Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn in Multnomah County

The last little trip my car gave us took place almost two weeks ago, when we drove out to the Columbia River Gorge, less than an hour from Portland. It's a great place to view fall foliage and we wanted to do some hiking around the rainforest and picnic by one of the waterfalls. Here's some pictures!

This is a blueberry farm by the highway. I love the color that blueberry bushes turn in the autumn! My own little blueberries (while much, much smaller) are the same color. Gorgeous!

This is Latourell Falls, viewed from a slight distance up the trail.

We had our lunch at this little picnic table...

...smoked turkey legs baked in homemade cherry-chipotle BBQ sauce, homemade pickles, homemade seed-nut bread, and dried cinnamon apples, enjoyed with a view of Horsetail Falls.

On the way home we had hot chai lattes here at Multnomah Falls.

And then we dropped by Rooster Rock State Park to watch windsurfers in the Columbia River and see more pretty fall colors.

I get so happy in the autumn! It is hands-down my favorite season.

Didja miss me?

I'm back from my two-week hiatus! Sorry for the absence. It's been quite an eventful two weeks; a lot has gone on, most notably the totalling of my beloved little car. That issue hasn't been resolved yet but I tore a couple of ligaments in my neck and am currently undergoing massage therapy twice a week to heal the damage while I try to negotiate a nice settlement to get a new car with.

The bright event in the last two weeks was our one-year anniversary. We celebrated with a pleasant drive out to the Columbia River Gorge (more to follow), picking 37 pounds of Asian pears for free, and a fantastic dinner at Ned Ludd - can you think of a better place for the Urban Luddite to dine?

In the meantime, I'm still cooking and canning. I'm almost done processing the 60 pounds of apples and hoping to finish that today; I have jars upon jars of applesauce (with and without maple syrup), apple butter, and apple pie filling. I've also got a big bag of dried cinnamon apples and more apples to go in the dehydrator today. I think this afternoon I'll put up some more apple butter and then we'll carve up a jack o'lantern tonight for the Halloween festivities!

Halloween should be a fun day; my brother's coming up for a month-long visit, and we're opening the house up to all and sundry for trick-or-treating or a drop-by on the way to wilder parties. I'm making up a big vat of steak chili, another of vegan chili, a pan of honey cornbread, and some homemade pumpkin fritter-donuts. I got a huge harvest of fried green tomatoes so I might fry some of those up as well. It won't be the healthiest evening but we eat healthy most of the time, so one night of celebration can't hurt.

The rest of the green tomatoes, by the way, are going to be pickled this afternoon. I just heard about pickled green tomatoes (to be used in place of regular pickles on sandwiches, burgers, etc.) and I'm super-excited. Our late heat snap this summer made my tomatoes go crazy with another round of production; I actually harvested some delicious ripe tomatoes in late October (imagine!) but most of the tomatoes are still green and unlikely to ripen. So I'm pretty stoked to pickle them!

I also harvested the sunchokes and hooooooboy. Back in the spring I bought a pint of sunchokes at the farmer's market, and instead of eating them all, I planted about half of them. They grew into massive six-foot sunflowers, and when we pulled them up, I'd say we found about 30-40 pounds of sunchokes buried like treasure in the dirt. Eating them all before they go bad... well, it's a tough job, but somebody's got to munch tasty homegrown veggies! I think I'm up to the task. (And some of you should be on the lookout for a care package.)

As far as the chickens... Lucy and Doris are almost finished with their molt, and hopefully will start to lay again but they may take the winter off (argh). Lana still hasn't laid anything beyond that first little fart-egg, which may not have even been hers. Jane is laying faithfully almost every day so has taken Lucy's place as my favorite hen. I'm sorry I threatened so often to eat her.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cranberry-Apple Chutney

Everybody cancel your plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas! Y'all have to come to my house and have some of this chutney I came up with last night. I started with this recipe for plain apple chutney, but then I got inspired... I almost wish I ate pork because it seems like it would go so well with bacon or ham; since I don't, I can't wait to put it with some turkey. I made four pints of it and already I think I'll have to make some more for gifts.


8 cups peeled, chopped apples (about 3 pounds)
1/2 c lemon juice
3 c apple cider vinegar
1 c white vinegar
4 c sugar
20-25 garlic cloves (depending on size), peeled
Big chunk fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
3 tsp salt
2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 c dried cherries
1 c fresh cranberries
1/2 c honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp mustard seeds

Chop up the apples and toss with the lemon juice. Set aside.

