Sunday, January 29, 2012

Books About Preserving Meat

The two that we're excited about right now and planning to purchase are Charcuterie and Pig:  King of the Southern Table.  Having recently butchered our first steer and knowing the pig's turn is soon, we've been looking at all the wonderful things we can do with the meat. 

I came across Pig a while back while exploring titles thru my Nook Color.  I downloaded the sample and just the first chapter piqued my interest.  I now have it from the library and am convinced we need to own it.  The only question is eBook or hardback.  The size of it says eBook, but there's just something about a physical book that I can't quite overcome.  Since the majority of the book is a how to and recipe book, we'll likely get it on the Nook.  The Nook works well in the kitchen-I open a cabinet and secure it behind the cabinet's center support, keeping it at eye level and away from spills.  This book will show us how to use just about every part of the pig available.  There are some things I can't wait to try (making our own bacon) and others that I'm sure I'd never miss (blood sausage).  According to the book, Southerner's make use of just about every part of the pig-the ears, jowls, hooves, feet, brains.  I think the eyes were the only part I haven't seen a use for!

This one is going to teach us a lot!  Everything from hot dogs to red wine salami to confit to pate (which I formally believed to simply be pureed liver) and everything in between.  Tony and I are both excited to work through these recipes and processes.  The challenge is going to be our small kitchen and lack of curing space.  However, Tony's already talking about building a smoke house!  I wonder if it could have a cheese cave basement below it?

This post is shared at the Homestead Barn Hop.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Around the "Farm"

It might only be January, but we've already started this year's batch of baby chicks.  They arrived last Thursday and are growing so quickly!  The Rhode Island Reds are already getting wing feathers!  This was taken the day they arrived.

On the 4th we added more ducks to our farm.  We had a breeding pair of white pekinsg, but the female disappeared a few weeks ago.  The male was lost without her so I had 4 ducklings in the order with the baby chicks.  Before they shipped though, I found 4 females for sale thru Craigslist, so we bought them instead.  They were the same price and already a year old!  I can't get close enough to take pictures yet, but one is really pretty-I think she's a blue Swiss?

On the 7th we butchered our first steer.  Completely grass fed.  Maybe not organic (neighbors wouldn't stop giving him their grass clippings and I suspect they use chemicals for weed control) but no grain.  This Thursday is cut & wrap day.  He ended up being about 200 pounds heavier than we had hoped for, which is a blessing.  If averages can be trusted, we should end up with 500 pounds of beef in the freezer, plus bones for stock and fat for tallow!
Sorry it's sideways.  Hubby is 6'2" and you can see how much longer the steer is even with his arm raised, which is close to an 8' reach.  The hoist is rated for 1300 pounds and struggled to raise him off the ground, so we're thinking 1250-1285 pounds on the hoof.

Next month it's the pig's turn.  So looking forward to fresh beef and pork!

This post is shared at The Homestead Barnhop #45.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Won an Herb DVD!

My first win of the year!  I think I've won 5 giveaways from other bloggers now in the last 2 years.  The DVD is from The Bulk Herb Store and the blogger hosting the giveaway is Just Making Noise.  Let me share one of those seemingly coincidental stories with you.  Last summer I was reading Wardeh's blog and learned of the mission run by Marilyn (of Just Making Noise) and her husband in Honduras.  Wardeh was giving away a copy of Marilyn's eBook Just Making Ice Cream and I had 14 gallons of fresh, raw goat's milk in my fridge just begging to be used.  Rather than wait for the drawing to see if I won, I just bought the book.  While trying to explain to my husband why I bought the book, I sent him the link to her blog and as he was reading about their ministry, he found out they'd be coming to our small town in two weeks!  How odd is that?  So, we went to hear them speak and got to meet them right after buying and trying her eBook!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is Everybody Comfy & Cozy?

This was taken last February.  Unfortunately we don't have the cute cat behind his knees anymore.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Baby Chicks!

This is the first time we've ordered by mail and they arrived this morning.  Tony left for the post office about 645, after getting the call that they were here.  We have 6 black australorps, 7 gold sex links, and 7 Rhode Island reds.  All happily chirping away in their "crib".

I was holding one of the black ones and she crawled into the sleeve of my shirt (not before pooping on my hand though) and went to sleep!  I guess for her it was like being tucked under mama's wing.

