Welcome to Growbox Hill

Welcome to Growbox Hill
Welcome to Growbox HIll!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

And it's officially spring... pretty sure...

Started 3/22...
Weather has been below 20's overnight, but in the upper 30's to low 40's during the day. Supposed to start getting into the above freezing overnight temps next week... keeping my fingers crossed.

All the peppers have been repotted as of yesterday. Ended up with a reasonable amount- 1-3 plants per variety. I hesitated a bit overlong, but started a second pot of the Farmers Jalapeno yesterday- the last 8 seeds I had. I had a total fail last year from the seedlings, and this years sole seedling out of 5 seeds planted isn't looking too happy as far as I'm concerned.
I have found myself really short on the 3 gallon sized pots- but used a lot of them up planting bulb stuff that won't be ready to unpot before the peppers need their final pots... And I'm not sure if one brick of cocoa is going to be enough to fluff out the pro-mix and compost this year. So I'm going to need to head out to the grow shop tomorrow for the cheapest nursery pots to be had around town. And probably hit Menards for a new bale of pro-mix and a bag or two of compost. I have a few other big tubs and containers to top off and mix up a lot too.
I know I do a lot of other composting, but I prefer to grow my containers in a more reliably sterile and worked mix in a lot of ways. And this pepper container year is an important comparison year.

Most of the tomatoes are looking pretty good. Got 4 Freds, 1 strong and one popping Moon and a second coming along, only one Inca. Only planned on 2 Freds in the raised bed so if I got extra to fill in where the Moon and Inca does not, ok. One Waspi peach repotted up and going strong. The Coure is kind of, well, herm.. not sure yet. The weird cluster tomato never sprouted, though I'm still keeping it under the domes. If only the one Coure grows on, it's not so bad of a thing. I'm trailing into finally hitting the end of the tomato trials from the seed I got- last year is the final stuff before doing a big comparison year in 2020.

A couple recipes... Tinkered around with the large lasagna pan southern summer squash casserole to feed 6+ down to a 2 person with some lunches or 4 person with a salad kind of thing.....

small light southern squash casserole. And trust me, this is light compared to the original.

Large frozen chicken breast (about a pound), half a little bottle of moscato wine, the liquid from a drained can of mushrooms, and a heavy tablespoon of bacon fat.. cover and over low heat till the liquid starts burbling, then up to medium flipping the breast several times for about 15-20 minutes. The point here is to flash thaw in the liquid enough to cut it up before putting it back into the pan to finish cooking. Once you can slice and dice it up into bite size chunks, put it back into the pan and sprinkle with about a tablespoon or so of Cajun seasoning to and cover to simmer on med-low for another 10 min.

While that's going on, get your big bowl and start the sauce.
Medium onion, halved and sliced fairly thin
2 carrots, peeled and grated/chopped fine
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 can mushrooms, well drained- you drained that into the chicken fluid.
1T dried parsley
1T dried minced garlic
1T salt
1t dried thyme
1/2t black pepper
1 can chicken cream soup OR other cream soup+ packet of Golden G's
1/2 cup sour cream
Mix well and set aside till the chicken and squash are ready. 

Prepare your squash- I use 3 each of small zukes and yellow squash. Rinsed and sliced into generous inch slices. Set aside till the chicken is done. Once the chicken is done, there should still be liquid in the pan... leave it. Pull the chicken chunks off to a bowl and let sit on the counter to cool a bit, stirring occasionaly. Pour sliced squash into pan, and pour in enough water to cover. Cover the pan and kick it up to med-high and set the timer for 10 minutes.
Once it hits 10- water should be just hard burbling, the slices still rather on the crisp side of tender-crisp. Pull it and shock it.. I put a colander out on the front porch in the snow and dumped it out there- at 20 degrees outside, that shocked the slices right quick! That only needs about 10 min or so, enough to cool them, not chill them off.

I used the 1/3 pan as the prep pan for the raw squash to hold till they were blanching, then did the crust.. Oven at 350. Use the 1/3 pan and melt a stick of butter while the oven is heating up. Once melted, mix in a box of instant stuffing and pat down to the bottom of the pan to make the crust. Set aside till ready to build casserole. 

Time to assemble.
Mix the cooled squash into the sauce mix. Dump 1/2 the mix onto the stuffing crust. Evenly distribute the chicken across mix. Dump other half of mix on top.

Toast off Panko breadcrumbs... I'm not sure how much, I poured into a fresh dry pan and guessed about how much a sleeve of crushed up crackers would be. Enough to coat the top of the pan nice. Once it was toasting for a couple min but not turning yet, I tossed in about a T each of dry parsley and dehydrated minced garlic. Kept swirling around till stuff got it's toasty crunch on, then immediately poured off on top of the casserole.

Covered with foil and into the oven for 45 min and it's first temp check. Popped in the meat thermometer and was a bit above body temp, lol. Another 30 minutes and it was a piping 160. Pulled it out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes. Took off the foil on top and let it sit for another 15 minutes or so.

Made an extra good "smear". Kind of more dense than a ham or egg salad, but not quite a cream cheese spread. Deviled ham and egg.

For the sauce:
2 oz cream cheese- room temp or even warmer to mix in well with the Miracle Whip.
2 oz Miracle whip. Don't use Mayo here. The MW as a salad dressing makes a difference.
1 teaspoon smooth yellow mustard
A pinch each celery salt, white pepper, and garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dry dill
1 Tablespoon minced garlic greens- can use onion greens.
3-4 dashes red tobacso sauce. 

