December 31, 2009

2009 started out with such hope, but I am so very glad for this year to be over. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a year to be over as much as this one.  Well, 2005 wasn’t that great either…

So I completely fulfilled last year’s NY resolution about keeping this blog, and I guess I should determine whether I’m going to continue with it.  I really didn’t do as much “living with the land” as I meant to, for reasons out of my control (major surgery halfway through the year that kept me from doing much for a long time). 

And I have other NY’s resolutions for 2010 which don’t have anything to do with this blog (and no they do not include dieting or saving $$ either!)

So I am torn.  I need more of a focus for it I guess.

Just some musings on the last day (Thank GOD!) of this year…

Winter Gardening

Sunday was the nicest day around here for awhile now, 40F temps and a sunny sky!  After the market we headed over to the garden for the first time in weeks a month to dig up the rest of our carrots and see how the coldframe made out.  Since there’d been gray skies and frigid temps for most of those weeks I was pretty sure our spinach would be long dead.

Suprisingly, no! But I didn’t take any pictures because they basically look like they did the last time – still pretty small. But alive!  It’s like they’re permanently stunted in growth.

About a month ago (before the snow came) we ran into a boy, Sebastian, and his mom prepping their plot for winter.

Sebastian, helping K pull carrots about a month ago

Unlike us, they were putting together a more ad hoc coldframe – that looked much easier to make.  They surrounded the area with bales of hay to protect it from the cold and wind and lay panes of glass on top. That’s it! Brilliant!

Sunday, I decided to check out how their veggies were doing in their coldframe.

Um…100% better than ours!! Their plants are huge! This is late December folks!  But on further thought, I’m wondering if they grew those from seed or they were already growing well before they erected the coldframe. Either way – we now know what to do next year!

We picked the rest of our carrots and our garden is officially done for the season.  We picked another 2lbs of carrots that Sunday and I estimate that we must have gotten 10-15lbs of carrots out of our garden this year.  Yay!

Checking out Sebastian’s plot, we also have more ideas for what will grow in our plot over the winter for next year.  There are lots of veggies that grow well in the cold – even with snow on the ground!

These leeks are doing well, even in the snow, and ready for harvesting.

Kale is a a great winter green, interchangeable with collard greens! It can be picked here all winter – December through February!

Hopefully next winter we will be more on the ball and be better prepared to grow things throughout the season.

Farmer’s Market Sunday: Where is Everyone?

We got back from downstate last night after a wonderful holiday with family, and had to drag ourselves out to the Farmer’s Market this morning.  Bed seemed warm and comfy and so much better than eating good food later on this week.  But get up we did, and made our way there, just to find out that half the vendors were missing this holiday week! Boo.

We were honestly stumped as to what veggies we would have for the week. We still have plenty of ham and split pea soup left that we didn’t need to buy any more meat, but veggies were a necessity and Barber farm wasn’t there.

Kind of funny that we’re now so mentally invested in this market that it honestly didn’t occur to us that we could go to the supermarket until we were leaving the farmer’s market.  Supermarket shopping just isn’t on our radar much anymore.  Especially not for produce, when it tastes so much less fresh and ripe than locally grown items.

Today’s small amount of booty since there weren’t many vendors:

  • 1 pint chocolate milk and 1/2 gallon of reduced-fat milk from Battenkill Creamery
  • 1/2 gallon of apple cider and 3 apples  from Migliorelli Farm
  • 1 quart of turnips
  • 1 loaf rustic Italian bread

So, turnips.  We turned to these in desperation since the brussels sprouts offered by the other vendors there looked poor.  But I’ve never eaten them before, except Friday at my MIL’s house, when she made a delicious carrot, potato and turnip side dish.  Any suggestions for how to eat them?

We got notice this week that due to the popularity of our winter market (which, if you’ll remember, is only in it’s second winter) many of the farmers installed high tunnels in their fields this season. High tunnels, also known as hoophouses, are basically unheated greenhouses, made of PVC and plastic sheeting.  With high tunnels, the farmers can extend the growing season and grow fresh produce almost all year round.  This means we won’t be eating root veggies all winter anymore, whee! Except for, er…this week.  Can you guys come back now?

Great Flats Pic 12/27

December 27, 2009

Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Pears

I’ve fallen in love with these little pears.

They’re called Seckel pears, and they’re plum-sized bundles of sweetness!  I’ve just learned about them this year.  I generally am not a fan of pears, but the texture of these isn’t as mealy as I find most pears to be.  Of course, it’s because they’re sweet.  I’m addicted to sugar! They’re even also known as “sugar pears.”

So I’ve been buying them to eat with my lunches at work.  They’re available August through February so I can continue to find them at my farmer’s market for a little while longer. I will miss them when they’re gone.

