Stacking Functions Garden


Kimchi time

I made a completely different version of kimchi this week.  Reader Christopher posted a link to this awesome authentic Korean food blog in the comments of my original kimchi recipe that I posted.  This more authentic version wins, hands down.

My friend CJ and I salted 4 heads of napa cabbage and 2 cubed green daikon radishes.  We looked at United Noodles for Korean radishes, but we couldn’t find them and figured daikons were close enough.

After making the paste, you’re supposed to spread a handful (wear gloves!) between each leaf of cabbage in each head.  Then you smooth it all down and shape it into a ball and ferment 1-2 days in a covered container.  However, I really wanted to use quart-size mason jars, and the cabbages did not fit.  So I pulled them all apart and we just layered cabbage leaves and paste in the jars.  It worked just fine.

We ended up with quite a bit of kimchi.  We actually ran out of paste at the end and had to whip up a little extra for the radish kimchi (kaktugi).  I could not find fresh or frozen oysters (note that I did not look terribly hard), but we used a little oyster sauce in addition to the fish sauce.  I also did not have the guts to add SIX ENTIRE CUPS of hot pepper powder/flakes; I think I used 2 heaping cups.

So here’s the recipe.  I definitely recommend watching the video before you try it.  Makes it very easy.

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Cabbage worm

Uh-oh.  I’ve heard about these, and this morning I found two of them on one of my baby cabbage plants:

I was pretty sure it was a cabbage worm, and a quick diagnosis through the U of M “What insect is this?” tool confirmed my guess.  The Extension service has a great info sheet on cabbage worms.  I carefully checked each of my cabbage plants and this was the only one with worms on it.  Nevertheless, I did a little searching about some organic controls for these things, and it seems a garlic spray is fairly effective.

It’s sorta rainy so I didn’t spray any on tonight.  I think I will in the morning.  If I can’t find any more of the little critters, does this mean it was isolated to one plant?  Could they be hiding somewhere else?  I’m going to keep very close eye on my cabbages over the next few days.

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A mac & cheese alternative

Problem: 2-year-old twins, when given boxed macaroni and cheese about once per week, become COMPLETELY OBSESSED with macaroni and don’t want to eat anything else.

Solution: Stop buying the boxed macaroni.  When desperation hits, cook up some pasta.  Toss it with some olive oil, sun dried tomatoes, a little parmesan cheese, garlic, and/or whatever you like and have on hand.  Or you could get fancy and make your own cheese sauce from scratch.  It’s maybe not the healthiest meal ever, but it’s not as processed, and they like it just fine.  (But they don’t like it so much that they obsess over it.  Is it the lack of cartoon characters?  I don’t know.)



I keep reading about how much healthier butter is when it’s made from cream given by grass-fed cows.  Trouble is, it’s kind-of hard to find, even at the co-op.  They have a special pasture butter right now, but it’s insanely expensive and it’s only for a limited time.

Happily, we already get our milk from Cedar Summit Farm, where cows are kept on grass.  I’ve heard that butter’s not difficult to make; I finally got around to it this morning.  Verdict:  EASY (if you have an electric mixer).

Really, you don’t even need a recipe.  Just pour some cream into your mixer and turn it on to medium speed.

Go have a cup of coffee and come back a good 5 minutes later.  It should start looking like whipped cream.

The whipped cream will keep getting thicker and thicker, then suddenly you hear a sloshing noise and behold, you have butter (and buttermilk).

I wish we would have switched to the other mixer attachment while we were still in the whipped cream stage; it was kind of a pain to get the butter off this whisk.

Strain off the buttermilk, form the butter into a ball, and rinse it with ice cold water.  Our yield (from four cups cream): 2 half-pint jars of butter.  So I guess that’s about 2 c., or 1 lb.  Plus some awesome authentic buttermilk.

I can’t believe how easy it was.  The whole process was about 20 minutes.  Apparently it’s a bit more challenging if you don’t have a mixer — I read one how-to that involved shaking a jar vigorously for at least 15 minutes.

Look at my homemade butter compared to this store-bought that we also have on hand.  The yellower the butter, the more nutritious it is.  Excellent.