Into the processor..
1 cup diced ham
1 small onion
2 Milwaukee petite pickles 
1 teaspoon capers
Pulse several times till the ham is a crumble and the onion and pickles are fine
Add in 2 hard boiled eggs, quartered- pulse processesor a few times to get the egg worked in, then let it run for about 15 seconds to really fine everything up.
Into the fridge overnight- makes about 2 cups or so of spread stuff, great on wheat bread :)

3/23... Another lovely and sunny day. So dry I actually needed to water the outdoor pots of bulbs again. Not supposed to have rain again till early next week, with temps stabilizing above freezing!! Woot!! Good thing we got full tanks from over the wintertime.. coming up soon enough to be uncapping and digging out all the other containers in the kitchen area too.
Outside stabilizing over the weekend also means time to haul out most of the rest of the pots from the solarium of the bit more tender bulbs and all the mums. The mother mums are kind of scraggly but doing good- all the heldover daughters are doing really well. With any luck I should have a couple dozen plants to work with and choose from for setting into the front hibiscus bed early summer :)
Yes- this summer. Mums can establish in  very well if you get them in the ground early. Thing is, they are mostly sold in the fall when it's way too late to put in the ground....

Anywho. Fine day for running around. Hit the grow shop for some pots and a couple blocks of coco fiber. I have enough of the mid-sized peppers growing out nice that I realized I was short on the cheap pots. And I like using some coco in my container applications, and they got the cheap blocks of that. However, they don't have the cheap big bags of soil stuff or tomato cages.. of off to Menards.
Menards only had 2 bales of the pro-mix I usually use and is 14 bucks for 4 cu ft- but the bales were really damaged and I wasn't willing to haul that home in the trunk. But they had 2 cu ft bags of pro-mix for containers on sale for 15 bucks for the 4 cu ft worth. Fair enough. Between the new stuff and mixing in the old dirt, I should have enough to pot up all the peppers and top off a few bins that seriously need topping off.
Hit Meijer and picked up some nyjer seed and a new finch feeder on clearance- it's a two station version of the single sock one I currently have. It was on clearance so I said yes please. Also picked up 5 one pound bags of fresh spinach for 1.50 a piece. I've already wilted it all off in water and have it draining in the sink and cooling down right now to press in the fridge overnight.
I used the 8 quart wide pan with water and broke the 5 pounds into 2 batches worth of cooking. Worked way better than using a 8 quart stockpot for me. 
Tomorrow when the mass is well drained I will chop split it and do a batch each of creamed spinach and Italian spinach and beans. Good stuff for the freezer- I ran out of creamed spinach and been bummed, lol.
That reminds me.. there's a chest freezer out in the stable that I need to ask the neighbor about. Don't know if they plan on taking it or not, or if it works or not, or what. It would be sweet on a sweetstick if it works and they don't want it. We are loosing the little chest freezer soon enough, and I already have the upright one empty again.

Finally made a proper mileage run of the parks while out and about today. Normally I just pop in and around while doing other stuff anyway, but apparently I'm supposed to be claiming mileage for while I'm stopping at the parks. Turns out it's about a 10 mile round trip.

Decided to try out a green chili tonight. Normally I do up Chucks crockpot chili.. but didn't want to wait. Writing up the notes here while it slowly burbles and drives us up the wall with great smells.

Chicken and bean salsa verde chili

1 pound of raw chicken breasts, diced
1-2 tablespoons fat to sear off the chicken in- I like to use bacon grease
1 can of Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed.
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 head garlic- see prep notes
1 4 oz can diced green chilis, undrained- OR 2-3 fresh chopped hot/seasoning peppers of choice and 1/4 cup of liquid- you can do water, stock, wines, beers, ect.
1 16 oz jar of salsa verde- you can make your own.
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 package G Washingingtons Golden
2 cubes chicken demi-glace

Prepping the garlic. Stick the whole head of garlic in the microwave for 15-20 seconds depending on the size of the head. Let cool for a minute or two then cut off then slip the skins off the head with ease. You are using the whole cloves as is. Set them aside till later.

In a stockpot, melt your fat over medium high till it sizzles, then drop in the chicken to brown off. Unseasoned. Stir occastionally till you got some color going on and some juices are starting to render.
Toss in the onion and saute for 5-10 minutes, till onions get a bit soft but still tender crisp.
Add in the whole garlic cloves, stir, and saute another 5 minutes.
Dump in beans, chilis, salsa verde. Don't bother scraping out the two containers- instead fill each one up with water and swirl and drain into pot. This will end up being 2 1/2 cups water total.
Add in the chili powder, cumin, GWG's, and chicken cubes, and a teaspoon of kosher salt.
Simmer on medium high still with the cover on till it comes up to a hard burble, then drop the heat down to medium low uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want a kind of hard burble to evaporate off some water here early on.
Cover and drop the heat to very low- it should barely be showing burbling. Stir occasionally for another half hour to hour of active time depending on how tender you like your chicken and beans.
Kill the heat and uncover, and let rest for at least 15 minutes to let rest and cool down a wee bit, stirring a few times.

Takes a couple hours.. I started fussing around with the spinach action and working up the chili around 2. But not bad for firing up the pot a couple hours before dinner.

3/24: A bunch of gardening and cooking up spinach day. Last night I broke down a lot of the 2017 dried pepper stocks and tomatoes.. this morning I started the fresh dry and grind down, and set up a goodly batch of death spray of hot peppers, vinegar, and oil to steep.
Gave the bigger peppers their first deep drinkie of fertilized water and let them sit while I got some cocoa made up with nute water and fluffed with some pr-mix. Then repotted a bunch of them up deeper into solo cups and under the higher light. All of them are looking healthy and happy.
Did the two batches of spinach. About 2 pounds went with a can of beans for an Italian, and 3 pound went into a bigger batch of creamed spinach..
And also pulled out for dinner tonight from the freezer a pan of spinach and sausage stuffed shells for dinner. Needless to say we won't be eating the Italian beans and spinach or the creamed spinach with dinner tonight, lol. 

