Friday, September 23, 2011

Stocking Up, and Fruit Trees

I've spent some time this week stocking up the freezer with beans, veggies, cake and other goodies to help make quick meals once I'm in school. It's rapidly becoming clear that we will need another freezer once we start having rabbit meat around, because our current freezer, though sizable for a fridge-top one, is now jam-packed!
(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

We regularly cook up big batches of pinto beans, black beans and kidney beans, so we always have some in the freezer. I really love plain beans with salt, I don't need to make them anything fancy, so these will make good back-up lunches with some rice. My good friend Lydia taught me the trick (which she learned from her Salvadoran mother-in-law) of cooking a whole onion with the beans, which gives them a really nice smooth flavor. Yum.

We made a run to Costco and WinCo this week to stock up on some bulk groceries before I start school. At Costco we found big trays of fresh farmed Tilapia (which is at the top of the safe and sustainable seafood list) at a good price, and also bought a huge fresh Alaskan Coho salmon fillet, also on the list. At home, we split the Tilapia up into two-serving batches and put those in individual bags in the freezer, now a good five meals' worth in there. I cut up the salmon into small sections and we froze those as well, four dinners' worth from that one fillet!

We are getting about a million cherry tomatoes every day, which are great for fresh use in salads and pastas and salsas, so I gathered up the larger tomatoes and made a batch of roasted passata-style sauce for the freezer. I wasn't keen on canning tomatoes, so I spent some time online looking for recipes for frozen tomato sauce, this one is a total gem. It's super easy; just cut the tops off the tomatoes, and place them open-end down in a baking pan. Pile on a bunch of fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano) and several whole cloves of garlic, dress liberally with olive oil and sprinkle on some sea salt. Bake for 1 hour at 400F. Let cool, then you can just lift the tomato skins off, and remove the woody herb stems. Puree it all in a food processor, and freeze!

I went one step further and added a sliced fresh bell pepper from the garden, because I love the flavor of roasted pepper.

This smelled so amazing while it was cooking, that it was really hard not to eat it all right away! I look forward to making more, because this batch only yielded a pint of sauce, but it tastes so delectable that I love the idea of putting it away for some gloomy winter night when we need a good stout taste of summer. Added bonus, everything in this sauce, apart from the olive oil, garlic and salt, is from our garden. Next year, the garlic will be our own too!

Matt has been working hard this week at making the fruit trees happier. He borrowed his dad's long-handled pruner and cut back the neighbor's cedar hedge which was overhanging our fence by six or more feet in places. I hadn't realized just how far it was coming over our apple trees until he cut it away. This is what that side of the yard looked like the day we moved in:

Everything was so green back in June!

And this is what it looks like now, between Dad's pruning of the fruit trees and Matt's pruning of the cedars:
It looks a bit desolate, especially with the brown lawn, but we already feel better, because there is so much more light in the yard and it's clear the fruit trees are happier now. They are getting more sun, and also can now get the benefit of rain. When it rained last week, we noticed that the cedar branches were preventing the rain from getting anywhere near the apples' roots.

We got a grand total of six Asian pears from the tree on the right, but they are perfect and so delicious!

My cousin told me that a big hailstorm hit Portland early this spring when her Asian pear tree was blooming, so maybe that explains our lack of a crop this year. Hopefully we'll get lots more next summer.

What are you enjoying from your garden right now?


Brenna said...

We are still harvesting tomatoes from our pots, which did amazingly well considering we didn't get a lot of heat this summer. The cold nights are starting to take their toll though, and a lot of the leaves are beggining to die off of them. I will also be going down to my in-laws place in the next few days and picking pears to can! Your sauce looks amazing!


Alina Harway said...

Yum, Liz! Looks so great. I just picked a bunch of Italian plums (our neighbor's tree, but she is so so generous.) I'll share this weekend. :)

FlowerLady said...

You two are such and inspiration.

I have a big batch of dried black beans that I think must be OLD. I've cooked them twice. Doing the quick cook and set for an hour, then cook for hours in the crockpot, then left to soak and cook more hours. Also soaked overnight and then cooked for hours and hours. I bought a fresh bag of beans and forget which way I did it, but they cooked up pretty tender in the time expected. Do you know anything about cooking with old beans?

We love beans, Cannellini, Navy pea, lentils, black eye peas, and others. I've got some pinto beans to cook up next.

Your property and fruit trees are looking great.

Have a great weekend ~ FlowerLady

Liz said...

FlowerLady, I don't know much about cooking with old beans. Personally I probably wouldn't use them, they'd just go in the compost. For any other type of bean, I just soak them for 3-4 hours, then cook them until they are softened, with the onion in (whole cloves of garlic work wonders on the flavor too!).

Alina Harway said...

Liz! I harvested a big batch of tomatoes from my garden and tried your easy-peasy tomato sauce recipe. LOVED it.