Monthly archives "February 2015"

The Farmstead Kitchen- Applesauce Fruit Leather

fruit leather

In 2013 we had a phenomenal apple harvest, and I canned up about 200 quarts of honey cinnamon applesauce. I was a canning freak that year, it was like a factory in the kitchen all summer and fall. Making applesauce by the 5 gallon pot full is SOOO easy- all you do is core and quarter (do NOT skin them) apples to fill a pot, add a bit of water to start the apple steaming process, cover the pot and simmer gently til the apples all soften. Stir occasionally to make sure there’s no sticking onto the bottom happening. Add honey to taste (about a quart for a 5 gallon pot), and stir well. When you are ready to can, sprinkle on cinnamon ( a 1/4 cup or so) also to taste. Don’t add the cinnamon too early or some of it’s aromatics will be lost as the sauce cooks. Then I ladled the chunky applesauce into the blender hot, pureed it to a velvety smooth sauce and poured it straight into my canning quart jars. Each canner load holds 7 quarts at a time, and I had two canners going, so you can see how quickly and easily I became a canning rhythmist. I did this with apple syrup, pickled beets, dilly beans, tomato puree, pickled peppers, and green hot sauce. 2013 was truly an extremely bountiful year in the garden and orchard.


Anyways, long story short, it’s 2015 and I still had about 30 quarts of 2013 applesauce left and had been looking for some creative way to use it up. I don’t bake much, so using it as an egg substitute in baked gods wouldn’t help much, and I can chug it down straight from the jar, but…variety is nice too. I found a simple DIY Fruit Leather how-to on Pinterest and decided to try it.

LIFE CHANGING! This is SO EASY, especially if you have premade applesauce to use:

1 quart poured out onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet

Smooth and “Bake” at 170 for 3-6 hours until a little shiny and dried out but still a bit sticky to the touch.

This is the biggest variable as it’s hard to perfectly & evenly smooth out a very thick sauce across the baking sheet. You may want to try putting less than a whole quart of sauce onto your baking sheet if you want to have a thinner fruit leather more quickly.

fruit leather making

Once completely cooled, remove the “leather” from the parchment carefully and loosely roll up, or you could cut it into strips right on the parchment if you want to make for a cute presentation and lessen the chance it will stick to it’s self. That doesn’t matter to us, we just eat it! Knowing it’s made from WHOLE ORGANIC APPLES and honey instead of sugar, means this fruit leather is really nutritious as well as being a satisfying sticky, sweet and chewy snack!

.fruit leather peeling off parchment

I love how you can see the attempts to make an even surface on the sauce failed! Hey, it’s still delicious no matter how it looks!fruit leather 2

There’s me and a tiny fraction of the 2013 apple harvest!


All of our apple trees are wild and grown from seeds that cows “planted” (if you know what I mean) about 25 years ago- this means our apples are mostly not table apples at all. Some are sweet and amazing, some are “meh” and we’ve even found gross ones. Interestingly, there are also trees which have bitter apples that become sweet after a good hard frost. Such diversity, it’s really an adventure. Let’s hope for a bountiful apple year in 2015, and that I’ve gotten through all the 2013 applesauce before then! What do you do with a good apple year? What’s your favorite way to preserve apples, and use up surplus? Hard cider, apple wine, apple vinegar, savory and sweet apple chips are on the docket for trying this year, if we have a good apple year!

Last apple note- I found one tiny wild apple tree down in the gully that was loaded with these tiny and extremely unusually colored apples, they were sweet too but crab apple sized. Not a great size for processing, but they sure were unique, bite sized snacks. How cool, eh?P1080460

The Farmstead Kitchen- Cuban Pastured Pork Chops

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I met my Dad for lunch at Victor’s 1959 Cuban Cafe in Minneapolis. My Dad is a big meat eater and expressed his worry I’d invited him to a vegetarian restaurant. I said no- Cuban cuisine tends to feature a fair bit of pork. While I don’t eat meat unless I know exactly where it came from, I studied the pork menu descriptions for ideas I could use later at home with our own pork. Lime, garlic, onions….At Victor’s I ordered a vegan platter of the most delicious yucca fritas, cuban black beans and rice, fried sweet plantains all drizzled with delicious mojo sauce. My Dad went vegetarian (what?!?) with his choice, and we also split a giant tropical salad. I think this may have been his first time eating both mangoes and avocados at 77 years old!


