Browsed by
Author: Robin

Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

Baked Beans Recipe – Traditional New England Saturday Night Supper

baked beansBaked Beans Recipe

Baked beans were not my favorite Saturday night, or any night for that matter, supper. They’re as traditional as lobster bakes on the beach, clam chowder and moose tenderloin but that didn’t mean anything to me. Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe, as you should do to make it suit your tastes, and now I love baked beans. Protein and iron rich, filling and satisfying, healthy fat from homegrown pork, and great for leftovers. What’s not to love!

Well…what’s not to love…”homemade” using baked beans from a can. I have nothing against them, some are delicious, but clearly they’re not homemade no matter what you do to them. It’s like melting butter, adding a little salt, pouring it into a bowl, and saying you made butter.

Bean Pot or Slow Cooker

You can bake the beans in a traditional bean pot or your slow cooker. If the weather is bitterly cold I use the bean pot and keep the oven on to warm the kitchen. However, it’s easier to keep an eye on the beans using a slow cooker with a glass top so you can make sure they don’t dry out.

Warmed up baked beans for breakfast will hold you well to lunch time if you’re busy outdoors. They’re great in chili and refried beans.

Baked Beans – Saturday Night Tradition

Baked Beans – Saturday Night Tradition

Baked Beans

Saturday night in New England. Supper time. Baked beans, red hot dogs, brown bread, homemade bread or biscuits. Life is good. Baked beans are a winter tradition because they take hours to bake in the oven and add warmth to the house. There aroma of baking beans and bread or biscuits will make your stomach rumble even if you aren’t hungry.

We started with a basic recipe on a bag of dried yellow eye beans and worked with it until we were happy with the results. Steve makes better baked beans than I. It took me a while to figure out that I need to taste the broth before I add it to the beans.

Yellow eye are our favorite. I didn’t like baked beans growing up but Steve loved my Grampy’s recipe. Grampy used yellow eye beans so that’s what we use now. Don’t skimp on adding broth later on. Make up extra ahead of time. If you don’t use it all you’re out is some molasses. If you have chickens, give it to them!

This recipe makes a huge batch. It works just as well if you make half and use a smaller bean pot. The beans reheat well and are a great side with breakfast and lunch. You can also use a slow cooker / crock pot.

Ermine, Nature’s Mouse Trap

Ermine, Nature’s Mouse Trap

Ermine – Short-tailed Weasel

We have an ermine, called a short-tailed weasel or stoat when from spring through fall when its coat isn’t white. I mentioned it before. It still comes around now and then even though it’s wiped out the mouse problem for us. There’s been some concern by folks who get a glimpse of him about the safety of our ducks and chickens. So far it’s fine. If it’s going into the hen house it isn’t causing a problem. There’s plenty of food so the little guy is well fed. We like to live with the wildlife as much as possible. As long as they mind their manners they’re welcome to stay.

There isn’t a lot I can do to prevent the ermine from getting to the poultry. They can squeeze through a tiny hole to get in and the birds are outside during the day. I’ve read that ermine are nocturnal but we see him almost daily in morning and afternoon, same as every other ermine we’ve had. Relocating is inhumane this time of year. Taking an animal out of its habitat and moving it to a strange place in the dead of winter is likely to cause it a harsh death. I’m not sure we have a live trap small enough to keep it contained anyway.

stoat, short-tailed weasel, weasel, ermine
ermine, mouse,
I suspect the occasional scattering of small bird feathers we find under the bird feeder and around the back porch are signs of his successful hunts. We hope he’ll feast on the three red squirrels. I heard it skittering around the attic yesterday and hope that means he’ll will discourage the red squirrels from moving in when it’s time to build a nest.

Look carefully, there aren’t a lot of details. The ermine is sitting on an old moose antler that Steve found it in the woods last fall while he was hunting. It’s so old moss is growing, and the calcium is breaking down. It’s flaking away a little at a time. For now it’s interesting took look at, and the ermine likes to sit on it. When he’s unaware of my presence he’ll stand up straight and tall on the antler to get a better view of what’s around. This morning he knew I was there so he came and went faster than ermines already move naturally.

moose antler, ermine, stoat, short-tailed weaselErmine’s are small, adorable and somewhat personable predators. I lose track of time watching him and will miss seeing him when winter ends and he returns to the woods.

