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The GIY Thread - "Grew It Myself" Great Meals....

  • k

Oh, the joys of sitting down to meal and seeing your "sweat equity" presented as gorgeous food....

A recent dinner at our place:
GIY roasted rack of lamb with the first chard from the garden with a balsamic reduction (epicurius recipe), a tender salad with some baby lettuce and snow peas from the garden, and a refreshing tomato aspic from tomato juice I put up last fall (canned over 60 quarts of whole tomatos and juice last year when it was 100 degrees out, but it was like red gold over the winter and spring!). Dessert - raspberry sherbet from berries picked and in the ice cream freezer within 15 minutes...

We raise our own beef, lamb and have a flock of laying hens, a big garden, raspberries and strawberries, muscat grapes and a dozen fruit trees that are finally starting to produce, plus some olive trees.

Tell me what you're growing....especially which varieties of tomatoes and peppers. I got my grubby hands on some piquillo pepper plants this year, can't wait to see how they are!

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  1. We only have a small garden, and must be in a different zone than you all, because the summer plants (squash, peppers, cukes, etc.) are just transplanted. We have snow peas, chard, and are finishing up the rhubarb, asparagus, radishes, spinach, arugula, scallions. The coyotes have been a boon this year, as we have no trouble with grazing rabbits or deer thus far. (We'll see if that's still the case once tomatoes come on.) We had fourteen volunteer tomato plants come up on their own where the sungolds overflowed in abundance last summer. I'm thinking they're sungolds anyway...

    My favorite GIY dish so far this spring was a scallion and chive pancake with leftover red snapper, Korean style. Tasty with vinegar shoyu sauce to dip. Also enjoyed asparagus roasted in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper--simplest is often best.

    1. Our gardens are still in the sprout/transplant stage (peas are about 4" high). But our favorite from this past winter was a caribou roast (my husband hunted and we butchered) with a port and dried cherry sauce (cherries foraged from a neighbor's tree who considers them a nuisance), oven roasted grape tomatoes (grown in our garden last summer, roasted with garlic and herbs and preserved in olive oil) on mesclun ( had to buy that in winter), scalloped potatoes (from our garden), and apple pie with cheddar cheese crust (my home canned pie filling and local cheese). We are blessed with neighbors that have mature fruit trees in their yards and want nothing to do with them.

      11 Replies
      1. re: morwen

        I've always wanted to make apple pie with cheddar cheese in the crust, but it sounds a bit too exotic for the crowd I feed (I don't know why; apples and cheddar make total sense to me). How much cheese do you usually add, and what type of cheddar - something young and mild, or more sharp? thanks.

        1. re: Gooseberry

          I use the sharpest NY cheddar I can find, grate it on the large holes of a box grater, and put probably two large handfuls (sorry, I've never measured it) of the loose stuff in the flour and toss it around. Then I proceed with the pastry recipe as normal. When it's baked the cheese flavor in the crust is cheesy but mellow considering how sharp the cheese is on it's own. My husband, who thinks a slice of cheddar melted over apple pie is weird and prefers the cheese he eats straight to be mild, adores it in the crust.

        2. re: morwen

          Morwen - How did you preserve the cherry toms in oil? I tried some last summer, and it made this violently fermenting mass - not sure what I did wrong, but there was no way I was going to eat them - I was surprised the chickens didn't die from it.... Please share the details!

          1. re: kmr

            while you are waiting for Morwen to respond...

            I put a couple jars of cherry tomatoes by this summer. While I haven't eaten them yet, they look totally fine in their jars. To be doubly sure they were as germ-free as possible, I roasted them with olive oil and salt, filled them into sterilized glass jars while still hot, and processed in a hot water bath for 10-15 min, as I do with big, halved roasted tomatoes. I also make sure there's a film of oil that covers the fruit in the jars, so they don't peek out and get exposed to the air in the top of the jar.

            Alternatively, if you're still worried they will go bad, keep the jars in the fridge. Which is easy if you've only got a couple jars. Nice and sweet. Although they can be very seedy.

