Tag Archives: subsistence

Partying Because We Can (and also because we make puns about preserves)

Hello!
 
The moon is waxing. My neighbour just gave me a bag of cherry tomtoes. I have my own cherry (and sauce) tomatoes to pick in the next 36 hours as well, since they’re definitely ready to be harvested. AND I’m spending this Saturday – as that lovely, full, super Apple Moon gets ready to rise – hitting up the local farmer’s market with an awesome friend and then hanging out in my kitchen with her, making All Things Tomato.
 
We will be doing primarily Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes[1], and then making a variation on last year’s tomato-peach salsa wherein we’ll be using nectarines instead of peaches (and, hopefully, not having to peel the nectarines… though we’ll manage if we do need to do that). I’m going to see if I can re-jig the recipe so that it uses already-crushed tomatoes (instead of diced ones), so that we can just make the salsa by adding a dozen diced nectarines, plus rough-chopped garlic, onions, and various dried peppers, herbs, and spices to the last third-or-so of the crushed tomatoes. I think I can work that out.
 
I’ll still be making my usual fancy tomato sauce although this year’s will (a) not include any peppers, and (b) WILL include some minced basil, oregano, and savoury from the garden (and some dried rosemary from the cupboard).
I think I can probably set this up so that the cores from our Very Easy Crushed Tomatoes, along with a few litres of actual tomato puree, go into my slow cooker (and into a pitcher in the fridge, in the case of some of the puree) fairly early in the day so that they can be turned into sauce on Sunday.
 
Fingers crossed. The whole idea is to get as many different tomato products sorted out and jarred in one go as possible. We’ll be buying about 60lbs worth of tomatoes (is that too many?) so we may end up do some in the oven as the kind of herb-and-garlic roasted tomatoes that you can chuck in a tupperware and freeze, too. The cherry tomatoes from my neighbour will probably get slicedinto halves and done in the dehydrator… because why not? 😀 Although that may not happen on Saturday. 😉 Not sure yet.
 
This time, last week, I was harvesting apples from my friend’s back-yard tree (she also has a crab-apple tree and an Evans cherry – how cool is that?), and the last of the apple butter (about 3L, done up in 1C jars) is processing on the stove right now. I spent yesterday making vanilla-ginger nectarine jam (with some ground-cherries thrown in, just ’cause I had them lying around) – a recipe which resulted in ten half-cup jars (so just over one litre, really) of the sweet stuff, and my cupboards are starting to feel less bare.
 
Tomorrow, I have a date with a neighbourhood friend’s choke cherry tree (and her step ladder). I’m hoping to haul home upwards of 3L worth of choke cherries… which should net me, after some cooking and straining, about 5-6C worth of juice and cherry pulp. The plan for that is to make a chokecherry chutney that’s full of basil, mint, and rosemarry (rather than spices – although there will also be cloves in there, for what it’s worth), by mixing it up with herbs, yes, but also red onion, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, dried cranberries (and maybe dried currants), black plums if I can find them, and a red onion.
 
If I can manage to snag some of the big, toonie-sized crab apples from the trees around town, that will be particularly excellent, because crab apple jelly is a wonderful thing. Getting my hands on some of my neighbour’s pears wouldn’t hurt, either, although I’ll live if I don’t make pear butter this year. After that, we’re mostly down to waiting until this time next month (or, probably, a little bit later), so that I can make pumpkin butter before heading to Toronto for Thanksgiving.
 
So, what I’m saying, is that the Big Canning Push for 2015 is happening this week.
O.O
 
Wish me luck, folks! 😀
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad, the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] You core your tomatoes, puree them in a food processor, and then cook them down, seeds and peels and all (with a little vinegar and a little sguar and that’s about it) until they’re halfway between “sauce” and “juice”.

Lammas 2015 NON-Pictorial Garden Update

Yeah, I didn’t take pictures this time.
 
Or, rather, I’ve got a shot of my one yellow zucchini (or crook-neck – whatever summer squash I managed to dig in there), but that’s about it. It’s a lovely zucchini. It finished ripening indoors,though, and now that it’s a lovely deep-mustardy colour, I think it’s ready to be thinly sliced and sautteed with a boat worth of butter and a lot of our cherry tomatoes.
The sad thing is that there’s a good chance it’ll be our only one.
 
I know, right? Only one zucchini??? How is that even possible?
 
Oh, let me tell you: It’s possible.
 