4/1: Happy Easter, Passover, and April Fools! We got the earliest of daffodils and hyacinths popping blooms though it's supposed to get down into the 20's tonight, sheesh. A bit chill for the season.
Been running 2 bots out in the solarium, one that's been running all winter, and a new one inside a bagged cage- and the cage runs an average of 5 degrees warmer than the solarium, which is running 8+ degrees warmer than outside. I'm in business for some plant shuffling.

I seriously love Ninjasmoke and CyberGro- the bots are so easy to use, just plug and play. The new harpoon is really cool too, right handy for monitoring and testing moisture and temp levels in big pots. I love it.

The finches have been looking like a bird feeder advertisement of rthe last few days on teh sock feeders. Been a joy of flashing color that makes me just dying to take the plastic off teh windows. But not quite yet, lol. Patience till the nighttime temps stabilize in a week or two.

With Easter season finally came a price break on lamb- so I started the process of making a huge batch of gyro meat for the freezer.  I was thinking about splitting the meats up and doing a batch of Shwarma/kefta too, but skipped the fussing for straight up gyro goodness. Started a couple days ago with pulling a heap of meats out of the freezer to the fridge to defrost. Yesterday I broke down the semi-boneless lamb shank and busted out with the grinder attachment for the mixer and ground up a heap-o-meat with onions, garlic, and herbs. Let sit in the fridge overnight and baked it off this morning. It's cooling on the counter right now. I'm burbling a batch of lamb stock with the bone bits, and so far it's just reducing down on the back burner and concentrating in flavor. I'll keep reducing it down like I did the last couple times with chicken and ham stocks to get that 6-8 quarts of freezer space shrunk down into a more 12 oz of cubes size.
What I did for the gyros. We can't afford straight lamb by a long shot, so I've been building up other meats to work in, hoping to catch ground lamb on clearance or sale since it's so expensive- 10 bucks a pound that I can occasionally find on sale for 8 bucks a pound. But because Easter, I was able to pick up a 4 pound shank for 5 bucks a pound. Thought it was boneless, but it wasn't- so had to break it down. 2.5 pounds meat for the gyros, and 1.5 pounds of scrap for making stock with. Not too bad. Effectively got the meat for the cheap 8 bucks a pound price, with scrap for a batch of stock too.

4 lb semi-boneless lamb shank- yield 2.5 pounds meat
2 lb ground beef
2 lb ground turkey
1 lb, 6 oz cubed pork meat- the pack I made was a that wee bit over a pound, oops
1 lb ground veal

I ran the lamb chunks through the coarse plate on the grinder, then ran the pork chunks through the grinder. While those went back into the fridge to chill, I made batches of seasoning stuffs. Yes, this is about 9 pound worth of meat.

I use a 3-4? cup food processor. It's an old Emmie I picked up cheap second hand. So I can do 3-4 small or a couple medium onions rough cut at a time. I cut into eights to make it easier.
I made 3 batches of seasoning mix. Totaled out at about 5 cups worth of mix. If I had a huge 14 cup food processor this could all be done in one batch- but sometimes I find I like doing a few smaller batches of mix like this too- I started out with 2 batches totaling about 3 1/2 cups, then was able to adjust the last batch a wee bit to make it total out to the 5 cups. In a big processor you can't fine tune the final amount quite so much.
Each batch had:
full of onions
1 head garlic
1T, 1t dried oregano
1T, 1t dried marjoram
1T, 1t fresh rosemary- about 3-4 nice sprigs of prone and upright rosemary.
2T kosher salt
1 t coarse cracked black pepper

You can use the nuke-a-head trick with the garlic here. 15 seconds in the nuker and the skins break off the heads beautifully. Pulse your onions and garlic a bit to break them down to a fine dice. Add the rest of the seasonings, then pulse it down into a fine mince and all the green is even.

To mix- you will need 2 large bowls. Split the meats and seasoning into each. 4.5 lb meat, 2.5 cups of seasoning mix per bowl. Mix it by hand really well to incorporate everything. Then pop both bowls into the fridge to chill for an hour or two.
Then working one bowl at a time, run the mix through the coarse plate on the meat grinder again. Since I started out with decently ground meats and fine mince seasoning mix, I was satisfied at that. And didn't feel like running it through the fine plate, the mix looked great.
Then the two bowls sat overnight in the fridge to let the flavors marinate in well.

In the morning, I pulled out the meat mixes and let them sit on the counter for an hour to take the chill off them a wee bit while I got the baking equipment together. A deep roasting pan for a waterbath, and the deep half hotel pan to bake the loaf in. Kicked on the oven with the roasting pan and water in it to heat up while I set up the loaf.
Dumped both bowls into the half hotel pan and mashed them together a bit and worked the mass down. After it was smooth, did the nice finger tucking around the edges. By then the oven was hot and had heated the bath to steaming, so the loaf went in uncovered.
At one hour in, time to check it. It read at 150 degrees, and the thermometer was solid in the meat, ready to be left in. Sucked out 2 cups of liquid with a turkey baster. Closed the oven and set the timer for another 15 minutes. Temp check was at the nice 165-170 range, time to pull it out. Pulled out the baking pan, left the water bath in the oven to cool down with the oven.
Immediately sucked out another pint and a quarter of juices with a turkey baster.
Then a processing trick. I made sure the slab of meat was loose in the pan, then flipped the whole thing out into my sheet cake pan that is sitting on a cooling rack. Then put the half hotel pan right on top of the slab. Lined the pan with plastic wrap real quick to help keep it clean withhout cleaning, then stacked a half dozen quart cans of V-8 into the pan, then stacked a couple of my heavy cast iron pans on top. I've gone by over the last hour or so sucking out the juices that accumulate in a corner of the pan. I think total I've drained off about 3-4 oz of fat, and 5 cups water. Maybe a bit more.
But now I have eight dense 12 oz loaves of gyro goodness meat finishing their cool off on the counter and will be wrapped up for the fridge overnight. I'll slice down the chilled meat to a 16-18-packages of meat slices by the time I'm done.

