Monday, August 23, 2010

Now Announcing Canning Class #2::: Pickled Watermelon Rind!

Now announcing the second BaltimoreDIY canning workshop!

Due to popular demand, the topic will be pickled watermelon rind.

Wednesday, Sept. 1st
6-8 (or 8:30) p.m.
St. John's kitchen at 2640 St. Paul St.

Extra details:
Cost of the class is $20.

All participants will get to take home a half-pint of watermelon rind pickles that we will make during the workshop. The class will be capped at 10 people, so RSVP as soon as possible to reserve your spot.

Please email me to RSVP by August 31st:

Can't wait, I hope to see you there!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Baltimore Bike Attacks

This morning I received an email from my dad with a link to the Baltimore Sun article "Police probe attacks on bicyclists in Charles Village."

Here's an excerpt:

[The city's pedestrian planner Nate Evans] said in an interview that he has picked up on "a pattern of attacks on cyclists" in recent weeks in blocks bordered by North and Guilford avenues and Charles and 25th streets. He's heard many of the stories at meetings as he plans a bike route on Guilford.

"It sounds like in a couple of the attacks, the victims were overcome by a number of assailants," he said. Most occurred on the evening commute, between 5:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Great. I haven't talked about it much here on BaltimoreDIY, but I will be moving from the north side of town to the east side. Basically the bike attack area would be part of my daily commute.

I have told my dad that I will drive more from now on.

What can you do? I like to imagine all sorts of ways to respond to crime, but when actually faced with imminent danger, I'm not sure what I would do.

Yesterday a group of kids were throwing rocks at bikers on Old Falls Road. One of them walked out into the middle of the road directly into my bike path, trying to mess with me. I made the mistake of actually engaging with the kids and trying to talk to them, and quickly learned that was a bad idea. They lapped up the attention and loved the drama. As I continued home, I watched as they threw another rock at a passing cyclist.

A few bikers had stopped up the road and were talking to each other about the situation. One of them said he had called 911. I didn't say anything to him, but personally I wasn't a big fan of that solution. It's not exactly a great use of tax dollars, and it made me feel weak.

The kids would benefit from an authority figure that's NOT the police keeping them in check, but that's really an argument larger than the situation at hand.

Calling the police can help in some situations, but bike attacks are not the top priority in a city with so much deadly violence. It's a drain on the police force, and there should be ways that people can deal with their own safety.

But how?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue.


Interestingly enough, I just found out that Dan Rodricks wrote about a pretty much identical situation happening on Tuesday this week.

The top photo appeared on a Google Image search of the words "Baltimore Bike Crime." It was taken by photographer Patrick Smith. Smith grew up in Baltimore but now lives and works in Utah. I am now a huge fan! You can see his work on his website and Flickr page.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Mmm, Buckle.

A common side effect of peach season is going overboard at the market and winding up with a dozen peaches slowly going soft in the fridge.

So what to do with all that fading fruit?

Bake it! Quick breads, muffins, pies, and the like store well for several days. Plus they're great for an instant breakfast, snack, or dessert.

One of my favorite websites for baking recipes is King Arthur Flour. They are an employee-owned, open-book company based in Vermont that has been in business since George Washington was in his first term in office!

I used their recipe for a mysterious thing called a Blueberry-Peach Buckle

If you're curious about old-school desserts, What's Cooking America lays out definitions from grunts to pandowdies. Who knew! Not only are they delicious, they're fun to say!

After I put down a layer of batter and peaches, the other half of the batter got mixed with blueberries and dolloped on top:

Once you add the crumble on top, this thing was pretty rich and sweet. A small slice goes a long way. But if you're looking for a special treat, you can't go wrong with a little bit of buckle.

p.s. The pan in the background in the top photo is a Zucchini Cornbread. The recipe called for 6 cups of grated zucchini, so if you are in August "sneak a zucchini onto your neighbor's porch" mode, I recommend making a big batch of cornbread and adding zucchini, fresh corn kernels, and chili powder.

Monday, August 16, 2010

August Foodmakers Potluck: Brick Oven Pizza

As some of you may already know, each monthly Foodmaker potluck has a theme.

Often they are seasonal, such as cider making in November. This August the idea was that it's way too hot to cook inside...

So why not have an outdoor brick oven at our potluck?

It helps to have a creative engineer on the Foodmakers squad. Brian (the pizza master in the photo) got a bunch of bricks for free on Craigslist and built the oven. He also happened to design and build the cider press, and is the cover-boy for the recent Urbanite Foodmakers article.

Thanks to Nik for being pizza master #2!

