Tomatoes!

We fell behind with Lismore updates the past couple of months! Mostly because we were so darn busy in the garden all summer!

Wow – a wonderful year for growing. A bit too hot and dry for some things, and that certainly did challenge us at times. Water was always on our minds. But looking back at it now – we did very well. Lismore certainly gave us a heck of lot of food!

IMG_2431Since we got behind, the next few posts will be retrospective – give us a chance to get caught up. And the first look back must be about TOMATOES!

We had LOTS of tomatoes! We grew 8 varieties this year. Hawaiian Current, Black Cherry, Small Purple, Amish, Best of All, and Principe – these are the Heirlooms we grew from seed. We also had a couple cherry and one Beefsteak from a commercial grower.

Look at these beautiful striped plums – they’re the Amish. Sadly, while they were bountiful on the vine, we didn’t get to harvest many of them. They struggled with Blossom End Rot – it was very difficult to keep the raised tomato beds evenly watered this summer and they didn’t like the inconsistancy. Next year we plan to have a more efficient irrigation system in place.

IMG_2307Once the tomatoes started coming on like crazy, we put that new stove into action and got canning!!

Our favourite tomato recipe this year was definitely Basil Tomato Jam. We made it with a blend of whichever tomatoes were ready at the time. The basil is key, as is the long time simmering … this recipe is a keeper! Last fall, my “homesteading alter ego” Vania, gave me a jar from her precious stock. I could hardly wait until I could make my own batch this year! Well, 3 batches later … and I’m still not sure that will get us through the year! :)

FullSizeRenderThe 3 hours in the pot simmering and reducing really builds a great flavour. Yum!

IMG_2435One of the most prolific tomatoes we’ve grown over the years is the Principe. Small and grape sized, they just keep coming! But with garden space at a premium, I started to think I wouldn’t plant them again next year, and make room for something else. That is, until I use up a pile of Principes in a salsa. It was the BEST salsa I have ever made!

IMG_2437The Principe have a little tail –

IMG_2438These meaty little tomatoes gave that salsa so much body. We did a second batch later with other tomatoes and it was just not the same.

IMG_2422 IMG_2426So the mighty Principe won the taste test and has earned a place in our garden again next year!

Oh no – what on earth are we going to do next year?!? This summer we collected the seeds from 14 different heirloom tomatoes, and of course I want to grow them all. But we only have so much room in the garden!!

And what about all the beautiful squash we could grow?   aiy aiy aiy ..

With a Handful of Beans ..

With a handful of beans, anything is possible! Look at Jack!

It has been a bountiful week! There’s a lot of food coming out of the garden and from around the property. All that weeding, watering and waiting is starting to pay off! I do love the growing part, spending time in the garden is definitely a favourite activity. But equally as much I like doing things with the gifts from the garden. I hardly left Lismore at all this week – I was having too much fun in the garden and in the kitchen.

imageFirst it was the chilies – little hot ones ..

imageAnd then a few milder ones ..

imageInto the dehydrator they go!

imageI love the smell of them as they are drying, but glad we could have the windows wide open. It took between 8 and 10 hours to get them all done.

imageThese will be nice for heating up a few dishes during the rainy, dark days of the Pacific Northwest winter.

imageWhile the chilies were drying yesterday, I started my research on harvesting pears – and am I ever glad I did! I had no idea they are to ripen OFF the tree. I found a great resource on the Oregon State University website and when I tested my pears THEY WERE READY! Too bad we weren’t!

imageWe got the bottom level of the tree picked using our 4 foot step ladder, but we definitely needed to get our orchard ladder sooner rather than later. Off we drove to Home Depot and while they were out of stock of orchard ladders, we did manage to pick up a good 8 foot combination ladder. We have about 3/4s of the tree picked already – 110 lbs. They are now nicely ripening in our basement and destined for McBarley’s, the local cidery!

imageAnd, as if the week could get any better?!? Yes. It’s tomato time!!

tomatoI roasted these lovely gems this morning and we ate them at lunch. Ciabatta, spicy salami, Balderson cheddar and all topped with roasted tomatoes – then grilled to a lovely warm, melting delight!

imagemmmmmm, I do love the summer …

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We have been trying to ignore the heat this week and keep working around the place – literally around it! Fencing. It wasn’t the highest item on the job list, but it somehow became the project de jour. We’re approaching this task at a leisurely pace, panel by panel, and as we feel like it and mixed in with other things. Today, we didn’t actually get any fencing done – but Steve did add a special touch to the driveway. We have a house number!

imageBut wait! That’s not all! The chickens got one too! 😊

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Nicely done Scotsman.

