Monthly Archives: August 2013

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Green Chile Bread Pudding (+ an update on the chickens)

getting_their_wings

After a busy weekend, I looked at the chicks and realized they’re getting their wing feathers already. They’re nearly a week old now, and they’ve also mastered scratching in their feeder and in the clumps of grass I put in the brooder; seconds after I place them in the freshly cleaned box it’s trashed again.

6_day_old_chicks_trashing_the_brooder

They’re adorable though, and all eight appear to be thriving and will shortly be moved to their private quarters in the chicken coop. And then this Saturday, incubator #2 is due to hatch so we hope to have a few more joining the fun.

welsummer_egg_hatching

welsummerXfaverolles_just_hatched

The big chickens have also been going through a lot of changes this week. We found our first tiny pullet egg this week, and the rest of the girls from our April hatch should start laying anytime. And of course, the young roosters found their voices and started trying to put the moves on the ladies. It’s been an awkward few weeks, steeped in rejection, frequent ambushes, and plenty of dominance battles. Visiting the coop was like being in middle school again.

Ideally, the ratio should be 10 hens for every rooster. And as the boys matured, I learned firsthand that chickens aren’t meant to live in equal numbers. Our once-harmonious flock grew edgy and out of balance as the hormones kicked in, and we knew it was time.

With this flock, we planned from the start to harvest all but one of the boys. And so on Saturday morning, we followed through and butchered nine beautiful roosters. It was hard and sad work, but ultimately gratifying to see an entire shelf full of meat that we raised with care, from egg to freezer. Most roosters never even have a chance at life, they’re just an unfortunate byproduct of egg production — for each of the 18 female chicks we’ve purchased from hatcheries, a male chick was sent off to a rendering plant.

And so I think it’s more ethical to hatch my own laying hens and raise the roosters for the freezer, because I can ensure they’re well cared for and treated with respect. Even so, I get the occasional comment to the effect of “I wouldn’t kill a good looking rooster like that, send him to a nice farm!” (Actually, I’m pretty sure we are that farm). Butchering is bloody, brutal work to be sure, but I consider myself fortunate to be part of the process and know that my birds are treated with respect — really, I feel like I had more blood on my hands back when I was buying factory-produced chicken and eggs without acknowledging the source.

Butchering includes several steps, and as novices with nine roosters, my sister and I had our work cut out for us. Fortunately, our wonderful neighbor came over to help and even recruited her three houseguests to join us — maybe not what they were expecting on vacation, but they were excellent sports.

With six people on the line, the work passed quickly and the emotional burden felt a bit lighter too (or at least, having other people around helped me keep the water works under control). After just a few hours, we were all freshly showered and drinking a champagne toast to the boys, who were cleaned and chilling in the fridge.

I put brunch together the night before, since the kitchen would be devoted to packaging chickens and I doubted I’d feel like cooking afterwards. This dish is one of my go-tos when I’m having people over, because all I have to do in the morning is pop the pan in the oven. It’s usually improvised in my house, sometimes with bacon, sometimes with jalapeños, always with cheese — so just think of this recipe as a template for your own creation.

Green Chile Bread Pudding

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Green Chile Bread Pudding

A perfect dish for those days where you've promised someone you'll feed them brunch, but really want to sleep in.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium loaf of crusty bread, about 300 grams
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite green chile sauce, or roasted and peeled anaheims, or a small can of diced Hatch chiles
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 slices bacon (optional but highly recommended)

Instructions

  1. Cut bread into chunks about 1" thick and arrange in a 13x9 glass baking dish.
  2. Beat eggs with milk, and whisk in salt, chiles, half of the cheese, and bacon (if using).
  3. Pour egg mixture over bread and press down on the pieces to coat them.
  4. Sprinkle remaining cheese across the top and cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours (and up to 24).
  5. In the morning, let the dish come up to room temperature on the counter (about an hour) then bake in the middle a 350 degree oven until the cheese is browned and bubbly, about 25 minutes.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/green-chile-bread-pudding-an-update-on-the-chickens/

 

Day 20: First pip! (and how to follow the hatch)

firstPip#18

It’s happening! After 20 days of waiting, we got our first pip at about 10 this morning, and I’m starting to hear a lot of muffled peeping from the incubator as I type this. It could be another 24 hours before this chick hatches, or things could progress fairly quickly like they did last time.

first_chick

The first chick from the April hatch, who popped out much faster than expected

If you’re on Facebook, like The Homegrown Gourmet to receive the latest updates as they happen. If not, you can still read our recent posts in the column to your right. And of course, you can watch the live video stream from the incubator here!*

*To view on mobile devices, download the (free) Ustream app and search for “fall chicken hatch due 8-21-13”

Thanks for hatching with us!

