Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Honey & Lilac Goatsmilk Icecream

Summer has certainly crept up on us quickly - what a change from last week's rain.  Thankfully, during the cooler days we planted most of our garden with the seedlings, and then the lovely heavy rains came directly after, followed by these gloriously hot days this week.  Now, in the early hours of the day, we are trying to do the rest of our planting.  We've started a new permaculture garden around the strawbale addition, a vacant space in the yard that has been calling to us for several years but we needed to bide our time waiting for the right opportunity.  Now that the house construction is completed we can safely put in the fruit trees and berry bushes, and start establishing permanent beds in this area - these will include blueberries, elderberry, currants, ground cherries and herbs...hopefully all which will continue to be our perennial harvest.  Also, for this first time in this yard there is room for a large watermelon patch!  Plus, pie pumpkins, beans, corn, and purple heirloom potatoes, all of which will start to act as a living mulch over the ground and help build up the soil here slowly.  So exciting to have another large extension like this to our garden production!

We are still eagerly working with wild harvested foods, and yesterday's recipe was a luscious sweetly scented honey and lilac icecream.  We used local goatsmilk, added egg yolks for additional fat content, arrowroot to help stabilize the icecream (apparently this helps to prevent ice crystals from forming on the icecream, however there is probably little chance of that as it will be all eaten in a few short days!), raw honey as a sweetener, and whole vanilla bean steeped with the lilac blossoms...mmm.  We've had a hand-crank icecream maker sitting in our pantry shelf for quite some time, and this was the perfect chance to try it out.  A bit of work, but worth it.  You can make this icecream in a regular icecream maker, or (if you are not too concerned about a creamy texture) even just freeze it in a container stirring up every few hours as it sets.

Honey & Lilac Goatsmilk Icecream

3 cups goatmilk
1 whole vanilla bean, scraped
2 cups lilac blossoms
3/4 cup raw honey
4 egg yolks
1 Tbsp arrowroot

1) Gently heat milk with scraped vanilla bean and lilac blossoms.  Then add honey and stir to let honey melt completely.
2) Beat egg yolks and arrowroot powder in a small bowl until smooth.
3) When milk is hot (but not boiling) strain the vanilla and lilac and reserve milk.  Add egg yolk mixture and whisk until combined.
4) If you want a very smooth texture you can sieve the milk once more, but otherwise the flecks of vanilla pod are quite lovely.
5) Chill at least 2 hours until firm, then prepare in icecream maker according to your machine's instructions.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Happy hens

The chicks are growing so fast - since last week they live outdoors full time, with the "old girls" (our 4 year old hens).  Today we noticed a little one drinking from the big hen water dispenser for the first time, and another trying to eat a grub.  When I brought out the weekly health treat of homemade yogurt mixed with raw garlic - a natural anti-worm tonic for the older hens (see other natural worming remedies using herbs), one young one bravely came over to taste the mix too.  The little ones have learned to jump up onto the high perches for night roosting, side by side with the other hens, and, although the four young ones like to stick close together, they have somehow worked out a mutual agreement that everyone is welcome with the old hens.  We weren't sure how the transition of adding new young hens would go. 

Homemade pretzels

What a happy rainy day activity - I had one very eager young helper today, rolling out the pretzel dough and shaping into all manner of letters, numbers, triangles, and circles to her heart's content..we used a modified recipe from Farm Mama's blog.  If you don't know this blog yet, check out the gorgeous photos of the farm, her goats, her wool, the greenhouses, hens and more.  They are about a month ahead of us in growing season, so it's always inspiring to see what she is harvesting and transplanting.

Our pretzel recipe was made with local organic unbleached spelt flour, and we made half the recipe filled with pesto, carmelized onion, and cheese, rolled into buns much like cinnamon rolls.  The other half was made, as mentioned, into shapes of varying pretzel-like styles, dipped in the baking soda wash (which gives pretzels their characteristic flavour) and topped with coarse sea salt.  Pretzels can also be brushed with an egg wash to get a glossy golden top.  Next time I make these I am going to bake them in our cob oven - it would lend the perfect smokey flavour and would bake incredibly quickly in there.

