Tag Archives: productive home

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks Three and Four (After the Fact) + Some Goals

So, as-you-know-bob, April was Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! As mentioned earlier, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
While the first year I did this challenge (2014, I think?), I was pretty strict about following the rules of the challenge, I’ve been getting less and less hard core about them as time has gone on and I’ve gotten the hang of using a Par System (if you wanna be fancy) to keep preserved foods and dry goods actually moving through my larder rather than building up in stashes that end up taking up a lot of space without getting eaten.
I’ve said, often enough, that “It’s always Eat From the Larder Month at my house” because we spend more than half the year relying on predominantly frozen (or otherwise preserved) produce, and because I learned – my first year of doing this – that brown rice will, eventually, go slightly rancid if you let it sit around for literally YEARS without using it… and it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaay better to use it up over the course of 6+ months (and drop another $15 for a new 5kg bag of brown basmati when the time comes) than to let it sit for literally years In Case of TEOTWAWKI.
 
So, particularly if you read the first of this year’s EFtL Challenge posts, it’ll come as no surprise that the second half of the Challenge looked much like the first. I continued to buy milk and eggs.
A neighbour gifted me eggs, whipping cream, and a jar of dairy kefir (she’s vegan, but her recently-visiting parents aren’t) so I now have dairy kefir in my fridge again[1].
I made a steak and kidney pie – and discovered that a 2:1 ratio of kidneys:steak is a little too weirdly-floral-tasting for my tastes, and it would have been awesome to cut it with, say, a tonne of mushrooms and some extra onion or something. But here we are. I still have a frozen pig kidney in my freezer, but that’s down from having three, so I’m calling it a win.
I sprouted some mung beans, and may try to do the same thing with green lentils. (My attempts to sprout chick peas have… not worked out so well, but we’ll see if I can get it right…)
I made sourdough bread a couple of times, and it mostly worked, most of the time, and making bread with bottle yeast is still easier and faster, so I clearly don’t have this down pat just yet.
I made a 3L batch of yoghurt, and used 2C of it, in lieu of cream cheese, to make a chocolate cheesecake(!!!) which actually worked!
I used the gifted whipping cream and some more of the yoghurt to make a liver mousse (uh… yesterday. I got the liver, itself, out to thaw at the end of April, but it’s been hanging out in the fridge until last night).
But, for the most part, it’s been pretty business-as-usual around here. There are still h’ors d’oeuvres in my freezer – where they’ve been hanging out since Winter Solstice, if not earlier – that need to be baked and served. There are elements of my larder that got “eaten down” by other people, because there are a few folks in town who needed extra groceries and I was able to go shopping in my freezer/cupboards for them and basically “off-load” a roasting chicken, a lot of frozen veggies, a loaf of home-made bread, some tinned tuna, some garden rhubarb, the last of the brown basmati rice (picked up in October, so it’s just fine thank you), and a variety of Things In Jars (mostly tomatoes) on other people.
 
The biggest thing that’s come up, though, is that vegetables are delicious, and I would like to eat more of them.
So, like, for those of you who’ve got the cash flow to not worry about this? Produce isn’t cheap. Bags of frozen produce are less expensive (usually) than fresh stuff – which is another reason why we use so much of it – but it’s still not cheap. Blessings Be upon my garden – with its rhubarb and sorrel and crow garlic and plentiful dandelions, with its sage and savoury and lovage and (hypothetical, but here’s hoping) raspberries and even its nettles and occasional purslane, with its self-seeded radishes and mustard greens and its volunteer cherry tomatoes – for giving me free produce all summer long, plus enough (we hope) rainbow chard and (sometimes) winter squash to keep feeding us later on, from the freezer. Bless the neighbourhood’s numerous city service berry trees and neglected chokecherries, and the raspberry canes along the alley. Bless the antique apple tree across from my laundromat and the big, chunky crab apples that grace the verges of the rich neighbourhood to the south, for the cider and fruit butter they give us in the Fall.
 
