Orchard Organics, Holistic Harvest

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A lot of picking, plucking and pulling has been done this past week, and will continue to be done well into October by the look of the garden and the fact that we had such a late start in this end of the Appalachians. We’re expecting a lot of guests over and after Thanksgiving, though, so we’ll be glad of the cukes, squash, melons and perhaps corn that we likely won’t see ’til then (if at all, providing on frost damage!)  Last week’s blog posting about the before and after transformations of our once-dining room, now master bedroom more than doubled the views we normally get here, so I’m hanging on to the before and afters of the rustic bathroom/laundry room until next week, as a tease!  Besides, as you can see from the above, there’s BASKETS to write about.  We have two different types of apples and two types of crab apples in the orchard, so, though the apples aren’t ripe yet, there are a lot of windfalls we don’t want to waste, AND the crabapples are ready. As well, peas and beans galore are flourishing (3 different kinds of each) the carrots are starting to get large and need some thinning, and there is so much mint I wish we’d bought lamb rather than pork from our neighbour’s organic free-range meat supply.

As it’s imperative when trying to live self-sufficiently not to waste ANYTHING (incl. the water in which things are blanched or boiled ) I’ve been getting downright creative with what to do with everything possible, except some of the leaves, and all of the twigs/stems!  So, you’ll find all the recipes mentioned in the following text way down below the end of the photos, and if something isn’t there, it’s because I made it up, and you can too! (But write and ask if you think I can help with an idea for recycling/reusing… the old expression “Don’t put the baby out with the bathwater” is humourous in my kitchen – I’m not even throwing out the bathwater!)

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When I do use recipes not in my great-grandmother’s newspaper clippings recipe book, or in my own recipe box, I will use the internet.  I’ve found a DANDY place for keeping it quick to hand, at nearly eye level, but out of the way of crumbs, liquids, etc. is perched on one side of my old scales!

 

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Despite working for weeks on the Dutch Door that’s going in my kitchen, facing the front, and the best of all the views in my opinion, Richard took some time out to help with raking apples off the ground.  Most of these aren’t quite ripe, but many are worm-free and barely bruised, so we separated them into categories – the compost heap, the ‘save for future livestock treats’, and the  ‘good’.  Then, of the ‘good’, we’re putting some for storage in the basement for later cooking, and at least half a bushel we peeled, cut up and made into a variety of things just this week.

The first item was Apple Crisp, and as these windfalls turn brown as soon as you peel them, I had to revert to calling it the old-fashioned Brown Betty, and use a lot of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in the recipe so Richard didn’t turn up his nose (as he was in on the peeling and didn’t like the browness. ) I froze one batch and Mom, R. and I ate up the other with some custard poured over it, as they serve it in the U.K. Delicious!

Next on the agenda for this week was apple butter, following the slow-cooker recipe below. I used my own and Mom’s crock pots for this, but didn’t have to cook them overnight as it says to do, because both of our crock pots were bought at garage sales and the ‘low’ setting is really high; thus the apples were ready to mash in only about 3 hours!

Again, because these are windfalls and not really ripe, a lot of extra clover honey (my neighbour’s) Stevia and both kinds of sugars were added – and it’s still pretty tart apple butter, but rather than use it like a jam on biscuits, we’re finding it a tremendous complement to all the pork Richard bought from our neighbours. I also gave away a jar already as it had such rave reviews.  Remember, when living self-sufficiently, gifts of food you can spare are going to be more appreciated as people know you’re truly GIVING something (a bit more of a sacrifice, in other words!)

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I didn’t bother properly preserving this apple butter as it was more or less an experiment to see all the things we might like me to make MORE of for the winter months. So, with a  jar of this to Joy, and one to our dog-trainer, we just have two in the fridge right now and one is already half gone. They should last a few months as long as they’re refrigerated.

 

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Not throwing anything away is the CORE of contentment!

