Monday, October 29, 2012

Pre-Sandy Harvest

So, once again, we find ourselves waiting for a hurricane and wondering how bad it will be.  In anticipation I cleaned out the rooftop vegetable garden and came downstairs with a quart of green tomatoes.  There were a few more orange ones which I am leaving on the sill to ripen but those green ones just called out to be broiled.

I couldn't be simpler - just slice them and lay them on a baking sheet.  Then drizzle with balsamic vinegar, top with oregano and goat cheese, and then a little final drizzle of olive oil.  Then you broil them for about 7 minutes.  Yum!

School was canceled, and we are all home today.  We're going to make some Halloween cookies.  I got a nifty mold from my mother-in-law that makes cookies which look like fingers!

Sunday, October 28, 2012


Well, I finally did it.  I am a certified Wilderness First Responder, having just taken the Wilderness Upgrade for Medical Professionals, aka WUMP.  I have been wanting to enroll in this course for two years now and, two days ago, I completed it.  (The first time I planned to do it I got jury duty so I held off, good thing, because I broke my hand right before I would have gone so I would have had to cancel anyway...)
Me on a backboard

It was really fun.  REALLY fun.  There were 19 students, some were people taking a month long EMT-B course with the final week in wilderness medicine, but there were 8 physicians and a nurse as well as other EMTs and paramedics who wanted to add to their skill sets.  The classroom sessions were jam packed with information and stories and then we would do scenario after scenario to reinforce the learning process.  We learned how to make traction splints out of sticks.  Cervical collars out of baseball caps.  How to roll people safely and how to warm them up if they get cold.  It's all about thinking outside the box and using whatever resources you have very creatively.  We practiced with a mass casualty incident and a night time rescue.  My friend and I slept in a tent for 5 nights and drove 2 days in each direction to get there and back.  The weather was perfect and the setting simply gorgeous (we were in Cullowhee, NC).  We even had a little time to go fishing but we didn't catch anything; it was relaxing nonetheless.

Foraging was sort of out of the question due to the time constraints and the location but I did find a tiny wild strawberry, some mint, some bittercress, and a few other greens.

We had to prepare all our own meals and my chili, stroganoff and baked beans were just the thing.  People started to ask, "What did you can for dinner today?"  I fielded a lot of questions about canning during the week.  They have a really nice set up there for cooking - a pavilion type area with picnic tables and a concrete slab at waist high for the camp stoves.  It was perfect.  The place was covered with ladybugs which were swarming at the time, and butterflies flitted about when it was warm.  The nights were cold, though, and I was grateful for my thermarest pad and wool blanket which I used under my sleeping bag for added insulation.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tuscan Nettle Soup

The other day, at the stables, I wasn't planning on getting any nettles.  I had a lot to do, I reasoned, and that would just add work.  Why would I add to my stress?

I must be a glutton for punishment.

After bringing home a bag full of nettle tips, I put them in the fridge until today, when I made a Tuscan soup.  I browned onion, leeks, carrots and celery and then added sweet Italian sausage.  To this I added 2 quarts of vegetable stock, 2 leaves of kale and all the nettles.  Then I added a large can of cannellini beans, a bay leaf, some salt and pepper, and thyme.  This simmered for about an hour and a half and was served with fresh French bread.  Very filling and tasty!

Turns out it wasn't as stressful as I thought it would be.  Once it was finally simmering.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Prep Day

In a few days I'm headed to a Wilderness Medicine course with a friend.  We've both been to conferences on the subject before but this is different.  This is several days of camping with hands-on experience.  And we have to bring our own gear and food.  I've set aside chili, ham and bean soup,  and sauerkraut, and today I'm making baked beans and will be canning some stroganoff later tonight.  Once I make it.

Last week I purchased 2 pounds of Jacob's Cattle Beans from Amazon.  Did you know you could get dried beans through Amazon?  You can get almost anything there.  Last night I soaked them and today I made the usual Boston baked beans with salt pork and onion - the recipe is from my Pillsbury cookbook.  They're in the canner right now - 8 pints in total.  I'll take 4 pints on the trip.  (80 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.)

I'm also organizing my clothes and my gear and will pack it all up tomorrow.  Fortunately my gear is, for the most part, in one place so finding it all and getting it packed shouldn't be a big deal.  I just have to make sure I have the emergency day pack filled to the course specifications.  Aside from sounding like a lot of fun, it's worth 43 continuing medical education credits (CMEs) and I need 50 per year.  One credit is equal to one hour of educational time.  Most conferences give you 20 at best, so this is terrific from that standpoint as well.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Freezer Clean-Out

This time I'm cleaning out the freezer because I want to, not because I have to.

