Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Haps

Today's marvelous temps brought about a bit of canning.  I had some turkey carcasses to process and could not do it in the intense over 97 degree heat we had a good portion of the week here in New Hampshire.  Crazy hot, and my over insulated body just doesn't do heat.  At all.  My lovely spouse was away working in a dirty, gross, baking hot, decommissioned  coal plant this week, so I had nothing to complain about.  And I did keep that in mind when I felt tempted to complain about the intense heat and him leaving before remembering to put in the air conditioners, because he worked up until leaving putting a fence around the garden and plain ran out of time.  I slept with the doors of the house open while he was gone, only screen doors, which is DEFINITELY not something I ever do, but we had to try to capture the nocturnal relative coolness in the quickest way possible.   It worked for the most part, but I didn't sleep well listening for intruders to us and the chicken's coop, which I also left open so they would get the maximum coolness.  Luckily, nothing got any of us and we were safe.  Funny how I lived alone for so long and didn't think anything of this, but now that I have kids and am used to having my wonderful man next to me every night, I don't sleep like I used to.  

In any case, on Father's Day, we enjoyed some fried turkeys with friends.  They had two turkeys that needed to be slaughtered as they were left from their batch of Thanksgiving turkeys and, being the white broad breasted type, were on their way to decline if not processed soon.  I bought Music Man a turkey fryer for Christmas so he could brew beer and NOT stink up the house.  I love his interest and passion about brewing, but really detest the smell of it cooking on my stove.  Never thinking we'd actually use it for it's intended purpose, we were game nonetheless when our friend said, "wish we had a turkey fryer"...I piped right in with a "We've got one!" and a dinner party was born.  They supplied the organic, free range turkeys, we supplied the fryer and the oil and OH MY GOODNESS, were they delicious!  It's not a way I'll probably ever do them again as the oil was pricey (we used 4 gallons!) and it seems excessive and wasteful to do them that way when they could just as easily be done in the oven or the grill, but it was amazing and I'm glad I experienced it once just the same.

After this feed, we had a one carcass and one whole turkey left.  So, we split the turkey in half, she gave me the carcass and I went merrily on my way.  Today when I woke up, I realized I had not processed them, and got right on it.  After de-boning the turkeys, I put the all the bones in the pot, added lots of water, fresh carrots, and onions and garlic from Laura's garden from last fall (still in wonderful shape, I'm gonna grow those next year!) sage, parsley, chives and thyme from my garden and boiled until it was reduced a bit and the broth a beautiful, golden color.  Strained it, boiled it again and put in sterilized canning jars, popped it all in the pressure canner and 30 minutes later, I've got gourmet turkey broth that you'd have to pay a pretty penny for in a health food store.  And, it's gonna be the base for an amazing gravy for Thanksgiving turkey, turkey and rice soup and whatever else I can think of to do with it.  It's very rich and lovely as you can see below, more stock then broth.

 Next on my list of things to can is going to be soups so that I can just throw together a cornbread, or pop a loaf of bread in the breadmaker in the winter, heat up a soup and it will be supper with minimal effort.  That's fast food of the best kind. 

Hope you're enjoying your beginning of summer "putting by" efforts.  I know one thing's for certain, we're gonna be eating like kings this whole year through!

Good preserving to you, ~Peacemom

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Spring Rhubarb Coffee Cake

Last week, just before the deluge of rain took over for 5 days, I went to our local farm stand the same day the "Strawberries!" appeared on the sign.  I was the first one there on a rainy morning and even opened the doors with them.  Eager for strawberries? You bet!!  It's been a year since we've tasted that lovely berry, and I'm ready to get preserving!

I discovered that they also had stalks of fresh rhubarb as well.  And asparagus!  I've been trying to find asparagus that wasn't grown in Peru.  Why, when we live within perfectly wonderful asparagus growing farms, are we only offered the spears from Peru in local grocery stores?  It's a mystery to me, but I wait the whole year to get asparagus fresh from New Hampshire soil at the farm stands, and I'm glad I did.  I bought two large bunches and we had steamed asparagus one night and they made a lovely addition to the omelets I made for dinner.  Asparagus and swiss omelets from our own chicken's eggs, yummy!  I have always wanted to grow my own asparagus, but you need to be in a place for more then three years in order to reap the rewards of your labor as the plants take time to mature enough to withstand the cutting of their shoots in the spring.  So far, I've not been anywhere long enough to have that be the case.  This is why we are so very badly wanting our own little homestead, a place where we can put down long growing roots of many kinds.

With rhubarb and strawberries on the countertop, I spent a nice evening last make some strawberry rhubarb sauce.  I managed two 1/2 pint jars which I will freeze for a nice treat mid January.  I very much enjoy that sauce on a bowl of french vanilla ice cream every once in great while.  Scoop out a little scoop of vanilla and ladle on a few tablespoons of that taste bud waking sauce, and you're experiencing the reason why eating local can't be beat.

I wanted to make some rhubarb coffee cake as well for breakfast, so I woke early and decided to make one bright and early on this first sunny morning in a week.  Little Red is a cake hound, and he is always asking for pancakes or muffins or coffee cake for breakfast.  So, this morning I decided I would humor him and make some coffee cake. He walked out of his bedroom sniffing the air like it was Christmas morning for his nose, and a big  gapped toothed grin on his face (he lost 4 baby teeth almost at once recently!).  He knows a good thing when he smells it cooking.

