Thursday, October 30, 2014

Venison Pie

As has been mentioned all week, I had a plan to make a venison pie.  I was following this recipe, which I altered just a little bit.  First of all, the juniper was OUT.  (You can find out why here, in case you were wondering.)  I didn't have Scottish ale, but I had my foraged hops homebrew, which is an ale.  I used foraged Dotted-stalk Suillus mushrooms.  And I made my own pastry instead of using puff pastry.

Ah, the pastry.  I had been trying to find an occasion to make a savory pie, so I could experiment with using the rendered duck fat to make a savory crust.  Now was my chance!  Since it melts at such a low temperature, I mixed it with butter:  2/3 butter to 1/3 duck.  Even then, it was the most fragile thing I've worked with, even with putting it in the freezer frequently to keep it cold.  It broke every time I tried to put it in the dish, which was probably too deep anyway.  I finally had to press the crust into the dish.  The top crust went better.  From a taste and texture perspective it was really, really good, but just not worth that much hassle.

The filling before adding the beer
I did, however, use the scraps to make a cheese tart, having figured correctly that the 9 year old wouldn't enjoy the meat pie as much as the rest of us.  It was obviously a hit as the kids almost came to blows trying to divvy it up.

The pie was served with baked carnival squash topped with truffle butter and a stir fry of tat soi and komatsuna greens.

Dotted-Stalk Suillus

About 4 quarts
Since I had a plan to make a venison pie, and the recipe I found called for "field mushrooms," I figured I'd look around the stables yesterday and see if there were any shaggy manes or puffballs I could use.  There weren't.  So I wandered around and looked at all the mushrooms.  I'd seen boletes there before, and I knew most of them are edible, so I thought I would try to see what I could find.  Well, I hit the jackpot.  There was a huge patch of bolete-type mushrooms.  The coloring and size were consistent with King Boletes.  But they didn't have the clubbed stem or the nice rounded cap.  They grew in clumps.  As they didn't turn blue when they were bruised, and the pores were not red or orange, two warning signs for potentially poisonous boletes, I picked them anyway.  A lot of them.

Once I got them home, I did a spore print and finally identified them as Dotted-Stalk Suillus.  My husband and I tasted some last night, fried in butter.  They tasted amazing!  Very meaty and rich.  I set aside some for that venison pie and figured I could dehydrate the rest in the oven.  I sliced up all the other mushrooms and laid them out on cooling racks that I then left in the oven overnight.  This morning, ALL those mushrooms fit into one pint sized ziplock bag.  I suspect they will last me a while.  I'll bet they make a nice stroganoff.

Monday, October 27, 2014


The 13 year old has been taking archery for a year, and we get supplies at an archery shop much closer to the stables than home.  I was there last Friday, picking up arrows, and joined in a conversation about deer season.  Somehow the conversation ended with the shop proprietor asking me if I'd like some venison.  I said, "If some venison fell into my lap, I wouldn't say 'no.'"  So he offered to bring me some, I offered to pay for it, and he said he'd just give it to me since he had to empty out his freezer in time for this season.

Well, I wasn't one to take something without at least some compensation, so the next day I went back with a cooler and some jars of preserves:  strawberry jam, hot pepper sauce, and eggplant caponata.  Unfortunately, he'd forgotten his cooler!  We made arrangements for me to stop by today and the venison is now in my possession.  I've never cooked venison before so this will be an interesting experiment!  Thus far, there has been a request for a pie, with which I shall try to comply.

I'm also in the middle of a jam for eggs barter as well with a woman who works with my husband.  He brought her a jar of jam from me (raspberry) and, when her hens cooperate, a dozen eggs will be coming our way.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Culturing, Fermenting, and Pickling

Yesterday was the last farm share installment for the year, which means that I have more potatoes and squashes and rutabagas than I know what to do with.  I also got a head of cabbage, lots of greens, more leeks, onions and garlic, some turnips and popcorn.  We can't have the popcorn until January because it has to cure.

This morning after a telephone meeting I made 2 things simultaneously:  a batch of yogurt (culturing) and a batch of sauerkraut (fermenting).  Last time I made the sauerkraut I forgot to set up the water seal on the crock and it rotted.  So I am trying again.  5 pounds of cabbage was shredded, mixed with 3+ T. of kosher salt, and I put some of the outer cabbage leaves over the top as I weighed it down.  Tomorrow I'll add the white wine and recheck the brine levels; I can add more if I need to, which is something I should have done the last time as well.

After that, since now I know I'm not getting any more beets from the farm, I pickled all the beets I had.  That came to 1 quart jar and 1 pint jar, which is just enough for Thanksgiving and to give more to my mother-in-law.  We don't eat a lot of beets otherwise.  Although maybe we should.... they are really good for you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quick Radish Pickles

The other day I was at a local bookstore and found a new canning book:  Preserving by the Pint.  It's nice because it's full of recipes that are for very small amounts of produce, the kind one gets from a CSA or farmer's market.  One of the recipes that sold me on the book was a recipe for pickled Hakurei turnips which, in turn, was based on Japanese pickled radish.