I've been saving bags of vegetable peelings, ends, and the like to make vegetable stock so I brought out the lobster pot and 3 of those bags.  The variety of vegetable bits in there was really amazing to me; I could identify at least 15 different types of vegetables!  I filled the pot up to the top and simmered away.  While I was going through the freezer I found a ham bone with some meat on it I'd frozen to make soup.  Since I had the pressure canner out anyway I figured, why not?  I quick-soaked a bag of 16-bean mix and made ham and bean soup.  This had onions, leeks, celery, carrot, and poblano peppers in it, which gave it a little kick.  It does need a little more salt which I can add when I am ready to serve it.  The soup went into 5 quart jars and into the canner for 90 minutes.

Then I turned my attention back to the stock and strained it all.  My pressure canner holds a total of 16 pint jars and even with that I had 4 quarts of stock left.  I will likely make another batch of soup when I have time and use it as the base.  Currently it's in the freezer.

Now that Mocha is around, I should not be accumulating vegetable bits as quickly as he would gladly eat whatever kale stems and beet greens I feel like giving him.  I think I have plenty of stock, though, to last me for a year.

All this just in time to head out to the farm again!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Canning with a Companion

A couple of weeks ago, we adopted a pet.  His name is Mocha, and there has been a steep learning curve on everyone's part, including his.  He can now leap onto a rather high window seat in one bound, and trot along the back of the couch without falling most of the time and I think he now recognizes that the music stand is collapsable and he shouldn't jump on it.  The humans are learning that you can't just grab a bunny and pick it up, and that kevlar gloves are essential when you need to approach him when he's not in the mood.  (Do we remember the rabbit scene in Monty Python?  Yeah.  That.)

Today I'm home for the first time in a while and I had a peck of apples to make into applesauce.  So I dug out a baby gate and brought Mocha into the kitchen for the first time.  (He's litter trained and very good at it so I wasn't worried.)  He explored a fair amount while I cooked down the apples but once the motor on the food mill started going he stayed in a corner.  By the time I was ready to take him back, he was ready, too.  He didn't even try to run away when I went to pick him up.  I'm not sure he's going to want to repeat this adventure for a while but at least now we have another room in the house where he could roam.

I tried something different which was to try to put an entire peck of apples into one pot, so I'd cook some down and add some more.  It took way longer than if I'd just made 2 batches in series, so I won't be doing that again.  Regardless, I have 5 more quarts of applesauce and that might be it for the season; I won't know until I go back to the farm tomorrow and see if they have more apples.

Mocha likes almost any green we give him, especially arugula, so it's good that they have plenty in the farm share!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What a Mess!

In today's farm share:  3 pounds of beets.  Add that to the beets I already had and I really needed to can some beets.  They take up way too much room in the fridge!

Since I have a bunch of pickled beets, I thought I'd try pressure canning them.  I used the standard recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and had 4 quarts' worth.  But one of the jars cracked in the canner, which was an unpleasant surprise.  It cleaned up surprisingly quickly, and since the jar broke cleanly I was able to salvage the beets and put them in the fridge to eat now.  I think I know what happened, too.  I ran out of boiling water when I was filling the jars and, in the time it took for me to boil more, the bulk of the jar cooled too much.  Then, when I put it in the canner, the water it went into was too hot and so the jar cracked along the base.  The bottom of the jar just split right off!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Changed My Mind

After juicing those Concord grapes I had about 3 pints of juice.  Enough to drink, not enough to can, and more than enough to make a batch of jelly.  I'd planned to leave it as juice, but I changed my mind. I decided I could add to the gift stash by making a batch of grape jelly which is such a terrific dark purple and it tastes soooo good!

This time I used powdered pectin so the recipe called for 5 cups of juice and 7 cups of sugar.  I got 8 half-pint jars and 1 half-cup jar which is a good addition to the gift stash which, as you know, grows every year!  Last year I gave out about 50 or so jars of things, and this year promises to be no different.

Oh, yeah, and at the very last minute, while I was doing my 1-minute rolling boil, the doorbell rang.  I was hoping to ignore it but it rang again.  At 20 seconds left on the boil I turned off the stove and ran to the door and was greeted by a DHL driver who needed my signature.  For a box of tea.  Huh?