Fermented hot chile sauce

Around this time of year, as our Indian summer is winding down, there’s always a big burst of chile peppers from the garden. It seems like they know they’re going to sleep soon, so they put their all into producing pods before retreating into dormancy. I wouldn’t say my pepper plants are at the end of their season just yet, but as we creep closer to winter and our weather is (finally) cooling down, I’ve noticed the flowers are fewer and farther in between.

Chile pepper plants are perennials and in my mild climate (zone 10b) they start fruiting in spring, go gangbusters all summer and fall, and overwinter easily outside. I’ve been harvesting heaping bowls of hot peppers all year long among the Chinese Five-Color, Filius Blue, fish pepper, jalapeño, serrano, and habanero plants I keep in pots all over the yard.

Homegrown chile peppers

Whatever wasn’t used fresh was laid out to dry, and with my last couple of pounds, I decided to preserve them a different way: by fermenting them into hot sauce.


October 28 2014      27 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Verduras

Calling all readers! Where are you based?

The book. It’s been on my brain (and in my belly) a lot… for the last 12 months. It’s like an extra long gestation period and come next February, I’ll finally be able to meet my book baby!

It still seems a long way off to everybody but me. And while it might appear that my journey will be “complete” by the time the book is released, the next part of the journey is really just beginning. This is the time when I start thinking about publicity, book parties (!) and book signings, and I am so, so excited to tour the country, spread the message of good food to good people, and put some faces to the names I’ve always seen online.

Friends, this is where I need your help!


October 24 2014      115 comments     Linda Ly

Sparkling apple cider sangria

Once you’ve had a sip of freshly pressed, unfiltered, unsweetened apple cider, the “apple juice” sold in stores just cannot compare. And luckily for those who’ve never tried it, fresh apple cider abounds this time of year.

What exactly is the difference between apple cider and apple juice? After all, cider is essentially the juice extracted from apples. But both names persist in the marketplace, and in the United States, only a handful of states actually regulate what can and can’t be labeled as cider. Massachusetts, for instance, clearly defines cider as unfiltered and unpasteurized juice, while other locales call their filtered and pasteurized juice as apple cider, simply because it might appeal more to their market area.

If you want the good stuff, look for a refrigerated, non-shelf stable juice that’s opaque in color with some sediment at the bottom of the jug. That’s your best clue that you’re buying raw apple juice without any filtration, pasteurization, preservatives, or sweeteners. I like to call this apple cider, a term that evokes old-fashioned apple juice for me and differentiates it from the juices that have been clarified, sweetened, and/or heat-treated for longer life.

When you buy it from an apple orchard or a local juicery, raw apple cider (also called sweet cider or soft cider) is unpasteurized, a natural state that allows beneficial bacteria from the fruit to ferment the cider over time.

Old-fashioned cider press

Wooden apple cider press

For the first week, it’s like drinking fresh, ripe apples — lightly fizzy and naturally sweet with a rich body that can only come from pressed fruit (and not a diluted juice concentrate). This is far from the apple cider of Martinelli’s fame (which actually only calls their product apple cider as a marketing gimmick; the company admits that their pasteurized apple cider and apple juice are one and the same).

By the second week, it’s on its way to becoming hard cider, a fermented alcoholic beverage that’s dry and complex in flavor. Hard cider has subtle apple notes, but tastes no more like apples than wine tastes like grapes. The longer you let it sit, the stronger (and more alcoholic) the brew becomes.

Let the cider ferment for another few weeks, and you’ll end up with apple cider vinegar — the prebiotic-filled and enzyme-rich kind with the mother in it. As hard cider continues to ferment, the alcohol transforms into acetic acid, giving it the characteristic pungent smell and sour taste of vinegar (and all the health benefits of raw cider vinegar).


October 23 2014      20 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Frutas

What is CSA? (And why I wrote a cookbook for it)

After announcing preorders of my book last week (shameless plug if you haven’t yet preordered!), I had a few readers ask what a CSA was and why I’d written a book about it.

According to the USDA:

CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.

CSA is a sustainable food system, and I wrote a book to support a system I truly believe in. It’s a local movement nearly thirty years in existence, still in the making, and found in all parts of the country. It brings people back to the roots of their food, literally.


October 20 2014      25 comments     Linda Ly
Jardín   Libros

The five little things that made my week…

New seeds for fall

1. It’s seed-starting season! About 60 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers going in the ground for fall.


October 17 2014      24 comments     Linda Ly

The CSA Cookbook: preorder it now!

Whoa, what just happened here? A few weeks ago, I revealed the cover (and the making) of my forthcoming book, The CSA Cookbook. (This is the final one going to print!) And today… I am stoked and so. fired. up. (!!!) to announce the book is finally available for preorder!

Sometimes it feels like I simply cannot wait another day for the book to be released (and by the sounds of all your awesome messages, neither can you), so we’re making it possible for you to reserve your copy early!

The CSA Cookbook (Voyageur Press, 2015) will officially release on March 1, 2015, but you can preorder your copy now (like, right now) and have it land in your mailbox before you know it! Booooom!

Most preorders arrive a week or two earlier than the release date, plus the book is also offered at the best price before it’s published, so preorders are a win-win!


October 13 2014      33 comments     Linda Ly

Baked cinnamon-applesauce donuts

I didn’t make too many donuts this summer… I don’t know why. Maybe the heat is to blame. And the fact that baking always equates to heating up the house even more with the oven. And that baked goods (especially donuts) always, must, go hand in hand with a hot mug of coffee — neither of which was appealing to me when the weather app kept creeping up toward the triple digits.

But we finally have a week of relief where it’s beginning to feel a little like fall around here… I’m closing the doors and windows at night to keep the chill out, thinking about soup for dinner, and dreaming up all kinds of apple-y desserts now that apple season is in full swing.

I’m not sure you can classify donuts as dessert, but since I heaped a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of one, I’m saying yes. (No evidence as to that actually happening though, as it disappeared almost as soon as I finished writing this.)

These are simple donuts. When you have good ingredients, you don’t need much to adorn them. A spoonful of cinnamon and a dollop of applesauce spruce them up plenty. I’ve made these with golden apples, red apples, green apples… I like them all, both sweet and sour, so follow your tastebuds. You can use store-bought applesauce for this recipe, but homemade (especially when it’s this easy) will make it taste that much better.


October 10 2014      10 comments     Linda Ly
En La Cocina   Frutas