cooking, farming, gardening, garlic, homemade, homesteading, how to make garlic powder

Make Your Own Garlic Powder

Years ago we were gifted several heads of delicious garlic by our dear friend.  She was even kind enough to give us lots of tips on growing it.img_4270

Those few heads have now become over 100 heads per year.  Besides selling garlic we were looking for a use for all of our extra heads. IMG_0091

We hate to waste anything, so we researched a bit and came up with the simplest method we could to make garlic powder.  Like most things we do here, making garlic powder is a simple, yet time consuming task.  I would dare say that our ancestors would definitely not have time for twitter, instagram, or candy crush. Their lives were filled with shelling, drying, smoking, and a litany of other tasks.  Life was simply about living, not watching other people live, we have quickly discovered.

We started out making our garlic powder by taking cloves and slicing them into 1/8″ slices.  This is the time consuming part, like many other tasks it is much more pleasant with a glass of wine.  We sat sipping, slicing, and chatting and before you knew it, we were done.  We laid the slices out on a dehydrator rack, but you could also dry them on a screen in the sun. img_4173

Next we placed the racks of garlic into the dehydrator at 135 degrees.  We let them dehydrate overnight and the next morning we had nice dry garlic nuggets. And trust us, we kept all of the vampires away that night!

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The next step was almost as easy.  We took our dehydrated garlic and placed it into a spice grinder.  img_4179

After several bursts in the grinder we knew we were on the right track.  We had made rough garlic powder.img_4180

We then sifted it through a fine mesh strainer.  We would return the pieces that were too large to the grinder.img_4182

What we were left with was beautiful delicious homemade garlic powder.  It was probably the first garlic powder we ever tasted that didn’t have any pesticides or herbicides in it. And just like anything else we make from our own hands, it just tastes better.img_4183

Of course it went directly into a Ball Jar for safe keeping.

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We are always happy to have home grown ingredients to cook with, and garlic is in so many of our meals.  We learned a few things while making garlic powder.  For example,  it takes a lot of garlic to make just a small amount of garlic powder.  It took ten heads to make what you see in this pint jar, so we will never look at those big jars in the store the same.  We also learned that a good slicing buddy and a good bottle of wine make the task seem a lot less like work, and while you are slicing garlic you can’t check your FB status or respond to emails.  The only thing you can do is talk , and that is probably even more valuable than the garlic in the jar.

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canning, farming, gardening, garlic, glass gem corn, growing corn, homesteading, kale, peas

Homestead Harvesting, When the Real Work Begins

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As summer begins to wind down and the warm days of August begin to get shorter, we are blessed with the fruits of our hard labor. Plans made in February have now come to fruition. If we are lucky, large bags of produce begin to come in from the garden.  In some years we have failed crops, which have turned into lessons.  This time of year is a busy time and it is easy to see why our forefathers would have a party or festival after harvest time ends.  A few times of year will test your resolve as much as harvest season, that is why it is important to not only have a plan, but to posses the skills needed to make the most of your harvest.  Another consideration is space for your freshly grown food.  Early on we would often run out of freezer space and/or mason jars.  This is why it is important to think about the harvest early as you would when planning your garden. img_4011

Over the years we have learned how much food we really needed for the winter, we found it best to package our food so that we know how many meals are in each freezer bag.  Too many years we were down to only beans by February. There is one of those lessons learned!

 

 

Early on in the summer, kale, spinach and lettuce begin to come into the house.  We blanch and freeze the kale and spinach (see our previous blog on freezing kale).  We try to keep it in meal sized bags because it can be hard to break apart once frozen.  Sometimes we freeze it in ice cube trays in order to make smaller servings, each cube is perfect for an omelette in the morning.

 

 

Later, onions and garlic are harvested they are laid in the sun for a day or two, then hung in a cool place to cure.  It is important to have good airflow so an oscillating fan on a low speed can really help.  This year we braided the onions which not only helped them dry but made a beautiful display in our kitchen.

 

Next up are the squash and cucumbers.  These guys come in by the bucket load.  They can overwhelm you quickly.  We make lots of pickles and can them with a hot water bath canner.  They are very easy to make.  The squash becomes bread, dinners, and this year we pre-breaded and froze some.  Even with all of these uses we can not use up what we grow.  We came up with a great idea to build a small farm stand when our boys were little.

 

It encouraged them to help in the garden, and taught them a little bit about money.  As they got older and had jobs we took over the stand and use it as a means to offset our ever growing feed and seed costs.  It is fun to design the chalkboard that lists the prices.  And our neighbors are always happy when it is full.

 

In mid August, the tomatoes will start to ripen and it is time to put your nose to the grindstone.  Skinning, seeding, and canning every night can test even the best marriage. We know that there are food mills and products out there to aid in the process, but we find that hand skinning and seeding works best for us and has the highest yield. Plus, getting so up close and personal with your food just makes you appreciate it a little more.

