Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Friday, October 24, 2014

How to make Apple Crisp

We love apple season because we love to make a lot of apple crisp. This is so easy to make - and it's a breakfast food. And dessert. And it's perfect for elevensies. Or snacks. Or dinner.

Served warm and swimming in a bowl of cream.

We were lucky that someone we know invited us to come and pick up the last of their apples. They expected us to just throw these "bad" apples to the pigz. Are you kidding? Some of these were perfect - except for a few spots. But if you are going to peel the apples anyway - what's the difference if they are "perfect" or "spotty?"

 My spotty apples. These are Wolf River and Grimes Golden apples - both heritage varieties.

I just peel and cut up the apples until I fill the pan. 

Oatmeal layer - it cooks in the apple juices. Yum!

Then I add a couple of layers. I like a lot of oatmeal - real, old fashioned oatmeal not the quick cooking kind. I add a generous layer of oatmeal right onto the apples trying to get some of it down between the fruit.

Crumble topping - ratios of about a third each of butter, sugar, and flour.

Then I make the crumble topping. I just eyeball the measurements, but I use a ratio of about a third each of flour, brown sugar, and butter. I use this little mini chopper to mix it all up until it's gravelly.

Sprinkle the topping on top.

Then you might as well add some butter to the top also.

But here is the key to a perfect apple crisp - cook it low and slow. I use a 325* oven for at least an hour or until the apples are bubbling. If the topping is getting too brown then just loosely cover with foil.

That's all there is to it. We got another round of "bad" apples so today I'll be making another apple crisp.

Happy Friday everyone! Are you enjoying apple season?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beetin' up eggs

Last nite, after a lot of brussel sprouts, blue cheese, and red wine... it occurred to me that I have not recently adequately expressed my love of  beets. You can't beat beets, that is for sure. But the next best thing to beets is - beet pickled eggs. Yep. It's a thing.

Aren't they lovely?

I've already finished off one jar of beets and I had all of this lovely pickled beet juice. I couldn't let it go to waste - and then one of my pals reminded me about pickled hard cooked eggs. Ever since I learned of the miracle of steamed eggs I've been using a lot of had cooked eggs. So I fired up the steamer and make myself some pickled eggs. 

No really, aren't they just beautiful?

I love pickled eggs in salads. I love beets in salads. I love that the salad turns pink when you use beets.
 Seriously, isn't this the greatest thing?

I have a few more hard cooked eggs marinating in beet juice. My next step is to make deviled eggs out of the beet pickled eggs. I can't wait.

Happy Thursday everyone! Do you love beets? How about pickled eggs? How could you not?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Making bacon and pancetta - how-to's!

Recently a couple of people have asked me about making bacon. So I'll throw out a few links on how to make bacon at home.

Bacon. That dream within a dream...

Can you make bacon at home? Sure! All you need is time, a fresh pork belly, a cure, and a few tools. Mostly making bacon just sounds intimidating. There are several steps that make the process long - a week or more. Then you have to smoke the bacon which isn't tricky but you need a smoker and time to do it.

If you don't have a smoker you can make a non-smoked version of bacon called pancetta. You start much the same way but you hang the cured pork belly to finish it. Pancetta is a super delicious "bacon" that is traditionally the base for spectacular Italian meat sauces. It has tons of uses.

Recently I cleaned out the freezer and found an incredible piece of pork belly that was cured-like-pancetta-but-smoked-like-bacon. I've been using it to make green beans from that last patch I took up from the garden. The next time I get a nice pork belly I'll be making this. There is something about the savory seasoning paired with the smokiness of a fruit wood fire that makes it just heavenly.

The cure (the dry seasonings and the salt mix) process is super duper easy. Then it's just a matter of coating the outside of the meat, putting it in bags, and letting it rest in the fridge for about a week. The only tough part is remembering to turn the packages over every day to evenly coat the meat.

Then, for bacon you need to fire up your smoker and make sure you have a day to tend it. For the pancetta you just need to wrap in cheesecloth and then hang somewhere for about a week. The only tricky part about the pancetta is that you need a cool place (50*-60*) to hang it. We do this in winter in the unfinished part of our basement. One of these days I'll have a smoke house... but that is still on the "to do" list.

I usually make bacon and pancetta as part of Meat Week - that is, the parting up the pork halves from processing our pigs. After we butcher our pigz the only thing I work on for about a week is getting the meat put up. So it just makes sense to me do the bacon at the end. But some folks were talking yesterday about how they freeze the bellies and then make bacon when they are ready.

Some folks are nervous about making their own bacon but it really isn't that complicated, just time consuming. One thing to keep in mind is that it will not be exactly like store-bacon. For us that is OK. We take some of our bellies in to be processed by a butcher. It comes back more like store bacon. I think we'd have better results at home if we had a commercial slicer... but then, I really like our bacon. Especially for cooking.

It's kind of hard to describe the difference, but our bacon is more like a slice of meat rather than a brown and crunchy piece of bacon from the store or restaurant. But then, I don't like brown and crunchy bacon - I like it chewy so the way we do this suits me just fine.

Here are the links for how-to's:

Making bacon - I got my cure on!  Lots of pix of the process - including when I started brining a ham.

Bacon makin' and butcher day tools.

What bacon day looks like. The results of smoking our bacon - it was incredible!

Making pancetta.

A fabulous pancetta. See the results - this one was insane. We don't "roll" our pancetta - but this one was a hog so big that it naturally rolled itself!

