Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


1 Comment

Carrot Review and Pickled Carrots

The carrots I grew were absolutely gorgeous. Today I’m posting a review of the carrots I harvested, along with a recipe for pickled carrots.

At the time of writing this, there are a few small stragglers still in the ground not ready to harvest (they were overshadowed by larger siblings and need some more time in the sun), and I have several still in a bucket on my porch waiting for the right time to be harvested. If I learn any new information when the remainder come in, I’ll include that in a separate post.

Carrot Review

St Valery

The St Valery were a creamy orange color on the outside, with a vein-like appearance when peeled. The flavor was good and carroty, but not nearly so sweet as the Nantes and Danvers you find in the grocery store. Yield for the St Valery was decent, with a few caveats:

  1. They were inconsistently shaped. A few of the harvested carrots were short and stocky, while others were longer and thinner.
  2. They had a tendency to branch. In one or two cases I think the carrot hit a rock and went two different directions, but many of the carrots came up, branched into two or more parts, for no discernible reason. These branches make peeling, cleaning and storing the carrots more problematic, and decreases the overall size of the carrot.

Dragon

True to their description, the Dragon carrots came out a gorgeous purple color. However, much to my intense displeasure, they are pale yellow or mottled orange on the inside. When you peel them, the great color goes away.

Unlike the St. Valery, the Dragons were much more consistently shaped and had a much lower rate of branching. Like the St. Valery, they were not nearly so sweet as the supermarket varieties.

DSC_3899

 

Here you can see that I couldn’t get a single picture of these things before breaking them open and eating half a jar.

Pickled Carrots

In my book, The Joy of Pickling, I found an interesting recipe for carrots called “Pickled Bay Carrots with Dill”. I made several changes, not the least of which being my use of mature sliced carrots instead of the tender baby ones called for. The recipe also called for a hot pepper, which I thought I had in reserve from my adventures with the dehydrator last year. I took a look through my stash, and the remaining ones were looking a little brown and creepy. I don’t know why. Maybe there was just too much moist air in the fridge? In either case, I substituted some crushed red pepper flakes instead.

I made this recipe per-jar, using half-pint jars instead of the quart batch the recipe calls for.

  • Carrots, washed, peeled and sliced
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 3.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 Sprig of Fresh Dill
  • 1 medium-sized garlic clove
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 0.25 cups sugar

In a pot, mix the water, vinegar, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Blanch the carrots in boiling water for 2 minutes, and immediately move them to an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.

In each jar, place 1 garlic clove, a dash of red pepper flakes, about a dozen pepper corns, and the fresh dill. Add carrots to the jars, loosely packed, to fill within a half inch of the rim.

Pour the vinegar over the carrots to fill the jars with 1/2 inch head space.

Burp the jars, put on a clean lid and band, and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand at room temperature overnight.

 Results

Let just say one thing: Pickled carrots are probably my favorite new type of pickle. The carrots are soft but not mushy. The flavors are perfectly balanced and absolutely transcendent. I’ll be making more of these this year, next year, every year.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Late May Garden Update

Early spring is a difficult time for blogging for me, because the garden isn’t moving at an appreciable pace, I’m not cooking anything interesting (in anticipation of the growing season) and generally because I’m a lazy sack. Knowing that I wasn’t doing anything worth writing about, I put together a fluff piece about the status of my garden in early April. I didn’t post it, because I had to upload some pictures (pictures which I already took, no less) and that was just too much work.

Now it’s the end of May, and I don’t have any better ideas, so I’m going to just post the same thing.

And if you’re expecting me to write a big long blog post to make up for all the weeks of nothingness, I have only one word to say….Nope! I’m putting together a few small stupid blog posts and scheduling them ahead of time so I can not worry about writing again for another couple weeks. You could say I’m a genius.

Late May Garden Status

Garlic is growing extremely well. So well, in fact, that I’m going to talk about it in a separate blog post. Next week or something. Don’t quote me.

Onions seem a little bit small but they are growing at a consistent rate. Two of them are already putting out little scapes, which I think is weird but the weather has been weird. Hopefully this doesn’t eat up too much of my yield, but we won’t know till harvest.

I planted two varieties each of Carrots, Green Beans and Lettuce, since I either haven’t tried or have tried without success all of these and I wanted to start making some comparisons. All of these were bought from Seed Savers Exchange, an heirloom seed outfit. I picked varieties that would be visually distinct from each other so that I would be able to tell which varieties were doing well and which weren’t more easily.

DSC_3876

I planted two varieties of Carrots, both heirlooms. I picked “Dragon“, a beautiful purple variety that I’ve wanted for a while and “St. Valery“, which is a variety that looks different from Dragon. I knew I didn’t want a Nantes or Danvers relative, so both of these should produce some interesting results come harvest. Rabbits have already started attacking the leaves, so I had to cover them up with chicken wire to keep them safe. In addition to planting three rows in my garden, I planted several in a large bucket (one of my potato buckets from last year). If the ones in the bucket work out, next year I may do that exclusively and save the garden space for something else.

