Tag Archives: local eating

Rhubarb Two Ways or Canning, Continued.

There are few things that I can’t live without. My KitchenAid Mixer probably tops the list. Coming a close second would have to be my freezers. Yes, I said freezer(s), plural. Of course I have the small freezer that is part of my refrigerator, but I also have a small chest freezer. And a larger, stand-up freezer. Both are mostly full most of the time. Of course, the contents vary from day-to-day and season to season, but I keep them pretty loaded. When things come into season, I try to can as much as possible. Sometimes, I don’t have time to can everything I want before it will spoil, so I freeze the excess until I have time to deal with it. I do that with tomatoes. A lot.

Last year I had an abundance of rhubarb.  I made some delicious Rhubeenas and still had a bunch left over so I chopped it up and threw it into the freezer. With summer’s bounty (and strawberry season) nearly upon us, it’s time to clear some space in the freezers.

 In the first Can Jam, I used asparagus as the May ingredient, but Rhubarb was also an option. Among the rhubarb recipes was a recipe for Rhubarb and Cinnamon Jam from Seasonal Menus. I love cinnamon and have a jar of extra-long cinnamon sticks, so I thought I’d give it a go:

Rhubarb the First Way

  • 2lbs. sliced rhubarb
  • 2 lbs. sugar
  • 3 extra-long cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 T. lemon juice

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a nonmetallic bowl.
Let macerate overnight in the refrigerator.
Set up canner and boiling water bath; wash and sterilize jars and lids.
Transfer rhubarb mixture to a saucepan.
Add cinnamon and lemon juice.
Heat over medium heat, stirring often until sugar is completely dissolved.
Bring to a boil.
Boil until jam sets.
Remove cinnamon stick pieces, add one to each jar and ladle jam into hot jars.
Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

The cinnamon flavor wasn’t very intense, but I know from experience with my Chai-Spiced Apple Rings that the cinnamon flavor blooms as the jars age. I expect that even the color will turn warmer with time. This recipe made almost exactly five 1/2 pint jars.

For a printable version, click here: Rhubarb Cinnamon Jam Printable Recipe

Rhubarb the Second Way doesn’t help fulfill my Can Jam goals, but it does help me complete my goal to can enough jams/jellies to get us through the year, and it helps me meet my food storage goal. I snagged this recipe from Tigress but made some modifications. First, she used lavender sprigs; I opted for dried blossoms. They looked quite lovely after their overnight in the fridge, but I know from my soap-making experience that the magenta-purple cooks away. She also includes an extra step: “pass (rhubarb) mixture through a strainer and pour collected juice into a non-reactive pan. add honey and bring to a boil. skim any foam that collects on top and continue cooking until 221 F on a candy thermometer.” Afterwards she returns the solids to the boiled juices and re-boils the whole mess. I’m not sure of the point, but her jam was lovely. I myself hate the mess straining creates and don’t do it unless absolutely necessary. Mine tastes delish and has about the same look as hers, so I don’t think it is an essential step.

Rhubarb The Second Way (Honey Lavender Rhubarb Jam)

2 pounds sliced rhubarb
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 ounces light honey
3 T. lemon juice
3 tsp. dried lavender blossoms

1. Combine rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice and lavender blossoms in a nonmetallic bowl. Stir this mixture gently, cover with a plate and macerate in fridge overnight.

2. In the morning, prepare the canner and boiling water bath; wash and sterilize jars and lids. Turn heat down and leave jars in canner until ready to fill.

3. Pour rhubarb mixture into a non-reactive pan. Add honey and bring to a boil.  Continue cooking until the jam is sufficiently set. Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

yields approximately five 1/2 pint or two pint jars.

Again, if you prefer a printable version, click here: Honey Lavender Rhubarb Jam Printable Recipe

Not only did I clear up some space in the freezer, but I’m a quart-and-a-half closer to my jam and food storage goals!

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Foraging

Due to the bizarro weather we’ve had around here lately, Mother Nature is all out of whack. Estimates on crop losses from the orchards around here are around 90%. Other edibles that aren’t as sensitive to frosts are ahead of schedule. Take morels for example.

My usual “window” for foraging morels runs somewhere from the 21st of April to Memorial Day. This year, hubby and I started finding those elusive fungi the last week in March. These photos are actually from the first three weeks of April. We did pretty well for a while, and I did dry some to use throughout the winter, but the season that started three weeks early seems to have dried up three weeks early as well. When I went searching on Mother’s Day 2012, I found only one, and that was an accident. It had been kicked over by someone or something and dried out long before I stumbled upon it.

