Monday, March 29, 2010

Just so you'll know...

We've had company for the last several days and now we are leaving on vacation. When I get back, I'm going to share with you my adventures with Water Kefir!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A new kind of meat loaf

A friend of mine raised 2 hogs last summer. She sold some of the meat to me, and I have a quantity of packages of just plain ground pork - not sausage. Today I decided to try to make a meatloaf from it, and it turned out quite delicious. Here is the recipe:

Oink Loaf

2 pounds ground pork
2 pieces of homemade whole wheat bread, processed into moist crumbs
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
several cranks of freshly ground pepper

I mixed all that together thoroughly before baking. Now, of course, it could be baked in the oven, but I was going to be gone part of the day, and so this is what I did:

I packed it into a 2.5 quart glass bowl and set it down into my large Crock pot. I put a salad plate on top of the pot and then a few scrubbed potatoes and carrots on top of the plate. I set the temperature to "high" and put on the lid. About 6 hours later, I got home and it was all ready and thoroughly cooked.

I removed the vegetables, the plate, and then carefully lifted the bowl out of the Crock pot and drained off most of the liquid fat. Then I turned the Oinkloaf upside-down onto some paper towels and let it cool for a while before cutting.

It was delicious!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leafy green fermented vegetables - an experiment

I have made sauerkraut from cabbage many times, but today decided to try to ferment some leafy green vegetables. I went out to the greenhouse and brought in a basketful of collard greens and Swiss chard. Here they are soaking in cold water in the sink.

Here is my very large stainless colander for draining the greens.

I walked down to the creek and found 3 rocks that seemed appropriately sized, scrubbed them well in hot, soapy water. They will be used to weight the vegetables down under the brine solution. You can see them in the pan here with two large-mouth Mason jars, two lids and two jar rings. I will cover it all with water and boil it for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, I took the thick ribs out of the leaves, after washing and draining twice, and now am putting them in small quantities into my salad spinner.

Here is the salad spinner with the lid on. Goodness. It looks a little grungy, but I promise that the INSIDE of the spinner is quite clean. It just sits on a shelf and gets dusty.

Next, I sliced the greens into thin strips.

Here they all are, sliced and ready to use.

And here are the other items, sterilized. The jars, the rings, the rocks and the lids. You can also see a few intact leaves I saved to put on top of the vegetables to help keep them under the brine.

I put a teaspoon of caraway seed in the bottom of a jar. I am just trying this to see if it adds a nice flavor.

Ok, so now I'm ready to start putting the greens into the jar. Here is the canning funnel, which will help.

I put in a handful of greens and then pack them down vigorously with this wooden thing. You could use anything you have that would work, even your fist, I suppose.

All the sliced greens are now packed into one jar. I did not know how it would work out, and that is why I boiled two jars. (Actually, after I finished this, I started a jar of cabbage kraut in the other jar, since it was all ready.)

I put the whole leaves on top and added two rocks. One might do it, but there was room for two.

Here I have poured in the brine. (recipe below)

And here it is with the lid on. Isn't that pretty?

If you would like to see more about this sort of thing, go here and watch this lady's series of videos. This is where I got the courage to give it a try:

The Brine

Boil 2 quarts of chlorine-free water and then add 3 Tablespoons of sea, or kosher salt (not table salt which has additives.)

Allow to cool to room temperature.

How to proceed

How to prepare everything is shown above. Now the jar will sit at room temperature for 3 days and then I will keep it in the fridge. Let it sit for 3 weeks in cold storage. Then smell it, taste the brine, and make sure it's ok. If it is pleasingly sour, it can be used then. It might take a little longer.

If the brine tastes BAD, then throw it all out and try again.

Like I said, this is an experiment and I really don't know if it will work out, but I will let you know!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Small update on the Irish Soda Bread

Previously, when I made Irish Soda Bread, I used the old recipe I mentioned in the last post. That was just white flour, butter, soda, buttermilk, salt. It was yummy, if you ate it right away, but by the next day, it really was not very good.

