Monthly Archives

August 2017

Farm Life Food

Farm to Table

August 31, 2017

Relaxing…

My sister came to visit this past weekend.  She lives in the big busy city of Atlanta, Georgia.  I had a few things planned for us, but she just wanted to chill at the farm house.  Which is fine with me, because once I get home from being in town, I typically don’t leave.  Atlanta is nice if you like to eat great food and shop or if you like to people watch.  There are a lot of people there, and it takes a good few hours to get far enough away to feel like you’re doing something on the down low.  Staycation with my sister was just fine for me!  I needed some relaxation too!  My day job is very demanding, and it wears me out.  Jason and I had everything mowed and mostly cleaned up for our guest.  Of course, there is always something to work on, but we chose to do nothing but porch sitting with adult beverages!

 

Our little place out in the country does not have easy access to five-star restaurants.  That does not stop us from eating superior food.  We are close to other neighboring farms where they raise small batch pasture pork , grass fed and finished beef.  I made sure we were going to reap the benefits of living rurally.   Most of the farms around me either sell off their farm or at the local farmers market.  That brings me to a topic I have only talked about mainly to my co-workers.  Someone always asks how far away is the nearest grocery store? How hard is it to get dinner somewhere?  I always say the grocery store trip is not that bad, but we have to cook dinner every night.  We are too far for any convenience of fast food or take out restaurants.  People always pause, you can tell they are thinking about themselves and could they cook dinner every night?  That leads me to tell them well; I am close to other farmers.

 

So, while Mary Ann was in town, we made her a nice off the farm country breakfast. Fresh eggs from our chickens and hand cut smoked pastured pork bacon.  This was not just any bacon; this was a heritage breed the Gloucestershire Old Spot pig that I have been wanting to try since I moved out here.  I finally found a farm that raised them, Franchesca’s Dawn Farm.   Gloucestershire Old Spot is an English breed and has been prized for a flavor that we do not experience in our standard grocery stores today.   I can attest it was everything I imagined and I hoped Mary Ann would like it.  I know she isn’t a big fan of smoked foods.  After she tried it, she actually loved it and I sent her home with a slab of it to cook for her soon to be husband.   This brings me to another point when you are out shopping for meats from at your local farmers market.  Talk to them and ask them who processes their meat.  Processors have their own recipes for smoking and curing meats.  I have had bacon from another processor that had made it so salty I couldn’t eat it.  If I did not know this, I would of thought eww, I am just going to stick with my commercial grocery store bacon.   I also ask about the breed; you will get more flavor from your heritage breeds than your commercial cross breeds.  To find out more about heritage breeds, you can read about them at The Livestock Conservancy

 

For dinner, we grilled up skirt steak and veggies from our garden.  The skirt steak came from another local farmer, this time it was Charolais beef cattle originating from eastern France. Another breed of cattle I find that tastes superior to the Charolais are the Devon Cattle.  This is a heritage breed recognized by the livestock conservancy.   If you don’t know what skirt steak is, it’s the cut you would typically get when you order a fajita at a Mexican restaurant.  I love this cut; it grills up with a lot of flavors since it has nice marbling of fat on it.  If you are buying it for the first time, don’t let that fat bother you.  It will render down, and you will have a nice tender steak.

 

I hope you go out and find a local heritage farmer to purchase from.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

This is Biscuit – Gloucestershire Old Spot

canning Farm Life Food

Canning Tomatoes

August 29, 2017

A week or so ago we canned spicy green beans so I thought it would be appropriate to make some tomato juice to go with it.    We only grew a few tomato plants this year and I they did not produce enough to make juice out of them.  I headed to the local scene to find some tomatoes.  First I hit the Caswell Farmers Market and got 6 pounds there.  This is a newly formed market, so there are not many vendors yet.  I stopped by a local market garden that has a self-serve honor system.  They had quite a few, so I got seven more pounds there. It’s always good to support local growers plus they use little to no herbicides.  My neighbor gave me her not so great tomatoes from her garden.  Which I love because they are all heirloom and deep in color.  I almost had enough to make a decent batch but wanted to get just a few more from the grocery store. They had some really ripe Roma tomatoes, so I grab three more pounds.

 

Jason had started cutting up all the tomatoes and throwing them into the pot to cook down. He already had all the jars and lids in hot water before I even returned with the rest of the tomatoes.  I helped smoosh them down while he continued to cut up the rest.  After they cooked down, we strained them thru a food mill and got out as much liquid as possible.  After the juice heated back up, I prepared the hot jars.  We were using quart jars from Ball.  Each jar needed two tablespoons of lemon juice and one tsp of canning salt. Canning salt is just salt the has a very fine texture.  There were seven full quart jars, and they will need to be boiled for 40 minutes.  The house is already starting to get warm from all the cooking.  We decided to put them in our setup that is mainly used for Crawfish boils. It’s a 60-quart pot with a strainer that heats up on a propane burner.  The strainer made it nice, since it lifts right out and we could carry them back into the house.  As the jars started to cool you could hear all the lids starting to pop.  The pop sounds means they have completely sealed.  If any of them do not seal they need to go in the refrigerate to be consumed first.

 

 

Bloody Mary

Chickens Farm Life Food

Rooster Soup

August 9, 2017

I had a previous post about my mental journey on being able to process our first roosters.  I would like to tell you all about what we did with them.  After they were cleaned we put them in a pot with cold water and let them rest.  We did this on a Sunday, and we didn’t check them until Wednesday morning, they were not ready yet.  We opened the pot and their legs almost straight up in the air, and they were stiff as a board!  I was like “OMG,” they are like road kill, we can’t eat them yet.  We cleaned out the water and put fresh cold water in the pot and let them sit. This brought back some childhood memories of my dad having rabbits and squirrels resting in the fridge.  I had to give him a call and tell him all about my Rooster Soup I was planning to make.

