Well, the Coons Got Us Again.

As a counselor and a retired professional mom, I must say:

Coon!Raccoons are incorrigible wasters, ruiners of all things good, heartless beasts that care neither about boundaries nor animal rights. Their ability and seeming desire to inflict gross horror is limitless.

As people who tend six hens, our job was keeping them safe at night in their own warm place during the past winter, and one we did not mind at all. In fact, I found myself enjoying the challenge and making sure my hennies had fun treats to ease their trials during the cold. I carried all sorts of tidbits down the hill to them, through all sorts of weather, and thawed their water tank I-don’t-know-how-many times, even adding sugar to it, to assure meeting their energy needs. I literally had one of them eating from my hand.

And that one is among the five survivors, I’m glad to say.

We lost one, in a most horrific way, which I will not detail here.

Chicken coop, Sabine Farms, Marshall, Texas

Chicken coop, Sabine Farms, Marshall, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And I had nearly to rebuild our chicken coop and to visit them often, really often. Hourly. And they were terrified, of course, and were slow to re-learn their trust of me.

Today, though, when they hear my footsteps approaching their little home, although they still grow very still, as if trying to be unnoticeable, if I call out to them, they answer me with seeming great excitement.

And another one is learning to eat from my hand.

That feels good.

 

The Last Bouquet

Traces.

Traces of Summer Fading

Traces of Summer Fading

Old roses, pouring out a Springtime show, a last reaching for the sun, blooming, rich scented musk, and we inhale delight.

Tomorrow we will be satisfied with the damp, spent fragrance of fading roses, and gather spent and fallen petals to dry and save for dark places that welcome old scent.

Their baby cousins left outdoors will be dead, frozen, never to be seen in bloom.

We will remark how the last bouquet is always the rarest, while dark winds blow and traces of sleet fall.

We will inhale traces of delight from the remaining blooms, longing to imprint their gifts in our memories.

And failing.

And we will satisfy ourselves with the spices of oaken smoke and old recipes.

And dried, faded petals scattered in the dark places.

And we will put them away again when the first traces of warm earth rise up like ghosts of summers past, to take us back to the roses.

Germ Warfare – 3 Plus Recipes!

preparing to blanch

Preparing to Blanch Beet Greens

A friend and I were discussing blanching before freezing when she asked, “Do you have to?”

In an emergency, many foods you ordinarily would first prepare, you may freeze raw and untreated. Don’t expect them, though, to last over three months because blanching destroys the enzymes that induce ripening. Some vegetables, when not blanched, will continue maturing, though frozen. Unblanched okra, for instance, will become woody over time, in the freezer. So use these foods quickly. The foods must be perfect and unwashed. Freeze soft things before wrapping for protection from freezer flavors.

One friend only shells (does not wash) her surplus field peas and freezes them in one huge plastic bag. They separate easily. She measures, washes, and cooks as usual. She says they taste exactly the same but she does use the unblanched ones first.

I have found that you may treat the following produce this way if it has not been washed: whole tomatoes, whole apples, whole plums, whole carrots, whole peppers, edible pod peas, shelled field peas, and whole okra. All are for cooking only, except plums make good frozen treats. Be sure you remember you haven’t washed them before you use them.

The reasoning behind not washing vegetable before freezing is that they have a natural protective coating that helps ward off drying and if you freeze them wet, they will be impossible to separate for individual use. In the case of beans, this is not a factor, if you will immerse the entire package in warm water to rinse, later. Just think. If it is waxy, don’t wash it. If you want to freeze individually and bag later, it’s okay. Do not freeze anything with bad spots. How will you remove them once frozen? Just think. More info, starting here.

Two foods that you should always blanch and freeze are corn and greens. These two also taste pretty bad when canned, and take a lot of time and heat. One food that even the freezer books say we should not freeze is potatoes. I do not know why, because I have never tried it. I know, frozen potatoes are available in stores, but do they taste good? I’ve never tried them, either! Potatoes are best stored raw or canned.

To clean your kitchen after canning, just roll up the towels you used for covering surfaces, throw them into the washer and wipe the counter tops. You’re done! Then when canned foods are completely cool, remove bands and run the filled jars through the rinse cycle of your dishwasher. This removes the sticky film, from juices leaked in pressure cooking, which molds in the cabinets. These molds can enter the jar when you open it. They also make bad odors in your food storage area and attract bugs.

Now, DRUMROLL PLEASE, the real reason you read this far — The Recipes!

The following recipes come from several requests for instructions for making various sauces to use up excess tomatoes, etc. Also there are a few recipes for foods mentioned this week. Hope you enjoy making, storing, serving, and eating them as much as we do!

Homemade Mustard

1 3/4 c. white vinegar
2 onions chopped fine
1/2 c. mustard seeds
1/4 t. white pepper
2 t. soy sauce
2 T. white sugar
1 t. turmeric

Puree all ingredients in blender. Bring to a boil over low heat in a heavy pan, stirring continuously with a wire whip. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Seal in hot jars with hot lids. Place in boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Keeps very well.  Yield:  about one pint.

Homemade Catsup (not store bought!)

10 lb. ripe tomatoes
3 onions
2 bell peppers, red or green
1 clove garlic
3/4 c. brown sugar or honey
2” stick cinnamon
1 t. peppercorns
1 t. whole cloves
1 t. allspice berries
1 t. celery seed
1 c. cider vinegar
1 T. salt (opt.)
2 t. paprika
1/4 t. cayenne

Puree vegetables in blender, OR:  chop, cook, and sieve them.  Bring  to a simmer.  Put whole spices into a bag and add all other ingredients.  Cook very slowly until very thick.  Remove the bag.  Seal in hot jars with hot lids.  Hot water bath for 15 minutes.  Yield:  2 – 3 pints.  This is a good recipe for the crock pot, if you keep adding the juice until all is cooked down.  It is too big for a crock pot at first, but becomes of manageable size eventually.  The actual cooking takes all day on the stove top.

