Thrifting and Kefir

August 4:
I stopped in at the thrift shop on my way home from physical therapy.  There wasn’t much there that peaked my interest, but I was able to pick up eight wide-mouth quart Ball canning jars. They price them at $.29 per jar so I was pleased.  I always seem to run to of these first and I found a new blog that recommended cutting up lettuce for salads and storing it in these jars using a vacuum sealing attachment.  I tried it and the iceberg lettuce still looks very fresh after a week.  My oldest son loves it.  Many thanks to Paula at “Salad in a Jar“.  She also has great instructions for making Greek Yoghurt.

My new booklet from Ed Hume on gardening by the moon suggested that I, “sow seeds of lettuce and chard”, and “plant spinach and cabbage”.  I’m not sure exactly what the difference is between sowing and planting other than that sowing involves seeds and planting could mean seeds or starts.  I had no starts so I sowed seeds of Paris Island Romaine and Great Lakes Crisphead lettuce.  I also put in some Olympia Hybrid spinach seeds as I can’t find many vegetable starts at this time of the year.

I also found the greatest idea about planting parsnips.  I have to try it.  You plant the seedlings in toilet paper tubes and then plant the entire tubes when they are ready to go outside.  I found the idea at The Simple Green Frugal Co-op Blog.  Tomorrow I have to figure out how late I can put in parsnips…..Anyone know if it’s too late to plant parsnips in the Pacific Northwest?

August 3:
I think the realization that our summer is coming to an end hit my husband and I today and we set out to get a few tasks finished.

  • We stopped in at the thrift store this morning to pick up a few books and I found a lovely green drying rack.  It will be great on the upper deck for drying swimsuits and shoes.  When fall comes I’ll move it into the garage for drying sweaters and rain clothes.
  • I harvested the garlic today.  We ended up with 65 heads of garlic – 41 of softneck and 24 of hardneck.  We set up a drying rack in the garage for them to cure a bit.  They are still not as large as I would like, but they do look better than last year.
  • I also harvested 1/2 pound of green beans (first of the season as I got them in really late), 3/4 pound of broccoli and 4 cucumbers.
  • We purchased a truck load of mint compost and Joe filled the garlic bed and dug it into the existing soil.  We moved the winter savory, two varieties of sage, some basil and a curry plant into the bed.
  • I top dressed some of the compost into my rhubarb bed.  I’m at my wits end trying to figure this out.  It comes up fine in the spring, then just about harvest time, the leaves and stalks dry up and die back.  Then it sends out new growth.  Does anyone know what’s wrong with my rhubarb?
  • I finished my fermented raspberry syrup.  I ended up with two bottles from the half batch.
  • The water Kefir grains that I ordered arrived today (a little leaky) so I rinsed them and put them into 2 cups of filtered water with 1.5 Tablespoons of sugar (I need to get some raw sugar) and a small handful of dried cranberries.  Hopefully all will go well.
  • My copy of “Ed Hume’s 2011 Garden Almanac – Month by Month Moon Sign Gardening Calendar also arrived this afternoon.  Tomorrow I will be sowing lettuce and chard (if I can find some) seeds as it is a first quarter moon in Libra.
  • I also started a batch of Greek yoghurt today.  I heated the milk to 175°, then dropped the temperature to 115° before adding the yoghurt culture.  The I popped it into the yoghurt machine and left it alone.  I’ll need to check it tonight to see if it’s ready to strain.
  • The dogs spent the day inside because of the heat.  It’s not terrible, but they’re getting older (10) and it seemed to be bothering them. They did get to go out and romp in the orchard after dinner.

August 2:
I finally got a little more done today.  On the way home from physical therapy I stopped at the thrift store and found a metal bucket that had a great old green paint job.  When I took the lid off, I found a surprise.  It has a double wall.  I think it’s actually an old cooler.  What a find for under $7.00.

This afternoon I cut off the garlic scapes and I’m going to try adding them to a stir-fry as I’ve never tried them before.  I also harvested about three pints of raspberries and another three pints of blueberries.  I think I’ll use some for baking and freeze the rest. After harvesting, I fertilized the vegetable garden using for fish fertilizer.

August 1:
Today I decided to do nothing around the house except water a few beds.  I met up with my best friend Stacy for a pedi and Thai.  I stopped at Safeway on the way home for pasta sauce and spent the rest of the day reading.  I feel very rested (and a little bit lazy).

