Wednesday, October 17, 2012

(Most Likely) Final Harvest of the Year

Got a last minute late night notification that there might be a frost, so picked peppers in the dark by lanternlight. Actually got quite a haul, lots of jalapenos, Hungarian wax, and serranos.

The tomatoes were pretty much gone by the time of the frost, but one plucky little plant that self-seeded from last year's tomatoes had 20ish fruit still on it. They were all green, but they should ripen. Or I may possibly try a green tomato recipe.

The frost was peculiar. In early September I planted about 50 bush green beens from seed I'd saved, just because. I still have tons of seed, and I thought there was some chance they might survive long enough to get me a harvest if the frost held off long enough. So I checked them first and a few appeared to be dead. But not all. Checked a few days later and a few more looked dead. But again, not all. And there hasn't been a second frost yet. The pumpkins on the front lawn died quite spectacularly. The big lush vibrant leaves from the day before hung like damp rags from the stems the morning of the frost. The pumpkins on the patio died as well. The peppers seemed to survive the frost but they're not really thriving - the leaves are pale and they seem a bit limp. Although I have seen a bunch of new flowers. I brought three of the plants (in their 2 gallon buckets) inside the night of the frost, those don't seem to be doing particularly better than their companions.

So this year went pretty well. Jalapenos and Hungarian wax did great, Serranos produced a lot for just a few plants. Between rabbit attacks early on and neglect later in the season, the rest of the crop fared much worse. Tomatoes were ok, and the community garden tomatoes were great. I learned I love Amish paste tomatoes, they definitely earned themselves a spot in next year's garden. I reaffirmed my love of black cherry tomatoes. I made a promise to myself to do a better job staking tomatoes next year. I did miss peas, cukes and green beans. Ah well, as I say every year, "Next year!"

I've always enjoyed pickles. And I'm trying to lose weight, so dill pickles are a great snack. But I bought a jar of pickles at the store the other day, and it was ridiculously expensive. Next year I'll grow cucumbers and churn out the pickles. I make pretty good bread and butter pickles, but I have a terrible track record with dill pickles. I've had all sorts of problems, mushy pickles, bitterness, too much dill flavor, too sour. So I began an experiment yesterday. I bought a dozen pint jars, a load of cucumbers and a heap of fresh dill. I tried varying the ratio of vinegar to water, the amount of dill, the amount of garlic (also whole cloves vs sliced vs crushed). Also tried properly canned (boiled for 10 minutes) vs unboiled (refrigerator pickles). I'm gonna let them sit for a couple weeks and start sampling. So far the only thing that I've noticed is that the refrigerator pickles are much prettier, they stayed a nicer bright shade of green, while the canned pickles have lost a lot of color.

Future experiments - different kinds of peppers, adding sugar to the brine, celery seed, mustard seed, dill seed. Possibly alum. Onion. Dried dill vs fresh. Kosher salt vs pickling salt.

Will add pictures later....

I apparently lied, I never did post pics. So adding a few now (04-18-2013). Mmmm, pickles.

Cukes... pickles!