Somehow 2012 has snuck by and there was a boatload of stuff we didn’t blog about. Here’s some of the highlights.
The sauerkraut I made back in June turned out well. I was nervous about making kraut so I used a sweet recipe and I actually wish it had more of a fermented “bite.” Next time I will not hesitate to use a more traditional recipe. We made eight pints which now live at the back of the fridge and are slowly disappearing.
Lee made several batches of beer. We had an outstanding hop harvest so instead of drying them he made two batches with wet hops straight off the bine. He wasn’t super thrilled with how either of those turned out, but I think he has high standards from all the great Northwest microbrews.
Before the winter rains hit, Lee tested out his BCS shredder on the corn, sunflower and broom corn stalks. We ended up with a million sprouting sunflower seeds that popped up from the wet and warm weather that followed before it got cold.
More wiring was roughed in.
Some friends of ours flew a guy up from Arizona to work on their drywall. Their guy is an affordable drywall master and came over to work on one of our rooms in his spare time. We were blown away by his speed and his specialty is a drywall finish that Lee loves. Lee is obsessive about the final finish so this was a big deal for him. The drywall guy doesn’t like cold weather so when spring arrives we hope to bring him back to finish up several rooms. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
The roof on the old shed by our house has gotten more and more leaky. Jack uses it as a hunting perch.
In December the shed roof really started failing. One morning we were startled by a huge crash as joists failed and stored toys came crashing down. Hard hats are now required attire if you want to muck about in there. We are hoping the building doesn’t completely disintegrate so we can leisurely disassemble it this coming summer. Lee has already started digging the perimeter for where a new shed is going to be built. That one will house the well pressure tank.
Lee mocks me for my love of turnips. He calls them a subsistence crop for starving Dark Ages peasants. I happen to like them raw, baked, and fried. This year I grew one that was (almost) as big as my head.
Lee installed a grid of hooks under the tractor port. They were extremely handy this summer as we dried many different crops from our garden.
There was quite a bit of food preserving that we never got around to writing about. We were late to get started, so Lee took over tomato processing and had salsas, pizza sauce, and pasta sauce simmering away this past September.
He didn’t just do basic sauces but really got into it. The next thing I knew he was oven roasting tomatoes…
Adding fresh herbs…
And making the most glorious tasting sauces. Among others, we made up a large batch of pizza sauce using this recipe. It’s not approved for canning, so we froze it in half pints. We didn’t like our 2011 spaghetti sauce, so for 2012 we switched to the “Spaghetti Sauce Without Meat” recipe available from your local extension. It’s one of the few that doesn’t require acidification, and it tastes much better as a result. If anyone else has canning-safe spaghetti sauce recommendations we’d love to hear them.
We ended up with an amazing harvest of sweet and hot peppers this year. A lot of the sweet peppers were eaten fresh, but I still froze three bags of diced peppers once the weather turned cold. I also froze a huge bag of Serrano peppers whole along with canning a double batch of candied jalapeños.
Lee got fancy with the hot peppers and slow smoked several batches of Poblanos on the BBQ grill. Yes, they should be red, but Oregon has a short growing season.
Once dried, they are all called Anchos. (He also smoked and dried Jalapeños, which are then called Chipotles.) He plans on grinding them up later and using them as chili powders.
At the end of the summer a cold snap killed most of our tomatoes, so we sliced and dehydrated lots of cherry tomatoes to save them.
We had a huge outbreak of symphylans in one garden bed. I think Lee still plans on doing a more extensive post about them one day. This picture was taken mid-October of a cabbage that had been planted since early May. It is huge compared to some of the other nearby plants that were stunted at only a couple inches tall. Twenty feet away, a group of Brussels sprouts planted at the same time grew normally.
Lee’s cat Jasper is still doing okay at the grand old age of 18 even though he was diagnosed with kidney failure and/or cancer early in 2012. He seems to have gone mostly deaf and his severe obsession with Lee has gotten even worse. (Neither of us thought that was even possible.) His brain is super cheesy and he doesn’t know what he is doing half the time.
Which means he sometimes wakes up and finds himself on a roof in need of rescue.
I didn’t get around to picking blueberries but we did pick cherries from an orchard. I froze 13 quarts of sweet cherries and canned Holiday Cherries and Brandied Sweet Cherries with Red Wine. The brandied cherries are delicious.
Early this year Lee made up some chicken stock. Man that stuff was awesome! It was like liquid gold. We froze a half dozen quarts and then wished for many more.
I’m sure I am forgetting some items. Lee has plans to write up more extensive posts about broom corn, painted mountain corn, symphylans, potatoes diseases, and hops. Hopefully he gets to those before 2014 rolls around.
Update (01/28/2013): Some of the comments below focused on aspects of food safety with respects to canning. Although your local extension office can provide you with safe canning recommendations, the most central organization seems to be the National Center for Home Food Preservation. For reasons of safety, we try to stick to their tomato canning recommendations and those in the Blue Book Guide to Preserving. While high acid preserves and pickles present few safety risks, moderate and low acid foods such as tomatoes and vegetables must be canned according to established procedures. A small change in acid level or food density can greatly affect the likelihood of a Botulism outbreak and Clostridium botulinum is one bacteria you want to avoid.
The down side of this is that for certain foods, there are very few “approved” recipes for canning. I know of only two tomato soup recipes for example. We made the “Spiced Tomato Soup” from the Blue Book this summer and it was absolutely horrible–like an over-sweet ketchup with cloves. For my second batch of soup, I made a roasted red pepper tomato soup somewhere between this recipe and that recipe. It’s not canning approved, so I froze it in quart containers. While I like the long term stability of canned goods, the freedom of frozen foods can be heady stuff.