There’s a fairly common mantra in homesteading circles: “You can always eat your mistakes.” This is most often applied to livestock ownership, such as when a breed turns out to be poorly suited to your property or management style. When we realized that the only thing worse than owning Lakenvelder chickens would be allowing them to reproduce, we took this advice to heart. Our freezer is still stocked with tiny roosters.
For all our homesteading ideals, we don’t strictly adhere to the “eat your mistakes” rule. We aren’t starving. We have no problem throwing out inedible food. This post summarizes some of our failed food projects that were recently cleared from the cupboard.
I have a bad track record with wine so far. Beer is more straightforward: brew, ferment for two weeks, age for two weeks, drink. Wine, on the other hand, requires fermentation, then monthly racking, and then aging for a year or more. In May 2009 I made dandelion wine. I racked it once in July 2009. Since then the 1 gallon carboy has sat on top of the fridge undisturbed. Originally it sat on the dorm fridge, and later it moved to the full size fridge. The house was virtually gutted and reframed around it. Occasionally we would eye the bottle suspiciously. What are the conditions for botulism again?
Last week we finally pulled out the air lock. (Hardly functional, given that the water had quietly evaporated from it.) I tentatively poured a sample and took a taste. Hmm. Not bad. Actually, much better than I expected. There were only a few off flavors from the accumulated yeast cake and no hint of vinegar. On the other hand, it wasn’t especially good: cloy sweet with no balancing fruit character. Perhaps Robin and I just don’t like sweet country-style wines. I drink mostly etch-your-teeth hoppy northwest beers and Robin drinks dry red wine. Neither of us wanted to drink 4500 calories of hypersweet slightly-off wine.
I’ve heard that with a distilling rig and a bit of disrespect for the U.S. government’s ridiculous stance on home distilling you can turn the most abysimal fermentation projects into quite drinkable vodka. Maybe some other year. The wine went down the drain.
Robin did quite a bit of pickling with 2011’s garden harvest. The fermented pickles went awry, but she also made zucchini pickles, dilly beans, tarragon cucumber pickles, pickled cauliflower and zuccchini relish. The dilly beans turned out delicious. We’ve also eaten several jars of the pickled cauliflower and enjoyed them. We will make both recipes again next summer. We haven’t tried the zucchini relish yet, but there are hotdogs in the freezer for that purpose. The tarragon pickles looked pretty:
But tarragon pickles taste pretty awful. Robin’s extensive description of the flavor is thus: gross. (Robin is not someone who discovers notes of currants, leather, and earth in her red wine either.)
Robin made zucchini pickles from a recipe on page 159 of the book Canning for a New Generation. She shared a jar with one of our neighbors and the two of them cross referenced their opinions.
The conclusion was that someone somewhere would like this pickled zucchini recipe. We were not those people. Flavors of vinegar and cumin dominated. Zucchini was nowhere to be found.
Dried Zucchini Chips
In theory, zucchini chips sound like a great idea. You take an abundant summer resource (runaway zuchini production) and turn it into a crunchy snack food. It’s like healthy homemade potato chips!
In practice, these are no substitute for proper snack foods (like popcorn). Our attempts at zucchini chips turned out bland and tasteless. Perhaps the secret is in the flavorings. We tried both salt & pepper and ranch dressing spices, but nothing was sufficiently zesty to hide the fact that these are the vegetable equivalent of cardboard. This past week, bags of zucchini chips went into the chicken pen. The chickens quickly ate all of them, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. No animal which will dig through poop looking for worms should be relied upon for culinary advice.