Friday, August 13, 2010

Heat, Humidity, Building, Canning, Weeding - is it worth it?

This summer will definitely be in my memory banks as a hot, miserable year. People who spend time by the water are likely thrilled to death with all the hot, sunny days, and I'm very glad for them. We are working on various projects here on the farm and the heat and humidity are making life tougher than it needs to be, in my opinion. Darrell is working, primarily alone, but sometimes with my help as needed, on building a new chicken coop. I've been wrestling with the garden, weeding, harvesting, processing, pickling. The kitchen is hot at night when, after supper, I'm processing corn for freezing, or heating the canner and various elements needed to pack jars . . . however, working against time and weather certainly gives you a sense of accomplishment and perspective! We, in our area, don't NEED to do all this - we could go buy whatever we want at a multitude of markets, stores, and specialty shops. Unlike Darrell's grandfather, whose family emigrated to Kansas, staked out a quarter section of land, and proceeded to turn over 10 acres of it by hand with shovels (this was virgin plains buffalo grass), plant and harvest wheat, then take that wheat to the nearest town to sell, in bags, in a wheelbarrow, because they couldn't afford a horse to work the land or pull a wagon until AFTER they had harvested and sold that first year's crop of wheat. And, while the men/boys in the family were busy with that 10 acres of wheat, the women/girls were scavenging, growing, and preserving every scrap of food they could find to feed the family. So, as we continue on with our house-recovery projects, farm improvement projects, and utilizing this year's garden, I'll try to keep focused on WHY we do this - for more healthy food!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pickling Season!

Pickling cukes and cabbages for slaw and sauerkraut are coming on in the garden. I have packed some sauerkraut, which has to cure for several weeks before canning - hoping to pack some more later this week. It's been years since I made homemade 'kraut, but it sure is good! The process is simple - you shred the cabbage, layering in a little canning salt as you go, let that sit for a couple of hours to draw moisture out of the cabbage. Then, in sterilized jars, you PACK the cabbage in, pressing it down (I use a meat mallet in a wide-mouth canning jar). You fill the jar to the top, pressing as you go, which will force even more liquid out of the cabbage - you will end up with liquid over the top of the cabbage at the neck of the jar. I have done this before, canning the 'kraut after 2 weeks, but many people advise letting it ferment even longer, so I'm going to try that this year. Here's a link to a quite good description of the process. I have found similar instructions where people add mustard seed, caraway seed, dill or even onion in the packing process . . . go crazy! Season up your 'kraut! Once fermented, you clean the outside of the jars and reseal (I use fresh lids, as the original lids have gotten the fermentation brine all over them, including the sealing edge), then water-bath can them.

The cukes came on so fast that a bunch of them got HUGE, so the piggies got a treat. Last night I made the first batch of kosher dills from the recipe Darrell had found and used last year - it makes fabulous pickles! I got carried away with planting - planned on 4 mounds of cukes. When two of the first four failed to come up, I planted new seeds - those made it. The first two plants are literally spewing out cucumbers and I told Darrell I didn't know what I was thinking that I needed to have four plants. But, last year, we had three plants and the weeds got away from us, so our yield was smaller. We got enough jars of pickles for ourselves for a year, with a little self-discipline involved in how often to get a new one out of the fruit cellar. This year, we're hoping to make enough to actually give away, and maybe branch out and make some other types of pickles as well.