Combine vinegars and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer about 10-15 minutes. While that simmers, combine garlic, ginger, salt, and crushed red pepper in a small food processor and whiz it up until it's all finely chopped together. Once the brine is simmered up, stir in the lemony apples and the garlic-ginger mix, then stir in everything else. Bring it back to a boil, then simmer uncovered, stirring often, until it all thickens into a chutney (about an hour, maybe a bit longer). Use a splatter screen! This makes an unholy mess, but it won't thicken if you put a lid on and keep the steam in.

Once it's all thick and ready, transfer into four sterilized pint jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes, or put it all in the fridge and give some away to people you really like.

A friend suggested that this would be excellent on a Monte Cristo sandwich, if that's your thing. It's not so much my thing, but I can already think of a zillion uses for this, starting with a nice gorgonzola.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Yes, I'm still canning.

Well, we didn't get to the apples yesterday, though Keith did painstakingly wash all 60 pounds of them. He also did most of the work in peeling five pounds of garlic, which took quite awhile and left our fingers sore but fragrant.

Meanwhile, I put up 13 jars of maple pumpkin butter, some with hazelnuts and some without...

...and then I pickled all the garlic with my popular recipe.

This morning we have to run some errands on a tummyful of berries, quinoa, and hazelnuts. Got to pick up more canning jars for all these apples and salsa, and some cat food and pine shavings for the chicken coop, so we'll head to the Urban Farm Store first. Then the co-op for onions and Freddy's for office supplies so we can finally get our office organized. And then home to get to work on these apples!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


So very many apples!

Sunday was a perfect autumn day. The trees are all scarlet and gold, the weather was sunny with a blustery chilly wind, and we went to the farmer's market for greens and winter squashes. After that we made a little trip up to the north end of town; I'd had word through my sources (ahem) that a man was selling apples for pocket change. He scored a good deal on "juice-grade" apples - the ones they won't sell at the store because they've been scratched or bruised, or they're shaped funny - and decided to share some of the wealth. We picked out 60 pounds of apples and paid $15. Yes, I said 60 pounds! So we set aside today for preserving all this appley goodness.

I woke up this morning, warm in my soft bed with the room all cold, snuggled up against Keith with Fry purring on my shoulder, Roxy on Keith's back, and Davey between our feet. A steady autumn rain was drumming against the skylights over the bed, and the fir tree swayed its branches in the wind. We got up and Keith lit the fireplace before he fried up some turkey bacon while I made from-scratch biscuits and gravy. We sliced an apple on the side. Now we're looking forward to a nice long day in the kitchen together.

First I'm going to get a steak chili going in the crockpot for dinner; I know I'll be weary of cooking by then. After that, here's our agenda for the day...

Maple Pumpkin Butter
Hazelnut Pumpkin Butter
Apple Butter
Apple Chutney
Caramel Apple Pie Filling
Apple Jelly
Dried Apples
Pickled Garlic (5 lbs!)
Salsa Verde (if we get to it)

Looks like I better get this purring kitten off my lap and get to work.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Great Dinner and a Yummy Tart!

Our dinner last night went really well! I made a Moroccan shepherd's pie loaded down with tofu, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, fresh tomatoes, dried cherries, and pumpkin seeds, spiced with cumin and coriander, topped with orangey mashed sweet potatoes and mashed white potatoes marbled together in a pretty way. To go with it, I also made a fresh-picked tomato salad in a gingery dressing and some homemade refrigerator rolls, and my friend brought a delicious raw kale salad and an excellent pinot noir. And then we had dessert.

I'm still playing with my new tart pans, so I had to try a tart. After some brainstorming and one failed crust, here's what I came up with. It was delicious and perfect for an autumn evening with friends!

Tart Shell:
3/4 c hazelnuts
3/4 c rolled oats
3/4 c whole wheat flour
Cinnamon to taste
Pinch of salt
1/4 c canola oil
3 Tbsp pure maple syrup

6 apples
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c apple cider
1 c cranberries
Allspice and cinnamon to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a food processor, whiz up the hazelnuts, rolled oats, flour, cinnamon, and salt until it looks like a coarse meal. Whisk the oil and maple syrup together in a medium bowl, then stir in the dry mixture. Pat the mixture into four tartlet pans, then bake for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool and transfer the shells from the pans to small plates once they're at room temperature.

