Workin’ the Gherkins

So much has been happening at the farm since my last post! Dehydrating turnips seems like ages ago. I’ve been trying to accommodate the other harvest items that are pouring into my prep kitchen this time of year. Obviously, it doesn’t just ‘pour in’ since we are actively harvesting daily and then must immediately ‘accommodate’ it (wash, etc.) until we eat it or preserve it or hand it over to friends. We definitely know how to cook/prepare/eat it,  and I’ve been working on multiple methods to preserve it in various fashions but it is the sharing part that we really need to work on. That is the part of the equation that we want to accommodate but oddly it is the most difficult to fit with our schedule. I must work on a better way to get the produce shared with those who would like to enjoy our fresh fruits and vegetables. Our goal is to set up a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) whereby we distribute set shares of produce to people who buy into our system either weekly, biweekly or monthly. We have used several friends as guinea pigs to help us learn the ins and outs of how this might happen in the future.

It should be simple, right? We have excess FRESH, produce. They want FRESH produce so we should be able to get a reliable system going. The challenges aren’t that great so I think it is just my mentality towards putting effort towards one more thing at a very busy time of year. I’ll work on a business plan when I have more idle time … I think I said that last year!

Dave, my number crunching hubby, has our yearly harvest weights on a spread sheet and presents me with a Seven Oaks Farm Report nearly every morning which reflects our latest daily harvest as well as cumulative YTD from the last two years as well as a comparison. This report also has a column of TOP CROPS (YTD) by weight. He bounced a sheet onto my desk this morning that indicates that the 2014 harvest is now 117% above last year’s at this point in time…405 lbs vs. 186 and this trend is continuing with yesterday’s harvest weighing in at twenty pounds! Inundated with the perfect sized cucumbers, I jumped in to make the first pickles of 2014. IMG_6442I was thrilled to have my own dill growing in my herb garden. IMG_6469  So with that I gathered the other basic ingredients for making hamburger dills. White vinegar, canning salt, mustard seed and whole black pepper corns are paired with the dill heads. IMG_6477Plus plenty of cukes! Of course you know you have FRESH cucumbers when the blossom is is still attached to the ends. IMG_6452They clean up nicely after some gentle scrubbing. IMG_6470There is nothing easier than making these yummy bites. The spices go into the bottoms of the freshly washed, hot jars followed by the sliced cucumbers.IMG_6474Then the boiling brine made from vinegar, water and canning salt is poured into the jars. This mixture immediately turns the cukes from bright green to a dull green color. IMG_6475I then wipe the rims of the jars, cap them with a two piece lid and pop them into a boiling water bath where they continue to process for 15 minutes. IMG_6476Out they come, a bit more of a yellow green. They will now sit to cure for 6-8 weeks in my pantry before we taste them. I made two batches using approximately 8.5 pounds of cucumbers. It is a good thing I started making these since Dave presented me with 10 more pounds from the garden that afternoon!IMG_6478 I’m also working up the blueberries which have surpassed last year’s meager 13.5 pounds as we are now over 50 pounds and the season isn’t even half over yet! I’m trying to do a better job of picking the ripest blueberries and not just everything that is blue. What I’ve learned is that really ripe berries will have red stems (they start out with green ones) and they tend to hang down rather than stand upright. IMG_6457Picking these is a challenge for most of the Sauerhoff family since the net height is at most 5 feet high, so we all have to stoop but I’m the least affected by this, meaning I’m the shortest of the gang. When Peter, the tallest was here last, he found that he could sit on the ground and reach up to pick quite comfortably. Blueberries are the easiest fruit to manage once they are out of the patch. I wash them and spread them out on a terry cloth towel to pick over and dry before freezing them in gallon sized bags. Of course we eat them fresh all day long but especially in the mornings on our cereal or with yogurt.  IMG_6482Are coins getting smaller?

IMG_6483Last night I worked up 6 large green peppers as part of our dinner. I sauteed them with olive oil, garlic and dried red pepper in a skillet. Patricia Wells has a wonderful 3 pepper recipe for a pasta sauce in her book Trattoria. http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Wells-Trattoria-Inspired-Restaurants/dp/0060936525  (The name of the recipe is Tagliatelle with Tricolor Peppers and Basil.) I didn’t have 3 colors of peppers so I just used all green and it was delish.  We ate this with another large batch of eggplant Parmesan that I prepared yesterday as well. With so many veggies, there was no need for the pasta! IMG_6481

We’ve also picked some cabbages and are enjoying a nice slaw with our scallions, radishes and green pepper added to the cut up cabbage. IMG_6403

Time for the bee report: While Jurgen was away in Germany, I had three separate bee adventures without him which means I’ve been gaining valuable experience. His wife, Helen and I made our rounds one day and checked on the bee yards and fed the ones that were still getting syrup. These are the younger hives that are not really making honey for our consumption but rather just making it for their food next winter. We first made the syrup by heating sugar and water and added Honey Bee Healthy as a vitamin ingredient. Then we put it into feeding buckets or jars and distributed it to the hives. A week later, my friend, Joan Moore did the rounds with me in a borrowed bee veil. This is a good way to experiment with beekeeping and to find out if you like being around the bees. Joan was very calm and acted like an old pro. Best of all, we got to spend a productive morning together at all the bee yards. We discovered that the honey super on hive #11 is now fully capped so we gladly added another honey super to this very active hive. IMG_1314Here is a good article to give you an idea of how important beekeeping is for our future: http://online.wsj.com/articles/efforts-grow-to-take-the-sting-out-of-the-bee-die-off-1403886935

It won’t be long before there is another honey extraction weekend and this hive may be in the mix as it was not full of honey the last time. If you want honey from the first extraction (which is prized for it’s lightness and wonderful flavor) Helen and Jurgen still have some available and are selling it from their home. It is $10 per pound and they sell it in both one pound and half pound containers. Of course, I have Gherkins for sale as well!

 

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