2.23.2015

Gift Cabbage

The 'Cajun country boy trading network' is alive and well in our little town, and one example of the many things going back and forth between between friends and neighbors this winter is cabbage.  Our garden boxes are small, so we do not grow cabbage 'cause it takes a lot of room grow the wonderful stuff.  Not only that, but we have a good friend, primarily, Smokin' Sam, who does have plenty of room to grow a lot of everything, and he does it with a lot of success, and not only that, he's more than willing to share.    For the last couple months we have been getting 1 or 2 heads of cabbage from him.  He and his wife, Louise, have have been getting satsumas or oranges or grapefruit, or pickles or canned figs in return. (The sausage and Andouille Sam blesses us with makes whatever we are cooking, 'sing'.)    I have been patient through this whole process, allowing my salad head wife to slaw to her hearts content.  All winter along the only other thing we did with the cabbage was make a casserole in a black iron pot.  That was cause I was too lazy to make cabbage rolls and just layered the makings in the pot and threw it in the oven.  It was wonderful of course and appeased me for a while but when our neighbor dropped off what may be the last 2 cabbage heads of the season off I put my foot down and insisted we smother them.  Now do not misunderstand me I love slaw and Peggy is a wiz at it.  She makes several wonderful varieties, as any one who knows us will avow.   The Cajun country boy in me just likes them cooked down so far ya can barely tell they usta be cabbage.  When the neighbor dropped these off:
I just hadda drag out the black iron pot and go to wacking them up.  With a couple yellow onions and some left over chicken from the other night that I had lightly sauteed in the pot with 3 slices of bacon I began putting in wacked up cabbage.
Well it wasn't long before the pot was full and I still had almost 1 whole one left to add.
Not a problem, just put the lid on and come back in a few minutes.
Fill it up again and repeat.

One more time and its all in the pot.
after letting it cook down stirring occasionally I adjusted the seasoning with our home made Cajun spice.

Yes, this is the same pot that I filled 3 times and No I aint took none out......yet.
I actually like it cooked down even more till it is a darker nuttier brown color but to be honest this took a while and I got hungry.  We had it over rice and like usual I got busy eating and forgot to take a plated picture.  We had it over rice with a salad on the side and it was wonderful.  Sadly we are out now and for the first time in months bought a head of cabbage.  Now that I have had my fix Peggy got our the food processor and shredded some of it with carrots and made a slaw that was delicious but I sure enjoyed smothering a pot 3 times full, down to half full of Cajun style comfort food.


Peggy asked that I refer yall to this story she wrote way back some years ago here on ourblog about 'smothering' things. (for some reason it will only search with Google to find it)
 
http://cappyandpegody.blogspot.com/2005/09/smothered-squirrelsi-can-just-see-it.html

It's hard to  believe we been at it this long, blogging that is.  I been smothering things all my life. 

2.16.2015

Here We Grow Again

  In our world, the "F" in February has meant "Fertilizer". (Yeah, I can hear Peggy in the background, being an ex-Yankee, sayin' that there's another word for fertilizer that folks say up north in February when they get hit with another foot of snow...but this aint it). For us Southern gardeners, fertilizer is what it is...garden fertilizer. What I learned about when to do this, I can't rightly recall, but probably early on as a kid, when my first gardening experience was to have to do a li'l dreaded weeding, and thought, "oh sure, go ahead and fertilize...just the sort of encouragement these dollar weeds and Johnson grass needs".  But I know it to be true, and I know I've heard it all my life, this gardening fact, that the right time to fertilize is in February. 
   The old timers gardening experts, etc. all agree that it's the best time to fertilize down here in the soggy South.  I do remember the county agent stopping by when I first moved here and recommending 13-13-13 fertilizer as a good mix for my yard.  (We all simply call it "triple thirteen") That and the addition of zinc around the pecan trees is all that's needed for our soil. 
   Over 20 years ago I saw my "across the street neighbor," Jude, dragging a heavy metal pole around with a 5-gal. bucket and a sack of fertilizer. Well, I just had to go over and inquire; that's how we are in our neighborhood.  He told me that this homemade 'hole-puncher' was neighborhood community 
property  and used by almost everyone on our street, so, from that year on, every February, I have track down the "tool" and use it in our yard too. (Sometimes, one of the neighbors may have to come 'track it down' at our house.)
 Now that our trees are large, I fertilize our fruit and nut trees only.  They work hard giving to us so I figure it's only right to give back to them, and they always reward us with a good bounty, (unless the squirrels or other predators get to it before we do, but anymore, with cats on patrol in our yard, the harvest has been bountiful).
  Born from the axle of some long-forgotten farming equipment this "frankentool" has a cross-piece welded to it for a foot step.  It is used by jamming it down into the ground, all the way to the cross-piece and then "wallowing" the hole.  This makes the hole wider and allows the tool to be easily removed.  

