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A Little Smoky Goodness

June 30th, 2011

The beef we eat comes from the same farm we get our milk from. Their cows spend their days out in the fields eating green grass and feeling the sun on their backs. As a result the meat is really great – tasty and healthy. We eat mostly venison around here because of Mr Chiot’s hunting prowess, but we buy loads of meaty bones from the farm to feed the resident Chiots. I also use the bones for making stock and every now and then some braised beef.

Last week I made dinner to take to some friends who were moving. I wanted to make something that would taste great hot or cold and would be quick and easy to eat. After looking in the freezer and the pantry, I decided to make pulled beef sandwiches. I thawed out some beef shanks, beef short ribs, and a venison roast. These fatty bony bits are perfect for braising, the meat gets tender and falls off the bone and the fat melts into the sauce making it so smooth and velvety (not to mention super healthy). The venison roast added more meat since the other pieces don’t have a ton of meat on them.

I rubbed them liberally with freshly ground pepper and sea salt and seared them over a campfire out back. Then I threw them all in a big cast iron dutch oven with a three cans of Guinness and braised them for a few hours until the meat was falling off the bone (mine braised for 4 hours total, but you could do more if needed). I made a huge batch but you could easily scale this down for four. You’ll be wishing you had leftovers though so maybe you should go ahead and make a big batch.

After braising, I pulled the meat off the bones, shredded it, then mixed it with the remaining braising liquid, which had become thick and rich from the beef bones. We put the meat on homemade ciabatta and topped with onions that I had caramelized over the fire in a cast iron skillet. We topped it all off with some local raw milk cheese and what a meal it was! I kept wanting to take a photo of the sandwiches, but never remembered because they were so good. We’ll be making these again on Saturday for a cookout before enjoying the Fourth of July fireworks display in our community. I figured I’d share this fantastic recipe in case any of you were trying to come up with something tasty to make.

What’s your favorite kind of cookout food?

Beautiful and Meaningful

June 29th, 2011

How much more pleasant would drying dishes be if you could use a thick, densely stitched hand knit dishcloth? Might you be less likely to let a wastebasket woven of willow branches overflow with trash? Have you ever swept the floor with a handcrafted broom made from real broomcorn? It has tiny spurs that trap and hold dust, whereas plastic bristles rely on static electricity. These are the tools of our everyday lives. If we choose them wisely, our everyday lives will be that much more beautiful and meaningful!

Robyn Griggs Lawrence (The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty)

I would highly recommend reading the book above. You will find yourself thinking about the things that you chose to bring into your home. In our culture it’s often about acquiring more, bigger, better, faster, newer at the expense of quality, handmade and local. Over the past couple years I’ve really been striving to detox my home of the mass-produced low quality items that have no soul. When something needs replaced I try to find it made locally.

While shopping at Local Roots a month ago I noticed a local potter was selling crocks. They were all fairly small, so I contacted one of the potters, Emily from Moorefield Pottery to see if she’s make me a bigger one. I love that she uses clay harvested in the Ohio River Valley. This is a truly local product.

I was super excited to hit the market last week to pick up my crock. Emily did a wonderful job creating the perfect crock to hold my utensils, it is beautiful! Perhaps someday I’ll have her make me a few plates and bowls so we can get rid of our made in China white dinnerware.

It’s so much more meaningful when you can purchase a product made by a local artist or craftsman. I like seeing the artist’s signature scratched into the bottom of the piece instead of a “made in China” sticker – makes me very happy.

I love her little clay birdhouses as well, someday I may have a few of these hanging around the gardens. I really appreciate that there are people who take the time to learn such skills and I will spend my money to support them. Every time I reach for a utensil I’ll be able to appreciate the beauty of this handmade piece of art. Emily does have an Etsy store if you’re interested in checking out a few of her things.

Do you have any handmade items that you really appreciate? Do you know of any great artisans in your area?

The Flower I’ve Been Waiting For

June 28th, 2011

I have been patiently waiting and watching for this flower since I started the seed last summer. It was supposed to bloom last summer but didn’t. I thought it would bloom earlier this spring and was beginning to wonder if it every was going to bloom. I never did the see the buds emerge, I noticed them last night and they were blooming this morning.