I’ve been planting for the past week-and-a-bit. Adding manure to the garden beds, and digging at least one new one. Putting in a second lovage plant and trying again with thyme, plus adding a few annual seedlings, too.
I’m thinking about how one of the Big Easy Things a person can do to reduce their own carbon footprint is to eat more vegetables.
I mean, yes, I know. The idea being expressed there is “Get more of your calories from plants (rather than muscles)”. But when I think “Eat Less Meat” what I end up thinking is “Eat Less Flavourful, More Boring, Food” combined with “Access Fewer Amino Acids and Start Feeling Dizzy and Having Trouble Thinking Things Through”.
Whereas, if I think “Eat More Vegetables”, yeah, I may be thinking “¼C diced salami[2] + 2C milk and a tablespoon of parmesan cheese split between three+ people” in a meal that’s half rotini noodles, but I’m also thinking “Five or six cups of veggies: Mustard & radish florets, leafy greens, hothouse grape tomatoes, and herbs… This is beautiful, flavourful, and delicious!”
It’s a plate of shredded red cabbage tossed (or steamed, if you want it hot!) with diced apple, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds topped with yoghurt, minced garlic, and a dollop of grainy mustard.
It’s a thin slices of toast topped with mayo, hot mustard, apple butter, garlicky hummus, and a generous heap of sour kraut.
It’s rutabaga, winter squash, beets, onion, garlic, and parsnips (or carrots, or even creeping bell flower root, if you want to go there) roasted with frozen or hothouse bell peppers and walnuts, then tossed with a 2:1 mix of pot barley and black lentils cooked in bone stock, and topped with lacto-fermented radish roots-and-greens before serving.
It’s hothouse tomatoes & cucumbers, sprouted mung beans, slivered crow garlic, and frozen edamame tossed with yoghurt and quinoa (OR orzo pasta, for that matter).
It’s half a cup of liver mouse, 80g of brie or chevre, and a cup of artichoke-mayo-garlic-parmesan dip set out with soda crackers and wine and a spread of olives (or a tapenade made from a tin of same), dried apples, pears & cranberries, roasted walnuts, bell peppers & tomatoes, chokecherry relish, heavy-garlic hummus, and baba ganoush.
It’s all beautiful, flavourful, and delicious.
It’s all appealing and something I would want to eat.
…And it means upping my veggies per person count from 2 servings per dinner-time to something closer to five or six (a serving of most, though not all, veggies is about half a cup).
Which means my budget – in terms of space, but also in terms of money – is going to have to more than double.
Not the most comfortable though, even at the beginning of Free Food Season. But, I figure, at least Free Food Season will give me some time to adjust to this while everything is bright and delicious, and that’s emphatically a start.
 
So.
What was my take-away for 2019’s Eat From the Larder Challenge?

Variety is still wonderful
 
Veggies are delicious and I need (and want) to eat more of them, which is going to cost money, but maybe I can get more perennials going? Perhaps? (Is this the year I try to plant asparagus?)
 
Sourdough bread remains difficult, but I’m better at it than I was. Also, making dips out of various things is a GREAT way to use stuff up. Whether that’s liver and yoghurt or pressure-canned beans and mashed pumpkin… And strips of mediocre sourdough bread make GREAT dippables if you put them under the broiler with some oil brushed over them first. Pro tip. 😉
 
We easily eat two dozen eggs per week in this household. And a solid gallon-and-a-bit of milk. Four and 3/4 litres per week, if you want to get technical and also include the milk needed to make yoghurt once a month. Which is… a lot. I’m more than a little relieved to still have access to these[3] and this is definitely where our food choices are at their most brittle and where a big bag of powdered milk might be a good way to make the (much tastier) liquid stuff stretch farther, or help me make do when it’s not available

 
During the EFtL Challenge, this year, I nearly ran out of flour and short pasta, and did run out of parmasan and cheddar as well as granulated sugar (but we also have tonnes of other options – like honey and maple syrup – to use in place of granulated stuff). I was out of baking powder before I even started, and have been happily using baking soda (and acidic stuff like fruit butters and yoghurt) in my quick breads. Shortbread cookies made with honey instead of sugar are delicious (next up: Making them with a mix of whole wheat pastry flour and oat flour, in addition to the butter and the honey…)
 
I’ve since re-stocked on flour, sugar, pasta, and other dry goods and pantry staples, and will be having a gallon of maple syrup delivered from a friend’s family sugar bush… some time between now and June, probably? Between that and the garden starting (just barely – we’re still on dandelions, crow garlic, and rhubarb right now) to produce veggies, I’m feeling pretty good.