Johanna, Laura, and Michelle whipped up huge batches of pizza dough (sourdough, I believe) so that we could all make brick oven pizzas.

Everyone brought toppings to share.

The table spread was much larger than my camera lens could fit.

It was so fun seeing everyone's creations! Michelle made a dessert pizza with that blue cheese plus peaches, brown sugar, cinnamon, and mint. Oh my god. Too bad I was full from my dinner pizza to make one.

Also, what goes better with pizza than beer?

Ian of Baltimore ChiliBrew brought some tastes of his delicious homebrewed lambic and IPA.

If you missed the May ChiliBrew that Ian organized, stay tuned because there's going to be another one in October! (For a photo or two scroll down this page.) Seriously nothing better than 2640, a homebrew and chili competition, and charity.

The before shot of my pizza:

For my topping I sauteed slices of thin Japanese eggplant, onion, garlic, and chunks of tomatoes in olive oil. I cooked it on medium-high at first, then turned down the heat and let the whole thing simmer for a while so it cooked together into kind of a chunky sauce. Make sure you shake the pan every so often so nothing sticks.

Decided to go half and half on the cheese: half Havarti and half fresh mozzarella. There is some pesto and other stuff on there too.

The after shot:

Each pizza took about two minutes! That oven got HOT. Definitely putting a brick oven pizza on the list of things in my dream homestead.

So great to see new faces (some folks came because of the Urbanite article!) and it was great to see familiar faces as well since it had been a while since I've gotten to attend a potluck.

I've been feeling a little burned out lately, but this pizza party was a nice time to relax and remember that cooking food is fun!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Participate with the Urbanite E-Zine

Have you checked out the August issue of Urbanite magazine yet?

Along with the usual in-depth look at various urban planning topics from education to the arts, there is an article about the Baltimore Foodmakers!

Disclaimer: yours truly is quoted in the article, which was written by fellow foodmaker and talented professional writer/photographer Michelle Gienow.

If the free monthly magazine isn't enough for you, Urbanite is now offering e-zines as well. Stay in touch with the city and find out about all kinds of upcoming events, news, style tips, green living ideas, and more.

Reader participation has always been a big part of Urbanite. They are asking for our input!

I recently received a forwarded email asking for reader participation for the following features:

Ask Mama Nature is a place for readers to ask questions about local natural history, green marketing (like the difference between free range and cage free and organic eggs), organic gardening, etc.

If you have a question that fits in these very wide parameters, please send it in. You can use the link on the Urbanite site. I'll find an expert to answer it in the next week's zine. (If you want to be the expert, or if you've got one to suggest, by all means send that in too).

Your Natural Buy is a snapshot of a reader posing with a favorite sustainable item they've recently bought, with a sentence or two about the item.

I guess I could take a photo of all of my Ball jars from Ace Hardware....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Watermelon Pickles:: Roasted Greens and Hash Browns :: Stone Fruit Custard Pie

Yes, it's been quiet here on BaltimoreDIY. Lots of personal projects lately, and I hope to post soon about last week's Walmart zoning hearing and the urban gardening as hipster culture debate.

But since I've been gone for a few days, I'd like to jump back in with a fun post about what I've been doing to use up all this summer produce. Stay tuned for some more heavyweight topics soon.

For now, I hope this menu inspires you to grab some friends, crack open a beer, turn on the radio, and get chopping!

Your knife will be busy, but in the end the food is worth it. Yum.

Since Chicken Man and I have way more produce than two human beings can possible consume in a reasonable amount of time, I spend most of Saturday and the last two evenings canning, canning, canning.

It's awesome that all the produce that comes in each week somehow manages to be everything I need for a particular recipe. And this week it was salsa! Onions, tomatoes (red and yellow), anaheim peppers, cucumbers and tomatillos all came in the One Straw Farm CSA this week.

The recipe was from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

There are two jars of pickled watermelon in the background. I made pickled watermelon rind last year and it was a big hit. The secret is modifying the spice mixture and sugar amount to create a more sour, sweet, and spicy pickle instead of the usual syrupy cinnamon flavor. (Hint: use ginger!)

As long as you have the same amount of acid in your recipe, you are generally free to modify your canning recipes. My math teacher would be happy that sometimes I have to figure out the ratios in the different Ball recipes to make my own!

This year I tried an experiment and pickled some actual chunks of watermelon as well. There was a recipe for pickled canteloupe in the Ball book so I figured it was worth a try. We'll see if it turns out.

Once I made a dent in the produce with canning, it was time to cook up food to actually eat. By shredding and roasting both kale and potatoes we managed to shrink down the flood of produce into something somewhat manageable (and delicious.)

