Oktoberfest at the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum in Frederick, MD is great fun!
My family loves pesto; we eat it on noodles, pizza and even toast. This weekend the basil looked ready so we moved into action. In year’s past I’ve always used the traditional pine nuts but one look at the tiny little bag selling for fifteen dollars made me decide that maybe walnuts would be just as tasty.
The food processor recipe I used called for:
- 2 cups of packed basil leaves
- 1/3 cup of olive oil
- 2 and a 1/2 cups of finely chopped walnuts
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- 2 and a 1/2 cups of parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons of salt, (optional)
I didn’t have quite enough cheese or walnuts and had huge mounds of basil so quickly decided to just mess around until it tasted right.
Last year I froze it in ice-cube trays then put these in freezer bags but this go around I put it in canning jars. To prevent browning I topped it up with more olive oil then put the half filled jars in the freezer. It’s important to freeze pesto and NOT to can it. There is a risk of botulism with canned pesto.
The acorns are ripe! They look a bit smaller than usual to me this year. Maybe the dry, hot weather? Check them over carefully to get good ones.
So how do you get the good ones? You are looking for nuts that aren’t super bitter, don’t have a lot of worm holes in them and are a light color without cracks. You can also float them in water and the good ones should sink. Do be absolutely sure that the tree has not been sprayed with any pesticides. Oaks can be sprayed with long acting chemicals to reduce aphids; when in doubt ask!
What makes acorns bitter is tannic acid and some varieties have more than others. If you want to use the acorns as a mordant for wool or for dying then the really bitter ones are perfect. If you are looking to eat them then taste test until you find a milder variety. In the white oak family, the Live Oak’s, (Quercus virginiana), acorns are among the mildest one can collect.
Some linguistic fun: The English word “oak” is some 1,260 years old. In German it was “eih” ending up “eiche” The Dutch extended it to “eychen” or ” eychenboom.”
Acorns are quite nutritious. The nutritional breakdown of acorns is 50.4% carbohydrates, 34.7% water, 4.7% fat, 4.4.% protein, 4.2% fiber, 1.6% ash. A pound of shelled acorns provide 1,265 calories, a 100 grams (3.5 ounces) has 500 calories and 30 grams of oil.
The first part of processing is shelling. Wear gloves to avoid staining your hands. It can be a bit of a task to get the shells off but letting them dry a bit or freezing them first can help to loosen the covering.
To rid the acorns of tannic acid Native Americans would put them in baskets in streams. My version is to put them in a pillow case in the top part of the toilet tank. It sounds gross but the water in the tank is clean. It can stain the bowl a bit but hey, it’s the only running water I have. After a week in the tank you can put them in a 350 degree oven and roast them for an hour. Once they are dried out I grind them to flour in a food processor then ziplock them and put them in the freezer to be added to foods later.
Here are some recipes:
Apache acorn cakes:
- 1 cup acorn meal, ground fine
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ¼ cup honey
- pinch of salt
Mix together and fry on a greased griddle until done.
- 1 lb stewing beef
- 1/2 C finely ground acorn meal (tannin removed)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Place beef in heavy pan and add water to cover. Cover with lid and simmer until very tender. Return meat to the liquid. Stir in the acorn meal. Heat until thickened and serve.
If you find a good recipe please share!
What to do with those hop cones ripening on your vine? Making beer is the first thing that comes to people’s minds as this plant is what gives brews their distinctive bitter flavor but there’s a lot more you can do!
What exactly is hops?
- Hops are hardy perennials that can grow up to 26 feet in a season.
- The name hop comes from the Anglo-Saxon hoppan, to climb.
- Female hops (Humulus lupulus) bear cone shaped flowers, also called strobiles. When ready to harvest these are yellowish green, papery to the touch and have a strong smell. Pick the cones and dry them until they snap when bent in half and shatter. For storage put them into freezer bags and freeze until used.
- The bittering agent in the cones is called lupulin.
- Hops grows best at 38 to 51 degrees latitude which is why 75% of the crop is grown in eastern Washington.
Be careful where you situate this plant. I happily planted my variegated variety to tastefully cover an archway only to discover that contact with the trailing branches makes me itch like crazy. In addition to climbing high, the roots go very deep so make sure that wherever you plant it you want it to stay because eradicating it can be very difficult – from a now wary hops planter.
How to Use Hops
- The most common use today is in brewing beer where the cones impart a bitter flavor and potentially inhibit the growth of undesired yeast during brewing.
- The young shoots can be eaten like asparagus in the spring. (This can also be a good way to keep this rambunctious plant under control in a small garden.)
- The leaves and flowers can be used to make a delicate light brown dye.
- A pillow made of the dried cones is said to promote sleep.
- A tincture of the cones is used in herbal medicine to reduce anxiety and promote sleep. (As dosage can vary depending on growing conditions only take hops internally when prescribed and prepared by someone who is well versed in their use.)
How do you use this versatile plant? I would love to hear!
This year we had a record number of apples. What to do? Make cider of course!
I called City Fruit and rented their great press for a few days. We drank some of the cider then decided to ferment the rest. I’ll let you know how it goes.
My family loves pickles. We like them with bowls of steaming brown rice, on fresh crusty bread and sometime just straight up from the jar. They are easy to make and full of healthful probiotics.
- 1/4 cup pickling salt
- 2 quarts water
- 1.5 pounds pickling cucumbers
- 1/2 T red pepper flakes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/2 t dill seed
- 1/2 t coriander seed
- 1 t mustard seed
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- Several fresh grape leaves (to promote crispness)
Make the brine solution by combining the salt and water and stirring until the salt is dissolved.
Put the spices and grape leaves in the bottom of a crock or jar.
Rinse the cucumbers and cut off the blossom end, (to prevent soft pickles). Pack the cukes into the container and cover the contents completely with brine solution. Weight the cukes to be sure they are submerged in the liquid. Anything not covered by brine could rot.
Check in a few days and skim off any scum. Begin tasting your pickles; if you like half sours then they need to ferment about 4 days, for full sours one to two weeks is usually needed. The liquid will turn from clear to cloudy and may fizz.
Place in the fridge when done to slow fermentation. Enjoy!!!
Sunday it’s supposed to hit 90 degrees!!! Pure heaven for this Arizona desert rat and high time to make sun tea. My favorite way to make this popular summer drink is to take a couple of bags of high quality black tea and throw in a generous handful of fresh herbs. You can use traditional mint or go wild with oregano or a fennel blend is nice too. Let steep until a honey color then put in the fridge and serve over ice.
I have been experimenting with herbal caramels for a while and the possibilities are endless. You can use almost any herb such as rosemary, thyme or lavender. I tried using green fennel seeds and the buttery sweet licorice result is delectable.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, (one stick)
- 1/2 cup evaporated or regular milk
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- Your favorite herbs
Keep cooking, 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 244°. If you don’t have a thermometer you can drop a small amount into ice water and when it forms a soft ball it’s ready.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and pour into your buttered pan. Once cooled slightly add herbs on top.
When cool, cut into squares and wrap in waxed paper. These keep best in the fridge.
The apples on my front parking strip are starting to fall and it’s time to do something with those apples! Over the years I have made apple sauce, apple butter, apple pie filling and several other types of apple based products. The thing that my family likes the most are dried apples. These can be added to morning oatmeal, put in cookies and muffins or just grabbed as a quick snack. What I like about going the dried apple route is that they are quick and easy to make.