The Kitchen Brings Such Comfort

We had some fun family time this past weekend, which included a wonderful meal out, which was a gift from my daughter and her husband. It was a delicious meal in a very beautiful, location, out of the way of most everything, apart from some kayakers and canoeists, that we saw. It was a special evening!

The next day while the guys worked on hay, we did some baking. It resulted in amazing goodies. These Challah loaves came from a recipe from my west coast daughter, and it’s the perfect recipe! They turned out quite pretty!

These little squares of cheesy goodness are completely addictive and really very easy, especially after hubs said, “wouldn’t those roll out easier with the pasta maker”? Sometimes I forget to put two and two together! It was a great idea, it helped make them thinner which also, made them crunchier. The ones that didn’t come out of the pasta maker, that I rolled out, taste just as good but I would call them cheesy biscuits, rather than crackers. Absolutely delicious.

I haven’t been on top of my sourdough starter as I should have been. I am feeding it but not as often as I should, it therefore is not active enough yet for making full on sourdough bread. It’s fine though because I have been making English muffins and waffles with the discard from my sourdough feedings.

I have written about these before, but now I have perfected the breakfast sandwich! It took some tweaking to get them right. The scrambled egg kept falling out, and so now I use the muffin cutter to cut the eggs, as well, so the eggs are a circle that just fit and no more egg fall out! Oh and no that isn’t mustard in the sandwich, it is just our bright, beautifully colored yolks that do that! A sign of a well pastured chicken. These are made of our breakfast sausage and eggs, and some amazing local cheddar from a small cheese factory near by us. These are mostly his breakfasts, and occasionally mine if I plan on working outside much of the day.

The beginning of tomato season! Tomatoes can make the meal, this time of year!

This was absolutely delicious recipe. Minnesota wild rice, our dried currants, leeks, celery and lots of homemade chicken bone broth. Healthy, in so many ways, and definitely the best rice dish I have ever eaten. It makes a large recipe, so I froze a few quarts of it for later. I have enough of my dried currants to make one more batch to divide into quarts to freeze for an easy dish on Winter nights.

Gazpacho, a wonderful cold Summer soup. Well in reality it is a wonderful fresh Pico De Gallo that I thought would be great frozen salsa, but since it was not cooked salsa, and because vegetables have so much water in them, when thawed it was too full of liquid and the vegetables were of course not crunchy. Lesson learned. Fresh salsa is way different after the freezer. It did, however, still taste amazing. I had many 2 cup portions frozen, and I was expecting company. I decided to serve Gazpacho, by thawing the 2 cup portions and pureeing them. Everyone loved the Gazpacho. This year I will freeze fresh Pico De Gallo again, but I will know I am going to serve it as Gazpacho.

Pickle season has definitely begun. Lots of cucumbers, and it hasn’t nearly peaked! Looks like there will be loads of them. Cucumbers, beyond what you can eat fresh, either have to be canned or fermented as pickles, chow chows, or relishes. Surely you can’t freeze them. The good thing is that we have hungry pigs and chickens so they get what we can’t eat or process. In exchange they give us pork, eggs and chicken meat. It works.

First kraut of the year, from the garden. It’s been a while since I got my ferment on, and made kraut! I’ve been doing a lot of vinegar pickles, but I think I will start making some Kimchi and  fermented pickles, the kraut inspired me!

I still had frozen strawberries, from a local farm, from last year. Since things last so long in a deep freezer, they are still perfectly fine. This is Sherbet, made from last year’s strawberries, and this year’s wild blackcap berries from the farm. I doubled the amount of fruit the recipe called for and this helped to reduce the sugar per serving, it also has milk in it and I added about 1/4 cup of cream to the about 6 cups of Sherbet that it made, so that it would be a bit richer. It is so good and so refreshing! The great thing is that no ice cream maker is needed. Just frozen fruit, lemon juice, sugar, and milk and it’s all made in the food processor. Takes 5 minutes. Since we always have fruit in the freezer, we will be able to make this all year. I am very happy to have stumbled upon this very easy recipe.

Now just a little bit of farm, since this has been all kitchen, kitchen, kitchen!

There is nothing hubs loves more than a beautiful day to make hay! It just makes him very happy. Yes, he was having a hay day!

Wednesday we will have the mobile slaughter unit out to process our steer. He’s over two years old, which is about time for a Highland. We usually process between 26-30 months. We have had mobile slaughter come out for the pigs for a couple of years now. There is a state inspector here for every bit of it, and s/he never takes their eyes off the animal from start to finish. The people are great to work with, and it goes very smoothly. They use an electrical stunner, which takes the pig down in a literal second. Then they bleed them out. This is the most humane way we have seen. We’ve tried loading and transporting and off loading at the locker, but after a life on green pasture and no stress it is very tough on them with the gates, and the cement floors and the clanking of equipment. We never wanted to do that again, it was hard on them and hard for us to see them stressed. Many people don’t have an option, but we are fortunate to have this mobile slaughter unit. We sell our meat so it must be done with inspectors on board at all times. The pigs though, are with us only 6-7 months, since they are feeder pigs. This steer has been with us, over 2 years, and this makes on farm slaughter harder for us. We really know this guy. We aren’t just dropping him off somewhere this time, we will be here for the whole process. The most important part though is the steer. If he is eating hay one minute, in his normal surroundings, and is out the next second, we know at least that his end is extraordinarily quick, and that is much more important than how hard it feels to us. I have said this in other entries. It should feel hard. Raising animals and getting to know them, makes it harder, come slaughter day, but it should be hard. I never want taking a life for food, to be easy, for me I always want it to be felt.

