Fern’s Farmhouse Special

This is one of those meals that needed a name, so we just made it up. Most people would think ‘Food’ was a strange title to a blog article, so Frank named this dish for us.

There is really not much special about this dish, it’s just something I came up with since we have limited our carbohydrate intake. It’s healthy, tasty and I make plenty of it. It’s not particularly attractive, as in a pretty dish, but we don’t care. What’s neat about it is that almost all of the ingredients came from our farm or homestead. We know how the meat was raised, the milk produced, the cheese made, the vegetables grown and how all of it was processed. This is what makes this meal a ‘Special’. We’ve almost come to take our homegrown food for granted, but not quite. Anytime the food on our table constitutes a homegrown meal in it’s entirety, we take note, and enjoy every bite that much more.

Okay, on with the meal. The first ingredient is ground goat meat or chevon. About half the time I think I spell it wrong and put chevron, so if you run across that somewhere in this blog, sorry about that. I season the meat with sea salt and fresh ground peppercorns, then brown it with about half of a large onion (store bought) and any sweet peppers we have on hand. I just picked these peppers from the plant I transplanted into the greenhouse.

When the onions and peppers are starting to brown, I add two heaping spoonfuls of our canned garlic and a pint jar of our canned

yellow squash and let it heat up and blend in with the other flavors. By the way, I strain the liquid off of the squash into the pig bucket. I do this with any liquid we aren’t planning on using in cooking. I even rinse out milk and kefir jars and put this milky water in the pig bucket. I really like using these liquids to increase our meat supply instead of pouring it down the drain like I used to.

While the squash is heating, I grated a little cheddar cheese and got out the salsa and fermented jalapenos. I haven’t told you about the jalapenos yet. I fermented two quarts of jalapenos in the same kind of crock we use for sauerkraut. I inoculated the peppers with kraut juice when I started them, then left them in the crock for about three weeks. They taste great, still very tangy and stayed crunchy. Thanks to the reader that recommended we try them. I have four pint jars of peppers stored in the refrigerator now along with the usual four quarts of sauerkraut.

Now that the meat and vegetables are ready I dish them up, add some salsa, peppers and cheese. 

This type of meal has the possibility of endless variations, the only limitation is your imagination. So go create your own ‘House Special’ with whatever ingredients your family enjoys. After you do, see how many of those ingredients you can produce or store for the long term. The uncertain, difficult days ahead of us, will require good, healthy, home cooked meals for comfort and much needed nutrition. Practice now while you can.

Until next time – Fern
 

Frozen Tomato Salsa Experiment

Last summer in the midst of Frank’s recovery from back surgery and my gallbladder going out, I did not can one tomato. Not one. Instead, I froze about 12 to 15 gallons of whole tomatoes in freezer bags. That’s about all I could manage. Pick them, wash them off, pack them in a freezer bag, and put them in the freezer. About a month or so ago, we ran out of the previous year’s salsa we had canned, and we really like salsa. So I tried the frozen tomatoes to see how they would work in a fresh salsa.

As the tomatoes thawed, there was quite a bit of watery liquid. I thought about pouring some of it off, but decided to keep it this time. This gallon of tomatoes yielded six cups of tomato product. 

I got out my frozen jalapeno peppers. I didn’t get any peppers canned last summer either, but I did freeze up a quart of chopped peppers just for this possibility. Following my regular salsa recipe, which is scribbled on a piece of paper, with these frozen vegetables was all guess work. 

I splurged and bought some fresh cilantro for this batch of salsa, just because we really like it. My regular recipe calls for 5 onions, so I dutifully chopped up 5 onions. This was a mistake. 
 

The salsa looks great, but it turned out to be onion salsa instead of tomato salsa. The onion flavor was VERY strong. Luckily we like onions, but I found this salsa was better cooked into something than used as is.

We ran out of the onion salsa last week, so this week I got out another gallon of tomatoes. Thus begins experiment #2.

This time I poured off most of the watery liquid after the tomatoes thawed, and I only got 3 cups after I removed the skins and cores.

