Render your own Lard

Lard feels like one of those scary things. Every aspect of it really. We’re told it’s horrible for us, it comes in shelf stable packages in the baking aisle and it’s just plain weird.

Allow me to change your mind! We love us some lard up in here. Our favourite uses for it are, but not limited to;

Cooking the best eggs or hashbrowns, making soap, pie or tarts, empanadas, seasoning cast iron and this afternoon I’m making old fashioned donuts and frying them in lard. I’m so excited it’s not even funny.

Lets start with sourcing. The shelf stable package in the baking aisle? Step away. Thats not lard. Thats margarine in disguise. I can’t get organic pastured pork fat, but I can get it from not quite pastured but not penned up tight antibiotic free pigs. Which is better than nothing and I work with what I have! I get it through the butcher counter in our grocery store. It’s super frugal at $14 for 10 pounds of back fat. I can pay $18 for kidney fat/leaf lard but I don’t find a big enough difference to pony up the extra few bucks. Leaf lard is supposed to have a cleaner taste, but is it wrong if I don’t mind a bit of a piggy taste in my pie crust? If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. Anyways, I have to order it by Monday and it comes on Wednesday. Also try farmers, farmers markets or health food stores. Don’t be afraid to ask about how the pig was raised! I can get fat for free from the butcher, but it’s just from feedlot pigs and I don’t want that. I feel like $14 is so reasonable it’s not even funny. I sure think things aren’t even funny today.

I find the crockpot the most hands off way to make it. It’s not the fastest, but it’s the laziest. I choose the latter. My 5 qt crock fits 5 pounds of chopped up fat. I have my Moms old crock as well so I can use a whole 10 pound bag at once. This will yield you 8 pounds of lard! (Don’t hold me to it as all lard is cleaned up differently)

IMG_5082I start the crock off on high for half an hour or so until some of it is melted, then turn onto low. My crockpot runs hot, so after a few hours, I turn it onto the keep warm setting. This takes close to all day. You really only need to stir once mid day, but I can’t keep my paws off and therefore it takes me hours longer as I always take the lid off and stir. I can’t help it’s like a nervous tick or something…

My Mom did Tallow (from the milk cow we butchered) all day on low once and I just went up to her place at lunch to stir it and it was done when she got home from work.

When it’s all melted and there is ‘cracklins’ floating in the top, strain it through fine cheese cloth or a dish towel you don’t care too much about. It will be yellow-ish at this point. Pour it into canning jars for easiest storage, or whatever you want to freeze it in if you’re not going to use it up within 3 months. This will be about 4-5 quart jars worth. Are you excited yet?!

lardDon’t worry! I won’t leave you hangin’! I’ll be posting up some recipes on how you’ll use it in the mean time. Now go forth and source your pork fat!

 

 

Why We Ate Our Milk Cow

Now many of you aren’t going to like this. I’m writing it for those who are in the position I was last summer. I wish I had read something like this, and that’s why I’m putting this out there!

From August 2011-June 2012 we tried breeding our milking cow. She had multiple calves before this one, but we sure had troubles. She had a miscarriage, as well as just not taking through AI (Artificial Insemination). P’Lady was a small cow and couldn’t be bred to anything but a Jersey, due to hybrid vigor. (Sometimes a cross breed will end up being a big calf even if bred to a small bull) We didn’t have access to a Jersey Bull.

why we ate our milk cow

(July 2010 after calving)

10 months and $600 later, our vet told us to call it quits. My Poppa grew up with the Vet, we were confident in his call. We didn’t want to waste any more money either!

But where do you go from there? What are your options?

You can just shoot and burry them, but that seemed like a big waste, and not honouring the cow we’d had for 4 years.

If someone had said they wanted her, and that they were going to try breeding her again, or eat her, we would have happily given her away.

We didn’t want to have to make this decision.

There was good grass and we didn’t many other animals grazing it, so we decided to just let her eat grass until the fall.

Secretly, I hoped we could give her one more try at being bred. 

But then it came fall. She’d been on good grass for 4 months, it was cold enough weather to butcher her, and I was about 37 weeks pregnant. She had to be butchered, there was no other option that sat right in our minds. My pregnant self said I wouldn’t eat her. (I changed my mind after seeing how amazing the meat looked as we butchered.)

