Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Monday, December 30, 2013

the cranberry conundrum (with vinaigrette recipe!)

It finally happened.  I truly didn't think it was possible.  But it came to pass this holiday season...

Too much cranberry sauce.

I know!  How?  How could it be?  Double and triple batches were always gobbled up with ease.  I even hoarded some of the homemade, ruby-red goodness and canned it for the larder.  But I found myself with half a bowl full after Christmas.

Truth be told, there were lots of leftovers and all I really wanted was a crisp, fresh salad.  Something green and living and vibrant after all that turkey and stuffing and potato and pumpkin and gravy.  I went out to the garden and grabbed some baby kale, some brilliant beet greens, some golden Swiss chard, and I added it all to a bowl of crisp Romaine.  Some sliced mushrooms and bite-sized chunks of cauliflower and I was ready to dive in... almost.

It need a little dressing.  Something sweet and tart and bright.  I opened the fridge.  Any vinaigrette from the pre-holiday salads was long gone.  But there was that half-bowl of cranberry sauce staring me in the face.

YES!  Cranberry Vinaigrette!  Of course!  I just tweaked my basic vinaigrette recipe and added my homemade (from fresh berries) cranberry sauce.  My cranberry sauce is a a half-crushed, half-whole berry mix of cranberries, fresh-squeezed orange juice, orange zest, and raw sugar (sometimes I add a bit of fresh-grated nutmeg or fresh-grated ginger).  Once the ingredients were added to a small container and whazzed with the immersion blender, the vinaigrette became this luscious, creamy, rosy-hued topping that was perfect on my "cure-for-too-many-feastings" salad.

Give it a try... or better yet, try swapping the cranberry sauce for a favorite jam or jelly sitting forlornly on your larder shelf.  You'll create something fresh and delicious, I'm sure!

Too Much Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

1/4 cup cranberry sauce 
2 Tablespoons sherry or white balsamic vinegar
1 - 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 clementine
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 teaspoon minced ginger
1/3 cup light olive oil (don't use strongly flavored oil)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Add all the ingredients to a small bowl or container.  Whazz it up with an immersion blender, or whisk, whisk, whisk until smooth.  Store in the fridge and enjoy!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

a quiet Season...

It's here!  The time of all bustling and wrapping and baking and visiting!  I love the fun of the Christmas season.  But this year things have gone a bit quiet... a small bump in the road has left me cozily resting on our little plot of suburbia. 

Let me just share a few images from around Flannel Jammies Farm at Christmas time, and take this opportunity to wish you all a blessed and beautiful season as we celebrate the coming of the Christ child!

A peek inside the stable built by my uncle
the Christmas tree

the top of our jam and jelly cabinet

a blue Christmas vignette

the tea set my daughter and I made so many years ago

adding ornaments to light for each day's reading

our Christmas meditation

a wreath created from old hymnal pages

stockings are hung on the saw with care

and this little guy
...but the angel reassured them.  
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. 
“I bring you good news 
that will bring great joy to all people.  
 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—
has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!
Luke 2:10-11

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

apple season... with my applesauce recipe...

There's this moment when you crest a hill between Richmond and Charlottesville... the blue mountains just come into view... and it takes my breath every time.

This weekend we traveled to C-ville to pick apples at Carter Mountain Orchard with the whole family.  Our daughter and our darling dingo, Scarlett, joined us for the journey, and we met our son and his wife (the rock stars) and her parents at the orchard.  The weather was more like August than October, but the breeze atop the mountain helped and the sunshine put smiles on our faces.

We grabbed our bags and headed toward the trees...  now, which to pick?  Gala?  Fuji?  York?  Jonagold?  Yes, that one!

There were ripe, juicy apples everywhere!  The best, however, were higher up in the trees, and required a bit of climbing.  Soon we had close to 60 pounds in our bags and decided to relax and visit a bit before heading off to lunch.

