Two Pressure Canners (and inventorying the freezer and root cellar)

When I closed my shops, everything went into my basement.  I am slowly swimming my way out of it.  I set up a homestead shelf in the root cellar and organized the things I had brought home from my not-so-popular homestead shop.  With this lifestyle, I will use them or use them up at some point.  Soap making supplies, extra boxes of canning supplies, cheese presses, and loads of candles are carefully organized on shelves so that I can see what I have.  I now have two canners and two pressure canners, which really came in handy yesterday.

Now is a good time to empty your freezer and take stock of what you have and what has been lingering for years and what needs to be replenished this gardening season.  Out went several bags of way-too-spicy peppers and half opened this and thats.  Into the ginormous soup pot went all the frozen veggies and odds and ends that I had saved; wilted celery, a few carrots, ends of onions, and all the bags of frozen veggies I thought we would eat; eggplant, Brussels sprouts, green peppers.  Some things are better fresh.  Some herbs and salt and pepper and two hours of simmering later, I had a beautiful vegetable broth waiting to be canned.

20190429_161915

20 pint jars of aromatic liquid were put up.  Usually I would take all day to wait for the canner to come to pressure, can the jars, wait for the pressure to come down, and then do it all again.  With two canners, it was done so fast that I am looking forward to canning season!  I really boosted my production while saving time with just one more pot.  The extra six cups of broth from the pot went into the fridge to use in recipes this week.  A pressure canner fits 10 pint jars or 9 quart jars.  I never freeze broth.  It takes up too much room and I will never remember to take it out in time for supper.

This is a great time to start your canning.  Get some stocks and beans done now on rainy days and before the rush of summer veggies and fruits.  While you are at it, take stock of your root cellar items too.  Start eating some of those canned foods and make room for new ones.  A full cellar is a thing of great comfort and joy!  And it turns out, a second canner is too.

How to Make Broth (and for the record, we have thus far failed at eating roosters and Bob is quite safe here.)

How to Can Beans

Freezer Camp

“Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to Freezer Camp we go…!”  The sing song text came over after I told my friend, Jamie, that the roosters lost their jobs.

IMG_0705

The landlords decided that the chickens should stay in their coop and modest enclosure from now on.  The roosters’ jobs were to protect from predators, to sound the alarm should a hawk fly overhead, and to make babies.  Once they all moved into snug quarters they decided their new jobs were to have sex and eat as much of the buffet as they could.  Egg production declined, and food intake went up.  The good looking fellows, I am afraid, had to be laid off.

I used to get so angry when I would read articles in Mother Earth News or other publications about how eating meat was actually better for the environment.  Or studies that eating meat is actually good for you (I still wonder sometimes).  I was a staunch supporter of no killing.  We were vegan, and our children were vegan, and by golly our cats would have been vegan too if we could have found a way!  We published vegan cookbooks and made fun of meat eaters and went to vegan restaurants and were never going to eat a chicken!  Moving to the country changes one’s ideals a bit.

I noticed my country friends had animals they used for meat.  These animals were raised in a happy go lucky place, fed what they were intended to be fed, and killed swiftly, usually without knowledge of the situation.  These animals were not in a factory farm setting.  They did not wallow in filth, in closed-in cages, eating dead animals and genetically modified foods, many never seeing the light of day.  Abuse on the line of murder is common and that side of the meat eating industry is beyond devastating and morally way off base.  But these animals were living a good life and were spared the atrocity of old age.  My old chicken, Laverne, is the saddest to thing to watch.  We could have done her a service by lopping her head off last year and could have put food on the table as a bonus.

I realized that the unending damage of mono-crops, especially soy, was going into a lot of my “healthier” meat alternatives.  That big companies owned these seemingly peaceful veggie companies.  Animals will be killed, just like people, in wars and in natural disasters, by our outlandish cars, by plowing fields for soy beans.  The pastures and rolling plains dotted with cows could not be if we did not support the local rancher.  Food closest to its source has to be far healthier than the unidentifiable ingredients on the packages lining the shelves of the health food store.

My goal is to provide as much food for our table as possible because I will know where it came from, who touched it, no chance of listeria or e-coli here!  So, Christopher Robin and Owl (I really need to stop naming them!) will do their part on this farm.  They snuck by the inspectors at the hatchery, pretended to be girls, came to live at our farm, had a marvelous time, and now will join freezer camp.  Seems fair!

I am thankful that I can live around animals, give them a great life, and provide my own food.  This is the good life.

Freezing Goat’s Milk

IMG_0588

This has been the year of experimentation.  Our practice farm, we have been calling it.  We have taken on a “let’s see what happens?” attitude.  We were told a few times that this idea wouldn’t work.

Since we don’t have a milking goat (yet), we needed to try to preserve the milk.  We bought two gallons a week of delicious, frothy goat’s milk from our friend.  We drank a gallon a week in the form of chocolate milk; a vice that could not be resolved until a few weeks ago.  (Remember, we were vegan for years until recently.  We are making up for lost time.)  The other gallon we froze.

First we froze them by the half gallon in freezer bags and stacked them in the freezer.  Then I ran out of room for the freezer bags and resorted to freezing them in canning jars and storing them in the freezer door.  Make sure to leave a two inch head space so that the milk can freeze and don’t secure the lid until it has.  After the freezer was filled to capacity with everything I wanted in there, we stopped preserving the milk.  Just as Jill sold her goats.

