Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Putting the garden to bed....

I'm in process of pulling the last of my plants, with the exception of the broccoli, cauliflower and brussels, and getting ready to turn the soil under.  I've been thinking of planting a cover crop, but I'm not sure which one.  They all seem to have their place and function.

After consulting several books I have decided to plant a mix of buckwheat and winter rye.

I've never done a cover crop, and I think, from what I've read, I'll have to maybe mow it down before it seeds and hopefully before frost it may grow up again in time for it to die off naturally.  I have never done this before so you will be learning along with me! 

I'm also going to start tilling the plot and planting a cover on the new garden.  It's going to be a 60' x 60' plot.  I have learned so many things about the garden this year and hope to learn from these experiences, even though I'm moving the garden.  The old garden I'm going to leave in place but plant just corn and potatoes and maybe a few melons amongst the corn.  This will be a good place to experiment with interplanting.  I also read that pole beans are great to plant with corn as they will use the corn to climb.  We shall see!

I'll be sharing my lessons learned in an upcoming post and share what I plan for next year. 

Until then...happy gardening!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Making chicken stock...

I want to start off by saying I'm sorry for not taking pictures.  I don't know why I always think of that AFTER the fact!

But I want to share my process with you anyway. 

Making stock is not hard, don't be afraid to make your own.  It's more delicious than what you can get in any store and you decide what goes in it.  Mostly things you can spell and pronounce!  Have you ever read the label on one of those commercially made stocks?  Yikes!

I started of with some chicken bones from the chicken I boned out and froze.  Don't throw those bones away after you remove meat.  If you don't use them now, throw them in a freezer baggie and wait until you have enough.  Just make sure you use them before they freezer burn.

I added in several packages of the chicken still on the bone in my pots.  I added chunked carrots, celery, onion, garlic, a few bay leaves, fresh thyme, fresh parsley, salt, pepper, ground sage, and poultry seasoning.  Exact measurements?  Well I don't do exact.  I was taught at the "little of this little of that" cooking school.  I don't really measure anything unless I'm baking.  Then I think it needs to be more precise!

For the veggies, I don't peel the carrots, just cut whole carrots into three pieces or so and the same with the celery, big chunks.  You are only after the flavor here and bigger chunks are easier to get out!  I cut the onion into halves or quarters and a head of garlic in half.  The rest gets tossed into the pool with the rest of the ingredients.

I add cold water then bring the whole thing to a boil.  Let it boil for 2-3 minutes and then reduce to a simmer.  How long you want to simmer is up to you.  I usually let mine go for 2-3 hours.

After simmering, I remove it from the heat and fish out all the big pieces of vegetables and the chicken bones or meat on bones.  Go ahead a remove the meat from the bones after it cools.  The carrots and celery I save for my dogs.  It's a nice treat for them and good for them too.  Just don't give them the onions!

Skimming the stock is easy too and the way I do it seems to pull a lot of the fat out as well.  I start with a fine strainer and then line it with a cotton dish towel.  It gets more of the particles this way.  This last batch I did, I didn't skim any fat off the top before I strained it and the final product had almost no fat accumulation at the top.

Take a look at this wonderful stock!

Not anywhere in any store will you find stock so rich and deep amber in color.  My yield after canning 14 quarts of chicken soup was 6 quarts and 1 pint.  Not too shabby!

Happy canning!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chicken soup anyone?

Last week my store ran a sale on split chicken breast.  $0.99 per pound.  I called and ordered 40 pounds! 

At first I was thinking..."SCORE" for the price.  Then I picked it up and jammed all the packages into my fridge to await processing.  Then I thought OMG!  What was I thinking getting this much chicken?

I ended up roasting 2 packs of chicken, removed from bones and saved bones for later stock making.  I did make some really awesome chicken salad with it.  Wow, even my 12 year old who won't touch anything with mayo in it ate it up.  Score one for mom!

On Sunday I finally bit the bullet and got busy making my chicken "stuff".  I boned 6 packs of chicken breasts.  Got 9 packs of chicken vacuum sealed, 2 breasts in each pack.  I separated the tenders and they will get done in 1 pound packs.  Still to be done.....

The rest went into the stock pots, yes pot(s), along with some veg and herbs from the garden and 12 hours later I ended up with 14 pints of chicken soup or in our house it could, well most likely will be, chicken and dumplings.  Along with 6 quarts of stock and 1 pint of stock.

Here's a jar of the chicken soup/starter.

This quart jar contains 1/2 cup each of carrot, celery and onion and 1 extra full cup of chicken.  The rest is filled with the stock. 
It took a long time but I'm sure it will be worth it.  You can see the stock is a deep amber color, full of flavor!  Not like that watery looking stuff you get from the soup cans at the store. 
Canning isn't hard, just time consuming.  But what better way to know what your family is eating.  I put the stuff in the jar myself, so I know what they are eating!