Canning and Food Preservation

Independence Days: Weeks 20 through 22

We’ve been busy this summer and I’ve not had much time to write about it!

I was privileged to go to a friend’s birth at the very end of July – it turned out to be a long birth and it took me a couple days to recover.  I don’t know how those midwives do it!  Also, we’ve been getting lots of yummy produce from the farm and we’ve been trying not to let any go to waste.

Also we have a lot of veggies coming on from the garden.  Pictured are onions, beets, cucumbers and turnips.

I did make cherry preserves a couple weeks ago with the cherries I got to pick.  Unfortunately I didn’t cook it quite long enough, so it was very thin.  We’ve been using it anyway – we just pretend it’s cherry syrup.  😉

H was getting worn out from going to the farm on Tuesday and then school on Wednesdays, making Thursday really hard every week, so we switched his school day to Tuesday while E and I are at the farm.  He seems to be doing much better with that schedule, which we are all happy about.

Last weekend we went to the Adams County Fair.  Our friend, Richard, got us tickets to the truck pull and a parking pass, and my mom and Manuel had food coupons and a parking pass as well, so they joined us.  We had a GREAT time.  H loved the truck pull with all the noise and the big trucks (though I was cringing terribly from all the black diesel exhaust I was watching needlessly billow into the air – oy!), and we had a blast riding carnival rides, eating yummy carnival food (like the giant brat Rick got) and playing games.  We stayed until past midnight!  It was a fun treat for everyone.

This weekend I gave the bees their second jar of sugar water.  Originally I wasn’t going to supplement our bees at all, but we started getting a little concerned that they might not get enough honey built up for the winter after their late start this spring.  Not sure if we’ll give them more, but hopefully that will help them get a little extra stored for the winter.

We picked a lot of green grapes from the neighbor this weekend, but I’m not sure what to do with them?  Anyone know of a way to preserve green grapes?  Maybe make raisins?

At any rate, here’s the update:

Plant something – Rick planted beets and spinach in the strip by the driveway.

Harvest something – eggs, turnips, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, beets, tomatoes, green seedless grapes from the neighbor across the alley from us!

Preserve something – cherries into cherry preserves; onions hung up in the crawl space; 4 gallon size bags of corn on the cob and nearly two gallons of beans in the freezer; shredded 35 cups of zucchini: froze 30 cups and made five loaves zucchini bread; dried corn husks for making tamales this fall; made and froze double batches of pizza dough, doughnut dough, potato soup (1.5 gallons).

Waste Not – compost and recycling, scraps to chickens, etc.

Want Not – nothing.

Build Community Food Systems – nothing.

Eat the Food – we’ve been grilling pizzas using farm tomatoes, the last of our sausage, and farm basil.  Otherwise, just been enjoying all the yummy summer bounty!

Categories: Beekeeping, Canning and Food Preservation, Childbirth, Food, Garden, Independence Days | 2 Comments

Independence Days: Week 19

The update:

Plant something – nothing planted

Harvest something – eggs, turnips, onions, cucumbers, sour cherries (destined for the dehydrator – and maybe a pie), zucchini.

Preserve something – Finally!  Made 10 quarts and 8 pints of dill pickles, and 7 half-pints of pickled garlic!

Waste Not – compost and recycling, of course, scraps to chickens, etc.  We usually have about half of a bag of trash per week – how’s that for not wasting??

Want Not – I feel like I’m really getting better at this food storage bit – what with the elk and getting things in bulk.  Looking for someone to split a bag of quinoa with…

Build Community Food Systems – my friend took me to pick the cherries this week – a tree at her church was just FULL of them – big and plump.  Can’t believe the birds had not eaten them.

