Sunday, March 25, 2012

Eating Spring

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Allium tricoccum (Ramps, Wild Leeks)

Early spring time is Ramp time. Ramps, also called Wild Leeks are a wonderful springtime treat. Ramps are only found for a short time in early spring about the same time that the maples are flowering. They are usually found in an undisturbed hardwood wood forest. Because it is a perennial. I'll only take a few from a large group. They look almost like the leaves of Lily of the Valley only a little greener. Ramps, a member of the onion family, are also identified by the strong onion -garlic smell.flavor and odor.

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To use, clean the ramps, removing the outer layer of the bulb. Both the leaves and bulb end are used.

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Our Sunday dinner was to be a roasted chicken. After seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper, I placed a few whole ramps in and on the chicken and placed that in a roasting pan. Then I peeled potatoes and cut them into chunks. Tossed them with salt and chopped ramps and placed that around the chicken. I covered the pan and placed in a 350 degree oven until the chicken was almost done. Then I removed the cover and let the chicken brown.

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It was delicious. If anything, I would have added more ramps !

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The cold frame 4-20

Last spring Walt built me a cold frame. You can read about it here and here. It provided a crop of early lettuce. In the fall I sowed half with more lettuce and half with spinach. We enjoyed a number of salad until the weather turned into a deep freeze. I pulled out the remaining lettuce and we ate one last salad. I kept in the spinach because the plants were small. They survived the winter but they did not grow. In fact the spinach looked like it was barely surviving. Now that we have very warm spring weather the spinach has taken off.

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What's in your Salad?

Yesterday we had company over for dinner. Walt invited a business associate and I had a half day notice. First I reached into the freezer and pulled out some beef suitable for a pot roast. After defrosting, I sprinkled it with house mix - garlic powder, sweet smoked paprika, celery seeds, pepper and salt. Then I browned it in a dutch oven in some bacon grease. I added a cup of water and a cup of red wine and simmered it on the stove. After awhile, it was placed in a 300 degree oven until it was tender. We also had "mashed potatoes" which was about 7 potatoes , 1/2 rutabaga and a parsnip boiled then mashed together with some evaporated milk and salt. The parsnip was found in the garden. having escaped the great harvest last fall.

I went to the cold frame and picked a small bowl of spinach. This was supplemented with some violet leaves, and some nice chickweed. The salad was garnished with a chiffonade of salami, sliced hard boiled eggs, minced parsley and scallions - all from the garden.

Chickweed (Stellaria mediais) an annual widespread "weed" found in many gardens. It is small, succulent, has white flowers. They are very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals, can be added to salads or cooked as a pot herb, tasting somewhat like spinach.
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Chickweed

Chickweed exhibits a very interesting trait, (they sleep) termed the 'Sleep of Plants,' every night the leaves fold over the tender buds and the new shoots. Gather fresh edible plant between April and July, as soon as flowers appear, it can be used fresh or be dried for later herb use.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Garden Report

Yesterday we had a few inches of snow on the ground. I took some early morning photos - Snowdrops and Winter Aconite poking through the snow. Today the temp is 63 degrees at 1:30 in the afternoon. I came back to the same patches of flowers and watched bees gathering nectar and pollen. The pussy willows are also fluffing out. I may cut some in a few days to bring indoors.

I had a wonderful productive day. here is my chore list...

Make coffee and egg/ham/cheese burritos for breakfast
feed and water chickens, collect eggs
tighten closes line, hang more line
wash and hang on line 3 loads laundry
drive to Walmart for more canning canning jars (2 cases pints, 1 of half pints)
WB can 10 pints green grapes
Eat cold pizza for lunch and orange juice
Bake 2 loaves of whole wheat bread
Rake part of along driveway and part of yard -
Get sons to wheelbarrow yard waste to compost pile
Trim firebush "hedge"
Take clothes from line
Make Ham/rice/veggie casserole for dinner
Fold and put away clothes ( son helps)
Process broken wax/honey. Strain and bottle
Wash dishes (other son helps)
Fold Laundry

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bone Soup

Yesterday I canned 8 pints of bone soup. I'm happy to add the jars to my food pantry. "What is bone soup ?", you ask. Pour your self a cup of herbal tea and I'll tell you. I used to call it chicken stock. We would freeze the carcasses from several weeks of roasted chicken dinners. When I have 4 or more I put them in a big stock pot, add cold water, than add bits of whatever soup veggies I have on hand; onions- skin and all, carrots -tops included, celery, parsley, a few bay leaves and 12 peppercorns. Then I add my special ingredient. A "glug" of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).


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Break the carcass into pieces and place them in a pot big enough to hold the carcass. Breaking the bones does two things: it releases the marrow, which is where a lot of the flavor hides, and it exposes more of the bone to the calcium-extracting acid. Be sure to throw the necks, backs, gizzards and other innards into the pot as well.

Wash all the raw parts well under cold running water. Place everything into the pot and fill with COLD water to cover bones, plus 2 inches. Add a couple of tsp. of vinegar or lemon juice and let the brew sit for at least 30 minutes before placing on the stove. Do not go overboard on the acid or you will ruin the stock.

After 30 minutes, bring to boil over high heat. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare the vegetables. When the water just boils, add the vegetables to the pot and when the water returns to a boil, quickly reduce the heat and partially cover the pot. Adjust the heat to allow the stock to slowly simmer.

Skim off any foam that begins to form. This will leave you with a much clearer broth. When the foam is pretty much gone, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and reduce heat to medium-low. You want just the barest hint of a simmer while the pot is covered.

Let simmer very gently, without stirring, for 3 to 4 hours—or even overnight. Let cool slightly and then remove the big bones and vegetable parts. Carefully pour the remaining liquid and small bones through a large, fine-meshed sieve, catching the liquid in another pot. Discard all bones and vegetables.

Cover and place your clear stock in the refrigerator 5-6 hours or overnight. In the winter, I put the stock out on my porch to cool. After several hours, all the fat will rise to the top and solidify. Chicken fat is rather soft so you should carefully skim it off with a spoon.

Now it is time to reduce the stock, which will give it more concentrated flavor and make a firmer gel. Boil the stock in an uncovered pot. Taste occasionally until you find the strength of stock you are looking for. Pour into sterilized jars, use standardized canning procedures, process in a pressure canner 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts.




Thursday, March 1, 2012

DUTCH BABY

Here in Central NY, we have enjoyed a mild winter with below average snowfall. That changed last night. Icy freezing conditions. I woke the kids up for school as usual but they soon returned back to bed as we leaned that they have a "snow day".

The snow is coming down. It's pretty, but the roads are slippery. Thankfully, because of a full freezer, and all of the food I've canned and stored, I don't have to leave the house except to check on the chickens and they will reward me with fresh eggs for the effort.

Soon I will wake up the family to a breakfast of Dutch Babies and Maple Broiled Grapefruit halves.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
Lemon wedges or Maple Syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place in the oven. Set the remaining tablespoon of melted butter aside to cool slightly. Wait 10 minutes before assembling the other ingredients.

Whisk together flour, vanilla sugar, salt, milk, eggs and remaining tablespoon of melted butter . Carefully pour the batter into the preheated skillet. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until the edges are puffed and brown. Sprinkle with additional vanilla sugar and serve with lemon wedges or maple syrup.

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This is a good "snowed in " breakfast. What do you like to have when you're home-bound?