Monday, November 19, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock

With preparations for Thanksgiving dinner getting underway, I am making a batch of chicken stock.  Several of the recipes that I am making for Thanksgiving call for chicken stock or chicken broth.  I have been making my own stock since we began raising our own meat chickens.  I view it as a way of "honoring the sacrifice of the bird" by using all the usable parts.  I don't adhere to a strict recipe, so each batch is unique. 

A rough breakdown of the ingredients are as follows:

2 chicken carcasses  We throw all the bones from a chicken in a gallon ziplock bag after the meal and freeze it until stock time.
2 sets of chicken organs and 2 necks  We freeze these when the chickens are butchered so that I can just grab a bag out of the deep freeze.
4 chicken feet  Two chickens equals four feet.  The feet are high in collagen and great for stock.
3-4 carrots, thickly sliced
3-4 celery stalks, thickly sliced
1 medium to large onion, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
4 sprigs of thyme
4-6 sage leaves
1 Tablespoon peppercorns

Throw all the ingredients in a large pot and cover completely with water.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn the temperature down to low, cover, and simmer for 2-3 hours.  I usually add water periodically as it evaporates. 


After it cooks, strain out the solids and discard.  I use a slotted spoon.  Then pour the stock through a fine mesh sieve and you are ready to go!  I usually don't need all of the stock at once so I have taken to freezing it in ice cube trays, then I pop out the cubes and put them in a freezer bag for future use.  Sometimes I only need a half a cup and it's easy just to grab out a few cubes.  Each ice cube is approximately 2 tablespoons, so 8 cubes makes a cup. 

Our family has really enjoyed the flavor of homemade chicken stock.  It is much richer than the broth that I used to buy.  I love that I know exactly what goes into it. It is wonderful to make something delicious out of bits of chicken I would have at one time dismissed and discarded!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Preparing for Winter

As I was preparing my bee colonies for winter I realized that I am doing the same things around my home that they are doing at their hives.

1.  Feeding and Food Storage.  I have been putting a 2:1 sugar water drink on the hives for the bees to eat and store for winter.  I have also been making tomato sauce from our garden tomatoes and preparing swiss chard and collard greens for the freezer.

2. Weather-proofing.  I have been covering our windows with plastic to keep out the drafts and keep our gas bill down.  The bees in the white, Langstroth hive have been filling in the gaps between their boxes with propolis (bee glue), which they make from tree sap.  I had planned on plugging up most of the entrance holes on the front of the green top-bar hive with corks for the winter.  The bees beat me to it!  They have already sealed up most of the holes with propolis and are now cozy and ready for winter.

3.  Last Minute Harvesting.  On any day exceeding 60 degrees Fahrenheit the bees have been out flying around looking for late season pollen and nectar to harvest.  Likewise, I harvested the last of the blooms from my wildflower patch before the recent frosty nights.  It is nice to enjoy one last bouquet before the snow flies.  Pictured below with rainbow swiss chard.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Poinsettia Postulate: Part 2 and Honey Winner!

The poinsettias have begun their "dark therapy" this month.  I had planned to start this on October 1st, but the appointed day came and went as I was still searching for a suitable location for darkness.  I did not have any plastic totes large enough, our garage gets too cold, and our closets leak light.  I finally came up with an unconvetional, yet perfect location.

The clothes dryer is just a few yards away from my desk where the plants spend their daylight hours.  I'm the only one in the house that opens and closes the drier.  Plus, it also forces me to remove and fold my laundry each night in order to place the plants inside!

 There is already the hint of color beginning to show in the stems of the upper leaves.  I am hopeful that by Christmas they will be as beautiful as they were last year!

The winner of a jar of honey from my girls is Kendra M. of Kansas City!  Congratulations, Kendra, be watching your mail!