It's a lot of work, true. But with zero gyro action around here, this is 16-18 worth of gyro lunches and dinners for many months to come. 36 bucks worth of ingredients, mostly the meat and a few cents worth of onions and the herbs I didn't grow myself.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I'm gonna have a greenhouse!!!!

SQUEEE!!!!!!! I'm gonna have a green house, a real glass greenhouse!! As in been dancing around singing "I got a golden ticket" but with got a greenhouse in the lyrics, hehehehe. I just gotta figure out about building it, lol.

So, today I was chatting with the neighbor.. Warm weather has come and so has the time for him to get the barn cleared out. And we were talking about what I might want or not, what he needs to get rid of, and so on.. there's a lot of stuff packed into the barn. Random house construction stuff, and furniture, big stuff, little stuff, boxes of stuff.. lol. A couple lifetimes of stuff stacked up.

While wandering around the bays of the barn, he pointed out some windows- and told me I could make a greenhouse with them. There are several scattered around the barn. And I told him yes, please, I've often thought about the windows he has stored in our pole barn and dreamed about such a thing... his response was "My windows? Heck, the're your windows now." He got them over years of doing houses and has no room to store them anymore, especially since the barn is ours now too.

Between what I know is in the pole barn and I've been dreaming over for years and what I've seen so far in the barn... I'm going to be able to build a decent sized greenhouse with all of it. And I got a couple spots to choose from- and right now could pull out some panes to quick set up for cold frame action if I wanted to. How darn keen is that?

Originally when we got here I started using the kennels and surround for gardens, and often thought it would be awesome to have a greenhouse where the kennels are. Nice cement pad, good posts. Been using it for years, and more recently in fall 2016 my sis and I wrapped and capped it in plastic for a greenhouse. It was freaking awesome. It was freaking awesome though this winter too. Though the roof was off, the walls made a great shelter for plants from the winds. But this spring shows damage to the plastic, and I want to start taking down garden side walls anyway to use the walls as trellis space this year.
Now, I could still do that, but I'm already converting front yard over into more perennial and floral spaces to a great extent. And I have been thinking about the back 40 for the last 3 years or so while we were paying off and securing the property. 

Since the early days, we have closed on the back 40, and now I have the stable and stable yard that is going to be the location of the new big garden. Already knew I was going to be taking over that area for the future garden. It's already fenced in, with gates, and nothing but horse poop stomped down for years in the whole area. And today after being just flat out given all the glass in the pole barn and whatever is in the barn.. and touring around the stable for real a bit today. And really took in how big the actual stableyard is..
Whew. Think maybe the future greenhouse really will be in the garden. There's a lot of yard and a lot of glass around.
And also, perhaps a buildup of scrap and such wood-wise that might be had too. Or other odds and ends.

So.. what to do with greenhouse action? After this unexpected windfall of having the glass costs covered... now comes the time to think about foundation.....

And I've been dreaming about greenhouses for years. We could do a rabbit hutch floor, or a blast furnace system.. or perhaps a hybrid. I need to pull together some information, and plans, and such.. a 2019 glass raising might not be too out of the question.

The yard.. looking out over it today I kind of thing it might be too much garden.. but then again, maybe not.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

And months go by..

So life has been going on over the last couple months. Not much worth chattering about, unsurprisingly and happily enough.

The deep snow for the weeks melted off, the extra deep cold went away. Then some more- then a couple weeks ago we got some record flooding around here. Today has a light white blanket and green stuff poking through the snow... should melt off soon enough.

The swans returned to their island a week or two ago, nice to see them back. I didn't do any suet cakes this year, but I did fill the seed feeder for the first time a day or two ago- haven't been eaten much yet, but that will change soon enough, lol.

Gardening has been going on for weeks of course- I started setting up set up in late January. This year is going to be a big pepper year- I'm comparing several varieties from over the years as well as a few new ones added into the mix. Since I had such a nice bumper crop of Aji Limon and Tobagao seasoning peppers last year that I still have a large stock of, I decided not to grow those this year.
So, right now under the lights and growing well..

Peach Habinaro, for 1 plant. I needed to replenish my dehydrated stock on this on this year
Mako Akokasrade, for 1 plant. I've grown this one before, and it made it onto the keeper list
Trinidad Perfume, for 1 plant. I grew it last year, but I think the growing conditions might have jacked it's scoville all weird or it might have been off seed, so I'm trying it again this year to find out.
Fish, for 3 plant. I've grown this one before, made the keeper list. But it wasn't a very heavy producer, so I'm doing extra plants this year.
Urfa Beiber, for 3 plants. Grew it last year, and it was wonderful, needed to grow more.
Bulgarian Carrot, for 1 plant. I've grown this one before, made the keeper list
Fresno, for 1 plant. New to the list this year.
Red Hot Cherry, for 4 plants. Specifically for pickling, the local markets don't always have enough for a good round of pickling.
Farmers Jalapeno, for 1 plant. Tried it last year, but had a seedling failure, so retrying
Feher Ozon Paprika, for 4 plants. New to the list this year, and the only true sweet on the list. For fresh eating and drying.
Black Hungarian, for 1 plant. Grown in previous years, and a keeper
Santa Fe Grande and Costeno Amarillo- 1 plant. I somehow managed to tag 2 pots with Costeno, and don't seem to have a Santa though I have it on my written list. Only 1 of the pots sprouted 1 seedling, so we will see what it actually is when it starts producing fruit. They are very different, so the mix up could have been worse. Haven't grown the Santa before, and have grown the Costeno before.
I will likely pick up a couple weapons grade peppers from a local nursery depending on how it strikes my fancy- I am out of dried peppers for garden use, but didn't feel like growing out a bunch from seed, wanted to concentrate on the seasoning peppers this time around. Finding them fresh in season around here can be kind of hit or miss. The shop usually doesn't have them, but the big nursery almost always does. Too bad the closest nursery turned out to be such a crappy place to work with and finding out about their bad plant management practices causing some problems- it has really crashed badly since that lady manager took over the place.

