Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Curtido is deceptively simple salad from El Salvador, and when served with pupusas it forms part of the national dish of that country. In its homeland, it is generally made with pineapple vinegar, but apple cider vinegar makes a very good substitute.

Pupusas, in case you are unfamiliar with them, are like a thick tortilla (although the cornmeal used is a little different) stuffed with meat, beans, or cheese. Unfortunately, I can't get the right cornmeal for them here. It's okay though; curtido is easy and very convenient, because unlike most salads it will keep in the fridge for quite a while and provide a quick vegetable accompaniment to sandwiches and other meals. We mostly eat it with sandwiches but it goes anywhere cole-slaw would, and with a bit more panache.

I put 2 Jalapeños in mine, and that was fine for the first 2 days. It got stronger as it sat though, and by the end of the week this was pretty hot stuff. The longer you think it is going to take you to eat the curtido, the less Jalapeño you should put in. Unless you like pretty hot stuff. I do, but there is a limit and by the end of the week we had passed it.

As I was looking at recipes for curtido, I noticed a number of people are treating it as sauerkraut and giving it a full ferment. I'm going to try that, and I will report back once I have some results.

12 to 18 servings
40 minutes prep time,  plus 2 days sitting

6 cups finely shredded cabbage
3 cups grated carrots (2 medium)
1 1/2 cups sliced onion (1 medium)
1 or 2 Jalapeño peppers
1 tablespoon dried rubbed oregano
1 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

Wash, trim, and finely shred the cabbage. Peel and grate the carrots. Peel and cut the onion in half, then cut it into thin slices, so you have half rings. Remove the stem and seeds of the Jalapeño, and mince it finely.

Put the vegetables into a large bowl as you work, and when they are all cut, add the oregano and salt. With clean hands, massage the oregano and salt into the vegetables, until they are well mixed and look a little wilted.

Pack them into a very clean litre canning jar - either sterilize it as  you would for canning, or have it come right out of the dishwasher - using some sort of blunt instrument. If you have a tamper for making sauerkraut, excellent. I used the pestle from my mortar and pestle. At any rate, pack it in there. You will likely have more than will fit into a litre jar, in which case, put the excess into another, smaller, jar in the same way.

Mix the vinegar and water, and pour it into the jars over the vegetables. Close them up with clean (but re-used is fine) lids and rims. Put them in a dark, room-temperature spot. I put mine under the sink. They should be on a bit of newspaper, in case they leak. Leave them to ferment for 2 days.

At that point, the curtido will be ready to serve. Keep it in the fridge at this point. It should keep for up to 2 weeks without any problem, although mine was certainly eaten before then.

Last year was pretty sparse for posts too, but around this time I made Peppers Stuffed with Lamb & Feta.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Update, Personal & Garden

Well, here it is the end of September and the garden is looking pretty tired and sad. Seems appropriate; that's how I'm feeling these days myself.

About a month ago, my father had a fall. The nursing home didn't think it was too serious at first. He was in a lot of pain, but he was able to stand and walk. However, after a few days, he started to lose the ability to do so. To make a long story short, he had cracked a vertebrae and it was pressing on the spinal column, and he is now a paraplegic. Such have been the last year and a half, that when I heard this my first thought was "well, that's another damned thing." At first he was in a lot of pain but that seems to be receding and he seems to adjusting okay.

I am very fortunate that he is in the nursing home and they are taking excellent care of him, and that we live in a country where such matters are dealt with, financially and otherwise, as a matter of course. Still, I have to say that ever since this has happened I have not been sleeping well and have a lot of trouble being motivated to do anything. Which is where this blog comes in, or as I'm sure anyone still reading has noticed, doesn't come in. However, I am making an effort to try to get back to some sort of normal life so I am trying to get started again.

The above bed is our melon bed; it produced fairly well but has been mostly finished off by some sort of mildew or fungus. 

This has been an excellent summer, weatherwise. It has been consistently warm but not obnoxiously hot, and rain has come fairly regularly, requiring only a few weeks of watering. Now it is getting cooler and we have the sweet potatoes and peanuts covered to get every bit of growth out of them that we can. They'll need to be harvested soon, though.

Our carrots - mostly French heirloom varieties - did amazingly well this year, as did our onions, which have already died down and are now residing in our cold room. Beets are still in the ground, but most of the potatoes have been harvested. 

