Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ARTISAN LIFESTYLE: Mean chickens,beet haters,dirty jam ,evil corporate food producers

Its my birthday in two weeks! I got an early birthday present yesterday... two new hens and 10 pounds of beets! I am delighted. My new chickens are rock hens. They are pullets and wont lay for 30 more days. The two we picked out of the crowd seemed nice enough until we got them home and the sweet gentle bard rock.... turned out to be hell with feathers. She picked one fight after another until I had to sit outside with a spray bottle and squirt her down every time she attacked. I had a long talk with the two new ones before they ever went in with the other three. I explained to them how nice and comfortable their lives were about to be. I guess Hell-feather didnt believe me. Jimmy said she will calm down when she realizes that there will be an abundance of food and water and general snacks and no need to fight for 'enough'..... and space. The lady we got them from had over a hundred chickens in the same amount of space that I have for five. Jimmy says hell-feather decided ahead of time she wasnt going to be anybodys prison bitch. I'm willing to give her time to adjust unless she hurts one of the others. If that happens.... it'll be hell-feather and dumplings! Cuz I wont tolerate violence in my house by anyone! In the mean time... the bitching goes on 'cause the old girls dont understand why I disrupted their egg making, idylic life by dropping satan's spawn in ther midst. And they are letting me know!(Good Lord its loud out there) Fortunately I have very groovy neighbors. All of whom gathered in my backyard last night to meet the two new girls.
Poor humble beets! When I tell folks I am pickling beets, the response is universal ... 'I hate beets!'... 'they taste like dirt'. So, lets discuss beets. When I investigate I usually discover that beet haters have only been exposed to commercially canned beets. So, I cant really fault their attitude. Commercially prepared beets are universally GROSS! The difference between home canned beets and commercial canned beets is the difference between spam and a nicley grilled steak. Fortunately my first exposure to beets was my great grandmothers recipe which I spent two hours on the phone with my grandmother to get (thats about the average amount of time to get any of the classic 'recipes' from my grandmother. Cuz there really isnt a 'recipe' for most of her cooking and canning. There is a process... but no cookbook recipe) So , the beets 'Libby' and 'Green Giant' calls pickled are cooked beets with a little vinegar and salt added. blecchh! The process I use which has been handed down for several generations gets rid of the dirt taste and enhances the natural flavor of the vegetable. Over the last year I have spent time at parties and potlucks saying 'here, just try a little bite' and then watching the surprised look on the faces of the tasters. Even Jimmy... the ultimate beet hater is now a convert. So, YAY for the 'grandmothers to the infinite' process and BOO to third rate commercial processing!
I have had many 'helpers' for my canning process. Friends who think its cool and want to learn how. They show up pencils and notebooks ready to get a degre in basic canning and sit down at the table three hours later (usually with a glass of homemade wine) and say..... "really? Thats it? I thought it would be much more difficult!" Thanks to 60 years of commercial food companies brainwashing, the classic home arts are seen as some lost mystery of the ancients. The companies that got their start processing and storing foods for marching soldiers oversees in WWII needed a new market when the war was over. We the People, were and are that new market. We were told commercially processed foods were safer, tastier and more nutritious. Uhmmmmmm.... they lied. The preservatives and color enhancers alone are enough to make me shun commercial foods. And the processing? I inspect,snap and string every single green been I can.... No way can the commercial canners make that statement. Have ya seen the state of the strawberries that are used for commercial jams? Most of what goes into a jar of jam on a grocery store shelf... I wouldnt deem fit for my chickens! But with dyes and added synthetic flavoring they make it look good. Next time you buy a jar of jam .... take the jam challenge! Read the label and try to find one whose ingrediants say fruit,sugar, pectin. Personally, I just cant bring myself to eat the commercial crap, not when it takes all of an hour to make up enough jam to feed my family for a year. Not when I know that not one single rotten berry goes into a jar of my jam!