I used a few more frozen jalapenos, since the last batch was very mild aside from the over powering presence of onions.

Initially, I only used one onion, but there weren’t quite enough, or so I guessed. So I added another half of an onion I had in the frig. The reusable wraps are great.

I had fun taking a picture of adding the salt. Just because.

 

 This time I used some of the cilantro I dried last spring from the herb bed. I have read that dried isn’t near as strong as fresh, so I doubled the amount. I have also heard that dried isn’t worth using, so we will see after this has had a couple of days to sit and blend flavors.

 

I have my fingers crossed that this batch will taste much better. We seldom cook with tomatoes of any kind anymore, so I will keep using our frozen tomatoes for salsa until we can make some fresh next summer.

I really enjoy experiments like this. It gives us yet another opportunity to learn something new. I hope you’re planning for your garden, we certainly are. We’re going to leave potatoes out of our garden this year. Frank and I have introduced a low carbohydrate regimen into our diet. We plan this to be a life long change for the better. So our garden plans are changing somewhat to provide the new things we are eating. 

Until next time – Fern

Preparing the Harvest

Hello, Fern here. I wanted to steal Frank’s line, just this once. Our garden is still providing us more than enough food, even though for a while it was sorely neglected and the weather has turned off very hot and humid.

Before, during and after Frank’s surgery the garden didn’t get hardly any attention at all and I was glad it really wasn’t producing much. I did wonder if it would produce at all this year, but didn’t really give it much thought. I was busy. But now, in the middle of August in the blistering heat, the green beans are finally producing and the tomatoes are just amazing. We would get a whole lot more okra if I would pick it more regularly, and the same goes for the purple hull peas. For the last couple of days the harvest has been good so I thought I would share it with you.

I have picked green beans all of four times this year. Isn’t that odd? We had a meal or two from the first mess, then I snapped, washed and stored the last picking. Now I have a bucket that’s almost 3/4 full from today’s harvest. Outside of those little green worms that like the mature beans and the grasshoppers working over the leaves some, the plants continue to bloom and bring forth beans. I told you a while back that I gave the beans some wood ashes for potassium after I gave them milk for calcium. I don’t know if that is what made the difference or if they were just told to wait until I had time to tend to them. I really think it is the latter.

The purple hull peas patiently await my arrival to pick them. If I don’t get there in time, they just dry on the vine and continue to wait for me. I planted a lot more this year with the intent of using some of them for animal feed, which is happening. When they are already dried on the vine, I feed them to the goats and chickens, both of which have come to clean them up quickly when they see what I have brought. We haven’t kept any to store for winter which was a goal, it just hasn’t happened this year. The plants have really vined out this summer. I don’t remember the vines being so long and intertwined last year or the year before. We have gotten more rain and had a cooler summer overall, but I don’t know if that is the reason. The way they have grown this year makes me think they would do better on a trellis.

The peppers are steadily producing, just not in large quantities. The first batch of jalapeno peppers I picked didn’t get processed, so I had to throw them out. Funny the animals don’t care for such hot peppers. The next batch got chopped up and frozen. I haven’t tried this before but know people that do, so I thought I would try it. I will do the same with some of the sweet peppers.

The okra is steadily producing, and we are freezing it up by the quart in freezer bags, if there is any left over after we have had some for dinner.

The tomatoes have surprised me. We have not canned anything since Frank’s back surgery in early July. Once the tomatoes started ripening, I knew I would have to do something with them or they would all end up being chicken feed. I had read about people freezing their tomatoes for later use. Then I talked to my friend Grace and she said she had done the same thing. One benefit of freezing the tomatoes is not having to blanch them when you thaw them out. That will save time and propane when I thaw them out to can or make salsa. This has given me yet another opportunity to learn something new. We now have about nine gallons of tomatoes in the freezer which I think is very interesting.

Wilson, aka Frank

  

I finally dug up all of the carrots except the one that is going to seed. It has fallen over the top is so heavy and the carrot is so small. It is almost time to pull it up, I think. Our harvest yielded about a gallon after I sliced them up. We would still like to have many more, but it is better than last year. There are more carrots and they aren’t all gnarled up.

