DIY Sundried Cherry Tomatoes

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I just linked this post up to another VERY cool blog hop called Fridays Unfolded on Stuff and Nonsense.

This post is my Fight Back Friday entry for the week. Please check out the Food Renegade blog today for tons of great Real Food recipes and healthy tips.

Every spring I get carried away with ordering seeds for the garden. If any of y’all have seen the Baker Creek rare seed catalog, you understand where I’m coming from. I think theses folks could convince me to buy a chicken turd if they were so inclined. Worst of all is my addiction to unique sounding heirloom tomatoes, most of which I’ve never seen or tasted. How can an Outlaw resist the Royal Hillbilly, Black Mountain Pink, or Persimmon?

Every summer as gobs of gorgeous, gnarly, overripe fruit hangs on the sprawling vines and piles up on every available surface in the kitchen (and who am I kidding the living and dining rooms too) I wonder, “What the heck was I thinking? Next year, I’m sticking to my favorite three varieties and that’s it!” In times like these the Outlaw Goddess taps me on the shoulder and reminds me to be deeply thankful, as a good farmer always is, for the bounty of the harvest.

And like a good farmer, I’ve taken up the art of canning. I’m certainly no expert but I’ve manage to save a few Hillbillies from the compost pile. Canning is pretty easy and fun but I haven’t figured a way to can the hundreds of cherry tomatoes I get. My goodness they just keep coming and coming. So last summer I started making sundried tomatoes on my back deck. It’s works like a charm. If you’re like me and get overloaded with these little jewels, try this:

Take your tomatoes (cherries, pears and small plums work the best) and slice them in half lengthwise. Lay them skin side down on a cookie sheet or screen. I put mine on a piece of tin roofing. Drizzle lightly with a high quality olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and cracked pepper. Set outside on a table or bench in a very sunny location. Of course you need to make sure your setup is protected from insects and passing birds. I use our southwest facing back deck. As the tomatoes begin to dry, turn them every couple of days or so until they are completely shriveled up. This may take up to a week, depending on the weather. Don’t forget to cover them if it rains. When they are ready, you can marinate your homegrown sundried tomatoes in a jar of seasoned olive oil or store in an airtight container. They will last a good while.

As an alternative to drying outdoors, you can put your prepared tomatoes in the oven on a low setting for several hours, turning them every so often. This process is quicker and eliminates the insect/bird issue. Plus, your oil will be fresher. As a typical old-schooler, I prefer to slap ‘em on a piece of tin and let the sun do the work. The only thing is, I’m not sure about leaving the oil out in the sun for a week. Can anyone tell me if that is a no-no? I’ll probably do it anyway, but it would be good to know.

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Two for Tuesdays 7/27/10

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It’s time for another Two for Tuesdays, where Real Foodies link up with Alex and friends on her awesome blog A Moderate Life to share tips and recipes. This week I’m sharing two recent posts about one of my favorite subjects, CHICKENS! A Rare Combination and Fresh Eggs In your Back Yard Please check out the Two for Tuesdays page on her site by clicking the banner below.

Food Desert or Farming Community?

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Some whispery journalist on NPR recently informed me that I live in a food desert. “What the heck is a food desert?” I thought, so I kept listening. Evidently, a food desert is a special place where there are no “mainstream” grocery stores. Whoever thinks up things like referring to a farming community as a food desert apparently believes they actually sell food at mainstream grocery stores.

Why there’s a grass fed Angus operation just a couple miles down the road from us. In between here and there, there’s at least one other cattle farm and a man who raises meat goats. Last I checked beef and chevron were considered food. Not to mention countless gardens and just about everybody’s got a few chickens scratching about. One of my neighbors raises bees, another rabbits, and we raise dairy goats. So don’t tell me I live in a freekin’ food desert.

Legally, we can’t sell what we grow and more than likely some uptight food Nazi would get his panties in a wad if we bartered among ourselves. But for goodness sake PLEASE don’t put a Publix on every corner (especially not with my hard earned tax dollars!).

What we need is a feasible way to process our homegrown foods legally. Of course there used to be certified local processors but they were effectively run out of business by sprawling government regulations which left only a handful of such operations in the entire US. Now the Angus farmer on my road sells most of his cattle at the stock yard. From there, they are hauled up north to some huge city and processed along with thousands of other cattle all of which will ultimately end up in the same hamburger, sold at your neighborhood mainstream grocery store. Shop there if you wish.

I’ll be over here in my food desert of paradise trading raw milk and homemade soap for fresh beef and a rabbit or two.

Best Days to…July 25-July 31

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Today I’m adding something new to the Outlaw blog, a page called Lost and Found Country Wisdom. I’m kicking it off with my debut of the Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Days to… a must read for all y’all who like to plan ahead.

