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The Corn Bee

September 3rd, 2013

Yesterday, we celebrating Labor Day by processing corn with our neighbors. Having a bee, is a great way to make a big job much more fun, the work goes much faster when you have someone to talk to while working. It ended up being their best year yet. We spent the day husking, cooking, cooling, cutting and freezing dozens of ears of corn.
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We ended up coming home with quite a bit of corn for our freezer. This will certainly bring the taste of summer back on a few cold winter days.

Do you ever have group work days?

Friday Favorite: Garden Peas

July 12th, 2013

I’ve always been a big fan of garden peas, they’re just so sweet and tasty.  I rarely every have enough for freezing, most of them are enjoyed within a few hours of being picked.
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Since I never end up with enough peas for the freezer, this year I planted a ton.  Two seventy foot long rows to be exact, along with a few six foot rows in the back potager for fresh eating. I grew ‘Green Arrow’ from High Mowing Seeds as my main crop peas. Other sowings included: ‘Little Marvel’, ‘Lincoln’, and ‘Dakota’.
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My plan finally worked, on Wednesday evening we spent an hour shelling peas. After shelling our harvest weighed in at 8 pounds. They were blanched and packed into two cup glass containers for freezing.
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Typically I’m not much of one for freezing or canning much from the garden, peas are the exception because winter soups and stews just aren’t the same without them!
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We’ve also been enjoying our share fresh from the garden. Mostly, I’ve been steaming them then tossing them with butter and some homemade duck breast prosciutto. I always read about traditional recipes featuring peas and mint, but somehow I just can’t bring myself to put mint with peas. One of these days I will.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy garden peas? Do you like peas and mint together?

Preparing for a Bountiful Season

April 18th, 2011

This time of year the pickings get slim in our freezer and basement pantry. The longer I garden and preserve food the better I get and not ending up with too much food come spring. The only things that remain in the freezer from last summer are: 4 gal. bags of wild black raspberries, 1.5 gal. bags of strawberries, 9 pints of corn, 2 cups of peas and 1 gal. bag of roasted tomatoes. Since the freezer is as empty as it will get, I defrosted it yesterday. I always defrost it during April or May.

I pulled everything out, put it in coolers and the fridge freezer, then I turned off the freezer, opened the door, lined the bottom with a bunch of towels and turned on a fan. In an hour or two it was completely defrosted (one reason to do this yearly is because the frost doesn’t build up and take as long to thaw). I wiped out any excess water and turned in on. When it was cold once again, I put everything back in.

I have a specific method for organizing my freezer. The worst thing ever is finding things that have gone bad because they get pushed to the back of the freezer and you forget they’re in there. When you have a big deep freeze it’s important to keep it organized and keep a list of what’s in there. That way you’re never suprised either by finding something you forgot was in there, or by reaching for something that isn’t there.

I organize the freezer shelves into types of food:
top shelf – berries, fruits, and veggies
middle shelf – whole chickens, ham, prepared food, and bread
bottom shelf – chicken, meaty bones, organ meats, and lard
bottom compartment – venison: steaks, roasts, and ground
door – nuts, grains, things frozen in jars: stock, corn, etc

I like to keep track of what’s in the freezer so I know exactly how much of each thing I have inside without having to open the door. I do this by keeping a list of what’s inside on the front door written in dry erase marker. When I remove something, I update the total for that item. This is a quick and easy way to keep track of what’s in your freezer. I organize my list by type of item, but you could also write on the area of the door that corresponds to the shelf inside.

We do have a lot of venison in the freezer since hunting season was in late November and Mr Chiots got three deer. I also just ordered 150 lbs of meaty bones, chicken feet, beef liver & heart for Lucy, which will take up a lot of the available space. By the time I start freezing summer berries and other vegetables we’ll have just enough space for them. Keeping your freezer full helps make it more efficient since your not cooling huge unused areas, and the cold food helps keep the freezer cold. If your freezer is more than half empty simply fill with plastic milk jugs filled 3/4 of the way with water. They’ll freeze and can be used to keep coolers cold in the summer, and they’ll help keep your freezer from using so much electricity!

Do you have a deep freezer? How do you keep track of what’s inside?

Slow-Roasting Tomatoes

August 25th, 2010

I don’t know that I’ve ever met a tomato recipe I haven’t liked, but there are some that I love more than others. One of my favorite ways to enjoy summer tomatoes is by slow-roasting them in the oven. You can throw these on pizza, on salads, eat them plain or my favorite, on top of some toast with an egg. When you slow roast tomatoes it deepens the flavor and concentrates the sugars. As a result you’re left with delicious jammy little puddles of tomato goodness, and making them couldn’t be simpler! This is even a great way to deal with so-so tomatoes that you buy from the store or the end of the season tomatoes that are ripened indoors and lack the sun-ripened flavor.

You can use any kind of tomato, from cherries to beefsteaks, just keep in mind that the larger the tomato the longer it will take to roast. Roma types that are dry roast quicker so check them earlier, but beefsteaks are more concentrated when roasted so they taste better. If you’re going to roast a batch, you may as well do an entire oven full to save energy and I guarantee you’ll always want more!

All you need to do it is cut the tomatoes in half, lay skin side down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (the parchment helps get them up later). If you want to, drizzle with olive oil and some freshly chopped herbs and sprinkle with salt and pepper, or simply roast as is, it’s up to you, I do both. Roast in a 225 degree oven for 4-8 hours or until reduced in size and slightly moist, cooking time depends on size of tomatoes and your oven. You can try raising oven temp to 250, but you may get some dark spots on the tomatoes, it depends on your oven. I like to put mine in the oven before I go to bed and set the timer for 6 hours. The next morning I check the tomatoes, remove any that are finished and continue roasting any tomatoes that aren’t quite done. You can taste one after 3-4 hours and you’ll be able to tell if it’s done or not. It should taste like concentrated tomato with a slightly sweet tang. If it’s still acidic and sour, roast for a while longer.

These will need to be frozen to preserve them. I usually freeze on the cookie sheets, then store in a large bag. That way can I get one or twenty depending on what I’m making. I like to use slow-roasted tomatoes in my homemade ketchup, I find it adds a wonderful rich flavor and reduces the cooking time. I don’t roast them quite as long as when I do this since it’s much easier to extract the peels and seeds when they’re not quite as dry.

Have you ever slow roasted tomatoes?

Tips for Freezing Fruits and Vegetables

June 30th, 2010

I like to freeze fruits and some vegetables to preserve them for winter eating. I especially like freezing all varieties of berries and peas, most other fruits and vegetables are better if canned.

Since freezer space is at a premium, I have to make sure I store things in the most efficient way possible. Generally I don’t like using plastic around my food, but when it comes to freezing large quantities of things, zippered bags are so convenient. Some things still get stored in glass mason jars, but the berries and peas are in zippered bags (although I’m considering half gallon jars for the future).

Of course you could measure out specific amounts and freeze in small bags, but I prefer freezing things on a cookie sheet so they’re frozen individually. This allows me to put them in larger bags and simply measure out what I need from the large bag. (remember to blanch peas & veggies before freezing).

Do you have any tips for freezing fruits and vegetables?

Reading & Watching

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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 moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.