Monday, January 14, 2013

Economy and the ick factor

My goal is to add something new to my repertoire each year.  Harvey Ussery wrote that it is respectful of our animals to use everything that we can, to not waste any part of their valuable life.  OK, that is how I interpreted it for myself, but that is the gist of what he said.  The "ick" factor is pretty strong in today's society, and I'm no different.....except I am determined to change.  One bite at a time.  Shudder.

Last year we made use of heart and livers by making our sausage 20% organ meats.  After the first meal, we forgot it was in there.  Organ meats from healthy, pastured animals are amazingly good for us.  It was time to put on the big girl pants and learn to eat them.

This year I added the chicken feet to my broths.  That wasn't as bad as I'd anticipated.

This fall, we bought our very first side of beef.  I highly recommend saving up for this.  Freezers are cheap to come by, especially if you know an busy real estate agent or realtor.  Getting rid of a freezer in the basement is often on the to-do list of their selling clients and can be had for very little cash, or even for free.  I also see them listed in local "for sale" ads for bargain prices....or free!  They don't cost much to run, and the savings of buying an entire side will more than cover the cost of the freezer and the power to run it.  If you live where the winters are cold and it will be full mostly during winter, put it in the garage and it will barely run at all.

The butcher will ask you how you want it cut up and packaged.  Do some online research in advance.  Many small farm websites have detailed information.  Think about what you usually cook as far as beef goes.....actually, you can get pork this way as well.....and order mostly those types of cuts.  It is ok if you eat ground beef most of the time!  We like roasts and ground beef, and rarely cook steaks.  So I got mostly these cuts, and asked for a few steaks so I could expand my cooking skills.  I've always enjoyed steaks at restaurants, not at home.  If the steak is not cooked right at a restaurant, you can send it back.  Not so at home.  But that will change....this year.

Buyiing an entire side, or even an entire animal, can be economical in more ways if you are adventurous and aren't afraid to rattle a few pots and pans.  Most people don't want the bones, fat, organs, and unusual cuts, and these are actually thrown away!  When I got my side of beef, the person taking the other half didn't want anything but standard grocery store style cuts.  Know what that meant?  Yup.  I got to have ALL of the other stuff, at NO additional cost to me.  That's right.  You pay a set fee, called "hanging weight," which means the weight of the side before it is cut and wrapped.  How much of that actually ends up in your freezer is up to you.

We got many, many more pounds of great food for free along with our purchased beef.  With the bones from the entire cow, I canned 54 jars of beef broth!  You can't buy broth of this quality or nutrient value in any store, no matter how many times you see words like "organic" or "natural" or "free-range" on the label.

I also rendered all the trim fat into tallow, which is the best fat for deep fat frying.  I reserved the best for this, and made some into a batch of very, very premium soap.  A bit more will go into the very best moisturizing cream, although with my dietary changes over the past few years and using only goat's milk soap to wash with, I have very little need for skin protection.

I'll admit that some of the liver.....a beef liver is HUGE....was given away (it was reported to be heavenly by liver lovers) and some will be fed to our dogs....hey, they also need good food!  It was FREE.

The heart is in the freezer...well, half of it is.  Half went into our sausage this year.  The other half is waiting for the rest of the ingredients needed to make a mincemeat recipe I found in one of my antique cookbooks that looks very promising.  I love mincemeat pie, and the spice, fruity recipe will likely hide any ick flavor.

Something terrible happened with my beef, though.  There was a mis-communication and the tail and the kidney suet was tossed in the trash.  That turned into something wonderful, though.  When you talk to the actual farmer who raised the animals, you are no longer just a number in a ledger.  It is not the same as buying meat on foam trays in the grocery store.  You develop a relationship.

So something fantastic came from this goof.  The farmer felt bad about this, and promised to give me these items from the next cow.  I got the call this week.  I will not only get the tail and the suet, but all the usual things that are tossed in the trash....all the bones and trim fat, all the organs, anything else that will be thrown away.

