Fifty percent of my family loves lamb, but this recipe is for the other fifty percent. This recipe brings you to a farmhouse in the 1950s, the sort of dish made by a woman who believes that lamb and ketchup are soul mates, and though I would have mocked her yesterday, tonight she has earned my respect.
The original recipe for "Barbecued Lamb Shanks" is from the revised edition of Farm Journal's Country Cookbook. Published originally in 1959 and revised in 1972 to reflect "modern" developments like the home freezer, I wasn't actually planning on cooking any of the recipes, but it came in handy when I needed to find recipes using lard. (A story for another day, obviously.)
If you need a recipe for lamb shanks, here is a great one. I made the recipe for two, but here are the proportions to serve 4.
4 lamb shanks
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. lard
1/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
1 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. ketchup
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce
1. Dredge the lamb in the flour and salt. Brown the meat in the lard in a Dutch oven, and then remove the shanks and pour off the fat.
2. Return the meat to the Dutch oven and mix together the brown sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, ketchup, vinegar, and tomato sauce. Pour it over the meat and then cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours OR bake in a 350 degree oven for the same length of time.
3. When it is finished and tender, cut the meat off the bones and put on a plate. Boil the sauce for a few minutes to concentrate the flavors and then pour it over the meat.
Aaah, the glory. The pride. Two decent looking heads of cauliflower. Does it get any better?
Ah, the destruction. The evil little birds that eat my spinach and broccoli. The pain. The suffering. I planted as much as I could of everything. Something has to make it.
Meet my new love, chirimen hakusai. It's a loose-leaf napa cabbage. It's beautiful. I don't think the pictures do it justice. Whenever I need some I can pick the outer leaves instead of anxiously hoping the head develops soon and I can eat it before the caterpillars do. Victory!
These are darling little French bush beans. They are cute and prolific, just like bunnies.
I don't know why I planted mini eggplants again. There's nothing wrong with them, they're just small. It has taken until almost the end of October for the plants to look like the monsters you see in pictures taken by real gardeners. Maybe I should start my eggplants, peppers, etc earlier next year. I think I started them in March... I'll just back it up to January next year.
Swiss chard never made anyone happier. It's so bright and cheery! But I planted it last spring and they never really took off until fall. Better late than never.
The peppers took forever, just like the eggplant. I had exactly two peppers off of all three purple pepper plants, and then I debated pulling them out. I'm glad I waited, because each plant is growing five to seven peppers now. It took FOREVER!
On the left is Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Romanesco I planted at the end of September, and on the right is Calabrese broccoli I planted at the beginning of September. Neither have been discovered by aphids or birds... YET.
The cabbage on the left and the cauliflower on the right have have aphids. It's a sad world. I sprinkled diatomaceous earth on all of them and I'm hoping for the best. Worst case scenario it'll all be chicken food.
Two charentais melons, and I have no idea when to pick them. Yarrow is growing to the left. It is a superhero herb that stops bleeding immediately. I will grow it forever since I frequently cut chunks out of my fingers with a dull knife. To the right is kale, which has mysteriously NOT been discovered by the aphids. But why not? Google have me no answers.
Under the cosmos are potatoes, but the flowers are so pretty I guess I don't care anymore. Happy fall gardening!
I don't know how it happened, but both my kids ate it!
My mom always used to make spanakopita growing up, and I don't remember if we loved it, but we ate it. It's good stuff. I've made some following a recipe, but I tend to get a little hung up on recipes with very exact measurements, and this time I found a method. So simple, and it uses two pounds of greens. And did I mention that MY KIDS ATE IT!?
I have had an abundance of swiss chard and mustard greens in my garden this fall, and I've been running out of new ways to cook it. Here is a great way to eat your greens.