I’m resigning myself to a very limitted squash-family harvest this year. I read, long before I actually planted anything, that squash plants need a good 18″-24″ of soil to dig their roots into if they’re going to get strong and do their vining, prolifically-fruiting thing. My garden beds are one 12″ deep.
So maybe it’s not surprising that they’re not doing so well.
Still, I live in hope and check my blossoms for any that look like turning into fruit. Next year, I’ll be ammending my raised beds – and adding extra depth to them, so that stuff like squash and our valient rhubarb can really get their roots dug in well.
 
At least I’m doing well (ish) in the tomato department. I pulled about 45 tomatoes off the vines today. No, yes, they are miniature tomatoes. But that’s fine by me. While I’d have been happier to be pulling in 30 full-sized sauce tomatoes (as opposed to half a dozen frequently-on-the-small-side sauce tomatoes) every other day, I’ll take what I can manage.
 
My chard is looking beautiful – a bit of a relief, I don’t mind telling you – and I’ll have to go out and give it all a hair cut again in the next 24 hours, and put up another big bouquet or two in the freezer. (That’s one thing I’m reasonably sure we won’t run out of – the chard should stick around until Hallowe’en, maybe a tiny bit longer, but the kale will probably hold out into December, and that’s not counting the stuff I’ve put in the freezer).
 
I’ve decided to just “go with the flow” on the garden, this year, and go ahead a buy tomatoes and beans and such-like to preserve for the winter. I’ll be getting 20lbs of tomatoes about two weeks from now (along with a couple of pounds of nectarines, from the farmer’s market), and I’ve already preserved three cups worth of beans (some from the garden, most from the farmer’s market) as mustard-garlic-tumeric pickles, plus made Goblin Fruit Jam from some wild-harvested choke cherries (and black currants left over from last year). At least my vegetable garden will keep us in fresh veggies over the summer (and, by the looks of things, into the fall), plus provide lots of frozen greens for the winter time. That’s a lot, even if it’s not as much as I was hoping for.
 
Beyond that, while most of the beebalm and all of the daylilies and columbines are done, my front garden is chock full of Mystery Plant and borrage and morning glories and nasturtiums and wild (and invasive) creeping bell flower[1]. I would love to get some mallow flowers, black (or dark purple) hollyhocks, cornflowers, scilla, and black tulips in there next year (or this fall, as the case may be), but for now, I’m enjoying my heavy-on-the-pink garden and the bees that it brings my way[2].
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden
 
 
[1]Although apparently you can eat the roots, young shoots, and leaves of this plant. It’s the “rampion” of Rapunzel fame, if you were wondering. 🙂 Aparently the roots actually taste a bit more like a nutty radish than onions or ramps (and the leaves allegedly taste a bit like peas?), but who knows? I guess there’s one way for me to find out. 😉
 
[2] My milkweed brings all the bees to the yard // And they’re like: It’s better than yours // Damn right, it’s better than yours // I could teach you, but I’d have to charge…

The year of the Pig – Part 3: Building a Routine

So, eight million years ago, Calamity Jane (from Apron Stringz) wrote a post about The Incredible Power of Habit. It’s coming to mind frequently these days, as I seem to forever be trying to get myself back into the swing of things.
 
I made bread this morning. After a week or two of seasonally-typical (so 35C+ and very humid) weather, the temperatures dropped back into very-easily-bearable range and it no-longer feels like torture to consider turning on the stove, never mind the oven. But it takes so little time to get out of the habit of doing something. Baking bread is one thing. Cooking dinners is, to some extent, another[1], although you do eventually have to eat, so.
 
In my case, the main difficulty with having ordered the majority of my year’s animal flesh all in one go? Is remembering to thaw it out. Building “Thaw out this Friday’s roast, in a bowl in the fridge, starting on Tuesday” into the routine of my week has so far proven to be a bit difficult. You wouldn’t think it would be. How hard is it to haul a 4lb chunk of shoulder or ham roast out of the deep freeze, chuck it (paper wrapper and all) into a mixing bowl, and set it in the bottom of the fridge where I can forget about it for a few days? And yet I’m still not up to speed on how long it actually takes four pounds of muscle to go from rock-hard-and-iced-over to raw-and-ready-for-the-oven.
 
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a house where we routinely let meat thaw at room temperature, in the sink[2] (and also routinely at chicken legs or pork chops rather than shoulder roasts, but that’s a different story), but I forget that something that’s been in a super-cold chest freezer, one that only gets opened about once a week, if that, is going to take considerably longer to thaw out that something that’s been living in the fridge-top freezer, which gets opened any time someone (i.e.: me) wants berries or ice cream or frozen greens… And it’ll take even longer if I do the thawing at 10C rather than 21C (or 35C, if we’re talking right now).
 