            1. re: kmr

              What I did was very similar to Gooseberry's method. I cut the tomatoes in half and scooped out the seeds and liquid. Then I placed them in a single layer on a baking sheet with sides, cut sides up. I sprinkled them with fresh minced basil, oregano, garlic, a little sea salt, and lots of fresh coarsely ground black pepper and drizzled them with olive oil. Then they went into the oven on the lowest temp (my oven's is 150 degrees F) with the door cracked open for several hours (like overnight) until they were very shriveled with most of the juices roasted out. Time varied on different batches depending on how juicy the tomatoes were. Sometimes it's taken as long as 18 hours. I taste them to see if the texture's right - a little chewy but not leathery. Then I pack them flat in heated glass jars (I run mine through the dishwasher). I use the smallest jelly canning jars. Leave a bit of space at the top of the jar (1/2" approx) then pour the juice from the roasting pan over them. Stick a chopstick in the jar to release any bubbles. You may have to do this a few times. Getting the air out is important to keep that ferment from starting. Then top with a layer of heated olive oil so everything is covered, wipe the rims and cap them. From here I put them straight in the fridge and they keep through winter and into the spring for me. I've never processed them in a water bath as Gooseberry has done but if you're going to store them at room temp it would definitely be necessary. I use the little jars because once you open them, even refrigerated they need to be used in a week. I generally use 1-2 jars at a time for whatever I'm making. The biggest problem I've encountered is the juice on the bottom of the pan is so tasty that if there's a loaf of bread around it's hard to reserve it for pouring into the jars! I do about a dozen or so of these jars and they don't take up a lot of space in my fridge because they stack nicely in a back corner.

              1. re: morwen

                It's an interesting twist, oven-drying them so they are almost dried tomatoes in olive oil.

                With the last batch, I actually blanched and skinned the little suckers - and became deranged from boredom with the amount of time it took to process them. Never again - or rather, again, but I'll get over my dislike of tomato skins and not bother peeling them all. The things we do....

                1. re: Gooseberry

                  I just freeze roasted halved plum tomatoes (in very small bags, packed together in larger freezer bags). Much less work but I suppose different texture.

                  1. re: Aromatherapy

                    I do it this way too, using plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. They make a fantastic addition to soups and a great base for pasta sauce.

                    1. re: lisa13

                      I've oven dried cherry and regular tomatoes and sometimes used herb seasonings and balasmic vinegar in the process. Then I freeze them. Be sure you have oil, PAM or similar, even on non-stick surfaces. Otherwise, they stick like mad (I guess from the sugars).

                2. re: morwen

                  Thanks Morwen & Gooseberry - I'll try this!

                  The method I tried used fresh cherry toms, not roasted, and they were packed in oil...from a french food preservation book "Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation" I obviously missed some vital step. I used to roast them until they were about half-dried, then freeze, but the texture wasn't as nice (flavor was great!). Your methods sound great.

                  1. re: kmr

                    ok, we cracked open (christened?) one of the precious bottles of cherry tomatoes tonight (pasta with onions, garlic, spinach, mini pork meatballs and cherry tomatoes. Good times). They were totally fine - appeared fine, tasted fine (not dead yet, three hours later!). I remembered roasting them in my head, but none of them were split/crushed, and as a result didn't taste that roasted (did taste like yummy fresh cherry tomatoes though!). I think this is because I roasted them whole and treated them gently. Next time I think I'll skip the peeling, halve them, then roast like Morwen suggests, to compare.

            2. Hello,

              Southern hemisphere here, so entering winter as opposed to summer. However, we did have homegrown tomatoes with supper! The black tomatoes (Paul Robeson & Black Prince), which were wimpy throughout the summer, perked up as soon as we hit fall, and started setting fruit like crazy (perhaps in illustration of their icy Russian heritage?). Thankfully they are in a pot, so can be dragged under the porch roof when weather threatens.

