Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Heavy with the harvest

The last several weeks have been filled with gathering produce, processing it, visits from friends, a bout of rainy weather, and hours spent (wasted?) watching television online-- complete addiction to the now defunct Veronica Mars.  Since I'm trying to span a fair amount of time here, the pictures that follow are roughly chronological.

Back in August we had the opportunity to pick grapes at an acquaintance's small farm.  We picked a large box of Concord grapes (with seeds), and a large basket of seedless Thompson, Flame and another variety that I'm forgetting.  Once picked you have to decide what to do with so much produce... juice?  Jelly? Raisins?  We ended up making grape jelly, though not the biggest fans of it, and raisins, and leaving the rest to eat fresh.  The grape jelly has gotten good reviews from friends, though we think its way too sweet and have only eaten it on toast with peanut butter to dull the sugar.  (And that is after I cut the sugar in the recipe by at least a third).  The raisins are extremely tasty, particularly because I made them with a mixture of red and green grapes.  I'm a fan of golden raisins, and these pretty much fit the bill.

The raisins drying.  I rotated them between a low heat oven (175 degrees) and just air drying covered by dust screens.

The grape jelly on an english muffin with peanut butter and coffee, as see from where I generally blog from-- the corner of my kitchen counter.

Soon after the grape picking, we received this basket of peaches from a friend's tree.  Nothing is better than ripe, local peaches (except maybe ripe local apricots) so we definitely ate our fair share fresh, but there were too many and they were threatening overripeness, so more had to be done.  After freezing a couple of bags worth my mom made this lovely and delicious peach tart.  Almost too pretty to eat.

The garden is starting to slow down, but there is still plenty to harvest.  While the corn is finished, we leave the stalks up because there are black beans growing up them.  We pick the pods after they've dried.  This particularly beautiful combo of dark purple and tiny red wild morning glories has also been using the corn stalks to put on a show.

One of the vegetables that we're harvesting now are tomatillos.  For the last couple of years we've grown "Purple De Milpa," thus the slightly purple tinge to those below.  We mostly use them for salsa.

Roasted tomatillo salsa:

1 medium onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
30-40 small to medium tomatillos
2 - 3 jalepenos (or more depending on how hot they are)
1 large handful of cilantro (or more to taste)
juice of a medium lime (again to taste)
salt to taste

On a griddle, a comal, or your grill, roast the onion, garlic, jalepenos and tomatillos until starting to blacken.  Leave the skins on everything and peel just before placing them in a food processor or blender.  Our tomatillos are grown without any kind of pesticides and sometimes get wormy-- I de-husk them and wash them prior to roasting to make sure that no worms are still in them and to throw out any that have worm damage.  Once roasted the skins should peel off the jalepenos very easily, but if they don't they are small enough that it doesn't matter.  Do remove the stem and as many of the seeds as you can before you add to the food processor.  If you leave the seeds the salsa will be much hotter.  Add the salt, lime juice, and cilantro and blend.  I like the consistency to be fairly smooth.  Taste and add more ingredients as needed.

I realize that that ingredients are heavy on the "to taste" instruction, but salsa is highly adaptable and can always be improved upon by adding a little more salt, or another squeeze of lime.  Start with the lower end of the measurements though, since its impossible to take away the heat of too many jalepenos, even with more lime (which should help a little).  I like to make this salsa so that it has a little bite, but not be overwhelmingly hot.  The roasted tomatillos and onions give it a natural sweetness that can be overwhelmed by too much heat.  Its delicious on its own with tortilla chips, as a sauce for chicken or pork, or in a simple quesadilla with cheese and a squash blossom. (For the record, I prefer corn tortillas for quesadillas, but I live in a neighborhood where I can buy them still warm and by the kilo, and they are a million times better than those you buy in the supermarket).  The salsa also freezes well.

Finished salsa.  

In the midst of all that food production we had several days of heavy rain fall.  This picture was taken the day after it rained for 12 straight hours in my neighborhood.  That may be normal for some of you, but this is a desert!  We usually get our rain hard and fast, not steady for 12 hours. This photo looking down our driveway shows the puddles that were forming.  Not too bad considering.

Back to this being a desert, a day later the weather looked like this-- typical for our fall.  I went hiking up at the volcanoes to the west of town with some friends.  I love this picture because it gives a good sense of scale and the kind of vistas that we take for granted here in New Mexico.

A week or so later we drove up north to Truchas for the Fall Sale at Tooley's Tree farm, and bought three apricot trees.  We planted them near the back garden, where I hope a colder micro-climate will keep them from blossoming too early and getting hit by the late freezes. Afterwards we drove up to Abiquiu to pick apples at the property of a friend of a friend.  She owns an old apple orchard which was loaded with fruit.  We brought back about three bushels full of apples, and a few pears.  So, our next project will be apple sauce and apple butter. Results to follow!