No idea what to do with that celery root?

We shredded it along with the potato, tossed it with oil, and threw it in the oven at 375. Do the same thing with chopped kale in another pan and cook it at the same time as the shredded root vegetables. Fit for a picnic!

The shredded potato mix taste just like a latke or hash browns but are way easier because you don't have to stand over a greasy skillet. (Special thanks to my brother for the recipe idea!)The best part was that it stayed crispy after sitting in the fridge overnight, and was a delicious breakfast as well.

I wanted something to cut through the more oily foods and had a nice dollop of saurkraut on the side.

And what to do with the bags of plums and peaches turning to mush in the fridge because we can't eat them fast enough?

Stone fruit custard pies!

The recipe came from Lucie Snodgrass' book Dishing Up Maryland.

I'm not usually a baker (the pie crust were a total storebought cheat!) but these pies were crazy easy. Somewhere in my head I knew that custard is just a mix of cream and eggs, but for some reason I thought it would be more complicated to make.

And they look lovely! The fruit, eggs, and cream all came from Mill Valley.

The summer produce meal:

What are some of your favorite ways to use up all of this summer bounty?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Intentional Life

Today on the environmental news outlet Grist, I came across the first few episodes of a new web comic called My Intentional Life.

(You can enlarge above image by clicking on it.)

In this week's episode, a white kid in his upper-twenties adopts a duck, has his heart broken, rides across Europe on a bike, and ends up moving to an intentional community in the city.

You can read more about Gabriel Willow's housemates in their intentional community here. They raise bees on the roof and chickens in the backyard, lead wilderness tours in the city, and raise money by DJing and working for non-profits.

In short, they're a lot like many of the people I know from various collective and projects here in Baltimore City.

And I feel kind of weird about that! I know it wasn't their intent, but "My Intentional Life" made me feel like this is all just some kind of scene.

Maybe I was already a bit sensitive after reading "Wringing the Art Out of Rubble in Detroit" an article that was posted in the New York Times this morning.

In the Times article, they also describe projects that are really similar ones in Baltimore City. (Detroit has a community fundraising dinner with local food called "Soup." Sound familiar?)

One paragraph describes a newbie to the city who is so excited about "how tight and welcoming the community is. A guy like Kevin Putalik can arrive... [in] a booming part of life in Detroit, where grocery stores are scarce — and within three weeks find himself making sausage at a party in someone’s home.

“It’s the land of opportunity,” said Mr. Putalik, 28, who described himself as “funemployed,” as he rinsed casings at the sink."

A lot of insecure feelings and sociological questions got stirred up in my head as I read about these fun foodmaking adventures. I am familiar with these tight communities, and know that most people involved are from a certain section of the social pie.

Or as one commenter on the "My Intentional Life" page put it:

Am I the only person who is tired of this classicist, white washed, hipster crap? They deliberately move into predominantly communities of color and do little to engage with/interact with the local populace.


I've got to admit, my arms are literally sore from writing and re-writing my thoughts on this issue so many times. If you are interested in reading the dialogue that ensued, I highly recommend checking out the comments section.

Here is small section of the response I gave after reading the debate:

@SpincycleSwirl, thank you for opening the dialogue to an issue that is an undercurrent of so many activist projects. Please do not feel like no one is thinking about these issues. They just run so deep and are so complicated to solve. I know that I for one would love to hear your suggestions.

I really hope to write more in depth about this soon. Interviewing some friends and neighbors is probably going to be a good place to start. If we want our urban gardens, bike shops, community event spaces, and other projects to be long-term solutions for changing our cities, we've got to truly ask ourselves:

Which community is our community art and activism really serving?

I look forward to discussing the question with everyone.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


One cabbage a week. Seriously.

What was I thinking when I got a full CSA share of vegetables just for me? (That's 8 whole vegetables a week from One Straw Farm.)

To be honest, what I was thinking was that I would preserve all of the extra produce to have year round. And I've been doing that somewhat. But all this canning gets tiring after a while!

So I decided to take the route somewhere between cooking and canning: fermentation.

Fermentation is a great way to preserve vegetables for a long period of time without having to can them. All you've got to do is chop the veggies, mix with brine, cover, and wait.

These jars were sitting on a shelf with my other canned goods and cooking supplies in Chicken-Man's house, but I put them outside on the shaded outdoor porch since four quarts of fermenting veggies was starting to get a little pungent. I'm hoping the shade will keep the porch at a cool enough temperature.

