Makin’ the Bacon

 

We purchased a full pig from another homesteader. The pig was one of two raised, and was named Pork Chop. Pork Chop enjoyed having his ears scratched until he fell asleep in the sun  and eating garden left overs. I thoroughly enjoy hearing stories of how our food was raised.

And this is the story of how Pork Chop became bacon.

We bought this book on preserving meat and the absolute first thing we had to make was bacon. It has been years since we cut it out of our diet because, well, we try to eat only what we grow or make ourselves and we didn’t know how to make bacon.

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There are many items on the “to try” list , but lets get back to the bacon! A simple salt rub and 7 days in a bag in the fridge for the pork belly. Then a cold water wash, smoking for a few hours and the fry up. Oh, the frying…the scent, the crispy edges.

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Since I had made fresh bread today it was a toasted bacon sandwich for supper after a long day of Christmas baking. Today was family doughnut making day, so some salt to counter all the sugar was definitely in order. That’s the excuse I am using on myself anyway.

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I couldn’t get a picture before I devoured half of it. The rest will be chilled to partial frozen then sliced on our new toy(the meat slicer) before being vac-sealed and frozen in portions.  Many days of bacon adventures are to be had in the near future and 3 more pork belly pieces to cure and smoke as needed(bacon is a need now…).

Large pieces of pork turn into the most amazing little pieces of love. I am certain the main ingredient in bacon is love, I’m sure of it.

Sending out bacon love far and wide.

 

 

 

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Black Garlic

Seriously the best food on the planet. Black Garlic is fermented garlic that has turned black, sweet, soft and oh, so delicious (and good for you apparently).

I have been buying black garlic from a local garlic farmer, Eureka Garlic,who also inspired my love of growing garlic. Over the years I have contemplated fermenting my own but just never got around to it. After much internet searching and video watching I  threw in the towel and launched the experiment.

I bought a cheap little rice cooker, layered paper towel on the bottom, full garlic bulbs to fill the bowl, a final layer of paper towel and then tossed in some water to keep everything hydrated. The cooker was left on warm since August 15th. I should note that the cooker came with a steamer basket I used to layer the garlic…it slowed the process and I discarded it within the first 30 days.

For the first couple of weeks it was left outside on the back deck as the initial smell was overwhelming. Once the smell subsided (it was actually only a couple of days but I was busy and the raccoons don’t like garlic so it was safe to leave alone) it was good to bring back inside and let it sit until done. The only attention it needed was to monitor the moisture level along the way. Sometimes I added a little white wine, others beer but mostly water.

From everything I had researched people were getting black garlic in as little as 10 days and as much as 30 days…good for them. At 3 and a half months I have a product I am happy with. The bulbs have turned black, the flesh is tender and sweet. I can eat the cloves straight from the bulb. I will say they are not the Eureka Garlic extreme fleshy softness that you can squish with your thumb, that he has perfected over years of trials, but they are my first attempt. The texture is soft and slightly chewy, but not gummy bear tough. They should make a sauce with very little effort.

A success that I will do again. Maintaining a more sustained moisture level should improve the results and time frame. I frequently had to re hydrate crispy cloves as I forgot about it. Good to know that dehydration did not kill the experiment.

If one man can do it, so can you.

My father taught me I can do anything I want to (note I have to want to…)and I have not waived from that belief. I wanted to do this.

Done.

 

Mexican Little Person Tomato Compote

I couldn’t make up the name, truly it is from a time when politically incorrect was the norm.

We attended a seed exchange in the spring and picked up these “Mexican Midget Tomato” seeds. Figuring they were just a cherry tomato of sorts, we dedicated a small bed to their experimental growth. To say they are small is the definition of an understatement.

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The plants grew easily 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide with no fruit showing at all…until you look inside and underneath the foliage. The power house of micro tomato growth was insane.