All-of-which is just excuses, of course.
Tomorrow starts a new week and, if I make a point of being on the ball about it, I will haul a 4lb roast out of the deep freeze[3], set it in a mixing bowl in the bottom of my fridge, and let it do its thing (conveniently making it a little easier to keep my fridge cool at the same time).
 
Fingers crossed.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] I think we ate out about three times in the past ten days, and made nachos for dinner one night – as in: we opened up a bag of tortilla chips and sprinkled sliced tomatoes and cheddar cheese, plus the last jar of my 2014 tomato-peach salsa (just in time to make more for this year – not bad on that timing), and then broiled it for 10 minutes. Not exactly a “meal”, but it worked for what we needed and cost about 1/10th of what it would have run us at a pub (plus we didn’t buy beer or anything, so actually less than that. But whatever.
 
[2] You’ll all note that I did, in fact, manage to survive to adulthood in spite of this mode of opperation.
 
[3] Easier to do, at least, now that I’ve sorted the large cuts from the smaller ones (pork chops and ground), and the meat from the leaf lard & bones. I put everything into cloth bags and loaded it all back into the freezer. It takes up more space that way – which is annoying – but at least I don’t have to dig through layers of body parts trying to find the one I want, while wearing oven mitts against the burning cold.

Clearly You Need To Know What I Ate Tonight

So today was a day of sending out job applications and returning library goodies. But I made the time, once the rain had let up (for now – I’m hoping pretty strongly that we get a little more rain overnight) to get all of my glorious, gifted plants into the ground – mostly into the front yard, where the card-board weed-smothering boxes are rotting nicely and doing their job, but are also soft enough to dig through and get to the (mostly clay, rocks, and broken glass) pre-existing soil underneath. Thank you, days of rain, for helping that along! 😀 Into the back yard went garlic chives and apple mint, and I took a few minutes (okay, a good half-hour) to spread the sauce tomatoes out just a little bit and give them some trellises to lean against.
That’s part of why I want the rain. I want the tomatoes to be happy. (Mainly, I admit, so that they produce a tonne of fruit, but hey. Benign self-interest?)
 
But my final garden task for the day – with the possible exception of taking a bucket of water out back and giving the tomatoes a drink – was to trim the rappini (which, given that we’re pushing Summer Solstice around these parts, is definitely starting to bolt) of its flower stalks (AKA “sprouting broccoli” or “broccolini”) and to cut a few bunches of fresh herbs, as well.
 
As you may have guessed, I’m really excited to be eating regularly (maybe even frequently – like: several times per week, so far) from the garden.
I’m also, in an entirely different way, kind of excited – or at least proud of my self – for cooking legumes from for-real scratch. As in: not just lentils, but the kind of (Great Northern, in this case) beans that you have to pre-soak, and that will give you about 3C beans for the price of one, by the time you’re done with them.
 
Partly for Year of the Pig reasons, partly for financial reasons, and partly for various health-related reasons, I’m trying to incorporate more beans-and-grains dishes into what we eat. Sometimes this means that the grain in “served on a bed of _________” becomes a mix of grain and short-cooking legumes (usually black lentils and pot barley, sometimes quinoa or white basmatic rice + red lentils) done in bone-stock, and that lets me “get away with” using half a cup of left-over roast rabbit/chicken/pork for the “meat” part of the dish without scrimping on the protein in a dish for 3+ people. Other times it’s less about being “sneaky” and more about just doing a vegetarian (ish – I do tend to cook my grains in bone stock, so…) dish for the sake of expedience and/or keeping the heat out of the house.
This was the case with tonight’s dinner.
 
Ingredients from the garden:
Sprouting Broccoli / Rappini
Greek Oregano
Sage (lots)
Basil
Winter Savory
Vietnamese Garlic greens
 
The rest:
A few stalks of asparagus (foodland Ontario for the win – I still have about half a pound of the stuff in the fridge)
Red quinoa (from somewhere south of the equator, I’m sure) + Great Northern Beans (from Saskatchewan) cooked in home-made bone-stock a couple of days ago
Black “beluga” lentils (likewise from Saskatchewan)
Dried cranberries (from California, no doubt)
Black pepper, prepared Dijon mustard, pinch of salt, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, a hint of maple syrup, and a pinch of nutmeg
 
 
I steamed the garden stuff while the lentils cooked (meaning: during the last 10 minutes of the lentils cooking), then tossed everything together in a bowl and mixed it until I couldn’t see any streaks of mustard anywhere.
It made enough for two adults plus one lunch, but we managed to get it to stretch to three (slightly smaller) adult-sized meals (plus one lunch) with the addition of a little more raw asparagus. If I’d really wanted to, I could have thrown in some of my (few) remaining walnuts and/or a few raw pumpkin seeds as well. That might have been a good idea. I find myself craving toast or some other munchable thing to fill in the gaps.
 
