Give Me Sweater Season, or Give Me Death!

Scarf and sweater season is upon us! Apples! Crunchy leaves! Crisply scented air! Cold mornings! Slippers and favorite sweatshirts!

Fall and I? We get along. I understand how to dress myself in cooler temperatures. I don’t sweat every time I leave my house. Fall means snuggling and cozy fires and Harry Potter marathons and rediscovering my favorite handknit sweaters and scarves.

To celebrate the cooler temperatures and one week of wedded bliss, Chris and I made our annual trek out to Anderson Orchard this morning, and it was wonderful. It’s hard to believe just a week ago, I was trying not to sweat through my wedding dress in near 90-degree temperatures, waiting to walk down the wood chip mulch aisle.

20130914. Anderson Orchard.

When we first started dating, we came here and picked a 1/2 bushel – I remember how we both had apples rolling around the bottom shelves of our respective apartment fridges for weeks and weeks. We’ve not missed a visit each fall since; I suppose that’s what the beginning of a tradition looks like.

20130914. Anderson Orchard.

I also had a realization the other day – the apple sauce I canned from these apples today may very well be among the first solid foods our baby eats next summer and fall (assuming Chris and I don’t eat it all first, which is entirely possible). Still… totally wild, right?

20130914. Apples and peaches.

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Your Magic’s Real, So Why Aren’t You Using It?

This optimistic update is brought to you by:

20130719. Waiting for the Exorcist at the IMA.

    • Coffee with Mexican hot chocolate mixed in – hot and hot!
    • Less grass, more herbs and edibles: our new front yard view
20130714. Less grass + more herbs = happy house.

Lavender, sage, lemon balm, mint, oregano, and transplanted native wildflowers.

    • Tomato (and basil) season!

20130719. It's officially tomato season!

    • First canning of the season: peppers, beets, and cumin-spiced summer squash
    • Getting our very first wedding response card in the mail (also, friends who, by the time we get married, will be Mr. and Mrs. So excited for you!)

20130719. First response card received!

    • Sky Farm sneak previews, hard hats, safety goggles, and very sexy construction vests

20130709. Sky Farm at Eskenazi Health.

    • And this adorable song, which has been stuck in my head all morning: YACHT, “I Believe in You”

CALIENTE! Posts from the Vault

EDITOR’S NOTE (aka words from MOI): In doing a little blog cleanup, I noticed we have 10, count ’em, 10 out-standing draft posts! They’re just sitting there behind the scenes, collecting dust on their little periods and exclamation points. One of them is this gem, which I wrote out specifically so I could re-create my favorite canning recipe of the past two summers. Read on and savor the mental image of a balmy late-September day, when this post was initially drafted!

In addition to drinking beer in the fall sunshine with friends and hanging with the chickens, I also canned a couple more jars of hot peppers today. Since I talk so much about how freaking amazing they are (and since I’d like to have a good record of the actual recipe I use), here’s the secret recipe. Shhh… don’t tell.

HONEYED HOT PEPPERS OF MAGIC AND DOOM
– 1-1.5 pounds hot green peppers (cayenne, jalapeno work well) or a mix of hot and not-hot
– 3 cups cider vinegar (sometimes I do half and half with white vinegar)
– 1 cup water
– 1 tbpsn kosher salt
– 1 tbpsn honey
– 1 bay leaf per jar
– 1 clove of garlic per jar
– a dash of whole peppercorns per jar
– a dash of whole allspice per jar (if you’ve got ’em)

Slice peppers into 1/4″ to 1/2″ rounds and set aside. Dissolve honey and salt in vinegar and water and bring just to a boil. Prepare water bath canner and 1/2-pint jars. Once all is good to go with your canning setup, put 1 clove garlic, 1 bay leaf, dash of peppercorns, and dash of allspice in each jar, stuff with peppers, then ladle vinegar mixture in to 1/2″ headspace. Repeat until all your peppers are gone. Then bring water bath canner to a boil, boil for 10 minutes, let sit for 5 minutes in water bath canner, remove to towel, let sit overnight… then SCARF THEM DOWN.

20111029. final harvest!

Canning Report, August 2012: “I Yike Apple Toss”

First and foremost, be sure to add Jenna and her lovely blog, Upcountry Living, to your blog roll! We have a little collab going (that’s what the cool kids say, right? collab?) of guest posts. Check out our guest post on her blog, “Chicken FAIL,” and stay tuned in early September for a report right here from our best (and, admittedly, our only) buddy in Maine!

