Tag Archives: localvore

Black garlic

Black garlic is apparently a foodie thing these days. I’d seen it mentioned here and there, but it’s not like I have time to hunt down exotic foods these days.

Then I was at my local farm picking up my winter veggies and they had a large glass jar of black garlic bulbs.

I unwittingly asked if it was something they grew themselves. And that’s when I learned black garlic is just regular garlic, fermented!

You know where this is going, right? I love fermenting things.

Some googling taught me that clean bulbs are fermented somewhere between 120F and 190F, at high humidity, for at least 3 weeks.

Of course you can buy a tool for this. But some sites also talk about making it in a crockpot or rice cooker. I know from my yogurt experiments that both of those run in the right temperature range. But my rice cooker automatically turns off after 15 hours. And I didn’t want the crockpot dedicated to one thing that long.

Luckily I remembered I have a little dipper crock pot in the basement. It’s meant for keeping dips warm. I bought it a lifetime ago for overnight oatmeal.

And it’s just the right size to plug in, then ignore, for a month straight. For the first twoish weeks the cling film was covered in condensation. For the last two weeks I added a dribble of water every day, or so.

Looks just like black garlic to me! I think I’ll start by making some salad dressing.

Pickles

It’s been years since I made pickles. And I’m not really sure why… They’re so easy! This long weekend I made up for that oversight in a big way.

First the cucumber pickles. These are classic dill with a twist. There’s ginger in the spears, and the coins have a zesty orange chili blend in them (along side the usual dill, garlic, and mustard.)

These are refrigerator pickles. I’ve tried canning cucumber pickles a number of times and they always end up mushy. I figure I have space in the back of my fridge for a couple tasty jars. I use the old farmer’s almanac recipe except the vinegar is half white and half apple cider (because I ran out of white.)

Next up: dilly beans! Are you sending variations on a theme? I had purchased a large bunch of fresh dill, and wanted to use up as much as possible.

Beans, garlic, shallot, dill, and mustard seed. I followed this simply canning recipe.

I didn’t have 4 pints of green beans, so I used the same brine to make:

Pickled cauliflower:

with dill, garlic, shallot, and corriander.

Pickled romanesco:

with dill, garlic, shallot, and green peppercorns.

And pickled carrots:

with dill, garlic, shallot, and clove.

I checked that the processing times for all these veggies was still just 10 minutes (it is) and switched up the spices as labeled. I think they’ll all be delicious. I’ll have to resist opening all 4 at once to compare flavors…

Blueberries

I took the girls blueberry picking the last weekend in July. This is becoming a tradition, I remember taking them last year when Willow was just 3 weeks old.

This year the berries were so plentiful there were clean, ripe ones literally falling off the bushes. So that occupied Willow. With Windsor’s help I picked seven quarts.

Next came one of my favorite times of year. The week when we all just eat as many blueberries as we can stand. It’s amazing.

But this weekend,,, whole week out from the harvest some were starting to go soft. So I sorted them, put the best quart back in the fridge for snacks, and put the rest into jam:

Five pints of blueberry cinnamon jam. It’s been a long time since I dug out the canner. It felt good!

More plants!

This space is still nominally a knitting blog. And I actually have some to show you. But I keep forgetting to take pictures. Why? Because it is spring! And spring is much more exciting than an olive green sweater that still isn’t finished.

I may be unreasonably excited about that big black cube. But it is going to turn my compost heap into a compost factory. And that’s exciting, in my world.

The peas, beets, radishes, and lettuce seedlings are up.

No parsnips though. Actually, that’s not true. There are 3 parsnips in the bed where I planted them last year.

I know the seeds need to be planted early, maybe I’m missing that window? Maybe I should plant parsnips in the fall and let them overwinter as seeds?

While weeding the bed that will hold broccoli and brussel sprouts (it’s next to the fence, the neighbors’ grass always tries to move in) I found strawberry seedlings! So now I have a strawberry basket. We’ll see if I can remember to water it all summer…

And I highly suggest artisanal ice cubes for your next project.

Violets and mint are both edible. I will have the prettiest lemonade this summer!

Summer School with Kim!

Vermont Public Radio’s summer school program* learns to spin yarn this week! They visited my friend Kim Goodling over at Grand View Farm.

grand veiw farmer

VPR recorded an audio postcard for you! Listen to the MP3 on their site. You’ll hear Kim talk about carding and spinning her wool. It’s a great little spot for one of my favorite local farms.

