Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Christmas gift 2019 - Twelve Months of Mixes

In the Kitchen

For family Christmas gifts this year, we sent out a package of Twelve Months of Mixes.  As the name suggests, we put together a mix for each month of the year.  Here is a picture of the mixes:

Here is a list of each month:

January was  Hot cocoa mix  - basically a just-add-water recipe because we figured you probably baked enough during the Christmas holiday.

February - brownie mix with white chocolate chips (for your sweetie on Valentines)

March - Irish soda bread with raisins (to help celebrate St. Patrick's Day)

April - lemon pound cake (should go well with Easter fixins)

May - blueberry muffins (sent dried blueberries with this mix but can't wait for the real ones to be ripening soon...)

June - cookies with M&Ms (celebrate summer!)

July - buttermilk pancakes with chocolate chips (this is a mix I use for pancakes all the time...nice and fluffy)

August - banana walnut snack cake (bananas tend to get old quickly when the temps are high so put those old bananas to use in this cake - add a cream cheese frosting to take it up a notch)

September - coconut cream pie (this mix is for a pudding that you used to make the pie...who doesn't like pie?)

October - calico bean soup (temps are starting to cool down...cozy up with a bowl of soup)

November - pumpkin bread with cranberries (pumpkin everything this time of year!)

December - cornbread and chili mixes (more soup and cornbread...can't beat it...an easy meal when you have been busy preparing for the holidays)

I used the Make-A-Mix book for most of the mixes.  I have provided links (above) to the recipes that I used that did not come from this book.  I have this original book that was published in 1987 but I think it was updated in 2006...
At first I was going to send a mix to everyone each month...like a "Mix of the Month" club subscription.  Then, I realized how much time and postage it would take to get it together to everyone each month so I just put them all together for the whole year.  It still took a good amount of time to put together but it makes a nicer package to have everything together for the whole year.   Another great thing about making all these mixes is that we had lots of great things to eat as we sampled most of the mixes as we were putting them together!

That is it!  Keeping this post short and sweet...just like the holidays!  Enjoy!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Fall recap 2018 and a couple new items for the Farmer's Market!

Farm Updates

I guess "winter" is going to officially begin some time this week so it's probably best to do a Fall Farm update.  It was busy...of course...
Using the squeezo that Julie Skinner gave me to make apple BBQ sauce.  I LOVE this machine!
I am going to start with a list of items that I canned this past summer and fall.  This is not a bragging list.  In fact, I wish I could have done more.  It is more for me to know how much I put up and how long it lasted us so I can prepare even better for next year:
6 pints green tomato salsa
7 pints red tomato salsa
6 pints Rotel
8 half pints of apple BBQ sauce
4 quarts apple juice
2 quarts pears
14 pints pears (note to self...only can 1 1/2 pints of pears next year)
6 pints apples
3 quarts applesauce
6 pints applesauce
4 1 1/2 pints applesauce
10 quarts tomato sauce
2 pints tomato sauce
6 half pints elderberry syrup
6 pints pickled beets
3 quarter pints candied jalapenos
8 quarts apple pie filling
I made some pear preserves, apple cider jelly and apple pie jam for the Farmer's Market next year.  

The pear preserves and apple cider jelly will be new products next year!  

I just love the pear preserves.  I think it is my favorite jam!  I put the apple cider jelly in my coffee in the morning sometimes as a sweetener.  

I also have canned broth and garbanzo beans, but I just do this on a continuous basis when we need more.

In the freezer:
3 gallon bags of green beans
4 pints of pesto
3 quarts of corn
I cook down pumpkin and save it in the freezer as we need it.

I also dehydrated a lot of herbs, flowers, and vegetables.  I am planning to write a blog post about that so I am not going to expand on that right now...

