‘Eating’ Category

Putting up Tomatoes for the Winter

Posted on September 3rd, 2012 by Tonia 2 Comments

We’re drowning in ‘maters over here! Aren’t they beautiful to behold? Warm little spheres of juice. I’d tell them how great they are, but it would go to their heads. They’re already smug enough as it is.

When tomatoes are ready, they need to be dealt with RIGHT NOW. They’re kind of the diva of the garden. Say, for example, that you wanted to perhaps go to the beach today because it’s Labor Day and it’s 85 degrees and sunny and all your friends are there grilling out and drinking beer. Logical thing to do on a day like this, right?

Nope. You’ve got 900 ripe tomatoes to process, you fool! And they ain’t gonna wait around while you frolic about in your bathing-suit. They’ll go right ahead and rot, right under your nose, if you’re just a tiny bit too slow about picking them.

So I am in my hot kitchen. Processing tomatoes. And even though I’m slightly crabby about it, I’m going to be really happy to have all these jars of delicious sauces, soups and whole tomatoes in the middle of winter.

I’ve been loosely following this excellent blog post that details the canning process for tomatoes except that I’ve been roasting my tomatoes instead of blanching them. How do you can tomatoes? Any favorite tricks or tips?

Happy Labor Day, dear readers!

Raising Backyard Chickens: Butchering

Posted on August 5th, 2012 by Tonia 7 Comments

Jen and Trevor bravely offered to help us butcher our 10 remaining meat chickens. They have some experience with this from their time working on a farm in Washington, and we were really grateful to have their skills on hand that day.

Mike did the honors of cutting off the heads, J&T helped pluck, gut and quarter, and I rinsed and packaged them for the freezer. We averaged 15 minutes per bird from beheading to freezer.

Things went smoothly thanks to all the helping hands and our friends’ knowledge. But right around the 8th bird, Mike started feeling depressed. Watching that many little lights go out in rapid succession gets to a person.

I was secretly relieved to see him feeling that way. If he had been totally cheerful and fine about the whole experience, I would have been a little creeped out!

Yes, they were “just gross meat chickens” as most farmers refer to them. They sit all day long in their own poo. Even if you give them the space to roam around, which we did, they prefer to just squat by the feeder and shovel grain down their gullets. They have one purpose in life: to eat as much as possible. They were at their full-grown size in six weeks flat {by comparison, our egg chickens are only about 3/4 grown, and they were born at the same time as the meat birds.}

But all things considered, it was still hard to kill them all in one go like that. It felt a little like a factory assembly line, and I didn’t like that. I much prefer the one-off approach where we could take the time to thank the bird for its life and really process what was happening.

We have a freezer full of breasts, drummies, wings, livers and thighs. We have jars upon jars of chicken stock. We’ll be enjoying this bounty all winter long in the form of stews, soups, enchiladas, pasties and more.

The whole process of raising our own meat so far has been both easier and harder than I expected. At times, I’ve been surprised at my own ability to shut off my emotions towards the animals. I’m sure this is an automatic response in my brain designed to protect me from identifying too much with the very animals I’ll be eating shortly. I’m both ashamed by it and grateful for it. Being such an intense animal lover, I would surely crumple into a sobbing pile of self-hatred and empathetic suffering if not for my brain’s protective mechanism.

Other times, I can’t help but picture what it feels like to be that animal- confused, scared, and most likely in pain even though we take the most humane route when we kill them and they die very fast. The understanding of it clenches my heart. We’re the reason for that pain and for its life ending. They trusted us, looked forward to seeing us every day when we fed and watered them, and now we’re killing them.

I feel all of this deeply, and still I do think that raising your own meat is a good way to go about eating meat. I feel so much more grateful for meat. I appreciate it in a completely new way, on a whole other level, in a deeper part of me, than before. And I rest easy at night knowing that our animals lived great lives up until their very last moments. You can’t say that for most of the meat in the grocery store.

Blueberries, business

Posted on August 2nd, 2012 by Tonia 1 Comment

It’s the heart of summer. We are overflowing with business, but it’s all the good kinds of things to be busy with: work, homestead projects, tending to the animals and the garden, family gatherings, cooking and eating meals with friends and as many trips to the beach as possible.

The other night we drove to Cornucopia for dinner with some friends who have a beautiful little orchard out in the woods. I baked a blueberry pie to take along. The bush in our yard was loaded with berries and I wanted to get to them before the rabbits did. I picked 8 cups of berries and there are still more on the bush!

I followed this good ol’ Martha Stewart recipe. Her crust recipe is straight-forward and results in a buttery, flaky crust. I skip the sugar, because I like a slightly saltier crust- especially when the filling is so sweet.

As nicely as my pie turned out, I have to say that the highlight of the evening was when our friends made a trip down to their bee hives and brought back a dripping hunk of honeycomb for us all to try. We took turns carving off hunks of it with a fork and letting it melt on our tongues. The wax was fun to chew and the honey, warm from the sun and head-achingly sweet, was absolutely divine.

Their homemade wild apple hard cider wasn’t bad either.

Oh, summer. You’re a treat.

How to Freeze All Those Damn Strawberries

Posted on June 29th, 2012 by Tonia 15 Comments

So. You picked like 400 lbs of strawberries and thought it’d be somanyfuns to wash them all, hull them all, dry them all, pre-freeze them all and then bag and freeze them all, right? ME TOO! We’re like twins! Ridiculously good-looking twins. Ridiculously good-looking twins who harbor tragically romantic ideas of what “preserving {like} 400 lbs of fruit” means in real life.

And now here we are, elbow-deep in red juice and running out of freezer bags and freezer space and seriously considering stabbing this paring knife into our eyeballs.

But at least we’re in this together! By the way, feel free to copy my perfect process, conveniently detailed below, but when all your friends ask you why you’re so awesome at freezing strawberries, make sure to credit me. A lot of sweat and tears went into perfecting it, so I want credit!

What you’ll need:

Not pictured: Freezer bags

1. Soak the strawberries in your sink {or, if you don’t trust the cleanliness of your sink, a large bowl} filled with lukewarm water and a splash of white vinegar for a few minutes, agitating occasionally to ensure that dirt and bacteria get washed off the berries.

2. Download and start an audiobook {or rather, your online streaming episode of The Bachelorette because whaaaaat is that Jef guy doing on that show he is way too cool for that kind of thing even though Emily is really pretty but I think she’ll probably pick Sean because he seems like her type, ya know?}

3. Transfer the soaking strawberries to a colander and rinse thoroughly under running water to remove the vinegar taste/smell.

3. Dry the berries off on a clean kitchen towel.

4. Spread the clean, dry berries on a cookie sheet and place in freezer for about 10 minutes or until berries are firm. Use this glorious 10 minutes of leisure to:

a) Make a milkshake from some of the berries plus vanilla ice cream

b) Yell at your laptop, “OMG Emily why can’t you see that guy is a total la-hoooo-za-eerrr! Why would you give him a rose gaaaaahhhh!”

c) Snuggle with the dog for a little bit

d) All of the above, clearly.

5. Put the firm/half-frozen berries into freezer bags and squish the air out of the bags as much as possible while sealing. Store the full, sealed bags in freezer until another craving for strawberry milkshakes strikes. Repeat until ALL THE THOUSANDS OF EFFING BERRIES are in bags.

6. Lose your mind, and blog about it.

Seriously though, a juicy audiobook aids in postponing the dissolve into strawberry-induced insanity. Get on that, for your own good {allow me to suggest Swamplandia! or Wild.}