Sunday, September 26, 2010


Luz’s carrot crop has been most impressive. Zie only started harvesting a couple of weeks ago. Zie pulled on a clump of greens and all of a sudden this enormous fat carrot appeared!

Our neighbor Jenn had her two year-old nephew over for a visit last weekend. He watches Curious George videos and so knows a lot about gardening, including compost! His favorite game when visiting is to toss the compost with his aunties. So during his visit, Luz pulled some carrots to show him. He happily carried a miniature carrot around, with the long green stem dragging behind him like Linus’s blanket.

I have happily chomped down several of these carrots. I have always loved carrots because they’re sweet and you can crunch them hard.

Starting in 1977, I went through a spell of reading and re-reading all the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House. books. See I was a farmwife in training, but didn’t know it. My sister had read them all before. I read everything in sight, and, I think, especially liked reading books my sister had read.

Aside: The books are quite frankly racist, with lots of anti-Indian sentiments freely expressed, including that native peoples have no rights to land and should be displaced to make more room for white homesteaders, and that there’s no such thing as a “good Indian.” Ma expresses the worst of these, as well as some less-than-charming anti-immigrant snap judgments. but then Pa actually performs in blackface in a minstrel show, the retelling of which includes a lot of repetition of “darkies.” These unpleasantries are whitewashed away in the nostalgia with which these books are enshrined.

The third novel in the series, Farmer Boy, focuses on the boyhood of Almanzo Wilder (Ingall’s future husband) on his family’s extensive farm in New York. In addition to the livestock they sell, they are wholly self-sufficient. White sugar is one of the few things they have to purchase. They shear their sheep and the women spin the wool and the weave it into cloth for clothing. So they also happen to grow a lot of crops in sufficient abundance that they use them as feed crops for the cattle, carrots being one of them. And the young boy, chomping on carrots while training his young oxen, observes that the outer ring of the carrot is sweeter and can be snapped off, while the inner core has a sharper taste. Luz’s carrots were like that to the nth degree.

Luz had made carrot ginger soup, and carrots are included in many of Luz’s recipes. (Zie likes to see how many servings of vegetables can be incorporated into one delicious meal.) Still, the longer they stay in the ground, the bigger the carrots grow. As I said, I enjoy snacking on them raw. Luz and our neighbor Jenn are already starting their winter plantings, now, so they’re pulling out the summer crops that are done. Luz wanted to open the space currently occupied by the carrots.

So, given our brand-new skill of canning vegetables, a fond remembrance of Sandy Der’s fermentation class, and some ingenuity on Luz’s part, and zie came up with the perfect solution: escabeche. Pickled jalapeños with carrots and onions. A tiny serving of which is the norm at tacquerias throughout Califas, at least.

We’d made refrigerator pickles last year, with the radishes. They were yummy. But the difference this time is that not only would we pickle them with vinegar, but we would then can the escabeche in jars.

As usual, I researched all the safety precautions about canning vinegar pickles, and was happy to see that a lot of leeway is allowed with pickles. So I printed out four different recipes: some with sweetener, some with olive oil. It looked to me like as long as we used at least equal parts water and vinegar, it should be pretty safe. So Luz sent me to the Mexican market on the corner (Mi Tierra) for pickling spice and jalapeños. Right after that, though, before we started pickling, Maria and Gabriela gave us some red and green jalapeños from their barrio ranchito. So we used those instead. Their barrio rancho was the inspiration for ours: they have so many beautiful fruit trees and all kinds of veggies.

Luz reminded me that the jars left over from canning the apples would need to be washed and scalded again, since the water they’d been sitting in had gone cold. I did the rest of the prep, Luz cooked up her pot of escabeche, and then filled all our remaining jars with the chilies, carrots, and pickling liquid.

Although we were out of canning jars, we had one jar in the house where we could put the remaining escabeche and keep in the fridge for snacking.

Well, that was the plan. We ate escabeche with our neighbor Jenn on the deck last night as an appetizer. Luz planned tonight’s dinner around the escabeche. fava-bean burgers in flat bread with avocado and escabeche. (like a variation on a Mexican torta). Super yum.

That one jar of escabeche though is all used up, and it’s barely been twenty-four hours. How long can we hold out?

The dried apple rings didn’t make it even that long. They were done this afternoon and gone by dinner. yummy.

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