Fermented Veggies in a Jar or a Crock

Fermented VeggiesAs the gardening season winds down, you might want to try fermenting some veggies instead of canning them. It is so much easier and less time consuming than all the steps,  like boiling water baths required for traditional canning.  You can do as little as one jar or as many as you like.

I consider the process of making a jar of fermented veggies as simple as making a salad in a jar.

Basically a “dill crock” is a variation on fermented veggies. If you don’t have dill or a grape leaf you can still make the fermented veggies.  The sea salt is a preserving agent that prevents putrefying bacteria from getting a foothold.

Fermented vegetables taste like pickles but offers the advantage of being loaded with large amounts of beneficial bacteria also known as probiotics, hence they are good for digestion, good for health.

The Weston A Price foundation recommends a tablespoon of a fermented food at every meal to promote health.

This is an easy project, adapted from The Living Farm newsletter several years back  – so be brave and give it a try..

Here are the simple instructions:

  1. Use a quart, half gallon jar or crock.

  2. Make a brine of 2 Tbsp salt, 6 cups water, and ½ cup cider vinegar. The brine is used to cover all the vegetables in the crock.

  3. Grape Leaf – Place a small layer of grape leaves in the bottom of the jar to help keep veggies crisp, if desired. This is not essential.

  4. Dill: Place a layer of dill on top of the grape leaves.  Also optional – other herbs such as garlic or ginger can be used.

  5. The Vegetables: Almost any crisp vegetable can go into a “dill crock” such as carrots, onions, garlic, cauliflower, peppers, green tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, etc. Green Beans need 3 minutes of blanching because otherwise they turn out too tough or hard to chew.

  6. Time: Once you fill the jar or crock with the vegetables, pour in the brine, screw on a cap tightly to the jar or weigh the vegetables down with a plate and rock to hold the vegetables under the brine.

  7. Store the vegetables in a closet or cupboard for 5-6 days up to 2 weeks. If a white foam appears at the top do not panic, this is normal, just remove the foam and the vegetables are ready to eat.

  8. Refrigerate and enjoy!

  9. Let your nose be your guide. This is not an official USDA method, but a time-tested method used for centuries to preserve vegetables.

Simple Steps to Home Canned Fruit

nectarines

Peaches, nectarines and other fruits are loaded on local fruit trees.  Nothing compares to preserving our delicious, tree-ripened, locally grown North Fork fruit that we preserve ourselves.

It’s time to start gathering the canning supplies as you wait for the peaches, nectarines, plums, and even pears to ripen!  (Yes, this year the supply will be a little more challenging to find but you will find fruit, even if you have to pick it yourself!)

If you get all your supplies gathered together that are listed below (all the supplies needed are available at Paonia Farm and Home), re-familiarize yourself to the 12 Simple Steps to Canning you will soon be making your shelves sparkle with colorful, delicious North Fork Fruit.

 How to Make Homemade Canned Peaches, Plums, Pears, Plums, Nectarines and Cherries Detailed Steps Tutorial

(Click here for downloadable pdf)

The 12 Simple Steps for Canning our delicious North Fork Fruit are summarized below.  Click on the above link for detailed pdf instructions.

Gather Supplies – All the supplies listed below are available at Paonia Farm and Home Supply

  • Jar grabber (to pick up the hot jars)canningsupplies
  • Lid lifter (has a magnet to pick the lids out of the boiling water
  • Jar funnel
  • Large spoons (stainless steel is nice) and ladles
  • lids and rings
  • Ball jars – pints, quarts, jelly size
  • Sugar (or fruit juice) and pectin
  • Water Bath Canner

12 Simple Steps

1.   Select sufficient Fruit – Peaches, Nectarines, or Plums from local orchards including Stahls, Orchard Valley Farms, First Fruits, JJ’s, and others).

2.  Prepare the Sugar Solution.  Using light or medium syrup helps avoid floating fruit issues.

Sugar Syrup Chart for Light, Medium, and Heavy Syrups

Sugar Syrup Chart for Light, Medium, and Heavy Syrups

3.  Wash the jars and Lids.

4.  Wash the Fruit

Home Canned Peaches Sparkle

Home Canned Peaches Sparkle

.

5.  Peeling the Peaches or Nectarines by a quick blanching method.

6.  Cut up the fruit to fit the jars in halves or slices.

7.  Take steps to prevent browning of the fruit.  Use fruit fresh or powdered vitamin C according to directions.

8.  Determine Hot pack versus Cold Pack alternative.

9. Fill the Jars with Fruit.  It takes about 5 regular peaches to fill one quart jar.

10. Process the Jars in a water bath for our altitude.

Peaches
11. Remove the Jars from the Canner to cool on top of tea towels to absorb water.

