Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hatch Chile

The Incredible Hatch Chile
Just how many Hatch chiles does one family need?  Precisely 105 pounds.
Okay, maybe that is a little much, but maybe not.  As much green chile as Rancher Roy and Colt in the City eat, we will probably run out long before next year's Hatch harvest.

What makes a Hatch chile so incredible?
The environment and growing conditions in Hatch, New Mexico.
Just like the best onions come from Vidalia, Georgia, and the best potatoes come from Idaho, and the best apples come from Washington, the best chiles come from Hatch, New Mexico!!!

Roasting Under the Broiler
It is necessary to roast green chiles before you use them.  The skin is tough and must be removed.  The easiest way to separate the skin from the flesh is to roast them.  There are several ways to roast chiles.
1.  Have them roasted for you where you purchase them.
          - Poorest quality.  The chiles are tumbled in a big open drum over a propane flame.
          The chiles break, roast unevenly, and get very dirty from the charred chile remains.  
          Most chiles pop because they have not been pierced before roasting.
2.  Cook them in the microwave oven.
          - Poor results.  Who wants to eat anything microwaved anyway?
3.  Roast them under oven broiler.
          - Very Good quality.  Nice roasted flavor.
          Time consuming.  Can only do a few at a time.
4.  Roast them at home on gas grill.
          - Excellent quality.  Chiles are not tumbled, so they do not break. 
          Time consuming.  Quicker then oven broiling, but still must be done is small batches. 
          The chiles take on a wonderful fire-roasted aroma and flavor.  

To Roast Chiles

Wash chiles.  Pierce each chile with a small knife to allow steam to escape and prevent bursting.
Place in/on roasting vessel.  Turn frequently to roast evenly.
As chiles roast you will see skin bubble up away from flesh.  
Place roasted chiles in a covered bowl to steam for a few minutes.  
Remove to rack to cool.
Peel and use in your favorite recipe.
Or freeze for later use.  

To Freeze Chiles
Lay chiles out on a tray and flash freeze with or with the skins.  
After several hours or overnight, place whole chiles in a plastic freezer bag. 
This makes it easy to retrieve one or two chiles at a time.

If I am processing these all by myself, like I am today, I freeze the roasted chiles with their skins still on.  But if I am fortunate to have Rancher Roy helping me, the chiles get peeled before being frozen.  I roast and Rancher Roy peels.  It works out great.

I prefer to peel before freezing.  When I need a green chile for a meal or recipe.  I do not want to have to let it thaw a bit and then peel before using.  I simply want to reach into the freezer and pull out a chile ready to use.  I just chop the frozen chile and toss into the recipe.

I have big plans for all these green chiles.  Most will simply be chopped for green chile to be served in or on the side of just about everything.  A lot will go into salsa.  Some will be made into Hatch jelly.  Yum!
Wonderfully Roasted.  Ready to be Frozen.
But for right now.  It all goes into the freezer.  Sixty-five pounds have already made it to the freezer, some mild, some medium-hot.  Another 40 pounds will find their way there over the next couple days.

How many pounds of Hatch chiles does your family need?

Summers Acres: The HomeAcre Hop

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Simple Lives Thursday #161     The HomeAcre Hop     Tuesday Garden Party     Homestead Barn Hop     Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways     The Backyard Farming Connection     From the Farm Blog Hop

Producer or Consumer?

Do we produce more than we consume?

There was a time when most Americans produced most of what they needed and used.  They grew crops, raised chickens, had a milk cow, and developed a skill or handicraft that was useful at home and provided supplemental income.  They were producers.

Today most Americans work for someone else or live on the government dole.  They have no garden, no milk cow, no skill or handicraft for additional income.  They produce nothing for their own needs.  Every thing they have money has bought.  They are consumers. 

But there is a group of people like you and me that are retracing our steps, going back to a lifestyle of producers.  We have a farm, a ranch, or a homestead.  We value work, thrift, and self-respect.  For in these qualities we find our self-reliance, our independence.

The materialism of the consumer lifestyle holds no fascination for us.  We appreciate true simplicity.  Found in this simplicity are the things most valued - life, family, faith, honesty, goodness, and decency. 

We plunge forward through each day giving it our all, for we know what makes us who we are, and we have never been more satisfied.

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Scalloped Corn - Comfort Food

Everyone has favorite foods that just make them feel good.  For me, it is Scalloped Corn.  
My mama made this dish often... and I gobbled it up every time.  Even now when I visit her, I request this amazing dish.  I have watched Mama making this dish for years.  But do you think I can make it just the way she does?  No.  :(

Sometimes recipes are that way.  There is something special about the way someone makes a dish that just can not be recreated by anyone else.  

Her recipe used cream corn, eggs, milk, butter, and crackers.  When I make scalloped corn with her ingredients, it come out heavy .  When she makes it, it comes out light, fluffy, and delicious.