The salad came out tasty, just piquant enough (for someone who likes piquant – roughly 1/3 of the green stuff was fresh herbs, plus the mustard and balsamic are heavy hitters in the flavour department as far as I’m concerned) and was enjoyed by all. Had I known that I was going to be feeding three people tonight (woops), I would have cut an extra handful of rappini and made extra black lentils (I started with ¼ C raw black beluga lentils and, in retrospect, would have been better going with upwards of a ½ C of same).
All that being said: Not bad, for a dish that combines “what needs using up” with “what needs pruning”. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Update on the Garden (Planting All the Tomatoes)

So, by and large, I’ve planted my garden. Depending on how things turn out, I may or may not add one or two Chinese eggplant starts (from the Kowloon Market, up the street, which usually has them) and/or a few Ground Cherry starts (for the perennial bed), but those will have to wait until the beginning of June because I need to see which seeds are taking off and where I may (or may not) have space for a few more plants.
 
That’s how I do this. I intentionally (foolishly, or otherwise) overcrowd my plants to help prevent weedy things (aka: things I can’t eat AND/OR things I can totally eat, but which will take over fast and which don’t taste nearly as good as the other things I can eat that I planted on purpose) from gaining too much of a foothold. So I have a small forest of roma/sauce tomatoes in the middle of Raised Bed Number One and have planted my pole beans in clusters where (hopefully) they’ll do a good job of both (a) feeding my leafy greens LOTS of leaf-encouraging nitrogen, while also (b) providing those same (cold-hardy, heat-bolting) leafy greens with a little bit of shade during the hotter months of the summer.
 
Click on the Cut Tag to Find Out What I’ve Got

Beltane Virtual Garden Tour – Pictures of What’s Been Growing in the Yard

Hey!
So I declared, upon the twitter, that my rappini is starting to look like rappini (unless, of course, it’s starting to look like Red Russian Kale but… I’m pretty sure I planted that elsewhere, so… we’re going with Rappini for now!) and Miss Sugar was all “I want pictures!” and I’m nothing if not willing to show off my garden SO here we go:
Lots of Pics Behind the Cut

Punk-Domestic Chatelainery – Some Thoughts on Language and Meaning

So Erica, from NorthWest Edible Life, posted the following picture to Twitter and asked folks “What is Homesteading To You?”
 

Picture of a rural log-based house (with a big front porch) in early Winter, ft a hazy mountain in the background. Over it all is written:
“Homesteading Is: // being self-sufficient // Living simple // getting back to our roots // breaking away from commercialism // growing your own food”


 
So. “Homesteading”… It’s convenient. It’s good shorthand for what most of us tend to be doing which, I suspect, falls roughly in line with what’s on the list in that picture: D-I-Y rather than B-U-Y, embracing frugality for a whole slew of reasons, reconnecting with the daily-living skills of our ancestors to a greater or lesser degree, actively taking part in the rhythms of the land that sustains us. But, if you’re a white person (which, by the looks of things, many of us self-identified homesteaders – urban or otherwise – are) living pretty-much anywhere other than Europe, but particularly in North America, the term “homesteading” has a pretty fraught history. If you’re Canadian, some of the stuff our ancestors did (and which is still going on – so maybe try writing your MP about the need for reparations and a good, hard look into the MMIW situation?), directly or indirectly, was genocide. Here. Where we’re growing our own food and taking great joy in planting the Three Sisters together in our gardens.
 
So as much as I find the word useful (my twitter bio says “I live in 1821”, among other things) in terms of how it manages to imply wood stoves, fibre arts, cast iron cookware, home-grown veggies, pre-electric machinery, wild-crafting/forraging, seasonal rhythms, cozy-warm candle-light, and making cheese from scratch… it’s also a bit of a problem.
 
So I have to ask: Is there another word I could be using? Something that takes the rural implications (and Quiver-Full-reminiscent family isolation) out of “back to the lander” while hanging onto the seasonal rhythms and self-sufficiency? Something that pushes “DIY” to a more extreme and broad-spectrum conclusion than stenciling “Riot Don’t Diet” onto a hacked-up t-shirt? Something that takes the term “Productive” out of the assembly line and the cubical farm and plants it firmly in the rich, creative soil of an anti-consumerist, pro-interdependence It-Takes-a-Village home and community?
 
