cooking, gardening, homesteading

Making Crushed Red Pepper, just like when life gives you lemons…

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We have all heard the saying ” when life gives you lemons make lemonade “.  Well Last growing season life gave us peppers, lots of them.  We had so many peppers in fact that we couldn’t really keep up.  Every night we were cutting up bell and jalapeno peppers and freezing them.  We were also canning tomatoes.  Harvest time is always busy and inevitably we miss a few things.  This year we missed the Anaheim chili peppers we had planted in pots by the pool.  By the time we got to them, they were past their prime.  Life had given us wrinkly rubbery peppers, now we just needed to find a way to make them into “lemonade”.  Our first thought was to freeze them and put them into dishes where they would be cooked down.  Then our “lemonade” moment came, we could dry them just like you see in all of those pictures of the old country.  So we found a spot, used a needle and thread, and hung them to dry.  They became a beautiful piece of art hanging in our kitchen.

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They looked so much like decoration that people would ask if they were fake.  After about 4 months, we felt they were dry enough for the next step.  We were going to make them into our own crushed red pepper.  We started by crushing them by hand, wearing gloves of course.  We had made the mistake of bare handed pepper handling in the past,  and let’s just say it didn’t just burn our hands.

Once the peppers were crushed, we decided that a quick run through the spice grinder was in order.  We wanted it to look like the real thing.

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   We finished it off by putting the finished product in a small mason jar.

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You can even see the flakes in our delicious soup .

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We had made “lemonade”, and now we had a delicious new home grown and chemical free spice to use in our food.  So often we are discouraged in life,  it would have been easy to throw these peppers away.  Instead we took a chance on a them and developed a new skill.  When we ordered our seeds this year, we ordered peppers specifically to dry and crush.  We will be making this batch of “lemonade” for years to come.

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cooking, gardening, growing corn, tortillas

Homemade Blue Corn Tortillas

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An important part of homesteading for us is enjoying what we do.  Sometimes homesteading can seem like all work and no play.  Often we only grow things we know we can put up for the winter, or enjoy fresh.  A great way to make the homestead more enjoyable is to try growing something new and make use of it.  It doesn’t even have to be in your future homestead plans, it is just for fun.  A great time to make these decisions is when you are looking at your seed catalogs in January or February.  One of the fun crops we chose this past year was blue corn from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.  We wanted to make our own blue corn tortillas.  We grow several types of corn already, and they need to be separated to prevent cross pollination.   We had no room in our usual gardens,  so after a bit of argument, we planted the blue corn in the front yard.  It was just a little 8×8 patch and didn’t take up too much space.  It was sort of fun to watch the corns progress whenever we left the driveway.

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Soon it was time to harvest.  We had done some research (the fun part ) and found out that we needed it to dry if we wanted  to make flour.  So we found a nice dry place in the garage and hung it to dry.

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After a few months, and after all of the harvesting on the homestead was over, we ground the corn into flour.  We didn’t have a flour mill so we just used a spice grinder.  It was a slow process but in the end we had our own blue corn flour and corn meal.

 

Now it was time for the fun.  We tried a few different recipes and finally found one that worked.

Blue corn tortillas

1/2 cup of blue corn flour

1/2 cup blue corn meal

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 tbsp vegetable oil

1/3 cup of warm water (110 degrees)

Mix all dry ingredients then add oil.  Slowly add water until mix comes together. Knead dough for 5 to ten minutes then roll into a log and cut into equal pieces. Put in covered bowl and let rest for 15 min.  Then put in tortilla press or roll into circles then cook on hot griddle until brown.

 

We had made our blue corn tortillas.  We found that even after pressing twice they still needed to be rolled thinner.  The wax paper helped us keep them from tearing and sticking.  In fact we could have even made them thinner and we will next time.  We decided to fry some of them in oil to make blue corn chips, again they should have been a bit thinner.

 

The chips were a bit thick but went excellent with some salsa.  We had accomplished our goal and had a wonderful time doing it.  And watching the big game eating your own chips is kind of cool, right?  So this year when you start making homestead plans be sure you don’t forget the fun.

 

gardening, glass gem corn, homesteading, Uncategorized

Glass gem corn happiness and beauty

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Every year when I look through the seed catalogs, I always come across a picture that grabs my attention.  A picture of a vegetable taken at peak ripeness and in perfect light.  Last year was no exception,  and it was Baker Creek’s catalog cover that drew me in.  It’s always the same. I look at the picture, turn to Tracy and say I’m gonna grow that.  So when the seed order for the year was placed glass gem was on the list.  Glass Gem corn is a beautiful native american flint corn that can be used for flour or popcorn, but it’s this corn’s amazing color that makes it prized. In our area, we plant corn on memorial day weekend, so it was a long wait to get our seeds in the ground.  We planted them away from our other corn to decrease the chance of cross pollination.  After 2 weeks, very few plants had emerged,  and I was discouraged.  I replanted over the old seeds and waited.  After two more weeks both sets of seeds began to grow.

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Although the spacing was too close, I let all the plants that sprouted grow.  And grow they did.  After a short time, the plants were shoulder high, and then quickly taller than me.  Soon after, I saw the first silk emerge.

 

 

Now waiting has never been my strong suit, and as soon as the ears seemed big enough and some of the silk was dry,  I began checking on what was inside.  I was devastated, all of the ears were yellow.  I began to think that all of my beautiful corn had cross pollinated with my sweet corn.  We decided to wait until the ears dried on the stalks and then check again.  A few weeks passed, and when we opened them, we were overjoyed.  They were just as gorgeous as the pictures in the catalog.  I have never grown anything that had looked as good as the pictures in the catalog, but this may have been more beautiful.