Goals for This Year’s Preserving Efforts
 
Grow winter squash (including spaghetti squash, butternut, buttercup, and two kinds of pumpkin) AND cucumbers up a trellis to make them harder for the squirrels to attack
 
Grow pole beans (and nasturtiums and icicle radishes) in the same bed as the squash.
 
Pressure can a lot of mashed winter squash and/or dice, steam, and freeze it for the freezer.
 
Grow a lot of radishes (again) and lactoferment the roots and greens together (with mustard seed, garlic, and bird chilies)
 
Maybe try growing amaranth (and inter-plant with eggplant and pole beans), because I hear it’s easy to thresh and winnow and because it’s a really nice addition to Pumpkin Soup
 
Continue to sprout various dry beans and add them to salads and stir fries
 
Grow and freeze as many hardy cooking greens as possible (mainly rainbow chard, but also some kind of kale or mustard greens)
 
Buy enough yellow and green zucchini (like 60, unless my own zucchini plants give me a bumper crop) and red shepherd peppers (like 85… which will cost a LOT more, and so maaaaay need to be significantly limited) and eggplant (15, because I’m not expecting a high yield from my eggplants, tbh) to put up a LOT of frozen veggies, so that I’m less dependent on – but not independent from, I seriously doubt – getting veggies from the freezer section of the grocery store.
 
Grow mustard for seed
 
Occasionally pressure can batches of bone stock AND batches of cooked chick peas or other large beans at the same time
 
Wild-harvest local service berries (freezer) and chokecherries (curds and jellies) at the appropriate time.
 
Sow clover seed in the back yard to help the ground fix nitrogen and get it a bit healthier and more able to support other food crops

 
Ha… These goals are ambitious, and some of them (like the amaranth, though I do have the seeds) may not happen. But here’s hoping I’ll be able to meet that 5-6 servings of veggies person plan, and do a lot of it myself.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I find that dairy kefir – at least mine – smells like a mix between old cheddar and blue cheese. I’m not sure it’s supposed to smell like that, but it still smells like a familiar food, so I tend to put it in bechamel sauce to make it taste cheesier, particularly when I’m all out of parmesan and cheddar due to the challenge restrictions.
 
[2] Or a whole cup of tinned tuna, or the half a cup of diced meat you can get off a left-over pork chop or chicken leg. You get the idea.
 
[3] Not long ago, a friend commented something along the lines of “A million different things can be made from a base of coconut, rice, flour, yeast, sugar, cardamom and saffron”. She was talking about Zanzibari cooking. I think my Million Different Things are probably made from a base of eggs, milk, wheat flour, maple syrup, mustard, black pepper, nutmeg, and salt. (And, yes, you can theoretically use spice-bush berries in place of both the nutmeg and the black pepper, but I don’t have those. Yet).

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2019 – Weeks One &Two (Includes: Pear Velvet Pie Recipe)

So! It’s Eat From the Larder Month chez House of Goat! Full disclosure: Winter 2018-2019 has been substantially easier than winter 2017-2018 (never-mind the year before that one) and we have not been doing the Eat From the Larder challenge literally every other month to the point that the must-have supplies (for me) like all-purpose flour and red lentils are dwindling before I even get started over here. So I’m starting out with more “larder staples” (dry goods) than I’ve necessarily had in years past.
I’m also doing my usual thing where I continue to buy milk and eggs, at normal-for-our-house rates (about 1 gallon of milk and 1-2 dozen eggs per week), because it makes the whole month about a zillion times easier and it means I have something to cook my freezer veggies and jars of preserves with, which makes a big difference.
 
