Where have we been?

We moved!  To an off-grid farm, with no internet service.  Not nearly enough time to write posts when we get to the library, but I figured I should say SOMETHING so people wouldn’t wonder.  If I ever get time to write while at home, I will do so, and then I can copy/paste when I get the opportunity.

The Cultured Gathering

The Cultured Gathering

The Cultured Gathering

I recently came across The Cultures For Health Blog and subscribed to it.  Cultured foods are so important to our health.  Plus they are just so much fun to make!  I’ve already posted about kombucha and sauerkraut here, but (if I don’t get distracted by life) I hope to share more of the good things I make.  But even if I don’t, please go check out this blog!  They have so much more than I could ever hope to share with you, and I’d hate for you to miss learning about all the great cultured/fermented foods that you could be making, too.

Relish!

At the end of our cob/cooking adventure, Caroline gifted me with a book entitled Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley. I sat down about a month ago and read it clean through. Yup, I relished my day with Relish.

Image

From the inside cover:

Lucy Knisley’s Mouth-watering graphic memoir will make you hungry.

Whether she’s injuring herself – again and again – in pursuit of a perfect croissant or bankrupting herself on fancy cheeses, Lucy Knisley knows what she wants: a good meal. The daughter of a chef and a gourmet, she comes by her priorities honestly. In this Technicolor love letter to cooking and eating, Knisley presents her personal history as seen through a kaleidoscope of delicious things.

Defying the idea of eating as a compulsion and food as a consumer product, Relish invites us to celebrate the meals we eat as a connection to our bodies, and to each other. Knisley’s intimate and utterly charming graphic memoir offers reflections on cooking, eating, and living – as well as some of her favorite recipes!

I didn’t read a lot of comic books growing up, and never a graphic novel that I can remember, so this was a fairly new thing for me. I liked it! The book is sitting on my desk, with my herbal and gardening books, awaiting another lazy afternoon for me to comb through the pages in search of a recipe to try.

Thank you so very much, Caroline, for this book!

~Jill

Cooking Day 10, Wednesday May 22

Breakfast

It was so nice to have this all ready in the refrigerator! And nobody complained about having it a second time.

 Lunch

Repeat after me: “It was so nice to have this all ready in the refrigerator! And nobody complained about having it a second time.”

Dinner

  • Eggplant Parmigiana
  • Green Salad

Dinner tonight was all Caroline’s idea, and I played the role of assistant. Another fairly time-intensive job, but it was completely worth it! I think it was one of my favorite meals to eat, and I made sure I got some of the small amount of leftovers on Friday.

We finally remembered to use the mandolin slicer, which was definitely the right tool for getting perfect slices of eggplant. The dry bread crumbs were a combination of stale ends of loaves and crushed stuffing mix. We also added fresh basil leaves, which added a nice flavor. One of the workers wasn’t supposed to have dairy so we baked a pie pan full without cheese for him.

My husband and I make and drink kombucha. Tonight it was ready to bottle up. We decided to share it with everyone the following night with pizza (yes, again!) so instead of individual servings, it went into a gallon jar. Several people gathered around in the kitchen after dinner cleanup for a mini lesson on kombucha and how to make it, since we wanted to get a new batch started.

kombucha

Kombucha

  • 3 quarts filtered (non-chlorinated) water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 4 tea bags, preferably organic
  • SCOBY and/or “starter” liquid (some from previous batch), 1 cup

We always use at least two tea bags of black or green tea, and then some sort of flavored tea for the other two.  If you use just black and get it just right the end result tastes a lot like sparkling apple cider!

  1. Boil about a quart of water on stovetop.
  2. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve, about 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat, add tea, cover and steep, about 10 minutes (if you’re using green tea, remove after 5 minutes).
  4. Remove tea bags, put into gallon glass container.
  5. Add remaining 2 quarts water.
  6. Once tea is below 100, add your SCOBY and starter liquid.
  7. Cover with finely woven cloth, like a tea towel, or a coffee filter and secure with rubber band or string, to prevent dust and bugs getting in.
  8. Set aside, and taste after a few days once a new SCOBY starts to form with bubbles underneath.

Some important things to remember about making kombucha:

  • Always use non-chlorinated water! If you can’t get spring water, then filtered or distilled is fine. If those aren’t available, then you can boil all the water ahead of time to evaporate the chlorine from your tap water.
  • Always use glass containers, and never use metal utensils for the kombucha (though it is okay for the process of making the tea).
  • Kombucha likes a dark, warm, non-drafty but well-ventilated place to ferment. Preferably not in the kitchen, but if that’s the only place you have, keep it away from the stove.
  • The longer your ‘bucha ferments, the more healthy it will be, but it will get more like vinegar the longer it goes. Once it starts to bubble and a new SCOBY is formed on top, taste it (use a small glass jar or plastic spoon to dip out a taste) to see if it’s to your liking. Remember it started out as sweet tea, so if its still noticeably sweet it should probably go a bit longer. Eventually you’ll be able to rely on the smell as a clue to it’s state of readiness. We prefer it still a bit sweet, just starting to turn sour, but I know some families love it the stronger it gets.
  • Once it’s ready to bottle, be sure to set aside a cup of liquid along with the SCOBY to use for your next batch. A glass pie plate or jar works well for this step.
  • We like to do a second ferment. We will add some fruit (or other food) to the bottle along with the kombucha, and let it sit out for another 2-7 days, but usually about 3. We have a collection of bottles that originally held GT Dave’s kombucha, and we simply rinse well with hot water after a bottle is emptied, and then turn upside down to air dry.

