Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Different Kind of Princess.

       In September this year Linda and I went to Disneyland and had a wonderful time hanging out with children and grandchildren. I was very grateful to Beth and James for inviting us to come along and their patience in putting up with my snoring as we shared a hotel room. My wonderful little granddaughters (both Kangs and Tunnells) were pretty obsessed with all of the disney princesses and spent a lot of time collecting autographs and posing for pictures with their favorite princesses. While I enjoyed watching all of the little girls have their special moments, I didn't feel the need to pose with a princess myself.  I guess a Disney princess is not really my kind of princess.  The past two days I attended the Washington State Beekeeepers annual meeting in Federal Way, Washington. Among other wonderful "bee geek" delights I finally met my kind of princess...a honey princess.  I posed for the picture below to show my grand daughters that there are some princesses out there that can impress me.  Allison Adams hails from Plano, Texas and has been keeping bees since she was 13.  She currently works as an elementary and high school art teacher.  Even better, she also plays the penny whistle.  She showed pictures of her wearing a "bee beard" with a big princess smile.

   I had a great time listening to some very smart people summarize their recent honeybee research.  I listened to Gloria Hoffman from the USDA bee lab in Tucson, Dave Tarpy from the University of North Carolina, as well as the usual suspects from WSU and OSU.  The best part was that I got to talk to several of them after their formal presentations. It was a wonderful day to be a bee geek.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tour De Squash Update

     I finally got around to trying out some squash recipes. The first two I tried seem to be serious winners based on Linda's enthusiastic response.  Although I have some concern that her perceptions of them were colored by the "full liquid diet" she has had for the past several weeks.  A lot of things would seem pretty yummy after two weeks of yogurt, chicken broth, and popcicles. The first recipe was pumpkin-orange waffles.  I didn't do this recipe justice because I didn't have orange juice handy and substituted white grape juice. I also didn't have any hazel nuts left from last year to do the fancy hazelnut-maple syrup butter and used plain storebought maple flavored syrup. Linda and I both found the plainer version to be pretty tasty. I'm pretty sure the fussiest child would like squash when its put into a waffle. I found this recipe in a pumpkin cookbook entitled "A harvest of Pumpkins and Squash" by Lou Siebert Pappas. The recipe is as follows:

Pumpkin-Orange Waffles with Hazelnut-Maple Syrup Butter

Waffle Ingredients:
  2 cups all purpose flour
  1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  2 tsp baking powder
  1/2 tsp baking soda
  1/2 tsp ground ginger
  1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  1/4 tsp salt
  3 large eggs, separated
  3/4 cup pureed pumpkin or winter squash, canned or homemade
  1 1/2 cups whole milk
  1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Hazelnut-Maple Syrup Butter Ingredients:
  1/3  cup hazelnuts
  6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  6 tablespoons pure maple syrup

      The hazelnut-maple syrup butter is made with nuts that have been roasted and had their skins rubbed off, and chopped fine.  Then it is simply a matter of beating the butter and syrup together until it is light and fluffy and adding the chopped hazelnuts.

   The waffle batter is made by wisking together the dry ingredients, then blending the wet ingredients with the exception of the egg whites.  Then beat the egg whites until soft glossy peaks form. Then the wet and dry ingredients are blended together,  then the egg whites folded into the batter.  They turned out very well inspite of my wholesale substitutions and had a nice pumpkin pie kind of flavor.  I used a winter squash called gold nugget that has fine textured flesh but I doubt if it would matter much which kind of winter squash or pumpkin was used.

