The summer weather on North Uist is currently as wet as my garlic crop. Wet garlic is back in season and without the requisite farmer’s market nearby to acquire this delight in the short growing window, I can make the best of this delicacy from my own garlic crop instead.
For the uninitiated, wet garlic is simply garlic harvested before the bulb and cloves are fully formed. It has a more gentle, sweet almost creamy flavour, much less assertive than its powerful dried self, as comes later in the season. The whole plant can be used: the bulb, stem and leaves, cooked or raw. Don’t pass up on the chance to try some if you are growing your own garlic for storing later. Wet garlic triumphalism
The contents of my lovingly tended and meticulously weeded raised beds are suffering with the relentlessly unsettled weather. I was actually in a state of denial when I recently described my raised bed contents as micro vegetables, they were actually nano-veg and have only now reached the dizzy heights of micro-veg status. The raspberries have been overcome with chickweed, the early peas are sagging despondently (those that have not detached due to basal rotation in the wind) and the tomatoes are sulking in the sunless polytunnel, having entered a post-second truss torpor.
I can (almost) sweep this despondency aside because my garlic crop is delivering yet again. I previously covered growing and storing garlic here and once again, it is proving to be my most successful crop.These softneck plants can best be described as thugs, remaining robust and strong despite the adverse weather. Several visitors have commented on how great my ‘leeks’ (garlic) is looking. My leeks are in fact spindly bedraggled pencils, but the garlic is truly magnificent. With 150 growing bulbs, I have enough spare to enjoy some wet garlic.
My stored garlic is finished and really can’t make it through storage until this year’s crop yields. The green shoot that appears in the core of the stored cloves of bulbs in spring is bitter and requires to be removed and is a signal that the storage period is coming to an end. I have learned that any excess bulbs left after May will spoil, so need to manage any surplus by preserving. It is a tricky balance to stretch the crop out across the year, but I think I’m there.
The great wall of North Uist?
Aside for looking forlornly at my veg and fruit, we have been dedicating our time to some pretty hefty outdoor chores that we can put off no longer. The somewhat alarming ‘to do’ list covers some +30 jobs, some of which are fairly ambitious, not least building of a 20m long retaining wall between the house and workshop.
Normally at this time of year, I would be spending time on the island of Mingulay for the annual seabird count (more about that another time), but the time window to help with the wall would have passed if I had gone and how could I possibly miss out on such a fun week, excavating a trench between the house and the workshop to build the wall foundation? Hold me back….
It was very tough work, yet another wheelbarrow bit the dust and at one end required extensive and pretty deep excavation to locate firm ground. No surprise, given the extra 150 tonnes of hardcore required for the workshop foundation.
With help of a friend (to whom we are incredibly grateful) and expert in such matters as concrete, shuttering and block laying, The Man Named Sous has acquired a new range of skills he has been putting to use over the last few weeks. I am merely a fairly ineffective labourer, but that’s fine as I can focus on where my skills lie i.e. go back to looking forlornly at the vegetables. All the foundations done, only 5 pallets of block laying remains. Easy. Next job, the deer fence…
The Great Indoors
I really enjoy a feral outdoor summer existence here, but the bewilderingly crap weather has forced us to retreat indoors frustratingly often, but that’s not so bad. The Man Named Sous turned his attention to technology and bread, adopting his roles as Technigeek and Boulanger in tandem.
I had suggested he might help me find a replacement for my end of contract iPhone, a task he pursued with exuberance and glee and one that would have made me lose the will to live. He eventually emerged (sans anorak) having indulged in hours of web surfing to proclaim he had, on balance, identified ‘the best mobile phone in the world’ (allegedly, according to 50 squillion in-depth reviews of the minutiae of the device). Hence I am now the owner of the HTC One, turning my back on iOS / Apple in favour of Android. What a revelation, there will be no going back for me. I am now spending an unhealthy amount of time fiddling with my ‘phone’. Revelatory and sad but true at the same time.
The Boulanger skills of The Man Named Sous have been coming along too, assisted by Paul Hollywood’s book ‘How to Bake’ he has produced some magnificent barms, ciabatta, fougasse and baguettes, allowing me to focus on enriched dough recipes, all to be featured in future posts. Get in there!