Soft Pretzels
5 cups unbleached spelt flour
4 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
olive oil
1/2 cup baking soda

Filling options*
so many options...pesto, carmelized onion, feta, other cheese, sundried tomatoes, fresh herbs, sea salt, coarse black pepper, mushrooms, caraway seeds, sesame seeds, roasted garlic, or anything else you would prefer in a savoury bun
* this same dough could also be made as a sweet roll, using butter, cinnamon, cardamom, maple syrup, brown sugar, raisins, walnuts, lemon rind, etc

1) Dissolve the yeast in sugar and warm water.  Let stand 5-10 minutes until foamy.
2) Meanwhile mix flour, 1/4 cup sugar and salt in large bowl.  Add yeast mixture.
3) Knead well on floured table, about 10 minutes until dough is smooth but still slightly tacky. 
4) Let rise in warm place, in lightly oiled bowl, covered for about 1-2 hours or until double in bulk.
5) Make desired filling while dough is rising.
6) Preheat oven to 450F.
7) Roll out dough into large rectangle.  Spread filling evenly to all edges.  Roll up lenghtwise like a log, rolling tightly and pressing down the edges to seal.  Cut into 14 slices.
8) Or, shape pretzel shapes (or letters, numbers, designs, etc) by rolling dough into 24 inch long "ropes".
9) Dip the pretzels into baking soda water bath (1/2 cup baking soda in 4 cups hot water), then sprinkle with coarse salt or sesame seeds.
10) Place on oiled baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Learn more about urban hen keeping - Waterloo Coop Tour, May 28 in uptown Waterloo

If you are interested in the local chicken-keeping debate, love hens, picture yourself keeping hens someday, want to join the local hen association, or already have a small flock at home, make sure to check out the 2nd annual Waterloo Coop Tour tomorrow, Sat May 28 from 11 am -3 pm.  A great way to meet other hen keepers and urban farmers, tour interesting backyards, and join in the discussion about hen-keeping in the city.  A family-friendly event!  Maps can be picked up at the uptown Waterloo town square - just look for the hens on display in a modern style "urban coop"!

Grand Porch Party, coming to Waterloo June 12

The first "Grand Porch Party" will take place in uptown Waterloo, Sunday June 12 from 3-5 pm.  It's in celebration of the launch of Alternative Environmental Journal's music & environment issue, and a fun and entertaining way to take a leisurely stroll on a Sunday afternoon enjoying free live eclectic acoustic music on many porches hosting musicians and bands in the neighbourhood that day.  The event also falls on Canadian Rivers Day, so information will be shared about our local watershed, The Grand.  

What a grand idea!  See you there...

This Moment

{ This moment } - This moment - an end of week ritual, no words, just a special photo to remember, savour, enjoy.  Inspired by the continued beauty and creativity of Soulemama's blog, where she encourages readers to post their own moments.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

From garden to table

End of the week round-up...

what's new in the garden - the asparagus patch in full production; strawberries, currants, cherries, pear and apple trees blossoming; eggplant and pepper seedlings all planted into sheets of black plastic covering the ground, and under a temporary hot house made of raised coldframe tunnel to give them a growing boost; 60 plus tomato seedlings planted (15 varieties - in particular we are excited about our favourite Cherokee Purple, Mennonite Orange, and a new Berkeley Tie Dye which seems to be a prized tomato among "local food" chefs for it's complex flavours); carrots, spinach, bunching onions, radishs, peas all coming up...

what's on the supper table these days - rhubarb, herbs and wild edibles in full swing - fresh rhubarb & dandelion spritzers; garden sorrel soup; wild leeks; wild nettle & goat feta pie; free-range eggs with scrambled with garden chives; homemade spelt pasta with fresh parsley pesto; wood-fired pizza with last year's tomato sauce and fresh basil and oregano from the garden; many many cups of fresh mint tea (a blend of peppermint, chocolate mint and ginger mint is currently my favourite combination); fresh garden salads with dandelion, salad greens, wood sorrel, wild violets, kale flowers, red orach, arugula; red & green kale stir-fry; rhubarb crisp with last year's mulberries; ...and more to come...

