Tag Archives: canning

“Winter’s end savings event!”

“What could be more superstitious than the idea that money brings forth food?”
― Wendell Berry
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“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Our found-object woodshed, which once was a shipping crate for solar panels, and is covered in vinyl signs we also found in a different alley.  The kicker? Our shed proudly proclaims that every day is a "winter's end savings event".  Ah, justice...

Our found-object woodshed, which once was a shipping crate for solar panels till our neighbor stumbled upon it, and is covered in vinyl signs the fella found in a different alley and somehow strapped to his bike to drag home. The kicker? Our shed proudly proclaims that every day is a “winter’s end savings event”. Ah, sweet justice!

I’ve always loved that second quote, and was reminded of it when a few folks on the ChiChickens group changed it to their signature line (I’m tempted, but have had my cornbread-slogans as my tagline for so long that changing them now would feel like “goin’ back on my raisin'”, haha)… the first is a new one to me but it reminds me of the quote that inspired the infamous Greenpeace banner… “When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.” -Alanis Obomsawin

Today has been that sort of mixed-up high and low-tech day. The coffee and milk, organic and very store-bought. Oats, also. Lunch was mashed potato pancakes with pesto… the eggs came from the backyard, I grew the basil at work, hand-milled the grain which I picked up in 50 lb sacks last fall with a bike trailer from the farmer’s city apartment a few miles north of here (the wheat she and her dad grew a few miles away, of course), and the potatoes were from Wisconsin but by way of Restarant Depot (another 50 lb sack, bought in the fall for about $7. Slightly sprouty, but still good in the cellar). Rabbit cacciatore soup on the side- the rabbit a present from our dog-treat making friend (it’s high-quality, and packaged for human consumption till he grinds it up into dog jerky…), oyster mushrooms also from The Plant that were a little too squishy to sell but still mighty tasty, a jar of tomatoes from our 2011 garden (I love the safety net of being a year ahead in tomato canning when I can pull it off, and found this guy in the back of the pantry, still as perky as they day they were put up), home-canned rabbit stock (see above), some white beans grown on a small Michigan farm that a neighbor left us when she moved to California, and an ancient jar of green beans- 2009! from the first year I gardened at the studio (the fella had installed a small herb and hop garden before that, but that was the year we really started going with our first garden here long before we bought the “cabin”. I love being able to know the whole story behind what we’re eating, which in these days of extreme home-rehab is sometimes tough. I’ll admit it, the temptation to throw some extra cheese and giardinara on a frozen pizza is strong some nights, more than I’d like… but as gross as that is, it beats dropping insane amounts of money to have someone drive one over that’s not much better.

So today has been this weird mix of eating local and far-flung foods, typing away in the virtual world as I figure out this website move, and all the while, stoking the woodstove. I take it as a point of pride if the furnace doesn’t kick on all day, especially after I got the last gas bill… the first one since we lit the furnace for the first time. Yowza! $160, and we kept the thermostat somewhere between 47 F and 55 F. Granted, there were two very cold days in there where we had giant holes in the house while swapping out for more efficient windows (worse before it gets better) and at least one evening that we cranked it up to 60 so that the caulk would cure upstairs between the foam board insulation layers… add in that our eaves were still mostly open for most of that month and you can see how it would add up. Can’t wait to see how much better it gets next time! I’m glad, in a way, to have that first bad bill as a baseline for how much energy we’ll be saving after we finish insulating and air-sealing upstairs, and eventually the first floor as well. Since we are currently burning only scrap wood from our and others’ construction projects (untreated of course) and storm-killed local downed wood, it’s about as green as we can get in this house without moving underground or shutting off the water and sleeping in parkas instead of long-johns three months out of the year. We’ve done that, by the way… and I hope to never do that again! Brr.

announcing… Alewyfe Farm School!


