My Method For Freezing Chicken Stock

Whenever I roast a chicken, about once every couple months, I like to toss the carcass into a pot with onions, garlic, celery, carrots, bay leaves and thyme. In other words, homemade chicken stock is my jam. It’s my comfort food, and frankly if I’m going to eat an animal I feel like I should at least use every part of it that I have if possible.

My recipe is always changing, but if you want a solid go to I’d guess this one from Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) is pretty awesome. She has some killer recipes and I have yet to make a bad one. My only tip is that I always use roasted chicken bones. I roast the chicken, let it cool and pick it, and then put the bones into the stock instead of the whole chicken. I have tried both ways and I not only prefer the flavor of the roasted bones, but I do not like boiling a chicken. Roasted chicken is just too delicious. That’s just my preference though, do what you love most.

In order to freeze the stock in larger quantities, here’s my go to method:

  1. Let your stock cool to room temp and then put it in the fridge for a few hours. This coagulates the fat on the top.
  2. Once the fat coagulates, skim it off the top.
  3. Now that you have cooled stock fill your zip-lock bags (I use the ones that are thicker and a bit bigger than the sandwich bags) about 3/4 full. This is really important as liquids expand when they freeze. Once you have them each filled 3/4 full triple check that the bags are 100% sealed (no leaks wanted)! Next, lay them flat in the freezer and shut the door.

That’s it. If you’re really concerned about the stock potentially leaking, place the bags in a large deep cake pan before you put them in the freezer. If a bag is overfilled and bursts, or the bag wasn’t sealed properly to begin with, it will at least leak into the pan. In this case you can simply thaw the pan out and re-liquify the chicken stock and use it up. I don’t recommend thawing and re-freezing chicken stock (or meat in general).

Here is a photo of the stock as it first went into the freezer:

DSC_8296And here is a photo of the stock after it was frozen:

DSC_8301You can see the expansion pretty significantly in the top bag.

All in all I really like this method of freezing stock, and once it’s frozen you can stand it up to save room, etc. It’s so easy to grab one of these out, throw it in a pan in the fridge to thaw for use at night, or just to take it out of the back totally frozen and simply throw it in a pot with about a cup or two of water to melt. I tend to make my chicken stock a bit concentrated so I often thin it with water regardless. 

So there you have it, a simple way to store larger quantities of chicken stock. 

Enjoy!

xo,
Heather

Winter Plantings

Today has been a day indeed for starting the 2014 growing season, in so many ways.

First, I found out on Monday I’ve been accepted into graduate school. So if I’m not already sporadic enough on this little shindig this new adventure will do one of two things – make blog posts more frequent due to time management needs, or make it less frequent due to time management needs. It’s a crap shoot at this point. I won’t be starting class until May though so we have a few month more of shenanigans.

Second, I started our vegetable growing season Monday evening. A few weeks ago Andy and I were given a large bag of pearl onions. While cooking dinner Monday, I found a few sprouted onions in the bag. I took a look to my right and noticed my 60lb bag of seed starting soil from Johnny Seeds which came in a few days ago. I then remembered a planter I had in the house.

DSC_8387-01I had read about replanting sprouted onions and I came up with three answers:

  1. They’re junk. Throw them away.
  2. They won’t grow other onions, they’ll only grow stalks which are edible and then turn to seed. 
  3. They’ll grow another onion.

So in other words, I had no answer. What does no clear answer mean? It means a hypothesis and an experiment! I love plant experiments. Especially ones that aren’t really all that scientific when it comes to my garden.

First, one of the two onions was rotting on the outer layers. I’d seen this before so I knew I could peel it off. As I peeled away and away and away I decided to get down right to the shoots. I was careful to keep the root intact as I peeled. As I got down I realized the one onion had two shoots and if I was really careful I could separate them. For the second onion I decided to leave the bulb intact, and see if it changed anything.

DSC_8378-02After separating the onions I found my planter and knew the holes in the bottom were way too large and would cause too much soil loss. To counter this, but allow water to drain easily, I cut and placed a single layer of cheesecloth on the bottom.

DSC_8370-02Then I filled up the planter with potting mix, and watered it down until it was just damp and could hold together but didn’t release water when I squeezed it gently. No soupy soil. The picture below is hard to see the clumps because I sort of broke them back up, but they are there.

DSC_8387-01Finally, I simply dug a little hole for each onion and put it in, making sure there was enough aeration around the roots, and that the soil came up to the green part.

DSC_8391-01Now it’s time to see how they grow. I’m not sure if I’m going to try and let the double shoot that I split turn into onions, or if I’ll just use them as green onions which totally invalidates my own experiment of seeing if they’ll turn into onions or flower only. Then again, green onions are so darn tasty it would probably be worth it.

xo,
Heather

 

Equipment Love: Mahindra 2415

A (long, long) while back Andy mentioned I should write about the equipment we own. I told him he should write about the equipment we own, in my never ending quest to have Andy write a blog post which I’m rather certain he never will. That said, writing about the equipment we own is a pretty good idea. He’s right that without some of our equipment we wouldn’t either have certain things done, or it would be a lot harder.

No single piece of equipment we own is bigger than our Mahindra 2415, both in size and how crucial it is to having our little homestead. Unlike my relationship with Troy, I’m on good terms with our tractor who I lovingly call Mah. When Winnie was a puppy she was even featured in Living The Country Life magazine while sitting on her (yes the tractor is a she, says me). I grabbed this photo with my point and shoot, and when I saw there was a call for cute animals I sent it in.

561701_487242111305592_29761995_nWe like to tell Winnie she needs to earn a living and she definitely pulled through, at least once. To this day our dogs like jogging along the tractor in their older age, and still enjoy a lap ride now and again.

