Thursday, August 31, 2017

Amazing apple custard pie

This recipe was given to me by a friend whom I worked with at a long term care facility (nursing home) years ago. He being a bit older than me (sorry, K, it's true) we may have seemed an unlikely pair to strike up a friendship but we had a lot of shared interests in common along with a high stress work environment and a not-so-happy-working-department.

We would pick the apples from the trees outside of the therapy room and he would take them home to make into these amazing pies, which he would share with favorite residents ( the elderly farmers who loved it when we talked their ears off). I, for my part, would "sneak" these old timers mason jars of strong homemade wine after secretly clearing it with the nurses. I think those older guys felt valued when I asked them for practical gardening and homesteading advice although more than one marveled that someone my age and gender even cared about those topics. And I learned a ton from their experience.

Let it be known to anyone who actually cares: I hate fruit pies.  They taste like flavored sugar and make my teeth hurt.  The "fruit" component is usually so lost that it makes a person wonder what the hell the point was, really.

But this.

Oh, this pie is different.

It tastes simply like warmed apples and spiced pudding.  Good hot or cold, with coffee or ice cream. Or call it breakfast.  My friend always cut his slices into neat rings to fill the pie but really, anything will do.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Geese pictures

I can't get over how much I love having the geese around. That being said, the big white Embden is going to the processor tonight along with some roosters. He weighs a ton when I pick him up and has been a little too interested in my toddler lately. Never eaten goose before. He'll be saved for the holidays and parted up for many Hank Shaw inspired meals.

 I think we're in for a real treat. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Jamie Oliver signed book?

Ok, this is nuts.  Yesterday I went into town while the little guy was napping (under the watch of my husband, not the cats - you're welcome).  Along the way I decided to stop at a little consignment shop I hadn't been to in months because they stock a lot of enamelware and I'm looking for some coffee mugs. I didn't find the coffee mugs, but I did find this book, which I didn't have in my collection - in fact, hadn't even seen it before.  It was originally priced at $3.99 but had sat there long enough that it had been reduced to $2.30.

$2.30. Tax included. Crazy.

I got it home and left it on the kitchen table.  My husband said "Where on earth did you get that?" when he saw it because we live pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

I didn't get a chance to open it until later that night but when I did, I found this:

Come on. Really?  We think it might actually be legitimate because it *looks* like the marker bled through to the back of the page.

Looking through it further I started to get the distinct feeling that I had been here before.  Went to the cookbook shelf and pulled out this Jamie Oliver book:

Compared them:

Hmm. Yeah.  Maybe I have the UK version along with the US one?

"The Blogger" tells me that I have a lot of visitors from Europe (thanks, Kev!). Does anyone own this book?  The "Jamie Does" one?  Is there a printed signature inside or did I snowballs-chance-in-hell luck upon an autographed one? For less that the price of a coffee?  In which case, I look upward and say " Thank you, mom". Seems like the kind of thing she would do.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Canning days - fruit, veg and eggs!

The counter on any given day this week.

Canning season is here.  Finally there are things to preserve in the garden.  This is the time of year where a corner of the kitchen is devoted to washed produce and jars that need to be labeled and put away.  My canning time is limited to my little guy's afternoon naps so I have to work in short bursts.  The canning jars are left in the dishwasher until I need them and another section of counter space is covered with canning supplies that will sit there, in use most days, for the next month or so (pickling spice, canning salt, citric acid).

Here's what I put away this week:

Tomatoes, jam, pickled eggs, pickled tomatoes & pickled garlic.

5 pints total of canned tomatoes.  Good for so many things during the winter, from soups and stews, that fantastic Jamie Oliver meatloaf or just adding to scrambled eggs.  Since we're a small family it makes more sense to put up tomatoes in pints and half pints instead or quarts.

2 pints of pickled tomatoes. Never made these before but it was just rosemary, garlic and vinegar brine.  Recipe from the Ball Blue Book.

1 pint pickled garlic.  Also new and from the Ball Blue Book.  Storing root vegetables has been a disaster so this might be a good way to keep garlic long term.  Peeling all of the garlic was easier than it seems but both the house and I reeked for about two days.  Maybe next time wear gloves.

4 jelly jars mixed berry jam (black raspberries, blueberries and currants).  Organic jam is really hard to find around here and we eat a lot of it in the winter.

And the winner: 2 QUARTS PICKLED EGGS! I cannot believe I've never done this before.  People,  I swear to you it is worth keeping quail simply to make these.  Sure, there are a couple of regular eggs in those jars too but these are adorable.  Pickled, they are tangy and absolutely delicious.  The eggs are being steamed and pickled as fast as the quail can lay them which is good because it is impossible to open the refrigerator without eating two or three straight from the jar.  

