Sunday, October 16, 2011 in I Forgot To Pick A Category

potato harvest

We went potato picking!

In case you did not know, I live in a rural spot surrounded by potato farmers. Yes, right in the french fry capital of the world. Many of the farmers supply a frozen food company, who has requirements they need to meet – not only in terms of volume but also kind of potato and size.

Earlier this week I mentioned when the harvester gang came to do the field across the road. A harvester, a potato truck, a few trucks and cars worth of people, a trailer and a port a potty. It’s a small field – about ten acres. They were done in short order.

So the harvester pulls up the plants, pulls off the taters and spits out the plants and any potatoes that are too small. While this is going on, people sort over the potatoes, chucking any bad one, too crooked ones, or small ones that got missed.

This leaves some potatoes in the field, not enough for the farmers to go back and gather up and (I guess) not enough to bother keeping.

Yesterday we were at one neighbor’s house when another stopped in with a ten pound bag of potatoes. They mentioned they gathered them up from the field (not theirs).

This is expected around here – people know afterwards there are potatoes left and the farmer leaves them, knowing some people will gather them up. As long as you;re not tearing around the field, no one cares.

So we went over tonight after supper. Ron fired up our little tractor and we grabbed 3 buckets and five feeds bags.

It was kind of astounding the amount that is left behind. When we approached the field I asked Meaghan if those were piles of rocks, because that also happens when harvesting – just pile up the rocks. While there were some rocks piles, the rest were potatoes.

We were like kids in candy stores – skipping the busted potatoes that were driven over, the spoilt ones and the really tiny ones, it was very grabby. And kind of shocking.

Even though it is considered waste, we did maybe 3-4 rows, zig zagging back and forth, going a total of maybe 200 yards in, and filled those 5 feed bags. Figure at least 50 pounds each.

I kept shaking my head at how much was left, and thinking how many people it could feed. And that’s not just cutting bad parts off of the taters. There were (and still are) plenty good potatoes there.

I hate to see them go to waste.

Thursday, October 13, 2011 in food

Even lazier bread and baguettes

I’ve known how to make bread for a long time. It’s effort. Like all day effort and hard on the arms. Especially when you have to stand on a stool to knead effectively anyway.

So. We love fresh bread. When we went to Montreal, there was a bakery every few blocks so we had baguette. (and cheese, because it was everywhere – even gas stations. Viva Quebec! *ahem*) After we got home, Ron got to hinting at me to see if I could make baguettes. The lovely Margaret Roach even sent me her unused and languishing baguette pan.

I googled for recipes, I adjusted, I followed tips. Then one day on twitter, I saw a company having a contest where the winner got a preview copy of this new cookbook.
Ironically, I won because of my flaming loaves of bread story. And in 140 characters, no less.

In the cookbook was a recipe for artisan bread, adapted from that artisinal bread cookbook everyone raved about but I failed at making properly.

And? With my own further adjustments? We have bread perfection.

Lazy Bread

3 cups warm water
1 1/2 TBSP yeast
1 TBSP salt (yes, a tablespoon – trust me)
6 1/2 cups flour

Pop the water in the microwave for 30 seconds. That usually makes it lukewarm. You want it warm, like baby bathwater warm. Put the yeast in the water. I have a big steel bowl I mix this all up in.

Measure out the flour in another large container or huge glass measuring cup. Mix the salt in with the flour NOT the water. This amount of salt causes the yeast to grow slower than usual and adding it to the water with the yeast will hurt it.

Dump the flour/salt in the bowl with the water/yeast and mix it. I have a sturdy wooden spoon. Keep stirring. Or not, depending on if you are tired. The dough will be really sticky and quite a mess. It you don’t stir it much, the flour will soak in anyway, especially if you are going to leave it.

Now you can cover all the dough up and toss it in the fridge to use whenever you want. It will keep. It will also not rise & fall (remember the salt?). The flavor will also mellow.

Or, you can use all the dough now and make 4 loaves.

Or, cut off half the dough.

Either way, let the dough site for a couple hours. Or so. It should look like it rose, but don’t angst about how much unless your house is really cold. You can’t leave it so long it will fall, unless you completely leave it out all day.

Divide the dough in 4 if you used all of it, or two if you hacked off half a chunk. :D Resist the urge to knead it, tho you can lightly oil or flour it. If you left the dough in the fridge, you start here.

Stretch out a bit of dough in the baguette pan or on a stoneware pan. Or dump it on a stoneware pan so it’s round. Or oval. Or whatever floats your boat. In a regular loaf pan, it is disappointing. Pretend you are a farm wife and you can’t afford a loaf pan but your love (and bread) makes you happy. :P If you use a nice fancy metal baguette pan with tiny holes in it, line it with parchment paper. Letting it rise in the pan without it will make it really hard to slide the cooked loaf out of all those teeny little holes.

Come back in an hour and a half. It should look puffy and you will see air bubbles under the surface. Put the stove on the preheat at 450. If your oven runs hot, 425 will do. Go away for 15 minutes.

Come back and toss the pan with the dough on it in the oven for 25 minutes.

If you want to get really fancy and do the crusty crust thing, when the oven is preheating put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack and boil some water, about a cup or so. When the over is preheated, place the dough & pan on the middle rack, and just when you close the door, pour the boiling water on the pan on the bottom rack and quickly close the door. This will make a crunchy crust.

But this one time? Like, last week? There was oil on the bottom pan and the water rushing onto it made it WHOOSH up and the parchment paper lining the top pan caught on fire. And then your husband will give you That Look and sigh and you’ll be all, “WHAT? THe loaves themselves are not burning and.. look, see? The edges of the paper are all done burning now,” and when they are cooked he will only gently shake his head at you when brushing soot off the finished (and PERFECT!) loaves.

fresh baguettes

So there. Have butter ready. Resist the urge to slice it right away as it’s difficult and kinda hot. These go stale after a couple days, but it’s so easy to toss some dough in a pan and have the rest waiting in the fridge, why the heck not?

Baguette fights may break out if you make two at once.

baguette fight

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 in I Forgot To Pick A Category

This grandparent stuff is awesome

So the Saturday before last, Addison & Kaytlyn & Izzy cam up for an impromptu visit. I got A & K to clear out some books & Add even brought some meat they had to eat up, so he cooked supper.

Izzy ran up and down our front hall.
She payed in the plastic drawer.
She found that bar of soap we left too low. (eww)
She took webcam pics of us together.

me & izzy on the webcam

We dug out toys we’ve been setting aside just for her, and toys that my grandmother had at her house for me to play with.
We played with the magnets on the fridge too.

Addison came over and watched us. He notcied we have the bright green silly man face magnet with the big ose. It’s a strong magnet and we got it from Grampy. I was helping Izzy pull it off the fridge and put it on again.

Addison reached down and pulled on the magnet.

“Aw, it lost its strength.”

“No it didn’t, honey.”

“But it was stronger when I was little.”

I looked way way up, because I was sitting on the floor and he was standing.

“You grew up, sweetie.”

“Awww.”

We took Izzy out to the backyard to run around (because we can!) and her Grampy showed her where apples comes from, and her Aunt Meaghan chased her in the grass and her mommy gave her airplane rides and her Nanny took pictures and got tuckered out.

End of summer

It was a good day. My cheeks hurted.

***

In other news – they came back to put the pump in the weel yesterday. A big excavator, some more digging and some clumping up and down to the basement. It is awesome.

The living room is done and we are putting furniture back into it, slightly differently. Especially since half the furniture was in the room with the stove. It’s getting cold enough to actually run the stove and the furniture was in the way, so we had to finish up.