Friday, September 27, 2013

A Reason to Make French Fries_ Spicy Ketchup

We are not consumers of large amounts of ketchup, but with heirloom tomato season at an end, making homemade ketchup seemed a fun idea. And since we are proponents of wanting to know what is in "and other ingredients" when you look at store bought items, it was even more compelling to give it a go.

What comes to mind when thinking of ketchup? French fries of course. Although this is another item we seldom eat, an excuse to have homemade pommes frites with spicy ketchup had us feeling warm and giggly.

Spicy Heirloom Tomato Ketchup from Diana's kitchen
(yield: 11 half pints)

8 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped (2 cups)
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 to 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled, chopped (taste dependent)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 TB coriander seed
5 whole cloves
5 allspice berries
5 black peppercorns
1” piece cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
2 large handfuls fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 TB kosher or sea salt

1 large lemon, juiced
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven add the oil and heat to medium. Add onions, celery, carrots and a pinch of salt and pepper; sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and cayenne, and sauté a few minutes more. Place the spices (coriander, clove, allspice berries, peppercorn, cinnamon) in a small cloth (cheesecloth) bag_ that is tied and easily removed after cooking. Add the tomatoes, bag of spices, bay leaf, basil, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until it is reduced by at least a third_ approximately 1 to 2 hours. Stir frequently.

Set aside and allow to cool enough for handling. Remove the spice bag and bay leaves. Process the liquid through a food mill or fine sieve in order to remove seeds. Return liquid to the Dutch oven and reheat to simmer. Add the lemon juice, brown sugar and vinegar and continue cooking until reduced to desired consistency.

Taste and adjust any seasoning. Ladle into hot jars, leaving ½ head space. Wipe the rims, add lids and caps and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  (see note below on canning)

Note: We don’t use a lot of ketchup, so this was processed in half-pint jars_ yield 11.
There is a natural sweetness to the heirloom tomatoes, especially Cherokee Purple, one of our favorites, thus, little or no sugar is needed.

Important Note: If you are just starting out, first read about the basics of home canning. Here is a place to begin, a simple overview, and from the Culinary Arts College, a list of 50 websites for learning self-canning.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Reaching, a memoir" by Grace Peterson

At some point in our life, we each encounter trials and tribulation, and each person responds in his or her own way.  Many are left to deal with it, and when that is the case, we use what we know, and more often than not, we revert to our old behavior. Anthony Robbins pretty well sums it up: "If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten".

As I read Grace Peterson’s book Reaching, a memoir, several words immediately came to mind: courage and strength_ to tell the world.

So many who have been abused have a difficult time going it alone, some never come away being whole again, dig deeper into the abyss and never fully cope. There are those who remain too ashamed to say, while others fortunately recognize the need and seek counsel and guidance. The journal Grace kept and the steady factor of her loving husband were truly blessings, and her strength and will were indeed a saving grace as finally Brock couldn’t take her beyond reality. At her core she always had a sense of right or wrong direction.

Beautifully written prose had me rereading certain passages as she painted a picture: “… Stoned or sober, life is a trek through a pitch black room, stumbling over injustices, maneuvering blindly around bullies and blunders, dusting off the pain, licking the wounds, picking the scabs, remembering where the trouble spots are… “.

Those going through difficult times might learn from Grace’s experience and ultimately seek professional guidance to help work through those wounds. It takes time to heal the pain and suffering, and no one can tell you what, when or how to do that, and only you know the time to make a change.

You can find Grace's book on Amazon and here is her garden blog

Friday, September 20, 2013

Our Local Coyote

It is difficult to tell whether a coyote is male or female as both look quite similar, with the exception of size. Adult coyotes weigh 20 to 35 pounds, with males being slightly larger than females. At the shoulder, an adult male coyote is about 25 inches tall.

Not sure of our comfort level here as this animal has staked out its claim_ our landscape_ its habitat. A frequent morning visitor outside my studio window, drinking from a tray of water on the ground that is a supplemental bird bath, casually walking about the garden_but with purpose_ looking, searching... confidently walking along the path_ the west side of the house_ then heads south... 
PS: Clearly our chickens will not be free range

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pink Hill, NC

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 
 ~ C.S. Lewis 

And that is how it's been with Susan (Myers) and me. We connected some 6 years ago and have tagged along in each others life. Susan said she recognized that here we were, two women, independently minded, who loved gardening, were involved in business and in management of our own resources; people who loved being in balance with our love of nature.

Several weeks ago she and her husband Al (Rachide) traveled out of their way to be with us, share an overnight and a few meals. Time passed so quickly as plants, cooking and projects filled a brief but amazing time together.

Have you heard of Pink Hill, NC? Well, if you haven't, then you must take a look. Pink Hill is a small community of approximately 549 population and the place Susan and Al chose to live following the purchase of the old drug store. Al is the pharmacist; they own the .99 cents store next to it, and have purchased and remodeled other buildings. Residence must be thankful that Susan and Al have chosen to make this home, as over the years they have organized efforts to make life better in their small town.

Speaking of leadership, Susan took her love of roses to a town-wide level several years ago when she decided to paint the town pink, and created the Pink Hill Flower Fund beautification project. They have now planted 730 pink Knock Out roses! and in the first quarter of next year, Susan plans to plant 500 more pink roses, Knock Out and Drifts.

Here is a prime example of where it is the people who make the difference in small towns, taking pride and beautifying the community. It is through Susan's time, energy and personal funds that this is happening.

Susan & R. rugosa 'Scabrosa'
We are so proud to have Susan and Al as friends, thank them for traveling so far to be with us, and are looking forward to our next visit.

By the way, the Third annual Pink Hill Rose Festival will be held on Saturday, May 17, 2014. If you are in the vicinity, go and enjoy. More information:

Susan's Facebook page
Pink Hill Flower Fund, Facebook
Pink Hill community, February 2013
Pink Hill Pharmacy