Carter Mountain is quite the destination for apple picking, cider doughnuts, and various other treats.  I found some education displays and pumpkins galore.

After lunch and hugs goodbye, the Beach crowd ventured 20 minutes south of Charlottesville for a stop at Vintage Virginia Apples / Albemarle Ciderworks.  This was the place!

Glorious varieties of pre-picked apples; we chose close to 10 pounds each of Idared and Gold Rush.  Each variety had slices to sample, making the decision easy and tasty. 

And then there was the cider tasting.  Less fussy than wine tasting, this was pure delight.  The cider bubbles tickled our tongues while we enjoyed the musical musings of a local musician, Fiona Balestrieri.  The three of us enjoyed the warm sun and cool breezes while Scarlett was lulled to sleep by Fiona's voice.  I could have stayed in that moment for so much longer...

...but we had to get home and process all those apples!  The drive back across the bridge to home was spectacular.

Yesterday I worked on applesauce.  Pure, unadulterated apples, cooked down and run through the largest blade of the food mill, then canned in beautiful blue Ball jars for the pantry.  Make your own applesauce.  Your tummy will thank you.

Homecanned Applesauce

Yield: about 15 pints

8 pounds large apples, washed, cored, cut into wedges, and dipped into lemon juice to prevent browing
     (I wash mine in a large bowl of water with a touch of white vinegar
      before coring and cutting.)
1/2 cup fresh apple cider
1/2 cup water

(Yes, that's it.  No sugar.  No spices.  Just absolutely perfect and pure apple goodness.)

Add the liquids to a large stainless steel pot (it seems like a small amount, but it's just to prevent the apples from sticking).  Add the apples to the pot with the liquids.  Put the lid on the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer the apples for 20 minutes or so, until apples are tender.  (The variety and age of your apples will affect the cooking time.)  Remove the pot from the heat and allow the apples to cool a bit.

Working in batches, run the cooked apples through a food mill to remove skins and to puree the apples.  (I used the food mill blade with the largest openings because I like a slightly textured applesauce; use a blade with smaller openings if you like a smoother applesauce.)  Add the apple puree back to the pot and bring back to a gentle simmer.

Ladle hot applesauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headroom.  Remove air bubbles, wipe jar rims (I use a cloth dampened with white vinegar), center lids onto jars, and screw on the bands just fingertip tight.  Process the jars of applesauce in a covered boiling water canner for 20 minutes.  At the end of the 20 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Remove the jars and allow to cool completely on a towel-lined rack or board.  Check the seal after 24 hours.  Remove the bands from sealed jars and store for apple enjoyment over the next year. 

A jar didn't seal properly?  Oh, what a shame!  You'll have to refrigerate that jar and eat it right away!  Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Tale of Two Dishcloths...

It was the best of dishcloths, it was the worst of dishcloths...

Today I'm blogging as Farm Wife in Suburbia over at Capper's Farmer Magazine about two styles of handmade dishcloths and my (not so) scientific testing of each.  Take a look by clicking HERE...

Sunday, September 22, 2013

baking bread in the Big Green Egg...

Baking bread used to be a huge mystery for me.  Sometimes it worked out just fine.  Sometimes the bread was dense and heavy and not very appealing.  Sometimes the crust was far too dark for me, particularly on the bottom.  Sometimes the dough just wouldn't rise.  *sigh*

But this Spring I attended a wonderfully welcoming and informative bread making class offered by the Virginia Urban Homesteaders League.  The class was presented by a most patient and skillful bread baker who just happened to have her very own WOOD-FIRED OVEN in her backyard! 
The wood-fired oven at the bread class I attended

What a treat!  This lovely woman gave us the basics, the hands-on, the extra tips, the entire process... all while we enjoyed the fragrance of the bread baking in that amazing oven. 