    The squash soup recipe came from the same book. It was called a "Butternut Squash-Pear Bisque". First of all, I'm not sure what makes a soup a bisque and I didn't have any butternut squash. Also I didn't have any pears, let alone Anjou pears.  Basically, I diced up an onion, sauteed it in butter, added a garlic clove and seasoned it with dried thyme. I then added about 2 pounds of baked Sugar Pie pumpkin and in place of an Anjou pear I substituted a diced  and peeled Melrose apple.  I added a quart of chicken broth, salt and pepper and brought it to a boil.  Since my squash was already cooked, I didn't have to worry about cooking the soup very long.  As soon as everything seemed to be cooked, I added a pint of whipping cream, ran it through the blender, poured it into quart jars, and stored it in the fridge. I later served some to Linda with a small garnish of shredded cheddar cheese.  It is amazing how a little bit of whipping cream can make an ordinary vegetable soup seem almost decadent.  I think I'm going to try and make this about once a week for the next month. This recipe produced about three quarts of soup. Thanks to a bee store swap, I currently have an ample supply of the sugar pie pumpkins. I'd be very happy to see them all put to good use.  


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

More Green Tomato Recipes

  I made Currant and Green Tomato Chutney last night only I used blueberries instead of currants. I guess it should be called Blueberry and Green Tomato Chutney. I seasoned it a little differently too as I didn't have mustard seed available. I used a combination of powdered mustard and tumeric. I also used lemon juice rather than thinly sliced lemon. The good news is it turned out very well in spite of all my substitutions. It would appear that chutney recipes are very forgiving. The color turned out well too.  I'm including the recipe but I merely used it as a starting point before I made wholesale changes to take advantage of the ingredients I had on hand. This recipe comes from "Stocking Up" which is pretty close to the bible for home canning and food storage. My daughter Lia is the inspiration for my interest in chutney recipes.

         Currant and Green Tomato Chutney

1 1/2 cups currants
2 1/4 cups green tomatoes, chopped
2 1/4 cups tart apples, peeled and chopped
1 lemon, seeds removed, quartered, sliced thin
1 cup onions, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon mustard seed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground ginger

   Combine all ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes or until fruit is soft. Pakc into sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust seals and process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. It was supposed to yield two pints but I doubled the recipe and ended up with about five pints.  One curious thing about this recipe is that it didn't specify whether to use red currants of black currants.  Either would probably work, but the results would be very different.

  This morning Terry Johnson and his wife stopped by the bee store. For those who have visited the store, Terry is the man in the poster wearing a swarm of bees on his head. In addition to our shared obsession with honeybees, Terry is also an avid gardener and canner.  I told him of my efforts to use up my supply of green tomatoes and how I had made both green tomato salsa and green tomato chutney.  He then offered to share with me some of his surplus supply of hot and sweet peppers and his bumper crop of tomatillos.  I was pleased to learn that tomatillos grow very well in our climate and are not susceptible to the inevitable late blight that plagues regular tomatoes.  Tomatillos do so well here that Terry only planted them on purpose the first year that he grew them. Since that time he has had tomatillos volunteering in his garden every spring. It has simply been a matter of pulling up the ones he didn't want or transplanting them to an appropriate spot in his garden.

     In addition to peppers and tomatillos we also discussed seed saving and I was offered all the scarlet  runner bean seeds I would like.  Terry also informed me that he grew Yin Yang dry beans this year and they did very well despite our lack of normal summer warmth.  I would think that any dry bean which performed well in weather such as we had this past summer is definitely well adapted for the Maritime Northwest. I had already noticed this variety in the Territorial Seeds catalog which listed a maturity time of 75 days.  The beans get their name from the fact that they look like a three dimensional depiction of the familiar Chinese symbol. As one of my children was once fond of saying, "Cool beans!"   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

SaurKraut Completed

   I finished canning the rest of my saurkraut. I ended up with about 5 gallons after I had canned most of it. It reduces down a bit in the process of canning it. The jars in the photo represent about half of this year's saurkraut production. I also purchased two of the old fashioned quart jars with the rubber seals and the clamps so I could put two quarts in the fridge uncanned.  I prefer the flavor of the fresh kraut but it is a great convenience to have most of it canned. Fortunately, my sweetie likes the smell of saurkraut and doesn't seem to mind our house smelling like a hot dog stand for a few days.