Save

Fish Chowder – From Lake to Bowl

Fish Chowder – From Lake to Bowl

Fish Chowder

A steaming bowl of fish chowder, a thick slice of homemade bread slathered with good butter, and a big spoon. That’s all I need to make a meal that leaves me wanting more even after I’m stuffed to the gills (you see what I did there?). Chowder isn’t just for seafood. You can use fresh water fish, and it’s especially good if you’re using fish you’ve just caught while ice fishing. I stick with white fish and skip any that are oily. If you’d prefer to use ocean fish I suggest haddock, cod or pollock. Good fresh-water choices are cusk, yellow and white perch, and bass.

fish chowder

Mixing it Up

You may now listen to On The Fire and The Big Wild on our new podcast!

powered by podcast garden

Rather than tell you how to make fish stock let’s use Hank Shaw’s recipe. He makes great stock and it’s so similar to my recipe there’s no need for me to duplicate it.

You can exchange the butter for salt pork or bacon. Cut it into half-inch cubes and saute to release some of the fat before you add the onions to the pan.

I grew up with chowder made from canned milk instead of heavy cream, and now I sometimes use half ‘n half if I don’t have heavy cream. All three are good but I prefer cream.

Some folks add 1/2 cup of chopped celery when they saute the onions.

Chowder stores well in the refrigerator. Refrigerate leftovers immediately without letting the chowder cool to room temperature because of the dairy and fish.

This looks great served in bread bowls. Traditionally, it’s served with Saltines or Oyster crackers.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Track Maker – predator on the homestead

Track Maker – predator on the homestead

The Track Maker

I waited until it warmed up before going out this morning. Six below. -6°F, “feels like” -17°F (feels like needles on bare skin) when I went out. The ducks peeked out the door. A hen waddled out, looked around, stretched her right leg behind her, wings out straight, turned around and waddled back inside. I closed the door behind her and filled the water pans. The chickens are pecking at a pan of bacon fat I gave them a few days ago as a treat. The extra calories help them stay warm and maintain weight. We’re in the coldest part of winter now. I think I’ve already told you that. Ava snuffled enough birds to be satisfied that all was well, looked for eggs in the usual spots on the floor (she stares at them, I’m sure hoping they’ll leap into her mouth since she’s not allowed to take them) and went to the door to wait. One egg from Sweetie. The ducks aren’t laying and only three chickens are popping out eggs every couple of days.

It’s so cold the snow squeaks under foot. Ava and Zoey took off in the direction of the food plot then waited to see if I were going with them. None of us are getting enough exercise these days. I’d bundled up before leaving the house so we could go for a short walk. There were game cameras to check this morning. What left the tracks we found while walking Sunday afternoon?

Bobcat or Coyote?

Do I want to deal with an early bobcat or a coyote? Coyotes are easier when it comes to poultry but bobcats are far more interesting. I fed a starving bobcat at the end of winter 2015 to keep him alive and away from my birds. Do I want to do it again? The deer have moved on so I can set up a feeding station at the bear bait site without worrying about causing problems for the deer. Would I rather bait a coyote in the same spot? The difference between a feeding station and a bait is species. I’ll feed a bobcat to keep it away from the ducks and chickens but I’ll bait a coyote in order to shoot it. A bobcat will stay away from people if it isn’t desperate. A coyote is an opportunist waiting for one escaped bird rather it’s starving or not.

We went to all three cameras, two in the food plot and one in the wood yard, and swapped the cards. I pried the first one open with a little effort but the clasps on the second and third cameras were frozen solid.  There’s nothing good about taking your gloves off when it’s -7° and breezy but I wanted those cards.

