The Amazing Pressure Cooker (and a nice Nordic dish)

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My goodness, I have been missing this all of my adult life.  A pressure cooker!  How come y’all didn’t tell me about this lovely contraption?  It literally takes half the time to make supper!  And for a homesteading mama, this is important.

I love whole grains.  I am a huge advocate of the healing power, antioxidant content, anti-cancer ability of whole grains.  Natural fiber and mineral foods that take forever to cook.  The same reason I do not make beans as often as I’d like; I forget to put them in the slow cooker or I don’t have three hours to wait for them to be done!

The quick release on the pressure cookers is the coolest thing I have seen in awhile (I don’t get out much.) and I do wish that our pressure canners had this feature!  This supper took no time at all to prepare.  I’m still experimenting, but the cooker makes it easy for me.

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Here I soaked 1/2 cup of navy beans for the day in doubled the water.  Came home to a full measuring cup of them.  I sautéed red onion and garlic in olive oil in the pressure cooker first then added a few chopped carrots, a chopped parsnip, and one sliced stalk of celery.  I added the drained beans and 1/2 cup of rye.  Sprinkle all well with smoked salt (or regular) and pepper, dill, paprika, and a pinch of thyme.  I poured over 4 cups of my homemade rosemary broth (though you could use any broth), put the lid on and pressure cooked it for 30 minutes.  I quick released it (so cool) and added two big handfuls of chopped cabbage and two pieces of lovely coral colored salmon topped with spices.  Another 3 minutes in the pressure cooker and wallah, supper was served.

This fabulous contraption will serve me well this year with my expansive, and God willing prolific, gardens.  Whatever veggies, spices, grains, and proteins I have on hand will make delicious, healthy, and unique one pot meals.

Do you have a great pressure cooker recipe?

Winter Night Beans

 

JpegThe winter wind blows as the flurries of icy snow cover walkways and rooftops.  There is nothing quite like walking in the front door, clicking on the Christmas lights, and being met with the smell of dinner already cooked for you.  A crockpot and beans do just that.  Creating an enticing aroma and healthy, nourishing delight.  So simple too.

In a crockpot pour in 2 cups of pinto beans.

Add (or be imaginative and adjust flavors) 2 teaspoons of ground New Mexican chili and 1 teaspoon of ground green chili.  1 Tablespoon of dried, minced onion, a teaspoon of minced garlic.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  1 teaspoon of paprika.  A few shakes of liquid smoke.  Don’t add salt until the last ten minutes or so.

Cut up 3 strips of bacon and add.  Pour in 5 cups of broth.  Set to low and go out shopping (or working).  8 hours later…

When you arrive home add 1-2 teaspoons of smoked salt (or sea salt) and a couple of handfuls of greens.  Let cook for 5-10 more minutes.  Serve with bread or cornbread and honey butter.  (Melt a stick of butter with a good amount of honey.  Pour into container and set in fridge.  Let sit on counter for a little bit before spreading.)

Homestead food at its most delightful.  Happy Winter!

Creating a Three Sisters Garden (anywhere)

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I am the self proclaimed queen of putting in a garden anywhere.  At our last house the sandy, gravelly, ant hill of a driveway became a lush corn field and herb spiral.  The front yard became a three sisters garden.  The side yard held myriads of delicious orbs and buckets held treasures of vegetables as well.  Here at our new rented farm we didn’t have a place to put the pumpkin patch.  Lordy, how can we be Pumpkin Hollow Farm without pumpkins?  There is a 650 square foot garden fenced in for all of our seeds to set up shop.  We have pots.  But we love the look of a 3 sisters garden and we needed space for it.  Corn, pumpkins, and beans are staples around this place!  And a pumpkin festival!  The side yard caught my attention.  The long swath of spiky prairie grass, conveniently mown down to look like city grass, beckoned.

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A view from the house. I will like it much more with pumpkins lazily drifting about instead of snow!

Old ways die hard.  I spent the winter reading, learning, taking online classes, studying with magnanimous passion. I was going to make this new farm a Permaculture one.  But when I got ready to plant I realized that prepping a half-acre garden for this was not in the cards.  I would have had to have had this crazy pumpkin plan last fall and laid down cardboard, finished compost, et cetera.  Now, as I stared at the thick prairie grass, I knew I waited too long and would instinctually head back to what I know.

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I have had this piece of gardening equipment for as long as I remember.  It has gone through bolts to hold it together but this has carried me garden to garden with ease.  My small arms were apparently meant to do more baby holding and decorating than heavy work so good thing I have a good looking farmer and “The Claw”!  That’s really what it is called.  Geez, I haven’t seen one of these in stores in forever.  Do they still make them?  If so, people, get one!  It made quick work of prepping 250 square feet between the two of us.

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Three sisters is a phrase out of history, a gardening technique employed by Native Americans.  The original companion planting.  The corn was imperative to make corn meal, it grew tall and strong and acted as a trellis for beans, a very important protein source.  The squash was full of vitamins and immunity and spread its trails along the ground beneath the plants shielding the soil from weeds and the hot sun.

