Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oyster mushroom grove

Last weekend Wil an I originally planned on going fishing. 
On the way to the lake we spotted people with baskets, obviously mushroom pickers.

We pulled over immediately, grabbed our basket and knives and ran into the forest. Wil found some boletus mushrooms right away, and later we found an oyster mushroom grove.

It's almost ridiculous how happy mushroom picking makes me. 
It's both exciting and relaxing at the same time.

That is if you don't run into a bear mama and her cubs or a hungry cougar....

Back home we made homemade pasta with mushroom whisky sauce, a Murray-classic at this point.

I never had wild oyster mushrooms before. They are much milder and less earthy tasting then chanterelles and porcini. Maybe that is because they grow on trees rather than on the ground.

What was very interesting was the slight anis flavor and smell that added a new twist to the dish.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

First Potato harvest!

Yesterday we harvested our first potatoes.

After the harvest of our balcony potatoes in Berlin had been rather "modest" (100g total...), we actually picked more potatoes yesterday than we were able to eat. And that was only our first pick!
They were absolutely delicious!

Wil made rosemary garlic potatoes, and the best part was, that except for the sour cream, olive oil, salt and pepper, all the ingredients were from our garden.

Originally we had planted four different kinds: Yukon Gold, Warba, Pink Fir Apple and Russet Burbank.

the lighter ones with the sometimes pinkish skin are Warba, the other ones are Yukon Gold, with maybe one or two Russet Burbank hiding....

We mainly had Yukon Gold and Warba yesterday, since the Pink Fir Apple and Russet Burbank weren't ready yet.

Yukon Gold which seems to be a very popular potato among Canadians, was a great firm potato with a nice classic potato flavor and golden yellow flesh -  a very good allround potato.

The Warba really surprised me. Softer, but not mealy, with pretty white flesh, at times reddish-pink skin tone it was much more flavorful than the Yukon Gold, almost spicy.

Homemade ice tea and rosemary garlic potatoes with sour cream and lots of other herbs.

For now the Warba wins the contest of best tasting potato in our garden. Let's see how the others compete, once they are out of the ground. I only heard good things about the Pink Fir Apple...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Our first egg!

So after all that slaughter and rooster culling on Saturday, something much less gruesome:


Our little Maran Hen, layed this beautiful and tiny dark brown egg.

We are incredibly proud!

Yes, we ate it right away, and it was, of course, delicious!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Saturday. SlaughterDay.

Saturday was the day.
We woke up with the goal to slaughter four of our roosters.
When we bought our baby chicks a couple of months ago, we knew the day would come where we would have to get rid of some surplus roosters and "make coq au vin". Even though we got chickens mainly for eggs, we fantasized about how we would eat our own "homegrown" meat. Back then it seemed so far away, and we didn't waste too much time thinking about the actual slaughtering process. And if we did, we usually were lighthearted about it and certain that it will be just fine...

20 weeks later,  and we'd been pushing the date for the rooster cull further and further. By then they'd become quite cagy and aggressive, especially towards their girlfriends. There were too many roosters in the coop. So something had to be done.
On Saturday both Wil and I woke up with a terrible hangover, and our motivation was at zero. Luckily Wil was much more disciplined than I, and after some pep-talk we got everything ready. We made some space in the barn, covered everything with black garbage bags, set up a slaughtering station, four places to hang the chickens to bleed out, and prepared a hot and a cold waterbath for plucking.

We felt like Hollywood serial killers. Hell, I still feel like some Chicken Ted Bundy in a way while I am writing these lines. I mean, a killing room! Designed for efficient and quick killing. I never thought I would ever build something like this.
First we tried using a chicken culling cone, a metal apparatus that allows you to place the chicken upside down, while restraining it, with the head sticking out for and easier time. But unfortunately the one Wil and his dad built didn't work as planned, so we quickly found a solution that would be quick and humane. Wil was the one to take on this job

We were nervous and quite tensed up while we worked together. Neither of us spoke, unless it was necessary. But it went quickly, almost mechanically. There were, thankfully, not many unnecessary emotions or hesitations from either of us, as this would have prolonged the suffering of the animals. Neither of us wanted that.

After we bled and plucked them in the barn we brought them over to our house to remove the inner organs and intestines. While I wasn't able to do the slaughter of the chickens, Wil had problems taking care of the gutting. So I took the lead in this task and he assisted.

