Candied Citrus Peels: 11-7-12

i’ve been incommunicado.  Just a bit of stress.  Sorry no blog lately.  But No biggie, No worries.

So, candy peels!  Good candied citrus peels can sell for as much as $49 for a half pound at candy stores.  So i’m going to find out what’s so good about them, having never tried it before.  i wish i had taken pictures of the steps taken yesterday when i started them.

Kyla and i had to dig out the fruit from the peels (and save for later use).  Then the peels have to boil in a simple syrup until translucent, which takes a while.  (Save the simple syrup after drained for later use too).  Now they are drying on racks, and will be for a few days.  After that more steps are taken.  Yes, it is a time-consuming process.  We’re using lemons and oranges.  And because i prepared them together, it should all be sweet and tart.

I’m also making butternut squash bread and pumpkin bread today.  The thing about winter squash that’s different from summer squash bread is that is must bake before it can be used in bread.  This is true for all hard shelled winter squashes/pumpkins.  You have to cut the winter squash in half and place cut-side down on a cookie sheet in about an inch of water.  Then bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so, until the inside is soft.  Dig out the meat from the shell, then it can be used in bread.  Also, keep the seeds for toasted pumpkin seeds.  Yum!  They were gone almost as soon as they came out of the oven.

From feedback of my official Taste Testers, the peach salsa i just made is WAY hot.  So i now must also make another batch of milder peach salsa and mix the 2 batches together to make a just-right-hot one.  i can’t help it if the peppers we grow are hotter than normal.  Maybe it’s a Texas thang…  So i might need to use less of those hot jappies in my jalapeno bread today too.  Maybe.  Nah.  Extra Hot Jappy bread at the market this weekend.

The Bama again, really?  This is what Americans decided?  For real?  Are we that deluded as a country?  Apparently.  Hope?-less. ~me

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Terrific Tomatoes: 10-24-12

kyla’s feeding peppers

We’ve been feeding our veggies today.  There’s something wrong with a bed of amaranth (that i didn’t plant.  it just appeared out of nowhere).  All the leaves are being eaten, as well as the pumpkin leaves next to them.  So i put some DE where the plants are getting eaten.  And then, as a preventative measure, Molasses around the entire gardens.  It attracts beneficial soil microorganisms naturally. It’s one of the few natural soil additives that isn’t stinky.  So Kyla will even help , because of the lack of smell.

Then on to the amazing tomatoes.  Love tomatoes!  But, because i haven’t weeded since the summer, you could barely see the tomatoes through the grass.  i started these tomatoes from seed indoors in July.  In september i planted them about 4 inches above ground and waited.  They got overtaken by very high grass.  i had tried staking them with long sticks, but to no avail.  The tomatoes, though they are doing well and bearing fruit, grew sideways.

First i have to get rid of the grass, then feed them.  And after i can see the actual plants, help them grow upwards.  So i’m caging the tomatoes to make them grow upright.  Now maybe all the flowers on all the tomato plants will start to bear fruit.  At this point only a few of the plants are.  Whew, it’s hot out!  Laters!

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Peas, Peas, Peas: 10-23-12

This year, for the first time, i haven’t had success with peas.  Now the ones i planted last winter grew through the spring.  And even every summer i have tons of peas planted in the spring.  But not this year.  None of the peas i planted this spring did well.  So i tries crops in late August to no avail either.  Keep in mind, i do rotate crops, so these are all planted in different locations, and still no luck this year.  Crazy!  So i’m trying again.  Before this year, i’ve had great success with Oregon Giant peas, Tall Telephone, and even Little Marvel.  So i’m planting those along with a few other varieties today in a different spot.  We’ll see…

Otherwise, today, i’ve just been doing the normal Homestead baking, canning, cooking, chores…  And i’m working on putting together an art & craft fair at the farmer’s market in 2 weeks.  Short notice, but hopefully i can gather up some arty vendors and get it marketed well enough to draw a crowd.  Again, we’ll see…

 

