If you’ve been following along, you know that we have been working on a raised bed garden area off our basement patio. As I mentioned before, we used to garden down in an area that was conventional crop ground as recently as about 5 years ago. The soil has a lot of clay and a weed seed bank that is a constant source of frustration for us. We’ve had some good success down there, but the last couple of years it seems like we’ve had more pest pressure and weed pressure than we initially had when we started using that ground. Along with those struggles, it’s also not super convenient to water since we have to run a considerable amount of hose from across the driveway and our overhead waterers still don’t quite provide adequate coverage. So, this year we’ve decided to make a change that should free up a lot of time and a lot of frustration: Raised beds!
When we started reconsidering our garden, we knew we wanted it to be closer to the house so we’d be more likely to tend to it. The only good area close to our house is off the walkout basement area since the rest of the surrounding area has a pretty considerable slope. It worked out well since we have a hose bib on the basement patio and we have our fire pit down there as well. With a location determined we decided on raised beds since we knew we’d need to bring in better soil anyway and this way we could make an aesthetically pleasing area that could incorporate a nice walkway out to a firepit area. We’re hoping this solution will allow us to better manage weed and pest pressure. Mentally, I think it will be easier to manage having the garden divided up into 16 beds that we can divide up work on. And our workload should be dramatically decreased by having the whole thing on an automatic water system.
Once we decided on the location and style of garden beds, it was time to determine just what kind of raised beds we wanted to make. I’ve made some simple 4’x8’ cedar raised beds out of 2”x6”s before, but we wanted something a little more this time. I really liked the idea of having a little taller beds this time around to make working in them a little less taxing on our backs, so I started looking around at how people were making taller raised bed gardens. I was immediately drawn to the look of the metal/wood hybrid model, but had always heard that metal garden beds heat up too much and dry out the beds, but when I started to research that issue it seems that it’s not a major concern as long as you are watering regularly. I found a pretty cool design that was almost all metal, but when I started working on ours I didn’t like the idea of making the corners out of the aluminum I had. I had planned to just bend some 6” wide metal with a metal brake to make the corners, but I just couldn’t help but feel I’d rather have wood supporting the corners, so I changed the plan. I ended up settling on making 14 4’x8’x16” beds and 2 4’x12’x16” beds framed out of wood with metal roofing panels lining the inside to hold the soil in. Well, our lumber provider could only get me studs in Douglas Fir and I somehow ended up with some 2”x10”s instead of 2”x12”s, so the bed dimensions ended up being about 8.5’x4’ and 10’x4’. I couldn’t care less, it’s close enough. If you’ve checked the price of Cedar lately, you’ll understand why I compromised and settled for Douglas Fir. I realize these boards will eventually rot, but I’m hoping by the time that happens I can harvest my own cedar out of our woodlot to repair/replace it. If you want to see the specifics on how I built these beds, stay tuned for our YouTube video detailing the build.
As I mentioned in the last post, this design has proven to be an extremely expensive way to build a garden (at least with this year’s material prices). I don’t have the exact numbers in front of me, but I’d venture to guess we’ve spent close to $3k including our irrigation lines/timer, top soil and compost deliveries and we still need to supplement with a log base and probably even get more soil delivered. This is obviously a lot of money up front, but we can justify the expense knowing that the produce we pull out of the garden will more than offset the cost. It’s also going to add a really appealing place for our family to garden and relax by the fire pit in an area that was not in great shape as far as lawn quality was concerned. There are obviously a lot of ways that this could have been done cheaper, but we needed it done now and we wanted it to look nice, so we made the decision to spend the money. If we had waited to do this until we have a barn built, we likely could have used scrap metal from the building and dirt from the excavation and had a considerably cheaper build, but that also would have meant another year of struggling in the garden o’ weeds. We are really focusing on making functional infrastructure in all aspects of the farm and homestead this year, so we can spend more time enjoying our lives instead of struggling through chores and tasks. Ultimately this will allow us to take time away from the farm with systems in place that other people can easily handle in our absence.
There you have it! I’ll be back next time to talk about what’s going in and around these beds. Thanks for your interest in what’s going on here and I hope you have a bountiful summer!
