Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Homesteading and Homemade Food

Aside from attending the renaissance festival, my weekends have been taken up making pumpkin puree, roasting pumpkin seeds, baking bread, making pasta, and canning.

The pumpkin seeds are so delicious.  A quick boil in salt water and baking in a baking sheet with some olive oil makes them crispy, salty, a little oily and just plain delicious.  They don't last long in our house.

This year, we had four San Marzano roma tomato plants.  My mom had one.  Her one plant produced more than our four combined - times five!  She was sick of dealing with the plant at the end of September, so she let us have whatever we wanted if we ripped it out for her.  We got almost 45 pounds from that one plant!


We laid all of the tomatoes out on the table in front of a window.  The red ones we picked out and threw into a freezer bag.  The rest, we let sit.


So when it came to sauce day, I knew we'd be set.  We'd have enough tomatoes to fulfill our needs all winter.  What I didn't realize was that I didn't have the equipment to deal with all of this at once!

Within ten minutes of putting the tomatoes into all of these pans, the black pan started to smell terrible.  Because of how the bottom of the pan was formed, the tomatoes instantly burned to the bottom.  So we pulled the tomatoes that were still good off and filled more pans.


The whole process was a bit stressful.  I kept having to shift sauce around from pan to pan in order to keep it from burning but to keep reducing.  I kept cooking and straining tomatoes for six hours.  I bet if I had a large stock pot, this would be a much easier endeavor.


In the end, though, it all worked out pretty well.  I would totally do this again next year if I'm properly prepared.

After the tomato sauce ordeal, I apparently had canning amnesia, because I bought two half-bushels of apples.

I'm thankful that apples last a long time, because it took me a couple of week to get around to processing them.


About half way through processing, I mentioned to my dad that it was really difficult to push the apple pulp through the sides of my strainer with a spatula.  I wanted to get a food mill one day.  The next day, he stops by with my grandmother's Foley food mill.  She used to use it for making ketchup.  My grandfather gave it to me to use since he wouldn't be using it.  It really makes work easier!

Since June, we've put up 16 quarts and 15 pints of peaches, 6 quarts of green beans, 16 half-pints of strawberry jam, 14 half-pints of peach preserves, 12.75 quarts of tomato sauce, 6 half-pints of tomato paste, and 41.5 half-pints of apple butter.  Every time I can something new, I only see the bit that I just did.  I feel a little good about it, but it still doesn't feel like enough.  Well, that changed today.  I went downstairs to put more apple butter in the pantry, and there wasn't enough room.  Over 1/3 of our pantry is home canned, and that is amazing.  Our strawberry jams are rapidly disappearing, though, because they are *B*'s favorite.  We will definitely be canning a bigger batch next year.

This past Saturday, we bought three fresh chickens from a local farmer.  These chickens are sustainably and humanely raised.  It’s the same farm where we get our pork.  The chickens look more bird-like than any other chicken I've ever bought.


I chose fresh chickens so that I could part them out myself and be able to use as much of the chicken as possible while giving us an easy source of meat on busy nights.  Part of using the whole chicken was rendering the fat.  I’ve never done it before, but we tend to eat skinless meat, so it seemed like a good idea.  I followed the tutorial on Penniless Parenting and it was fantastic!  The result was almost ½ a cup of shmaltz and some tasty fried chicken skin.


I've also been doing a couple of little projects.  I made homemade pasta on a whim using the 3 cups whole wheat flour to 1 cup water ratio to put into some chicken broth for an impromptu chicken noodle soup when *B* was sick.  I didn't consider myself a chicken noodle soup person in years gone by, but I am definitely a homemade chicken noodle soup person.  I realized it's just the canned stuff I can't stand.


I've made two batches of crackers now using the recipe from the Prudent Homemaker.  They're really good, but I'm having a hard time rolling them thin enough to be cracker-like.  For now, they're tasty pita-like bites.  I added 1 tsp of garlic the last time, and it made it brilliant.

Since it's getting cold and Christmas is coming, I picked up some yarn at our local store for a scarf for Miss F and presents for family.  I was amazed that the scarf took me just over 24 hours to make.  In a day, she got herself a new scarf to go with her red, pink, and white winter hat.

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