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My boss has been into brewing beer lately. Almost every week, he’ll come into work and tell us about the new beer that he is concocting in his basement. He goes into extreme detail about the fermenting process and the resting time and the sediment percentages. When he talks about all the different flavor options (berry! pumpkin! rock candy!), he seriously can’t hide his excitement.
But we like it best when he brings in samples.
I’ve said before how I feel about beer. On a scale from one to ten, I’d give it a meh, accompanied with a shrug. The only time I really enjoy a beer is when it’s 95 degrees and the beer is so cold that the bottle sweats. Usually, I can take it or leave it. But there is something about a home brew that intrigues me.
Now, I’m obviously not a brewmaster but in the past I’ve dabbled at making my own alcohol. The first ill-fated attempt was my freshman year in college when a few friends and I decided to try our hand at making wine in our dorm room. The ingredients consisted of a jug of Welch’s grape juice, active yeast and sugar. For ten days, my roommate and I kept the bottle wrapped in a towel and stashed in a dresser drawer. We would deligently wake up in the middle of the night every couple of hours to open the jug and release the gas that the yeast produced. After a week and a half, we were ready to feast on the fruits of our labor. All of our friends gathered in our tiny room as we carefully strained the “wine” through cheesecloth and handed out glasses. We all toasted each other and our first attempt at creating alcohol.
The next morning, we were all sicker than dogs.
Thankfully, my attempts at “home brew” have gotten better over the years. Now I start with actual, professionaly-made alcohol and just add a bit more flavor. Here are two of my favorite recipes:
- 1 gallon apple cider
- 1 gallon apple juice
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 1 1/2 cups white sugar, or to taste
- 1 liter Everclear (Yes, I said Everclear. Trust me. This actually ends up tasting really good.)
Place the apple cider, apple juice, cinnamon sticks, and sugar into a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat, and discard the cinnamon sticks. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then stir in Everclear. Pour into quart-size jars or bottles and refrigerate until ready to serve. This is a great drink for autumn. Serve it warmed in small glasses with a cinnamon stick; perfect for a cool evening!
16 oz. cranberries
1 cup fine sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla
1 liter vodka
Roughly grind cranberries. Combine with sugar and vanilla over low heat and stir. Once sugar liquifies, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Divide cranberry mixture in half and place in two large jars. Add vodka. Let sit in a cool, dark plac for one week. Strain through cheese cloth and store in jars or bottles. This is a great holiday liqueur and makes awesome cranberry martinis!
I live in a small town in Wisconsin.
If you’ve read this blog even once, you probably already know that.
But in case you actually doubt the validity of this statement, here is undeniable, irrefutable proof. Because, seriously, who could make this stuff up?
I was driving home from work after a particularly stressful week. So, instead of taking the usual highway home, I decided to take the more calming, scenic route through some country back roads. As I was driving through the gorgeous, rolling, green hills of rural Wisconsin, I came over a hill…and had to slam on my brakes.
Because, in front of me, driving down the middle of the road at seven miles an hour was a man. Driving a lawn mower. He was listening to an iPod, drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon and smoking a cigar.
And I followed behind him. For five long minutes because it was hilly and I couldn’t pass. But who am I to judge? Everyone celebrates their Friday in a different way, right?
You’re still a rock star, Mister. Party hard.
What are Dilly Beans?!?
Yeah, a year and a half ago, I had no clue what “Dilly Beans” were either. But one weekend when I was visiting my parents, my dad pulled out this Mason jar filled with green beans and said, “Here, you have to try these!” Now, if you don’t know my dad, I’m sure that you’re just saying to yourself, “If it didn’t look good, why did you try it?” But those of you who do know my dad are sitting back, nodding knowingly and saying, “I get it. Bruce wanted you to try something.” Because, the crux of the matter is when my dad tells you to try something, you DO NOT SAY NO. You just give the biggest smile that you can and try the smallest bit of food that you can. And, amazingly, most of the time, you end up liking it.
And dilly beans are a great example of that.
The dilly beans that my dad had were made by a former student of his. I tried them (because I had to) and ended up loving them. They are the quintessential garnish for a Bloody Mary. They are a perfect addition to a relish tray. Heck, they’re awesome to just snack on! I give jars out the people I work with because they’ll just take them home, crack ‘em open and eat the beans while watching tv! And to top it off, they are the easiest thing to can ever. Don’t believe me? Try them yourself:
- 4 lbs green beans, washed and trimmed
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, per jar
- 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, per jar
- 1/2 tsp. dill seed, per jar
- 1 whole garlic clove, per jar
- 5 cups vinegar
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 cup salt
Add the red pepper flakes, mustard seed, dill seed and garlic cloves to the jars. Fill each jar with green beans. In a sauce pan, boil the vinegar, water and salt. Once boiling, pour into jars. Tighten lids. Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.
You can make as little or as much as you want depending on how many fresh green beans you have. Just be sure you calculate the salt correctly!
Okay, I’m not really that much of a Michael Jackson fan, but ever since City Girl called me up and reported that her most recent food experiment included beets, that song has been going through my head. But I’ll save you my commentary on moonwalking and sparkly gloves. Seriously, you don’t want to know about my obsession with Smooth Criminal when I was 7. Here’s CG:
I remember eating beets when I was really young, as in under the age of 5. Then there was 15 year gap.
