Saturday, March 28, 2009

Planting Tomato Seed

We probably should have done this a week or two ago, but we didn't. Today we got out the flats and pots from a previous year in order to plant the seeds we picked up at Seedy Saturday. We realized it was a bit early to plant the pumpkins, though. Jim was very excited to find Big Max Pumpkins. As near as he's concerned, small pumpkins just aren't any fun. So we'll plant those in a few weeks. (Instructions say 2-3 weeks before last frost.)

We worked outside, using our deep freeze as a work counter. Jim filled the pots with organic seed-starting soil, which is a finer grade than regular potting soil.

I planted a seed into each pot, 1/4" deep.

The seeds are very tiny! Well, YOU know. You've eaten a tomato!

We planted a flat and a half of Manitoba tomatoes. We grew some of these last year and enjoyed both the flavor and the fact that we were eating tomatoes weeks earlier than other years. They're a bit smaller, which means more work at canning time, though.

We also planted some Black Yum Yums and Duprava tomatoes. No idea what to expect on either of these!

Then we set this up on a table in front of the south window in our spare room. We put a long heating pad on low on the table, and straddled the three flats across the pad. Put water in the reservoirs, and covered with plastic. It will take a bit of time before we see what germinated.

Disclaimer: This is an experiment. We don't necessarily know what we're doing!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

KA forums

Jim went hunting for information online about the KitchenAid pasta extruders. KitchenAid has an entire forum to discuss issues with the machine and attachments. So maybe we will try this again. Not, however, today. :P

Here's a thread on making macaroni.
This thread is about spinach pasta and the proper dryness of the dough.
There's advice here about the extruder balling up the dough into big gloms.

KA--Pasta Extruder

I don't normally do things by the book. Sometimes that works, and other times it bites me. My first experiment with making pasta using the extruder on the Kitchen Aid was to use my spinach pasta recipe. Disaster. Just so much green glue, really. That was before I decided to start this blog, so you were saved from having to witness it.

Still, one trial doesn't mean the whole system is faulty. Chastened, we made pasta this week using the basic recipe that came with the machine. So here it is getting mixed. I definitely made sure the dough was much stiffer, all the flour it could hold!

These are the extruder options. From the top, clockwise: fettucine, macaroni, spaghettini, spaghetti, and lasagna extruders.

Here's how it (sort of) works. We chose fettucine, and you can see we're already in trouble!

While the dough had been resting, I made the sauce: a basic cheesy (using the lemon cheese) white sauce with hot Italian sausages in it.

I cooked the noodles while Jim continued extruding. This is the result:

So, were we happy with the process and the end result? Not really. The taste of the noodles was fine. Good, really. But getting there was a royal pain. As you can see from the photo of the extrusion, the noodles badly wanted to glom together. It was difficult to separate them to cook, and I tossed a few back at Jim to re-extrude because I couldn't get them apart. Such a light touch was needed--any pressure and they stuck firmer. I also threw out a few globs that cooked together and wouldn't separate. Also, I must say cleaning the KA after the whole thing is also a pain, though it was easier this time than with the spinach glue. I did toss all the parts in soapy water in the sink until after we'd eaten, but the hard-to-get-to spots were still--hard to get to.

Being gluttons for punishment, no doubt we'll try the macaroni and lasagna extruders yet some time. Generally speaking, though, I don't see this being the way we will normally get pasta for dinner. It took two people a solid half hour of labor to make enough pasta for four servings, not including clean-up. However, if we ever decide on a pasta night and find the cupboard is bare, we do have a possible solution.

I'm sad. I wanted to like it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lemon Cheese

We recently purchased the book Home Cheese Making. Today I tried my first recipe out of it, Lemon Cheese (page 79). It seemed a good choice because it doesn't require anything fancy, just milk, lemons, heat, and salt. I was thinking ahead yesterday and purchased some lemons. I juiced two on the glass juicer I got from my grandmother's estate.

I poured half a gallon of whole milk into a large pot and heated it to about 185F, stirring frequently with a whisk.

Then I turned off the heat and poured in 1/3 cup of the lemon juice. Immediately the curds began to separate from the whey:

The lid goes on so it can rest for 15 minutes, then I poured it through cloth in a colander:

Once the whey had poured through (just a few minutes), I tied the cloth into a bag to apply a bit of pressure to it and let it sit for a couple hours draining through the colander on the counter. By then the bread was done and I was getting hungry to try out this cheese, but it needed a bit of salt--I put in 1.5 teaspoons, 1/2 teaspoon at a time and tasting in between.

A little bit of a crumbly texture, but oh-so-delicious on fresh bread. And no, it doesn't taste the teensiest bit of lemon juice!

Kitchen Aid Whole-Wheat Bread

Today's the first time I've made bread in the new Kitchen Aid.

The directions say that the largest batch this 375-watt machine can handle is a two-loaf size (about 8 cups flour max). We don't go through a lot of bread these days as we both have microwaves at work and usually take leftovers for our lunches, so I thought I'd try a two-loaf batch rather than a hand-kneaded four-loaf batch like I've done for years. (Used to do a six-loaf batch when everyone was taking sandwiches back a few years!) I might even go to single loaf batches sometimes if I can bake them well in the toaster oven. But that is not today's mission.

