Made Wassail and the House Smells of Apples, Cinnamon, Cloves and Cider

It’s a rainy day here in the Northeast. The chilly sort of weather that makes spending time in the kitchen a delight.

I finished preparations for my soon-to-arrive house guests early, so I thought I’d try a new wassail recipe for a project I’m working on. This evening, my guests will be my taste testers.

Wassail is an ancient spiced cider based beverage and associated with traditions of good health and camaraderie. 

I researched dozens of recipes, read up on the lore and began preparing my own version a few hours ago. It starts with baking apples in the oven, then simmering cider, citrus and spices on the stove. The last step is combining everything and letting the flavors meld. It smells wonderful. 

It is the perfect drink for a chilly day.

Wish you were here. I’d pour you a cup.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone.

Jammin at the Farm

Blueberry Jam, that is, at the Pitney Meadows Community Gardens in Saratoga Springs

Diane Whitten, Cornell Cooperative extension nutritionist, came to the farm and taught everyone how to make blueberry freezer jam.

Children arrived at 9:30 for the Sunflower Hour reading program and heard Faye Mihuta, a community gardener and teacher, read “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey complete with sound effects such as the berries going “plink” into a bucket.

After story time, children and adults had the opportunity to make a freezer jam which was delicious.


Diane teaches many different classes on food preservation and nutrition including classes on fermentation, making jerky, canning salsa and tomatoes. Go to Cornell Cooperative Extension’s website  to register.

She has offered to teach a class on pickling vegetables in the community gardens. If you might be interested, let me know and we will see what can be arranged.

Natalie Walsh, Garden Director –

Garlic Harvest at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens

EdGarlic.jpgEd S. planted his garlic last fall and today he harvested.

The aroma was wonderful and wafted through the gardens to the delight of all of us working there.

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Ed also collects the flowers of his squash that aren’t pollinated and fries them up for a meal.

If you’ve never had them, fried squash blossoms are delicate and delicious. You can stuffed them with ricotta and mozzarella, add basil and herbs. Lightly batter them, fry and add a little red sauce. Yum.


Black Beauty Tomato, Worth the Wait

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 1.22.31 PMThe color alone is a good reason to grow this tomato. The skin is a solid blue black that is a stunning contrast in a salad of yellow and red tomatoes.

What makes it black?

This tomato has a very high anthocyanin content. This is the same antioxidant found in blueberries and blackberries.

All tomatoes were slow to ripen this year, but Black Beauty was very slow. I kept testing to see if the skin gave a little to indicate it was time to pick and finally, yesterday, it was.

When I cut into the it, the meat was green, blushed red.  The taste was rich, savory, slightly acidic and complex. I liked it.

At the National Heirloom Exposition, Baker Creek’s Dave Kaiser, a tomato connoisseur, called Black Beauty the best tomato he had ever eaten. It’s good all right. And I love the wildly different color for adding pizazz to a plate.  

But I’m not calling it the best. I’m holding out for a truly great tomato.

Any  recommendations?

Building a Healthy Lunch Box Lecture on Thursday, Sept, 14th

Barb Biagioli, health and nutrition counselor, will be sharing kid-friendly tips on what to pack for healthy lunch, daycare and after school snacks inspired by fresh foods from the gardens. The Sept. 14th lecture begins at 7 p.m. in the Gathering Barn at Pitney Meadows Community Gardens, 223 West Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY.  Bring a jacket or sweatshirt.

Homemade Refrigerator “Dilly” Beans

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 7.31.40 PM.pngHave you ever made “dilly” beans?

Since I like homemade pickled vegetables and had never made pickled beans, I decided to try it out.

I started by trimming off the stem end of green beans. In total, there were 5 cups of beans.

Next, put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Once boiling, in went the green beans to blanch for about 30 seconds. They turn bright green and stay snappy.

Move them immediately from the boiling water into a cold bath to stop the cooking process. Set them aside.

Making the Brine

Mix 2 cups of white distilled vinegar, 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 3 cloves of minced garlic in a pot and bring it to a boil for 5 minutes. Stir to be certain sugar and salt are dissolved. Turn off the heat and cool to room temperature. This is a standard pickling recipe, but you can find dozens of variations online.

Prepare your Jars

To the bottom of clean glass containers, add some sliced onions, a couple of dill sprigs and half a teaspoon of whole black peppercorns. If you want it spicy, you can add red pepper flakes. I didn’t.

Drain the beans and place them on top of the onions and dill sprigs.

Pour the brine over everything, put the container lid on and place them in the refrigerator.  That’s all there is to it.

Let your “dilly” beans sit for a week before trying them.

My beans went into three different containers. Having the opportunity to experiment a bit, I did. The first container has beans following the recipe above. In the second container, I reduced the amount of peppercorns and added coriander seed. In the third, I used store-bought pickling spice. I’ll let you know what the family thinks when they try them.



Making Pickled Beets the Easy Way

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 10.08.40 AM.pngIn a week, two pickle-loving people near and dear to me will be visiting.

I’m getting ready by making one of their favorites…pickled vegetables. You can pickle many vegetables including carrots, cucumbers, beans, cauliflower, radishes and more. I’m starting with beets.

This is an easy refrigerator pickling recipe that is simple to make. If you have your own recipes to share, please do. I’ll pass it along.


Wash the beets and scrub them lightly to clean off any soil. Don’t worry about peeling them, once they boil, the skins come off easily with the rub of your fingers.

Place the scrubbed beets in a pot of boiling water and boil for at least 40 minutes. Check them, bigger beets take longer. They are ready when a knife slips into them.

Let them cool. Then trim off the roots and use your fingers to pull off the skin. Slice them and set aside. Take one onion and slice it thinly if you want to add it to the beets. This step is optional.

Making the Brine

You’ll need 2 cups each of apple cider vinegar, water and sugar, a tablespoon of salt, and 3 tablespoons of pickling spice. I’ve also seen recipes that add a stick of cinnamon, or bay leaves or additional allspice. You decide what your family would like and experiment.

Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Pour over beets and onions. When cool, place in jars, cover and chill in refrigerator.

Rumor has it they last several weeks in the refrigerator.  I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had them last that long.  They’re delicious.

Experts also recommend resisting tasting for a week.  Good luck with that. 🙂