How many of you have your gardens put in this season and are watching them explode with the promise of a bountiful summer? If you raised your hand, please know that I am extremely jealous. We have a lot of plants started under grow lights that are beyond ready to be outside, but our garden build has taken much longer to get in place than I anticipated. Since we wanted to have an aesthetically pleasing garden space, I designed deep raised beds that take a lot of material and time to make. Couple that with trying to work on them after homeschooling and working off-farm jobs, all while dodging rain, and we’re moving at a snail’s pace folks. We’re really close to finishing up the 16 beds, but then we will still need to level and fill them. We have a pretty sizeable load of top soil/compost mix from a local nursery, but it isn’t going to be nearly enough to fill all of our garden boxes. Unfortunately, rain has moved in to the area and it looks like it’s hanging around for at least the next ten days, so it may be close to June before we get the garden planted! While I’ve been working on building the beds, Shannon has been dutifully heading into the woods and dragging out downed trees to cut up and fill the bottom parts of the beds in a sort of hugelkultur-style. We bought a used atv from our dear friends Dirck and Natalie over at J&N Ranch (go check them out on Instagram and get some beef from them if you are in the KC area!) and it has been amazingly useful for this type of work. It’s definitely helping us work smarter, not harder.
As we’ve been working on the garden, we’ve been doing some time-lapse videos and some explainer videos that we will eventually be posting on YouTube for anyone interested in seeing how we built our raised beds. Lumber costs this year have made it probably the worst time ever to have to buy materials, but even with the higher-than-expected price tag, the garden should end up saving us far more than it costs over its lifetime. I’ll be making a video of how we’re installing waterlines to each bed to run drip irrigation and reviewing the wifi connected timer that will control the whole system. So, if you’re thinking about creating your own garden space in the future, stay tuned for those!
The garden has taken up most of our free time lately, but we’ve still been doing a lot of thinking about the future of the farm. Honestly, I think shutting things down the past year has actually been a really good thing. It has given me a lot of time to reflect on how we were running the farm and what we need to do to make it a sustainable business. I think if we had continued the way we were going we would have burned out in a few years and watched our dream slip away. I’ve realized this year that I do very much want to farm, but I need to really buckle down on the business side of farming. I need to work on my organization and really hone in on the details of the business to make sure it can sustain itself without regular cash infusions from our off-farm jobs. It’s been nice having outside income as a crutch, but at some point I’d like to transition to working only on the farm and the reliance on my other business would no longer be available.
How we are going to proceed with the farm is still being hashed out, but one thing is for certain, we will still be focused on animal agriculture. Being able to use animals to renew these lands that have been over-hayed and over-plowed through the years is something I feel very strongly about. The animal mix we end up with on the farm is yet to be determined, but we want to make sure focus on the things we are good at. So, our primary focus will likely be pork and chicken, but we need to include a ruminant in the mix to keep our grass under control in the pastures. Pigs are a no-brainer for us as we have a wonderful woodlot with a lot of oak and walnut trees that drop plenty of nuts to keep their snouts busy in the fall. We have the most experience with chickens and will definitely have meat and eggs in the mix. Chicken processing is a little trickier since there is only one USDA processor near us and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get back in with them since we haven’t used them in almost two years now. I need to give them a call to see if they’ll be able to service us as I’ve heard they aren’t taking on new clients and I’m not sure if we’re grandfathered in as far as that’s concerned. I’m not going to rely on secondhand gossip as a reason to write them off, though. If we can’t use them, we will likely need to start processing our own chickens. I really like the idea of keeping that on farm and we can get a state exemption to do more birds than our land’s carrying capacity would even support, but we would be limited to only selling within the state of Kansas. That’s not a huge deal, but if we ever want to ship or even drive the 45 minutes to Kansas City, Missouri, we wouldn’t be able to sell our chicken across state lines. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. If we end up going with on-farm processing we would likely follow all the guidelines for a USDA processing facility when we build ours so that we could scale up to being a USDA facility.
I’ve probably rambled long enough, so I’ll wrap things up. That’s where things stand for right now. I’ll try to give you specifics on things as we go along. We’re looking forward to sharing our progress with you and thank you for coming along with us on this journey.