Earlier in the season we had a sneak peek at what the milk would be like.  A half gallon froze solid in the back of the refrigerator.  When it defrosted, I poured myself a cup and choked down the little coagulated cream pieces that turned more into plastic than butter.  Uh oh, I thought.

But when it was time to pull the milk from the freezer, I simply popped a canning jar of frozen milk into the fridge and let it defrost.  Or, I start defrosting the freezer bags in water and when they are half defrosted (but still icy) I transfer them to a canning jar to store in the fridge.  I shake it well and pour it into Doug’s coffee.  We can use it to make cheese, in recipes, in hot drinks, ’tis fine.  Straight….well I need a milking goat.  And chocolate milk will have to be a seasonal treat!

What the Freezer Holds

Remember when I wrote What the Root Cellar Holds and I used a picture off the internet of beautiful jeweled jars of product meticulously lined up in rows because my root cellar is dark and dusty?  Well, I am going to pull a picture off of the internet of a freezer too.  This time of year, it ain’t looking so good!  The freezer has its pros and cons for preserving food but I think it is worth the effort.

freezer

I like to can.  I spend a full day once a week all summer and fall, and perhaps more this year, in the hundred plus degree kitchen (we are making an outdoor kitchen this year) just to make sure that all winter we have some pretty great vegetable dishes that taste fresh out of the garden…even during snow storms.  But some things don’t can so well.

eggplant

Eggplant for instance.  Imagine that sucker canned.  Soaked in water.  Gag.  Okay, now imagine it sliced thinly, pulled from the freezer, dredged in fresh egg and cornmeal with lots of spices and baked until crisp.  Drool.  So, no canning eggplant.  Freezing is the only way to go.  Simply slice up the eggplant, place pieces on a cookie sheet and freeze.  Then transfer frozen slices into a freezer bag labeled.  We are out, sadly.  I will freeze more this year.

tomato

The freezer is overflowing with tomatoes.  I brought tons home with very good intentions of canning yet another dozen or more jars (we are currently out of canned diced tomatoes.  Quite tragic.) and ran out of time.  So into bags they went and were placed in the freezer with more intentions to can them…sometime.  They are great though.  Pop three of them into a crockpot with half a chopped onion, six cloves of garlic, two cups of pinto beans, six cups of water or broth and some taco seasoning.  Put that baby on high for six hours and enjoy the world’s easiest and mouthwatering dinner.  They simply dissolve into a gorgeous broth.

mushroom

Mushrooms get frozen around here because mushrooms canned are a tad slimy for our liking.  They go from freezer to batter to fried in no time or added to pasta sauce or stew.  Out of those too.

IMG0063A

Peppers are particularly fun because all you have to do is cut them in half into little boats, take out the seeds ,and line them up on a cookie sheet, freeze, and layer into a freezer bag.  Enjoy stuffed peppers all winter long.  Once you cook them, they collapse a little and absorb the juices from the filling.  Since my family doesn’t care for stuffed peppers, they are saved for get-togethers.  I still have a ton.

zucchini

One year, I grilled slices of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and onions.  I chopped them up and placed into sandwich bags.  They came out of the freezer as ready-made pizza toppings.  We went through them pretty quickly.  Last year, out of time, I took all the vegetables off of the grill and placed them all into bags.  I did not cut them up.  They are still in the freezer waiting to become some fabulous dish.  But alas, I will probably never defrost them and cut them up.  Prepping in the summer may seem to be a pain when one is already short on time, but so worth it when it comes to leisurely eating all winter!

Frozen zucchini slices are still sitting in the freezer.  Soggy zucchini doesn’t appeal to me.  I probably should wait until they are fresh again.  Anything that turns soggy, like greens, upon defrosting doesn’t make it into the freezer.

smoke signals

Corn can be shucked and four ears can be placed in a gallon freezer bag.  Simply take out, throw into boiling water for five minutes, butter and salt and enjoy summertime eating in January.

Lastly, any leftover soups or beans are placed in the freezer for later use.  Sometimes we don’t get to that big pot of soup (I am still having trouble figuring out how much to cook) in the next week and it morphs into something entirely different in the back of the fridge.  The chickens love when that happens.  But, if I place it in a freezer bag, mark what it is, and put  in the freezer, I can pop it out, place it in the stock pot, bag and all, and by the time I am ready to make dinner, I just pour it out and heat it up.  Homestead fast food.

What I did though was place bags of screwed up food in there.  I made beans, way too many beans, and put way too much pepper in them.  No one ate them.  I couldn’t bring myself to waste them so I froze them thinking I could “fix” them on the next meal.  Every time I see them in there I turn up my nose.  The chickies are about to have a feast coming up soon.  I need to clean out the freezer.

beans

The main con is the electricity use.  I have an energy saving model but it doesn’t do me any good when the electricity goes out.  I opened the door to a swimming mess of juices a few weeks ago.  Denial is my friend so I just closed the door and walked away.  I will probably have to tend to that this week!  I don’t eat meat so I don’t worry about half defrosted green pepper halves harming me.  It just irritates me that my ice cream melted.

The freezer can be your friend.  One more homesteading helper to preserve that delicious harvest, whether it be out of your garden or from a local farm’s.  Not having to grocery shop for vegetables mid-winter and the pride of having fed yourself and your family is a pretty great thing!

By the way, I do not blanche any of the above items.  They all keep just fine and if I had to take the time to blanche them, they wouldn’t ever make it to the freezer!  Happy Preserving!

Easy Baking Day

baking day

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.

IMG_0264

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.