Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fermented Green Tomato Pickles

Canning project today!  I'm pickling green tomatoes the old fashion pickling way; Fermentation.  It's a salt brine method of pickling!  No pressure cooking or hot water baths.
  Fermented foods and drinks are quite literally alive with flavor and nutrition.  Their flavors tend to be strong and pronounced. Think of stinky aged cheeses, tangy sauerkraut, rich earth and smooth sublimes wine..  Human have always appreciated the distinctive flavor resulting from the the transformative power of the microscopic bacteria and fungi.  One major benefit for fermentation is that it preserves food.  The fermentation organisms produce alcohol, lactic acid and acetic acid, all "bio preservation" that retain nutrients and prevents spoilage. -Wild Fermentation

Here is my ingredients;

1 cup Salt (sea salt or canning) *
Fermented Green tomato pickles
1 gallon of water.
Peppercorns *
Green tomatoes

Thoroughly mix the salt and water together dissolving the salt completely.  Do no use city water, it has chlorine, which will kill the good bacteria.

I'm using quart jars instead a crock and stone. Wash jars and vegetables.

Chop up the onion and garlic into bit size pieces.
Cut the stem end off the tomatoes to remove the stem and to provide access for the brine.

Place Dill, Garlic, Onion and Peppercorns in the bottom of the jar.  Pack the remain items in as tight as you can.  Leave enough space for brine and a headspace.   If items are floating, pack in spinach to create a cap over the floating vegetables. This will be a good enough to be a barrier to keep the item submerged.

Pour in the brine leaving a bit of a headspace and then screw on the lid.  Don't screw on the lid so tight that developing pressure can't escape.  Let the jars stand for a few days to a week in a warm room.  Taste tests after a few days will give you an idea on their progress.  Once to your liking what you are tasting, into the refrigerator or cold roots cellar to stop the fermenting action and storage.  They should last a year, if not eaten first, for about a year.

* Not grown at Prairie Home Farm

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Be the Bee

Male flower
This past spring my pine trees and many others around the area were covered in hard working honeybees that belong to commercial keepers.  However, since about mid July or so I've notice very little honeybee activity on any flower around my property, well other than the Sweet Clover.  In the garden only a few bumble bees working the tomato plants, but no bees in my pumpkin patch.  And as we all know, no pollinators, no pumpkin or other fruits and vegetables for the that matter!
Female flower

By August 1st, I should have pumpkin of many sizes growing on the vine, but not a one.  So, I started pollinating the pumpkins myself and with the promise of a warm September I should get a few pumpkins. Here is how to be the Bee!

Make sure you have both a female and male flowers freshly opened.  Best time to check is early morning, as they close by mid morning! The pumpkin will always produce more male than female flowers.  Sounds familiar! Now, cut or pinch off one of the male flowers at the stem from a different vine if possible.  Peel off the yellow pedals and stuff them into your mouth for breakfast.  You are now left with the stem and stamen.
Ready to go!

Relocate the female flower and gentle rub the stamen around the stigma of the female flower.  Again, sounding familiar!  That's all there is too it! Checking back in a day or two, one should see the developing pumpkin.

I leave the Stamen next to the female flower to mark the deed has been done!

Unopened female flower

You can always tell days prior to the flower opening up which is a female flower and which is not.  A female flower will have a bulge between the flower blossom and the stem. The female flower will also be closer to the vine.  Where as the male flowers will stand tall above the vine.   Once pollination has taken place, the bulge is the new pumpkin.  If pollination doesn't take place, the bulge will yellow and fall off the vine.  Honeybees and Bumble bees are great pollinators for your pumpkins and squashes.

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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Cucamelon in a Minnesota Garden

This years new plant to try was the Cucamelon. This melon was found in Mexico and Central America and was an annual crop long before Europe found this part of the world. The Cucamelon has many names it is known by; Mouse Melon, Mexican sour gherkin to name a few.

