Eating Very Well

I pulled out a treat from the freezer. Hubby made Apple Juice last fall. Well ok, it was supposed to be apple cider but for a variety of reasons, it turned out to be delicious Apple Juice. It had a fair amount of solids at the bottom so I ran it through cheese cloth. What was a quart of juice turned out to be maybe 3/4 of a quart of juice and what settled out to be a small amount of smooth concentrated applesauce. I had an idea.

apple juice

chops

My idea was to use the apple puree and some of the juice to cook the pork chops in, and they turned out great. If the pan ran out of liquid I de-glazed the it with a bit more apple juice and they turned out delicious! We poured glasses of pure Fall (a.k.a Apple Juice), and ate the Pork we harvested in the Fall, while we ate our Fall potatoes with last Spring’s Parsley, Fall Applesauce (with a little mixed in Raspberry juice from my younger daughter’s canned Raspberries from out west) and early Summer Broccoli. We put Rhubarb Chutney on top of the chops and that threw a little Springtime into the mix. This wasn’t seasonal eating this was eating the Seasons!

double loaf

I continue to look for the perfect variation on the No Knead Bread. I haven’t perfected it, this effort was based on doubling the loaf so it cooked taller in the 5 qt. Dutch Oven, a single recipe yields a tasty but short loaf, making for awkwardly skinny sandwiches. This loaf went much better but was a bit on the Hulky side, and maybe slightly more moist inside then I want, but really only slightly.

Another night was Pizza night…

dried tomatoes

I soaked these little summer Juliet tomatoes in some Olive Oil…

shitakes

and added some water to these Shiitake Mushrooms from last fall to hydrate them for the pizza…

ready for pizza

When it all came together we had our neighbors put up hot peppers, our own canned tomato sauce, Shiitakes from the Fall, our own seasoned ground pork and dried tomatoes and dried green peppers. The cheese was from a local cheese maker. I may have mentioned at one time or another that there is a cheese factory that is only open on Friday mornings, and we had made a recent Friday morning trip. The Pizza dough was made from locally harvested Wheat not far from where we live. We picked the flour up on a recent trip to a small grain mill near here.

pizza1

When it all came together it tasted great, and it made 4 of these pizzas. I was able to freeze two and leave the rest for lunches the next day.

poor man's chowder

There is a story to this soup with the lackluster color and for the record what it lacked in luster, it made up for in taste. Clearly, we have been eating close to home, and although I will be super excited to have salads back on the menu, it makes real sense to me to actually wait till it IS on the menu and then appreciate it for the seasonal treat that it is. Having said all this we did something out of the ordinary on New Year’s Eve to celebrate in an annual way. We have for, almost 30 years celebrated New Year’s Eve with live lobster, and mussels, and we did this year as well. I thought a lot about the lobster’s journey and what went into getting it to our plates, surely more thoughtful than I had ever been before about the lobster. So occasionally this will still happen. What I can do to extend the extravagance is to save every bit of shell and boil them to make a seafood broth. I ended up making 4 large containers of it. So I pulled one out of the freezer the other day and made a Seafood Broth based Vegetable Chowder and it turned out great. Ingredients: seafood broth, green beans,  asparagus, onions, lots of corn, and potatoes, bacon pieces, morel mushrooms, milk and seasonings including our neighbors homemade chili powder. The soup would have looked more traditional with whole milk or cream but I used 2% and it was just fine with it.

Tomorrow we are expecting about 5 inches of snow, and I’ll be working at home on really granola business and waiting for the arrival of the new local NON-GMO cranberries for my next batch of granola. I’m very excited about these berries, because the recipe will now be made from all NON-GMO ingredients apart from the honey which is tough to make a statement on in this country. The really big news? I am working toward a NON-GMO Verification label, which is very exciting.

So with plenty of work to do tomorrow at home, it will be a snowy, pj, coffee, and computer day.

Good Fortune

A very special celebration occurred. My younger daughter and I went down to Florida to celebrate Mama’s 80th birthday. I posted happy pictures of the celebration on Facebook and a friend posted… “oh you are so fortunate, love it!” Yes, I am so fortunate along with my whole family to be able to share these happy events. It was a wonderful and fun couple of days, albeit strangely warm and humid, almost surreal when you come from wind chills below zero and take two plane rides, spend 48 hours in this oddly warm but familiar weather, and then 2 planes later it is 6 degrees. I found myself wondering if it had really happened, but the wonderful warm memories I was filled with made me sure it did. It is a blessing and an honor to have my parents in my life at my age, and I know it everyday.

When I got home from the trip, it was back to what felt familiar, loading the wood box, and guiltily saying yes to hubby standing in the front hall with all his gear on saying, “would you like me to do the chickens?” I got some bread made, caught up on billing for business and did some reading. Strangely, not a reference book! I haven’t had an urge to read fiction in over a year or more, but suddenly I woke up one morning literally itching for fiction! I surprised my own self! I had a long time ago, maybe in the 80’s read a book called “Gap Creek” by Robert Morgan, I remembered liking it so much but could barely remember it apart from a few major events in the book. I started reading the book and within 2 days it was devoured and I couldn’t wait to get hold of the next book, “The Road from Gap Creek”, also by Robert Morgan. I have not had as much time since I started it last week, but I am half way through it and have so enjoyed both of the books. The character was strong beyond anything I could ever imagine. It seemed whatever disaster happened and there were many, that despite the conditions in which she was living she could always pick herself up, sweep up the kitchen put coffee on the stove and make some corn bread from the bottom of the corn bin. Over and over, from the worst of circumstances, and they were terrible. Each time she swept out the bad and made yet another beginning. I’d like to think I could have had her vision but instead I will just be in awe of her character.

