Tag Archives: localvore

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…

corn and black bean salsa

Good news! When I opened the pressure canner wendesday morning* I had nine pretty little jars of corn and black bean salsa. (I feel like I should note that I’ve never had a jar shatter in any canner. But I have had older jars blow their bottoms off (twice, and some of my jars are decades old) and I had some “limited edition” ball jars where the lids would jiggle off 50% of the time.)

corn salsa3

So YAY! The fresh salsa tastes pretty good (I had half a jar extra which is sitting in my fridge) but I guess I can’t really speak to the texture of the final product, since there is even more cooking during the canning process.

The other thing I should say is that I totally made up the recipe. That’s the great thing about pressure canning. You don’t have to worry about acidity, sugar levels, or anything else. All you have to do is:
Cut stuff up small enough that it heats all the way through.
Cover the stuff in liquid so the heat is distributed evenly.
Don’t add any thickeners that will screw up the heat transfer.
Cook for the full length required for the longest ingredient present.

With those great caveats I’m going to offer up the recipe. I’ll report back when I’ve opened a jar and let you know how the texture turns out.

Ingredients
3C sweet corn
2C cooked black beans
1C diced tomatoes
1C diced onion
1C lime or lemon juice
1/2C cilantro
1/3 of a hot pepper
1/2T salt
9 half-pint jars

corn salsa ingredients

Ingredient Prep
I’m giving all the ingredients in their final proportions. You can use either canned beans, or dried beans from the store. If you have dried beans rinse and soak them overnight first. Next rinse them and cook in clean water for 45 minutes. They were on the firm side of cooked when I added them to the salsa.

For your sweet corn I’d say 3C is going to be between 3 and 5 ears of corn, depending on how big each ear is, and how carefully you cut off the kernels. There are a lot of tips online for cutting kernels off cobs, but here’s what I’ve found works best:

cutting corn

I have a small cutting board inside a big roasting pan. The kernels fall off the cob in sheets and tend to go EVERYWHERE. The roasting pan is big enough to catch them all.

Ok, ingredient prep is the most hands-on, time-consuming part of this process. Once you’ve gotten everything chopped, diced, rinsed, and measured throw it all into a sauce pan. Bring it up to a quick simmer and adjust the seasonings to your own taste. I’m a wimp when it comes to hot peppers, you might want more. Or you might want basil if you can’t taste cilantro properly**. Good news with pressure canning is you can change anything you want. Heck, you could add water instead of the lemon or lime juice, but I think they add to the flavor.

Canning
Prepare your pressure canner according to it’s directions. Get the water up to a simmer, heat your jars, lids, bands, etc…
Spoon the salsa mix into your jars leaving 1 inch of head space. Be CERTAIN to add enough liquid to cover all the ingredients. I know fresh salsa isn’t so wet, but for home canning you need that liquid to spread the heat throughout the jar properly. Check for and get rid of any air bubbles. Place in the canner.

Put the lid on so the steam can vent and bring to a hard boil. Let the steam vent for the correct amount of time (varies based on canner size) Then shut the pressure valve/put the weight on.

Once the canner is up to pressure keep it there for 55 minutes. If you’re using larger jars check the time needed for sweet corn in your jar size and use that. When the time is up turn off the heat and let the pressure drop slowly. (This is the part where I went to bed) After the jars are cool check your seals and take pretty, pretty pictures of your new salsa.

corn salsa

Or just eat it over chips. Your call.

(All these photos were taken with the Nikon D60. I’ve quickly moved passed the “I’m so confused and lost!” stage into the “This is such a cool toy and there’s so much to learn!” stage. The prep photos were all taken in the dark of night, so while the quality isn’t quite as good I think it’s MILES better than my point and shoot could do. I’m pretty sure I need one of these for myself. You should all go buy knitting patterns so I can afford one…)

corn salsa2

*It takes a long time for the pressure to let out. I turned that sucker off and just went to bed.