Eat the Food – my favorite thing this week:

Chili-Basil Elk and Broccoli over Coconut Rice

1.25 cups jasmine rice
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk plus 3/4 cup water
pinch of salt to taste
1-2 TBS olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3-4 green chiles, chopped
1 head of broccoli, chopped
1 big handful of green beans, trimmed (and cut if you like)
1-1.5 lbs thinly sliced elk (can subsitute beef)
2 tsp dried or 3 TBS fresh basil
1 TBS fish sauce
2 TBS plus 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
1-2 tsp sesame oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced

In a medium sauce pan, combine the rice, coconut milk, water and salt.  Cover, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for 25 minutes.  Combine the fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic in a small dish and set aside.  Meanwhile, in a wok or large skillet heat oil over high and add onions and green chiles.  Saute for 3-4 minutes, and then add broccoli and green beans.  As soon as the veggies start to brighten in color, add the meat and the basil.  Stir often.  Just before the meat is browned completely and not quite cooked through, add the sauce mixture.  Keep stirring for 30 seconds to a minute, until it is fragrant, the meat is done to your liking and the veggies are bright green, but not over cooked.  Serve in a bowl over the coconut rice.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes, Sustainability | 4 Comments

Independence Days – Weeks 21 & 22

Wow twenty-two weeks at Sharon’s Independence Days already.  It’s been fun and eye opening to track all these little baby steps each week and see how they are adding up.

We had the first frost of the year last week and therefore had a mass exodus of produce from the garden.  5 gallon size bags filled with tomatoes went into the freezer and lots of winter squash went down to the basement for storage.  There is a lot of damaged squash that we’ll be cooking up this coming week, turning it into puree for soups and bread recipes.

Look at the last of the garden goodies:

before the freeze

That of course doesn’t count the spinach, radishes, chard and kale that is still growing despite the weather.  I don’t think that the beets or lettuces pulled through though.  Next year we will have to put in those for winter a bit earlier so they can get better established.    Also, the potted herbs I brought home a few weeks ago bit the dust, besides the rosemary, which seems hardier and possibly strong enough to survive my kitchen gardening “techniques.”

Also, after the awesome compost class that Rick and I took in September, we’ve been working on the big compost remodel… first moving the chicken coop, then deciding on a plan for the space then collecting materials.  Rick was able to dig up some pallets from his work, so the biggest part of the bins will have cost us nothing.  Yay!

So down to the nitty gritty:


Plant Something –  none

Harvest Something –  all the acorn squash & butternut squash, the pumpkins, all the tomatoes & zucchini.  Eggs.  Also Rick & H got a dusky (blue) grouse, and Rick brought home a mallard drake as well.

Preserve Something –  Potatoes and winter squash to basement, froze tomatoes, froze the duck and a second grouse that Rick’s uncle gave us, made a double batch of curried carrot-leek soup for the freezer.

PalletsWaste Not – Lots of “new” clothes for me from my sistah.  Rick brought home some pallets from work to use to build our new compost bins. Also traded a large propane tank for a smaller one that will fit our gas grill.

Want Not/Prep & Storage – besides items added to freezer, nothing to add to this category.

Build Community Food Systems –  posted on craigslist for the Englewood Farmer’s Market.  Ordered the hog that we’re splitting with friends.  Checked out another market in Littleton, will be going back to get apples this coming week… refrained from buying honeycrisp apples brought in from Washington at Costco for only $0.50/lb, even though the Colorado ones are $2.20/lb at the farmer’s market.

Eat the Food – ate the grouse, used some frozen peaches for a tart (yum!), butternut squash, spaghetti squash, zucchini bread, pickles (they turned out!  Yay!), potato soup, potato-leek quiche… lots of yummy things these last two weeks.  Here’s an old Field & Stream recipe for awesome duck breasts:

Doug’s Grilled Duck Breasts
Marinade for 4-6 duck breast halves:
1 T olive oil
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T fresh sage, chopped
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
6 oz teriyaki sauce
1 oz +/- Jack Daniel’s
salt & pepper to taste

Place duck and marinade into a ziplock bag in refrigerator and marinade for 2-4 hours.  Heat charcoal grill.  Place duck breasts on grill when flame has died and coals are hot.  Cook for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes on each side until rare or medium rare.  Let rest 1 minute.  Serve.

*note that duck is a red meat (not like chicken), and can safely (and deliciously) be eaten rare.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Hunting, Independence Days, Recipes | 2 Comments

Independence Days – Week 20

DinoNot much to add this week.  We had a fun weekend, but not a lot of it was spent with food.  We went to a new friend’s home for dinner on Friday night (we met through the Urban Homesteader meetup group).  They are actually neighbors, and we had a wonderful time talking natural parenting, homebirth, food, gardens.

