How to preserve the harvest, even if it comes from the grocery store (Recipe: pear chutney)
Every year in May, Candy and Dave drive down from Boston to help me prepare and plant the herb garden.
Every Monday morning in summer, before sunrise and before my first cup of coffee, I toddle out into the garden in my pajamas and cut handfuls of herbs. After I wrap the cuttings in damp paper towels, Ted delivers them to Boston in what we've come to call our very own "herb CSA."
Every September, Candy and Dave return to harvest, cook, dry and freeze the fruits (and herbs) of our summer garden into pantry items we use all winter.
This year, on harvest day, we put up two types of pesto, mint jalapeño syrup -- and the hottest chutney this side of anywhere.
An early cold spell nearly did in the basil, which is the most tender herb in my garden, so our first priority was to pull out all of the remaining basil and make as much pesto as we could. Then, for fun, we tried something new, a sage-pecan pesto I found on Kalyn's Kitchen. Both pestos went into the freezer.
From another favorite blog, Grow.Cook.Eat, we made a mint and jalapeño infused simple syrup to freeze and use as a base for jelly, lassi, ice cream, fruit salad or mojitos. You can leave the mint in, or strain it out and freeze the clear syrup.
The best of the herbs went into the drying screen. It's nothing more than a large window frame (recycled, of course), with two pieces of screening. One piece of screen is stapled to the frame. The other, stapled at the top, allows us to sandwich the herbs in between the layers.
After the herbs are spread out on the fixed screen, the other layer rolls down and gets tacked to the frame with push pins. I stand the frame up on end on the porch, protected from the rain, so air can circulate around the herbs and dry them completely. It takes three weeks for the herbs to dry. Then they're packed into glass jars for use throughout the winter.
While Candy and I were processing herbs, Dave harvested and made chutney from the remaining pears on our two pear trees.
The kitchen smelled wonderful as the aromas of fruit, spices, pepper and vinegar mingled with the fresh scent of basil and garlic.
Everything we made this year can be made with herbs and fruit from the supermarket. You can play with the ingredients, but don't leave out the friends, who are absolutely necessary for a perfect harvest day.
Delicious on turkey sandwiches, this chutney also makes a wonderful accompaniment to any Indian menu. I dare not tell you how many crushed red peppers went into the chutney in this photo. (Can you see the steam rising?) In a counterintuitive move for me, I've taken it down about 50 pegs on the heat scale from our friend Dave's original recipe. If your pepper flakes are very fresh, or very hot, cut the amount even more. Makes 6 pints.
32 oz distilled white vinegar
32 oz cold water
1 cup fresh ginger root, medium chopped
2 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes, or more or less taste
1 cup currants or dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
14 cups fruit, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (pear, apple, mango, plum, etc., but not citrus)
In a large (8- or 12-quart) stock pot,combine vinegar, water, ginger, red pepper, currants and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add the fruit, and continue to simmer for 1 hour, until the fruit is translucent and the liquid syrupy. Pack into sterilized jars. Preserve in a water bath canner, or refrigerate for 2-3 months.
(Note: if you are planning to refrigerate without canning, replace the metal lids on mason jars with plastic screw-top lids. This will keep the acid in the chutney from eroding the metal top. The plastic replacement tops are available wherever canning jars are sold, but must be purchased separately. )
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Spicy pesto soba
Salmon and Asian pesto potstickers
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This sounds amazing -- and I love the thought of your herb CSA...wonderful!
I love all your posts which gives a peek to your flourishing herb garden and I also love the tips on drying the herbs!
I really should have done this. It's turned darn cold here as of late and my herbs have gone bye-bye.
No seasons to talk about here. There is no harvest too. We only depend on imports! :(
What a enriching post. That herb CSA sounds fantastic! My organic store always has a section of fresh herbs and I love browsing through and smelling the wonderful aromas in that area!
I made a pear chutney too - more on the sweeter side but I like the fact we are thinking of the same things!
How wonderful to gather friends and have a harvest day.