This recipe for Spring Rhubarb Morning Cake is a good 'un.  Make two and freeze one for later if you choose, it freezes nicely.  It got rave reviews (and yammerings for seconds!) for me this morning, so give it a go.  (Pssstt, it's also ridiculously easy, so leave all that box mix stuff to the amateurs, okay?).

Spring Rhubarb Morning Cake

1/2 c Butter (use the real thing, it's worth it)
1 1/2 granulated sugar (cane sugar is best)
2 eggs (farm fresh if you've got them)
1 c sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour (or 1 1/2 c white whole wheat and 1/2 c all purpose)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 c finely chopped fresh rhubarb

1/2 c packed brown sugar
1tbls flour (any kind will do)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tbls butter

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2.  Cream butter and sugar together in large mixing bowl (I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer for mixing the whole recipe)
3.  Beat in eggs one at a time
4.  Fold in sour cream and vanilla

5.  In a separate bowl, mix flour(s), cinnamon and baking soda. I use a whisk it adds a bit of air and mixes  nicely without pockets of soda remaining.
6.  Fold in rhubarb.
7.  Place in a generously greased 13"x9" cake pan.
8.  Mix topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly.

9.   Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter.  Mind the edges so every piece gets its fair share of topping.
10. Bake 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven, until a knife in the center comes out clean.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Only A Change of Time

Hello All!  I just had to include Snowball on here today, isn't he handsome?  I realized today it's been quite a time since I last posted.  Some things have been happening around here, and I've been very busy.  Probably the biggest and in part scariest news is that I'm leaving my job.  My boss and I were at an impass on something that just couldn't be resolved, neither side able to give in to the others needs.  Therefore, I quit.  I'm a bit scared about this as this is the reason we have been able to make it in this most tumultuous time in our lives for the last three years with Music Man's job opportunities drying up.  But, he's gainfully employed at a job that seems steady (though we learned before that there's really NO such thing) and we're gonna be fine.  I've decided to take the summer off and spend it steeped in my boys and their activities, gardening, raising my meat chickens and egg hens and generally getting reconnected to life.  I've had so much stress at that job for the last 3+ years, it's time for me to take a breather. the fall, I'll start looking for something else.

Now, on to the other activities I've been up to here at the homestead.  This is the birdhouse that Little Red made in Cub Scouts last year.  It did not get any birds in it last year as it was set up too late in the season, but this year, we've a family of sparrows holed up and creating new feathered life.  Little Red is loving the fact that he made a house for a family.  He's my nature kid for sure. He can spend long hours watching bugs, learning about trees, or watching wildlife. He's got the the nature gene from Music Man and I, we both enjoy the same activities.

We've been very busy in the garden.  This is the black seeded simpson lettuce coming up, I should be able to make a lovely salad from this over the upcoming weekend. Behind it is the failed kale. Something made a meal of it and my chard, and it wasn't growing well anyway.  Not sure what it needs that it's not getting, but for sure it's kind of lame.
These are the onions in full gusto.  These are walla wallas and choffras.  I'm looking forward to having my own onions for the first time.  I've never grown my own before, but wanted to take the plunge this year.

This beauty is my purple sage that overwintered and has been blooming like crazy for about a week now.  It has beautiful flowers that the bees are very happy about.  I've also seen butterflies on it as well.  So lovely!
And here we have another herb perennial, chives.  The lavender color flowers on this are also a big draw for the bees as well.  This herb is great on roasted potatoes and in soups!
These are the potatoes peeking through their thick straw cover.  They are growing like gangbusters and seem to be very happy.

Since most of the garden is on ledge, we needed to put in raised beds.  This project took a lot longer then anticipated because not only did Music Man need to build the beds, but we then needed to get and then shovel into them many yards of compost and soil.  We finally got them completed and here we have the beautiful tomatoes that my friend Laura started for me in her greenhouse.  I have about 9 different types of heirloom tomatoes and 4 different peppers including jalapeno and red bells.  The back bed is full of corn!  I've never tried to grow this before either.  Hopefully, we'll be enjoying some ears in August!

This bed has more tomatoes, leeks and baby pam pumpkins.  I'm hoping to make pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving from our own pumpkins as well as storing some in the freezer for pumpkin bread in the winter.

This morning after my work was done (only 12 days left!), I decided to can some chicken broth.  I boiled an organic free range chicken along with another carcass I had saved from a previous roasted chicken and made 7 quarts of stock. I freeze the bones from the chickens that I roast until I have enough, then make the most delicious bone stock out of them.  It's full of beneficial minerals.  This batch I'm going to freeze, since right now I've got ample room in the freezer having depleted the pork a bit that had it chock full before now.  I also produced two bowls of chicken to use for soups and pot pie, or maybe some chicken salad sandwiches...the possibilities are endless!  I have seen some of the other blogs that I follow put a running total of things that they have put by for when winter rears its frigid head.  I'm going to figure out how to do that and do the same.  I like the idea of it being tangible, more for myself then anyone else.  I'm also going to figure out how much money it saved me by making and canning/freezing all of these things myself. 

And I can't end without showing you this prim gerber daisy plant that my friend Laura gave me for my birthday!  I love the salmon petals. This plant makes me smile every time I go on my deck, not just for it's loveliness, but also when I think of the person who gave it to me.

What have you been up to at your little homestead?

Wishing you freedom of your own, ~Peacemom