Worm bin 

Last January, I started a worm bin.  It has been REALLY slow going.  I just added the 3rd bin last month.  I had been stuck at just 2 bins this entire year.  A total of 5 bins came with the unit.  I still enjoy feeding the worms and I am hopeful that they will continue to grow.  I think I had read that it takes 3 months for their numbers to double so, it is a slower process than I thought.  These are definitely not honeybees. 

Overwintering in the garden 

I am trying an experiment with growing overwintering onions.  The idea is that you start the onions in the fall and they start to grow and then stop growing when it gets colder and the days get shorter.  I planted the seed in August in the house and then transplanted them out into the garden in September.

Now, we just wait until the spring.  Once them temperatures start to warm and the daylight increases, they will start growing again.  It is similar to growing garlic.  Then, you should be able to harvest starting in May/June.  If you decide to do this next year, make sure you get the correct type of seed.  Onions are daylight sensitive so you need to make sure you get "overwintering" onions that will be stimulated to start growing more when the daylight increases.
I had some covers made out of Agribon and put them over the top.
I also did the same thing with some lettuce and spinach that I planted in the fall.  I got it started and covered it to let it sit until the spring. 

Taken from Our Stoney Acres website:
Lettuce seedlings planted that late in the fall will start to grow but won’t get terribly big. You are looking for seedlings that are maybe only 2 or 3 inches tall when you’re 10 hour days arrive in November. If you then protect the seedlings in a hoop house or a cold frame depending on how harsh of winter you have. The harsher the winter the more protection they need. If you live in a zone 6 or below I would recommend using a cold frame to protect the seedlings.

You will peak in on the seedlings during the winter and they look awful. They’ll be wilted and frozen looking but if your protection holds they will spring back and look fantastic as soon as the sunlight returns in the spring. These seedlings will then be ready to eat months sooner than seedlings that you had planted in the spring.
Also, I did the same with spinach.

I know, I should have gotten the covers on before the snow came but I had to have the elastic sewed into the it and I did not get them back in time.  I am not too worried.  I think everything will be fine.  I really wanted to get a cold frame built but I guess that will be a project for next year...

I made some new raised beds for the garden.  I actually made 3-4x8 foot raised beds.  Here a pic of when I was filling them up.  I also expanded the garden a bit to have a nice place for planting corn.

 In the Kitchen

I started to harvest my pepitos.  Pepitos are hulless pumpkin seeds.  You have to grow a "special" kind of pumpkin that produces these seeds.  

Taken from Grit Rural American Know How website:
More than 200 years ago, a multigenerational mutation took place in a pumpkin patch in Styria, a region of Austria. The unusual pumpkins had seeds without hulls. Since then, generation after generation of Styrian farmers have saved the seed from the pumpkins with the thinnest hulls, largest seeds and greatest quantity of seeds. The result was that Styrian pumpkins now have large cavities filled with hull-less green seeds containing between 40 and 50 percent oil. A crop can produce up to 1,000 pounds of dry seeds per acre.

The pepito pumpkins did not grow very big and I was concerned that I would not get many seeds or that they would all be little tiny seeds and it would be hard to harvest. 
However, I was pleasantly surprised!  The little pumpkins were loaded with nice, big, green, hulless seeds! 
We will be growing more of these!

We are thankful for our fall harvests and hope you were successful in your harvest too!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Making apple cider

In the Kitchen

I decided to try and "juice" a bunch of apples to get apple cider to make hard cider.  I bought a masticating juicer.  There are 2 types of juicers available on the market..centrifugal and masticating.    When you compare masticating vs centrifugal juicers you’ll find that the biggest benefit to masticating is the higher juice yield.  I wanted lots of juice so that is why I went with this type.  
I just bought a juicer that cost less than $100.  It worked but it took a long time to get a gallon of juice.  If my "apple cider projects" work out good this year I think next year I will look for a larger one or just get a cider press.

Anyway, the initial juice was kind of green and foamy...

