Tag Archives: farmer’s markets

The Joys of Summer

I have vacation on the brain, but I don’t leave for a week.  At this rate, it’s going to be very hard to get any work done.  So this post is dedicated to all the things I love about summer.

It’s the height of the growing season, and right now your garden might be a little hard to keep up with.  To stay focused, check out Keeping the Garden In Bloom: Watering, Dead-heading, and Other Summer Tasks, by Steven Bradley. Once that produce starts rolling in, you’ll want to read The Summer Cook’s Book: A Guide to Planting, Harvesting, Storing, Canning, Freezing and Cooking Popular Fruits and Vegetables by Brenda Cobb.  And if you’re unable to garden, you can still reap the benefits – visit the library’s CSAs, Farms and Farmer’s Markets page.

Of course, there’s more to summer dining than just produce.  If you want to put together a quick, satisfying, and in-season meal so you can spend more time having fun, try Summer Gatherings : Casual Food to Enjoy with Family and Friends, by Rick Rodgers.  If your interests lie in taming the flames, and wielding your skills everywhere from the stadium parking lot to  the middle of nowhere, check out How to Grill, by Steven Raichlen (of PBS fame).

Many people spend the summer hiking on trails all over the Pittsburgh area.  Whether you’re looking to get started, or you want new trails to explore, there’s something for you in Best Hikes Near Pittsburgh by Bob Frye.  You can even take your buddy, with Doggin’ Pittsburgh : the 50 best Places to Hike With Your Dog in Southwest Pennsylvania by Doug Gelbert.

Birdwatching is a fun summer hobby in both backyards and state parks.  If you want to develop your own personal wildlife habitat, there are many ideas in North American Backyard Birdwatching For All Seasons: Feeding and Landscaping Techniques Guaranteed to Attract Birds You Want Year Round by Marcus H. Schneck.  Once you’ve found the birds, you’ll want to know what you’re looking at – and hearing!  Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song by Les Beletsky is unique among bird guides, in that it contains a little computerized gizmo that will play the sound of each bird.  It’s definitely worth trying out if you have even the most passing interest in birds, or if you own cats.

Great vacations usually make great photos, but brushing up on your skills doesn’t hurt either.  Take a look at Digital Nature Photography Closeup by Jon Cox, or the National Geographic Photography Field Guide to Landscapes : Secrets to Making Great Pictures by Robert Caputo.

And if none of these ideas tickle your fancy, visit the Carnegie Library’s Outdoor Activities page.  You’ll find general and local resources on everything from camping to caving to water activities.  Or you can always come into the library to browse the collection, maybe take in a free event, and soak up some air conditioning.

– Denise

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Preserving the Harvest

Every season carries certain food associations. I never want summer’s abundance of sweet corn, peppers, beans, and tomatoes to end. Maybe that’s why early autumn makes me think of dill pickles, sauerkraut, chutney, and relish.

When I was a kid, every summer around Labor Day my family drove from western to eastern Washington state to load our car with peaches, pears, and cucumbers. Back home, we began our week long project of putting up jars of preserved produce. I fell under the spell of the kitchen haze, steam scented with dill and apple cider vinegar for the cukes, or burnt sugar if hot sugar syrup poured over peaches and pears dripped on the hot stove top.

My husband and his daughter also cherish a tradition of late summer canning. Their ritual includes recipes from a book that resides on this library’s shelves, The Joy of Pickling: 200 Flavor-Packed Recipes for All Kinds of Produce from Garden or Market. Since moving to Pittsburgh my husband and I have missed sharing in this glad preparation for the dark months ahead. With that in mind we made one of the highlights of our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest a Saturday pickling reunion. With The Joy of Pickling in hand, my husband, daughter, son-in-law and I set out for Seattle Tilth’s Harvest Fair Farmer’s Market. After perusing the bounty, we bought 18 ears of corn and 1 1/2 pounds each of green and yellow beans as the foundation for two pickle recipes.

The product of our kitchen labors included Zydeco Green Beans (page 110),

and Corn Relish (page 297).

If you’ve never canned food yourself, you might be curious about my enthusiasm. True, canning involves organization, special equipment, effort, and a lot of heat and steam. But the rewards include unique, savory treats to keep or give as gifts, knowledge of your winter foods’ origins, and creative satisfaction when your winter taste buds take a taste of late summer.

Sharing the work of canning with friends is the best way to get started. Call it a Pickling Party, or form a society of Puckery Produce Preservationists. The Joy of Pickling or another similar guide will provide the necessary theory of home canning, and step by step instructions for canning in general and pickling in particular. Another important resource is The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning.

Here’s to you, successful home pickler convert!

-Julie

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