How I spent my day off

A completely erroneous title – anyone who farms and has an off-farm job doesn’t have days off, they just switch hats.

We’re getting a lot of rain these days – it’s not called the Wet Coast for nothing.  I’m happy to have no end to my list of indoor things to do.  The following pictures describe how I spent a rainy day at home last week.  Just the fun stuff.

First off, I got some chicken backs out of the freezer (I bag these in pairs when I’m piecing chicken for home consumption), and put them on to simmer up for soup stock.

Next  I got the tomatoes started.  These are from my elderly neighbour – my crop is in the little metal bowl.  This is the second batch of tomatoes he gave me, and he’s had about 4 times what he’s given me for his own kitchen.

Matron of Husbandry who blogs at Throwback at Trapper Creek wrote a post a while back about a “glut” sauce she makes when she’s in tomato overload.  It’s a recipe from Joan Gussow Dye, and I found it numerous places on the web.  Matron had the best picture of it though.  I’m a sucker for pictures with recipes.

It took a little while to get 6 pounds of tomatoes chopped, along with some onion, celery and red pepper, but once done, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it went into the oven to roast, freeing me up to get started on applesauce:

Except that right after I brought the buckets inside, I realized I needed to get the crockpot going with the soup I was planning on for dinner.  The chicken backs had been simmering for about an hour, so the old hambone, split peas, onion, carrot and potato went into the pot, and got topped off with about 6 cups of stock poured directly from the stock pot.

That was dinner taken care of.  Now what was I doing with those apples?

The apple sauce used about 10 lbs of apples.  I had to leave the rest of the bucket for another day.  As soon as I had the apple sauce cooking down, I pulled the tomato glut sauce out of the oven, to cool down before freezing:

The glut sauce had only used about 2/3 of the tomatoes, so I froze most of the rest of them (whole, skins on), and the few remaining rejects got chopped up and stewed to make a topping for crostini to go with the soup later.  The chicken stock I hadn’t poured into the crock pot had cooled enough to skim.  I strained it into containers to freeze – about 1.5 litres (3 pints).  Picked all the meat off the carcasses – not a lot there, I’m getting better at piecing chicken, obviously – about 2 cups worth, which got put in the freezer next to the stock, ready for a future soup or stew.

The apple sauce made 2 litres to freeze, plus enough for dessert at suppertime.

The soup was wonderful, and fully appreciated by the kid with the sore throat.

Our  freezers, which were already pretty packed, are now filled to busting.  Guess we’ll just have to start eating.  Which is of course, the point of it all.

Apple harvest

We’ve been discussing getting a cider press for some time.  We have 4 old heritage apple trees that are still producing amazing crops despite decades of neglect and hollow trunks.  Every year, we have a glut of apples to deal with – many of the windfalls go to the chickens, and some years I get time off in the right part of the season and make quantities of apple sauce – but really neither of these makes much of a dent in the apple supply.  We got a dehydrator and dried apple rings have been popular for school snacks, but again, a year’s supply of apple rings is only about 30 lbs of apples.  We borrowed a friend’s juicer and tried juicing them, but the machine is old and took forever, clogging frequently.  We kept coming back to the cider press idea.  And then….

I shop weekly at a farm stand a couple of miles away for things we don’t grow ourselves.  Almost right across the road from the market is a farmer who will do custom juicing, including ultraviolet pasteurizing.  I’ve been driving past that sign for years.  I’ve even bought juice from his operation at the farm stand.  I’ve been on a farm tour there and seen the juicing room.  And I never really had that lightbulb moment.  Don’t say it.

Just before Thanksgiving last week (we do it earlier in Canada), my husband had to nip into the farm stand for a last minute purchase of one or two things (onions – I didn’t grow NEARLY enough).  He came home with the onions and asked when the farm across the road had started doing custom juicing.  YEARS AGO??? he nearly (actually) shouted…he obviously had the lightbulb moment.  In my defense, he’s had the juice I’ve bought many times, and known where it came from – he could have spoken up sooner.

So he made a phone call, booked a date, and told me, with a beaming smile that our problems were solved – he had just committed us to picking 200 lbs of apples the day before our juicing booking.  And the very day he made the phone call, it started to rain.  Of course.

full yellow bucket = 20 lbs. full metal bucket = 15 lbs

Sunday was a full day.   After church and lunch, we climbed into our old sailing gear and got going on apple picking.  It went really fast, which surprised me.  2oo lbs in about 3 hours, just the two of us.  We picked an extra 50 lbs – 25 for our neighbour and 25 for me to make sauce.

Yesterday, my husband dropped the apples off with the juicing guy.  Today he went to pick up the 64 litres of juice (32 jugs).  Amazing.  Delicious!  Cold, it tastes tart and refreshing.  Heated up, it seems sweeter, and perhaps even tastier.

This cost us $1.75/litre (including the plastic jugs, which aren’t really optional): $.85 for the jug, $.90/per litre for the processing.  We plan next year to send a bunch of apples to the juice guy so we can use the juice to make hard cider. When he heard that, the guy told my husband that he has large 50 litre jugs that can be borrowed to transport bulk juice for that kind of thing, which will save on plastic jugs – cheaper and better for the environment.

2 dozen jugs of juice in the freezer

The 200 lbs to make the juice really only cleaned off one tree.  Cider will take care of another tree.  My pantry, my neighbour and the chickens probably use another tree.  That leaves one tree worth of fruit.  We clearly have a need for some other way to use the apples. And we know what it is.  Pigs.

Three little piggies will be coming to seek adventure (and apples) here at Tyddyn-y-morwr this spring.