Turkey Tracks: September 7, 2010
Fall is here. The light is changing again, and it is unlikely we’ll feel like swimming any more with the arrival of cooler weather. The trees have not really started to change much, though a few are tinged with color. The beans and summer squashes are slowing down, but the tomatoes are coming in. In Maine, September is the red month.
Our solo chickie, Orphan Annie is 2 months old this week. Here she is, perched on her inside box, which she is rapidly outgrowing. I put a screen over the top, and we are up to two books now to weight it down. She was “OUT OUT” to be with us, but she is NOT reliable about pooping.
She still looks like a female. And, she scratches like one. There are some little bumps where spurs might grow, so I have to get one of the big hens down and see if they have marks there. I’m letting her loose more now with the big hens, as long as John or I are there to run interference. The Wheatens are not aggressive with her, but her mother and the others are. Especially if she is eating something they want. She spends the day outside in a smaller pen that Rose lent me, and she hates it. Maybe I’ll try penning her under the big coop later today.
We visited Rose and Pete last Sunday. I wanted to see how the Barbanter chicks were developing. They are about 3 weeks older than Annie. Rose has mixed them into her flock, but they have a protective mother–the large Copper Black Maran to the right. There are 4 chicks: the fourth is in the upper right part of the picture. Look for the speckles. The red hens are Red Sex-Links. And, they are egg-laying machines and very sweet. Their beaks have been cut though; I think I wrote about that in an earlier post. They lay a dusty rose-brown egg.
Rose and I first saw the Barbanters when we picked up the Marans and the Americaunas last March. They are clean-legged and long and slender, with fluffy top-knots on their heads. They lay a white egg, which in an egg box, can just bring the other colors alive. Rose thinks one of these four chicks is a rooster. Yeah!! That means there will be more next spring…
Here is a close-up of one of the chicks so you can see the coloring better. The top knot is not yet fully developed.
I spent most of yesterday processing food. I had enough tomatoes to make 2 quarts of sauce. I have to freeze my sauce since it has oil in it. The recipe mostly comes from Anna Thomas’s THE VEGETARIAN EPICURE.
Tomato Sauce: Bottled Sunshine
I scald the tomatoes, skin them, cut them into chunks and throw them into a WIDE stainless steel skillet that’s about 5 inches deep. You want to spread out the sauce as much as possible. I add a good 1/4 cup of REALLY GOOD olive oil, some salt (I only use minimally processed sea salt), and turn on the heat. When the tomatoes have broken down, I add 5 or 6 garlic cloves–just smashed or cut into big pieces and a handful or two of fresh basil leaves. Cook down the mixture until the excess water has cooked off and the olive oil is starting to pool on the top. At the end, you have to stir more frequently. Spoon into canning jars, turn upside down on the counter until cool, then freeze. Remember to leave enough room for freezing expansion. Now you have bottled some sunshine for a cold winter day.
We don’t eat pasta very often, so it’s quite a treat to reheat one of these quarts, spoon it over penne pasta, and top it all off with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It’s a complete meal with some French bread to sop up the sauce and a salad. But, perhaps a better use is to add one of the jars, especially pint jars, to a chicken bone-broth soup.
Roast Chicken Bone Broth
Bones have disappeared from American supermarkets. But, bones are full of fabulous minerals. It’s one of the healthiest things you can make. And, it’s dead easy.
I roast a chicken about once a week. Remember that we raised our current chickens with Rose and Pete Thomas, and we got a slower-growing type that we didn’t slaughter until they were 12 weeks old. That meant that their bones had fully developed–unlike chickens raised to be 4 to 5 pounds in 6 to 8 weeks. Having seen this process first hand, I can tell you that raising a chicken to be that big in that period of time is so not ok on so many levels besides the obvious one involving what nutrients they possess.
