It’s A Keeper

A few garden vegetables continue to give me fits but not the leeks. No, not any longer do they challenge me. Starting them from seed a few years ago was challenging. Then my friend Pat gave me a bundle from her garden to plant and for some reason it’s been smooth sailing since.

Leeks went to seed last fall and are now self sowing here and there and I just transplant those wispy stray plants to a suitable location and leave them be. The slips given to me are Giant Musselburgh and they send up little side plants that can be transplanted. I have conflicting info about these plants actually doing this but mine do so, maybe they are a different variety??? It’s a puzzle.

I dug seven leeks this morning.

So I went to the garden yesterday to harvest some leeks for a Quiche. I ran across a recipe I remember writing down many decades ago but had never made. Now seemed the time to make it.

Aren’t these beautiful!

After trimming and washing the leeks on the potting bench outdoors they got a more thorough cleaning in the kitchen sink. Once they are chopped up you should give them a good rinse in a colander and let them drain well. They do tend to pick up a bit of sand and soil as they grow.

After the final rinse.

This is my original hand written recipe copied from a magazine, most likely in the late 70’s or 80’s.

You might notice I take a lot of shortcuts when copying a recipe. Sometimes that can be a problem…

Leeks sauteing in butter in my favorite cast iron skillet.

The pie plate collection. They aren’t much to look at but they each have a story.

The only recipe I use for pie crust – either savory or sweet – comes from the 1974 edition of Better Homes and Gardens cook Book and this is what it looks like ready to go in the oven.

I always pre-bake the pie crust when making a Quiche or a custard type pie. You know there are a LOT of ways and recipes for pie crust and many claim the only proper crust for a Quiche is made with butter but use what you like. I grew up using Crisco and it makes a fine pie crust. But I love using lard and we make our own from some well raised local hogs. If you are very careful with the making of that lard the best of it will give you pie crust to talk about, even for a fruit pie or a Quiche.

Here you see the partially baked crust with the sautéed leeks piled in.

The custard filling is poured in and the whole mess is topped with a bit of Swiss cheese to bake.

Fresh from the oven!

Lets talk about this recipe which has a lot of fat in it and what changes I made.

The crust: use a frozen crust if you want or your favorite pie dough recipe. Do pre-bake the crust for about ten minutes at 350 F to avoid a soggy bottom crust.

The leeks: I did not cook them in water! Instead they were sauteed in 3 tablespoons of butter for about 15 minutes on low to moderate heat. Stir them so they don’t burn. A little browning is fine.

The custard filling: I saw no need to use 1 1/2 cups of cream! My goodness! I did use 1 cup of whole milk and a half cup of cream. Next time I make this Quiche I will use 1 1/2 cups of milk and expect it will still be rich and delicious. Do scald the milk and let it cool before mixing with the eggs and seasoning.

The topping: surprisingly the 1/4 cup of grated Swiss was a perfect amount of cheese (that is about 1 ounce of cheese). About that 1 tablespoon of butter dotted on top – there doesn’t seem to be any reason to add more fat to the top of this pie with all that it already contains unless it is to brown the top. I left it off and will continue to do so. Not needed.

Baking: The Quiche was done in thirty minutes to my surprise. I owe that to the amount of eggs. There is a big difference between a scrambled egg pie and a Quiche! This one turned out a little “eggy” by my understanding of Quiche which is usually of a jiggly custard like consistency and quite delicate. A scrambled egg pie is more hearty and dense. This tended toward egg pie a bit. I think cutting back on the amount of cream (maybe none) OR using one less egg would do that. That will likely increase the bake time some also.

Eating of the quiche:! Oh my gosh we loved this pie! It was so delicately flavored and divine! If one can say rich and delicate it was every bit that. I served it with a garden fresh salad dressed with an herb vinaigrette and some fruit at the end of the meal. The next day’s leftovers were even better – cold with a hefty side of asparagus and some fruit.

Gene declared of this recipe, “It’s a keeper!”

Click here for the revised recipe.

In other go’ins on I made a batch of peach butter from the last of the frozen peaches and the leek stems went in the freezer to be added to the next batch of chicken stock.

What’s go’in on in your kitchen!

 

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April Starts Cold

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Every year in a garden is different and this year is no different in that. It has been a cold dry windy winter. Plantings are several weeks later than the last few years but it will all come together one way or the other.

Our focus this year is on more cool weather plantings and that we have even though running late. The peas are barely starting to climb and the brassicas (including Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi and collards) are all still pint size. All manner of alliums, radish, lettuce, potatoes, carrots and beets (not up yet) are in the ground and the herbs are springing back to life.

