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Maple and Mush

March 25th, 2014

Last monday I finished my first batch of maple syrup and yesterday I finished my second. Both were two cups shy of a gallon, so I’m well on my way to getting a decent harvest this year. My goal is always five gallons of syrup, but I’ve only been able to get that much one year. Usually I end up with about three gallons, this year looks to be the same with the less than stellar weather.
homemade maple syrup
Usually I make pancakes when I finish the first batch of syrup, this year I decided to make my favorite – fried mush.
fried mush 1
I had some local corn meal in the freezer, so I whipped up a batch. Every time I make it I’m amazed at how much one cup of corn meal grows into! This is frugal eating at it’s finest – especially with free homemade maple syrup.
fried mush 2
People often ask me the success to cooking mush without having it stick to the pan – patience. Put a little coconut oil, lard or ghee in a cast iron skillet and then add your mush. Don’t even think about peeking until you start to notice it getting brown around the edges. You’ll know it’s ready to turn when it will move on it’s own in the pan. If you try to turn it too early it will stick and all the crunchy goodness will stick to the pan.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy maple syrup?

Cottage Pie

March 20th, 2014

Yesterday, I made cottage pie. It’s a humble meal, one that can be adapted to whatever you have left in the root cellar and freezer. It could easily be made vegetarian or with any kind of ground meat you have on hand. Choose your spices according to the meat and vegetables. I don’t use a recipe, but if you want one this one is good. I always double the vegetables because it’s a good way to eat more of those in a meal!
Making Shepherds pie 1
Since we have an abundance of pork, that was the source of meat I decided to use.  I used sage breakfast sausage, because the spices already mixed in sounded wonderful! There were onions, garlic and potatoes in the root cellar and I also had garden peas and sweet corn in the freezer.
Making Shepherds pie 8
Making Shepherds pie 2
Making Shepherds pie 3
To the mashed potatoes I added homemade butter and fresh cream from the local farm, along with a healthy dose of Kerrygold Dubliner Irish Cheddar Cheese, and of course you can’t forget the freshly ground salt and pepper.
Making Shepherds pie 4
Instead of adding flour as many recipes call for to thicken the juices, I added a cooked and mashed potato to the vegetables and meat.
Making Shepherds pie 5
After putting the meat and vegetables in a cast iron skillet, mashed potatoes are slathered on top. Then it’s baked in the oven for about 30 minutes and turns out quite lovely.
Making Shepherds pie 6
Making Shepherds pie 7
What I love about recipes like these is that they’re so easy and they can be adapted to whatever you have on hand or whatever your family likes. You could easily make a Thanksgiving themed one with ground turkey, green beans, sage and mashed sweet potatoes on top. Or how about a spicy one with ground beef, taco seasoning, tomatoes, onions, peppers, corn and mashed potatoes with monterey jack cheese on top. Of course vegetarian is always an option, any mix of vegetables would work with your favorite spices mixed in. The possibilities are endless!

If you were making Cottage Pie – what mix of ingredients would be your favorite?

Did Somebody Say Bacon?

March 1st, 2014

I’m finally at the point where I’ve been able to eat the bacon we made way back in November. I’m super sensitive to smells and until now, the smell of the smoke wasn’t allowing me to eat the bacon. I’ve finally reached that point where I can, so we’ve finally be eating up the bacon we made.
eating bacon 1
So far we’ve tried our German Bacon and the house bacon, both have been great. I can’t wait to try to River Cottage bacon next.
eating bacon 2
Now that we’ve tried the bacon I can start to give away some bacon. We were reluctant to give any away until we had tried it ourselves.
eating bacon 3
Now that it’s bacon time, we have a lot of bacon to consume in the next year! No doubt next year will be better for me as far as smells go, now that I’ve gotten through it once, it won’t bother me the next time around.

Are they any food smells that you have a hard time with?

Maximizing the Harvest

February 15th, 2014

I grow most of my own onions, as a result I end up with some smaller onions that can be a bit of a pain to peel if you need lots of onions for a recipe. These smaller onions are perfect for making stock.
Onion peels contain a lot of vitamins/minerals but they’re not very palatable as is. Throwing them in stock is the perfect way to glean some of that nutrition. Some people I know even save all their onion skins in a bag in the freezer along with carrots peels and celery trimmings to use when making stock. I love using them because I can make use of even more of what I grow in the garden.

Do you use your vegetables trimmings for making stock?

A Labor of Love

January 25th, 2014

Yesterday we celebrated a birthday. When I asked Mr Chiots what he’d like for a birthday meal, he said “Lasagne”.
Fit for a king 3
It was a slow meal, a very slow meal. It all started way back in the fall of 2012 when we first moved to Maine. I planted garlic in the back garden. This garlic was harvested this past summer and it seasoned the sauce and the sweet Italian sausage that used in the lasagne.
Fit for a king 5
The next step towards reaching this meal was starting onion seeds in January. Then in March seeds were started for tomatoes and herbs used in the sausage and the sauce.
Fit for a king 7
I canned this sauce last fall, it’s perfect. The tomatoes and herbs are roasted for many hours in a low oven. The result is a deeply flavored sweet sauce, with none of the acidic bite of a sauce made with fresh tomatoes.
Fit for a king
On Thursday evening I made a batch of ricotta cheese with Jersey milk from a local farm and lemons from Lemon Ladies Orchard. I procured whole milk mozzarella, parmesan and romano at the local co-op. I also purchased mushrooms to add to the lasagne.
Fit for a king 6
The hens provided eggs for the pasta, King Arthur Flour provided the flour.
Fit for a king 1
I wrote a post on Eat Outside the Bag about making your own pasta if you’d like to give it a try.
Fit for a king 8
Fit for a king 2
Mr Chiots ended up eating three servings, so I guess he thought it was delicious. The good thing is, there are only two of us, so it will take us a few days to eat up the rest of the pan. I always find that lasagne is much better when reheated.
Fit for a king 4
It’s certainly satisfying to see all the different ingredients that were grow and raised right here coming together to form a delicious meal. For my birthday I always used to request chicken and dumplings, luckily, another meal with ingredients that can be mostly grown or raised right here.

What dish do you request for your birthday meal?

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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.