They are restoring their 1925 home to orignal condition as much as possible.  It was so cool to see what they’ve done and to imagine what the home was like back when it was owned by a Madam!  How cool that they know the history and are working to preserve it! We swapped recipes and pediatrician names.  I’m happy to have neighbors who are as crazy as us!

We also went to the botanic gardens (on Saturday) to see the Jurassic Gardens exhibit.  H liked seeing the dinosaurs and the weather was just perfect.

We wrapped up the weekend on Sunday with the cheesemaking class, and that was really fun.  I made another batch of addicting and horribly bad for you chocolate chip cookies, and we roasted the last pie pumpkins we had.  (Only have big ones left now).  Besides a few tomatoes, we mostly stayed out of the garden this week… (unusual for us lately).

Here’s the rundown on what we did do:

Plant Something –  none

Harvest Something–  tomatoes, zucchini, eggs, pie pumpkins at the farm

Preserve Something –  Froze tomatoes, made pumpkin butter, froze pumpkin puree, toasted pumpkin seeds…

Waste Not – I took advantage of the extra “damaged” pumpkins that were not good enough to put into shares from the farm.  These would have otherwise gone to waste.   We also saved the whey from the cheesemaking class… some for the chickens, and some for our friends who use it for grains.

Want Not/Prep & Storage – nothing to add this week.

Build Community Food Systems –   I hosted a cheesemaking class in our home on Sunday.  It was cool to learn how easy it can be, plus, I got to meet a few more ‘Urban Homesteaders’ from the meetup group.

Eat the Food – mmm… we opened the dill pickles we made earlier this summer…. YUM!  I’m so glad they turned out well, since we have quite a few quarts of them!

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds:  Rinse seeds and spread on a kitchen towel to dry most of the way.  Mix 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp sugar.  Spread the seeds on a baking sheet, and sprinkle spice mixture over them.  Stir the seeds to make sure they are all covered with the spices.  Place in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Stir the seeds and roast another 10 minutes.  Check them frequently so they don’t burn.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 2 Comments

Independence Days – Weeks 18 & 19

P9180029So this week, I learned a bit more with canning.  While we were pickling beets on Friday, Rick and I had our first jar break.  And our second. 

We had about two hours before we had to leave to be at his family’s home for a party, so we (I) decided to get the beets finished.  Right as we were putting the filled jars into the pot to process, one of my quart jars cracked open, the whole bottom came off and beets and pickling brine filled the pot.  So I dumped the pot, refilled it and set it to boil again, while Rick called and said we were going to be late. 

You know the saying, a watched pot never boils.  And it truly felt that way.  But once it was going again, we put in all the jars, brought it back to a rolling boil and set the timer.  Well about ten minutes into the processing, I noticed that there wasn’t much steam coming from the pot.  I lifted the lid to see what was going on, and saw that another jar had broken.  😦  We didn’t dump it all out this time, we just got it back to boiling and processed the rest of the jars in beet pickle water. 

P9180030In all we lost a quart and a half of the gorgeous beets I’d been hording for this batch.  And we were an hour late to the party.  We’re still not totally sure why those jars broke, but they were jars that I had bought second hand.  I don’t know if that had something to do with it or not, because I looked at all the jars closely before I bought them.  But if that was the reason, I don’t know if it was worth the savings on the used jars. 

Plant Something –  none

Harvest Something–  mint, the last cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, eggs, chard

Preserve Something –  Froze tomatoes, watermelon rind pickles, carrots, concord grape jam (thanks to the Carlsons), pickled beets, beans.

Waste Not – Made a mei tai baby sling all by myself!  This cost me about $20 instead of 80 for one from the store!  So far I love it!  I’ll post pictures and more on this later this week.

Want Not/Prep & Storage – made a lot of progress on the food log.  When I get this complete, I will post for you to check out. 

Build Community Food Systems –  Went to a Meetup about composting.  It was through DUG (Denver Urban Gardeners), and we learned a lot.  We also got to share a little info about our chickens, and we met another young couple in our neighborhood who are doing some of the same things we are. 

