Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hard to Swallow

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
My gawd I love that man!


  1. Oh, no! Oops. :o) Since it is only two of us we make a lot of soup and freeze the left overs to grab for dinner on a busy night. I am so envious of all of your fresh items. Wondering if you get regular mail delivery? Does the mail person, FedEx, UPS curse at you when they have to deliver something to you? Can't imagine living 200+ miles from a grocery store. I guess you make do though. Happy New Year.

  2. We get mail on Mon, Wed and Fri. I am SO grateful we don't have to drive into town for it! UPS is a great guy, he's out here frequently, FedEX....well...lets just say it took 2 weeks to get an overnight delivery so we don't use them anymore.
    Have a great year this year yourself!!!

  3. Hahahaa!! That's too funny! Parents can be as entertaining as kids!
    I think a mill will be so great! We have an old Corona hand mill mt dad passed down to me.
    I don't recommend it. I distinctly remember dad out in the garage sweating bullets and grinding away. He must think I need the exercise.
    Love all the fresh stuff you guys raise!

  4. Petey I nearly chocked on my coffee when I read about Mom's hearing aids. (Strangely enough I can invsion a simular scene with my parents. ) Yep, we love 'em. :)
    Your meal sounds delicious and the photos of the fresh foods are YUMMY.
    Your photography talents just add another wonderful layer to your story telling. I am so glad I found you through TEG.

  5. I have been pressure-canning a lot more this year and it's just great. Our power goes down often and a freezer can be a liability. It's so nice to just grab a jar, heat it up with a little this and that, and voila! That chicken sounds so delicious, I may try it myself. My parents are up there in years and are getting more entertaining as the time goes on! Bet those were two very expensive pills...

  6. LOL Kristi! Maybe he gave it to you just to get away from it! I borrowed a hand butter churn once...gave it right back and went back to using my KA!
    Thank you Carol Dee :)
    Susan-the chicken was amazing. We lost a freezer last year so only meat goes in there if possible. (no choice when you butcher lambs and whole beeves...and lots of chickens...) Dad had to buy her new hearing aids, which I think was very gallant of him hahaha

  7. One of your best blogs!!!! The hearing aids part is just too funny. Love ya, Cheri

  8. Love this! I laughed out loud!!!

    I have a GREAT article from an online newsletter that I subscribed to a few years ago about pressure canning main dishes. I'll email it to you if you'd like? I have referenced the recipes in it many time to make spaghetti sauce, beans, chile, stews, etc. I love being able to open a meal-in-a- jar!

    Here's my email: shawnabarr@sbcglobal.net. If you write me, I'll send you the article.

  9. Petey,
    I just love your blog.....I am in awe of the work that you do, and can only hope that someday I will be able to raise my own food as well as canning. I wanted to start canning this past fall, but that did not happen. Could you suggest an online site or a book that would help a newbie like me?


  10. Yes! The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a GREAT book both for beginners and experienced canners. It explains in details both water bath and pressure canning and has 400 recipes. Canning is a lot of fun, really. Especially when you can admire the work on your pantry shelves and your table!

    1. thank you Petey.....I will be purchasing that book. I'm sure it must feel great to eat what you have grown and to know what is in the foot you are eating. I really need to start doing this....thanks again.....I love your blogs!