Farewell Fall

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Ahhh, ’tis the season of snowblowers, ice scrapers and wood stoves. We had our first snow storm of the season overnight, and with it, our first snow day for my littlest man.  He was thrilled!  My husband, less so when he had to pull out the snowblower before heading to work.  But the day has gotten quite warm and a lot of it is melting off.  We have another 25 cms forecast for tonight.  Such is the life in New Brunswick.  Fall has been lovely, but I guess it’s time for us to move on.

I’ve gotten some of my canning projects completed over the fall, but not nearly as many as usual.  I seem to have lost steam this year with a number of things, not quite sure why.  But the basics are in the pantry, which makes me feel better about the cold coming.  I’ve got pot roast in a jar, chicken broth, vegetable soup, meatballs, baked beans and more pressured canned and put away.  I’ve also been working on my dehydrated stock, and it’s coming along.  I’m actually out of tomato powder (it’s amazing!!) so I’ll need to make some more.  The pickled beans turned out extra good this year, oh my Lord, why didn’t I make double?  I have no idea (probably because I was already over run with them and many other thing).  Walking past my canning shelves does make me happy.  I’ve got to make some jelly and a few other things for Christmas, but it’s coming along and my shelves are getting fuller.

The tea business has been booming, which is awesome!!  I’ve had three fantastic months sales wise (say hello to the fourth highest sales in Canada 2 months in a row 🙂  and hoping to keep the momentum up over the holidays and into the new year.  My trip to Hawaii is in early January, so I want to make sure I’ve got a thriving business to come back to.  With December starting, I’m sure to be busy the first two weeks, and then quiet for the last two.  My daughter will be home for a few days over Christmas, so I’ll be glad to have some quiet time with my husband and kids.  There have been a few vendor events over the last few months, and they’ve been super fun.  I love getting out and meeting new people.

Now, time to make some supper, close a party and make a batch of tequila pepper jelly.  The fun never stops.  Thank goodness, what would I do otherwise?

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Kombucha Crazy

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So, I’ve become a bit of an addict.  A kombucha addict.  Who knew some fermented tea would make a girl so happy?  But it does.  And I’m too cheap to buy it.  A friend told me someone at the market in Shediac was selling it for $20 a bottle.  Ummm…yeah, I’ll make my own, thanks.  My friend Stacy gifted me a scoby and some starter tea back in February and I’ve been brewing ever since.  I’ve experimented with a few things and now I’ve got it down to what I like.

IMG_20160619_113522Generally, I like to start with a plain black tea, so I’ve been using a strongly brewed English Breakfast for the most part, and I let mine ferment for about 10 or so days.  Once it hits the 14 day mark, I find it’s getting a bit too vinegar-y for my taste.  So I strain, bottle and drink like crazy.  I don’t always do a second ferment, because it’s pretty good all by it’s lonesome, but add in some strawberries or flavoured tea and let sit for a few days and bam!  Fruity deliciousness.  And fizzy, fruity deliciousness at that.  If kombucha brewing is up your alley and you want to find out more, check out http://www.kombuchakamp.com or http://www.culturesforhealth.com.  Those are great resources.  I’ve also joined a couple of kombucha brewing groups on Facebook, and they’ve been a great source of inspiration.

Since I’ve started my kombucha addiction, I’ve had a lot of friends ask how to get started.  One thing that happens when you brew your own is that you may eventually be over run by extra scobys.  I’m going to be adopting mine out this weekend.  On Sunday, I’ve got some friends coming over to learn how to make their own.  And they all get their own scoby and starter tea to take home.  Awe!  Scoby babies are heading to new kombucha families!

20160530_141318This was the first little scoby I put in here.  The jar is now almost packed solid with them.  My husband says he will be glad to see the “jelly fish” disappear from the pantry cupboard.  But I’m sure it won’t take long for more to take their place.  I may have to do a kombucha how to party every couple of months if my brew keeps going this well.  Today, I’ve got three gallon jars on top of my fridge brewing.  One is English Breakfast black tea, one is Classic Sencha green tea (and the scobys are so white!!!) and the third one is a mix of the two teas.  It will be fun to see what everyone prefers.

Do you brew your own?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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Strawberry kombucha

Market Day!

A wonderful way to start the day.

A wonderful way to start the day.

It’s a cool morning.  After the blistering heat and humidity we had here last week, I’m a happy camper.  The van is loaded and we’re off to market in a little more than an hour.  Our market is small, it’s in an old converted barn (my stall is actually a stall) but it’s got a real sense of community.  We’ve been together for a few years now, us vendors, and we look forward to catching up each Saturday as much as anything else.  Lawson and Juanita make me breakfast, Katherine gets my coffee ready in exchange for a giant cookie.  Monic is next to me and her pies are to die for.  Alan and I talk about gardening and homesteading.  Jonathan and Maureen not only have lovely painted glassware, but are two of the most wonderful and kind people I’ve ever met.  It’s a real pleasure hanging out there on Saturdays.  