My garden is in zone 3a NW Minnesota, so I need to make sure that all changes of a freeze was gone, which in Minnesota does exist really. So, I waited for the first of June to start this melon from the south. It was very slow to germinate, so slow I almost gave up on it. We have a warm summer but melon was slow to climb up and start producing. Up to this point I have picked a few here and there to try fresh, a few more to add to a spinach, purslane and red lettuce salad, but never enough to more than that. They taste, to me, like a mild cucumber, but no noticeable hit of seed or bitter rind.

Today, 1 Aug 13, I was able to gather enough to try pickling them. I am using a bottle half filled with Dill
pickling juice and spices. I know that's not traditional, but why waste the Dill vinegar water? So, after
washing the melons and picking off the spent blossom into the picking juice then went. I will try one or two of the melons in a week or so and report back. I must say, if the pickled melons aren't fantastic, I will not grow this plant again, its to slow and cucumbers taste better fresh.

In the meantime while you are waiting for my above mentioned report, check this article from Mother Earth News.

Update: Aug 24, 2013, An update on the Cucamelons! A central America plant that looks like a miniature Watermelon, that taste like a cucumber with a hint of lime.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this plant is slow to start and a slow grower up here in the NW of Minnesota. However, come the end of August, they are now growing and producing well. A few weeks back I pack a fair amount it to a pickle jar that was full of dill pickle juice. A taste yesterday was just OK! I have since, yesterday, packed them in a salt water brine to try the fermented method;

To this point I have enjoyed this plant more for its novelty than its production or flavor. I might not grow this plant again next year. I will wait for the final taste test for the fermented pickling. Stay turned and I report back in a few weeks on the final outcome.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

McLeese in the Heaney House

Recently, I found a Neil McLeese with a 1953 connection to Agnes McComb of 557 Chelmsford Massachusetts.  The connection was a U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 form, which listed Agnes McComb as the point of contact.  The house on Chelmsford street was the home to William Heaney prior to his move to 60 Cosgrove street Massachusetts in the 1920.  Many of William's family, children and siblings, lived at this house one time or another. So, who is this Neil McLeese and how is he connected to the family, if at all? Well, I know he is some how connected for he shares a given surname of another before him and the previously mentioned connection to Agnes.  But, how is the question?  These questions opened up some more research and discovery into my family tree.
U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers
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First, let's discover a little of  what is known about the Heaney and McLeese lines. The McLeese name comes from Ireland as many of my ancestors did and this is where I find that a McLeese has married into the Heaney family.  My great great grandfather John Heaney and Ellen McLeese started their marriage in 1845 Antrim County, Ireland prior to coming to the states in the 1870's. After finding out Ellen Heaney was a McLeese, which added a new name to the tree, I naturally became interested in finding out more.  Well, believe it or not, Ellen's father is a Neil McLeese, my 3x great grandfather, but I am sure the Neil I am seeking is not my great grandfather, for he didn't come to the states, as far as I know,  and if he did, he would be well over a 100 years of age in 1953. Not impossible, but I doubt it!

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So, the question remains!  How does this Neil McLeese connect to the my tree.  The story starts to unravel with the discovery of two pieces of information; an obit for Neil in the Lowell Sun newspaper 1953, in which reveals a little about Neil's military time and his final resting place.  And a copy of Veteran's Compensation Application stating that Neil was name after his mother's father; Neil McLeese my 3x great grandfather.  Neil's mother is Sarah McLeese and father James Jinkins.

Veteran' Compensation
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In June of this year I requested some information from the Edson Management Cemetery management office in Lowell Massachusetts about Neil.  Yesterday, Aug 13 2013, I  received information back from the Edson staff that relieved the connection to the family.

Update:  Neil's relationship trace to Agnes;  Neil's mother is Sarah McLeese who is sister to Ellen McLeese Heaney,  who is the mother to Annie Heaney McComb, who is the mother of Agnes.  So, they are cousins and both 1x cousins 2x removed to me.

Neil McLeese resting in McComb's family plot in Edson Cemetery, Lowell MA.

Neil McLeese served in the U. S Army K 5 Infantry from 1900 -1903.  This unit seen active duty in the Philippine, though Neil's records indicate no time served in any fire fight.

Rest in Peace

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