For those who don’t know, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was created, many years ago, by Erica Strauss over at (the now mostly-dormant) Northwest Edible Life blog, as a way of demonstrating the maxim that “Cooking is a basic skill of resilience” in real time while also using up any preserves that are hanging around, wearing out their welcome.
The first year I did this, I went pretty all-in. And I learned a lot about the bits of my larder that I didn’t really know what to do with (lentils), even though I had them on hand. I found out which pantry staples I tended to avoid (brown rice), and how much I want variety in my diet, even when “variety” is defined as “umpteen ways of making the same 10 or so ingredients taste good, day after day”.
 
It made a difference in how I thought about preserving food: Thinking of preserves as “ingredients” rather than “finished dishes” meant that I started paying attention to how frozen serviceberries are more versatile than serviceberry jam, fruit butters make better additions to quick breads than jams and jellies, pickled veggies and dried fruits can both be used to add acidic brightness to dishes comprised mostly of root vegetables.
It also made a difference in how I thought about my eventual (now a reality!) garden: I want perennial food plants – everything from crow garlic, nettles, and dandelions to rhubarb, sorrel, lovage, and culinary herbs – to be available in my yard, because they start arriving early enough to make a difference in a situation where my end-of-winter freezer is looking bare (or even just boring).
 
Anyway. Here we are in, like… Year Six of this challenge, and it’s the end of Week One nearing the end of Week Two.
 
Confession? I’m not taking this challenge particularly seriously. My lovely wife bought us baking potatoes and fancy cheddar (because she’s lovely, and also because I try to do this challenge in a low-key way so I don’t get any push-back… which I might not even get, but I’m letting the brain weasels have this one). We were invited to split a pizza with a metamour (at our place) a week ago, and I didn’t even think about it before saying “Sure, that’d be great”. AND IT WAS. I bought samosas for lunch on Monday of this week, and probably would have done so a second time if a co-worker at my temp job hadn’t brought in Easter Chili (I don’t even know, but it was tasty) on Thursday.
So, while The Challenge has so far been very easy, part of why it’s been easy is because, on mornings when I’ve slept late (“late” = 10 minutes, but wevs) and haven’t had ready-to-go left-overs in the fridge, I’ve opted to buy something rather than not eat.
So, yeah, I’m cheating.
 
That said: The freezer is still emptying out at a reasonable pace. I made a big batch of garlic-curry hummus (ish… it’s mostly chick peas, but not entirely) and between that and making some artichoke-kale-mayo dip (think spinach dip, if that helps), making “toasts” out of some of my sourdough bread (which is working, reliably, for sandwich bread – hurrah!), opening up a tin of smoked oysters, and putting out some dried fruit, I think I can probably come up with a nice snack-feast for later this weekend.
The fact that the crow garlic and rhubarb (and even the sorrel and dandelions) are coming up in the back yard is making it easier for me to stop hoarding be generous with the frozen veggies. So veggie-heavy meals – like strata ft zucchini, red peppers, kale, garlic, and onion (but very little cheese); or chicken stew ft chard, kale, zucchini, celeriac, onion, garlic, and winter squash – have been a delightful option. We’ve also done a cabbage salad (ft walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and dried cranberries with a yoghurt-mustard-mayo dressing) which made for a good next-day lunch as well as a easy, light dinner.
We used up the last of the costco trout the other night, with butter (we are running out of butter) and a little white wine. We’ve got a rutabaga in the fridge, along with a couple of potatoes (all of which are sprouting like heck and which I think I need to put in the ground instead of putting in dinner, but… we’ll see), some Chinese Broccoli and a greenhouse cucumber. (Cucumber salad and a standard short pasta with tuna, frozen broccoli, and bechamel sauce have also featured in the past 10 days of dinners).
I have tonnes of pre-roasted-and-frozen turkey, which I want to start using up.
I have tonnes of fruit butter, too. Which: I found a way to use it up that I really, REALLY like (though, when I run out of butter, I’m in trouble):
 
I made a pie with some of the fruit butter!
 