Quick Pickled Green Beans

beans_spices_and_garlic_oh_my

This year, we have so many green beans (and purple, and yellow) that it’s a little hard to keep up. Between a 4′ x 4′ plot of bush beans and a couple trellises of climbing beans, I’m lugging a big basket of pods into the house every morning.

stages_of_bean_development

And when I find myself staring at a pile of fresh beans that I don’t feel like blanching and sealing for the freezer, I turn to the easiest possible method of preserving them, quick pickled green beans:

pack_raw_beans_in_jars_with_spices

Note that these pickled green beans are not the standard hot-processed “Dilly Beans,” which I’ve tried to embrace on many occasions but always found limp and aggressively vinegary. These beans are another story altogether. I included instructions for hot-processing these as well, if you feel you must, but I almost never bother canning my beans.

Quick pickles are great for two reasons: First, they aren’t all limp like their boiled counterparts. And more importantly, they couldn’t be easier. Just cram your vegetables and some spices into a jar, add vinegar and water in a 1:1 ratio, and pop it in the fridge. They don’t keep for years like hot-processed pickles, but once you taste them they won’t be sticking around longer than a month anyway.

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 quarts

Quick Pickled Green Beans

Delicious, crunchy, and perfect alongside a Bloody Mary (or a sandwich).

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds green beans, stems intact, washed and dried
  • 9 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons brown mustard seeds
  • 6 tablespoons dill seeds
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 9 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • a handful of washed fresh grape leaves (optional)

Instructions

  1. Pack green beans evenly into quart-sized jars, along with garlic, salt, spices, and grape leaves if using.
  2. Fill jars halfway with white vinegar, then top off with cool filtered water.
  3. Put lids on jars and flip upside down for a few minutes to distribute the spices.
  4. Refrigerate for at least 3 days to develop flavors. Pickles will be at their prime in 2 weeks, and will last up to a month.
  5. To can:
  6. Heat vinegar, water, and salt to a boil first, and pour over beans and spices in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes, adding time for altitude (I process for 15 minutes here at 6,000 feet).

Notes

Adapted from Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/quick-pickled-green-beans/

Pisco Lemonade

pisco_lemonade_with_tarragon

Sorry for the lack of recipe posts, you guys. I haven’t actually been cooking a lot of new things lately, which is funny because we’re totally overrun with fresh produce. Instead, I’ve spent late nights canning, freezing, and making pickles, and most of my meals are some variation on this. Not that I mind much.

Look at all the beans I’ve been putting away:green_beans_and_yellow_and_purple

This book is my favorite reference for canning and freezing (I have the 1970s burnt orange hardcover edition, a family heirloom). I’ll do an in-depth post on canning a little later this month, once the tomatoes get going.

edamame_to_be_frozen

And I just started a batch of long-fermented dill pickles from this book, in my new crock from The Savvy Hen. I’ll let you know how those turn out in a few weeks.

making_pickles

And tonight, we’ll be putting incubator #1 into “lockdown,” meaning we take the eggs out of the automatic turner, increase the humidity, and try our best not to touch the incubator until all the chicks hatch. They’re due Wednesday, but we’ll be starting the live stream whenever we see movement from the eggs, which could be a few days before. (Disclaimer: Last time they hatched a day early)

We’re also doing the first candling on incubator #2 tonight, which has eggs from our neighbor, a few from our hens (in case they’re fertile this time) and also a dozen free-range eggs from the grocery store. So again, we might have a lot that aren’t developing (but I’m excited to find out).

Oh right, I promised you a drink.

pisco

After a day of harvesting and selling flowers and veggies at a pop-up neighborhood farmer’s market, I was ready for a cocktail. My sister, who taught me the joy of a good Pisco Sour years ago, came up with this little gem — it’s similar, but doesn’t involve powdered sugar, or egg whites. It’s simple, refreshing, and easily to make for a crowd. Cheers!

Pisco Lemonade

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 1 cocktail

Pisco Lemonade

Simple, refreshing, and great for a crowd.