Summer Music Fest
The summer music festival season is well underway. It is a very long time since we felt inclined to attend one of these events, Knockengorroch, the Galloway Roots festival circa 2003 being the last. I am still scarred by some of the unforgettably far out experiences of ‘musical theatre’ and white-robed, barefoot tai chi in the mud (observed, no participation for me, thank you). Before that, it was Monsters of Rock 1992, the scars from which were more physical rather than psychological. With Slayer on the bill, grind and grime were in equal measure.
I am now bewildered as to why anyone would want to go to these gargantuan festivals (not even Bloodstock can lure me) and I don’t remember particularly enjoying any of them, even in my teens. I came across this article in the New Statesmen by Eleanor Margolis that more or less sums up my experience and feelings about these money-spinning behemoths and saves me continuing on an extended diatribe about same.
These days, we aim for small gigs of 500-2000 capacity, optimising the more intimate musical experience at a bargain sub-£30 cost which, in the last couple of years, has included incredible gigs: Mastodon (x2), Porcupine Tree, The Mars Volta (RIP), Opeth and Devin Townsend (of course).We are occasionally torn about going to the slightly bigger not-quite-stadium size gigs that many of the more popular / mainstream bands we like play. We recently had this quandary about Neil Young who we have seen twice before, also tempted by QOTSA and Black Sabbath, but the combination of ridiculous ticket prices and unappealing aircraft hangar venues is off-putting Nine times out of ten, on reflection, we don’t buy tickets for these type of gigs (exceptions including Metallica and Dream Theater spring to mind).
Of course, we have been utterly spoilt by seeing so many great gigs in the ultimate venue (since the Glasgow Apollo closed) Glasgow Barrowlands. How we love the place and its sticky beery floors and glitterball, the sprung dancefloor bouncing and flexing as the 2000 or so strong crowd go crazy and acts look from the stage into the roaring mass in disbelief at the response they are receiving (in particular when we saw Robert Plant, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals and the late great Gary Moore).
It has a reputation as being one of the favourite venues for so many bands and the electric atmosphere no doubt influenced many of the outstanding gigs we have enjoyed there: Faith No More (exceptional Angel Dust Tour gig in 1992), Motorhead, Mastodon, The Cult, The Black Crowes, Steve Earle, Paul Rodgers, Robert Cray, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Mission and countless others…
So, while most music at mainstream festivals is not really our taste, from the comfort of our sofa, glass of sauv blanc ironically in hand, we could not resist having a peak at the Glastonbury ‘performances’, particularly given the much anticipated (over-hyped) appearance of The Rolling Stones.
We were lucky to see their show at all. Had they their own way, the ever cash-conscious Stones would have had a filming blackout and sequestered the performance for a lucrative special release DVD or a pay-per-view deal for $40 a pop, as they did for a NY show last year. The band were apparently reluctant to perform for the benefit of BBC TV licence paying viewers, not for money, bien sûr, just issues of control and vanity, minor really.
The band initially told the BBC that the corporation would not be allowed to screen more than a four song set sample of their performance. C’mon guys, you are where your are in your career, no one really gives a monkeys about how you look except perhaps the pathetic Daily Mail. Most punters just want to say ‘I was there’.
I’m not about to be ageist about the Stones in the way that so many media articles have been. It is not about age. So many performers that are peers of the Stones still cut it: for example Old Shaky, George Thorogood (my parents saw him 2 weeks ago), the much older great BB King. When did The Stones last produce some really exciting music? 1971 as far as I recall from their back catalogue and regurgitating it 42 years later is just not enough to endear them to me. Then there is the issue of the Stones trying to wring out as much filthy lucre as possible.
We would probably forgive them for all of this if their performance had been in any way memorable. However, it was not and reminded me of a James Brown gig I saw on TV, performed towards the end of his career when he was carried by multiple backing singers, choirs and a plethora of supporting musicians. Credit to Mick for his energy levels, though not his often flat and rushed delivery of songlines but Keith Richards is not the guitarist he once was and it took support from Ronnie Wood et al to prop him up. That said, his resilience is incredible, it is amazing he is still here. As Bill Hicks said ‘I picture nuclear war, two things survive: Keef and bugs.’
I was quite flabbergasted to read post-gig reviews in the mainstream press describing how The Stones ‘took Glastonbury by storm’ and ‘blew the stage apart’. Really? Emperor’s new clothes or what? Did I miss something fundamental?
Both feeling pretty underwhelmed by The Stones performance, we opted to watch ‘Some Kind of Monster’ again, a documentary about Metallica directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky.
