Sunday, July 31, 2011

Ball Park Mustard

Lately I have been really into mustards... all kinds of mustard... especially mustards I can make and can myself.  A true bonus is that it uses eggs, and as a chicken owner any recipe that uses up the eggs is a good one.  So far I have made a couple of different kinds.  A grainy rosemary/thyme which was good but not my favorite combination - a little to reminiscent of turkey dinner for me.  And Ball Park which has been delicious.  Tonight I am canning my third batch.  It seems only to get better and better.  The recipe I am using requires beer not vinegar. 
The first couple of times I made this recipe I used small jars 125ml.  These are really great for giving guests, but to be practical if you are making it for yourself I suggest using 250ml glass jars, either standard or wide mouth.  Don't use fancy jars it makes getting the mustard out of the jar a task.  I learned that the hard way. ... what a waste...
I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!
Ball Park Mustard

You will need:
  • A large water bath canner with a basket
  • 4 x 250ml glass canning jars with bands and lids
  •  Double boiler or medium to large size metal mixing bowl on top of a pot of water (be careful)
  • Whisk
  • Canning tongs
  • 2 cups of your favorite beer
  • 1 cup ground mustard
  • 1/2 cup H2O
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2Tbsp Turmeric
  • 25ml (1Tbsp & 2 Tsp) Salt
  • 20ml (1Tbsp & 1 Tsp) Corn Starch
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar

Step 1 :    In a medium size metal mixing bowl put the 2 cups of beer, 1 cup of ground mustard, 2 Tbsp Turmeric, and the 1/2 cup of water.  Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and leave in fridge overnight.

Step 2:     Put the canner 1/2 to 3/4 full of water on the stove and start to boil. Sterilize your jars.  Get yr double boiler ready with about an inch and a half of water.  Go get yr mustard/beer mix from the fridge.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients.  Make sure to mix these ingredients in well.  

Step 3:     Put yr metal bowl of mustard on the double boiler and whisk continually for about 7 to 10 minutes.  This is a workout, not for the weak at wrist....  you could use an immersion blender if you have one.  Just be careful you don't want hot mustard flying around willy nilly.   Mix til it starts to thicken but remains smooth.  Slight peaks is enough, think hollandaise sauce.  Remember the mustard is going to cook in the water bath for another 30 minutes.

Step 4:  Put your lids in hot water. Get your funnel ready and fill your jars with the mustard.  Leave almost an inch at the top of the jar.  Once yr jars are full use a chopstick to run along the inside walls of the jars to get out any air bubbles.  Now clean the rims of your jars and put your soaked lids on the jar and then the band.  Remember only to finger tighten the bands not too tight.

Step 5:  Now immerse the jars of mustard in the boiling water bath.  Leave them in there at a boil for about 30 minutes (if you are at higher altitudes you might want to go up to 35 or 40 minutes.  Once the timer is up remove the mustard from the canner and put them upright on a tea towel.  Let them rest there for several hours til they are cooled.  Once the jars are cooled you can remove the bands and store your mustard.  YOU MUST LET THIS MUSTARD AGE FOR 14 DAYS BEFORE USING! I know what a drag.  But it is worth the wait!
Pigeon loves mustard

I hope you enjoy this.  I will quickly mention that this recipe is one that works for me, I am no authority on canning. You may choose to consult other available recipes to compare should you wish.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Butter Chicken

I know this is kinda off topic for this blog, but who cares...  I have been  meaning to post my Butter Chicken Recipe for some time now, and here it is.

Butter Chicken

Shopping List

1 medium white onion
2 cloves garlic
1.5 lbs. Chicken boneless and cut into bite size pieces
3cups Heavy Cream 35%
0.5lbs or 1 cup  Butter (half of a block)
2tsp  Garam Masala
1tsp Cayenne Pepper
2tsp Sea Salt
3 to 4 TBSP Tandoori (powder or paste)
1 can (around 400mls) Tomato Sauce (original)

directions for cooking
Preheat over to 350
fine dice onion and garlic (separately)
sweat onion on medium heat with 1tbsp of butter until onion starts to look translucent
add minced garlic and continue to sweat for three minutes on low heat
in a large saucepan place 0.5lbs butter
let melt at low heat add onion/garlic mix, tomato sauce, garam masala, cayenne & salt
let simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally to incorporate
all ingredients.

toss chicken pieces in small amount of oil then in Tandoori enough to evenly cover your chicken pieces.  Spread seasoned chicken out onto a cookie sheet and cook in oven for about 11 minutes.

add 3 cups of heavy cream to butter/tomato mixture stir and let simmer again while chicken is cooking.
Once chicken is cooked (cut in to check as oven temps may vary) remove chicken from oven and add to sauce.

