"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress and keep it". Genesis 2:15

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 Frozen Cabbages

Well I played chicken a little too long with winter and had to run outside Wednesday night and bring 12 frozen cabbages inside. The big outer leaves were stiff and unbending, and very cold to hold in our bare hands. The cabbages covered up one side of my kitchen counter completely.

It was late and no time to do anything with them then. I just hoped that when they defrosted they would be fine on the inside and that I would be able to get some use out of them. The next morning I checked on the cabbages and they looked perfectly normal. No burned or wilted leaves. After school all three of us women got to work and started making cabbage rolls. We had never made these before and it was quite a bit of work, but fun.

There are tons of recipes for these on the net and we just picked one that we liked. We used the big outer green cabbage leaves to line the bottom of the pan. The big but light green leaves were used to roll up a meat and vegetable mixture (after blanching them in boiling water to make them pliable) and the tomato sauce was made from  my stash of ripening garden tomatoes. I used my vitamix so I did not have to peel all those tomatoes, just threw them in and blended with the spices. The tomato sauce was poured on top of the bundles and the whole thing was topped off by more big outer cabbage leaves.

The most work of this whole affair was cleaning and preparing the cabbage leaves for the dish. We had to clean off dirt, fallen tree leaves, moths and other dead bugs, plus a few live caterpillars. The kitchen was such a mess afterwards! We were left with a big pile of unusable huge outer leaves (that felt like a big waste throwing those in the compost) and twelve little round inner cabbages, about 5 lbs worth, (and water and dirt everywhere!) At least I can report that the dish was a success, yummy, and lasted us for three meals.

The next day we were gone to band until the late afternoon when we tackled the rest of the cabbage. We had decided to make homemade sauerkraut. This time only Anna helped me. We chopped and chopped and chopped until I got tired and got out my kitchen-aid attachment that would shred the cabbage. We shredded cabbage and carrots and an apple, we pounded and pounded, added spices and packed it all in a big sun-tea jar. We added whey from yogurt to start the fermentation process, and set the jar on our counter to start working. Now I need to go to the store to get some wide mouth jars to pack the sauerkraut in for storage. I stupidly got rid of mine last time we moved. I will write another post soon all about using lactic acid fermentation as a way of food preservation at a later date.

Sauerkraut in gallon jar. The cup on top is a weight to hold down the cabbage under the juice. Its hard to believe that 5 lbs of cabbage only makes half a gallon of kraut. In front are some pumpkin muffins.

I checked the garden today and the broccoli and brussels sprouts are still doing fine despite the freezing weather. I even have another broccoli to harvest and a few broccoli side sprouts coming along. The brussels sprouts are still only as big as my pinky fingernail so I dont know if we will get any of those before it gets really cold. The mustard is just fine. Next thing on the schedule is garden clean up and processing 4 more pumpkins ( I have to get them out of my kitchen before the big church Christmas party at my house this Sunday.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

First Snow

Wednesday we woke up to a surprising site - big puffy flakes of snow falling from the sky! No snow or freeze had been predicted so no one was expecting this. It snows so infrequently here - maybe once or twice a year, usually in January. Our first freeze was two weeks late, then snow. What next? Of course it did not stick to the streets and by late afternoon it turned to rain and the snow was all gone. Here are a few pictures of the garden. Anna took all these pictures for me.

Looking over the side fence at the vegetable garden.

Lantana and iris in the snow.

Frozen Vegetable Garden

Cute Cabbage in the snow.

Frozen Okra flower.

Fall colored leaves.

Green Pumpkin Recipe, Last Harvest Chicken Soup

Since we have had a few frosts that mainly affected the tender pumpkins and squashes, I have chickened out and picked all the tender vegetables from the garden. This time of year you truly play a game of chicken with the last tender tomatoes and peppers and the first freeze. When will it be? Do I want all those green tomatoes in my house or can I wait a bit longer and let some of them ripen? If you wait too long and get caught by a freeze you will lose them all. (Not really because you can go ahead and make green tomato relish right away. The green tomatoes just wont keep and ripen if they have been touched with freezing, they will quickly rot in your house, so you really do want to get them before freezing weather.) Other vegetables like cabbage and broccoli can be left in the garden here in North Texas for a good while longer as our freezes usually only dip a few degrees below 32 over night.

The tomatoes green and red, the peppers, cucumbers and squashes are all safely in my house now waiting for me to decide what to do with them. Most of the broccoli has been picked and eaten. The cabbages, Brussels sprouts, carrots and mustard greens will be fine in the garden for now, but what about all those green unripened pumpkins sitting out there on their shriveled vines?

I wasn't sure of you could eat a green pumpkin so I did some research on line. I found out two things. The light green pumpkins that still had soft skin could be eaten just like any other squash. The dark green pumpkins with hard skins were fully mature and would turn orange if they got enough sun. One site suggested that you pick the green pumpkins and put them in a sunny dry place, such as a porch, while another site said you could leave them in the garden as long as it didn't freeze hard. Since that end of the garden tends to be wet I decided to pick my green pumpkins. Of course since last night was supposed to be the first freeze I had to bring them inside for the night - I am over run!

Green Pumpkin Stir-fry
Soft skinned small green pumpkins cut up. Do not skin or seed.
Several onions cut up in rings.
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Add olive oil, butter and onions to a large frying pan. Cook on medium heat stirring frequently until onions are translucent. Add the cut up green pumpkin and spices. Cook stirring frequently until pumpkin is tender.

Last Harvest Chicken soup
Its really hard to go wrong with soup. You dont really need a recipe - just start with good broth and add whatever you have on hand.

I started with a whole chicken and boiled it up in a big pot. We had half the chicken for one dinner, then the pot was put in the fridge overnight. Next day the solidified fat was removed from the top of the pot and the rest of the chicken was de-boned. This gave about half a pot full of good broth and chicken. To that was added the last butternut squash picked from the garden along with several of the last green peppers. This was allowed to simmer until the squash was getting soft. I added water if the soup was reducing too much. Next I added some of the last broccoli, about four or five tomatoes rescued before the frost (skinned by poking them with a fork and dipping them in the boiling soup for 10 seconds. The skin comes right off), and a good two handfuls of chopped mustard greens. I added salt and pepper and Cumin. This was served as soon as the broccoli and mustard greens were soft. It was delicious.