Monthly Archives: October 2010

horseradish

horseradish

Horseradish is one of my favourite things to eat on beef, so last summer on a whim I bought some from the grocery store and planted it in my garden. It was easier and cheaper than buying the roots online from a horseradish-root company. And if it didn’t work, well…. oh well. I like to try new things so it was fun just having the idea.

This year the horseradish grew very well – huge green leaves in my front garden – and now that the weather is turning a bit I wanted to see what was under the soil line. So I dug it up. You can see in the photo that it has multiple roots, mostly pretty skinny. I’m going to try and preserve it anyway, see what happens. I found an eHow article, and I’m going to give it a whirl. If you don’t hear anything about it after this, that probably means it didn’t turn out.
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hot stuff

chili pepper plant

Everybody should grow food in their backyard. Or on their balcony. Or in a window, like my brother and his wife did for a year or two. Even if it’s only enough for a snack. There are many reasons why I say this, and one of the most important has to do with our children. How will they know where their food comes from, unless we show them?

Here’s a story for you: picture my cute little nephew, one and a half years old. Says a few words, communicates well regardless of how many words he uses. Hefty boy, tough as nails – he has to be, he has an older brother – and very adventurous. My sister has a garden in her backyard – she has to, we have the same genes – and in it she has a chili pepper plant, pictured above. It’s a big beautiful plant, because her soil is good and so is the weather where she lives. Don’t those peppers look tasty? Bright red, they just call you to come and have a taste. So, that’s what my nephew does. Every time he gets into the garden. Takes a bite, spits it out, and says “hot”. Every time. He’s learning about chili peppers, hands-on!

So where does our food come from? Carrots don’t grow on trees and peppers don’t grow underground. Oranges don’t grow in our climate so they have to be shipped from somewhere warm, far away. Broccoli takes up way more space in the garden than the head you buy in the grocery store. Parsnips are not white carrots, apple trees take at least 5 years to produce fruit, lettuce likes growing in cool weather, and sugar snap peas are pure candy when eaten off the vine. If you sat and watched a pumpkin vine for a few hours, you would swear you saw it grow an inch. There are thousands of tomato varieties, but for some reason the ones you buy in a grocery store are tasteless. I think the next generation needs to know these things and more.

My children eat beans raw from the garden, but if I buy frozen ones they put up a big fight about eating them cooked. In the summer they snack on the cherry tomatoes and beans and peas and ground cherries in the garden, sometimes playing restaurant outside, or playing that they’re orphans (gasp) and need to scavenge for food. Such imagination, such healthy food entering their growing bodies, I love it.

It doesn’t matter the size of the garden, or what is grown, but everyone needs to grow something edible. At least once. And share it with someone younger.

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giving thanks

brussels ontario from the air

There’s nothing like 1,000 feet of altitude. It re-energizes and puts life in perspective in a way that a big thanksgiving dinner can’t. I love dinner, but flying in a wee airplane would be my choice if I had to choose between the two. My brother-in-law took up family members, a few at a time, for a bit of a spin in the Cessna 172 (4 seater) before dinner yesterday. What a treat – it’s been at least 9/10 years since I’ve been up in a plane that small!

The fall leaves were out in force, and many fields were cleared of crops and boasted perfectly straight lines – from disking or ploughing or seeding winter wheat? Not sure what. It was beautiful, though. We also flew over the local golf course, since he was going golfing the next morning and wanted to get the lay of the land beforehand. Such handy things, airplanes.

Airplanes also brought my hubby home safely from the DR Congo recently – so I guess airplanes are near the top of my thankful list this year. Also on the list are family and friends and all the usual suspects, but I’m feeling particularly thankful for the times I’ve spent with family and friends, not just the fact that I have them. Below is a photo of my girls and I, taken by my sister when we took our kids out for a hike at a favourite childhood conservation area – Mud Lake in Port Colborne. It was a fantastic time of exploring nature and being with family; another re-energizing experience.

exploring dead tree in water

We’ve spent time camping with friends this summer, which the whole family enjoyed, and we’ve worked on projects together. The greenhouse was a big one that I’m very thankful for – so many family members pitched in on that one.

I’m also thankful for the people in my life who have helped me decide to just give’er and do this “Sarah’s Kitchen Gardens” thing – and cut out all the extraneous miscellaneous superfluous jobs. I’m feeling more at peace with my direction in life, now that I’m following my passion for growing food and helping others grow food too.

And thanks to you who read this blog – I know somebody’s reading because it’s in the stats – even though there aren’t a lot of comments I know you’re out there. I appreciate you stopping by.

