It’s fall in most parts of the country now. The trees are beginning to turn colors, the nights are getting cooler and the daylight seems a bit more crisp. Apples and pears hang heavy in the trees. In the evenings the crickets seem to be urging everyone to hurry and make preparations for the coming winter.
I have to say fall is my favorite time of year. There are many things to love about all the seasons, but it is fall—when the earth slowly settles in for its long slumber under the blankets of snow and ice—that I find to be the best season of all. The colors of fall dazzle the eye: oranges, reds, yellows, browns combine with the sharper scents of fall: burning leaves, pumpkins, spices and apples.
This fall, I’ve started several new projects. The most time consuming project I’m working on and this is a first for me is canning. So far I’ve canned chicken that I bought on sale, several pork loin roasts sliced into one inch steaks, homemade beef stew, venison (thanks to the generosity of a local hunter who already has a full freezer), and hamburger. (Hint if you want to can your own hamburger—boil it first in water, drain and then boil it again. It will remove almost 100% of the fat by doing this.) I’ve canned pears and the sweet scent of cooking pears in a light sugar syrup filled the house and made everyone hungry for those sweet treats. For dessert tonight, we had still warm pears (one jar didn’t seal) drizzled with warm fudge topping. Yummy! As good as they were my mouth is watering thinking about putting up apples tomorrow in homemade apple pie filling.
I purchased a hand-powered grain mill and actually ground my own wheat into flour. (Our local Super Wal-Mart carries whole wheat—as in not ground into flour—in twenty five bags.) From that flour, I mixed up bread dough (by hand, I will point out) and baked two loaves of bread, using two loaf pans of cast iron that I found at a yard sale. I love cooking with cast iron. Yes, it’s a pain in the butt cleaning and seasoning the first few times it’s used, or rehabbing neglected cast iron (as the two loaf pans were), but to me, food always tastes so much better when cooked in cast iron. After working that bread dough until it was elastic, my hands and shoulders were aching. I gained a whole new respect for my grandmother who always baked homemade bread.
I have a couple of hunters who have said when they field dress out the deer they get, they’ll roll the hides for me and save them. I want to try my hand at making leather. While some of my readers might be opposed to hunting, with the drought we had this summer, the number of deer allowed to be taken this fall has increased, because our state DNR is worried about the deer literally starving to death over the winter, and better they be taken through hunting and go into someone’s freezer (or canning jars) than slowly die from starvation. Being allowed to get the hides from these generous people means that much less of the deer will be wasted and I get to learn a new skill. The bonus is I don’t have to get up before the crack of dawn, trudge through a cold, wet field, climb into a deer stand, and shiver the morning away. Not to mention, I haven’t gotten hungry enough that I could pull the trigger on Bambi or Bambi’s mom.
DH asked me the other day why I was starting this hobby of learning pioneer skill sets. He quickly added that he wasn’t complaining, because we’ve had several meals from the jars and he’s amazed at how tender the meats are, but he was curious. I told him that if I’m writing historical romance, maybe I should have a slight idea of what my characters went through putting food up for the winter. DH informed me we were NOT buying a hog and butchering and curing or smoking it. I laughed and said that was next fall’s project.
It’s been an interesting start to the journey of learning new skill sets. There were a few set backs (bread not rising, a canning jar breaking in the pressure cooker) but so far, it’s been highly educational. My next big purchase is going to be a wood cooking stove that will be installed in the guest house and I’ll try cooking with that. When that happens, I’ll let everyone know how it works out.