VOILA!  delicious every time...

This can also be done with firm tofu 
i would suggest baking the tofu for a little bit longer.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

early stages of this years garden

working on the garden expansion

my sweet love planting

more planting

getting the deer fence up

hardening the tomatoes

the potato patch

starting to grow

finally ready to plant

i made this planter out of old roofing sheets for the blueberries

I promised myself I would start blogging  more often.  Originally I had planned to try and blog everyday.  I have decided to try to post at least twice a week.  These pictures are from the past few months leading up to now.  The Garden today is growing larger and fuller at a pace that seems impossible to describe.

I will try to get updates up today.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Layers

The HenHouse
The Layers (Pullets)  & "Heart Sparkles"

"Stinky Momma" & The first five chicks we hatched.

The Coops & the Brooding Box

Baby Leghorn, Shortty & Me

We got our first laying hens in the spring of 2010. They were our neighbors old layers... retired if you will. They were molting and looked a little worse than I had anticipated. The neighbour assured us that their “vents” were moist and this was a sign of a good layer. It was true they were decent layers. In June of the same year I drove out to Harding Heights Farm and picked up 5 Bantam Silver Phoenix crosses. 2 roosters and 3 hens. They were (and still are) pretty cute little birds. We had to build a second enclosure for them as the retired old layers would not let them into the coop. So we built a “tractor” style moveable coop for them. Soon enough they had started laying and we were ready to order “pullets” for fall & winter laying. We ordered 6 brown Isa's and donated our retired layers. We were immediately able to incorporate the bantams with the pullets as they were similar in size and age at that time. Having 2 roosters in the same enclosure worked for about 6 months. One day one of the roosters decided or naturally became the dominant one. This left the other rooster constantly fighting for a chance to eat and fertilize.
My sister had 2 Aricauna birds at her place and one night an animal got into their coop and took one of the birds, so our niece brought over her lonely Aricauna affectionately name “Heart Sparkles”. Heart Sparkles had a hard time joining the “pecking Order” and become somewhat aggressive and constantly made a mad dash for the door when it was opened for feeding. After almost a year of chasing Heart Sparkles around and the less dominant rooster being picked on we decided to find them both a home together.
We had planned to hatch our own layer this year as well as order a dozen “Leghorns” which we had not had in the past. We waited for our bantams to become “broody” and if you have ever had bantams you know they do. We could tell the first hen had gone broody as she would not leave the laying box and screamed at us every morning as we removed the eggs she had collected through the night. So we went ahead and built a “brooding box”. We used an old wooden amp, removing all of its components and adding a couple hinges and some chicken wire and voila! We decided to use the Isa's eggs under the hen which we affectionately name “Stinky Momma”. In March, after 21 days of incubating her eggs Stinky Momma hatched 5 cute little chicks. Lucky for us 4 were hens and 1 rooster.
We continued this process allowing all three of our bantams to raise hens of their own. “Smartimiss” hatched 3 eggs. 2 hens and 1 rooster. That one rooster Lauren  had to save after Smartimiss rejected him right after birth. Literally tossed him aside.... He (George) was motionless and still wet from his egg sack, Lauren was able to revive him with a hot water bottle and low setting on the blow dryer. Today George is healthy and strong... but he is a rooster.... This morning “Broodimiss” hatched the first 5 of her 7 eggs. She rejected one egg about a week ago. If a hen rejects and egg it is because she knows it will not survive the incubation process. So she sits with one egg left to hatch. I assume when we get home today she will have 6 little chicks under her.
So now we have 6 of last years pullets, which are still laying an egg a day each. We sell their eggs to pay for their food. We have the 12 leghorns to replace them in September at which time we will retire our current layers to someone else as they still have a lot of laying left in them. We also have Stinky Mommas 5 chicks who are now 19 weeks old. Smartimiss' 3 chicks who are now 10 weeks old, and now we have Brootimiss' chicks who are all 1 day old. That being said we have at least 13 bantam isa X's and the 3 bantam mommas and one bantam rooster. In total that makes a whopping 35 chickens...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The meaties