Ingredients

  • (for each cocktail)
  • 1 shot (1.75 oz) Pisco
  • 3.5 shots (6.25 oz) lemonade, ideally fresh-squeezed (and please not the powdered kind)
  • 1 sprig tarragon, mint, or your favorite herb

Instructions

  1. Combine pisco and lemonade in a shaker with ice. A standard shaker will hold two drinks' worth.
  2. Shake and strain into glasses.
  3. Garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs (tarragon works well).
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/pisco-lemonade/

Day 14: Candling

red_star_day_14_candling

Last night the eggs reached 2/3 of the way through incubation, and we candled them again to see how they’re developing.

The second batch of eggs, which we started after discovering that most of the original eggs were infertile, will be ready for their first candling this weekend (and we’ll be putting incubator #1 on lockdown this weekend, too).

ee_day_14_candling

This is a developing Easter Egger, the green pigment in the shell makes it difficult to see inside.

alive_and_welsummer_day_14_candling

A Welsummer egg, also very hard to see through but definitely developing.

leghorn_day_14_candling

White eggs are very easy to candle.

light_brown_egg_day_14_candling

By day 14 the claws are forming, and the chick is moving into position for hatch. It’s also taking up so much space in the shell that it’s difficult to see anything inside, much less photograph it.

welsummer_egg_day_14_candling

I pulled 5 eggs that weren’t developing, including the Welsummer egg I tried to patch with wax. No big surprise there. But interestingly enough, they were all from the same flock — so it probably has more to do with their diet or the age of the hens than the incubation.

dead_welsummer_egg_day_14_candling

Wax patch gone wrong

welsummer_egg_blood_ring_day_14_candling

Another Welsummer egg that didn’t make it.

dead_leghorn_day_14_candling

A dead Leghorn egg (we’d be seeing a lot more veins otherwise)

The other 13 looked really good, and we could see a lot of movement in some of the eggs. I also weighed each egg (ideally they should lose about 13% of their weight by the end of incubation) and most were right on track, at around 11%. In a few more days we’ll increase humidity, so the weight loss will slow down a bit then.

The chicks are due to hatch in about a week, and I’ll be starting a live video stream from the incubator once the eggs start rocking and rolling – so check back often! I’ll also be posting frequent updates to the Facebook page as we get closer to hatch day.

easter_egger_day_14_candling

Day 8: Candling

candling_day_8-2

It’s hard to believe the eggs are 8 days along already (they turn 9 this evening)! By now the embryos are far enough along that they’re starting to look like birds, and they’ll be sprouting feathers in the next few days.

Well, some of them are, anyway.

Read More

Chokecherry Jelly

chokecherries_in_the_sun

Last weekend, I got a text from my neighbor: “The chokecherries are ripe. Get them before the birds do!” And so my plans for the evening changed. I grabbed my buckets and headed across the street, where clusters of tiny cherries glistened on the bushes lining our dirt road.

chokecherries_everywhere

Chokecherries are a wild cherry that is native across most of the United States, and I’ve been harvesting them ever since I was little. At family picnics I’d tuck clusters of the bright, astringent jewels into my pockets for later, only to be forgotten until laundry day when my mom would open the washer to find a pile of purple-stained dress shirts. There wasn’t much she could say; she got in trouble for the same thing as a kid.

add_some_unripe_chokecherries_for_extra_pectin

Eaten right off the tree, chokecherries are extremely tart, and they’re mostly pit. But mixed with a whole lot of sugar, their delicious flavor comes out — imagine a much better version of the fake “wild cherry” stuff.

Chokecherries are easy to identify if you know what you’re looking for (namely, serrated leaves and small cherries hanging in clusters). But do a little reading first to ensure you’ve got chokecherries and not buckthorn, which would make for a truly memorable jelly (but not in a good way).

chokecherries_have_serrated_leaves

Whenever I harvest chokecherries, I tend to go a little overboard. I look at all those perfect little cherries, hours away from being stripped by the birds and the hornets, and I’m compelled to collect as many of them as humanly possible.

And then two or three hours later, sweaty and mosquito-bitten, I stand staring at 20 pounds of chokecherries that need to be picked through, and I wonder why I always get myself into these situations.

chokecherry_stemming_station

So if you’re going to be de-stemming 20 pounds of chokecherries, or even 5, there are a few things you’re going to need:

  1. Ideally a helper, but only someone with good attention to detail and fine motor skills. They’ll only be creating more work for you if they miss a bunch of stems and/or blemished fruit.
  2. That TV series you’ve been meaning to marathon-watch, books on tape, anything to keep your mind occupied for hours on end.
  3. Cocktails and caffeine, but not too much of either. (Refer back to #1).