You might notice the colorful wire basket cloches over some areas. I found these at a discount store and bought them out for a buck fifty each. They are perfect for small plants when you have a rabbit sneaking into the garden and nibbling on things. We aren’t sure it’s a rabbit but there was plenty of nibbling going on. We also relocated two raccoons that we caught in a live trap. They may have been helping themselves. And it could just be mice. In a normal year there would be several black snake sightings in the garden by now but we haven’t seen a one and I fear the rodent population is expanding. These basket/cloches are also tight enough to keep out damaging butterflies until the row cover goes on.

I take that no snake comment back as just today I turned up a baby black snake from under some leaf mulch but he was so cold he wasn’t even moving. Gene tucked him back in.

The leaf mulch went on the potato bed as we are expecting a couple of nights of hard freeze over the next few days. Most everything should be fine with a little cover which we will apply tomorrow.

The walkways have been lightly dug out this spring thanks to Gene’s strong back and fresh sawdust is applied. It sure makes for a soft place to work and we especially like the tidy look of it. A few walkway areas have shredded wood which is fine also. The whole garden was built on the principle similar to this – remove any large rocks, lay heavy cardboard, cover with two or three shovelsfull of soil in the spot a plant is to be placed, poke a hole in the mess and drop the plant in. Add compost, cover with straw mulch the first year. It works. The earthworms come and take care of the rest. Most of our garden spot is 3 or 4 years old now and we have fairly rock free dirt 8 – 10 inches deep in most of it.

My biggest concern this year is getting the cool weather plantings mature and harvested with enough time to put the hot weather plants in afterward. Almost every square foot is taken up right now. So, late planting all the way through the seasons this year. The tomatoes and peppers will likely be up-potted at least once more if not twice and will be pretty big when they hit the dirt so that will be a help. It’s all an experiment.

What are your garden plans this year?

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Spring Has Sprung

THIS is what I wait for, what announces Spring, this. These bright yellow jonquils say Spring to me more than anything else. Combined with a few rains, the first croak of tree frogs and a hint of green in the fields jonquils scream Spring. The last many years we have had Jonquil bloom before the end of February, and that is often joined by horrid leftover winter winds which drive the pretty flowers right to the ground and shorten their showy spell. Every year is different.

The past year has seen less rain, some fierce wind for sure – but prolonged cold temperatures have kept them from blooming too early and they are now languishing in their finery. I also discovered upon picking these that about 20% of the Jonquils came up at least a week later and are just now developing flower heads. That too will prolong the Jonquil bloom.

Now we wait for the flox, iris, narcissus and our most beloved dogwoods.

On to the vegetable garden!

It’s been a bleak winter since December passed and all the cabbages and broccoli were harvested. Very little overwintered due to extreme temps – weirdly warm and very cold, often just days apart. Neither warm nor cold lasting long but long enough to send things to bolt.

Most of the herbs are jumping out of hibernation with the lengthening days. Chives have self seeded in several places which is okay by me as there never seems to be enough.

Surprisingly the French tarragon survived this Ozark winter. Its close proximity to the house offered the protection it needed.

A new favorite to me, sage, is coming back nicely. I wasn’t sure if I wanted sage in the garden but ran across a recipe for fried sage leaves and thought what the heck let’s try it. Oh my gosh.. fresh sage is so delicious. I find myself crumbling a few leaves in all things chicken and turkey. I will dry much more of this savory summer treat for winter use.

I should have thought to photograph the celery before cutting it back for today’s potato salad. It needs plenty of water, some nitrogen fertilizer and protection from bunnies. I grew these (and four more) from organic celery butts. Yes you heard me right. Cut off about two inches of the bottom end of a fresh head of organic celery and place it in an inch of water. New leafy growth should appear within a day. Once it is well established and the weather is warm enough, set it into rich garden soil and keep it watered. This is the first year I’ve done this and it’s working out so far. The celery has made enough shoots to grace potato salad a couple of times lately.

These pots of dill and fennel are a little pathetic looking I know! But they will perk up and do just fine once they get in the ground. So much to plant!

So the cool weather plants are almost all in the garden. That includes broccoli, kohlrabi, collards, kale, cabbage, green onions (grown from seed), onion butts, bulbing onions (hundreds), radish, lettuce, choy, carrots, snow and English peas, and cilantro.

The potatoes will go in in a few days along with more carrots, radish and beets. Then we start thinking about summer veg. But not today, not much.

Except maybe this look at the first tomato and pepper seeds. Don’t read the labels! Some of them are only correct on the other side! I’ve started Black Krim, green Zebra, Atomic grape and will get San Marzano tomato plants from Joey. We have also started four kinds of peppers  –  Canary, Ozark Giant and Etiuda bells, and Estacena chili pepper.  We will buy Jalapeno M for its robust size. I don’t know why we didn’t save seed last year!

You can see I have broken with tradition and am trying some new varieties this year. For all my wanderlust and my Piscean nature I have been stuck in a rut with seed varieties for years and it’s a little scary wandering off into uncharted (for me anyway) seed company.

