Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jerusalem Artichokes...

Have you ever heard of "Jerusalem Artichokes?"  They grow wild all over the place here.  This past spring, a man was selling some of the tubers at our local Farmer's Market.  I was so excited!  I bought some of them and planted them in the garden.  I once read that "The man who has Jerusalem Artichokes will never starve." Apparently, once established, it will be a big job to get rid of them.  You plant the tubers, and they multiply and send up big tall flowers.
The tubers multiply like crazy in the ground.  You can dig them up any time you like.  I dug up a few yesterday.
There are many ways to use them... they can be steamed and mashed, with butter and salt.  They are great in soup.  Sliced thinly they can be added to salads.  They have a mild slightly sweet taste and are very versatile.  This morning, I made one of our favorite breakfasts, stir fried vegetables, Jasmine rice and scrambled eggs.  We like a little Tamari on the vegetables.
There is no need to peel the chokes.  Just wash and scrub them well.  You may, if you wish, of course, but it's a waste of time, and probably nutrients, as well.  Chokes have a pretty impressive nutritional profile. Here is a chart from Wiki:
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 304 kJ (73 kcal)

17.44 g
Sugars 9.6 g
Dietary fiber 1.6 g

0.01 g

2 g

Thiamine (B1)
0.2 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.06 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.3 mg
0.397 mg
Vitamin B6
0.077 mg
Folate (B9)
13 μg
Vitamin C
4 mg

14 mg
3.4 mg
17 mg
78 mg
429 mg

These are very easy to grow, and once established, you can hardly get rid of them, so be careful where you plant them.  They will keep, nicely, for what seems forever in the fridge.  I haven't tried room temperature yet, but I am planning to leave a few out in a basket and see what happens. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Canning Carrots!

I have never canned carrots before.  I am ashamed to say that my carrot growing attempts have, in the main, been an abysmal failure.  This year was the worst ever because of all the rain.  Carrot seeds take a long time to sprout and so the weeds get a head start and by the time the carrots are up... then I have to wait until they are big enough that I won't pull them up with the weeds.  You get the picture.  One year, probably 32 years ago (gasp!) I had a good carrot patch and I mulched it heavily before the ground froze and dug up fresh carrots all winter!  It was wonderful.  As I'm hoping to go to a permanent mulch system, maybe I'll be able to do that again.  However, yesterday, at the supermarket, I found 5 pound bags of organic carrots for about $4.68 a bag.  Wow!  I bought 4 of them.  I think they were so inexpensive because they are pretty skinny carrots.  My plan was/is to can them.  I processed about 6 pounds this evening.  That made 9 pints which is what my canner holds in one layer.  I hope I can finish them tomorrow, but if not, the next day.

1.  Peel the carrots
2. Rinse the carrots
3. Slice the carrots
4. Fill the jars
5. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to each jar
6. Fill the jars with hot water and "de-bubble."
7. Wipe rims
8. Put on the caps and rims
9. Process in pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure for 25 minutes. (If you don't know how to do pressure canning, be sure you consult a reliable canning guide.)

 I love cooked carrots.  These will be perfect!  My husband does not like cooked carrots.  More for me ;)

I will probably end up with about 28 pints (?)  all for 53 cents each, plus the cost of the cap and some electricity.  Not too bad.  And, they are organic.  :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Garlic - in a Very Wet Summer

This year when I harvested the garlic, the papery coverings were not very good.  There had been such a lot of rain... Lately I've been worried that the garlic won't "keep" as well as it has in the past, so a set aside a few bulbs to plant in October, and I've preserved the rest in two ways.  You can see the problem here.  The papery wrapper is all but gone.
So, I washed a lot of it, carefully peeled the cloves and rinsed them thoroughly under running water.

The first ferment is a remedy for colds and influenza. I took my small Fido jar and filled it about 2/3 full with the peeled cloves.  Next, I poured in enough raw honey to cover them, and sealed the jar.  What I read is that you should "burp" the jar every day until it doesn't burp anymore.  I think I will just let it go for a few weeks, as the extra pressure will slowly leak out of a Fido jar.  Then, I'll keep it in the cupboard.  If a cold or influenza is coming on, we'll eat 4 or more fermented cloves right away, and then as needed.