    I still need to do something with the rest of the green tomatoes I got from Rachel.  Some of the tomatoes are falling prey to the infamous "Late Blight" so common in the wet Pacific Northwest so time is running out. I hate to see stuff like that go to waste. I'm considering trying a green tomato chutney recipe I found in "Stocking Up"  The recipe also calls for apples and currants. Apples I have, but I pruned all the blossoms and fruit off my currant bushes in an effort to eliminate my Currant Sawfly problem.  I think I can substitute blueberries for the currants and still give the green tomato chutney a try. I'm also hoping to get a batch of green tomato relish done as well.  Linda gave me a nice enamelware cup with the message "I garden, therefore I am."  I could just as easily say "I can, therefore I am."  I seem to have a certain amount of home canning that I just have to do every year.

    I had a scout campout this past weekend. We went to Cascade Park as the weather forecast was 100 per cent chance of rain. If you are going to have a miserable campout, it is better to have a short drive home. The weatherman got it exactly right. It turned out to be one of the rainiest campouts I've ever experienced. Our lone remaining eleven year old scout, Matthew Peterson, literally slept on a water bed as several inches of water accumulated between his tarp and the floor of his tent.  Miraculously his tent floor didn't leak and his sleeping bag was still dry in the morning.  I took the easy way out and set up a cot in my old beater cargo van.  It was so nice that I did not have to hang up a wet tent in the garage after the campout.

    Immediately prior to leaving on the campout I was able to drop off my two hides (one elk and one deer) in Marysville, Washington.  I wasted at least several hours last Monday fleshing the deer hide because I had been led to believe that they now needed to be fleshed before they could be accepted for tanning.  As it turns out that information was faulty. The hides only need to be fleshed if you want them tanned with the hair on. If they are going to be made into leather the tannery has a machine that fleshes the hides.  I had mixed feelings in that I was thrilled I didn't need to flesh the elk hide, but felt foolish that I had needlessly expended so much energy on the deer hide.  The only thing I got from the experience was a lot more respect for all of the indian women who fleshed animal hides with stone age tools.  I have not included any pictures of my hide fleshing experience so as to not gross out innocent grandchildren who might look at my blog. 

Canning Catch up

  I'm running behind on my fall canning.  I have two boxes of apples that I want to turn into apple sauce, two big bags of green tomatoes that need to be converted into salsa or relish (thanks to Rachel). Since I've made one batch of salsa already I guess relish is a slightly higher priority at the moment.  I also still have about 4 gallons of saurkraut that needs to be canned and my grapes will finally be ready to juice in about another week. An obsessive canner's work is never done.

   I tried out the green tomato salsa tonight and I like the recipe that I found on the internet. There were a lot to choose from but I had to go with "Linda Lou's Green Tomato Salsa".  I doubled the recipe so I was supposed to end up with ten pints but actually ended up with a only little more than eight.  The ingredients for the doubled recipe are as follows:  Assume that everything that can be chopped is chopped.

10 cups of green tomatoes
3 cups of seeded long green chiles ( I substituted bell peppers)
1 cup jalapenos
8 cups of onions
2 cups of either lemon or lime juice
12 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons ground cumin
6 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper

   Combine all ingredients into a large saucepan, stirring frequently, cook over high heat until it begins to come to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Then ladle into pint jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. I'm including a picture in spite of the fact that Linda has already scooped me and posted pictures on her blog.

    In addition to the green tomato salsa I did my first batch of grape juice.  You will note the deep purple color. This is from a concord type of grape named "Valiant". I planted them about five years ago and it took about four years before they produced any significant amount of grapes. Last year the birds cleaned them out before I realized they were ripe.  This year I kept a close eye on them and harvested them just aas soon as the birds started on them.  I'm not getting a real good grape harvest this year from some of my vines due to our unusually cool weather. The "Interlaken" vines on the arbor over the back deck have a lot of grapes but the jury is still out as to whether they will actually ripen.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our Ducks Now Have Names

   I finally have decided on names for our three india runner ducks.  I've named the male "Popeye", the larger female "Olive Oyle", and the smaller female "Sweet Pea".  The chicken now has a home of its own next door to the ducks and is anxiously awaiting some company from the batch of baby chicks currently being brooded by the Bedlamites.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Baby Chick Day in October