Next up: August canning report! Seeing as it is now September, you can see I’ve been a tad behind on my canning reports. With all the chicken telenovela drama we’ve been having, the canning reports have dropped to the wayside a bit. Who cares about canning reports when UFOs are flying out of chickens’ backsides and the little death defying jerks are breaking out and braving the wilds of So Bro?!

August:

    • Honeyed Hot Peppers (3 half-pint jars): Yes, more honeyed hot peppers! Now that it has rained a bit again and the temperatures are cooling, the peppers are finally taking off. This recipe is perhaps one of our favorite foods around here – we put them on burgers, huevos rancheros, egg sandwiches, tacos. They are fantastically hot.

20120825. Honeyed hot peppers.

    • Roasted Tomatoes (4 half-pint jars): I will admit, I am lazy when it comes to tomatoes. Peeling seems like a horrible pain in the tookus. Plus, I discovered last summer that I absolutely love the sweetness of roasted tomatoes. So instead, I roasted a big batch of Romas, then added the appropriate amount of lemon juice and canned them based on a different basic tomato recipe. I hope we don’t get botulism.

20120812. My grandma's chicken, roasted tomatoes, honeyed hot peppers, and Thomas Jefferson.

  • Apple Sauce (10 jars and counting): What can I say… in the immortal words of my favorite uncle, Kyle, I yike apple toss (Kyle didn’t utter a word until he was about four years old. The first thing he said was, instead, a sentence: “I yike apple toss”).  I have probably one more batch worth of apples in the fridge, too, so there will be more apple sauce. Oh, yes.

July:

  • Pickled Beets (3 jars)
  • Honeyed Hot Peppers (5 half-pint jars, plus some)
  • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars)
  • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars)
  • Rosemary Jelly (8 half-pint jars)
  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

There’s Apples in the Trees, Let’s Take All that We Need

With some fantastic rains, temperatures solidly back in the double digits, and evenings dropping down to the 70s and even 60s, suddenly life is flowing back into everything. The garden, the grass, the chickens, and, yes, even me.

I’m starting to think wistfully of my scarf and cardigan collection, of jeans and chilly mornings wandering the last days of the farmers’ market with a steaming mug of coffee in my hands. I’m fantasizing about these things, really. While I hate to wish away time, I am quite content to get lost in daydreams that include the smells of crunchy leaves, wood smoke, and wool sweaters.

With these daydreams in mind, Chris and I ignored the fact that the temperature would get up to 91 degrees last Saturday and braved the beautiful orchards of Anderson Orchards, just west of Indianapolis.

20120825. Anderson Orchard.

20120825. Anderson Orchard. Right about when Chris was saying, "This is the dorkiest thing ever."

I have had visions of making more apple sauce than I know what to do with since last fall when we left the orchard with over 20 pounds of apples. I made jar upon jar of apple sauce and the best apple butter I’ve ever had (with a few apple crisps thrown in for good measure and to keep me going through all that canning), and we still ran out fairly early in the winter.

20120825. Anderson Orchard.

Chris’ new favorite joke: “What’s the favorite dessert of gang members? APPLE CRIPS.”

20120825. We picked a peck.

A peck of apples: 12 pounds, to be exact. We came home with TWO of these.

Fast forward to tonight and round two of apple processing. I got through 3/4 of one bag last Saturday. First, I busted out the trusty apple peeler/corer/slicer tool of utter MAGIC my parents gave me for Christmas last year.

Then, I peeled. Oh, how I peeled. I peeled like there would never be an end to the apples I had to peel, like peeling was my new purpose in life. And it was good.

20120830. More apple sauce.

My apple sauce recipe calls for water and apples – that’s it. The step by step: peel and core six pounds of apples. Throw into large stock pot with 1.5 cups of water. Boil for 30-40 minutes, stirring often, until the apples are broken down and fluffy-awesome. In the meantime, prep your water bath canning getup. Blend the liquid-magma-hot apples to your desired consistency in a blender, return to stock pot, and simmer gently another five minutes. Ladle into hot jars with 1/2″ headspace, then process in water bath canner for 15 minutes. Let sit for five minutes in the water bath canner, then remove to a cutting board for 12 hours. Label/store and/or guzzle said apple sauce straight from the jar.

