Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Zesty Pickled Cauliflower

Spicy Pickled Cauliflower
makes about eight pints

3 lbs cauliflower, divided into small florets (about two heads)
4 C. Water
4 C. White Vinegar
1/4 C. Pickling Salt
2 Bell Peppers, sliced and divided into eight portions
5 Jalapenos, sliced and divided into eight portions
8 Garlic Cloves
4 tsp. Mustard Seed
2 tsp. Peppercorns
2 tsp. Ground Cumin

Prepare canner, jars, and lids. Combine water, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Reduce heat to low and keep hot until ready to use. Into each jar put one clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp. mustard seed, 1/4 tsp. peppercorns, and 1/4 tsp. ground cumin. Pack cauliflower and a portion each of jalapenos and bell peppers into each jar, remove air bubbles, wipe rim. Center lid on jars and screw down bands to fingertip tight. Process jars for fifteen minutes. Turn off heat, remove lid, and allow jars to sit in the water for an additional five minutes. Cool, label, and store.

Pickled Okra

My husband can easily eat two pints of pickled okra in one sitting. He loves the stuff. I had never even heard of pickled okra before he and I got together. The first time I tried pickled okra was during Christmas dinner at his grandma's house. At first I was unsure. It was so different from the only other way I'd ever had okra - fried. I like to try things at least twice before I decide whether I like it or not, so I ate another crunchy little pickled okra pod. That was all it took for my taste buds to decide these things are seriously awesome.

Pickled Okra
makes about eight pints

7 lbs small okra pods, trimmed
4 C. Water
4 C. White Vinegar
4 Tbsp. Pickling Salt
4 tsp. Dill Seed
8 Garlic Cloves
2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
2 tsp. Ball Pickle Crisp

Prepare canner, jars, and lids. Combine water, vinegar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt. Reduce heat to low and keep hot until ready to use. Into each jar put one clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp. dill seed, 1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes, and 1/8 tsp. Ball Pickle Crisp. Pack okra pods into jars, remove air bubbles, wipe rim. Center lid on jars and screw down bands to fingertip tight. Process jars for fifteen minutes. Turn off heat, remove lid, and allow jars to sit in the water for an additional five minutes. Cool, label, and store.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Simple Homemade Goat Cheese

We've had two goats in milk for almost two day now. I'm getting over half a gallon a day. On paper it doesn't sound like much, but only two days in, I can see that I'm going to be swimming in goat milk by the end of the week. I drink a lot of milk, but not half a gallon per day! One thing I was looking forward to when getting mama goat in milk (aside from drinking the delicious milk) was making cheese. Good thing, too, cuz we have plenty of milk to spare for making various dairy products. And lemme tell ya, not only is goat milk delicious, but so is the cheese. This cheese tastes like mozzarella to me, so I can definitely see us using it on pizza, pasta, sandwiches, and anywhere else mozzarella would be tasty. Which to me is pretty much on anything. And best of all, it's ridiculously simple to make - only two ingredients required and can be made in twenty minutes!

First things first, you need to get yourself a really cute goat in milk. Or go with the less fun options - maybe a friend has some goats in milk, or you can even purchase goat milk from the store. I personally vote that you get a goat, but I'm biased.

Now, gather your ingredients, and supplies:

- 1/2 Gal. of goat milk (you can double the recipe if you have more milk, just be sure to double the vinegar)
- 1/4 C. White Wine Vinegar, White Vinegar, or Apple Cider Vinegar
....yes, just two ingredients!
- Optional, herbs to flavor

*Update: I've now used both white wine vinegar, and white distilled vinegar. White wine vinegar creates a firmer, more crumbly cheese (good for salads), while white distilled seems to create a softer, more spreadable cheese (excellent for toasted bread). Not sure why this is, if anyone has the answer, I'd be glad to hear it! :)

- Large Pot
- Wooden Spoon
- Colander
- Cheese Cloth
- Cooking Thermometer

Pour milk into the pot, and heat on medium heat until the milk reaches 185 degrees, stirring constantly to prevent burning. It took about ten minutes for mine to reach 185 degrees.

Stir in vinegar, and remove from heat. The milk will curdle within a few seconds. Allow curdled milk to rest for five minutes. Meanwhile, line your colander with the cheese cloth.

Pour the curds into the cheesecloth lined colander. You can place a bowl underneath the colander to catch the whey if you wish to save it to use in cooking.