Eat the Food – One Pot Chicken Cacciatore (adapted from Glorious One Pot Meals)

Serves 4
Olive oil
1 large onion, sliced in wedges
1 1/2 cups pasta
3/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
Oregano, salt, pepper, marjoram, & savory to taste
4 pieces of chicken (we like to use thighs)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1 small zucchini, sliced
2 bell peppers (any color), sliced
2 large, juicy tomatoes (or (1) 14oz can of tomatoes), chopped
2 TBS capers

Preheat oven to 425.  Spray inside and lid of dutch oven with olive oil.  Put sliced onion and pasta in the bottom of the pot.  Combine water and white wine, and pour half over the pasta and onions.  Put in chicken thighs, and season with salt and pepper well.  Sprinkle in oregano, marjoram and savory (I’m guessing here, but maybe 1/2 tsp each, dried?).  Layer in garlic, squash, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomatoes with juice.  Sprinkle capers on top, and season again with salt pepper, oregano and marjoram.  Pour remaining wine/water mixture over the top.  Cover with lid and bake for about an hour.  Check chicken for done-ness, and finish baking if needed.  (this always take me longer than I will think, because I always pack the pot full of veggies).

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | Leave a comment

Independence Days – Week 17

We’ve been learning so much in the last few weeks.  The bumper crops from the farm and garden have made us do a bit more research into preserving, storage and preparation.  Also, gardening in the winter has been on the radar. 

We’ve always talked about but never tried planting things for the winter here.  But I went to the Rocky Mountain Seed Company, and got a few tips.  This year we’re going for it!

Plant Something –  spinach, beets, radishes and lettuce.  Also, bought some little pots of herbs to put int the kitchen.  🙂  I’m not great with potted plants, but I have a good feeling about these ones.  🙂

Harvest Something– eggs: in fact, so many eggs that I have three egg cartons in the fridge, and one is an 18 egg carton! Also mint, tomatoes, chard, zucchini, and on the farm we picked melons and winter squash! 

Preserve Something –  beans, corn and carrots into the freezer, canned peaches, peach jam.

Waste Not – How about this – I went to the Goodwill on Sunday to get more jars for canning.  They were $1.00 each (too much!), but while I was there they announced that Monday everything would be 50% off.  So I went back Monday morning, and got two books and 19 jars for fifty cents each.  AND they had a 2002 Burley d’Lite for $74.99.  I got it for half that!  $37.50!!  It needs a cover, and that will probably be about $100 or less.  Still an incredible deal!!  I did not waste money this week!

Want Not/Prep & Storage – started a food journal to track what’s being grown and stored, how much, and how long it lasts!

Build Community Food Systems – We are thinking of trying to sell a dozen eggs a week (I’m afraid to commit to more), and that money would help off-set the feed costs for the hens.  I’d like it to be to one person every week… someone who’s committed to buying them, I don’t really have time to market them.  😉  Let me know if you’re in the area and want to buy a dozen eggs from free-range, pastured chickens! 

Eat the Food – peaches!  And peppers and eggplant and carrots and melons… so many things!

Harvest Stuffed Peppers

P9030012This recipe makes enough hash to stuff four peppers (serve four people), but I only stuff two for Rick and I.  The remaining hash gets divided into two portions – one for Henry, and one for Rick’s lunch the next day.

2 bell peppers that can stand on their ends
2 medium sized potatoes
1/2 white or yellow onion
1 or 2 peeled carrots
1 small or medium sized squash
1/2 to 3/4 cup protein of choice: left over diced ham is in the picture, but eggplant, eggs, ground beef or sausage works great too.
Fresh torn basil – to taste
Salt & pepper
2 TBS olive oil

Cut the tops off of the peppers, remove seeds and ribs and set peppers aside.  Chop all other ingredients into a 1/4-inch dice.  In a 12-inch skillet with a lid heat olive oil; add potatoes, onions and carrots.  Season well with salt and pepper. Put on lid and let cook over medium, stirring to keep from sticking to bottom of the pan, until onions are soft and the potatoes and carrots are on their way to being cooked through. 
Add squash (sometimes I add the pepper tops too).  Let cook uncovered until potatoes are almost tender, stirring as needed to keep from sticking. 
Add cooked meat (or raw eggplant), and basil.  Mix well, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Scoop mixture (which I call hash) into the peppers.  Place peppers in a rimmed pan and bake at 375 until heated through and potatoes are done.  They could also be finished on the grill instead of the oven.

Note that this is one of those recipes that ends up catching all the random veggies in the kitchen that need using.  It’s great with mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, celery, zucchini, extra peppers, even a tomato added at the end.  It would also be great topped with grated cheese.