Despite the fact that I didn’t find any morels on this year’s hike, I didn’t come home empty-handed. Dylan and I ran into my friend Stephanie and her kids. They were looking for ramps, so we joined them. Dylan and I came home with a mesh produce bag filled with ramps (or wild leeks). I’ve used some of them in cooking since then, but my real goal was to can them. More precisely, to pickle them.

If you can find them, pickled ramps can be quite pricey. I’ve made them before and everyone that’s ever tried them loves them. However, I’ve become quite a hoarder. I dole them out sparingly to friends and family members that will appreciate them as much as I do. When we open a jar, it is hard not to eat the entire thing. Once all the delicious ramps have been devoured from the pickling brine, I add it to BBQ sauces, marinades and dressings; the flavor is exquisite.

From the bag Dylan and I brought home, I managed to can five half-pint jars. This isn’t enough for me to check #58 off of my 101 in 1001, but it is a good start. It also gets me 1.25 quarts closer to my pickle goal for #53!

For the recipe, check out my Jerked Onion recipe from the Can Jam and substitute whole ramps for the cut onions, or click here for a printable version: Jerk Pickled Ramps Printable Recipe

 

 

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Let the Canning Commence

Last summer I helped my friend Joan of Olds Farm plant, weed, feed, harvest and shuck her wares. I even dragged the kids along with me a few times. Needless to say, Dylan no longer wants to be a farmer.  In exchange, I received a great bounty of produce and farm-fresh meats. It was win-win.

So, when she called last month and asked me to help her run her tables at the Farmers’ Market for three weeks, of course I said yes. Each week I came home with a giant box of goodies. Spring greens, ground beef, chicken and pork sausages, garlic, leeks, onions and . . . asparagus!

The first week I grilled all the asparagus and spring onions I brought home and consumed them within three days. The second week I brought home a much larger bag of asparagus. I continued to grill and eat large quantities of asparagus, but there was actually enough left over to can and freeze some.

Photo by Tiffany Copeland Godden.

Yesterday, a terrible storm blew in and it rained all morning. At one point, the sky was so black that it appeared to be evening and it was so still I thought there would be a tornado. Yard work was out of the question and the house was nice and cool so  the weather was perfect for canning.

I dragged out the giant bag of asparagus and my pickled asparagus recipe from the Can Jam. The recipe is there in a step-by-step illustrated version, or you can download the printable copy here: French Tarragon Pickled Asparagus Printable

I didn’t get seven jars this time, but I also didn’t weigh/count my spears. I only had these five, tall-ish jars available, so I cut enough spears to fit into the jars. When I was done I had enough asparagus left over for one more dinner and a pint of frozen asparagus.

I’ve never frozen asparagus before and I was afraid it would all turn to mush so I searched The InterWebs for advice. After consulting various “experts”, I decided to take none of their advice and do it my own way. I present to you The Method.

The Method

  1. Clean and cut your asparagus spears.
  2. Fill a CLEAN kitchen sink or large pot with ice and water.
  3. Bring a pan of water large enough to hold all of your asparagus to a boil.
  4. Set a timer for one minute.
  5. Rapidly add all the cut pieces of asparagus to the boiling water.
  6. As the timer counts down to zero-ish, remove the pan from the stove.
  7. Quickly drain the asparagus and add the hot pieces to the ice bath.
  8. Stir the spears around in the bath to quickly cool them.
  9. Remove the cut pieces to a towel to drain.
  10. Spread the cooled pieces onto a plate or cookie sheet and place in freezer.
  11. After the pieces are individually frozen, place them in a freezer container.
1 pint frozen asparagus

Yum.

Okay, so most people blanch their asparagus, but I did it for less than a minute and I was really quick about getting it into the ice bath. Conflicting info from the internet makes me wonder if this will help at all, but I’m hopeful. They look beautiful at least.

Storage count: 2.25 quarts pickles.5 quarts frozen vegetables

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#53 (How Much Should You Can?)

As part of my 101 in 1001, I committed to completing a food storage plan. I actually sat down this winter and completed it! However, I did it the old fashioned way: with a pencil and a printed out copy. So, with canning season upon us, I decided to update the plan and bring it into the 21st century. After starting my canning for the season, I decided that it was time for a spreadsheet.

Drumroll please . . .

canning grid

Ok, so that is just a pdf version of the guide I printed from the internet. It’s a good thing though, because the link I had used to find the form before is no good anymore. If you want to print it out and do it the old-fashioned way, you can.