I’m not suggesting for one minute that Metallica hold any moral high ground over The Stones in some respects. They were the biggest selling US rock act in the 1990s, then there is all the Napster baggage and the fact that they have not delivered any outstanding albums since 1991 (controversial I know, especially since for many hardcore thrash fans 1991’s Black Album was itself considered to be the band selling out).
That said, re-watching this film was a whole lot more entertaining (though no more musical) than ‘Glasters’ on the Beeb. This 2004 film documents the making of the awful St Anger album at a time when the band are about to implode as a consequence of addiction, conflict, egos, control and the historical baggage of the band and its members, past and present. There is very little music in the film and you need not be interested in Metallica, their music or heavy metal to appreciate this honest, riveting and at times very tense psychodrama. Highly recommended viewing.
OK time to wind my neck back in. Where was I? Oh yes. Wet garlic…
Old spot pork chops with sage beurre noisette and wet garlic
This is a super quick and simple recipe that allows good quality meat and fresh herbs to come to the fore. Beurre noisette (brown butter) is appropriately nutty, flavoursome and a bit indulgent.
The sage I am growing in the herb bed has been established for a few years, does manage to overwinter but is always attacked by some beast or other and looks like broderie anglaise . The plants I have grown from seed this year are safe in the coldframe and much happier with big index finger-sized leaves and I have used them here. The wet garlic is included in both the sage brown butter sauce and light sauce for the pasta – chopped bulb and shredded green leaves are folded through the pasta. The Old Spot pork chop featured is part of the half pig we bought from our neighbour and butchered ourselves. It is boneless, from the bottom of the loin and simply seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled.
Sage beurre noisette
3-4 sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 small wet garlic bulb, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. green peppercorns, rinsed
salt and pepper, to taste
- Put the butter in a thick-based sauce pan, heat over a medium heat until it foams gently then add the wet garlic.
- Cook for a minute or so then add the sage and peppercorns. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes more until the foaming butter turns nutty brown, and also smells a bit nutty and remove from the heat immediately to prevent the butter or garlic and sage burning.
- Season to taste and pour over the grilled chop.
The pasta sauce is really more of a dressing with a splash of olive oil, throw in a small chopped bulb of wet garlic, cook for a minute then add a chopped portobello mushroom, cook for a couple of minutes, add some halved cherry tomatoes and some shredded wet garlic leaves and then fold through your pasta of choice. Done and dusted in under 30 minutes. This was served with a cheerful salad of leaves and flowers from the garden. Sunshine in a bowl, given the absence of same from the sky. And finally it is Wimbledon final tomorrow. C’mon Andy!
Great piece of all-encompassing blogging Tracey. Everything was covered, and there is something for everyone- brilliant!
I didn’t know about ‘wet’ Garlic, but I do now…I did know about Pork Chops but yours look far better than any I have ever eaten.
I am with you on pop festivals (why?) and The Rolling Stones. I didn’t really like anything after ‘Gimme Shelter’, and I preferred many of the cover versions anyway. Faith no More! Common ground there, one of the few bands of that type I ever bought records of. Neil Young? Surely well past his best?
The labouring and wall-building is in excess of my puny capabilities, so I can only admire your endeavours there. As for the new mobile, Julie has an HTC One, but due to rarely getting a viable signal here, it serves mainly as an ornament. I don’t watch tennis, so I will be able to clear out the shed this afternoon, a good old British pastime.
You may have noticed that the weather has broken in the South; 28 degrees here yesterday, and I mentioned in a post that it was now a pleasant place to live.
I hope you get a taste of a better summer soon.
Regards as always, Pete. x
Thanks Pete, very kind words about another random post. You are right about cover versions – I always liked version of Gimme Shelter by The Sisters of Mercy. You might also be right about Neil Young, since I haven’t seen him since 1997, I probably am no longer best placed to judge, but Faith No More, one of the best live bands, and most influential in my back catalogue. We share excellent taste! Hope you enjoyed clearing out your shed while I shrieked at the TV during the tennis final. Nice British sporting victory. Also, at last, we have great weather (I just got back today after a trip to Argyll). Hot but still and midgey so have retreated indoors for now.
Great blog Tracey. Now I know what Dr Sweeney means by Analytical evaluative writing!
Thanks! Hope I have been of service for your degree then?!
Interesting that the garlic is doing so well – I did read recently that a Scottish farmer had moved in to garlic in a big way as he was getting such good crops. I hope you get some better weather this week 😉
Thanks, the good weather has at last arrived, along with the midges, but it wouldn’t be the north of Scotland without them 🙂
Thank you very much, and for taking time to comment, Tracey.