I’ve seen “Green Living” tossed around. “Voluntary Simplicity” (although that just doesn’t fit our stuff-intensive house or people-intensive home-lives) has popped up a few times, too. I rather like “Punk Domestic” and “Radical Homemaker”, in significant part becuase they invoke the activism and, frankly, broke-ass necessity, of some of my personal Do-It-Yourself Skills. My wife and I, as part of our Power Dynamic, use the language of fealty to describe What We Do. As such, the language of the Chatelaine also seems appropriate: The whole idea of the “Keeper of the Keys” deciding who – and in this case what – is and isn’t allowed entry into the Keep (be that BPA, Monsanto, & CAFO-raised critter-flesh, vs thrifted clothes, home-grown veggies, & eight million mason jars… or whatever your personal dichotomies are), maintaining the stores, spending a heap of time on fibre arts[1] and home-preserving in an eminantly social, but also practical and necessary, way. Even the notion of a whole village turning out to handle the bulk of the harvest together (although heaven and earth know that this is hardly an out-of-date way of doing things).
 
Anyway. If all of the above gives you an idea of what I mean when I say “(Urban) Homesteading”, if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
 
 
– TTFN,
– Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] In my case, this is for fun. In the case of actual Medieval Ladies of the Manor? It was because the work was basically never-ending. The silver lining, when there was one, was that most of it was automatic-pilot enough that, by the time you hit puberty (and had been doing this stuff for 10+ years) you could at least hang with your ladies-in-waiting/relatives/room-mates and be social while getting all of it done.

Eat Down the Larder 2015 – Pre-Game Post

So it’s the last day of March. Full moon is coming up in a just a few days. The snow is melting (and, occasionally, falling again, but mostly it’s melting) and there are early, early flower stalks poking their noses above the muck. Spring is springing, as it’s supposed to do.
Which means that it’s Eat Down the Larder Month again.
 
This is a Challenge put on by Erica over at NorthWest Edible Life, which I participated in last year with much flailing and whining and gnashing of teeth, but which I think is a good idea and a good habit to be in when it comes to not having your dry goods turning to dust in the cupboards year after year.
The idea is that you eat ONLY what you already have on hand, as of April First, in an effort to empty your preserves jars, clear out your freezer, and institute some turn-over in your dry-goods and non-perishables.
In my case, I cheat a little: I know going into this that I’ll be buying coffee (though I may not have to – it’s on my “no stocking up beforehand” grocery list – along with eggs, marmite, and white vinegar for Cleaning Supplies – anyway, so if I get that done today it won’t “count”), earl grey tea, and milk (I go through 3-4 gallons of the stuff every month) as needed. But as far as vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, carbs, fats, pulses, and seasonings go… No. We’ll make do with what we’ve got.
Which is a fair bit, to be honest.
 
In addition to being gifted the Queering Power Party leftovers – we have a dozen or so clementines, a bowl of grape-tomatoes, two chunks of Fancy Cheese, half a litre of half-and-half cream, a couple of tubs of hummus, and a few other goodies, courtesy of the QP Organizers who know that buying groceries isn’t always an option for us, even when we’re NOT playing a voluntary austerity game – we’ve actually got heaps of food lying around.
800g of old cheddar (“cooking cheddar”, not the Good Stuff) that I picked up a few weeks ago when they were on for ~$1.25/100g; 3lbs of butter (same situation). A jar of pre-grated parmasan cheese. A litre of 3% milk. 1kg of plain yoghurt.
An unopened litre of sunflower oil plus some olive oil, sesame oil, plus a tin or two of coconut milk and a couple of pucks of lard still in the freezer.
We have half a dozen tins of tuna that we do need to start going through in short order.
Two big bags of rotini plus frozen perogies and half a jar of tube pasta. Probably have a heap of whole-wheat couscous hiding about the place, too.
2lb of cooking onions, a bulb and a bit of garlic, half a celeriac, half a dozen carrots, 4-5 beets, a 3lb bag of boiling potatoes, and a 3lb bag of cortland apples.
Copeous frozen veggies (beans, broccoli, edamame, eggplant, ruby chard, possibly kale) and fruit (berries of various kinds, mixed and single-variety)
A freezer bin containing: 1lb pork sausage (maybe more than that?), 2-3 packages of bacon. 1 whole roasting rabbit, a little bit of fish, 1 beef heart, 2 pork kidneys, a package (iirc) of smoked salmon or similar, and possible (I’ll have to check) a package of two turkey wings (or possibly drumsticks, not sure).
A bag of Great Northern dry white beans, 1L red lentils, 1C+ black lentils, 1L+ brown rice, a cup or two of wild rice, 1C+ pot barley, 2L red quinoa, 1L pearl barley, and maybe some whole amaranth. Not sure what else I have hiding about in the form of dry beans and grains, though
3-4 tins of beans
1 jar of peanut butter
5Kg white wheat flour, 2.5Kg whole wheat flour, ~500g fine corn meal
A jar of yeast for bread-making + plenty of salt, baking powder, baking soda, herbs, and spices
2Kg granulated sugar, 250mL honey, 4+ tins of maple syrup + 250g maple sugar, an unknown but present amount of brown sugar, and LOTS of half-cup jars of jam, jelly, fruit-butter. Also: Chocolate chips. Also: half a pint of rhubarb syrup still in the fridge (makes a very nice cocktail when mixed with vanilla vodka, fyi)
1L cider vinegar + a little balsamic + 500mL red wine vinegar
6+ pints of pickled cucumbers (I’m open to suggestions for how to incorproate this into meals as a vegetable option rather than a garnish, fyi), 1 cup of diced tomatoes, 4-8 half-cups of tomato sauce, 2-3 cups of tomato-peach salsa
Dried peaches, dried mushrooms (I got a pound of them the other day, and put some in a chili, but there’s tonnes of them left… dried mushrooms don’t weigh very much), dried peppers (one hot variety, one mild variety) and dried cranberries.
8+ pints of bone stock already in the fridge, plus 3-4 bags of actual bones that can be used to make more stock as needed.
 