July 31:
Today I harvested the first of the carrots.  They were so nice.  I’ve got to reseed for another batch in the fall.


Food Storage on a Budget – Week 12

July 25

Purchase:  This week was went to Safeway with some great coupons for Classico Spaghetti Sauce.

  • There was a store coupon making them $1.49 each.
  •  I had coupons taking $1.00 off two and doubled it for another $.50.
  • When I purchased four jars I also got a catalina back for $1.00 off my next purchase.
  • This made each jar only $.49.

I purchased 12 jars, so my total this week was $5.88 so I went over budget by $.88 – Oh well……


July 26:

Another lovely day; a sunny morning, nasty clouds for a bit in the afternoon, and a lovely evening with just a few scattered clouds.

Joe and I drove out to Yamhill this morning to pick up some cheese supplies at Kookoolan Farms.  They have a nice little farm store with cheese supplies, starters, enzymes, eggs, meat and milk.  It was a beautiful drive.

This afternoon I made a batch of mixed berry jam with some berries that I pulled out yesterday during the freezer disaster.  Someone, probably me, left the door ajar and it was a big, snowy mess so with had to shove everything into coolers and the other freezers and defrost it.

Mixed Berry Jam

8 cups mixed berry (cook for 5 minutes and run through a food mill)
3 cups sugar
1 T lemon juice  (mix the sugar, lemon juice and berry juice together and boil to 220 degrees – process 5 minutes in a hot water bath for half-pints)

Noah and I also picked about 3 pounds of blueberries and a couple of pounds of raspberries.

July 24:

Today started beautifully; blue skies, no migraine, summer vacation week 5.  I decided to go down and wax my second wheel of cheddar.  All was well until the cheese wheel slipped from my hand and took a tumble into the wax pot, splashing wax all over the gas stove.  We rescued the cheese – man is it ugly – and put it into the “cave”, the kitchen took a bit more work.  I didn’t take photos because I didn’t want to se  it again….but 8 stove parts later (first I scraped then poured hot water over it) my stove is clean as a whistle.

I also got the recipe for the fabulous catsup from the cook at Cascade Burger this afternoon.  Well, it’s more of a vague set of possible instructions and ingredients with no amounts of cooking times, but I think he told me enough to give me a fighting chance.  I post it if I get it right, but not until the kitchen gets finished – – hopefully on Wednesday.

Preserving Sumer

July 23: The kitchen is still pretty much out of commission so I didn’t get much accomplished today, even though the weather was beautiful (2 days in a row!).  I did put in some pie pumpkin seeds that I found with the canning jars and some corn seeds that I found in the garage.  I also put in some spinach seeds in the raised bed behind the kitchen.

We drove out to Boring, Oregon in the afternoon to the farmer’s market.  There wasn’t much there, but the people were very nice.  A lovely lady that sells stained glass and teaches classes right there at the market site, a couple women selling handmade jewlery, and a man selling birdhouses that he makes.  There was also a couple of very sweet ladies that were selling quilts.  I found the beautiful quilt pictured below for Joe’s new first cousin-once-removed (his cousin’s daughter).  One of the gals made the quilt and kept apologizing because it was machine quilted – it’s still beautiful and she was only asking $15.

There was only one farmer (from Circle of Friends Farm) at the market, but he was very nice, answered all of my gardening questions and had some lovely pea pods and beets.  Joe cut the beet roots off before I could get a photo, but I’m keeping the greens for pasta tomorrow.

July 22: Nothing new today.  The men came to patch and skim coat the ceiling of the kitchen so Noah and I went into school today and did some deep cleaning on the library.  The weather was lovely…..

July 21:  Tomorrow the men come to work on finishing the kitchen ceiling so I have several projects to finish today.

  • The cherry preserves with brandy are finally finished.  They smell fantastic.  I got the recipe from a great book called, “Fancy Pantry”.  It has several recipes that I love and is one of my most used cookbooks.

  • I started a batch of parmesan cheese this afternoon. Oops – apparently you’re not supposed to hang it up and then break up the curds like I did with the cheddar.  This could be a problem, but we’ll see……..

  • The raspberries are ready to pick.  I got a whole bowl today. yummy

  • The first of the broccoli is almost ready to harvest.  I need to think of a dish that only needs a little broccoli.