Fresh "green" juice.
 ...but then settled down and oxidized (turned the traditional brown color) once I heated it to pasteurize it.
Pasteurized cider
I wanted to use the juice to make hard cider.  You don't have to pasteurize it to make cider but then you don't know exactly what wild yeasts are in there and what you might get as a final product.  If I like the cider, I want to be able to replicate it year after year.  So, I pasteurized it and then I added pectic enzyme to clear out some of the pectins that make it cloudy.  

Cider after pectinase treatment...notice about an inch of sediment on the bottom of jug
 At this point, I took the pH (which was about 3.5) and did a measure of specific gravity (1.048) which lets you know how many sugars are in the juice.   You compare this specific gravity reading to the later reading after the primary ferment and you can get an estimate of the alcohol content (how much of the sugar was converted to alcohol).  Our apples are actually a bit too sweet for cider making but we are just using them anyways!  Most apples used to make cider do not actually taste very good.

Next, I added the yeast.  I decided to use an ale yeast (often used to make ale beer).  It is common to use a champagne yeast which will give you a dry cider.  I will be honest...I don't care for really dry wine/alcoholic drinks.  I like them to be a little sweet, not super sweet, just slightly sweet (basically, not dry).  I had read that the ale yeast will give you an "off dry" result.  Off dry (or semi-dry) is a fancy way of saying "mild or softly perceptible sweetness."  I did a bloom with the yeast which means I heated up 1 cup of water to 105 degrees and added the yeast and let it sit for 15 minutes.  Then, I added a 1/4 cup of the bloom to each gallon to start the fermenting.

I added 2 cups of a raspberry ferment that I had made in the summer to one gallon.  I added about 2 cups of pear juice that I just extracted the day before to the other gallon.  Another comment on "sweetness", I had read that pear juice has a sugar called sorbitol.  I guess the yeast can only eat fructose sugar.  If you add pear juice to your cider, the sorbitol will stay in the cider and naturally add a little sweetness to the final product.  You can also make a hard pear cider and that is called "perry"...maybe a project for next year.

I let them sit for 2 weeks and they really started bubbling!  Then, I racked them which means I transferred the cider out into a new jug leaving the lees (the yucky old, dead yeast) behind.  The lees settle on the bottom of the jug.  Next, I took another reading with my hydrometer for the specific gravity (1.009).  It is hard to see in the pic but basically it was definitely done!

Taking specific gravity measurement with hydrometer
So, I moved the cider to new jugs.  Now, it's time to wait for the cider to clear.  This step could take up to 4 months.  I started all this process on October 13th and on October 27th I put the racked cider jugs into the back room of our house that we do not heat for the secondary ferment and clearing.  It says it is best to let it clear at about 50 degrees.  It's not that cool in the back room but it will be cooler than in the downstairs kitchen where I had them for the primary ferment.  

Ready for secondary ferment and clearing.
Surprisingly the raspberry cider cleared in like 2 weeks!  The pear cider was close behind.  I was so excited so I got ready to do the bottling.  I wanted to make a "crackling" cider...yes, that is a real term used to describe the level of carbonation.  It is just be low "sparkling" and above "perlant".  To get a carbonated cider, you have to add a little sugar and yeast back in and then cap it off to contain the carbonation.  I used 3 grams sugar/bottle (this would be 6 g/L).  I am using 16 ounce bottles which are approximately half a liter each.  I put 24 grams of sugar into 24 mls of water and heated it up to dissolve the sugar and added this to the gallon jar.  Then, I heated up a half packet of champagne yeast in 1 cup of water at 105 degrees and let it bloom for 15 minutes and put 1/4 cup into each gallon.  I am writing all these details so I know what to do next year...

Then, I bottled it!
Now we wait...you are supposed to let it age for 2 years!  I don't think we will be waiting that long!

This is the book that I used to help with making the cider.  There are LOTS of great technical details in the book about the right type of apples to use, the correct amount of sugars and pH and much more.  It can get a little overwhelming.  I tried to keep it simple but wanted to make sure I had enough details so that I could replicate it in the future (if I like it...)