice on your hands will protect them, but Belle has had no luck with this method and I’m not willing to take any chances. It’s also a very good idea to not touch your face. I was making salsa with fresh, hot peppers one time and ate a tomato. I inadvertently touched my lip and it burned for hours!

If you’d like to try the freezer method, chop your peppers finely, put them in the trays, then top the trays off with water. After they are frozen solid, remove the cubes and put them in freezer bags. You can then just add the cubes to soups, chilis, casseroles, or whatever you want throughout the winter.

Peppers can also be frozen whole or sliced in half. Wash them and make sure they are completely dry. If you are slicing them, you can either remove the seeds or not — the best thing to do is whatever you would do if you were using the peppers fresh. You’ll want to freeze them individually before putting them in a bag in order to prevent them sticking together in the bag. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer for a couple of hours, then put them in freezer bags, date them, and pop them back in the freezer.

Another way to make your pepper harvest last all year is to make pepper sauce. Pepper sauce is so simple and so versatile you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it every year. All you need is a glass bottle with a cork or a cap, vinegar, peppers, and whatever spices you like. We usually use garlic cloves and black peppercorns. Heat the vinegar but not to boiling. Stuff your peppers, crushed garlic, and about a teaspoon or so of black peppercorns in your jar. Fill the jar with hot vinegar. The mixture doesn’t have to be refrigerated, and if the vinegar runs low, just add more. Pepper sauce is excellent with greens, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and cornbread.

If you prefer hot sauce, the ingredients are nearly the same. The difference is, you cook the mixture until the peppers are soft, then you puree it and pour it into your jars or bottles. Add ingredients or spices as you like. The beauty of working with peppers is that they are so flexible. You can make your sauce hotter — pureeing the peppers makes the hot sauce HOT — or not, you can add onion, or salt, or even a little sugar. It’s nearly impossible to ruin hot sauce or pepper sauce.

What is your favorite way to preserve your pepper harvest? Jalapenos

Jalapenos