I had some left over at the end of last week, and they were going soft – they wouldn’t have waited to be eaten. Instead of wasting them, I decided to pickle them, and make spiced pears.

I found a couple of recipes on the web, but none of them suited me exactly, so I created my own hybrid. I only had 4 little pears to preserve, the equivalent of two half-pints, so this recipe can be doubled or triple to suit your own amount of pears.

Pickled Pears

  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2/3 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 muslin spice bag
  • 6 whole allspice berries
  • 1/2 tsp. whole cloves

Prepare hot-water canning bath with jars and lids.

In large saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, both halves of the cinnamon stick.  In a spice bag, put whole allspice berries and cloves and tie up. Add the spice bag to the mixture. Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Wash and dry pears, but do not peel. Cut out any bad parts if needed.  Add pears to the mixture.

Bring to a boil and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Remove jars from hot-water bath and fill with pears and a half-stick each of cinnamon.  Add pickling liquid over the pears in each jar. Leave 1/2-inch of headspace, clean off rims and set lid and bands.  Process for 20 minutes.

The pickling liquid was DELICIOUS. I could have drank it.  As it was, I tasted it more than was necessary just because it was so yummy.

The final product is just so beautiful. What a pretty gift this would make, and at a half-pint size, the perfect individual dessert.  If I get more seckel pears, I will DEFINITELY be making this again!

Farmers Market Sunday 12/18

I walked into my living room this morning and was met with the scene of a crime.

As way of explanation, the hubby and I ran quickly to our local pet store (local, not a chain, and I love it!) yesterday and bought a few new toys for the kitties as their Christmas “presents”.  We all have stockings hung over the fireplace, so I planned on putting them into their stockings until we gave them to the cats.

When we got home, we were met at the door by none other than escape-artist Bailey.  We had gone to the deli before the pet store, and had prosciutto sandwiches in a paper bag that I placed on the steps as I put away my coat.  The bag was next to my purse which held a catnip “beanbag” as one of the gifts for the kitties.

There was no contest between the prosciutto and the catnip for Bailey.  He ignored the meat in favor of the herb and pounced on my purse.  We laughed and took it away from him and went upstairs to fill their stockings.

Apparently the catnip drug was just too much of a temptation.  I came out this morning and saw Bailey sprawled in front of the fireplace, catnip beanbag in hand paw, licking away with his empty stocking on the ground next to him.  How the heck he got his stocking off of the mantel without knocking anything down on top of himself I have no idea.  But it was hilarious – my little blissed out kitty laying there with evidence of his misdeed right next to him. 🙂

I will hopefully finally be learning how to use my hand-me-down sewing machine next month and I’ve decided if Bailey likes those catnip beanbags I’m going to make them myself next year for much less than $1.99/ea.  I mean, catnip seed is sold plentifully around here, and I’m just going to grow some myself next spring and dry it like I did the parsley this year. I’ll have tons and sew some muslin squares, fill with a little batting and dried catnip and he will be in heaven!

We didn’t have much to buy at the market today.  We didn’t even drink any milk last week, oops.  However, we had ordered a smoked ham a few weeks ago and it was waiting for us today.  Yum!  The last ham we got from the market (a fresh ham from a different vendor) didn’t have a bone, so we specifically ordered bone-in from Sweet Tree. We’ll get MANY meals out of this ham, plus we’ll make some split pea soup as well.

This week’s booty:

  • 1 chocolate ganache cupcake and 1 loaf of rustic italian bread from Our Daily Bread
  • 1 Empire apple from Migliorelli Farm
  • 1 6lb smoked ham (a half of a ham), 1 package of maple breakfast sausage,  and some pork fat from Sweet Tree Farm
  • 1 pint of eggnog and 1 pint of chocolate milk from Battenkill Creamery.

Last week we were talking to the guy at Sweet Tree about making baked beans and how you need salt pork to make it. They don’t sell salt pork, but he said that they would have lots of pork fat from the hams this week and he needed some himself for some recipes, and did I want the rest?  For free of course, since it was free to him.

Yes, please and thank you!  All week I’ve been excited about trying to make baked beans with it, and I just googled when I got home and learned that pork fat and salt pork are not the same thing. I figured I would just have to salt the fat to make it into salt pork but I guess not.  Oh well, I’m still learning.  However, I’m thinking of rendering lard (yes, so bad for you, but it is healthier than hydrogenated oils are!) and canning it for future use OR making some soap with it, which I’ve been thinking about for awhile.  I will NOT be wasting it.

I guess that’s the cool thing about winter.  Not much to do outside so I can do lots of projects I’ve been thinking about for awhile.