1 package of phyllo dough
1 stick of butter, melted
a few cloves of garlic
roughly 2 pounds of chopped greens (spinach, swiss chard, mustard greens, dandelion greens, whatever)
1-2 cups of sliced green onion or a combination of green onion, dill, mint, or parsley
1/2-1 cup crumbled feta or ricotta, or a mix
salt and pepper to taste
1. Saute the garlic in a little olive oil. When it turns golden, add the scallions and stir them. Once they start to wilt, add the greens. Season with a little salt and pepper as they cook, and once they are all wilted and ready to be eaten, take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese. Taste it again after you've added the cheese and add more salt and pepper if it needs it.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Select a pan to bake this in, whether it's a pie pan or an 8.5" by 11" pan, and unroll your phyllo dough. You will be stacking and overlapping the dough, so plan for about 6 sheets, overlapping them in such a way that they will cover the bottom and enough of the dough sheets will hang over to provide a top to your pie as well. (Take a look at the pictures above. We weren't very creative, but it worked.) Brush your dish with a thin layer of butter, then lay a sheet of phyllo down and butter it completely with a brush. Layer and brush another five sheets, and then fill your "pie" with the cooked greens. Fold the layers down over the top, being sure to brush them with butter between each layer. Now you should have what looks something like a pie. Take a knife and score the top layer so that it will be easy to cut after it's cooked. Phyllo can be a real mess once it's crisp and delicious.
3. Bake it until the top is golden brown. I wish I had set a timer, but I wasn't paying attention. Maybe 20 minutes? If you are baking this right away, the filling will still be warm and it won't be much of an issue. If you made the pie ahead of time, you may have to bake it longer at a lower temperature so that the filling can heat up before the top burns. (I know that was terribly specific and helpful, sorry!)
None of my spinach plants made it. The little birds struck again. I resentfully remind myself every day that God cares for the sparrow too.
Our first watermelon. I forgot that I'd planted golden midget watermelons, and just thought it was diseased or dying. But it was golden, and certainly midget. More like a big apple. But we had our first watermelon!!!! Unfortunately, it was as tasteless and bland as it was cute. Maybe the next one will be better.
This was the month of the rat. I've known since last fall that a rodent of some kind has been eating form my garden buffet, but I was unwilling to actually do anything about it. The problem is finding a dead rat or something equally horrible. At least, alive, they scurry away and only come out at night. Dead, they just wait there until you nearly step on them.
But we had company over for a beer on the deck, and it was a little unnerving when the little creatures came out after dark and started climbing our apricot tree. You could hear the leaves rustling, and apparently it ruined the relaxing atmosphere. (Some people!) But the good news was my husband was finally on board to do something about it. The next weekend he set out poison and an electric rat trap.
This, of course, is a good thing. BUT. Now every morning for the last 8 days we are greeted by a dead rat somewhere in the backyard. Instead of finding somewhere quiet and dark to live out their last moments, they must spend it trying to score their last meal. So I go out to the chickens or rabbits in my bathrobe and some flip flops in the early morning, and BAM!!!!! Disgusting dead rat. Idyllic setting destroyed.
Which brings me to our next pest issue. I don't know for sure, but I am 90% certain their is a skunk living under our deck. At the end of June our little dog went outside one night to relieve herself and came running back in smelling like Eau de Skunk. Two weeks of our backyard smelling, stinking, yucky, and of course there's always a dead rat to really drive the point home.
But I believe the skunk went for the bait in the rat trap and got zapped, because one warm night as I slept with the window open, I woke up to the smell of burning rubber. Definitely a skunk. The bait was missing from the rat trap, but no rat. It's been three and a half weeks of stinky-ness and dead rats outside.
But wait! That's not all.
We keep a third rabbit separate from our first two because Bugs, our first rabbit, does not seem to like Ginger, our new import. Silver, the fixed male, seems friendly enough, but even a friendly sniff in Ginger's direction results in Bugs chasing him around for payback. So Ginger has been alone, though we plan on finding her a friend soon.
The beauty and the horror of it all is that rabbits burrow. Remember Alice in Wonderland? The sweet girl who falls down a rabbit hole? There's a lot of fiction in that story, but it appears that rabbits do actually dig holes. Ginger dug and dug, and dug her way right into Bugs' territory.
The results were horrible. Fur everywhere, a torn lip, and a visit to the vet. Rabbits are considered "exotics", which is a ridiculous label for anything that breeds so generously, but we had to go to four different emergency animal clinics before we found a vet who could work with a rabbit. Ginger got two stitches and a week of painkillers and antibiotics. The vet and her assistant both said Ginger was the best rabbit they'd ever met, and clearly I don't deserve her. Poor thing.
A Japanese hybrid cucumber. They were perfect. Only two plants keep us in cucumbers.
An apple melon. This one wasn't quite ripe when I took the picture, but once they ripen... Someone else finds them first. Must be squirrels.
The situation has improved.