My booth at the Upriver Country Market in Bass River.

My booth at the Upriver Country Market in Bass River.

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My friend Natalie Richard, from Nourish Moi Health Nut. She’s a holistic nutritionist and sells a variety of local products from New Brunswick producers like Speerville Mills.

One of my most recent projects was wedding favours.  How cool is that?  My friend Helene’s daughter got married and I did mini jams up for her guests.  It was a lot of fun.  I also learned that putting little lid toppers on takes a lot longer than you would think.  But they turned out great.

Tiny jams, ready to be wedding favours.

Tiny jams, ready to be wedding favours.

There they go!  175 mini jars of jam.  Congrats Pam and Mark!

There they go! 175 mini jars of jam. Congrats Pam and Mark!

My vacation time is nearly up and I’m back to work next week.  Doesn’t it feel like you always need another two weeks off?  I have just started getting all my projects done.  The first week was almost just veg out a little and catch up on lost sleep.  The second week is where I start being productive.  So many projects to do outside and summer is so short!  My garden has been hit or miss this year.  Some things are doing well, other things haven’t come up at all, which is kind of frustrating.  We had our first feed of lettuce last night, and the potatoes plants look like they are doing really well in the new potato boxes.  What a neat thing!  I promise pictures and an update on if growing potatoes in boxes works as well as advertised.  So far, so good. 

Time to finish off my cup of tea, wake up the troops and head out.  Hope your day is as full of promise as mine is.  

Early Morning

 

Beautiful New Brunswick morning

Beautiful New Brunswick morning

It’s a quiet morning.  It’s five am, I’ve had the canner pot heating up now for about a half hour, a load of laundry is on the go.  My husband left for work an hour ago, the kids are sleeping.  I’ve got a sink full of garlic scapes waiting for me to pickle them.  Tomorrow is market.  So, a lot to get done today, hence the early morning.  I used to be a morning show radio announcer, early mornings are not new to me.  But they are beautiful.  Something you tend to forget when you don’t see them for awhile.  The edges of the sky are tinged with pink this morning, the sky is pretty clear, a few birds are singing.  Today will be gorgeous, warm and everything a summer day should be.  Another day to be grateful I live where I do and have the life that I do.  

 

I’ve got a lot of canning projects to work on over the next few weeks.  This morning, pickled scapes.  I am thrilled that it’s time to put fresh things in jars.  I got two bags of scapes yesterday, so into the brine they go and they’ll be ready in a few weeks.

Freshly picked garlic scapes.

Freshly picked garlic scapes.

 It’s not my first fresh pickling session so far this summer.  A friend was generous enough to give me 8 pounds of fiddleheads.  15 pints of pickled fiddleheads later, I’ve only got one jar left.  I also got a hot tip on a great fiddlehead picking location for me to check out next spring.  Bonus!!

Fresh fiddlheads, waiting to be pickled.

Fresh fiddlheads, waiting to be pickled.

The finished product, pickled fiddleheads.  They look pretty!

The finished product, pickled fiddleheads. They look pretty!

 Rhubarb was excellent this spring, and not only do I have lots in the freezer for jam, but I tried out a new recipe and have rhubarb bbq sauce.  Sweet, thick, sticky….perfect for ribs.  

 

Rhubarb bbq sauce in the making

Rhubarb bbq sauce in the making

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A present from my dad. He picked me a garbage bag full of rhubarb from Memere’s patch.

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Rhubarb bbq sauce, canned and cooling.

 

Next up, white wine jelly, dill pickle relish and, well, it’s strawberry season.  I picked a flat yesterday, and will pick probably 4 or 5 more before next week is out.  

Strawberries are ready!

Strawberries are ready!

There is lots to do this time of year.  I’ve got markets on Saturday mornings in Bass River.  And I did one last Saturday in Rexton at the Lions Hall.  We had a post tropical storm, and people still came out to the market.

At the market

At the market

 Maybe because we were one of the last places with power?  Our home phone is out and will be for a few days yet.  But we are much better off that others.  Our power at home was out for 24 hours, but friends in Fredericton won’t be connected again until next Wednesday or Thursday.  That’s nearly 2 weeks without hydro.  Wow.  A long haul.  

The sky is much lighter now. I can see that today may be the day that my lillies open, the pods look like they are nearly there now.  I suppose I should get my jars washed and the brine ready for the scapes.  My hands smell like garlic from trimming the ends.  I’ve got laundry to fold, bees to check on, giant cookies to bake….pitter patter, let’s get at ‘er.  