Also, we’d put $600 into breeding her, we needed to get some money back, even if it was in the form of meat. Grass fed ground beef goes for $6 a lb around where we live. If we could put 100 lbs of ground meat into the freezer we’d have come out ‘even’. We didn’t need the meat, we had plenty of venison, so my Stepdad Doug and Brother in law, Jered, helped and we split the meat.

Marius was quite excited to try eating her, as Jerseys are known to taste really good, even if they don’t have a whole lot on them.

The day dawned cold and dreary, I stayed inside with Mac while Doug fired up the backhoe to dig a hole for the skin, guts and bones, and Marius got ready to shoot her. I didn’t want to see that, and I didn’t think Mac should either. You never know how an animal will react when shot, and this had been a family pet. Marius said that it was hard to shoot her. We’d spent everyday with her for 2 years straight milking. She’d lived on our farm for 4 years. You either strongly dislike or really like an animal you spend that much time with!

We didn’t have time or the place to hang her, so we just slaughtered then went straight to butchering.

IMG_0266

(iPhone photo of Doug on left and Jered on right cutting up meat)

It turns out that she did taste really good. The yellow fat marbled the meat beautifully and she was very tender. We’ve enjoyed rare roast beefs, pulled beef sandwiches, hamburgers and many other wonderful food stuffs out of this cow.

In the end, it felt right. To use her in a way that respected what she was, and not to just dig a hole. 

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

We got 125 lbs of meat as well as 15 lbs of fat to render into beautiful tallow. Well worth it. We thought we had a saw that would work for cutting up bones so I could make large batches of bone broth to can, but it didn’t work out.

We fed this cow grain when we were milking her, and we didn’t have access to organic grain, so we used conventional and turned a blind eye. I’ve since learned that the GMO corn and soy can cause infertility, and we’re lucky to now have access to an organic, corn free grain that we feed our current milk cows. We are much happier that our milk is organic, and we’re hoping this solves some infertility problems as well!

If you have any questions about this, or are in the same situation, please send them to me!

The Economics of Buying a Whole Chicken

The only thing available to us is whole chickens, as we choose to raise and butcher chickens ourselves. For the first few years the only way I cooked chicken was by roasting it, eating it, then using the leftovers for sandwiches, soups, etc. Then I had this amazing brainwave. Why don’t I cut up the chicken, so that I can have different cuts to work with!

 

Liiiiightbulb. (I love the movie Despicable Me!)

 

So here is the parts all cut up in a picture. It looks a little crazy, but really, a whole bunch of cut up chicken? Why wouldn’t it be!

This chicken may not have been the best chicken to show, because the skin was a bit ripped from plucking. Bottom left you see wings and drumettes. Top left is breasts. Middle bottom is thighs (they’re huge!) Middle top is drumsticks. On the far right is the carcass, which still has lots of meat on, but when it gets boiled for stock, we’ll get all of those! And the very bottom left corner? That is Mac’s toes stepping up on his little art table. Which happens to have the best light in the house.

 

If you buy a whole chicken from a farm around here, you’re going to pay between $4 and $5 a lb. This was a 7.5 lb chicken and at $4.50 a lb you’ll be paying $33.75. That sounds like a lot, but look at the meat on it, it’s nice and dark, really flavourful, moist meat. There is no comparison. Yes, if you buy chicken breasts on a low low sale, you’ll pay $1.99 a lb. What does the farmer get when you pay that little? How can they support their family on that? They also won’t have much flavour. I can’t repeat how much there is no comparison.

 

Here is the breakdown on this 7.5lb chicken. I leave the skin and bone on everything. This just adds so much dimension. I’ve also added my educated guess on what each would cost to buy at our grocery store, of a fairly local company, but not of the same calibre that we raise. Ours are pasture and grain fed, but not organic.

1 lb 12 oz breasts. Yes, those beauties weigh darn near a pound each. $10

1 lb 3 oz drumsticks $4.50

1 lb 3 oz thighs $8

12 oz drumettes/wings $3

2 lb 13 oz carcass

(Yes, I know this is not quite 7.5 lbs, but I rounded it)

Once you boil the carcass (about 2 hours, until it falls apart), you’ll be able to pick off 2-3 cups of shredded meat and 6 litres stock. $6 for the shredded meat, and good quality stock is $4 a litre, so $24 for the stock, with addition of simply salt, peppercorns and bay leaf. I’m a fairly simple person for my stock.

