Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hot Pink Horseradish

I found the perfect project for a cold Sunday afternoon. Today I made hot pink horseradish. This weekend it was time to put the garden to bed. I spent most of the afternoon dumping flower pots, chopping down sunflowers, rolling up chicken wire and filling the compost bin. The last task of the day was digging horseradish. I missed the opportunity last year and I was determined to put some horseradish away for the winter. My Dad used to make horseradish. I remember him grinding it on the back porch. "Mom, why is Daddy crying?" It didn't look like fun.

Our horseradish was here when I moved in. We have a well established patch at the north end of the garden. I waited too late last season and I couldn't dig through the hard, frozen ground. The soil in that area is hard and thick but this year I had a secret weapon- the tiller. I mowed the patch down and zipped through it with the tiller in just a few minutes. From there it was just a matter of picking up the pieces.

I brought half a bucket into the kitchen and washed of the black sticky mud. I let the chunks ofhorseradish roots soak in warm water for a couple of hours. It makes them easier to clean and peel. The pieces need to be peeled with all blemishes and brown spots removed. All the pieces were different and I remember thinking they weren't going to peel easily. I was right but after working on them for an hour it started getting a little easier. I also noticed my hands were getting warm. Like the time at Picuris when I helped Valerie and Simon's Grandma roast and peel two 50 lb sacks of Hatch green chile. We peeled and roasted green chiles until 4 am. My hands stayed warm for three days. They are still warm now, three hours later. Not painfully warm but noticeably warm.

After some online research i found out that you could grind horseradish in a blender. No more crying on the back porch. The Lawnmower Man recommended adding turnips to the horseradish to make it go further. I improvised and decided to add peeled Chinese beautiful heart radish. They are beautiful - green/white outside and purpl'pink on the inside. The result was hot pink horseradish. I've seen pink horseradish before. They add beets for color.

I used one cup of water to a half cup of horseradish and a half cup of beautiful heart radish chunks. I set the blender on "frappe" (whatever the hell that is..) and added chunks through the blender's blowhole until it got really thick. Then I added 1/4 cup of white vinegar and added more chunks. The result was a pasty blend that looked like a strawberry milkshake. (I would certainly hate mistaking one for the other.)

Now one caveat- If you decide to make this do not look down into the blender when the horseradish is blending. This may result in temporary blindness and loss of breath. At this point in processing it's potent stuff. This can also happen when you pack the horseradish in jars. After chopping/grinding/frappering/whatever I used a colander to drain the horseradish. I prefer thick horseradish and I've noticed the horseradish in stores often has excess water.

I put several pints and half pints away today and gave one pint to Lawnmower Man 2. I remember buying jars of horseradish at the IGA store when I was a kid. Back then I think we only had four condiments --ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise & horseradish. The clerk at the store would always say, "Horseradish. Keep it cold to keep it hot." I took that as her way of saying refrigerate after opening. Horseradish is the perfect condiment for Thanksgiving leftover turkey and ham. It also goes well with headcheese, but that's an adventure for another day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Opportunistic Scavengers

10/08/09 After several days away Lucky and I finally made it back home last night. We've been away most of the last two weeks so it was nice sleeping in our own beds again. I woke up a little before 6 am and thought I heard Lucky eating his Iams in the kitchen. It wasn't Lucky. As I walked into the kitchen I found an opossum having breakfast out of Lucky's dish. He trotted off towards the porch through the dog door. Lucky watched it all go down and didn't bother to react. It was like they were acquaintances, or at least familiar strangers. I expected a couple of "get out of here damn cat" barks. I made my coffee and started some long overdue housekeeping. The temperature is supposed to drop to the low twenties tonight. I had the day off so I decided to pick and put away the last vegetables of the season. From the edge of the garden there didn't appear to be much left. I found a few peppers but most of the tomatoes were mushy. A light frost must have hit while we were away. Chinese cabbage, bok choy, onions and Chinese radishes were still good. I was able to make one final batch of soup, seven quarts, to keep us warm through the upcoming winter months. I don't have a soup recipe. I've made four batches this year. I usually get eight quarts. The canning pot holds seven jars so one goes straight into the refrigerator. We had an abundance of cabbage - napa, purple & QuingDao Express. I am totally hooked on QuingDao Express, "Light green leaves with pure white petioles, tender and hairless." We use it for "lettuce" wraps. Seed available at Agro Haitai is based in Canada and they carry an inspiring and beautiful variety of Chinese vegetables.

The cabbage, tomatoes and squash are great together and I'm always trying new combinations of vegetables for soup. Today's soup got a health dose of arugula. I never raise arugula before because I didn't think it was anything special. Maybe its a seasonal thing but I suddenly found myself liking it. I'm already planning next year's garden. The garden will be gone soon but I'll still go out there on warmer days to scavenge a few onions and greens. I like finding hidden vegetables in November and December. I think it's the perfect addition to Thanksgiving or a Christmas meal. Winter squash are wonderful, too. I have a few bright orange/yellow patty pan squash in the pantry. A lone winter squash got tossed into the soup pot this afternoon. My winter squash plants got wiped out right after they started to bear fruit. It was a very sad to see the long vines wither and die.

I didn't freeze summer squash this year. It doesn't seem to keep well. The dehydrator was working on squash and cucumbers for several weeks. Ping likes to cook with them. She reconstitutes them with a little water then chops and fries them in a little oil and spices. Kind of like a relish, but it makes a great simple meal with a little rice. The garden also gave up a bucket full of baseball/softball sized "beautiful heart" radishes. I totally missed picking hazelnuts this season. They all seem to have disappeared over the last couple of weeks. Maybe the squirrels got them...or possums... My neighbor was good enough to share the location of some black walnut trees on his brother's farm. I'll try to pick a bucket full this weekend. We have a soy milk maker at our home in Shenzhen. It grinds and cooks soybeans and turns them into soy milk. Ping also uses it to make almond milk. I want to see if black walnut milk is possible. Maybe hazelnut milk next year. I got hooked on Yeo's soy milk on my last trip to China and I keep our refrigerator stocked. The canned version is great, sweetened with a little cane sugar. If you are trying to cut back on soda its a good alternative. If you get a chance, spend a little more and try the black soy milk. It is brown, not black, and it has a richer flavor. I'm almost to the tipping point where I'll buy a soy milk maker for this house. I'd never seen them before but they are very popular in China. You can produce a quart of soy milk for around 20 cents. Another benefit is that you can turn soy milk into tofu. Tofu is coagulated soy milk. You can buy coagulant online or in some Asian grocery stores. A $12 package (100 grams) is enough to make 75 gallons of tofu.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

10/5/09 I'd like to apologize for not getting back here sooner. I'm working on a new post but I've also been hung up writing a grant proposal for my day job. The weather is cooling off and I've also been super busy with canning and putting away things for the winter. If you are looking for a post please check back in after October 10th! - Dave