I’m super excited about this, because I’d been wondering if it would work pretty-much since I put the pear butter up last fall. It’s basically pumpkin pie, except you use a pint of pear butter instead of the 2C mashed pumpkin and 1C brown sugar. You guys. It works so well! Here’s the recipe (which I modified slightly from one like this):
 
~*~
 
Pear Velvet Pie
2C pear butter
1C milk
3 eggs
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
 
Blend the heck out of the above.
Pour into one pre-baked 9″ pie shell (DIY or not, crumb crust or short pastry, you do you)
Bake at 425F for 15 minutes
REDUCE HEAT and bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes
Allow to cool
Serve
 
~*~
 
I assume this will work just as well with apple butter or other fruit butters (Nectarine? Plum?), and I’ll definitely be experimenting at least with the apple, because I have so much apple butter it’s not even funny. Like five litres or something.
 
As far as this specific pie goes? Be aware: Pear butter is hella sweet. When I made mine, I put maybe half a cup of brown sugar into the whole batch. Which was like 3-4 litres of pear butter by the time it was all put in jars. So there’s maybe a tablespoon of “additional sugar” in that pint of what is otherwise just mashed pears, cooked down, with a little bit of salt and cider vinegar thrown in. So I’m assuming that, when I make this with apple butter, I may find that it’s not as sweet. (It will be plenty sweet enough, I’m sure, just not as sweet as this).
 
A similar thing that I’m hoping to do is make what’s essentially a cheese cake, but use plain yoghurt instead of cream cheese. It can be done. The consistency will be a little different (somewhere between normal cheesecake and, like, maybe custard?) but I think, especially if I mix in some melted chocolate chips, it’ll be really good. AND I can top it with some of my frozen berries, which should be awesome sauce. 😀
 
Anyway. We’ll see how the rest of this challenge goes. Hopefully things will remain delicious and easy and our food will remain at least slightly varied (there’s going to be turkey stew with pot barley and rutabaga coming up, I do know that, probably another veggie strata and, provided I can get the noodles right, some sort of udon + soup stock + turkey + lacto-fermented chunky veggies thing).
 
Wish me luck.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Sour Dough Adventures

If there’s anything working with a sour dough starter has brought home for me, it’s that (A) I am an impatient person, good grief, and (B) I haaaaaaaaaaaaate not being good at stuff. Hate it. It’s VERY frustrating.
And I didn’t expect the learning curve on this to be quite as steep as it has been, if only for me specifically.
 
Today I made sour dough pancakes.
Am in the process of cooking them (and probably burning them) as I write this.
They should be just fine. If only because, while I’m using some starter in lieu of baking powder, I’m still aiming for something closer to the “French” pancakes – meaning something like a crispy crepe, especially with four eggs in them – I made as a kid, rather than the thick and fluffy ones that might come to mind if I said, like, “flapjack” or something (stuff that’s closer to a flattened out drop-scone or Welsh cake, basically).

So my attempts at using levain as a quick-bread levener are… probably unsuccessful but also probably tasty, so we’ll see how it goes.
 
Successfully making Actual Bread, however, is going a lot more slowly.
Both in the sense that I haven’t quite managed it yet, AND in the sense that this process takes 36+ hours to actually do.
The dough seems to do best when rising in the fridge. It develops the sticking-to-itself tendency and the cohesive texture that I want in bread dough that way, whereas if I let it do its thing on the counter, while it does rise reliably, it never loses that sticky, heavy feeling and it’s hard to deal with (meaning: my hands get just COVERED in dough, and it’s hard to scrape off AND it feels gross).
So I think I’ll try to do all-in-the-fridge rising with this batch and see if it works.
Fingers crossed.
 
Beyond that… This surprised me, though it really shouldn’t have. Sour Dough bread takes a lot more flour. Not all at once, per se, but over time. Because you have to feed the starter every couple of days (provided you keep the starter in the fridge as well).
Which means I get to try and clear some space in the fridge today.
Wish me luck. 😀

Fermentation Elation – A Productive Home Post

So! Erica, over at NWedible, is doing a Productive Home Weekly Report thing, and has invited people to chime in with their own productivity reports.
I’m… not totally fussed about tracking productivity. It feels a bit like giving myself a performance review. BUT, if I think of it as an opportunity to brag about the awesome-fun-cool stuff I’ve been doing/planting/harvesting/cooking/baking/canning/fermenting/etc chez moi that I’m really excited about… it gets a whole lot easier.
So here we go.
 
