...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


A Feeling in the Air...

Bin of Jonamacs

Brightonwoods Orchard
Now that the official first days of fall are moments away, I believe I'm in the mood.  I wake up to chilly mornings with visions of walks in the woods through the fallen leaves, baking with apples as the aroma of cinnamon hangs in the air, hunting for the perfect pumpkin at a local farm, and wrapping up in a handmade scarf or sweater.  Call me a romantic, but the changing seasons do this to me.  Hopefully, these visions will become realities and not just a reflection of what should have been as we then cross to the next season.

This morning Vera and I were destined to get in the autumnal mood as we road-tripped down to Burlington, WI to visit Brightonwoods Orchard.  This jaunt was partly pleasure, partly necessity as I showed up to get my whippings with a wet noodle for not picking up my special order of apple seconds at our neighborhood farmers' market over the weekend (there was a domestic communication breakdown preventing me from getting the confirmation that my apples would be waiting for me on Saturday.)  I like to think that everything works out for the best; I was glad to visit the orchard firsthand because Vera got to check out the barns, bins of apples, pumpkins, cider, and the orchard, while I enjoyed the drive down country roads full of sunchokes and blink-of-an-eye drive through Paris, WI (another second class Paris like my own hometown of Paris, IL.)  We came home loaded down with tens of pounds of the slightly less than perfect apples to make sauce, butter, freeze, and bake fresh; gallons of fresh unpasteurized cider, a bag of homegrown popcorn as well as some hand-shelled hickory nuts (which are worth the pretty penny you'll pay.)
Wandering through the orchard
The world's most awesome treehouse!
My weekly meal prep. and recipes have taken a shift with the seasons as well.  Though we're still welcoming the homegrown tomatoes that make it into the kitchen, we're also ready for some heartier, heavier vegetable varieties.  Tonight we're hosting a sort-of-impromptu dinner for some friends in town for the weekend from northern Illinois.  They escaped their organic farm in the Chicago environs to get away to our fair city for the weekend.  (I love that people see Milwaukee as a "destination.")  I'm keeping it fairly simple this evening though I know our hard-working friends who raise most of their own food will appreciate every drop and every bite:

Chickpea and Turnip Cobbler
Kohlrabi Slaw
Gingerbread w/Homestead Brandied Peaches, Vanilla Ice Cream, and Toasted Hickory Nuts

I look forward to catching up, kicking back, and perhaps even leaving some clean-up for tomorrow (though this is doubtful given my and my husband's mild obsession with tidiness.)  I love hosting dinner and I hope this one kicks off another season of Sunday dinners with close friends.

And with fall is looming, the canning kettle is still working full tilt.  Since late last week I put up the last of our crushed tomatoes, roasted half-sharp red and yellow peppers, pickled green peppers with ginger, homemade barbecue sauce, and stuffed bell peppers.  We didn't get to freezing the stuffed peppers last year, which is usually something Ben handles--it's one of the perfected dishes in his humble repertoire.  I gave it a try this time as I was "power-cooking" yesterday in preparation of a getaway with Vera this coming weekend when Ben will have to fend for himself on leftovers.  

Peppers for roasting over an open flame
It's messy, but it works on the stovetop

Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves 4 (w/ leftover filling)

Grain and Meat Mixture for Stuffing
I was able to use a couple of our homemade items as components for this dish--what didn't fit into the canning jars.

4 large red or green bell peppers, tops removed, seeded and veins taken out
1/2 c. quinoa
1/2 c. millet
1/2 c. red lentils

2 T. beef fat, oil, or butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic

1 lb. ground bison (or lamb, beer, chicken, etc.)
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, diced
1 1/2 c. (homemade) barbecue sauce, divided
salt and pepper, to taste

Blanch hollowed peppers in simmering water for 4 min.  Place immediately in an ice bath to cool.  Pat dry.  In the meantime, combine the quinoa, millet, and lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with water and a lid and cook until tender.  Heat the fat/oil in a large skillet, add the onions and garlic and saute until tender.  Add the ground meat and cook completely.  Mix in the diced red peppers.  Turn off the heat and add up to 1 c. barbecue sauce.  Mix completely until combined and desired consistency is reached.  Add grain/lentil mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Fill peppers with meat mixture so that it's mounded over the top.  Dollop remaining barbecue sauce on top.  Freeze in a shallow pan until solid then pack into freezer bags, or bake until heated through in a 350 degree oven, about 10-15 min.

Wild Rice Dish
My power cooking yesterday wasn't just the frenzied, make-it-bake-it-all chaos it sounds like.  Ben gave me the gift of a few hours in the kitchen where I could leisurely and lovingly prepare a well-rounded Sunday dinner for my family: Ham Loaf, Wild Rice with Carrots and Raisins, Green Salad with Oregano-Cumin Dressing, and Lemon Rice Pudding for dessert.  I tried a new ham loaf recipe that's not as "sweet" as the last one I've posted on my blog.  I stumbled across a food processor cookbook at the library and found the recipe.  As much as I love to cook from scratch and chop, slice, and dice everything, you may have noticed that I also love my Cuisinart.  In order for me to prepare as much quantity scratch food as I do while chasing a 2-year-old, I need a little helper.  This recipe makes it easy to whip up a meatloaf in no time.

Ham and Sausage Loaf with Capers and Lemon
Serves 10-12 (makes 2 loaves)

Adapted from Process This! by Jean Anderson.  Fortunately I had all of the main ingredients on hand and adapted it to be gluten-free and with a little extra fiber.

1 1/2 lbs. ground smoked ham (you can grind in the food processor)
1 lb. ground pork
1 c. rolled oats
1 t. dried lemon peel
1/2 c. lightly packed parsley sprigs and tender stems
2 t. dried marjoram
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1 c. whole milk
1/2 lb. bulk sausage meat (not too sagey, not too peppery)
1/4 c. ketchup (or homemade barbecue sauce)
2 T. well-drained small capers (or homemade "Midwest capers")
2 large eggs
6 slices smoked bacon, halved crosswise, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat two standard loaf pans with oil or butter and set aside.  Place ground ham and pork in a large mixing bowl.  Put oats in food processor with lemon peel and pulse to combine.  Add herbs and pulse to mix.  Add this mixture to meats.  Drop coarsely chopped onions into processor with mustard, pepper and pulse.  Add milk and broken up bulk sausage and pulse to combine.  Add ketchup/BBQ sauce, capers, and eggs and pulse quickly 3-4 times.  Transfer to mixing bowl ad mix thoroughly with your hands.  Pat the ham mixture firmly into prepared pans and lay the bacon strips across the top, overlapping them slightly.  Bake uncovered until instant-read thermometer, inserted in center of loaf, reads 170F, about 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours.  Cool the ham loaf slightly before slicing.  Cut and serve.

What's next on the urban homestead?  Making applesauce and butter this week, crossing things like salsa and turnip chips off my to-do list, and kicking back to enjoy the last months of the garden.

No comments:

Post a Comment