My recipe is custom combination of Guy Fieri’s Cuban Pork Chops w/ Mojo Recipe, and this awesome Closet Cooking recipe. I don’t claim it is authentic in anyway, other than delicious! We rarely do fancy things with our pork, as it is so dang good without any help, but it’s fun to try new methods, and these Chops with an uber juicy, citrusey sparkle were just so phenomenal I had to share.


2 (or up to 4) gorgeous pastured pork chops, defrosted


Mix all these ingredients together:

3 limes, juiced, plus OJ to make up 1 full cup of juice

4 cloves of minced garlic

1/2 onion finely diced

1/2 cup apple vinegar

1 tsp each salt, cumin and oregano

1/4 tsp black pepper


Pour this marinade over the pork chops, which you have laid out in a flat pan, let sit for 1-3 hours at room temperature. Occasionally turn the chops to ensure they get the full marinade bath on all surfaces.


While your chops marinate, make these luscious Cuban-style Black Beans.

Combine in a pot, bring to a gentle simmer, cover and stir occasionally, they just need time to combine and thicken together, I’d say give it about an hour. You could also put this in a slow cooker in the morning and it’d be ready for dinner time.

1/2 onion diced

1 green pepper diced

2 cloves chopped garlic

2 cups broth (or maybe more, depending on how long you simmer)

1/2 cup salsa or pureed tomatoes

4 cups cooked black beans

Rind from 1/2 a lime (remove before serving)

Salt and pepper to taste


optional- prepare a garnish of fresh cilantro and a simple salsa fresca

When you’re ready for dinner, make a pot of fluffy white rice and while it’s going, cook the Chops.

Heat up a big cast iron skillet on medium high. Lift the chops out of the marinade and let them drain on a paper towel. Now -scoop out all the onion and garlic bits out of the marinade, and reserve both elements. When your pan is hot, add a teaspoon of oil (we use lard) and then set your chops down in the pan. They will sizzle and crackle with the moisture, but do not turn them. Let them get a good dark sear before turning, for our thick chops this took about 6 minutes, use your eyes to judge when yours are ready, then flip over and turn the heat down to medium. Add the reserved marinade’s chopped onion and garlic bits to the pan to sear them a little bit, and then 1 minute later before the garlic would want to burn, pour the reserved marinade juices into the pan alongside the chops (not on top of them.) Simmer down the juices until they are thickened, and at this point your chops will be done- you can check with a meat thermometer to be sure it’s 145 degrees inside.

Plate up with the steamy rice, the luscious black beans, and then the chops, with the sauce drizzled all over the top. Garnish with salsa fresca and cilantro if desired. PROVECHO!



February update

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Winter is a slow and simple time on the farm. We cook and eat a lot in the winter! It’s nice to have the free time to work on kitchen projects like rendering lard, developing sourdough starter and perfecting the baking process, and pressure canning dried beans. Both of us write and read quite a lot over the winter too, something we don’t have as much time for during the other 3 seasons of the year.

Our ducks are doing great and enjoying their winter break from laying eggs, although we’ve been finding one egg each morning- this might mean that some of the ladies are going to come out of vacation mode earlier than we expected! We’ll see. The chorus of excited quacks coming from the duck barn in the morning as we open the doors to let them out is adorable, and except for the very chilly -10 days, they always race outside every day.

The piglets are doing fantastically in the deep bedding in the hoophouse. We opened up the entire 30 x 60 space for them so they can carouse and ramble like all piglets should. They spend their days digging, eating hay, playing together and resting in the sun. They really love their soaked organic grains, and also get an organically grown mix we buy from a grain grower’s cooperative in Minnesota. We are getting very excited for spring and summer pig pasturing, working out our plans for our pigs to be able to graze over about 10 acres of hilly land in our northwestern corner of the farm, which we call the “gully.” The gully is home to many apple trees and delicious discoveries for the pigs! They will help reinvigorate the soil through their gentle rooting, and then we will be seeding clover and alfalfa after we move them off each paddock to develop even better grazing areas for our pastured pigs. We will be retaining our top female pigs this summer to begin our own pig breeding program on the farm. We want to select the best grazing pigs to be the mothers of our future piglets.

Andrew’s working with our local butcher to develop some super delicious pastured pork products, but we won’t go into that until they are ready for you to taste! Sorry for the cliffhanger, but you won’t disappointed!

This winter has had a few frigid peaks but overall has been quite mellow, knock on wood. Speaking of wood, we are splitting up some of our black locust trees today – Andrew is also finally selling his old yellow truck to some folks who are keen on getting it running right again.DSC02362 DSC02370 DSC02386