In the garden and around the house

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This is our house on any given day…harvesting and preserving…fermenting, canning, freezing, cheese making and dehydrating…kids get a kick out helping us and we enjoy watching them learn and develop through growing and harvesting their own food!

In the last few weeks we did a lot of everything.

We shelled and canned beans.  We grew our own this year. Scarlet runners, heirloom lima, calypso and another one that nobody remembers planting, or what it is.  What we grew we will cook individually and do a taste test, to figure out which is our favorite and next year only plant those.  For canning this year, we purchased the shelling beans from our local farm stand, Carpenito Brothers.  The girls love to help me shell the beans and that makes me a happy, proud mama.

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I have been making farmers cheese and we have been enjoying eating it in zucchini lasagna.  To make this lasagna, use your favorite lasagna recipe substituting noodles with thinly sliced zucchini. Delicious and healthy!  The only step that is crucial for this is to sweat your zucchinis (this works with eggplants too!). By sweating them, I mean cut them in desired slices and sprinkle with salt, let them sit for an hour or two and watch them release their juice.  By doing so, you are avoiding having a soggy lasagna. I make them in duplicate, with hopes of freezing one. But, we always end up eating both. As you can see, I don’t even have a picture.  As soon as I make one, we eat one.

Another way we have been enjoying the farmers cheese is with fresh peaches…and once those are no longer locally available, we will devour the canned peaches in light syrup, yum!!

Here is the link to making farmers cheese: http://homesteadinthesuburbs.com/happy-mothers-day-and-we-have-a-winner/

Canning Peaches (cherries and pears):

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Blanch peaches in boiling water to ease peeling.  Peel peaches and slice into pieces of your liking and pack into the jars (cleaned and sterilized).  Make sure to wipe the lip of the jars prior to putting on the lid to ensure a good seal of the jar.

I use light syrup for my fruit canning, it is very sweet and enough sugar to preserve the fruit. Since there is so much sugar, bring the syrup to boil and pour over fruit while hot.

  • Light – 2 cups sugar to 1-quart water
  • Medium -3 cups sugar to 1-quart water

You can also make a syrup with honey if you think that’s healthier (sugar is sugar people…just don’t use the processed stuff).  I personally don’t like the flavor honey adds but to each their own!

  • light – 1 1/2 cups honey to 4 cups water
  • medium – 2 cups honey to 4 cups water

Process in a water bath: bring it up to boiling and then allow to boil for 25 minutes for pints, 30 minutes for quarts.  Unless we need the pot, we allow the jar to cool to room temp before removing them.

This year, we dehydrated peaches for the first time.  I am always on the quest to find methods of preserving fruit without using lots of sugar.  We loved them.   Dry peaches are a flavorful and sweet treat that will surely please any sugary craving.

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Also new to our dehydrated foods this year is cantaloupe.  Peel, seed and thinly slice, dehydrate over night at 135 degrees and boom…a delicious little treat!

Last but not least, plums…we got two boxes full of Italian prunes from our buy nothing community and have been dehydrating them, converting them to prunes. They are one of my favorite things to snack on with a hot cup of tea during the cold months.  Italian prunes/plums are ideal for dehydrating since they are not mushy and break open easy, allowing for the pit to come out without disturbing the plum.

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Kimchi and other fermeneted vegetables-my new love

After reading Ben Hewitt’s book The Nourishing Homestead, I have been playing around with fermenting vegetables, specifically kimchi.  He includes a fantastic recipe in his book and I have been making it and we have been eating it now for a month now.

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I love kimchi with my omelet.  I have to say, the probiotics really do work and if I skip a day or two of kimchi, I do notice a difference.

Ben Hewitt’s book The Nourishing Homestead is outstanding.  He shares the family’s journey through being as self reliant as possible.  He describes their ups and downs and lessons learned.  The book is a full of good advice and information if you want a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle.  In his book, he also shares a few recipes and that is where my new love for kimchi originated.  Try it, it’s super easy to make, very delicious and good for you.  His whole emphasis on food preservation is preserving as many nutrients as possible and fermenting foods is one of the best ways to do so.

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Here is his recipe: Fat O’the Land Farm Kimchi. This recipe is for 20quarts. I adjust the portions based on how much cabbage I have.