Anywho.. on to tomatoes :) Keeping it fairly small this year, just like I did last year. Two raised beds- a 6 pack of shorties and a pair of towers, and a snacker on the corner of the porch. This year I'm growing varieties of a bit longer maturity so I started them about 10 days earlier than I did last year- I think part of my Roman Candle crappy was I shorted it on time. The Speckled Romans made it onto the keeper list though. Just started the seeds last week. I decided to completely skip a cherry comparison year- we just don't ever eat cherries on that scale, and just the one snacker a year is plenty. So went to culling off a few of the oddities and final stuff on the list instead.

Wasipinicon Peach- for the snacker tub. It's a large cherry/saladette size, and has a slight fuzz to the skin. New for this year.
Riesentomate- one of the two towers. A weird cluster tomato, growing it for novelty pretty much. Hope it really grows as the cluster tomato and it isn't mislabled and actually the small bracketed tomato.
Coure di Bue- one of the two towers. Big meaty heart- new this year, keeping it in mind against last years Speckled Roman.
And in the 6 pack is a pair each of..
Dwarf Wild Fred- had to source out new seed for this year, but of course Freds are on the list
Moonglow- an orange to see how it faires, going up against the Juane Flame notes of previous years
Inca Jewels- a red plum, picked up a random packet of it last year, but the only kind of interesting shorty I have left on the list that isn't too short.

Kind of have the rest of the garden plans for the year too. This year is another year of trying to control the squash bugs with careful planting and use of the bug spray. And I'd like to start securing the stable and stable yard for future garden action. Get all the potted trees and fruits planted in out back. Planning on taking down the garden-sides of the greenhouse this year to use the walls for trellis action this year- and making the porch nicer for hanging out. Get a couple rolls of mesh to make some new cages and enclose the big lasagna bed.
A bunch of beans- Painted Lady Runner on the kitchen porch for the hummingbirds and us to enjoy the blooms and fresh beans. Sunset Runner for blooms and fresh beans to grow with Marketmore cukes on the greenhouse trellis where I grew morning glories and peppers last year. Yard Long for fresh eating and pickling, and True Red Cranberry for dry use trying out on the back greenhouse wall. And enclosing the large lasagna bed with mesh to try to grow a couple kinds of edamame this year. Want to grow out the asparagus crowns in pots for another year to get bigger and get that bed set up with some fix before planting in 2019. Thinking about growing out some Bumblebee bush beans in the stair corner, but not for sure about that yet.
Needing new mesh for cages and panels- gonna cap the open ends of the kennel this year. And use towers on the posts. Jelly Melon, Eden's Gem Melon Rich Sweetness Melon, Golden Midget Watermelon, and Mexican Sour Gherkins are going to be growing up all that. I trying to be extra hardcore with the melons this year- I've had mostly poor luck over the years, so trying again. To finish out the kennel gardens will be greens, root veggies, nasts, and calendula. I'm doing all calendula instead of regular marigolds this year for medicinal reasons.
Rounding out the list is back at the kitchen garden. A second trellis panel next to the Painted Lady beans to trow Tatume squash- they are a vining squash that has small summer rounds and squash bugs are supposed to not like it. And a container zuke- Astia. Three kinds of winter squash made it onto the bed list- Winter Luxury Pumpkin, Kakai Hulless pumpkin for eating seeds, and Thelma Sanders.
Of course a few herbs and some flowers. I got a LOT of potted bulbs and irises to distribute around the yard this year too. Some of that is going out back around the gardens and trees.

Friday, January 19, 2018

2017 preservating tally

Started 3/15
I apparently haven't really done any preserving yet... but I have been going through the shelves of canned and dehydrated good and started making some tallies. I will for sure need to make some of this year...and some stuff to be scrapped. So some catch up notes first.

Pickled zuke cubes and pickled green tomatoes are icky, don't make those again! Pepper relish is good, but the one batch I made is still hanging around, we just don't eat much relish.

We are finally down to about just a full case of jellies and jams left. I didn't make anything last year because we had so much to blow through, and we still got a lot left. A few jars will probably go to the birds this spring when they start coming in. But dang, we really are slow eaters of the stuff.

Getting down to a last few jars of salsa too... A few jars left, and probably at least a small batch of salsa will get done this year.

Enchilada sauce.. 2015 batch was 34 pints, 10 half pints. We are now down to our last two jars and will be needing much more canned up this year. I did up batches of 5-9 pints at a time in the slow cooker and then canned them up, and will do the same this year. Also was kind of nice to have mild, spicy, and smokey kinds, so will be repeating that as well.
Still have a few jars of all the other random sauces too, but not many. I might need to make up a batch of steak sauce this year. 

The half bushel of beets I did up last year looks like it will hold out till at least the end of the season when beets are available this year. Yielded a full 24 case of pint jars.

Did up a few batches of Brussels last year, about 18 pints worth, plus a couple quarts of ferments. That will likely last us till the time when they start becoming available in the fall as well.