Wave after wave of beautiful fruit will have you seeing tomatoes in your sleep, but you will be happy in December when you pop open a fresh jar from your own garden. A glass of wine while working makes the task seem less like chore, and if your are smart you buy your wife’s favorite vintage.  We can the tomatoes using a water bath canner as well.  If you are getting into homesteading this will be one of the first harvest tools you will need. You will never look at a can of tomatoes in the store the same again.

 

As the tomatoes slow down the peppers will speed up these are easily processed.  You can freeze smaller hot peppers whole.  We like to slice the bell peppers before freezing to save space. We also pickle some of the hot ones for sandwiches.  Along with peppers we harvest corn which we blanch on the cob and then cut off and freeze to save space.

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It is important to freeze in a thin layer on wax paper and then put it in a freezer bag.  If you don’t  you will have one big corn cube.

 

Throughout the summer and fall there are many other vegetables that get harvested such as peas, pumpkins, turnips, beets, beans, carrots and hops.

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Sometimes it seems like the harvest never ends and It can be overwhelming.  The real key is to put something up every night.  When your kitchen table is full of produce you need to attack it the way you attack a dirty room.  Start in one corner and work your way around.  Harvest time can seem glamorous and who doesn’t love to post their harvest pictures on instagram or facebook.  Never forget that these pictures are just a snapshot of hours of hard work and planning.  So the next time you bring in a bag of tomatoes and say “honey we have to can tomatoes tonight” make sure you stopped for that bottle of Chardonnay first.  Happy harvesting.

cooking, farming, gardening, garlic

How to Grow Garlic and Save America

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With the whole country divided on every issue, it seems like there is constant disagreement.  However there is one thing everyone can agree upon, garlic is delicious.  The left and the right use it, and every culture takes advantage of its signature flavor.  Garlic is even good for you, it has too many health benefits to list here, and keeps vampires away, supposedly.  It keeps well and is easy to grow,  so why do so few gardeners plant this unifying crop? Growing garlic takes just a few easy steps and a little bit of planning ahead.  We grow hard neck garlic which is well suited for northern climates like ours.  Although garlic is easy to grow, it can be expensive to get started.  With seed companies charging upwards of $5 a bulb, planting more than a few dozen cloves can be cost prohibitive. We were lucky enough to have a great friend who got us started.  She not only gave us the cloves to get going, but shared some of her secrets to growing garlic with us.  The first of which was when to plant it.  Here in zone 5 we plant garlic in the fall around Columbus day.   Because we plant in the fall and do not harvest until June, we have to think about what next years garden will look like.  One benefit to garlic being done early the next season, is that you can plant a late season crop in the same spot right after you harvest your garlic.  We like to plant peas for fall harvest and to put nitrogen back into the soil.  Once we choose our spot we till it well and sometimes add a little peat moss if the soil is too firm.  We then take only the largest cloves of the head and plant them. We put them about 3″ in the ground with the pointy end up.  We find a grid pattern works well with 6″ spacing.  We then cover the cloves with dirt and wait.  Some seasons the garlic will sprout in the fall, others it won’t come up,  which seems to make little difference in the final product.  Right before the ground freezes hard for the winter, we cover the garlic bed with leaves to give it a little protection.  Then we wait through the long winter, garlic is the first sign of spring in our garden. When the ground has mostly thawed, we rake away the leaves from the bed. Garlic’s little green stalks  pop up out of the ground letting you know they made it through the hard winter.img_2708

They grow very quickly in the cool weather of spring.

In early June, our garlic begins to send up scapes.  These are an edible stalk that grows up from the center of the vegetation.  They are delicious and once they curl all the way around in a circle we cut them.

They are great added as seasoning and make a great pesto.  Once the scapes have been cut, your garlic’s leaves will begin to yellow signifying that it is putting all of its energy into the yet unseen bulb below the soil.  When most of the leaves are yellow, we pull the heads of garlic from the ground and finally get to see if all of our hard work has paid off.

When you pull the heads, it is important not to yank them up by the stalk, but rather turn them up with a pitchfork or shovel.  We then let them lay on the soil to dry out for a day so that we can brush most of the dirt off of them.  Next comes curing, which is just as important as the growing. You can use garlic fresh as well, it is just hard to peel.  We hang our garlic in a cool dry place with good air circulation for several weeks to a month. There is nothing like walking into a room, or in our case garage, full of drying garlic. IMG_0119

You can see all those potential delicious meals hanging right in front of you.   We then cut the stalks about 4″ above the head of garlic and then let it hang an additional two weeks.  After the two weeks we place it in brown paper bags and store it in a cool dark place.  We also separate out the heads which we intend to plant the next year.  We always save the best and largest heads to replant.  We plant a few extra cloves every year and we now are getting close to 200.  We will never buy garlic from the store again, and because we don’t need to buy seed to plant, it’s basically free.  So turn off CNN or FOX news and do something good for the country and plant some garlic this fall, your family will be glad you did.

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