Squeeze the excess moisture from the cheese - careful, it's hot! You can leave as little or as much liquid in your cheese as you like. I squeezed as much liquid out as I could, which resulted in a drier cheese.

Crumble cheese up in a bowl.

Add herbs. I used basil, and garlic salt.

I used a small bowl as a mold, but almost anything solid with four sides would work - be creative! I pressed the cheese down using my hands, then really packed it in using the bottom of a spice jar. The tighter you pack it, the more solid of a cheese you'll get.

Voila! This cheese is so wonderful, and easy to make. I have cheese making supplies, such as citric acid, and rennet tablets but something about just being able to use milk, and vinegar sounded awesome to me. It's so simple, and turned out beautifully. I will be making this cheese again, and again, and again. And the combinations of flavorings, and herbs are truly endless. Tomorrow I'll be making goat cheese with lavender and honey. Yum!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mulberry Jam & Goat Milk

I need to get a move on things. I realized this morning that by this time last year, my canning adventures were well under way. I had already canned Blueberry Muffin Jam, Strawberry Jam, Strawberry Black Pepper Jam, Strawberry Mint Black Pepper Jam, and Peach Jam. I've pretty much had blinders on the last couple of weeks as we've been finishing up various projects here on the farm. We moved and expanded the goat yard (putting up fencing is really hard work in case anyone was wondering), converting one of our two barn overhangs into the new chicken coop, and gutting the old chicken coop to serve as the new goat house. It may not sound like much, but with just the two of us to do the work, my husband and I have been working our tails off. We had to get everything done by last Saturday night, as we were picking up three new dairy goats bright and early Sunday morning. I am SO pleased with these three new goats. They come from excellent milk lines, are stand trained (they're ever so patient with my newby milk maid hands), and well mannered. They are incredibly sweet, and snuggly.

Gingerbread (left), Butterscotch (Center), and Moon Pie (right).

Two of the new goats just freshened and are giving a quart to a quart and a half a day, and the third is a two month old doeling. We've never such a young doeling before, and I'm about to die of all the cute.

Two weeks ago, we drove two hours to pick up a goat in milk that we found on craigslist. We didn't find out until we got there that she had been running with several bucks, and may or may not be pregnant. Against my better judgement (and not wanting to waste such a long time on the road), we brought her home. She was almost impossible to milk. We didn't have a milk stand at the time (obviously a huge mistake that I'm laughing at myself for), and she wasn't familiar with the whole milking process (contrary to what we had been told by the previous owners, grrr). She kicked, and screamed, and kicked some more. After half an hour of struggling with her, we finally got about half a cup of milk out of her. Sigh. The milk was okay, but had a bit of a goaty taste to it. I can eat or drink just about anything, especially if its something I've worked so hard to obtain, so you better believe I used it!

Until we brought these girls home yesterday, I thought that was just how goat milk tasted; okay, but not up to snuff with cow milk. It turns out that goat milk sans buck scent is seriously incredible. I just polished off a pint of the stuff while writing this post. It's sweet, creamy heaven in a glass.

This morning as I was letting the chickens out of their new coop to free range around the farm, I looked over to see one of our many mulberry trees loaded with black, shiny berries. Oh my word. I grabbed a bucket, and began picking. While I was picking, the chickens discovered I had picked an entire bowlful of mulberries 'just for them'. 

I picked what I could reach, then laid down an old king sized sheet underneath the tree, and shook the branches like a mad woman! Good thing I don't have any neighbors... it looked a little like I was humping the air, and hanging onto the branches for balance.

The ducks got wind that there were mulberries to be had, and left their beloved pond to come get some.
Otis was very impressed with my harvest. He's pretty much the best cat ever. 

I ended up with five and a half cups of delicious berries destined for jam.

This recipe was adapted from the Ball Book of Home Preserving.

Mulberry Jam
makes 4 half pints

3 C. Crushed Mulberries (I leave the little stems on, but feel free to take them out)
2 C. Granulated Sugar
1/2 C. Lemon Juice
3 T. Ball Low Sugar Pectin
1/4 tsp. Butter (optional, it reduces foaming while the jam is cooking).

Prepare jars, and lids. Combine mulberries, lemon juice, and butter in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Whisk in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly. Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove lid and let stand in canner for additional 5 minutes. Remove jars, cool, and store.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Farm Update

It's been a while since I've posted. I haven't posted much in general in the last few months. Forgive me, it's a busy time of year, ya know. There are way more chores, and work to be done now that the weather is nice. I love it! I can say with utmost certainty that farm livin' is the life for me. 