There are many variations of the basic recipe, and it’s really hard to get wrong.  This one uses more tea bags and shares a method for a second ferment process, this one brews for longer, and this one has a great list of the “Golden Rules” for kombucha as well as more recipes.

Happy brewing and good health to you!

~Jill

Two Little Piggies

We were informed YESTERDAY that we have 2 new piglets arriving today. While that is really cool and nifty, we happen to have been in the process of tearing down the fencing where the piglets would live! Ok. So now we have an emergency fence restoration project. And no gate.

We managed to get the fence straightened out and put back in place. The intent was to rip it out and put in a new fence line that made more sense and gave more space inside and had new fence material instead of the crippled, bent, and mangled mess that was there. But 3/4 of the fence had chickenwire attached and thoroughly and completely entangled in the grass. It would have taken days of intense effort to rip it out. So I decided to leave most of it in place, patch it where necessary, put in a couple new posts, and call it good.

Then came the gate. I am not a carpenter. I do not have much experience designing and planning out a project using wood. After a couple internet searches, and hours of staring blankly at a wall thinking about it, I finally settled on a design and ventured out in search of suitable wood. We found a very large pile of 2×6 lumber in the woods. But it was 90% rotted out. Fortunately, I only needed 5 boards, and managed to find what I was looking for after a little digging. Then I had to find a saw and a flat place to work. Up to the top of the hill where there is a house being built, and I managed to find floor space that was mostly level. The floor is dirt throughout right now. And not very level or flat. And of course, there’s no power up there except for the solar system, but fortunately the battery was charged and the old inverter was still working.

Inverter and batteries

Inverter and batteries

Anyway, after a hundred hurdles, I finally got the pieces cut and brought back down to my yard to assemble. Gopher hills, holes, and lumps aside, it was mostly an easy job to assemble the gate. Except I have no cordless drill, and the power drill has only one speed. It is not fun to drive screws with a single-speed drill!

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Pig pen gate assembled

You’ll notice there is a diagonal piece. That required an angle cut. There happens to be a miter saw up in the building where I cut the pieces. But it’s a small one, so it only cuts through a 2×4. Which means I had to cut the angle board half-way through, flip the board, try to match up the angle, and then finish the cut.

Off to the install. But wait! I have no cordless drill, and the pig pen is far from the house! Does this project EVER get past “the hard part”?? A very long extension cord was finally found. Of course, the fence posts are rough logs, so lining up the hinges proved a bit of a challenge. Did I mention, I’m not a carpenter? A bow saw, a chisel, and some “customizing”, and it finally started to cooperate with me. After digging up about 6″ of dirt and sod on the inside to make space for the gate to open, it is now hung and swings very nicely. I settled for the hook-and-eye latch since that’s all I had on hand.

New pig pen gate hanging on hinges!

New pig pen gate hanging on hinges!

Oh, and there is a 1/4″ steel mesh stapled to the inside. That will keep the chickens in too, when I open their area up and let them run with the pigs. And the screen mesh looks good, and is “pig proof” too.

Piggies in their new home

Piggies in their new home

They will have to mow their own lawn

They will have to mow their own lawn

Now to solve the food and water dish issue…

– Jack

Cooking Day 9 – Tuesday May 21, 2013

Breakfast

  • cold cereal
  • yogurt
  • eggs

Breakfast getting less inspired? Perhaps, but people seemed happy to have something different, and to dig through and finish off several boxes of assorted flavors of cereal.

 Lunch

  • More leftovers!

Today it was pizza, potato soup, turkey salad sandwiches, and fruit salad.

 Dinner

  • Beef Roast with gravy
  • Carrots
  • Green Salad
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Dinner rolls

Curtis, one of the guys at the workshop who was gone over the weekend, brought back a bunch of great food from the local discount grocers (I love those places!) AND a grass-fed beef roast from the farm’s kitchen where he works! This was the first beef we had because I was asked to use only poultry or fish, no red meat, as the smell of it cooking was objectionable. Well, I wasn’t about to turn down a gift like this!

I coated the roast with various herbs, and browned it in a skillet first thing in the morning, and then put it in the crock pot along with onions, garlic, and carrots. I made sure to have the windows open to air out the kitchen, and the cooking smells were contained the rest of the day inside the crock. It also happened to be the day that Kim was outside and then gone most of the day and wasn’t home to eat with us.

I decided to make gravy, to go for the extra love and appreciation. Not necessary, because everyone was always appreciative of our cooking. We had two vegetarians for dinner, but they had plenty of goodies and didn’t mind that we were eating beef.

~Jill

Cooking Day 8 – Monday May 20, 2013

Breakfast

  • Pancakes

We used some fancy flavored mixes that were in the cupboard. Served with butter, peanut butter, maple syrup.

Today didn’t require much kitchen work, so I went outside to participate in the cob building fun. I decided to help work on the remaining section of the rock wall. Steff showed me how to do it.

Steff rock wall

While moving one rather large rock out of my way it decided to roll back down the bank and crushed my finger against another rather large rock. Major ouch! After continually banging my finger against anything and everything in the kitchen the rest of this day, I spent the rest of the week bandaging it quite well.

smashed finger 5-20

It’s a little over a month later, it has grown out, and now it’s just wait-and-see if/when it’s going to fall off.

smashed finger 6-27

Lunch

  • Leftovers!

Today we pulled out a pan of enchiladas, chili, soup and stew, and potato salad.

Dinner

  • Beans & Rice with toppings (pretty much like our taco/burrito night, except with rice instead of tortillas)

I cooked some more beans that I had soaked and sprouted. They are just so cute with their little “tails” on them!

pinto beans

Caroline made Mexican-style rice. http://mexican.food.com/recipe/mexican-rice-117892

~Jill

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