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meet velvet

velvet the bunny

This is the newest addition to our meat garden. Velvet, as the girls have decided to call her, is a meat rabbit who will become the mother of some tasty meals.

Don’t mind the patch of brown – she’s actually just pure white with grey nose, ears, and tail. She had some fun outside in the grass today and got herself a little bit dirty. She’s a cross between the California and New Zealand breeds, hence the grey bits from her California side.

She came from a friend who sold me on the idea of raising rabbits when she said they’re quiet and their waste is a lot less overpowering in stench than that of the chickens. They’re also very productive – it doesn’t take long to go from just born to ready for supper, and rabbits will breed a few times through the season.

So here we go – we’re going to give it a try!!

fermented foods

sauerkraut

I made some sauerkraut last week after a bit of a hiatus; my last few batches didn’t turn out so well and I was a bit discouraged by the lack of yummy eats after the days of fermentation. This batch turned out ok, although next time I think I’ll let it ferment a bit longer so it has a stronger flavour.

It’s super easy. Do you want to make some? Here’s what I did:

1. Find a medium-sized cabbage, some sea salt, caraway seeds, a big bowl, potato masher, big spoon, wide-mouth mason jars, a drip-catching pan that fits the jars, and a food processor with shredding attachment.

2. Take any yucky leaves off the cabbage. Take some nice ones off too, and save them for later.

3. Shred the cabbage with the food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, that’s really too bad because it makes this part a whole lot easier.

4. Put the cabbage in a big bowl and mix in 2 tablespoons or more of sea salt. And caraway seeds, if you like them in kraut. They’re optional.

5. Let it sit for awhile. Clean the food processor, check your email, like my facebook page….

6. Next, stomp it with the potato masher for a bit, until it’s really juicy. If you pile it all in the middle of the bowl and then press down with the masher, juice should ooze around the masher. Then you’re done mashing. Might take 8-10 minutes.

7. Get your big spoon and scoop it into the wide-mouth mason jars bit by bit, pressing down between every 1-2 scoops. Make sure it’s really pressed in there. Leave 2 inches from the tops of the jars.

8. Find those nice cabbage leaves you saved for later, and trim them so they’re a bit bigger than the size of the jar. Use them to cover the top of the sauerkraut, and sort of push down on them until the juice starts oozing around them.

9. Put the lids on, but don’t screw them down tight. They should be loose enough to allow leakage, if needed.

10. Put the jars in the pan designated to catch drips.

11. Leave them for 3 days. You’ll see the juice level rise in the jars as the lacto-bacteria ferment on the cabbage.

12. Taste and see if it’s strong enough for you – if not cover it back up and let it sit for a bit longer.

13. When you like the flavour, put it in the fridge and close the lid tightly. You want to prevent evaporation of the liquid at this point, and the ferment doesn’t need to have overflow capacity anymore.

14. Leave a comment for me and let me know how it went!

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Note: if something goes wrong, you will know. Sauerkraut should smell sour, not rotten. If it smells off to you, don’t eat it. If you’re not sure, ask someone who loves sauerkraut to smell it and taste it for you.

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hearts and gizzards

heart and gizzard in a pan

Last weekend my father-in-law showed me how to butcher chickens, so I have some organic, n0t-quite-free-range but good old scratch-in-the-dirt chicken in my freezer. They were the happy birds living in my backyard for the summer. I kept them fed and watered and they mostly sat around and ate. White Rocks do that. Bred for eating and gaining, you hope to goodness they don’t have a heart attack before it’s harvest time. These four made it, and it was time.

So I had a lesson in how to do things the quickest and easiest way possible. First the head comes off (father-in-law did this part), then you hold the legs while the wings flap for a bit. The bird then gets dunked in 160 degree water to loosen the feathers. It’s hung upside down while you pluck the feathers out. Repeat with the other birds.

The next stage after that is the part where you “take the motors out”: the innards, also called offal. It was during this stage that I learned how to properly prepare a gizzard. Well — first I learned that the gizzard is the stomach. Then I learned how to slice around the edge a bit, open it up and take out the lining along with the contents.

My first attempt at preparing this for eating is pictured above. In the pan is one heart and one gizzard, cut up and cooked. I had read about a marinade for offal, and wanted to try it. Lime juice, jalapeno, cilantro, ginger, garlic. It was really gross. I think I must have done something wrong.

So the next thing I will try, on a friend’s recommendation, is boiling then frying in butter. I’ll let you know how it goes. After that, I have two more sets of heart and gizzard, and I’m up for trying new things. If you have a recipe you’d like to share I’d be happy to hear it.

Oh – and the cat ate the liver. He loved it.

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