I use about a 3-inch high roasting pan, and I make a layer of chunked vegetables: celery (not too much; it’s strong), onion (the more the sweeter), carrots, and garlic. I salt it and drizzle fat over it. I used to use olive oil, but I’m moving toward using coconut oil or rendered duck fat, or chicken fat since they take high heat better. (I’m saving the olive oil for colder uses.) Put the chicken on top–after drizzling it with salt and pepper inside and out. You can put some lemon and herbs inside the cavity. Use whatever seems good to you and what you have on hand. Sometimes I sprinkle dried herbs over the top, though I vastly prefer fresh herbs.
After you’ve roasted the chicken and eaten your first meal, take the meat off the bones and put ALL the bones (yes, the ones you’ve gotten from people’s plates), the roasted veggies, and the juices into a bowl for overnight storage. Put some water into the roasting pan and scrape up the dark bits and pour that into your bowl of bones. The next day, or the day after that, put the bone mixture into a kettle, fill it with water, salt it, and simmer it for 6 to 8 hours or so. Replenish water from time to time. Pour off the liquid through a strainer. Pick out the used-up meat bits and carrots for the dogs, and throw out the bones. Let the broth cool before putting it in the refrigerator.
You’ll have enough for a delicious soup, for drinking as a hot drink, and/or to freeze.
You know, the other thing that is missing from American supermarkets is something that Europeans take for granted. When they buy a chicken, they get the head/neck and feet attached. In other words, they buy the WHOLE bird. We butchered our chickens this way, and let me tell you, the broth made with the neck, head, and feet added back in insanely delicious. All the neck bones have so much good stuff in them, and the feet are full of gelatin that makes the broth chill out as thick as jello.
Start asking for slower growing chickens from your LOCAL farmers (Silver Cross or, even better, Freedom Rangers, which are better foragers). And, ask for the WHOLE carcass. And USE IT ALL. The cost of an organic chicken only seems prohibitive until you start using the whole thing. John and I get–from about a 4 1/2 pound whole chicken–4 meat meals and 6 soup meals. The cost of the chicken divided by 10 meals makes it seem more reasonable. It’s definitely healthier, which subtracts from the cost of chronic illness.
Green Bean Overflow
We had at least 3 pounds of beans to process this week after picking up our food from Hope’s Edge, our CSA, and picking our own garden. I have Dragon’s Tongue beans–the seeds were a gift from Mike and Tami last year. They are a colorful, lavender and cream striped bean that is big, flat, and very nutty sweet. I also have the old green, bush bean standby, Provider. From Hope’s Edge, we got purple beans (they turn green when cooked), yellow beans, and a tender green bean. Here’s a picture of a mixture of all these beans ready to be steamed.
Aren’t they pretty?
But, it’s a LOT of beans. So, after we eat some steamed and with fresh lemon juice and fresh butter, I freeze some in smaller packets. They are not great to eat as they tend to get a bit mushy. But, they are great in soups in the winter. I throw them in a few minutes before the soup is ready, just to heat them through. I save a few handfuls from the batch, refrigerate them, and use them to make a cold salad that’s quite delicious and that I discovered while combining leftovers with fresh produce.
Cold Green Bean Salad
Combine the cold beans with some freshly cut-up cucumber, some halved SWEET cherry tomatoes (we have Sun Gold here), and some garlicky, mustardy herbed vinaigrette. The dressing is simple: smash a garlic clove with some salt in a mortar with a pestle or a bowl with the back of a spoon. Add in some Dijon mustard (I’ve grow to love the extra bold kind)–say a tablespoon–some red-wine vinegar–say 3 tablespoons–and slowly stream in some REALLY GOOD (extra virgin, first cold pressed) olive oil while whisking with a whisk or a fork. When the mixture thickens, taste it to see if you need more olive oil. Add herbs–whatever you have–and pepper.
The zucchini are finally slowing down. I’ve got at least one more pile to grate and freeze today. Like the beans, small grated batches are good to throw into winter soups. Grated zucchini can also be used to thicken a soup, much like the French use potato to thicken their vegetable soups.