This is how bare most of the garden looks right now today. In the middle are overwintered leeks. On the far end is broccoli planted earlier today. On this end, Tokyo Longs,  which is a really fine green onion.

We will put hotcaps on the broccoli since it looks like a few chilly nights coming up. Then all the Brassica will be draped with lightweight row cover to protect them from cabbage moths. On the right is garlic also from last fall. A surprising number of garlic plants were lost this winter and I filled in with some kale plants.

Last but not least is this Russian Purple tomato plant that we got at the seed swap in West Plains a couple of weeks ago. It has tripled in size under the new plastic clochs during the day and in the kitchen at night. Gene got six of these clochs for my birthday and I love them! Made in the USA and sold by the man who invented them himself direct from his factory they are vented on top and have holes around the bottom so you can secure it to the ground. The literature says they will raise the temperature by 30-40 degree on a sunny day with the vent open. I’m growing carrots under two of them… but I did fry a batch because it got too hot. Yikes. They work. Greenhouse Buckets

See that pot in the back on the left? Thai pepper pant we overwintered in the house. I cut it down to about 4 – 6 inches and no leaves at all. It re-leafed, flowered and has several full size peppers on it now. It goes outside on warm days.

That’s all I got peeps. The potatoes are ready to plant Monday. Chiting, cut up, and dusted with bone meal we just need to turn the rotting wood chips back and lay them in on the soil beneath and cover them up. I need a nap.

What’s going on in your garden?

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Where Did Winter Go?

What do you mean – where did it go? Did it even come? It feels like winter never showed her chilly face this year. Oh sure, it’s just the end of January but take a look at the forecast! We slept with the door wide open a few nights ago. And then today I thought, what the heck I think I’ll check the soil temperature. Yes the beds are raised. Yes they are plenty warm to plant onions and peas.

onion butt onions, it’s a thing

So I made the first “To Do” list of the season. It includes the following; …plant snow peas, plant onions (they just arrived a few days ago), transplant celery and green onions, build a couple new beds, tidy up the old mulch and put down a layer of sawdust on the walkways, stir the compost pile back to life, find some seed potatoes, jalapeno M seeds and organic Celebrity tomatoes. Dig an asparagus bed, expand the berry patch for a few more plants. And why doesn’t Lowe’s have any bulbs or roots yet!? Get some tomato seed started.

It’s endless. Already.

Gene and his helper have been downing some trees to get a little more sun on the garden spot especially for the expanded berry plot. We have decided it is a now or never sort of deal. Plant some perineal fruits now (this year) or forget about it. Just leave the idea be. If I had planted fruit vines and trees 35 years ago, or 20, 10 or even 5 years ago when Gene and I first started this garden we would be harvesting and enjoying berries now – this summer.

We should have a good supply of blackberries this summer, and strawberries and melons too. But we love blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and would enjoy kiwi (yes it will produce here), gooseberry, fig and a few grapes. That should be enough to supply the whole county. We won’t plant all of those items…

Gene and I discussed an asparagus bed several years ago and just kept putting it off. Well the heck with that silly idea – we are going to do it this year. Not much just enough to have a little asparagus first thing in the spring. In a couple of years.

celery growing from root stock

So, what’s happening now? Aside from that “To Do” list? There’s celery plants growing, green onions from seed, onion butts (see photo), onion plants, kale, cabbage, broccoli and kohlrabi. The brassicas are just a couple of weeks old so it will be a few more weeks before they can go in the ground.

It is also almost time for a spot of pak choy, radishes, carrots (under a bit of cover) and beets. I may put in a bed of spinach too.

So not only have the seed catalogs arrived but so have the seeds and the ground is warming! There is still plenty of time for winter to make an impressive appearance but I am banking on this being an early spring. Tomorrow I plant peas.

a veggy dinner

We had this colorful and tasty meal last week. A bit of potato/corn hash with plenty of onion, tri-color rice, baked sweet potatoes, and candied jalapeno. It was delicious! Sweet potatoes and rice is da bomb!

What zone are you in? Have you planted anything yet or still checking out the seed catalogs?

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A Christmas Story – dedicated to my daughter-in-law, with love

I always want to put up a Christmas tree and decorate the house and most years I do. I really enjoy the ambiance it creates. The decor not the act. The act involves too much mess. What really holds me back the most is knowing that it will all have to be put away at some point. And for me that point is sooner than later.

Once Christmas is done I get antsy to “clean up the mess” and put it all away. But the prospect of taking it all apart, dusting it off, wrapping it up and packing it away just seems so daunting. If I could just sweep it out the door or have it all magically disappear while out shopping with all those lovely gift cards. If. If only.

So I got this bright idea.