 

So you paid $33.75 for this primo chicken, and you’ve gotten what you would have paid $55 for a lower calibre similar amount of chicken, if you bought it pre-cut up. It doesn’t take much to cut one up, it takes a bit of practice. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures for you, I didn’t want to get my camera covered in chicken juice, and I need two hands! Maybe I’ll bug my Mom to take pictures of me cutting one up.

 

Now you’re looking at this, and wondering what you would do with such little amounts of some of the items. This is where a bit of quantity comes into play. I’ll cut up two at a time, while still half frozen, then put them into seperate bags back in the freezer. I’ll maybe one to two chicken breasts for a meal, 4 thighs, 12 wings/drumettes, 3-4 drumsticks. I usually use half the shredded cooked chicken for a soup, and half of it for something like quesadillas or burritos. Even if you don’t put chicken in a soup, it’s still got the goodness of the chicken in it because you’ve made your beautiful stock. (I should probably write a post about that?) I don’t make meals with chicken breast where each person gets a whole breast, I’ll grill it, cut it up in the kitchen and split 2 breasts between 4 people. When it’s all cut up you don’t even notice. Soup is a very frugal but great for you food. It’s overlooked really, we eat a lot of soup in the winter, stockpiling the stock from the summer. It’s a fantastic way to use root veggies that are in season all winter.

 

Here it is on a larger scale. For example, if you cut up 3 chickens, you’d pay just over $100.

You’d have:

6 chicken breasts, 3-6 meals

6 drumsticks, 1 1/2 meals (4 for one meal, 2 to combine with thighs for another meal)

6 thighs, 1 1/2 meals (4 for one meal, 2 to combine with drumsticks for another meal)

12 drumettes/wings, 1 meal

6-9 c shredded cooked meat, 3-4 meals

18 litres stock, which would make atleast 9 soups, with the addition of some pretty inexpensive carrots, celery, maybe frozen chopped spinach, rice, pasta, potatoes, barley. All these grocery items are pretty darn frugal. Freeze it of course (or pressure can!) and use for soups or in other cooking.

Which is 19-23 meals and $4.5-$5.25 a meal for your meat in a meal. For good quality meat, that is fantastic. If you’re thinking that it’s expensive, then I need to explain to you how we feel about meat.

 

We eat wild, homegrown or local meats only. If we didn’t have this available to us, we’d be vegetarians. We ourselves kill 98% of the meat we eat. Same goes for butchering.

 

But seriously, we believe in eating meats that aren’t laden with hormones, aren’t grown on foods the animals weren’t meant to eat, raised by people who care about what they’re raising, and being raised in ethical, sustainable ways. Amen.

 

While you have to make a bit bigger of an investment, buying in ‘bulk’ and cutting it up yourself will be the much cheaper option in the long run!

 

I really encourage you to do this, to seek out a source for quality chickens, because once you’ve tasted one, you won’t regret it!

Lemon Dill Venison Stew

Be prepared to be amazed. So fresh. So yummy. So new. I have never put these flavour combinations together! Thanks to a couple that we hang out with, who absolutely adore putting dill in anything, dill has gone from a not-even-in-my-spice-rack to use-it-with-some-frequency. In fact, we just had Leek and Potato soup with dill at their house last night. With bacon. Leek and Potato soup with bacon is so new to be as well, but sooo amazing. I’ll be making some soon!

 

Back to the stew, right?

Get yourself a dutch oven, covered pot or like I use, an enameled cast iron pot. Something heavy bottomed works well. Put it on an element and pour oil, green onions, garlic and lemon skins into it, keepin’ er at a steady medium. Let this cook for 10 minutes, stirring with frequency and attention of a 4 year old. It’ll be good and fragrant.

I use canned venison, but if you don’t have any canned cubed venison, or venison for that matter, use thawed or fresh red meat of any sorts. This is where you will add it in if it’s not canned. Let it brown, flip the pieces over, let it brown some more. Brown is good! Brown is flava!