About 15 pints of sweet and sour onions last year, and I think perhaps those will hold till 2018 canning time comes- those go a bit slower.
A few half pints of pickled jalapenos are still on the shelf too. We had a large commercial jar in the fridge to use up first. A small batch of those this year wouldn't be a bad ides.
A few jars of spicy and dilly beans, so maybe just a batch or so each of those will work nicely for this year. 

In dire need of more this year is Lemony Cauliflower, pickled mushrooms of the canned and fridge types, some spicy Mexican carrot ferment, and asparagus. Wax pepper rings, cherry bombs, and pepperonchini too. And oooh, the pickled radish and carrots, those were divine and went far too fast. And Pickled nasturtium capers- A quart and a pint is too much, a pint too little. I think this year will be a pint and a half jar.
Will be canning up some tomato sauce too depending on how things go, it's a bit lower on the list of tomato products after enchilada sauce and some salsa.

Some yums to repeat are pickled edamame, fridge pickled Asian peapods, and garlic scapes if I can.. we got no hardneck set for this year so that's pretty iffy. Lime zucchini fridge pickle spears too, damn those are good.

Dehydrating- we still got heaps of corn and kale, and various peppers of smoked and unsmoked kinds. A bunch of those are going to get ground up to restock the pantry spices, so I will need to do up a round of fresh dried hots and smoked hots, particularly the seasoning peppers I'm growing this year. Pretty stable on most everything else. Always need more mushrooms. And will for sure be drying up a quart or three of tomato slices- those sure are nice. Dead out of onions and breadcrumbs, so will need to keep an eye out for onions on sale and time to make some nice bread. And dried nasturium leaves and perhaps flowers this year. The leaves are really nice peppery herbal used like most other herbs, and I think trying out the flowers would be interesting as "finishing herbs".

Freezing- Need to keep an eye out for butter sales- 2 pounds of chive butter is for sure not enough to get us through the year. Will need to do 4 pounds this year. Don't freeze squash slices to try to make casserole later on, they suck, a lot. IQF asparagus is better than freezing them together in a vacuum sealed bag. Stock rotation has been going well and regular- we did up a last big batch of turkey stock after Thanksviging and still have some, and a couple ham stocks with bones ready to go for the next batch. Want to do a nice round of chicken stock soon. And I think I would like to keep my eye out for some good beef bones to do up a nice batch of a demi-glace cubes, and maybe if I can lay my hands on some veal bones...  that will probably happen when I can do the process in the closed solarium or even outside. The smell of roasting beef bones kind of churns my stomach, even more so if I pince them. Ew. But makes for smashing results in flavor, lol.
For whatever reason, some of the nasturtium pesto cubes were showing blooming- a white on the leaf pesto, and a greenish black on the flower pesto. Only in a couple trays, but I scrapped the whole batch just in case the other ones just weren't quite showing it yet.

Herbs- still finding it more cost effective and usable to buy dried minced garlic, thyme, and dill. Sage, rosemary, and tarragon are mostly house grown now, though in the winter we do still buy a lot of dried rosemary, and probably will keep doing so till I get that hedgerow established. Parsley is still better off commercial, but we do like to keep our kitchen box of the fresh stuff too. Homegrown oregano is likely to take over this year. Savory and marjoram are still more fresh use due to limited plants.

3/16: got some pickling done today! Hardings had a couple 12 oz bags of snap peas and a couple pound bags of organic mixed colors baby carrots for 99 cents each. So.... for about 5 bucks worth of ingredients.. Made 4 quart jars and 1 pint jar of pickles

Snap peas first. These are all fridge pickles, and take 4-6 weeks to really cure up and start tasting good.
This takes 2 cups each of water and white vinegar + 1/8 cup of pickling salt for the basic brine. I ended up making an extra half cup of just the 50/50 mix to top off the pint jar.
1 quart of Asian style snap peas: Add to quart jar
1t peppercorn
1t hot pepper flake
1-2" of ginger root, peeled and sliced
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
2T rice wine vinegar
1 1/2T mushroom soy sauce

1 quart Hot Asian style snap peas: Add to quart jar
Same as above with pepper subsitute: 1/2 t hot pepper flake, and add a whole half of a smoked Inferno banana pepper

1 pint of Zesty Lime Asian style snap peas: Add to pint jar
5 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
3 dried lime slices
4 smoked Aji Lemon peppers
1" garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 t peppercorn
1 1/2 T regular soy sauce
1/12 T rice wine vinegar

On to the carrots. I used 1 pound bag per quart jar, one is a ferment, the other a fridge pickle.
1 quart of lacto-fermented carrots
Loose pack the carrots and a few springs of thyme into the jar and set aside till the brine is ready and cooled to room temp.
4 c water
1/4 c kosher salt
2-4 bay leaves
1 dried hot chili- I used 5 dried serrano halves from 2014, they were the last couple in the jar and I figured they were probably kind of heat dead by now, lol. And if it's extra spicy, that's ok too :)
Once the brine is room temp, pour off the liquid and set aside for topping off. Pour rest into jar, making sure you get all the spices into the jar first. Cap up and let ferment between 55-75 degrees for 2-3 weeks, or till the burper stops burping. Put in fridge after that and start eating.

