Cooking & Canning

Today was a bit cooking day.  It was a bit cooler than it has been so it was a decent day for it.  I bought some fantastic SC peaches yesterday from a farm stand, so I decided to try canning them.  It was my first go at it and one big lesson learned was to do LARGE quantities.  It is a very lengthy, laborious process so walking away with just a few jars is rather frustrating.

I took advantage of the leftover, slightly mushy peaches that I didn’t use canning and made a peach cobbler.  I then took the peach skins and attempted to make peach honey.  I couldn’t quite get the consistency I wanted, so I’m interested to see how it turns out when we finally open the jars.  W helped me make two tomato pies with tomatoes and zucchini I picked up at the market on Saturday, and we cooked green beans from the garden and corn from the same farm stand as the peaches.

Sometime ago I picked up a rather large bag of organic rolled oats from the coop and I was in search of the ultimate granola recipe.  I’ve been making one batch per week for W who loves to snack on it.  My aunt Neno was kind enough to pass a recipe along and its fantastic.  She made some suggestions as to how to vary it and I’ve been working on it a bit as well.  Here’s the latest version:

GRANOLA BARS
INGREDIENTS
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I recently cut this to 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup wheat germ (or ground flax seeds)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat all‐purpose flour
3/4 cup raisins (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 1 cup applesauce)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS
1.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
2.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, raisins and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.
3.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

GRANOLA BARS

INGREDIENTS

•2 1/2 cups rolled oats

•3/4 cup packed brown sugar

•1/2 cup wheat germ

•1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

•1 cup whole wheat all‐purpose flour

•3/4 cup raisins (optional)

•3/4 teaspoon salt

•1/2 cup honey

•1 egg, beaten

•1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 1 cup applesauce)

•2 teaspoons vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Generously grease a 9×13 inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, raisins and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.

3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

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It’s official – I am a beekeeper!

The bees have arrived!

David was kind enough (after some minor harassment on my part) to bring some bees over Thursday night.  He had them in a nuc box and carried it into the garden.  We opened it up by flashlight and moved over a few frames.  It’s a bit awkward because the hive I purchased (which I adore) has only shallow supers, no standard brood boxes so we had to finagle it a bit to get his frames to fit in my hive.  The bees were wonderfully calm while we worked and I left them with only a small entrance for the morning so no one hurried out and got lost.

This morning I mixed some sugar water in canning jars and went out to feed them.  I quickly realized that I needed to remove the entrance reducer and, it being early in the morning, I didn’t feel good about doing it unsuited.  So, I wandered back inside, suited up, and went back out.  It took me about fifteen minutes to get dressed and two minutes to remove the entrance reducer and add the feed, but I walked about from some slightly frazzled bees without a sting.

IMG_0940

I’ve pledged to wait the suggested 9 days before opening the hive up to see if they are settling in and drawing out any of the new foundation, but I’m having trouble containing my excitement.

Perfect timing too – my North Carolina State Association of Beekeepers membership was in the mail box on Friday.  🙂

Something Old and Something New

Over the weekend, W and I attended the Mountain Farm Tour with David and Tina.  We always enjoy coming together with other like-minded folk on the tours.  This year we visited a few new farms that are noteable: Flying Cloud and Gladheart.  W was particularily fond of the blueberries we picked at Flying Cloud and the Peach Yerba Mate they were kind enough to share at Gladheart.  I loved watching the goat milking and seeing Gladheart’s impressive biodiesel operation.   We managed to see goats galore over the weekend and even saw an angora goat for the first time.  They are wild looking!

Flying Cloud Farm

Flying Cloud Farm

Lessons learned: we can likely get by with less than 10 acres and be just fine.  In fact, we learned that two people can manage 2-3 acres in full production.  Anything over that seems to require the assistance of interns or generous friends.  Hoop houses seem to be the way to go in extending the growing season and increasing yield per acre.

Firefly Farm Hoop House

Firefly Farm Hoop House

I was particularily aware of the different atmosphere of each farm.  Some are hippy-driven, communal living situations where people seem to want to just live happily off the land.  Others are family-based businesses which are still warm and fuzzy feeling, but definitely driven to succeed.  Lastly, there are farms that are pure business.  There is an obvious concern and passion for sustainable living, but the farm is their job. They are keenly aware that it is their livelihood, and needs to be treated appropriately.  I am personally drawn to the communal living situation and the idea of living sustainably for ourselves regardless of profit whereas W is drawn to the latter situation and wants to farm in order to retire.  I hope somewhere along the way we can manage to find a happy medium.

Gladheart Yurt

Gladheart Yurt

All in all we had two very enjoyable days with new friends and old acquantinces.

Mountain Farm "Kid Barn"

Mountain Farm "Kid Barn"