There’s been almost no rain for the past month, which is not a great situation. The garden is looking pretty crispy, even in the back yard where I’ve been watering every day. Also, I’ve come to the conclusion that my soil is depleted enough that it needs some major-by-my-standards remediation. Meaning that – when the heat breaks, and provided I’ve got a spare $20 kicking around – I’m going to try seeding the non-garden parts of the yard with white clover in an effort to at least get some nitrogen back into the ground.
But, for now, I’m relying on my garden for herbs, greens (mostly “weed” greens), and rhubarb. Which is about as productive as it’s able to be right now.
As seen in earlier posts, I’ve been out collecting service berries (see below), as well as wild greens that don’t grow in my yard. But most of the productivity at our home is happening inside the house.
 

 
Inside the house, things are going quite well:
Earlier today, I blanched a bunch of grocery store zucchini (there are another 8 or so in the fridge yet to do) and put them in the freezer, in a silicone muffin tray. I also froze (on a cookie sheet) the last of the service berries, and transferred the latest batch of my fermented wild greens (a litre and a half!) to the fridge, in mason jars. Oh, and I re-bottled the cider that I started fermenting at Winter Solstice.
I put it back in the plastic jug, with a little more bread yeast and some maple syrup for food, to do a technically-third ferment, because it turned out VERY dry and VERY still, and I wanted something fizzier and a little bit sweeter to bring to my mom’s tonight.
Which, I guess, brings me to: I’ve been making booze.
Cider, see above, but also I started a batch of honey-wine a couple of weeks ago, just after Summer Solstice (as seems quite appropriate) and, while it’s a little more ginger-y and a lot less service-berry-y and rose-petal-y than I had been aiming for, it does smell like something I would actually want to drink. So I’m calling it a win. (Here’s hoping it still smells that good after it’s had six months to age in the back of the fridge). I also made ginger beer, which is marvelously fizzy, and which I’ve been drinking heaps of in the hopes of scaring off the sore throat I woke up with this morning. (Seriously… My body’s been kind of a weird barometer these past few months, so I’m hoping this is due to a major pressure change in the night, and not to me getting sick, and that we’re actually going to get some solid, steady rain. Which we badly need!)
I’m thinking I’m going to try making rhubarb country wine – maybe even rhubarb-chokecherry country wine – in another couple of weeks, around Lammas. My goal is to put up a bunch of tasty drinks that I can serve at my Winter Solstice party at the end of the year. 😉
 
In other fermentation news (apparently this is A Thing in my house, now): I’ve made two batches of sour dough bread. I’m still working out the slightly trial-and-error (in my case) process of figuring out how long to cook the stuff, but I’m thinking that third time will be the charm, and cooking it for about an hour and a half should result in some good, tasty, fully-cooked bread that is also easy to cut with a normal bread knife. (I over-baked it and ended up with a very thick crust which, sure, my wife thinks is great, but which I find tricky to do for stuff like sandwiches).
 
Anyway.
Right now? Right now, I’m preparing to do my first experiment in home-dyeing.
I’ve got black beans (which, in theory, will give me a nice blue) soaking on the counter and, on a shelf, I’ve got an old plastic ice cream bucket filled with a mix of water, vinegar, and shredded aluminum foil, in which I am soaking a cotton crop top that I’d like to make bluer than it currently is. (Currently, it’s a kind of faded, greenish pastel turquoise which, while okay, is not ideal).
In theory (in theory) the vinegar will leach some of the aluminum into the water and will mordant the cotton (the vinegar doesn’t really work as a colour fixative for plant fibres, though, I need to use salt for that) so that it will better take up the eventual dye, giving me both a more even AND deeper colour of blue. No idea if it’ll work, but it’s (probably) not going to hurt, so I’m giving it a go.
 
Oh. And I’m knitting a tank top. This is old news, but I’m starting to do the cabling (for shaping) and am knitting in the round and, while it doesn’t look like a shirt (or even a tube) just yet, it’s much closer to being a shirt than it was even ten days ago, so I’m happy about that.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.