Sunday, February 9, 2014

Fermenting garlic and making airlock fermenting jars

This past summer I was given a big basket of "scratch and dent" hardneck garlic.  It needed to be processed fast, as it wouldn't keep.  Hardneck garlic is not the type to keep a long time even in perfect condition, but it sure is easy to peel, and it is easier to grow in my neck of the woods.

Salting is one way that food was preserved in times past, as was fermenting.  My Memere would salt scallions down in the spring, packing many, many chopped green onions into jars with thick layers of salt and storing them in the fridge (probably in the cellar before electricity and refrigeration was available on the farm) until fresh scallions were available the following spring.

In the days before industrialized food, pickled foods and condiments were fermented.  Think sauerkraut.  This was a way to have a high vitamin C food that would keep for months and could travel easily on ships, preventing scurvy on long voyages.

I combined these two methods to preserve my garlic, and it was a huge success.  I still have a bit left and it is mid-February.  Next year I'll put up more, since I do give some away.

Minced garlic ready to start fermenting.

You can buy ready made airlock jars for fermenting, but I just can't seem to look at anything without asking myself if I can make it.  So I did.  Since drilling the glass lids of my few precious Fido jars didn't seem like a good idea (although I asked around and it can be done, find someone who works with stained glass or maybe someone who repairs and replaces windshields on cars.)  I used what I already had on hand from my wine making ventures.

Oh, and I did make a gallon of garlic wine for cooking, it is still bubbling away.  Onion wine is fantastic to cook with, and I can't wait to try this one out.

Drilled Tattler's reusable canning lid, airlock, grommet.
You can buy the plastic canning lids here, BPA-free.  The airlock and the grommet are available for about a buck, total, from any beer and wine making supply store.  Google it.  You might be surprised to find that there is one right down the street from you.  The grommet is used to ferment a large batch of wine or beer in a five or six gallon pail with a hole drilled in the lid.  The grommet goes in the hole, and the airlock goes in next.  You fill the airlock with water to the fill line, and it will allow gasses to escape while keeping air and fruit flies out.

My first attempts at drilling.  Good thing these come in boxes of a dozen!
What we finally figured out with drilling the holes is that the lid needs to be clamped to a scrap of wood to hold it very still.  A small pilot hole helps, too, before using the larger drill bit.  The lids still had a tendency to crack, so be prepared for a learning curve.
Although not pictured here, there is also a red rubber gasket that comes with each lid, also to create a tight seal on the jar.

Wash the peeled garlic and mince it in the food processor or with a sharp knife.

Fill the jars.  The book is my copy of Nourishing Traditions, which has a recipe for fermented whole garlic.  I leave out the whey and just use salt.
I put a spoonful of salt between each layer of garlic.  I didn't measure, but I was generous.  Anything I use garlic in will also be salted, so the amount was of no concern.  This is salt we made on our woodstove from sea water.

Each layer was packed in carefully, squishing out any air bubbles.  Leave an inch or two...or three...of headspace for expansion.

The lid and airlock were fitted on tightly, and the jars were labeled.

Overflow!  Notice how the brine moved up into the airlocks.
Garlic is high in sugars and ferments rather vigorously!  I left for a couple of appointments at my office and was back within four hours.  I found garlic juice running across my counter and soaking wet....and rather fragrant....labels on my jars.  I quickly cleaned it up and put the jars in a loaf pan and let them continue doing what they were obviously so good at doing.

Re-packed for storage, use, and gifting.
When the fermenting calmed down in a couple of days (this was during the hot days of summer, so fermentation tends to be faster in our non-climate-controlled house.  It would take longer in cooler weather) I transferred the garlic into smaller jars that would be easier to use. 
This project was such a success that it will be repeated next summer and I will attempt to make even more.  It is very handy to have ready-to-use garlic in the fridge without spending money on chemical-laden stuff from the store.  If you don't grow your own garlic, check in with your local farm stands and farmer's markets and see if you can get some in bulk.  You may even get some scratch-and-dent garlic, like I did.  This was simply heads of garlic that didn't properly develop the papery covering and thus would not store well at all.  It was still perfectly good garlic.
I did get some "good" heads of the same garlic and planted it in a sunny location near my irises and in front of my grape arbor, so hopefully, come mid-summer, I'll be fermenting my own garlic.  If it doesn't do well, I know exactly where to buy the best organic garlic in the area....Eddy Farm in Newington, CT.  Get to know your local farmers and support them with at least part of your food dollars.   It is so worthwhile!
And yummy!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Where's the beef? Right here!

We ordered our beef, an entire cow this time.  It was a smallish one, and the price was right, so we got the entire thing.

A cow is huge.  Even a "smallish" one.