Here is a spreadsheet template for you to use to plan your own canning. I hope you find it useful.

My completed canning plan is a little adventurous. I think I’m going to be very busy this year. The Farmers’ Market is going strong, and I’ve already started my foraging and canning for the year, so I think I can do it, but it will be a lot of work. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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Dairy Queen Part 3 (Or, How to Make Cultured Buttermilk)

I’ve been making yogurt for a long time now. It’s pretty easy and I have a system. So, every five or six days I start a new quart. I’ve also dabbled in cheeses, and even made my own butter. Until recently, however, I’ve had no need or desire to make butermilk.  Then hubby introduced me to chipotle ranch dressing and my love affair with buttermilk began. We had the buttermilk in the fridge for the dressing, but I started using it for other things: biscuits, pancakes, stroganoff and other cream sauces. What started out as a ranch dressing habit soon turned into an expensive butermilk addiction. I had to take action.

Enter: Homemade Buttermilk, a How-To

Warm about three cups of milk to 85°.

Stir about a cup of cultured butermilk into the warmed milk.

Let rest, covered, on the counter or other suitable warm-ish place overnight.

Once the buttermilk has cultured, store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (if it lasts that long).

Expensive!

Culturing buttermilk is super easy and saves a ton of money.  Good quality buttermilk costs $4.99 a quart while unhomogenized milk from the same dairy costs only $3.49 a half gallon. So, for $3.49 I can make what would cost me $10 to buy.

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On Breeding Like Rabbits

When people say someone/something is, “breeding like rabbits” the implication is that they are reproducing at an unbelieveable rate.  As someone trying to raise rabbits for meat, I can tell you that it isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds.

Our breeding stock, Fiona and Nibbler have been old enough to breed since January 2011.  However, January in Northern Michigan can be pretty harsh and I wasn’t ready to start my breeding endeavor then only to have it result in frozen litters of baby bunnies.  I waited until March.  The air had warmed sufficiently and I deemed it safe to start.  I took Fiona to Nibbler’s pen just like the books/internet said I should.  I left her there for a while, checked back and returned her to her cage.  A few hours later I let her visit again, left them alone for a bit and then put her back in her cage.  I documented the date, marked the calendar and started counting down the days until she would need a nesting box.  I Googled different types of nesting boxes.  I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  A week after the due date I gave up waiting.

I tried again.  No luck.

I tried again.  I decided that once again the pregnancy hadn’t taken. In June I asked my friend Joan from Olds’ Farm if I could bring my doe out and put her with one of the bucks they keep.  Joan agreed and I planned to take Fiona to the farm next time I went.

Imagine my surprise when I awoke the next morning to find Fiona pulling her fur out and spreading it around her hutch.  I needed to pick Dylan and some friends up from a sleepover and take them to a 10:00 movie. I didn’t have time to set up a real nest box before I got the boys so I put out a makeshift nest and went about my business.  I intended to come home and set up a real nest box before Fiona delivered her babies because rabbits are “supposed” to deliver at night.  Wrong.  I got home at noon to find my husband in the yard announcing the arrival of two kits.  Fiona didn’t like my makeshift box and had delivered them on the floor of the cage.  Mr. Hippie had moved them into my “nest box” with a towel because he didn’t know if he should touch them or not.  When everything was said and done, Fiona had delivered eleven kits.  One was stillborn but we moved the ten surviving kits into the “nest”.  After the horde of boys left, Mr. Hippie and I went out and got the rest of the things we needed to properly accomodate the babies.

I set up the deluxe nesting box and moved the kits into it.  Fiona decided that she would dig a new nest next to the one I made.  She started pulling more fur to line the new nest.  I started panicking, afraid that she was going to deliver another litter of kits.  (Rabbits do that, you know.)  Fiona did not deliver any more kits.  She did however divide her kits into two groups and move half into the new nest.

Once Fiona had completed her second nest, she promptly stopped nursing the front five kits.  Fortunately, rabbits are designed to survive harsh conditions.  Like, for example, your mother not coming back to feed you for a couple days because there is something dangerous lurking about your home.  I moved the five littler kits that she hadn’t been nursing into “her” nest with the five bigger kits.  The next morning I awoke to find two of the kits pushed out.  They weren’t just pushed out of the nest either.  They had somehow managed to be completely evicted from the hutch.  Both were chilly and crawling around on the ground.  I put them back into their nest so they could warm themselves and went on my way.