We attempted to eat a few but picking them was more of a chore than they were worth. So we pulled up the plants and brown paper bagged the under ripe tomatoes, figuring we would do “something” with them if they ripened. Well they did and we did.

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It’s a roasting pan filled with three lunch bags of itty-bitty little tomatoes. The only thing I can think of to do with them is to toss them with a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, fresh basil and roast them down into a compote. We enjoy a nice compote as a pizza base or over pasta for a simple quick meal (read girl food lunches ). Hot water bath it for 15 minutes in half pint jars and it will be good to go, and not wasted. We grew it and wasting that hurts my heart.

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We try to add a couple of experimental items to the garden every year. This year was eggplant, mustard seed and Mexican Midget tomatoes. The seed and micro tomatoes are not hitting the ground next year as they are more work to harvest they are worth but I love the eggplant. In the past we have thrown in peanuts(turned into bird/squirrel feed) and wheat(again,too hard to harvest when we have an organic grain producer down the road).

As with everything in life; if you never try you will never know…and knowing is what keeps us going.

Preserving Time

 

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Once again, it’s the time of year that we work so hard for; Preserving.

A deep seated love of mason jars is evident.

Before you read further, please accept my apology for this long post/list.

This week has been busy and fun as we worked together to put down our bounty for the coming winter and a little bit for a few sales.

We managed:

  • 48 bottles salsa(mild,medium and hot)
  • 18 bottles mustard pickles
  • 13 bottles pickled beets
  • 18 bottles honey apple jelly
  • 18 bottles apple jelly (we are getting our worth out of the jelly tree this year)
  • 11 bottles cardamom plum jam
  • 12 bottles plum butter(needs a little rework as the plums were a touch tart, next week)
  • 26  bottles kernel corn pressure canned
  • 31 bottles rendered pork lard

Earlier was:

  • 8 bottles sage honey
  • 11  bottles peas (the snow peas we ate as the ripened…kept seed for next year)
  • 12 bottles dilly beans
  • 12 bottles yellow and green bean mix
  • 12 bottles spiced dilly beans
  • 12 bottles peaches in honey syrup
  • 18 bottles apple sage butter
  • 67 bottles honey
  • 75 meat chickens, first batch done
  • 18 cobs corn blanched and vacuum sealed for freezing
  • 265 bulbs garlic (seed set aside for next month’s planting)

That doesn’t cover the packing of the freezer with:

  • 96 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 110 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 30 pounds blueberries
  • 10 pounds raspberries
  • 20 pounds strawberries

The herbs have been harvested all summer and frozen or dried (too numerous to mention, truly we are out of control on this one), peppers are coming in now (drying Paprika as we speak, Jalapeno is in the salsa and the cayenne are still waiting for red, Anaheim never really took off, try again next year). The experimental eggplant has come in and a lovely Moussaka has been made(deemed girl food, yay me!).

Still to come:

  • second meat chicken batch(60 this weekend)
  • parsnip, after frost (peat moss in the cold room)
  •  potatoes, as soon as we get 2 dry days in a row
  • sweet potatoes, after frost
  • onions (stored in wire racks in the basement…they like open air but not too cool)
  • squash of all variety(zucchini,pumpkin,spaghetti,butternut,cucumber)
  • turnip, after first frost to sweeten (peat moss in the cold room)
  • beets for winter storage (peat moss in the cold room)
  • carrots (peat moss in the cold room)
  • seeds for everything for next year, drying on the vines
  • lobo apples soon, plus a trip to Arlington Orchards for our 40+ pounds of Cortland for the cold room(they keep 4 months!!). Our 2 trees are new and will produce in the next couple of years.
  • baking beans, drying on the vine

There are still many jams to do; strawberry, blueberry, rhubarb marmalade, blackberry.

The house smells great, we’re tired and happy.

We practice shared tasks and good communication/note leaving to have the other person finish something we didn’t when we ultimately run out of time and have to go to work. Working opposite shifts is a drag but in another 4 weeks I switch to day shift with him and life gets sweeter.