Marmalade, out and about on the farm, looking for an afternoon snack.

Speaking of chickens (as always), the weekend before last, we gave the coop a fresh coat of paint. Random tip for anyone out there considering the same: get a paint sprayer! Something that would have taken us two days to do, took my husband twenty minutes. And it was HOT that day, so we were happy to get it done quickly.

Afterward, we cooled off by taking a dip in the pond. I'm not gonna lie, it took my husband a good twenty minutes of coaxing to get me to step foot in the water, and an additional twenty to get waste deep. The water felt so good on that hot day, but I'm a little more than freaked out by the thought of water snakes, and snapping turtles. Really though, can you blame me!?

 Our little girls are out free-ranging in the big world now. Two months old, and growing!

We have several Easter Eggers, and Olive Eggers, but I just couldn't wait another two months to get a blue egg. I'm impatient, okay? So I found a woman that had six pullets for sale (two blue egg layers in the mix). Though Priscilla here (a Silver Laced Wyandotte) lays a brown egg, she's pretty and very inquisitive; so she came home with me, too.

Whilst mowing the lawn back by the chicken coop one day last week, I spotted a very large bed of asparagus. Then quickly squealed with delight like a little girl. I love, love, love asparagus. It takes so long to establish, and with all the other stuff going on, I just didn't mess with planting any this year. This was a wonderful and tasty surprise that we enjoyed for dinner that night.

My fifty foot row of yard long beans have sprouted.
I planted a fifty foot row of three different types of cucumbers. I'm especially excited for the Mexican Sour Gherkins.

Three fifty foot rows of tomatoes went in a couple weeks ago. Seventy-two tomato plants in total. Can you say mega-super-ultra canning fun this summer?

This morning I spotted the first tomato bloom. Ripe, juicy, garden fresh heirloom tomatoes; need I say more?

 The garden so far. Right now it just looks like a somewhat tilled patch of dirt, but I promise there are plants in there! This weekend we'll be expanding the garden to make room for pumpkins, watermelon, and winter squash.

The fruit trees have long since lost their blooms, and now have tiny fruit. Peaches are one of my favorite fruits to preserve. Luckily it appears our peach tree will give us a good harvest this summer.

Good thing I make wine, otherwise I don't know what I'd do with all of the grapes we're going to get. I'm gonna be a wine making (and drinking) fool. You won't hear me complaining! You may not hear me at all; I may be off by myself, tipsy, and happily rolling around in the grass.

"Can I have some of those grapes you were talking about?" Broomhilda, you have something on your, uh... never mind.

And finally, my favorite chore of the day: collecting fresh, beautiful eggs. It just doesn't get any better than farm life, folks.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam

It's gorgeous outside. A little on the hot side dare I say, but I'm not complaining - I'll take eighty five degrees over thirty degrees any day.

We put the majority of the garden in over the last two weekends. We had planned on having a 60'x100' garden, but due to this being our first spring here and not knowing the quality of the ground, we ended up having to move the garden from the original plotted spot to a slightly smaller area in the pasture. The people that lived here before us kept horses, so the pasture closest to the barn is nice and fertilized. We put in seventy-two heirloom tomatoes, thirty heirloom peppers, a fifty foot row of summer squash, a fifty foot row of green beans, and a fifty food row of cucumbers. We use t-posts, and twine to support the tomatoes, and climbing vines. It's worked wonders for us so far. Sometime in the next week I need to plant the pumpkins, winter squash, watermelon, eggplant, corn, and garden berries. This will be my first year growing garden berries (garden huckleberries, and ground cherries), and I'm pretty excited to grow something that will give me fruit the first year. Eventually I'll add on to our little orchard, but I'm so darn impatient when it comes to fruit trees. I like quick results!

As a young 'un, I remember my granny and grandpa growing rhubarb in their garden. As an adult, I faintly remembered the smell of the freshly picked rhubarb, but the taste has been long gone. From what I gather, my granny was a pro when it came to strawberry rhubarb pies. She passed away when I was eight, and that was the last I saw or heard of rhubarb until this spring. I kinda forgot about it to be honest. I love gardening and growing new things, but never thought about planting my own rhubarb. I'm always more focused on tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and green beans when spring rolls around. You can imagine how delightfully surprised I was to find a rhubarb plant emerging from the ground when spring finally sprung a few weeks ago. Not wanting that beautiful red stalked veggie/fruit to go to waste, I knew it'd be my first canning project of the year.