Sounds not only beneficial, but a lot of fun. I just planted an herb box. Fall is the best time to plant here, and I'm already seeing growth from my oregano and thyme. It's not much, but it makes me smile! Thanks for the great recipe & the links.
I made roasted pear chutney this year and it so fantastic. I can't wait to eat it on sandwiches (it's particularly good on hot dogs as well).
Our herb garden had a wretched season this year...I'm still not sure what went wrong. Glad to hear, on the other hand, that yours was bountiful---love your take on an "herb CSA!"
I should make this pear chutney for my husband--for him, the hotter the better.
I think it is WONDERFUL what you have done to preserve the harvest for winter usage!
Fantastic ideas! Looks like you had a lovely harvest, too.
Genie, Meeta, Sandie: Do you think I'm onto something with the herb CSA idea? I'm so lucky to have friends who love to garden!
Noobcook, Ted guilt the drying frame for me a few years ago, and I love it. So glad you like to see my garden!
Peabody, my basil was failing quickly in the cold nights and had to come out. Everything else can take cooler weather, including the parsley, which looks better now than at any time this summer.
Tigerfish, you can make all of these things with herbs and fruit from the market!
Kelly Jane, Kellypea: The friends are the best part.
Susy, love the idea of chutney on hot dogs. Why haven't I tried that???
Jennifer, it's really fun, and great in the middle of winter to pull a bit of summer out of the freezer.
Aimee, I've been following the reports of your garden all summer -- I'm absolutely green with envy!
I loved this post! That's such a great drying screen you came up with and I just adore the thought of a beautiful herb garden, the fruits of which you get to enjoy all year round. I fantasize about such a garden on a daily basis, but there is no possibility in my little NYC apartment. Someday...
That pear chutney looks fantastic! I imagine this goes great with just about everything.. yum!
wow! these look great! and the picture of the herbs are beautiful!
Funny, we're just starting to plant our herbs out, a bit of basil, parsley, sorrel & coriander. Something is eating my chile plant, death is afoot! The pear chutney sounds great, tell me, does Dave win any chile eating contests? I had friends who did something else altogether with pears, lets just say, on a cloudless night you could see the moon shine.
Pear chutney sounds so good! I just love the fall harvest flavors. Aside from the fact that they bruise SO easily, I love pears!
That sounds like a great way to spend the day. Hopefully I'll have a more successful garden next year to merit such a day of harvest. The pesto and the syrup sound great, and I especially love that pear chutney! I never would have thought of it but I could definitely see myself using it frequently. I'll have to make a jar of it ASAP while the pears are looking good
That chutney looks phenomenal! And the photo of the herbs drying on the screen brought me back to the New Mexico years. The difference is that in NM, it only took about 4 days for herbs to dry completely!
Andrea, it's definitely a challenge to garden in the city, where comunity garden plots are hard to come by and sunlight on windowsills is limited. But all of the things I made here can be made with produce from the supermarket, so I hope you'll try some of them.
Julia, this chutney will be so great for Thanksgiving -- but I like the suggestion of putting it on hot dogs, too.
Heather, thank you. I love seeing the herbs lined up in the drying screen, too.
Neil, what's really funny is that of the three of us who worked on the harvest that day, Dave has the least tolerance for spicy food! I love the thought that as my harvest is ending, your growing season is just beginning.
Maris, we feel so fortunate to have inherited a pair of pear trees with our house. The pears are not beautiful, but they taste lovely.
Mike, I started making chutney because I'm not a jam/jelly person; I like the tartness of chutney, even though there is sugar in it.
Toni, I learned my lesson years ago and now wait the full three weeks to bring in the dried herbs. They look dry in just a few days, but still have lots of moisture, and I lost my first two harvests by packing the "dried" herbs too soon.
thanks for some great tips, including the window screen idea. i simply place them in my garage and wait for them to dry, but your method is more efficient.
Bee, any cool, dry place will work. When I hang them in my cellar, I put paper bags over them to keep them dust free. Do you do that in your garage too?