S Tonin

pollinator
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since Oct 17, 2015
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forest garden fungi trees food preservation cooking homestead
zone 6a, ish
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Recent posts by S Tonin

In the last two weeks I made two batches of this stuff with cucuzzi squash; it's so good!  I substituted carrot tops for cilantro (I'm one of those people with the bad genes), plus used some onions, smoked paprika, cumin, and fermented garlic as well as omitted the tomato element and used lime juice for acidity.  I didn't boil anything, just sauteed the vegetables in the olive oil until soft and then put it in the blender.  I left mine a little chunky.  Definitely going to be making this on a regular basis whenever I have any kind of summer squash around.
3 weeks ago
In anticipation of the heavy rains from hurricane Ida, I decided to harvest the bulk of my Concord grapes on Tuesday.  It's a little too early, but I thought it better than losing all the perfectly ripe ones if they were knocked off the vine.  I washed them and separated out the ones that just weren't ripe enough to be turned into jelly; it really seemed like such a shame to compost all that fruit (3 lbs!).  So I decided to search and see if there was anything I could do with them and found a solution that not only uses up the grapes, but also reduces my dependence on something (lemon juice) grown way outside my climate zone.

I'm not very worldly, so I'd never heard of verjus or al ghooreb before.  They're basically the same thing, just the fresh pressed and filtered juice of unripe grapes, made either from wine grape thinnings or from vines specifically dedicated to ghooreb (young sour grapes).  It's a common ingredient in Persian cuisine and was used in France for centuries before citrus was available (or too expensive for most people).  It's tart and a little sweet and astringent, really complex in flavor.  

I know my grapes were a bit old to make true verjus/ al ghooreb, but the stuff I made turned out amazing.  

Basic method, according to all the recipes I found:

1. Crush grapes.  Can be done by hand (tedious and burns like the dickens), in a press, with a blender/ food processor (said by some to be unpleasantly bitter because of the broken seeds), or any other way you can think of.  I used a Foley food mill for as much as I could, then used my hands to squeeze what was left in the hopper.  Work quickly, since you don't want the juice to oxidize and lose it's color/ flavor.

2. If planning to use in a raw state, filter juice through cheesecloth and store in a bottle with as little extra air space as possible.  If you don't have cheesecloth (or whatever), strain through a fine mesh strainer, put in a jar and refrigerate for 24 hours to let the solids precipitate out, then carefully decant juice to the bottle you plan on keeping it in.  Keeps 1-2 months

3. For a longer shelf life, filter juice as above and then boil with a little bit of salt (quantities I saw in recipes varied; I used a scant teaspoon/ heavy half-teaspoon in what turned out to be 20ish oz).  Make sure to skim the foam when it boils; it looks gross and doesn't taste great either.  From here, either pour into a sterilized bottle, seal, and store in the fridge, or pour into sterilized jars/ bottles and waterbath can for 5 or 10 minutes.  I don't know the shelf life of this at room temperature when canned, but I'm pretty sure it's acidic enough to be safe for a while.

I got about 20oz (18ish after all my foam skimming) from ~3lbs of grapes.  So far I've used it in place of balsalmic vinegar in my spaghetti sauce and made a kind of lemonade out of it (or, y'know, basically sugar-sweetened grape juice from concentrate, but way better than something from the supermarket).  I'm keeping mine in the fridge, but I may make another small batch with what's left on my grapevine right now and can it, if I can get enough.

Has anyone else made this?  Or does anyone here use it in their cooking?  I have some ideas of ways I'd like to try using it, but I'd love any tips or recipes if anyone has them.

3 weeks ago
I read a really interesting article on how Afghans traditionally kept grapes fresh through the winter: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-did-people-store-fruit-before-fridges

Basically, they make a bowl of mud and straw and seal the grapes in there, then break open the mud container as-needed.  They're stored in a cool, dry place and can last for months that way.
3 weeks ago
Just chiming in with my experience.  The stainless pot I use the most has aluminum rivets holding the handles on; the liquid regularly comes into contact with them for the duration of the pickling process.  The pot is over 20 years old and the rivets are stained and visibly pitted, but it's never affected the taste or texture of my high-acid foods.  I wouldn't use a regular aluminum pot for pickling, but apparently my mom did for years when she would make pickled zucchini (and stuff with tomatoes like sauce and stewed tomatoes) and said she never had an issue.  Back then, she had city water, whereas all my stuff is made with hard well water (super high in copper and some iron).

