Food in Season

eating locally all year long

Composting

I Corinthians 10:26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.

When I was growing up we had a compost pile in the backyard. I remember carrying the dinner scraps back there after supper occasionally.  Well, now as a renter in a townhouse, I do not have the ability to have a compost pile. After a year of being tired of throwing away things that could be composted I decided to find a way to start a compost bin. After some searching I discovered you can use a trash can to make a compost bin. I decided to do this. I went to Lowe’s and bought the least expensive trash can they had. I Drilled holes in the bottom, sides, and top of the trash can. (I probably could have used a bigger drill bit, but I didn’t have one available so I drilled ALOT of holes) See how tiny they are. I then set the trash can on some old bricks for air circulation, and I put a bungee cord over the top. Why the bungee cord? Well two reasons – first of all it is not a pretty sight to chase a trash can that has been blown by the wind with weeks worth of decomposing material inside; second, you will need to roll this around in the yard occasionally to mix it up. So how did I start collecting the compost? Well compost needs green materials (nitrogen) and brown materials (carbon). You need between 25-50% browns and 50-75% greens. So I started with my kitchen scraps which is what had me wanting to compost in the first place. Tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, veggie scraps, fruit peels, and  juicing pulp are all things that can be composted. You will not want to compost dairy, bread, or meat. For brown matter I collect old leaves, dried grass clippings (fresh clippings are considered green material), sticks, and hay from my guinea pigs. I started this bin at the end of February and to my surprise it is already turning into dirt!  I have rolled it around in my yard about every other week. “Doesn’t it stink?” some people ask. The answer is NO. It smells like dirt! Really, it does! If you create a compost bin and it smells like garbage you do not have enough brown material. If you compost bin is doing nothing – not decomposing – you need more green material. Also compost has to be kept damp. In the spring here in western PA we do not have a problem with damp; but in the summer you may need to add a little water. I actually add water kefir I don’t  finish; it has beneficial bacteria to aid in composting. (What is water kefir you wonder. Well follow my blog and you will see a post on it soon) Since this is my first time making and using a trash can as a composter I don’t have all the answers yet. But mine is working. I have also been asked will you have to sift through all the non decomposed material to get to the compost. Well I am not 100% sure on this but I imagine 2 things will happen. First, it is only a thirty gallon trash can and mine is half full. I imagine by the end of summer it will be completely full and I will let the whole thing turn to compost over the fall and winter and it will be ready for using next spring. Or if it is not full come winter it will freeze and in the spring I will push aside the small amount I added in the winter. I will definitely post an update in this as the year progresses.

One last thing. If you live in the area, the city of SEWICKLEY offers free compost (made from leaves) from May-July. I know their website says 2010, but I called them and it is available this year – 2012. Thanks to some friends in church for letting me know about this.

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Procrastination gets you no where fast!

Proverbs 20:4 Sluggards do not plow in season; so at harvest time they look but find nothing.

I have procrastinated so bad on documenting my kitchen adventures! Even if I would have started in January I would have so many more things on record. I received a pressure canner in january and it has been put to good use already many times. I won a few contests for the “Urban Farm Challenge” I am in. I went to a local festival and got fresh maple syrup and stone ground local grains. I learned how to make no knead “5 minute” bread. I learned how to make a sourdough starter and make fluffy, healthy bread with no yeast. I learned how to make cheese (Yes cheese!). I learned how to make yogurt and yogurt cheese. I made from scratch pasta. I made my first pasta sauce from canned tomatoes from last summer. I canned pinto beans, black beans, ham and bean soup, beef broth, chicken stock, ham broth, zuppa tuscana, corn chowder, and chili. I created a compost bin from a trash can. I started my seeds for my garden this summer. So I wish I hadn’t been lazy, and started this blog many months ago. However, I can’t change time. So, I may bring up some of those past items and blog about them. I am hoping to post some recipes using the things I canned.  Here is an example my newest creation I made this last week and it was delicious! Sorry the pictures arent the best; I wasn’t thinking blog when I took them.

