Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Herbal Preservation.

After a couple months of swaying in the window, bound in twine and filling the house with sweet herbaceous aromas I finally decided it was time to process the dried herbs we harvested as the winter frost approached. Ive been trimming bits and pieces for cooking almost everyday leaving a mess on the windowsill and after searching high and low for a gently used shaker without any luck. I turned to a big box store during the holiday shopping season and picked some up as a gift to ourselves.

I gently unbound the bunches of thyme, oregano, sage, savory and marjoram.

I used a big strainer with a bowl underneath to help sift out the stems as I carefully ran my fingers along the stems and crushed and flaked the pungent flavors from their dormant dried state.

The final consistency turned out to be a bit of powder, flakes and specs. I mixed them all together as I felt like 99% of the time I used bits of all varieties in the dishes.
Consider it an all purpose seasoning blend.

Some of the leftover stems were bound and tossed into the fire to sweeten the chimney and then after chewing on one I had an idea and luckily just enough maine pressed sunflower oil to make it happen.

I stuffed an empty jar with the remaining stems and filled it to the brim with the sunflower oil to let it infuse the oil for future cooking applications.

Im sure this would be delicious as a dipping oil with some fresh bread... Ill keep you posted how it turns out.

Not a bad final spread considering how much use we already got out of the hanging herbs as well as all the tremendous trimmings I got from the garden this past summer. I plan on expanding our herb selection quite a bit over the next few years and hope that all the current ones make a return come spring. We still have a good amount of lemon balm and cat nip hanging for another winter project as well.

Till next project.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Frost and thaw.

What a weekend. Each morning started with a heavy frost that blanketed the landscape and added a crunch to each step. It was a brief freeze that started with gloves and a hat and finished with short sleeves. The crackling sounds of the forest thawing sounded like a herd of deer tip toeing by a sleeping hunter. It was a rare December weekend that allowed me to accomplish more than I ever thought I could. 

Frost kissed kale and rainbow chard holding on without cover.

As you can see I redressed the raised beds with some fresh compost, a project I did not expect to get done till spring but the weather was on our side and the giant pile of compost that seemed to never end had to be moved before the snow starts piling up. It was something that needed to be done but always was set on the backburner. With sunlight at a premium, the weekends have been the only time to get the final projects finished outside and this weekend weather proved perfect to conquer the last hurdle. It was grueling, exhausting but satisfying ! Wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow, shovel after shovel.

Good bye pile... oh wait I just moved most of it into a bin made of scrap wood and pallets.

Got it out of the driveway... added some layers of dried crispy oak leaves and lined the gaps with birch bark. Using some things I learned building the raised beds. Hopefully the structure will hold everything in place for the winter without busting out the walls. I used a few small beech trees to stake the front and lay logs across so when I need access again in the spring I can take the logs out and keep things tidy in the process. Works pretty good considering the cost was about $10 for screws. 

I did manage to also build a small flower bed that will be great come spring when we can plant a few annuals to greet us when we pull up in the driveway.

With the abundance of soil to move and the bin filled to the brim I figured the 50 degree day was natures way of saying we should plant more garlic as I had originally planned. Welp an hour or so later a new raised bed was constructed and more wheelbarrows of compost dumped.

More garlic under a thick layer of leaves and mulch. That makes two full beds. Fingers crossed for an abundance of garlic come summer 2016 !

But back to 2015... it will be our first Christmas at the homestead and we figured we should add some holiday spirit to the landscape. We purchased a beautiful wreath from Balsam Ridge Farm who has a family run tree farm and maple syrup house just up the road. You may also notice a fresh coat of paint on that door and trim too. We have been busy !

We snipped some greens from around the woods and made a little archway to liven up the entrance and keep the lights flowing across the walkway.

I got a little creative with some birch bark and cut a star out with hopes the light would shine from behind... it worked pretty good but these LED energy saver lights don't glow as much as the old timey ones.

We even got our favorite Maine knitted stockings up and brought a little bit of forest cheer onto our mantle.

Season's Greetings from the Localrootz Homestead !

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Giving Thanks.

Our first Thanksgiving at the homestead has come and gone and although its almost a week later we are still picking away at the leftovers from a four day weekend of feeding friends and family.

