Thursday, September 28, 2006

Garden Glimpses : Late September

Fall is my favourite time of year. What wonderful colours to enjoy in the garden. The contrast of warm sun during the day and crisp autumn nights, and fresh dew in the morning. Fresh crunchy apples and sweet pears to enjoy. Brilliant reds, falling leaves. What a wonderful time of the year!
perennial sunflower and virginia creeper
fall blooming asters
conflower and crocosmia
callicarpa in early fall
dew on espalier apples

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Mystery Apple

My mystery apple tree bore one fruit this year, which just dropped and so I had the chance to sample it tonight. I suspect it is a Macintosh or Spartan. It has a bit of tartness, and a beautiful red skin with some small amount of stripe/spot patterning in the skin. I had hoped for a Gala, but I think I will be happy with this. I'm looking forward to more apples next year!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Recipe : Mint Butter Cookies

A week ago, I posted one of my favourite recipes, for Tarragon Butter Cookies. Tonight I just finished baking the mint version, and I now have a new favourite!

I replaced the tarragon with mint, as suggested by Madelin Wajda, but since I didn't have mint extract, I just left out the extract altogether, and used 4 Tbsp of mint instead of 3 Tbsp. I used my Chocolate Mint, which is a lovely version of peppermint which offers a hint of After Eight mint wafers. It is a beautiful dark mint (photo right), with purple flowers, and I don't mind that it's taken over a large part of my "tea" garden, other than feeling guilty to not use it in the kitchen more often. I have some easy recipes for mint syrup, mint jelly, mint ice cream, and of course, mint tea...

Tonight I lightly greased the pans with butter, and the cookies slid out with ease. My 3 pan method worked smoothly (every 4 min: top pan out, bottom pan to top, new pan to bottom), and I found that 8 minutes was perfect for my oven (convection gas). I finished cutting, sugaring and baking (and sampling!) all 12 dozen cookies in under an hour.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Garden Painting Day 15 : Outline of Cat and Hosta

Last night I had the pleasure of putting a few more hours into my painting after the kids were in bed. I have painted in the outline of a cat...

garden painting with outline of cat...and a group of Patriot Hosta...

garden painting with outlines of cat and hosta ...and filled in the white outline of the Patriot Hosta.
garden painting with outlines of cat and Patriot HostaAnother night, I will fill in the green centers (not as satisfying, since the background is already green, so it looks almost done already). I think I will also mix a touch of the green into white, and soften the white borders. They are currently too white.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Recipe : Tarragon Butter Cookies

This is a lovely recipe I found here last year (by Madelin Wajda of Willow Pond Farm), when the tarragon seedlings my friend Lily gave me, flourished in my small herb garden, and I turned to the internet for a tarragon recipe.

The tarragon gives the cookies small flecks of green, and a mild and pleasant herbal flavour. To my delight, the kids were crazy about them, too. With the sugar crystals on top, and the bite size portions, it makes a nice little cookie for entertaining, and a good conversation piece. I've not yet found anyone who could identify the herb in the cookie.

I would love to try making a mint version of this cookie, but I have again a good supply of tarragon in my garden, and feel obliged to use it first.

Tarragon Butter Cookies
  • 1 C butter or margarine
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 ½ C flour
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3 T finely chopped fresh (or 1 T dried) tarragon leaves*
Cream butter and sugar, add egg and mix well. Mix in flour and baking soda, then tarragon and vanilla. Roll into two long rolls about 1 1/2 inch in diameter and refrigerate overnight. Slice into 1/8 inch slices, sprinkle with sugar, and bake at 350 degree for 10-12 minutes.

*Other herbs such as rose geranium, lemon verbena, and mint may also be used. If you do use these herbs, replace the vanilla with 1 t. of rose water, lemon extract, or mint extract, respectively.

(Makes about 5 dozen)

I've found it easier to roll the dough into 3 rolls (mine are about 16" long) or even 4 rolls (12" long), since the shorter rolls are easier to handle, and to find a tray for, when putting them in the fridge overnight. Also, instead of "sprinkling" with sugar, I cut the whole roll into disks, and then press each one top-down onto a plate of white sugar before setting it onto the cookie sheet.

I prepared my dough today, so if all goes well, I'll bake the cookies tomorrow, and then add some photos of the process, and the result.

9 Sept 2006 - I baked the cookies two nights ago, and they turned out great, as always. I end up with 12 dozen bite-sized cookies, not 5 dozen. I freeze the extras in plastic containers. This time I used ungreased non-stick pans, but they may have benefited from being slightly greased. Also, mine baked in only 8 - 10 minutes. I bake two pans at a time, but stagger the start times, so one pan is being replaced every 4-5 minutes, with the 3rd pan being prepared in between.

Tip: While cutting & preparing the dough, it helps to keep the uncut rolls of dough in the fridge, since it gets harder to handle when soft.

For some reason, I have not, after repeated tries, been able to upload photos to this post. Wierd!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

She Knows How to Grow Them

My beauties in front of my espalier apple treeI just had to show off my little beauties in the garden... I love that mischievous smile on my boy... The espalier apple tree in the background has been such a surprise and joy to me this year. I actually needed to thin the apples on the top row (Liberty apple, according to the tag), and I think I still left too many. But they seem to be ripening fine.

The second row was a different variety (Gravenstein, according to the tag), and it bore 3 apples for us this year. Not bad for the second summer. They were crisp and sweet. Two of them were damaged by what appeared to be an insect bite, but still went on to ripen nicely. I look forward to more next year.

The bottom row (Akane apple, according to the tag), didn't bear any fruit this year. I suppose this is the drawback of the horizontal cordon form of espalier - the energy for fruit production (and branch growth) is disproportionately directed at the top branches. Although the fruit production in my three levels and varieties of espalier asian pear were not so disproportionate, with each level bearing fruit.
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