1 quart of Zanahorias En Escabeche- use a 4 quart pot for this.
1 pound carrots
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1 large onion, sliced on the radial
5-6 bay leaves
1 T peppercorns
1 t kosher salt
1 T dried oregano- I had a handful of fresh springs and used 1 t dried
Hot peppers, I tend to use a mix of what I got, today it's used dried sweet, 1 half each smoked sweet and hot banana, and hot banana peppers rings
2 cups each of water and white vinegar
1-2 teaspoons olive oil- just enough to lube the bottom of the pan for the saute.
Saute onions, garlic, and peppercorns on higher heat till there is some browning and the onion is just getting translucent.
Add in carrots and peppers, and saute for 5-8 minutes, just to gloss everything together.
Add in water, vinegar, salt, and bay leaves. Leave carrots to simmer till tender crisp.
Pull from heat, and leave to cool down to warm to room temp- this will finish off the cooking before it hits the fridge.
Jar up, and leave on counter for another 30-60 minutes to really get to room temp before cap up and pop into the fridge for 2-4 weeks before tasting.

Though we tried to stretch it as much as possible, used up the last of the chive butter last night. The wild chive plushies aren't quite popping up yet, they need a couple more weeks, April seems to be when I've been making batches up over the last few years.

3/26: Hardings had butter, 2 for 6 bucks. I picked up 4 for the freezer. They also had a handful of 99 cent mushrooms, so I got 3 each of button and baby portas, and made a half gallon jar of fridge pickled mushrooms.
3 pounds mushrooms
1 T whole allspice
2 T peppercorns
2 T canning salt
6-8 bay leaves
A few sprigs thyme- toss half in for the cooking, and other half into bottom of canning jar
2 medium onions, cut on radial
1 whole head garlic, peeled
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 3/4 cups water
Simmer up till mushrooms have reduced in size by about half, and the white button mushrooms start turning darker. Kill heat, pack jar, let cool to room temp uncovered- cap, and into the fridge for a month or so before eating.

4/15: chives are finally plush enough to make chive butter! made 4 pounds of chive butter today, it's currently in the freezer getting hard to cut into smaller sticks. I like to use an equal ratio of salted and unsalted butter, and shittons of chives, around a cup or so per pound.

4/22: made two pounds of garlic greens butter- we actually had an excess of greens!

5/8: Meijer had mushrooms 11 for 10.00, so we picked up a ton- 33 tubs of baby bellas and button mushrooms. That's 16 1/2 pounds! 3 pounds of half and half went into the dehydrator- makes 2 quart jars. 3 pounds of half and half went into making a half gallon jar of fridge pickled mushrooms.

5/9: another 3 pounds of half and half mushrooms into the dehydrator. These dried up to a full quart and a little less than a full quart- I left the not full one out for regular use.

5/10: 7 8oz jars of canned pickled mushrooms done.

5/18: 10 pint jars of pickled asparagus done, used Food in Jars recipe. Blew two of the lids while uncapping, so those went into the fridge.
Just barely had enough pickling spice to make the asparagus, so I made a quadruple batch of pickling spice. Pretty much what's in the ball book, with extra bay leaf and left out the powdered ginger and cardamom since I'm out of that. I wanted to more closely mimic the pickling spice I get at GFS than the pickling mix I often make that has more powdered ingredients. It refilled the pickling spice jar about 2/3ish full.

3-4 cinnamon sticks, crushed up in the spice grinder to a fine bark
40 bay leaves, crushed up- I used the spice grinder, and kind of filled it twice
1/2 cup mustard seed
1/4 cup whole allspice
1/4 cup coriander seeds
1/4 cup whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup dill seed
1/8 cup hot pepper flakes
4 teaspoons cloves

6/18: had a full harvest of Helios radishes badly needing harvesting. So far there's a nice large heap of small ones for fresh eating.. A full load of radish greens dehydrated to a 1 quart yield, and a couple experimental fridge pickles. A couple relishes, one called Farmer Dave's that came out in a 12 oz jar, the other 1720 Chatsworth House, which packed into a 8 oz widemouth jar. I also dried up about a pint jar of Italian pizza crust bread crumbs.

6/21: I split the Farmer Dave're relish up- the whole thing needed a bit of black pepper, and I divided the batch so I could put red pepper flake into half- the repack ended up using 2 4oz jars. Also made another batch of the 1720 relish, this time a whole pint jar.

6/25: Softneck garlic was ready to harvest! I ended up with 3 sizes of about equalish amounts. Big enough for proper curing off, 5 bundles of a dozenish heads eachare now hanging in the spare bedroom to cure. Today I sat down and peeled all the little heads, and got a heaping 4 cup measure full of tiny little heads. I pickled them whole and ended up with 6 pints of pickled garlic :) Picked all the little bulbis out of the stems, and used them to make Pickled Shoyu Garlic Bulbis for the fridge, 8 oz jar. Peeled up some medium heads and made a batch of Italian sweet pepper and garlic mix for the fridge.

8/14: Geez, have I lagged behind with entries. Around mid-July we got in some of our earliest summer squashes- I did a half-gallon jar of fridge lime-zukes, and a pint and a half jar of spicy lime-zukes.
We have run out of nast capers :(. The radish relishes are awesome and long gone. Cracked into the pickled garlic- they have skins, but nice sized perfect cloves come out when pinched just about as easily as when you roast garlic. The Shoyu Garlic Bulbis is almost gone, those were extra spectacular- more reason to start a nice mother patch or few out back.
Toothache plant- just put the third dried batch in the freezer this morning. A few weeks ago I picked the first flush, about a quart dried. Second flush yielded up about quart and a half dried. Third flush about a quart dried. 
Anywho, today... The garden is growing in, and got a dozen beautiful fresh picked Ambrosia ears of corn yesterday.  So this morning I shucked and cut off the kernels- none of us like eating on cob much. Got a nice quart of kernels in the fridge to make some chowder with, and another quart or so in the freezer for later. And five quarts of lovely corn stock, yum. Gonna use a quart for the chowder, but then four for the freezer. And the first good flush of Roman Candle Tomatoes were ripe, loosely filled 3 trays on the dehydrator- the rest of the tomatoes, Freds and Roman Candles, that we don't eat up tomorrow will be put in a Ziploc bag for the freezer to keep till I get more tomatoes in.

