Monday, September 19, 2022

Plentiful Harvests for Autumn



The days of sleeping at night with an open window under a snuggly quilt have returned. The leaves have started to trickle down again from the trees. I picked the first 6 of my butternut squash yesterday. I love the "pumpkin" pies I make from these. In the past I have chunked these up and canned them in jars but honestly I don't like them that way. The meat of the squash tends to be watery preserved that way. My preference actually is to mash the squash up and freeze it. I may play around with dehydrating it into a powder this year and then rehydrating for pies. We shall see since I have plenty to work with. You have to make sure when growing these winter squash to leave them on the vine long enough for that rind to get good and hard. That is the secret to a long shelf life. 

I have been playing around with the idea of canning chicks of this squash in jars with chicken broth and maybe onions. You could open the jar and simply puree the contents and maybe add cream for an almost instant butternut squash soup. I see some more experimenting in my near future. 





My eldest daughter "Fred" came to visit recently bring my grandchildren to spend some time. She had recently butchered and brought me meat builder chickens she had raised along with some fresh pork. O Wise One smoked it last week and I used the smoked chicken to make a couple casseroles for the freezer. The chicken bones had a smoky flavor and I made a small crock pot of smoked chicken broth to use to can. That should give something an interesting flavor. With the smoked pork I had some dry pinto beans laying around so I cooked my pinto beans just until soft then added them to jars along with chunks of the smoked pork and some chopped onions then poured the smoked chicken broth over the top to fill the jars to 1 inch headspace. Then I processed these quart jars for 90 minutes at 12 pounds pressure. Talk about good it made quart jars of pinto beans with onions and chunks of smoked pork. Add some corn bread and a sliced tomato fresh from the garden and you have a great meal. The extra broth I put up in 3 quarts also. Just 1 batch of seven quarts but that is seven meals for us out of one piece of pork. Three freezer casseroles ( 8" X 8") with smoked chicken stashed in the freezer and a little extra broth as a bonus. So all together 10 meals for 2 pieces of meat. 





We picked the last of the Red beans from the garden also and canned 6 quarts of Louisiana Red Beans then pulled up the plants for the compost pile. One more crop finished for the year. I had been low on Red beans and concentrated on growing these to replenish my stock. We had made some homemade rope sausage last month and out in the freezer to go with these beans and also to go with my fermented homemade sauerkraut in the fridge. Louisiana Red Beans and Rice are a comfort food from home for me and we managed to can 60 quarts of them this season to add to the pantry. For the two of us that is 60 meals. 





My cucumbers are also starting to slow down so I made a small batch of 7 pints of dill relish. I use this for tuna, egg and chicken salads for sandwiches in the winter. This should again last us until the next cucumber harvest next spring/early summer. 




Another bumper crop for the year has been yellow squash. 2022 shall be remembered as the year of the squash. I have 5 gallon zip bags of blanched sliced squash waiting to go into vacuum bags for the winter not counting what I have already put in vacuum bags. My plain old yellow crook neck squash was definitely an over achiever this year. These we like to eat with just a touch of bacon and onion smothered in a skillet. Sometimes I may add a sprinkling of shredded cheese over the top. 

I also make a cream of squash soup with chicken broth, pureed squash and cream. A great fall soup to use up those extra squash. For this soup I freeze pureed squash in containers then remove from the containers and vacuum seal to go back in the freezer. Again to free up some freezer space the same idea of canning with chicken broth would work. Another experiment for the future. 

The squash plants too have been pulled up and added to the compost. 

I have 4 giant striped heirloom Italian zucchini named "Cocozelle" on my table awaited to be seeded for seed for next year and the meat I will shred for zucchini bread to go into the freezer. 

So as the temperatures mellow and the leaves begin to fall we start to also forage walnuts from the neighbors walnut tree that we gather every year to put in the freezer for our holiday baking and additions to our morning refrigerator oats. The cycle continues for another year here in the holler. The firewood is stacked, the fall garlic awaits planting next month and the compost piles grow ever larger. Soon shredded leaves will start being added to the compost and they will really swell in size.