It’s been quite some time since I sat down to write a new blog post. I had a few written back in the winter of 2019 outlining what we had been doing on the farm and what our plans for the future were, but for some reason we never published them to the site. When I sat down to read them last night, I was kind of glad we hadn’t posted those. While there was some good information in them about what we had been doing with our chickens, pigs, turkeys, and farmer’s market; the future plans I had envisioned were way off course. I’m not even sure where to start here, but I’m going to try to get you up to speed on what we’ve been up to the last year and half or so, what we’re doing now, and where we see things headed in the future.
We left you hanging back in March of 2019, shortly after we had taken a glorious vacation to Mexico with some friends. Thinking about getting on a plane with friends now and flying to a beach sounds surreal given the circumstances of the past year, but man it sounds great. Anyway, back in the summer of 2019 we decided to try our hand at selling at the Lawrence Farmer’s Market. We didn’t have any product available early in the season, so we decided to start at the market on the 1st of June with pasture-raised, organic fed chicken and eggs. The response was great given our limited product assortment and we ended up meeting some wonderful people at the market. We ended up getting our first 7 pigs in April of 2019 (we were supposed to have 6, but the farmer we got them from accidentally loaded 7 and we didn’t realize until we got them home! Don’t worry, we paid for number 7 :)). Our February-born pigs were ready to be processed in September and we were incredibly excited to try out our very own pork. We decided to keep two gilts back to breed because our piglet provider didn’t end up having fall piglets for us like he thought he would and we decided we didn’t like relying on others for our pig availability. We sold several half hogs and then took the rest to the market where we quickly sold through most of what we had available. We ended up processing the other two gilts in January of 2020 just to have some more pork. Honestly, we should have just processed them in September with the others and focused on getting the breeding stock we really wanted. While the pork we got off them was good, it wasn’t as good as the stuff we processed earlier since those gilts had gotten pretty large.
So in total in 2019 we ended up raising 7 pigs, a couple hundred meat chickens, and 50 turkeys. It was a pretty good start and we definitely got comfortable with the pigs quickly. Unfortunately, the wheels kind of fell off in 2020. We had planned to grow our operation a bit for 2020 and made plans for more meat chickens, pigs, and turkeys. Everything was going fine when we ordered our meat chickens, but then they never showed up when they were supposed to be here. The hatchery kept pushing back our delivery to the point we had to cancel our processing dates with our processor because they weren’t going to be grown out in time. We ended up canceling our chicken order and just eating the leftover whole chickens we had in our freezer and didn’t sell any chicken beyond February of 2020.
Our pig situation went in a similar direction. Our pig supplier ended up getting out of farming and the other farm we had talked to about getting piglets ended up not having any to sell us because their business was booming with the Covid rush. We ended up deciding to just eat the pork we had in the freezer for ourselves and focus on getting through the pandemic while we refocused the direction we wanted our farm to take.
When a lot of small farms were able to ramp up production, we pretty much shut things down. Although our hatchery and pig breeder couldn’t get us what we needed, we could have found other resources. However, at that time we were also making the decision to not send our kids back to school. So as we tried to figure out homeschooling on the fly and with my other business firing up for the season, we just didn’t have a lot of bandwidth to put into the farm. It was disappointing for us and I know many of our customers were bummed when we finally ran out of product.
It wasn’t all bad, though. As we’ve taken some time away from farm production it has given us time to think about the direction we want to take things here. We either have to shift heavily to just homesteading or really ramp up and have a steady stream of product available for customers. This middle ground isn’t going to work. We still haven’t exactly made that decision yet because we don’t want to rush into it without being fully committed and having a plan. That said, we have decided our focus for 2021 needs to be on infrastructure. For too long we (I) have tried to operate by the seat of my pants with just-in-time coops, fences, etc. and on a shoestring budget. The beauty of homesteading is that you can do that. That doesn’t fly in business. And honestly, it’s not really flying for homesteading anymore either. After years of doing everything the hard (and cheap) way, we’ve reached the point where it’s getting old. Now, please strap into your DeLorean and come back to the future with me.