Once I cut the stalks, and got a whiff of that sweet, apple-y, citrus-y aroma, I was totally bummed that I just had the one plant - though I should consider myself lucky! I ended up with three cups of chopped rhubarb, and knew that'd be just enough for a batch of tasty jam. Though the Ball Book of Home Preserving has a rhubarb BBQ sauce that I can't wait to try, should someone be sweet enough to throw some more rhubarb my way.

This recipe is adapted from the Ball Book of Home Preserving as I prefer using Ball's Low Sugar Pectin.

Rhubarb Strawberry Jam
makes 4 to 5 half pints

3 C. Chopped Rhubarb
3 C. Chopped Strawberries
2 1/2 C. Granulated Sugar
1/3 C. Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp. Butter
1 pkg. or 3 Tbsp. Ball Low Sugar Pectin

Prepare jars, and lids. Combine rhubarb, strawberries, butter, and lemon juice in a 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Over high heat, bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, stirring constantly. Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute. Remove from heat. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. Remove lid and let stand in canner for additional 5 minutes. Remove jars, cool, and store.

It's so good. I can't believe I lost so many precious years with rhubarb. Never again, sweet, delicious, rhubarb.... never again.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Farm In Bloom

Last week I moved the ducks down to the pond. And they haven't left. Seriously, they are refusing to go back to the coop. I didn't have much time to spend with them while they were 'growing up' (they're two months old now, and pretty much fully grown, its insane), so they aren't the tamest of creatures. I mean, they know I'm the woman that brings them food, but they're not tripping over themselves to snuggle in my lap. Which isn't a biggie, I enjoy having ducks on the pond so we'll always have a handful, but I doubt we'll be raising a ton of them over the years. If they start gettin' busy makin' babies (fingers crossed!), we've talked about processing ducks for meat in the future. But lets not talk about all that business... instead, look at how majestic they look floating on the pond! And who can blame them for not wanting to leave? They have a peaceful little pond all to themselves, complete with a mountain view. Lucky ducks.

Fishies! Feed them, and they will come. They remind me of the dogs when they hear me open something up that has a wrapper. We have several large catfish in here as well. I actually had to pull a frighteningly large, dead one out of the pond last week. My guess is that he froze during the winter, and died. He was pretty decomposed. Smelled great.

Our fruit trees are blooming. It seems that the whole farm is blooming really. Things are coming to life, and its just gorgeous. Nature leaves me in awe every spring. Each seemingly more beautiful than the last. I was going to add to our little orchard this spring, but I'm gonna wait and see what we have first. Based on the shape of the tree, and the pink bloom, I think this first one is a cherry tree. Fingers crossed!

I discovered a random patch of rhubarb in the yard. Its in the strangest place too, back by the chicken coop. I know nothing about growing rhubarb, so my plan is to just check on it every once in a while and hope for the best. Strawberry rhubarb jam, perhaps?

Hope you laid a pretty egg for me today Clover.
Clover: "So you're the egg thief!? How dare you!"

The little ones are ten weeks old now. They're getting so big, and sassy.

My pride and joy: my tomato plants. After a few years of unsuccessful attempts at growing plants from seed, this year I finally got it right. And you know what the secret is? Fluorescent lamps. If you live in a colder climate in which you have to start seeds indoors in late February/Early March, you must have grow lights to have strong, healthy plants. I fought it for so long because I didn't want to spend the money, but boy, oh boy was it worth it. I just moved them out to the greenhouse yesterday because the temps have been in the high fifteens/low sixties. These twenty beauties, and their fifty-two tomato sisters will be going in the ground in two weeks, and need to be slowly hardened off to the outdoors.

Thank sweet baby jesus, my peas are finally coming up. Three weeks ago I planted a packet each of snow peas, sugar snap peas, and shell peas in the ground. The next day it snowed. The weather went from sunny, mid sixties, to overcast and mid forties for the following week and a half. So I was quite annoyed, and worried my little peas would rot in the ground. This row of sprouting peas I found over the weekend was a sight for sore eyes. I'm relieved!

I've never been much of a flower kinda girl, but apparently the folks who used to live here really enjoyed them. We have daffodils, hyacinth, and rose bushes all over the yard. They're quite beautiful, they smell heavenly, and just might convert me over to the flower loving dark side. I'm dying to see what other surprises are waiting to spring up all over our property. I'm crossing my fingers for some honeysuckle, elderberry, and wild blackberry bushes. I hear wild wines calling my name.