So we planned to get meat birds. I called the local feed supplier and ordered 12 “broilers”. They arrived on April 16th, 2011. They were so cute. Exactly what you see in the hallmarkish Easter shots. Fuzzy, yellow, and soft. We went to pick them up the woman working passed us a box (no bigger than a shoe box), that contained our dozen chicks. We ordered their starter feed and grits (to keep them from getting “pasty butt”), and headed home. We had spent the days prior to pick up building a coop for meat birds. A coop that did not have perches or elevated areas, one that the birds could move freely in without any obstacles that could frighten them. This type of chicken is very timid, and also frightens extremely easily. Or so we read whilst researching Meat Birds.
It was new for us to have chicks that had no momma. The chicks we hatched under our bantams were pretty low maintenance as they has a broody hen taking good care of them. These orphan meaties on the other hand had to be coddled, right down to wiping their butts for them. If you don't check on their butt and remove any dried on excrement they will develop a syndrome known to chicken people as “pasty butt”. It is exactly what it sounds like. It causes an obstruction and the chicken is unable to defaecate and ends up dying. The task of chick butt cleaning is a little bit odd and especially difficult as they all look exactly the same and move around so fast that even with only 12 chicks you can't tell which ones you've already checked...
Enough about that.... all of our meat birds made it past that stage and were off to a good healthy start. We needed to install a heat lamp in their coop and tuck tape all of the edges so no draft could get thru to the chicks. In this stage they have no feathers at all to protect them, just each other. So they would pile up in a little clutch under the heat lamp until we would open the door and then they would scramble to get away from us. As the birds got larger and their feathers developed we were able to let them out to run in their enclosure. You would think they would have been itching to get outside, but having never even seen outside it took them a few days to all venture outside.
I don't know how much you know about meat birds but they are ugly! Their legs are like 4x the thickness of a layer and they grow at such a rapid pace that it seems obscene. They eat like it is the last supper at all times, and are lethargic at best.
It was easy to incorporate other chickens (6 bantam hens and one bantam rooster) in with them. They didn't seem at all territorial or aggressive. And so they lived 12 broilers and 7 bantams. That was until two weeks ago on Saturday. They had reached the ripe age of eight weeks and it was time to take them to the slaughter house. We had discussed if we would set up a “kill station” at our house but decided that for twelve birds it would be more cost effective to pay the $2.50 a bird to have them slaughtered and plucked and gutted for us.
So before work on Saturday morning we loaded the birds into specially designed boxes (we borrowed from the slaughterer), and headed up to drop them off and say our last goodbyes. I am not a huge sentimentalist nor do I have a problem with eating meat (especially not meat I raised and know to be happy, healthy, and organic), but it was a little sad and hard to drop those little dudes off knowing what they soon faced. The sadness only lasted til I remember how nice it would be to have a chicken roast once a month.
So after work on Saturday we went to retrieve our birds. They were in a huge basin of ice cold flowing water. All twelve of them (and a zip lock bag full of feet). We went to work packing them into bags and transporting them home. Once we got home we had to immediately wrap them in freezer bags and store them for the months to come. You would be amazed at how much space eleven chickens take up in the freezer.
That night we roasted our first home grown chicken. It was amazing and delicious....
Next year we will do it all over again...

The Garden

I have been meaning to start blogging for years..... I have always defeated myself before I even started. But I have a feeling I might be ready to make the commitment. As things are changing in my life I can't think of a better way to document them than this. I am always wishing in retrospect that I had documented my “transition” from my female body to my male self better. I did not. As a matter of fact, I never really documented any of my transition” and now almost fourteen years later I can only imagine what my life once was.
For that reason I now know that I am interested in committing myself to documenting these next steps and challenges in my life.
I am a 32 year old Transman (FTM). I recently married and am about to endeavour on perhaps the most brilliant part of my life thus far.... Starting a family. This is something that I always dreamed of, but never quite grasped how it would fit into my life. I feel so blessed to have met & married the most perfect lover and best friend i could ever have dreamed of....
A couple of years ago my partner and I decided to make the move from the city to the country. This is a decision I always knew I would make one day, but the day came sooner than i had anticipated with my sister and best friend becoming pregnant. We decided to leave the coast in June of 2009. We had dreams of landing jobs and housing easily in this community. Those dreams where not so realistic but after 2 years and many jobs (sometimes 4 or more at a time) we are finally starting to stabilize and ground ourselves.
December 2009 we moved into our current home. Being here has allowed us to plant ourselves in one place and start focusing on our future. A future that hopefully allows us to learn to live off of our land, raise a beautiful family, and have quality relationships with the people we love most.
Last year we planted our first garden together, learned to can & pickle, and started raising chickens for eggs. It was a learning curve for me coming from years of city living and small garden boxes vs. Wide open space and ground to work with. Our garden was small but perfect size for learning what we should and shouldn't do this year...

This year:

This year we planned in the winter/spring (which seemed to last especially long) to raise meat chickens as well as layers. We planned to hatch our own laying hens (with broody bantams as our mammas, even though they weren't their eggs). We planned a garden 4x the size of last years and several raised beds, a perennial garden and a garlic patch (which we planted on Hallowe’en last year) and we planned to can, pickle, jam, freeze, and dehydrate foods as they came into season so we could attempt to eat locally for most of the year.

This blog will be my “gardening journal” and hopefully I will find a way to incorporate other parts of our life too.