Where we’re going we don’t need roads. But, we do need infrastructure! We have decided that no matter what we do with the farm in the future, we’re going to continue raising our own food at a minimum. To make doing that enjoyable again, we need to work smarter, not harder. We’ve got a number of improvements to make and I plan to document them along the way (on the blog and hopefully with some youtube videos as well). We need new mobile coops for meat and egg chickens. I’ve got a plan for that and I think our new coops are going to fit the bill as good sturdy, but easily moveable structures. We’ve had good luck with the hoop coops I’ve made in the past, but they’re a bit heavier than I’d like. And our most recent egg mobile was great until the overbuilt structure destroyed the 6 wheels and tires bolted to it. We also need permanent fencing. We’ve been using portable electric net fence for several years now and if you’ve ever moved that around you’ve probably said a few curse words. It’s not so bad out in the pasture, but the process of clearing the underbrush in the woods to run the pig fence is quite a pain. We’ve also had pigs and chickens get caught in it and it’s just something I’d rather not deal with anymore. Our pastures are still unfenced as well and I’d like to get some perimeter fencing up so that we can start utilizing them to run some cattle or other ruminants the keep the grass down in front of the chickens.
We also need a barn and a shop and a….ok, I won’t keep going. Our other focus this year is on our personal garden. We’ve been tilling up a patch down in our field that used to be old crop ground, but it’s pretty poor clay-heavy soil with a lot of weed seeds and mediocre access to water. We’ve had a lot of hits and misses down there, but again, it’s more work than we should be putting in for the reward we’re getting out. This year we’ve sketched up a plan for a series of raised beds up by our house. We wanted something aesthetically pleasing, so we designed it to come off the patio of our walkout basement with a stone walkway down the middle flanked by garden beds that leads to a sitting area for our fire pit. Oh, and did I mention each bed will have a waterline to it? We’re about to order the materials to get started on that and we’ll keep you updated on that progress as we go. We’ve got quite a few seeds started inside and look forward to having a more manageable garden this year.
So, anyway, there you have it. I couldn’t possibly fit everything into this post, but hopefully now you’ve got an idea of what’s been going on with us. Sorry for dropping off the face of the earth with the blog. This is something I plan to devote a lot more energy to this year. Cheers to a year of great homesteading successes!
It’s been a while. How are you? Sorry we haven’t posted lately, but sometimes life gets a little busy with kids, jobs, side jobs, side-side jobs, and side-farm jobs. Since our last blog post we have pretty much finished up all of our major farm tasks for the season.
We moved all of our Cornish cross chicks out to pasture in a mobile chicken tractor moved them to fresh grass every day (twice a day for the older ones). As I tend to do, I waited until the last minute to build another chicken tractor to house these birds when it was time to get them out of the brooder. I put together another simple hoop structure like the one we used for the turkeys and slapped some wheels on it for easy daily moves. One new thing we tried out is a bell waterer. These are pretty much the standard for chicken tractor use, but we had never used them. After watching a youtube video on assembly, I installed one in the tractor and connected it to a 5-gallon bucket that gravity fed water to it as needed. It’s pretty slick. I’ve read that they can get clogged, so I checked it multiple times a day and only had one issue with it not replenishing the water correctly. Not sure what the cause was, but I apparently fiddled with it enough to get it flowing again. Based on our experience with this waterer, we will be using them in our chicken tractors and egg mobiles moving forward. It doesn’t work for a winter watering solution, but we’ve just stuck to using the flexible rubber dishes and freshen water several times a day as we’ve done in winters past.
We processed around 50 cornish cross chickens the first week of November along with 12 turkeys. We sent roughly the same number to the processor along with 16 excess heritage roosters back in October as well. If you are looking for some chicken, we have whole chickens for sale for $5.49/lb (pastured and fed certified organic grain) with a discount if you purchase 10+ birds. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact Shannon through our Instagram account (@1450Farm) if you are interested. We will deliver locally! We sold all of our broad-breasted white turkeys and heritage breed turkeys (also pastured and fed organic grain) and were able to enjoy a fabulous 30-pounder for Thanksgiving. We will definitely be expanding our turkey production for 2019 and will be taking pre-orders for Thanksgiving turkeys in late summer/early fall. We’ll keep you posted!
