Fall Harvest, Fairs and Garlic

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Although we are amid a rainy and cloudy early fall the harvest is very abundant and exciting! This weekend we enjoyed the fall festivities of our thriving community, we took in both the local Valley Fall Fair as well as the Hills Garlic Festival. Seeing the huge and beautiful produce grown right here in my valley on display was a real treat; there were sunflowers over 12 feet tall, there were pumpkins that likely weighted more than me and my daughter put together, we drooled over giant squash, and perfect pears, lovely jellies and baked squares! Most of all we ate and ate and ate. My daughter bravely but  thoroughly enjoyed some locally made vanilla garlic gelato, and we all tasted dried garlic slices (for hours in fact we tasted it), pickled garlic and garlic scape (the stock of the garlic plant so I just learned), we also enjoyed wonderful deep dark Ontario maple syrup, local honey, gypsy tea, borsht, and fry bread, to name a few of our indulgences.

Our plant expert biology folk friends visited this weekend and we really really enjoyed walking our property with them again as they pointed out some real treasures in the woods, most impressive (for me anyways) was Marks keen eye for the multiple hazelnut tress we have right here! What a wonderful surprise. They are scrappy little tree’s with not much fruit this year… but now that we know they are here, we will given them some attention and look forward to the improved yields to come. We also picked some lobster mushrooms on our walk but after some research decided not to eat them, although we had no trouble identifying them I later learned that lobster mushroom are in fact a parasite to other fungi and are not mushrooms at all, so to safely enjoy these one should be able to clearly identify the original mushroom that has been taken over by the lobster “mushroom” parasite. We are all new to mushrooming so I cast the lovely specimen back into the woods. But our family will be doing a local mushroom walk and lesson in the coming weeks, and who knows one day soon we may be dining on mushrooms of all sorts!

Just yesterday I peeked into the grape vine jungle and found that we have 2 varieties of grapes growing and the hidden ones were very ready to enjoy! They are lovely dark concord style seeded wine grapes and they are oh so beautiful. I am the only one in my family who seems to enjoy the tartness and doesn’t mind the large seeds so me and the chickens will enjoy many in the days to come. The second variety and the more prominent one is just starting to ripen and blush turning from bright green to warm red. I really need to experiment with wine making soon… that and mead, oh and beer too *why not?

While visiting, my girlfriend Mel brought me a jar of beets from her virgin pickling run and I added it to my growing pantry and it seemed so lonely to be the only jar of beets in there that I came home the next day with 10lb’s of locally grown organic beets which I took a stab at last night. I managed to get through 6 lbs using my 3 new electric burners. I blew the breaker twice and it looked like a bloody slaughterhouse when I was finished and now I must confess the gifts of pickled beets past hold so much more value now than previously. Making pickles (over the fire aside) is really easy and quick and fun… beets however OMG what a labor of love. Luckily for my partner (adorer of beets) after spending 30 years on this planet hating beets, I finally recognized them as culinary jewels some time last year and I trudged through this labor… lovingly. I think I have 3 more runs of preserving ahead of me for the season: 1 more round of pickles as all my cucumbers are FINALLY exploding, the HP sauce I keep mentioning I will get too as well.. and I am over the moon exciting to be going back to Chiliwak for thanksgiving again this year, where I hope to pick fresh green figs from my sister in laws neighbor and cohorts her into making another batch of balsamic fig jam with me, the day before her wedding! * Crossing my fingers, there is time in the schedule for jam’s and jelly, as well as I do’s.

When I was buying the beets yesterday I couldn’t resist 2 huge bags of over ripe heirloom yellow tomatoes and roma’s that were crying out to be turned into sauce so I whipped up a super simple batch for the freezer of the following sauce:

EASY HEIRLOOM TOMATOE SAUCE:

Cube 6 medium-large yellow tomatoes & 12-16 Roma tomatoes or aprox. 4 lbs of what ever you have a mountain of.

Start by frying 1diced large yellow onion in about 1/2” of good olive oil in a large heavy bottom pot. After about 2 minutes add 5 cloves of coarsely chopped garlic. I used huge cloves of fresh Russian Red garlic acquired the day before from the garlic fest, their flavor is sharp and hot and just ever so sweet. I have some of these ready for fall planting too!

As soon as the onion starts to brown add your cubes tomatoes and allow them to slowly simmer covered for maybe an hour or two (you may need to add just a little water if the tomatoes aren’t ripe enough and you simmer them for a longer time). *You could pass the time slaughtering beets as I did!

Once everything is breaking down nicely I season with a good glug of balsamic vinegar, S+P, fresh oregano, fresh basil, a pinch of cane sugar, dried chili, a little lemon juice and another good glug of olive oil. Simmer for another 20 minutes or so then use an immersion blender to make the whole batch smooth and silky.

This yielded 3x 400ml jars which I froze and enough to make a quick creamy macaroon dinner which was as simple as cooking and draining about 4 cups of organic corn elbow macaroni noodles, then I added 3 heaping tbsp of cream cheese, a little cream, and some shredded farmers cheese and S+P this was good enough to eat right then, but I also added the remaining tomato sauce about 3 cups and stirred it in…a simple stick to your ribs week night dinner that put the last of the sauce to good use.

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