I hope to start up the canner again tomorrow with the carrots and green beans. Maybe next week I will have enough purple hull peas to can up a batch. We have always canned our garden together, with Frank handling the heavy stuff, but he can’t do that just yet. He is recuperating well, but still has restrictions to follow until he is released for full activity. We have had a slow, peaceful summer and plan to keep it that way. I really believe our garden was told to slow down and wait until I could tend to it and the food it is producing. It is an odd feeling. I know we are blessed and cared for, and I am deeply grateful.

Until next time – Fern

Dream Big, Be Patient

As I brought some of our salsa, jalapenos and pears into the kitchen from the pantry this afternoon, I mentioned to Frank how great and unbelievable it is that we have finally reached this point in our lives. It is very humbling and brings great peace to our hearts to have some of our dreams come true. Let me explain.

This morning (Saturday) I made our usual homemade biscuits for breakfast. Then I fed the cats, opened up the chicken house and fed the chickens. This led me to the barn where I fed Pearl, our Pyrenees, milked One Stripe and fed the rest of the does. Enjoying the beautiful sunshine, I made my way back to the house and strained the milk. This time I didn’t cool the milk because we needed to make yogurt

After the yogurt was started, it was time to make bread out of the sourdough sponge I had left out overnight to ferment. 

We had set out a bag of Cushaw squash to thaw for a pie a day or two ago, so it was time to get the pie going. This would also warm up the kitchen so the bread would rise more quickly.

By now it was time for lunch, which brings me back to the beginning of this post. It has taken many, many years of dreams, planning, postponing, and planning again to make it to this point. When we were newly married, our big date was to walk around downtown and window shop. We couldn’t afford to buy anything. We just spent time together, walking, holding hands, and dreaming. Dreaming that someday we would live in the country and be as self reliant as possible. Now, thirty-something years later, we still have not achieved all of our dreams and goals, but many of them seem to be coming together.

Five years ago, we had not learned how to can vegetables. At that point the only thing we had canned was salmon when we lived in Alaska. 

Five years ago, we barely knew how to garden. We had a lot of book learning, but no practical experience. We grew one fairly successful garden about 20 years ago, then about five years ago we began to garden again.
  
 

Three years ago, I had never made cheese

Two years ago, I had never tried growing herbs.

A year and a half ago, we had just started to get into ham radio.

One year ago, I had not canned any fruit on my own. 

Six months ago, I had never used a dehydrator

  

Two months ago, I knew little to nothing about kefir and had never tried it. 

One month ago, I had never made sourdough bread. I have made a lot of bread, but now I have the self-sustaining means of continuing to do so indefinitely without yeast. As long as the wheat and flour hold out, that is. 

Two weeks ago, we had never tried any herbal, medicinal teas. Today we added some celery seed/chamomile tea to our daily repertoire.

And I almost forgot to mention.  234 days ago we had never had anything to do with a blog. We had been reading a few, but never written anything like this. And, believe it or not, we used to seldom take pictures of anything. Now somedays we are doing something and one of us will say, “Hmm, we should have taken some pictures for the blog.” It is interesting how things turn out while you are pursuing your dreams.

You may not live on your own little piece of dirt yet. You may not have all of the livestock or garden space you want. You may not have the money to do some of the things you really feel are important to be prepared. But you do have the opportunity to learn all you can wherever you are. Dream big. Really big. Be patient and frugal and determined and diligent and vigilant. Then dream big again. When Frank and I first got married he had a saying that has been a motto of ours ever since. “Postpone gratification for long-term gains.” Think about that. There are so many things we can do without. Sometimes there are things that are nice to have or that we just want. And sometimes it is really hard to put some things off. And then sometimes things happen that cause our goals and dreams to be postponed or changed. But that is not the end of them. Keep them close to your heart, discipline yourself that you might always keep them in focus, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by the things of the world.