*I love my local public radio. These Summer school tidbits come on at the end of the lunch hour and cover all sorts of fun things from throwing a curve ball to tying a fishing fly.

Winter trees

I’m practicing a decidedly old fashioned Christmas this year. Along with fruitcake and a coffee bread with a recipe that starts with “scald the milk” we did not get our tree until this week. I certainly won’t be taking it down on the 26th either. I’ll probably leave it up until January 6th (that’s the 12th day of Christmas, after all)

NVLC

We get our tree every year from Northern Vermont Llama Co. – that’s right there are llamas in this Christmas tradition of mine.

llamas

Usually we go out into the trees and pick one that’s so big the two of us struggle to drag it back up the hill. This year the owners told us they were giving the trees a year off from pick-your-own. They had trees already picked for us, or we could still pick our own if we wanted one over 10 feet.

tall trees

Oh no, we thought – that’d be huge. So we selected a nice 8 foot tree. The first sign that something was amiss occurred when Neil picked our tree up with one hand – one handed and his back has been acting up recently.

Then when we got it home setting it in the stand was easy, the lights that barely covered the last two trees were plenty, I have extra ornaments I didn’t hang…

tree 2012

It is a beautiful tree, and it does fill out the corner of our living room so prettily. But let’s compare, here is our tree from 2010.

decoratedtree

Apparently we usually buy 10 or even 12 foot trees – and we never knew it! Oh yeah, and I picked up a needle felting kit from my Christmas tree farm, as you do…

veggie soup

Sometimes my soups come together like this:

What can I throw into this pot?

This is one of those meals. I picked up my bulk order of winter veggies tonight and knew I wanted to make a veggie soup. In fact I challenged myself to make this soup without even using a meat based stock. And it worked pretty well too!*

veggie soup

The most important step, for my soup anyway, was to get the beans going in the morning. I threw them into the little crockpot (this is the one meant for dips, it’s PERFECT for cooking dried beans) with twice as much water and walked out the door.

I came home (unloaded 290lbs of veggies) and chopped onion, carrot, potato, and garlic. These went into a pot on medium heat with some olive oil. Then I walked the dogs.

I came back and started throwing things into the pot. First the beans and their juice. Then some broccoli, cauliflower, kale, green beans, sweet corn, quinoa, and some crazy mixture of spices.

Honestly just add anything that you’ve got lying around. Well, except for beets, they would change everything…

veggie soup2

And yes, I made bread too. I even started it the night before in hopes that it’d be a little like sourdough. But no luck. So while it’s perfectly tasty I’m still a bit sad that it’s not what I wanted.

*hint: lots of spices. In fact this wasn’t quite right to my taste-buds until I added the smoked mixture Penzeys sells to put on steaks. There’s no steak in the mix, but still it felt like cheating.

Chicken day

It doesn’t seem appropriate to blog about my meat birds all summer, and then skip the final step: we harvested the last of our meat birds last week.

This process is not fun. It is, however, an important part of owning our food. Chicken day lets us say “Yes, we take responsibility of the meat which we eat.” And I believe that’s important.

outside

I divide the process into two steps. The first steps happen out doors. Plucking, gutting – I think of these at the “dirty” steps. The scalding pot lets us pluck more easily, the coolers chill the meat until we can move it inside.

Chickens (like all living creatures) do not have bacteria in their muscles. So tell me – why do we ALL accept that chicken must be cooked until it isn’t pink to kill the salmonella? It’s because the process of slaughtering a chicken is so very hard to do at any speed without spreading the germs from the chickens large intestines everywhere.

Slaughter happens quickly but deliberately so I can make sure the chickens don’t suffer any more than necessary. Plucking and gutting happen slowly and patiently- they’re done outside so we can avoid spreading feces and make sure the meat going into the coolers is clean and safe. Also outside requires less scrubbing afterwards.

Once the birds are cleaned and in the coolers they look like giant rotisserie chickens – more like something you’d find at the store. We move inside now and butcher the whole roasters into halves and quarters, drums & thighs, boneless skinless breasts, stir fry meat, etc… We part out the portions down to sizes that are useful to us. Sharp knives and lots of towels are needed, but at least I can sit down now.

inside

Once the meat is bagged and in the freezer there’s still more to do. Chicken fat is rendered down to schmaltz. Leftover bones and meat are simmered down to stock and soup. I clean up and freeze the livers, kidneys, and hearts.