Removing the inner organs seemed much harder than it was described in the books and online forums. You need to be careful and forceful at the same time, to not make a giant mess. But even this gets better with practice.

We saved the neck and feet, as well as heart, liver and gizzards for stock, and discarded the rest.

By the end of the whole process, both Wil and I were incredibly exhausted, but proud that we had managed this challenging task.

I can't say it was enjoyable, but it was satisfying.
First of all WE DID IT!
We didn't just talk about how wonderful it would be to raise your own meat and eat it in the end but bought raised, fed and cared for our chickens. We build them a coop, cleaned the coop, nursed injured chickens, fed them treats, kept them warm and watched them grow. We watched the roosters and selected the ones that weren't contributing to the flock. We planned the slaughter precisely to make it as easy and quick for everyone involved, both the chickens and us. Last but not least: we didn't waste anything, not time or efforts, and not one piece of the chickens.
We are proud of that and happy that it was in a way far easier, and at the same time more exhausting than we would have ever thought. We may have to do it again, soon. 
Do I look forward to it? No. But I now know that we can do it.

We did make chicken soup using one of the chickens and most of the organs, necks and feet.
And surprise: It tasted like chicken!

Friday, July 12, 2013

June Harvest No 2: Radishes!

We planted our radishes and carrots together.

Radishes grow faster than carrots and loosen up the soil, which helps the carrots to grow better.
While the radishes are ready to be harvested our carrots are still tiny, and look more like regular roots, rather than actual carrots.

Unfortunately worms ate quite a few of our radishes. Therefore we weren't able to use them all.
But I guess, that's what happens when you try to become a gardener. Live and learn.

We will know better next time!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

June Harvest No 1: Rhubarb!

I know Calgary probably has one of the shortest growing season, and I am sure a lot of you harvested their first vegetables and herbs in April/May already.
We are still waiting for most things to be ready for harvest. Mostly what we planted and what is ready now is greens, such as fennel greens, dill, kale or spinach.

Therefore it just fills me with pride and joy to walk into our garden and pick something more substantial that I can actually cook with rather than just using it for salad, such as rhubarb.

Don't get me wrong, salad is great.
But rhubarb? That's about child hood memories of grandma's rhubarb crumble or rhubarb compote with vanilla ice cream.

Wil is already thinking about making rhubarb wine (as well as saskatoon berry wine, dandelion wine, elderflower wine etc.).

We'll see how that works out.

I'll go for the compote and cake for now!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Red beets salad with caramelized pecans and dill

After travelling and extreme floods, here is finally a new blog post with a fantastic summer salad.

This red beets salad is super refreshing and a perfect way of getting all the raw vegetables and nuts you need.
It's a nice addition to all that meat at your barbecue party and can also be served as a nice and healthy appetizer or as a light lunch or dinner.

I cannot wait to use the beets from our garden for it! Still have to wait a little on those ones...

What you need:

4-5 red beets (fresh)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 spring onions, chopped into fine rings
300-350 g (approx.) 1-1.5 cups of yogurt (around 3.2-3.5% fat)
150-200ml (approx 0,25-0.5 cup) heavy cream
150g pecans chopped
1 bunch of dill, roughly chopped
1 bunch of chives, roughly chopped
salt, pepper, honey/sugar
olive or carmelina oil


Peel the red beets.
You may want to use gloves for that because of the red dye. I didn't and it washed off my hands quite easily.
With the grating attachement on a food processor (ideally) roughly grate the beets.

In a pan slowly roast the chopped pecans.
When browned, add some honey or sugar and caramelize the pecans with it.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool down.

In a pan heat up some olive/carmelina oil at medium heat.
Add the garlic and spring onions and sautée for a few minutes, until soft (do not fry them!).
Set aside and let cool down.

In a big salad bowl mix together grated red beets, yoghurt and cream.
Add dill and chive, as well as garlic, spring onions and roasted pecans.

Mix well.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and maybe a tiny bit of sugar.

The salad tastes even better a day later, after it has been sitting in the fridge for a while.


All the measurements especially for the yogurt and cream are pretty much measured by eye.
I don't follow a recipe when doing it.
It always depends on how big the beets are. The beets should be nicely coated with the yoghurt-cream mix.
And regarding the dill and chive: Be generous! You cannot really screw anything up by adding 'too many' fresh herbs.

You could use sour cream instead of yoghurt, as well.