The next night I went to derby practice and left the kids home with Gwen in charge since Adam was working that night.  After practice I checked my phone and found that I had missed a call.  The kids know that they are only to call me in an emergency, so my heart stopped for a moment while I, without listening to the message, called the house.

Gwen was bawling on the other end of the line, “Mom, one of the rabbits died.” She was panicked, distressed, I’m not sure what else but I tried my best to talk her down.  She didn’t know what to do with the dead kit.  I suggested she add it to the compost heap like I had done with the stillborn kit. This solution was not acceptable to her. When I got home she had already provided funeral and burial services for the kit.

Fiona continued to push the other runty kit out of the nest for a while, but never split the nest again and begrudgingly nursed all the kits.

When all was said and done, we ended up raising nine kits from our very first litter!  It took a while for the rabbits to figure out what they were doing, but in the end it was a successful endeavor.

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Brined Pork Roast

So, I figured I have a half an hour to kill while the cake bakes.  I could go read Harry Potter, or I could try to get caught up on some of my posts.  I have goals after all.

Hubby has been laid off since Christmas.  While he’s been looking for jobs and applying for jobs, he’s probably going to be unemployed for a while.  Although the drop in income is going to be a struggle, it has been really wonderful having him home.  He’s been cooking and cleaning and doing laundry.  Ok, he always did the laundry, but sweeping the kitchen floor??

Last week I came home from work and was welcomed by a fragrant, savory aroma.  It was brine.  Hubby had been researching brines online all morning and finally came up with this:

  • 1/4 cup Champion Hill Honey
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 1/2 T. thyme
  • 1 1/2 T. parsley
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, skin and all (WHOLE garlic, not just a clove.)
  • 1 T. peppercorns
  • scant 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 4 cups water

Bring water to a boil in a 2 quart saucepan.  Mince the herbs and crush the garlic and spices with a rolling-pin or a mortar and pestle.  Add all ingredients into the boiling water, stirring the honey until dissolved.  Bring the entire mixture to a boil and then let cool to at least room temperature before proceeding.

Once the brine has cooled, transfer brine to a large, non-reactive bowl and add a 2-ish pound pork roast.  Ours was from the half hog we got from Olds Farm late last summer.

Pork in brine

Brined pork steeping overnight.

 

Cover with a plate or other weight to keep the pork submerged.  Allow the meat to soak in the brine overnight.

After the pork has soaked overnight, remove the meat from its brine and blot it dry.  Let the pork rest for thirty minute before cooking. 

brined pork

Pork brined overnight

 Cook at 350 degrees until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees.  (This took almost an hour, but I started checking every ten minutes after the first thirty.  Let the roast rest for ten minute before serving.

Fully cooked and ready to serve.

This brined pork was delicious!  It stayed very moist and the flavor was incredible.   We’ve already discussed trying other herb and spice combinations but have decided that if we try this particular recipe again we will cut the salt by about half.

Since the pork came from a local hog, it was a perfect Dark Days Dinner when served with my Homemade Gnocchi in cream sauce:

  • Wash about 2 lbs. of redskin potatoes (Westmaas Farms), stab each with a fork a few times and bake until fully cooked.
  • Scoop the insides from the potato skins and deposit them into a bowl. 
  • Run the potatoes through a ricer or food mill.
  • Mix the potatoes with 2 beaten egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups flour (spelt; Organic Bean and Grain) and a pinch of salt.
  • Stir until pliable and roll into 3/4″ tubes.
  • Cut the tubes into 1″ pieces.
  • Pinch each piece to create dimples and drop onto a plate. 
  • Freeze the gnocchi until firm.
  • Cook by dropping into salted, boiling water until the dumplings float or store individually frozen gnocchi in an air-tight container for several months.
Pork with homemade gnocchi

Roasted brined pork with homemade gnocchis in garlic cream sauce.

After the gnocchis were boiled I dropped them into a hot skillet with a Tablespoon of butter, sprinkled them with a Tablespoon of flour and slowly stirred in Shetler’s heavy cream until a thick “Alfredo” sauce was formed.  You could add whatever herbs and spices you like to the sauce but I just added salt, pepper and a little minced garlic.

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January Spice Rack Challenge: Rosemary 3 Ways

I found several different recipes that I wanted to try for this month’s Spice Rack Challenge but in addition to the Spice Rack Challenge, I still have my 101 in 1001 to think about.  So, I opted for recipes that would allow me to do double duty.  Cheating?  Maybe.  Efficient?  Definitely.   Besides, is it cheating if I do three posts with three different rosemary recipes?

Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morels over Homemade Pasta

 

All three recipes turned out great.  First I made homemade pasta with rosemary, garlic and cracked pepper.  Several days later I used the pasta as a base for a Dark Days dinner of Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morel Mushrooms.

Finished Rosemary-Lemon Marmalade

 I also made Rosemary/Meyer Lemon Marmalade.  I can honestly say it was the best marmalade I have ever made.  It was part of Tigress’ Can Jam round up last year and originally came from Prospect the Pantry.  I should share this marmalade, but I think I will end up hoarding it.

I also made Rosemary Lemon Muffins.  I intended to make Rosemary Lemon cupcakes, but I toyed with the recipe and ended up with more of a muffin.  I found three different recipes for lemon cupcakes and married them.  The result is a light but sweet rosemary/lemon corn muffin.  The flavor is excellent and I think I will make them again, but I will go back to the original recipes and tinker a little more first.

Rosemary/Lemon Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 stick real butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups corn flour (flour, not the grittier meal)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • zest from 2 lemons, divided
  • juice from 2 lemons
  • 1 T. fresh minced rosemary, divided
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream melted butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time mixing thoroughly after each.  In a separate bowl combine flours, salt and baking soda.  Alternately add 1/3 of dry ingredients and 1/3 milk to wet ingredients mixing after each addition.  Add lemon juice, half the minced rosemary and half the zest; mix for one minute more.

Ready for the oven

 

Combine remaining zest, rosemary and 1/3 cup sugar.  Reserve.

Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.  Fill each tin half full. Sprinkle Rosemary-Lemon Sugar onto each muffin.  Bake 17-20 minutes.

Rosemary Lemon Muffin

I used jumbo muffin tins so mine needed to cook 23 minutes.

Feeling inspired?  Have a good rosemary recipe?  There’s still time for you to join the Spice Rack Challenge.  Hop on over to Mother’s Kitchen to sign up and post your recipe before Friday January 21st.

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Dark Days Dinner: Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morels over Rosemary Pasta

Stroganoff is a classic dish.  I don’t think I have ever followed a recipe for it the way I was supposed to.  Some things require recipes.  Baking for example is science.  You can’t mess with chemistry and have it work out the same every time.  Sauces are different.  You can play with the seasonings, adjust the thickener or the cook time and it’s all good.  So, as usual my “recipe” is more of a set of guidelines to follow.

Buffalo Stroganoff with Rosemary and Morels over Homemade Pasta

Buffalo Stroganoff with Morels

  • Cube a buffalo sirloin steak (8-10 oz.) and place the chunks in a non-reactive dish.  Cover the steak chunks with plain yogurt (about a cup and a half, but enough to cover all the pieces)  Allow the meat to tenderize for 4-6 hours.
  • Heat a cup of stock (I used homemade chicken, but beef would probably be better.)  Add 8-10 dried morel mushrooms to the stock and allow to soak while meat tenderizes.
  • Sautee a small, diced onion and 2-3 cloves of minced garlic in hot oil.
  • Add sirloin to skillet (reserve yogurt) and sautee until browned.  Add salt and pepper to taste and about a teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary.
  • Roughly chop morels and add them to the pan (reserve stock).
  • Sautee until heated through and add enough flour to thoroughly coat meat and mushrooms. (Probably about a half cup.)
  • Turn heat to high and add stock reserved from mushrooms stirring continuously to avoid clumping.
  • Reduce heat and add reserved yogurt.
  • Add a cup of heavy cream and simmer until thickened.  Add another half cup or so of yogurt to tang up the sauce.
  • Serve over hot egg noodles or homemade pasta.  I served ours on homemade rosemary garlic pasta.

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Dark Days: Chicken Noodle Soup

I know we’ve eaten more local meals than this, but I’ve somehow managed to avoid documenting them.  I guess I’ve been too busy working on my list

Chicken Noodle Soup

This dinner is basically chicken noodle soup.  Homemade stock with chicken from Olds Farm; homemade noodles; carrots from 9 Bean Rows; onions from my garden and thyme dug from the snow.  However, I added two links of homemade andouille sausage and as I was serving the soup I added chopped rainbow chard to this (my) bowl.  This is for two reasons.

1.  Nobody but me will eat chard.

2.  I have been working hard to finish #61 on my list; extra greens are helpful.

The soup was served with whole grain bread from Bay Bread Co.

I love soup in the winter.  Based on the weather today, we have plentyof soup days ahead of us.

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