Steam them over a pan of boiling water, covered for 10 minutes and the shells will slip right off even if the eggs were just laid that day. Chicken eggs will take about 18 minutes.

They will peel easier if you start at the fat end and have a tiny spoon to help. Dunking it in cold water after you loosen the shell will make it slip right off.

1 1/2 Cup cider vinegar (I used my homemade stuff - tastes better & didn't worry about acidity levels)
1/2 Cup water
1 TBSP brown sugar, 2 TSP white sugar
1 TSP pickling spice
1/2 TSP pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic
2 TSP salt

These aren't canned, just stored in the refrigerator.  It's now a race to see how many of these can be stored away before fall. In fact, I've been avoiding listing an extra breeding covey for sale because I don't really want to give up the extra eggs quite yet.

Anyone else canning the days away?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Random mid-week photos

It's been a busy week full of canning, picking up chicks from the post office and going to the fair.  I just wanted to share a couple of sweet, random photos about none of those subjects.

A peaceable kingdom. Mostly.

The garden tepee looks fantastic. 

The great solar eclipse of 2017.

Learning to package "eggs" of homemade play dough.

Swallowtail butterflies make me think of my mother. They've been spending a lot of time visiting the sedum this week.

I plan on posting some photos from the canning binge and the fair later in the week.

Good night for now.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The saga of the apples


 There are three generations of apple trees on this property.  The oldest of which were tall, gnarled half-dead and hollow in the center, yet still producing apples when we moved here.  We live on a high ridge and it was amazing they had made it to that point. They were tired giants and two of the tree have fallen in wind storms since we took hold of the property.  The last of those ancient trees is a Yellow Delicious; totally hollow in the center, surrounded by blackberry brambles, groundhogs living in the roots but still it stands, for now, and still producing heavily every year.  It's an eyesore but we refuse to get rid of it.  That tree, we are sure, was planted long before our house came to be.

When we moved here I tried in vain to plant an orchard.  Repeatedly.  The hill we live on is an old mining ridge and the soil is very poor, full of clay, and veins of coal run through it (there is a black patch in the yard where nothing will grow).  Let me see if I can remember what I have planted (and killed) in the last 5 years: a cherry tree, 2 kinds of pears, plums, several peaches, a Granny Smith apple, a Honeycrisp apple, and a McIntosh.  The McIntosh is the only one still standing - and fruiting.  All of the others died from the poor soil or the severe drought the years they were planted.

But.  There is an old orchard line that runs between the property our house sits on an the adjoining one we purchased.  Someone planted apples here.  They are fully mature so we think it they were planted around the time our home was built (1930's).  Some of the varieties are easy to identify (McIntosh) but others are a total mystery.    

Like this one.  Still have no idea what it is.

That planting of trees is bearing heavily this year.  My little guy almost always has a half-eaten apple in his hand when we are outside because he knows these trees too, and makes a bee-line to the back of the property when we go outside.  He wants his apple.  So do I. 

The trees are sagging under the weight of the fruit.  I find this curious because my father's orchard across town is barely producing.  But here they are.  Time to make cider, apple cider vinegar, applesauce and pies.  

Our family has a cider press that my grandfather built.  Not from plans, he just looked at a picture in a catalog and put the thing together.  Talk about an heirloom..  It started out as a hand-crank model but a motor was quickly added.   Our family has been pressing cider on it for over 20 years now.  We had a big cider day when we first moved here, setting up a tent and inviting friends and family to bring apples and pears to press.  I think we did 80 or 90 gallons over a three day weekend.

I think of the orchard on my grandparent's farm - trees that were mature, old even, when they bought the property in the 1950's - and wonder how many old unnamed varieties we are losing every year.

We live in an area of the county that John Chapman, aka "Johnny Appleseed" came very close to during his time. If you are interested in apples at all, you will probably love this: "The Real Johnny Appleseed Brought Apples—and Booze—to the American Frontier"

Friday, August 18, 2017

A rainy evening, a tornado warning.

Much needed rain came in the form of a big storm yesterday evening, canceling our plans to go to the park. We watched from the porch instead.

Bee's plans for death and destruction of small mammals were benched.

When the rain got too bad we came inside.

Colored on boxes and spoon fed cottage cheese to Bee while making airplane noises.