Tomatilla Salsa (A great use for small green tomatoes from dying vines)

5 1/2 c. chopped tomatillas OR green tomatoes
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped jalapenos
(wear gloves and use ventilation!)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. minced cilantro (opt.)
2 t. cumin
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cayenne
1/4 c. lime juice OR 1 g vitamin C tablet

Bring all to a boil in a large pot.  Simmer 10 minutes.  Seal in hot jars with hot lids.  Place in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Yield:  about 2 pints.  I cannot over-emphasize the importance of being careful with fresh hot peppers! I have made this using a food grinder, too, and it is much easier on the hands and lungs. You can grind the whole cayennes if you like, and have interesting red flecks in this lovely green condiment. The flavor when raw is sublime, but HOT. After cooking, the natural burning flavors of onion and garlic will have sweetened, though, so do not be alarmed at the raw flavor — just enjoy.

Pico de Gallo Sauce

1 chopped onion
2 chopped jalapenos
3 chopped tomatoes
salt to taste
2 branches chopped cilantro (leaves)

Mix.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.  Serve with chips.  OR:  Boil for 20 minutes, seal in hot jars with hot lids, and place into boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Yield:  about 1 pint.

Pear Preserves

8 c. pears, peeled and chopped
2 c. brown sugar or honey
2 T. butter

Stir pears and sugar over medium heat until greatly reduced and thickened (2 to 4 hours).  Add butter and serve over ice cream.  OR:  Omit butter and seal in hot jars with hot lids.  Place in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Yield:  about 2 pints.  This is another good one for the crock pot.

Very Quick Blackberry Sauce

1 pint frozen blackberries
1 c. sugar
1 c. water
2 T. cornstarch

Place 1/2 c. of the blackberries with other ingredients into small saucepan.  Stir and bring to slow boil, mashing berries to color the sauce.  Simmer until very thick.  Add rest of frozen berries.  Sauce will set very quickly and be cool enough to use immediately, with all berries instantly thawed.  Delicious on cheesecake or pound cake.  This recipe will only work with berries that have been frozen raw and are fairly easy to separate.  Makes about 2 cups.  Serves about nine.  Also, try using 3 T. cornstarch to make a topping for a pie.

Potato Pancakes

1 qt. canned potatoes
1 egg
1/4 c. corn meal
1/4 c. self-rising flour
1/2 chopped onion (opt.)
salt and pepper to taste
oil

Grate potatoes including skins into bowl.  Add rest of ingredients.  Stir well.  Fry in 1/2” medium-hot oil until well-browned and firm in middle, turning once.  Drain on paper towel.  Serve hot with honey, if desired.  Serves about six.

Never Fail Meringue

1 T. cornstarch
2 T. sugar
1/2 c. water
3 egg whites
6 T. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/2 t vanilla

This is a little tricky to time perfectly, but worth it to me.  Cook cornstarch, 2 T. sugar, and water over medium heat, stirring, until thick and clear.  At the same time, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add 6 T. sugar, salt, and vanilla, gradually.  Beat until stiff.  Continue beating while slowly adding hot cornstarch mixture.  Beat until stiff.  Apply to pie that has hot filling.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes.   I like this one because I don’t feel so much as if I’m eating raw egg.

Use Your Freezer, part 3

Español: Cocinando carne para hamburguesa al g...

 

So, what else can we do with a deep freeze? Plenty.

My favorite trick with it is freezing hamburger meat.

Cooked.

That’s right, I cook ground beef and then freeze it.

Whenever it is on sale, I buy however much I can afford, stir and fry until crumbly, huge pans of it with onion, salt, and pepper. Drain it well, box it, and freeze. One pint fried is about one pound raw.

This serves a couple of wonderful purposes.

First it is a money saver, in that it allows me to cash in on sales.

Second, it is a time saver if I want to make spaghetti or chili in a hurry. While the liquids are heating, I put in a box of frozen, cooked ground beef and once all is hot, the meat is thawed. Or pour a dab of water into a small pan and add a pint of this meat to warm on low until thawed, while you do other things. Then stir in your favorite sloppy-jo ingredients and serve. Fast and easy.

Actually the deep freeze is great for saving money, stocking up on many sale items such as meat, bread, flour, and garden seed. It saves money on ice if you make your own ahead and store it there. It saves money on bulk foods, because you do have room for it all.

We have a diabetic friend who must eat wild meat, so he hunts. When he bags a deer, he hires the meat all ground. His wife then makes it all into patties which he spends a whole day grilling to “near done”. They freeze these and have instant grilled burgers all year. They say to warm them takes only a few minutes and the taste is like it was just off the grill.

Probably everyone has heard of cooking casseroles on a monthly basis to save cooking time, but if you even make one extra or double entre whenever you cook, you can reduce your kitchen time nearly 50%.

The freezer certainly saves much frustration by allowing you to prepare ahead the food for guests and have it ready to pop into the oven so you can enjoy visiting in a relaxed manner.

I have cooked ahead when I knew I’d have no help after childbirth. It was so easy for my family to dip into the freezer while I was resting.

I’ve cooked ahead when my best friend’s mother was coming for dinner – an exquisite dish that takes hours to prepare. It was no hassle, because I prepared it a couple of days earlier, when I had the time to spare.

I have cooked ahead when my husband invited his best friend for supper the same night I had to be gone. My teenagers baked that big dish with a teenage flair that brought delight to the guest and joy and pride to Dad.

However.

Did you know your freezer needs a little tender loving care? More tomorrow.