Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Springing into Action!

Phew!  Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to get behind…This spring I honestly feel I can’t move fast enough.  As many of you know, I have been rather all consumed with The Good-Stuff getting product made, the website created (you want to talk learning curve!), general business stuff organized and getting the business ‘launched’  It really has been fun…but what about cooking things other than jam?  What about the bees, the chickens and the toy farm?! 

The bees are doing great!  The two hives made it through the winter…yippee!  Something we have been a bit challenged with in the past and the hives are growing like crazy, in fact they grew so fast that both hives ‘swarmed’!  Swarming occurs when a hive feels cramped in their existing home.  They create a new queen to mind the fort and the ‘old queen’ and about half of her trusty subjects hit the trail in search of new digs (don’t you wish it was that easy in real life when you start to feel a bit cramped…sure a lot easier than cleaning out cupboards!) Anyway, the gals swarmed into our orange tree and we were able to collect them and then get them to a new home to be enjoyed by another beekeeper.  The whole process was totally amazing!

Our chickens are also having a grand life…Goldie is quite the ruler of the roost and is pretty sure we built the coop just for her.  She has become an egg laying machine, laying about six eggs a week.  Our two little chicks (or two little goof-balls as we refer to them) are growing like weeds.  We got them on March 2nd when they were a day old.  Having been handled a lot since day one has made them very friendly, actually they are quite content to just come right up and sit in your lap…as my father would say…’who ever heard of lap chickens…’ We named them Yin and Yang, well, because they are…in so many ways…

We have finally cultivated the toy farm!  We are planning on doubling the size but are a little behind the eight ball on that one.  But the original plot, after weeding the monster weeds that appeared after the rains and as soon as the sun began to shine, is planted with tomatoes, beans, corn, squash and of course zinnias…the other half will have peppers, eggplant, more corn and tomatoes, as well as peas and more flowers.  Fingers crossed that will happen soon!

Now through all this I don’t want you all to think I have not been preparing food for my own larder, think again!  As someone who uses lots of chicken stock, I tend to freak a little when I think I might run out…so while lots of other things were happening, I managed to get a pot of chicken stock simmering on the stove.  This is an easy one to cram in amongst the other tasks you are doing as it takes little tending and the results are grand.  Whether you choose to freeze it in quart size ziplock bags or pressure can it (for those of us who are defrosting impaired) it’s a good recipe to undertake. A tip I learned from the butcher at one of our local markets - this is a life saver (and a money saver as well) -  you can purchase the bones left over from the ‘boneless skinless breasts’ the butcher sells.  There is lots of lovely breast meat left on the bone and of course lots of ‘dem bones’ for great stock flavor.  Our butcher freezes them in big blocks and then saws off a chuck (I usually get 5 LBS.) when you want to purchase some.

Chicken Stock

Recipe for 5 - 1 quart jars                                                                     


1                              Whole Chicken (alternate - chicken
                     necks, wings, carcass from roast chicken, or  chicken bones from
butcher) about 5LBS

1 ½ GAL           Cold Water

1                      Carrot, peeled

1                      Onion, peeled and halved

1                      Celery Stalk

1 head  Garlic, halved

1 tsp                 Salt

Few black pepper corns

Few sprigs        Parsley

1 or 2    Bay Leaves

NOTE:  Stock can be stored in containers in freezer if you do not wish to pressure can.

1.      Get out tools    

A.     Pressure canner

B.    Large pot to sterilize jars, large pot to make stock, small pot for lids

C.    Strainer

D.    Jar lifter

E.    Tongs

F.    Wide mouth funnel

G.    Towels

H.    Chop stick

I.      Ladle or big spoon

2.     Put the chicken in a large pot and pour in1 ½ gallons cold water.  Over high heat, bring the water to a boil, and then turn the heat down low so that the broth is barely simmering, with bubbles just breaking the surface.

3.     Skim off the foam that rises to the top, but leave some of the fat; it adds lots of flavor to the stock and can be removed at the end.  For a nice clear stock, do not let it boil again, or the fat and the liquid may emulsify. turning the stock cloudy and greasy.

4.     After skimming, add the vegetables, salt, peppercorns, and herbs and continue to simmer for 3 to 4 hours.

5.     When stock has 1 hour left to cook, set up the 2 pots for boiling water

A.     Pot to starilize jars

B.    Lid pot

6.     Wash jars

By now things are boiling…

7.     Put lids in small pot to heat

8.     Put jars in large pot

Back to the stock…

9.     Strain through fine strainer.  Allow stock to cool until fat solidifies, skim off fat.

10.  Bring stock to a boil in a large sauce pot.

11.  Remove glass jars from pot

12.  Fill jars with hot stock, fill with liquid leaving 1” head space

13.  Wipe edge of can with clean damp towel

14.  With tongs put 1 lid on jar and finger tighten ring on jar

15.  Put 3 QTS boiling water into pressure canner

16.  Put jars into canning pot

17.  Place lid on pot and seal per canner instructions

18.  Exhaust air from the canner and jars by adjusting heat to a relatively     high setting to obtain a free flow of steam from the bent pipe.

19.  Reduce heat to maintain a moderate steam flow.  Allow steam to flow for 10 minutes.

20.  Place pressure regulator on vent pipe and heat canner until pressure dial gauge registers 10 LBS pressure.

21.  Processing time begins when pressure gauge registers the correct pressure.

22.  Process stock - pints 20 minutes, quarts 25 minutes at 10 LBS pressure.

23.  At the end of processing turn off heat.  Remove canner from heat source.

24.  Let pressure drop of its own accord, do not quick cool.  Pressure is completely reduced when the air vent/cover lock and overpressure plug have dropped and no steam escapes when the pressure regulator is tilted.

25.  Remove cover, if cover seems to stick or is hard to turn do not force it open.

26.  Remove jars from canner.  Set jars on board or cloth to cool.

So buck up, make some stock, you’ll be really glad you did!


  1. Where do you find the time? You must have a little elf helper! Great tip on the bones.

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