Friday, January 30, 2015

Cream of Nettle Soup

As we head towards spring there is plenty of nettle for the taking.  In more temperate climates nettle is pretty much year round.  If you are unfamiliar with nettle, a brush with it will acquaint you quickly.

Stinging nettle is everywhere in the Northwest.  I am always careful when hiking and so you should be when harvesting.  Where long sleeves and pants with a good pair of gloves.  Always harvest before the flower balls form.  Use leaves towards the top as they will be more tender.  Using a sharp knife cut the top 10 inches of the plant of and place in a bowl or basket.

Once back with your spoils, invert the stem and run you GLOVED hand down the shaft of the stem to quickly remove the leaves into the colander you will use to rinse them.  You will need 4 cups for this recipe. If you have more than you need, throw them to your chickens or dry for tea.

Why eat nettles you ask?  Nettles are high in vitamin C and calcium.  It is high in vitamin K, but since vitamin K is manufactured in the lower intestine and very little is absorbed through foods or supplements I don't eat it for its vitamin K content.  It's a great blood cleanser.  You can just steam it like chard, add to stir frsie or use it in soups.  When steaming it's great with your favorite flavor of balsamic vinegar.

Cream of Nettle Soup

Serves 4

4 cups nettle leaves
2 T minced or grated onion or shallot
2 T butter or oil
2 T flour (1 if using tapioca flour)
2 c chicken or vegetable stock
2 c milk (almond or soy works)
salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan if you like

Rinse the nettle leaves.  Throw them in a pan using a spoon.  ONce they are cooked they won't sting you., wet from rinsing and steam until soft.  Puree in a blender.

In a medium sauce pan heat your butter.  Add onion/shallot and saute until soft. Add your flour and cook in the butter stirring constantly to create a roux. (this cooks the flour so that it doesn't taste chalky)add your stock and nettle puree, then heat until boiling.Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add your milk and gently combine. cook for another 5 minutes.  Serve with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Making Indian Paneer Cheese

 Paneer is an Indian cheese that is easy to make and delicious!

Making Paneer
Bring milk to a gentle boil.

Bring Your milk to a gentle boil in a non-reactive pot such as stainless steel or porcelain coated.

Stir gently to keep from scalding with a stainless steel spoon.

If you are not using raw milk then add 1/4 tsp calcium chloride mixed in 1/4 c cold sterilized water,  Stir gently for a minute to combine.

Making Paneer cheese
Cheese curds forming.
Add 5 Tsp lemon juice, one at a time, stirring just once or twice to mix lemon juice between each addition.

Turn off your heat immediately.

You can see the curds beginning to form. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.

Spoon curds into a colander  or sieve with a slotted metal spoon into
 lined with 2 layers of cheese cloth or a single  layer of butter muslin.  

cheese making
Cheese curds draining over sieve.
Allow to drain over a pan for 20 minutes.   

I give the whey to my chickens or my garden. Don't dump it down the drain!  It's power packed with nutrients.  

You can add about a teaspoon of salt at this point a little at a time, being sure to mix by turning and squashing with a fork.

Cheese making
Draining whey from cheese curds.

Gather the ends of the cloth together and twist at the top and give a little squeeze.

 This will allow the whey to drain out a bit.
Cheese curds drained.

Take your ball of cheese curds and lay it out on a baking sheet as shown- still in the cloth.

At this point you can simply take another cookie sheet and squash your cheese with it until its about 3/4 of an inch thick.  If you like you can open up the cloth and form the edges neatly with your hands.

I like to form it into a rectangle by placing it in the glass container that I will be storing it in.  I do this by placing the ball with cloth inside of the container (you can use whatever shape you like), I open up the cloth and press the cheese into the form. 

Once you have your desired shape place on a cookie sheet wrapped in the cloth. Place a cookie sheet on top with a few heavy books.

Let it cure for an hour or so (up to 5).  The longer you cure it, the firmerit will be. You can then remove the cloth and store in the fridge or cut up immediately to eat on anything.  My favorite is to make a curry and add into the hot mix for the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Keeps in fridge for up to a week.

Friday, October 3, 2014

How to grow Onions

It has taken us 2 years to have good results with onions!

How to prep your beds for onions?
Carefully separating onion bulbs.
Onions are heavy feeders and heavy drinkers.  Till the soil to at least 12" with lime if you are in rainy climates.  If your soil is dense make sure to add composted manure or use cover crops you till in every year to build soil.                                                                                                                  Start your onion seed 6 weeks before in flats to have bulbs ready for planting or purchase bulbs.

Amendments for growing onions:
Making furrows for onion planting
 Heavy amendments are recommended BUT, you needn't fill the whole bed.  The onions are lazy with roots that go down and not very far out.  Our beds are 5' from tire to tire with about 4' of actual bed space.  

If you are using plastic Lay out your fertility such as Chicken poop or mint straw and till in.  Our manure spreader lays out three streams so our fertility is targeted to the lanes the onions sit in.

Laying onion bulbs out for planting in the field.
I Highly recommend laying down drip tape at this time.  Onions drink and cannot dry out.  If you can I would then recommend a weed barrier.  Onions will not thrive with weed competition gulping their water and eating their food.  Weeding can be very time consuming!  Putting down weed barrier will save you time and translate to dollars in your pocket if you are growing for market.  I can't tell you enough how much sense I feel biodegradable weed block is.  If you have a large area removing plastic from your fields is HORRIFIC! Poke your holes in the plastic and plant bulbs 6" apart in rows 10" apart.

If you are not using plastic:
We create 3 furrows about 10' apart.  Fill the furrow with well composted manure like mint straw or chicken poop.  I would recommend sprinkling Humic acid down the furrow and kelp if you can afford it in small beds. Lay the bulbs out being careful NOT to squeeze the necks! Space them 6" apart down the furrows.

Come back and cover your onions sitting them straight up and water them in. You can lay drip tape down even if you aren't using plastic for ease of watering.  Targeted watering also means that weed will dry up in between the isles for lack of overhead water.

How often do I water my onions?
Never let onions completely dry out until you are ready to harvest.  If you are using plastic you will need to water less as your water loss will be significantly less. Watch your soil for signs of drying.  Make sure water is penetrating at least and inch in the soil.

How often do I need to feed?
You should feed your onions every few weeks if you are using folier feeds such as MaxiCrop.  You can use a fertigator in drip systems to inject fish fertilizer every week.  If your onions are in the open you can side dress them with manure once a month.  Feeding is essential for big onions.You can buy humic acid that you can water in.  We like fish and seaweed as well.

Onions are a lot of work but they are a must for market growers and great for storage with the home grower!