July 20: We finally had a little sun today and got outside. I harvested the rest of the lettuce from the raised bed and got it ready to reseed tomorrow. I also went down to the orchard and thinned the pears and apples from a couple of trees (as far up as I could reach).  I also snipped of the ends of some of the branches.  I’m not sure the time of year was right, but they were really gangly. In the main garden, the raspberries and blueberries are finally ripening (no pictures as they didn’t make it all the way inside) and out front, the first green tomatoes are on the vines.

In the kitchen I reheated the cherry preserves which, according to the recipe, I will finish tomorrow with a little Kirshwasser and canning it.  I also made a bottle of balsamic vinegar glaze thanks to a recipe from Going My Own Way, Living the Dream.  It’s fantastic; sweet and tangy.  I also picked up a humidity meter for my “cheese cave” and found that it was low.  I added a piece of cheese cloth in front of the fan that wicks water from a bowl at the bottom.  I’ll check it again in the morning; it should be around 80 -85%.

July 19:  Hooray, I was able to fix the camera and have some new photos today.  The weather here in the Pacific Northwest still feels like October.  We didn’t have as much rain today, but the clouds were thick and it was chilly and humid.  I guess the good news is that we are saving on irrigation and our air conditioner has yet to be used.

  • The cheese is drying nicely today.  I’m just flipping it over every couple of hours.

cheddar 2 7/17/11

  • The wine jugs are still fermenting away.

  • I put up five .2 liter jars of salsa with some Roma tomatoes I found on sale.

  • I started a batch of sour cherry preserves – they need to set over night and then get finished and put up.
  • The black currant cordial is starting to get some color.  I think a the bottle on the left needs a few more currents as they ripen.

July 18:

  •  I took the cheese out the press this morning and have it sitting out to dry.  This batch of cheddar had the correct temperature for each step and seems ‘spongier’ than the last.  I also pressed it at 48 pounds rather than 20.
  • I added the vodka to the two quart jars of black currants, they will sit until December to be finished using the steps in the recipe.
  • Joe also helped me pick the sour cherries.  We worked very hard and finally picked 2 pounds, just enough for a half batch of cherry preserves for tomorrow.  I also picked another pint of currents for the cordial.
  • I picked up some Snackwell’s bars and General Foods Cereal from Albertson’s. The bars are $2.50 and if you buy two you get $4.00 in catalina coupons to use on groceries later.  This makes them $.50 per box.  The cereal is also $2.50 and if you buy four you get $4.00 in catalina coupons and a coupon for a free gallon of milk. With manufactures coupons and “twice the value” store coupons the cereal also comes out $.50 a box.
  • I also went to Sur la Table to pick up some lovely bail-top canning jars.  I’m a little nervous because they didn’t come with instructions, but I think they’ll be fine for my salsa and some jellies.

July 17: Another busy Day in the Kitchen – it was pouring rain all day and chilly.  I think it feels like November, not July……

  • I fed my ginger beer again by adding another tablespoon of ginger and a tablespoon of sugar.  When did I start this???
  • I started making a citrus cleaning solution by adding my orange peel to a quart jar of white vinegar.
  • I strained the fruit from the rhubarb wine, added the oranges, lemons, and raisins and pitched the yeast.  I froze the rhubarb to use later.
  • I waxed the cheddar wheel, heating the wax to 205 degrees and dipping it for three coats.  I settled it into the ‘cave’ at 55 degrees once it hardened.
  • I made another batch of cheddar cheese using 2 gallons of whole milk.  This time I’m pressing at a final weight of 50 pounds rather than 20 as I did last time.
  • I chopped tomatoes to make salsa, but got really tired and they are in the fridge waiting for later.
  • Re re-pitched more yeast in Joe’s beer.  I hadn’t ever started to ferment.

Food Storage on a Budget – Week 10

July 13

Purchase: I looked through the adds this week and I think I’m going to pick up some pasta at Albertson’s.  They have Ronzoni on sale for $1.00 and I have coupons from the 5/15 Smart Source Insert that should bring the cost down to $0.00.  I also am going to pick up 8 boxes of Better than Oats.  They are on special for $1.25, but you get $2.00 back on each set of 4.  That brings my total to $6.00, but last week I didn’t spend anything so I think I’m ok. Now I just need to figure out long term storage for spaghetti???