John Boy and Kleitos have really grown. They will be with us on the farm till their date comes in December. John Boy is the littler one, and he also seems to be the more clever one. Kleitos gets so excited, when I come with food, that he can’t think straight, and can’t even remember that the food is out, at the end of the pasture.  John Boy knows right where it is, and while Kleitos is running in circles excitedly, John Boy runs right for it, and shows him the way. They really are fun to watch!

It’s not just opening a jar, it’s so much more…

Today it is time for a garden update!

These tomatoes are growing in abundance! They are a variety I have not tried before called Verona. They are mostly still green, we’ve tried only a couple and they weren’t quite at their peak of ripeness, I confess to not being able to wait, so I can’t make a total judgment on taste at this point, but they sure are prolific!

Garlic was pulled almost 2 weeks ago. It did very well, and we should have loads of good garlic this year. I learned that in order to grow the best and biggest garlic the next year, that you have to set aside some of the best bulbs for breaking up and planting next year. In the past I have usually gone for the nice big ones right away for cooking, but this year I will, a bit sadly, tuck away those huge lovely bulbs for next year, and cook with the more medium sized bulbs I have. This should increase the size and quality of our garlic for next year, eventually after years, we will have all large high quality bulbs.

A pretty sampling from the garden.

Things are starting to really get going, soon the kitchen counter will be mounded with loads of produce for processing and storing for the Winter. The joy of opening a jar of tomato basil soup, or salsa, or pickles or kraut during the Winter is amazing, and thinking of what went into said produce is very gratifying! When I open these jars, I often find myself thinking about how I started the plants on a cold February day and tended to them till they were transplanted into larger pots during a rainy cool April, and then in late May transplanted to the garden with hopes of no late Spring frosts occurring. Then comes Summer and food processing from June to October. Finally, I open those jars in the Winter and taste the Summer inside them. It is more than gratifying, these jars are a living calendar of the seasons, and despite all my convenient kitchen tools that help me process this produce, and prepare it for the future year’s food, it still gives me a reminder of how historically people worked so hard to do what I am doing, they didn’t have the options of eating any other way but seasonally and by working hard to store enough food. My way of doing this surely is easier than their way, but it gives me pause each time, and I am filled with respect and reverence for the incredible work people put in to feeding their families, whether it was our ancients, or our more recent ancestors, everyone worked to put food on the table. This is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.

Nope, these are not this year’s potatoes. These slightly less than perfect potatoes are the end of last Summer’s potatoes. I will use them up quickly at this point, because our new potatoes are ready! Making sure things last throughout the year is a bit of a dance. I don’t want to use too much up early in the Winter, and when late Spring comes I also don’t want to be left with too much, this dance has gotten easier each year, as I can now anticipate our needs better.

The only thing here from the garden is the Calendula flowers and the Chamomile. The rest was gathered. Mullein is useful for nagging coughs from colds, while the Elderflower is a soothing tea, Yarrow helps to stop minor bleeding, Chamomile soothes the skin when made into a salve and Catmint (sometimes referred to as Catnip) can be used in a preparation for use as an insect repellent.

I could not be more grateful for this way of life.

Pig time

Pigs are on the ground at Red Tail Hollow! Meet John Boy and Kleitos! If you’ve missed earlier entries, I should explain that we name the pigs alphabetically, and these two are J and K. This system lets us know how many pigs we have raised by what letter we are on at the time, just as is done with storm names. These two are adjusting well and digging things up at a rapid rate. Soon they will go out on pasture, we just wanted them to first get used to us in their smaller pen. It’s easier for them to get to know us in a smaller space than in a larger space. It’s been a bit tough weather wise since they got here, with either intense heat or intense rain, and not much in between that, but with two wallows and lots of water they seem to be doing well. We are starting to have some produce scraps from the garden and they have been enjoying crunching through the outer cabbage leaves I have been sharing with them.

The past few years my cabbage, broccoli, kale and collards have been eaten by bugs, but this year I have been managing them differntly and am happy to say that so far so good! We had coleslaw yesterday and fried cabbage with salt and pepper tonight. I’m already wishing I had planted more of it!

These are volunteer pumpkin plants that are growing in the Winter Chicken yard. I fed the chickens a locally made seed mix last Winter as treats, and there were large pumpkin seeds in the mix, and this is what happened. I wasn’t sure if it would actually flower and grow pumpkins or if it would just be foliage but sure enough there will be loads of pumpkins for the pigs this year! We already planted a pumpkin garden, so these are a bonus, and check out the size of these leaves…

WOW!

I planted Currants about three years ago, and was lucky to get one currant off of the bushes each year. The birds and critters were always getting them. This time though the bush has much more fruit on it! I guess it is enough fruit for the birds, the critters and me, this year!

These currants were dried, so that I could use them in a special recipe for a dinner party coming up soon. Wild rice, Currants and Walnuts.

The raspberries will be ripening soon!

This flower is on my blackberry bushes. They are absolutely huge berries and this year looks like I will get much more than last year!

Cherries! Cherry ice cream has been on the menu, as well as Sourdough Cherry muffins. After eating a bunch of them the rest got frozen for goodies later.

My tomato fence didn’t work quite as well as I hoped. I I thought I would be able to get all the branches to grow along the fence, but thankfully I left plenty of room around the tomatoes, so even if they go jungle on me, I can still get in there. Can’t wait for that first red tomato, and the first tomato sandwich of the year!

Shiitake mushrooms are so beautiful.

A tray of today’s treats.

Elderflower, Mint, Chamomile, Basil, Spearmint, Dill and Calendula.

The storms this Summer have been impressive. This one we watched for a long time. What a lightening show. In addition to the lightening show the fire flies were everywhere! It was quite an amazing display.