School is in session! We’ll have our first class in early October at The Plant, and half the proceeds will benefit The Plant and our season-extension plans for the fall garden! This “Garden to Pantry” primer will be an overview of food preservation techniques to put up the harvest- either from your own garden, the late season abundance from your favorite farmer, or maybe that case of fruit you got at Maxwell St. threatening to turn into mush on your counter (ask me how I know about that last one). We’ll start in the garden with a bountiful harvest of fresh-picked produce, and then head to the kitchen to find out what to do with it all!

There will be samples of various types of preserves and demonstrations of equipment and basic techniques. Always wanted to try pickling, dehydrating, canning, freezing, or lacto-ferments but didn’t know where to begin? You’ll take home some recipes and a list of reliable information sources, and more importantly, the knowledge and confidence to put up healthy local food at home for year-round nourishment!

You’ll learn how to ensure both the peak of flavor and food safety in your preserved products from a trained chef, with techniques you can use in your own kitchen. This class will be an overview and introduction, with more in-depth topic classes to come… email me for more information or to sign up. This class will be capped at 10 participants. The fee for this class is $40 (for those who are able, email me to discuss paying-it-forwards and donating more to fund a scholarship spot in this or future classes for low-income participants). Date and time TBA!

full clutch

Lets ignore the fact that that’s more eggs we’ve gotten in a day in a looong time. White? All right! Our first pullet egg… our little girls are growing up!

Atta girl! Of course, the california white leghorn was the first. Probably followed by the red star… and someday, we’ll get easter eggs (fingers crossed… blue not pink… blue not pink)…


Is this too tacky? ‘Cause it’s true…


This is the other side of the fence. Chickens? Did someone say… Chickens? Oh boy oh boy oh boy… chickens chickens chickens chickens…


She’s worn a packed dirt track from pacing back and forth to watch them. I throw mulch on it but she kicks it up again. Never gets old… she will literally do this all day if I let her, of course with breaks for meals and naps. Rough life.

All in a dog’s day’s work. And in a woman’s… super spicy salsa! Ball Blue Book jalapeño salsa, 1.5x the recipe, plus a half cup of lime juice. The tomatoes are from The Plant, the jalapeños are from the Gary Comer Green Youth Farm (thanks, T!) and the onions are from the store. Good enough. And it’s good… but screamin’ hot… yowza!

Ok, time to pack it up here, head to the studio, and make soap! I’ve been scheming on a new recipe for awhile and it’s time to jump in and do it… coming soon… Treehugger! A blend of spruces, pine, a touch of patchouli, tea tree, spice, and other woodsy goodness, speckled with blue spruce needles… still need to tweak the blend but it should be a nice addition to the line! It will be cured and ready by the second open studio… something to look forward to! But first, some glam shots from today’s back porch photo shoot… and there will be more tomorrow!

Coffee Stout!


Oatmeal Cookie!

Juneberries


Summer is almost upon us, and though we’re in the midst of a scorching drought, there are some berries to be had. The Factory Farm has yielded a few handfuls of strawberries…

and Caroline raspberries… which have been small but full of concentrated flavor.

But the real bounty is over at the house… the mulberry hedge just won’t stop (I think that’s a good thing, and so do the chickens when they get to go out in the yard)! I pulled out a tarp and shook down a bowlful to make jelly, with lots of lime juice and a bit of zest as mulberries on their own can be a bit insipid. The fellow’s dad asked what I planned to do with that bowl of mulberries, as he’d never heard of anyone making anything out of them (other than stains on their driveways, perhaps)… this coming from a guy who lived on squirrel while in engineering school in Missouri. He has a pretty dry sense of humor, so this was probably one of the times he was making a joke when I thought he was serious, which is most of the time. They make a fine jelly! Next time I’ll use pectin… it has a quite cooked fruit flavor from simmering long enough to thicken on its own, but still pretty tasty. There are some seeds in there, as the jelly bag for the strainer was back at the studio and I didn’t want to go back again to get it… but no matter. Good stuff, especially on the homemade rolls leftover from the bbq the night before! Those are mulberry leaves in the background. Our backyard looks downright bucolic in photo stills… the camera may not lie but it can sure leave a lot out if you want it to.