  Linda and I met up with Beth and the Bedlamites this morning at Monroe Feed (located next to the fairgrounds). They are baby chick central and have more varieties of poultry available over a longer period of time than any other feed store in our area.  Our India Runner ducks came from Monroe Feed.  We purchased a total of ten chicks, comprised of  4 Ameracaunas, 4 Cuckoo Marans, and 2 Rhode Island Reds. That should give us a pretty good variety of colored eggs.  The kids had fun helping get the baby chicks but they were really taken with the star attraction at Monroe Feed, a talking parrot named Sky.  He can sing a number of songs to include "I've Been Working on the Railroad." and "I Left My Heart In San Francisco". We were told that the oparrot likes adults better than kids, but he put on a pretty good show for the Bedlamites. You can see that from the photo below that he had John's attention.  Sky is a hard working bird and serves as the feedstore equivalent of a Walmart greeter. He makes a point of greeting customers when they enter the store, entertains them for a while, and always says "Bye" when they leave.

     Britton and Lucy carefully held the box with the baby chicks during the ride home. We then transferred them to their new home in the workshed.  Some of the chicks are destined to move to our house when they are older while some will remain with the Bedlamites in Monroe.

Pickled Beets Update

   I did get the beets done while Linda was gone to Maryland. I just didn't have time to blog about it.  I made a total of 28 pints of pickled beets from my 25 pound bag of beets. I even had enough beets left over to make a big pot of borscht, one of my favorite soups. Even if you don't care for pickled beets you have to admit they are very colorful.  I have already begun distributing them to the various pickled beet fans in the family. I feel a little sad that the Romeros are now living too far away to be able to share home canned goods with them.

   I also got some of my saurkraut canned while Linda was away.  I still have about four gallons left to process.  I finally managed to find some of the old fashioned jars with the rubber seals and the metal clamps. I want to try keeping some of the saurkraut in the fridge without canning.  I like the taste of the fresh saurkraut and I've read that nutritionally it is supposed to be better for you fresh.

Tour De Squash

   I didn't have much luck growing winter squash this year. I believe I can blame that failure on our strange weather and lack of much of a summer. Fortunately, I found a good selection at our local Fred Myers, including many varieties that I'm considering for next year's garden. So far I have purchased the following varieties: Sweet Meat, Kuri; Buttercup, Gold Nugget, and Acorn. The acorn squashes are my least favorite winter squash but they are relatively easy to grow.  The others are all maxima types and are better for winter storage. So far my favorite winter squashes all seem to be maximas. The large squash below is a Sweet Meat. The Kuri is sitting on top of the Sweet Meat while the Gold Nugget and Buttercup are to the right with the acorn on the left.

  Linda usually doesn't like me to leave stuff on her kitchen counters, but has allowed the squash as she considers them to be decorative.  Of course, that leaves me feeling encouraged to add to the inventory. I would really like to incorporate more winter squash in our diet. Its very nutricious and I like it. It really just comes down to finding more ways to fix it other than baked squash.  I've tried adding it to mashed potatoes with good success. I'd also like to try some soup recipes. I'm hoping Linda with eventually decide that she likes baked squash after she gets used to eating squash in other dishes. I guess what it really comes down to is me fixing it myself as its unlikely I will ever persuade Linda to cook more winter squash. She does like it in pies but one can only eat so many pumpkin/squash pies.

  I have grown Buttercup and Gold Nugget successfully in the past with purported maturity days of 115 and  85 respectively. Sweet Meat lists a muturity time of 115 days while Kuri is 85 days.  Acorn squashes mature in a mere 70 days.  This year I tried growing a Sugar Hubbard which is supposed to mature in 110 days. The problem is that you can't start counting those 110 days until it is actually warm enough for the squash to grow. I liked the flavor of the Buttercup and it has a convenient structure in that there are less seeds and they are close to the surface.  The only problem is the 115 day maturity makes it difficult to grow when we get less summer than normal. I'm thinking that either the Gold Nugget or Kuri might be a better choice with their shorter maturity times. I might just have to settle for buying hubbards, sweet meats and buttercups at the grocery store.