That isn’t even all of it, I don’t think.
But it’s most of it.
 
So. With all that (all that!) available, here are a couple of meal possibilities:
 
Combine 1 tin of chick peas + reconstituted dried mushrooms + reconstituted dried mild peppers + 1 diced onion and some sesame oil in a frying pan and sautee like fuck. Make a sauce using peanut butter, a little more sesame oil, some cider vinegar, maple syrup, prepared mustard and red chili flakes. Combine the sauce with the sauteed mixture. Add in some cooked couscous (or cooked quinoa) and serve.
 
Make bread and use some of the dough as a home-made pizza crust. Top with apricot butter (instead of tomato sauce), left-over roast rabbit OR left-over roast turkey OR cooked pork sausage rounds, minced onion (possibly fried already), thawed frozen chard, and grated cheddar cheese.
 
Make cornmeal crepes. Spread with mayo and mustard. Top with tinned lemon-pepper tuna, tomato-peach salsa, frozen edamole (I have one bag left in the freezer), and plain yoghurt.
 
Fry some onions in butter in the bottom of a big pot. Add some grated carrot. Add a half-cup jar of tomato sauce, a pint of stock, 3C water, Half a cup of pearl barley, half a cup of red lentils, a dozen dried mushrooms (broken up into chunks and rinsed before adding), and 2 pucks of frozen diced eggplant. Season with a little soya sauce and a little ginger.
 
Fry some onions in butter in the bottom of a big pot. Add some grated carrot. Add a tin of coconut milk + 1-2 tbsp curry powder. Add 2-3 pucks of frozen diced eggplant + 2-3 pucks of frozen chard + a handfull of fresh grape tomatoes. Add 1C water + half a cup of red lentils. Serve over couscous or cooked brown rice. Mix in a little plain yoghurt if you want to.
 
Brine a beef heart for two days. Slice into thin strips. Combine some of it with reconstituted dried mushrooms, thinly sliced pork kidney, minced onions, grated carrots OR grated beets, diced potatoes, a pinch each of salt and rosemary, and a dusting of flour. Stove-top cook (or oven-braise) in beer, wine or stock. Serve with savoury biscuits.
Combine the rest of the heart with pot barley, black lentils, stock, water, tomato sauce, dried mushrooms, diced potato, celeriac, and frozen ruby chard stems. Cook on LOW in the slow-cooker for up to 48 hours (you may need to top up the liquid a little bit here).
 
Salad Nicoise ft fresh (or jarred) tomatoes, boiled potatoes, thawed frozen beans, boiled beets, hard-cooked egg (just one, diced fine), diced cucumber pickle, and a dusting of parmasan cheese.
 
Cook pasta. Top with home-made alfredo sauce (or tomato sauce) and frozen veggies of some sort. OR Cook perogies. Top with same + maybe a little plain yoghurt and fried onions. Sandwiches on home-made bread: roast-rabbit with apple, mustard, diced onion, mayo, & crab apple jelly; grilled cheese with spicy tuna (and probably a pickle on the side, because: pickles) and mayo; Bacon-tomato-and-cream-cheese (or yoghurt-cheese); peanutbutter and jam (of course); hummus and tomato (possibly with left-over edamole).
 