Browsing through all my cookbooks, I found a similar type recipe in this great little cookbook.
The Blue Willow Inn Cookbook

Corn Pudding
The Blue Willow Inn's Corn Pudding is delicious!  It is the closest I have come to in flavor.  I will never be able to recreate the wonderful texture in Mama's Scalloped Corn, but I can still enjoy a similar dish as often as I like.

It is a simple dish.  One where everything is simply mixed together and baked.

Scalloped Corn  (adapted from Blue Willow Inn Corn Pudding)

3 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1 can whole kernel corn
1 can cream corn
4 Tablespoons butter, melted

In small bowl mix together sugar, flour, and salt.  Set aside.
In larger bowl mix together eggs and half and half.  Add corn.  Mix well.
Add sugar flour mixture.  Mix well. 
Stir in melted butter.  Mix well.
Pour into buttered 9" round baking dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Canned Pears - Hot or Raw Pack?

Working our way through 80 pounds of pears is time consuming.  We decided to process one canner load (9 pints) of pear quarters in medium syrup.  Hot packing cut fruit is not my favorite of canning chores.  I would much rather make jam or sauce.  

It is the actual packing of the jar with the very hot very soft fruit that makes this process so tedious.  The fruit is so soft that it makes placing the piece just right in the jar difficult.  It seems each time I place a piece of fruit in the jar it turns the wrong way as soon as it slips off the spoon.  When I try to correct its placement, I just squish or break the fruit.  It is so much easier to place cold firm fruit pieces the correct way into the jar.  
But raw pack does not work with pears.  I know.  I have tried... more than once.  No success.  While the jars look prettier before going into the water bath, they are unacceptable coming out.  There is liquid loss and lots of sputtering out of syrup under the lid when removing from the water bath.  The jars do seal, but then I worry about the quality of the seal with the syrup layer now between the jar rim and lid.

At the end of the day when I am exhausted from the days chores I would appreciate a nice canning shortcut.  As much as I would love to be lazy and raw pack my fruit, it just is not worth it.  

I followed the instructions in the Ball Blue Book for canning pears.

How do you can your pears and other fruit?  Hot or raw?

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Romance on the Ranch

"Darling, beautiful, sweetheart, come with me to the manure pile," invited Rancher Roy with a loving sweet smile on his face.

Most fellows invite their sweetheart for a lovely stroll down the country lane in the moonlight.  Not my fellow.  

When we lived in the city, we went for a walk, hand in hand, every evening.  Now that we are on the ranchlet, we are too exhausted from all the chores, work, and responsibilities to go for an evening stroll.  So we will take what we can get, a romantic stroll when and where ever we can fit it in... even if it is to the manure pile.

This pile is courtesy of these beautiful girls.
They are so sweet!
Someone has to do all the work!

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Canning Failure.... But Tasty End Product

Saltbush Flats has been flooded with fruit!

The last week in our former home we were processing hundreds of pounds of cherry plums.  Our first week in our new ranchlet we were canning 50 pounds of peaches.  Then we froze 150 lemons and limes.  We followed that with 80 pounds of pears and 45 pounds of Hatch chiles.  And these last few days we have been picking crabapples.  So far we have 270 pounds of crabapples to make into juice, and we have only begun the crabapple harvest.  

This is work.  This is fun.  We are loving every minute of it.  I thank Rancher Roy every day for working right there beside me to accomplish our goals.  Whether it is picking apples, washing fruit, or shoveling compost, we do all this together.  There is a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing that we are doing all we can to provide for ourselves and our family.

We made some Pineapple Pear Jam (well almost) last night.  We are still processing the pears and there is about 25 pounds remaining to be made into pear sauce tonight.  Outside work is done during the day.  Inside work, like canning, is done in the evening after dinner.  As many of you know ranch/farm work is never done.

We all have trusted brands we like to use when we are canning our produce.  I rely on the integrity of certain companies, like Ball and Sure-Jell, to provide an excellent product and results each and every time.  I had in my canning supply stash two boxes of pectin that needed to be used.  It was NOT the brand I usually use.  But not wanting to be wasteful, I decided to use those last two boxes of pectin in this jam recipe.

Pears all ready for jam

I prepared the pears and pineapple as usual.  Followed my recipe just like always.  
Jam in progress

Then failure struck... no jelling.  Jam is not jam unless it sets.  Never in all my experience using Sure-Jell have I ever had a set failure.  This other well known brand is a disappointment.  I originally purchased four boxes of that other brand pectin.  Not one box gave me satisfactory results.  Lesson learned.  Always use Sure-Jell. 

Beautiful Yummy Pints of Pineapple Pear Honey

 All is not lost.  What started out to be pineapple pear jam turn into Pineapple Pear Honey.  This is delicious and will be used on biscuits, stirred into yogurt, and blended into milkshakes.  The possibilities of this honey are endless.  

Sometimes failures result in a very pleasant end product.

Note:  This my personal opinion based on my personal experiences.  Your experiences may differ.

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Saltbush Flats Invasion!

Saltbush Flats as been invaded.  Where is the Head of Ranch Security when we need him?

Inside Sleeping on the Job as Usual

We have been fortunate to receive a lot a rain these last few weeks.  Everything is greening up.