**People who say cilantro tastes like soap are missing the gene that lets the rest of us enjoy it. True fact.

overcompensating

Ok, so my corn crop failed. Is that a good reason to go a little crazy at the farm stand? Apparently the answer is YES! I had originally thought that I’d get 4 dozen ears of corn to put in the freezer. Then I read on Knitspot* that Anne got 10 quarts of corn out of just 3 dozen ears. I almost reconsidered…

corn on my counter

Then Farmer Nick told me that if I was willing to buy in bulk I could get a whole bag of corn for $24. I’m not very good at passing up that kind of a deal…

So I’ve been processing corn a LOT in the last week. A full bag is somewhere between 6 and 8 dozen ears (I lost count on the first day)

I now have 4 quarts of corn frozen in the blanching broth – these will be for soups and chowders. I have another 2 quarts frozen (also in my plastic freezer boxes) for casseroles and shepard’s pie (so designated because they’re frozen in blocks, and hard to separate out.)

corn in the freezer

I have SIX quarts of corn which was frozen on cookie sheets and the broken up and poured into glass quart jars. I have been either blanching and freezing or breaking up and storing corn almost every night. I have another two loaded cookie sheets that still need to be put in jars- so that’ll probably bring my total to 9 quarts of corn niblets.

And on top of all that I just made 9 half pints (that’s a little bit more than 2 quarts in case you were wondering) of corn and black bean salsa. Hopefully. The pressure canner is cooling in my kitchen but hasn’t released yet. So hopefully it’s full of pretty jars of home canned salsa, and not a horrible mass of broken glass and veggies. What’ll it be? Find out tomorrow!

I love Knitspot. Not only is Anne an amazing designer who I look up to: she also has a garden and puts up even more produce than I do.
I wonder if I could convince her to raise chickens…

cross pollination blues

I need someone to write the cross-pollination blues. Because I’ve got ’em…

cross polination issues

Remember back when a summer storm blew over all my corn stalks, and I had to tie them up with cotton yarn? And I was all whiny and worried about whether or not I’d get corn? Yup. My corn did NOT cross pollinate.

Luckily there’s a farm stand near by that’s currently selling corn for $4 a dozen. I think I’ll get 3 or 4…

blackberry jam

It took over a pound of blackberries, but I did it! I made seedless* blackberry jam! Smoked cardamom blackberry jam to be exact. I broke out the Squeezo for this process. I love my squeezo** for processing tomatoes and back when my mom gave me hers she included the fine-mesh screen for berry seeds – which I’ve never used before now.

squeezo screens

There is a coarse screen too, for chunky things like squash and apples… Just like with tomatoes it worked like a charm. The fruit goes down into the corkscrew and out comes the juice and pulp

blackberry stuff

While the seeds are pressed out the far end

blackberry seeds

The waste is pure seed, no juice and no flesh. Processing 3 cups of berries gave me 2.5 cups of berry goodness and half a cup of seeds! All this, plus a half cup of whole berries went into the jam pot along with 3C of sugar and half a tablespoon of smoked cardamom.

smoked cardamom

I picked this up on a whim as part of a Penzey’s order. It’s way more intense than regular cardamom and so I’ve been struggling with the best ways to use it. Blackberry jam is so rich, sweet, and strong that it really balances well with the intensity of the smoked cardamom.

Oh! And I have to show you an awesome internet toy I’ve been using. It’s a pectin estimator on the Ball website. You just tell it what kind of fruit, choose jam or jelly, and what sort of pectin you have on hand, and the calculator spits out the list of ingredients! You still have to know how to make jam (aka, what order to mix and cook the ingredients) And it always starts with 1 and 1/3 C of fruit, which is never what I’m using. So I end up doing some math. But since I got my pectin in bulk (from the Mennonite store nearby) I’m grateful for such an easy way to figure out how much to add.

blackberry jam

And this jam is gorgeous, deep, rich purple. I’m very pleased. I think the only fruit I’m still missing from my summer is blueberries. I don’t know how much longer the pick-your-own places will be running either…

*Ok, so I went through all the work of taking the seeds out, and then added a handful of blackberries with the seeds back in. Call me crazy, but I wanted just enough seeds to be able to tell it was real.

**I am in no way affiliated with Squeezo, I just love them.