We don’t own land. We have neither home nor farm nor livestock or barn to call our own. In spite of this, we try to grow, raise, harvest, forage and hunt most of our food. It’s important that we keep home and belly full of highly nutritious food, to avoid sprays, GMO’s and chemical fertilizers, because of -y’know- health issues.
We’re slightly crazy. It’s no secret! Living this way requires loads of time and energy, requires learning curves, organization and prioritizing.
This year was no exception! But folks, its mostly all done! Almost over. And just for fun, I thought I’d take you through our current food supply. After all, the house is busting at the seams with food and that is worth sharing and celebrating!
When we first moved to the valley, I had my ears open for a good grain share…which we quickly found. Which was fortunate because my husband eats starches like some people eat chocolate.
Starch fuels that fella! If I wanna make him happy, all it takes is a steaming-hot loaf of whole grain bread, fruit-filled muffins or a wholesome spice cake. And if its ready when he walks in the door, all the better!
Every spring, we purchase two grain shares that arrive in late fall: 200 lbs of not perfectly clean but perfectly natural grain, of spelt and red fife wheat.
Hello mice, better stay away from my stash or I will trap you and throw your nasty little carcass over my deck!
Actually, I think mice (at least wood mice) are adorable, with their round, dark eyes, soft fur and stick-out ears! Makes me think of a little nephew of mine….
To ensure the mice don’t get into our stash, we store grain in rubbermaid totes under the counter in the bubble-gum pink pantry. Yep. That’ll keep the pests at bay, unless one of us forgets to clip a lid back into place…!
SUGARS AND SWEETENERS
Honey, real maple syrup and stevia are the only sweeteners we use in the kitchen. Our bees did so well this year. We all (folks of the community farm) were quite pleased. We were even able to split a hive and mid summer, harvested 8 gallons. Not bad for a second year! Everyone got a taste of our own honey!
But unfortunately that isn’t quite enough to supply my kitchen’s need! So we also purchased raw honey from a local beekeeper…in a 15 kg (33 lb) bucket. Yep. We l-o-o-o-ve honey!
I don’t mind the taste of stevia. And as I mostly bake with honey, adding a few drops of this ultra sweet extract allows me to cut back on the amount of honey used. This year, I decided it was time to make my own extracts and just purchased a 1 lb bag of dry stevia leaf, along with a bottle of rum. Homemade extracts are the way to go and this particular one will go a looong way!
Maple syrup is purchased via Costco as it affords the cheapest prices. Usually, we buy a mass amount (as in 5-6 one liter (1 quart) jugs). For pancakes. And as sweetener in baking. Hurray for Canadian living where maple syrup is actually affordable!
We actually attempted to make maple syrup this year. The yield was incredibly small with only 5 taps but I hope to one day make our own maple syrup, along with maple sugar.
Wouldn’t that be wonderful?! We’d once again have sugar in our home!
Why not purchase it now, you ask? We could! But healthy and delicious as it is, there ain’t no way I’m paying nearly $35 for 500 gm (1 lb) of sugar. One day I hope to master the skill myself! And if I don’t, I’ll just have to do without.
FATS AND OILS
We try to stock up for a year. I eat crazy amounts of salad dressing on my greens, in which olive oil is the primary ingredient. Avocado oil makes a delicious homemade mayonnaise and we always keep a bit of coconut oil on hand, purchased once again through good ole’ Costco. No, we don’t have a card, but family members and friends do.
We also make use of both tallow and lard in our home. Because we cook with cast iron, it helps save on the pocketbook if we can locate and render down fats. Though I must confess, I’ve never personally rendered lard…yet! We have a friend who loves to do it on his wood stove. And then gives it away. Which we love!
Lard (the first rendering) can be successfully used even in sweets! I found a wonderful lard cake recipe in my great-grandma’s cookbook. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? Let me assure you, the results were anything but. It was delicious!
Tallow I’m familiar with, from start to finish! It is used to make chicken pies and savory biscuits because it certainly does have a stronger flavor, hence the reason we only use it in savory meat dishes. And this stuff? It was from a Jersey cow. Love the vibrant color for soap making!
I also render schmaltz for use. It adds flavor to mashed potatoes, stir fry and oven-baked vegetables! Though it isn’t necessarily plentiful, it is delicious!
Put down two deer, please! As in 90+ lbs of red meat! We may possibly get another 50+ lbs as buck season runs into November for us.
Farm share. We are butchering a large, fat black cow with the community farm. It will be divided up between 3-4 households. The end result will likely yield less than we get from one deer, but regardless, its more red meat in the freezer. And something we can feed to guests without having to “disguise” the flavor! My man and I love the wild, bold flavor of deer. Many people don’t care for it.
