By LYNNE IRONS
I like rain and don’t even mind the cold, but this hardened snow/ice/treacherous footing is totally irritating. Never being one to stay indoors, I still attempt to do outside activities. I have been using a pitchfork to keep myself upright while tending to my chores. I trudged to my pigs carrying a five-gallon bucket of hot water to melt the ice in their water trough. They took one sip and promptly spilled it. I resorted to name-calling.
Just a follow-up on last week’s raising chickens for food. For those of you who are interested but do not feel capable, emotionally, of actually doing the final deed, there is hope. Island Grown Initiative has purchased poultry-processing equipment. They will come to your place with an experienced, trained crew and reward you with the finished product ready for the oven or freezer.
This past October, they did a demonstration at the agricultural hall grounds with someone’s 200 chickens. The boards of health, several interested parties, and some state officials attended. The process was humane, clean and efficient. Imagine — a little time and money invested and wonderful protein filling your freezer for the year.
I do not believe I have ever thrown away a turkey or chicken carcass. I always pick the bones and cook them in a big pot of water for soups, stews or gravies, or just cook rice or potatoes in it. It can be frozen. My favorite method is to pressure-can in quart jars to have at the ready. I just whip it up to 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes. It will keep for years in the jars. It will not get botulism like some of the low-acid vegetables as it never touched dirt. Botulism is a soil-borne organism which can live in a sealed container. (This includes store-bought cans and jars — did you realize?) I would rather trust myself. I use my God-given sense of smell when I open a can of chicken stock if I am at all suspicious. Believe me, you will know if something is amiss.
If you are running short on time, the picked carcass can be frozen to be cooked at a more convenient time. Sage and thyme can be cut in the garden anytime you can dig through the ice and snow to find them. If you recall, I mentioned this summer about tossing some herbs in the freezer as you go along. Parsley for soups is great. I just washed it, tossed it into the salad spinner and bagged it in August. It can also be picked outside if you are lucky enough to have it out there waiting for you. Parsley is a biennial and will go to seed in the spring. It flowers just like its cousins, the carrot and Queen Anne’s lace.
I did not get to cutting a couple of beds this fall. Quelle Surprise! All the spent flower heads looked awesome above the snow last week. They almost resembled a picture negative of summer.
The ornamental grasses still look great. Up Island Cronig’s rocks for a garden with winter interest, what with the grasses and the winterberry. Very soon, however, I am going to cut my own back. If left too long they break, blow all over the place, and even worse, get in the way of early spring growth. I feel like some Third World peasant hauling the stems to the compost. I could use a water buffalo.
Now there is an interesting animal. It is used worldwide, it seems, as a beast of burden, and nothing beats the fresh mozzarella made of its milk. Mozzarella was first made from sheep’s milk by monks in Italy. By the 16th century, the water buffalo was introduced to Naples and their rich milk has been preferred for centuries for this cheese.
I have not yet tried to make mozzarella, but do have a recipe in home cheese making by Ricky Carrol of New England Cheese Company. I make the soft fromage blanc weekly. It is ridiculously easy. Heat milk to 85 degrees, sprinkle in the culture (purchased from Ricky’s), let it set overnight, pour through a cheesecloth . . . Voila! Mix with pesto and spread on crackers . . . Yummy!
I received an adorable, hand-painted card with water colors, from Trudy Taylor. It was obviously her own garden (she is one of the best gardeners ever.) Her inscription:
Make a cake
Say goodbye to
The long nights
Cook and eat and
Talk and ask the
Light to come back