After that, we pour in 1 lb. of fertilizer into the hole.  We learned years ago that a red Solo cupful to the top ring is 1 lb.

So it's: stick it in around the outer 'drip line' of the tree, wiggle it around, pull it out and repeat, while at each hole, Peg pours in the fertilizer.  We did this about 100 times altogether, in our whole yard, counting for all the fruit and nut trees.
   The big Plum trees and citrus trees each got 10 or so holes, while the smaller, newly planted trees only got 4.  I think the rule for most things is 1 lb. per year of growth.  
 After we add the cupful of fertilizer, we take 2 steps to the right and repeat all the way around the tree. We let the tree canopy 'tell us how much to put', since the outside of the canopy is our 'drip line'. 
    My helper dawggy, Beaux, insisted on helping, but tends to wander off around the neighborhood looking for a more exciting adventure than what we are up to, so I tied his leash to my overalls.  That worked pretty good 'til at one point the Brat got excited and ran around and around me and hog-tied my feet together.
After the first few holes our chubby ole dog decided he would rather spend his day chillin' on the porch swing.
When I was finally done, my beloved wife rewarded me by building a fire in the pit and bringing her sweaty ole hubby a cold beer.
I am pretty sure that for the last few years that hole-puncher has been getting heavier and heavier and harder to drag around the yard.  I am also sure that if that dang thing could talk it would prolly say, "Oh -----!('fertilizer'), blame the tool!"

2.13.2015

A Little Jug of Whine...Not!

Those of you who read our blog are familiar with our yard and the fruit trees that we talk about so much. Maybe we get a little excited, but it's just that, with so little effort on our part, we reap such a wonderful bounty. Yesterday, Peg and I fertilized all of our fruit and nut trees with "triple thirteen". It requires a little work, but Peg and I enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and comradery of working together, laughing and reveling in accomplishing something good. In short order we were finished with a sense of accomplishment.
  Speaking of accomplishments; the fruit of our labor, no pun intended...well, maybe...but, for instance, on a good year our Japanese aka Loquat plum trees will produce as many as a dozen or more 5-gallon buckets full of fruit.  That's much more than Peggy and I can use.  We'll use one bucketful (five gallons of fruit) for canning. These make great desserts, like cakes and pies, etc.   This is a photo of the upside down birthday cake I made for her last month.
We have a friend in town who uses these plums to make a delicious sweet wine.  He's an older guy known as "Tarzan".  He gladly takes any excess we have, which is usually 8 of these five gallon buckets full or so, to make some wine and uses the rest as gifts. He doesn't make enough to be illegal. Just enough for his own consumption, mainly. 
      A few days ago, our good friend Smokin' Sam called and told me that Tarzan was cleaning up and getting ready for his Spring wine making season and had a lil wine left over, if I wanted some.  He told me to round up a jug and he will give ya some.  Any time company is coming or I need wine he always gives me a couple fifths when I need it so that's all I was expecting.  This is what showed up.
I got a siphon hose from Sam, and pushed it all but the very end into the jug.  Then stuck my finger on the end and pulled it up.
You may want to forget I told ya this trick about how to get a siphon going, 'cause it takes away the need (and fun) to suck the wine through the hose to get the siphon started.


After filling a gallon and a couple other jugs.
The level in the jug was low enough to take out the siphon hose, and pour it through a funnel.  I should point out the steel allen wrench lashed to the the end of the hose.  This weights it down, keeping it on the bottom of the huge jug, so as to not break the suction if the tubing was to curve up and out of the liquid. 

We filled the bottles we had around the house, and still had a couple gallons left in the jug.
Well, with all that siphoning and bottling going on you know there had to be some tasting too.
That's the way it goes in a small town in Cajun country. Just when you think you can't stare one more plum in the face, thanks to good friends, there's more than one way to get plum silly.

1.31.2015

Just another January 2015 Backyard Day

   The weather has been being wonderful the last few days, so Peg and I decided to spend a day out in the yard.  The day before this adventure I seasoned a twinpack of Boston Butt roasts I had scored on sale, as well as one we already had in the freezer.  I rubbed them down with Steen's Cane Syrup, a couple handfuls of our  own special homemade blend of Cajun seasoning, and some Crystal hot sauce and "woo-stir-shire"..."woo".  We stuck our well-seasoned butts in the fridge, where they spent 20 hours thinkin' about things 'til the next morning. 
    The next day while I got the bbq pit goin', Peggy put on a pot of lima beans, Cajun-style, on the back burner to simmer along all day, while we worked outside.
   Peggy loves to start campfires the old-fashioned way like the ancient folks used to have to, starting simply with a small pile of dryer lint and banana leaves, then for tinder, moving up to small twigs and branches, (cut precisely to size with our specialized "nippers"), tosses in a few lovely pine cones that sometimes are dipped in wax and perfumed (but not this time, Thank God) and burnt ends from the last fire. She disdains artificial means of starting her fires, like...oh...lighter fluid.
It's great that she likes to keep her fire-starting skills sharp.  Short of using a stick and string, or flint and steel, she did the ole 1 match thing and had it smoking up the yard in no time.