This is the beautiful pink bloom of the ‘Tarpan’ Strawberry. I purchased a packet of 15 seeds from Johnny’s last spring. Only 3 or 4 of the seeds germinated and grew into plants. That doesn’t matter too much because those plants are producing runners like crazy. Each mother plant has produced 3 to 5 daughter plants and they’re still producing runners.

I need to decide where I’m going to be putting these. Maybe a few of those yellow strawberries will be removed in the front flowerbed to make way for these beauties. These are ever bearing strawberries and will produce strawberries from mid-summer to frost. That’s perfect since my June-bearing strawberries just quit producing for the year.

These really are quite different than other strawberry blooms I’ve seen. I’m interested to see what the berries taste like.

Have you ever waited patiently for something to bloom? How long did you wait?

The Preservation Has Begun

June 27th, 2011

Last week I harvested the first items for the pantry: herbs. Each year I harvest herbs and dry them in the attic to add to our meals and to enjoy as tea. I grow a wide variety of herbs in the garden some perennial, some annual. I won’t list all the herbs I have in the garden as there are quite a few. Each year I try to add a few more and learn how to use them both for culinary and medicinal purposes.

You’re supposed to harvest herbs right before them bloom; in the morning after the dew has dried, but before it gets too sunny and warm. At least that’s what I read you should do to get the best flavored herbs for your pantry. I’ve never done any experiments to see if it matters or not, but it makes sense to me that the plants would have more oils in the morning before they it gets too warm.

What made it into my harvest basket?

Peppermint – (Mentha x piperita piperita) Peppermint tea is a refreshing alternative to coffee and regular tea. Excellent for stomach indigestion. Lends its spiciness to many dishes. Don’t be fooled by seeds labelled as ‘peppermint’, peppermint can’t produce seeds because its flowers are sterile. (source of plants: Richter’s)

Sage – (Salvia officinalis) The main culinary varieties popular with onions for poultry stuffing and for flavouring rich meats like pork or duck. Also in homemade sausage, omelettes, cheese and bean dishes. Sage tea gargle is valuable for sore throat. It has highly aromatic leaves and along soft spikes of blooms that invite hummingbirds to the garden. (source: Renee’s Garden)

Mountain Mint – (Pycnanthemum pilosum) Hardy U.S. native. Leaves possess a wonderful menthol fragrance; may be used just like peppermint. Excellent beeplant. (source of seeds: Richter’s)

Greek Oregano – (Origanum vulgare hirtum) This is the true oregano collected wild in the mountains of Greece. White flowers; very hardy. Excellent flavour. (source: seeds from Richter’s)

Bodegold Chamomile – (Matricaria recutita ‘Bodegold’) Improved strain of German chamomile for commercial production. Erect, sturdy growth habit and larger flowers containing up 0.7% essential oil high in bisabolol and other medicinal compounds. (source: Renee’s Garden)
I’ve read that you shouldn’t fertilize your herbs too much or it will lessen the amount of oils in them, which will make them less potent. In my experience I have found that herbs are carefree and don’t really mind lean dry conditions. Once established, perennial herbs can take a good amount of neglect if they’re well suited to your climate and soil. Annual herbs can be a whole different ball game. I find some annual herbs to be picky and difficult to grow – at least here in my soil conditions. I have trouble growing cilantro, which is quite a shame because I enjoy it so much. Growing it in a container seems to be the best option for me.

It certainly looks like it will be a savory winter here at Chiot’s Run. I’ll be so glad I took the time to harvest these herbs and others while I’m enjoying sage stuffing at Thanksgiving or sipping a cup of hot peppermint tea on a chilly evening in January.

Do you harvest and dry herbs for winter use? What’s your favorite herb to grow in the garden?

Quote of the Day: Mark Twain

June 26th, 2011

The difference between the almost right word
and the right word is really a large matter.
It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

- Mark Twain in a letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888



Kind of like snapping a photo at just the right time! I love it when the lightning bugs are out and about. Earlier this week I started to see them in the front yard, too bad they’re spraying for mosquitos in our development next week so that will kill a good number of them.

Do you have lightning bugs in your area?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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