Monday, September 27, 2010

Beef Tips: How to Braise a Roast

Braising is cooking term for what most people call pot roasting. Below are 3 easy steps to follow to get a tender and juicy roast for those cool fall weekends.

1. Slowly brown beef on all sides using a small amount of oil in a heavy pan (I prefer cast iron) over medium heat. Pour off drippings.

2. Add small amount of liquid (1/2 to 2 cups) of liquid. You can use broth, water, juice, beer or wine. Stout beer adds a super complex flavor to a roast.

3. Cover tightly and simmer gently over low heat on top of the range or in a preheated 325 degree oven. See list below for cooking times.

Chuck Roast: 2 1/2 - 4 pounds, 2 - 3 hours
Bottom Round or Rump Roast (boneless): 3 - 4 pounds, 2 1/2 - 3 1/4 hours
Brisket: 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 pounds, 2 1/2 - 3 hours

All cook times are based on thawed beef removed directly from refrigerator. Enjoy!

Leaving a Lasting Impression

Last week we made some repairs to the hog barn - yeah! The concrete guys had some left over concrete in the truck, and they poured a little driveway up to the shed door. The girls were very excited to leave a hand print in the wet concrete, just like their daddy did back in 1983. It is a joy to be on a farm that has a long family history and I smile at the thought of continuing that legacy. From the dinner bell with Willis and Lenora's (Bryce's Grandparents) names inscribed below it, to 6 year old Bryce’s hand print in an old concrete slab, to the many old pieces of farm equipment here and there. We are just beginning to add to the rich history of this land.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bounty of the Season Part 3: Tomatoes

My favorite way to eat a fresh heirloom tomato is on a nice crusty toasted bread with mozzarella or goat cheese, basil and a drizzle of olive oil, Yum! Simple, but as tasty as any special treat I could ever want!

I use the easiest way possible to store my tomatoes for the winter. Since we have huge freezers for the beef I claim a couple baskets in the biggest freezer for preserving vegis. Freezing is not always the best way to preserve flavor but considering the marginal success i have had with canning and limited time this year, I am just freezing again. Just follow a couple simple steps and you can enjoy your frozen tomatoes all winter long.

1. Wash tomatoes and boil water in a large kettle.
2. Fill the sink with very cold water.
3. Drop tomatoes into boiling water a few at a time and scald for 30 seconds.
4. Remove and place directly into cold water. Lift from the water and peal and core.
5. Pack in rigid containers. Leave 1 inch head space. Freeze.

If you do not even want to go through the scalding process you can simply wash and core tomatoes, set them on cookie sheets and freeze. When they are frozen, pack in freezer bags. If you use this method be sure do defrost in a bowl after running under lukewarm water to soften. These tomatoes are best used in sauces, soups and casseroles.

I like to use a great tomato soup recipe from my favorite recipe site It's simple, my kids love it and it's not from a can! It calls for fresh tomatoes, but you can also use your frozen & peeled tomatoes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bounty of the Season Part 2: Sweet Corn

We love sweet corn! Below is an easy recipe that the girls ask for. They call them Corn Pancakes and they go great with a Riemer Beef Roast on a cool fall day.

Corn Fritters

1/2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t seasoned salt
1/4 t black pepper
1 T sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 C milk
1t canola oil
2 C corn removed from the cob

1. Combine the flour, baking powder, seasoned salt, pepper, and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the mild and the oil. Fold in the corn.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet until hot, then reduce heat to medium. Drop tablespoons of batter into the skillet. Cook until browned on all sides, turning frequently. ENJOY!

Preserving Corn

I also wanted to share with you a quick method for keeping sweet corn for corn fritters and mid- winter stews and chili's.

1. Husk.
2. Begin heating water for blanching*.
3. Cut corn from the cob.
4. Pack in Boilable bags & add butter if desired.
5. Press out air and seal bags.
6. Blanch bags, four at a time, in boiling water for 6 minutes.
7. Run under very cold water. Pat Bags dry & freeze.

*Blanching is a term that describes a process of wherein the food substance, usually a vegetable or fruit, is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval, and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocked) to halt the cooking process.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bounty of the Season Part 1: Zucchini

This post is part 1 in a 3 part series about using and preserving popular vegetables from the garden during this harvest season. Parts 2 & 3 will give you ideas for preserving and recipes for tomatoes and sweet corn.

Although we still have 2 weeks left of summer it certainly feels like autumn and the harvest is well on its way. As a matter of fact you may have a pile of zucchini on your counter as I do and need to do something with it all. During August you can practically get zucchini for free because anyone who grows it is begging neighbors to take it!

Zucchini is just one of many summer squash but seems to be the most popular. One common mistake people make is letting zucchini grow too large. You have to check it every day as harvest draws close, and pick when the zucchini is 6-10 inches long. Bigger is not always better. If a zucchini gets too large it gets a bit tough and spongy in the middle and the seeds start getting hard. I made the mistake yesterday of trying to shred zucs that were too large in my kitchen-aid and ended up with yuck.

Preserve: If you can not preserve right away, do not wash.
  • Zucchini can be sliced 1/2 inch thick and tray-frozen, unblanched, to be breaded or flour-coated and fried. Do not defrost squash before frying.
  • Zucchini can be grated and frozen for baked goods. When defrosting, squeeze the moisture out before measuring and adding to recipe.
  • Zucchini can be dried as chips: 1. Wash & cut into 1/2 inch slices; do not peel. 2. Dry in a dehydrator at 120 degrees for 6-8 hrs turning once, until crisp. Or dry in oven at 120 degrees for 6 to 8 hrs. 3. Cool and package in airtight containers.
  • Zucchini can be frozen for stir-frying: 1. Wash. Drain. Pat dry. 2. Trim ends. Slice no thicker than 1/4 inch thick. 3. Pack in gallon-size freezer bags. Press out air. Seal. Freeze.
Zucchini quality should be preserved for 4-6 months. Tips taken from my "Preserving Food at Home" book by Janet Chadwick.

