I have been down and out for over a week with the flu. My husband succumbed a few days after I did so thanks to our good neighbors they made sure the livestock was taken care of. I must say if I have to be sick I am grateful for our view. The piglets were very entertaining to watch while they were busy at turning over the garden!
Saturday, I had rallied back enough to make bread and yogurt for the upcoming work week. This recipe comes from an old Good Housekeeping cookbook and makes a good sandwich bread as it is heavy enough to stand up to thin slicing which is how we prefer our bread cut.
The only changes I made was to use buttermilk instead of whole milk and to make half of the dough into a loaf and the other half into dinner rolls. I just take half of the dough and divide it into 10 sections or so. Roll into balls, they do not have to be perfect, and place in a greased cake pan. Bake along with the loaf but keep an eye on them as they may get done sooner.
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 8 cups all-purpose flour
- 2¾ cup milk (I used buttermilk)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Combine sugar, salt, yeast and 3 cups of flour in large bowl. Over low heat, warm milk and butter until warm (120-130F.)
- Using a mixer at low speed, slowly add the heated milk mixture to flour mix until blended. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Gradually add 1½ cups of flour, beat 2 more minutes. With a spoon, add in 4 cups of flour and blend.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes or so. (Mine never got totally smooth but I just went with it after 10 minutes and it was fine), Work in up to a ¼ cup more flour if needed while kneading.
- Smooth dough into a ball and place in a well greased bowl, turning the dough around to grease all of it's surface. Cover and place in a warm area until doubled. Takes about an hour. (I turn my oven on it's lowest setting, 170F. for about 10 minutes while I am mixing the dough. Then I turn it off and place the dough in it to rise).
- After the rise, punch the dough down. Place on lightly floured surface, cut in half and let rest for about 15 minutes. Shape each half into a loaf and place into a greased loaf pan. Cover, let rise again until about doubled.
- Heat oven to 400F. At this point, you can melt a bit of butter and brush the tops of the loaves. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and test done. Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire rack.
While we do not consume mass quantities of honey I do like to use it for a few recipes and in hot tea. I have had friends do a taste comparison between the wild honey we harvest and a supermarket brand. While I’ve never had a complaint against commercial honey the wild has what I would describe as a mapley, buttery, vanillish, and amazing flavor.
We have 3 bee trees around us. There is a hive in a black walnut across the street in the “holler”, a hive in a cherry tree by the creek over at our sheep farm – Maplewood Hill, and the third is back behind us in a cherry tree down near the river. The black walnut has provided us with the most delicious honey for quite a few years so we have yet to harvest the other trees.
The honey is harvested on a cold day when the bees are least active. The bees eat a large portion of their honey stores through the winter so we need to leave plenty for them to feed on until spring. A single hive can produce from 60 pounds to upwards of 100’s of pounds of honey in a season so we are comfortable with getting enough to fill a couple of mason jars.
We never saw a bee but could hear them happily buzzing away somewhere in the tree.
Collards were a staple in our house growing up. It was a common Sunday afternoon event for our family to take leisurely drives out in the country. From the backseat of the family station wagon, I would see huge collard plants growing out in the sandy fields. Later, my parents would stop at the roadside farm stands to purchase them. On New Year’s Day, the tradition was that eating collards helped insure that money would come your way throughout the year and Hoppin’ John (black-eyed peas and rice) would bring good luck.
I have been cooking a lot this holiday season and a large amount of it has been party food. On Christmas day I bring a dish and gather with my husband’s family at one of my sister-in-law’s. This year after so much party food, I felt the need for something green and nutritious so I cooked a bunch of collards to take. My brother is the collard cooking king in the family so I gave him a call the day before, “Hey George, remind me of how you fix the collards?” They are so easy and so good.
If you go to the grocer and buy collards they are usually tied up in a bunch. When you see it you’ll think there is no way that your family will eat all of them. Do not worry, they will amaze you and cook down to less than half the original volume.
- 1 bunch collards
- 1 ham hock or 6 pieces of bacon
- 2 cups or so of chicken broth
- salt and pepper
- What you want to do is strip the leaves from the center stem and soak in a sink of cold water for about half an hour. Collards can be pretty sandy so you want to be sure to get all of it off. After soaking, drain the water away, rinse the collards and put in the other side of the sink. Clean out the side they were just in, rinse them again and again put in the clean side. I usually do 2 or 3 rinses. There’s nothing worse to a Southerner than gritty collards or gritty oysters!
- Get a large pot out and put the meat in. What you want to do is render (melt) the fat at a fairly low temperature. If I am using a ham hock I’ll cut it up first to help with the rendering. It may take 20 minutes or so but at the point you think the fat just won’t melt anymore pour in the chicken stock to a depth of about an inch. Leave the meat in the pot, and shake out some salt and pepper on it.
- Put the rinsed collards in the pot, put the lid on and simmer on low for a couple of hours, stirring every now and then. Salt to taste if needed. When serving, it is handy to have pepper vinegar or hot sauce on hand as a lot of folks like to dash some on the collards.
- The liquid in the pot is referred to as pot liquor. It is common to cook the dried black eyed beans in this for New Year's Day.
