The New Home Economics


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Garden 2011

Kinda crazy, but I’m already starting to form plans for next year’s garden.  We planted our garlic this weekend, which involved a little planning.  Here’s the plan so far:

I don’t have my 4 beds planned out yet, but I have now lined my three walking spaces with rows of garlic.  I have a great mental picture of how this will look, but will it work out?  I will leave open the space where I had garlic in ’09 and ’10.  The kids helped with the planting:

Parsley on the left behind Anneke and parsnips behind Rowan on the right are the only thing still going on in the garden.  Here’s the garlic we planted:

We picked it up at Kingfield Farmers Market last weekend from Swede Hollow Farms, who are apparently now famous.  (The market is open one more weekend!)  I also tucked a few more plantings here and there in the front yard flower bed.  Should be a big garlic year in 2011.

Here’s a question: anyone ever save pumpkin seeds?  We got a really nice pie pumpkin from our CSA so I thought I might try saving the seeds and planting them next spring.  They are currently drying out on the countertop.  Since I’ll only plant one or two hills at the most, it seems prudent to just save some seeds and save myself a few dollars.

Finally, I think we might take a break from parsnips in 2011.  We still have not had a hard freeze here this year.  But since we’ve had plenty of nights where it got really close to freezing, I started harvesting them this weekend. For the second year in a row, I dug up a bunch of mis-shapen, stunted, many-legged beasts.  It’s my own fault: I let the kids scatter-plant them, they came up in clumps, and I tried to spread them out.  Parsnips HATE to be transplanted.  For two years I’ve tried to ignore that fact, and I can ignore it no longer.

Here’s a little less than half of my total harvest.  A couple of them were perfect. Will I be able to resist the lure of the parsnip next spring?  We made mashed parsnips with these today and they were sublime.

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Recipe: green tomato ketchup

Every year, I get obsessed with one food, and I make ridiculous amounts of that one thing.  2009 was the year of sauerkraut.  This year, it was ketchup.  We made Mark Bittman’s red ketchup recipe several times.  We canned some, and froze some.

We haven’t had a frost here yet (which is unusually late) but not much was happening anymore out in the garden so I cleaned it all up last weekend.  Then I decided to try Bittman’s green ketchup recipe as a way to use up all those tiny green tomatoes.  Result: DELICIOUS.  Here’s how to do it — it takes a couple of hours, but much of that time is barely-attended cooking time.

Green Ketchup
6 c. chopped green tomatoes
A handful of peppers, de-seeded and chopped — sweet or hot, whatever you like.  I used 6-7 banana peppers.
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery or 1 leek, chopped (optional)
1-3 cloves garlic, peeled & crushed
3/4 c. apple cider vinegar
2 T. pickling spice
2 T. olive oil
1/2 c. brown sugar
salt, pepper, & green or red Tabasco sauce to taste

1. Put the vinegar and pickling spice in a small saucepan and heat to boiling, then remove from heat and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Fry the onion, celery and peppers until soft, adding the garlic at the last minute and cooking for just another minute or two longer.

3. Add the tomatoes, along with a generous cup of water.  Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring regularly until the tomatoes start to break down and the mixture starts to get bubbly.  At that point you can reduce the heat to very low and just let it simmer for a very long time, at least 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.  If it seems like it’s getting dry, go ahead and add a bit more water as needed.

4. Strain the pickling spices out of the now-cool vinegar and add the vinegar to the tomatoes.  Stir in the sugar.  Use an immersion blender to break up the few remaining chunks.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning.  Cook another half hour or until desired ketchup consistency is reached.  I’m impatient, so our ketchup is a little on the thin side compared to store-bought, but the kids have not complained at all.

There it is, the final harvest.  Just over a quart (total) of green ketchup, and one final quart of pickles.  I didn’t feel like breaking out the canner, so we froze this ketchup.

*Recipe variation: Bittman’s recipe actually calls for 4 c. chopped green tomatoes and 2 c. chopped tart apples.  This also sounds very yummy.  I had 6 c. of green tomatoes to use up, so I decided to be lazy and skip the apples.


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BPA and canned tomatoes

Sorry for the light posting schedule lately; as it turns out, having two full-time working adults in a family really cuts into blogging time.  ANYWAY.