When you’ve put this much of yourself -your emotions, time, effort, and yes money- into raising 24 chickens wasting a single portion is very clearly unconscionable.

Apple Honey country pork ribs

For Neil’s birthday I made him country style pork ribs. I knew (since this was a Birthday Dinner) that I wanted a fancy recipe. And living in the 21st century of course I started online. But of all the recipes I found 90% told me “chop an onion, slow cook the ribs with that and a bottle of BBQ sauce.”

Now don’t get me wrong, we love BBQ sauce just fine. In fact, Neil makes a delicious BBQ sauce that we keep in a tub at the back of the fridge. But that just seemed too easy for a Birthday Dinner.

One recipe mentioned apples and bourbon and I thought hey, how hard can this be? So I made my own recipe. And in order to counteract all the bottle ‘o sauce recipes out there: I’m sharing it with you. So here is my very own slow-cooked Apple and Honey country pork rib recipe:

Ingredients
1 package of pork ribs ~5lbs
1/2C dry beans
1 beer any flavor (I used a red and I’d recommend something on the lighter side of the scale so it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors. Stout would be delicious in it’s own way)
2 cloves of garlic and garlic powder
1 large apple (or 2 small apples if you’ve got a lot of them lying around from going apple picking this fall)
3 Tbsp honey
salt, pepper, savory, and thyme

apples and honey

Directions
Note: I cooked this in a cast iron dutch oven inside my oven. You could, I’m sure, do the same thing in your crock pot. You might have to add a little to the times I list on the high setting, or double the length of everything and set it to low heat (I’d say go for 4-6 hrs total on high, and 8-10 on low.)

Heat your oven to 250F. Sprinkle your dry beans* in the bottom of the dutch oven. Place the pork ribs on top, layer them as evenly as possible.
Open the beer, pour half into a glass to enjoy. Pour one quarter of the remaining beer (4oz) over the ribs. Slice the garlic thinly and lay it on top of the ribs. Sprinkle on about 1/2 tsp of garlic powder, along with a dash of salt and pepper.
Put the lid on and place it in the oven. Allow the ribs to slow cook for 1.5 hours.

Pull the ribs out of the oven and flip them. Add the remaining 4oz of beer. Drizzle 2 Tbsp of honey over the ribs. Peel the apple, slice it and place the slices on top of the ribs. Drizzle on the remaining Tbsp of honey, and add a dash more of garlic, salt, and pepper. Add about 1/2 tsp of thyme, and 1/2 tsp of savory.
Note: If you don’t have savory you could use rosemary. It’ll be different but still delicious. Also, I love savory, it’s great on all kinds of pork dishes.

Put the lid back on and put the ribs back into the oven. Turn it up to 300F and cook for another 1.5hrs. I actually cooked it for another 2 hrs since I was waiting for the winter squash to finish up, but I’m sure it’d be fall-off-the-bones tender in 1.5. The great thing about the lid on the cast iron dutch oven is moisture doesn’t escape so you don’t have to worry about the ribs drying out.

apple honey ribs

I served these ribs with acorn squash roasted with brown sugar in the hollow, and garlic mashed potatoes. This time of year everything except the spices are locally sourced. Autumn is a great time of year to be a localvore!

*None of the recipes I saw included beans. Seriously?? Beans are delicious with pork, and they soak up the juices. Why would you NOT include beans?

Apple picking

pick your own

We went apple picking this weekend! I know a lot of the orchards in the north east lost their harvest due to the weirdly warm spring which included some nasty crop-killing frosts. Luckily we missed the worst of that.

macouns

But their were some varieties that didn’t survive. And the varieties that did, were a lot lighter than usual. This was the LAST weekend for apple picking – and usually it goes well into october!

handsome sweater

The apples that were left were mostly up high. They had the little claw baskets available. But sometimes we wanted apples that were even higher up…

reaching the high apples

We got a lot of macouns and liberties. A few cortlands, and a selection from the old heritage trees that were at the back of the orchard. Best line of the day came when we asked one of the employees what kinds those apples were and he said “oh, you probably won’t like this one.” So then of COURSE we had to try it!

gorgeous day

It was a gorgeous day for apple picking. And now I have a bushel of apples in my kitchen. The liberties will be for eating, while the macouns and heritage breeds will go into the apple chutney and apple sauce I’m planning to make. Of course I still have tomatoes in the fridge… Maybe I’ll make some tomato chutney too…