Meanwhile, I spent some time with the butcher, who works in his own small butcher shop.  We are also developing a relationship that will be mutually beneficial.  He is setting up a mobile slaughter truck.  (Ick, I know, you don't want to think about this.  But animals die to feed you and me, and isn't it better that they die with the least amount of stress, fear, and cruelty?  Mobile slaughter units are a way for smallholders to deal with this unpleasant task right on the farm....just by writing a check.  I think it is a brilliant solution.  And far kinder to the animals.)

Best thing ever.....I had a conversation with the butcher about getting the "trash" from other animals once he is up and running.  There are legal ins and outs to this, so not all can do it.  For example, if I send a pig to slaughter and don't want the bones and fat, the slaughterhouse can't sell them.  If the farmer sends an animal and gets it back all cut and wrapped and then sells it piece by piece, he can sell the bones, fat, organs, etc.  But he usually doesn't, as nobody wants them, so they can be purchased for a song, in bulk, if he knows in advance.  I've set myself up to be able to do this.  Ask and you shall receive.

Today's story, though, is really about the beef tongue.  Ick.  Double ick.  It LOOKS like a tongue.  Nasty.

So I corned it, like corned beef brisket (recipe here).  Once it was peeled (shudder again) and sliced, it was the most tender corned beef I've ever eaten.  It was marvelous on sourdough bread with home made fermented mustard, and later, hubby diced it up and scrambled it with his breakfast eggs.  A beef tongue is HUGE, by the way.  Several pounds of tender, succulent meat.

In the brine for 10 days while I try to forget.....

What will you be creative with this year?  Can you find a way to be a bit more brave and honor the animals a little more?  

Or let the dogs do so....they have to eat, too!  Nothin' wrong with that!

The shameless commerce portion of today's post:  My next get healthy/stay healthy class starts soon!  January 28, 2013, to be exact.  All via telephone, and you can sign up, put the phone on speaker mode, and invite as many to listen with you as you can fit in the room.  Twelve weeks of great information and some great give-aways, too.  For details, click here.

Oh, and you never have to eat any ick if you don't want to, promise....but there will be bacon!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Three little videos

A few videos I took early last month:

This one is under two minutes and shows a silly little hen that decided to go broody in late November.  Silly girl, spring is the time to hatch chicklets!  Although it is very dark at times, be patient, she moves into the light a few times.  There is a black hen from this spring's incubator hatch, from one of the Icelandic eggs.  I got these for their broodiness, and she was so determined to sit on nothing...nope, she had no eggs under her.... that I gave her four eggs to hatch just so she'd survive.  Some hens are so determined that they won't get off the nest until the babies hatch.  She was one of them.  I knew survival of chicks in December was not likely, but wanted to save the hen.

Sweet baby chicks and sweet mama hen clucking!

In the background of the hen and chicks video, you can hear Peach loudly complaining about something.  Here is a 9 second video to show you what the problem was:

Determined little bugger, ain't he?

And finally, about half a minute of what our farmlet was like about a month or two ago, every morning until everyone was too tired to run.  I didn't know it yet, but Plum was newly pregnant and the buck sure knew it!  Gentle giant Ginger was not, nor was she ready for Charm's advances.  Worry not about goat molestation, dear readers.  When Ginger finally wanted Charm's attention, she was rather pushy about it.  Quite the hussy, actually.

But not today!

Jan 28, 2013, is the start date of my next teleclass series, Foundations of Vibrant Health  What does this have to do with reproduction on the farm?  Not much!  Well, sorta.....reproduction on the farm leads to nutrient-dense food.  But you don't need a farm to be healthy.  You just need to be armed with information that you won't find elsewhere all in one course!  There are some cool give-aways, too!  Click here for details.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Crunchy, salty snack

Sometimes you just want something crispy and naughty.  I did, so I made some chips.

This was actually a very special moment for me.  I hadn't eaten potato chips for almost 20 years, since I became "allergic" to potatoes.  Or so I thought.  Turns out it was the new chemicals, or the cocktail of chemicals, used on commercial potatoes.  I can eat organic taters in moderation, or better yet, home grown tubers.