Pancakes, coffee cakes, brownies, and similar made with fruit butter and/or jam in lieu of some/all of the sugar and eggs. Yoghurt with frozen fruit, crumbled walnuts, and maple syrup.
 
Lots of options.
Lots of otions.
Just keep telling yourself that. 😉
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Things I’ve Learned About My Own #Preserves – March 2015 Edition

Okay. So it’s mid-March. I just did a quick eye-balling of the freezers (yes, plural – one fridge-top and one SMALL chest freezer) and, damn, we’ve got tonnes of food! 😀 Including lots of stuff that I froze last summer & autumn (ruby chard, red currants, roasted eggplant, serviceberries, and even edamole), two recently-accquired dressed-and-ready-to-roast rabbits from the local Rabbit Lady who free-runs them in the clover patches on her Xmas Tree farm, and, oh, half a dozen big bags of bones that need to be simmered right the hell into stock as soon as I can swing it. (Maybe I should be sticking to boneless cuts of critter for the foreseeable? That’s a lot of bones…) I’m happy to say that my stores of preserves are holding up nicely, too, though we have perhaps too many (!) jars of cucumber garlic-dill pickles lying around. There may be a spate of giving stuff away in the next little while, if it comes to it (or, alternatively, I just won’t make cucumber pickles this year, and we’ll use all our cukes for salad-fixings).
I’ve got half a dozen tins of beans, a cup or two of pot barley & black lentils, half a dozen tins of tuna, a few big jars of stuff like red lentils, Great Northern white beans, wild rice, red quinoa, and pearl barley, plus more damn brown rice that you can shake a stick at. There’s a bout 5kg of white flour plus the usual salt, sugar, and baking powder supplies. There is peanut butter. There is honey. There’s a tonne of maple syrup. There’s even a tin or two of coconut milk.
Basically, my larder is quite well stocked.
Which is a good thing, because April will be Eat From the Larder Month again (let’s see if I can get through it with less whining this time…) and the goal, as it was last year, is to not buy stuff[1] in an effort to (a) save some money, but also (b) eat up the 2014 preserves so that there’s space (and clean, empty jars) for the 2015 canning season and so that we don’t wind up having jars of Who Knows What sitting around for five years at a stretch, not getting eaten.
 
This year, the Eat From the Larder challenge comes with a little extra incentive: I now have A Yard. Which means that, this season, I get to have an actual GARDEN. You know: Somewhere to grow at least part of the food that I’m planning on preserving over the course of next summer and autumn. My goal is to grow enough beans (snap and butter/shelling varieties), winter squash, summer squash, greens (kale and rainbow chard), and tomatoes to cover most of what I want to preserve for the winter and spring. Whether I’ll be able to do that is a different story, but it means I want to pre-emptively clear out the chest freezer in order to make way for the diced-and-blanched butternut squash that I want to put up, the snap beans, greens, and golden zucchini slices I want to blanch-and-freeze, just so I can say “I grew them, too!” when I haul them out again in the middle of winter. 🙂
 
Things I’ve learned (again):
I would much rather use bruschetta-mix or plain ol’ diced tomatoes than use tomato sauce. Most of the time. (When making bean stew, however, you can never have too much umami, so a one-cup jar of tomatoes PLUS a half-cup jar of sauce is a good way to go). Also, having acquired a nearby and rather dear friend back in October, who is badly allergic to All The Peppers, chances are good that my tomato sauce recipe will be changing slightly so’s as not to send her to the ER inadvertently (I have so far managed to not do this, fyi).
I’m hit-and-miss on how much frozen fruit I go through in a given year. Some years, I’ll go through a litre of frozen berries in a week. Other times, I’ll forget and find half a gallon of July-harvested red currants waiting to be turned into tarts (good thing, too, since we’re having people over for dinner next Friday).
I actually *do* like apple butter for baking and also for savoury dishes (mainly cheese sandwiches, to be honest) and missed it this year, since I didn’t make any. Also: Pumpkin butter is amazing BUT pear butter is probably a better way to go. I’m still planning on making pumpkin butter a regular feature of my larder, mind you, because I can grow pumpkins more or less like weeds around here, but I don’t have an apple tree of my own. Yet. But apple butter is going to have to be a thing.
Having only used my dehydrator the once… it hasn’t paid for itself yet. Basically, I’ve found that my home-dried peaches and nectarines… are mostly just really fucking dry. They’re not great snack-food, presently, is what I’m saying. So, while I’m hoping I can put it to work drying tomatoes and apples, or makingn snacky-snacky Kale Chips and similar, as and when I have kale, apples, and tomatoes to use in it, I probably won’t be going all out on dried peaches and similar next summer.
I may or may not do jarred peaches (or peach butter, or what-have-you) either. I love my tomato-peach salsa, and will continue to make that, for sure, possibly using nectarines instead of peaches (even though they’re more expensive), just ’cause I like the smooth skin better than the fuzzy, but I haven’t yet opened any of the apricot butter that I made, so I’m not sure that I’d bother making it again.
 
