The last post was in September? That means it is time for a reboot. We’ve been busy on the food front even if it has been quiet around here…
September was a flurry of canning and preserving. Our second year has been mega-bonus-awesome: the peas just keep rolling out of the freezer with their superior flavor; our retirement carrots are snuggled in a box of peat moss; and the berries we foraged continue to please in smoothies, in cakes, and as tea-party-fancy jams. Once you have a shelf full of home-made jams that go beyond the level of grocery store standards, you too will understand why the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse are so blitzed at the table. There are so many jars left to eat by the time Rhubarb shows up in the spring that every week involves a guaranteed sugar rush of delectable proportions.
And then there are the pickles, relishes, and canned tomatoes. I look very sophisticated when I hold a dilly-bean like a cigarette.
Our winter months involved three epic-level feasts.
We hosted Thanksgiving with friends and family, which involved a gorgeous Turkey cooked under buttered-muslin. The farmers estimated that the birds would come in at around 16 pounds. When they showed up at the pick-up location, tired and haggard from a day of wrangling their fowl to slaughter, the still-warm Turkeys were all pretty close to 23 pounds. At Christmas we served up a large ham from Bill at Cow-A-Hen farm – delicious. On New Year’s eve we busted out a menu for our twelve guests that included a roast rib of beef (a special cut from where the delmonico steak is normally taken – special ordered from Brian at Stone Meadow Farm), sauteed mushrooms w/ red wine, balsamic onions, Yorkshire puddings, roasted garden beets and carrots, and an almond tart w/ brandied apricots. Yes, we rock. Good food and several excellent bottles of sparkling wine… a karmic score when it comes to launching a new year.
This year we’ll continue writing about our adventures in the garden, in the kitchen, and at the market. Here are some new skills we’ll be posting about:
Charcuterie – Dustin’s madre sent us an heirloom meat grinder from L.F.&C. Company from New Britain, Conn. We’ll share our experiences in the world of advanced meat cookery: sausage, pate, stretching, piecing, and rendering.
Cheese Press – Nancy’s madre sent us a cheese press, which has led to experiments in temperature and humidity control for aging hard cheeses. More dairy is on the way!
Four Season Gardening – It turns out that when fall rolls around is not the optimal time to begin thinking about trying a winter garden for the first time. We’ve gained some valuable experience with home-built mini-hoop-houses, and we still have greens that would otherwise have been long gone by now. We basically put in whatever seeds we had that could hack a little cold and had to scrape the bottom of the storage cupboard to make it happen. On the plus side, we have rosemary and kale waiting for us outside, and even had garden radishes for our holiday feasts! On the minus side, our cilantro is tiny (hope it goes into overdrive in March) and plenty of our seeds have yet to come up. This year we’ve ordered seeds with a mind toward the fourth season, and we’ll have a better jump on it before the chilly weather sets in and the sun scorns our northern clime for the great southy side of the planet.
Beekeeping – Finally found a farmer who is willing to let us put hives on their land for the upcoming year! (We rent in the middle of town.) For this project, we took our time to research things before jumping in. We met with a local producer last summer who imparted some of his hard-earned experience. We also attended bee-school at the community re-skilling initiative Spring Creek Homesteading. Our goal is to equally promote honey production and bee vitality, combating colony collapse by using Queens adapted to our local conditions and allowing the bees to keep a larger share of their honey stores during overwintering.
Brewing – Four batches in, and I know just enough to realize that we are absolute beginners at this! We are ambitious, though. Mash-tun ambitious. Growing hops ambitious. Yeah. Plus, we’ve pressed our own hard cider for the past three years, which counts for something. Our goal is to begin curating some of the really excellent homebrew knowledge out there, and you can count on us to put our homesteading spin on it.
Looking forward to a great year!