Posts Tagged 'Garlic'

garlic report

I think it is  finally safe to say (bang on wood) that the weather has turned. There are still a few random snow piles, desperately hanging on for dear life, but the garlic patch is clearly visible. I’ve even managed to duck out of work an hour early a few nights this week and sneak off to the garden. It’s my favorite time there – when the light is all slanty and rich. I shake myself a small vodka gimlet, plunk in 3 hazelnuts, and pick out a few seed packets for the evening’s planting. My kind of happy hour.

happy-hour

Traditionally my sugar snap pea crop is in the ground no later than Tax Day. They almost always get a little snow at some point, but that’s the nice thing about peas – they don’t mind. I’ve never planted peas so late, but I finally got two rows in on Tuesday evening. It might be a lost cause if the weather turns too hot, too fast. But after mulling it over for about a half a second, I decided it’s worth the gamble.

I’m anxious to see how the early summer plays out. Will things catch up, or should I resign myself to an agonizing month delay on spring produce? Either way, I refuse to be deterred. I’ve already declared this the year of the garden. Last spring I was too tied up with finishing and moving into a new house to really put much attention into the garden. And the year before that I was on couch probation – recovering from eye surgery. Those gardens still produced food, but they were sorely lacking in character. This year though, I am back on my game. I already have black mulch down, pre warming the hot pepper bed.

And then there is the question of the garlic. When we left off last fall, I was terribly nervous about the effects of what I think was a Phytoplasma bacteria outbreak. On the chance that I planted any infected seed, I’m ready with floating row covers to keep different varieties isolated and protected from the leaf hoppers that transmit the bacteria. So far there is not a leaf hopper in sight. But that hardly matters. There is barely garlic in sight. Here’s a shot of the Aglio Rossa taken on May 15 this year.

garlic-2013

I’ve been pulling back mulch, doling out encouragement and assuring the new sprouts that it doesn’t matter that they’re light years behind where last year’s May crop was. Maybe they’re just trying to mess with the leaf hoppers.

garlic-2012

Nevertheless, I’m planning on a later than nornal harvest this season. Luckily our garlic stores are still holding out. The raw cloves are definitely picking up heat, and there are a few green sprouts to remove, but it still cooks up just fine. Lately though I’ve been on an infused garlic oil kick. It’s a great way to add a nice warm garlic flavor to grains, salads, and lightly steamed vegetables. It takes out any heat or bitterness, leaving only a subtle, smooth garlic flavor.

I picked up this tip from the “prep school” section at the back of a Bon Appétite and it’s a trick that has stuck with me. For maximum flavor let the cloves get almost black (but not burnt) before removing them from the oil.

Garlic Oil

4-5 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel the garlic and crush each clove with the blade of a knife. Heat the oil over low-medium heat and cook the garlic cloves, turning occasionally until the are dark brown to black (about 8 – 10 minutes). Remove and discard garlic, store any unused oil in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.

garlic-oil

the patience of garlic

I hate it when real life gets in the way of my fantasy life. You know – the one where I make my living as a small scale garlic farmer, maybe opening a donut cart on weekends to make ends meet. A girl can dream, can’t she?
But the reality is that I’ve hit the ground running this fall. My normal design work is kicking back up after a lazy summer lull. I’m taking a couple of online classes at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (let me tell you, it’s been a long time since I’ve had to follow a syllabus, take quizzes, and turn in homework). We’re in the throes of designing a small new house that will hopefully be built on our land this winter. Which means we’re also in the throes of figuring out how to finance a small new house. Oh, and to add a little more chaos, we’re fostering (read: probably adopting) a rescue dog. Somebody pass me a donut, please.

Earl is a great guy. I can tell you that he has completely won my heart. But Earl is nervous. Very nervous. It’s a crazy world out there, riddled with surprises. Earl will be the first to tell you. So we’re working on this, trying to instill as much calm and stability as we can. And really he is making loads of progress.
I am lucky enough to live within a half mile of a splendid view of Lake Superior, Madeline Island, and on clear days – Michigan’s upper peninsula. Earl and I have made a habit of trudging (this happens pre-coffee) up the hill each morning. And when we get to the top of the hill, we check on the lake to make sure it is still there. Sixteen mornings straight now, it has been there for us. It’s nice to have something you can count on. Ask Earl.
Truthfully though, I go check on the lake for my own sanity as much as anything. My days lately have been frantic and overflowing with things to do. Uncomfortably so, at least for my taste. My morning hike to see the lake is a respite. It wakes me up – literally and figuratively. I take a deep breath in, swallow as much of it as I possibly can, and turn back down the hill towards my day.
On the way back inside, I pass by my shed of curing garlic. I look at is wistfully. It needs to be cleaned, trimmed, sorted, inventoried, and stored. But that’s the nice thing about garlic – it’s patient, it’ll wait. I explain to the garlics that maybe some day I really will be a professional small scale garlic farmer. But for now, they’re going to have to put up with my juggling act. At any rate, when I do get to the garlic, and I will, there is bound to be a surplus. I’d love to share it with you. If you’re interested, drop me a note (here) and I’ll keep you posted on what’s available. In the meantime, breathe in and swallow deeply.

oh yes mustard!