Other signs of life and of impending fall: drying Northern Sea Oats grass seed to plant along the back of the house.
20120825. Drying Northern Sea Oats seeds to plant in the backyard.

Worm feasts of turnip and carrot greens.
20120825. Snacks for worms.

Baseball-sized turnips!
20120825. TURNIPS.

Sunflower parties.
Happy.

So far, we’re up to 10 jars of apple sauce. I think another trip to the orchard is in order to do up apple butter. Apple butter or bust! Apple butter til we puke!

A Peaceable Kingdom?

I have a new term for the weather we’ve been experiencing the last several days: chicken weather. It has been fantastic weather to be a chicken – a few gigantic, air-snapping, earth-shaking storms have blown through, leaving in their wake new green grasses poking through the brown, cool temperatures, and breezy blue skies that make me think of fall.

It’s good human weather, too. I feel a certain weight lifted off my shoulders – today, at least, I don’t have to worry about our sick chickens also being incredibly heat stressed. I don’t need to make them ice water baths all day or set up the fans or try to get them to eat frozen blueberries. Today, they can peck happily about the backyard, and I can take it a little easier than I have since the beginning of July.

Today also marks me and Chris’ two-year anniversary of our first date. What was our first date, you ask? Lying in a portable hammock on the edge of a farmer’s field in Martinsville, IN, watching the Perseid meteor showers and drinking wine. Pretty epic, right? Two years later, we have a house, two cats, five chickens, and so SO many plans. Life – it is good!

In honor of keeping things simple and low stress, let’s go on a pictorial tour of what chicken weather means at the Space-Farm, shall we?

20120804. Cicada shell and... cicada.

Cicada (not an alien, I promise) and cicada shell on a basil plant.

20120804. Beaker in ecstasy.

Before we could move the coop to its permanent location, the chickens took the chance to have a good bath. Here’s Beaker in ecstasy dust bathing in the dirt.

The chickens were VERY helpful in messing up my beautifully flattened, perfect foundation for the new permanent coop location. We refuse to move that dang coop ever again! They were in such heaven I probably couldn’t have stopped them even if I had had the heart to do so.

And now on to a few of the happy chickens:

20120808. Little Red.

Little Red is growing, although it’s hard to tell.

20120808. Oh, HI THERE.

Oh, HI. I didn’t see you there… You creep.

20120808. Mauled by Easter Eggers.

Near-nightly mauling by the Easter Eggers.

20120812. Honey bees on fennel flowers.

Honey bees and fennel.

20120812. Two-year anniversary of our first date! This was right as Chris was saying, "Do I really have to hold the cake?"

He didn’t like it, but he humored me and let me take this picture. Happy anniversary, boyfriend!

20120812. Honeyed hot peppers and Thomas Jefferson.

The prettiest honeyed hot peppers I have ever made… and Thomas Jefferson.

20120811. Mutant turnips!

It might be time to harvest some of the turnips. GIANTS!

20120811. Sunflower dreams.Happy chicken weather to all, and to all a good night!

Canning Report, the Last of July 2012 (aka the Month that Would Never Die)

Not gonna lie: this has been kind of a rough month.* However, with the turning of the calendar page in just two more sleeps, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic that maybe, possibly things will get better in August. With tentative joy, then, I give you… THE FINAL CANNING REPORT FOR JULY, which features a lot of delicious repeats.

July:

    • Pickled Beets (3 jars): The first batch of pickled beets were so delicious, I planted a ton more AND made a trip to the farmers’ market for two big bunches of them. We cooked up the greens over a couple of different nights, then pickled three jars of beets. Totally worth the $6 I paid to the local farmer.

20120715. BEETS.

20120729. Rosemary jelly, honeyed hot peppers, and thunder dome.

Left to right: Thunder Dome, rosemary jelly, and honeyed hot peppers.

Also canned this month:

  • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars)
  • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars)
  • Rosemary Jelly (3 half-pint jars)
  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

*I should add that there have also been awesome things going on this month, so it’s not all bad. We’re happy, we’re alive… we’re just a little worn down at the moment. Nothing to see here!

Canning Report, July 2012: Non-Stop Jam Action

Confession: I’ve never considered myself to be a fan of jam or jelly. Oh, I like a good PB&J just as much as the next person, and there’s nothing like toast with some lemon curd or apple butter smeared on it. But jam? I just don’t eat it that often.

So what the hell was I doing this morning, canning three different types of jams and jellies? Apparently, I don’t like STORE-BOUGHT jams. Homemade jams turn out to be the bomb.

