Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

August 24, 2008

Local produce, Campfire-Baking and Canning info

This weekend was another busy one. I took Friday off, as I had already met my hours required for the week and we ran errands all day; and I do mean all day! One of the tasks we decided to do was to make a stop by our local you-pick-it farm. They are not an organic farm unfortunately, but I think supporting our local small scale agriculture is more important, not to mention the HUGE savings that we're able to get from it. Check out this haul.Clockwise from the bottom left we got Ancho chilis (to be roasted and frozen for salsas later), jalapenos (also to be roasted and turned magically into chipolte peppers), Yellow wax peppers, Black Beauty eggplants (made ratatouille this afternoon), Green Bell Peppers, Yellow Bells, and Big Jim green chili's (to be steamed and canned for later use.) All together we got two full bushels of veggies. Guess how much? Go on, bet you can't get it?? Twenty bucks total! Ten dollars a bushel of whatever we can get in the box.
We had some shopping to do later that afternoon so we checked on the going prices and we estimate the store value to be approx. $128.00. So if you count the time we put in, which was about an hour total from the time we left the house till we got back, we made a little over $50.00/hr. each. I can live with that!
An observation that A~ and I made to each other while we were there was that there was so much diversity of people there. We saw Asians, Eastern European and of course Mexican families there along with us. Sadly, we were one of only two families of what might be called the UT majority, i.e. non-immigrant whites. I think we have a lot we could learn from some of our immigrant neighbors on this front. I won't get into the issues of legality or immigration policy here because that's not what this blog is about, suffice it to say I have strong opinions. My point here is that these are families that are, generally speaking, on the lower end of the income scale. When we see them doing certain things, like sharing rides, harvesting their own foods and cooking fresh meals and not wasting them, you can bet those are pretty good ideas for someone wanting to live a little more frugally. Our standards of living are, in much of the world, in the top 5 to 10 percent overall. I think this has made us a bit lazy. That's all fine and good in a world of plenty, but I think we can all see that to at least some degree those times are creeping into extinction. Enough on that for this post, you get my point I think.

I alluded to having been inspired by our success with our outdoor Campfire-canning (as I like to call it), and as a matter of fact we did another batch of 4 qts and 1 pint of dill pickles this weekend using that method, what I was talking about was wanting to try my hand at baking some NY Times no-knead bread over the fire.I made sure that since this was a food product that was going to be exposed somewhat directly to the smoke from the fire, to use clean wood and not OSB or other treated woods for this. I burnt down a good deal of coals, and placed our large cast iron stove on them to preheat. After prepping the loaf and coating the bottom with cornmeal (to reduce sticking and allow me to slide it off the cutting board) I dropped it into the pot and placed a few coals on top.
And here's the finished product. You can see that the pot was a little too hot by the thick, blackened bottom, and the little too-dark top crust. All in all though I'd say it wasn't an all out loss. The texture and crumb of the bread was very good. Perhaps a slight bit more undercooked than I'd have liked, but the taste was the best I've made yet. It had a very similar taste to the sourdough pancakes that we eat for Saturday breakfasts. Not necessarily a true sourdough but a very bready taste. I attribute it to the longer time I allowed it to sit before the first forming. For the novice bread bakers out there time equals flavor and that's the real strength of this recipe, it's ability to be slowly made. To help you plan your bread making with this recipe check out my NY Times bread planning scheduler.
And last but not least, for Sandy, a quick bit of wisdom on starting to can. First off we, A~ and I both, are still novice canners. I think the best advice I can give is to not be afraid and to research, research, research. And after you research it thoroughly, respect what you find out. If the recipe calls for 'X' amount of sugar or vinegar or to cook it for 'X' amount of time then add the called for sugar or vinegar and cook it for the right amount of time. Canning your harvest is a great way to preserve your hard work for later enjoyment and it's really nothing to be afraid of with care and attention to detail. One book that A~ and I picked up from the library this year and have really been enjoying is the "Ball Complete book of Home Preserving" (seen below).
I've also read very good things about Balls, "Blue Book of Preserving". You learn about these books or find great resources on their web site as well. Another great resource is Causabons book, a blog with very detailed and concise information on not only canning, but dehydrating, freezing and myriad other food storage and peak oil survival information.
And now that we're up to date on my weekend, how was yours? Hope it was as fun and productive as mine.
Till tomorrow.


Sandy said...

Thanks for the book recommendations P! I will plan to get those books and read them this winter. This year I won't have a big enough crop to worry about canning, but next year I likely will so I will make it a project for this winter to do some research.

Chicago Mike said...

Hey P~,

Did some preserving myself, you can see the results at FG.

I grew up in Muncie, the home of Ball Corp (and surprisingly enough Ball Hospital, Ball State University, etc) and I can assure you that Ball is the way to go.

I need to put up pictures of my drying efforts (peas, peppers, and herbs).

Chicago Mike

MeadowLark said...

That's the book I've been using! And it is really helpful. At least to someone who knows nothing (me).

Looks like a good weekend. I didn't end up canning my 24 lbs of peaches, but did put 3 racks of pork baby back ribs on the smoker. :)