While I was doing some canning I kept running into the frustration that is my spice drawer. It is impossible to find what I want when I want it in this mess.
I pulled everything out and realized that some of the reason the drawer was so very full was that there were many multiples. An example of a problem compounding itself. When you can’t find what you need, you go out and buy another. So, I decided that jars were what was needed.
Not quite there. These jars were too big and allowed only around 15 spices in the drawer. I don’t have another drawer to spare so, back to the drawing board. I went out and bought 24-4 ounce Ball jars and the plastic lids made to fit them.
This is just about right. I’d like a little bigger drawer (not everything we own spice-wise fit into this arrangement) but, the spices are relatively easy to find. I had to let go of spices that were purchased for one recipe and never used again. In the future, I’ll buy spices from the bulk department of the food co-op and buy only what I need for the lesser used varieties.
I decided to start this blog on a whim at possibly the worst possible time. It was just before we left for a two week vacation in Arizona and, even worse, just before the start of school. So, I’ve been away. Busy hiking out of the Grand Canyon and trying to keep up with Ecology homework.
the perfect Saturday afternoon refreshment
A splash of black raspberry shrub, a splash of gin, fill with ice and sparkling water.
**UPDATE** The fermentation was an epic failure. All of the pickles turned to mush and developed a horrible, horrible smell. I don’t even want to put them in the compost pile for fear that they will make the chickens sick.
My first fermentation project. I find it a little scary. But I ate close to half of this pickle and, at the writing of this post, I’m not dead! I do think that they need to ferment for a couple more days, at least – it’s a little bland and still tastes like a cucumber in the center.
fermented kosher pickle
I used Arthur Schwartz’s instructions that David Lebovitz adapted and posted here.
My neighbor was kind enough to invite me to come pick as many raspberries as I wanted from his backyard patch. After popping a few (ahem) into my mouth, I had just enough to make a very small batch of jam. Free red raspberries feel so precious that I wanted to do something interesting with them. Plus I already have a nice, simple red raspberry jam in my pantry. It’s pretty hard to find a really interesting, ready-made recipe for red raspberry jam for some reason so I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light via My Recipes.
My first adaptation:
- 5 cups fresh raspberries
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup amaretto – I used Disaronno, obviously.
- juice and zest of one lime
- pinch salt
- 1 T powdered pectin
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil for one minute. Pour into sterilized jars, finger tighten rings over lids and process in water bath for 10 minutes.
I ran the jam through a food mill to get rid of some of the seeds (there were a lot) and ended up with 3 full half pints. The jam was tasty but the lime overpowered the Disaronno… and it didn’t set.
Still not set.
Being a determined little canner, I opened the jars back up, reheated it with 2 more tablespoons of pectin and stirred in another 1/2 cup of Disaronna after removing it from the heat, just before pouring it back into the jars in order to try to correct the limeyness. Still no set! So, I guess I have Raspberry Sauce w/Disaronno. My guess? It will be delicious (and interesting) poured over a scoop of high quality chocolate ice cream.
Ever since I learned the story of Mrs. Nettie Metcalf I have dreamed of having my very own flock of Buckeye chickens. You see, I have a penchant for grrrrl power, and Mrs. Metcalf is the only woman to create an American breed of chicken entirely by herself. I believe that the Buckeye may also have the honor of being the only American breed descended entirely from other American breeds but you’ll want to check my facts on that before you start quoting me.
Aside from my feminist chicken musings, Buckeyes have a lot of great attributes for a homestead flock. Their pale, brown eggs are plain compared to the chocolate egg laying marans or the blue/green/pink egg laying Americaunas but Buckeyes were bred to be a hardy bird that thrives in cold winters (eggs all winter long! theoretically.) and forages like nobody’s business (lower feed bills! theoretically.). Mrs. Metcalf also bred her birds with a build like Cornish birds, so they are also good meat birds; they are even listed on the Slow Food US Ark of Taste. As a bonus, they are known for being good mousers (!) and the roosters apparently have a wide range of vocal abilities including something akin to a dinosaur roar (!!).
