Garden, Plant, Cook!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Curds, Jam and Sauce - Oh My!

Dear Folks,

For some years now I've been canning.  Sometimes spring fruit like peaches or apricots, or making my own whole berry cranberry sauce for the holidays.

I got on a roll the last couple of days and tried my hand at Lemon Curd, using our first crop of meyer lemons from our young tree.  I am in awe of how simple this was, after reading for years about the protracted methods illustrated.  I found a basic idea on the internet and modified it slightly for my use.

Our pineapple guava gave us an abundance of fruit this year and I went looking for other things to do with the fruit besides eating it fresh.  Bam! Jam!

I did not process the lemon curd but will the next time I make it.  I am testing a small jar of it frozen to see how it does when I thaw it out. (Internet notes are yay and nay on freezing curd.)

So my recipes.

Whole Cranberry Sauce
16 oz fresh cranberries (I used organic)
1 1/3 cups sugar (again organic)
1 1/3 cups water.

Dump all in a sauce pan, cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Watch because it will want to foam up.  Cook until all berries burst and the syrup thickens.  About 20 minutes.

Water bath can for 15 minutes.

Pineapple Guava Jam

2 cups pineapple guava pulp*
1 1/2 cups sugar (organic)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (organic or your own tree fruit if you can)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (get Ceylon if you can)

If you want to control discoloration of the fruit prepare a bowl of acidulated water to drop fruit in after scooping.

Cut pineapple guava fruit in half lengthwise and scoop pulp out with a spoon.
Place fruit, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon in a pot, cover and bring to a boil, lower to simmer and cook stirring occasionally for 35 minutes.

Water bath process for 15 minutes.

*You may wish to chop fruit before cooking or you can use an immersion blender after cooking before canning.

Lemon Curd is one of the foods many people, including myself, have been in love with but very hesitant to make (like making hollandaise or mayonnaise - there is the fear of really, really messing it up).

Also most recipes call for egg yolks or a mix of egg yolks and whole eggs.  While I have things I can make with whites only - I did not want to have to deal with.

So I went seriously looking when my meyer lemons ripened and needed to be used.

I have a great recipe on - and as the folks there note you can make curd with lime or orange (also read a recipe the other day - elsewhere - for cranberry curd - going to have to try that - maybe for Christmas).

 Lemon Curd
 3 large eggs (using whole egg) 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
3 tablespoons grated lemon zest 
1/3 cup lemon juice 
1/2 cup butter (one 4 oz stick) 

Eggs, sugar and butter are organic, and my lemons are grown without chemicals.

Here is where the process is easier than some recipes call for.
Melt butter in a separate pourable container.
Whisk eggs, add sugar and whisk to dissolve sugar, add lemon juice and pour in sauce pan and heat med low (3.5) as it starts to thicken, add lemon zest and butter in a steady stream while stirring. Stirring constantly until it thickens. This may take about 5 minutes after you add the butter.

Jar up and chill.  Use within 2 weeks.

As I noted I'm testing a small jar in the freezer to see if it thaws without breaking. 

I hope these give you some ideas for using your own fruit or great fruits you find at the farmers market.  (Meyer Lemons are in season now.)

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ode To The Sugar Pea

Dear Folks,

In a prior post I noted I was going to discuss the Sugar Pea at length.

Whichever variety of Sugar, Snow or Snap Pea you have an opportunity to grow, do so.

Let me tell you the joys of growing this vegetable in the garden, particularly in the desert garden.  Unlike the English (Garden) Pea this cultivar is useable at many stages.

Pretty much the whole above-ground plant is edible, from the delicate 6 inch growing tips (stir-fry), to the flowers, to the pods, young and older, to the shelled peas and, while I have not done so, the dried and then cooked mature peas. (Pictured to the right is a group of about 3 plants - photo taken March 22nd).

And THEN after the plant starts to die back, you harvest the completely dried peas, save for re-sowing the next season and leave the root in the ground to feed nitrogen back into the soil to help with the next crop (tomatoes anyone?).

These plants will flourish from October through late March (or even well into April if we do not gallop into 100s too soon).  Each plant may produce for 3-4 months as long as you keep the pods picked young (3-4 inches).  Successive sowing (every 2-4 weeks) will keep a small row productive for 5-6 months - how cool is that?

Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon is commonly known as the snow pea.
Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon ser. cv. is known as the sugar or snap pea
– Wikipedia

The nutrient density of this veggie is just about perfect.  Low calorie, high protein and fiber.  (Note: the protein is incomplete, but easily remedied by eating with other foods such as grains, meat or dairy.)

1 cup of chopped pods has 41 calories, 2.74 gms of protein and 2.5 of fiber and vitamins and minerals including potassium, calcium and Vitamins A and C.

1 cup of matured peas (shucked from still green pods) has approx 117 calories, 7.86 protein and 7.4 fiber, but higher sugars than English (Garden) peas.

Source:   Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27.

In my garden the first flush of pods usually does not make it in the house.  I/we eat right off the vine. Then I settle down and try to harvest, for use in salads, soups or stews.  I like throwing some chopped pods into a soup or stew in the last minute or two of cooking.  When I make chicken pot pie, I use chopped sugar pea pods instead of English Peas.

Last year was challenging for me and the garden.  After planting successive seeds, I did some traveling then had to deal with health issues for myself and a relative, on and off from early February until October. The result was I missed most of the young pod harvest time.  When I could get into the garden I found many plump green pods.  Still wonderfully edible raw (remove the string :-), but the more I looked the more I found pods with huge peas.  So I thought, well why not just shuck them.  The result was the glorious green peas you see in the bowl.  I found them still sweet eaten raw out of hand, added to salads and soups and stews (again at the last minute or two).  I also froze them for later use.  (I lay fruits and small veggies like this on a tray to freeze individually then put in a zip-lock or jar so I can take out whatever portion I want.)

At the end of the growth when the vines are completely dead, I clip at soil level - some I pull completely, but usually the roots still stay in the soil.  Leaving the vines to dry completely before removing ensures the nitrogen fixing nodes have fed back into the soil.

Even without planning I always find many dried peas in pods to save for sowing the next season.

Harvesting seed for resowing also keeps the region-specific adaptation principle alive and well.  This bit of science says that 2nd, 3rd and later generations of the specific plant are more adapted and more productive to the region (think you garden) than purchasing new seed each year from a commercial supplier.

Growing sugar peas is not only rewarding it is easy.

Choose a full sun spot.  Plan what you are going to use for a trellis set up (trellis, bamboo poles tipee style, string, or cord - whatever works for you).

Sow the first seeds as early as you can in the fall (Sep 1st is okay).  Plant every 6 inches in a row running east to west or along a south facing wall.  Sow 1 inch deep.  If you have bird or critter problems, place a layer of mulch lightly (like straw or twigs) over the sown spot to hide the seed area.  The vines will grow up through this cover without a problem.  Plan on sowing more seeds every 2-4 weeks through the first week in February.  Figure on 2-4 plants for every person in your household.

If you have great success with the vines, consider sacrificing some future peas by harvesting growing tips (up to 6 inches long) and/or flowers for stir frys and salads.  The vines will put out more vine - you are not killing it off.

Once the plants get going good you should be able to harvest about a cup of young pods every week for every 4-5 plants.

So what are you waiting for?  Get your peas growing and experience the delights and many uses of this incredible plant.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

I will be participating at the Author's Day at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on December 6th.  Come on out and visit with myself and other authors on a range of topics.

If you can't make it - I sure hope you can!! -- my books are available in print and e-book at various sites on the internet


amazon - print

Barnes & Noble - print and Nook ebook