Look, here it is. The last full moon of the year. The Sorting Moon, being the end of the cycle, is a time for reviewing what has been done and choosing what to keep and what not to keep. It is the time of ripping the summer plants out of the garden and readying the beds for winter. It is the time to go through the stored food and toss any bad or rotting things so they don't spoil everything. In fact, just last week I pulled out all the tomato plants from my garden and now have a table full of green tomatoes to deal with. In an agricultural society this would also be the time of choosing which animals will be kept as breeding stock for the next year and which would be slaughtered for the winter's meat. It is a time when death, the ultimate end of the cycle, is on people's minds. It is the season of Halloween, the first dark days, knowing winter is here.
It also means that I have been blogging the Wheel of the Year for one full turn now. Wow. Time flies. In line with the energy of the Sorting Moon I have been looking over and thinking about what I have done this year in this blog. I am really happy, for the most part, with my writings and observations this year. I did succeed in becoming more concious of the signs of the seasons and my relationship to the year as it turns and found many new ways to celebrate as the year passes.
I am excited about continuing to blog through the year next year. I look forward to extrapolating on what I wrote this year and exploring different facets of each moon and festival next year. By the end of this year I was not getting posts written by the actual date of the moon or festival and would really like to get back on track with this during the next year. Another goal of mine for the upcoming year is to incorporate more stories and poems into my posts. I am very good at expository writing but enjoy the posts from last year that include with poems the most. Also, incorporating stories fits with my evolving ideas of how humans learn and remember best. Stories illustrate while words simply tell. I'll keep my eyes open over the course of the year for poems and stories that fit with the mood of the moons and festivals and if you have any suggestions, please do pass them along. A few original fiction pieces may show up as well.
A perfect meal for this time of year is a good beef stew. The meat and gravy give us strenght to face these dark days and nothing warms you up like a big bowl of stew. Give thanks to the cow who gave his life during this time of culling and sorting while you stew over the things you need to sort and cull in your life.
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*2 1/2 lb chuck roast
*1/3 cup flour
*1 tsp salt, plus more
*1/2 tsp pepper
*3/4 tsp ground sage
*cooking fat of your choice (bacon grease?!? or lard or coconut oil)
*1 onion, chopped
*2 stalks celery, chopped
*1 cup red wine
*1 cup chicken stock
*1 1/2 - 2 cups beef broth
*2 tbs tomato paste
*1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
*2 bay leaves
*Small sprig of rosemary
*1/2 cup frozen peas
*1 tsp red wine vinegar
*A pan full of chopped root vegetables - I used 3 smallish potatoes, 1 turnip and 1 1/2 large parsnips. Onions, carrots, garlic and sweet potatoes would all be wonderful.
*Oil, salt and pepper for the vegetables
The night before:
Trim and cut beef into fork sized chunks. Remove most of the gristle and fat, but some will add texture and flavor to the stew. In a zip bag or pie plate combine flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and ground sage. Taste to make sure it is salty enough to not just taste like flour. Mix beef chunks into flour mixture and coat well. Heat cooking oil in a cast iron skillet and cover the bottom of the pan with beef chunks. Make sure to not crowd the pan and brown until at least a couple sides of each chunk are good and browned. Remove to a bowl that will fit all the beef, easily be covered and can go in your refrigerator. Repeat with the rest of the meat.
When all the meat is browned deglaze the pan with red wine, stir and scrape the browned bits off the bottom and simmer for a minute or two to reduce the liquid. Scrape the liquid into the bowl with the beef. (I did two batches of meat in my 12 inch cast iron and then deglazed the pan, rinsed it and did a third batch. I didn't want the browned bits to get too burned but your pan/stove/etc may be different).
Wipe or rinse the pan and heat up another tablespoon or so of fat. Sautee the onions and celery until tender, seasoning with salt, pepper and maybe some thyme, or ground rosemary or even more ground sage. Deglaze or scrape the pan and add the vegetables to the bowl of beef. Place the bowl in the fridge. Wash and chop root vegetables into 1 1/2 - 2 inch chunks. Place in a zippy bag or large covered container in the fridge.
In the morning:
Place the carrots in the bottom of your crock pot. Pour beef, onions and all the juice from the bowl in the crock pot. Combine the tomato paste with some of the stock and stir to combine. Pour the tomato and all the stock into the crock pot. I added beef broth until it was just under the level of the beef. Tuck the bay and rosemary in the liquid. I wrapped my rosemary in cheesecloth so I wouldn't have to fish out individual rosemary leaves. Turn heat to low and cook for 8-10 hours. Mine cooked for 9 hours and was perfect.
In the evening:
Turn the oven to 375. Place chopped root vegetables in a baking pan and coat with olive or coconut oil. Salt and pepper liberally and stir to combine everything. Roast until the veggies are tender and browned. Feel free to crank the heat to 425 if they are tender but not yet brown and you are hungry. Should take 20-30 minutes depending on how big your chunks are.
Add the frozen peas to the stew and stir it, removing the bay and rosemary and taste for seasonings. Mine didn't need any more salt but yours might. I did add a tsp of red wine vinegar and it really perked things up. I recommend you do the same. I also left the cover off while the veggies roasted to allow everything to thicken up a bit more. and add them to the stew. Serve by putting veggies in each bowl and pouring stew over top. Serve with buttered bread, red wine and maybe some pickled carrots or a salad.
Alternative if you don't own or don't use a crock pot:Instead of putting beef and carrots and stock in a crock pot, put it in a heavy stock pot. Simmer on the stovetop for a couple hours, or bring to a boil and then place in a 350 degree oven for a couple hours. Proceed as above.
*** *** *** ***What is ending for you? What do you need to sort out? What do you like about my blog and what could make it better? Whats your favorite stew recipe? Enjoy your winter evenings!