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Apple Jam: 10-22-12

Besides canning Candied Peppers and Bread & Butter Pickles, i’m attempting Honey Apple Cranberry Jam today.  There’s 20 cups of diced and peeled red and green apples simmering in lemon juice until they break down.  Then i’ll add the honey and cranberries  That’ll take a while, so i’m making more english muffins, cheesy garlic bread, and croutons in the meantime.  i’ll be making more breadcrumbs for my famous crunchy Eggplant Parmesan too.  Yummers! Breadcrumbs are so easy to make, i don’t know why anyone would ever buy them.  It’s pretty much just croutons crushed up.  i have some sprouted bread that’s gotten a bit stale, which is perfect for that.

i’m also mulching my growing fall veggies, now that they’re big enough to not hinder the young sprouts’ growth.  This weekend we weeded, hopefully for the last time this season, around all the winter squash and sweet potatoes.  They’re doing fantastic!  So now i can put down a heavy layer of mulch to protect the roots from the temperature variations and cold nights.  We should definitely have pumpkins by Thanksgiving if i can get them a bit healthier.

 

 

i think they may be lacking in the mineral magnesium. Many gardeners are so concerned with the big 3, nitrogen, potash, and phosphorous, that the other essential minerals are discounted.  But when you see plants that ordinarily do well, start to yellow, it generally means there is a magnesium deficiency in the soil.  Mixing some Magnesium Sulfate (available at most nurseries) in water and soaking the plant thoroughly should do the trick.

If you listen to the politicians, you might think we are all terrorists. ~Loesje

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Garlic: 10-17-12

After being gone on a fabulous and very needed vacay, i have much to get done this week.  Hence the not blogging til today.  i’ve been baking and canning, and canning and baking, and gardening and baking and canning…  Oh and making jerky, and canning, and baking and cooking.    But it was worth it.  We had a great time.  Caught a bunch of crabs too.  i’m so making california rolls!

Anyways, so today after more baking (sprouted wheat bread, english muffins, tortillas), i’m gardening.  Garlic.  Specifically soft-necked garlic.  Softneck garlic varieties are the best ones to grow if you live in a milder climate. They don’t form scapes, and generally form several small cloves per head. They mature quicker than hardneck varieties. Softneck varieties tend to store better than hardneck varieties, so this is the type to grow for long-term storage.

i generally pull a clove off of each bulb of garlic and replant it.  i have cinder blocks surrounding on of my gardens that i plant my garlic in.  This serves 2 purposes: 1- garlic can help to repel pests from the garden.  2- garlic takes so long to be ready for harvest, that i don’t want to take up room in the actual bed.  The garlic i planted today is an heirloom variety called Pioneer.  You peel each clove just like you would to cook with, then plant it pointy-side up an inch under the soil.  Then heavily mulch, to protect it for the year or so it will take to harvest.

The best time to listen to a politician is when he’s on a stump on a street corner in the rain late at night when he’s exhausted. Then he doesn’t lie. ~ Theodore H. White

 

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Stocking Up: 10-4-12

Unfortunately, today, i can do no more weeding at the Arlington Garden.  My vehicle is at the mechanic so i can get it in decent running condition to take my family on vacation next week.  So that means i’m stranded at the homestead today.  Which i’m actually completely fine with.  Because i’ll be gone next week, i have to make everything i would next week and this week by tomorrow.  This also means that i’ll have to get someone to tend my gardens and animals in my absence.  And the okra has to be picked everyday too, it’s huge!

I have been baking and canning all week, when not in the gardens.  Today i’ve made a few dozen English muffins, a new type of beer bread, canned pickles and pickled okra, deboned a chicken, made onion jerky, and prepared the handout for the food preservation class i’m holding at the farmer’s market on Saturday.  I’m again tryong a different type of beer, sticking with the seasonal ales, this one is called Hex, and smells fantastic!

At this point i’m just keeping my fingers crossed that i have a vehicle to take my daughter on a proper vacation before she leaves for 2 months visitation with her father.  There’s always something to overcome at the homestead.  So, chin up, and keep moving!