Seven weeks from now (or so), it’ll be Beltane, I’ll be on the hunt for groceries after a month of not bothering, and I may or may not (fingers crossed that I will) be started a new part-time job in the afternoons. Hopefully, hopefully, I’ll also be planting out the first of my cold-weather crops and rejoicing at a larder that’s ready to be filled once more.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] With some exceptions. I will totally still be buying milk and coffee. I may buy eggs or cheese, but would kind of like to not bother. (Alternatively, I may (break the rules and) buy 2 dozen eggs, a kilogram of coffee beans, and some Cheap Cooking Cheddar – provided it’s actually cheap when I get to the store – towards the end of March… and still buy milk as I go through it). But no veggies, baking supplies, fruit, meat, or similar since the idea is use up the preserved (jars, tins, frozen, and dry-goods) food that I already have on hand… And I have a LOT of it on hand.

Roasted Garlic-Balsamic Tomato Sauce 2014 (Recipe)

Start with:
10-12 roma tomatoes (frozen, whole)
23 slicing tomatoes (frozen, whole)
1L tomato skins and cores from other tomato-canning projects (frozen)
0.25C balsamic vinegar
0.25C white wine vinegar
0.25C granulated sugar
0.25C V8 juice (OPTIONAL)
 
Render the above into a cooked mess in the slow-cooker on “HIGH” – this actually took a couple of days, and I kept having to top up the number of tomatoes because my slow-cooker couldn’t take all of them at once. I would add them at a rate of five or six tomatoes at a time on top of what was already in there. If you have a larger slow-cooker, it will make this easier.
 
While the tomatoes cook down, dice:
1 long, red Sheppard Pepper (sweet pepper)
Half a red onion
3 bulbs of garlic (just cut the tops off these – much easier)
 
Set the diced veggies on a cookie sheet
Drizzle with grape-seed (or olive) oil
Sprinkle with salt
Roast for 30 minutes at 350F
 
Add the roasted veggies to the tomatoes in the slow cooker (make sure to squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin and discard the skins)
Mix until well-incorporated (I was still adding frozen whole tomatoes at this point, so it took a while to get to the next steps).
 
Purree it all with the immersion blender
Strain through a seive – squish as much through as possible using, say, the back of a spoon
Return the sauce to the slow-cooker and set heat to “HIGH” again
Add:
0.25C balsamic vinegar
0.25C red wine vinegar
3 cloves raw garlic, minced
 
Optional:
1 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp each (dried): basil, oregano, rosemary, savoury
 
Allow to heat through and start bubbling
 
Sterilize your jars in a boiling water bath
NOTE: This should land you with about two litres of sauce, so choose your canning jars appropriately.
 
When the sauce is bubbling happily and everything is well-stirred together and smelling AMAZING, ladle it into the half-cup jars.
 
Cap and then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
 
Remove from the water bath and allow to cool.
(Listen for the “plunk” as each jar seals – this is important as it will mean it’s safe to store at room temperature. If a jar doesn’t seal, either stick it in the fridge and use it within the week, or dump it back in the pot, reheat it, re-wash the jar, and try again).
 
 
I got 15 half-cup jars of tomato sauce (having not added the tamari or the dried herbs – I forgot, alas, but they made excellent additions last year, so I would recommend them to you) from this batch of sauce that I’ve been rendering down for at least four days at this point.
Because of how “head room” works, if I’d been using pint jars instead of half-cup jars, I might have only got “six cups” of sauce, rather than the seven-and-a-half that I got doing it this way. None the less, that’s fifteen meals worth of tomato sauce that I’ve put up, and I’m quite happy about it. 🙂
 
I’ve still got nine half-cup jars left, enough for me to make a bunch of Cranberry Curd – thus finishing off my 2014 canning for the year – without having to collect yet more jars to get that done. 🙂
It will be delicious.
 
Eventually, I get on here to give the full run-down of Canapalooza 2014, but for now please enjoy the recipe. Next year, I’ll try to remember the seasonings. 😉
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.