Our "Long Horn" Okra

This year's crop of long horn okra, got off to a late start, but are now off to the races.  We planted them late, after harvesting our Spring crop of snap beans.  Okra do well in the Summer heat, and give our little square foot garden something to do till it's time to plant our winter garden.  The okra has, in the past, continued making pods all the way to Christmas and beyond, as long as we get no frost.  
They are making around 5 to 10 okra a day, which gets cut up (sliced like thick pennies) and put in the freezer until we have enough to make something with it.
Growing in stages, some plants are already over my head, while others are still only 1 ft. or so tall.  Staggered like that insures a longer growing season.  
We leave 2 pods on the healthiest plant for our seeds for the next year and too, later, if anyone wants some seeds we will let more dry.  Over ten years ago I lost my beloved batch of seeds, so we put out some feelers out online here and an elderly Cajun man was nice enough to send us a small package of seeds in the mail.  I never met the man but thank him and say a lil prayer for him every time I walk out and see the beautiful okra flowers smiling at us.
The good news:  We currently have a gallon bag full in the freezer and I can hardly wait for the first batch of smothered okra. Keep smiling you long "horned" beauty; you are music to our eyes!  



Strawberry Figs

Well, while we were in a fig preserving mood we decided to try another of my mother's fig tricks and make some strawberry figs.  We dug another bag of frozen figs out of the freezer.
We poured them into a dishpan and rinsed them good.

After rinsing, we snipped the stems off them.
Placed them in a colander to drain then weighed them.
To seven pounds of figs we added 6 cups of sugar, and a splash of lemon juice.
While the figs were slowly thawing and warming, we put our jelly jars in a 212 degree oven. We also put the canning lids, rings, a soup ladle, a food funnel, and a pair of tongs into a pot of water that we brought to a boil. All THREE things need to be at the same (boiling) 212 degrees temperature for us to be able to can:
1. the jars in the oven, 2. the lids and utensils, 3. the figs. (or whatever we are fixin' to can)
After an hour or so of slowly warming the frost from them, the figs made their syrup and began cooking.
Once the figs were cooked, we took them out of the pot with a large wire mesh ladle, reserving the syrup.
Then we mashed them with a tater masher.
Since we had 9 cups of smashed figs, when we added them back to their syrup we added three 3 oz boxes of (dry, not dissolved) Wild Strawberry Jello.
  Stirring in the Jello, we let it come to a boil and cook for 7 minutes or so, then went to canning them.  Peggy has canned so many jars of things, she has become a well-oiled canning "machine". I do the lifting, stirring and mashing, but when it comes to canning I just stand back and watch my sweet wife do her thang.
Man, this stuff is good.  No joking, you would swear it's real strawberries right down to the small seeds. 
 A couple helpful tips: 
 1.  Use the Wild Strawberry Jello if you can find it because the strawberry flavor is stronger and more intense.  2: the recipe calls for One 3 oz. box of Jello for every 3 to 4 cups of figs.  After cooking and smashing our figs, they measured out at 9 cups, so we used 3 boxes which probably would have been good for 11 or so cups of figs, before adding any more Jello.  This stuff is well worth a try and we highly recommend it to those of you who have more figs than fig eaters.  It's a wonderful way to turn 1 fruit into 2 different jellies. Peggy, not knowing any better, this being the first time she's ever had this, she thinks it tastes just like strawberry jam, Bless her heart.
Believe it or not, though, it actually tastes as good as it looks.


Old-Fashioned Fig Preserve

Finally,  after struggling through hurricanes and hard freezes, our Celeste Fig tree began bearing enough figs for us to can them.  Last year it only yielded a handful a day, but those few handfuls of figs rarely made it into the house, because between us and the birds eating them as they ripened, they never stood a chance of us making any kinds of plans for storage of any kind.  This year, thanks to no major storms, and the tree finally growing big enough to survive a freeze, it began to bear enough fruit for us to begin saving some to can, using one of my family's (my Mama and grandmother's) traditional recipes.  In the last month or so, Peggy and I picked on average a quart of figs each day; sometimes more some days none at all. Day by day we stashed them in 2 gallon zip lock freezer bags till we had approximately 5 gallons. I had seen other folks use this technique and it worked great.  Pick the figs from the tree, put them in a big bag and store them in the freezer till you have enough to can. 
    When you take the bags out of the freezer, they will have frozen as individuals, and not in a solid clump. Since they are separate, the process of rinsing and snipping the stems off is an easy (and fun) task. 
  Stewing the figs using the original family recipe is very simple.  Weigh your figs and for every pound of figs add 1 cup of sugar.  Since our figs were frozen, I added a little water to start them steaming sooner, but it really wasn't needed.  I also added a splash of lemon juice 'cause I saw lots of folks on the internet do it and it aint like we don't have several gallons of our Meyer lemon juice still in the freezer.  At any rate, we started with this:
 And ended up with this below, in a few fun-filled hours. Of course we had to "taste test"...Oh Mmmm! It took me back to the days of my youth, sitting at the table with my elders who cooked everything with love.
Below is the video of how we did it.  This time honored Cajun treat deserves to be passed on for further generations to enjoy.  Please give it a try and let us know what you think.