30 pounds cabbage ( chopped) red or green

4 pounds carrots (diced, I grated mine)

1 1/2  pounds of daikon (diced or grated)

1 1/2 pounds onion (diced, I thinly sliced mine)

3 ounces of garlic, (diced, I finely grated mine, don’t care for big chunks of garlic in my food)

1/2 pound kale

2 ounces grated ginger

Hot peppers to taste

11 ounces of salt

Layer the veggies, sprinkling the salt until you used all of it. Mix everything by hand or a wooden spoon. Let sit for 4 hours abd then pack tightly into clean sterile jars, ensuring that the veggies are submerged in the water/salt brine. Its ok to top it off with cold water ( if you don’t have enough liquid produced by the veggies). Cap the lid loosely, the bacteria needs to breath.  Keep it at room temp for two to four days (we keep ours in the garage) and then refrigerate.

We eat this with every meal. I also fermented green beans, kale, zucchini and carrots.  Beets are next.

A few more pictures of our life on the homestead.  The growing season for the most part is coming to an end and it shows in the garden. The plants are no longer vibrant green and are now showing signs of fall.  The shelling beans are drying on the vine, the pumpkins are turning orange and the tomatoes are starting to look more pitiful.  I am excited to harvest the last of it and start to reflect on the year and plan for the next.  We have a few rows of winter greens already planted.  Hopefully this year, we can extend the growing season a bit more with some kale, root veggies and lettuce. As for next year, we have so many dreams and plans.  I go to bed designing the garden in my head every night.

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Thanks for reading 🙂

PS:  with a single good rainfall, we gathered eight pounds of mushrooms…it should be a good mushroom season!! Fall is officially here!!

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Pickles!!! Hurry, you still have a little time left!

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A few weeks ago, we produced 35 jars of pickles, 5 jars of pickle relish and three huge jars of fermenting pickles (these did not make it, they got moldy and went into our compost). I also made “salted” pickles or refrigerator pickles and they turned out delicious! We are enjoying them with salads or as is.

Needless to say, I am pickled out. We bought two huge boxes of cucumbers from Carpenito Brothers (our local farm stand) and got a 10lb batch from our CSA’s pickling share. We use the USDA suggested picking recipe and water bath.

Here is a nice site for lots of pickling/fermenting information.

http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%206%20Home%20Can.pdf

Recipe we use:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Pickle-Anything-Basic-Pickle-Instructions/

The recipe for the “salted” pickles:

Wash the cucumbers well and do not cut them. In a large jar, put in as many cucumbers as tightly as you can. For this type of pickle, it is essential that the uptake of salt is even and slow thorough the whole cucumber.  If this happens too fast, the pickle might loose it’s crunch.  In a sauce pan, for every 1 liter (4 cups) of water, add 3 tablespoons of salt, add dill seeds, garlic, all spice berries, mustard seeds, and bring heat it enough to dissolve the salt.  Cool the brine to room temperature and pour over the pickles and stick the jar in the fridge.  I usually make a huge jar which requires about 3 cups of brine.  They should be ready to eat in 2-3 days.

Some important things to keep in mind:

  • Choose nice firm straight cucumbers, if they are soft beforehand, your pickles will be mushy (and nobody likes mushy pickles!)  It’s also nice if they are all roughly the same size.
  • Wash them well!  I let them soak in my (clean) sink for a little bit and scrub the dirt off with my hands.
  • Do not refrigerate your cucumbers!
  • Garlic and lots of it.
  • When in doubt, add more dill.
  • Add a grape leaf or two to every jar, it make the pickles more crunchy and enhances the flavor.
  • Mustard seeds are your pickling friends.
  • Add peppers and onions (small, whole) to the pickles, you won’t be sorry.
  • You can make whole, slices or spears.
  • Add spice of your liking or jalapenos if you like spicy.
  • Sterilize your jars and lids.
  • For fermenting pickles, use spring or good quality filtered water only.  Tap water is treated with this junk – http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/mdbp/chloramines_index.cfm in most municipalities. This is probably not necessary if you are on a well.
  • Invest the two hours into this activity-you won’t be sorry!  Homemade pickles are delicious, make excellent Christmas gifts or host gifts and you are eating more sustainable (chemical) free food.

Here are some pictures of our pickling adventure!

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Next year we plan to give fermenting pickles another try!

Thanks for reading!