Every year we try to improve our maple syrup operation. Last year we increased our taps from 30 to over 100 and built our own maple syrup pan. This year we’re increasing our taps from 100+ to 200 and building a new maple syrup evaporator (or cooker). The way we’re cooking off our maple sap right now works just fine but is rather inefficient. Our basic set-up is this: maple syrup pan on top of two metal saw horses inside of our fire pit with sheets of metal leaned up against the sides to try to keep heat in. It’s a super primitive way of cooking maple syrup.. like we’re some sort of animals! We’re losing a lot of heat through the metal sheeting and therefore going through a lot of wood in the process. And we’re also losing a lot of time. It’s all fine and dandy during the day but as soon as the sun goes down, Dave and I end up taking shifts throughout the night to tend to the fire and sap. Usually one of us ends up sitting down by the fire at 2am listening to the coyotes and owls and getting so delusionally tired that we start communicating with them. So… we had to make a more efficient maple syrup cooker this year.
It’s that time of year again! The time of year where we schlep through the woods to tap maple trees, collect sap and spend hours upon hours of boiling it down in order to make sweet, sweet maple syrup. This year we’re stepping up our game by increasing our taps from 100 to over 200. We’ll also be doing something very special with our finished syrup but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer to see what that is! We’ve been storing last year’s syrup away like squirrels and we’re almost to the very end of our stash! So I thought that this week would be a great time to make something special with our homemade maple syrup. With lots of syrup, fresh duck eggs on hand and a sudden “heat wave” (50 degrees!) that meant one thing and one thing only…. dessert. Sweet, creamy, most excellent dessert. In my belly. Now.
This weekend our metal shop was buzzing with activity, testosterone and beer. Dave and our buddy John were replacing the motor in a bobcat and getting that thing up and running. Our other buddy Bob was here working on setting up some new electrical lines in the shop so that they can all do more manly stuff in the future. Dudes are genetically designed to survive off of beef jerky, canned ravioli and tuna salad. They can do this for days, weeks, even 31 years. But this weekend I wanted them to eat some real food. Gasp! They had been working so hard this whole weekend. But the problem is that we haven’t gone grocery shopping in three weeks. I didn’t have much in the fridge or pantry but I did have some fresh farm raised rabbit! How that is possible, I do not know. I used what I had in the pantry to make a sweet honey and curry oven roasted rabbit. Not all guys like sweet with their meat but I figured since they can ravenously eat this with their hands, they wouldn’t mind.
A few weeks ago I professed my love of persimmons and made homemade persimmon vinegar and vodka infusions. Well, since then I’ve been saving up all the persimmons that I’ve harvested and put them in the freezer. This past weekend, I defrosted them to find a gooey, sticky glob of persimmon mess. But that’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s perfect for making persimmon purÃ©e, the basis of basically all persimmon based recipes. Muffins, cupcakes, jam, butter and homemade persimmon ice cream!
I’m going to get right down to it. I’m talking about making homemade marshmallows, people. Home. Made. Marsh. Mallows. It’s about to get real. Let me back up a little bit. This year for Thanksgiving I was in charge of bringing the sweet potatoes and a pie. We all know that the best part of the sweet potatoes is certainly not the sweet potatoes, it’s the gooey, messy, sweet morsels of heaven on top. Duh! But for real, the best part of anything when it involves marshmallows is ALWAYS the marshmallows. Hot chocolate is nothing if not a hot tub for mini-marshmallows. A s’more is given that soft, velvety (sometimes chard) texture when marshmallows are added. It’s the best. Everyone knows that. But I digress. This year I really wanted to step up my culinary game for Thanksgiving. So why not go for gold and make homemade marshmallows for the sweet potato casserole topping. Not only are they great to bake with, but they make an impression addition to the dessert spread and make wonderful homemade gifts.
I can’t believe it but we had peppers still thriving well into October! We’ve been letting our jalapenos turn red most of the season so we had a myriad of red peppers left on the plants. Before we pulled the plants up for the season, we tried to harvest and make use of every single pepper possible. Since I don’t think our pigs would be a fan of hot jalapenos, I needed to think of something creative to do with these spicy guys. I immediately thought of hot sauce! Duh! But not just any hot sauce, the most amazing, most special hot sauce there is… Sriracha Hot Sauce. We love the heat, the flavor and the extra punch of sirracha. We put that ish on everything! Eggs, pizza, burgers, chilli… hell, I’d even have a sriracha birthday cake if I could. The only thing that’s better than sriracha itself is homemade sriracha, which turned out to be really easy to do.
Three years ago, when we moved out to the farm, one of my mom’s first questions was “are there any persimmons out there?” My mom LOVES persimmons. I mean, like, for real really loves them. Truth be told, I didn’t think that we had many persimmons out at the farm. However since we’ve been out in the woods a lot recently, working on our new rotational grazing pasture, we’ve been finding multiple groves of them! This past weekend my mom and Aunt Linda came out to the farm to help me forage for some persimmons after the first frost of the year and we were able to gather about 5 lbs of wild, native persimmons! But now that we found them, there’s one question to ask: What should I make with all these persimmons? Persimmons are nature’s gummy fruit, my friend and the possibilities are nearly endless for this forgeable fruit.
The wonderful month of May means many, many things. It means endless stressful days of planting in the garden, the first sunburns of the year, a pile of empty beer cans in the trash (and sink. Because for whatever reason grown ass boys will put the cans in the sink but can’t seem to go over 1.5 ft to put them in the trash can. It’s must be some debilitating disease that boys have called “laziness.”). May is also the beginning of grilling season! This is when our meal rotation for the week goes like this: brats, burgers, pork steaks (for fancy guests), leftovers and repeat. I was tired of making the same ol’ burger so I thought I would take the standard burger to the next level. THEN take it to the next level after that! Yes, my friends, it’s the Next-Next Level Burger. A bacon juicy lucy topped with homemade tomato jam, a bacon-onion-balsamic jam and homemade pickled peppers to top it off with. Commence the drooling.
It’s the beginning of January but the middle of cold and flu season. And there’s a crap ton of snow heading our way. We have a lot of friends that are sick, so we didn’t want to risk one of us getting sick then being snowed in together. Passing the nasty flu virus back and forth between the two of us. Forever. To prevent such catastrophe, I decided to whip up some super homemade chicken noodle soup. With our own pasture-raised, free range chicken, homemade broth and homemade egg noodles. I’m pretty sure this recipe has some sort of curative gypsy curse voodoo powers. And even if it doesn’t, and we still end up with bodily fluids flying out of every orifice of our bodies and 12″ of snow outside; at least we have this soup. With one pot, you can make your own homemade chicken noodle soup, homemade chicken broth or homemade chicken stock. It’s magic.