Friday, August 21, 2009

Of Aphids and Chicken Stock

After taking the dog beast and myself on a nice hour walk at dawn, complete with sunrise and chirruping bats returning to their bridge, we returned home to feed the chickens and water the gardens.

Watering has become a bit of a controversy here in Austin town: severe water restrictions limit personal use, and should be adhered to and enforced. Luckily I still have water in my rain barrel and the irrigating i do is done with a simple hose, no sprinklers. We're allowed to water that way, why? i dunno but i'm glad because without that water my sad garden would be much sadder.

Watering is also my chance to inspect the troops: check for pests, disease, production or lack thereof. I am repeatedly disappointed by the presence of aphids. I've never had a bad problem with aphids in the past as my garden was once a playground for ladybugs in all their phases. But the ladybugs seem to have cleared out: eaten by assassin bugs or driven out by the heat, i don't know. What i do know is that i spray and i spray and those evil aphids keep coming back. Started with the cucumbers, spread to the peppers then the eggplants. Sigh. But I continue the battle!!!

Aphid spray
Dr. Bronner's Liquid soap, peppermint is preferable
Peppermint essential oil (my bronners is almond, so i compensate this way)
Srirachi sauce (for the hot pepper)

Mix these with water in a spray thingy and spray liberally.
The Sririachi sauce seems to be the secret ingredient. I have red that garlic pepper sprays are the best thing for nasties, but garlic can also deter bees, whom we need around for pollinating. So I scrimcoach an do the best i can, but those aphids are tough!
The ladybugs in their hayday:
Chicken Stock:
Andy brought home a roasted chicken last night that I turned into some spicy thai curry. The bones are presently simmering in delightful aroma, destined to be chicken stock that I will freeze in ice cube trays and store in ziplocks for use in the future. I like to have small quantities of chicken stock on hand to add to healthy sautes or curries.

Chicken, Turkey, or Duck carcass - fat and skin removed
water to almost fill pan, cover chicken
3 small bay leaves fresh or dry
some salt
you can also cook this down with onions and garlic for a richer broth

simmer on low, covered all day or until you just can't stand it, until the bones are completely falling apart and the cartilage has melted clear. You may have to add liquid occasionally as it will burn off in delicious smelling steam throughout the day.
Let cool slightly and either pour the stock through a strainer into a clean bowl, or lift bones out with a skimmer.
I like to run a splash of hot water over the removed bones in a bowl, swirl around, and poor liquid back into the stock as there's often good gelatin stuck to the bones.
At this point you can pour the stock directly into whatever you plan on freezing it in, add ingredients and make soup fresh, or allow to cool in the refrigerator for several hours - this will cause the fat to rise to the surface so that you can skim it off for lower fat stock. Freeze or use.

There is nothing quite like homemade chicken stock - NEVER throw away the bones from roast! Especially if you roasted a bird yourself, get the bonus meal out of the roast and boil down the bones for a delicious, versatile stock.

Uses for stock:
pot pie, soup, gravy, liquid in a saute, curry liquid base, mashed potatoes etc etc.

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