Someone really should start a service to dismantle people’s Christmas trees and decorations after Christmas and put them all away. Don’t you think that would be great!?

You could just call, or better yet email the Holiday Dismanteling Service and schedule a dismantle time then go shopping. When you return home and pop open the front door, presto! the living room is tidy and no signs of holiday decor. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Easter and … wait. Shake it off. No more holiday decorating for me this year.

So anyway I was like staying with my son and his young family, helping out with moving preparations and you know it’s only days after Christmas and I offered to do a thorough cleaning out of the fridge but my daughter-in-law asked me to take down the tree instead.

I was horrified. And blunt. Likely way too blunt. I stomped my foot and blurted “NO”. Then tonge in cheek I said something really silly like – I would rather blow my brains out than take down the tree (counting my own tree upon arrival back home, that would count to two trees to dismantle. Shudder.).

I hurt her feelings and felt pretty bad about it. My son, in my defense, assured her that I was being melodramatic but not in the least excessive. We had a little laugh. The conversation went downhill  from there though. There was mention of just dragging the tree, decorations and all to the yard and burning it instead. But not before she spoke of the image that sprang into her mind of coming home to a smoldering heap of melted plastic in the middle of the den. This is the daughter-in-law who once sent me a card stating that knowing me was kind of like knowing a butterfly who pooped rainbow sparkles. You get the idea. And some of you know me. And my sense of humor.

We ended the day with my lovely daughter- in-law seriously stating that I was not to undecorated the tree and IF I really wanted to do the refrigerator that would be okay. I promised not to burn the tree down dismantle the Christmas tree and to work on the fridge instead.

So today is finally here and I broke a promise and I hope it is a good thing because not only did I clean out the fridge but also took down the Christmas tree and carefully put it all away. I may have Gene drag our tree to the yard and torch it. Just kidding!!

SO (again) don’t you think it would be a marv idea for someone to develop a service where they took on that task for people? Whadayasay?

We hope you had a merry holiday and a safe New Years Eve!

 

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Satsuma Marmalade

I’ve made a lot of jelly and jam in my life but never once have I made marmalade until this week. My brother (who does a lot of cooking by the way) made marmalade and sent me a jar for Christmas many years ago. It was fresh and had not thoroughly jelled yet but it finally did set up just right a couple months later. It was delicious!

But I never did see the point. If there were going to be oranges in the kitchen I was just going to eat them!

Dauphin Island Gulf side late afternoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that changed a couple weeks ago. We decided to make a spur of the moment trip to a southern destination and buy Louisiana satsumas. You see I made my first trip to Dauphin Island almost twenty years ago and it was right around Christmas time. Well, the satsumas were just ripe and I had my first one then. Been a fan ever since. I’ve made a point to travel to Dauphin Island as often as possible and generally when satsumas are ripe.

But Gene and I missed last winter and this one and I was missing satsumas. We heard the expected crop was expected to be a really good one this year and since we hadn’t decided what to get each other for Christmas… points south it was. To get satsumas. Satsumas are not grown on Dauphin Island but the two seem to go hand in hand.

Long story short… I have been having a dry spell with picture taking and didn’t get any pictures of the actual trip. Only pictures of the actual satsumas. And the actual juicing of said citrus AND the actual MARMALADE that I made. A triple batch. Enough to last me a lifetime.

 

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We haven’t eaten any of the marmalade yet (well there was a few spoonfuls left after jarring it up but not enough for toast!) or there would be a picture of a slab of toast smothered in satsuma marmalade. Or maybe a bran muffin. Now that sounds good.

Chopsticks and Treasures from Dauphin Island

 

I am looking forward to next years satsuma harvest, our next trip to Dauphin Island and looking forward to eating and sharing this satsuma marmalade.

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A Perfectly Wonderful Christmas

Post holiday greetings from Moonmooring!

It Was a perfectly wonderful Christmas. Gene and I are in the throes of developing our own holiday traditions and we thoroughly enjoyed this relaxed and unstructured Christmas.

A quick road trip to Hattiesburg just days before the holiday got us a few cases of satsuma oranges which as you may know are only ripe for a few weeks of the early winter and the most delicate of them are grown in Alabama – they are not shipped far – southern Mississippi about the furthest. So we got enough to eat (and did we ever), juice and make some satsuma bourbon marmalade. More on the marmalade later. We are thinking to incorporate satsumas into every Christmas.

A Christmas eve with family was a relaxed fajitas kind of evening and personal gift exchange with my sons family. We shared this marvelous pecan coconut goody that is melt in your mouth delicious!

Christmas morning found really tall glasses of freshly squeezed satsuma juice, creamy oats with apple, minced ginger and cinnamon, and sage sausage patties.

I made these ceramic snowpeople, angels and bell nearly 40 years ago. Emory and Coy were fascinated by them.

What Christmas traditions do you keep?

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