Green Sour Plum Pickles

What to do with an embarrassment of Shiro plums? Some of you may have been here in the summertime when we experienced an abundance of Shiro plums and witnessed Chef Kären mutter something about “An embarrassment of Plums”. Here at Quillisascut we have been pondering this question for several years. One of our summertime quests!

Shiro Plums when ripe are a sweet, cheery sunny yellow. We have made plum jam, spicy plum sauce, and Japanese style umeboshi plums. Sometimes we have them on the table at every meal asking every one to have their daily ration of sweet yellow fruit.

Rick has taken to thinning some of the fruit from the tree so the remaining plums will get larger. Offering us an embarrassment of little under ripe green plums. The goats do like them fresh out of hand.

Then I remembered reading about mock olives made from plums and thought I would do a little research and see if I could find a recipe or two.

In my search I found they are a favored snack in the Middle East. They eat them out of hand, fresh and crunchy with a dash of salt. They are refreshing on a hot summer day.

I came across a pickle recipe that claimed “these taste just like green olives”. Hot vinegar is poured over the plums, add a few spices and let them set. The second day you drain off the vinegar brine, reheat it to boiling, let it cool a little then pour back over the plums. So far they don’t taste like olives to me, but maybe in a month they will?

Some of the Middle Eastern recipes called for covering the plums with a salt water brine. I decided to try a lacto-fermented version that are still fermenting so I don’t have the taste results, but as you can see in the picture, they look beautiful. And they will offer up wonderful probiotic benefits.

You can bet they will show up with our cheese samplers when guests arrive this summer!

Harvesting Between the Rows

I am working on making peace with weeds, especially the edible ones. All of the weeds have an important job. Probably the most important is clothing the soil (soil doesn’t like to be naked)! Weeds move in to disturbed areas, like our open gardens, and set up camp.

This spring I have been playing with ways to cook and dress up pig weed (wild amaranth). It is a super easy plant to grow, it comes up everywhere without encouragement. It also pulls out of the ground with out to much tugging, especially when it is young and the soil is loose, and in my garden there is an abundance of these plants!

Pigweed has so many great characteristics. It draws nutrients up from down deep in the soil, bringing nutrition to the plants that come up next. It shades the soil and helps keep it moist. It doesn’t seem to have pests, the leaf miners leave it alone, no worms on the leaves, no aphids, the deer don’t even seem to eat it.

Most important it is delicious. It tastes similar to spinach. I like it cooked better then raw, although the tiny seedlings can be used as micro greens!

The stems are my favorite part, especially when they get longer and fatter, but before they get tough. Pan-fried in a little oilive oil and seasoned with salt, they were reminiscent of asparagus. Chopped stems can be steamed like green beans. But the bulk of the greens are wonderful quickly stir fried until bright green and tender, they taste fresh and retain a little crunchy texture, or braised until they soften into a creamy mouth full of joy.

Simply top with butter or olive oil, maybe a splash of vinegar. Serve them with a bit of sesame oil and soy sauce, or as I did last night, pour on a glaze of walnut oil and top with toasted walnuts.

You can dress it up with bacon or any pork product to add a layer of flavor. Our friend Roong said it is a familiar green from his home in Thailand, he braised some for us with a bit of bacon and onions. And when Gary Nabhan was here he cooked up the greens with some spices and used them to fill empanadas for dinner.

Yep, these weeds are turning in to one of my favorite garden foods, free, abundant, and delicious!

Food and Family Traditions

Most of us have family traditions that revolve around food, a special birthday meal or a unique dish that is served at Thanksgiving.  Some of us have a cultural connection to a cuisine like Italian, Middle Eastern or Asian, these are the foods that we share with family and the ingredients that tie us to a culture.

This July 16-19 we are excited to share with you the opportunity to learn a few of the cooking techniques that make up New Mexican cuisine. These include cooking with chile, corn and the most important ingredient; cooking together with family and friends. Bel Candelaria Harrison has written this blog post about some of her food connections. The beginning of a conversation that we will build upon during the July 16th through the19th workshop, A New Mexican Christmas in July.

Family and Food
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Cooking in our large family was woven into our daily existence. Ten of us, eight siblings and Mom and Dad would often sit around the kitchen table to share various cooking chores. Whether the task at hand was shelling salted and roasted piñon (pine nuts) we had harvested earlier that day, and piling the shelled piñon into a single pile just for the sheer pleasure of stuffing all of them into our mouths at once, or processing chile, chopping garlic and onion, cleaning beans, making tortillas, or just having a cup of coffee, we were really quite rich. We were rich not because we were preparing an expensive meal, but rather, most often, a humble meal of beans, chile and tortillas. We were rich because we formed relationships together around our table as we laughed, talked, teased, argued, and sometimes cried. Almost every important event was discussed around the kitchen table. And, the food always tasted soooo good!TamaleNMW
Today, we relive that sense of family and togetherness every time we gather to share a meal. Friends and family gathering to prepare food and sitting down together to enjoy the results of our joined effort may sound overly simplistic but it is joyful to me, even more so when you have grown your own vegetables, or collected fresh eggs from your chicken coop. I can’t wait to cook with my sisters at Quillisascut Farm just for that reason.

Learning and Food
My personal food revelation included discovering Lora Lea and Rick, their farm and the idea of “slow food.” My husband and I have a garden for which he deserves full credit. My appreciation for garden fresh, organic, and sustainable food has grown along with my very first herb garden to our large garden today. My daughter now also has her own garden and chickens. Passing on a passion for good, healthy food is a blessing. The learning continues.

Memories and Food
Some of my first “food” memories are those with my father and brothers, from sardines, scallions and scrambled eggs, Mexican Pizza, refried beans at 2:00 in the morning to the surgical removal of the egg yolk from a fried egg. The sardines, scallions and scrambled eggs were dad’s creation and he made the best tortillas.CornHusksW The Mexican Pizza however, was nothing I recognized until years later as a counterfeit Italian Pizza. The Mexican Pizza was made of a tortilla, red chile and cheese. Refried beans, well, you add bacon drippings to anything and it is absolutely fabulous! My brother could get anyone to do anything with just a smile like getting me up at 2:00 in the morning to make refried beans. He once removed the egg yolk from a fried egg with a table knife and a fork (I mean no egg white on the yolk at all and egg yolk unbroken) and transferred it on to a piece of tortilla in the shape of a scoop. He proceeded to eat the entire thing with laughing, dark brown eyes wide open!

Today, my sisters and I continue to make memories with food. We love to get together with friends and family to cook, laugh, talk and share whether it is a birthday, a holiday, or just dinner.

Come to Quillisascut for A New Mexican Christmas in July where we will learn, laugh, talk and share with the Candelaria Sisters!

MAD Inspiration

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Winter is a time to reflect, to question and to envision a path forward. I found insight in this talk by Italian ethno-botanist Andrea Pieroni at the MAD symposium in Copenhagen.

Pieroni speaks about the language of food, science and culture. He believes science needs to step back and learn from traditional knowledge, that the scientific taxonomy of plants doesn’t tell us the human stories about communities of people, plants and their relationships. How plants are celebrated, prepared or eaten is often narrated in the context of traditional names of common plants. Andrea states that the cultural information becomes lost in the language of science.

Andrea’s challenge to build a platform to educate young people and all of us about where our food comes from inspires us.

We have built our vision of this educational platform on our farm, check out the 2015 workshops. Now we need you to share the vision, help us make 2015 Quillisascut Farm workshops the best ever! Sign-up, tell your friends, the table is set.

Here is Andrea Pieroni at the 2012 MAD Symposium.