Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Strawberries and Garlic

Yesterday was my first full blown processing day in the kitchen. My children were home to help, which is just the way I like it. Chairs were pushed up to the counters and jobs were delegated (this time by a five year old, not me). Mommy was to put the garlic scapes into the food processor, the little girl was to push down the hopper and the little boy was to press the buttons. When it came to the strawberries, Mommy was to put the berries in the funnel, the little girl was to push down with the hopper while the little boy turned the crank handle on the strainer.

Help at the strawberry strainer

My day began with an early morning sneak out to the fields before the heat of the day (although at 7:30am it was already too hot) to scan the strawberry plants and pull off anything that wouldn’t make it until the pre-market harvest on Friday. These berries would be ours to keep – freeze, strain for freezer jam and make a pie or two. This year we only planted 1000 plants (1/50 of what was here when we bought the farm) and their true fruiting year will be next season. Anything we get from this year is a bonus.

Berries fresh from the field

I also decided to process the garlic scapes and put away our garlic for the winter. Here is a secret that this farmer of thousands of organic garlic bulbs can tell you – we rarely peel garlic cloves around here. I use the bulb part in pesto which is better with the real deal, but aside from that, its green garlic the whole way.

Garlic scapes

In early summer, we snap off the ‘flowers’ on the garlic plant to allow the energy to go back into growing the underground bulb. These flowers are called scapes and are crisp curly cues of glorious green garlic flavour. Garlic scapes are about the radius of your baby finger at most and can be sliced like green onions into soup, salads or sandwiches or mulched in a food processor for other uses. I usually mulch up a few cups of paste made only of scapes and freeze it in (designated) ice cube trays. They are my handy, hurried grab when I need garlic and dinner was supposed to be ready five minutes ago.

Garlic scapes starting to grow

My favourite use for the thawed cubes is in guacomole. The green scapes are milder in flavour than the garlic bulb, I find they work a bit better for raw garlic. It is also very easy to mash up an avocado and add these little nubbins with some lemon juice and salt and pepper and salsa perhaps and voila! Ready to eat guacomole.

Green garlic is also fantastic mashed together with butter to make garlic bread or bruschetta and is great on pizza or in pasta dishes. I tried mixing it recently with some cream cheese and capers and olives to put on chicken and that didn’t work out too badly either. It isn’t that garlic bulbs don’t work magnificently in these scenarios but I’m just too lazy to fiddle with sticky garlic paper when I’m in the middle of my frantic masterpieces in the kitchen. Sometimes I use a lot more to get the same garlic punch, if you know what I mean. Until I can provide myself with a sous-chef, these little frozen green gems are an excellent option. It is my present self, doing my future self a huge favour for the next 200 times that I need garlic in a dish.

Next came strawberries. I sorted out the large red ones onto a cookie tray to freeze for waffle toppings in January. The medium sized ones were cut into a pot for the night’s desert (strawberry and sour cherry pie – whoah, I say!) The not so red ones or damaged or seedy ones had the good parts salvaged and were strained for freezer jam. Since learning how to make no-cook jam with strawberries, I have never been able to go back. The flavour cannot be beat, as the original raw berry bouquet remains. We have a Victorio strainer that separates the hull, stems and most of the seeds out while retaining the berry puree. It goes quick and is one of the kids’ favourite jobs.

I now have 12 small jars of garlic scape paste, a few ice cube trays of frozen garlic cubes, 10 jars of strawberry freezer jam, a couple of bags full of whole, frozen strawberries and one crazy, delicious strawberry pie.

These are my favourite kind of days. A little harvesting, some play with the kids, some food hoarding, the usual chores and tasks being accomplished and a happy night of pie eating.

Oh, don’t think for a second there wasn’t a curse or two in there when things weren't going my way, but for the most part all that I write about today is EXACTLY the reason why I love my life. This is up there with breathing for me. And the air today was clear as can be.

Welcome to summer. Let the games begin.

1 comment:

  1. Garlic scapes in guacamole...brilliant!!! Now I wish I had frozen loads.


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