Great Zucchini Recipe's:

Everyone loves zucchini bread. I found a fantastic and somewhat unique lemon zucchini bread recipe. I use 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 all-purpose and add an extra Tablespoon or so of lemon juice to make it extra lemony. Make a double or triple loaf and freeze for later but whatever you do don't make the same mistake I made years ago and make cucumber's really not that good!

There is more to zucchini than bread though. Below is a simple and yummy recipe from my favorite cookbook called "Cooking With Heirlooms: Seasonal Recipes with Heritage Variety Vegetables and Fruits".

Zucchini and Tomato au Gratin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 2 1/2 quart baking dish.

Heat 1 T canola oil in a large skillet. Add 1/2 medium onion, diced and saute until tender. Stir in 4 medium zucchini cut into 1/4 inch slices and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Peel and chop 2 heirloom tomatoes and add to zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste and 4 large basil leaves (chopped). Cook 5 minutes longer.

Spoon the mixture into prepared baking dish. Add 1/4 C (or more) shredded cheddar cheese. Bake 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ground Chuck to Up Chuck: A Success Story

Up Chuck, up, stand up...up Chuck, up, stand up... This became Kalena's chant every time we went out to do "bovine therapy" on Chuck, the calf.

Chuck injured a nerve in his shoulders or spine about 12 days ago, and was not able to stand up. We brought Chuck up to our yard last Saturday (11 days ago) and began discussing our course of action. We decided that Chuck needed some special calf food, fresh hay and water and lots of TLC to be restored to health. He could not put any weight on his front legs and it seemed had no feeling in them either. We may have a sick sense of humor, but we named him Chuck as in Ground Chuck...get it? Groan!

Grandpa, Kalena, Elli and I (Jen) spent time with Chuck several times a day moving his legs and massaging his joints. We joked that we could sell him as Kobe beef when this was all said and done.

Chucks progress was slow, and at times we were not very hopeful that he would regain feeling and strength in his legs. However, this Saturday one week after Chuck took up residence in my lawn he stood with help from us. Let me tell you lifting a 300 lb calf is no easy task! Within an hour he stood by himself and wandered a few steps to the shrubs for some fresh leaves and grass. Late Saturday evening our dog Oliver was barking like crazy, when I looked out to see what the fuss was I saw Chuck wandering around the yard munching on anything he could find. Good grief! By morning he was nose to nose across the gate with the other steers about 100 yards from where he began. No one would ever know he had any problems with his legs at all.

Caring for Chuck has been such a great lesson in animal husbandry for both myself and the girls. I have to say we have become a little attached to Chuck. He is the most exciting addition to what we call the Riemer Family Petting Zoo which consists of: 11 Kittens, 3 cats, 1 city dog, 1 farm dog, 1 old pony and now a perfectly healthy, friendly calf named Chuck.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Next Great Adventure: Homeschooling!

Over the last several months there have been many changes in the life of the Riemer Family. Not only have we moved to the farm and taken on the daily activities that go along with that, but Jen has also taken on a new role as very part time librarian at Albertson Memorial Library in Albany WI. The most dramatic life change, however, is our decision to home school the girls.

After much research and conversation, as well as many conversations with friends and other home schooling families we have decided that the best education for our children will be right here at the farm. Oh, I know many of you are asking: What about socialization? How will you know what they have learned? Do you really think you can do it all day? These are the top questions that have been posed to us about our decision and from what I can tell from our reading are very common questions. These are concerns that I initially had as well and want to briefly address the ever popular "socialization" question.

Socialization: What does this word mean anyway? Most people are really asking "Wont the girls be too isolated and how will they learn to get along with others"? Well, they are extremely well adjusted so far and they have essentially been home schooled from birth. I have come to agree with most home school families and believe that homeschooling is a big advantage when it comes to socialization and here's why.
  • The girls will have many opportunities to interact with other children. On the agenda for this fall: swim lessons, piano lessons from grandma (Elli), Gymnastics (Kalena), Sunday School and countless activities with the strong home school groups in our area. Soon to come 4H...Bryce is going to have to take the lead on this one. The great thing is we can take part in these activities without having the huge after school rush, eating in the car and exasperation that they are taking over our schedule. They are just part of the rhythm of home schooling and we can go deeper with each activity like coming home and doing a reading lesson on Olympic swimmers for example.
  • They are not limited to spending time with children their own age. They learn to get along with others older and younger and of different backgrounds than themselves. It is hard to find role models in a room full of 6 year old children, but when spending time with older children they can learn how to act, create and explore with confidence. We have the opportunity to expose them to cultural events in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon if we so choose.
  • They can take part in real life opportunities around the house and community. Home schoolers have a better sense of "real life" than other children. They understand better what it takes to take care of a home, balance a checkbook, work with a plumber, shop for groceries, problem solve and fix things when they break. They can learn to deal with real life situations in a safe and supportive environment surrounded by extended family.
  • Although we are a long way off, colleges and employers are increasingly impressed by home schooled kids who have proven to be strong people who can take responsibility, cooperate with others, take initiative and lead and participate in team projects.
I certainly do not have all the answers about homeschooling, I'm quite clueless actually. However, after many conversations with home schooled children and their families and resources like the Wisconsin Parents Association I am assured that positive socialization for the girls is a moot point. Now I can move on to other issues like what course of action to take in teaching Elli about all the things she is interested in like: Cuba City, Pachyderms, writing and how country's and states get their names. Here we go!