I couldn’t believe the size of the broad-breasted whites when I picked them up from the processor. I knew they were big because I had carried them multiple times, but I didn’t expect them to be THAT big! We had a range of about 25-31 pounds! The good news is we can start our turkeys a little later next year and aim for a more manageable average size around 18 pounds or so. The turkeys were a real joy and we are keeping a breeding trio of heritage birds through the winter to try our hand at hatching some turkeys on-farm next year. The hens haven’t begun laying yet, but hopefully they’ll begin in time for us to hatch out some poults to raise for Thanksgiving processing. We’ve discovered that our biggest challenge with the turkeys is that they like to fly over the electric poultry net fencing and wander through our property. They like to check out the woods and our woodpile and can often be found impeding traffic on our driveway. Fortunately, turkeys are pretty inquisitive and social and have thus far been happy to follow us back to their paddock when it’s time to close them in for the night. Our oldest son has turned into the Pied Piper of turkey wranglers.
With all of the rain we had back in the Fall (and as I type this!) I joked to Shannon that perhaps we should have gone into the farm-raised Tilapia business. While we have no intention of shifting to fish-farming, we are starting to put together some ideas for product offerings in 2019. In addition to our chicken and egg sales, we’re looking at creating packages combining chicken, eggs, whole/half hogs, and a turkey as kind of a full-season meat CSA. The idea would be that you would put down a deposit to reserve your spot and then be guaranteed either a whole or half hog (your choice & delivered to you at time of processing), 1 turkey (delivered in November), and a certain number of chickens and eggs spread over the season. If this is something you would be interested in we would love to hear your feedback. We haven’t finalized package sizes, prices, or logistics, but we thought we’d see if there would be interested in this type of offering at a price discounted from our retail pricing. Let us know and we’ll keep you posted as things are finalized. We plan to also begin selling retail chicken cuts (breast, thighs, etc.), so if cooking or breaking down a whole chicken isn’t your thing, we should have some more familiar options for you this year. As we continue to expand our product offerings, we hope to also eventually add an online shopping component to our website with predetermined delivery dates.
Well, I think that’s about all of the excitement we have going on right now. We have plenty of projects on the to-do list, so stay tuned to see what’s in store for 1450 Farm! Cheers!
It’s been a little over two months since we added our first batch of turkeys to the farm. As you’ll recall, we lost some of our heritage birds in the brooder phase, but added a handful of Broad Breasted White turkeys to the mix for a grand total of 15 turkeys. As of today, we still have all 15 of those turkeys (it’s hard to knock on wood and type at the same time)! We moved the turkeys out to one of our pastures near the garden to let them scratch around and deposit some manure in an area that we would eventually like to expand our garden into. We put up a section of Premier One electric poultry net fencing around the hoop coop and kept them shut in the coop for a little over a week to get them acclimated to their new environment. Since the stray dogs destroyed part of the hoop coop last winter we added a new tarp to the top and reinforced some of the wiring in the lower section of the coop. Since turkeys are pretty hardy we used a tarp that would stretch from end to end, but wouldn’t go all the way to the ground, so they could get sunshine and air flow when they’re inside the coop, but still have protection from the rain. So far this setup has worked really well for the small number of birds we have.
Shannon lets the turkeys out every morning and makes sure they have food and water. They have developed such wonderful personalities and follow us around wherever we go inside their fence. We have both been surprised by how much we are enjoying the turkeys. In the evening we sometimes have to “herd” a few of the stragglers back into their coop for the evening, but for the most part they are getting the hang of going back into their home to roost. The heritage birds occasionally fly over their fence, but so far they haven’t strayed into the woods. Typically we find them pacing the fence line trying to figure out how to get back over to their friends. It’s adorable to watch the little Toms puff up their feathers and strut around when they all get worked up. We plan to eventually build a mobile roost with a roof to move around the pasture once we have it externally fenced, but for now we’re content to move the hoop coop around in the electric net.