Here's what I did (as much for my own sake to check back on as for yours!)

5 cups whole-wheat flour (currently using Trojan by Ellisons brand)
1/2 tablespoon active-rise yeast (Fermipan)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt

Run KA with dough hook at Level 2 for 15 seconds to mix dry ingredients, then slowly add:
3 cups warm water
glug vinegar
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Keep machine on Level 2. When the liquids are mixed into the dry ingredients thoroughly, add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time. I probably added 2 more cups, maybe 2.5 before the sides of the bowl stayed clear and the mass of dough kept revolving evenly.

Then I kept it going for another 2-3 minutes until smooth and elastic, before putting it in a greased covered bowl and into the oven with only the oven light on. That's the easiest consistently temperatured place for me to rise bread; I've been doing that for years.

It rose really well, and I shaped it into two loaves. It rose again while the oven heated.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Voila!

Seedy Saturday

We attended a one-hour workshop, followed by a seed exchange, on Seedy Saturday (yesterday). Sadly, though sponsored by College of the Rockies, the workshop was held in a church basement at the same time as a garage sale was going on in the other part of it. There were pillars (big enough to hide behind) marching down the center and no microphones, so all together it was extremely difficult to hear the speakers.

I'm not convinced that I'm going to get into saving my own seeds, anyway. (Would I have been if I could have heard everything? Who knows!) I'll definitely make a larger effort to buy open-pollinated seed, though, in the event I change my mind and also to help create demand for heritage varieties. Last summer Hanna and I planted several heritage seeds we'd found from Salt Spring Seeds we'd purchased on an adventureseome day on Salt Spring Island last May with Jen (who needs a blog to link to again...)

Strangely, there was a way better selection of Salt Spring Seeds at yesterday's workshop than the girls and I found on the island last year. We purchased several kinds to try in this year's garden.

For me, the highlight of Seedy Saturday was chatting up folks, including neighbors, Dan and Val, whose blog we'd already discovered, Grunt and Grungy's Garden. Dan was one of the speakers, as his area of expertise is saving tomato seeds. They currently have a seed bank of over 700 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, and they'll mail them to you wherever you happen to live. Check it out if you're interested! I picked up a few. Does that mean I'm starting transplants? Eep!

Because I'd been unable to see or hear Dan's presentation, he gave me a quick run-down afterwards at his table.

Here's a close-up of tomato mush in various stages of seed harvest. It's a messy business:

The fellow from Garden Hoe Farm was there, obviously ready to have his picture taken, though I didn't catch his name:

He had a variety of seeds available for donations to the cancer society:

Creston Valley Food Action Coalition had a booth there as well:

Last year was their pilot year in providing local grains through Community Supported Agriculture. Area residents purchase grain shares in spring and receive bags of grain in the fall:

This is something we're interested in looking into as a direction for some of our own land: seeing what we might be able to produce that is in demand by this local organization.

All in all it was a good time of meeting neighbors and Talking the Talk.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Seed Exchange

I've been reading about Seedy Saturdays on various blogs and sites lately, and it sounds fun. Creston is having the next best thing this coming Saturday, put on by the College of the Rockies from 1-3 pm. It will take place at the New Life Christian Church (sounds somewhat applicable, actually!) on Elm Street.

A one-hour workshop on saving, storing, cleaning and growing seeds and one hour of selling and trading--recommended entrance donation of ten dollars. This workshop focuses on open-pollinated seeds adapted to local conditions.

Guess where we'll be on Saturday afternoon! Don't know that I've got anything to trade though. Must see what's in the drawer.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Welcome to Scratch!

Food from scratch might have a variety of connotations. It might be part of the slow food movement, it might be organic, it might be local. It should definitely be sustainable.

You may have heard of the 100 mile diet, the essence of a local food experience in Vancouver, BC, by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon. A well-known variation (and book) is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by the Kingsolver/Hopp family of Virginia.

This blog is not about them. It's not about a stringent set of rules, no matter how well thought out and how well executed. It's not about denying ourselves every food that comes from somewhere else.

It's about awareness of where the food we consume comes from. It's about choosing fresh, local food when possible. It's about planning ahead...but mostly it is about doing.

We own a 40-acre farm in the fertile Creston Valley on which we currently grow a few cows and the hay to feed them, as well as a large garden with which to feed us. We've dabbled in sheep and chickens and pigs over the years, and who knows, some of those might come around again. We have a few plum trees, an apricot that blooms gorgeously but doesn't produce, a walnut, and a hazelnut. We're looking at a few other options as well, and decided that a new blog to record our journey might be fun for us and, perhaps, fun for you as well.

We're long-time do-it-yourselfers. Both of us were raised in families where bread came from the oven, not the grocery store. Where vegetables came from the garden and were frozen or canned for winter consumption. Where meat came from animals not far from the door. We're not strangers to this way of life as many of our generation are.

But with the newest version of the *back to the land movement* all around us, we've been challenged once again to think about what we're eating that could have come from our farm and garden and neighborhood.

Welcome to Food from Scratch. We hope you bookmark us or subscribe to our blog feed and enjoy the journey with us.