I expected this new version to be the same way, but lo and behold! It is just as delicious today as it was yesterday. Since it is like a sourdough, I guess it has similar keeping qualities.

That is particularly nice, not only at home, but one could make it the day before giving it to someone else, which is very convenient.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day!

About 32 years ago, a dear friend called me on St. Patrick's Day and gave me a recipe for "Irish Soda Bread" - which I believe is an Irish tradition. I have made that on St. Patrick's Day for many years. Here is my most recent (and healthier) version:

Irish Soda Bread

The night before baking, combine:
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups kefir or cultured buttermilk

Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature overnight.

The next morning:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a cast iron frying pan.

Drain the raisins and walnuts through a strainer.

Beat 1 egg
Sift together 1 cup unbleached flour, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda
Melt 4 Tablespoons butter

Stir the egg and butter into the soaked whole wheat mixture.

Add the soaked, drained, raisins and walnuts and stir well to combine.

Stir in the sifted flour mixture. Turn dough onto well floured surface and gently form into a round loaf and place in the buttered pan.

Bake for about 50 minutes. If you have an instant read thermometer, check that the inside temperature of the loaf is about 200 degrees F. If not, don't worry, but that is what I did because I wasn't sure about the baking time.

Remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Serve warm or cold. May be frozen for a few weeks, well wrapped.

This bread is so simple, so delicious, and served with boiled cabbage and potatoes, you'll have a real Irish feast!

Ingredient list, to make this more simple:

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups kefir or cultured buttermilk
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
warm water
1 egg, beaten
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Time to start seedlings

Here I am working in the greenhouse this morning. I'm preparing a bed to start seedlings for our garden. I will move the soil back from 1/2 of this bed, put some fresh horse manure in there (it heats up as it decomposes and gives warmth to the little seeds.) Then I'll put the soil back, and plant on top of that. I will also put some wire wickets over it, and some row cover to give it a bit more protection. I am excited!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How to keep your hands clean.

It was close to 70 degrees F. here today! And it wasn't raining. I spent about 2 hours outside working on my herb/flower garden. I have developed arthritis in my hands, and could not keep it weeded last year, and so had about given up, and was going to eliminate most of it. Then, I felt inspired! I used the wheelbarrow, a pitch - fork, and lots of muscle and force and cleaned out about half of the goat shed and carted the gunk to the garden, through about 6 inches of mud. Well, that was the other day. Today, I had noticed some large pieces of bark that had fallen off logs my husband had split for firewood this winter. Aha! A road! So, I collected a barrow full of those, and used them to make a little path from the barn to the yard and although it certainly wasn't easy, and the goats kept jumping into the wheelbarrow and trying to escape when I'd open the gate, I did get quite a bit done. Then I had another idea... we have a HUGE pile of chopped up fallen leaves from last autumn in the woods behind our house. I was too beat to haul any more goat shed stuff, so I hauled some leaves. That was much easier. I'm not done yet, as I try to pace myself, but I will be back out as soon as the weather is decent on another day. I am going to mulch the garden very deeply. That should hold back most of the weeds. I also spread some wood ashes to help with the acid problem caused by the leaves. I think I have it about 2/3 done now.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I wanted to tell you how I kept my hands from getting stained. First of all, I scraped my fingernails over a damp bar of soap until there was soap stuck under all of them. Then, I applied a generous amount of this to my hands: I have been using this for years and it is a wonderful product. The dirt and grime just washes right off of my hands and they do not get stained. I wear gloves only if I'm trying to prevent blisters. Otherwise, I like to work with my hands bare.

Try it. I know you will be pleased!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Springtime Omelet

I know the calendar doesn't say it is Spring yet, but all of nature here does! Out to the greenhouse this morning and I brought in 2 scallions, a few collards and 2 beet greens.

Chopped the scallions, thinly sliced the greens, and grated a little carrot.

4 beautiful fresh eggs from my friend's chickens with a little goat milk from the freezer (freshening due early May.)

Sauteed the vegetables in a little butter.

Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper into the eggs and beat it up with a fork.

