Well, it's been a while! What can I say except that things got away from me. I visited family in November, my mother visited for 3 weeks in December, plus I had to deal with the 8 weeks long chest cold from hell.
My chief culinary accomplishments of late fall and early winter include:
PEARS: My friend George forwarded me a note from a community list along with a photo of a gorgeously laden and tempting looking pear tree. I harvested about 30+ lbs of small pears which seemed quite hard, along with my friend Veronika. The location was near Oakland's Chinatown, so while we were back there, some neighbors came by and also harvested some pears. V and I thought they were kind of firm but one lady bit into it and said they were good.
The pears were small, a bit mealy and very hard. They had a yellow-green skin under a brown layer that scraped off with light application of fingernail or nylon scrubby pad. I washed all the pears and laid them out to ripen on trays. And waited. And waited. After 2 weeks, some of them just went mushy, so I did some research.
What I discovered is that there are some old varieties of pears that are only for cooking - I think these pears were Kiefer pears. So, I poached some pears and they came out so amazingly delicious! I canned the rest of the pears in several batches - some with light syrup and some with light syrup and spices (clove, cinnamon, star anise). I'll be set for a while for canned pears, I promise some lovely pear photos.
PEAR VINEGAR: As Marilee from Urban Legend Cellars said, "folks don't know how EASY it is to make vinegar!" I put a big pile of pear peelings and cores into a gallon glass jar with distilled water - and I keep adding water and aerating it. It's now growing a mother on top - just like kombucha or Bragg's apple cider vinegar! Soon I will get up the nerve to taste my pear vinegar. Expanded post with pictures coming soon.
GROUND CHERRY JELLY: the ground cherries kept going long after everything else quit. The one Giant Ground Cherry plant I got from Annie's is still going out there - and I hope to promote those for the next season over the smaller kind. I made up 12 half pints of jelly but it didn't set as firmly as I want, so the jars are still on the kitchen windowsill waiting to be remade (or poured over pound cake and ice cream, tough call).
PERSIMMONS: In early November, I made my annual harvest of persimmons from Larissa & Geoff's 3 story high Hachiya persimmon tree. After I picked about 200 persimmons in early November, left them to ripen while I was gone for a week - and ripen they did! Then I and dried them all - with some pulp in the freezer as usual. I made two giant trays of persimmon bread pudding for Holly & Marina's wedding reception - it was very well received and there were no leftovers!
SOURDOUGH: I took a Sour Flour class just a few days into the onset of the Horrible Chest Cold from Hell - and had mixed results with the starter (it eventually died). I plan to get some starter from a neighbor named Ana.
GARDEN - Veggies vs Flowers: no, I did not manage to get my winter greens garden in properly this year again. However, I did manage to keep alive my digitalis purpura and put it in the ground, along with some jasmine and a 2-stick rose plant - so there will be lovely scented flowering things along the fence in my garden. The brugmansia that I got as a leafless wine barrel size root ball from Freecycle is flourishing in the side yard and sending up leaves and new growth, fingers x'd that I will have some lovely scented angel trumpets in the spring.
The broccoli di cicco has gone feral and seems to be flowering continuously - an attack of little grey aphid-y things on the broccoli, mustard and broccoli rab volunteers makes them inedible but I am leaving the large stand of broccoli di cicco because it seems to be making the honeybees very happy. Once my other flowering plants start producing flowers, I will tear it out to make space for tomatoes.
What I love about my neighborhood is that you get random curb scores - I got a paper grocery sack half full of rhizomes labeled "FREE!" Purple and light blue irises!" which are going into the ground along the house by my steps this week.
Wow! And here I thought I hadn't done much - it turns out I've just been a lazy blogger! I promise to make it up to you, the one reader who still checks in on my blog occasionally (hi Aunt Sue!) and some backdated posts that I obviously owe are coming this week!