12. Cool jars for 24 hours, check lids for any sealing failures.  Store in a dark, cool place

How to Make Homemade Canned Peaches, Plums, Pears, Plums, Nectarines and Cherries Detailed Steps Tutorial

(Click here for downloadable pdf)

Your Done!

Edible Lavender

lavender1

Do you have some dried lavender sitting around from the summer you would like to use in a culinary recipe?  Or possibly you are planning to harvest the  lavender you planted in your garden.  The following information is adapted from the Botanical Interests Blog

Although I think of  lavender being used only  in lotion, oils or candles with its relaxing aroma, apparently you can easily substitute lavender for other herbs, especially rosemary, when flavoring sweet or savory dishes.

The following recipes use  common kitchen staples—sugar, butter, and syrup—that shows how versatile lavender is in the kitchen.  For example: lavender sugar is delicious in  shortbread cookies for a floral surprise.

Lavender butter could be used with roasted chicken for a pleasant, earthy flavor.

Lastly, lavender syrup can be used in lemonade during hot summer days or possibly even cocktails for a flowery taste of summer.

What delicious lavender recipes have you adapted to culinary uses?

Lavender Sugar

1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of dried lavender or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender

Mix the two ingredients together and seal in an airtight container for two days before using to ensure the flavors meld. Recipe can be doubled or tripled, depending on how much sugar you need.

Lavender and Herb Butter

¼ pound of butter (1 stick), softened
1 tablespoon of dried lavender
1 tablespoon of dried parsley
1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Mix all ingredients and chill in the fridge for a few hours. If you prefer, you can use almost any other dried herb, such as basil or chives.

Lavender Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dried lavender or 2 tablespoons fresh lavender

Mix ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool for a few hours, strain, and pour into an airtight container. Syrup can be stored in the fridge for several weeks.

 

Heirloom or Hybrid Seeds – Which is best?

seedsHeirloom seeds versus hybrid seeds – which is better?

Heirloom or Hybrid, which is better?  A review of the pros and cons of each seed type should help you determine which seed type meets your goals for a mouth-watering, flavorful and successful vegetable, flower, and herb harvest this season.

Hybrid seeds grow plants that are predictable and uniform. They have been bred for specific characteristics, such as flavor, color, number of days to harvest, resistance to disease, etc. F1 hybrids

Big Beef Hybrid Tomato

Big Beef Hybrid Tomato

also possess “hybrid vigor.” Typically this means more plants survive the seedling stage and mature plants are large and healthy.

Big Boy, Big Beef and Better Boy tomatoes are popular, well-known examples of hybridized tomatoes that are more “perfect” in size and shape while sacrificing some of the rich flavor of better known heirloom tomato varieties such as Cherokee Purple.

Although hybridized seeds may be strong in one or more particular characteristics, they will not produce reliable seeds for saving. Even if the variety is not sterile and does produce seed, the seed will be unstable—it won’t necessarily produce plants with the same traits as the parent in subsequent years.  So if you enjoy a particular variety, you will need to purchase new seeds every year if you want to keep growing that variety.

Of particular concern to home gardeners is the risk that hybrids are or will become trademarked or patented by the breeder.  Hence costs associated with producing patented or trademarked seeds are passed onto the consumer

Heirloom vegetable, flower and herb seed varieties are preferred by Organic gardeners for their superior flavor and for the capacity that enables you, the home gardener, to save your own seeds from year to year, saving the costs associated with repurchasing garden seeds each year.  In addition heirlooms are the varieties that have been passed down generation to generation over the years often originating in Europe.

cucumber-lemon1

Lemon Cucumbers are over 100 year old Heirloom Variety

Of particular interest to organic gardeners and all consumers is the assurance that heirloom seeds  are not genetically engineered. To be considered an heirloom, most authorities agree the seed variety is at least 50 years old, and it has been preserved and kept true .

Lemon Cucumbers are over 100 year old heirloom variety that effortlessly produces loads of fruit just the size and shape of pale colored lemons. They have a mild sweet flavor, crisp texture and thin skins, and dual purpose: perfect for eating fresh or pickling

Many heirloom seed varieties are actually common seed varieties  you may have already tried and come to love.  Examples of heirlooms you might already be familiarized with include:

Heirloom tomato assortments have wide variations in color, shape, and size.

Heirloom tomato assortments have wide variations in color, shape, and size.

