Sunday, October 5, 2014

Homemade adult beverages from homegrown ingredients

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Bitters are a combination of alcohol, herbs, spices and other flavorings.  They were once sold as medicine.  Today, they are used to add unique, fun flavors to cocktails.  Use your imagination to create your own signature adult beverages!

Bittering agents:  Barberry root, Burdock root bark, Black walnut leaf, Dandelion root, Gentian root, Quassia bark, wormwood

Aromatics: Fresh and dried fruits, Apple peel, Chile peppers, Fresh or dried citrus peel, toasted nuts, Hibiscus, Hops, Lavender, Rose, Allspice berries, Caraway seeds, Coriander seeds, Fennel seeds, Cardamom pods, Cinnamon sticks, Fresh or dried ginger, Juniper berries, Lemongrass, Dried lemon verbena, Dried mint, Black or white peppercorns, Star anise, Vanilla extract, seeds or pods.

1/4 to 1/2 cup main aromatics, or more to taste
1-4 tablespoons supporting aromatics (choose 2-5)
1-4 tablespoons bittering agents (choose 2-4)
1 cup high-proof alcohol (150-160 proof)
1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

Place aromatics and bittering agents in a canning jar and add the alcohol.  Seal and shake well.  Store in a cool dark place.  Shake daily and taste for up to 21 days.

When taste is to your liking, strain through cheesecloth.  Stir in dissolved sugar water.

Keep in sealed jar at room temperature.  Use a dash in cocktails, soda water, coffee, tea, and almost any sweet or savory dish!

You could go on the hunt for old fashioned bitter jars to store them in.  Stored in interesting jars can make beautiful displays or gifts.
You can get a sense of the taste by steeping the combo you are thinking of trying for 5-15 minutes in boiling water.  The only limitation is your imagination!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

What's happening in the early October garden

Dwarf tomato in the background, marigolds in the foreground

Saturday, October 4, 2014

This is a time of year that most summer vegetables are winding down and cold crops are growing strong.  Petunias, dahlias, red hot poker plant, and marigolds are blooming with abandon.  With frost, many summer vegetables will die and cold season crops will get sweeter.

We have fertilized for the last time; fertilizing encourages new growth which is more susceptible to frost damage.  You can also remulch your garden beds to give an added blanket of protection to prolong the season.  The mulch will break down over the winter, providing additional organic matter.

Our zucchini and cucumbers quit producing in the last couple of weeks and the vines are dying.  To extend the harvest, it is a good idea to replanted zucchini and other summer veggies in mid-August to keep these plants at top producing vigor until frost.

This year, I did not plant a second crop.  I have pulled the cucumber and zucchini vines as they have stopped producing.  

Our tomatoes and eggplant are still producing well.  For tomatoes, be sure to take all the tomatoes off the vine before it frosts.  You can either wrap the green tomatoes in newspaper and store in a cool place to ripen, make them into relish, or eat them as fried.  For fried green tomatoes, we like a Cajun batter.  Gives them a nice, spicy flavor.
Yellow banana pepper

Any plant that has a disease, do not compost!  Throw away.  Composting may not kill all spores and you could be spreading the disease next season wherever you use the compost.

Peppers love this time of year.  They are native to the mountains so October is perfect for them.  They will continue to produce even after frost.  To prolong the season, I put the pots up against the house on the sunny south side.  You can also bring them indoors and they will produce for weeks inside.  My jalapeño produced until January.  When spring comes and you put them back outside, they will get a jump start on producing next year.

I still have Ancho Anaheim, Poblano, Cayenne, Pimento and Jalapeño peppers that are ready to harvest.   I harvest them when they start to get some color in them and let them finish ripening on the counter.  Removing the fruits encourages the plant to replace them, giving you more peppers.  Peppers get sweeter when they ripen, but are good to eat even when green.  None of my peppers this year seemed fast to ripen.  I did get a good many off the plants, though!

For the sweet peppers, the yellow banana and Nikita did very well.  The Nikita was the first to ripen and had many early in the season.  About the time the Nikita slowed down, the yellow banana came on strong.  It is back to the Nikita going strong.  Having the two kept me well supplied in sweet peppers.

I harvested the basil and dried them this year for use in my herbal seasoning blend since I still had a good supply of pesto frozen from last season. The basil plants are quickly regenerating.  You can get several harvests off of in one season.  

Basil are very tender annuals and will turn black with the first frost.  You can dig them up and bring them in for the winter.  Place them in a full sun spot.  You can put them back outside again in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Earthbox with sprouting broccoli on left and new lettuce on right

I planted some chard, spinach, lettuce I had started in trays, Giant Red and Ruby Streaks mustards (both are edible), and reseeded Earthboxes with winter lettuce seed mix in mid-September.  

I started seeds in the Aerogarden, a hydroponic seed starting system that has an excellent germination rate.  I also put into flats some 9 Star broccoli.  This is a perennial broccoli.  It looks like a cross between a broccoli and cauliflower plant.  
Week 2 in Aerogarden

All are doing well.  Many lettuce seeds have sprouted.  The transplanted lettuce, spinach and chard are large enough to harvest leaves.

Cabbage, kale, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, chard, onions and other cold crops are get sweeter with cool weather and a nice frost.  If the taste of these are too strong for your palate right now, give them another chance after frost.  Our Egyptian walking onions are lush and green.  The bulbs are filling out nicely.
Tomato on left, Egyptian walking onions on right

This is also the perfect time of year to reseed your lawn or transplant perennials.  I have several perennial herbs started in the Aerogarden to transplant at our lake house.

Many herbs are perennials-garlic, sprouting onions, lavender, oregano, chives, sage, tarragon, thyme, savory, salad burnet, and rosemary.  Last year the winter was cold enough that my bay laurel and rosemary were both killed.  I replanted in the spring.  Hopefully, they will make it through this winter!

Fall is a great time to cut back your herbs.  Save the stems, place loosely in a paper bag, put in a dry location, and in about a month you will have all the dried herbs you and many family members will need for the next year!

We are also still getting fruit from the garden.  Strawberries are perennials.  The ones we planted this spring are sending out many runners.  You can remove the runners and replant where you would like more strawberry plants. The everbearers and Alpine strawberries are still producing berries.  Our fig tree is also still producing figs.
This week's harvest-a variety of peppers, tomatoes, eggplant

Fall is a bountiful time for gardening.  I have planted many winter hardy varieties of lettuce, kale, collards, mustards, and cabbage to keep the garden producing into December and hopefully beyond.  With the portable greenhouse, we should have greens all winter.