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Monday, November 21, 2011

Brining Your Thanksgiving Turkey

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Do any of you out there brine your turkeys?  Brining is supposed to improve flavor, and make a more juicy and tender bird.  Most store bought turkeys are "flavor injected" so brining them may become too salty.  I honestly never considered brining before we started growing our own turkeys, which we've done for two years now.  

It is a really simple process that basically involves a turkey, salty water, added flavorings and a large pot or bucket to soak the turkey in.  The past two years I used a recipe that brined in spices and apple cider, but was underwhelmed with the results and really couldn't tell the difference. 

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After searching the web, and finding several positive references to Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey (Click on the link to get the recipe)  I've decided I'm going to give this one a try and I'll keep you posted with the results.  It loooove stuffing cooked in the bird, so I'll have to change the roasting directions because of this.   

Anyone out there have a tried and true brining recipe?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What's On Your Thanksgiving Table?

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I can hardly believe that thanksgiving is right around the corner!  We have a few Thanksgiving traditions.  The past couple years we have grown our own turkey, I make homemade cranberry sauce and Alaska Tea (aka Cranberry Tea), and the annual Thanksgiving XC-Ski.  Sometimes it's crazy warm and we can barely ski because it's slippery and above freezing, some years it's stinkin' cold & occasionally we have to skip it because we are too cold (my cut off is -15, it's like skiing on sandpaper).  My sister is usually my partner for the ski while the turkey is cooking, but she moved to Bellingham this year and will be greatly missed, so my husband agreed to ski with me, IF it warms up today it's still -25. 

On our table will be turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, brussels sprouts (my husband's favorite all time vegetable), roasted broccoli and cauliflower, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, cranberry tea and sparkling cider.  Mmmmm I'm hungry already!

What's going to be on your Thanksgiving table?

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Alaska Tea Recipe
1 quart cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
10 whole cloves
3 quarts of water
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 can orange juice concentrate
sugar or honey to taste

Simmer cranberries, cinnamon, cloves and water until berries are tender (about 25 minutes), strain or may remove the spices and blend the cranberries and water for a thicker, richer drink (CAUTION do not blend while hot, it may, and by "may" I mean "likely will" blow the top off of your blender, spraying red cranberry goo all over you, your cabinets, counter, stove, and the springer spaniel who is always under foot, and I "may" over a year later, still find spots of it occasionally.  Just sayin).  Add lemon, orange juice concentrate, straight from the can, not mixed with water, and sugar or honey to taste.  Heat until warm and dissolved.  Serve warm.  For gatherings I keep this in my crock pot on warm.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

6 cups of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of water (or may substitute orange juice)

Blend all in a sauce pan and bring to a full rolling boil, boil until a small amount on a spoon gels, approx 25 minutes.  Ladle unto sterilized jelly jars and seal.  This does not require processing.  Sometimes I make ahead, and other times I just cut the recipe in 1/4 and make the day before thanksgiving.  I use wild, frozen lowbush cranberries (also called lingonberries) straight from the freezer, not defrosted first. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Keeping the Chickens and Rabbits Warm in Extreme Cold


I'm often asked how we keep our animals warm in the extreme cold.  We only have rabbits and chickens than we keep year round. I covered a lot of this in a previous post here

When we have a good amount of snow, it's getting below freezing a lot and they are staying in the house more than out, and their water is freezing in the house, we close the house day and night, keeping the chickens in  for the rest of winter.  We have two windows that we can open if it gets too warm and leaved cracked for ventilation.

When laying starts to decrease and we are losing a lot of light, we add a regular 100w light during the day for 12 hours of light. When it's -10 or colder, we add a 100w red light during the night to help it stay warm enough without the extra light.  Surprisingly this works well to keep the coop above freezing until around -20, after that we have to put in a heat lamp.  We use the red heat lamp so they don't have 24 hours of light, and continue the regular 100w bulb for 12 hours during the day.  We made that mistake once, and when the cold snap was over, we abruptly went back to the 12 hours of light and they completely quit laying for weeks. 

The rabbits do well with the above plan too, unless we are having a litter.  When we are getting close to having a litter, we put a reptile heater at the bottom of the nest box.  It has a warm to hot temperature controller so I can't say exactly what it's set at, but it's warm to the touch without being hot at all.  This has kept the bunnies nice and warm even during this -30 to -40 degree weather.

Not my typical morning......

Partly Cloudy Clear


It’s never my favorite kind of day when I wake up and it’s -38f, but not at all unusual for November in Interior Alaska.  However this morning was just not a good start.  On Wednesdays my son’s high school has a late start, so I will drive him to school because the bus comes at the usual time and hour earlier than he needs to be there.  Immediately when I went into the garage I knew something was up, it was HOT in there.  Apparently the zone valve is stuck, and it was 72, even though the thermostat was at 45.  So I run back upstairs to tell my husband. 

I get in my car to go, and its dead.  I had accidentally left my keys in and partially turned on.  So now hubby comes down to jump my car. I Get the son to school, slightly late for his Chemistry class, which has a test of course, because it’s that kind of day.   

Then head for the gas station because I had forgotten to fill up the night before.  I get to the station and realize I have no gloves!  Really?  Today I forget them when it’s -38?  Oh and ½ of the pumps are down, and the other half have people at them.  Great…..  So head over to a neighboring station, dig around in my car and come up with a thin, leopard print glove, and a hot pink fleece mitten, thanks to my kids who leave such things behind. A lovely look I might add, that I get to sport all day.  I pump my gas and FINALLY head off to work.  When I get there I realize I’ve been driving around in the dark with my headlights off!

The rest of my day was pretty uneventful, here's hoping tomorrow morning is the same, because it certainly won't be any warmer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Around Our Place

We have a small litter of Flemish Giant bunnies, they are 2 weeks old
Soon I'll make a post about rabbit meat, we aren't sure yet of the cost of raising the rabbits for meat.  This particular litter will probably go up for sale.  Around here Flemish Giant's sell for about $75 each
We have a blanket of snow covering the garden now, enough for my first cross-country ski of the season