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The First Brandywines of the Season

September 25th, 2010

The tomato season is almost over and I’ve already taken out 80% of my plants. I have a few nice plants left and among them is my ‘Brandywine’ tomato. It doesn’t produce a ton of fruit, but they’re the quintessential tomato when it comes to flavor and type. The tomatoes are HUGE and the flavor is probably the best as far as classic tomato flavor goes, at least in my book.

There are a lot of varieties of ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes, these are from saved seeds from a tomato a friend gave me so I’m not sure what variety it is. I’ll be saving seeds for these for years to come. I’ll always grow at least one vine even though I only get 5-10 tomatoes from it, it’s worth the space for such delicious flavor.

Do you grow ‘Brandywine’ tomatoes? What tomato provides your favorite perfect tomato flavor?

So Long Ollie Bud

September 24th, 2010

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves)

Our good friends had to say goodbye to their little dog Ollie yesterday. It’s such a sad thing to have to make that decision when your pet becomes ill. It’s definitely one of the worst parts about having a pet. Ollie had his moments when his Jack Russell blood came through, he could be obstinate and annoying, but he was also energetic, loyal, and entertaining. No doubt after some time to grieve this loss, good memories of Ollie will fill the painful void left now that he’s gone. As C.S. Lewis writes above in his book about love, pain and loss; you can’t have joy without sorrow. When we open ourselves up to love by bringing people and pets into our lives we not only open ourselves up to great happiness and joy but also to the deepest sadness and pain as well. Here’s a tribute to our friend’s little dog Ollie, Lucy’s dearest friend.

So long Ollie, we’ll miss you sitting in front of the TV grumbling while we try to watch a movie, we’ll miss your excitement every time we came over to visit, we’ll miss you chasing the bean bags when we played corn hole, and of course we’ll miss you’re optimism that someone was always going to drop something delicious on the floor for you to eat!

Have you ever had to say goodbye to a pet?

Making a Piece of History

September 23rd, 2010

Earlier this spring I collected a bunch of my grandmother’s and my great grandmother’s recipes from my mom’s side of the family. I’m hoping to make them, take photos and make up a family heirloom cookbook. I’ve been waiting for the time to harvest green tomatoes so I could make this recipe, it’s one of my great grandmother’s.

I cleared out a raised bed in the back and pulled out all the tomatoes to make room for fall spinach. I ended up with 7 pounds of green tomatoes, the perfect amount for this recipe. Last year I made green tomato chutney with all the green tomatoes and we’ve been enjoying that on sandwiches and on burgers.

I had to make a special trip out to find pickling lime. I thought about making my own with some wood ash, but decided for my first try at pickling with lime I’d rather buy actually pickling time. Perhaps in the future I’ll try making my own.

I finished up the recipe yesterday morning. So far I’m not loving the flavor, we’ll see how they age. I think I may add some mustard seeds before canning them as I thought they could use a little more flavor. If we don’t end up liking them I’ll probably turn them into chutney.

Do you have any heirloom canning recipes you use?

Quote of the Day: Amy Goldman

September 22nd, 2010

At the end of September, about two months after the appearance of the first vine-ripened homegrown tomato of summer the time has come to dismantle the garden before the cover crop is sown. Frost is coming: fermentation and decay are in the air. Plants have fallen down, top heavy, and many tomatoes look like sad sacks, flaccid and drained.

-Amy Goldman (The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit)

I’ve been clearing out some of my tomato vines. They’ve reached the end of their productive lives and they will make room for cover crops, and winter greens. I used to try to keep the tomatoes going until frost, but I have found that I’d rather have fresh spinach in February than a few extra tomatoes in October.

I still have a few tomatoes that are going strong, most of them were seeded later in the spring. Among them are some tiny yellow cherries, a ‘Lemon Boy’ tomato, a ‘White Beauty’, a few ‘Goldman Italian Americans’, and a few ‘Principe Borghese’ tomato plants.

My ‘Winter Keepers’ are coming into their own as this is their time to shine. I’m hoping that these will last well into the winter on shelves in the basement as the name implies. My mom is growing some ‘Long Keepers’ and they look exactly like my ‘Winter Keepers’.

When do you clear out your tomato plants? Do you keep them going until frost?

Making Prunes

September 21st, 2010

I prefer dried fruit over canned fruit for many reasons, the main one being the ease of making it. I love that there’s no sugar syrup, jars, or boiling water. All you have to do is provide some dry heat and you’ll end up with some lovely fruit that will keep in the cupboard for months. So far this summer I’ve been able to dry 2 gallons of dried cherries, one gallon of dried pears (pearsins we call them) and I’m currently working on drying some prunes.

I was able to score a bushel of plums at the local farm store and they’re quite tasty. They’re not prune plums, just regular old plums, but they still dry beautifully into delicious prunes. I have a small dehydrator, but I prefer to use the bread proofing setting on my oven as I can do a huge batch at once. It does take a while, but the reward is quite wonderful. I usually put them in the oven overnight for a few nights.

I pitted them this year, which I didn’t do last year. I think next year I’ll leave the pits in as I prefer the way they dry without the cut, they seem to be softer. Mr Chiots is excited as he loves dried plums. I enjoy them, but I much prefer dried pears or dried cherries.

What’s your favorite dried fruit?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.