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Deer Stew Chili

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This is my deer stew chili for our chili cook off at church tonight. I started with a recipe from my Ball canning book, first of all because it sounded good – and second – I want to eventually can some of this and wanted to see how it tasted. (Note: Venison can safely be substituted for beef or pork in any tested canning recipe.)

The recipe called for about 1/3 cup of chipotles in adobo sauce… I had never heard of such a thing! After searching and inquiring I finally found some in a local grocery store.

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After browning the deer stew in olive oil and then frying the sweet peppers and onions in the same skillet, I prepared to assemble the mixture in a crockpot. I pulled the pull tab on the peppers and stuck my finger to a drop of the sauce on the lid and touched it to my tongue. HOLY COW! THAT STUFF IS HOT!!!

So – instead of 1/3 cup of the peppers and sauce I might have put in a tablespoon or two of sauce. Next I added the other ingredients* and set the pot to cooking…

But now – what was I going to do with the rest of the sauce (and the huge chipotles in the sauce)? This stuff was waaay too expensive to throw out! So, I took the peppers out, one at a time, and removed all the seeds, then cut the peppers up really small.

Next I put spoons full of the sauce on parchment paper on a baking sheet.

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I will freeze these and use them SPARINGLY in future pots of chili!

Where there’s a will – there’s a way!

I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

*If you’d like this recipe check the New Ball canning and Preserving Book. I’ll also do another blog post when I get ready to can the chili. I’ve also found a recipe for making my own adobo sauce. As I said, that stuff is expensive and it is too hot for our taste, I think I can make a milder version.

A Country Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving poem, written 40 years ago – but still very relevant!

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A Country Thanksgiving

A country Thanksgiving’s

the most glorious kind.

For we saw the food raised,

from the stalk and the vine.

We are no stranger

to the hoe and the plow.

We’ve each known hard labor,

and sweat on our brow.

But that labor’s behind us

the crops are all in.

Let’s humble ourselves

and be thankful again.

For the food on the table

a result of our task.

And for strength for the labor

a labor now past.

Father, a blessing,

we know we’ve received here.

You’ve shown us Your mercy

throughout the past year.

And on through the future

please show us the way.

As we strive more to serve You

with each passing day.

Betty J. Newman ©1976

#farmstewardship fail

When it gets to the end of summer and I see how much good food I’ve let go to waste, and how pitiful my herbs look… I feel like such a failure. Yes, I’ve canned a lot and preserved a lot and dehydrated a lot – but look at how much I lost – because I just couldn’t (or didn’t) get to it…

Yes, there were other “fish to fry” and other responsibilities to attend to – but let’s face it – sometimes I was just plain lazy…and it weighs on me and I promise to do better next year. Yep! If the trumpet don’t sound, and Lord willing – I’ll do better next year!

It has been said that experience comes from learning from your mistakes and wisdom comes from learning from the mistakes of others. Today I learned two great lessons of what not to do. So let me share a word of wisdom with you.

I had about a peck (1/4 bushel) of ripe roma tomatoes that needed canning. I had found a recipe in the 2015 Ball Canning book for “Roasted Roma” so I thought, “That sounds good!”

The problem was, we don’t have a gas grill. Not to worry, the recipe said they could be roasted in the oven on broil…

What a mess! They didn’t roast – they cooked and turned into a mushy mess! Oh well, I finally got them peeled, but won’t try that again!

(By the way – there are no pictures because I was up to my elbows in tomato goo!)

Next the recipe called for 3 bulbs of roasted garlic. I LOVE roasted garlic, but I always roast it by peeling the cloves, drizzling with olive oil and wrapping in aluminum foil and roasting for about 30 minutes @ 350°. However this recipe said to drizzle the olive oil over the whole bulbs, then wrapping in foil and roasting…

Well, ok… let’s follow the recipe. Again – what a mess! Doing it this way necessitated squeezing each clove to extract the garlic “goodie” out. I had olive oil all over me, and it took “two-forevers” to get all the cloves squeezed out. And pictures? Forget it!