I posted in August about our crazy weekend of canning tomatoes.  Because we buy organic tomatoes, and because our CSA delivers them right to our door, we save very little money canning our own tomatoes vs. buying canned tomatoes at the store. So why go through the effort?  One reason: BPA.

Bisphenol-A, which many different plastic products contain, has been shown to have some worrisome side effects, especially on fetuses and children, because it mimics the hormone estrogen.  Canada was recently the first country to declare it toxic.  (Has Canada ever considering annexing Minnesota?  I’d be all for it.)

The United States’ own FDA is also concerned, but I am skeptical that they will ever do anything beyond encouraging industries to try and find a replacement.  (They prefer to merely ask them, really, really nicely.)

The big brouhaha a couple years back with BPA was its use in infant bottles and linings of infant formula cans — many of those brands now offer BPA-free alternatives.  But what many people didn’t realize was just how prevalent this stuff is — nearly any can of food that you buy in the grocery store is lined with BPA.  Even store receipts are printed on BPA-coated paper!

Some applications of BPA are probably worse than others.  Canned tomatoes are very acidic.  Canned garbanzo beans, not so much.  Yet, right now none of the organic canned tomatoes for sale at my co-op are in BPA-free cans.  The only glass-jarred tomato products are the strained tomatoes and tomato paste from Bionaturae.  (And those travel all the way from Italy, good grief.)

Here’s another thing to consider: even home-canning is not perfect, because the lids of canning jars are also coated with BPA.  But I’m taking a “less harm” approach here — the tomatoes, as they sit on my shelf for the next few months, are not in contact with the lid at all.  So it’s not perfect, but still better.  Right?  I hope so, because that was a lot of work.

Update, Nov. 8, 2010: Here’s yet another article that I came across this morning.  Basically, a consumer group found unacceptable BPA levels in a bunch of different foods.  Two things to note: this article is one year old.  The U.S. is still only requiring “voluntary” efforts from the food industry.

Update II, Nov. 30, 2010: Now a new study looks at BPA’s effect on adult immune systems. The study also looked at triclosan’s correlation with allergies in children.  Triclosan is another common chemical found in all sorts of things (such as anti-microbial soaps).

Update III, April 4, 2011: Yet another study. This one measured BPA in people’s urine; after only three days of switching to a diet of freshly-prepared organic food, they dropped 66% on average!

The cooks were instructed to avoid contact with plastic utensils, and nonstick cookware and foods had to be stored in glass containers with BPA-free plastic lids. Researchers even told food preparers not to overfill the containers so the food wouldn’t touch the plastic lid.

Microwaving in plastic was out; so was using coffee makers with plastic parts. Coffee drinkers got their morning coffee from French presses or ceramic drip models.

I switched to French Press quite some time ago, but didn’t even think about the plastic implications. I did it for the taste, naturally.  Anyway, check out this study, the most convincing one yet, in my opinion.


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Recipe: Wild turkey masala

My dad went hunting this weekend.  One long hunting story later, he had an extra turkey.  My uncle Don, who is a taxidermist, plans to mount it, but didn’t want the meat.  He saved the meat for us, and we made this most wonderful dish with it tonight.  (Is this is the most redneck post I’ve ever written?)

Wild turkey masala
Adapted from Nourishing Traditions (original recipe called for quail)

2-3 good-sized pieces of wild turkey, such as breast
1 c. plain yogurt
1 med. onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1-2 cardamom pods, crushed
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt

1. My uncle soaked the turkey meat in a salt brine overnight after cleaning the bird, but I don’t know that it’s totally necessary to do that.  At any rate, start with thawed meat.

2. Combine the yogurt and all the spices in a gallon-size bag.  Add the meat.  Marinate for 12-24 hours.  We marinated ours for nearly 24 hours.

3. If you are using a boneless piece, such as the breast, pound it so that it reaches uniform thickness.

4. Remove meat from marinade and fry in a couple tablespoons of coconut oil, butter, ghee, or some combination thereof over low-med. heat, with the cover on.  Length of time depends on what pieces you’re using.  We did breasts that had been pounded to about 3/4 in. thick, so they only needed to cook about 5 minutes on each side.

Adam didn’t pour any marinade into the pan, but he didn’t rinse the meat off either.

These turned out great.  They didn’t taste gamey at all, just moist and delicately spiced.  Someone with a very midwestern palate might call them a little bit spicy.  We served them with oven fries.