Update, 31 May 2010: I finally remembered to take notes while grocery shopping so that I could work up a price comparison.  Here it is (prices from last week of May 2010 at the Seward CO-OP):

Special edition Organic Valley pasture butter, 1/2 lb. (8 oz.): $3.79
Cedar Summit Farm cream, 16 oz.: $3.79
Organic Valley buttermilk, 1 qt.: $2.99

Odd that both were $3.79, yes?  Anyway, so it actually breaks down pretty much exactly the same.  For $3.79 I can get the Cedar Summit Farm cream and make 1/2 lb of butter with it.  HOWEVER, I get the by-product — buttermilk — for free.  And we do use a lot of buttermilk in our cooking, so I am saving money with this.

Another thing to consider:  I’m not really sure how much pasture time the Organic Valley cows are really getting.  Look very carefully at the marketing copy used to describe the pasture butter: “Produced without antibiotics, or synthetic hormones and pesticides…at the height of pasture season.”  So, how many of the cows’ calories are actually coming from grass?  The cows are likely getting at least some grass, but Cedar Summit Farms clearly states that their cows get all grass, all year around.  And the resulting milk is healthier.  So yes, there is an economics factor to butter-making as well as a deliciousness factor.

And for the ultimate foodies out there, apparently real buttermilk gives better results than cultured buttermilk in cooking/baking.  And I have to say — the pancakes that we made with it this week were the fluffiest we’ve ever made.

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Another rain barrel

We added a third rain barrel to our collection this week.  It’s a really gorgeous one: a reclaimed oak wine barrel from Barrel Depot.  They offered our neighborhood group a modest discount, so I decided to take them up on it.  Now our two uglier plastic ones will be in the back of the house and the oak one will adorn the front:

I like that this one is made with better components than our plastic ones — the cheap hose attachments on our plastic ones are already falling apart.  The only challenges with it were: 1) it is extremely heavy, 2) we needed to find our own screen for the top, and 3) there was a 2″ hole in the middle which Adam had to cut a piece of oak and plug (visible in picture).

We got lucky on the screen issue.  Right there in the sandbox was an old sieve which just happened to fit the hole perfectly:

Perfect.  Now we just need some rain.

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Peat Pot tip

If you start seedlings in peat pots, it’s a good idea to rip off the top strip of the pot before you settle them into the ground.  If any of the peat pot is above the surface of the soil after you plant, it can wick moisture from underground to the air, causing your plant extra stress from lack of water.

Sorry about the low quality of this picture… my hands were filthy and I was trying not to get my camera dirty.  I got a few things planted today; will finish up tomorrow and take pictures for a full garden updated.


My edible landscape

Our yard is a work-in-progress, but we are slowly getting the front to where we want it (the back is another story).  After two trips to the Friends School plant sale this weekend, and one freeze where we fortunately did not lose anything, here’s what our front yard is looking like (click pictures to enlarge):

The whole area to the left of the sidewalk is all newly-dug.  In the front (where lots and lots of dogs pee) are three natives “kinnickinnick”, a columbine, and northern bluebells.  I have no desire to eat anything that gets peed on that much, so I stuck with non-edibles for that part.  Behind them are a bunch of alpine strawberries, and then some blueberries and lingonberries.

In this corner: I ripped out some old purple phlox that did not excite me and replaced it with a comfrey plant (a medicinal plant that I moved from another area), German chamomile, and Alpine strawberries.  Also in this picture: a peony, some garlic, various herbs, and a magnolia.

Here is a newly-dug area dedicated to acid-loving edibles: blueberries (one of which is too small to see) and three lingonberries.  I’m using some “organic choice” sulfur from Home Depot to acidify the soil. Behind the newly dug stuff is my couple-year-old perennial area with a rose bush, irises, a couple of sedums, and various herbs.

Here’s another area that was filled with phlox.  It is now home to a Red Lake currant bush and a whole bunch of alpine strawberries.  The bush to the right is an Endless Summer hydrangea.  Also visible: two dying rhododendrons, a bleeding heart, some perennial grass, and a sedum.

Finally, here is my hosta holding area on the north side of the house.  Last year, I dug this area up and filled it with a bunch of free hostas, just as placeholders until I could find edibles that grow in pretty much total shade.  After being warned about the invasiveness of mint by some gardeners and encouraged about growing it in shade by other gardeners, I composted two of the hostas and put in three mint plants, as an experiment.  We’ll see what happens.  The three mints are all in a row, in the upper right corner.