Anyway, I (sorta) proceeded with the recipe (I used roasted peppers from the freezer instead of fresh peppers) and added the onions. By the time everything had been added and cooked I really just had some chunky pasta sauce (which is what I renamed the recipe).

The “Roasted Romas” recipe called for processing the pint or quart jars for 85 minutes! I know that length of time was considering that the tomatoes would be mostly firm… they were anything BUT firm! It was sauce! But… I processed them for that amount of time. I knew it wouldn’t hurt anything – and might even thicken up the sauce.

After that I still had some regular tomatoes that needed canning so I thought, “Shoot! I May as well try another new recipe!” (Some days I’m just crazy like that…)

So I prepared the rest of the tomatoes using a “Chili Sauce” recipe. Simple and only needed to process 15 minutes. I used up the rest of my roasted peppers.

All in all not a bad day and I learned two very valuable lessons – and maybe you can learn something from my mess to save you time and effort in the future.

By the way – about roasting garlic – I love to roast it, mash it up and dehydrate it. Then I grind it up into a coarse powder. It is absolutely delicious!

And here’s a picture of the finished product. The quart jars are spaghetti sauce I canned yesterday. The pints are the (ahem) “Chunky Pasta Sauce” and the half pints are the chili sauce.

#farmstewardship at its best!

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In the past week I’ve put up okra, tomatoes and cabbage (all separate endeavors, by the way) but since I’ve written about different ways of canning tomatoes, I thought I’d share how we put up okra and cabbage.

I dearly love fried okra, but couldn’t find a method that suited me in terms of not only taste, but ease. One of my cousins was known for her “fresh tasting” fried okra – even in the dead of winter! So I learned to fix it her way – and you know what? It is both extremely easy AND delicious!

So – now this is how I fix okra for the freezer. Wash and slice okra as if you were preparing a meal.

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Next bread the okra with meal (one thing I do differently is I add purple onions – delicious!)

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Next, fry up in a big ole cast iron skillet using your oil of choice. (Bacon grease adds that extra special Southern flavor – but you can use other oil if you must… and I guess you could use another frying pan – but be careful about too many changes there, lol!)

Don’t salt or add other seasonings to the okra as it’s frying. Fry it until it is *almost* as crisp as you’d like for serving then drain on paper towels.

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After it has drained and cooled, spread it on a parchment lined baking sheet (in a single layer if possible) and freeze for 2-3 hours.

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After it has quick frozen, fill freezer bags and return to the freezer. By preparing the okra this way you can fill gallon bags and only take out as much as needed for a meal (even a single serving!)

To prepare for serving, pour desired amount into a baking dish, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover with foil (no need to thaw first).  Bake for about 30 minutes (depending on amount preparing) @350° or until it is hot throughout and as crisp as desired. You can remove the foil if needed for the last few minutes.

I love preparing okra this way. I can spend one or two days frying okra and have enough for all winter! Serving it is quick, easy AND delicious!

 

Now for putting up cabbage. A few weeks ago I harvested 12 heads of cabbage, soaked them in salt water to remove any unwelcomed visitors, put them in plastic bags and stuck them in an extra fridge. I’ve given several away, but prepared a couple for us yesterday. I cut them up and blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then immediately plunged into ice water.

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And because I like onions in nearly everything, I also blanched some purple onions, too.

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After draining the cabbage I put some of the leafier pieces in the dehydrator and spread the other with onions on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

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I quick froze this just like the okra, but I vacuum sealed it in smaller bags. Some I’ll fry as a side dish, and some I’ll add to soups. I stored the dehydrated cabbage in a half-gallon jar. Amazing, about six trays if cabbage yielded this little dab if cabbage. But it will be great when I want just a little extra cabbage in my soup.

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Add to the okra and cabbage these tomatoes and there you have it – just another week on the farm! #farmstewardship

Dip Salsa

Today I made, what I call, “Dip Salsa”. This is to distinguish it from a “chili salsa” that I use in meatloaf, chili, and other dishes.