Speaking of the future, what’s the plan for turkeys on our farm long-term? Well, 10 of these birds will be going to the processor on November 1stand we will keep 5 of the heritage birds to either grow out a little longer or keep to breed. Since the Broad Breasted turkeys can’t mate naturally, we won’t keep any of them. Feeling pretty comfortable with the turkeys now, we will probably look to incubate some heritage turkey eggs and order around 50 Broad Breasted Whites to finish out for Thanksgiving 2019. We will be taking pre-order deposits for those birds next summer and will keep you posted on how all of that will work. All of our turkeys will be (and currently are) fed organic feed and allowed to roam our pastures during the day. As I’ve mentioned before, both of these elements are very important to us and guide how we’ve chosen to farm. If you’ve been following the news lately you’ve probably seen the reports of glyphosate in breakfast cereals. There is much debate about how much exposure is safe for people, but given the opportunity to have traces of it in my children’s food or not having any in it, I’ll choose the latter every time. If things go well with our 2019 batch, we will probably increase our numbers again in 2020 and hopefully get to the point of doing over 100 a year. Turkey is the centerpiece of most American Thanksgiving tables and we look forward to producing an organically fed, local, pastured bird for our community.
If you look at the labels of things like chicken and eggs at the grocery store you will find a dizzying number of buzzwords trying to entice you to make the “right” choice. Many of the labels are just ambiguous phrases that make the consumer feel good about what they’re eating, but aren’t really a meaningful representation of what the consumer thinks they’re getting. Things like “natural” and “cage-free” sound good to the average consumer who imagines a serene, pastoral setting with chickens scratching the lush grass at the base of a windmill, but let’s talk about reality for a minute. I’m not going to drill down on every labeling phrase, but be warned, most of them are meaningless. Some “cage free” and “free range” birds never even see the outside of a crowded commercial chicken house. That “range” could be a slab of concrete or bare dirt outside a small door that they never even pass through. Most people (myself included) feel good about buying things labeled “organic”, but when it comes to organic meat products, you’re really only being guaranteed that the animal was fed organic grains and not given antibiotics/growth hormones/etc. While that’s better than some production methods, that doesn’t mean the chicken wasn’t still just crammed into a crowded building while it was eating organic grain.
So, what’s the answer? We think it’s locally raised, pastured poultry. What does that mean? Well, who knows? What it means in most pastured poultry operations and in our system is that once our birds have fully feathered out in the brooder (about 3 weeks of age), they are taken out to our pasture and are placed into floorless structures that allow the birds to eat grass and bugs along with their grain rations. Some people seem misled by the term “pastured” and think that it means the chickens are not given any supplemental feed and are gleaning all their needs from the pasture, but that’s not the case. At a production level, it’s not feasible to expect to grow chickens to a marketable size with no grain inputs. The structures, called chicken tractors, are moved to new grass every day to allow the birds to continue foraging for a portion of their diets. This forage allows the chickens to uptake more vitamins, minerals, omega 3’s, etc. than they would otherwise get in a confinement operation, thus producing a more nutrient-dense meat. We are planning to experiment with a day-range system once our pastures have perimeter fencing to allow the birds to range over more ground than a chicken tractor provides. While the final product will remain the same, we think it’s ultimately better for the birds.
Our main goals in farming are to produce the healthiest possible products in the most environmentally beneficial way we can. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we use organic grains for all of our animal operations that require supplemental feed (future lambs and cattle will be grass-only). We think that the organic production methods used to produce our grain not only provide a more nutritious feed for the animals, but also are much better for the environment than conventional grain production. Another added benefit of pasturing our chickens (and turkeys) is that we are able to evenly distribute their manure as a natural fertilizer across our pasture, which will help in building the quality of our soil and grasses/legumes. With proper stocking density, we’ll be able to add sheep and a few cattle to our pastures and they will graze and trample the grass, which will also help build soil and grass. Over the course of a few years, we should see our pastures improve significantly without having to bring in any additional fertilizers. As our pastures improve through daily pasture rotations, we should be able to increase our stocking density, allowing us to produce more animals on the same land base. All from proper, intensive grazing practices!
While the animal welfare piece and the environmental impact component of this is important, we still have to produce a great tasting product. This is another area where pastured poultry wins out over conventional, confinement chicken. You can taste the difference. When birds are allowed to eat grass, clover, and grasshoppers, all while actually being able to walk around, they develop a superior flavor. Pastured poultry producers usually raise their birds a little longer than confinement operations too, which allows the birds to develop more quality fat and muscling, resulting in a better flavor and texture profile as well. We recently had some friends in town from Colorado and decided to cut up one of our whole chickens, brine it, and grill it for them. Our friend, Sean, couldn’t stop raving about how good the chicken was. He was telling us that he had recently bought some chicken from the store and it had a terrible texture and no flavor. We haven’t bought chicken from the store for a couple years, but it sounded about like how I remember it. If you want the best tasting and most nutritious chicken you can buy, seek out a farm raising pastured poultry in your area. It will definitely cost you a little more, but it’s reflective of the real cost of raising real food.