Peel, core, and slice the apples, then toss in a big bowl with the lemon juice. Set aside until you're ready to make dessert.

For the filling, melt the butter in a heavy skillet, then stir in the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until sugar begins to caramelize. Mix in the cider and continue cooking until it starts to thicken up. Add the apples and stir them up so they're coated with the caramel, and keep cooking until the apples are softening and the caramel gets thicker (about 10 minutes). Stir in the spices and cranberries, and keep cooking until the cranberries have popped and there's no more liquid. Spoon into the tart shells, let cool about 10 minutes, and serve.

Goes nicely with a little port, too!

Friday, October 9, 2009


I think I forgot to mention that I planted an asparagus and strawberry patch in the front yard this week. I'm really excited about the asparagus! It's a big project; I won't be able to harvest any until 2011. Takes time for it to establish a good root system. But once it's established, we'll get loads of delicious asparagus all spring, right in the yard! The rest of the summer and fall it just looks pretty - lots of frilly little trees. I planted strawberries all around it because they grow nicely together (the strawberries spread out and cover the ground so weeds don't come up). I may wind up moving the strawberries to a shadier spot later though.

I saw some sunchokes at the co-op yesterday, which means they're coming into season, which means I can go harvest mine finally! I paid $1 for a bunch of them back in the spring, and decided that instead of eating them, I'd plant them and see what happened. They are now huge sunflower-type plants about six feet tall. Pity to dig them up, but it's time for that sweet tuberous flavor!

Today I'm getting ready to clean the house and start cooking. We're having another couple and their baby over for dinner and I'm really excited! I'll post again what I'm making when I have pictures of it.

In other news... really, Nobel Committee? Barack Obama? Sigh. Another legendary award from the people who admired the peace-keeping example set by Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger. Does that prize even mean anything at all anymore? I think if I were nominated for it, I'd actually be offended.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seasons Change

It's chilly. It's been raining at night - which is lovely on the skylights over our bed. Our blueberry bushes are turning a warm crimson shade, and several streets around town are covered with golden leaves so that they look like the yellow brick road.

We worked all weekend on a movie trailer, and it was a perfectly crisp sunny autumn weekend. We filmed in the woods, and at a large hazelnut orchard, taking care not to crush millions of the lucious little nuts underfoot. On Sunday morning, we got up early to make it to the farmer's market, then sipped hot tea in the backyard and let the chickens roam for awhile before we went to work.

Of all the things we bought at the market, I only got one winter squash, a butternut. I consider that a victory over this instinct that I have: Every autumn, I get an insane desire to start stockpiling squashes. It's not that I love winter squash (though I do, and I'm not a huge fan of the summer varieties); they just look so appealing with their many colors and shapes and sizes, and their long shelf life, and... well, I don't know, I just want them! So I limit myself to one or two per week until I have a cellar to store them properly. In the meantime I get to figure out how to enjoy this butternut - roasted? Soup? Bread? Braised?

Today Keith fired up the furnace to get it working, and then got our pellet stove online. I'm sipping a pumpkin ale by the flame in our pellet stove, enjoying the warmth and beauty of autumn, one of my kittens curled up on my lap. Dinner tonight was chicken and spinach served over quinoa and drizzled with this most amazing peanut sauce. Another good thing about autumn - the greens are back!

But I'm saying goodbye to summer tonight as well, one last dance with Mary Jane. At the farmer's market yesterday I took a bit of the very last blackberry harvest, four pints of sweet, mushy, too-ripe blackberries. One more day and they'd be useless, so tonight I made one last batch of jam. I'll do a little more canning this year, sure (salsa verde, pumpkin butter, and some herb jellies are on the agenda for Thursday), but I'm pretty sure this is it for the jam.

Goodbye, summer.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Yea Jane!

Well, I guess we won't eat her after all.

This is Jane's first egg, laid Wednesday, September 30. We now have three laying hens! I expected Jane's eggs to be brown but this one is a really pretty peachy flesh color. Congratulations, Jane, on avoiding the stockpot. May this one be the first of many!