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After a holiday is a great time to stock up on staples. Snarf around at local supermarkets and grocery outlets and see what you can find. Whole wheat pastry flour, olive oil, shelled nut meats (freeze, they go rancid quickly), molasses, spices, winter squash, often a great deal on chocolate chips and whole frozen birds, especially if the bird has been dropped on the floor. Allow the bird to defrost in the refrigerator until it is thawed just enough to cut up. It will keep better if it doesn't completely thaw. Run parts that are too frozen to work loose under cold water. Cut off the breast and leg meat and package in sizes that you might cook for a meal.

To repack for freezing, first lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and put your protein on a diagonal. Flap a corner over the protein, then another corner. Roll the meat over and make a nice little gift wrap with the other two corners. Repeat with a layer of freezer wrap (paper with backing, comes in big rolls.) The freezer wrap prevents freezer burn. Tape shut with freezer tape, or package tape in a pinch. Label, date and put in freezer. Break down the back, wings, neck and bones into lengths that fit in a 4-quart soup pot. Make a pot of stock with the heart, gizzard and some of the parts. Put the rest into gallon freezer bags, filling the bags about half full. A half gallon of bones and bits makes one batch of stock. Saute the liver with some onions, sherry and black pepper and eat it with toast and some nice vin rouge du cheap, or give it to your neighbor's cat if that sounds icky.

Turkey and chicken refreeze well and will still be good, months later. I like to disassemble two or three chickens at once, and get a package of legs and several packages of chicken breasts and soup bones. Duck does not keep well. Best to eat the whole ducky inside of a month. Duck soup, eh?

Snow is your friend in the garden. Snow blankets your garden with a layer of insulation, protecting it from the cold wind. After the thaw, see how it's doing. Driving around town, there were some fine looking kale and leeks in gardens on the north side. My kale is looking pretty sad, but the cabbages, mustard and chard are in good shape. The cabbage is even putting out new little side heads where I harvested the main head and left the stalk. My mother dug up decent potatoes after the storm. It all depends on your microclimate. Don't bother pulling anything up, even if it looks a goner. Dead cover crops will hold the soil. Cabbage family members and roots will regrow even if the top foliage withers. That's what they are supposed to do: put out new leaves and then bolt when it warms up. Given the random nature of weather around here, they can do that in December if we get a warm spell.

Another good reason to stock up on staples is that in the process, you go through your cupboards and count up what you already have. Then, when you shop, you can keep in mind that another storm front could make it difficult to get out to the super for a few days. A few things that can be stored without refrigeration and eaten without cooking, in a pinch, might be advisable. Check the supply of candles and matches in case you lose power.

To make a new bed for the spring, pick a spot on the lawn. Dump whatever organic material you can get your hands on on the spot. A pile of leaves covered with an old piece of fencing and restrained by some rocks works very well, also mulch, chips, straw, barn sweepings or just sand. Leave it there over winter. By spring, the worms will have digested the sod. Turn it over and plant spring greens.

This is a good time to make your garden plan for next year. It's easiest if you take it a bed at a time. Then you can ignore the rest of the garden while you weed, turn over and plant one bed at a time. Seattle Tilth has a detailed calendar, "The Maritime Northwest Garden Guide". The small companies that carry heirloom vegetables and sell primarily to the home gardener have been running out of seed early for the last several years. Best to have your plan thought out and your seed order placed in December.

You want a continuous harvest, early spring through next winter. There is only so much salad one person can eat. Thirty square feet of green stuff per eater is plenty. The spring greens will still be going strong in late April through early June, when it is time to plant the summer garden. The beds that will hold your summer garden (tomatoes, green beans, peppers, summer squash) can follow this winter's garden, a cover crop, or go into a new bed. Next winter's garden is planted July-September. It can follow garlic, overwintering onions or a cover crop. So you might think of your beds in three groups: spring planted, progressively every few weeks, summer garden, and building fertility (or growing garlic) for the winter garden.

Peas go in on the first day in February that you can work the soil and it's always a shock. Sneaks up up on a person after winter.

Here's a tipple for the holidays.
Cranberry Liqueur

Package of cranberries on sale
Sugar
Vodka

Simmer a cup of the cranberries in 1 1/2 quarts of water until soft and falling apart. Allow to cool and strain. Return the liquid to the pot and add a cup or more of sugar. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Cool again. Add vodka to taste. 1:1 is a good starting ratio. Package in fancy bottles and give to your friends, if you like. Warning: sneaks up on you.

Bird Stock

Always start with cooked bones. That skimming of stock made with raw bones: way too much like work. A cooked turkey carcass might be too big. You might want to break it down into two or more batches and freeze the rest. Roast uncooked bones, frozen or not, in a shallow pan in the oven at 300 degrees F until brown, about an hour if you start with frozen parts. Frozen cooked bones and bits (that zombie turkey) can just go straight into the pot.

4 quart soup pot
About a half gallon bones and parts, cooked
Water to cover
Bay leaf and a pinch of rosemary

Simmer an hour, on low so that it just bubbles slowly. Fish out the parts and remove edible meat. Return bones to stock and simmer another 2 hours. Strain, pour into quart canning jars. Allow to cool. Store in the fridge. Turkey and chicken stock is good for a couple of weeks, at least, if you leave the cap of fat at the top undisturbed. Duck stock will go off, plan to use within a few days. Makes about two quarts.

Duck Soup

Duck meat and stock
white part of a leek or 1/2 onion
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup uncooked rice
2 tablespoons uncooked wild rice
Can green beans
1/2 pound raw squash or pumpkin
dried mushrooms
bay leaf, pinch rosemary, whole black pepper and savory
goodly shot of sherry

Slice the leek or onion thinly. Leeks accumulate grit, so you may need to rinse the leek before, during and after slicing. Saute the leek slices and minced garlic in the soup pot with a little duck fat. Put everything else in the pot and cook until the rice is tender and the squash is done. Pour yourself a glass of sherry while it cooks.

Happy Holidays from Hamster to the other 80,000 Hamsters in town.

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Comment by erin libby on November 29, 2010 at 3:42pm
I did not know the bit about roasting the raw chicken bones. I roast/toast beef bones for flavor. Now I will use the oven for the flighty birds.

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