  • Detroit Dark Red Beets
  • Nantes Carrots
  • Romaine lettuce  (and most lettuce varieties)
  • Chantenay Carrots (the fatter carrot)
  • Copenhagen Cabbage

At Paonia Farm and Home, we offer a wide selection of vegetable, flower and herb varieties in both Organic Heirloom seeds, and conventional seeds from well-known producers including Lake Valley, Botanical Interests, and Renee’s Garden.

Successful Seed Starting


Starting seeds indoors can be a fun and simple process and a great way to inspire children  to get involved in gardening.  Manage the variables of temperature, water, soil, seeds, and light for optimum success with some tips and helpful products.

Botanical Interests Seeds are in stock now!

Botanical Interests Seeds are in stock now!

SEED BASICS

A seed is the embryo of a plant. It is “naturally” enclosed in a protective coat.

Seeds respond to water, light (or absence of light), and temperature. Making good choices for soil and containers will help you grow a strong plant, which will thrive in your garden (inside or out), stay healthy and be productive.

We at Paonia Farm and Home offer Botanical Interests seeds, seed starting containers, high quality seed starting soils, artificial light sources designed to grow healthy rather than spindly plants, and other accessories to make your gardening efforts successful and satisfying.
Sproutkit

A Mini Seed Starting Greenhouse

A Mini Seed Starting Greenhouse

CONTAINERS

You will find all kinds of sizes and shapes of ready-made seed-starting supplies in our store.

However, many ordinary household containers and disposables  can be re-purposed as a seed-starting container.

Containers should be clean.  Re-purposed containers must be sanitized to remove any possible pathogens. Soaking them in a 1:9 bleach:water solution offers one option.

Good drainage is essential to making the container effective.  The container of choice must have a way for excess water to drain away.

Seeds come in many different sizes and shapes

Also, If you will transplant your seedlings as single plants at a distance from each  other plant, then individual pots or divided trays will be the optimum choice. If you will plant your seedlings in clumps or close groupings, then a broad or wide, shallow container could also be suitable.

Other consideration in container choices will be the  seed size, the length of time from planting to transplanting, and the size of the resulting seedling.  Large seeds like beans or squash plants and quick-growing plants (i.e. tomatoes, lettuce, pumpkin) all denote the need for a larger initial container.

SOIL

FoxFarmLight Warrior Seed Starter

FoxFarm Light Warrior Seed Starter

Use a high quality seed-starting mix such as FoxFarm, Light Warrior Seed Starting soil. Generally “you get what you pay for,” so don’t sacrifice quality. Outdoor soil ofter harbors microorganisms and pathogens that, when taken out of the balance of nature, can harm or kill your seeds.  Another choice would be to use high quality potting soil which promotes a moist, not soggy, environment with the ideal mix of air and water to promote germination.

LIGHT

Light is one of the most important factors to creating a healthy, strong seedling. Some seeds get the signal to germinate from light. Other seeds, usually larger ones, can have their germination inhibited by exposure to light. Your Botanical Interests seed packet will have any special seed sowing instructions you need to consider.

This improvised light fixture is adjustable as plants grow

This improvised light fixture is adjustable as plants grow

Sufficiently intense light of the right duration will make a shorter, stronger seedling rather than a taller more spindly plant. A light set-up can be as simple as four fluorescent tubes, two cool and two warm spectrum, hung no more than three inches from the top of your seedlings. A timer will help you consistently deliver 14 hours or more of light per day.

TEMPERATURE

Generally, normal household temperatures are within the ideal range that encourages germination.  You can increase germination percentage and speed by gently applying heat to your soil by placing trays and pots near a heat vent, radiator, or other heat source or you can purchase a heat mat at the store designed to promote healthy seed germination and growth.

WATER

Since plants primarily consist of water,  water application becomes another essential factor in determining the overall health of your seedlings. Water signals to the seed that it is time to come out of dormancy, germinate, and grow.  Young plants are fragile so consistent moisture is vital. Hence seed starting success depends on you to create and maintain the right amount of moisture by watering gently and thoroughly.

Moisten the soil before sowing, especially for the tinier seeds and  maintain consistent moisture after the first watering, but never to the point of soggy soil. Soggy, saturated soil can create conditions that will rot your seeds before they germinate.  Some gardeners cover seed containers with plastic wrap, removing it after seedlings emerge. Sown seeds allowed to dry out may die.

GET STARTED NOW

The back and inside of the BOTANICAL INTEREST or other brand seed packets contain all the rest of the information you need to you plan your garden and start your seeds. Determine if the seed(s) you’ve chosen should be started indoors, and if so, when. By following the guidelines above and the seed starting chart you will be able to create a schedule for when to start your indoor seeds.  Visit the store for best selection of Botanical Interests seeds and all the information you need to get started today!