If you listen to the politicians, you might think we are all terrorists ~Loesje

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More Fall Garden Prepping: 10-3-12

Hasn’t this rain been fantastic!  My garden is loving it and has just exploded with all the goodies we love.  And now that it isn’t quite so muddy, but the soil is still moist, it’s a great time to get some weeding done.  i’ll be going to my other garden in Arlington to clear some space for more fall veggies.  There’s quite a bit that needs to we weeded in order to do some planting.  Gotta get those grass roots outta there!

In the meantime, today i’ve just been baking jappy cheese bread and canning peach salsa.  i just barely had enough onions growing to make the salsa.  Most of my onions are no bigger than a golf ball and there aren’t many left.  But i started more onion sets about a month ago, so i’ll have plenty more onions in a few months.

Yesterday we took a break from the homestead and went to Mainstay farm for a homeschool field trip.  Kyla had a blast!  Then, we spend the evening pretending like we had no electricity.  She loves doing that too.  We shut everything off and light candles, cook over a fire, play board games and camp out in the living room.  It’s good to play like that sometimes in preparation for a real lights-out scenario.

Political history is largely an account of mass violence and of the expenditure of vast resources to cope with mythical fears and hopes ~Murray Edelman

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Honeydew Peach Jam?: 9-26-12

We’ll see how it turns out.  i still have a ripe honeydew melon taunting me on my counter.  i haven’t done anything with it because i didn’t want to make just another basic melon jam.  i’m still stocked up on that.  So i think i finally decided after going back and forth between Sangria Honeydew Jam, Honeydew Chili Jam, Honeydew Chutney, Honeydew Lime Jam… None of my ideas really appealed to me, so i’m going with peach!  i’m still not convinced, but at least there are still more melons growing in the garden, so if i muck this up i can try something different soon.  And i may still add some sangria to a bit and see how it tastes.

Yesterday i made a bunch of Spicy Pinot Strawberry Jam and my famous Green Olive Relish.  And  because i also have several pounds of okra and cukes to pickle, i figured i might as well keep the canner out for honeydew.  Hmm, honeydew-cuke jam?  Nah, still stickin’ with peaches.  Oooh!  But what might also be good in it, Grand Marnier.  Alas, i have none.  Definitely will remember that one in the future.

This is supposed to be a very busy Saturday coming up at the farmer’s market for the Front Street Festival.  The street will be closed off and there’s all kinds of things going on out there.  So i need to make extra bread too: Sprouted Wheat, Garlic Onion, Jappy and Beer Breads.  I don’t know what’s going on with the sprouted bread. but it’s HUGE!  Even the sample loaf got crazy big!

 

And i’m teaching my lovely daughter to make Snickerdoodles, my favorite kind of cookie.  She makes brownies and cookies to sell at the market to pay for the internet on the new Smart Phone she just bought.  Kids and their gadgets…  i’m not paying for that stuff.  My phone is just a phone, it makes calls.  Period.  But i will help her bake the goodies to make the money to pay for it.

 

So no time for the garden today.  i’ve been gardening here and the other lot this week.  Planting more beets, onions, carrots, winter squash and pumpkins, kale, and i even bought quinoa seeds and sowed them in the front yard.  My Arlington garden is completely infested with mosquitoes for some reason.  i see no standing water, but they literally swarm like mayflies.  At any given moment i have at least 5 squities biting me while hundreds more are hovering.  So after a few minutes of that, i came home to change into long jeans and long sleeved shirt and went back to finish.  Man that’s hot work! Stupid squities!  i really don’t see the point in their existence.

Practical politics consists in ignoring facts. ~Henry Brooks Adams

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Oryx Jerky: 9-20-12

We’ve all heard of beef jerky, turkey jerky, and even Buffalo jerky.  i’m making Oryx jerky.  The oryx, a large antelope with long, spear-like horns, is a true desert animal that lives in Africa.  A friend of mine from the farmer’s market gave me some Oryx he hunted, so i’m making jerky with it.  Started the smoking yesterday, so this morning i put crushed peppercorns and salt on the pieces and now it’s dehydrating in my Excalibur, Merlin.