              I think with these last few precious fruits, simplicity is best - sliced, salted, moistened with my best olive oil, and left to sit a while before eating. The best part is the liquid left in the bottom of the bowl.

              The pea seedlings don't seem to know up from down, so it may be a while before we have any sauteed sugarsnaps....

              1. I'm just getting started with gardening. I have some tomatoes, Thai basil and parsley. I love the idea of eating something I grew myself. So far, I've only been able to enjoy the herbs. We've eaten tons of salad caprese lately with the basil. I also made a spaghetti sauce with both herbs with my cooking class (I teach middle school). I took awhile for the parsley to start thriving, but it finally looks happy.

                2 Replies
                1. re: northside food

                  If you like the Thai basil, I recommend you also grow spearmint and Vietnamese coriander. Together, these three make a wonderful flavour base to any Asian cooking. I chop them up and put them with Asian soups, in cold Asian noodle salads, and best of all - along with some parsley, I make pesto with them, which is divine on cubes of seared salmon, other fish or steak.

                  They both grow well from cuttings (if you have a friend who grows them, cut some healthy branches, put in a glass vase with water, and wait a week or so for good sized roots to grow, then plant deep in a pot of soil) and as seedlings from the nursery.

                  1. re: Gooseberry

                    That's a great suggestion. I'll put those on my list for when I put in my next garden.

                2. KMR -
                  How do you make tomato juice? Do you put tomatoes in a blender then strain the liquid through a sieve, or do you hang them in cheesecloth in the fridge for a couple days until they give off that totally clear liquid? (I assume you use any tomato solids left over for sauce).

                  And do you can the tomato juice in a hot water bath, or do you have a pressure cooker? I put by about thirty pounds of tomatoes in sauce or roasted halves (sadly not from my meagre veggie pot 'garden', but a local organic farmer) for me and my SO this winter, using the hot water bath method, which seems to have worked fine. I was wondering whether tomato juice is also safe to do this way?

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: Gooseberry

                    Hi Gooseberry:
                    The tomato juice is made per the Ball Blue Book - tomatoes and tom juice have a high acid content, making them safe for water bath processing. I pressure can things like green beans, beef stock, and other low acid foods. For the juice, I take about 5-7 gallons of tomatoes, some aromatics (carrots, celery, peppers, fresh thyme, garlic) and just dumped them into my "cannibal pot" over a large propane burner in the yard, and simmer until the tomatoes have split and softened up. As I recall, it takes an hour or more. I then ladle it through a food mill and toss the seeds and peels left behind to the chickens...juice is then canned per Blue Book, adding salt, lemon juice and a dried red pepper for pizzaz. The juice will separate a bit during storage, but I just shake it before serving. I can give you exact directions if you don't have access to the Blue Book; If you're interested in "putting up", it's esential and full of good info on both water bath, pressure canning and freezing fruits & vegetables.

                    1. re: kmr

                      hi kmr, thanks for the details. I've been meaning to get the blue book, but since I'm out of the states, I've been a bit reluctant to pay for postage. I think I'll need to change that, though.

                      I'm really interested in the pressure canning, although I'm not sure how much I'd have to use a pressure cooker to make it financially worth the investment. Right now I freeze all my own stocks. aside from freezer space, not sure if there would be a benefit to canning them instead...

                      1. re: Gooseberry

                        I freeze my tomato juice and it comes out fine. In fact, I've taken to freezing a lot of the stuff I use to can simply because I no longer have air conditioning and I can't deal with the house heating up. The down side is if there's ever a prolonged power outage, I'm probably screwed. I also have a fear of pressure cookers from having been around one that exploded as a child although I'm well aware that that's not so much an issue with the current ones and proper use and maintenance. The Ball Blue Book is definitely worth investing in as is Preserving Summer's Bounty by Marilyn Kluger if you can find it.

                        1. re: morwen

                          I just did a search and Preserving Summer's Bounty is still available:

                          There's another book with the same name listed but it's by a different author and I've never read it.