Rainbow Beans

1 pint jar pinto beans
1 pint jar ham broth
1 pint jar corn (or 1 can or equivelent frozen)
1 red pepper (or orange – or some of each)
3-4 green onions

Empty the contents of the ham broth, pinto beans (drained), and corn (drained) into a pan. Bring to a boil. Add red peppers and green onions. Season to taste. Reduce heat and simmer until broth gets thicker and peppers are tender. My two year old like this also. It had a bit of a southwestern fair to it. In the future I would like to get some of those  blue fingerling potatoes and truly have rainbow beans (red pepper, orange pepper, yellow corn, green onion, blue potato)Canned corn is in the picture, but I used frozen corn from last summer. It was the last of my summer corn so I had to put the can in the picture – that’s why its hiding!

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Wild Violet Jelly

Song of Solomon 2:12 Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

Spring is here! Wildflowers are popping up every where. Besides bringing beauty after dreary winter there are other things you can do with wildflowers. Today we are making wild violet jelly.

What are wild violets?

Wild violet is a winter perennial, growing 2 – 5 inches tall. The leaves can vary but usually are heart shaped, on long petioles with scalloped to shallow rounded margins. The flowers of wild violet range from white to blue to purple and appear from March to June. Wild violet flowers are pansy-like with three lower petals and two lateral petals on long single flower stalks. Wild Violet leaves actually have medicinal purposes. They are rich in vitamins A and C.
They also contain a type of antioxidant called an anthocyanin.

 

Wild Violet Jelly

2 heaping cups of fresh violet petals (No stems)
2 C boiling wter
1/4 C well-strained, clear lemon juice
4 C sugar
3 oz liquid pectin (Certo)

First you have to pick the violets, and I can see this being an amazing spring tradition. If you have older children they can go on a violet hunt. If you have young children it is a fun time together. My 2 year old learned what violets are and unfortunately what stinging nettle was! I told her, “don’t pick the white ones!” but she did not listen – lesson learned.

One you have two heaping cups full, rinse petals in collander and place in a heat proof glass or non reactive bowl. Pour two cups of boilng water over petals and let steep minimum of 2 hours, up to 24 hours. If not using right away steep in refrigerator. I poured the boiling water over mine and let cool on the counter about an hour and then I put in the fridge.

When you are ready to make the jelly strain the liquid into a glass jar from the flowers. Why the jar… You will see. Bring your kids in they will love this part! Add the juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup lemon juice) and watch the liquid change from a deep blue to a bright magenta!

Then put the liquid in a large pot and mix with 4 cups of sugar. While you are waiting for your sugar water to boil (don’t forget to stir); you can sterilize your canning jars (you will need 4 half pint jars) in the dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water. When your sugar water is at a boil where it cannot be stirred down; add the liquid pectin and boil for 2 minutes. Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/8 inch headspace. Wipe rims. Add lids and rings and process in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes. These have a shelf life of 1 year.

The taste is hard to describe, but it is very good. I expected it to be very floral like rose water, but it is not. It has its own distinct taste. Also, I have seen variations on the recipe using honey instead of sugar (needs more pectin) And using less sugar and less sugar pectin.

Here is a link on how to use a water bath canner : Water Bath Canning
Here is a Jelly and Jam Q&A on why they reccommend a canner : Jellies & Jams

And a post note: Take your two year old child (who is potty training) potty before you start otherwise just as the jelly starts to boil and you need to stir it and watch it for two minutes and ladle it while it is hot – she will need to go potty, throw a fit because you can’t help, and then have an accident you have to clean up!

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In Season – April

Genesis 1:29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

Welcome to Food in Season! It is April, and here is Western Pennsylvania we are just starting our seeds. May will bring the first of the farm vegetables, but dont think there is nothing you can do about earting locally!
Maybe you are still working on foods you preserved last fall. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a root cellar and are working on your stored winter veggies. Maybe you have a green house. But if you have none of those things, and want to start eating local now you have come to the right place! Growing right in my yard are three usable things.

Onion Grass

 

Wild Violets

Dandelions

I am still in the learning process of eating local so there may be many more available wild foods. Ramps and morel mushrooms grow around this time of the year, but I have not found any yet. Throughout the month I will feature recipes for these wild items as we wait for our plants to grow!

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