The second ferment is just to preserve the garlic for cooking.  I filled a quart canning jar about 2/3 full with the rinsed cloves.  I added 2 Tablespoons of live whey that I got from making kefir cheese. (You can also use the whey from plain yogurt.) and then poured in about 1/2 quart of simple brine, which is a mixture of 2 cups of water and 2 Tablespoons of plain sea salt.  This will set on the counter for several days and then I will store it in the refrigerator and just take out what I need for cooking.  This garlic keeps indefinitely and it is very convenient to have on hand, all ready to go! 

I think my kitchen might have the aroma of an Italian restaurant today.  It's very garlicky in here.  Fortunately, I love garlic!

Here are the two jars.  I'm certain you can tell them apart.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Bread, again...

I see that as of this moment, I have 54 different posts under the "Bread" category.  I have had a love affair with making homemade breads since 1972.  Yes.  43 years!  A dear friend showed me how to make whole wheat bread back then, and with very few exceptions, we've been eating exclusively homemade bread ever since.  We really depended on it (and still do) when the children came along and were growing up.  If someone quipped "We ain't go no bread!" it meant - there's nothing to eat!  At one time, we would bake 15 loaves a week and all on one day.  One of our daughters, when she was 12 years old, was able to do that all by her little self.  Pretty amazing.  By the way, she grew up to become my "garden fairy."

A while back, I purchased a copy of The Art of Baking with Natural Yeast  by Caleb Warnock and Melissa Richardson.  My garden fairy actually helped me understand how to make the bread in that book.  I got a sourdough starter from Caleb.  You can get some of his starter, for free, by going to this link: . It is wonderful stuff.  Vigorous, easy to care for, and it really doesn't make your bread sour if you feed the starter often enough. Their book is an education, but you don't have to buy one to get the starter.  Get one!  You won't regret it!

This will not be an exhaustive presentation on how to make bread, but I want to show you my "everyday bread" that I make now.  I usually only make 2 loaves at a time, let them cool, slice them and freeze one.  The other, we enjoy, and after a few days I keep it in the fridge so it won't get moldy, and we use it for toast.  It is so good.  I can't even tell you!

Here is the basic recipe and a few pictures.

My Everyday Bread - 9/26/2015 - 2 loaves

In the morning, get your starter out of the refrigerator, feed it, and let it sit all day on the counter.
7:30 p.m. - time to mix up the bread.

In a bowl, combine the following:
1/2 cup starter (then put your starter back in the fridge.)
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup honey
4 cups whole wheat flour (I keep mine in the freezer, so I have to get it out ahead of time to let it warm up.)
"enough" unbleached white bread flour (this is where you need to know, basically, how to make bread.)

Mix it all up well, adding the bread flour as needed until it seems right.  Then pour it onto a well-floured surface and knead for about 6 minutes, adding bits of bread flour to keep it from sticking.  When it is ready, and you slap it, it's kind of like a baby's bottom.  :)  Not that I go around slapping babies.  But you know what I mean, surely.

Wash out your bowl and dry.  Pour a little more EVOO in there and coat the bowl.  Then put the dough in, and turn it over so the top will be oiled.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit on the counter overnight.  I get up about 6 a.m. and by then, it looks like this:

 I pour a little bit of olive oil on my bread board (or the counter, if that is what you have) so the dough won't stick.  Pour the dough onto your work surface and divide it in half.  Form into two loaves and place them in 2 well-buttered bread pans. Cover them with the plastic wrap that was on your bowl so it will have a little oil on it and not stick to the loaves.  If it doesn't have enough, add a little oil.
Let the loaves sit on the counter until they have raised to "double", whatever that is.  Here is what it looks like in my pans:
Bake in a pre-heated 350 F oven for 40 minutes.  Here is what it looks like in the oven after the first 10 minutes:
Remove from oven and turn your loaves onto a cooling rack.
You can see they are not exactly the same size.  That is ok.  It won't affect the taste.  Being sourdough, it has better keeping qualities than bread made with commercial yeast.  I hope this is helpful and that you will try it.