Today was quiet, it lightly snowed all day and I spent the morning under a blanket getting almost the rest of the way through Barbara Kingsolver’s work of art, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. I started it last year in the mid winter, actually about now, and got half way through but then became buried in the pre-Spring cramming session for all learning related to my own Animals, Vegetables and Miracles that were coming our way with that being our first Spring of true Homesteading efforts. I also got to doing some research today on raising Sprouted Fodder, which is a way of turning 50 pounds of seed into 300 pounds of food for the chickens, as well as some reading on mini chicken tractors and on raising meal worms, it doesn’t seem too hard and it ups the chickens protein at very little cost. It was a nice mix of a day, and the snow kept falling.

The afternoon question of what to make for dinner came around and I can’t help the thrill and pleasure I get from collecting the meal from what is here. Tonight: Pork Steak with grilled onions and Rhubarb Chutney, Applesauce, Winter Squash, Green Beans seared in the pan the Steak was cooked in, as well as Corn, Collards and fresh bread. I can’t lie the Collards were not as happily greeted by hubby as myself, therefore, the green beans.

It was a delicious dinner, we knew where it all came from, and it was handled by only the butcher and myself. I don’t take this lightly, I value it very much. When I hear things like I did the other day about a national chain restaurant “conditioning” their bread with something that is also used in Yoga mats, all I think is, “know your food”. That’s our goal.

IMG_8804

It’s February!

February is here, and one can’t help thinking of Spring and all it will bring in just then next couple months! It will be so welcome. I really would not be able to live somewhere that doesn’t have seasonal changes like the Midwest. It just wouldn’t seem right. After all the amazing thrill and excitement of Spring would be meaningless if it was green and sunny year around. I’m just a midwest gal I guess.

This morning it was time to tackle the coop. Deep bedding sounds like a good idea in writing but in reality it’s just too gross and smelly! The girls, of course, did their “freak out performance” on cue. See when I go in to scrape out all the old litter and add nice clean litter to the coop, they act like it’s all over! They pile on top of one another, and are sure they will die! Ahhhh yes, reminds me of the “Chicken Little” story I knew so well as a kid. Once the trauma was over and they had clean fluffy litter, filled food containers, fresh water and some yummy chicken scratch for a treat they seemed to forgive me although there was a lot of clucking and tsk tsk-ing going on when I left. Maybe that was them appreciating my hard work? Or maybe they were all saying things about me, who knows, but I am happy that the coop is all clean! The girls hopped straight into the nest boxes, hopefully to get to work for us!

Yesterday we went on what we call a cheese run. A local cheese maker near here opens his retail door at the factory only on Friday mornings. We have wanted to get there for weeks, and this was finally the week. Ahhh the 5 year cheddar, sooooo good! I also picked up some less expensive mild 1 year for shredding to put on food. It’s been a long time since I have bought those zip top shredded cheese bags at the store, but it is still nice to have the convenience of shredded cheese at home. After the cheese shop we went to the new grain mill that actually mills LOCAL GRAIN! This was like being in a candy shop! I bought oodles of flour, whole wheat, whole wheat pastry, sifted bread flour, rye flour, pancake mix for my daughter and even a small bag of their local oats to try out. It would be fantastic if I could make my granola with local oats. They are still working on refining their system there and said that they are 95% hulless on their Oats, but that they are adding one more screen and think they will soon be as hulless as possible. This would be very, very cool to be able to use local oats in my really granola as well as the local cranberries and honey that I already use! They were great folks there, and turns out we may even be able to get our organic hog feed there too, and chicken feed. Wow, how cool to be able to buy all our flour for our needs, and all our animal feeds all at the same place! Kind of General Store-ish! Then after that we went to the chicken store and picked up the organic scratch I ordered for the girls. It was an awesome field trip day!

Tomorrow it’s a trip to town with my daughter for an early movie and lunch, then home to make some buns for the “boys” (hubby and friends) to have with some of our yummy brats with for the big game. They prefer to watch in the workshop, which is ok by me, it will be a quiet afternoon in the house.

Wednesday I will be going to Florida to see my Mom and Dad, and my daughter will be joining. Should be great fun to sneak in a couple of days with them and be there to celebrate Mama’s 80th birthday?!! How is Mama 80? I guess if I am just as lucky I will someday ask myself the same question! It will be great to see them!

In order to be ready to go on Wednesday, it means that…

granola

Monday will be a really granola baking granola day and Tuesday will be a delivery day. Work before play right? Although I have to say the work is fun, I have a pretty farm to look out at, and good podcasts to listen to, thanks to The Beginning Farmer.