Sometimes when a cucumber vine gets going some of the cucumbers grow too large and turn yellow. When that happens I cut it from the vine and leave it there in the garden. It creates the opportunity for the cucumber to reseed itself and become a late season cucumber vine. Now in late October, I have one growing in the kitchen garden. It’s good timing because just a week or so ago I finished the cucumber salad that I prepared in early summer.
Cucumbers are cooling, which I’m imagining might be good for hot flashes (waking me up early lately.) Dr. Lee told me that cucumbers are better than lettuce for women (and lettuce is very good for men). Since most everything he has told me has turned out to be helpful, I’m taking his word for that.
A month ago I was writing about what to do with eggplant because I had so many in my kitchen. In that post I talked about making fried eggplant and eggplant parmesan. When eggplant love is new it tastes so sweet and delicious. After a couple months of eating and freezing the stuff, I start to think about other vegetables again. My husband stopped watering his garden about a month ago, after he harvested everything else. He left his eggplants to their own devices while it was very hot and dry. We had almost no rain that whole time. But to our surprise, the eggplants have thrived while gardens have withered all over the Upstate.
We have trouble giving eggplant away. Our friends and neighbors mostly don’t like or never tried an eggplant and don’t show any signs of changing their minds. I was tempted to just let those eggplants go to seed, but they looked so big and beautiful; it would have been a shame and a waste. So yesterday I went down in the field and picked most of them, and also dealt with them very quickly after looking for some new ideas online and finding a couple at FreshBitesDaily.com.
When I shared my raspberry soda recipe last week I was focused on the raspberries that I have been harvesting a handful at a time from my garden. I mentioned that I have used three different methods for making naturally fermented sodas. I forgot about my dalliance with kombucha, so really there were four. In the raspberry soda recipe I really just gave up some hints about how to start with a starter… but I’m not trying to keep my romance a secret. So let me shed a little light on how I’ve been spending some of my time these past few months and how you can get your own relationship going with fermentation.
When I was growing up my mother told me to replace the friendly bugs in my stomach, after taking antibiotics, by eating yoghurt. That’s probably still good advice, but it’s not the only way to get your gut right. And really, if you have a bad feeling in your gut, you should trust what it’s telling you about your intimate relationship with food. I’ve also previously talked about learning the forgotten ways of making bread. Well, commercial yeast is to bread what carbonation is to soda. Before instant rise yeast we had sourdough starter. Before carbonation (and vinegar) we had fermentation. One is like a big box of cheap chocolate and the other a petite package of tasty truffles.
About a year ago I started making naturally fermented sodas from a non dairy brew of kefir grains. I purchased the dry kefir grains in a package. I keep them fed in a quart bottle of water sweetened with a quarter cup of sugar. I use a fermentation lid inside the screw band, and fill the bottle to the very top, so that there is no air, but the gas can escape. I make a new batch every couple of days. Or if I can’t keep up with all that, I stash the bottle in the fridge until I get around to making a new batch. The quart of strained sugar water, which I pour from the bottle after 24 or 48 hours with the kefir grains, is what I use to make a variety of sodas.
We have an abundance of eggplant in our garden right now and were trying to give some away. But most of our friends ask us what they are supposed to do with eggplant, which they apparently don’t usually purchase in the grocery store. So, for our friends, and others who might be offered bounty from a friend’s garden this time of year, here are some suggestions for what to do with that big, purple beauty.
The easiest thing to do with an eggplant is probably to peel it, cut it into smallish cubes, boil it with some salt until soft, and strain it. You could add your cooked eggplant to a stir fry, spaghetti sauce, casserole or soup….
Bertha was my husband’s mother. Like me, she moved to Greenville with her husband. She was originally from up north, possibly New York City. She was half Cherokee and half descended from African slaves in America, but she never spoke much about her life before coming to Greenville and raising her eight children. According to her husband she was a kitchen mechanic. He would sometimes sell her pies in the neighborhood. According to my husband, she didn’t use measuring cups or spoons to make any of the many treats he so fondly remembers. But his favorite was her pound cake. I got the recipe for Bertha’s Lemon Pound Cake from my niece, and have made it many times now. In spite of it being winter, we are getting about a dozen eggs a day. One way to use up eggs is to make this cake that calls for no less than seven. So last week I made a pound cake.
In summer’s past we had a concord grape vine that offered us many gallons of grapes. We had enough for me to make a couple batches of jelly and also to can some quarts of grape juice. We liked the homemade (and organic) grape juice so much that we planted a few more grape vines. They are still babies, and unfortunately our original vine (that we brought with us seven years ago from California) finally died over the winter. This week I gathered together two and a half pounds of concord grapes, but I needed four for jelly, according to the recipe on the liquid pectin box.
Grape juice, sugar and a teaspoon of pectin just before boiling point.
Yesterday I fried okra in peanut oil. I had three gallon bags of sliced okra in the refrigerator. I put all that in a large bowl, broke a couple of eggs over it, then stirred it up. In another bowl I made a mix of flour and corn meal with a teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt. I drop about five large spoonfuls at a time of the okra into the fry mix and then put them in a strainer to get rid of the excess mix (so that it doesn’t all wind up in the bottom of my fry pot.)
We have a lot of eggplants coming in from the garden right now. I have two ways that I prepare eggplant and am contemplating a third. I fry the slices or I make my own version of eggplant parmesan (which also involves frying the eggplant ahead of time.) Either way I prep the sliced eggplant first by sprinkling sea salt over the slices and letting them sweat for an hour two. I learned that from Molly, an Italian woman who used to watch my boys when they were very young and we were living in California.
A tomato sandwich with cucumber salad (fresh cucumber slices chilled in vinegar/water with dried stevia flakes) and sliced cheese (Havarti.) This is a sandwich that is only possible to make directly from the garden in July and August. We still have plenty of tomatoes, but no more cucumbers.