Anyone ever put a baby bunny in with little chicks to help keep them warm?  After thinking it'd be good for the chicks I had to question if it'd be good for the bunny!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Our First Steer

WARNING!  If you're sensitive to what happens to animals raised for dinner, you probably shouldn't read this.

Jasper was born January 24th, 2010 to the first heifer we've ever owned.

Wasn't he cute?  And look at that gorgeous rusty coat! 

Here he is at about 6 months.

This one is middle of summer 2011.  I think this is the last picture I have of him.  He's the one on the left.  His coat isn't as rusty as when he was born, but more so than what this picture shows.  He's been rapidly growing on a mix of grasses on our pasture, free to roam and do as he pleases.  We thought he'd get to about 1050 pounds and were surprised yesterday at butcher time when the 1300 pound rated wench could barely lift him.  Our guesstimate is he was about 1275.

My husband is gallant enough to do the hard work and not require my presence.  Goober Gus and I arrived in time to see this:

We're very grateful to these friends from church for helping out!  None of us have ever done this and I'm happy to report that despite it taking longer than they thought, no one got hurt and things went quite well.  I was there to gather parts that won't be aged and start prepping the hide.

As much as I felt I had researched and learned what to do when this day came, I was still woefully unprepared.  I knew which organs I wanted for human consumption and the parts I wanted for the pig and chickens.  I thought we had enough buckets.  If you've never done this-take more than you think you need!  Take plenty of everything.  I saved the tongue, liver and heart for us.  I kept the brain because one of the tanning methods I read about uses the brain.  We needed a bucket for the scraps of meat that were being trimmed during hide removal and quartering.  I was going to take my rubber gloves and don't know why I chose not to at the last moment.  I wanted to keep the kidneys, but to our untrained eyes, we couldn't find them.  There was a bucket for the fat that I plan to render into tallow.

I had it in my brain that there wasn't much for me to do on butcher day, that all the work I'd be doing would be on processing day after the meat ages.  Wrong.  All those decisions to make about what to keep and how to package/store it were up to me. 

The guys told me the wench pulling him up is rated for 1300 pounds and it struggled to get him off the ground.  When the hide was removed, it took 2 of them to carry it outside for me to clean.  When they gutted it, again they were amazed at the weight of all the internal organs.  Once the quartering was done it was a little easier to estimate weight.  Even the smaller sections were at least 150 pounds.  Tony can usually lift that alone, but it took 2 to get each hindquarter to the truck to transport to the meat locker.  The front sections required a 2 wheeled cart.  When there was just one left hanging on the hook, Timothy (the one in the red shirt) tried to counter balance it by hanging on the other arm.  He couldn't do it-he was raised off the ground!  Even the guy that owns the meat locker said the pieces looked big.  Our conservative estimate is 800 pounds dressed.  Using national averages, we'll get 500 pounds of meat.  Since we plan to use the bones for stock and the fat for tallow, our total yield will probably be greater.  So you really can raise a hefty steer on nothing but grass!

My goal yesterday was to get the hide skinned and salted.  That part didn't even start until about 530PM!  Tony worked with me and at 8 there was still about half the hide needing to be skinned.  5 hours of manpower and we were only halfway done!  We stopped at that point (Goober Gus was getting hungry and we still needed to get parts for the hot water handle in the shower that broke the night before-good timing huh?) and decided to go ahead and salt it down and see what happens.  We're hoping the salt will dry the remaining fat well enough to make it easier to remove.  My hands were so cramped from gripping slippery fat in one and trying to trim it with the other!  My back was stiff and for some reason so was the rest of me.  Prior to the skinning tasks, it doesn't seem that I did that much, so being so sore afterwards was confusing.  I understand now why professional tanners get $500 per hide!

The irony of the whole day was eating at McDonald's at 9PM on the day we'd been working toward for 2 years-the processing of our own homegrown, grass fed steer, so that we didn't have to eat industrially raised beef anymore.  Another reason to be better prepared with a meal plan!  I think the plan from now on will include yummy, healthy beef several times a week-at a fraction of the cost!  My best estimate (if we yield 500 pounds) is about $1.70/pound.  The inexpensive cuts from the local ranchers are over $4 per pound.  The savings are worth the crazy day we had yesterday.  Even if I am still sore and tired!