Garden-Fresh Favorites

When summer hits and the garden is in full swing, I spend a lot of time processing its bounty to enjoy later. But the greatest joy of growing your own garden is immediately eating the sun-warmed peppers, crisp snap beans, and brilliant orange carrots you’ve produced. No matter how well you preserve a fruit or vegetable, it’s still a substitute for fresh-from-the-plant flavor.

Twice as Tasty made the front page of The Daily Inter Lake’s Montana Life section this week. The delicious photos and story by Brenda Ahearn focus on a recent workshop on Indian spices.

Fortunately, eating freshly harvested produce is easy. A walk through the garden has you snapping off a peapod here, grabbing a cherry tomato there, and collecting a handful of raspberries that you pop straight into your mouth. But grazing is just the beginning. This blog already offers some of my favorite fresh recipes for asparagus, corn, and zucchini and tomatoes. The key to making these fresh-tasting dishes is knowing when and how to pluck the choicest edibles.
Read more about enjoying garden-fresh favorites

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Sourdough Breakfasts

When most people think of sourdough, they picture a bread loaf with a crackling crisp crust and moist, tangy interior. But when you play with sourdough, you quickly discover bread is just one of many possible creations—and not necessarily the easiest.

My sourdough adventures began a couple of years ago, when I was gifted an old starter that had been lurking in a refrigerator. It didn’t have the rising power necessary for a loaf of bread; it required strength training. As I noted last week, the process of feeding a starter works like this: Pull out some starter, replace it with flour and water, and then let it work its magic, repeating the process until it readily ferments, bubbles, and grows. But I was loath to throw away weaker starter. Fortunately, a range of low-rise treats grab all the flavor with little effort.
Learn to make Sourdough Pancakes and Sourdough Waffles

Apples

Applesauce is among my earliest canning memories, in the kitchen and on the tongue. My dad grew several varieties of apples, and every year my mom would puree the fruit into dozens of quarts of applesauce. I recall pushing down on softened apples with a wooden mallet while my mother cranked away on the handle of the Victorio food strainer. I called it the “Victoria strainer” and clung to the idea that the British queen once used a similar device.

But my favorite applesauce was made by my grandmother. Grandma Tiny chopped apples by hand for small batches she stored in her freezer. Her “chunky applesauce” outshined all others. Mom’s applesauce did have one advantage: we could pour it onto dehydrator trays and dry it into fruit leather for school lunches. Between the two versions, I was spoiled to all other applesauce and have never been able to stomach commercial forms.
Learn to make Grandma Tiny’s Chunky Applesauce and Auntie Julie’s Fruit Leather

Botulism and Canning Safely

When I mention this blog, it rarely takes noncanners long to reveal they are afraid of making their family sick and to ask for the secret to canning safely. Their fear is of the big, scary B word: botulism. But what strikes me is their belief that they need to be let in on a secret to avoid it.

Honestly, there is no secret to safe canning. Everything you need to know is in every decent book and on every decent website that covers the topic. Canning is a process, but it’s not a mysterious one: If you can follow directions, you can get it right. Or, in the words of Kevin West, author of the fabulously informative Saving the Season, “If you can safely prepare chicken, a potential vector for food-borne pathogens such as salmonella, then you can handle home canning.”

Unfortunately, botulism has become a boogeyman, the arch villain of a cautionary tale who peers over the rim of a boiling water bath at many home canners. It doesn’t have to be that way. Read more about botulism and canning safely