I am only 5 days into my holiday break and hooweeee, has it been busy! Saturday night, while we were in Gatlinburg, the first lambing of the season occurred. On Monday night, Miss Piggy decided to get in on the action and went into labor. This was a first for us so there was a lot of hand wringing and whispering about what we should do but she paid us no mind and farrowed 11 piglets all on her own.
Tuesday, the kitchen sink clogged and we spent most of the day snaking the lines to no avail. There was a lot of grumbling and throwing of the snake around but the clog didn’t budge. The snake broke so a run to the hardware store 15 miles away was in order. That night another set of twin lambs appeared. Wednesday, after more snaking with the new snake and gallons of hot water later finally the clog left the premises.
We are installing a new chimney pipe for the woodstove so about the time the clog cleared the bucket truck showed up. Friends came over to assist so there was lots of yelling back and forth from our living room to the roof. The pipe was installed and yay (!), no one fell off the roof.
Friday morning when we went to let the sheep out into the big field we found that 2 more sets of twins had been born during the night. That’s eight lambs so far!
The end of the year is always a busy time on the farm. There’s usually lambing going on, bottle calves to feed and all the festivities of the holiday season. Miss Piggy is expecting to give birth at any moment! The university I work for closes for almost 2 weeks at the end of the year but this year I decided to end one year and start the next by spending more time with my family, friends and animals so I took some vacation time to extend my holiday break.
To kick off our holiday season, the husband and I decided to get away for the weekend. We decided on Gatlinburg, Tn. It’s far enough away that we feel we are on vacation but still close enough that if anything happened on the farm we could get back home in 3 or 4 hours. Our oldest son farm-sat for us and was gifted with the first set of lambs of the season while we were away. It was an easy birth, mom and lambs are in great shape, he moved them into their jug (pen in sheep farming) easily, took pictures and sent us a text letting us know.
We haven’t been to Gatlinburg in years and were surprised by how much it had grown. It’s mostly wall to wall shops now. It was very pretty at night as the town was decked out in holiday lights. We walked the main strip once but mostly just enjoyed the surrounding area as we are not shoppers. Happily our motel, Zoder’s Inn & Suites, was located in a quiet area at the beginning of the strip.
I know you are thinking, yuck it’s a motel, but motels are very common in Gatlinburg and are usually well kept due to the high demand of tourists. Zoder’s offers a little bit of everything, rooms, suites, cabins and townhouses. When looking for a place to stay, they offered a creekside room with complimentary breakfast, milk and cookies at night and wine and cheese in the evening. Complimentary wine! All for a decent $98/per night – sounds like my kind of place.
The creek runs through the property and all the rooms along it have a balcony. The room we stayed in looked to be one of the originals as it could have used some updating but it was very clean albeit a bit musty. A couple shots of air freshener to work it’s magic while we went out to dinner took care of that. The grounds were very pretty with their holiday decorations. There is also an indoor pool/hot tub, racquet ball courts, exercise area and an outside pool which we did not take advantage of. There is a grill area with a fire pit that I would have liked to enjoy but was a popular spot with lots of folks settled in around it both evenings we were there.
All in all we had a very relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable weekend. We are back on the farm and ready to meet lambing and the holiday season!
I have made vanilla extract in the past with bourbon and while I liked it I have been wanting to try a more neutral flavored alcohol. So with some downtime around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I decided to make a couple of batches. There was a bit of rum left over from the last margarita blitz so along with that I picked up a bottle of vodka on my way out of the city.
Making vanilla extract is so easy I don’t know why I haven’t been making it all along. It does take some time for the vanilla beans to infuse the liquor but still – so easy and much less processed than store bought vanilla. I had quite a few vanilla beans on hand as I pick them up at my local food co-op and whenever I see them on sale in the grocery store. There are also online sites that you can order them from though I’ve not done that yet.
I started with the vodka, 6 Madagascar vanilla beans and a clean, sterilized bottle. I just happened to have a cute little herb bottle that I had saved and an old liqueur bottle. Cut the beans in half longwise, then in half or thirds across, put the beans in the bottle and top with vodka. Leave enough head room in the bottle to be able to shake it. Put the cap on and be sure to label it so you won’t have to guess as to what is in there later.
Next up was that bit of rum which fit perfectly in the small herb bottle I had on hand. I usually keep a stash of bottles and jars just for times like this.
Once everything is bottled, give it a few shakes and store somewhere dark and cool to infuse. Mine are residing in the back of a bedroom closet. I’ll shake them a few times for the next couple of months then will check the flavor. I usually let mine sit for 3 or 4 months but depending on how many beans you use, the flavor may be where you want it in just a month or so. Enjoy!
- Alcohol of your preference (rum, vodka, bourbon, brandy)
- Vanilla beans, 2-10 depending on size of bottle
- Please use a clean sterilized bottle of your choice. I usually use around 6 vanilla beans. Cut them lengthwise then across into halves or thirds to fit into the bottle. Pour alcohol over leaving enough headroom to be able to shake the contents. Store in a cool dark spot. Check in a month, shake and leave longer if needed for flavor to develop. Check every few weeks. Enjoy!