Cooking with natures bounty

Saturday night in order to use up our excess cherry tomatoes we decided to have beef shish kabobs.  Unfortunately I don't have mushrooms going yet so the button mushrooms(blog coming soon on my new mushroom farm!) on this weren't mine.
However the onions and tomatoes were!  We used black cherry and Christmas Grape tomatoes here along with onions picked that day from the back yard.  I really gotta start leeks here soon.  I dried all our others since they were really needing to be picked.  Great news about drying just like canning is I can use these later.  I plan to make Cock a leekie soup this Autumn which is one of my sons favorites.  Serve that with some fresh bread and herb butter or olive oil and you have a great hearty meal!

This past weekend has been extremely busy as we rushed to use up all our tomatoes, banana peppers, cucumbers, and bell peppers.  We managed to put up 5 pints of Ratatouille.  One of which didn't seal so we'll be eating that can next week.  Then we started with 2 pints of Italian Sweet Banana peppers but one of the jars broke during the processing stage so now we have just 1.  I hate going to all the work and then you lose some of your work due to something stupid like this.
We also put up 2 pints of diced tomatoes today.  I love the end result of this!  We used some golden girl tomatoes and some regular colored tomatoes.  The coloring is gorgeous!  All red and yellow.
As a last thought I also pickled some baby cucumbers.  I used a Cornichon recipe that I found from Alabama Nest.  I can't wait to try this later!!
Because I also have so many other White wonder cucumbers (which I'm not as fond of) I dried a good portion that I can use later on in soups as flavoring or in dips.

I also recently realized that I never got to making my Garlic Chive butter that I always do every year.  I used to be just an herb gardener and I always had to figure out what the heck to do with all my herbs so every year I make herb butters. I've actually seen grocery stores sell these as "GOURMET HERB BUTTERS" for about $7 for a container.  Uhhhhh, I spend approximately $3.00 on my butter with a coupon.  Herbs are free.
So far this year I've made:
Basil Parmesan  (great with pasta, potatoes or vegetables)
Lemon Dill (awesome with fish or vegetables)
Cilantro Chile  (think eggs, a spicy alternative to corn on the cob, or even steak turns out great!)
Parsley (I like this mostly on potatoes, pasta or chicken)
Sage & Shallot(only one I actually cheated on. I purchased the shallot since I didn't grow those at the time) (good on Lamb, pasta, potatoes. Too strong for beef or chicken in my opinion)

and now....Garlic Chive (GREAT ON BREAD, good with eggs, good with steak, fish, chicken or veggies. Very versatile hence the reason I make massive amounts of this each summer!)

Each of these are super easy!  First allow your butter to soften.  I tend to like Land O Lakes  because I grew up with up it.  While it's softening to room temperature begin to collect your supplies.
The photo I've put here is for Garlic Chive.
Chop your ingredients and place into bowl with butter.
Next start mixing/whipping up your butter making sure your herbs are fully incorporated.  PLEASE FORGIVE THE BLURRINESS OF THE PHOTO. CAMERA ACTING UP! 

Then all you have to do is line a bowl/dish/cup with saran wrap.  Fill with butter, throw in freezer until hard. Label a plastic Freezer Ziploc bag and voila. You have herb butter for cooking for the rest of the year.  Makes a wonderful accompaniment to any sort of dish.

Next we had two more projects to work on.  Cherry Berry Mead with cherries we picked earlier in the season and our Kombucha.

Mead is just simply honey wine but we kicked ours up a knotch by adding cherries and a few mixed berries.
We used 11lbs of honey
5 lbs of cherries
1 package of champagne yeast
3 tbsp of sugar
and a lot of water.

Then we just mixed about 3 cups of 100 degree water with sugar. Let the sugar dissolve.  Then added the yeast.  Meanwhile we filled a stockpot with about 5 cups of water, the cherries/berries and let it boil all the while smooshing down the cherries. We actually used our hand mixer which was fast and easy.  Then we removed the pot from the stove and then added the honey.
When the temperature of the cherry honey mixture hit about 100 degrees(any hotter and it will kill the yeast) we mixed the yeast into the cherry mixture, topped our carboy with our pressure release that I purchased from  3 months from now we'll do our second rack off. This will remove a lot of the debris and floating pieces of fruit.

Those weird white things in there are SCOBYS (Symbiotic Colony of Bacterial Yeasts)
Last was our Kombucha.
 We've been making Kombucha since last year October.  Here's a link to the recipe we use.  Kombucha is an effervescent drink that has loads helpful probiotics that tastes a lot like a drier version of Soda Pop.  Some of my favorite flavors are strawberry lemon, strawberry mint, plain, or cherry and these are usually from our stores of picked fruits from local farms and orchards.  I don't tend to purchase as many of the more tropical fruits since they have to be shipped from so far away.  You know, carbon footprint and all.  While I totally enjoy fresh pineapple, guavas, mangoes and passion fruit the cost of preparing it for shipment and the the shipment leaves me with a nasty taste in my mouth.

I have to say, at the end of this weekend, my feet are tired, my back is sore, and my mind is exhausted.  Yet the larder is a bit more full, and I feel rather optimistic.  Like a squirrel looking at its hoard of acorns and nuts while contemplating the long winter ahead.

And even better, stuffed peppers for dinner along with a glass of Williamsburg Winery wine.  Now if today was Saturday I'd be even happier because I could really use another day off from work.

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