And the Pictures Show…

The pictures show nothing definite but I’m pretty sure the track maker is a coyote. Right side of the screen, a coyote head. The camera triggered two seconds too fast for a full body shot. The batteries were probably too cold to snap the second photo sooner. Normally there are three or four empty pictures before something walks into the frame. We have the head and tip of a busy tail.
coyote, food plot, winter, track maker
track maker, coyote tailNotice the lack of tracks on the snow? The coyote is light enough to stay on top of the crust. Deer break through. It’s a big advantage for the coyotes. It snowed a few times between December 28 and January 6 when the track maker returned. I hoped to find the culprit in this photo but didn’t. Cold batteries again. Look closely. There’s a snowshoe hare
snowshoe hare, food plot, winter, snow, track makertrack makerHere’s what we know. Bobcats don’t come near the house unless they’re starving. We’ve had four bobcats here in 18 winters. All were starving and desperate enough to take their chances with us and the dogs. Two of them came in the winter of 2015 when we had more than 200 inches of snow. One of them killed two ducks but the other found the feeding station and didn’t come closer. We know there’s another coyote here. There aren’t any indications of a bobcat. I think the hare hopped through and the coyote followed its tracks and/or scent later. It snowed Friday night into Saturday morning. There wasn’t much of a crust on the snow for the coyote to stay on so it broke through and left the tracks that then collected snow.

Nature sleuthing. Don’t you love it? I believe the track maker is the coyote. Case dismissed.

Walking a Snowy Trail at Sunset

Walking a Snowy Trail at Sunset

Walking a Snowy Trail at Sunset

We went to put the poultry up for the night but the ducks were napping in the last of the sunshine. Peaceful. Bills tucked under their wings, opening an eye to take a quick look, and then back to napping. I didn’t want to disturb them so we, me and the dogs, kept going. We went walking on a snow trail as the sunset. Steve packed the snow down with a snowmobile. I can walk to the food plot and wood yard now without snowshoes.

Zoemobile raced up and down the trail, mauling Ava on each pass. Ava ambled along behind me, tolerating Zoey as she always does (“Can’t you just kick her fluffy ass once, Ave? Make her stop.”), looking up and down the trail for squirrels she could chase. Zoey stayed on top of the icy crust under a few inches of snow as she tracked snowshoe hares. Zig zagging back and forth, she always looked back to me when I called her name. That’s a big improvement over last winter when she either didn’t hear me because she was in the bunny zone or ignoring me. We hadn’t had her long last winter. She wasn’t the best at minding me. Still isn’t but she did well yesterday.

Tracks!

I noticed tracks in the snow, covered by the light fluff that fell Friday night. The only thing the tracks told me was that whatever the predator is, it’s full grown. The distance between steps showed me an animal that is a bobcat or coyote. Bobcat didn’t feel right. We aren’t having that hard a winter and there are plenty of snowshoe hares to keep the cats fed. Or at least I think there are enough hares. Maybe there aren’t many when you go into the woods away from the house and food plot. If winter’s going to get hard on the bobcats we shouldn’t see evidence of it until February, still three weeks away. We haven’t had a coyote around since Eryn trapped our nuisance in November. There haven’t been any signs of a coyote around. Oh we know they’re around. We do live in the woods, after all. But not close. Not backyard food plot close. Mating season for coyotes starts the end of January. They’ll be moving around more soon. Or maybe now.

The empty memory cards for the game cameras were in the house. It was cold and a bit windy and I still needed to tend to the chickens and ducks. By the time I got them settled for the night and went to the house and back to the food plot it would be dark. The idea of looking at the pics and walking back to replace the cards after dark in this cold did nothing for me. Leaving the cameras empty wasn’t a great idea. If the animal walked by again there wouldn’t be cards to catch the pictures. And it was cold. Really cold. As curious as I was, I left the cards and planned to go back this morning to get them.

In the Woods

You can see the tracks in the first picture (taken this morning). The rest of the photos were taken last evening while we were walking.
tracks in the snowy food plotAva, walking in front of me for a change. She was looking at snowshoe hare tracks going into the trees. We’re walking out of the food plot to get to the wood  yard.

walking, Ava, English Shepherd, small farm, homestead, Zoemobile, racing around the wood yard.

walking, snowyOn our way back to the food plot.
walking, snowmobile trail
The almost full moon over the food plot. If you look closely you can see the trail stomped down by Steve on his snowshoes yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. He went out to the beaver bog to see what’s going on out there. They don’t seem to be active here right now but whatever walked through the edge of the food plot also walked out into the woods around the beaver lodge.walking, snowy trail, winter, food plotSunset through the trees. This is where I first noticed the tracks.  I think I have the answer to what made the tracks here.
winter sunset, through the trees, snow, food plot

 

Save

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

Snow Keeps Our Floors Warmer

When it comes to snow I want none or a minimum of two feet on the ground. Snow keeps our floors warmer. It does. Seriously. Snow is a good insulator. When the snow drifts against the house it serves as insulation around the foundation. This old house has a field stone foundation for the cellar that lets cold air in. The floors, especially the tile in the dining room, are freezing cold under foot even when our feet are sporting nice wool socks. Snow banks the foundation and keeps the entire house warmer. We’ve barely burned any wood so far this winter.

