Archive for January, 2012

Sometimes Persistance Pays Off

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

I ordered my original chicken flock from McMurray’s Hatchery. I remember getting the phone call from the post office that they had a peeping box for me as if it were yesterday. I also remember excitedly claiming my box at the post office while everyone in the there ooooooowed and awwwwwwed over the sounds coming from it.

But what I remember most of all was getting to my car, opening the box, and taking my first look at the 27 precious little fuzzy faces that looked up at me. They took my breath away. And they stole my heart.

I do believe it was precisely at that specific moment, when I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I could never have too many chickens.

Unfortunately, it was also, precisely at that specific moment, that Bernie was busily finishing up the chicken coop he was building for them.

I say “unfortunately” because I knew it wasn’t big enough for all the chickens I had planned in our future.

I also knew he would not agree with my plans.

But I am nothing if not persistent……….

Before my pullets were one year old, a few went broody.And I let them hatch out babies. It didn’t take long before it became obvious that the 8 X 8 coop that Bernie built was simply too small.

I approached Bernie with confidence. “Bernie I need a bigger dad gum coop!”

“No, you need fewer dad gum chickens!”

Ugh. He was going to be a tough nut to crack.

Over the course of the following years, I dropped hints about a bigger coop on a regular basis. And Bernie regularly rolled his eyes and then proceeded to completely ignore me.

But I never gave up.

Then, for reasons still completely unknown to me, I one day mentioned a bigger coop and Bernie said “Well, how do you want to add on to it?”

I’m not sure of how I responded, but I think I had the vapors.

And with the additional coop space, I’ve ordered 16 more baby peeps – which are scheduled to arrive here on April 2nd.

I need to pinch myself right about now……..

So, yesterday, this is how our coop and chicken run looked:

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And this morning, after the steps were disassembled and the netting was pulled back, this is how it looked:

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And this afternoon, after several hours of leveling and building the coop floor, this is how it looked:

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And this is how Jake looked all stinkin’ day long:

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Turns out Jake doesn’t like change very much…….

And the chickens weren’t too crazy about it at first. But after we finished up, a few brave souls made their way into the chicken run to eat a little supper.

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I think I can honestly say that no one on this homestead is happy about the chicken coop addition.

Except me.

I’m happy.

I am pretty danged happy.

Sometimes persistence pays off.

Homemade Sauerkraut

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Bernie and I have really enjoyed the sauerkraut we’ve been making in our crock. Last summer I took some pictures of the process we use and I am just now getting around to posting them. We’ve been using a crock to make our sauerkraut, but you don’t need one. A plastic bucket or glass container will work as well.

We used a mandolin slicer to slice up our cabbage.

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We’ve used a knife and cutting board in the past. Either works just fine.

We slice the cabbage and put it into our crock as we go. When we have about two inches or so of cabbage, we sprinkle salt over it. The ratio we use is about two tablespoons of salt to four pounds of cabbage. Just make sure the salt has no iodine. Iodine inhibits the fermentation process.

After we get a couple inches of cabbage, we sprinkle it with a little of the salt and then tamp it down. I have used my fist to tamp it in the past. I’ll be honest – it was a little painful! What we used the last time we made sauerkraut works the best we’ve found so far – the pestle that came with our tomato sieve. It works like a champ!

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Whatever you use or do, you need to really bruise up the cabbage and release the juices. We’ve learned this step is the most important step in making great tasting sauerkraut.

Just continue adding sliced cabbage, a little salt, and then tamping. This is what it looked like when we had filled the crock as much as we wanted.

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We let it sit about 20 minutes. And then we checked it.

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We were just tickled pink that it produced so much brine! In the past we’ve had to add brine that we made, but this time it produced enough of it’s own. Did I mention the pestle did a great job? Well, probably Bernie’s strength using the pestle made all the difference, but still……..

When we’ve had batches that did not produce enough brine, we had to make our own. We use about two tablespoons of salt (without iodine) to 1 quart of water and bring it to a boil. Once it cools, we just pour it over the cabbage. But when we really tamp the snot out of the cabbage we found it produces enough brine of it’s own.

Once we added the weights on top of it, we could see the brine covering the entire batch.

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And that’s what you want – brine completely covering the cabbage and the weight that you use. And you want to use a weight – it’s important to keep all the cabbage under the brine. If you don’t have weights, you can use a plate and put a gallon jug filled with water on top of the plate. It doesn’t have to fit side to side, you just want to be sure you’re cabbage stays under your brine so it can properly ferment. If you don’t have a cover for your container, you may need to add a little brine from time to time. Just keep an eye on it.

We let that batch ferment about 6 weeks, and I honestly think it was the best batch of sauerkraut we’ve ever made. It was very tangy and had a wonderful texture. I would say it was the best batch of sauerkraut we’ve ever made.

We’ve made homemade sauerkraut several times in the past 25 years, but we’ve not experimented much with other vegetables. Last year I fermented a batch of green beans with onions, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed them!

Do you ferment vegetables? What is your favorite? And would you share your recipe? :)

Well, Hello There 2012 – Wanna See My Buns?

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year, Everyone! May 2012 bring you good health, much laughter, and more happiness than you can handle!

2011 was a blur for us. We had some very happy times. And some very, very sad times. But every year that we live through is a good year, and I hope 2012 will be gentle on us and leave us all with many happy memories.

On this first day of 2012 Bernie and I woke up early and got a boston butt in the smoker. And then I got some black eyed peas with ham, some homemade BBQ sauce, and some collard greens simmering on the stove.

We planned to shred the boston butt when it came out of the smoker, and make some nice BBQ sandwiches for our meal.

And what’s a nice BBQ sandwich without a good bun, right?

I’ve only used one burger bun recipe for the past few years, and we were fairly happy with it. But when I saw the burger buns my friend Mary Ann made, I had to ask her for the recipe. And she told me she used the recipe from King Arthur’s cook book.

I love me some King Arthur, and Mary Ann’s burger buns were looking pretty awesome, so I just had to give the recipe a try on this first day of 2012.

And man, oh man, am I ever glad I did.

Just take a look at my awesome buns!

You want to make these. Trust me, you really want to make these. For burgers, for sandwiches, or just for eating. They are that good!

And I’m gonna tell you how to make them.

Straight from King Arthur himself – adapted a little by me.

You’re gonna be happy you made these. I promise!

Note: For best results, weigh your ingredients. If you use measuring cups, you may need to add a little more flour or water to get a smooth, slight soft dough)

Ingredients:

1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter
1 large egg
3 1/4 cups (13 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (I didn’t use KA flour – don’t tell!)
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

1) Combine and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.

2) Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s nearly doubled in bulk.

3) Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3″ across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until noticeably puffy.

4) Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Yield: 8 large buns.

These were the best burger buns I’ve ever made. They are quite large, and in the future I will divide the dough to make 10 buns instead of 8.

I was a little nervous putting my buns out there for everyone to see. But now I’m thinking this may become a New Year’s tradition around here :)

Happy New Year, everyone! Show me your buns!