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Pizza Night!

No cooking tonight. Take out pizza from Mambos tonight – the best pizza we have had in our area HANDS DOWN!

It reminded me of the last time we had pizza – a few months ago, back when we still had green grass. When we were finished, the girls wanted some!

Mambos was clearly a hit with the hens!

I wonder if Mambos would like to use this picture in their promotions ..

Plum Crazy

Monday. And I’m on three weeks of vacation! 😄  Where to start this day …

imageThe grandpups were coming to spend the day with us while Jess & Nigel ran town errands.  A day in the kitchen would be perfect – keeping Nikita and the chickens separated always makes everyone’s day easier!

The jumbo zucchini was still waiting on the counter. And I’d dried some figs in the oven last night to make fig newtons, so that was on the list. However, when one is presented with 20 lbs of freshly picked fruit it’s safe to say the plan for the day should really focus on “today’s secret ingredient – PLUMS!”.

imageJessie brought us big bowls full of gorgeous little wild plums that she picked from her in-laws’ tree, with the instruction to use as many as I could. These are the small plums, roughly the size of a cherry. And they were sweet – yum!

Right then, what to do with plums. Well, eat several fresh while standing around the kitchen deciding what to make was a good start. Jam certainly. I could also get the dehydrator fired up again. And canning some in an alcohol might be nice. Two years ago I made Bourbon Peaches and they were amazing! (Note to self – make more of those this year) What about a plum cake?

imageThe plan was, I’d start pitting plums and fill the dehydrator, while Steve surfed for recipes for a cake using fresh plums and for brandy plums. This is his favourite job, next to the  sampling!

OK, 20 LBS IS A LOT OF PLUMS WHEN YOU START PITTING! Especially if they are the mini ones!

Eventually, after what seemed like hours of halving and pitting, I filled the drier with the little plums. Once dried though, I decided to store them in the freezer – I wasn’t confident they were fully dry and I didn’t want them to mould. Dried like this I plan to add them to baking – like raisins or cranberries.

plum cake
photo by TasteofHome.com

Next, on to the plum cake. Steve found a recipe from Tasteofhome.com for a Viennese Plum Cake.

We liked the sound of this recipe and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I split it between two loaf pans so I could send one home with Jess. Half the recipe was a perfect size for us.

After the cake, I made a batch of plum jam. The jam was fast and helped to use up more of the plums! And I didn’t have to care if they were cut evenly in half. :)  It held the pretty red colour of these plums with a nice little tang.

On to the next. Steve’s search for a brandy plum found this site. Tall Clover Farm. I loved the recipe as soon as Steve read it out loud – Spiced Brandy Plums! Oh I may have to make ice cream soon! I will definitely return to this site soon and explore if further – I love his style of recipes. Simple and honest. In fact, his path in life looks vaguely familiar 😉

WOW. We’re done!

20 lbs of plums = a bag of dried plums for baking, 2 plum cakes, 15 small pots of jam, and 10 jars of Brandy Plums, and one “plum worn out” Nanette!

I still didn’t get the fig newtons made.

Who Gives a Fig

Wednesday evening, Steve & I were invited out to pick figs at Tina’s. Her tree had an abundance and it was more than she could use. OKAY, we are in!

We had a really nice visit, enjoying a frappy-cafe-bevvie with a secret ingredient, and caught up on life. Then, with fig-eating dogs in tow, we all headed down to the tree. Yup, lots of figs. Lots of RIPE figs. It wasn’t hard to coax them into parting ways with the tree.

By the time we left with our bags of figs it was getting pretty late, and it would have been easier just to grab a bite of supper on our way. But we were already thinking about pork with figs! We could just eat a really late supper. And stop at the grocery on the way to get some pork! :)

imageWe sorted and refrigerated the figs to deal with later – no small feat in our already crowded fridge! Then on to dinner. I’d found a great recipe last year and was really anxious to make it again. If you get your hands on some fresh figs this year – definitely try this one! Nirvana! Pork Tenderloin with Onions & Figs. By the time we sat to dinner it was already 10:00pm, so we had to call it a night on the Wednesday fig adventures.

