Tag Archives: food preservation

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!

48 hours


Two days in the life last week, by the numbers:

48 hours.

13 sleeping.

10.5 at work. More time from home reading, writing, and answering emails.

4 hours on my bike (28 miles).

7 or more hours shoveling wood chip mulch after work (a truckload or two at least? The pile has sort of mushed together so I’m not sure how many loads there are…).

2 dog walks.

2 pots of coffee.

9 eggs from the hens.

in the kitchen: raspberry custard pies, blanched tomatoes for salsa, dehydrated 10 trays of eggplant and other veggies, sauteed and froze two gallon bags of eggplant, sliced cukes for pickles, and of course dishes, cleaning…

Whew! Now back to the kitchen- need to make those tomatoes into salsa and can it up, check the stock that’s in the crock pot, fill the dehydrator with more onions or potatoes, check the bees, take the salsa scraps out to the chickens, do a load of laundry, feed the worm bins, make something for dinner and the fellow’s lunch tomorrow, maybe surprise him by stapling up some insulation in the ceiling before he gets home, and if there’s any daylight left, work on stripping the front door trim for a bit.

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).

Apple Ciderin’ Workparty

OK, aggies! It’s on. (actually, it WAS on… this is the invite and recap from Cider Pressin’, 2011… we will hopefully do this again next year, so stay tuned if you missed it!). We had a lot of questions. Now we have solutions!

So, we have the makings of a “whizbang” grinder (new garbage disposal and small stainless sink from the ReBuilding Exchange, small tabletop with opening to mount the grinder… just need to mount the disposal, wire a cord, and test it) {CHECK}. We also have a sweet lunker of a screw-driven fruit press that I’ve been itching to try out! We have big mesh bags to line the press (these are retired, after repairs will be usable for hop bags and such, but even the jumbo brewing bags were too small for the press and thus kept bursting at the seams. Save yourself $5 and the hassle and stitch up the hem and sleeves of old tee shirts, if you’re doing this at home).

We have a source of apples- Molly Breslin from Earth First Farm (owned by Tom and Denise Rosenfield) in Michigan will provide us with organic cider apples! If you missed the pressing, you can buy their apples and their cider already pressed at a few places around town… check their website for more information: http://earthfirstfarms.com/ ! She can deliver them to the Logan Square farmer’s market… I’m going to order our apples Tuesday the 24th, so let me know before then if you’d like to reserve a bushel or two for the pressing! You can pay me back the day of the workshop… I’m ordering 3-4 for us for the workshop (unless enough other people want apples- you should get 2-3 gallons of cider per bushel- bring a new bucket or jugs to get it home!). I’m planning to make 5 gal of hard cider, drink some fresh, and maybe try some vinegar if we get enough? We’ve got buckets of honey, so I think a cyser is also in order! I also plan to can applesauce with a half-bushel or so- that could be another workshop if folks are interested? It’ll probably be nippy, so a the first gallon or so should definitely get mulled… maybe on the woodstove if it’s extra chilly!

And we have a date: Sunday, November 6th, rain or shine (we have a pop up tent we can press under if the weather is anything like today). 11 AM-?
Location: Alewyfe Farm (the red brick cabin). Email me if you need the address!

Bring a snack to share, warm clothing, and if you have them, your shoveling muscles- in the interest of future pressings, we have two apple trees that have spent the summer in large pots- they need to get heeled in (or planted if we determine their ideal spots?) before the ground freezes. Also, we have bees, so though they’ll probably be mostly tucked away for winter, they might be interested in apple pulp… heads up if you’re allergic. We’ll have some homebrew on hand (Trappist blend with Logan Square crabapples from last fall) and if I pull the taps now so it’s not gone, a little bit of the hard cider I made last year with Seedling Fruit cider- dry, tart and tasty! Knowing me there will also be some eats…

Please RSVP… that way I can tell the chickens how many deviled eggs we’ll need.
Also, if we have more willing hands than apple jobs, and folks are inclined, we’ve got tools and there are tons of things to do! We’ve got a “barn” that needs raising (a shipping crate that needs stilts to stand on and to get tarped… fences to hang… mulch to move… branches to chip… but mostly we can stand around and have fun figuring out how this apple thing works- washing, chopping, grinding, pressing, and sampling!

We got through 12 bushels on the group press date in about as many hours- should go a lot faster next time now that we know what we’re doing, and have a feel for how fast to feed the apples without overheating the grinder! To all who came, thanks for your willing hands and good cheer… hope to see you again next time!

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!