I have a routine now. I put the baby and auntie away so they aren't climbing all over me, and mama goat willingly jumps up on the milking stand because she LOVES her treats. She still kicks. I think she will always kick, but now we have some solutions.
I was told originally that the key to successfully milking a goat was to start them young and get them used to the milking stand. It turns out this was second-hand information based on a misunderstanding. Oops! The first-hand account turned out to be just strapping them down. Much, much easier, and not cruel. Definitely safer from my end.
This goat-milking friend says that she just straps the goat's feet in with webbing hooked through the milking stand. It was revolutionary and brilliant and nowhere on any blog or book I've seen before. She was even so kind as to send me pictures, and my husband rigged up a similar system. Now I can actually milk by myself without having to recruit an angry adult to help me!
She can barely kick now. The webbing is wide so it doesn't cut into her leg. She still has a few special moves where she tries to kill herself by knocking the whole milking stand over, but one well placed foot (mine) prevents that. She also has a few tells. Before she kicks she stops eating and pulls her head back. Then she goes completely still before BAM! she aims to knock over the milk pail. And as long as I get the pail out of the way in time, I feel this makes us good working partners and I even feel a grudging respect for her determination. When the milk spills I want to dump the rest over her head. (But I don't.)
I ran into a few other issues as well... Bribing her with treats got me in trouble when her stomach couldn't handle it and she got horrible horrible diarrhea. Then I put a garbage can near the milking stand filled with alfalfa pellets, but she knocked it over and this time both goats had diarrhea from the buffet. For the first time my backyard smelled goat-y. Yuck. And her milk production dipped as a result, so I went from getting just over 2 cups per milking to just under 2 cups per milking. :/
We cut out all legumes from Winnie's diet. No more peas or beans because that was what made the milk taste a little funky. I also chill the milk in the freezer initially. I think it may not have been getting cold enough quickly enough in the refrigerator. Sometimes I forget the milk in the freezer, but that's ok too. It doesn't hurt the milk, and it turned out to be more convenient because if we aren't ready for more milk yet, we just leave it in the freezer. We can finally all drink clean, sweet milk, though we are all a trifle hesitant after tasting bad milk.
A manager at the local hardware store who used to raise dairy goats had great advice too. She took a good long look at me and said, "Maybe you need to relax. Have a beer. You know what? Give the goat a beer." So no, no one got any beer, but it was a good reminder than I needed to relax. All the tension was stressing out me and the goat.
I'm borrowing goats. A mama goat, her sister, and one of her babies. This is week one, and quite a week it has been. Auntie Goat is the cute one above. Just look at that face! Mama goat is called Winnie.
They arrived last Tuesday and I got a crash course in Milking 101. Grab high, trap the milk, and express it. Little goats, little teats, so just two fingers. Winnie, the mama goat, isn't crazy about the process. I spent two hours awake that night worrying that somehow my borrowed goats weren't safe. Checked on them once.
Wednesday morning I got a whole quarter cup. That is four tablespoons. I had to hold one leg in one hand and milk with the other, shoulders BURNING, sweating from the sheer stress of it all, scared Winnie was going to jump right off the stand and hang herself. Auntie and baby kept trying to get in on the action and the kids tried to fend them off. Hair, dirt and pollen all dropped in, and though I filtered it, 24 hours later it was gross. Even before it went yucky on me it had a strange, bean-y flavor like thick creamy soy milk, but not horrible. Wednesday night I separated mama and baby goats.
Thursday morning Winnie's udder was engorged like the first time your baby sleeps through the night. SO MUCH MILK, but she kicked so badly I had to give up. I was a little worried she'd have mastitis or something horrible by the end of the day, but figured baby would take care of it. Thursday afternoon was Milking 102. Cleanliness. No more holding a dirty goat foot in one hand and milking with the other. Goat not allowed to lie down on the dirty stand. Clean white rag after clean white rag until the udder is perfectly clean, then another clean rag to dry. It reminded me of beauty school: lots of hand washing and a sanitary maintenance area. We set a towel down under Winnie in case she decided to lie down, and a footstool under her belly to keep her up. Such a stubborn goat! I admit I felt faint afterwards.
Friday morning my milking skills were improving, but Winnie was putting up even more of a fight. I got the milk out, I just couldn't keep it in the pail. My sister helped me a ton, but kept uttering helpful things like, "Faster, Megan, I can't do this much longer! What's taking you so long? Get a grip, it's just a goat!"