Here is what the vegetables looked like, not cooked too much.

Pour in the egg mixture.

As the omelet cooks, lift up the edges and let the liquid flow underneath.

When almost completely cooked through, fold in half.

Here is my breakfast! (I gave half to my sweet husband.) I also had a small glass of keifer.

It was delicious!

Monday, March 8, 2010

We had a very old tree that was partly rotten, and had worried for a long time that it might split and fall on the house. A good friend, who used to do logging professionally, came out and dropped the tree for us today. He worked so fast, it was amazing! We are planning to put some fruit trees in that area. It is sad to see an grand old tree come down, but it had to be done. Now I can look forward to planting a small orchard.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Preserving Family History

I have hundreds of old family photographs, some going back to the late 1800's. Most of them are in albums, and some are loose. The albums are crumbling. Thanks to my daughter helping me buy supplies, I am finally able to start putting these precious heirlooms into photo-safe storage. It is going to take quite a lot of time, and I spent several hours on it between yesterday and today. The nostalgia sweeps over me in waves. This is a very tender experience, and I am looking forward to the many days to come that I will have to spend on it.

How grateful I am to the people who came before. Because they lived, I live. Because they were goodly people, I have a decent, good life. Of the generation behind me, there is only one person still living, my Aunt who lives in the neighboring state. When I get this project done, we will take the new albums to show her. I am really looking forward to that!

I am using acid free, black cardstock, acid free sheet protectors, photo corners and on some of the heavier portraits, little double sided sticky patches. I also bought some pens with white pigment ink to write on the pages. We happen to have 2 very sturdy, large, 3-ring binders.

I am going to enjoy this.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Button Lamp

I just ran across this picture... and wondered if you have ever heard of a "button lamp." Many years ago, we got this idea from one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books called The Long Hard Winter. These are easy and fun to make and if you ever find yourself with no electricity, no candles... nothing to make light with, please remember this! All you need is a small glass dish or saucer, a button - not a plastic button, but one made of shell, glass or wood, a small square of cotton fabric, a piece of string and a match to light it with! The reason you don't use plastic is that if the flame contacts the button, you will have a cloud of toxic and not very nice smelling fumes coming off of it.

Cut your cotton fabric large enough to wrap tightly around the button and use the string or thread to tie it on, leaving the little pointy ends sticking up. Then, put some sort of oil or fat (Ma Ingalls used axel grease I think!) into your dish... don't use very much. You don't want to drown the flame. Put the wrapped button into the fat and get a little bit of it on the "wick" and then light it! This makes a very satisfactory light in an emergency.

One time, many years ago, the power went out. The children got busy making button lamps. We had several of them (more than we needed!) lit and happily giving light to our home, and then of course the power came back on! We were sincerely dissappointed!
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Winter Laundry

This is what I do all winter with my laundry. There is a fireplace insert with a wood fire behind everything that you can't see. It's very convenient and saves a lot of money on electricity! Also, the clothing and towels, etc. last longer!
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Monday, March 1, 2010

Little Things

The Best Way to Make Hard Boiled Eggs:

1. Fill a 2 quart sauce pan 2/3 full of water, put on the lid and bring to a boil.

2. Get a nice dozen eggs out of the fridge.

3. Find a "push pin" and poke a tiny hole in the big end of each egg.

4. Carefully lower the eggs into the boiling water (I use a slotted spoon), put on the lid and let them simmer for 10 minutes. Remove them from the hot water and immediately put them into a bowel of ice water.

5. After a few minutes, remove them from the ice water, put into a bowl and store them in the fridge (or eat some first.)

This method makes them VERY easy to peel! Even fresh eggs!

How to Make Stewed Prunes the Easy Way

1. Fill a mason jar 3/4 full of prunes/dried plums

2. Fill the jar with boiling water, put on a lid and let it sit in the fridge for a few days.

3. If you let them sit for at least a week, the resulting liquid is thicker, and the prunes are smoother.

So, those are the "little things" happening in my kitchen today that I thought I would share in case it might be helpful.
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