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Regular readers, you have been so patient to wait for new posts here during my long hiatus.  For those of you who have checked in with me via email and posts here, I am grateful.  I’m still here.  There’s been a lot of good in the past several months but also a great deal of sadness, and as time has gone on I’ve been overwhelmed with how to begin.

First, let me say that no humans to which I’m deeply attached are gone.  Mr. Homesteader had a little cancer scare that lasted for three months, but it was mostly scary because his doctor hyped his reaction to a test result and because I was so worn out from the summer.  I did spend most of the summer, from late May onward, in and out of hospitals with a dear relative, who has made a near miraculous recovery through his sheer will (and a really good orthopedic doctor who did emergency spine surgery over Memorial Day weekend and then helped get the patient into one of the best rehab centers in the region).  I have a lot to say about how a family member can survive in such situations, and in time I’ll say it.

I also more recently had experience caring for a relative whose dementia–probably Alzheimer’s–was much more advanced than we realized when we scheduled her visit.  My beloved grandfather died from complications of Alzheimer’s, so I knew what to do, but the time involved in caring for her during her visit was not something I anticipated.  I’ll need to do a post on that as well, because dementia care can be fraught with danger and frustration, if you aren’t prepared for it.

As for the animals, well, those are the longer stories.  We have more chickens than we had when I last posted–a net gain of two–only when I say net gain, I mean that some are gone.  I’ve learned hard lessons in chicken raising.  I’ve done a lot of things right.  I built a gorgeous chicken tractor myself that I can’t wait to show you.  And I and Mr. Homesteader made one big mistake with buying chicks.  I’ll give you a clue. Go look back at my chick pictures.  Look closely.  Do you see what’s wrong?  It’s okay; this story has (mostly) a good ending.

The last story that will unfold here has to do with my beloved male barn cat, Tucker.  Tucker is gone.  He died much too young.  I’ve spent countless hours second guessing everything I did that day, what I might have done differently to prevent his untimely death.  He knew so much about surviving in the woods, and he was really good at exploring the places he loved most and coming home safely.  He also knew that he wasn’t supposed to cross the road–yet it was there that he met his maker.  I do not want to revisit my grief, but I will post a tribute to the biggest, best barn cat ever–not counting his sister, who, thank goodness, still lives, albeit a much sadder cat than before.

Of course, through all of these events, life has gone on.  I or Mr. Homesteader has still cooked from scratch almost every day.  We had a really tasty pizza tonight with kale, roasted butternut squash, and turkey kielbasa, for instance.  We’ve planted things.  We’ve canned.  We’ve prepared new land.  Life has gone on, and I’ll have plenty to share that way too, and I promise what I share will be happy and tasty and, I hope, creative and helpful.

No pictures tonight, just stories to come.  And you’ve been forewarned.

Mmmmmmm. Peace ice cream.

This summer we’ve toyed with triple-digit temperatures repeatedly, something that is increasingly becoming the new norm.  When the thermometer on our north-facing, shady porch says it’s 100 degrees F, it’s time for ice cream!  It’s peach season in Arkansas, so I can’t resist finding ways to use peaches. Why not ice cream?  Today’s recipe is for a peach ice cream that’s not too sweet, letting the natural goodness of the peaches shine.

Making ice cream at home is easy, as long as you have lots of ice, a little bit of patience, and an ice cream maker.  No, I’m not talking about Mr. Homesteader.  I’m talking about an electric machine.  I remember fondly the days that my family and friends took turns on a hand-crank ice cream maker.  I also remember when we bought our electric machine.  It’s the same one I use today, decades later.  Still, if you’ve got the muscles and time, go for a hand cranker, and burn off the ice cream before you ever eat it!

Now, let’s talk about two crucial ingredients that don’t go in the ice cream.  You need lots of cubed or crushed ice, at least one large bag if you need to buy it.  You’ll also need rock salt, also known as ice cream salt.  Some stores keep ice cream salt in the seasonal section, while others keep it with spices, salts, and baking staples.  We’ll use about a cup of rock salt today.

Peach Ice Cream

makes about 1 1/2 quart

Ice Cream Ingredients

As always, you should be able to find everything listed here in organic form, so buy organic if you can.