It’s hard to know exactly how popular these birds ever were. Mrs. Metcalf promoted her breed during her lifetime in both Ohio and California – she was born in the 1800’s and her birds gained popularity just after the turn of the century but never caught on commercially. The Buckeye was critically endangered but has apparently improved its status recently and been upgraded to “threatened” by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy. Over the years as I’ve searched for stock, I’ve noticed more and more breeders offering both hatching eggs and chicks – about a month ago I was finally able to purchase some of these elusive eggs from eBay after always finding the birds and eggs either sold out or out of my price range. Last Friday my dream came true when 7 Buckeye chicks were successfully hatched in my Little Giant Incubator. Not a great hatch rate, but not terrible for my low tech set up. My hope is that I end up with at least a few hens and perhaps one nice rooster worth keeping so that we can take advantage of having dual purpose birds and get a steady stream of eggs and meat out of the deal. Mr. Smith, unfortunately, is not convinced about another rooster on the homestead.
hatching eggs, the one pipping through the top of the egg is in trouble
I helped some of the chicks out of their shells, including the one above that is pipping through the top of its shell. It’s not recommended to do this because it’s easy to cause bleeding and kill the chick anyway and because often a chick that can’t get itself out of its shell has not formed properly. I went ahead and took the chance because I had moved the eggs during the last 3 days of incubation which is a huge no-no as the chicks spend that time getting into position to use their little egg teeth to free themselves from their shells. It paid off for a couple of the birds I helped, but one seems to have a problem with her leg. She’s getting around fine though and doesn’t seem to be in any pain so she stays.
being born is hard work
six mostly dry chicks, one was still recuperating in the incubator
My eggs came from Cedar Creek Hatchery and I am very happy with what I got from that breeder. If my plan to allow my birds to procreate on their own works out I’d like to add another blood line from David Puthoff at BuckeyeChickens.com. His chickens are gorgeous and seem to fit the standard perfectly based on his pictures which are a ton of fun to look at. And! Check it out! There is the American Buckeye Club which has an actual picture of Mrs. Nettie Metcalf!
Over the weekend my Partner in Crime noticed some garlic whistles I had missed during my first harvest. They are a little tough, and a little dirty but I’m considering them a bonus for the season and I wouldn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth.
bonus garlic whistles soaking in baking soda water
Last night’s farmgirl fabulous fun seems like as good a place as any to start a new blog. After two days of not accomplishing much (the day before I baby sat hatching chicken eggs all day and yesterday, well, I’ll make no excuses) I decided at around 8:00 pm that I needed to get something done and I headed out to the edges of our acreage with a bucket and a healthy fear of being eaten alive by mosquitoes. I returned about an hour later with at least 2 lbs. of black raspberries and a few new bug bites. The first thing I did was divvy out about a cup of berries for The Boy who wanted no part of evening berry picking but, of course, had his mouth open like a baby bird when I walked in the door (he’s lucky I like him so much).
My second task was to measure out 2 more cups of those little jewels for one of my new favoritist berry concoctions, the shrub (the rest landed in the freezer for jam making with my Partner in Crime when our schedules allow – more about that later). I first learned about shrubs through Marisa at Food in Jars (who also recently wrote a wonderfully instructive post on black raspberry shrubs). Apparently “shrub” is some sort of bastardization of the Arabic word “sharab” which means, “to drink” which I learned from Tait Farm Foods which is one of the places credited with preserving the tradition of the shrub (which, which, which!). Shrubs are a colonial tradition created to preserve fruits using vinegar and/or alcohol for winter consumption before the days of refrigeration (think vitamin C to stave off “spring sickness,” aka “scurvy,” in December with no grocery store or food co-op to provide you with fresh or frozen fruits and veggies). Regardless of our new fangled refrigeration and lack of need for preserving fruit, shrubs are delicious and easy to make and taste good in everything from sparkling water to champagne to iced tea to your morning
orange juice mimosa.
I use the cold process instructions at Serious Eats to make my first strawberry shrub (written by Michael Dietsch who, I’m finding, is the go to guy for all things boozy and sophisticated). I started the shrub on the
right left with 2 cups of black raspberries and 2 cups of demerera sugar. I’ll leave it in the fridge for several days and then strain out the solids and mix in 2 cups of coconut vinegar (I have no idea if the health claims are true, but it has a wonderful flavor). The shrub on the right is the second strawberry shrub I’ve made because we already blew through the first one I made (in sparkling water, iced tea, and especially mimosas).
black raspberry shrub in process and finished strawberry shrub
If you decided to make a shrub of your own and need some suggestions for how to use it up, Tait Farm has some nice recipe sheets on their website (scroll to the bottom of the page). My suggestion? Put it in anything and everything you already like to drink… almost.