Summer Vegitables

canned

So you are all probably thinking “Uh huh, he said he would update once a week, yeah right.” LOL. Well, I try, but am only getting time about every other week. Last weekend we had our Annual Helmig Farms BBQ competiton so we were a bit busy.  Every year we host a large event (about 60 people this year here at our farm, where locals get together and compete in BBQ’ing in four catagories :Chicken, brisket, ribs, and pork.  Medals and trophies are awarded,  food and drink provided for every one, and a great time had by all. Alot of visitors seemed to gravitate towards the vegitable garden and asking different questions. As for our summer garden update, we took our last picking of green beans and wax beans on Tuesday night. I still need to pull up the plants as they are all done just have not had the time.  We were able to can 27 pints of green beans out of the deal, so that will be nice this winter. When canning, the wife did her batches just plain beans and some homemade bacon that I butchered and cured last fall. The batches i did i added the same homemade bacon, but also through in some homegrown chopped up white onion.  The peas are also all done, we ended up with 4 gallons of peas frozen.  They take up alot of room in the garden but are sure yummy, and for pea lovers they are a wonderful treat in the wintertime in casseroles, on salads, etc.  The pea plants are already all ripped up. Later this weekend my Dutch Flat Head cabbage is ready, so i will need to shred it and ferment it for sour Krout. Recipes are on the internet as for recipes, it takes about a week or maybe a little more depending on volume, temp, etc. Also i notice my onions have fallen over.  Stalks have not turned yellow yet, but will today or tomorrow I am assuming. So i will need to pull them as well, bunch them, and hang them. Hang onions in a cold dry place for maximum keep time. Depending on the species you can keep for example yellow onions almost into next planting season. My white onions for example, or red onions, or walla walla’s will not keep near that long due to their sugar content. You can still hang them, but they will spoil fairly quick. Debating trying some shredding and freezing methods this year for longer keep time on the white onions.  Tomatoes are doing wonderful, growing like weeds, and fruiting, but are not yet ripe. Zucchinnis have had one massive picking already. We canned 18 jars of Zuch-relish, and I gave about a dozen Zuch’s away to my mother as she likes making Zuchinni sweet pickles. She wanted to trade me a few jars in trade for the produce, but I don’t much care for sweet pickles, so politely refused. There are about another 50 lbs of Zuchinni that are still growing but not yet ready for harvest. My garlic never did all that great, as they were from 2 year old cloves, but i will take the ones I can and hang for drying to use for re-planting stock next year. Carrots are also all ready for harvest, and are very large. I added some sand into the carrot area before I tilled it this year, and they grew a world better! Much larger in diameter and length. Will probably get 10 pints or so out of the carrots.  Peppers are also doing well, jalepenos and bells, and have been being used through out the summer for cooking. I didn’t plant a whole bunch of peppers this year as i still have loads of them in the freezer from years before.  On a side note “Sammy” our Yorkshire pig is fattening up nice also, and loving the canning season! Sammy gets all the scraps from canning, and plants i yank up, etc on top of her feed ration. So she is a happy camper, and will be more than ready to butcher in fall. Butcher time is strictly dependent upon pigs weight, and cool weather. I wait till the weather is cold so i can hang the pig and age it for a few days, but not totally cold enough to freeze, as frozen animals are a PAIN to cut up and process. usually October is prime butchering season. 

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Starting and Making Sour Dough

On our farm we grow more than just plants and animals. We also “raise” sourdough. You have to remember that sour dough is a living organism, unlike just flour alone. It needs fed, watered, cared for and nurtured. I have a small crock jar (one of those Porcelaine or similar jars with the lid on a hinge, a rubber gasket, and has the little metal clevice snap lock to close it) that I keep my sour dough alive in. This seems to work wonderfully. First lets go into a little basic sour dough care, and then I will go tino my own personal recipe. When you first start a batch of sour dough, mix all your ingredients and let sit over night in the crock jar. What I do, is “half it” and feed it every day for the first week- week and a half. After that I check it and feed it at least every week or twice a week, but in all reality it is actually more than that since I am always using it, and having to rebuild the supply. So in all reality I would say I am physically checking it, feeding it, and using it about every other day. Try not to let it go more than a week with out checking and feeding it or it will totally sour on you.

Now when I feed my sour dough I do what I call “half it”, and by this I mean I take out about half of the dough at one time. If I dont need that much, then the extra goes into a “chicken bowl” that I use to feed the chickens table scraps. So Any ways, I open up my Crock jar, and I spoon out half of the dough contents, leaving the other half in the crock. I then feed the dough in the crock. My feedings consist of flour, water, and some times a little sugar. I alternate small amounts of sugar on an (every other time) kind of schedule. Stir the contents till like batter, seal jar, and store until next use.

As sour dough works it will produce a strong smelling, dark colored “Hooch”, smells like rotten bread and alcohol. Which….. is excactly what it is. When ever you see hooch collecting, just tip the jar over the sink and pour the Hooch out. Then repeat steps of : Half, Feed, mix.

Now here is my recipe. I am sure there are better tasting, professional, and excact recipes on the internet. I make mine from memory of being a youngster and sitting on the kitchen counter watching mom on the old farm. I add a few different things than mom did, and kinda make it my own, but the basics are the same. What i do is find a good crock jar (I bought a set of 3 at Bi-Mart a few years back for like $10). Then I soak a “finger and thumb pinch” worth of yeast (any kind of bread yeast I have on hand) soaking it in hot/warm water, NOT COLD! the warm water activates the yeast and brings it alive out of dormancy. Cold water will not bring it alive, and you are apt to get some rotten stuff in your jar. Let water/yeast mix sit on counter for 5-10 minutes to activate. During this time I add flour to my crock jar. Here is where I make it my own by not sticking to just basic enriched white flour. I dont use measuring cups for this, so I will tell you in a very general guess, not excact remember, but to make kind of a different flavor of sour dough I use different flours. You can use just white flour or just wheat flour, what ever you like. But i use about 1/2 cup wheat flour, 1/4 cup white flour, and a 1/4 cup corn meal. I then add the water, and a “pinch” or two or white granulated sugar (this gives the yeast food and helps it start “working”) I also add a few small shakes out of my table salt shaker, however i dont think that part is neccesary. As for how much water to flour, no matter how big of batch you want to make, I use sight and feel as a guide, not a measuring device. I try to keep it just a bit thicker than pancake batter. So it is still just a bit runny, but not watery. Then just close the lid, and let it “work”.

As I said, check it, half it, feed it, every day for the first week at least, then once or twice a week thereafter. Be careful not to mix too much at once! Becuase when it starts working it can expand double its size, or more! So keep that in mind. I have my own bread recipe, which maybe I will share at another time, but there are tons and tons of recipes here on the internet once your sour dough is ready to use. It makes some of the best food there is! Soooooo many different things you can do with it. Enjoy folks, don’t be scared to experiment a little. Just kinda remember the basics, and tinker with it. It’s not an “excact science” kind of thing. Enjoy your new pet folks, a living and breathing soured dough.