  • 4 egg yolks (Save the whites!  Use them for an egg white omelet with seasonal vegetables, and you’ll have a light, fluffy, flavorful summer breakfast.  Ask me if you want a recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • optional:  1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 2 cups half and half (or whipping cream if you’re feeling decadent)
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 1%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 4-5 ripe peaches

Method

Using a whisk, stir together the egg yolks, the sugar, and at least one cup of the cream in a heavy-bottomed pot.  (Whisk in the nonfat dried milk too if you are using it.)  Heat over medium heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture is too hot to stick your finger in and hold but not boiling.  Adjust heat to hold it there as necessary.  If you have a candy thermometer, we’re looking for about 140 degrees F, held for 5-10 minutes.  Whisk more as the temperature rises.  The mixture should thicken a little as the egg cooks, but don’t let the milk curdle!  Now take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of the half and half, milk, and vanilla.

Next peel and pit the peaches and dice them.  You can do this step in the early stages of cooking the egg mixture if you’d like.  Add the diced peaches and any liquid they’ve given off to the mixture.  Chill it well, even to the point of putting it in the freezer if you’re planning on making the ice cream in a few hours.

Is your mixture good and cold?  Break out that ice cream machine.  Using the method that comes with your ice cream maker, put the ice cream mixture in the cylinder, add the paddles, secure the top, and pour in the ice and salt, alternating as you add them.  We let our ice cream mix inside, in the air conditioning.  At 100 degrees F outside, the ice cream may never properly freeze.  Inside at about 80 degrees F, it freezes easily.  You’ll know your ice cream is ready when the paddles slow down and the machine starts to sound labored.  Hand-cranked machines will get harder to turn as the ice cream freezes, so save your best muscle at the party for last!

Quickly scoop the finished ice cream into a freezer container, being sure to share the paddles with your favorite people before the ice cream melts.  Avoid letting the ice cream thaw and re-freeze, as without commercial emulsifiers the ice cream can become hard.  You can dish up the ice cream immediately soft serve, or let it freeze a bit harder for those perfect round scoops!

Our next dessert will be rich chocolate ice cream, but before that I’ll post a tasty ratatouille Provençal recipe, to help you use up your bounty of summer garden and market vegetables.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2011, including photographs.

Friday and Saturday nights, I put the chickens on their roosts, knowing that they are a bit high for pullets but still hoping to train them.  Imagine my surprise last night when I went to close the pop hole and discovered all five pullets roosting on their own!  I’m so proud of them.

Why is she opening the big door and flashing us with that bright light?

 
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Longtime readers may remember that I restrain myself from eating fresh tomatoes out of season. Nothing compares to a homegrown summer tomato, in an heirloom variety that may not ship well but tastes delicious on your table. For those beauties, I like the simplest preparation, such as slices on my dinner plate with a little salt and pepper. If the tomatoes are really good, come morning I still want more. That’s when I make a fried egg and tomato sandwich, with or without (turkey Canadian) bacon. Butter some good bread and then toast it while you slice the tomatoes and lightly fry an egg. I like mine open-faced and over easy.

This is really my sandwich, straight out of the camera, no retouching or boosting the color.

That’s a classic brandywine tomato, by the way, plus a country egg, of course.  If you don’t like yours runny, break the yolk in the pan and cook it a bit more.  It’s tasty that way too!

What’s your favorite simple summer breakfast?

Copyright 2011 Ozarkhomesteader.

The chicks arrived a week ago.  My first opportunity to take pictures came on Friday, when the chicks graduated to being pullets.  I had some old kale in the garden that was infested with caterpillars, so I cut and gave it to my pullets as a graduation present.  They loved it.

Okay, gals, it's time for your group shot.


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Life has kept me from blogging lately. A relative had some emergency orthopedic surgery that kept me away from home. I’m headed back there on Wednesday, but meanwhile I’m desperately trying to get caught up on planting. Mr. Homesteader has been keeping himself busy too. Take a look. Can you guess who’s coming to breakfast soon?
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As regular readers know, a few months ago I was the fortunate recipient of some sourdough starter that’s older than most college students. Historically, sourdough starters were a precious family legacy, a means of making yeast-risen bread without relying on little store-bought packages. You can make starter yourself, but getting it from a friend makes it much easier! My friend sent my starter with three pages of instructions (including feeding it every single day), which I read thoroughly and then filed for safe keeping. (No, really, I know exactly where they are.) Then I started messing around with it, seeing how long I could go without feeding the starter (when the storms hit and work got too busy, I went close to 4 weeks without feeding it) and how many recipes I could modify to use it. Continue Reading »

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