To really write about Mahindra I had to ask Andy for his input. Buying this tractor was primarily his gig though I was definitely on board. He had wanted one for a very long time; as in childhood. I more or less saw it as a means to an end, and ended up loving it after we had her a while. When we bought this property we knew we needed a tractor in order to fix up the land and build our house. Then it turned into both a tractor for around our homestead, but also for agricultural use up at the farm. All in all, it’s been well worth the money.

This was one of the very first photos we ever took of our Mahindra, long before the barn and garage were even started and clearly well into my phase of color blocking photos on my point and shoot.

6.8.2008 005Over the years we’ve really loved this girl, though there have been a few times we’ve debated on upgrading to a larger model. We always decide to stick with the 2415 though. It really is the perfect size, both for us, and the farm. While the farmer owns lots of larger models, little red can fit under the barn to muck it out. If we got a bigger tractor we wouldn’t be able to get under the barn, and mucking it out is pretty important.

DSC_4931-01We have a few implements for the tractor that we’ve accumulated over the years including forks for the front end, and for the back a bush hog, a finish mower, a box blade. Andy has even altered the Mahindra to attach to a plow which can be controlled by the hydraulics. Heck, she’s even skidded logs before by a chain.

DSC_4927-01Andy would be the first to tell you my favorite attachment is our 1710 backhoe. I can’t explain why, but I just really enjoy using it. I think it’s the same reason I loved digging holes in the dirt as a kid—there’s something inherently fun about getting dirty and even more so when the thing you’re digging with has an engine.

6.8.2008 027The next implement I’m pushing for is a hydraulic logging winch. My goal is to get a sawmill within the next couple years, and the winch would come in handy, but that’s another post for another day. All in all, Mah definitely earns her keep around here and she’ll be around for a long time to come, I imagine.

6.8.2008 029Do you guys have any pieces of equipment, large or small, that are staples at your place?

xo,
Heather

Wood Stove Maintenance – Gasket Replacement

I love heating our house with a wood stove. To me there are few things more calming than sitting in front of a crackling fire while it’s chilly outside. It’s the type of heat that reaches my bones, not in a way that oil heat ever could. Sure we wear socks a little more at certain times of the year, but overall I wouldn’t trade it for oil again as long as we’re still able to cut and split wood.

Just like any heating system though, it requires maintenance. From creosote in the chimney, to cleaning the glass front (at least in our case) there are things to do. After 6 winters of use it was time to replace the gasket in the top as it had become a little…er…less than ideal. 

WoodstoveMaintenance (3) WoodstoveMaintenance (2) WoodstoveMaintenance (1)To remove the gasket Andy ran a screw driver around it to loosen it, and then scraped to remove any left over bits.

WoodstoveMaintenance (6) WoodstoveMaintenance (9)For installation we needed a pair of scissors, a new gasket and gasket cement.

WoodstoveMaintenance (4)WoodstoveMaintenance (5)First Andy did a dry fit of the gasket to ensure the length we needed, and then cut it to size.

WoodstoveMaintenance (13) WoodstoveMaintenance (16)To finish it off Andy removed the test fitted gasket, put down some gasket cement, and then replaced the gasket. Overall the maintenance took about 15 minutes and will last years more to come. I call that a pretty good return on investment.

WoodstoveMaintenance (20)xo,

Heather

The Tasty ‘Tatoe Harvest

Back when I built the classiest potato box ever, I was interested in testing how it worked in comparison to a row of potatoes. I was also wondering if we would really yield more back than we planted. Frankly, I wanted to try it just to try it. I had no preconception about how it would go, but I truly enjoy trying new growing concepts in my garden and this seemed like a good one to give a go.

PotatoHarvest (11)After a summer of growing, the moment of truth came. Oh, and yeah, we harvested the potatoes back in August. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I am nothing if not timely in posting sometimes.

PotatoHarvest (1)PotatoHarvest (2)We eventually pulled the whole box off the soil pile once it was loose and started slowly and carefully digging through the soil.

PotatoHarvest (5)WE STRUCK GOLD. 

PotatoHarvest (3)At first we were like “there’s no way this can be it” and then as if by the magic of logic, we were proved right.

PotatoHarvest (4)….and then like a growing miracle, we started getting more and more.

PotatoHarvest (6)We even pulled up some beet greens from a nearby patch that had been overtaken with weeds.

PotatoHarvest (7)The tasty, soily, pieces of delight made my heart fill with joy.

PotatoHarvest (9)We kept them for a while, but then I couldn’t resist and we ate them as simple as possible – cut up if they were big enough and roasted with olive oil (still raw in the picture below).

PotatoHarvest (10)The final analysis?

I would say that we didn’t yield many more potatoes than when we grew them in rows. That said, it took up a lot less space in our garden and that’s a huge plus. Will we grow potatoes again? Maybe.

Cons:

  • There are certain vegetables, like tomatoes, that taste about 1,000 times better than anything you’ll get in the store. Potatoes pretty much taste like potatoes. I would say these taste slightly better.
  • The seed stock yielded about the same amount of potatoes as I planted, and were more expensive than a bag of organic potatoes at the store.

Pros:

  • They are really fun to harvest. It’s a blast going out and digging and trying to see what you might get.
  • Regardless of the harvest size, or whether the taste is significantly different than store bought, there’s something about growing your own food that is very very satisfying.

So we’ll see if we do this again. I’m more than happy to support the farmers who are at the farmers market and buy potatoes from them, but I don’t know if I can give up digging in that giant pile and wondering what I’ll find.

It’s just so fun.

xo,

Heather