I'm writing this up as we can the last of the tomatoes. There are a a few still out there, mostly not looking too healthy or not quite ripe yet. There's a few more tomato sandwiches left in this season, but it is winding down rapidly. The plants look very sparse as this has been a bumper year for the septoria leaf spot. However, production was excellent and we have more canned sauce and tomatoes than we expected.

We grew out 4 kinds of leeks this year. We will try them all, and select the best of each to go to seed next year, letting them all cross. The kinds are Giant Musselburgh, Inegol (our Turkish leek), Bandit (a Dutch variety from William Dam) and Verdonnet, a Swiss variety. 

We tried to avoid planting too much squash this year, but we seem to have oodles anyway. I'm hoping it is better than last year, when we got lots of squash but thanks to the cool, rainy weather it was all a bit watery and tasteless. Like the melons, the plants all collapsed last week with some kind of mildew or fungus, but the squash are pretty much ripe so it is okay.

Oh, that's why we have so much squash. They ate the cabbage bed! In spite of which, the cabbages are doing quite well. I'll be making lots of sauerkraut in the next week or two.

Beans are winding down. We got plenty to freeze, but after the hot spell at the end of August they kind of stopped producing much, and I kind of stopped remembering to check them, so the fresh beans are mostly over. There's going to be lots of dry ones though, if I can get around to processing them.

The zucchini are winding down, with the cooler nights and growth of mildew. Pretty standard for this time of year. I'm not too sorry; we had ridiculous amounts of zucchini. We have planted tons of it the last few years and gotten very little, thanks to swarms of cucumber beetles and squash bugs. This year the cucumber beetles were present in not too massive quantities and we didn't even see any squash bugs. I don't get it, but I am not complaining!

Behind them, we have the last section of potatoes to dig up. In the other bed it's our watermelon mass-crossing project. Melons in general were a little on the small side, but ripened a good 3 weeks earlier than last year. I suspect that's mostly down to better weather but again, no complaints! There have been some interesting crosses too. 

We do grow a few flowers and the zinnias in particular have been fab this year!

Here is our first assessable result of trying to grow some potatoes from seeds. I would say that the 4 potatoes on the left (top and bottom) are the offspring of Russian Blue; a prodigious producer of seedballs.

The two pink skinned potatoes next to them are the offspring of an unknown white potato (possibly Envol, but possibly not) and either Red Thumb or Pink Fir Apple. Red Thumb seems much more likely, as Pink Fir Apple has a reputation for being sterile, but I have heard of at least one potato clone that claims it as a parent, and when we were digging up our main potatoes recently I found a seed ball attached to a stem, which was still attached to a potato, and the potato was definitely a Pink Fir Apple. It was a very small seed ball; about a quarter or less of the usual size. I have seen them in previous years, and made a point of trying to extract some seeds from them, so Pink Fir Apple is a more probably parent than would immediately seem likely. At any rate, these are the 2 potatoes I am most interested in. Not that I have tasted any of these potatoes yet, or even seen what they look like cut open. Still, those are very pretty potatoes!

The last 2 potatoes, on the far right, are not particularly interesting. They are standard white potatoes basically, and as you can see very poor producers compared to any of the others. We'll just eat them. And sneer while we do it.

Here is another breeding success, 3 years in the making! This is a cross between Golden Midget watermelon and another, unknown, watermelon. Judging by the stripes, I suspect Crimson Sweet.

Golden Midget is a watermelon that turns yellow when ripe. I like that trait, but I'd like it in a bigger watermelon. It really is a midget.

The hybrid above, I'm afraid, has retained that quality. I'd have liked to have had it ripen as early as Golden Midget, but it ripened more like Crimson Sweet, just last week. Alas. We were very pleased with the flavour, though!

But I am undismayed, because the odds of getting a cross with the golden ripening gene show up at all in the f2 generation were approximately 64 to 1. My overall odds were more like 4 to 1, because I grew quite a few more than one plant of crossed Golden Midget seed. Because the golden ripening gene is recessive, it does not show up in the f1 generation of crosses. I had to wait until this year to hope I would have one turn up.

In theory I should now get only  plants with the golden ripening gene from the seed from this melon. However, I think that applies only if it was self fertilized, and who knows? Not very likely, given the number of other potential pollen sources. Still, I intend to sow this seed heavily next year and see what happens. It's kind of exciting!