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Now it was time to decide what to do with it all.  First it needed to be dried, so we laid it out in the sun.

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We made some bunches of three or four ears to decorate and give to family,  but we still had so many ears.  Finally we decided to put some out in our little farm stand.  Very soon after we put it out we had our first customer.  A young lady who was getting married next fall wanted some to plant next year to use as decorations at her wedding.  We also put the beautiful 8′ tall stalks out for sale.  We were now glass gem farmers.

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We took the corn that was left after our sales, hung it to dry, and later we ground it into flour.  We saved the kernels from the most beautiful ears to share with friends, and to grow for ourselves the next year.  Our experience growing glass gem corn was a success.  It is hard to believe that growing a vegetable could be this rewarding!  So the next time you see that picture in the catalog that draws you in, take a chance.  You will always learn something new, and you may get lucky and find happiness on a cob.

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Glass Gem corn seeds

One packet containing 100 seeds that we hand picked from our best ears. Free shipping to the lower 48 states. contact us if you need an international quote.

$5.00

cooking, gardening, homemade, homesteading, Uncategorized

My New Found Relationship with Beets

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As the winter begins to wear on,  I often think about warmer weather and the past summer.  Sometimes I scroll through our pictures on cold days, usually looking at pictures of our homestead, and I am always drawn to pictures of food.  Today I stumbled upon this picture and it drew my attention immediately.  It looked like comfort food, like something I’d love to eat on a cold day.  I remembered the story of how this meal came to be.  Sometimes a meal is an old favorite, and sometimes it is a conscious decision to try something new, but this meal was a little different.  One day I posted a picture on Instagram of some beautiful beets that we had grown.

I always boiled beets and loved them prepared that way.  But one of my IG friends suggested that I roast them.  So I decided to try some roasted beets.  Immediately I realized that those beautiful beets were going to be awfully lonely.  So I began searching for other root veggies that might want to join the party.  We have a big garden and it was late in the year so I had no problem finding guests.  We had potatoes of all colors and beautiful ox-heart carrots. After a little more searching We found some turnips and some very sticky, sweet garlic.

We now had the makings of a wonderful dish.  We peeled all of the veggies with the exception of the potatoes.  Next we cubed all the veggies so the were roughly the same size to make them cook evenly.  We took all of the veggies and tossed them in bowl with olive oil and a little salt and pepper to coat them.  Another Instagram friend suggested we toss the beets separate so their color didn’t bleed into the rest of the veggies.  We then placed them in a glass baking pan and added some rosemary we grew.

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We placed them in a 350 degree oven and baked until the veggies were tender.  I was so pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the roasted beets that I may never eat them boiled again.  Another big surprise was the roasted carrots, which were tender and sweeter than boiled carrots.  The whole dish had undertones of roasted garlic and rosemary.  We served it as a side dish, but it could have easily been a main course.  If there had been any leftovers, I am sure they would been a great replacement for hash browns.  A meal that had started as a picture of a beet ended as a roasted medley of deliciousness.  It’s always good to have friends, no matter where you find them.

gardening, homesteading

Planting onions to save your greens and cabbage

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For years we grew cabbage and other greens in our garden, but we always ended up with the same result.  All of our cabbage and greens would be riddled with worm holes.  It was always so disappointing to remove the outer leaves of a cabbage to find it full of holes, or pick a bunch of spinach, lettuce, or kale that looked like Swiss cheese.  We set out to find an answer that didn’t include pesticides.  After a lot of research we were no closer to an answer.  Finally one day after reading about homesteaders from the 1800’s, we found the answer was onions.  As it turns out many of the bugs that like greens, don’t like onions.  We decided to try it, what did we have to lose?  We planted onion sets in between our greens.  It was also fortuitous that both greens and onions needed to be planted in cool weather.

In the above picture you can see how we planted in this case along side kale.  After a month it became apparent, that the old timers really knew what they were doing.  It’s hard to imagine how much of their knowledge has been lost, but we are happy to have been able to preserve this small piece of knowledge, and pass it down to our children who we hope will always plant onions with their greens.  The onions didn’t totally eliminate the problem, but they were 90% effective, and we are willing to give up the 10% to keep pesticides out of our garden.  This approach is not only better for us but also for our bees. It is hard to argue with the results.

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We were so happy to have these amazing vegetables, and feel safe giving them to our family knowing that they are pesticide free.

Harvesting onions

After harvesting the greens there is an added bonus, beautiful onions.  Onions are harvested in mid summer normally in our area. We wait for the onions to tell us when they are ready to be harvested.  When onions are finished growing for the year, their tops will fall over.

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After this happens we pull the onions and lay them out in the sun to cure.  Curing onions properly allows us to have onions well into the winter.  Different varieties keep better than others.  In our experience yellow onions keep better than white or red.

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After the dirt on the onions dries, and the tops wilt, we move them to a covered location to continue drying.  We put them onto wire mesh to allow air to circulate around the whole onion.  This keeps them from growing mold and rotting.

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Once the onions have dried, and their skins are like paper, they can be stored in an onion bag.  We like to hang ours to encourage air circulation.  Any onions with and bruises or blemishes should not be stored, we take these onions and dice them.  Once they are diced they can be frozen.  Cutting up 30 or 40 onions can make you cry, so try swim goggles while dicing.  The diced onions are great when you are pressed for time when cooking.

Growing food like anything else in life it takes time and experience to learn.  Because of this we always seek the advice of people who have done it before.  In this case we would be remiss if we didn’t thank those tough old homesteaders who plowed the ground before us and showed us the way.  Sometimes in life and gardening you need to take a step back to move forward.  In an age of quick fixes and a chemical for every problem, all we really needed to do was look back to how our forefathers did things to find a solution.  13697150_10205657397148371_851773985273865071_n