Friday, December 24, 2010

Making Jam

What did I do on Christmas Eve? Why make jam, of course! We rarely have time mid harvest to make preserves. But in fall and early winter, as we fill the freezers with meat, the fruit that was picked on days when the berries were soft from too much rain, or a bit rubbery after frost come out of the freezer, are thawed, and become jam.

I use two pans to get to heat early and reduce cooking time for better flavor.

I use organic sugar and organic lemons for lemon juice. Then as the fruit cooks, I wash and sterilize jars.

I follow the recipe from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook - minimum pectin so flavor is superior. And after some cooking, jarring up, a hot water bath - voila! Eight cups of fruit become six or seven jars of jam.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Judith Leaves Again

Wow! I went to a Tai Chi workshop in Chicago last weekend. My instructor, Roger had planned to go and gave me a ride, and the Taoist Tai Chi Society found me a most delightful home stay. Ken brought me to Amery and we left from Indigo Iris in Amery, and headed south.

When we arrived Saturday morning we all made name tags and one man had come all the way from New York City. He was next to me when we did our set of 108 moves, and I kept thinking his tai chi was really good. Well then I learned he was there to lead the workshop!

I did morning and afternoon workshops on Saturday and attended the Chicago branch holiday party. Since we are not big sweet eaters, I brought gingered carrots to go with the Asian food. And many people sought me out to say they were great - and I had to confess Ken, not I made them! It was so nice to visit with all the other students and teachers - very welcoming and supportive.

We decided to leave before the afternoon workshop on Sunday and the only dicey road conditions seemed to be between the Dells and Eau Claire. Good to be home and grateful Ken held down and plowed out the fort! And I have so much more to practise.

Thanks to Roger, the members of the Chicago branch, and my home stay hosts Barbara and Ray.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sprouting on your own

Ken read last winter that greens lose their nutrition quickly - spinach in eight days! This made greens traveling from warm climates even less attractive (let's see, harvest, one day to the warehouse, two days on the truck to the Midwest, another warehouse, another day on the truck to the local warehouse, another day on the truck, on to the back cooler at the co-op). We have always sprouted seeds in winter.

You need the following: a jar, a mesh top, seeds, water. Pretty simple. We use a 1 1/2 quart wide mouth canning jar, a screen Ken purchased at a co-op, radish, clover, broccoli seeds from either a seed catalog or a natural food store. Make sure they are sprouting ( no chemicals) seeds.

I use 4 T. seed per 1/12 quart jar. Soak overnight. rinse and set by the sink.

Rinse when you are in the kitchen. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, you could have delicious sprouts in a week. I use them with grated roots like carrots or celery root and add dressing. Many people add sprouts to salads. And larger sprouts like mung beans or peas or lentils are good in stir fry.

Experiment and Enjoy!

Keep the Tops!

When you have a root vegetable, you have not only the root to eat, you have a potential greens grower!

Cut a small amount of the top of the stem end of the vegetable - we cut to what Ken calls the shoulder, place it in a deep plate or shallow bowl on a self near a sunny window. After a few days you can harvest greens - or reds in the case of some beet varieties.

Last winter we experimented and really enjoyed the following: rutabagas, beets, celeriac. Some people also like carrots. Here are some beets and a rutabaga started just a couple days ago.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter CSA Newsetter

Greetings from the Garden - or should I say root cellar, cold storage, heat mat, and east windows! This week's box contains potatoes, rutabaga, celeriac, beets, carrots, daikon and black radishes, Brussels sprouts, onions, squash, parsley, and pea shoots.

Field Notes. Some years this box has fresh greens from the hoops. The early cold meant the frost came under the hoops and no greens until next spring. Although the snow was very inconvenient for many people, we are glad to have it. It will insulate the earth so the frost will not drop so deep so quickly and the cover lessens erosion of top soil. Snow tends to melt slowly enough that all the moisture sinks in instead of running off. Good news as we are still in a water deficit situation.

