Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Canning Up a Storm

 I'm so thankful that we had so much warning ahead of time about Sandy.  It really gave us time to prepare. 
 One of the tasks I knew I wanted to accomplish before the storm hit was getting all of the tomatoes out of the freezer and turned into canned spaghetti sauce.  With slugs and late blight the tomato harvest was already pitiful - I wasn't about to lose any of it to a hurricane. 
 So, Sunday morning I  started in on my sauce.  The clouds were gathering, and I was getting tense.  I cook my sauce down in the oven (the same method I use for apple butter) over several hours.  We have a gas range, but the oven doesn't work if the power goes out.  I really, really didn't want to have to transfer everything to stock pots and try to cook it down on the stove top.  Fortunately, the sauce was done by late Sunday night.  So, when the power went off the sauce was safely tucked away in the canning cupboard. 
Monday morning I decided to really throw caution to the wind and do a baking of bread.  The fall had been so busy that I hadn't been able to bake for over a month, and we were down to one quarter of a loaf.  Amazingly, the bread was out of the oven, cooled, wrapped and frozen by the time the power went out. 
I even had time to make a new casserole for dinner.  I put that one in a cast iron skillet figuring that if I needed to I could finish it on top of the stove. 
We did all of the standard preparations for a storm.  Since we have a huge freezer - which is full of vegetables, prepared meals and breads -on Saturday I also filled it with lots of containers of water so that it would be completely full of frozen items.  I took out anything that I thought I might want over the next few days and moved it to the little freezer above the fridge so I wouldn't have to open the big freezer for any reason.  Then I crossed my fingers, said a prayer and walked away. 
Around 7 pm on Monday night we lost power, and stayed off for the next 22 hours.  Thankfully, we didn't lose anything.  My parents once lost power in the 70s for over six days - their freezer lasted fine for three days, so they figured I wouldn't lose anything as long as the power came back on by Thursday night... but I'm glad I didn't have to test their theory. 
Normally, when I menu plan I think about what came in the CSA bag, what we have growing in the garden, and what needs to be harvested/used.  With the impending storm, and then during the power outage, I found myself planning meals based on what needed to be eaten first before it rotted.  Here is our "Hurricane Menu".


Monday - Power almost all day... eating highly perishable food in anticipation of losing power...

Monday Breakfast:  Buckwheat Pancakes and Bacon (Something about the storm made me think of the Little House series so I made the pancakes from The Long Winter).

Buckwheat Pancakes (Adapted from the Little House Cookbook

If your kids are Little House fans and you don't have this book you should definitely get it. 
2 T Molasses
1 T dry yeast
2 c. buckwheat flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 T vegetable shortening (melted)
1/2 c. brown sugar
Real maple syrup
Real butter
The night before stir together the yeast, molasses, the flours and 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water.  Cover and let sit on the counter.  In the morning add the soda, salt,  and shortening.  Make the first pancake larger (this the blanket cake -it stays on the top of the stack to keep the others warm).  Then, draft one of your children to butter each pancake and sprinkle brown sugar on top. Make stacks of pancake, butter and brown sugar.  Then lift three or four pancakes onto a plate and drizzle real maple syrup on top.  These pancakes are incredible.  Soft and fluffy.  I love to make them in the winter.  They're what I often make on snow days before we head out to ski.  They fill you up, and warm you from the inside out. 
Monday Lunch:  Egg salad and a green salad
Monday Dinner: Turnip, Cheese and Apple Casserole and Marsala Trout

Turnip Casserole (Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Kitchen Garden Cookbook)

Peel and slice several large turnips.  Boil them in slightly salted water until tender, but not mushy ( 5 or so minutes).  Drain them.   While the turnips are cooking slice up several large cooking apples and set aside.  Then, slice up an onion and saute it with a cup of fresh sage leaves.  When everything is ready assemble the casserole by stacking layers of turnips, onions, apples and a good sharp cheddar cheese.  End with the cheese on top.  Bake at 350 until hot and bubbly - 15 to 20 minutes.  This was rich and savory.  A wonderful winter meal and so easy to prepare. 
The bacon, cheese and trout were from the freezer and I knew they wouldn't survive even a little thaw.  The egg salad and greens were easily perishable items in the fridge.

Tuesday - No Power until the evening

Tuesday Breakfast:  Ham, Egg and Cheese Sandwiches
Tuesday Lunch:  Hurricane Soup (or Turnip Casserole revisited), Parsley and Feta Salad

Hurricane Soup

What do you do to reheat a casserole when you don't have a microwave or oven?  You make soup.  Take the leftover turnip casserole.  Chop the turnips and apples into bite sized pieces.  Add the leftovers, three vegetable bullion cubes and three cups of water to a pan.  Heat and eat.  This tasted very much like French onion soup.  The cheese melted into the broth and created a warm and comforting meal.  I also added the last of the ham to the top of the soup as a garnish.
Tuesday Dinner:  Southwestern Potatoes

Southwestern Potatoes (Adapted from Simply in Season)