Especially when you ask for the organs, all the bones, the suet (which someone didn't arrive, I'll be on the search for it this week.)  Our freezers are packed.  We had to buy another one, and we still can't get all the beef inside.  Fortunately...and this is the only reason I say this....we are dealing with some Artic weather and it is cold enough in the garage to call it our "walk-in freezer."

The most valuable and perishable cuts are all safely in the freezers.  The steaks, roasts, organs, and the ground beef.  The bones are in boxes and a few are in a stock pot, simmering away, on the stove.

I had to cook supper on the woodstove tonight, and  I've never done that before.  I've warmed things up and I made a fantastic pizza in it once  and have roasted meat inside the stove, but the top is generally not hot enough.  Since my gas stove was out of commission temporarily and we were getting hungry, I made up part of our dinner.  I put some bacon bits in the cast iron frying pan and let them brown up, and put some cabbage in a covered sauce pan with some broth from the recent roast I cooked and put that on to simmer.

It took about an hour an a half to come to a simmer and for that dang bacon to brown.  But in about two hours, we had something hot and delicious to eat.

A very simple, and usually quick, supper of bacon and greens, this time it was fresh cabbage.

The reason my stove was out of commission was that I am canning up 80 lbs of stew beef.  I just upgraded my canners to All American and put 19 pints of beef in each, packed in jars while quite cold.  It took a LONG time for these canners to start to steam.   Especially the one on the right.  I'd forgotten to turn the burner on.  Sheesh.

These are some serious canners!  The pot behind them is four gallons of simmering beef bone broth, also to be canned, probably tomorrow night.
I like to can some of our meat so we will have something quick and easy for those rushed nights.  You know those nights....home from work late, chores to do, animals to feed, phone calls to return before 9, and it is too hot to spend much time in front of the stove (remember those days?  We called that time "summer.")  Canned meat is our answer to fast food.  I will have 80 lbs of jarred beef and 20 lbs of jarred pork by the time I'm done.  That is a year of quick meals, plus a few to share.
Buying our beef in bulk is a fantastic way to be able to afford very high quality and ethically raised meat.  It takes some planning.  In fact, I have to start all over now, saving up about $100 each month towards next year's beef.  But that $100 per month turns into a value of $300 per month in great beef, or more, depending on the cut.
Yes, it can be very daunting at first, but when all that glorious meat is packed away in the freezer, that fear and intimidation is quickly replaced by a sense of wealth and security.  If you haven't considered this before, consider it now.  The farmer who dropped our beef off told me his buddy, who works in the meat department of a local grocery store, told him the better cuts of beef were going up in price this week, by $2 per lb.
That is what we paid, $2 per lb, hanging weight.  For everything from shanks to filet mignon to brisket to T-bone steaks.  And because of the drought conditions last summer in the Midwest, the price of beef is going up.  Buying in bulk is truly price protection. 
Buying directly from the farmer is the best way to get food that is great for you AND your budget!
Don't know where to buy?  A great resource is your local chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation.  The leader of your local chapter will provide you with a list of farmers who raise animals on pasture, and will offer this information to you, free of charge, and you don't have to be a member!  But do consider it, as this organization works hard to fight for the small family farmers who provide great food for us. 
Meanwhile, pass me another medium-rare filet mignon, if you would....and some of that shiitake gravy, thank-you-very-much!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I finally got my dream sewing machine!

Here it is, my "new" Singer!

Ain't she a beauty?
A few years ago I got it into my head that I wanted a sewing machine that was a treadle machine.  These are the very old machines, pre-electricity, that were run with a cast iron foot peddle.  I love the look and reputation of the Singer brand machines, so this is what I looked for online.
I answered an ad for a Singer in a treadle base, but by the time I could get to the ladies' house, she'd sold the one in the ad.  However, she had a Singer treadle base with a Necchi machine from the 50's that could be worked over to fit in it.  The belt to the motor could be removed and the belt to the treadle could run the Necchi.
I bought it.  It wasn't my dream, but it was a start, and I have no patience.  Just ask my husband.

This machine has a motor, but it may have been added later.
I sewed a lot of projects on this older Necchi, and it is a fine machine.  It even has zigzag capabilities, which the old machines don't have.  Buttonholes need to be worked by hand, and forget sewing modern stretch materials on the older machines.  But that is what my upstairs, electric, gear-driven Singer is for.  A machine that can, as I was told by a friend who used to work and teach for Singer and is now in her 80's, sew through plywood.  I'll remember that when we build our new buck house next summer.

It is the serial number that helps one determine the age of the machines.  Mine is from 1918.

Was Singer putting motors on machines in 1918?  Gotta do more research.

See the belt?  I'll take that off and put the long, leather treadle belt on instead.