progress…

Still working through that epic-ly optimistic to-do list from Wednesday… there are currently 18 jars (17 pints) of split pea soup with ham in the pressure canner building up steam, and a steaming bowl of goodness in front of me as I type… I think I’m coming down with something (fatigue?  grey sky blahs? or just a cold?) and the hot soup with a mug of milky coffee and honey is just the thing. The dishes are done, laundry washed and hanging, and what was hanging is put away.  The fresh shellac is drying on the Vicount’s bar tape and twine… still have to locate the original fork somewhere in this cavern of clutter (or perhaps it’s in the shop… shudder) and I’ve started packing up some of my soap and other things for tomorrow as well, and started soaking a batch of sprouts- Alefellow loves them, and we’ve been so spoiled by all the fresh greens from work that I haven’t made any sprouts this winter… until now. I’ve got an hour and a half to kill around here before heading down to work, and will finally make that body balm (the jars are washed and drying on the counter), maybe put a few seeds in some soil, then swing over to check on the chickens, make sure their feed and waterers are full and gather eggs.  Good times! 

Here’s the recipe I used (more or less) for the pea soup:

http://www.sbcanning.com/2011/10/canning-soup-split-pea-with-ham.html

Pictures later tonight when the canner cools down!

You can't see it, but the soup in those jars is still boiling! Let 'em cool down a bit before you jostle and unload them if you can.

snow apples

Yes, I know it’s fifty degrees out and there are snowdrops blooming. It’s still January (and that’s weird, though I’m not complaining, but a little confused)… so let’s just pretend there’s a blanket of snow on that barren ground out there. It will be back, I promise.

How do you like 'dem apples?

We still have a little less than half a bushel of apples from the cider pressing (we picked through the best ones that were left at the end of the day and spared them from the grinder), still holding fairly well, though their skins have thickened slightly and some are turning wrinkly (we’ve tossed the few off ones to the chickens). They’ve been sitting in our spacious walk-in cooler/root cellar that is our currently unheated house (we have space heaters in the bathroom and under the kitchen cabinets, and heat tape on the pipes to keep them from freezing)… no sense really trying to heat the place till we have insulation, and walls, and other such fripperies, (not to mention the fact that the furnace really ought to have a proper chimney before we fire it up- the woodstove does a good job taking the chill off the place though). Besides, if we want to be warm we can go to the studio where it’s an even 60 most of the time (and thankfully that’s where the working shower is, even if it occasionally requires moving a keg or pile of soap stuff out of the way), and if we heated the house, then where would we store the apples, winter squash, and potatoes? The basement, right. We’ll have to remember that for later… and at some point unbrick the walled-off former root-cellar area under the porch stairs on the north wall of the basement, with a borrowed or preferably hungry feral cat handy to catch the rats that will almost certainly run out as that’s why it was bricked up in the first place. Lovely. Let’s save that one for another day, shall we?

But the point of this is those apples. They’re still good, but won’t stay that way forever. I sorted through them, set a big bowl of the nicest ones aside for eating and pies and decided to make sauce with the rest. I cored them all and chopped them roughly, weighing out 6 pounds in one pot and three and a half or so in another. Add a little water to each (roughly a cup and a half in the larger, and a cup in the smaller- double the suggested amount but i figured they’d have lost moisture in storage since they’re not waxed), a hint of good cider vinegar and cinnamon in the big pot, and a handful of frozen cranberries, a pinch of ginger, and zest and chopped flesh of one orange to the other. Simmer each, stirring frequently so they don’t scorch, until they’re nice and mushy. I added a tiny bit of honey, a couple tablespoons to each pot- the cranberry one probably could have used more but I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get out the bucket to refill the jar. I’m planning to pair that one with pork chops or roasted meats anyway, where the tartness will be refreshing.

Kitchen slang for these is "trolling motor". This one is for a very very tiny boat.