Without further ado, then, here is the July canning report – heavy on the sweets.

July:

    • Cinnamon Blueberry Jam (9 4-oz. jelly jars) – With a healthy infusion of cinnamon and cloves, this jam smelled divine while it was cooking – almost like summertime Thanksgiving. The recipe came from a booklet Chris’ aunt and uncle sent us as a housewarming present: a canning magazine from Taste of Home.
20120714. A little army of cinnamon blueberry jam.

A little army of jams.

    • Garden Herb Blueberry Jam (2 jars) – Can you tell we came into a LOT of blueberries recently? Five pounds for $10 at the store! We froze a lot for the chickens, we’ve eaten a lot, and there was still plenty of room for jam. I used the same recipe as above but used dried basil, oregano, and rosemary from the garden in place of the cinnamon and cloves. Muy interesante, si?
20120714. Blueberry jam with oregano, basil, and rosemary.

Those little stick-looking things in the jam are rosemary… I hope.

    • Rosemary Jelly (3 half-pint jars) – I love incongruous flavors, so when I saw this recipe (minus the green food coloring, that is), I knew I had to try it. And, OHMYGOODNESS, it is so so good, y’all! It’s sweet, a little tangy, with a warm spicy rosemary undertone.
20120714. Rosemary jam - a serious winner.

Rosemary jelly sans insane green food dye.

20120714. Rosemary jam and cream cheese - OMGYUM.

Fancy Saturday Breakfast: English muffin, cream cheese, and rosemary jelly.

    • Tomato Sauce (1 jar) – This was my first attempt at tomato sauce. I was a little disheartened to see how many tomatoes it took to make just one jar of somewhat watery sauce! I will keep trying, though. I’m thinking this stuff might actually make a delicious bloody Mary!
    • Easy Pickles (3 jars) – Since I didn’t really have enough cucumbers on hand to do full-blown pickles (and it was so stinking hot I couldn’t imagine getting the water bath canner going), I gave an easy refrigerator pickle recipe a try. This was also from the Taste of Home; can you see a pattern here?
20120710. Pickles and tomato sauce.

My first jar of something resembling tomato sauce (and some more pickles).

  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars)
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars)

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

Canning Report, July 2012

After heading out of town for five days, there was some garden tending and harvesting in my very-near future. This morning’s haul – fennel bulbs (no idea what the hell I’m going to do with these things, but I will soon learn!), summer squash, pickling cucumbers, a handful of grape tomatoes, and a few (blossom-rotted) Romas. I need to get that under control for sure.
20120704. Garden haul.

July:

  • Hot-Cumin Pickled Summer Squash (4 jars) – Cumin and summer squash? What’s not to love? This recipe is from Canning for a New Generation. The author uses a LOT of apple cider vinegar in her recipes, which I am just not a huge fan of. Basically, I end up cutting the cider vinegar in half and using plain white vinegar to get to the correct total required.
  • Turmeric Refrigerator Pickles (4 jars) – Again, this recipe is from Canning for a New Generation, based on the Persian Tarragon Pickle recipe. Since I didn’t have tarragon, I used my nose to make some spice modifications and added turmeric and celery seed to the called-for garlic, coriander seeds, and hot chiles. I didn’t read through the recipe when I chose it, but I was happy when I discovered they were refrigerator pickles. No need to open up the pores this morning over a boiling, bubbly water bath canning setup! I also decided to slice them thinly into rounds, like the delicious side of pickles you get with your meal at Twenty Tap, one of the best little spots in Indianapolis (particularly if you like beer and fried cheese curds).
20120704. Turmeric refrigerator pickles.

Turmeric refrigerator pickles.

June:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars)
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)

Canning Report, Late-June

It’s time for the next installment of 2012’s canning report – now with bread and butter pickles.

June 2012:

  • Bread and Butter Pickles (4 jars) – Six giant pickling cucumbers, some red onions, and a vat of boiling spices yielded a whole heck of a lot of bread and butter pickles. I’m really excited. Last year, the cucumber plants all got bacterial wilt before I could make as many pickles as I wanted to. So far, so good this year.
  • Honeyed Green Hot Peppers (2 jars)
  • Pickled Beets (2 jars)
  • Classic Pickle Spears (3 jars)
20120626. Canning report: 4 more jars of bread and butter pickles.

What’s up, B&B pickles?!