This time, I set aside the ripest cherries for a batch of chokecherry wine, and the less-ripe cherries for jelly (since they add pectin and help it set).

I rinse the cherries in small batches (about 1-2 cups) as I pick through them, then once they’re all clean I boil and strain them to make juice for jelly. Or syrup, as the case may be.

milling_chokecherry_juice

The first time I attempted a batch of jelly on my own, my Mom passed down a bit of chokecherry wisdom she got from my grandmother: “If you try to make jelly, you’ll get syrup, and vice versa. So if you want jelly, try for syrup.”

Fortunately, I like chokecherry syrup even better than I like jelly, so I was secretly glad when my first batch didn’t set. For the second batch, I used my neighbor’s tried-and-true recipe and ended up with a delicious, perfectly set batch of chokecherry jelly. So hopefully it’ll work like a charm for you too, but if you get syrup, that’s just part of the challenge.

It’s possible to remake jellies that don’t set, but sometimes they get grainy so I just call it good at syrup (or “preserves” if it’s lumpy.)

outdoor_canning_setup

And a few words about my canning setup: I do most of my canning outdoors now, and I highly recommend doing it this way. While it’s entirely possible to do all of this on an electric stove in a tiny kitchen (and I have, many times) it’s so much better to do all the boiling outside while the cool evening air drifts through the house. It works so well for me that I eventually got a second propane burner and hot water canner so I can have multiple batches going at once, and they’re already getting plenty of use this summer.

sterilize_jars_by_boiling_at_least_10_minutes

The only downside is the mosquitoes, and the fact that it can be a little hard to see the jars at night (but a headlamp fixes that problem).

cool_on_rack_and_enjoy_the_sound_of_jars_sealing

Few things are as satisfying as lifting jars out of a hot water bath and listening to the *PING!* as each one seals. But picking wild cherries on the side of a road, and then turning them into something utterly delicious? Right up there.

Chokecherry Jelly

Prep Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: about 5 cups

Chokecherry Jelly

Wild chokecherries grow across most of the United States, and they make a delicious sweet-tart jelly.

Ingredients

  • About 4 pounds chokecherries, de-stemmed (to make 3 1/2 cups chokecherry juice)**
  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (1.75 oz) box powdered pectin
  • **About 1/3 of your chokecherries should be underripe, as the additional pectin will help your jelly set. If not, you may end up with syrup, which is also delicious.
  • Special equipment:
  • Clean 4 or 8 oz. canning jars with new lids
  • A 21.5-quart hot water canner
  • Canning funnel and utensils (tongs, jar lifter, etc.)

Instructions

    To make juice:
  1. Place your washed, de-stemmed cherries in a large pot and cover with filtered water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  2. Crush the fruit using a muddler or potato masher and hang it in a jelly bag to strain overnight, or if (like me) you don't have a jelly bag run the cherries through a sieve or foley mill. Allow the juice to settle for a few hours and carefully pour the top layer into another jar, leaving the sediment behind.
  3. Sterilize the jars:
  4. Put jars (a few more than you think you'll need) into a hot water canner and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and boil for at least 10 minutes, then turn off the heat.
  5. Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and remove from heat. Put jar lids in the hot water and cover until you're ready to use them.
  6. To make the jelly:
  7. Put a few small plates in the freezer to chill (you'll use these to test the jelly). Measure out the sugar and set aside.
  8. Bring your juice to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
  9. Add the pectin and stir until smooth, then bring to a full rolling boil and add the sugar all at once. Boil for exactly one minute and remove from heat. Skim any foam from the top.
  10. Dribble a small amount onto your chilled plate and put it back into the freezer for a minute. Then, pull it out and hold it sideways. If the jelly stays put, it's ready to process.
  11. Process the jelly:
  12. Remove your jars from the hot water bath and drain upside down on a clean towel.
  13. Using a canning funnel, carefully ladle the jelly into your jars, leaving 1/4" of air space at the top. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth and top with sterilized lids and screw tops. If you have a partial jar do not process it, just use it ASAP.
  14. Carefully place jars in canner, adding boiling water to bring level 2" above jar tops. Bring canner to a boil and then process for 5 minutes, plus additional time for altitude (at 6.000 feet, I process mine for 15 minutes). Find your processing time here.
  15. Remove jars from water bath and allow to cool. Check jars to make sure they have sealed, any jars that don't seal should be stored in the fridge and used first.
http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/chokecherry-jelly/

Summer Vegetables with Fried Goat Cheese

melty_fried_goat_cheese

Sorry for the long gap between recipe posts, but I assure you, I’ve been cooking up a storm. Last weekend I picked 20 pounds of chokecherries and made some jelly syrup, and also started a batch of chokecherry wine (to be shared here very soon). And then I had a one-day obsession with making zucchini bread waffles, but those still need tweaking.