I pureed the plain sauce with an immersion blender- these are so handy… we got a nice one for $20, I kid you not, from the food scientist who invented Cool Ranch Doritos (though he preferred the term “wizard” to scientist I believe) who was closing down his business awhile back- Alefellow found him while searching for stainless on craigslist and got some useful stuff- like a stainless tank with castors, that helped bring the world Coke slurpees, or something like that, but which we usually use for the far more humble but important job of chilling wort- put a secondary immersion chiller in it, fill with ice and water, and recirculate the hot water coming out of the copper coil in the big kettle with a high-temp pump, and you keep a LOT of water from getting dumped down the drain… and end up with a tank full of hot water at the end of it, good for washing brewing dishes, filling the mop bucket, watering plants, or just keeping around as a nice temporary heat sink in winter.

Cran-Orange top left, apple cinnamon, front and center.
Oh yeah, applesauce. Right. Ladle into clean jars. I used half and quarter pints (eight and four oz) so I won’t have to repack them into smaller containers for lunches- kinda like those snackpak things, but refillable), check for air bubbles and run a spatula around the inside of the jar to dislodge them, wipe the rims, put on the lids that you fish from the bowl of hot boiled water with a handy-dandy magnet on a little plastic wand- take that, food wizard! (or tongs, or your quick fingers if you were a cook, chemist or moonshiner, or otherwise lack feeling in your fingertips- I think of the scene from “My Stepmother is an Alien” where she reaches into the pot on the stove each time I do this and laugh a bit). Tighten down the rings (tight, but not too tight- any trapped air needs to be able to escape after all) and stack them into your preheated canner- boiling water bath or pressure works, just make sure you sterilized your jars first by boiling to be on the safe side if you’re not using a pressure canner. Close the lid, vent the steam for 10 minutes if pressure canning, or wait for your water to come up to a vigorous boil if not, and start your timer. Kill the flame when it beeps, fish your jars out of the boiling water bath if you used one (jar lifter tongs are really nice here, though regular ones do in a pinch) or let your pressure canner slowly cool down- don’t open it until the dial reads zero, or no steam escapes when you tap the weight, depending on which kind you have of course). Processing times and a more concise but scientific description of method can be found here:
http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/applesauce.html

Ta Da! You're done. Let 'em cool, and remove the bands for long storage. Label them so you don't forget what's in there or what year you made 'em... although I'm sure we'll go through these pretty fast.

So that’s all there is to it! I can cross that off my to-do list, and refer back to this next year when it seems overwhelming and I’m trying to do two or three times as many or more. You don’t even have to do it all in one go if you don’t have time- make the sauce the first night, throw the whole thing in the fridge (make sure you use a nonreactive, aka not aluminum pot if you’re storing it this way), pull it out the next day, back on the stove, get it good and hot again all the way through, and proceed as if you’d just done hours of work. Lots of canning jobs can be broken down this way, and some are better if they are (canning stock or anything meaty and saucy that wasn’t super lean- then instead of skimming fat you can just peel or scoop it off the top once it’s cold and it won’t keep your jars from sealing later).

She’s My…

Cherry Pie, of course.  Ah, memories of summer… and flats full of fruit to be had from Maxwell St. Market for a pittance (get it? pittance? oh, boy. sorry…).  We showed up as they were closing and bought a case of cherries and a case of apricots for $16.  Not each, but total.  And then I canned and pitted (Mr. Urban Pioneer was very helpful with this!) and made jam and pie and froze the rest… not too shabby!

Wash and pit the cherries... gadgets and extra hands make the second step more fun!

And... voila! Amazing what you can do with a big toaster oven!

Rhubarb

Fresh Nebraska Rhubarb…some for summer, some for winter…Thanks B!

A friend returning from a photo assignment at her family’s farm in Nebraska brought us a bag full of beautiful rhubarb last summer… I canned some, and made some into a rhubarb crisp.  Can’t wait till our little plants in the garden are big enough to cut nice long stalks like this!

Rinsy rinse...

chop chop...

How much sugar? I don't know... enough.

Happy July 2nd!

Melting the honey syrup for the jars...

Cobbler and canning...

Applesauce crumble for the blackberry rhubarb crisp

Filling the jars...

Blackberry rhubarb crisp with vanilla ice cream, oh my!