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Chickens, Food, Garden, Independence Days, Recipes | 1 Comment

Community and Independence Days – Week 16

PreservesSo this week was very productive as well.  My friend, Julie, came over and I showed her how to can (with my limited experience this year).  We made a batch of pickled beets (which smelled amazing!) and a batch of cucumber dills, all in two and a half hours while our kids played.  Oh – and we made lunch and all sat down together to eat it as well.  We were both amazed at how much we got done when doing it together, and how we weren’t even exhausted!  Wow!  I wish we had a community! 

Heirloom Romas, the mail & Health Kick hybrids under neath a Black Krim, two Cherokee Purples and three Lemon BoysWe talked about how long ago, women didn’t have the option to send kiddos off to preschool or day care – but they didn’t need that option… they had friends and family close by to help them.  And getting those chores done was fun and easy (or at least easier) with someone else there.  And the kids were entertained and had extra eyes and hands to watch them.  *sigh*  I want community!  Hippie commune, here I come!  😉  Ok, maybe not, but it wouldn’t be all bad.

So this week’s accomplishments:

Plant Something –  none

Harvest Something–  picked 180+ pounds of peaches on Saturday with our friends, plus a box of tomatoes.

Preserve Something –  It’s the ‘P’ week.  Monday I made pickles, pepper jelly pesto and pickled peppers, and Sunday we of course processed peaches… froze most, but plan to can/jam more this week.  Also froze those Roma tomatoes… I wanted to make a sauce and/or can them, but they were ready on Friday, and I didn’t have time before we left for Palisade.  So they were simply frozen instead. 

Waste Not – nothing to add this week.

Want Not/Prep & Storage – made some gifts for Christmas time

Build Community Food Systems – Signed up for a composting class in September, made pickled beets with my friend Julie,  bartered a melon for some jalapenos.

Eat the Food – Fire & Ice Salsa!Fire & Ice Salsa

3 cups chopped watermelon
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped green onion
1-2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

After chopping, drain excess juice from watermelon in a colander.  Combine melon in a large bowl with green pepper, lime juice, cilantro, green onion, jalapeno and garlic salt; mix well.  Refridgerate 3 hours. Serve with corn or potato chips, or, like Rick, add it with shredded roasted chicken, avacado, and extra onions to warmed corn tortillas for Fire & Ice Chicken Tacos!  Thanks Mom, for the recipe!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Community, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 4 Comments

Independence Days – Week 15

Freezer 8-22Wow – I can’t believe I’ve been documenting this stuff for 15 weeks already!  This week was particularly productive.  The picture is of our freezer as it’s slowly filling.  I can’t wait to show you what we have next week… we should have pickles, pesto, potatoes, peaches, peppers and more to show you.  But this week….

Plant Something –  none.

Harvest Something– zucchini, yellow tomatoes, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, Sweet 100’s, carrots, eggs, Romas, Cherokee purple tomatoes… 

Preserve Something –  Chopped and froze beans, carrots and musk melon; dehydrated celery (for soups & such)  I hope this works well… I’m new!

Waste Not – Figured out a way to get the chickens in the compost!  This is great because they get extra snacks, and they scratch around in there and poop, so it helps with the making of the black gold! 

Want Not/Prep & Storage – We’ve started really taking advantage of this awesome book I got: The Encyclopedia of Country Living.  Rick also cleaned up a free grill we got from a friend.

Build Community Food Systems – Setting up a cheese making class for ?September.  Farmers market usual, of course. 

H2O MelonEat the Food – the most fun to eat this week has been the watermelon!  We got red and yellow melons from the far this week!  Delish!  So your recipe….

1 small chopped onion
2-3 cloves garlic to taste
1 TBS olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled, sweated and then cubed
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 cup chopped tomatoes, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
3 TBS dry white wine
3 TBS (or to taste) fresh snipped basil
black pepper

Heat oil in large skillet and saute onions and garlic until tender.  Add veggies and white wine.  Season with pepper to taste (should be salty enough from sweating the eggplant.  If not, add salt to taste).  Bring to boiling, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes, until veggies are tender.  Uncover and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is gone.  Stir in basil and serve.  YUM!

Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, Food, Independence Days, Recipes | 2 Comments

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