Fresh Eeggs in Your Backyard

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I can’t tell y’all how stoked I am that a good many of my friends in town are catching the farming bug and want to know about chickens. What kind they should get, how many, do they need a rooster and things of that nature. Well, I’ll be the first to tell you I’ve learned most of my lessons the hard way, which kind of makes me an expert on what NOT to do. After many breakthroughs and breakdowns, I finally ran across several books by Joel Salatin at the library. The man is a genius. Luckily I was smart enough to follow his advice and in the process learned a few lessons in success. So if you live in town and are thinking about getting into chickens for the first time here’s my advice.

First of all, go for it. Don’t let nay sayers get you down. In fact I’ve found farming can be the most useful tool to weed out negativity in one’s life. Start with a positive attitude and let yourself have some fun.

Secondly, don’t mess around with roosters. They’re really noisy which might upset your neighbors and cause them to tell on you. Stick with three to five hens and chances are you’ll be much happier.

I have found silkies are a wonderful addition to the urban farm, especially if you aren’t technically allowed to have chickens. The reason I suggest silkies is because their wings are so small they can’t fly. And they are really friendly. Silkies are so cute. They have feathery feet and a poof ball on their heads. They are moderate layers which means you could count on 3 eggs a week per chicken. Silkies are also very motherly which causes them to go “broody” during which time they sit on their nests and won’t lay any eggs. I’m not sure how to prevent broodiness so my advice here is to get a couple more chickens than you think you’ll need. Silkies are addictive so a few more will just add to the fun.

I know a lot of folks who get their chicks from commercial hatcheries and that’s fine but I recommend buying from a local breeder/farmer. If you’re getting baby chicks, make sure to get pullets (females) and not a straight run (both males and females). Once again I recommend checking craigslist to find someone in your area. One of the most important benefits of getting your chicks locally is developing a relationship with your farmer. Later when you have questions, and you most certainly will, you’ll know just who to call. Another great place to find egg layers is at a county fair. The local 4-H chapters often raise chicks and show them at the fair as 16-18 week old pullets. After the pullets are judged they are auctioned off in batches. These hens are probably the most pampered birds available and are usually ready to lay within a couple of weeks. And you can feel good about supporting your local 4-H chapter.

I also recommend using a chicken tractor, which I’ll blog more on later, rather than “free ranging” your chickens. This comes from my own experience with our free range chickens who decided to live on our front porch rather than out in the grass. Chickens are so special.

Read as much as you can but don’t be afraid to jump in there. You will learn as you go what works for you…and what doesn’t.

Buy, Buy American Pie

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Watch this. It’s funny…in a kind of creepy way. I got the link from Hartke is Online.

Wine Making by Feel (that’s “any account”)

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This is my Fight Back Friday post of the week.

I’m from the south and I’ve been on the farm for over four years so I thought I knew just about all the quirky “thangs” folks around here say until yesterday. I was subtly bragging to a new friend about my husband’s blackberry wine (the wine I used in the rabbit recipe) and she asked me if it was “any account.” Sensing my confusion, she quickly followed up with “Well? Was it any good?” Next thing you know we were in her garage among bottles and bottles of fermenting fruit, some several years old. I left her place with a killer buzz and an added appreciation for country wisdom. She also gave me some great wine making tips but in the end its one of those things people will tell you they do “by feel”.

Disclaimer: Chances are this is entirely illegal so check your state and local ordinances before jumping in. And by all means don’t sell the stuff… no matter how hard they beg.

Take about a gallon of fresh picked berries. They don’t have to be good lookin’ or perfectly sweet. Crush them up in a crock and add about a gallon of water to it. Cover the crock with cheese cloth and let it sit there for about two weeks.

After two weeks or so strain out the juice and discard the pulp. You can do this by pouring everything through a wire mesh strainer or cheese cloth (my friend uses a large tube sock which I think is brilliant).

Next fill a 2 gallon container (she uses an old ice cream tub) with 1-2 inches of warm water and add one packet of yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon. Once the yeast has dissolved, pour your fruit juice in and add 2-31/2 cups of sugar (this is the by feel part). Stir real good.

Funnel the juice/sugar/yeast mixture into a one gallon glass jug. Then fill a bubbler (you can get one of these from any wine making supply place for about a dollar) with water and place it snugly in the top of your jar. Some folks use a balloon but I don’t recommend that method. In about 6-8 weeks the bubbler will quit bubbling and your wine will be ready. By the way, my friend also says not to take your wine off during a thunder storm cause the barometric pressure will turn it to vinegar.

Don’t forget to raise a glass to your favorite Outlaws and all who have fought to preserve Freedom and Dignity on this planet we call Earth!

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