Last night, I finally made something worth sharing.

I wandered out to the garden for some basil, and 20 minutes later found myself hauling in a whole lot more, using the bottom of my t-shirt as a makeshift basket. And I’d just picked zucchini that morning!

afternoon_harvest

The nightshades are still new and exciting, but frankly I’m starting to get a little tired of the squash. And the green beans.

Fortunately, a little bit of creamy goat cheese, fried in a panko crust, is just the thing to make the summer’s bounty exciting again. And I’m pretty sure it’ll be great on top of whatever you’re growing, too. I’d love to hear what you come up with — leave your favorite variations in the comments!

Summer Vegetables with Fried Goat Cheese

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Summer Vegetables with Fried Goat Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium slender eggplant, or 5 small round eggplants (if you use a larger eggplant or one that's been in the fridge a few days, you'll need to salt it first to remove the bitterness).
  • 2 handfuls small green beans (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a handful or two of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 1 sprig fresh basil leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 1 small log soft goat cheese
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Cut the goat cheese into 8 equal rounds (it's easiest to do this with unflavored dental floss, but you can use a sharp knife and then reshape the rounds with your fingers.)
  2. One by one, dip each slice of cheese in egg and let the excess run off, then dredge it in breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the squash and eggplant to uniform thickness, and trim and halve the beans. Finely chop the garlic and fresh herbs.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet and add the squash, beans, and eggplant, plus a sprinkle of salt. Cook until they're almost done, but still crisp (I use my purple beans as an indicator, I pull the veggies off the heat when they turn green). Add garlic and tomatoes, cook for a minute more and then set aside.
  5. Pour enough olive oil to coat a large frying pan, then put over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. To check temperature, toss a few breadcrumbs into the oil -- when they start bubbling as they hit the pan, add the goat cheese rounds, being careful not to overcrowd them. Cook until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes on each side, and drain on paper towels.
  6. Divide the vegetables among 4 plates and top each with a sprinkle of fresh herbs and 2 pieces of goat cheese.

Notes

The goat cheese portion of this recipe is adapted from Gourmet

http://www.homegrowngourmet.org/summer-vegetables-with-fried-goat-cheese/

It’s that time again…

eggs_for_hatching

After all the fun we had with the hatch last spring, I’ve been itching to get the incubator out again. And now, it’s finally time to get started on the fall hatch. So last night, I set the eggs. It’ll be barnyard mixes again this time, but I got my eggs from different sources.

I have six lovely dark brown Welsummer eggs, from a lady that I met on an incubation forum when I was planning my last hatch. I’m really excited about these — I’ve been wanting dark brown eggs for a long time, but Kung Pao rejected the first ones I tried, and I got 0/2 from the dark eggs in my last hatch.

So to up my chances, I got another four Welsummer eggs (with speckles!) from a local farm, plus a few Leghorns (white) and Easter Eggers (green). That flock includes a Cochin rooster, so most of the chicks should have feathered feet — which I find really cute, until it rains.

One of the pretty speckled eggs was cracked a bit, and I decided to take a chance and put it in anyway because there’s plenty of room (I’m splitting the eggs into two incubators this time, so that the chicks have more room to hatch and also so there’s a backup in case one fails).

wax_patch_job

I sealed the egg by lighting an unscented candle and dripping a bit of melted wax onto the crack to seal it. And then I accidentally poured wax halfway down the side of the egg and had to pick some off, probably ruining any chance that egg had of hatching.

I also put in 4 eggs from my neighbor, who has mostly red sex-links (which do not produce more sex-links, unfortunately). And because I saw Cordon Bleu attempting to molest Cutlet the other day, I put a few eggs from our flock in as well.

Finally, I filled in the balance with some eggs I got from a lady on Craigslist, which (I think) are from Buff Orpington and Rhode Island Red hens crossed with a rumpless Araucana (or is it Easter Egger?) rooster. So we’ll have some interesting genetics this time around.

incubator_running

There are more eggs in the mix than last time (55 versus 41) because there are quite a few that probably won’t hatch, and I’m not sure of the fertility rate for others. It’ll be an interesting experiment for sure, and like last time I’m planning to broadcast the hatch on Ustream starting around August 20th. Details (and candling photos!) coming in the next few weeks.