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Archive for the ‘food preservation’ Category

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Cheese making has many permutations.  There are enough curds in a ten-gallon cheese that we can steal some for the chickens’ daily protein ration and never miss them.  Whey goes to the pigs, except the quart we’ve reserved to backslop the next cheese.  Now the cheese cabinet is nearly full, it’s time to buy in a couple of extra calves and take the burden of milk processing off the cheese makers.

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Chestnuts are so lovely that collecting them is like hunting for Easter eggs, a fun trip to make in the evening after supper dishes are done.  So far we have gathered about ten pounds, a good harvest.  Some we eat right away — a chestnut is a nice package of proteins and carbs, mildly sweet — but they will be sweeter, and their texture more silky, after a couple of months aging in the back of the refrigerator.  We suppose this is why they are traditionally a winter food.

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The last weeks of October are full and straining at the seams.  Apple cider and pie apples leave only sauce apples to process; when they are done it will be high time to get the cabbages out of the garden and start kraut.  There are still some bell peppers to freeze, and the green beans the frost hasn’t burned could still be harvested; we hope the field corn will dry and the ears drop before the deer get really determined about jumping the fence.

The animals are on a different cycle:  all the cows and heifers have been bred — some more than once — but it remains to be seen whether they settled; we watch the cows through the barn door while we milk, but no one seems frisky.  The heifers, who are at the back of the farm, are wearing heat stickers, which we hope will let us know if any one needs to be re-bred.  On All Saints’ the ram goes in with the ewes; the sow, God willing, will farrow in the next week or so.

What doesn’t kill us will make us strong —

 

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When August arrives it hits like an express train; suddenly everything needs to be done at once.  Corn needs to be picked, blanched and frozen; peaches need to be canned; fifty Cornish Rock crosses are ready to make the great Transition.  Milk is coming into the house at the rate of between fifteen and twenty gallons a DAY, and if it weren’t for the calves and pigs we would be drowning.

Today was a typical day, or rather on the relaxed side:  all we did was make a five-pound Appalachia (hard cheese) and some butter, freeze corn, pick blueberries, milk twice, move the cows’ paddock twice, thin mangels to feed the pigs, run into town for a couple of hours, cook and clean up after three meals, find housing for two turkey poults that came in from the pasture in somebody’s pocket, work on our various computer jobs, finish the wire in the windows of the hen coupe, pick seven gallons of green beans, process loads of laundry, do lots of dishes over and above the ones for meals, …I’m running out of ideas even though I’m sure I haven’t exhausted the day.

 

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Sunday, June 29, 2014 (nighttime):
The past three weeks have been very warm, up near ninety during the day, and the south wall of the dry cellar, unprotected as yet by ivy or overhang, is soaking up lots of solar energy. This is fine for the day lilies planted along the wall, but not so good for the cheese cave built into the back of the dry cellar. The thermometer in the cave has been creeping up from the forties (in April), to the fifties (May and early June), and a week ago it had gotten up into the low sixties – time to move the cheeses into the dairy cooler. This is okay as far as aging the cheeses goes – they are meant to be eaten young – but not so good for the cooler, which easily gets crowded. Eight five-pound cheeses take up a lot of room.
This afternoon we cut into the oldest cheese, to fill the gap between Sunday breakfast – always a big meal – and Sunday dinner, a late meal beside the fishpond. It was a three-month-old Appalachia, a thermophilic hard cheese, which we had wrapped, for purposes of experiment, with muslin and coated with lard. It was an interesting mottled orange on the outside, with spots of olive green and chartreuse, not all of which peeled off with the muslin. We tried the first bit with the rind and decided this cheese needed to be pared (just a little earthy, it was); but the inner cheese is outstanding. And the pigs will love the rinds.
We love cheese. And pigs. They go together.

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Monday, September 2:

   We have been praying for rain for days, and now the first drops are making dark spots on the stones of the walk and rattling on the red metal roof of the summer kitchen.

   The summer kitchen has seen much activity in the last week or so, with dozens of quarts of tomatoes being processed, jam made, and lard rendered.  In addition, onions and garlic are drying there, the garlic loosely tied in bundles and hung on the pegs of a market stand, the onions on racks of lumber and hardware cloth, propped up off the floor, with a fan keeping the air — heavy and humid for weeks now — circulating underneath.  Canning is so pleasant there, cooler than in the kitchen and with no penalty for spills:  when the day is done we swill the concrete floor with a bucket of water and sweep it down the floor drain.

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