Great Flats Pic 12/18

December 18, 2009

Making Sauerkraut

The hubby and I are in the midst of our sauerkraut experiment, though I’m not sure how well it’s going yet.  We decided to do this as our first foray into lactofermentation (or really, for something else to do now that the garden is mostly dormant).  Last weekend we bought two head of cabbage at the farmers market.

Every recipe for lactofermented cabbage calls for two head, but really, what were we going to do with that much sauerkraut?  I was overruled by my sauerkraut-loving 1/2 German husband, however, so all I can say is he better eat this sauerkraut.

He shredded up the cabbage by hand, even though I tried to convince him to use the food processor.  Sigh…he’s stubborn.

We started by following the “recipe” on this site (not really so much a recipe as semi-directional) and mixed the shredded cabbage with the proper amount of sea salt and caraway seeds.  We enjoyed a little organic wine with it. 🙂

Yes, we recycle old glass spaghetti jars into containers for things. No, we're not po'.

Interestingly enough, K seems only to be able to drink wine without sulfites.  If he doesn’t, he gets a blazing headache a la a bad hangover (without enjoying the amount of drinking to get said hangover beforehand).  Organic wines are the only ones we’ve seen so far that don’t have sulfites.  Anyone have any other suggestion for sulfite-free wines?

After tossing the lettuce, salt and spice, he pounded it for a good 1/2 hour to get the juices (water) of the cabbage flowing.  At that point, you’re supposed to fill the canning jars with cabbage to the top, and make sure the juices cover the cabbage completely (so no air gets in).  The thing is, after pounding for so long, we didn’t have nearly enough juice to cover anything?

What did we do wrong?

I had read either in Nourishing Traditions or Wild Fermentation (can’t remember now) that if there’s not enough “juice” to put more sea salt in some water and cover the cabbage with this saltwater.  So, that’s what we did.  Then we put the lids on tightly, stuck them in a basin (because they will tend to leak as they ferment – building up gases) and put them in our utility room for 72 hours.

Which ended last night, but we gave it an extra day for good  measure before opening up a jar tonight.  It was frothy at the top, and like this person said, “Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions assures me in her section on lacto-fermentation that if the process goes wrong it will smell so bad that nothing could induce me to eat it. I can’t smell anything from a distance, so I put my nose tentatively towards the jar and…Let me tell you something, this stuff smells good. I mean, it smells really good. It’s the very scent of freshness.”

Well, I sniffed too, and sniffed again, and wasn’t really sure.  It smelled slightly rotten to me, I will admit, but definitely “not so bad that nothing could induce me to eat it.” I could have been induced, sure.  But at the same time, I was really really wary, so I told K he had to. 🙂  And he did, a little forkful, while telling me I was to blame for his death by bacteria if it came to that, lol.  But he said it tasted just fine, if a little different from the flavoring he’s used to (which is not usually salt and caraway seed, I guess).  He said it was VERY salty, but that he could eat it.  So we put the cap back on and put the opened jar (pint-sized) in the fridge for future eating.  There’s two other quart jars we still haven’t opened, but might let ferment a few more days.

So, this one isn’t an out and out FAIL, but not sure it’s a WIN either.  The juices didn’t really come out upon pounding (and these were really fresh cabbage picked the day before!), we added a saltwater “brine” to cover the cabbage, the type of spicing (sea salt and caraway) was different, and we’re not sure it’s fermented properly because the smell was different.

But hey, it was a $4  experiment (2 cabbages at $2 a piece) and if it did work, we’ll have ended up with 2 1/2 quarts of sauerkraut.

We shall see!

6 Months

Today marks 6 months since my open heart surgery.  I checked my O2 sats just for good measure and it settled on 96%.  Then I grinned.

I know I just wrote a post on this 2 weeks ago, but I feel the need to mark this day somehow.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

I don’t think I ever took a pic of our Christmas Tree, after we cut it down a few weeks ago.  Here it is, sans flash. I’m still trying to figure out how to take manual pics – I’m so used to point-and-shoot cameras!

We try to collect (beyond the “filler” ball ornaments) ornaments with special meaning to us.  There’s no “theme” to our tree – it’s just a haphazard collection of ornaments over the past few years.  I can’t wait to look back at my tree in 30 years and see memory after memory.

A few of my favorite ornaments:

I love this ornament because it reminds me of all the canning and food preservation I do in the kitchen! Sure, I guess it’s really for a baker, but since I can’t find a canning ornament – this’ll do!

Our Lenox wedding ornament.

Such a cute ornament from when we moved into our condo.

My husband’s favorite ornament that I bought him last year.  A little blurry bu it spells out “Joy” in binary code, and then there’s “…to the world” underneath.  Perfect gift for my geeky engineer!

Do you have a favorite ornament?  Describe it to me!