I sent my husband out the door this morning with a shopping list that had a rough total of about $87. Eighty seven dollars worth of mustard, that is. Yes, mustard. He is going south to Milwaukee, which means he’ll pass through Madison, which means there is no excuse not to stop off at the National Mustard Museum in downtown Middelton. But I should back up. Until recently – say with the last six or so years – I have not particularly liked mustard. I always kept the obligatory jar of Dijon in the fridge for dressings and marinades, and when forced to, I’d eat it if it came pre-applied on a bratwurst, but really I went out of my way to avoid it. My childhood memory of that strange smelling, yellow sauce really stuck with me hard.

Enter Delouis Fils Dijon ‘a L’ancienne’.  Not coincidentally, about six years ago I was visiting my friend Laura who then lived in Mount Horeb, WI – the former home of the Mustard Museum. It turns out that there isn’t all that much to do in Mount Horeb, so a tour of the Mustard Museum made the cut. I must have been in a particularly open-minded mood because for whatever reason, I voluntarily chose, by my own free will, to taste mustard. Several of them. And one in particular – the Delouis Fils Dijon ‘a L’ancienne’ – won me over. I left with three jars of it. Its taste is smooth yet its texture rough – I suppose “grainy” is the technical term.  It isn’t sharp. It isn’t smelly. The flavors meld together and melt in your mouth. I didn’t know mustard could do that. Ever since then, my idea of a good lunch often involves a baguette, some good hard cheese, sliced onion and a jar of Delouis Fils Dijon ‘a L’ancienne’.

And evidently, that was my jumping off point. The list I handed over to Mark included three jars of my standby, two jars of Saucy Sisters Golden Honey Russian Mustard, a garlic mustard from Obester Winery, several jars of Dijon, and a new one that I’ve been dying to dip into  – Aunty Lilikoi’s Passion Habeñero Mustard. The name alone makes it a worth try, but something tells me the fruitiness of the passion flower combined with the heat of the habeñero will be stupendous as a salmon rub. Cell coverage was dicey when Mark checked in this afternoon, but I thought he mumbled something about an amazing new walnut Dijon to boot.

Rest assured I am not purchasing upward of a hundred dollars worth of mustard just for us. This trip is kicking off our holiday shopping – what Christmas stocking is complete without a little jar of pungent bliss? And those cute hexagon jars of spicy, Russian honey mustard make the perfect host/hostess gift. My go to appetizer in a pinch is thick Bavarian pretzels with a perky mustard. So you see, it’s good to have a few jars on hand.  All I can say is thank goodness  I’ve come to my senses. Literally, in this case. Luckily I seem to be making up for lost time just fine.

Here is my favorite mustard sauce to spread on salmon fillets about 10 – 15 minutes before grilling. I can’t wait to try it with the Aunty Lilikoi’s. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Mustard Sauce

Combine and heat gently:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic

bring it!

One has to admire the sturdiness of a garlic clove. That it prefers to spend its winter wrapped in a shall of frozen soil is beyond my line of thinking. Why not hang out in the dark cool pantry for the winter months and bide yourself some time? I could plant you in the spring – on one of those glorious drippy late March days. But with the exception of only the smallest cloves, anything lingering past February is generally a sad shriveled site.

I’ve always considered myself a winter person. Sort of. I ski. I walk the dog. When the snow is right I populate the garden that I know is under there somewhere with snowmen. I do my best to get out. Some of the most spectacularly stunning days occur in winter. And the January sunsets off our western ridge typically set the sky aflame.

But to say I wrestle with the cold is putting it gently. I’m cursed with poor circulation. This past August I stood in front of an infrared camera on a 90 degree day and the large screen it was projecting onto turned a remarkable shade of blue. So on these fall mornings when my bare feet go numb after even the shortest of journeys outside, I literally cringe at the thought of the ensuing winter.

But these are also the days where the mid-day sun warms the soil up just enough to tease me back outside. I’ll just put in one more row, I reason. After all, if a 2 inch clove of garlic can bare the brunt of our Wisconsin winter, then so can I. “Bring it!” I say – as I march triumphantly inside to warm up by the wood stove.