Tuesday, July 30, 2013

CSA Week 8 & Canning Chickens

So here we are in week 8 of our Geauga Family Farms CSA shares..  Time is just flying by..

Todays bag was really nice and Im looking forward to munching down on some good old fashion Southern Style Cooking.  Im going to saute those yellow wax beans with some new potatoes and Im also going to make fried new potatoes with onions & squash. 

I havent decided what to do with the eggplant & cabbage yet, but the blueberries we'll eat out of hand and the tomatoes & lettuce will make great salads.   I added the cucumbers to a cucumber salad I have marinating in the frig..  Thats what I use for a salad dressing and I dont need much else.
I think I'll just boil up the beets, add a pat of butter, and have for a side for our Swordfish & salad tonight.

One of the  GFF Farmers  offers stewing chickens that they've culled from their flock  These are layers not producing well enough for their keep. The meat is a little bit tougher than meat birds but it makes fine chicken stock and meat for soups and stews.

As I did last year, I called and ordered 10 of these birds.   And this is what I did with them.

As you can see.. I can fit 5 at a time in my roaster so I put the other 5 in the freezer while I was working with these.  I cooked them overnight & half of the next day, then I removed them to cool.  While they were cooling, I was de-fatting the broth.. not that there was much fat on these birds to start with.

My mom taught me this awesome trip to quickly remove the fat from hot liquids if you cant manage to do it another way.  This roaster pan was heavy and this is the best way to tackle this.  You get a lot of ice cubes or crushed ice... place it in a wire strainer and skim the top of the broth..  or as I did in the picture above, toss them in & quickly skim the ice out before it melts.  Its tough to do to try to get a photo but that is ice quickly melting in the photo above. :)

 As you can see in the photo above, the fat sticks to the ice and is nicely removed from the broth.

Here I have 15 beautiful pints of pure chicken broth.

This is the second bunch of just meat that I canned.  There were 11 pints of meat from 5 of the birds and the other 5 birds, I used the meat to make Chicken & Vegetable Soup.   I'll use the soup to make Chicken & Rice or Chicken Noodle with Veggies Soup, Chicken Pot Pie, or Chicken Rice Casserole. 

 In this final photo you can see jars of broth with different colors..  The lighter clear broth on the front left side is pure chicken broth.  The jars of broth on the right hand side are chicken bone & veggies broth.
One batch was made with leftover broth,  lots of vegetables like carrots, celery, onion, and chard.  The other batch was made with chicken bones & broth, onion & garlic.

I also canned 6 pints of chard from my little front yard garden..   All told I got 87 jars of broth, soup & chicken.  There are a dozen jars of broth not in this picture.. I didnt realize I'd already put them in a box and were hiding under the table on one of the chair seats.. mad   Oh well..  it was quite a few days worth of work but I count it well worth it.  I'll have chicken & broth to last me a good long while.

As I was leaving the farm, the lady who sold me the chickens asked me "Will you want some more chickens this fall?"    eek    Maybe!  smile emoticon

Monday, July 22, 2013

CSA Week 7

I pick up my Geauga Family Farm CSA Share  in Mentor at the Hill's Family Karate  every Saturday morning.. 

This particular Saturday, it was a bit of a scramble since we had a full day planned. 
M'honey's oldest daughter, her hubby, & his niece are here visiting from Arizona and we had to go pick them up for a day tour out in Geauga County.    

 When the kids were growing up, in the fall we would take an entire Saturday, all pile in the van and head to Geauga County to several apple orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes & fall festivals.  We'd also stop at the Amish cheese coops for Famers Cheese cubes & beef sticks and stop road side stands too..  Its a tour that we all love & enjoy.   

Today, we mostly do the Geauga Country tours on motorcycles..  sometimes with friends, visitors,  & sometimes just M'honey & I.   Either way, we tend to stop at all of our favorite places and can spend an entire day just moseying around during the summer & fall especially.. 
  but honestly, any time is wonderful!

After we hit many of our favorite stops we went to M'honey's nieces Brittany's Graduation Party in Burton, also in Geauga County.    We enjoyed a few hours enjoying good food & great company. ♥

When we finally got home hours later,  I was able to pull out my Week 7 CSA Bag & unwrap my goodies

  This is definitely the best bag yet and Im really loving it!! 
Thanks to all the great folks who make Geauga Family Farms what it is!! 

This bag had  carrots, scallions, beets, green beans, 2 heads of broccoli, 
a nice large bunch of curled parsley,  sweet peppers, 2 containers of cherry tomatoes & 1 container of blueberries,   a very nice looking zucchini, a huge tomato that weighed 1#2.8oz, pickling cucumbers and 2 yellow squash.  
This week is going to bring some great eating.. . They're all some of my very most favorite things!! ♥

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wild & Easy Ferments

In the past couple of years, I've been learning more & more about fermented foods & drinks.

