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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Knotweed Jam

We have decided to start delving into some wild foraging.  If you know what you are looking for, places like where I live surround you with free food.  We don’t know all of the foods around us yet, but one that is particularly easy to find is Japanese Knotweed.  There aren’t a huge amount of recipes that are easy to find, but there are some for sure.  The recipe I decided to try was Knotweed Fruit Preserves, since I am also working on putting food up for the winter.

If you don’t know what Japanese Knotweed is, check out the post I did last year.  The plant is actually an invasive species that we see growing all over the side of the road.  Apparently no one knows that it is edible because the knotweed groves are huge.  Next year, I will get a better start and I should be able to make massive amounts of preserves.

The recipe is very simple.  First you harvest the stalks of knotweed before they start to branch and they become fibrous.  There is about a two week span when the stalks are perfect.  Remove the leaves and chop the stalks up into small pieces.  I added enough honey to the pieces just to coat them.

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After the pieces sit in the honey for about 20 minutes to pull out the liquids, cook them up until they are soft.  At this point, the sauce is amazing with biscuits and whip cream or vanilla ice cream.  I can’t decide if it tastes like asparagus or rhubarb.  I think it depends on how you prepare it.  Good either way.

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Finally, I added pectin according to the recipe on the jar and processed in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.

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Here are some links to recipes:

Eat the Weeds

Eat the Invaders

Foraged Foodie

 

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I know I haven’t posted much lately,but I have been working on it.  I am learning some new tools to help me be a better blogger and to make my writing more interesting.  I have plenty of posts coming up in the near future as there is a lot going on here right now.  I hope you enjoy!

After almost two years of cold sandwiches, eggs, and hot dogs, we have finally started real cooking on the wood stove! While rushing around and working all day, simple “meals” like peanut butter and jelly were acceptable because we were just too busy and too dirty to prepare a grand meal. Since we aren’t rushing madly to get a roof over head or hauling firewood so that we don’t freeze, we can actually start to eat like real people. We are learning to prepare healthy, hearty meals on the wood stove in the dutch oven. It is pretty much too late for this, since it’s spring and we are using the wood stove less and less, but we will be all set for next year.

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Today’s meal was chicken vegetable soup, nothing too fantastic, but it’s not a hot dog. I prefer one pot meals where I can chop everything, toss it in the dutch oven, and wait for the fantastic aroma to fill my tiny house. The method we used can be applied to any combination of ingredients your taste buds are begging for.DSC_0026

I chopped all the vegetables, potatoes, and mushrooms and piled them into the dutch oven. I decided that it would be best if the carrots and potatoes that take the longest to cook went in the bottom of the pan where it would heat up the fastest. Who knows if it makes a difference or not. The chicken breast went in whole, piled on top of some vegetables. I don’t like cutting up raw meat if I can help it, without running water it is a challenge to clean up the slimy mess afterwards. We added water to cover everything and keep it moist and tender. The spices thrown in were garlic, basil, salt and rosemary; an excellent aroma to fill the house.

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Put the lid on the dutch oven and bring the water to a boil. Once at a boil, we let it cook for about an hour. I’m not positive on the time frame, I was more interested in when the chicken was cooked and tender enough to break apart with a spoon. I also taste tested a carrot to be sure it was soft enough. Then we scooped the soup out of the dutch oven and filled our bowls right to the top. We were surprised at how long the soup stayed hot after we poured it into bowls. Don’t burn your mouth!

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Finished Chicken Soup

Next winter, we will really get good at cooking on the wood stove and in the dutch oven. I plan to post recipes that are so amazing your mouth will water just reading about them. Breads and desserts will also be added to the recipe list. For now, I think we are going to have to start working on our grilling recipes. We end up opening every window in the house some nights to keep it cool enough just to cook a meal. A perfect reason to get going on building the outdoor kitchen. Here it is so far:

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Here are some links to other cooking projects I have posted on:

Dutch Oven Turkey

Lazy Pork

If you would like some more information on dutch oven cooking:

Wood Stove Cooking: Mother Earth News

Wood Cookstove Cooking

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving

I’m working on Thanksgiving, so we aren’t really doing anything.  However, my job sent me home with a turkey so we decided to see if we could cook it on the woodstove.

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We cook on it a lot, so it is not very clean and pretty.  But it did cook the turkey.  Boiled away all day and came out quite tasty, for turkey.  We just threw in some salt, onions and garlic and left it alone.

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Just another chance to work on my wood stove cooking skills!

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We never actually built an outdoor “kitchen.”  Rather we have scattered cooking “appliances”  for whatever we need to cook.  What we use most is the small, two burner propane grill.  We have this set up on our “kitchen table” under the awning from the tent.  Most of our meals are super simple and don’t require much for cooking.  We use our cast iron fry pan almost always.

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We have an open fire pit that we can use a variety of “appliances” on.  This cooker is great for the fry pans and the dutch oven, it flips over to accommodate either.  I really like it because when we build our house, it came with special bolts so that we can build it right in to a large cooking hearth in the house.  It can move between the house and outside.

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We have a large propane burner as well as the small one.  It works great for boiling water.  We have to boil a decent amount of water for washing dishes and for showering when it isn’t too sunny.  This burner will get a lot of use when I get to start canning and when the man starts brewing again.