                          1. re: morwen

                            thanks for the tip, morwen. My hesitation to buy lots of canning books stems from the fact that I don't own a pressure cooker, don't make jam (diabetic in the house; blue moon fruit butter's as far as we go!), and we usually prefer fresh pickles (which seems to be a big part of all the canning books I've looked at). So really, I only go through the whole rigmarole for tomato sauce, halved roasted tomatoes (to replace imported tinned Italian tomatoes in my pantry), and occasionally some candied cherries or apricots in moonshine.

                            But I think I should get one, just to check my technique and food safety are all up to date, and to enjoy some armchair gardening/preserving daydreams...

                            1. re: Gooseberry

                              I'm diabetic too and I've been experimenting with low sugar jams and preserves and this year I'm going to try the no sugar pectin. So yeah, fruit butters have been high on my list because I only use enough sugar to get the fruit juices to run and then either slowly cook them on top of the stove to the consistency I like or slow bake them in the oven to the right consistency. The oven method's nice because the worry of burning and hassle of watching is much lower. Without all the sugar, I worry about canning so again, into the freezer it goes. The upside is I think the fruit flavor is more intense and I appreciate the less sugary taste. The peach butter in the Kluger book is awesome and adapted well to using no white sugar and a combo of a little brown sugar and splenda. I also have people clamoring for bread and butter pickles from the recipe in this book. In fact, I haven't made one out of there yet that's been a loser. My grandkids love the ketchup!

                              http://foodsafety.psu.edu/preserve.html is a good website for up to date preserving procedures and I'm sure there's lots more sites. Try a search for home preservation or home canning safety.

                              1. re: morwen

                                Since my partner's never been a big jam eater, we just sort of let that one go when he was diagnosed, rather than experimenting with no sugar pectin and the other diabetic jam options. He also decided he would rather have small amounts of regular sugar in occasional desserts as part of a balanced diet than use artificial sweeteners regularly (a personal choice which has worked out well for us; I'm not advocating it for everyone else here).

                                So in actual fact, the fruit butter's been eaten mainly by me, because it makes me nostalgic for the little old ladies who used to sell it at the farmer's markets when I lived in the US! Like you, I appreciate the flavour of the fruit, rather than the sweetness, of fruit butters. I just get frustrated that so many fruits seem to need a whole lot of sugar to take the edge off the tartness; I've given up on plums and apricots, for example. I think I need to go back to the rather unexciting but super-comforting apple butter. I do stovetop, using a heavy le creuset pan (the enamel lining seems to help with the sticking/burning issue).

                                Is there any change in flavour or texture when you freeze the fruit butters?

                                1. re: Gooseberry

                                  I've noticed no real change other than having to give them a good stir after thawing. I gave up on plum jam too because I always seemed to end up with plum syrup. Last summer we had gorgeous plums so I did butter instead and it came out great. I did blanch and peel them first because that seems to be where the tart resides. The butter wasn't that rosy plum color but it definitely cooked down sweet.
                                  So I'm not a huge jelly/jam eater in a toast/scones/pb&j sort of way but I use it for glazes, sauces, vinagrettes and come the holidays we make up baskets of preserves, butters, oils and vinegars for my husband's requisite "corporate gifts" and for family and friends. Plus I'm always looking for ways of reducing sugar intake while maintaining our personal food standards. The only sugar substitute I use is splenda, it's the only one I've found that has an acceptable taste and behavior when heated. But I'm in partial agreement with your partner. Those desserts I can't modify because the sugar does a chemical thing that splenda doesn't (like carmelizing the topping of an apple crumble) I'd rather plan for and have a small portion of than settle for second best.

                          2. re: Gooseberry

                            You might keep an eye open for a pressure canner at thrift stores - you can buy replacement seals (the rubber part). Freezing is awfully convenient, tho! I also freeze stock if I'm just doing a few quarts, but I can it when I get my big box of bones from butchering. With a couple of lambs and a beef, my freezers get pretty full in the fall. My MIL uses her pressure cooker for making roasts, etc, but I've never tried it myself.