This isn’t work, this is life.

Bone Broth

When you buy your meat by the side or butcher your own chickens you end up with bones, lots of them. We pressure can all our own stock and it’s really simple; boil the carcass and vegetables a bit, strain and can. Little did we know the goodness we were throwing out.

Bone broth is the solution to reducing our waste even further plus adding nutrients and flavor. Seems like a logical thing to do.

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I entered into this process a little skeptical as to the amount of time to simmer, 24-48 hours. Were the bones really going to crumble when done, seriously? Long story short, they do.

The broth is beyond delicious. I could easily drink a cup of this a day or add noodles for lunch.

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It started with a pot full of pork bones from the freezer, added enough water to cover and turned on the heat. If I think of it before hand I may try roasting the thawed bones first as I have read this improves the flavor but I was just in the mood to finally get the bones out of the freezer. From this was added 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp kosher salt, a few carrots, 1/2 a turnip(love the sweetness of turnip), an onion and a hand full of dried celery leaf (no celery in the fridge, ever). After skimming off  the impurities a couple of times it just needed extra water added occasionally, keeping it covered helps.

Three days on the lowest stove top setting and it was done. Done is determined by when you can crush the bones with your fingers, very cool. I felt like I had super powers. It’s also a good demo for understanding osteoporosis, either way it was neat. I did cheat and turn off the stove over night and started again in the morning as I am just not comfortable sleeping with the stove on. The aroma wafting around the house, inside and out, was mouth watering.

The bones and vegetables were strained out. The broth was allowed to cool so the fat could be skimmed off.

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From here to pressure canning for 25 minutes per quart and it only took 3 days of passive cooking to make. Well worth it for the flavor and health benefits you get.

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One more way to use what we have to its fullest.

 

Technology or Vintage?

As we grapple with life’s daily tasks and how to accomplish them as effectively as possible we are given the option of tried and true methods or new and “improved” ways. The new and improved tends to win out as it is easier, faster and usually really cool looking.

Well, today I was presented with a reminder that things just aren’t built as they once were; to last.  While whipping up 22 double pastry crusts…yes this happens, it just does and each ball needs to be one pound. My new fangled scale that weighs in grams or ounces calved on me. I did the first reasonable thing, replaced the battery required to make it function (always have extra batteries on hand, we’re ready Freddy!), then unscrewed and re-screwed the scale platform to ensure it was satisfactorily attached. It still bit the big one and refused to measure the same twice.  As I was about to make a mad 30 minute dash each way to town to procure a new one I looked up, way up. On top of the fridge where the antique kitchen thingies live I saw the old kitchen scale.

Epiphany! Would it work? Why not, it used to and doesn’t require anything, so why would it stop working? Low and behold it functioned perfectly. Tested it with 2kg bag of sugar and it was dutiful and true. Why have we reinvented the wheel? Technology failed and this old forgotten device kept as decoration came to my rescue. Functional, working and pretty to boot…can’t go wrong. Love it. It is my new best friend.

May your friends be old but true too.

Whole Grain Pasta

 

With the new ability to grind our own grains came an intense interest in anything made of flour. I have been wanting to try this for a while now, just haven’t found the time (OK maybe I have been rebelling against myself and my never ending, self imposed list of things I want to do…odd but true and I always lose the battle). So, as with everything there is a day and today is that day.

The recipe is crazy simple:

  • 1 pound whole grain flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • dash of salt

Knead it all until smooth, let rest under damp towel for 20 minutes then roll out as thin as you can without it tearing. Roll loosely around you rolling pin, slide out pin and slice as you wish. Gently unroll each strip and hang to dry, the back of a chair does the trick. To cook, boil for 3-4 minutes and add your favorite sauce. Tonight’s treat is an equally simple creamy tomato sauce with basil and garlic.

The noodles can also be bagged and frozen for later use.

Ta-Da, one more thing off the list and it only took one month and one hour 🙂