As with everything, do your research, follow the directions, and use your common sense. Some folks are worked up over the use of "pink salt" which, in butcher language, is a nitrate-based curing salt. It is NOT the same a the hip and trendy Himalayan pink table salt. We use it in our cured meats because we think it makes a better product - one that is more bacon-y.

Should you us it? I don't know - should you? Do your research and do what is best for your family. What I do know is that I don't fight over things like that. If you are against it then I am clear on your position and there are lots of places where you can argue about it online. Here is not one of them. Just be aware of the difference and do what is best for you.

Even if you don't raise your own hogs you can still order a fresh pork belly from your butcher. We don't think we'll get any real bacon off the pigz that we have now. They are the more common "pink" type pigz that are for commercial purposes and designed for leanness and not bacon. But we'll work something out. Next year for sure we'll get some heritage style pigz - like our favorite, the those enormous Tamworths we had before.

Happy Tuesday everyone! Are you thinking about making bacon?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Storing beets and late season beans

Does everyone read the SBCanning site? They have a terrific facebook page as well. One of the things I love about them is that they share their reader's canning photos. And they have great information. A while ago I saw something that made me stop and think about what I was doing wrong.

Some of my beets in a peck basket. Note the labeling and no rings - for safety.

The post was about storing your home canned goods safely. One of the tips is NOT to stack your jars. What!?! Of course I stacked my jars down in the basement... why not? Well, seems like there are a lot of reasons not to do this. Mostly because if the jars became unsealed the weight of a jar on top of them might reseal it once it was contaminated... or it would just sit there unsealed and stew a toxic brew. So it got me thinking I had to do better.

One of the great things about going to the produce auction is that if you buy a peck basket of something.. you get to keep the basket. So I've been using those baskets to organize my canned goods. If you look closely you can see that the quart jars are shorter than the sides of the baskets. I'm wondering if I can stack the baskets so that the jars are not literally on top of each other. I'll be working on this to see if it is an option. If not I'll be adding more shelves.

In other news.... I had another victory with late season planting. My notes show that I did a late season planting of green beans on or about 8/28. I wasn't sure it would work as we normally get a frost the first couple weeks of October. 

I risked life and limb to carry this hot skillet outside to get this shot.

But check out these babies. Totally worked. I have a lush harvest of lovely beans out there. Last nite we had some with dinner. Dinner was literally the very last pack of pork chops I found when I cleaned out the freezer. I also found a spectacular bag of smoked pancetta. Technically, smoking it makes it "bacon" but the flavorings were more savory. These beans were amazing.

Happy Friday everyone! What are your thoughts on stacking jars and are you taking up the last of your beans?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

You can't beat beets!

You can't beat beets but you can can them!

I had a slight beet related injury - and stained hands. Totally worth it.

Yesterday I canned beets. It was terrific. The only downside is that everything ends up pink - including your hands. I like to pickle beets. They are super in salads...and just to eat out of the jar.

Usually I direct folks to the pickyourown site for canning instructions. But one of my friends reminded me lately that sometimes that site is hard to follow. It can be a little visually "overstimulating" so a great resource that I like to have on hand is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving - this is the one that I have.

The Ball Blue Book is the go to resource for canning. It is easy to follow, has clear instructions, and has lots of recipes. I never get creative with canning recipes - I always follow the directions to the letter. As far as I can tell these guys are always right on the money. If you are just starting out in canning this is a terrific book for you.

Today is another soggy rain day. But that's OK - I have my beets to make me happy.

Happy Thursday everyone! We are in the summer canning homestretch - what are you canning?

 Editors note: Hey look! I have some affiliate links in this post. Technically I'm supposed to tell you this which is why I'm including this editor's note. How does it work? Easy peasy. I get a tiny portion of the sale when you click on one of the links, go to the Amazon page, and purchase something. It can be anything - this book, movies, or something you need from Amazon anyway.  Do you need anything Amazon? You can support this blog by just clicking one of these links. Or using the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It doesn't cost you once cent more but helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Potting up celery and setting up the greenhouse

You may remember that planting celery was one of my best projects this summer. First, I can't believe it worked and second, I can't believe that the plants have done so well! We have had a steady supply of fresh and crunchy celery all summer.

I just dug it up and plopped it in a pot. Easy peasy.

I really wanted to keep this success going so one of my projects is to pot up the celery plants and move them into the green house.  All I did was dig up a plant and plop it into a big pot with lots of fresh potting soil. I didn't even need to water it in because it was raining so much that day - I just let it set outside. I'll be doing a few more of these. Most of my celery plants lived and produced well all summer. Buying a couple six-packs of little celery starts was the best $3 I have ever spent.

The hoop house green house has also been a tremendous success this year - even tho I didn't achieve my goal of using the hoop as a trellis for squash and pumpkins... and it sat empty all summer.  I finally got it cleaned out and I'm getting it organized to be used for growing this fall and early winter. In fact, I'm hoping to build a second greenhouse this fall.

I noticed one thing that I could have done better tho. Remember that I just used the plastic I had on hand? My pal ML told me to get the good greenhouse plastic film by A.M. Leonard? And I didn't because I'm cheap (and maybe a little stubborn)? Yep. So the regular plastic I became brittle over the summer and now it has some holes in it. So did it work as I needed it to for this spring? Yes. Is it a permanent solution? No. So I'll be getting the good stuff.

I'm pretty excited about using the greenhouse as a "season extender." I know that it won't stand up to extremely cold temperatures but I'm hoping to keep some greens and my celery going for a while.

Happy Wednesday everyone! Are you setting up your green house?

Monday, October 13, 2014

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