While the meat is becoming jerky, i’m continuing the long process of making pickled watermelon rinds.  i had them soaking in water and pickling salt over night.  After rinsing and draining them, they boiled for 15 minutes in water.  Now the brine (water, vinegar and lotsa sugar) is boiling.  That will then be poured over the drained rinds and soaked overnight again.  Tomorrow after the market i can complete the pickled rinds and get them canned.

i made beer bread this morning, finishing off the last of my Nude Beach Summer Ale.  It’s a seasonal brew, so i’ll be experimenting with other beers for bread.  I’m starting with another seasonal ale, Shiner Oktoberfest.  And i’m also working on a new Gluten Free bread today.  Cynthia, the owner of Potegers, gave me a few bags of amaranth grain to play with.  Kyla just ground it into flour with our hand-cranked food mill, so i can work on GF sandwich bread.  Getting gluten free breads to rise and not turn out dense and flat is the challenge.  It obviously didn’t work wit the recipe i used from versagrain.com, so i will try other recipes, tweeking them as i go and will post one that actually turns out well enough to share.  FYI, i used potato starch in this instead of tapioca flour.  And i’m out of Teff.

And i’m going to get more done in the garden this morning before it gets hot outside.

i’m trying to make room for things and having a hard time getting everything i want to grow this fall to fit in my limited space.  There is an area in my main back garden that it is covered  with what i initially thought was a viney bean, like pole beans without poles.  But, though it’s pretty, it’s been growing there since May or June and has produced nothing but little purple flowers.  So i’m pulling all that up today and making room for more beets.

Political history is largely an account of mass violence and of the expenditure of vast resources to cope with mythical fears and hopes. ~Murray Edelman

 

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Watermelon Jam! 9-19-12

This is the last batch of watermelon jam until next summer when i have a new crop.  it’s more of a pain to make than other jams because not only do all the seeds need to be removed, but it’s so liquidy to begin with, that it takes more to thicken into a jam consistency than other fruits.  When it stops running off the spoon and is at a spreadable texture it’s ready, but that takes a long time.

The secret to an awesome watermelon jam is getting the temp of the boiling pureed melon to a temp of 220 F.  And even though i’ve seen lots of recipes, i’ve had to create my own because most watermelon jam recipes make a truly terrible jam.  With 9 cups of pureed watermelon, your going to wanna add a whole 7 to 8 cups of sugar.  Don’t skimp on that. Also, a tablespoon of lemon juice for every cup of puree.  i start with one tablespoon of pectin for every cup of puree, then add more from there, testing the consistency until it’s jammy feeling.   Do that by putting a bit in the freezer in a ramekin until cooled and testing the thickness.  By the time it’s ready to ladle into jars, the house smells like a big fat watermelon jolly rancher.

Waste not, want not.  i’m also attempting these apparently southern favorite goodies, pickled watermelon rind.  Might as well put what i’d normally compost to use.  Sorry to offend you lovers of the rind, but this just doesn’t sound appetizing at all.  However, i won’t shun it completely until i try it.  So i’ve looked up recipes and tweeked them Lindy-style.  Now these rinds are soaking in pickling salt over night.  So tomorrow i’ll get to the rest of my adventure with watermelon rind pickling (seriously?  eew).

Anyways, while i’m trying to get the jam to 220 F (it wants to stay at 190 degrees forever), we’re working in the garden.  i finally got some more winter squash and pumpkin seeds.

 The ones i had started a month ago after that bout of amazing weather and lots of rain, i had some great looking winter squash and pumpkins, which died immediately upon impact of the brutal weeks of heat following the rain.   The little one on the left is about dead, and every last spaghetti squash in a raised bed out front is completely gone.  Now i must start again from scratch.  Sucks!  But it’s not too late to get them germinated and ready to harvest before our first frost here in zone 8.

Practical politics consists in ignoring facts. ~ Henry Brooks Adams

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