You guys! This is my new FAVORITE pizza sauce. Shannon here, and I just want to share my new, delicious and homemade pizza sauce recipe made from our own home grown tomatoes (and onions and herbs). Its not a quick process so, make sure to plan it for your day off! Don’t worry, although it takes time – it’s not very complicated.
We are not alone in saying that growing gorgeous, sun-ripened tomatoes in the heat of summer has to be one of our favorite parts of the season. A lot of the times we all consume them straight from the vine faster than we can get a nice stash up at the house. Finally, we had a beautiful pile of tomatoes and the wheels started turning on what to make first.
We have a tradition of Friday Night Pizza at our home. (it’s not always on Fridays but usually once a week). Aaron makes a wonderful homemade pizza dough and we make simple yet delicious pizza with the boys. Instead of buying the jarred stuff this week, I decided to take on making my very own pizza sauce. I kind of winged it and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I just hope we didn’t get spoiled and can still appreciate the jarred stuff when time and supplies are limited.
We are growing a variety of tomatoes from small to large such as Sun Gold, Black Cherry, Red Pear, Valley Girl, Brandywine, San Marzano, Monte Carlo and Lilliput Cherry. I decided to make a party out of it and use them all! Although, you could surely use whatever you have on hand.
I gathered all of my beauties up and weighed them on my kitchen scale – it added up to be 4 pounds. First I had to clean and core the tomatoes and cut an “X” on the bottom for blanching. This will make it easier to peel the skins off. Once you have them ready, use a large pot to boil water. Slowly add your tomatoes for about a minute using a skimmer strainer to both add and remove the tomatoes. Luckily they won’t be too hot since they were only in the boiling water a minute. Then you get to work on peeling the tomatoes (don’t forget to save the skins and cores for your chickens or compost!)
Now you take the skinned tomatoes (Is it just me or do they feel super weird without their skins?!) and you’ll dice them. Set them aside.
Next, I gathered some onions from the boys’ gardens and diced them up – about a cup. Then I minced about 3-4 cloves of garlic. We grow a variety of herbs in our landscaping bed – so, I went out and grabbed a bit of basil and oregano – equalling to about a tablespoon each once chopped.
Now the fun part. With about 2 tablespoons of olive oil warmed in the dutch oven on medium heat, I added in the onions. Once they are starting to caramelize a bit – about 4 minutes or so I added the garlic in for another minute. Then I added in the diced tomatoes, herbs, about a teaspoon of salt and a few shakes of pepper. I decided to also drizzle in some honey – maybe just about 1-2 teaspoons but in hindsight, I’m not sure it needed it with the sweetness of the tomatoes. I also usually add a few dashes of turmeric to things and this time, one bayleaf.
I gave it a nice stir and turned down the heat to low and let it simmer for HOURS. Ok, it was just 2 but it did seem like forever. The aroma was amazing. After the time it needed to thicken, I threw it all in a food processor (or a blender would work!) and blended it all into a nice puree. I wish you could have experienced the savory and sweet aroma! Four year old Arlo licked the spoon and could NOT get enough – he could barely wait for it to be added to the the pizza!
Now you just add it to your favorite pizza recipe. We’ll post ours here soon! Enjoy and let us know what you think!
Shannon’s Homemade Pizza Sauce
4 pounds of garden fresh tomatoes
1 cup chopped onions
3-4 garlic cloves – minced
1 tbsp fresh basil
1 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
few dashes of turmeric
2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp honey (optional)
Directions: Clean and Core tomatoes. Cut an “X” on the bottom of the tomatoes. Blanch for approximately 1 minute in boiling water. Using the X part of the tomato – peel then dice.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a dutch oven over medium high heat. Cook onions for approximately 4 minutes until tender. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and lower heat to Low – simmer for 2 hours.
When sauce thickens after simmering, put in a food processor or blender and blend. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for a week. Enjoy!