Later in the Spring (and after many months of discussion and visits to dealers) we purchased a Big Green Egg for our backyard.  It's a wonderful invention!  The website has this to say, "Widely acclaimed as the original American-designed ceramic cooker, the Big Green Egg was derived from an ancient clay cooking device known as a 'kamado'. Originally a clay vessel with a lid, today’s EGG® is a modern ceramic marvel known for producing amazing culinary results for novice and experts alike for over thirty years!"  It's the perfect way to grill, smoke, roast, or even... be still my heart... BAKE! 

Ok, so the Big Green Egg (aka: BGE) is NOT a wood-fired oven, built lovingly in my backyard, but it's close enough for me!  Armed with the instructions and recipe from the bread class, all the necessary ingredients, and the BGE, I decided to give it a try.

The morning started with mixing the bread dough, letting it rise, kneading it gently, letting it rise, kneading it gently and shaping it into 3 loaves, and leaving it to rise once more. 

Now to get the fire going!  I began by adding natural hardwood charcoal to the BGE (not briquets or any man-made, pre-formed nonsense).  I used the husband's Looftlighter to quickly light the fire.  Next I put the plate setter in place with the legs pointing up over the fire inside the BGE.  The grill was placed on the upright legs of the plate setter, and then the baking stone was place on top of the grill.  I closed the lid and watched the temperature on the guage rise.  When it got to 500 degrees, I was ready!

The beautifully risen loaves were waiting.  I cut a slit on the top of two of the loaves and brought them out to the BGE.  I opened the lid and placed the loaves side-by-side atop parchment paper circles on the hot baking stone.  When I closed the lid, the temperature had dropped to about 350 degrees.  As it started to rise, I incrementally closed the sliding door over the screen near the bottom of the BGE.  Adjusting this door controls the air flow through the coals and out the top vent of the BGE, thus controlling the temperature.  Keeping a close eye, I continued to adjust as needed to maintain a steady temperature of 375 - 400 degrees.  I took a peek inside at the 30 minute mark (mostly because I had to see what was creating the heavenly aroma in my backyard) and the loaves were almost done.  Minutes later I pulled the loaves out and inserted an instant read thermometer.  A perfect internal temperature of 180 degrees had been reached in each of the loaves! 

While the third loaf was baking in the BGE, I took a look at the bottom and top crusts of the first two loaves.  They were just how I like them!  I don't prefer a dark crust, but I do like it nicely golden brown. 

This bread was the perfect toasting bread, sandwich bread, and "snacking" bread.  We ate the first loaf almost immediately, continued to consume the second loaf through the week, and froze the third loaf for the days to come. 

Here's the recipe I used, baking it in the BGE, of course, instead of the oven.  As advised in the bread class, I weighed the ingredients on a kitchen scale.  I also use King Arthur flour, Celtic grey sea salt, and raw, local honey.


Honey Oatmeal Bread
     makes 2 large or 3 small loaves

6 cups (1 lb. 9 oz.) flour
2 cups (10 oz.) whole wheat flour
1/2 - 3/4 cup rolled oats
1 Tblspn. instant yeast (NOT active dry yeast)
4 tsp. (21 grams) fine sea salt
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup honey
3 - 3 1/2 cups warm water

Mix all ingredients in a dough bucket.  The dough should be shaggy and sticky.  If the dough is too dry, add water by the tablespoon until it feels right.  Let the dough rise with the lid loosely on top of the dough bucket until double in bulk.  Pour onto a lightly floured surface and knead quite gently for a few minutes to firm up the dough (a floured dough scraper helps with this process).   Try not to add too much flour.  You  need just enough to be able to work the dough without it being sticky.  Put the dough back in the dough bucket, cover loosely, and let rise for about an hour.  Repeat the kneading process.  Let it rise for another hour.  Knead and separate into 2 large or 3 small loaves.  (If using pans, let loaves rise until they are just above the edge of the pans.)  Use a sharp knife and make a slit down the center of the top loaf surface.

Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 35 minutes for smaller loaves, 45 minutes for larger loaves.  Loaves are ready when the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees or they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom crust.