First Sunday in August BBQ 2014

In honor of it being August, or maybe in honor of it being Sunday, or more likely in honor of the fact that we scored some pork riblets on sale for $1 a pound or maybe even just for the heck of it we decided to fire up the ole rusty charcoal chimney.
We had been soaking some riblets in Cajun seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce for 2 days, so we threw them on the pit.
My new BBQ buddy Bo, was already licking his chops in anticipation.  
While Sarge, our old scarred veteran of a tomcat knew full well he could whoop that bratty lil dog out of anything hi might snag.
The ribs smoked away, and  with the breeze from our outdoor fan blowing and good music blaring from the speakers, we had a wonderful afternoon on the patio.  Me drinking beer and Peggy enjoying a glass of wine and the yard cats competing for snacks, and with the dogs for company, a couple hours slid by.
The wonderful smokey smell filled the yard.
The bad thing about wonderful back yard BBQ'sis they invariably end too soon.
With a slab of ribs and our volunteer butternut squash steamed and smashed, the last of the garden cucumbers and the first of our sweet bread and butter pickles, this, my friends, is a "Cajun happy meal".   Was it good?? Here's your answer:


When You Marry an Artist

When married to a wonderful creative artist, ya never know what ya gonna get.  For example, years ago I mentioned, "How 'bout us makin' our own Christmas cards" to her and now we have years of our fun family settings set to Christmas cards. If you aint seen them just look down through the archives of this, our blog, dated around Christmas-time and you will see what I mean. With this in mind it shoulda not surprised me when after casually mentioning that the fridge was getting rusty and we would soon hafta paint it, that this amazing creation began to appear. (To get the whole shot, I had to open the fridge door)
Now I am looking around for what else to mention that needs painting.:-)

Volunteer Squash

In our compost pile out back, from time to time, we find what Peggy and I call "volunteers".  As we toss out our usual "nanner" peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, cucumber peelings, and mounds of citrus rinds, etc., occasionally, raw seeds wind up being planted by accident in the rich, worm-filled pile of loam that the compost has turned into, and which we then use for our different gardening projects.  This year in the Spring, I replenished the soil in our grape arbor with several buckets of the rich compost soil, and a few weeks later while I  was weeding, I noticed something growing there amongst the grapes vines, that did not look like grape vines, but still, it looked like it might be a "keeper".  I consulted Peg and we agreed to let this grow awhile and see what it was gonna do.  Well, I kinda forgot about it and it grew up mostly hidden from view in the thick of the lush grape leaves and vines, started climbing up, over and down the front of our arbor, and began looking rather 'squashy'.  Sadly, before the small green striped squashes could get big as your thumb, the birds would "snick" them off, leaving nothing but bare vine.  Finally, one escaped the birdie 'wrath', and matured into a big beautiful Butternut squash.
 I watched it grow and ripen till I couldn't stand it any longer and picked it this morning.
Truly a Gift from the Lord, this squash is destined for a grateful supper, soon.  In the meantime, another "volunteer" is vining away over in the compost pile.  I have been moving it out of my way, as I mow the lawn, and am trying to train it to run toward the fence instead of 'trah-lah-lah-ing" merrily through the yard as it has been doing.  Since there are no flowers as of yet, we are wondering what this young upstart volunteer will bring to our table.  Mercifully, we are hoping it won't be more cucumbers 'cause we have a cabinet full of Peggy's bread-and-butter pickles, not to mention our bellies are full of cucumbers, as are those of our friends and neighbors as well. The other day I carried a grocery sack packed "chocka-blok", bursting outa the seams with cucumbers to one of the neighbors, since their cars were both in the driveway. We thought it kinda strange that they didn't answer the door this time. It might be our imagination, but we think it might be because they are tired of us foisting sackfuls of cukes onto them and evah body else on the street.  We are, and apparently everybody else is downright "cuked out" and so now we can't find anymore volunteers who will take any more of them off our hands. And now we'll just have to wait to see what this next patch is gonna spring on us this Summer. 