I've been making kombucha for almost the last 2 years.  It's sweet tea that has been fermented and turns it into a lightly carbonated tasty drink with loads of yeast and bacteria along with the organic acids, active enzymes, amino acids, and polyphenols produced by these microbes in the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria & yeasts).   Kombucha originated in Northeast China or Manchuria and later spread to Russia and from there to the rest of the world.  There are loads of references all over the internet if you'd like to learn more about it and find sources for a SCOBY.

Here is a quick glance at how I make my kombucha every 4 or 5 days..  Everyone makes it differently and thats ok so long as your SCOBY continues to grow between batches & stays healthy..  

 Making Sweet Tea for a new brew of Kombucha 

Looking at the SCOBY at the end of the ferment cycle. I'll remove this and about 1 cup of kombucha to use for the next batch Im making.

Draining the fermented kombucha into quart jars.. 

 I add ice to my hot brewed tea to cool down the tea fast so I dont have my SCOBY out of the jar for long. 

 Once my tea is cooled to at least room temperature, I add back in the cup or two of kombucha from the last batch, stir it with the new sweet tea, and add my SCOBY back to the jar..  
Then, I add a clean kitchen cloth to the top and secure it with a rubber band and place it out of the way for another 4 or 5 days. 

I dont always do this last step, but sometimes I will add a little bit of some sort of fresh real juice to each of the quart jars.  I only add a teaspoon or so to them.  Some people let these juice added jars sit out with a tight lid for another day so that it will continue to ferment & build up more carbonation.   I usually dont.  I tend to just place them in my frig at this point.  I've found that it still creates plenty of carbonation for my tastes.  

Many people dont use canning jars, but thats what I have on hand.  Some day I plan to purchase  some Swing Top Bottles  but I've not found them to be completely necessary.  If I were looking for more carbonation, I think they would be pretty important.  The carbonation is great, but I like it lightly done so the canning jars work for me.

         Today, I also spent a few minutes making some Fermented Kohlrabi Pickles that I shared last week..   

                              And then I decided to finally try my hand at making sauerkraut.

I've been reading Wild Fermentation , The Art of Fermentation  and watching many videos on You Tube by Sandor Ellix Katz who is "The Fermentation Guru" of this generation.
What I love about him & others who've shown me methods to ferment all sorts of veggies, is that they make it very simple and almost fool-proof.
Im willing to try just about anything once..  twice if I like it..  more than that if I love it..  :D  I love Wild Fermentation!

Here Im shredding my cabbage fine with my food processor..  I used right at 3/4's of the 4# cabbage I had..

Then adding a little bit of Pink Himalayan Salt..

Then mixing the salt through the entire bowl and then kneading it for a while until it makes it own brine. 
Then I added it all to an old pickle jar, added a couple whole cabbage leaves to keep the cabbage below the brine, then I added the lid, washed the juices off the outside, loosened the lid, then set it in an old baking pan to catch any drippings once it starts fermenting. 

I also sliced up some pickling cucumbers I had in the frig, added lots of garlic & a few sprigs of dill weed & dill seed heads.. added salt, and filtered water.  The lid is sitting loosely on the jar so that nothing can get in but gasses can get out during the fermentation process. 

The Kohlrabi pickles will taste best to me in 4 or 5 days as will the Kombucha. 
I've never made the sauerkraut but I plan to taste it at around day 5 and may let it go another couple. I'll decide for sure when I taste it.
I have a feeling the cucumber pickles may need to go a few more days than that.. but Im looking forward to it. 

There are plenty ins & outs of fermentation and I've barely mentioned a few..Im merely showing you what Im doing...  But if it should interest you,  seek out others who are familiar with fermentation & learn to safely ferment your own foods!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

CSA Week 6

So, the weeks are flying by...  and I've not been doing a great job of posting  what Im doing with all my veggies.  I'll be playing catch-up this week.

Here is this weeks CSA Share I picked up on Saturday around noon...

You can tell the season's produce is beginning to change.

I was so happy to see that big beautiful cabbage there in the center.. Im planning on trying my hand at making sour kraut for the first time..   Crossing my fingers & I promise to take you all along when I do.

In the back row are green beans-(will comment about this more in a minute), a nice bunch of basil, pickling cucumbers, and leaf lettuce.. second row: 2 nice slicing cucumbers, a 4# cabbage, and 2 zucchini, front row is a nice slicing tomato, a large onion, a beautiful bunch of rhubarb and a container of blueberries.
I also got a very large yellow squash that I gave away..