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Hard to see in the photo but after we took out the top few inches of soil/weed carpet we laid our pattern. Squash seed…six inches…bean…two inches…corn…two inches…bean…six inches…squash.  The trench planting will come in handy this summer since the Almanac predicts it hot and dry around these parts.  Planting in a trench helps store moisture, protects from the wind, and is easy to water.  Just fill the trench with two inches from the hose.  Mulching in between established plants keeps weeds down and lessens water needs.

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Then I throw handfuls of organic gardening soil or potting soil over the seeds, about half an inch.  I planted Jack be Littles, sweet corn, and Bolito beans in one row.  White butternut squash, black Cherokee Trail beans, and red sweet corn in another.  The combinations can be creative for color and pantry needs.  I even planted watermelon and cantaloupe at the ends of the rows.

A sample photo of a Three Sisters garden.

A sample photo of a Three Sisters garden.

The three sisters garden can be grown anywhere.  Even on my friends’ top floor balcony!  Plant in deep buckets, in the front yard, or many side yards are perfect for this project.  I did not amend the soil.  All I did was add packaged soil over it.  I will add compost later in the season.  The three sisters garden loves water so trenches and swales work well.  In history we unearth fine gardening techniques and beautiful food producing spaces.  Happy Planting!

The New Farm (starting from scratch)

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I always have good intentions.  I spent the winter learning everything I could about Permaculture and how to incorporate it into our new farm.  I was on fire about it!  The inner garden we did not dig.  We piled on six inches of straw.  To plant I opened up part of the straw along rows to fill in with organic garden soil and plant in that.  The beds will stay well mulched.  The new garden soil will be covered around the plants as soon as they are up and strong.  Eventually the whole garden will settle in and each year we will just add new layers of soiled straw and leaves and let the years work themselves into great soil.

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I saved boxes all winter and threw them into the garden.  Once they were all broken down they sure didn’t cover much space between the beds.  The weeds are peeking around it.  I would need a lot more boxes, and a box cutter to cut them to size, and a lot more patience.  More straw, I think, is the answer for the remaining paths (that is my answer to everything).

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Then I looked out upon the large pumpkin patch we are creating.  It will be a Three Sisters garden complete with five different kinds of pumpkins crawling along the ground and three different heirloom beans climbing organic sweet corn stalks.  The grass is now thick and I am sadly lacking in time or cardboard boxes.  I think we will have to rototill.

The thing about Permaculture is one starts slowly.  Creating one bed at a time.  We now farm for a living.  I have a half acre of vegetables, fruit, and herbs to finish getting in.  I don’t have time to build raised beds for ridiculously long rows of pumpkins or wait six months for a lasagna garden!

I won’t be able to do the whole farm in Permaculture this year.  Some lessons are best taught over time.  Long, windy initial rows will be rototilled into the never before planted area of the yard.  I will add aged horse manure and gardening soil and plant.  I will mulch well.  We will have a good comparison between the inner no-till garden and the traditional tilled rows this year.

Next year I hope not to have to till.  I will keep working up and adding layers of compost.  This year though, we will just do what we know, pray for Mother Nature’s blessing, light the candle for San Isidro (the patron saint of farming), and enjoy all the blessings that come from our humble patch of rented land.

Thank goodness it is spring.

Winter Beans (a homestead staple)

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Beans are the epitome of security.  They are inexpensive, easy to grow, easy to cook, satiate hunger, and are full of antioxidants, phytochemicals, protein, and vitamins and minerals.  A pantry filled with beans means a winter without hunger.  A pot simmering on the wood cook stove symbolizes love for the recipient.

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I am in love with all of the old heirloom varieties.  I am addicted to their stories.  Like Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg variety.  The beans were brought to the west by Lina’s grandmother by covered wagon.  They are the larger beans with the red speckles.  They are delicious and colorful.  Yellow Indian Woman is the yellow variety that I grew and was quite prolific this year.  It is a variety that is hundreds of years old and was used as trade by the Native Americans.

I grew black beans and cannellini beans.  There are pinto beans and Anasazi beans to grow.  Or Lima beans or red beans for Cajun food.  The only thing difficult about growing beans is what variety to choose!

In my new garden here on our homestead I will be planting a long row (34x 2 feet) of beans and garlic.  The garlic will be planted the next few weeks and as they pop their cheery heads up over the soil I will be able to plant a bean in between each one next Spring.  Some need to be trellised but many do not.  Look for the bush variety or simply put creative poles up around them.  They also do well climbing up corn.  You can even plant uncooked organic beans from the health food store.

Shelling beans can be eaten just like green beans when their pods are soft and small.  In fact, they look like green beans and you are sure to question what you planted.  Leave them on the vine until they are brown and crisp but not too long that their pods reopen and plant themselves!  Around late August to the end of September you will be harvesting winter beans.

