ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

Back to Wisconsin, my cheesehead friends

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Illustrated guide to Garden 2.0

This spring has brought a large expansion of my vegetable garden. Illustrated above is a map showing what is planted in my new, bigger garden.

  1. Onions. Asian – style peapods. Snap peas. Their space here for pepper plants once it gets warmer.
  2. This is a round bed constructed of recycled bricks. I have planted annual herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro, shiso. I also put garlic chives in this bed. I was worried they would cross pollinate with my standard chives.
  3. Onions. There’s reserved space in this bed for cucumbers.
  4. This is the cooking greens bed: spinach, Swiss shard, kale, tat soi, and bok choy. These cold – loving crops of the only thing green in the garden right now that isn’t a weed.
  5. There’s nothing in this bed right now. Once my squash transplants get larger they’ll go out here. Since it’s on the corner of the garden, the plants can ramble all over.
  6. This is one of the two original beds from last year. My carrot bed continues to live here, and I planted rhubarb. Additionally, the backs of the two large raised beds have asparagus. Since these raised beds are extra – deep the tomatoes will go in here when they get transplanted.
  7. This is the other original raised bed from last year. There’s asparagus in the back, but I’m waiting to put my tomatoes in. 
  8. Hard to see in the picture, but I planted two blueberry bushes this year. My hope is they will bloom and I may get a couple blueberries this year.

I still have about another week until we are definitely pass the last frost. After that, I’ll be able to put out peppers, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes. 

I know you’re looking at those tender vegetables and thinking, aren’t your deer going to eat all of that? Yes, if I don’t get out there quick and get my fence in place. Since we expanded the garden so much, I don’t have an a fencing to go around all of it. I’ll need to go buy some more. 


This Week in Veg: A lot of Leeks

What’s the term for a group of vegetables? We have a herd of cows, a flock of sheep, a murder of crows… but what do you call a bunch of vegetables? A bunch? 

Either way, we got a lot of leeks this week in the CSA. I tried to chop and freeze them a few years ago, but I just didn’t get back to using them and they got freezer burn. I think I will put them into a quiche. Sound good. Maybe with bacon? 

That's a lot of leeks. A bunch of leeks? A bramble of leeks?

That’s a lot of leeks. A bunch of leeks? A bramble of leeks?


Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: Part 3. The Salsa

2013-09-14 17.13.42This was the last weekend of major canning for the year. Sam and I made 20 pints of Salsa, following the recipe from the USDA Home Canning Guide.

I’ll have some wrap-up statistics later this week. But, for now, let’s start with the basics:

  • 18 lbs of roma-style tomatoes. 5 lbs with our CSA. 10 lbs @ $1.60/lb (Seconds).  3 lbs at $4/lb (Firsts).
  • 2 lbs tomatillos for $3/lb.
  • 3 lovely anaheim chilies for $0.75/each.
  • 3 bell peppers at $1/ea.
  • 3 yellow onions for $2.

To that we added:

  • 4 jalapinos from our CSA.
  • 1 lb Garlic from our CSA.
  • 1/2 lb red onion from our CSA.
  • 2 cups lemon juice.
  • 3 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 4 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp dried ancho chili powder
  • 4 tbsp dried oregano
  • 4 tbsp minced fresh cilantro

We did most of the pepper, onion and garlic chopping the night before and the WHOLE FRIDGE reeked of onions. I’m not doing that again next year. But it did save us about an hour of chopping.

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The salsa before cooking. I like the color contrast of the red onions.

Going back to the earlier post on when to water bath can vs pressure can, tomato salsa is one of those marginal products that, depending on the ratio of onions/peppers/garlic (low acid vegetables) vs tomatoes (high acid vegetables), the overall acidity may be too low to water bath can. In this recipe I add 2 cups of lemon juice to ensure that, no matter how many peppers and onions I add to the salsa (and I like a LOT of peppers in my salsa) the acidity will certainly be high enough to water bath can my salsa. Good thing too, because pressure canned salsa gets much too over-cooked and is more like a smooth taco sauce than a chunky salsa. In addition to tomatoes, I add tomatillos to my salsa. Tomatillos have more pectin than ripe tomatoes, and so they add thickness and body to the salsa as it cooks.

We ended up with 20 pints of salsa. We water-bath canned 18 pints, then ran out of jars, and put 2 pints (a quart, for those inclined to the backwards English system of measure…) into the fridge for use later this week. We’ll make Chicken Tortilla Soup for dinner one night, and I may split the remainder for Sam and I to take to work to share.

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The salsa after cooking for 30 minutes, just before being canned. Note the rings on the inside of the pot. The salsa reduced about 2 inches during the 30 minutes of vigorous boiling.


What can I do with 4 cups of tomato liquid?

I need some ideas, quick, about what to do with 4 cups of tomato liquid. It’s not tomato purée, it’s the liquid that I got after straining the jelly and the seeds from middle of a bunch of tomatoes. It’s much thinner than tomato purée, and doesn’t have any fiber in it. What should I do with this?



Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: Part 1

I make boring tomato sauce. By “boring” I mean “plain.” I don’t jazz it up with too many spices, or add chunks of tomato, mushroom, red pepper… It’s basically reduced tomato puree with some minimal seasoning. There’s a reason for making boring sauce. Interesting tomato sauce – with mushrooms, meat, vodka, roasted red peppers, fresh basil, etc… is only useful as tomato sauce… you put it on pasta. You make lasagna! Voila! But boring tomato sauce is infinitely versatile. I can add cumin, oregano, vinegar and sriracha and turn out a decent enchilada sauce. Add stock and it becomes a tomato soup base. Reduced with vinegar, ketchup, and mustard and it becomes barbecue sauce. Tonight, we combined the sauce remaining after filling the jars with sausage, shrimp and rice and had jambalaya. I can still add mushrooms or roasted red peppers and dump it on pasta… Boring tomato sauce is like the pluripotent stem cell of the tomato world. (Well, technically the tomato is the pluripotent stem cell of the tomato world, but… the metaphor isn’t great… so sue me.)

Step 1: Puree Tomatoes.

20130901-185124.jpg Pureeing tomatoes is a fun process with the food mill attachment to the Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. I estimate that I pureed 20 lbs of tomatoes into about 14 to 15 quarts of tomato puree.

Step 2: Add onions, garlic, spices.

Clockwise from the top is 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, 3 onions chopped and 5 cloves of garlic through the press and sautéed until soft, and 1/4 cup dried oregano. Not shown is brown sugar, salt and pepper.

Step 2: Cook and reduce.

We started the sauce about 8pm on Saturday, and cooked it overnight in the oven. Then, in the morning, it went back on the stovetop to cook through until about 3pm. Typically, we would have cooked the sauce overnight and seen a reduction of about 50% and canned it first thing in the morning. However, it’s REALLY damn humid here, so there was no place for the moisture to go… It took a really long time to reduce.

Step 3: Can.


I had enough tomatoes to make 7 quarts of tomato sauce, along with another 11 quarts of quartered tomatoes in their own juice. Those little jars are the onion jam that I’ll describe in a later post.