 

Like I said, do not waste ANYTHING that might be made into something else!  All the peelings and cores from the apple crisp and apple butter were then made into Apple Cider Vinegar. This is imperative to have around the house for all manner of things – when you drink with a bit of warm water it can help weight loss (water retention) and arthritis – especially if you have the ‘mother’, as doing it organically, you will, and there are all many of things you can use this for in various household activities such as cleaning with baking soda, polishing, soaking, etc. So the more big jugs of this I can produce the better – it’s sitting in a dark closet fermenting now, and I’ll let you know in a month or two what it looks like!

I picked the two kinds of crabapples the same day as the day I did a lot of beans and peas, thus was extremely exhausted and sore by the end of the day. Ever admiration for our pioneer ancestors!  I suggest just sticking to garden OR orchard work, not both, as it makes the preparations for ‘putting up’ or freezing/baking that much more arduous. Rather something gets left to grow/ripen a day or two longer than that you pick it and then don’t use it immediately !

The crabapples were just an experiment too, for now – I boiled them up, even with stems, with lot of Stevia and sugar, and made it into a delicious juice that I bottled, then put clover honey in to sweeten in the jar. Also mixed this half and half with some of Richard’s favourite pulpy orange juice (store-bought, I admit!) and it made it more palatable for him as well. Just think of the Vitamin C in that jar!  Then, with the crabapples boiled and drained, I smashed and smashed away until I had a good sauce, which I then made into crabapple oatmeal muffins and nut loaves. Yum!

Finally, as most of us already do, I blanched the beans lightly and froze a number of meal-size portions for later in the winter. But I read that the peas didn’t need to be blanched before freezing, so I have a number of jars/bags of these delectable raw ‘candies’ frozen, and then we are eating them raw at lunch, or in soups/stews for supper at night. We are also eating our carrots now, so, along with the pork just purchased, there are many variations of eating to be had, if you’re inventive!  One I thought of was making a bean salad with the slightly-blanched beans. Once cold, I mixed them with Maple Nut crunch cereal, which I let soften a bit in with the beans for about a half-hour, then put some pine and peanuts on top to garnish. Yum!  In above lunch photo, the ONLY thing not from our own land or made from scratch by my own hand was the tuna in the sandwich. I’m making all our own cookies, muffins, scones, bread and iced tea or lemonade to keep down costs and chemical-intake and use of product packaging. Even our tomatoes are starting to ripen, although Richard’s father in Ontario is laughing because he has so many ripe and ready on the vine he can’t even count them! At the moment, if we pick one a week we’re doing well!

Enough about harvesting and cooking, all ready. Next week, prepare for some fun when I introduce you to our new ‘Western’ rustic bathroom/laundry AND the week after will feature Richard’s hard work on the beautiful new front stable (Dutch) door. Can’t wait!

As promised, the recipes for above, just click on each to enlargen!

Apple Cider Vinegar and Apple Crisp (Brown Betty)

 

for slow-cooker Apple Butter (only took about 3 hours before they were ready to mash, but our cookers are HOT!)

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For Crab-Apple Juice, I didn’t use a recipe, just boiled and sweetened and mashed, smashed and squashed through a variety of strainers! Then add clover honey once in jars/bottles. With what was left, I made a type of apple sauce, picking out the core bits, seeds and stems that had gone through the strainers, and used it for muffins (too tart for a sauce on its own!)

For soups/stews, I just simmer for several hours on back burner. We don’t like our veggies over-cooked as the vitamins deplete, and we find the taste is ‘fresher’ if a bit crunchy still!

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Smitty, it seems, enjoys veg from the garden, incl. pea shells and any old celery stalk.  While I make him my own concoction of doggie biscuits (meat bouillion or stock from cooking, with some old scraps, cheese, egg, vegetables cut up and then baked in a rolled-flat flour ‘cookie’ I later break up and put in his Treat Cannister)  he seems happy just to munch a piece of celery or a windfall put in the compost pile. That and his tennis balls seem to keep him happy.
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