We don’t raise chickens, but we do take old laying hens (or unwanted roos) for slaughter. Folks who don’t like “doing the deed” themselves love this service we offer and the idea that their birds are serving one final and last purpose.
In fact, it has reached the point where they call us…most of the time!
And me? I call my All American pressure canner: hello you beastly miracle worker! Wanna go to work for a while?!
To date, we have 19 chickens in the freezer, awaiting mason jars and processing. There are still a few more coming. Wanna see more of our setup and how we process old birds? Check it out!
Heritage turkeys play a large role in our meat supply…er…at least most years they do! This spring we experimented. It went poooorly! We’ll never try that again. Ever! The result is that we have about 5, maybe 6 birds to butcher come Christmas, instead of the desired 15-20. Sad but true! And the largest, plumpest tom we plan to keep for breeding.
Ducks. We don’t usually butcher ducks, but this weekend, several plump birds will be hitting either the freezer or pressure canner.
Yep. We keep two freezers and the small one is specifically for meat!
Our large freezer is there for meat overflow and berries, fresh pressed apple cider, baked goods and some vegetables. And other odds and ends. Like grated coconut. Or tomatoes before we turn them into sauce!
Berries are a big deal to us. Not only are they a delicious, natural and sweet, but are also rich in anti-oxidants. We put up raspberries, saskatoons (aka service or june berries), blackberries, strawberries and purple mountain huckleberry.
And grapes. Ok, ok, I know they aren’t a berry! But I do love frozen grapes and thought they were worth mentioning!
There’s also some blanched chard, grated zucchini and who knows what else hanging out in the bottom? Probably fruit pulp from the steam juicer. Oh yes, and several 1 gallon ice cream pails that contain a mixture of turkey and chicken feet. That I was supposed to make broth with…last year!
Aren’t the turkey feet beauts? So dark, thick and cushy?
HOME CANNED GOODS
Canned food is huge for us. Fruits is preserved via syrup, sauces, jams, cordials and well…preserves. I waterbath can elderberry juice and also rose hip syrup. Then there are pickled vegetables (my favorite), meats and broth, baked beans plus green beans and corn. Tomatoes and tomato sauce. And plum sauce. Last year I put up 400+ jars of food. This year? I’m reining myself in and we sit at approximately 300+. With more to come. I’m slightly addicted to canning!
Immune supports and vitamins aren’t getting any cheaper. Have you noticed? I’ve begun making my own tinctures for what ails us! Yarrow, rose hip, goldenrod, elderberry, black walnut (for deworming purposes) and I’ve even tried ginger tinctures! Garlic, onions and apple cider vinegar also rank high on the list of natural remedies.
RAW FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
In the cold room we have carrots, beets and parsnips tucked away in layers of soil. These will be grated into salads or toasted in the oven with a drizzle of schmaltz.
Gunny sacks of potatoes await use on the cold room floor, along with bins of leeks, replanted in soil. I hope to extend their storage life by doing so, cause I love leeks!
Approximately 50 or so spaghetti squashes, a few sugar pumpkins, onions, garlic and green tomatoes also beautify the room. Walnuts, hazelnuts, spices, cooking and tea herbs also bedeck the shelves.
A small box of winter pears and several boxes of apples rest in the back, heat-free entrance of our home. Fresh apple pie in the dead of winter, anyone?!
Sauerkraut. I love it so much, my mouth is watering even as I write this! We usually put up lots of kraut. Loads of kraut! Except our cabbages didn’t do so well this year. I may have to buy more. Usually, I put by upwards of 6-7 gallons. Or was it 8?
Last year I put up gallons of green and red fermented salsa. I also made the mistake of letting it ferment too long before moving it to cold storage. The flavor was overwhelming. I’m talking str-o-o-ng! Even we couldn’t stomach too much of the stuff and threw most of it out…!
This year, I’m going to try again in smaller quantities and instead of fermenting it upstairs, it’s going straight to the cold room shelves.
New additions to this year’s ferments are pepper salsa and jalapeno peppers in a brine. I keep trying to expand my knowledge and skills every year!
Homemade vinegar is must in our home! I have a 5 gallon crock of apple cider fermenting to vinegar in my pantry as I write. There’s also raw grape (pictured below) blackberry and plum. And we can’t forget raspberry! These tangy and delectable liquids are used in our home to create concoctions that will fight off winter colds, as part of our homemade salad dressing, for preserving raw garlic when warmth causes it to sprout in spring.
A bottle of delicious vinegar also makes a wonderful gift, come Christmas!
Did I make mention of homemade cheese and butter? Of dried herbs? My elderberry mead? Dried fruit?
But these are minor and of secondary importance! Our food storage. Its almost done for the year!