Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Food, Farm and Fiber

I am a big fan of the blog, Food in Jars and it seems that the rewards of preserving are being discovered and enjoyed by a growing number of people. I grew up putting food in jars -lots and lots of jars- and eating food from those same jars all year long. A child's hand will fit into a quart jar much easier than an adults, and before we had an automatic dishwasher on the ranch, I was assigned jar washing duties as soon as I could reach the sink. I don't have a dishwasher now -I'm opposed to owning one, much to my offspring's exasperated bewilderment. I have never really enjoyed washing jars, but it's an important part of the process of putting food in jars, and few things give me as much pleasure as the process of preserving food. The thing to remember is putting food in jars means eating food from jars. The irony of this coming from me, a woman who recently made Kiwi Jam when she's allergic to kiwis, and now is trying to figure out what to do with the kiwi jam she made and can't eat, is not lost on me. I know that if you don't empty the jars, you'll be buying LOTS more jars when preserving season rolls around, and then trying to figure out where you'll be stashing all your lovely food in jars...or be forced to refrain from preserving. Sometimes, we have STUFF that just doesn't get eaten. After several years those jars are eventually emptied and fed to the pig or chickens, but for the most part we do eat what we grow and preserve. On the rare occasions when I clean out the fridge, I find it's mostly filled with jars, and when washing the dishes there is usually one to five emptied canning jars included. Here is a list of what we've recently eaten from jars: Grape, currant and carrot homemade wines in the evenings while knitting; raspberry freezer jam on toast and ice cream; tuna; bread and butter pickles on tuna salad sandwiches and sweet pickles diced in same tuna salad; apricot-pineapple jam on toast, bread pudding and pineapple sherbet; corn as a vegetable side, and leftovers with ranch dressing as a salad; mango chutney with tandoori lamb; curried squash relish with 5-spice roast chicken and mustard rabbit; applesauce served with pork chops; Mexican pickled carrots, and pickled Apache jalapenos in burritos, and with chips and salsa; dilly beans; and Poppy Seed Salad Dressing (I love this dressing) -a rather quick 'in-the-jar/out-of-the-jar' food, but nevertheless, it was in a jar! It is useful this time of year to take stock of what we're actually eating, to help in deciding what we want to grow (and then preserve) for the coming year.

This is the time of year when kids goats are often born. Donna at Schoonover Farms, and Aimee at New to Farm Life have both posted new baby goat pictures recently. This is Virgo, our retired dairy goat who will not be having any more kids. I will skip all the sad and dreary details of the disease she carries (Johne's Disease), but it means we no longer breed or milk her. It is also why she is so skinny -not because she is inadequately cared for. Our family is divided about goats. There are the "I simply LOVE goats -they're so PERSONABLE" folks and the much quieter but no less adamant, "I hate goats -they're a pain in the ass" people. I am in both. I love the first three weeks of having baby goats but my enthusiasm doesn't last. When they are approaching 50 lbs and we play a little game called 'goat tossing' which involves them finding and slipping through a 6 inch gap in the fence, eating as quickly as possible the few things I really wish they wouldn't, me spotting them being OUT, catching the little f...riend and then 'tossing' them over the fence, back into where they are suppose to be. After the sixth time that day, I REALLY HATE GOATS -and am always shocked (a goat couldn't be going through THAT little hole could they?) to discover how they are getting out.

But goats are personable animal when they're not being a pain, and I also really liked making goat milk soap and cheeses. I made mozzarella, farmstead Cheddars, ricotta and chevres, and I miss the process of cheese making and eating the cheeses, which were pretty good. I don't miss the milking twice a day, EVERY DAY no matter what, and my husband and I do not need a gallon of full fat goat milk produced every day. We do not want to be milking a goat to predominately feed the pig and chickens, so we chose not to get another dairy goat. No milking schedule, no goat tossing -but no joyful kid goats and no cheeses.

This shawl I'm knitting seems a perfect metaphor for life -I knit three rows and take out two, knit five and take out three, knit two and keep looking for a mistake I can't find because I haven't actually made one lately. Looking back at the beginning of my shawl, I see a mistake I made very early on but couldn't see then, though it's glaringly apparent to me now. I'm leaving it in and going forward. I do not want to start all over -and accepting and owning one's mistakes keeps one humble.


  1. I loved this post, all of it. I am a townie, but I have always had a fascination with farm life/ country life. I love making preserves and can relate to everything you have said. An excellent way of dealing with gluts of apples, or soft fruit...but last year I could not get creative with my bumper crop of turnips! I loved reading about your goat, goats milk products and the fun and games. Also my crafts are a metaphor for life, my current project each stitch is a struggle! :) I take it one stitch at a time. Your shawl looks beautiful.

  2. The shawl is lovely!

    Do you keep a notebook with what you have made and how many jars and how long it lasted...? I have been trying to do it this past year without much luck.

    Really, the shawl is lovely!

  3. Inthesky -Thanks for your nice comments! About the turnips...I've see recipes for Korean Kimchee made with turnips (if you like that sort of thing) but I haven't made any myself. I am wildly enthusiastic about turnips -but the rest of the family is not- and we always end up with overgrown turnips that go into the compost sad.

    Terri -Thanks! I don't keep a notebook, though it is an excellent idea. I think if I did, it would seriously limit my preserving activities. I do admit to myself that if there is over a dozen jars of any one thing in August that I probably shouldn't make any more of it -like curried squash relish. We always have ALOT of yellow squash, and it's a great relish, but a family will only eat so much of it!