And that brings me to the thoughts and opinions about the size of veggies..  I dislike overgrown vegetables, such as that yellow squash not seen.  In my opinion, they're way past their prime and are seedy.  However, those green beans are perfect.. they're small, slim, & amazing!   Im a gardener so I know sometimes its tough to stay on top of your veggies, but that doesnt change my opinion.  I prefer to eat tender, normal sized, vegetables in their prime.  Does that mean Im picky?  Maybe, a little bit.  ;)

Plans for this weeks produce:   Making sour kraut from that cabbage, making true fermented pickles from the pickling cucumbers, I think I'll freeze the rhubarb this time since I  have a slew of bakery given to me yesterday at a party we attended, lettuce, tomato & cukes will go into salads, I think I'll make some pesto with the basil & freeze it, and I may make stuffed zucchini boats with the zukes. Im undecided at the moment.  I've been known to fry up a batch of sliced potatoes with garlic, onion & squashes in them, so that may be what they're destined to be instead.  I'll simply steam the green beans as a side to some meal this week. They're one of my very favorite sides ever!!  The blueberries, we'll just be eating out of hand as a wonderful snack or dessert.

Thanks Geauga Family Farms for a very nice share this week!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Week 5 CSA

Week 5 got here in a hurry!!   I picked up my girlfriend & we went to pick up our CSA Shares   
for this week..My Family Share & her Half Share.

She always says "Oh you got "such & such... I didnt get that."   I laugh & said  "Right.. but I paid 3 times for my share what you did" <G>  You get what you pay for.  

The first year I belonged to this CSA I had a Single Share.. which is enough for one or two people to have enough veggies for 3-4 times a week.  I found that I had veggie envy when I saw what the Family Share boxes contained and what I was missing out on. 
I think it was the OKRA that the Family Shares got that finally broke the camels back.  I decided then & there that next year, I was getting some of that okra.  Unfortunately for me, they didnt grow okra the next year.  lol.    Oh well.. I grew it myself and had a bumper crop.

Back to My Family Share for Week 5 

My Share included a big bunch of lemon basil (I believe), Spinach, Red leaf Lettuce, Broccoli, Cauliflower,
Yellow Squash, Sugar Snap Peas, a slicing tomato, a GIANT Kohlrabi,  a nice large bag of pickling cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, & fingerling carrots.

I stopped by my daughters house & shared some of my bounty with her.. 

I wasnt totally sure about the usability of that giant kohlrabi.. Not too long ago I went to our local grocery store to buy some kohlrabi to snack on and the one I got was about the size of a baseball and it was tough & not sweet or edible at all.   
I wasnt thrilled to see the size of this thing because I was sure all it would be good for was to toss into the compost bin..  but..  I decided I should at least check it out before I did..  

Well.. I have to say.. It was AWESOME!! 
It was sweet & it wasnt woody at all and it was entirely usable!!

I filled up one quart jar of kohlrabi sticks with about 1/3rd of the root and then finished slicing  it entirely and put the rest of it in a Tupperware container to keep the fresh & ready to snack on.  


To the jar, I added 3 sprigs of rosemary & about 5 or 6 cloves of garlic to it.
I added about a teaspoon of Himalayan Pink Salt and filled the jar almost to the brim with water.

I'm making Garlic Rosemary Pickles, the Fermentation Way with these. 

They've been working for 2 days now... I plan to leave them another day or two, but they're already pretty tasty now. 

I'll share soon some of the other things I've fermented in the last few months. 
Traditional snacking is pretty tasty!!  Yum!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Week 4 - Stuffed Kohlrabi Greens, Cauliflower Bisque, Broccoli & Cheese Soup & Sausage & Greens Soup

The very first thing on Monday morning, after my cuppa Joe, I pulled out all the veggies & ingredients for several soups I planned on making for my freezer..  
I love soups for lunch and I decided to make a few of my very favorites to freeze & can. 

First on the list was our favorite Cauliflower Bisque...   I got the original recipe from  Lindas Low Carb many many years ago.  Its one of mine & my families favorites and I often make up single serving size bowls and stash them in the freezer for those days Im craving a little bit of this creamy delightful love..   Its not quite as rich in calories since I dont use a lot of cream or half & half...just enough to give it that creamy look. 

The main players are cauliflower, chicken broth, celery and onions..  scallions work great too..  
In a dutch oven, add 1-2 pats of butter or olive oil, diced onions & celery and let cook for about 5 minutes, until veggies are slightly softened.   While they're cooking, slice your cauliflower however it pleases you.. and add to the veggies once they're slightly softened.  

Cover the cauliflower with chicken broth & or water & chicken bouillon.  Place a lid on the pot & cook until cauliflower is fork tender.     Using an Immersion Blender    blend until most of the cauliflower has been pureed.  Add about 1/2 cup of half & half and stir until well incorporated.

Add a pat of butter, salt & pepper if you like..