8/15: 1 quart, 1 pint of portabella mushrooms dried up

8/23: First flush of tomatoes is in! Got 6 pints of Smokey Spicy Enchilada sauce in a couple half gallon jars cooling on the counter to go in the fridge overnight to cure up. Already have the next batch of Freds cored and in a container for the next batch, this one is going to be a mild garlic. Pulled 10 pounds of tomatoes to the freezer to make a big batch of Garlic salsa with.

8/24: Got 6 pints of Mild Garlic Enchelada sauce in a couple half gallon jars cooling to go into the fridge to cure up. The farm stand had lovely large heads of fresh cauliflower for 3 bucks each- the salsa tomatoes will stay in the freezer for now, I'm going to be canning up a couple heads worth of lemony cauliflower first.

8/25: 14 half pints of Mild Garlic Enchelada sauce canned. Full pint of hot pepper powder ground up and in the pantry.

8/26: 14 half pints of Smokey Spicy Enchilada sauce canned, 6 pint and a half of Lemony Cauliflower canned.

8/27: a quart jar of fridge Milwaukee pickles- I froze up brine a while back, and am doing a jar of fresh cuke spears to see how well or not it flavors up.  Set up another crock of enchilada sauce, this time just regular to do pints with. It yielded low, about 5 1/2 pints, because I used more romans than freds.

8/29: Got the next batch of regular sauce in the fridge, it yielded a high 7 pints.. so I will get my dozen pints canned off.

8/30: Got a round of hot peppers smoked off and in the dehydrator.

8/31: Got 12 pints of enchilada sauce, and 8 half pints of pickled edamame done.  There's one half pint of edamame that didn't seal that makes for 9, it's in the fridge. The peppers have been pulled and are lovely. I smoked off 6 pie tins of Roman Candles, it's in 3 trays on the dehydrator now. I topped then quartered them off because they are so nice and long. Two tomatoes of 8 quarters per pie tin, 2 smoked pie tins per dehydrator tray. Overnight drying to get them really good and crispy before vacuum sealing off.

9/2-4: The tomato trays ended up fill a 1 quart jar when done, they took forever. Got a batch of 14 half pints of Flaming Fred enchelada sauce done, and 5 pints of sloppy joe sauce.

9/8: 2 quarts, 1 half pint of Italian sauce cooked up and chilling in the fridge. 6 pints of enchilada sauce chilling in the fridge.

9/12: 6 pints, 5 half pints of Italian sauce, 6 pints of enchelada sauce, and 5 pint and a half of Lemony Cauliflower canned up. 2 12 oz jars of Magic Dust, and 2 8 oz jars of Veggie powder jarred up.

9/29: 1 8 oz jar of dried Trinidad Perfume, 1 quart jar of dried Tobago seasoning, and 1 pint jar of smoked Aji Limon peppers jarred up.

10/8: 32 cubes of Ham DemiGlace in the freezer. This is a reduction from 8 quarts of heavy ham stock, so 2-4 cubes per batch of whatever. And the freezer space is about a quarter of what it normally would be. 12 oz of squash flour ground and jarred up. 

January, 2018- Gosh, I did do some preserving after the beginning of October. Got some turkey stock made and a couple rounds of dehydrating done. But now it's 2018 and I need to publish this list.. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

White Christmas needed to stop, then it did

Well then, Mama N.

Snow started mid-day Christmas Eve... and only stopped for a couple hours here for two weeks. The neighbors were kind enough to push us a few times through the snow.. at one point I went out and measured the snow standing on the birdfeeders..... over 15 inches of snow, and that was before the last heavy couple days of snowfall.. We usually get this much snow over the winter, sometimes a lot at a time.. but this was the first year we have been hit for so long without any break with so much snow buildup. And the whole time we were in a deep cold spell- I'm really happy I got the bug to really cap all the windows inside this fall, I think it really made a difference heating-wise during this cold snowy spell.
Well then.. today we hit an almost record breaking high of 60. All the snow is melted off except for the big plough pileups here and there. Springtime warm with a lot of fog off the remaining snowdrifts. Fine day to finally get out south and hit the craft stores.
Tonight we are under a winter storm watch.. cold front moving in leaving us with an inch or two of white.

I'm glad I got out today while I did. I got some excellent deals at the craft stores today. A 45 dollar Lemax jeweler for only 8 bucks. And a stack of organizers on sale. Some at Michaels at 50% sale+25% off total purchase coupon. And a couple of 30% ones at Jo-anns- had a 5 bucks off total purchase too for there. I'm accumulating enough little bits to make minis and minis building up to need some more reasonable storage for it all, lol.
Been working on some projects- I got a set of large market boxes done, and drafted up and made a new small market box set. A four set of ploughmans boards. Working on a half dozen fish and chips, and a bunch of bits to pull together into brown paper bag lunches.

Making a jewelers display counter. Because while I was making that, was thinking about what to display naturally.. and started checking around online more for inspiration than anything else. Holy fuck. If I thought mini food and some other minis stupidly expensive and I got skill enough to suit myself... mini jewelry is just insane. Relearned how to use a regular wire jig to downscale to make tiny jewelry. And had the dickens of a time finding flocked paper today to make mini displays with. Found some small sheets of flat black only. Found a couple sheets of an odd pressed white stuff on clearance that might work nice too. Everything else is flats/matts and glitters right now.

I've been taking a bunch of pics and notes of stuff while making things recently. More to keep track of what I'm doing while building than anything else. Might post up some tutorials for future reference soon..