Its that time of year to begin planning next year’s garden. There is a lot to it, as I have moved everything and need to fence the chickens out. After two very cold, wet summers, I am going to try putting up some row covers to keep things warm so maybe I won’t have crop failures this year. I really need to have enough food to can and get us through the winter.
A trip to the grocery store typically takes 17-20 hours or so, as it’s 4 hours to get there and with the price of fuel, we have to combine doctor appointments, errands and pick up livestock feed and medicines the same day. Freezer space here is at a premium, as all our meat has to be frozen. There is no running into town for a burger! Therefore, everything is made from scratch and canning is a huge help. I had done just a little canning before we moved here, as back then the store was exactly 1 mile from my house as opposed to 230 miles.
Necessity is the mother of invention. I am SO glad we live here and I have had to change the way we do things. Our food is an experience now, the flavor is better beyond belief, its much, much healthier than what we used to buy and there is the satisfaction of having provided and my time being well spent. I’d much rather be canning, or making bread than sitting in front of a soap opera, or talking on the phone, or fighting the crowds at a mall buying stuff I don’t need. For the things I do need, well, there is the internet.
Homegrown food tastes better, because its fresh and it doesn't have a ton of weird stuff in it like fillers and preservatives. Who wouldn't enjoy homegrown tomatoes or strawberries, or fresh eggs, homemade bread, or butter??
I have to freeze some things that I don’t think can well, like our squash. Mostly I canned green beans, corn, tomatoes and chicken broth. It hadn’t occurred to me until today, when I ran across someone else’s blog, that I could be canning my stews, soups and chili, for a quick and convenient meal, instead of making everything from start to finish every day! I am pretty excited about this. I have a few recipes that I absolutely love and having it already put together and on hand is something I really do look forward to. This year I plan to can 3 kinds of stew, beef, venison and lamb. All three recipes are a bit different and should be a luxury to have on our shelves. All that I would have to do then, is make bread or dumplings to go with it. In addition, I hope to find some chicken quarters on sale and can cooked chicken to pull out for making enchiladas and other things. Chicken Tortilla soup should can well also. There are a number of things I could be doing on the days I feel good, so I can work less on the days I do not.
I shouldn’t be surprised that it hadn’t occurred to me to can meals, as I am the person who walked out and gave my chickens some stale bread then found myself in the house adding ‘Dried Seasoned Bread Crumbs” to my grocery list. It was a real revelation and extremely humbling when I realized what I had just done. Sometimes I am just a little slow on the uptake.
This morning, I took a bunch of fall apples from the trees by the pasture and started a batch of cider vinegar. It seems to be fairly straightforward and I am anxiously looking forward to see how it turns out. Buying the real apple cider vinegar in town is $8 a gallon. Making it is free.
The other thing I am currently investigating is a grain mill. Milling my own cereals and flour would be a huge savings and would be a huge improvement in health and flavor over what I am using now.
Our friend the chef cooked up one of our ‘meaties’ last nite. These are the chickens we raised last summer for the freezer...or should I say, Cletus raised them, after all, it was Cletus who kept them safe and baby sat for 2 months.
I can truly say, it was the most delicious chicken I have ever tasted. He took fresh garlic, chopped onion, fresh rosemary and thyme from my garden, mixed it with a little olive oil and slipped it under the skin of my chicken. Then he wiped off the outside so it was good and dry, sprinkled liberally with garlic, kosher salt and pepper, then he drizzled melted homemade butter all over it. It was then placed breast side down on a rack and put in a 350 degree oven on convection. Onion, chopped celery and baby carrots were strewn in the pan underneath the rack.
While the chicken was roasting, he poured some of this morning’s heavy cream in a pan, adding just a bit of milk to thin it, because our cream is so thick and heavy it doesn’t pour. I trotted out to the garden for a couple more sprigs of rosemary which he dropped in the pan with the cream. It was set to simmer and infuse the rosemary into the cream. This was later used to mash potatoes, and I can tell you, it was awesome!
The chicken was turned over half way through baking so the skin would be nice and crispy all the way around. After he was done, the chicken and rack came out and flour was mixed in with the vegetables and juices in the bottom of the pan to make a sort of roux. Liquid was added and it was set back on the stove to simmer and thicken. The veggies were then strained out and we fell on this meal like a duck on a bug and ate ourselves into happy oblivion. We shoveled it in and like to choked ourselves, it was that wonderful.
I tend to think and write about food quite often. Nearly everything we have here is geared to food...our chickens, eggs, lamb, beef, milk...but I want you to understand, I come by it honestly. I come from a family who really loves to eat. We will eat just about anything.
Case in point...
My dad has a couple of medications he is supposed to take every day. (Who doesn’t?)
My stepmom ALSO has a couple she has to take. She, however, has found it to be very convenient to put her new, small hearing aids in an empty pill bottle.
By her sweet nature, she is always taking care of my dad and generally brings him his pills.
By his own nature, my dad is fiercely independent. A few weeks ago, he decided to get himself his OWN pills.
Shortly after, my stepmom came to him with a glass of water and more pills.
He said he’d already TAKEN his pills.
She said, no he had not, she had them in her hand.
After much back and forth and investigation, it was discovered that dad had swallowed
HER HEARING AIDS!
My gawd I love that man!