Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dandelion Jelly

I have a lawn.  It's just not made of grass.  It's about 60 percent creeping charlie and 40 percent dandelions.  Though the yellow flowers are no doubt very pretty on a sunshiny spring day, once they develop seed heads, all I can envision is a lawn of more and more and more and more dandelions.  Their long tap roots and ratty leaves are less than attractive to me and truth is, to me, they're weeds I spend a lot of energy pulling.

As I wandered Home Depot the other day, I walked down a quiet aisle looking for fencing options when I passed bags and bags, stacked two stories high, of product promising me a weed-free grass lawn.  Oh, I know there are intense anti-lawn folks out there, and in all other philosophies we are kindred spirits, but my 60/40 mix is simply not going to do it.  I got sucked in and bought a bag.  

On the way home, I was thinking about the upcoming weather and trying to figure out the best time to finally eradicate all the weeds (the chemicals require the lawn to be wet) when I suddenly snapped out of it.  I am not an herbicide user.  I decided that if I could put the dandelions to use, I may (hopefully!) come to see the dandelions as an asset rather than a nuisance.

My older daughter and I spend a quick 20 minutes picking all the flowers we could manage to.  We tried some battered and fried blossoms.  Tasted like...batter.  Then I made this dandelion jelly.  Delicious!  Just like the recipe described - like spring honey.  A friend who appreciated a jar said it was fabulous on crostini with some goat cheese, the dandelion jelly, and some finely chopped fresh herbs.  I'd take food over herbicide any day.  Wouldn't you?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Purple Asparagus

It's been perhaps 6 years and the asparagus is ridiculously fat, very tender, and on rough days, makes me feel like a competent gardener! In my raised bed, I add a layer of manure in the very early spring each year and mulch with straw as the asparagus begins to send up shoots.  Aside from the that, the only trick with asparagus is patience.  Here's some advice about growing and harvesting asparagus. If you grow asparagus, how long did it take before yours got really good?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gardening and Immediacy

I'd been reading a lot of Facebook posts recently by experienced gardeners scoffing at newbies for infractions like buying tender annuals too early or buying tomato plants far before it's time to plant them.  Though I'm experienced enough to also know these novices are wasting time and money, I am also a spur-of-the-moment, or haven't-totally-thought-it-through-but-I-wanna-do-it kind of person.  Some may call it impatience, but I believe it's the sheer excitement of gardening taking over, and it's a feeling I wouldn't want to lose.  I wrote about it here for the popular Garden Rant blog.  What are your thoughts?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Beef, bison, lamb, goat, and turkey jerky

As some of you might know, each year, my husband, sister, brother-in-law and I do a secret Santa gift exchange (which almost never happens at the holidays).  The only catch is that the gift has to be homemade.  I originally thought it'd be an awesome deal for me because it would significantly reduce the number of gifts I would need to think up to give my husband.  
Except for the fact that I keep drawing his name year after year - grrrr!! 

This year, I decided to try my hand at making jerky.  But not just beef, I made all the variations below:

  • Bison with wasabi teriyaki (store bought marinade)
  • Beef with a smoky classic marinade (worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, honey, onion powder, liquid smoke, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes)
  • Turkey (soy sauce, honey, sesame oil)
  • Goat (red wine, white vinegar, mint, onion, hot sauce, soy sauce water, olive oil)
  • Lamb (onion, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, curry powder, cardamom pods, tomato paste, salt, water)

Everything but the kitchen sink in these marinades

The basics of making jerky:
  1. Slice meat along the grain about 1/3 inch thick, as evenly as possible.  Partially freezing your meat first will make it easier to cut nice even slices.  
  2. Marinate your meat overnight.
  3. Drain marinade and pat meat strips dry.
  4. Dry on highest setting (about 160F) for about 6-8 hours.  Meat should be leathery and pliable, but will be dry, chewy, and stringy when pulled apart.  
Store in an airtight container and use within a month or two (though I assure you it will be long gone by then!).  
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