Tiger Lily

Just a quick little post to show you one of my true joys of summer.  This was one of my father's favorite flowers and I couldn't believe when as a surprise  my beloved wife found some truly beautiful ones, online.  Much to my amazement they continue to come up year after year and thrill me with their appearance.   My die hard LSU fan, neighbors like them too.


Our Yum Yum Tree May 2014

A "Yum Yum" tree is a variety of nectarine which is a non-fuzzypeach. Our little tree is loaded this year and they certainly live up to their name.
 They are almost as fun to pick as they are to eat. They all look the same and these two in the picture aren't quite ripe. Several gimes a day we go out and fondle the fruit to see which ones are soft, giving in to a gentle pinch. Those that meet the "pinch test" get picked and usually eaten right on the spot. A little advice, though: if you ever find yourself lucky enough to pluck a ripe yum yum, be sure to lean forward before  you bite into one or it will drip down your chin and onto your shirt.    
And....YES! They are every bit as sweet and "juicylicious as they look.


Saturday Brisket

AT 07:15 this morning I fired up the charcoal chimney.
At 08:00 I took a "briskey " I had seasoned the night before with Crystal Hot Sauce, our own Cajun seasoning, and some Worcestershire sauce then parked it on the cool side of the pit.
The asparagus ferns slowly went from silver to green as the dew dried, and I picked several handfuls of strawberries for breakfast.

Here's the brisket after 1 hour

  Friend Sam showed up we went on a beer run and sat under the patio shooting the breeze and maybe drank a bit much.  The brisket did a good job of cooking itself  and we put some corn and Sam's home grown onions on the pit to keep the brisket company.
You may notice that the small end got sampled a few times;  you an' I both know ya gotta "check it" and we don't believe in those fancy digital, geeky probes or nothing.  Sampling is more fun anyways.  Well, as these things usually go, I forgot to take a picture of a plate, like usual, and by the time Peggy got home that night both me and the Brisket were pretty well done.  It did get a nice smoke ring.
It was moist and tender and wonderful.  Peggy came home late from a road trip to Florida and brought home a new member of our family, more about that later."


How Our Garden Grows 4-30-14

Being the last day of  April, I figure it's high time for a garden update.  We have been busy, and I won't go into details here but our little garden is still growing.  I'll start with the salad box.
Our 4x4 foot salad box is planted in a loose leaf salad mix that even though we eat salad almost every day we can't keep up with it.  We have begun clean harvesting it in order to move and replant the box garden.  This was our very first garden box 12 years ago.  We have decided to relocate it to make room for other projects.  One of the fun things about our yard is that we constantly change things.  The new box will be 4x6 and relocated.  We will let yall know how that goes when it goes.
The asparagus ferns are going great and they are truly beautiful when all silver and jeweled in the morning dew.  We pick 3 or 4 spears a day and they are either munched raw right out in the yard or get diced and added to our salads.
 Next comes the strawberry patch and its also bearing well.  We pick a double hand full of berries every day which is perfect for us.  We wait to pick them til fully ripe and amazing, and pass by several times a day snacking on their progress.
In our main garden which is 12x4 ft we planted 9 foot of it with 36 contender bush beans.  Back in mid February when we put the beans in the ground, everyone including us knew it was way too early to be planting.  We had to cover them up several times to protect them from frost and somehow we got very lucky.  We did lose our early planted cucumbers to frost but we replanted, and though they are still small and only now reaching the trellis we have for them, they are not late. 
I just finished picking the third batch of our bush beans and this is the bumper crop.  We plan to get 2 maybe 3 more pickings over the coming week then they get pulled up to make room for okra.  This pan is destined for the freezer for future feasts.
We have already gifted a neighbor with a big pan of plum cobbler and plan to get plum busy picking this weekend.
 Our yum yum tree smells peachy-licous and the nectarine type fruit are swelling and ripening currently ping pong ball sized 
 Sadly, the birdies seem to have made off with all our little pawpaw fruit while it was still very small.  There are very few remaining and we are truly disappointed.  Next year yall remind us to put birdie netting on them and maybe we will have fruit to show ya. This year we will be lucky to get 1 or 2.  That's gardening for you.  You need little disappointments like that to make your successes seem  all the sweeter.