While she had the fire smoldering and beginning to 'take', I parked the pork butts on the pit.
An hour later and it was looking good.
While Peggy tended the fire to the music on the outdoor speakers, I trimmed some shrubs back, cut them up and added them to the fire to keep it blazing, doin' it's job. As you can see, we've got a LOT of work to do on our yard, but burning the dead branches and such, helped some.
After three hours of smoking the pork, I rolled it over and added some more water-logged hickory chips to the coals.
We continued feeding the fire and walking around, getting some sunshine enjoying the beautiful day.
And the bbq pit continued to smoked merrily away.
Peggy loves to tend her campfires and I love to babysit a BBQ Pit.  That's one of the many things that make us a great team.
You will note in the above picture that there is a small piece of pork that is missing.  What?? You thought I could watch that stuff smoke for 6 hours and not sample??
As the shadows lengthened and the pork got done, we pulled it out and let it rest in the kitchen while we continued to enjoy the wonderful evening.
Well the evening slid by with us sitting by the fire and I guess I had a few too many beers.  We sat out long after dark and managed to consume the two smaller roasts along with some slaw and roasted ears of corn, I had stuck in the pit near at the last minute.  Normally a photo of a plate would go here <------> but somebody forgot to take a picture of it.  The dang pork was so good that we kept going back snacking on it 'til there was just a tiny piece left of the two smaller ones, which then mysteriously disappeared sometime in the night. 
   The next morning I went to work on the last two big pork roasts while Peggy made her family's BBQ sauce. 
    I cubed one roast into 6-1lb. bags of tasso for beans and such, later on.  Five of these packs went in the freezer and 1 pack went into the pot of lima beans.
I "pulled" the other roast and added Peggy's sauce to it. We put 8 lbs. of that in the freezer with a couple lbs left out in the fridge for snacking.
The Lima beans with a pound of the pork and our usual suspects for seasoning came out amazing with just the right amount of smokey heat.
The good part is, now we have a freezer full of smoked and BBQ'ed pork that will star in many coming meals.  I'll let yall know how that goes if I dont drink too many beers and forget the camera.........again.   :-)

1.20.2015

Chicken, Oyter Gumbo With Smoked Andouille Sausage

   So far, it's been a cold and dreary start to the new year. "Gumbo weather", so we thawed out a frozen hen. Then, much to our delight, Saturday dawned sunny and warm.  Anyway, we decided to go ahead  and put a gumbo on the stove simmering away while we spent the day in the yard enjoying the sunshine. 
    This time, instead of Peggy's usual smoked chicken gumbo, I started by whacking up a big baking hen we had scored on sale, which has been sitting in the freezer awaiting it's future.
The breast on these old hens is big and can be dry when cooked, so what I do is take it off the bone and cube it into smaller pieces instead of leaving it whole. 
The chicken goes into a pot of water with our usual suspects.
Crystal hot sauce,
Worcestershire sauce
Our blend of Cajun spice
and a pack of our friend Sam's homemade smoky Andouille sausage.
As this slowly came to a simmer we cut up the Cajun vegetable medley of onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic with a couple cayenne peppers.
Peggy put her gluten-free roux to cooking and when it got to the desired color, instead of putting it directly into the pot, we cool it off and stop the browning, by adding some of the chopped vegetable mix to it. Her roux uses plain brown rice flour and olive oil.
 
 
Once the veggies had cooled the roux, it was added to the pot.  When the pot came to a simmer, we covered it and left it while we went play in the yard for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally.  When we came in from the yard for the day, put on a pot of rice to accompany our gumbo, and added the finishing touches to the pot.  
A special 'finishing touch': adding a pint of salty oysters that we had bought from the local seafood stand.
and the file`...can't have file` gumbo without the file`.
It smelled so good in the house, that while we were outside, MarkyBear the ol' "Sergeant doggy" sat inside keeping the pot company all day. 
Something about the flavor combination of the chicken and oysters makes for an amazing simple gumbo.  They are the sort of things that taste far better together, than apart and many a non-oyster-lover has fallen in love with this gumbo, despite their dislike of oysters.  
We saved you a bowl.
If you have never tried this unique flavor combination we strongly recommend you do.  Let us know how yours comes out. We always look forward to hearing from you.