Not only did the rain bring a nice green color to our land, it brought these!!  And lots of them.

Swallowtail Caterpillars!

Thousands of them all over the ranchlet!

They are everywhere!
And this one is eating Rancher Roy's tender young purslane!

We know nothing about swallowtails.  It will interesting to see how many survive and become butterflies.

See this post and others like it at:
Tuesday Garden Party
The HomeAcre Hop #32
From the Farm Blog Hop #16

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Typically Tubby

Morning stretch preparing for a day of guarding the ranchlet

Dirtball Tubby

Being Head of Ranchlet Security can be a dirty job.  No fluffy white fur today.  No sir, today I am in camouflage.  Had to roll around in the dirt a little bit so I could blend in with the surroundings.  

You see, there was this bunch of quail trying to barge right into the ranchlet.  I had to sneak in real close to chase them away.  

Quail on this ranchlet?  Ha!  Not while I am on duty.

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The Backyard Farming Connection #43

Monday, August 12, 2013

Simply Pear Butter

Some recipes for fruit butters are so heavily laden with spices that the flavor of the fruit is lost.  This is especially true with a delicate flavor like pear.  We wanted a concentrated flavor of the pear, not of spices.  This pear butter recipe is simple and plain with minimal spice.
Pear Butter Ingredients
Three simple ingredients: Pear, sugar, and cinnamon.
About 10 pounds pears, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Wash, quarter, core, peel, and puree the pears.  

I Love My Slow Cooker
Combine pear puree, sugar, and cinnamon and cover and cook on low in slow cooker.
And Cook... After About 2 Hours
 Off set lid and continue to cook on low.
And Cook... After About 12 Hours
And Cook... After About 15 Hours, Stirred
And Cook... After About 18 Hours
As you can see, the sauce has cooked down to about 1/4 to 1/3 its original volume.
Fill prepared jars and process in water bath 10 minutes, following basic water bath procedures.
Makes about 8 half-pints.

Pretty As Can Be

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ranchlet Wildlife - Baby Lizards

Saltbush Flats is full of baby lizards!  They are so tiny and so cute, no more than two inches long, tail and all.  Just adorable!

Baby Lizard on Garden Hose

We so enjoy all the little critters that call Saltbush Flats home.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Baby Blanket

Want a baby blanket that will have everyone wanting to know how you made it?

Baby Showers are fun.  It is wonderful to celebrate the arrival of a new little one.  This occasion gave me a reason to drag out my sewing machine and make a baby blanket.  I wanted something useful, cute, quick, easy, and soft.  This blanket fit all the requirements.
warm, soft fleece
A little boy blanket in the colors of blue, green, yellow, and white would be perfect.

Cut fleece in 6 1/2 inch squares.  20 of each color.
Why 6 1/2 inches?  Because that is the width of my ruler!

 Sew all the yellow and white squares together in pairs using 1/2 inch seam allowance. 
Then sew the blue and green squares together.
Sew block pairs together to make rows.
8 blocks in a row.  10 rows.
Row 1: blue green white yellow blue green white yellow
Row 2: white yellow blue green white yellow blue green
Row 3: green blue yellow white green blue yellow white
Row 4: yellow white green blue yellow white green blue 
Repeat this color pattern until 10 rows are complete.
Leave ends of each row open 1 inch.  Lock ends of row seams with backstitch about 1 inch from beginning and end.  This is to prepare the outside edges for a braid-like finish.
On remaining outside edges lock seams about 1 inch in with forward and backstitches.
Remove original seam stitches 1 inch to open edges.
Cut in from outside edge 1 1/2 inches.  Cut 7 times in each square to make 8 tabs per square.  (fold block in half and snip, fold each half in half and snip, then fold each quarter in half and snip.)
*HINT:  With a sharpie mark your scissors 1 1/2 inches from tip.  Align the edge of fabric on that mark and snip to end of scissors.  Perfect 1 1/2 inch cut every time.
Create a hole in each tab by folding down 1/3 of each tab and making a small snip about 1/4 inch long in the fold.  Do not cut all the way through the tab.  
Do this on each tab all around the outside edge of the blanket.
The corners will look like this, with a small square cut out of them.
Slip one tab through the hole of the one next to it.  Continue all around outside edge of blanket.
Where blocks connect slip two tabs through hole, one of each color.  Treat those two tabs as one and slip next tab through both colors at once.
Go around corners just like straight edge.
 Slip last free tab through.
Cut through hole to sever, dividing tab in two.
 Tuck one part of severed tab under first tab to make a continuous pattern around blanket.
 Hand sew severed tab back together.
Tuck seam back in place. 
Snip all remaining seam allowances.  Make snips about 1/2 inch apart, being careful not to cut into seam itself.
Both sides of blanket are beautiful.
Make a matching 6 segment ball and you have a beautiful baby gift that does not even need to be wrapped.  The mothers' eyes lit up when this was handed to her during the gift opening section of the shower.  
The ball was a big hit.  Everyone wanted to know how to make the ball as well as the braid-like trim.