Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's Never too Late

Weeding is never a waste of energy. The more you do, the less you will have to do. Weed now and you will have less to do in the spring.
But your top job should be cutting down and throwing out any mildewed plants. Do not compost plants which are mildewed as the spores could spread. Everyone had problems with mildew this year. But one thing to consider is, if you want to prevent mildew, the plants in your garden need enough space around them to get good air circulation. This helps to prevent mildew. Phlox are particularly sensitive to mildew and we put up with it for the late blooming beauty of the plant. But once they have bloomed be ruthless! Cut down the stocks at the first sign of mildew, bag them and put them out in your green trash.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Soggy pie crust – the answer

Mitsu and spy apples are in the Farmer’s Market and when I see them I can’t wait to start cooking. With the bounty of Fall apples I wanted to make a pie. However, my pie crust if always soggy. When I visited my sister in rural Quebec, her friends were full of tips to help my crust improve. Alas when I came home with apples and tried a pie, once again my crust was decidedly inedible. Not one to waste food (my parents were raised during the Depression and old lessons die hard) I simply scraped the top crust and apples into a bowl and topped it with the universal flavour enhancer – ice cream. It passed muster for a couple of night’s dessert.
I followed the tips I was given – all except one – use a metal pie plate. I used glass, because that was all I had. But I had a solution to the crust. I sliced the Mitsu apples into a glass pie plate and used an ‘impossible pie’ recipe. You just pour the eggs, flour and lard into the blender, whir with the press of a button and pour it over the apples. It separates out in the cooking. Delicious! I still feel thwarted about the pie crust and will try again, but I’ll wait until I have a metal pie plate.

To Cut or Not to Cut

One of the decisions we have to make in the fall garden is what to leave standing and what to cut down. I base my decision on two things: ease of raking and cleanup in the garden; and, what it looks like in the winter.
When we plant our gardens we want winter interest. Nothing is gloomier than looking out your back yard to frozen, bare ground. Leaving things that sway, or add structure, make the winter garden more interesting. Based on this rule, I cut back hostas because the soggy leaves look depressing and they harbour slugs. I leave things like rubeckia standing. The rubeckia stands proudly, and the black seed heads provide nourishment for the birds in the winter. I usually leave the heads on the Annabelle hydrangeas. The leaves fall off and the heavy nodding heads provide winter and all season interest. I learned to my cost, to leave the heads on Endless Summer hydrangeas, after a summer of no blossoms. Grasses with seed heads I leave, because I love the swaying movement provided by the wind.
I scour my garden for branches, seed heads and pods to add to my urns and I mulch almost everything else into my compost pile where the winter works its magic to provide the black gold compost in the spring.
I get out early in the spring to prune and divide and begin the lovely nurture of Nature`s bounty all over again.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What you can't weed, cook!

Once the Fall comes, it is time to turn to the produce of our gardens, to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of our labours. We are no longer consumed with pinching and pruning, we are ready to enjoy our produce.
The Farmer's markets are overflowing with abundance. The Market at Square One is one of the best in Southern Ontario. But I am doubly fortunate, because, my sister has a farm in Quebec, just outside of Ottawa. I came home with apples, crab apples, and beets.
My partner in business, Theresa has encouraged me to tell you these things.
I enjoy cooking, but that does not mean life is without mishaps. The kitchen, like the garden is all about creativity and inspiration. Sometimes RULES ARE BROKEN.  Actually, since my desires are larger than my knowledge, I often attempt things with which I have no experience.
Hence, that is why I consulted my mother's scarred and spattered Canadian Cook Book, copyright 1923.  She used this in school.  It is the eighteenth edition, published, November, 1945. The spine is missing 2/3 of its cover and there is a burner impression from the stove element burned into the navy cover.  You can picture the scene now with the book open on the stove, while the cook carefully consults the next step.  Now you have an impression of the cooking arts I learned at my mother's knee.
The reason I had to consult the cooking text was because I brought home all those crab apples from my sister’s.  I looked in a few books, but one recipe told me to melt cinnamon candies in water and boil halved crab apples in it.  That was a recipe for a ‘gourmet’ jelly.  If I want to make something from scratch, I had to go back to the 1945 text.  I found it a little cryptic.  Who knew you could make coffee jelly
I seemed to remember my mother making crab apple jelly and she never used pectin.  Just boiled and strained the fruit.  But the details....
The text said to “Test for Pectin”.  It involved a tablespoon of alcohol and a tablespoon of the fruit juice; waiting time; and ‘if little pectin can be collected, the juice should be given longer boiling and tested again.    I had no idea if I was to use the pectin in the jelly or if it was just a method of identifying the strength of pectin in the mixture.  Luckily, the word ‘alcohol’ gave me inspiration, and as I sat drinking, I thought it would be great to make a merlot crab apple jelly, just like in the wineries in Niagara!  So I poured merlot in one of the batches.  It did not jell.  But I just boiled it down in the microwave, and eventually I got a product! Actually, it tasted very good.
I’d write out the recipe for you, but I don’t remember it!
Since rain is forecasted for tomorrow, I probably won’t be able to garden and I will detail another mishap, I mean recipe, from my kitchen.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Creating Fall Planters

I am planning to have a workshop for people to create an outside urn for the Fall that can be converted to a Winter urn, by only changing a few elements.  Most people are reluctant to put the time and effort into a fall urn and instead opt for a couple of pots of mums on the front steps.
But we all want the impact of an eye catching fall display that will grace our doors for Thanksgiving and Halloween.  So, I will show people how to create a basic shape with greenery that will give the “fill” factor that speaks to the abundance we like in urns and then to change a few key elements to change the impact from the  Fall to Winter season. 
The workshop will be held on Oct. 9 at 1:30 pm.  Bring a liner (a plastic pot) that fits in your outside urn, so you can transport it back and forth to the workshop.