Isn't this lovely?   I need to find out how to clean this.  A modern machine would have a plain metal plate here.  This one is gorgeous.
Now I have to open up this machine and clean it well, oil it, dig out the grease and re-pack it, then put it in the treadle base and start working on getting the tension adjusted.  Then I'll sew a few cloth napkins from old flannel sheets for our everyday use, and a few dairy rags for next season's milking chores.  This will give the machine time to release any oil or grease that I was too sloppy to notice and wipe up, before I start a more important project.  I have window treatments planned, can't wait!
This is how our great-great-great-grandmothers occupied themselves during the long, snowy winters and rested up for the frenzy of spring on the farm.  It is truly a satisfying and comforting hobby now, and makes me actually look forward to getting snowed in.  Bring on the snow!
Do you have a creative outlet?  Or a craft you'd like to learn?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Summer goat therapy

The girls enjoying some time in the woods last August:

Nutmeg, growing like a weed.

Plum, Nutmeg's birth mom, and my lovely silken Princess.

Lily finds the best bits deep in the forest.

She can run, but she can't hide!  Her color makes her the target of the other girls.  Poor Lil.

It doesn't take long for goats to clear all the easily reached good stuff.

Peach adopted Nutmeg and cares for her like a daughter.  She uses a tree to get some fine grape leaves.

I love the swirl on Nutmeg's side.  Very slimming, don't you think?

Patch of sunlight in a clearing?  Nope, its Lily!

Nutmeg has the kindest expression, all the time.  Every other goat here loves her, too.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

I'm baaaaaack...

Yup, I'm back.  It may be sporadic at first, no promises.  Technology and I have a rather adversarial relationship. 

We have a new computer and a new camera and I am slowly learning how to use both.  To kick off 2014, here is an update on sweet Nutmeg, the doeling I kept this past spring.

Nutmeg, just over 8 months old.  Still a cutie-pie!
Stay tuned for some winter projects and also for some backtracking as I find pictures from some of last summer's projects.  This computer has a different opinion than I do as to where picture files should end up.  As I find some of the images of cool projects, I'll post them.  I especially want to find the pictures I took of our wood chip gardening project, which was an outrageous success.
Meanwhile, gaze at the adorable youngster above.  Although she is old enough, officially, I will not breed her this winter.  She gets another year to grow up.  Unlike some of her previous sisters and cousins, she has a very "baby" look to her still, and has not yet developed the lanky, knobby appearance that a mature dairy doe gets.  She is still my little fatty and I just can't resist squeezing her and giving her a big ol' smooch.  Yes.  On the lips.  Her fuzzy little adorable smoochable lips.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Clever dog

I caught my old man dog, Gunnar, working on a sewing project yesterday morning. Although I miss having house cats, I don't miss them messing with my stuff, and putting things up high keeps the dogs out of them.....until now.....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Growing chicks

We've had 4 hens go broody so far this year....that is, they decided it was time to hatch eggs and hunkered down with determination.  When this instinct, bred out of most modern hens, kicks in, the hen will stop laying eggs of her own and just work hard at hatching the eggs she is on.  Her body temperature goes up, and for about three weeks she will leave the nest only about once a day to eat, drink, and eliminate....and what an eliminate it is!  Broody poo is a huge, stinking pile that has been accurately describe as "epic."

Twenty chicks have been hatched so far, with only one loss in the first day.  Two hens hatched six chicks each, and the other two hatched four each.  The last hen to hatch was the one that lost a chick.  There could have been something wrong with it, or she could have stomped on it.  I saw her stomp another chick clumsily and she is a big girl, a Buff Brahma purchased last year at the local feed store as a week old chick.

It seems like a different hen went broody about every three weeks or so, so each family of chicks is a different size, from teensy fluffballs to almost full grown.

 This foursome was abandoned by their mother weeks ago.  They are very independent.
Mama is still watching over these six, teaching them to forage and keeping them safe under her wings at night.
I love, love, love having so many broody hens raising chicks for us.  No mess, no fuss, she does all the work, and really teaches them to find their own food.  The hen above, with the six, rarely comes in for grain morning and evening.  She is finding plenty and teaching her young 'uns how to successfully find their own food.  This is the best thing about broody raised chicks!
I have one more hen hunkered down in a nest box, and tonight I will move her to a safe, isolated spot so she can safely sit on the eggs I'll give her tomorrow, once she's settled in and recovered from her move.  Both of these tasks will be done at night, since chickens are night blind, so she won't fuss too much and won't realize until morning that she's been moved.  At least it will seem like she doesn't know.  She'll accept it, at any rate.  She would be more likely to frantically try to get back to her original nest if I moved her in the daylight.  And the silly thing is sitting on nothing, trying desperately to hatch....air!  I'll give her some real eggs, fertile ones from our flock, and she'll be very content.