The north side of the house seldom has a snow to bank the foundation. The roof doesn’t pitch that way so snow doesn’t fall off and pile up there. The northeast corner doesn’t have enough accumulation, either. Wind blows through the clear space between the house and trees, blowing the snow away. Steve felled a balsam tree when I was getting ready to make wreaths in November to be sure I had enough tips. He chose a big tree in a spot he plans to clear to expand the food plot in the spring. I snapped the best tips to make wreaths and later went back with pruners to lop off the entire length of each bough.snow keeps our floors warmer, banking, snow, foundation

On a warm (perspective; it was 35°) December afternoon I pressed the boughs against the snowless foundation, tucking branches into other boughs to keep them from springing away. It snowed the next day and as the wind blew it trapped the snow in the boughs instead of blowing it away. Nature’s insulation is free except for an hour or two of work.

When spring arrives some time in April I’ll pull back the boughs, pile them back into the tractor’s bucket, and move them to the burn pile. Snow keeps our floors warmer and then the boughs keep our hearts warm with the first fire of spring.

 

Soup – venison, vegetables, seasoning, an ermine…

Soup – venison, vegetables, seasoning, an ermine…

Story of Soup

This is the story of soup and how it came together while the power was out. Soup is a comfort food for stormy days. I pulled a package of venison from the freezer. It was an old buck, hit by an old already falling apart pickup driven by an elderly man. The buck died instantly but the truck is still limping along, barely. I let the meat thaw until it was crystaly and easy to cut.

soup, venison soup

I retrieved the new three quart stainless steel pot and its glass lid from the pantry. Olive oil poured in and heated, I added a pre-mixed seasoning meant for beef, two cloves of minced garlic, the cubed venison, and stirred. The bits of meat hit the oil and seasons, splattering a little, sputtering as the last of the ice crystals I thought had melted hit the oil.

Chattering, banging and crashing on the back porch pulled my attention from the counter to the window. A red squirrel voiced its displeasure with something. I waited a few seconds, started to turn from the window to go back to cooking, and caught a glimpse of the offender – an ermine. An ermine. That explains the dearth of mice coming into the house. The snap traps have been empty for three weeks. Let’s hope he or she creates a lack of red squirrels as well.

Sauteing garlic, seasoning and browning venison pulled me back to the stack of carrots waiting to be peeled. The peeler works both ways, forward and back, and most of the peelings fly across the counter to land in a pile. A few crash land on the floor. Chop chop chop and carrot rounds are ready for the pot. Sizzle sizzle.

Celery, purchased at a grocery store because I don’t seem to be able to grow it, is next. There’s a lot of dirt between the stalks. Mum said we’re “going to eat a peck of dirt before we die.” I wipe the dirt away with a cotton kitchen towel and decide the residue is going to count toward my peck. Chop chop chop, sizzle sizzle sizzle. What’s next?

Bay leaves. I chose two nice bay leaves and added them to the pot. I haven’t added liquid yet and the seasoning has a little sugar so the mixture is starting to caramelize on the bottom of the pot. Two good glugs of Marsala wine instantly fill the air with an aroma so rich it makes my mouth water. I stir until the bottom of the pot is clear.

When the faucet finally runs with hot water I fill a quart mason jar with water and then pour the water into the pot. Not quite another. Another quart fills the pot almost to the top. I want the soup to simmer for a few hours before I do anything else with it. The old buck’s meat will tenderize as it cooks slowly. I leave the cover off so the liquid will evaporate, condensing the flavors and eliminating the need for stock (I’m out) or bouillon (don’t feel like using this time).

While the soup simmer I tackle a project new to me – knitting without a pattern. I saw cute ornaments on IG this morning. If I can figure out a pattern, I tell myself, I can buy more yarn. I’m not really a knitter but I want to think I am. I like to buy yarn. Soft yarn in warm, natural colors, bundles of creativity waiting to happen. I start to knit the ornament and by the time it’s time to check the soup the ornament is taking shape.