And I had a lot of Daikon radish in my fridge.  Why not reverse the recipe back to radishes?

Last night I peeled and then sliced the radishes with my mandolin and then salted them and let them sit for an hour.  Then I made the brine with rice vinegar, ginger, pepper and sugar and poured it over the radishes and put them in the fridge.  Today we ate some.  And ate some more.  And some more.  They were so good, I couldn't stop!

They are particularly good wrapped with arugula for even more bite. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Breakfast and Dinner

This morning, despite a slow/late start, found me making a peach kuchen for breakfast.  It was super easy, although if I'd planned it ahead of time I would have softened the butter overnight.  It used almost a quart of the peaches I canned in August.  My whole family wolfed it down in no time.

After speed-cleaning the house for an hour or so, we went out for the afternoon and watched the Head of the Charles.  The day was windy and chilly; I even brought out my alpaca scarf for the first time this season!  When the wind finally drove us off the shore of the river we slowly worked our way home.  At which point it was time to make dinner.

Garnished with field garlic and a nasturtium leaf from the yard.
The other day I had sauteed those shaggy mane and puffball mushrooms with shallots and garlic in butter.  Today I could put them with the milk, chicken stock, and sour cream required to make cream of wild mushroom soup.  I also made duck fat biscuits which we ate with local honey and various plum jellies from my pantry.  The soup was tasty and filling.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Have You Seen This?

My mother sent me several links to videos showing people using a drill to peel apples.  She said my brother had tried it and it had worked well for him.  I was intrigued.  I had to try it!  I had half a peck of apples waiting to become sauce.

All in all, it's easier than peeling them by hand, but it is probably not as easy as cooking them all up with the peels and then running them through the food mill.  Clean up is easier than with the food mill.  Regardless, it was pretty fun!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Black Walnuts

After letting the walnuts dry for a month, I cracked them open with a vise today.  Out of 20, only 3 were bad, which is a pretty good yield.  It definitely makes sense to get them directly off the tree when possible.  Note to self:  it also seems to be easier to crack them open if they dry longer.

Once I extracted the nuts from the shells I toasted them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I ended up with about 3/4 cup of walnuts.  Last year, I put them into a pear conserve.  Not sure what I should do with them this year...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Braver With Each Success

Last week, when I picked those two shaggy mane mushrooms, I knew more were coming.  It was the right type of weather, and that particular spot had plenty before.  Boy, was I right!

Today the place was full of shaggy manes.  After my ride I went out and filled a basket with them.  I also found 2 decent sized puffballs, each a little larger than a baseball.  After dinner tonight, I sauteed everything in butter with some shallots and garlic and froze this as a base for soup in a few days.  The 13 year old has asked for a cream of mushroom soup and I am always happy to oblige.

I also made a batch of yogurt which worked perfectly for a change!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Done for Another Year

The Topsfield Fair ended yesterday and today I went and picked up my jars, the ribbons, and the cash prize ($16!).  I timed my trip up there so I could catch up with Roxanne, whom I missed on the day we were both there checking out who won what.  She brought me some ground up ghost peppers from her cousin.  I gave her a jar of mint jelly.  It was good to see her again!

The one thing that always makes me sad is that one jar of each flavor is wasted in the process of judging.  They open one, taste it a few times, and then don't refrigerate it.  Of course, it's gone bad by the time we get it back.  I do wish they could refrigerate all the open containers but it's probably just not feasible.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lamb Soup and Other Projects

This morning, after running out to the muffin store to get breakfast, I heated up the rest of the mixed foraged fruit juice, added 2 cups of sugar, and canned 3 quarts of juice.  Then we went outside to enjoy the beautiful day before coming back and doing more things around the house.

My husband spent the day preparing the walls of our 9 year old's room for painting.  It was a lot of work and they only got through part of the ceiling before they ran out of that paint and had to call it a day.  While they did that, I made a batch of chicken stock using the bones of a rotisserie chicken we had this week and canned 5 pints.

While the stock was in the canner, I brought out the Icelandic Lamb Soup I'd made yesterday and skimmed off all the fat.  Then I set it on the stove to warm up slowly and went outside to do some yard work.  You know that little strip of earth between the road and the sidewalk?  I've been trying for 11 years to plant things that grow.  Bulbs of various kinds, euonymus, daylilies, hostas.  Nothing really works out.  I have finally ceded control of that strip to the crabgrass that really wants to grow there.  So I moved the daylilies to other parts of my garden and cleaned it all up.  This way, I can mow it as often as needed and not have to dodge all the other plants.