"That goat really hates you."
Saturday morning milking was better, way better. My husband held a foot and the pail, Winnie kicked less, I got faster, and we probably got a little over a cup and a half of milk. Whew! Still, it seemed like buying a crane to just airlift the goat would be the best way to go.
Sunday morning, oh dear. Sunday morning. I was armed with two adults, extra milking pails in case Winnie managed to kick them over or got another foot in there, a towel for the milk stand, snacks and treats, more snacks and treats, two size stepping stools, a borrowed scarf from a chihuahua to use as a gentle tether, and all the wipes in the world to clean everybody off... but I guess what I really needed was a tranquilizer gun, or maybe an exorcist.
"Well that's what you get for trying to milk the devil's mascot."
Sunday morning Winnie transformed into a bucking bronco. My husband held her legs, my sister held her, my daughter sang to her, my son stripped my garden bare in search of quality treats, and Winnie wasn't having any of it. She kicked. She jumped. She lay down. She actually refused to eat, put her head in the food bucket, looked back at me and shouted, "MAAAAAAH!" One cup of milk in the bucket and she managed to get a foot in. She pooped. She peed. She hates me.
"Wow, that's an angry goat. I really don't like this. I think you're hurting her."
For the record, I am way, way gentler than the baby. Baby goats ram their mother's udder to bring the milk down. But I understand, I'm stealing milk from Winnie that was intended for her baby. It does seem a trifle unethical when you stop to consider it.
But this morning wasn't too bad. It took only three of us. I switched out pails halfway through before a foot could get in there and got two cups. This can only get better.
"Don't you still have a breast pump somewhere?"
My first sunflower! It showed up July 1st. Hello, summer!!!
Above left you mainly see sunflowers. They will hopefully be supporting some sakata melon vines. In front of them are watermelon vines, and there is a close-up of a tennis ball sized watermelon we haven't managed to kill yet. The calendula, as promised, self-seeded.
The sunflowers in this picture are hopefully going to support apple melons. Swiss chard is planted along the left edge. The front box is freshly planted with bush beans, malabar spinach, lettuces, carrots, beets, Egyptian walking onion, lemongrass, and a tiny little butternut squash plant. All the nasturtiums are volunteers.
This bed is supposed to be all squash and peppers, but there is a broccoli plant from last fall that magically came back to life and I interplanted some Romaine lettuce which has done really well in that spot.
Mixed results in the bed above. I should've added more amendments from the beginning, but it's improving. The Japanese cucumbers I started from seed did far better than the bush cucumbers I sowed directly in the bed. The eggplants finally look healthy, and the peppers and tomatoes are looking a little healthier.
The corn (Blue Hopi) looks taller every day, and much healthier than last year. The green beans to the right might not be getting enough sun now, I'm not sure. They look healthy for now.
Most of my snap peas died. I thought I had some horrible pest at first, but I'm 85% certain the pest is my 7 year old daughter who checks for snow peas every day and probably uproots the plants as she picks. There are worse problems to have, and I planted a mix of peas and beans which may come up quickly. You can see the sprouts in the picture above, right. Wrong season for peas, I guess, so we'll see. There is kale and spinach in the middle. The left side of the box has watermelons, one charentais melon, and yarrow. The melons aren't doing as well in this spot as in the warmer part of the garden.
The bed to the right of the dying peas had a bunch of volunteer potatoes and one tomato plant. I ignored them completely and dug up an accidental 13 pounds of potatoes! That stuff doesn't usually happen to me in the garden, so YAY!
Above left is a "Missouri Bill's Soup Bean" drying out. They were delicious green, and it was nearly impossible to get my daughter to stop picking them. On the right are pumpkins. I think they'll be ready soon. They stopped growing and they've been getting darker every day.
I decided to pick from the garden only once a week if possible and to take pictures. It was easier than weighing it all since I'm getting such small amounts, and at least I have some kind of record now. I try to pick EVERYTHING that's ready, because otherwise some strange hoarding instinct takes over and it stays in the garden and goes bad. This way I'm always clearing room for new things and nothing goes to waste. I try to cook it all right away. I notice that I'm using more herbs now that I'm picking them ahead of time, and I never find rotting things in my refrigerator. I started using more parsley and oregano, and I'm making mint tea regularly. I'm getting 8-12 eggs a day in addition to the vegetables. So far, so good.