Just starting to sizzle....

First I sliced up some small, scrubbed potatoes with their skins on with the slicing blade of my food processor.  A mandolin would work as well, as would a sharp knife and a steady hand.  I soaked them in cold water for a while and rinsed them well.

Then I heated up a pint of good lard.  Tallow would be even better, but I was out, so Vitamin D pastured lard it was.

A sprinkle of sea salt and a moment to cool and yowza, this is the only way to eat chips!  Best thing is, these are not only good for you, but it is almost impossible to overindulge when you make them yourself.  They become a special treat, and are not full of the chemicals and bad fats used in the commercial chip industry.  If you haven't done this, you simply must try it!  Home made chips bring snacking into the realm of nutrient-dense health food and the flavor is unbeatable.

Check out my latest course, Foundations of Vibrant Health, starting January 28, 2013, via teleconference!  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Poultry in the freezer

As we get closer to our goal of raising all of our own animal foods, spring and fall/early winter are very busy times on the farmlet.  I've been taking pictures, and will try to catch up over the next few days on what's been going on here.

The Green Mile

I admit that I lost count, but at least 25 birds made it to freezer camp this year, and there are about 5 more roosters that are about big enough now to make the trip.  It is an unpleasant task, but one that was normal in most families not that many decades ago.  There was a time when cruelty in the food industry was not an issue for the most part.  Now, sadly, it is rare when an animal used for food has a very happy life and only one bad moment.  If that.  It is pretty quick, really, if done right.  They don't really know what hit them.  

The most insulting part for them is being picked up and carried, and that happens regularly in their lives, for example, when a rooster gets over the fence and into a neighbor's yard and must be retrieved.  You should hear the squawking and complaining!  Those instances are worse for the rooster or duck than freezer camp day, when we are very careful in how we handle the birds and make it as stress-free as humanly possible.

Good tools make things go quickly and smoothly and are worth the investment.

One thing we did this year that was new was to raise 10 ducks.  One thing we learned this year is that you must process ducks at just the right time, as they are shedding feathers, or plucking will be a nightmare task that is just about impossible.  We waited until we didn't see them shedding feathers, as we do with chickens, being duck newbies.  We got 4 ducks into the freezer that day looking like unshaven drunks.  We planned to sell the rest instead of continuing.

 Our ducks in late June.

Then we cooked that first duck.

Who cares if there are feathers left on the duck.  The fat that runs out and fries the bed of coarsely diced root vegetables that the duck is roasting on top of creates flavors that are unmatched in the culinary world.  Then there is the pint of rendered fat left over that can be used to re-create this flavor in future meals of roasted veggies, or to add a lovely flavor to other dishes.  The six remaining ducks stayed in their pasture, unsold.

Meanwhile, my father built this plucker, based on a number of youtube videos.  Do a search for "drill plucker" and you'll find many versions.  This one was built for just a few dollars, using cheap rubber bungees, a bolt, and a pvc end cap.

Dick's Plucker

Good ol' duct tape!

Be sure not to block the vents of the drill with the tape.  I also used a couple of the leftover bungees to secure the drill.  You can also bolt the drill to your table if you'd like, if your drill has a hole for doing this.

This is not the perfect plucker, and you must wear sturdy gloves or get bruised.  But is sure was fun to use!  Dad and I had a contest, with him using the drill plucker while I was hand plucking.  It was pretty close, but my hand plucking was much harder on the hands, so I like using the drill plucker.  For the ducks, it would tear the more tender skin of the female ducks, so use caution, and consider using it for areas other than the more delicate underside of the bird.  It was fine on the roosters, no tearing of the skin at all.

There is a splash zone, however, than anyone who wears spectacles will discover rather quickly.  Ask me how I know.

You don't have to raise your own food to be healthy.  Lots of details in my current course, Foundations of Vibrant Health, starting Jan 28, 2013 via teleconference!