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They must be quite dry so I keep them in baskets until I am certain they are void of moisture.  Then the fun begins.  It becomes much like the puzzle that sat out at home waiting for the next participant to place the next piece.  I leave the whole pile on the table and as we walk by we shell another bean.  It is quite addictive and rather fun.  It feels like I could be a housewife in any era shelling beans to make sure that we have enough to store.

The key is growing enough to at least put on a pot of soup!  I tuck the beans in anywhere there is a spare six inches all the way through mid-July.

I love to peruse the Seed Savers Catalogue for new varieties.  Being a history lover as well as a lover of great food makes heirloom beans a part of this homestead.

What the Pantry Holds

We know what the root cellar held, and the importance of canning, what the freezer held, and we’ve been dehydrating .  And indeed, this year’s root cellar is going to be even more complete than last season’s, the freezer is nearly full, and dehydrating is in the works.  All great means of preparing for winter, but we haven’t discussed perhaps the most important; staples!

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Putting up food is not just a “prepper” ideal for potential zombie attacks, nor is it folly or old fashioned.  It is smart.  One good snow storm or emergency could leave you home bound. One lost job or identity theft could keep you from spending money.  Having a house stocked with food is important and takes away a lot of worry and fear.

In a pinch, you could blend together baking powder, oil, flour, salt, and water to make fluffy biscuits for breakfast or guests.  Use jam from the root cellar and you have a fabulous treat.  You can make bread from just salt, yeast, flour, and water.  You can make a lot of delicious meals more filling with cooked farro, or barley, or couscous, or rice.  Dried beans are at the ready to simmer all day to enjoy on a cold winter’s night with some warm bread.

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Organic bulk grains, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and flours are fairly inexpensive (two bucks a bag for beans) and can make several meals complete.  I store mine in canning jars so that I can see what I have.  Otherwise they become mountains of staples in the pie safe that I forget I had.  One positive thing about closing my retail front was reclaiming one of my display pieces.  It is a sixty plus year old hardware shelving unit with several cubbies.  I love the look of it, the numbered spaces, and the vintage appeal it lends to my kitchen.  It is becoming a wine rack/staples case.  Filled with canning jars of nuts, beans, and different grains and flours, and of course, wine, it will lend an easy air to cooking in my kitchen this winter.

Look for split peas, lentils, pinto beans, white navy beans, rice, barley, couscous, cornmeal, walnuts, pine nuts, any thing you enjoy, and fill the canning jars with them.  Display.  They look great out and make cooking dinner more inspiring.

Easy Baking Day

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Farmer’s wives before us had Ironing Day, Washing Day, Mending Day, Cleaning Day, and Baking Day.  I see why!  I had designated Tuesdays for baking day.  In the six hours I was home, between laundry and cleaning, I was able to get two loaves of delicious, fresh baked bread done, flour tortillas, corn tortillas, and scrumptious biscuits made.  Plus some red chile to dip into for the week.  I sliced the breads, placed them into freezer bags and popped them in the freezer for use all week.  Take a piece out, toast it, instant breakfast!  I took out the tortillas as needed, same with the biscuits.

Come the next Tuesday I still had a half a loaf of bread, and a bag of tortillas.  I figured I was good for the week, but when Friday came around and there were no staples to be found, my whole plan was foiled.  Out to eat we went.  Because when Friday comes, I have worked the shop, been in the garden all week, and have taken care of everything else, but baking.  I don’t have time any other day of the week for baking day.  I think….maybe I just need better planning.

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I need to stick with a schedule or my farmstead will be in chaos (more than usual)!  Baking Day can be split up cleverly though so that one always has a loaf of bread in the freezer or on the stove.

If you are having a super busy farming week, place bread dough to rise overnight.  Then finish it in the morning.

If you have a good part of the morning you can whip up some tortillas in between.  Biscuits don’t take much time…but they are hard to save.  My goodness, I love biscuits!

You can make as many batches as your mixing bowls and hours allow then simply freeze them until you are ready to use them.  You can also make pasta this way.  Pre-make it and let it dry over a large pot.  You can place 2 cups of beans in 6 cups of water with some onion and garlic and place in the crock pot overnight on low.  Transfer to the refrigerator and for five days you have ready-made beans.  You can also freeze them.  Make mayonnaise, red chile, mustard, or any other condiments and sauces, even gravy, to eat during the week.  That way, when you are tired and need fast food, your fast food is healthy, homemade and delicious.  And you can brag all the way through dinner!

Corn, Lemon Thyme, and Honey Bread

2 cups of white flour (unbleached, organic)

1 cup of cornmeal

1 T yeast

1 t salt

2 T honey

A few sprigs of torn lemon thyme leaves (or basil, or rosemary, or…)

1 1/2 cups of warm water.  Blend well.  Let sit for 2 hours to overnight.

Top with 1/2 cup of flour, blend, knead 15 times, let sit another hour.

Plop into greased bread pan and bake in hot oven for 40  minutes.

You can find these recipes under the Food/Wine category.