You do have to babysit the jars for about a month to make sure everything smells and looks ok, and that the vegetables stay submerged under the brine. I did go on a trip recently and a lot of the liquid had evaporated by the time I got back, so scooped some of the vegetables off the top just in case and poured more brine over the top.

If you've ever smelled saurkraut before, you should have an idea of what it should smell like. Basically it's pungent, but not rotten smelling. There may be a few white specks on top of your brine where it hits the air, but you shouldn't have any discoloration.

The white saurkraut in the front jar has been fermenting the longest. There are some beets and onions thrown on top of the cabbage in the jar all the way to the left. Should be pretty obvious which one is the beet!

I have lids on most of the jars (except the one in the back) but I'm thinking I really should have fabric on there to give the beneficial microbes some oxygen. Shoot. Put it on the list of things to do tonight. Hopefully I can do a taste-test and let you all know how the fermentation is coming along.

UPDATE: Did a taste test the next morning (Wednesday 8/4). Yum! I put a rag and rubber band around the top of the jars instead of lids. Luckily everything was tasting as it should. Nice and zingy! Definitely some lactic acid going on which is good.

The book Wild Fermentation has been an excellent guide on this probiotic journey. It's taught me to let me imagination run free beyond saurkraut and yogurt, which is how I ended up experimenting with this beet-carrot-onion mix.

Here is the recipe I used for the saurkraut pictured above.

Support Baltimore Entrepreneurs & Workers, Not Walmart CEOs and Low-Wage Jobs

Special thanks to Baltidome for tipping me off to this event.

Save the date for this THURSDAY, August 5th.

On Thursday August 5th, scheduled for the 6pm docket, the Baltimore Planning Commission will hear testimony from the Planning Department, developers, and community member concerns on the 25th Street Station Project that is being proposed in Remington. This is the “last stop” that the Planned Unit Development (PUD) legislation will make before it goes to City Hall.

Bmore Local is sponsoring a rally at War Memorial Plaza at 5pm, prior to the Planning Commission’s Hearing for community members who wish to express their concern for this project.

To follow Bmore Local and their efforts to help community members have their voices heard on the proposal for the 25th Street Station development, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about the 25th Street Station Walmart development scheme, CLICK HERE to check out a YouTube video created by Bmore Local about the plan.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Charm City Garden Tour: Aug. 21st

A double event posting day! I'm definitely saving the date for this Parks and People event.


Community Gardens are transforming Baltimore.

Visit garden sites, meet the gardeners & learn about these amazing spaces! After your tour, join us for a celebration of community gardening at the Duncan Street Miracle Garden.

If you would like to take the BIKE tour:

Duncan Street Miracle Garden
1800 Duncan St, Baltimore
Bring Your Own Bike/Rentals Available
To reserve your spot (required)
Contact CGRN: 410.448.5664 x128
Cost: $15

If you would like to take the BUS tour:

Cylburn Arboretum
(shuttle returns here from party)
4915 Greenspring Ave, Baltimore
To reserve your spot (required)
Contact Betsey Heuisler: 410.529.4692
Cost $20

The Celebration
(following the tours)
Duncan Street Miracle Garden
1800 Duncan St, Baltimore
5-7 p.m.
$5 suggested donation for those attending only the party
Featuring fresh local food & music!

Really excited to check out the Duncan Street garden. I kept hearing their name at last year's community garden dinner at City Hall and even won an auction to go visit the garden at a Parks and People fundraiser. I hadn't had a chance to visit yet, but now it looks like I won't have to!

It should be a great time, and I'm looking forward to meeting other city gardeners and seeing how they lay out their garden.

Help a Local Zine Support Low-Income Cancer Patients

Due to my recent hiatus, I never got a chance to publicize last Friday's release party for "Smile, Hon, You're in Baltimore."

Happily, Baltimore Brew has posted full video coverage at the event. (Thanks to William Hughes for the video)

If you missed it too, don't worry, you can still pick up a copy at Atomic Books, one of Baltimore's best local bookstores for zines and fun books of all kinds.

William P. Tandy, the zine's editor, is also a cancer survivor who has written about his experiences for the zine.

Every year since his chemotherapy ended in September 2007, he has volunteered to support the St. Vincent's Medical Center Foundation's "Swim Across the Sound", a daylong relay race that begins in Port Jefferson, NY, crosses Long Island Sound and finishes in Bridgeport, CT.

The event is this Saturday, August 7th.

Donations can be made here.

And if you are interested in submitting your own polished essay or bar-room sermon from a stool, you can send your article (100 – 2,000 words) to as an attached Word document.
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