I picked two varieties of Pole Beans, and have them running up some of my unused tomato trellises. The first variety is “Kentucky Wonder Pole“, which would definitely be my stage name if I lived in Kentucky and was considering a career in porn. Kentucky Wonder Pole is supposed to be a popular variety with high yields. The second variety was one I picked mostly because it was visually distinct: “Rattlesnake Snap“. This is a green bean with purple stripes and good reviews.

The two varieties of lettuce I picked were: “Crisp Mint” (a mint-shaped, but not mint-flavored Romaine) and “Red Iceberg“. The two varieties promise great flavor and were interesting-looking. So far they are growing well (the Crisp Mint better than the Red Iceberg).

I planted tomatoes late, because I had to completely redo that garden bed and we were saving money in the early spring. They are in the ground now though, so hopefully they can make up for the lost time. I received as gift two “Orange Wellington” plants, which were doing well but looked a little starved for nitrogen. At the store I picked up one each of “Roma”, “Big Mama”, “Homestead” and “Big Beef”. Homestead is the first Determinate variety of tomatoes I’ve ever planted, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that works out. I’ve thought about doing tomatoes in pots, and if I have success with Homestead this year I may try it next.

DSC_3875

My Blueberries are growing well and are putting on quite a large crop of berries compared to last year. I’d say the berries are about a third of the way to maturation, so we are looking forward to harvest with licked lips.

DSC_3878

The Cherries are putting out a very small harvest this year. This is fine considering I got nothing from them last year, and they are still getting established. Some of the pollinated flowers made cherries which were (for lack of a better word) stillborn, in that they seemed to have gotten fertilized but the little cherry never grew. Instead, many of them just shriveled up and fell off. Some other cherries grew about half-way and then shriveled up. If all the cherries that had been pollinated had grown, we might have ended up with a pint or two. Now, I expect to only get a handful (and I will cherish every last one). The ones we do have are looking a little smallish, but they are already starting to blush. I expect to be tasting them as early as mid-June.

DSC_3877

 


Leave a comment

Carrots

Last weekend I decided it was time to pull out the carrots, all 4 of them.

I’m glad I did! Given my luck this year, and the poor performance of the bed in general, I was worried that they would be short, stubby nonsense. As you can see, they came out surprisingly big:

For comparison, the largest of the carrots has a larger diameter than a half dollar (anybody else remember those things?). Two of the carrots were absurdly small, but 4 of them are pretty darn big and are more than enough for use in a meal or two. I’m still not sure why the majority of my carrot seeds didn’t sprout at all and why some of them stayed very small. I’m hoping some soil adjustments and other changes over the winter will help to fix whatever problem I’ve got.

I don’t have the package on hand anymore, but I’m pretty certain that this variety is called “Scarlet Nantes“. The picture on the website doesn’t look too similar to the carrots I got, however, so I really cannot be sure.

These carrots are softer than the ones we normally get at the store, but still have a good crunch and a good flavor. One has already ended up in a big pot of beef and vegetable soup (I’ll write about that later), and I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with the other ones.


2 Comments

Fall 2012 Garden Plot

I dug out a second garden plot next to my first one in late July, 4×8 feet. I pulled out the grass and turned the soil over by hand, loosening up the dirt and ferreting out rocks (and trash!) to a depth of about two feet. I mixed in a few shovel-fulls of my own compost (the pile hadn’t produced enough usable compost for the entire task), a few bags of “Garden Soil” and two bags of a composted humus and manure mix to add some extra nutrients. We carefully selected some seed packets to plant in the ground starting around the beginning of August: Two varieties of lettuce, a spinach, and some carrots. I planted the seeds a little bit thickly, in rows spaced about a foot apart. The intention being that I would thin them out after things started sprouting.

This picture, taken a month and a half later, explains the results better than any words possibly could:

The ones on the left are a cluster of two or three small carrot plants. The ones on the right are some variety of loose-leaf lettuce. Everything everywhere else is dirt. WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL MY DAMNED PLANTS? Seriously. Look at this disaster of a garden. No spinach sprouted. None of my iceburg lettuce sprouted. I followed the instructions to a T: shallow rows, seeds planted very shallowly, watered, plenty of sunlight. Nothing.

By the end of the season I guess my wife and I will each get one carrot and a small pile of lettuce. Maybe we’ll make a party of it. Salads for everybody (So long as nobody else shows up)!

Actually, one thing did grow in this plot which isn’t shown in this picture: Tomatoes. Remember when I said above that I used a few shovel-fulls of compost from my pile? Apparently there were a few tomato seeds in there, and they sprouted right up. There were about a dozen of these, and while I was inclined to let them grow (since nothing else was as eager!) I knew they weren’t going to produce anything before the frost and they were starting to choke out the carrots and lettuce. Back into the compost pile they went. Seeds obviously will sprout in this forsaken little garbage pile of a garden, just not the ones I specifically planted there. Go figure.

In response to this failure of a garden I went out and bought a soil tester to make sure my pH and nutrient levels were good. The pH was a perfect 7 but the nutrient levels were low. I guess for next season it’s back to Home Depot for more compost, manure, fertilizer and whatever other crap they tell me I need.

First frost is probably coming up within a week or two, so this plot is going to be harvested soon. Shortly thereafter, if I can get the soil here fixed up, I want to get some garlic in the ground.