On Thursday, we were expecting guests in the evening so I made another batch of the fig & onions to go with bread and cheese. Very yummy.

figs dryingIt wasn’t actually until Saturday that I was finally able to focus on the rest of the glorious figs. A couple of the very ripe ones we lost, but hey – our loss is the chickens’ gain! I was excited to get some in the dehydrator, I imagined having dried figs on the shelf ready whenever I wanted them. It actually took a fairly long time because the figs were so big even when cut in half – I may have been better off quartering them. By midday Sunday, they were dry, but still a little bit sticky. I decided I would freeze the dried figs so they didn’t get mouldy. Several more fresh figs I quartered and froze on a tray to bag once frozen – those I am hoping will make us a couple more of the fig & onion with tenderloin through the winter. :)

That left the last few figs, and they were destined to become fig newtons! I’d never made them before and I needed a recipe. I pulled out the iPad and started looking. There were youtube videos and lots of recipes to chose between. In the end I took what I thought were the best parts of two recipes and put off making them until Sunday. I dried the figs in the oven for a couple hours and made the filling with those. They were nice and sticky. I added about a 1/4 cup of sugar, and a 1/4 cup of Cointreau to the mixture to give it a hint of orange.  I made the cookie dough from the recipe I found at ohnuts.com.

I finally baked them on Tuesday! The couple hours chilling in the fridge turned into 2 days! We had so many other projects on the go. I don’t recommend that much chill time – my dough starting drying too! lol Regardless, these cookies were worth the wait! I’ll definitely make another batch later with those dried figs in the freezer.

Do you have favourite fig recipes to share? Jessie’s tree will be ready for harvest soon!

Gad Zukes!

If there is one thing our garden is producing with enthusiasm, it’s zucchini! But isn’t that the way of zucchini. They should come with the warning – If you don’t love ’em, don’t plant ’em.

Well, I’m not sure we needed so many of them, but I am glad we planted them. It’s just that, one minute they could use another day or two on the vine, and the next you almost need a wheel barrow to bring them in from the garden!

We’ve been eating the small ones as they have been growing, putting them in our meals at supper. But this weekend we had to start finding more uses for them. I’d already made a banana-zucchini loaves which were a big hit. Really moist and delicious. Certainly another double batch for the freezer would be great. I like making loaves in mini pans. A small loaf is much less commitment to eat!  And I can send small ones over to Dorothy too. Got another double batch done – baked, bagged and frozen!

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Next on the list – zucchini jelly to go with cheese and crackers. Wow, what a surprizingly pretty jar of jelly. I wasn’t expecting that. The red and the green bits suspended in a pretty amber jelly – love it!

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And STILL more zukes!  I must admit I got a bit lazy as the day rolled on. I opted to chop and blanch one very large zucchini just to put in the freezer for more loaves throughout the year. Hey, that was easy! 6 bags portioned and frozen for making more bread later.

That left me with one last giant zucchini to go, sigh. If only I hadn’t started the canning season with making so much of Pop Collin’s Hot Dog relish! Well, maybe I could use some zucchini relish too …

imageHere are the recipes we used.

Zucchini-Banana Bread

http://foodess.com/recipes/moist-banana-zucchini-bread/

This was an excellent recipe. I topped mine with a pecan crumble topping before baking.

For the topping, in a small bowl combine:

1/2 c all purpose flour

1/4 cup demerara sugar

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

3 tbsp chopped walnuts or pecans

Sprinkle over top of loaf and bake.

Zucchini Jelly

imageIngredients

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 red chili, sliced thin (no seeds)
3 cups sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 package pectin

Instructions
In a large pot combine zucchini, pepper, sugar, and vinegar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil until thermometer reaches 220 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Allow to cool for 2 minutes and stir jam for 1 minute. Pour into warm sterilized jars to 1/4 inch from rim. Cover with lids and screw rings on tightly. Process in water bath as per manufacturer’s directions – good info on the Bernardin site

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Welcome to Our Lismore!

Sm;)e!

Every day is a new adventure!

We have shared many great adventures together, and our newest began when we sold a house and property that was unmanageable for us, and downsized to one that was!

In December 2014, we moved into a new home and named it LISMORE. In Gaelic, Lios Mòr means “Great Garden”. Lismore is also the name of a Lighthouse in Scotland where Steve’s father served as a keeper before the family moved to Canada. This was clearly the perfect name for our new home!

Lismore Lighthouse, Scotland
Lismore Lighthouse, Scotland

Several months have passed since we arrived at our Lismore and we’ve been having a great adventure. We’re loving, laughing and learning all manner of things together as we try to build this place into a home where we can live a wee bit more gently on the land. Some days it is hard work! But it’s also a heck of a lot of fun!

You just never know where the adventure will take you!

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