We don't have TV and hardly turn on the radio. Around 7:45 emergency texts came over the cells phones that there was a tornado warning and to seek cover NOW.  So we put our shoes on and headed to the basement to nervously wait it out.  The chicks I bought are in the basement which turned out to be a blessing (little man went NUTS) and a curse (toddler + heat lamp = me freaking out).

Eventually the skies cleared and the warning was over but it got me thinking what we could do better next time. Maybe grab his knapsack of snacks/drinks/book/diaper that I carry around and take it with us. Just in case.

I remember being at the house of my mother's Aunts when I was little, maybe 4 or 5. They were both very devout Catholics and when a tornado warning was issued we sat in the fruit cellar praying the rosary.  

Turns out the chickens were just as comforting.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

What did I buy?

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that the TSC store here was selling late summer chicks this year.  The little man and I were in there yesterday picking up something for the cats and, well, they had the remaining chicks marked down to 99 cents.  99 CENTS.   I don't have the willpower to say "No" to that.  We bought 10.  When we came home I called the hatchery and deleted the egg layers from my upcoming order and added some more meat chickens (and the grand total was still considerably less).

The guy at the store thought this was a Red Ranger.  I've raised Red Rangers and am more inclined to say maybe Easter Egger.  These also have a big dark brown patch on their backs.

The next two pictures represent the other two color patterns.  He thought they were all"Rainbows".  I have no idea what those are.

They seem to be the same with the ones with the heavy barring maybe being little roosters (more pronounced combs too).


Any idea what we bought?  I love surprises.  They'll either make eggs or taste like chicken, a win either way.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Camping vacation

I've been quiet this week because we took a several day holiday to Cook Forest state park, about an hour and a half drive from our house.  We took the Metzendorf, camped with some dear friends and it was awesome.  Got some great family photos too.


Thank you, Aldi, for my $4 door mat.

I didn't think an awning was going to happen for awhile but found a good deal on Ebay through this link at Vintage Trailer Talk.  For $60, shipping included, I only had to hem the edges and sew one seam. The poles I got through a site to store deal at Wal-Mart for about $5 each.  It was PERFECT.  Especially when it rained the last night of the trip.  There were other vintage campers there too, 5 Scottys.  Here's a picture of what a Scotty looks like.  They were part of a group that go camping together and one of the guys came over around coffee time to talk about the Metzendorf and ask if he could look inside it.  Of course!  It was a good lesson of why you should pick up and organize the inside of a rare model vintage camper immediately upon waking.

We did some hiking, me with a 2 year old strapped to my chest on the steep downhill hike and strapped to my back on the way back up.   This place is so beautiful.  There's a small buck in velvet in the center of the photo.

The view from our campsite.

Lots of naps.

And lots of laying in the hammock.

Went wading in the Clarion River.

The water is crystal clear the whole way across.

Ate some great camp food.  Hello, best beef stew ever, cooked in a cast iron dutch oven.  The night it rained we all ate in the Metzendorf at the table.  Not bad for a 12 ft. camper.

We came back to a house totally devoid of groceries, but that's the good thing about poultry and a garden: our home said "Don't worry about the store, we've got it covered! Go cook a pot of rice and do a stir fry."

Snow peas, zucchini, patty pan squash, TOMATO!, eggs and a small handful of alpine strawberries.
Two of the new quail started laying the day before we got home.

I think the geese actually missed me. I know that sounds nuts but they went crazy when they saw me and then honked wildly when I talked to them.  Like, I couldn't get a word in edgewise.  Pretty funny.

What a great time.  Can't wait to go again.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Playing Stork

My little bantam hen from the auction went broody. Again. This poor bird wants to be a mama so badly. She did hatch babies last summer that were eaten by turkeys but after that she had two more failed nests. I didn't have the heart to let her set out a third one with no little ones to show for it.


But wait, what's this?

For the first time, Tractor Supply is selling chicks in late summer. It couldn't have come at a better time. I scooped up 6 of these little ones at $1.99 each.

They're some sort of hybrid called Asian Blues. 

I went out last night when she was sound asleep and quietly slipped the peeps under her. I also took away as many of her eggs as I could reach. Candled, they were all unfertilized except for one that looks to be close to hatching. That one got put back under her.

The nest is in a flowerpot under some straw. I added a scrap of fencing and covered the whole thing with more straw to try to camouflage it.

This morning: look! Can you see one of the peeps is sitting on top of her back? She's still sitting on that egg but is being a great mama. The chicks took to her immediately in spite of the fact that they were several days old and had never seen a grown chicken before.

I don't want to say "success" too soon but it looks promising.