Saturday, October 31, 2009

Homemade BBQ Sauce, No Corn Syrup Need Apply

Is that a rooster in the henhouse?

Yep, it is. Tinkerbell is in fact Mr. T. And you know what that means, don’t you…

Just kidding. Couldn’t resist a bit of macabre Halloween humor. But seriously, this news was not easy to swallow. Despite growing evidence that sweet Tinkerbell was increasingly looking different than her friends, I held out hope she was just maturing faster. Um…silly me. Everyone who looked at her could clearly see that she was in fact a he.

Even though the Sesame Street song, "One of these things is not like the others" ran through my head every time I looked at my chickens, it took the first cock-a-doodle-do to convince me. And once he found his voice, he used it pretty much all day long, much to the annoyance of my neighbors.

The problem was Tinkerbell was our granddaughter’s chicken and he had become my favorite. Back when the chickens were still living in our house, I would go down to the basement to say good night to the chicks. When I opened the door to their coop, they would all run over to me, but Tinkerbell was always the bravest. Every single night he came right up to me, and I cupped my hands around him and run my thumbs down his wings until he fell asleep in my hands.

There was no way I was going to kill him and there was no way I was going to give him to anyone else who would. Luckily I found a local veterinarian who raises chickens, ducks and turkeys for show and she had just lost her favorite rooster of all time – a Blue Andalusian, just like Mr. T. She even offered to trade me one of her hens so my granddaughter would still have a chicken.

We made the switcheroo at dusk because that’s supposed to be the best time to introduce a new chicken to a flock. The idea is that the other chickens will wake up and wonder, “Is she new or did we just not notice her before.”

Chickens aren’t terribly smart, but they also aren’t stupid. Our ladies completely shunned the new chicken. No matter what side of the run she was on, the other five hung together on the opposite side. It was quite amusing to watch the choreography of avoidance.

We didn’t really get a good look at her the night before, but in daylight she was quite a sight. All of the feathers on both her shoulders were torn off and she had two raw patches from the rooster constantly having his way with her (making me glad I got rid of Mr. T. before all my chickens got this beat up!) Plus she was mean.

The Kitchen Genius hated her and wanted to give her back. “We had such a nice little family out there before,” he said. He nicknamed her The Beast. Our teenage son called her Chewbacca and she does bear a striking resemblance. Our granddaughter named her Jasmine (because it’s all about the Disney princesses) and was so proud to have her chicken lay the first eggs.

Green eggs! Of course I fried those eggs up for little Skylar.

Just last week we finally got our first egg from one of our original chickens. I have no idea who is actually laying (and I’m considering installing a camera so I can spy on them) but the tiny eggs crack me up. Here’s our first actual egg compared to one I bought at the farmers market.

The rest of the chickens have finally accepted Jasmine, even though she's still a bit standoffish. KG loves to put them in their mobile pen and move them around the yard. Here’s a picture of Sassy giving herself a dust bath.

Everyone else thought that was a good idea too.

And just because it's Halloween…

After 20 years of carving pumpkins, I don't even have to be home when that task is done. It would make me sadder if my kids didn't take up this mantle with such gusto. They even bought their own pumpkins.

Here’s Julie and Gary’s pumpkin this year. They're still thinking, "Yes We Can!"

Tommy remains in classic rock mode:

Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween!

Homemade BBQ Sauce

1 pint crushed tomatoes (I used home canned)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon medium cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until sauce has thickened.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Canning Fever

I can't believe it's been over two months since I've posted! It's a bit horrible how one busy day slips into the next, and into the next and so on...and suddenly there is no time for the things you love.

Over the summer I took on a second writing job and the editor said she would pay me for as many stories as I could write. At the time it seemed frivolous to write for free here (no matter how much I love it) when a paying editor was waiting for my best foodie stories.

It was all writing, all the time, to the point that even our little puppy, Sadie, objected. Every time I set my laptop aside to consult my notes she would climb into the empty space. When I gently placed her back by the side of my leg, she would put her face mournfully on the corner of my laptop as if to say, "Really? This is what you want in your lap instead of me?"

Just like a toddler, her behavior was worse when I was doing telephone interviews.

Yes, that is one of my reporter's notebooks in her mouth. Note all the toys around her that she could have played with...

And the shreds of my notes hanging from her mouth. Luckily, I had already filed the restaurant review she's eating here, because I'm pretty sure editors aren't any more sympathetic than teachers to the line, "The dog ate my homework."

Despite Sadie's dismay at my writing obsession, I planned to get back to blogging right after Labor Day, but then things picked up at my day job (more writing!) and a new deadline imposed itself - the harvest season.

This summer I doubled my garden space with the intent on canning or freezing all my extra produce to get us through the winter. It seemed like a good plan last spring and I spent every Saturday in June and July out in the garden.

Unfortunately this past summer had to be one of the worst ever in New England. It never really got warm and rained every other day. It was a disaster for gardens and the whole Northeast faced a tomato blight that was all the talk at my local farmers market.

My garden produced plenty of food for our daily needs, but not enough to can for the winter. Luckily my Mum and stepfather live in Vermont where there are more farms than stores so they brought me about 90 pounds of tomatoes, a bushel of peaches and many other fine things.

So in between writing day and night for the past few months, I've also managed to can tomatoes, bread & butter pickles, sweet relish, corn relish, peaches, peach and yellow pepper relish, strawberry jam, peach jam, blueberry peach jam and strawberry peach jam (are you sensing a theme here?)

The list goes on, but that's for other posts...and I promise to be back on my game and posting regularly from now on. Up next, a chicken update and foraging for free food...please stay tuned...