Pomegranates and Figs

Fig beetles were winning. They had been swarming over the fig tree and eating the ripe fruit. They are really annoying bugs. They seem to fly randomly and will bump into anything including the side of the house. Do they have eyes?

So, a backyard harvest took place this morning. I gathered all of the figs – ripe now or not. I also decided that since we had the ladder out that my husband and I should gather the the rest of the pomegranates.

A morning of food preservation then began. The figs were washed and prepped for jam. Some of the figs were past ripe and beginning to ferment. Now I know why those bugs were flying so haphazardly – they were drunk on fermented figs!

Pomegranates are juicy so we made a giant mess getting seeds out of the pomegranates. We purchased a plastic grid device (pictured below) that assists in removing the seeds. It did a pretty good job so if you have a pomegranate tree and want to easily remove the seeds you might want to try it. After seeding and a spin in the food processor, we had five cups of pomegranate juice. Jelly making will take place soon.

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Fermenting a Rainbow

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At the Farmers’ Market this morning I could not resist these beautiful carrots. I had just moved a batch of fermented carrots to the refrigerator and really did not need any more but . . .
Now these beautiful carrots are joining the other vegetables bubbling away in the kitchen. And a note about the Kerr lid picture above: I am experimenting with putting a small hole in the lid and covering it loosely with tape. As the gasses form during fermentation, the tape develops a bubble and the gasses escape. Then the tape settles back making a type of airlock.

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Vacuum Sealing

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During the Master Food Preserver training, we learned about vacuum sealing. I did not own a vacuum sealer but was intrigued by the idea. When I checked out the Food Saver machines, I decided that they were too pricey for the amount I thought I would use one so I let that idea go. Food Saver had a little rechargeable unit that you could use with their own brand of zip top bags. I liked that idea better as you could wash out and reuse the bags. So, I bought the little handheld pump and some of their bags. What a waste of money – the one way valve on the freezer bags came off the bags in the freezer and so the bags lost their air tight seal. Then the handheld pump refused to hold a charge. Bummer.

Then, I came across a Ziploc vacuum sealer at the store. A simple hand pumped device and better bags (they actually hold the seal in the freezer) for about $4. Then, this little pump got a whole other life when I purchased some cleverly designed tapes from www.pump-n-seal.com. Pump-n-Seal also sells a hand pump but I already had the Ziploc one and so I did not order theirs. Now I can seal Mason jars. I punch a hole in the lid of a canning jar with a pushpin and cover it with a piece of the tape. Fill the jar, place on the lid, screw on the ring, and pump! An airtight jar that is so sealed that I often cannot get the lid off unless I loosen the tape.

We now use this system all of the time. Pantry items are well-sealed. Dehydrated items stay fresher. Freshly roasted coffee can de-gas with this small one way valve. I also have use this system when fermenting because the gasses that are emitted during fermentation can escape and then the little tape seals back down and acts as an airlock.

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A Post about Picking Peas

The weather has been HOT this week! We hit 99° and had lots of wind. The poor garden looked a bit wilted at times during the day – especially the newer plantings. The peas, however, seemed unaffected by the conditions which is strange as I thought peas were a cooler weather crop. I managed to pick almost a pound. Some of the peas never made it to the scale as I seem to eat as I pick and then I also shared a few with the chickens. There are lots more peas on the vines so fresh peas will be part of our meals for a little while longer.

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My First Ham

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Last November I attended a class on Pig Butchery where we learned how to seam butcher an entire side using just a knife. I came home with an entire back leg (the ham) but knew that I would not be able to cure and smoke such a large piece of meat. Chef Paul Buchanan told me I could follow the natural muscle lines and separate the ham into smaller sections. I did that the next day and froze the meat.

IMG_2443Last week, I decided it was time to do some curing. I defrosted one ham, made a brine, and cured the ham in the refrigerator for three days. After the curing time, the ham was removed from the brine and put on a rack in the refrigerator and allowed to form a pellicle. The pellicle is the dried outside of a piece of meat that allows the smoke to adhere.
This morning I put the ham in my stovetop smoker for a little over an hour. It needed to get to an internal temperature of at least 140°. It came out beautifully and tastes great – now if only the pan looked good!

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