Happy fourth of July!
It's such a great time of year in the garden. I love dirt!
Here are my first tomatoes. I cut back a volunteer tomato that had been growing in the greenhouse over the winter and it not only survived but went on to give me tomatoes. Still waiting...
The pumpkin vine really took off, and by the end of the month you can see the pumpkins are bigger every day. These are Cinderella's Carriage Pumpkins.
Progress from the corn over the month of May. All the leaves looked shredded, but they went on to grow decently.
Snow Peas! My daughter's favorite. They grew in spite of the insects that killed half the plants. Next time I will plant them where it is not so windy though.
Loganberries, whatever those are. They look like raspberries but they're not quite as sweet and a little more perfume. Still, even grown in pots they are prolific.
These are surprises from the fall. The kale I had cut down at dirt level and it grew back. The beets had been sitting there since maybe last October. Better late than never!
A lot of carrots that I planted last fall. The best we've had so far. All the weird ones we call 'dancing' carrots. The rabbits love them.
Above left are some citrus trees we inherited and some herbs I started. On the right are Missouri Bill's Soup Beans with volunteer Cosmos.
Garlic I planted last October, and on the right a zucchini.
It started with a pound of defrosted cod in the refrigerator which nearly ended up in the trash. I found a recipe from another packet of cod which I'd kept, and this was born. It was one of those simple things that may never happen again, but it was so good I'd hate to forget. Even my kids loved it!
My son is getting over a cold and still has some lung congestion, so I tried to keep the dairy to a minimum and boost it with ingredients that help a cold. Garlic would have been nice, but there was none in the house. We had leftover basmati rice which had been cooked with a little salt, pork broth, and the fat in the pork broth. A curiously delicious combination.
1/2 stick Kerrygold butter
1 red onion or a few shallots, diced
1/2 Tablespoon chopped ginger
1/2 Tablespoon chopped fresh turmeric
1 sprig of thyme
2 Tablespoons flour
2-4 cups of sautéed mushrooms... or anything else
7 cups (approximately) chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
1 pound defrosted cod in pieces
salt and pepper
Korean pepper flakes
(Optional) warm cooked rice or a chopped potato or two
Melt the butter in a soup pot and add the onion. Let it all simmer and bubble, adding a pinch of salt. When the onion is soft, add in the ginger, turmeric, and thyme. (If you are using potato, add it now and give it a few minutes to soften.) Stir in the flour. After a minute or so, add the cooked vegetables, the chicken stock, and the half and half. Bring it up to a boil, add the fish pieces, and then turn it down to gently cook the fish (and potatoes). Once the fish is cooked, add the salt and pepper.
Serve the soup over warm rice if you like it that way and add a sprinkle of Korean pepper flakes. SO GOOD!!!
I came home after a week away and was awakened the first morning by the rooster crowing at 4 am. That sealed his fate. It had been a long time since I'd had an uninterrupted night's sleep, and I wasn't ready to go back to a 4 am wake-up call. Since it is a lot of work and angst to butcher/cull/harvest chickens, I decided that two of my oldest hens who haven't laid an egg in a year or two would meet their maker as well. One of them received a last minute pardon from my nine year old son who claims she is his favorite chicken, but no one cried over the rooster or the mean old hen. (Except my daughter, but only on principal, not because she liked them. She is a tenderhearted girl.)
I think this brings me down to twenty chickens, seventeen of which are middle-aged, if not quite perimenopausal. I think that when they stop laying, their day may also come, most likely early September this year.
I feel a certain amount of fear over the chickens, not because I feel bad about eating them, but because I am so afraid of hurting them or killing them badly. To put this into perspective, I'm also afraid to trim my dog's nails. I finally realized that sometimes you can outsource, and it doesn't need to be a cause for shame. Some people have no problem trimming dog nails, some people can butcher chickens. I do other things.
My father and husband stepped in for the part where I had to look away, but I stuck around for everything else. I have enough trouble touching chicken feet when they're alive let alone grabbing filthy dead chicken feet to swirl a bird in hot water before plucking them.
Once I removed the head and feet I felt much more reassured that the bird was done suffering and the rest really wasn't too bad. In fact, once I saw the quality of the meat I knew I'd be doing this again. So if this is really disturbing to you, don't look, but if you were ever interested in anatomy, keep reading.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!