Friday, December 30, 2011

Short-Term Stored Foods at Year-End

Barely a week past the solstice, but the chickens can tell the days are already getting longer - two eggs yesterday, another one today. We last got eggs in mid-November. I had to buy eggs to make pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, and another couple dozen since. But the girls are looking all new and fluffy-feathered once again, and coming back into production. Hooray!

I used the last of my stored eggplants when I made lasagne a couple of days ago. The stored zucchini are still holding very nicely. I cut, peeled and de-seeded, then shredded two-thirds of one - half going into the lasagne, and made zucchini brownies today with the other half. The shredded storage zuke was a bit drier than summertime ones, so I added a splash of milk to the recipe.

I still have a few Asian pears left in storage - probably enough for 2-3 more batches of muffins. Fresh tomatoes are still looking ok in the cellar, but the temps down there have now dropped to where they've pretty-much lost their flavor. They're still better than buying supermarket tomatoes, though. The last of the fresh bell peppers stored down there are getting rather wrinkly - but roasting them out on the grill and peeling them solves that problem.

The Walla Walla onions just barely made it through last fall's canning season, but they were so big it made processing easy. I still have some white Ringmasters left in storage. But maybe every third one of those has started to get soft in the center, so I'm watching those closely and using them up quickly now. The Red Zeppelins didn't get very big, but they're still storing nicely. And I haven't even started on the Copras. Last Spring's onion combination order has worked out very well.

I cut the last of the chard, kales, and broccoli a few weeks ago, before our nighttime temps dropped into single digits. Washed, dried, wrapped in dish towels, then bagged, they're stored in the refrigerator and still look as fresh as when I picked them. It's nice having some fresh greens to add to winter recipes. I left the plants out in the garden but everything, other than the leeks, is looking pretty shriveled out there now.

So, going into the new year, we'll finally be eating the traditional storage foods - apples, carrots, winter squashes, and cabbages (didn't get a potato or beet crop this year), fermented stuff (sauerkraut and pickles), and our dehydrated, frozen, and home-canned fruits and veggies. Life is good.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunshine Hot Sauce

I plant one Habanero chile plant each summer. The peppers are so hot that I don't need very many - enough for a batch of hot sauce, a few more to freeze, and then a few to hang in a little ristra to dry, to grind into powder. I've learned that even those I have to harvest green, if full-size, can be left out on the counter in a bowl and will ripen to orange.

This past summer my one plant did really well, for my climate, anyway. My hot sauce recipe makes 1 quart but this year I had enough Habaneros for all my own uses plus a second quart of sauce. I just reuse the same bottles for my own hot sauce, but needed to find some way to package that second quart to give away as Christmas gifts. I found a bottle company on-line here, and ordered a case of 12 5-ounce sauce bottles plus the drip shaker inserts, tax and delivery, for $20.

I sterilized and filled 6 bottles, storing the other half-case for the next time I get a bumper crop. Since the sauce is such a pretty yellow-orange color, I decided to call it Sunshine Hot Sauce (not quite as hot as the sun, but close), and created a label to fit on 2" x 4" shipping labels. The labels were a little taller than the flat side of the bottles, so they're pleated a bit on the curves top and bottom, but I like the way they look. In fact, a couple of the people I've given them to are amazed when they realize that it's something I made myself, instead of a professional company product.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crafty Hostess Gift

 I've been learning a bit about beading and some simple jewelry-making techniques, and acquired a couple starter tools. I've also been invited to quite a few holiday functions this month at people's houses, and don't like going empty-handed. Now I'm the type of party-goer that wanders about, working the room, talking to lots of folks. I often set my wine glass down, forget about it for a while, and then wander about trying to remember where I last had it. So I love the idea of wine charms - little decorative rings that hook around the stem of the the glass, each one different, so people like me know when I've found my own glass again. But the charms are not an item that every party host has.

So recently, when I saw some mini ornaments on sale in my local crafts store, it gave me an idea for a crafty little hostess gift. Using a few glass beads, mini ornaments (in this case, colored jingle bells), and small earring hoops, I've been making wine charms to give my party hosts. I can put together a set of 8 charms in less than an hour. I enjoy a bit of quiet contemplative creative time. Everyone just loves getting them, and sets them out to use right then and there. And I haven't lost my glass at a party once this holiday season. Pretty crafty, wouldn't you say?