Natural Rhubarb Soda

Here's another old favourite recipe for this time of season - we love making natural fruit sodas using these syrups as the base.  Similar to the dandelion syrup just mentioned in the previous post, here is a simple rhubarb syrup.  It can be modified to use other berries, herbs, edible flowers, other fruit, or combinations.  The syrup can also be made with maple syrup, agave, honey, stevia, and other sugar replacers.  Enjoy!  
Rhubarb Syrup
1 1/2 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup organic sugar

Bring rhubarb, water and sugar to a boil.  Let simmer for 15 minutes until syrup is bright pink.  Cool.  Strain well.  Then bottle in glass jars or bottles.  Store in refrigerator until use.  This syrup can also be frozen, or canned for longer shelf life.  For use, take 1/4 cup syrup per glass, top with sparkling water, then add lemon slices, lime slices, fresh berries, ice cubes, or mint sprigs as garnish.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dandelion harvest recipes

After our seedling sale, the remainder of this long weekend included a lot of relaxing...tending to the garden...visiting with friends...and a chance to harvest dandelions.  We have a variety of good friends who are urban wildcrafting enthusiasts, and with one family in particular we've gotten together throughout the season to harvest mulberries, service berries, cherries, and now, dandelions.  It was a great activity for the kids, and, since we were harvesting in a nearby park, there was also the chance to run and play in between the harvest.  As with any wildcrafting, it's important to know the area you are harvesting has not been chemically sprayed; is fairly well removed from a dog walking zone, roadways or other sources of pollution/contamination; and is not in danger of being over-harvested.  It's wise to take no more than 1/3 of the wild plants in one area, although with dandelions it really didn't look like we made much of a dent, even after picking for almost an hour!   Oh yes, and if you find any dandelions that have gone to seed, make sure to send them off into the wind to populate the landscape with this wonderful, healthful wild weed.

I was inspired by the rhubarb and blueberry syrups that had been used to serve natural fruit spritzers at our seedling sale, so I tried making a dandelion syrup - delicious!  I also boiled down half my collection to make dandelion jelly, also something I have read is subtle and tasty.  It comes out a faint golden colour, beautiful.  Here's the recipe:

Dandelion Syrup
2 cups fresh clean dry dandelion, just the yellow petals cut off the heads
8 cups water
8 cups sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Bring dandelions, water and sugar to a boil.  Let simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain well.  Then bottle in glass jars or bottles.  Store in refrigerator until use.  For use, take 1/4 cup syrup per glass, top with sparkling water, then add lemon slices, lime slices, fresh berries, ice cubes, or mint sprigs as garnish.

Dandelion Jelly
2 cups fresh clean dandelion, just the yellow petals cut off the heads (no green stems or leaves)
6 cups water
6 cups sugar
juice of one lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
8 tsp pectin

Bring dandelions, lemon and water to a boil.  Then remove from heat and let steep for at least one hour.  Reheat, add sugar and bring to a boil again.  Let boil for 10-15 minutes.  Strain well to remove all petals.

Add pectin and bring to a boil again, for about 10 minutes.  Ladle into clean hot sterilized jars and top with hot, sterilized lids.  Process in hot water bath canner according to regular jelly making directions (generally this is canning the jelly jars for 5-10 minutes at a rolling boil to ensure that lids seal).

Makes about 18 x 125 ml jars of jelly.  Beautiful gifts, for the perfect taste of summer in the midst of the winter season...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Seedling Sale Saturday!

Thanks to everyone who came out for our 9th Annual Seedling Sale this weekend!  It was a festival-like atmosphere - beautiful warm sun, loads of gardeners ready to stock up on seedlings, people lingering over baked goods and meeting each other, a last-minute kids booth selling deliciously refreshing homemade rhubarb and blueberry spritzers, the largest collection of bikes/wagons/bike trailers I've ever seen parked in this neighbourhood, and inspiring enthusiasm about city gardening.  Thanks to all our wonderful volunteers who helped us accomodate such a large crowd in such a short time here.  Now we're off from the computer for the weekend, to try to get our own gardens planted.  Oh, as I finish writing this I hear the rain starting up again...