Revolutionary things

Homemade yogurt

Sometimes, I come across something so simple, but so good, it changes the way I think or do things.  I become an infomercial type convert, telling everyone I know about this new amazing thing I’ve found.  One of the latest ones is making my own yogurt.  I’ve done it before.  It was fussy, I used a yogurt maker with the little jars.  It was more annoying than worth my while, I thought, plus it was yet another thing clogging up my kitchen.  Which, trust me, is full of almost every kitchen tool known to man.  So I gave up yogurt making, and bought it at the grocery store for years.  Until I stumbled on a blog post. The lovely Alana of Eating From the Ground Up, wrote a great post about yogurt making.  You use…. get this….your crockpot!!  Voila!!! Yogurt! (yes, this does make me excited.  This is where the infomercial type announcer comes in.)  Minimal fuss, less expense, more taste.  How could you go wrong?  Here’s a link to her post:  http://www.eatingfromthegroundup.com/2012/05/crock-pot-greek-yogurt/.  I love her blog. She feels like a kindred spirit in food and frugal.  So basically, it goes like this:  take out your crockpot, put 8 cups of milk in it, turn it on high, walk away (See, liking this already, right?)  Come back awhile later and check the temperature of your milk.  When it hits 185, which takes about two hours with mine, turn off the crockpot and walk away.  (I know!!!  Isn’t this great?)  Come back awhile later, and when the temperature of your milk drops to 110, turn it off and add 1/2 cup of plain yogurt.  If it’s your first batch, you’ll need to buy some at the grocery store.  I like the Astro Balkan style plain, so that’s what I used.  Now, I just save a half a cup from each batch for the next one.  Now, here is the part that makes your friends look at you funny when they pop over during yogurt making.  Unplug the crockpot and wrap it up in a warm blanket.  Leave it on the counter for 6 hours.  I use a fuzzy pink blanket that belongs to my daughter so I get a lot of questions like “what the hell is that?” when people come over.  My oldest son thought that I was employing an ingenious way to protect baked goods from his midnight snack runs and took pictures of it while he unwrapped it, thinking I would know how the blanket was originally wrapped and “catch” him.  He was mighty disappointed to discover yogurt, which he doesn’t like.

Milk turned into yogurt after the six hour sit

Now at this point, I like to pour mine into a large sieve lined with cheesecloth and sit it on top of a large bowl.

Yogurt straining

Then I put it in the fridge overnight and wake up to thick, tangy Greek style yogurt.  How’s this for fabulous?

Delicious, thick, homemade Greek yogurt.

Super fabulous.  In fact, revolutionary.  It has revolutionized my yogurt eating.  I realize this may seem like a rather grandiose statement, but it’s true.  Then, guess what?  Great yogurt by product!!  Whey!

Whey after the yogurt has been strained overnight.

I use the whey when making bread.   I’ve got a couple of mason jars in the fridge full of whey, then on a cooler day I’ll bake 6 or 8 loaves of bread using the whey instead of water in my bread dough.  It truly is the little things in life…

Sometimes small revolutionary things pop up in the garden.  Like the first crop of radishes.  My Nana says everyone should grow radishes because they always come and give you a sense of accomplishment.  They come no matter what.  So when the whatever it is that keeps nibbling the tops off my carrots makes me crazy and I’m waging war on the slugs, these little spicy red gems make me feel like I’m doing something right.

Radishes, picked minutes before.

I love revolutionary things, no matter how big or small.  It’s important to try and take them where ever you find them.  And even more important to be grateful for them.

First Farmers Market

For years, my friends have been saying “you bake so much, you can so much, you should sell it!”.  And I have a little.  I’ve done Christmas baking baskets for a few years and have used that money to fund our Christmas.  But this summer I thought I’d take the plunge and get a booth at the local farmers market.  This is the second year for the Upriver Country Farmers Market in Bass River.  A friend of mine had a table selling cupcakes (hers are so amazing!!  Really!  I’ll take some pictures and post them, Cynthia’s cupcakes are beautiful and delicious.).  She was really pleased with how well the market went last year, so I thought, okay, I’ll try it.

Now, I have a tendency to go a little overboard.  But better over prepared than under, right?  So, I made jam. I made rhubarb ginger jam, rhubarb vanilla jam, apple cider jelly, I’ve got blueberry lime jam, cranberry orange marmalade.  And after a week of rain, Friday was sunny, so I went strawberry picking.  My five year old and my husband came along, and we had three bowls full in 40 minutes.  Then we went home and I turned those into 52 jars of strawberry jam and 11 jars of strawberry rhubarb jam.  By the time I started getting jam into bottles it was 2:30 in the afternoon.  But I was in the groove, it was flowing, it was going so well.  Then I asked my husband if he would go to town and get me one more box of jars and three more boxes of Certo.  He came back with two boxes of jars and one box of Certo.  ????  I teased him that he suffers from selective hearing and he gives me the “gggrrrr” look before he headed back to town for me.

It was also hot on Friday.  Like, really hot and humid.  I was dying for a shower by noon, but thought, I need to get this done.  When the jam was finally finished just before 10, I got baking.  I needed to get the chocolate cinnamon bread and the giant oatmeal cranberry chocolate chip cookies done!  Since I had to work the day before (and my work is an hour commute each way) and then get groceries, not much baking happened Thursday.  So I said goodnight to my husband and started baking.  And baking.  I managed to pop into the shower while some of the bread was baking, with much relief.  You know, you can really tell you’ve been at it in the kitchen for awhile when you take off your bra and sugar falls to the floor.  I mean, I live by the ocean, I’ve had that experience with sand, but never with white granulated sugar.  Good times!

At 3am, my husband came walking out in the kitchen, eyes small and bleary and said “what the hell are you doing?”  I said, baking cookies.  He shook his head and went back to bed.  I was pretty tired at this point.  I just accidentally dumped about four tablespoons of my good Epicure cinnamon into the dishwasher.  Why, you ask?  Not quite sure.  Then I realized, I used to pull all nighters to study or party.  Now I was pulling baking all nighters.   Finally, I managed to lie on the couch at 4:30am until my alarm went off at 6:30am.  Oh yeah, gotta pack the van now and head over to the market, which is about 25 minutes from my house.  And stop at my mom’s to pick up the folding table she was lending me.  And drop off my five year old son.  Thank goodness for the world’s most amazing teenage daughter.  She painted my signs for me, loaded and unloaded the van, and was a terrific help.  I am blessed with great kids.  Truly a lucky woman.

So, how did it go?  Well, I over prepared.  My mom, who is a veteran of some of the bigger farmers markets in the area, took one look at the back of my van and said “oh wow, you’ve brought too much”.  But that’s okay.  Since it’s my first time, it’s hard for me to say how it went.  But my friend Cynthia said it was a bit quiet, she’s seen it much busier.  And she’s doing another farmers market in Shediac on Sundays.  I think I’m going to give it a try.  This farmers market stuff is a bit addictive.  I came home with a dutch apple pie, two dozen farm fresh eggs, got a breakfast sandwich and coffee while I was there and got to chat with some lovely people.  It was great to see some friends I don’t get to connect with all that often.

Lessons learned:  the cookies are big sellers.  Make more signs.  Bring more quarters for my float.  And try to get a few hours sleep before you go.  My afternoon consisted of me lying on the couch dozing.  The point where you are so tired you can’t sleep kind of sucks.  And my couch isn’t all that comfy for long periods of laying.

Giant Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3 cups oatmeal ( I like the large flake)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup melted butter

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup dried cranberries

Start by combining the first five ingredients in a bowl.  I like to just whisk them together.  Then in the bowl of your mixer, combine the sugars, butter and oil until it’s nice and smooth.  In another bowl (this is when I love my dishwasher), mix together the eggs, salt and vanilla.  Now, add that to the mixer bowl of sugars and butter, once that’s nice and smooth, start adding in the dry ingredients.  I do it a little at a time until it’s all combined.  Then, drop the cranberries and chocolate chips in and mix.

Your oven should be preheated to 350, and you’ll need a couple of cookie sheets.  I usually end up with four cookies per sheet, because they are so big.  They need some room to spread out while you are baking them.  I use a tablespoon, and scoop out two generous tablespoons of dough per cookies.  Roll into a ball, place on the sheet.  You can bake them two sheets at a time, just switch their positions in the oven after ten minutes.  Then bake another ten minutes.  So twenty minutes of baking.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for at least five minutes before you try to move them.  Put them on a baking rack to cool and voila!  Delicious!

Getting it all done

My daughter hatched these little fellows in her biology class and brought them home. Chicken and Nugget love the front yard.

It’s been a busy spring. Establishing a new (large) vegetable garden, transplanting 40 raspberry canes, bringing in a honey bee hive, two chickens coming home from a high school biology class….oh, and my oldest son graduates in a week and a half! So much to do, trying to get it all in. Most days I feel like I’m failing at all the things I’m trying to get done by deadlines (mine and Mother Nature’s). So today, I’m trying to look at the positives. There are 67 tomato plants in the garden. The A frames to grow them all are not done yet, but it’s coming. Right? That’s a success. I’ll just try and forget that the peppers are still waiting to go from grow cells to earth. At least, for this afternoon.