I always have myself a big bowl immediately since I just cant help myself.  This soup is wonderful and pretty low calorie & low carb. 

I always freeze as many individual containers as I can so I can have it for a fast easy lunch or supper. 
and I label all of my containers for the freezer...

I write what it is on a piece of paper, then cut them out, add a piece of tape to the top of it & tape to my containers.  The labels stay on with no problem & I've never had one come off.  They come off the containers with no problem.
While the Cauliflower Bisque was cooking, I made another batch of the great   Fagioli, Cicoria e Salsicce Soupa and then decided to can it with my pressure canner. 

I love having the ability to be able to can some of my food and not having to use my freezer space all the time.

As you can see, I got a dozen pints from one big pot of the
My step-daughter came over just about the time they cooled off & happily took one home!   That girl knows whats good!!
The next day, I removed the rings, washed my jars with hot soapy water, let them dry & put them in my basement pantry..

While this was cooking, I started my youngest daughters favorite "My Momma's Broccoli & Cheese Soup".   When she was 8 years old, she had her tonsils removed and was at her dad's house.  She wanted Broccoli & Cheese Soup but no one elses would do.. She wanted "My Momma's Broccoli Soup".  I always laugh & make it with a smile..

 I made a big ol pot of it & took half of it to her.  Im running out of space in the freezer so this worked out for both of us..

This is the simplest recipe I think I've ever made.. and funny enough, its still a family favorite..  Jazz it up as you please.. but to make it..   Just chop up your broccoli into bite size pieces..  and just barely cover it with water or chicken broth and simmer until broccoli is fork tender..

 Add about a half a large brick of Velveeta Cheese or other processed American Cheese, cut in cubes or slices.  I didnt have quite enough American Cheese so I added an additional pound of Cheddar Cheese to the mix..  Just keep stirring until the soup takes on your favorite thickness & flavor.    I told you it was simple..  Hard to mess this one up.  I know its not quite "All That!" but hey.. if 8 year olds love it, it cant be all that bad, can it?  ;)

I got 8 double serving containers of this soup for the freezer..   Yes.. One container is missing because my girlfriend Cheryl ♥  stopped by and had 2 bowls of it while we were talking.  Yes!!  Dont worry Cheryl..  The world will never know who you are.  ;) 

 This was all for my soups for the day..  but I didnt stop there.. Oh no..  

I made a quick batch of Kombucha, a fermented sweet tea brew 
and then I made up a batch of Stuffed Kohlrabi Rolls.  Think of Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. 

I've never used Kohlrabi Greens but the ones I've been getting from my CSA  are truly beautiful. 

I couldnt decide if I wanted to make them like Stuffed Grape Leaves or Stuffed Cabbage Rolls but I knew I was going to do one of the two..   I started out by fermenting the kohlrabi leaves for 3 or 4 days in a weak salt brine. Next time I made them, I'll just steam or pressure cook them first.  I wont use the salt brine ferment.  Im saving that for the stuffed grape leaves I plan to make one of these days. 

Then I just mixed up my ingredients for the stuffed leaves.  Grass fed beef,  long grain rice, Johnnys Garlic Seasoning, a couple jars of homemade Rotel tomatoes and 3 eggs. 

 I rolled them up just like you would for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls and then added them to my crockpot.  

Once they were all rolled up, I grabbed 2 quarts of my home canned crushed tomatoes from last years garden & added them to the top of the Rolls.  I put them in the frig and took them out the next morning & set the crockpot on high for about 5 hours then let them cook a few more hours on low while I waited for M'honey to come in for supper. 

They turned out pretty good.  They were really tasty and we loved everything about them except for one thing.   The very largest part of the rib/spine was quite tough in some of the larger leaves.  Next time I make them, I plan to cut the spine out  at least in the last quarter of the leaf.  Just about what is shown in the open leaf with the meat/rice mixture.  Either way, it didnt affect the way they tasted and that was pretty darn fine if I say so myself... ;)

I shared a container of them with my next door neighbor, one with my daughter, and put the last one in the freezer for another day..  after we had them for supper that night.   Good Stuff!!

By the time I got these all made up & put up, I was running on empty.. and didnt get one photo of our dinner for the day I was doing all the cooking.    

I made a pot roast from a grass fed chuck roast I got from Geauga Family Farms this past winter in a Meat Special Order.  I sliced up some onions to layer on the bottom of the crockpot, then added the browned roast, and topped it with a bit of Montreal Seasoning Salt and let it go. 

When the meat was cooked & falling apart, I sliced up some potatoes, kohlrabi, onion, & carrots & cooked them up quickly in my pressure cooker..  then served them with the roast, covered with the "Onion Gravy" that the onioins & juices make.  Lip smacking goodness!!