Know that most dreams don’t come true over night, at least not in my experience. And most days, I think that if they did come true overnight, I wouldn’t appreciate them near as much. So, today, my heart is full of gratitude. Gratitude that God has seen fit to bless us with this little spot of land upon which we can achieve the things of our dreams by the sweat of our brow and the touch of His hand. Since we have been here, we have learned much, and I feel we have just begun. Hold fast to your dreams. They may come true in the most unexpected ways.

Until next time – Fern

 

Great Homegrown Nachos

We had all of the ingredients handy for making nachos, and it sounded like a great evening meal. The more I thought about it, the more interesting it sounded. Here is the way we made them.

The ingredients we used include:

Some of the jalapeno peppers that were left over when we canned up six pints last night.




A few of the onions we grew this summer. Growing onions has never been successful in our garden. This is about as big as they get. We’ll try again next year and see if we can master growing that vegetable to normal size.

Some of our salsa we put up in August. We grew the tomatoes and peppers for this salsa. We had to buy the onions (see above) and cilantro. This is the first time we have tried our canned salsa this year. We have been able to keep a fresh quart in the frig most of the summer.



Chevron roast from a wether we butchered last fall. This was a nice hind quarters we cooked up last month. I like to freeze up the extra meat in quart size freezer bags to use later in meals like this.
 

I use corn tortillas that we fry up. We use olive oil for anything requiring oil when we cook. 


Cheddar cheese. This was the wheel that stuck in the cheese press when we made it. I wondered how it would come out.

It had some spots of mold here and there and the general surface was a little bumpy. I decided to cut off a thin layer of the entire surface.

It won’t go to waste. Pearl, our Great Pyrenees, loves cheese. The cheese is a very nice mild flavored cheddar that has aged for five months. 

After I fried the chips, I diced the onions and roast for the first layer.





Then I added some peppers and salsa…..





And topped it with shredded cheddar.





These nachos were some of the best we have ever had. No, really, they were! Part of the reason is that we raised the goats that gave us the milk that made the cheese. Another part is growing the tomatoes, peppers and little onions. Then there was that wether that was born here that we butchered and cooked, he tasted really good. It always amazes us that we can harvest and eat from the work of our hands. And it tastes good to boot!

Until next time – Fern

Fern’s Salsa

This salsa recipe has been adjusted several times to the current ratio of vegetables. We really enjoy it. Especially with fresh corn chips. We buy corn tortillas then fry them in olive oil and sprinkle on a little salt. They are very good alone. But when you add a bowl of fresh salsa, it’s almost a meal in itself.

We eat the recipe fresh and we also can it to eat throughout the winter. The ratios can be increased or decreased depending on the number of ingredients you have or your taste preferences. We like the simplicity of the recipe.

Since I made this batch of salsa over a few evenings due to time constraints, I chilled the ingredients as I prepared them. Before I canned it, I heated it all to boiling.

Earlier in the summer when I only had a few tomatoes, I peeled them by hand to make a quart of fresh salsa. For this batch I actually had a decent number of tomatoes so I blanched them.

Boil a pot of water deep enough to hold some tomatoes. Leave the them in the boiling water for about a minute or until the skins start to split. Then put them in a sink of cold water. 

The skins will slip off easily after they are blanched.

Peel and chop 6 cups of tomatoes to the desired consistency. Some folks use a blender or a food processor, I dice them. 

Finely chop and add 4 medium onions and 1/2 cup jalapeno. Add 1 tsp. salt.

Finely chop and add 2 tbsp. fresh cilantro (more or less). Adjust the amount according to your taste. I tend to add more than the recipe calls for. We really like the flavor. I bought these plants in the produce section at the store. When I plant cilantro here in the spring it bolts and goes to seed. These are trying to do the same thing. So I keep them potted on the porch so I can go out and take clippings for the salsa.  

Stir well. To eat fresh – chill (if you can wait that long). Eat!

To can, heat to boiling, fill hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe rims, put on lids and rings. Water bath for 15 minutes after coming to a full rolling boil. Remove the canner lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and place them on a towel, then cover with a heavy towel and let cool slowly and seal.

This is another tasty, easy way to preserve our wonderful harvest.

Until next time – Fern