After I finished up for the day, I went back inside and canned 2 quarts and 5 pints of the lamb soup.  This was happening around the time that my husband was running out of paint, so it seemed like a good time for everyone to stop and have dinner.  We had big bowls of soup with bread, sprinkled with some mushroom-infused Icelandic sea salt to round out the flavor.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Soup, Pie, and More Soup

Today started out rainy and cold.  It felt like a good day for soup, and I had two soup projects waiting for just such a day!

First I made a batch of that escarole soup, using a head of escarole from the farm.  Saute a package of sweet Italian sausages with minced garlic (2-4 cloves), then add 2 pints of stock and the escarole.  Let that simmer for about 10 minutes or so and add a can of cannellini beans.  Flavor the broth with parmesan cheese and serve with good bread.  That was lunch.  For three of us.  The 9 year old asked for homemade chicken noodle soup instead.  I just happened to have a quart in the freezer so I heated that up as well.

After lunch, I made a triple batch of Icelandic Lamb Soup using up a lot of farm share vegetables:  all the turnips, 4 potatoes, 3 leeks and a head of cabbage.  After removing the bones and returning the lamb to the pot, it's sitting overnight in the fridge.  Tomorrow I'll skim off the fat and can some and the rest will be dinner.

Very tall pie. I also made a strawberry jam tart.
Lastly, I made an apple pie, finally, with some of the apples from when we went picking a few weeks ago.  The apples must have been much larger than usual because although I used the same number of apples (9) the pie is so tremendously tall.  It looks like one of the pies we used to get a restaurant called Gregg's in Rhode Island - they were at least a foot tall!

There's more to do:  I need to make a batch of chicken stock, and can the juice I made the other day (some of which went into this morning's smoothies, which were wild blueberries +/- banana, homemade yogurt, local honey, and foraged mixed juice (grape, autumn olive, elderberry, crabapple)).  And, someday, I'll do tomato sauce again.  I have 5.5 gallons of tomatoes taking up space in my freezer.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Autumn Mushrooms and Other Things

Yesterday while I was at the stables I found 2 good sized Shaggy Mane mushrooms that seemed early enough in their lifespan that I could pick them and use them today.  One of them turned inky overnight but the other was just fine.  I made an omelet with that one mushroom, some onion, and a little too much cheese.  Yum!

Also last night I made a batch of yogurt with a new container of starter.  It came out perfect.  The last batch I'd made was too liquidy so it was used up in smoothies, which the 9 year old really enjoyed.  I'm not sure why when I save some of my yogurt and start a new batch with it I have more trouble than when I use a new container every time.  I wish I could figure it out - maybe I wait too long between batches?

Omelet, also with foraged plum jelly on the toast.
At the stables yesterday I noted that all the autumn olives, which I'd been gathering for a while, had vanished.  I guess there was a point at which they were exactly right and the birds came and ate them.  All of them.  So I took what I had already frozen, which was a quart, and cooked them with the other foraged berries I'd been saving, and made juice this morning:  grapes, elderberries, a few blackberries and a few crabapples.  The juice will sit overnight and tomorrow I'll add sugar and can it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Happy Happy!

Mint Jelly
Hooray for the Topsfield Fair!

First thing we did was make a beeline for the canning exhibition to find that I won a ribbon of some sort in every category I entered.  How exciting!  I was also pleased to see that Roxanne, the woman I met last year, won a whole bunch of ribbons as well.

After that we looked at the crafts displays, the kids learned how to do needle felting, and we ate a lot of fair food.  We checked out the giant pumpkin (1900 pounds), the painted pumpkin displays, the sheep, goats, and bees.  Oh, and the rabbits.  The rabbits are so docile.  Mocha would likely scoff at all of them for being so...tame.

Sweet Pickle Relish
We watched the K-9 exhibition and a pig race and headed home.  The Mounties were not riding today, which was too bad.  They put on a terrific show.

Peach Jam

Seedless Raspberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Friday, October 3, 2014

Spicy Gifts This Year

The farm share this year has been rather heavy on the hot peppers and I'd been saving them up to make a full batch of hot pepper sauce.  I think their season is about over and I had 32 banana peppers, enough for 3/4 of a batch.  Which I made this morning and the final result was 14
cups of hot pepper sauce, all of which is going into my gift stash.

I also had been accumulating tomatillos and was able to get those made into a full batch of salsa verde today - this came out to 2 pints and 1 cup of salsa.  Also going into the gift stash.  Hopefully I won't be scrambling in November this year, especially since I need about 60 jars worth!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Homebrew Showcase

The weekly Thursday evening happy hour event at my husband's work is occasionally a themed thing and this week it was a homebrew showcase.  We chose to name our beer "Minuteman UFO" as it was, technically, unfiltered, and the hops came from the Minuteman Bikeway.  Hence the logo.  It was well received.  He said about 5-6 people brought in homebrew but there were certainly more that 5-6 people at the happy hour.  All 24 bottles were consumed pretty quickly which was good because there was no way to get it home.  We still have a few large bottles left for ourselves, but it looks like it'll be time to start another batch soon.