This year we took on the task of preparing the meal for the big day. I was excited and slightly nervous but after sourcing some of the best ingredients from some of my favorite farms I had luck on my side. 

I have the pleasure of working with some wonderful people who take great pride and care in the food they raise.  One particular farm that was the primary source of this feast and most feasts shared at our table is Frith Farm.  Located in Scarborough, Maine and founded in 2010, Frith Farm is the epitome of raising food with a conscience.  I have spent many hours sharing some beverages, stories and learning some of the ins and outs of the art of agriculture as well as helping with thier first ever turkey processing day back in 2011.  It was the only place I would consider purchasing the centerpiece of our feast and a week or so before the big day I found myself stopping by the farm to pick up some extra produce for Lois' Natural and had a chance to see just how the Bronze Breasted Turkeys were doing free ranging and foraging for snacks in the frost kissed fields off Ash Swamp Rd.

Happy and healthy and making a ruckus these turkeys were well fed and just days away from making many of family feast a memorable one. 

Our meal started with a brine the morning of turkey pick up...

1 Gallon Water
1 Gallon Organic Cider
3/4 cup of Sea Salt
Three Clementine Skins
5 Bay Leaves
Fresh Cut Sage, Rosemary and Thyme 
from our herb garden.
1/2 cup Pickling Spice Blend
(peppercorns, cloves, mustard seed)

Brought to a full boil before work I left it to cool with a lid on it. 

After returning home with a fresh organic 20lb turkey that was processed that morning I was ready to roll !

I grabbed a 5 gallon bucket from my beer brewing supplies and removed the giblets from the bird and popped it in the bucket.

The now cool room temp brine was poured over the turkey. I covered the bucket with a lid put it back in the cooler and set it outside on a mid 30 degree night to brine for a day or so. From there it took a quick rinse, allowing the turkey to sit in a bath of fresh water for a half hour on Thanksgiving morning while I made sure my plans were in order and the kitchen was organized for the marathon cooking ahead.

Inside the bird I put some aromatics that had soaked overnight in some local Georges River white wine made by our friends at Savage Oakes in Union, ME. The contents of the rest of the bottle seemed to somehow evaporate during the cooking process :)

The weekend prior to Thanksgiving we had roasted a whole chicken that we had also purchased from Frith Farm and I used that carcass to create a stock that was the base for our stuffing as well as using some of the fat from the top of the refrigerated stock to smear the raw bird with along with some dried herbs to promote a little extra browning.

The final outcome... 
You will notice I reached back to an old family tradition by dressing our turkey up with some brown and serve sausages from another local farm the way my late grandmother Peggy Whitehouse use to do it. She would cover the entire bird from top to bottom, I found just a strip along the top for the final hour of roasting to be just the touch of nostalgia to keep some family tradition alive, Im sure my grandma would be proud of the job I did.

The final spread.

Turkey carved proper... this isn't cold cuts so I decided we would slice the breast thick and keep the juice inside the meat instead of on the cutting board.

Stuffed Delicata and Bourbon Honey Roasted Carrots. 

Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Smashed Taters and Roasted Roots (Beets, Rutabaga and Yams)

Everything came together nicely... the brussels where a touch soggy I think because of all the moisture from the turkey cooking in the same oven but Im nitpicking here and everyone seemed to approve of the final meal !

My wife set an amazing table and was an integral part of bringing all the wonderful dishes together !

Of course we needed some nice wine pairings to accompany the meal.

After dinner I wasted no time in picking the turkey clean and putting the leftovers in the fridge for safe keeping. I then proceeded a slow overnight simmer of the final carcass along with the left over herb stems and end pieces of veggies to create a delicious few quarts of turkey stock.

From there it was on to the next recipe on Friday morning. Turkey Chili with some delicious Maine beans from Baer's Best Beans. An overnight soak in water then I used the Turkey stock, a bottle of Allagash Sixteen Counties and some leftover Cider from Thanksgiving Dinner.

It all came together nicely. I failed to continue the photos and we still have a big container in the freezer. We had so many leftovers in fact that we had enough for a Thanksgiving part two on Saturday when my parents came up for a visit. Heck I think we ate turkey 6 out of the 7 days since Thanksgiving and am finally finished with the last of the delicious treat with the exception of the stock and the chili in the freezer !

Giving thanks.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...