Our spring baby ducklings were added to the flock this morning. We kept three little hens. So we now have Tiddly Winks my little pocket duck, Thelma the original hen and Tassy Lou the addition last year from a neighbor. Added to the mix now are Tink, Tilly and Tammy Faye.  Angel is one happy drake with his harem of T's. Angel was named after one of Baby O's past boyfriends. The six little pullets are growing like mad and will replace the hens now in the chicken yard that will be butchered soon as they are at the end of their laying cycle. Their meat and subsequent broth will go into jars for winter meals.

Life goes on and we await the imminent first frost sometime next month. 

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter

******* Notation

Barbara asked an excellent question about old hens being tough. These old hens are called stewing hens. A stewing hen is a retired egg layer. Stewing hens are an important component for honoring the life cycle of a farm. After several happy years eating grass and bugs, a hen’s egg laying ability naturally slows down, and she’s no longer a productive member of the flock. In order to keep up with the demand for eggs, farms must cull these older hens in order to make space for new layers. Butchering and selling these hens provides a revenue source for farms and allows the hen to continue to provide nourishment, this time in the form of high quality, pastured meat.

Unlike broilers that are raised for meat and fattened relatively quickly, stewing hens have the opportunity to develop very strong bones, and strong, lean muscles. These bones are incredibly mineral rich, and the fat from these hens is full of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. Because of their rich nutritional content, stewing hens make excellent stock. A stewing hen’s lean meat contains a high level of connective tissue, which works wonderfully for slow cooked dishes such as stew, soup, and chicken and dumplings.

5 comments:

  1. Hi There! What a bounty!
    i wanted to ask about your (I assume) laying hens you will butcher. Will they be stringy and tough? I had heard that but couldn't remember if it pertained to hens or roos? lol. Maybe I got it entirely wrong. Anyway, is the meat still good from old hens? Just curious.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Where I grew up old hens were the meat of choice for like gumbos and such because you could cook the gumbo for long periods of time without the chicken cooking to pieces and/or getting stringy. The meat from old hens once pressure canned for 90 minutes which is the average canning time for meats will not be tough. Once added to what I am cooking and cooked again it will not fall to pieces not be tough. As for roos I don't usually can roos so I cannot answer that one.

      Delete
    2. A stewing hen is a retired egg layer. Stewing hens are an important component for honoring the life cycle of a farm. After several happy years eating grass and bugs, a hen’s egg laying ability naturally slows down, and she’s no longer a productive member of the flock. In order to keep up with the demand for eggs, farms must cull these older hens in order to make space for new layers. Butchering and selling these hens provides a revenue source for farms and allows the hen to continue to provide nourishment, this time in the form of high quality, pastured meat.

      Unlike broilers that are raised for meat and fattened relatively quickly, stewing hens have the opportunity to develop very strong bones, and strong, lean muscles. These bones are incredibly mineral rich, and the fat from these hens is full of fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients. Because of their rich nutritional content, stewing hens make excellent stock. A stewing hen’s lean meat contains a high level of connective tissue, which works wonderfully for slow cooked dishes such as stew, soup, and chicken and dumplings.


      Delete
  2. Would you help me with something? This is the first year I have grown Okra (we live in Northern PA so it isn't much eaten around here) and I am afraid I might have left it go "too long" on the stalk. They are about broomstick thickness and 4-6 inches long. Is this too big to do anything with? Still usable? What is the ideal size to harvest? Hoping they are like zucchini- and I didn't just waste a good crop! Thanks in advance for any help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately once okra gets that large it is too hard to eat. I try to cut my okra at about 3 inches if I am pickling and at 5 inches if I am slicing and freezing, frying, roasting or stuffing. The exception to that is if you are growing Cajun Cowhorn okra which stays soft even when it gets larger. I had a friend that used to make Christmas ornaments out of her really big okra pods. She woud dry them and paint faces and beards on them. They were adorable.

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