                            I just ordered a copy of "Preserving Summer's Bounty" - sounds like a good one.

                            1. re: kmr

                              Yup, freezing is really simple. Only, I have a very small freezer (the fridge is on top, freezer on the bottom, two-in-one) with just three shelves, so I wouldn't be able to fit 20 containers of tomatoes in it. Besides, half of one shelf is taken up with the canister of my ice cream machine (the other half with the ice cream!) and I'm afraid that gets total priority in MY freezer!!

                              Just made a batch of straight pork stock for the first time (I'll add bacon bones or leftover bones from the roast to pump up a chicken stock, but never bought pork specifically for stock). Butcher recommended a mild eisbein he cures himself. It was supposed to go in the freezer, but I think we're going to eat it all tomorrow night with home made noodles. I've never seen such strong gelatine like this before, and I've seen a lot of stock in my time...

                              1. re: Gooseberry

                                Freezer real estate is precious. We have the smallest standard chest freezer besides the fridge freezer and it's more than earned it's keep. But now that I'm freezing more for everyday use (stocks, veg & bone bits, bread ends, etc., jeez I've already put up 5 lbs of compound butters from the herb garden!) as well as preserving, I'm looking for a second one. 'Tis the season here for people unloading used freezers (fridges too), there seems to be a plethora of them advertised in the classifieds at very reasonable prices, or maybe it's the economy. Maybe a second fridge as well....

                                1. re: morwen

                                  I don't know what you're spending on electricity, but it's worth considering that in your decision to buy another freezer or fridge. I use a chest freezer in the summer months for a small business I run from home, and I breathe a small sigh of relief when it's time to turn it off, because it does noticeably increase our electricity bill. So consider electricity usage in your overall decision. I think split fridge/freezers (the one on top of the other, rather than side by side) are considered more energy efficient.

                                  1. re: Gooseberry

                                    Our little chest freezer is rated very high for efficiency. My husband, the penny pinching mechanical engineer (and I do appreciate him for it) did the consumer research before we purchased it. In order to keep it running at it's most efficient, when space clears out we load it with ice to keep it full. Same with the fridge freezer. The freezer in our current fridge is actually a drawer on the bottom (sort of a roll out chest freezer), His other point is that front opening freezers as opposed to top opening or chest freezers are less efficient because every time the door is opened the cold air spills out triggering the unit to run in order to bring the temperature back down. Our freezer is in the basement in the coolest part of the house (68F during the hottest part of summer, our wines are cellared there too). We have no air conditioning and don't see a rise in the electric until we are forced to turn fans on during the summer months. The reason I switched to freezing the majority of what we preserve is because we have no air conditioning and I'm discovering that as I get older I'm less tolerant of the heat. So standing over hot kettles and hot water baths in a hot kitchen is less and less of an option for me. I'm sure adding a second fridge and freezer for cold storage will up our electric bill a little but the trade off with heat prostration is worth it to me. Another note is that we heat with wood in the winter so we don't spend electric on that either. While we may be paying to run the freezer and fridge it's probably a lot less than what we'd be paying for heating and cooling the house.

                                    1. re: morwen

                                      haha! My partner's also a mechanical engineer! Aren't they useful??? My kitchen's pretty low-tech, so I use his skills more for computer things. Nonetheless, his understanding of thermodynamics is useful in buying new pots. And since I have very little spatial perception, he's the one who estimates the volume of soup and picks which tupperware to put it in :)

                                      In my experience, it's pretty unusual for American homes not to have heating-cooling devices like air con. Our weather here is a bit more temperate - dry summers which rarely go beyond 95 fahrenheit, and wet winters which rarely dip below 55F, so we have a fan and a gas heater for extremes, but I don't know anyone who has (or needs) aircon at home. And I tend to do most of my preserving on the tail-end of the seasons, so I don't have a problem with overheating the house, but I can see how uncomfortable that might be.