Cut up and boil about 5 large potatoes.  Drain.  Add 2 c. corn and 1/2 jar of salsa.  Stir until heated through.  Add salt if needed.  At the table have everyone add shredded cheese, hot peppers, hot sauce and ranch dressing to suit their own taste.  Fast, easy and always a kid pleaser.  There are never any leftovers.  I usually make this as a Sunday after church lunch. 
The ham, cheese and feta were from the freezer, and needed used before they defrosted. The parsley and casserole from the previous night needed eaten ASAP. 
By Tuesday night (around 8:00 PM) our lives were (sort of) back to normal.  The power was back on, and the freezers were busy doing their thing.  I decided that we need to consider getting a generator and I revised my Christmas list -  I want a presure canner.  Does anyone have good suggestions for a brand?
How do you prepare for natural disasters?  I know that I always feel better going into any kind of severe weather knowing that the wood stove will keep cranking and that the canning cupboard is full. 
Before the storm hit we also had a great early Halloween celebration.  I'm sharing some of those ideas as well. 
I hope you all weathered the storm without too much property damage, and without losing anyone you love.  My heart goes out to all of those who had much, much bigger problems than worrying about a freezer. 


Pumpkin Dippers

Reading Girl made this to share at a Halloween party.  I think it would be a great Thanksgiving appetizer too.  The kids could even assemble it while they were waiting for dinner. 
Simply fill a bowl with your favorite hummus, and  peel and slice carrots into rounds.  Then put a toothpick into each "pumpkin", stick it into the hummus and garnish with a small piece of parsley.  Thanks to Family Circle for the idea.  They also stuck a scallion on the toothpick for a stem, but my kids aren't big fans of raw onion so we skipped it.

Cat Eating Vampire

Carved Turnip

This year, while the kids carved pumpkins, I decided to carve a turnip. Check out this link for a history of Jack O'Lanterns. It was very easy (easier than carving a pumpkin). I chose one of my extra large turnips.  Then I cut the lid at a bias - just like pumpkin carving, and scooped out the inside with a grapefruit spoon.  I then carved in eyes, nose and mouth and added a tea light.  It turned out really neat and looked like a little skull - especially when it was lit. 

Spaghetti Sauce

I usually freeze my tomatoes until about the end of September.  Then I make one final picking and turn the last of the fresh tomatoes and the frozen ones into sauce.  I do this for several reasons.  First, spaghetti sauce is a lot of work, rather time consuming and quite a bit of mess.  I prefer to only do this process once.  Secondly, I've learned that when I freeze tomatoes I'm able to pour a lot of the liquid from the tomato off so there's less water and more pulp when I start. This makes the cooking process much faster.  Finally, the tomatoes are already broken down some from the freezer so they require very little cooking time before they can be churned through the Victorio.

Then, once I have the pulp ready, I add garlic, onion and lots of herbs and bake it down until it's thick.  This usually takes at least 6 hours - sometimes longer depending on how much liquid is in the tomato pulp when you start.  I usually do spaghetti sauce over two days, but this year I did it all in one. I had already picked and prepared the herbs at the end of September and put them in my freezer.  Then I bribed the kids with the promise of hot bread sticks if they would peel the garlic.  It really made the processing go faster.

The house smelled glorious, full of that rich tomato smell and the heady waft of garlic and herbs.  I had a spaghetti squash that I slow roasted at the same time.  So, by dinnertime I had sauce in the canner, sauce on our plates and fantastic bread sticks to dip into the sauce.  We were all in heaven.

My recipe was adapted from my mom's recipe.  She got hers from a first generation Italian immigrant woman from our church.  I increased the amount of herbs and garlic, and cut the sugar amount drastically.  I'm completely in love with my sauce.  I savor it all year long, and when the last jar is finished I feel forlorn.  I don't think there's ever been a year when I've made enough. I'd eat it straight from the jar, but that seems a bit extreme.

Garlic and Herb Spaghetti Sauce

For every quart of tomato puree....
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste (Optional - some years I use this, and some I don't.  It make the sauce thicken faster.)
2 t. fresh basil - chopped
2 t. fresh oregano - chopped
2 t. fresh rosemary
1/2 t. sugar
1 t. salt
1/8 t. pepper
1/4 c. onion - rough chopped
1 clove garlic

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and caramelized.  Then buzz in a food processor until smooth.

Add the onion mixture and the rest of the ingredients to the tomato puree.  Transfer to a 300 degree oven and bake until thick (approximately 6 hours).   Add 2 t. of lemon juice to each jar, then can for 45 minutes.

I measure out sauce into my big roaster and my other big pans, and then chop the correct amount of garlic and onions.  I then add the rest of the ingredients directly to the pans.  When I first started to make this sauce I actually measured out all of the herbs.  Now I only actually measure the salt and pepper.  I'm also sure to not have too much onion in the sauce.    I've been making this sauce for 15 years, so I've gotten pretty good at eyeballing the rest of the ingredients.  I then add salt as needed as the sauce cooks down. 

Tomatoes thawing in the sink the night before processing

Tomatoes heating on stove top to finish defrosting

Tomato Puree

Garlic smashing and snacking

Sauteed garlic and onions

Garlic and Onion Paste

Sauce with all the ingredients - ready to cook down

Finished!  I only got 12 jars.  Stupid slugs!

There were two positive benefits of the storm.  The Woodsman has gotten three loads of wood this week (one of them was already cut).  We lost eight trees, but none of them hit buildings, although the chicken house was almost a goner.  The other great benefit was the snow on the mountains.  It's just enough for us to pretend that we live in Colorado, and enough to give us hope for snow this winter.

What kind of wood do you think this is?  We have a little debate going.

Sunrise on North Mountain 10/31/12

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