DSC_0297We also bought this grill grate to cook over the open fire.  It works just fine, but we get more use out of it as a table.

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I have not yet been able to build the cob oven or rocket stove burners.  They need a lot of time to dry and we have had tons of rain.  I think we would be living in our tiny house by now if it had only rained half as much as it has.  I started the cob oven a month ago and it hasn’t dried at all.  I need to build a proper roof over the area where I am building it before I can even start to build it.  When I have time.

I still plan to build the outdoor kitchen I had planned, but not yet.  Once the house goes up and we have a chance to spend time in the area, them I will know where the perfect spot for the kitchen and then I will start to build it.

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For our second year we invited our friends and family out to a BBQ at our new home.  We ended trying a pig roast this year.  It is a small BBQ so we got a small pig and roasted it in a hole in the ground.  This was a first try for all of us, so it was less than perfect.  But I’ll share with you anyways.  I will, of course, point out what we did wrong so you don’t make the same mistakes.

Here is the rock lined pit we made.  The idea is to fill a pit with rocks (head shaped is what I found), build a bonfire, then bury the pig in the hot rocks and cook with radiant heat.  We wrapped the pig in wet burlap to keep it clean then covered it with hay we had soaked for a few hours to keep it moist.  The whole thing was wrapped in chicken wire to contain it, the buried in some more hay.  The popular way to roast a pig in a pit is the Hawaiian way with banana leaves instead of burlap.  Bananas don’t grow in Maine though.DSC_0001

The pile of wood for the bonfire

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The next couple of pictures are of us putting the wrapped pig into the hot pit.

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Then we put a tarp over the hay and buried it in the dirt.  A perfect chance to play with the tractor, of course.

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So the mistake that was made was that we did not get the fire hot enough and we did not cook the pig long enough.  We burned the fire for 2 hours or so and left the pig in the ground for 5 hours.  We had decided that this would be long enough since it was a small pig.  We were wrong.  Here we are unearthing and unwrapping the half cooked pig.

DSC_0099 DSC_0102 DSC_0103Next we scurried around butchering and cooking the pig in various ways so that we could still eat it.  We grilled the ribs, sauteed the tenderloin, had pork and beans in the dutch oven and beer boiled the last of it.  Everything came out delicious, so other than a little bit of extra work, there were no complaints.

The other tradition we have started to go along with our cookout/camp out is a decorated duck race.  Here are the contestants:

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Here is a quick tour of what we have been doing around here in the past week or so.  We haven’t got any big stuff set up yet, but we are here and starting to settle in.

These are some views of the wall tent with our basics set up inside (before the kids settled their toys in):

DSC_0002 DSC_0004 DSC_0001 DSC_0003Our lovely, quick setup grill.  My favorite part.

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We have to walk up all kinds of hills to get between the areas of the property, so I am starting to set up a staircase from the tent to the play area, kitchen, and future cabin.  We have tons of slate everywhere so there will be many more stairways of this kind in the future.

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This is the site we have cleared for the cabin.  We were talking about cutting down some trees so that we had a view, but we decided that the trees were more valuable as a wind block.  This area is also a great place for bats.  We have a few of them circling around devouring mosquitos.  The trees will also do very well as places to hang the bat houses we haven’t got yet.

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I finally have a clothesline.  Not terribly easy to access, but it is a clothesline.

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Shower house and composting toilet.  The other bath house had to come down because we put it in the loggers way.  I guess it will make good firewood.  And now I can build another bath house.  Good practice I guess.

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A little decorating to make this place more homey.

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Hopefully there will be much more to share really soon.

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Pork Pot Pie

Since we will be cooking quite a bit with cast iron once we go off grid, I figured I bet start learning some recipes.  We cook eggs and pancakes and grilled cheese all the time on the cast iron, but that could get old after a while.  I decided that pot pie was a great place to start, so I used up some of the pork from my Lazy Pork Cooking, added some onions, carrots and potatoes and topped it off with a pie crust.  It was delicious “piggy pie” as the kids called it.

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It was very simple to make too.  First I sauteed the carrots, onions and potatoes with some of the pork fat and broth from cooking the pork.

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Next time, I will fill the pie a lot more because it did come out a little flat.  I will also add a lot of the broth and fat.  Everything stuck to the cast iron and I got heckled for making a mess of “his” cast iron pans, as usual.  I would have also liked a creamier base for all the pork and veggies.  They soaked up quite a bit and there was almost none left.  After the veggies were all cooked, I sprinkled some flour over the top and threw in the pork.

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Forgive my photography.  This is one of those skills that I am working on.  Anyway, once everything was all mixed up and warm, I threw a pie crust over the top and baked it in the oven at 350 degrees.  I did not time it, but you can tell when the crust is cooked and that is when you take it out.  Done!

I just have to add that my 3 year old daughter told me that “this piggy doesn’t oink because I’m eating it.”  At first I just laughed hysterically.  Then someone pointed out to me that I should be proud that she already understood where her food was coming from.  I am proud of her, and glad that she understands so that when we get animals it won’t be a horrifying experience for her.  And maybe she will carry that on to a respect for those animals that she may not have if she didn’t understand.

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