Dip salsa is just for eating with chips. It is easy to make (although it takes a while to cut everything up) and it is very good!

Cut up:

7 cups +/- peeled, chopped and seeded tomatoes. You can peel these by hand or use the dip in boiling water method. It’s not imperative that you get every seed out, you just want the tomatoes to have as little juice as possible. (Paste type tomatoes would be excellent here).

2 cups peeled, chopped and seeded cucumbers. This is a good way to use up those big cucumbers that hid out from you while you were picking smaller ones. Again, if a few seeds sneak by, it’s ok.

2 cups chopped and seeded sweet banana peppers or other sweet peppers. This year I used yellow lunchbox peppers and a couple of black bell peppers (yes – black!)

1/2 cup chopped and seeded jalapeno peppers (more or less to taste – or you could throw in a cayenne or two if you like them… Oh – and don’t forget to wear gloves while cutting the hot peppers – you’ll thank me later.)

The original recipe didn’t call for onions, but I added a chopped purple onion to the mix.

Add 3-4 cloves of garlic (depending on size)

1 tbsp fresh marjoram or 2 tsp dried

1 tbsp fresh cilantro or 2 tsp dried

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp lemon juice (or lime juice for a variation)

Combine all in a large pot

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And then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars with 1/2″ headspace.

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Waterbath 15 minutes. This amount of veggies makes about 9-11 half pints.

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If you look in the background of many of my cooking photos you’ll find cast iron – and lots of it! This post is about how to maintain it and use it every day!

On a Facebook page someone asked about purchasing some cast iron skillets – if they were a “good price”. I asked if she was purchasing them for the value or to use them. She replied that she wanted to start using cast iron again as it had been many years since she had.

Many people love the idea of using cast iron, but either are afraid to use it or simply don’t know how to care for it. I’ve used cast iron my whole life, so I thought I’d share how I care for mine. Note – this is simply maintaining their use. If you are buying antique cast iron, I’d recommend getting a lead-testing kit from your local hardware store to check if the cast iron has been used for other purposes in the past. I bought the dutch oven in the photo above at an antique tractor show. Before I used it I scrubbed it and tested it for lead – and now it’s a “daily user” in my kitchen!

I love cooking in my cast iron skillets. I have a dozen or so varying size skillets, a couple of Dutch ovens and a “chicken fryer”. Most of these have come from my and my husband’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Who knows how old they are. Many people avoid using cast iron because they say it is a pain to maintain, or it sticks. If it sticks, it is not seasoned properly – and the maintenance is not as bad as you might think. Cast iron is the original “non-stick” cookware. It is actually beneficial to your health to cook in cast iron – plus – you don’t get any of those “Teflon-y” particles in your food!

There are varying opinions on whether one should wash cast iron – my mother always did, therefore, so do I. (I make too much gravy not to wash mine!) If you have really cruddy cast iron, have bought flea-market cast iron, or your cast iron sticks horribly – you might want to strip it and re-season. There are several YouTube videos that explain the process; however the best videos (and recipes) are from “The Culinary Fanatic” (Jeffrey B. Rogers).

For a quick and easy re-seasoning process, or for just occasional maintenance of your cast iron you can do the following (this is how I season mine):

Wash your cast iron in mild warm soapy water, using a plastic “scrubby” if necessary. Rinse and dry with a paper towel. Wipe the cast iron lightly with Crisco, covering well, but not gobbed on. Place the cast iron in the oven set on 200° for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, wipe the cast iron with paper towels or an old dishrag and then place it back in the oven – upside down – and increase the heat to 300° for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, wipe the cast iron again, and return to the oven increased to 400° for two hours. If your cast iron still sticks, check your recipe or method of cooking (right temperature for what you’re cooking, or maybe trying to turn the food too soon – that often is the cause).

If possible, simply wipe the cast iron after use, but if food is stuck on or you make a lot of gravy, too – then wash it, wipe very lightly with Crisco and place in a hot oven for just a few minutes each time you use it.

Just a few photos of things I cook in my cast iron: