Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Saturday, November 26, 2011

This And That

photo by Mrs. Mac
Last week my cousin helped to restore some functions on my computer.  I now have found my 3,000+ pictures and can, once again, download new ones from my camera.  Can you hear me dancing for JOY :)?? 

Here we are approaching winter and all of the snow we received two weeks ago is gone.  It's actually been warmish (late spring temps) in the 40's to nearly 60 degrees (F) of late.  Warm enough to thaw out the ground to plant approximately 75 bulbs of garlic.

Since Daylight Savings time has ended a few weeks ago, I have reset the time on the thermostat so my heater doesn't automatically come on an hour earlier any longer.  Let's see:  one hour early x 30/31 days per month  ='s 30/31 hours each month that the heat would run when not needed.  We keep it at 65 F in the morning and evening, and 59 at night.  At noon it's set at 62 and I wear a sweater and/or turn on our little gas cast iron room stove.  Of course, if company comes over, I turn up the heat to make them more comfortable.  I'm still at that stage in life when a 'personal summer' hits me once in a while .. which isn't all that bad during the winter months ;).

It's been eleven months since we bought our wheat grinder.  I'm always one to examine purchases to see if what we buy is really paying off and or used.  We (I) make about 90% of our baked goods, and have gone through almost two 25 lb bags of wheat berries, using the grinder two times per week.  The wheat cost $26.  I've also gone through about 30 pounds of white flour ($17).  When you add in the extra ingredients such as eggs and the 7-grain cereal blend I use ... and the fuel to bake, I think we will be way under $100 for the year.

This has produced approximately :  52 loaves of bread, 382 rolls, 20 rounds of pita bread, 36 biscuits, 150 ableskivers, 72 waffles .. and countless batches of cookies.  I do believe that, by the time January rolls around, the wheat grinder will have almost paid for itself if we had had to purchase this amount of baked goods.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Many Hands Give Thanks

Photo by:  Mrs. Mac
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the States.  We celebrated with a big feast prepared at our home.  Ann spent last night here so she could get up very early to help with the cooking.  It pleases me to no end that she wants to know how to take over the job of making her great grandma Donna's bread stuffing, make the mashed potatoes, see how to roast the turkey and set a proper table for such a special occasion.  I can imagine that one day we will be eating a fine dinner at her future home.

This year I used the convection bake setting for roasting the 20 pound turkey.  It came out perfectly cooked in 3 hours 45 minutes.  Earlier in the week I had baked four loaves of bread; two for the stuffing and two for turkey sandwiches.  The turkey carcass is in the largest stock pot and will simmer 12 hours on low.  Tomorrow I'll strain the broth and put it in jars for the freezer and de-bone the meat for soups and casseroles.  Nothing will go to waste.

Here is my recipe for Turkey Gravy:

The day before cooking, remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity.  Rinse placing in a medium sauce pan adding water just to cover; place lid on pan and simmer for 3 to 4 hours.  Let broth cool, strain and skim off the fat in a fat separator.  Put broth in a quart size mason jar and refrigerate when cooled.  Finely chop about 1-2 tablespoons of the liver to add to the finished gravy (optional).  Save the neck to add to with the turkey carcass for making stock after dinner or the next day.  I chopped up the remaining liver and the heart for dog treats.

Good gravy comes from the roasting pan drippings.  Prior to roasting the turkey, add whole sliced rings of a large yellow onion, including the skin, two large carrots, and two stalks of celery to the roasting pan.  Put the turkey in the pan (I used a rack) and add two cups of water, chicken broth or wine, and roast as directed, adding more liquid as needed.  Always let the turkey rest tented with foil out of the oven for 30-45 minutes.  Place tented turkey on cutting board.  Strain the pan drippings in a fat separator.  Discard the onion, carrots and celery.  Put the roasting pan on top of one or two burners (assuming that your pan can be used on the stove top).  De-glaze the pan by adding some of the prepared stock then add the defatted pan drippings.  Place 1/2 cup of flour in a quart mason jar and fill with water.  Shake well.  Slowly add about 1/3 to 1/2 to the roasting pan (strain first if lumpy).  Stirring with a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits and mix the flour/water mixture into the pan until thick and bubble.   Add more turkey stock and or flour mixture or water if needed.  Check for salt and add if necessary.  Cook until bubbly and thickened.  Strain the gravy one last time through a sieve/wire mesh strainer.  Add the minced liver if desired. 

By making the stock the day before, it saves a few steps when you're trying to get dinner served.  Homemade gravy can't be beat!

How much of your Thanksgiving meal is prepared ahead of time?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

RIP Miss Holly

Nathan and his dawg .. Miss Holly
How can I not write about the passing of my beloved pooch, Miss Holly .. aka the 'dawg' .. she passed peacefully last night.  It's amazing how attached we can get to our pets.  She arrived eleven Christmases ago and was the second golden retriever that possessed our hearts.  If only I knew this night was her last I would have given her an extra hug or treat.  She was the best companion for our son Nathan.  They were inseparable and she gave him such love.  How do I tell him when he wakes up??  He has Down syndrome and I don't think he understands about death.  It's going to be a sad day at the Thrifty Garden Home.