Barley. Dammit, I know I bought barley. Two pounds of pearled barley, in bulk. Where did I put it? My cupboards are neat and tidy now but, no barley. The pantry shelves, neat and tidy after my search but still, no barley. Noodles it is. Not as hardy and healthy and filling but I like noodles once in a while.

Tidying up, the garlic and carrot peels, carrot tops and tips and celery trimmings get tossed into a mixing cup. Ava and Zoey will have the meat scraps and the vermicomposting worms get the vegetable scraps.

It’s dark early, 4:3o pm and the hen house lights are the only light in the yard. The soup has simmered, reducing the liquid by a third. I add a little sea salt, a pinch of black pepper, two shakes of Italian seasoning and a quarter-teaspoon of onion powder. Blow blow blow the heat away. Taste taste taste. Yes, that’s it. It’s right now. I replace the lid, turn off the heat, and let it set until Steve comes home.

Power’s Out. Freezing rain, ice, quiet.

Power’s Out. Freezing rain, ice, quiet.

Power’s Out

I hoped the lights would stay on. If the trees didn’t drop icy branches on the power lines I’d be all set. There’s plenty to do today. We cleaned up pork trimmings last night so they’re ready to grind and season today. I gathered the grinder and its pieces, the meat and bowls, washed my hands annnnd…power’s out.

Alright then, there’s bread to bake. I scraped all of the sourdough starter minus a few tablespoons and sprinkled on a little slow-rising yeast. Left in the cool corner of the kitchen, the bread wouldn’t be ready to bake until the power came back even if it wasn’t on again until dark. I made a pot of coffee in the old fashioned perk coffee maker, gathered magazines to go through, a set of small knitting needles and skein of fine yarn, two Fedco catalogs and some paper. Cuddled up on the love seat in front of the wood stove, I started knitting an ornament for this next year’s tree. Before I got comfy on the love seat in front of the wood stove I went back to finish making bread. No bread today. The lights aren’t the only thing lacking today. Power’s out in the yeast, too. A brand new package of yeast, dead. I buy it in bulk and don’t have another one-pound package. It’s on my grocery list now. Sadly, the sourdough was already mixed with two cups of water. Ruined. I’ll start more.

The lights came on just as I started to worry about the bait fish gulping air in their tiny tank.  Back to knitting and then listening to My Antonia on Audible. Even I can take only so much silence. At least outside I could have listened to the birds and the ice crackling in the trees before it crashed to the ground. The start of melting ice meant WiFi would likely come back soon. And then…power’s out again, but this time it came back quickly. I went out to take pictures of our icy world but the cameras’ batteries are dead. Of course they are because today, the power’s out. Here are photos of  yesterday’s beautiful rime ice on white pines, and the start of the storm moving in.

rime ice, pine tree, power's out
rime ice, power's out, white pine, winter
rime ice, close up, winter, foggy morning, power's out
Storm's moving in, power's out

Hot Chocolate Recipes – Dark Chocolate & Red Wine

Hot Chocolate Recipes – Dark Chocolate & Red Wine

Hot Chocolate Recipes

I came across a recipe for hot chocolate and red wine – combined – while looking for a variety in hot chocolate recipes. Dark chocolate and red wine. Together. I had to try it immediately. All you need is milk, a dark chocolate candy bar or chips, and red wine. Add whipping cream to the list if you want whipped cream. If you don’t happen to have dark chocolate in the house you can substitute any hot chocolate you do have. A few curls of chocolate or a sprinkling of spice at the end adds to the decadence.

A note to On The Fire listeners – I’ve added the vanilla to the recipe. That little extra flavor makes a difference.

Another Homemade Hot Chocolate Recipe

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
4 cups milk (cow, goat, almond, whatever you like)
1 tsp vanilla

Bring the cocoa, sugar and water to a boil, stirring continually. Carefully mix in the milk, continuing to stir. Continue to heat until the milk is hot but not boiling, remove from heat, and then stir in the vanilla.

I enjoy a glass of wine before dinner if I’m still writing. On the coldest days of winter I’ll switch to Dark Red Hot Chocolate. Take note of the garnishing in the recipe, and if you have suggestions of your own, please leave them in the comments.

With these hot chocolate recipes there’s a nice way to unwind at the end of the day before turning in for a long winter night’s nap. Enjoy!