7.14  I was also able to pick up 8 bars of Dove soap today when I ran up to Albertson’s.  They had an offer to save $4 when you buy any 4 Dove Products (not on the trial/travel size) . The 2-packs of Dove ‘Go Fresh Energize Bars (sounds like snack food) were marked down from $3.99 to $0.99 so I made $.04 cents to use on my other groceries.

Chore: I want to take an inventory of all of the toiletries that I already have in the emergency stockpile and make a list of those things that I still need.

Wish:  Thinking……

Bread, Repairs and Other Stuff

July 15:  Today was pretty busy.

  • I fed my ginger beer by adding another tablespoon of ginger and a tablespoon of sugar.  No signs of fermentation yet.
  • I started soaking fruit for Christmas Bread.  It needs to soak for 4-5 weeks in brandy and sugar.  I used fig and plumes that I dried last summer, raisins that I made over the winter and some purchased candied fruit and citrus peel.
  • I cleaned out the vinegar crocks.  The red wine mother had molded as the level of the wine had gotten too low.  Luckily there was a baby underneath, so I started with a new bottle of wine and added the baby.
  • I’m still cooking down the peach/fig mixture left over from the wine to make peach butter.
  • I picked up some more of the free Dove beauty bars from Albertson’s.  I stopped by and the special is not marked anywhere so they aren’t moving even though they’re on clearance.  I picked them up to don’t to next years food/toiletry drives for all of our schools.

July 14:  The kitchen’s back to normal, so Joe’s brewing a batch of beer.  Our first attempt without the kit.

  • First he’s steeping the grains (crystal malt) at 158 degrees in 3 gallons of water for 45 minutes. (We cooled the grain and fed it to the chickens.)
  • Then add  7 lbs of malt extract and boil for 5 minutes.
  • Add 1.75oz of bittering (Northern Brewers Hop) hops.
  • Cook for 30 minutes and add .75oz flavoring hops and 1/4 t Irish Moss.
  • Cook for another 10 minutes and add .75oz aroma hops and finish boil.
  • Cool in an ice bath.
My peach wine is going gangbusters today.  It’s burping every 3-5 seconds.  The applesauce wine is a little slower, but doing great.  The rhubarb is still hanging out in the bucket of sugar.  It gets to move along on Saturday.

July 13:  Not much exciting happening the last few days.  The pipe that broke last Friday is apparently a little more extensive than we had hoped.  This as I am sitting here with a giant plastic bag (9′ high x 8′ wide x 7′ deep) in my kitchen.  Inside is a giant machine that dehumidifies the area above the ceiling and another that is pulling moisture out of the floor.  It is very loud, so we’ve had to go on outings quite a bit.  I would take a picture, but my camera is broken again.  I’ve got to get a new one.

I did transfer the peach/fig wine to a carboy and add the yeast this afternoon.  I adjusted the sugar because the reading on the hydrometer was a little low and it chugging away.  I didn’t want to waste the solids; they smelled so nice so I ground them up with the food processor and put the into a crock pot.  Peach/Fig butter sounds nice.

July 11:  Joe (my fantastic husband) found an 8 bottle wine cooler on Craigslist for me to use as a cheese cave.  I can regulate the temperature to 55 degrees and put a bowl of water in it to help with humidity.  Now I just need the cheese to finish drying so I can wax it.

July 10:  This morning I’m starting another batch of “clean out the pantry” wine.  I have some applesauce that no one seems to love so I will throw it into a carboy with some extra water and some champagne yeast to see what happens.  I’ll put up some pictures later – my camera is broken again.  The lens won’t go in and out.

clean pantry

Very fun news……while I was cleaning out the pantry, I came across my Christmas gift from the family from two years ago.  Two sets of Weck canning jars (They are so beautiful) and heirloom spinach, lettuce and pumpkin seeds.  I’ll try to plant some of each today after I start a loaf of bread for tomorrow.

No Knead Bread from the New York Times
(mine needed a little kneading)

  • 1 5/8 cups water
  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (I added at least an extra cup the second day)
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir until blended; the dough will be wet and sticky.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature.
  3. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. I had to move the dough to my mixer, add enough flour to tighten it up into bread dough and work it for about 5 minutes using the dough hook (so maybe mine isnt “no knead”).   Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
  4. Shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour and put the dough seam side down onto the towel, dust with more flour and cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  5. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven, with the baking stone in it to 450 degrees.  When dough is ready, carefully transfer it to the baking stone and cover it with a bread cloche. Bake it for 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.