When I was in college, for the first time, I was living with a friend who was going through a crazy vegetarian phase.
I respect vegetarians, don’t get me wrong….I just don’t like it when they get a little militant about it. “I don’t eat meat, so none of your meat can be even close to my food in the fridge” or “Can you please wash your dishes as soon as you are done cooking, yes BEFORE you eat, because I can’t look at the pan that you cooked the chicken in”…That kinda thing. I mean come on…I’m not going to put my chicken breasts on top of your damn tomatoes, and I’m not going to let the chicken carcass sit in the pan for days. But anyways…
One day my roommate and I were talking about foods we ate as kids, and I mentioned beets. Sheaid she had never had any…I was flabbergasted. Yes I said it, flabbergasted!! How could someone in the Midwest NOT have ever eaten a beet, cooked OR pickled??
So, I set out to have her try it. I mean as a vegetarian shouldn’t she expand her small selection of food options? I made them for her…we ate them, and we both loved them!
Then a very sad thing happened. Another 6 or 7 years went by, and I forgot all about that reddish-purpley delicious vegetable.
Until now. So…that brings us to today.
I know that these little buggers look scary, and the color can be overwhelming, but they are SO easy to cook and taste amazing, with just a little sweetness to them.
Here is how you cook them:
Most of the time, beets come with the stalks attached, which are long, green, leafy stems. This time when I went to the store they were already cut off. But either way you want to make sure that the stalk it cut just above the start of the beet. Look for smaller beets; for one thing they cook quicker and for another thing the smaller ones have a better flavor.
Leave the outside on the beets. Just rinse them off, put them in a large pot and fill with water. Once the pot begins to boil they should cook for about 20 minutes-give or take. Just stick a fork in the beet, it should be almost as tender as a potato when it is done, just a little bit less done; there should be just a little firmness to them.
Take the beets out and let them sit for just a few minutes. When they are just cool enough to handle, put a beet in a paper towel and gently rub the beet around. The outside skin should come right off! Poof, just like that they are ready to eat!
I enjoy my beets sliced, with just a tiny bit of butter and salt.
They reheat very well, so if you are making them for dinner, you might as well make extra and have some as leftovers the next day!
Don’t be afraid of that crazy colored veggie! They are SO easy to cook, and taste SO good.
…just be careful, if you eat a lot of beets you may notice some crazy color the next day….if you get my meaning…..(hehe). Just telling you so you don’t get too worried and end up calling the doctor or something….
I love warning signs.
Is that weird?
Okay, yeah, I realize it’s a little strange but have you ever looked at them before? I mean really looked at them? Those things are ca-razy! The people who dream those little danger stickers up really have sadistic minds, I tell you. For example, let’s pretend that an electric company wants a picture that will covey the idea that you should stay away from an electrical box because it has enough voltage to zap you into Timbuktu. (Is Timbuktu a real place? Anyways…) This is what the Warning Sign People come up with:
For a moment, ignore the whole “shock, burn or death” thing and just look at the illustration. Look at the detail the Danger Sign People (from here on out, called “DSP”) decided to include when they drew Do Everything Wrong Guy (“DEWG”). His eyes are inhumanly wide with…um…shock and his mouth is screaming a silent anguished scream. And who on the DSP team thought that giving the electricity ball an angry face was a good idea? Honestly though, I bet Wes Craven could make a pretty good movie out of that idea.
Here’s another one, found on the side of a five-gallon bucket:
Look at that adorable little toddler! With his cute little curls and his fuzzy feetie pajamas. All he’s trying to do is innocently get his binkie back when he drops it…I can just see mothers all over the country waking up screaming with nightmares from this picture. As if there isn’t enough to worry about as a new mother, let’s add five-gallon buckets to the list. Come on, DSP! Don’t you have something better to do than strike fear into the hearts of parents across the nation? Okay, I do understand that this is a plausible danger, but isn’t a simple “Dangerous to small children” sign sufficient?
How about this one, found by a hot tub:
Everyone has been cautioned about diving into the shallow end of a pool, right? But it does have serious consequences, so I understand why all pools have “No Diving” signs. However, apparently this is not sufficient at a hot tub. The DSP decided that they needed to really covey the fact that you shouldn’t dive in a hot tub. So, they drew DEWG in this very situation. And poor DEWG doesn’t fare well. Obviously the DSP don’t have a lot of faith in their viewers, because despite the fact that there’s a large red slash through the picture of DEWG diving, they decided to also add angry red arrows pointing at his neck. But was it really necessary to add that pool of red under his head? I think that that’s going a bit too far, DSP.
For one final warning sign, let’s follow DEWG to the farm. You don’t have to be a farm girl to know that there are many dangers on the farm, the least not being machinery with a lot of rotating parts. I would be lying if I said getting a body part caught in some sort of equipment wasn’t one of my constant fears, but the DSP don’t want just mere fear to keep you on the straight and narrow when dealing with farm machinery. They want you to be downright terrified.
I do have to say…DEWG is quite flexible. He must be doing yoga. And I dig the cowboy boots.