Even if traces of aluminum get into the pickles, I think you'd have to eat like a full jar of them every day for years to get the kind of buildup that causes problems.  I mean, soda is highly acidic and is stored in aluminum cans and, while problematic for other reasons, I've not heard of any aluminum toxicity among hardcore soda drinkers.
1 month ago
Here's a video on making cantaloupe candy:


Also maybe ice pops or like a granita/ Italian ice?  Even ice cream might work.
1 month ago
I used some green plums (and some riper yellow ones in a different batch) to make maesil-cheong, a Korean plum syrup.  Here's Maangchi's recipe:


Edit: Here's the progress of mine so far:
2 months ago
I can tell you what didn't work for me.  I tried freezing a few nice size fruiting bodies (fresh, not dried) and the next year i made a kind of paste and smeared it on the stems right where the ears of corn were starting to develop (like baby corn size).  I'm not sure, and there are probably a lot of other factors involved (timing and weather conditions especially--2016 was pretty hot and dry here), but I think freezing killed the spores.  

If I were ever to try it again, I would dry the fruiting bodies first and just store them in a cool, dark place rather than freezing.  And I might apply the spore slurry a little later in the development stage.  And do it when the weather's going to be humid.
2 months ago
I bought some of these for the first time this year.  I thought they might be Ume plums but they're not; luckily they can still be used to make umeboshi (salted fermented plums) and maesil-cheong (Korean plum syrup).  I made some into jam, too, which I use in my iced tea (I tried to make them a 1:1 sugar to fruit syrup, but they're loaded with pectin and set into a thick jam without any help).  Used in a drink is where their flavor really shines, in my opinion--they're tart enough to be refreshing, but not overpowering.  

I kept the pits from the jam (the umeboshi and maesil-cheong plums are used whole), so we'll see how they germinate next year.  I suspect mine were conventionally grown; I got them from a local farmstand but they were bought-in, so no idea where they came from.  I hope they do well, I wouldn't mind having my own supply of them since they were pretty pricey ($3/ pint).
2 months ago

r ranson wrote:My Mason Jars (brand name on the jar), I've been saving from pasta sauces seem to have two different sizes of lids.  
The larger of the two almost fits the 70mm but is really about 2mm too big for those lids.  The smaller jar is much too small for a 70mm.  I'm thinking it wants somewhere in the 65mm range (but I haven't actually measured it yet.
Is it possible to get lids for these jars?

Any thoughts on where I can get more 86mm lids and how to find out if "wide" really means this size?



I don't know if Fillmore Container ships to Canada, but they've got a huge variety of sizes of one piece screw-on lids (both for canning jars and the "lug" kind that fit disposable supermarket stuff like pickle jars).  Might be worth a shot looking there.

Also, Fillmore has a blog post about how to measure a jar to get the correct size lid: Link  Hope that helps.
2 months ago
If it were me, I would hold on to the chemical fertilizers and use them sparingly on my regular crops when they seem deficient in something, or if it's a bad year, or as a quick fix on a patch of infertile soil while waiting for organic methods to build fertility.  It's not ideal, but small amounts once in a great while shouldn't disrupt the soil ecology to the point it can't rebound and I wouldn't use enough for runoff to be a concern.  For me personally, I feel like "waste not, want not," and fertilizer (not pesticides) is only toxic with repeated application and in the quantities the industrial farms use.  Plants don't know the difference between nitrogen derived from petrochemicals or the cleanest, sweetest pee of vestal virgins.

It's not a sustainable long-term strategy for food production, but the material already exists in your possession, so might as well use it responsibly to get a direct yield rather than laundering it through non-edibles.
3 months ago