Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beef shanks.....a worthwhile cheaper cut

Looking for a way to have grass-finished beef on a budget?  Ask around for beef shanks.  They are often cheaper than other cuts but oh, so worthwhile.  I think they should be much more expensive (shhh, don't tell any farmer that I said that!) because you get meaty soup bones, marrow bones, and plenty of meat for several meals, all in one package.

Simply place the shanks in a shallow roasting pan.

Roast in a hot oven (400 F maybe?) until nicely browned, about a half hour or so.

Place them in a large stock bot and cover with filtered water (or well water if not on city water) and a glug of raw, organic apple cider vinegar.

I simmered them for a full day (24 hours) and then shut off the heat.  The shanks were carefully fished out and put onto plates to cool, and the broth was strained into another pot.

After carefully removing all the meat to a bowl and refrigerating it, I poked the marrow out of the bones and added it to the broth.  This will make the broth cloudy but marrow is very nutritious and not to be wasted.  Some people like to eat it as is, or spread it on crusty bread, but I prefer it mixed back into the broth.  It is a texture thing for me.

Now I had enough meat and broth to make a large stew that served us both generously for 4 meals, plus some meat to use in a fifth meal along with more of the broth.  There is still a bit of broth left over for another use, even just for cooking veggies...but if you do, be sure to drink the broth afterwards, as it is rather nutrient dense and very, very good for you.

For more ideas on how to use beef shanks, look for recipes for Osso Bucco, Italian for bone with hole.  It is another simple, yet elegant dish, perfect for fall and winter.

Run right out and find yourself some beef shanks!  They are a great way to stretch your budget and still have the best food.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall egg basket

New colors in our egg basket!  Some of our young pullets (female chickens that are not quite grown up yet) have started to lay eggs, and we are getting some new and lovey shades of brown.

The skinny white egg is Icelandic, and the giant tan egg is from an older mixed breed hen.

I love the different sizes and shapes.  So different from the cartons from the grocery store, with all twelve eggs lined up in rows, all exactly the same.  Isn't this more fun?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Liquid soap success

I've been wanting to make liquid soap for a long time now.  I finally ordered the stuff to make it and found a recipe that looked reasonable....and promised to be pretty fool-proof. 

This is my first batch.

Ain't it purty?

Unlike the goat's milk soap I make, liquid soap doesn't use lye, which is sodium hydroxide.  It uses potassium hydroxide.  The only way to buy this (either, really, for the most part.....I used to buy Red Devil lye for soapmaking in the grocery store, in with the drain openers) is online.  It is toxic and caustic, but completely neutralized in the soapmaking process.  Both of those chemicals are what turn fats and oils into soap.

I used this recipe from this wonderful blog.  I used the household cleaning soap and dish soap recipe.

In the article, she says to use distilled water, and every liquid soap recipe I could find said the same thing.  Why not use tap water, I wondered?  I just could not find the answer online, so I did a little experiment.  I diluted half of my soap paste with distilled water, and the second half with tap water.  We have pretty hard water.  This was the result, and later I stumbled across a note by the above mentioned blogger that said the soap would be clear with distilled water, and cloudy with hard water.  Yup.

Look at all that soap!

I figure cloudy soap cleans as well as pretty soap, so my plan is to make clear soap for containers that are clear or for gifting, and just use tap water for our everyday soap.  This first batch was on the thin side, and I chose not to thicken it.  I am now on a search for foaming pump dispensers to use with this.....I think those will be PERFECT.  And they conserve soap.  Meanwhile, I put a few drops of essential oils into some of it (notice the missing pint jar of clear soap in the photo) and it is in a regular pump dispenser by our kitchen sink.  I used lemongrass, tangerine, and a bit of lavender.  It smells heavenly.  

My next attempt will include my favorite soapmaking fats, tallow, lard (both pastured and pure) and extra virgin olive oil.  I'll be going for a less harsh soap for washing hands and for the shower.  Later.....shampoo?  Commercial versions of all these soaps are so full of toxic ingredients, very easily absorbed through our skin.  Soapmaking is surprisingly easy and very satisfying.  Let the experimenting begin!