Fall is finally here, although some days it is still reaching into the low 90s. Today was a cool, misty day, but I loved every minute of it because it was the first weekend day in weeks that has not been filled up in some way for us. We relaxed, cleaned the house, and I canned chicken stock I had been working on since Friday evening. Our weeks have been busy and random as we try to take care of several different things all at once.
Before I get into what we've been up to, let me tell you that I have started making chicken stock in the slow cooker. A foodie friend of mine turned me onto it, and it is so much easier. I still save my chicken scraps and carcasses in the freezer until I have enough for stock, but rather than simmering it on the stove for hours, I put half of the scraps in the slow cooker along with carrot, celery, and onion, and I cook it on low heat through one night and one day. Then I remove 2/3 of the stock (but leave everything else in there), add the other half of the chicken scraps, and fill again with fresh water. It cooks on low throughout that night and the next day until the afternoon when I am ready to pressure can. It means I can make stock while I'm doing other things, and I think the stock is even more rich and flavorful. I strain several times before pressure canning according to these directions.
Okay, now to some of the randomness of the month...
Fall means mums, Indian corn, and pumpkins. I know I have lots of weeds and things aren't perfect, but I had to put some fall decorations out anyway. The mums have flowered more for me this year than in the past, and they look lovely next to the light orange pumpkin I picked up from a house out in the country where the owner grows fields of pumpkins and squash. This pumpkin has developed a spot on the back and is soon destined for the chickens who will enjoy it immensely.
We have been working hard on our other house in the city and finally sold it about two weeks ago. It was a little bittersweet having been our first house and our home for so many years, but I know the people who bought it will love it just as much as we did, and it's nice to be able to focus on our new home now. The worst part was leaving my little chicken coop behind (we had three chickens there), but the new owner plans to get a little flock of her own.
Speaking of chickens, I think they are perfectly happy here in the country. They love to get out and peck around in the weeds and grass. They especially love to get into the flower bed (it needs work anyway) to get bugs and worms. We are getting ready to purchase some mobile poultry netting so that we can move them around the property to forage when we are home. They are hard workers, giving us about eight eggs a day (from ten hens).
Al, the rooster, is still in with the girls and is still acting like a gentleman most of the time. He is very large and handsome, and he doesn't mind us unless we are messing with his flock.
Finally, I tried a recipe for challah bread. I used to make challah sometimes, but had not made it in years. I used a recipe from The Fresh Egg Cookbook. The bread was easy, used several eggs (which was why I chose to make it) and tasted delicious. It also made three loaves one of which is in my freezer waiting for an occasion when I need a loaf of fresh bread. I will say that I had a little problem with the baking time which is listed as an hour. My bread was beginning to burn a little on the bottom after about 40 minutes and was done, so I took it out. It could have been the recipe but it just as easily could have been the horrible, no-good oven I'm forced to work with right now until we have time to make some much needed changes in this new kitchen of ours. If you bake the bread, set your timer for 30 minutes and check it every 10 minutes after that to make sure it doesn't get too brown. You may need the entire baking time or you may be like me and need to take it out early.
I'll post part two with the rest of the randomness a few days from now. Until then, enjoy the fall weather!
Challah Bread- makes 3 loaves
(slightly adapted from The Fresh Egg Cookbook)
2 packs active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp kosher salt
4 eggs (3 beaten together, 1 beaten separately to be used as an egg wash)
7 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large bowl. Stir in oil, sugar, salt, and 3 beaten eggs. Stir in half the flour, then mix in the remaining flour until make a soft, pliable dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 minutes, or knead using the dough hook of an electric stand mixer. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top, cover, and let rise 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.
Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Separate dough into three equal pieces. Working with one piece at a time, divide dough in thirds. Roll each third by hand into a strand 12 inches long and arrange them on a work surface pointing toward you. Pinch the three strands together at the top end and braid the strands working toward you. Pinch the bottom ends together and turn them under to secure them. Place the loaf on a prepared sheet. Repeat with the other two braids.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Let braids rise 30 minutes. Gently brush each loaf with the remaining beaten egg and bake for 1 hour (watch this carefully as you may need to bake less time) until nicely brown on top.