The Milkweed Diaries

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fall Kitchen and Garden Projects & Recipes

Most of the flat surfaces in our little house are covered with various fall garden and kitchen projects -- soaking spinach seeds, drying harvested beans and sunflower seeds, processing vegetables for salsa, pickles, and other preserving projects, and too many other large and small projects to list. I love the end of the summer growing season--putting the garden to bed and putting food away for the cold months, planting fall greens, saving seeds, pickling things.

I've posted a few pictures of some of these projects, followed by two October-appropriate recipes.

Above: The kitchen table covered with projects in process--peppers for sweet pepper hash (recipe below); green tomatoes for brine-pickling (recipe below
); zinnia, marigold, and sunflower seeds for planting next year; winter squash curing; tomatoes and peppers for salsa; love-lies-bleeding amaranth seed heads to be threshed for eating and replanting

Left: Christopher shelling dry black beans with moral support from Frankie

Left: Prepping a bed for fall planting, after pulling summer bean and squash plants

Left: Fall lettuce starts in the

"Red Zinger" hibiscus and climbing nasturtium seed pods drying...most of the hibiscus will be for tea and the rest will be for planting next year

Fall Recipes:

Brine-Pickled Green Tomatoes
This is a great way to use tomatoes that you have to pick green as cold weather ends the tomato season. My recipe is loosely based on one from Marilyn Kluger's classic book "Preserving Summer's Bounty."

Unripe tomatoes to fill a jar or ceramic crock
Pickling spices to taste
Fresh or dried dill to taste
10-20 cloves garlic, peeled
Apple cider vinegar
High-quality salt (I use coarse celtic sea salt)
  • Wash and clean tomatoes -- make sure not to use any tomatoes with cracks, mold, or rotted spots
  • Layer the bottom of a ceramic crock or large glass jar (such as a cookie jar) with spices and dill. I use various combinations of dill, whole black pepper corns, celery seed, caraway seed, and whole mustard seed.
  • Fill the crock or jar with tomatoes and garlic
  • Mix your brine solution using the following proportions: for every gallon of water, use 1 cup of vinegar and 2/3 cup salt
  • Pour the brine over the tomatoes and garlic to cover, with at least an inch of brine above the top layer.
  • Place a glass or china plate on top of the tomatoes to keep them submerged, and weigh down by sitting a jar filled with water on top of the plate.
  • Cover with a clean cloth and wait!
  • Don't stir, but do remove any scum or mold that may form.
  • After 3 weeks or so of fermentation, pack into jars and either heat process (which will kill the beneficial live cultures) or just refrigerate (keeping in mind that the pickles will not keep as long without heat processing). I never heat process brined pickles because I want to keep the food alive after fermentation.

Sweet Pepper Hash
I learned this recipe from my friend Melissa years ago when we lived together. It is so ridiculously delicious that I've made it every year since when local peppers are ripe. You can find a version of this in "Preserving Summer's Bounty" too, but mine omits green peppers, which are not ripe and so not nearly as sweet as red, yellow, and orange ones, and uses honey instead of sugar. I think honey tastes much better in this recipe, and makes for a nice syrupy texture--plus, honey is better for you and is available locally (unlike cane sugar). You can also add a hot pepper or two to make a spicier hash.

At left: the hash before cooking and canning

This recipe makes about 3 pints. We usually at least double it. Opening up a jar in mid-winter is like a taste of summer -- a blast of bright, sunshiny, summer sweetness. Use it as a condiment, or mix in with soups or baked beans -- it's so addictive that we've been known to eat it straight by the spoonful.


12 small onions
24 ripe sweet peppers of various varieties
2 cups honey
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs Salt
  • Peel the onions and remove the seeds from the peppers.
  • Chop the vegetables by hand or use a food processor to chop into relatively small pieces.
  • Put your chopped onions and peppers in a big bowl and sprinkle with the salt.
  • Pour boiling water over the vegetables and let stand for 15 minutes.
  • Combine the honey and vinegar in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  • Drain the peppers and onions and add to the boiling syrup.
  • Reduce heat and cook slowly for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, sterilize jars and lids in a boiling water bath
  • Pack into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
  • Adjust lids and process for 5-10 minutes in a boiling water bath.


ashley english said...

I love the brined green tomato recipe. I'm eyeing a bowl of green tomatoes on my counter right now and just might give this recipe a whirl!!
Where did you get your drying screens? You told me when I visited, but I forgot!
Btw, I got in touch with Joe and I'll be taking his class in the spring. Thanks again!!

Milkweed said...

I wish I could give you a good, cheap source for drying screens, but mine are the racks from a homemade food dehydrator that a friend of mine bought at a yard sale. So how unhelpful is THAT?

I do think that they would be very simple to make for someone with basic carpentry skills - and I would recommend using metal screen rather than plastic if you make them. Plastic is just not as sturdy, and hard to clean.

If you find a good source, let me know!