 

If you don’t plan to consume them immediately, then you will have to let them rest until the body has passed the rigor mortis phase.  This can be different for each animal.  The two roosters took exactly three days. On the third day, I could bend the legs without any problems.  I was excited and texted Jason, “They are ready!”  Since I had never eaten a rooster and most people said they are tough, stringy and chewy, I was not taking any chances.  I was making soup with them.  I made them the traditional chicken soup way with carrots, onions, and celery.  I threw in a few bay leaves and a bundle of herbs from the garden.  I cooked them until tender.  I took the meat off the bone and separated the broth into two pots one for soup and one for stock.  For the stock, I just put the bones back in, added new vegetables and let that cook down to a nice rich stock.  That made 2 quarts of stock that I put in the freezer to use when the temperature starts to drop.  The soup I put the liquid in a fine strainer and got out any undesirable pieces.  Added new veggies, egg noodles once they were almost cooked the chopped up meat went back in the pot.

 

It actually couldn’t have come at a better time as I was coming down with a cold.  The soup was very welcoming to my sore throat.  Unfortunately, because I was not feeling well, I did not take any pictures of the finished product.  I do have to mention the roosters were seven months old and they were not stringy or chewy at all. I think I could have easily roasted them.  I am sure I will have another chance next year when I breed my Barnvelders.

Chickens Farm Life

Processed My First Chickens

August 9, 2017

I did not grow up on a farm, but I did grow up in a family that hunted wildlife.  My family, including my aunts and uncles family, owned a hunting cabin and everyone that was part of it shared the deer that they killed with all the family members. There were many years that wildlife provided the meat for our family or we would have very little.    My dad hunted other wildlife and taught me how to hunt when I was young. Hunting and processing are a good skill to learn.  As I grew up and moved away, that part of my life went away too.  I bought all my food from the store.

 

Now that we decided to live this farm lifestyle things that tend to come with it is processing your animals.  When It first started to really hit home was, I had ordered some chicks from the local farm store, and two of them ended up being roosters. They were starting to get mean, and I just wanted to eat them. I was thinking; I raised them why not.  I couldn’t do it, and I found all kinds of excuses of why I couldn’t.  I didn’t have a big enough pot, sharp enough knife and I didn’t have a plucker.  In reality thou, I knew I was making excuses but why? I have killed animals before why is this so different.  The more I thought about, the more I realized that it’s the act of killing an animal with my bare hands.  Shooting something with a gun is completely different.  The only qualms I had of hunting was I didn’t want to maim an animal I wanted a clean kill or I wouldn’t take the shot.  When I use to do that, I practiced a lot, and I was good. My favorite thing to hunt was squirrels, and I would go out on my own to get my limit. I liked eating them; they tasted like quail to me.  I could have shot my young roosters but I am not a good shot anymore, and I need to practice.  Luckily I found someone looking for the breed of roosters I had, and they went to a good home.

 

Now we are on our second batch of chickens, and we incubated some eggs I got from a breeder. This time we ended up with too many roosters, and I knew I would have to do the deed this time.  Over the course of the year, I was mentally preparing myself for this, I read and watched everything I could find on butchering poultry.  Off and on I discussed it with my sister on my findings.  She was grossed out when I would talk about the different things I read and watched as I researched this.   After all this research the thing that was the most humane other than breaking their neck was slitting the throat.  That was really hard for me to come to grips with doing this, as I watched a youtube video where they missed and cut the windpipe.  At the time I did not know they messed up.  I was like, OMG I’m not sure if I can do this. That was a big setback for me, and it took a while before I found some other people that had described things in a clear, concise way that lead me to look into the biology of the chicken’s neck.  I felt better now, but still, I was not confident in this process.  I started to order the things I needed for the day I would do this.  In the meantime, I was looking on YouTube for someone to show me exactly what I needed to do.  I found two videos, one was on processing chickens, and the other was a turkey.  The turkey video was very clear and now I am certain I know what to do.  I am feeling better about this, and I order the last piece a sharp knife.  I chose one that most people use.  It was sharp, but I felt like it could have been sharper.  I am going to research more and try out some other knives.

 

The morning came, and I went out very early and got the roosters and put them in a cage.  I did not want to let the chickens out until this was over.  I just didn’t want them to see or hear anything.  I took them to the area and kept them covered with a blanket it until I was ready for each one.  I used a killing cone, and I put the first rooster in the cone.  I felt uneasy as I got him in the position he needed to be. It took me a few big sighs as I tried to make sure I was in the right area of the neck and no feathers were in my way.  He went quietly without any struggle as I held his head until he passed.  Once he was ready to be plucked, we put him in the scalder and plucked him.  Now it’s time to remove his internals.  I kept reading and watching video’s don’t puncture the crop, and most people know not to puncture the intestines.  When I first started I reached in there it felt foreign to me, and I said “I don’t know what I am doing” I just couldn’t pull things out like I saw other people do.  I tried again and managed to get everything.  It was all such a blur as I was thinking, did I see the crop?  I didn’t remember seeing, but it wasn’t there when I looked inside after I was done.  One rooster down, one more to go.  The second one was similar, except he jumped a little more and bruised a wing, but it was a clean kill, and it was also quiet without a struggle.   This time, when I had to gut him, it went much faster.  I pulled things out and named them; there is one lung, there is the other lung.  I saw the crop this time and pointed it out.   We did not eat them right away, as we put them in cold water and will eat them later on once they recover from rigor mortis.

 

I hope by telling my story that I can help someone else find the confidence to process their poultry.