I do love your range of topics too! And always keen to have new ideas for serving pork chops, we still have a few in the freezer from our Berkshire pigs, in fact wondering how we are going to manage without all our homemade pancetta, sauasges etc and trying to work out where our next pig is coming from. Wet garlic and sage sounds a lovely match for some of the pork that’s left though.
Thank you Andrea. I know what you mean about pork supplies. I am considering ordering another pig from my neighbour already as I can’t find any more sausages in the freezer. The pancetta and bacon are surviving a bit longer, only because they are buried somewhere at the back of the freezer!
Love it, Tracey – the whole thing. All those bands I wished I could see live when I was young and broke? Now that I’m older and can afford them, I have no desire to hang out with 20,00 other people at a concert…I’ll just hang on to the memories of Ozzy/Metallica back in ’86…before I was a mom, and ticket prices went insane 😉
I waited too long to pull any wet garlic (we call it Green Garlic), but next year, we will for sure.
Saw Andy win it yesterday, by the way…Did you celebrate? 🙂
Thanks Marie, you sum up the gig situation very well. Even the first time I saw Metallica in 1989 the gig was too big for my taste. Yes we did celebrate! The Wimbledon final was great and we watched it even though it was very stressful. Delighted to see Andy win , especially after the Federer final last year. There was lots of jumping up and down during the match, especially the last game, which left the dogs slightly perturbed.
That trench looks seriously hard work. Yowser! I once helped a friend did out and replace his lead mains. Two days long days of digging waist deep – we were knackered! Such a pity, the weather (even though we still get coastal temperatures) has been great and everything is rushing to catch up here at last.
I was nodding in agreement with regards the stadium gigs vs. the *?@p-holes I used to frequent which were still infinitely better places to see bands! We recently saw the Black Keys and both agreed that even though it was great, the arena was too big and so could have been better.
Never thought of wet- garlic before – I’m guessing its quite like a milder spring onion?
Thanks Phil, yes, those seedy dives were always the best places to see bands, given the chance, I still frequent them! I would say the wet garlic is pretty much like a mild spring onion. The weather has at last improved here, got back today to stunning weather. Hope it holds for the weekend.
You’re keeping busy then – that’s some trench you’ve dug! We’ve had a few good weather days over the weekend, and all the veggies are growing better again, but then so are the weeds…
Still very busy Sarah, although been away for work, enjoying the weather and heat in Argyll of all places. We came back today to find sunshine and heat at last!
I’m not a garlic grower and am amazed that it is the only crop doing well in your garden. Of course, they way I cook, I wouldn’t need much more, though a couple of tomato plants would be nice. My concert going days precede Metallica, having seen virtually everyone during the 70’s — usually more than once. In those days, though, you could attend any number of concerts without going broke in the process. Now, I’ve not been to a concert in years, not wanting to be one in a sea of tens of thousands where, in order to see the bandmates, I have to look at a mega-tron. Really? How is this better than watching at home on my flat screen? I know it makes me sound like an old man but I saw some really great bands in some small, intimate theaters. Today’s shows can’t compare.
Thanks John, I envy your concert-going days and always wish I had been born 10 years earlier to catch all the legendary shows / bands so many people I know were lucky to be at, looks like that includes you too. I would have love to have seen Led Zep, Black Sabbath, The Who and Jethro Tull at the peak of their powers! I’m with you, best stick to the flat screen for the big acts these days, otherwise anticipate disappointment.
Back in the day, my Dad knew one of the big ticket brokers in the city. I got 8 tickets, 3rd row center stage for any concert I wanted. My friends and I saw all the big names. Unbelievable!
Now I am incredibly envious, you were so very lucky!
Okay, I want YOU on my island when the balloon goes up. Oh, wait, you’re already on an island. I’m paddling as we speak. The garlic stuff is fascinating. Your dedication (and back muscles) are both impressive. And the look of that pork… oh, well. As a depressing side note, a fair percentage of the garlic sold in the US, especially in the winter, comes with that little green shoot already inside (grrrr….). Ken
Thanks Ken. You can be on my island if you can handle a spade with conviction 🙂 BTW, my back is fine, my neck not doing so well! Yes, I pick that little green shoot out of all of our late winter garlic too!
I hope your weather improves…we are having the same incessant rain here in Maine. 😦
Thanks Karen, we have warmth and sunshine at last, hope your rain clears up soon too!