When I was a young teenager, I wanted to learn to make bread.  I didn't have anyone to show me, as my mom was hospitalized with Tuberculosis for a year at the time.  I was 16 years old.  I don't know what cookbook I looked in, but I tried.  It was a dismal failure.  It would have made splendid door stops.  Sigh... I never tried again until I was 23 years old and my friend showed me what to do.  It may sound a bit silly, but that experience when I was 16 was very disappointing and learning to make it successfully later meant a lot to me.  Back then, of course, it was just me and my husband, and I would make bread for us once a week.  It was 100% whole wheat bread - from scratch.  Good stuff.

Just in case you don't know this - sourdough bread - REAL sourdough bread is easier to digest and people that are gluten sensitive can often eat it without any ill effects.  Caleb believes that if we always soaked and soured our grains that we would not have "metabolic syndrome."  Whether or not that is true, I have no idea, but I do have a couple of friends who struggle terribly with their weight, and both of them have a history of being sensitive to eating very much wheat.  There could be a connection.  For such individuals, according to Caleb, the problem develops over time and eventually overwhelms their body's defenses.  Just something to think about.

I wish you were here and I could give you a slice of this wonderful bread with some butter and honey on it.  You would be so happy!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Maybe I am a Quilter after all...

Three years ago I wrote THIS post, saying that I am not a Quilter....  I've changed my mind.  I think I might be, after all.  A few months ago, I bought this quilt pattern.  I was looking for a Dresden plate pattern because I had purchased a template for making Dresden plate blocks here after watching THIS YouTube video.  She made it look so easy and fun, I had to try it! I didn't want to make a full-sized quilt, really, and so found the one for the baby quilt and then was thinking... who could I make this for?  It just so happens that a young friend is expecting a baby girl at the end of November.  Perfect!  A quilt victim!

Here are some pictures of the little quilt.  It is far from perfect, but I like it anyway.  I hope you, my Gentle Readers, do too.

Today's Breakfast...

This is one of our favorite breakfast meals.  Fresh, raw, cold goat milk, scrambled eggs from our chickens, a bit of Jasmine rice, and some stir-fried vegetables... in this case, fresh kale from the garden, chopped onion, minced garlic, fresh basil and mushrooms.  Salt and pepper.  Also, we use a little Tamari.  Oh, it's so good.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hickory Syrup

This is the trunk of a Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) tree.  About a week ago, a friend, who owns this alpaca farm mentioned to me that you can make "hickory syrup."  I had never heard of it, and was intrigued, so of course I looked online and found the instructions to make some on Dave's Cupboard blog.

My husband and I went out to Crosley Fish and Wildlife Area , found a nice Shagbark Hickory tree, and gathered a small box of loose bark.
This morning I weighed out 1/2 pound of the bark and scrubbed it with a stiff brush under cold running water and then laid it on my perforated pizza pan, placed it in the oven, pre-heated to 350 F, and toasted it for 12 minutes.  Dave says to do it for 10 or 15 minutes, but to be careful it doesn't start to burn.  You don't want your syrup to be bitter. Here it is in the oven toasting.
Next, I put it in a soup pot, covered it with water, brought it to a boil and then simmered it for 25 minutes.  It turns the water a beautiful amber color.
Next I removed the bark and then continued to simmer the tea until it was reduced by about 25%.  Then I strained it into a Pyrex measuring container (there were 3.5 cups of tea) and put it in a large sauce pan and added twice the amount of tea, in cane sugar, so that means I added 7 cups of sugar. DO NOT STIR IN THE SUGAR.  Just pour it in there and bring it all to a boil.  NEVER stir it.  This can cause it to crystalize much sooner.  When you pour the sugar into the tea, do not get it on the sides of the pan.  Pour it carefully into the bottom. Ok? Next bring it all to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer it until it is as thick as you like.
I used a candy thermometer, and mine was just over 220 F when I decided it was done enough.  I kept checking it with a spoon.  It's kind of a judgement call, actually.

I skimmed off the foamy stuff and tasted it.  That part was very bitter, but the syrup is not bitter.  Interesting.  When it was ready, I carefully ladled it into jars and put on clean lids.  It is cooling now.
The aroma of the bark toasting was wonderful... like a spicy hickory smell.  I do like the taste of the syrup.  I would like to think it has some beneficial minerals in it or something, however, it is still sugar, just as maple syrup and honey are sugar.  It should be used sparingly, to top pancakes, etc. and as flavoring in other dishes.

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