Ken planted micro greens inside for today's box, but they are still small - our very cloudy November set them back, but they will be larger by next month and appear in your box. We do have pea shoots - all the rage in high end restaurants.
Ken has been making pots and while on the wheel he is assessing the last season. He comes to lunch with many ideas for us to toss around. He also takes a mid day or afternoon break and checks hoopettes in garden and high tunnel in the field. He is amazed at how warm the inside of the high tunnel is. Even covered with snow, it is warmer than outside; part of this is just getting out of the wind. Ken is reading about high tunnels and making plans for next spring.

I am wrapping up the books for last year and soon I will be ordering seeds. Contact me if there is something you want us to grow specifically for you. We have standing orders for carrots, beets, cabbage, chard, beans, and we are happy to oblige. Send me your request via email or phone.

From the Kitchen. Lots of winter favorites in this box. While I was away last weekend, Ken made venison stew with onion, rutabagas, carrots, celeriac, potatoes, and a few frozen peas. He had some ready for my return - delicious. He has also been making rutabagas au gratin - also delicious as the milk and cheese take the edge off the rutabagas. A friend was here and stayed to supper and commented on how good it was.

Peas shoots are great in salad or added last minute to stir fry or soups and stews. Sprouts and micro greens are nutritious and their mild flavor blends well with many dishes. Experiment and let me know if you have new ideas I could share on the blog.

**NOTE Amery boxes will be delivered on WEDNESDAYS in January, February, and March - same week, just one day earlier. If this presents a problem, contact us.**

Enjoy the season and we shall see you in January!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More Snow

Here we are in December, and temperatures have dropped below zero, and the snow only melts a bit on sunny days. The other day when I went out to bring in some frozen laundry to dry, I snapped a couple winter at Keppers shots.

Milkweed pods


and Oscar - always ready for action!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Making Pottery Begins!

Ken has started making pottery. First he had to move seeds and clean out all the garden soil. He has micro greens on the heat mat and seeds for those, but the rest of the space is now used for pottery.

Pottery is labor intensive - the clay is handled as many as thirty times from soft lump of clay to finished piece.

And while Ken does this I am catching up the bookkeeping. By next year I hope to have that on the computer - I am told it will streamline the process. Soon I will inventory seeds we have, and start to select and order seeds.

Soup Stock

Well, the soup stocks for pork and venison are done. Ken boils down the bones and after I pick the meat, we return the bones to the pot until the bones are soft so the marrow and cartilage are part of the stock. Then we strain and cool to let the fat rise so we can skim it off and add it to the pet food.

Then I pressure can the stock. I don't pressure can anything else, but we have more than gotten return on our investment.

Because stock is a low acid food, it should be canned under pressure.

This year I found some reusable canning lids that are listed as having no BPA. I tried a couple in the pressure canner to make sure they did not melt, and they worked so I will be using them on all the jars we intend to keep.

We use soup stock winter and summer. It is great to have it ready to go.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Judith on a Panel

I was invited to participate on a panel at a Farm to Cafeteria workshop sponsored by Land Stewardship on Tuesday. Pretty flattering to be asked. Of course we got snow and ice the night before, so the drive took a bit longer than usual. When I saw four tow trucks pulling out cars and two more vehicles in the ditch during the first twenty miles, I felt justified in driving a bit slower than usual.

The workshop was held in a beautiful facility - the White Bear Lake UCC Church in Mahtomedi. The first two speakers from Minnesota state agencies told us about food in cafeteria programs and their effect on local economy, health, and regulations for selling and processing food.

Then we had a panel discussion. I was one of five participants: two farmers, a food services manager for Stillwater schools, and a member of Minnesota Food Association. The presentation of differing perspectives, goals and challenge to each sector of getting local food to the cafeteria was fascinating.

The midday meal was locally sourced - squash soup and sandwiches. Conversations were lively at our table. I enjoyed people approaching me to ask more about various things I had mentioned. It felt great to have people respect and seek out my opinion and ask me to share experiences and knowledge. I learned a lot and had an enjoyable day.

As I have said since, my head even fit through the door when I got home!