When thats all going good, put in the small potatoes and small carrots, letting them brown for another few minutes. Here is my reasoning behind cutting some small and some large. I put in the small pieces, then liquid, letting it cook for a good hour, then add the large pieces and cook for for 30-40 minutes until they are done. This way, the small pieces turn to much, the starch thickening the stew, but you still have identifiable pieces of vegetables, not just glop. I believe that needed to be bolded to accentuate the fact of how horrible gloppy stew is.

Back the recipe again, right Kate? (Thats me, by the way, have I introduced myself yet? Check out the Why page if you haven’t)

So the small veg’s are starting to show colour, this is where you add in your liquid, bay leafs and dried dill. The liquid should cover as seen, so adjust recipe amount to suit.

Cover and let it simmer for 30 min. Stir, cover again, and simmer for another 30.

The small veg’s will be so soft and your meat if it’s in there will be tender. I turned off the pot and let it stand on the stovetop for 1 1/2 hr because Mac and I were roasting inside with the fire, needed more outside time and dinner was hours away.

45 minutes before you want to eat dinner, take out the lemon, stir in your canned meat if you haven’t used fresh meat, large veg and dry mustard. Simmer covered for 20 minutes, then uncovered for another 20 to thicken up. Check that the large veg are cooked, keep simmering if you want thicker, add water if you want thinner!

 

Serve this bad boy up on a cold day and warm from the soul out!

 

Recipe

Lemon Dill Venison Stew

Serves two

2 potatoes, one cut into 1/4 inch dice, other 1 inch dice

2 carrots, cut the same as potatos

2 tbsp oil

6  1″x1 1/2″ pieces of lemon skin, as little pith as possible

3 green onions

5 cloves garlic

2 c+  beef broth, water or liquid from canned venison+water.

1 tsp dill

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 c cubed stew meat or 2 c canned meat. Any red meat works

1 tbsp dry mustard

 

This can be started a few hours before dinner. I started at 2:30 and ate at 6. Saute lemon, onions, and garlic in oil on medium for 10 minutes, until very fragrant. Add meat if using fresh, and brown until good and brown on all sides. Put 1/4″ pieces of veg in and cook until golden. Add dill and bay leaves. Pour in broth, if the meat is in there, it should just cover veg. If just veg, well, make it cover the veg. Simmer, on medium low, covered for 30 min, stir, cover again and cook for another 30 min. If dinner is more than 45 min away, turn off stove and leave covered. When dinner is 45 minutes away, take out lemon skins, add canned meat, large veg and dry mustard. Cook for 20 minutes covered, then an additional 20 without the lid to thicken it up. At the end of 20 minutes, if it needs to thicken up more, keep cooking, if it’s too thick, add liquid thinning to desired consistency. Serve up and enjoy. Oh so enjoy. Feel free to add other root vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, rutabegas, be creative!

 

 

 

 

Filleting a Tuna

We were gifted a whole tuna last summer. A beautiful beautiful tuna! It took months before we got around to dealing with it (beyond wrapping it whole and putting it in the freezer) and here’s a little tutorial of what we did!

Tuna are born with a built in diagram of how to fillet them, too neat eh!

It’s important to get the skin off right away, and the whole process is easier if the fish is still a little frozen.

Start by cutting along the back, then the belly line, and then by the neck.

See where he cut on the neck? There is a line where you’re supposed to cut on the neck too! Stabbing your knife into the head helps for better grib in the slippery slippery bathtub. (All people fillet tuna in the bathtub, right?) Pulling the skin takes a bit of muscle, but thats why we keep Cowboy around. That and I love him so darn much!

Be sure to have a trusty good helper there for moral support, of course.

You then cut down the middle of the belly, again, there is a line! Then slice them out and really I don’t remember the rest of what he did, he’s the fish cutter, not me!

With any luck, you might end up with fillets like these! This was the first time we had done a tuna, we being used very, very loosely. He trimmed them up more before they went in the smoker, making them look prettier.

We then smoked it in our Little Chief smoker. We love this baby for smoking fish! You can do two regular sized cookie sheets full in it. We do tuna, salmon and trout. Unfortunately, because we’ve done so much fish in it, when I try to do jerky, it ends up smelling like fish, no matter how much I scrub it! Cowboy thought that this smoked tuna was God’s gift to him and practically drools at the thought of taking a chunk out of the freezer to eat!

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I don’t even like eating fish!

Cow tongue delight!

It could be said that some not so average activities happen in our house. I know there is many others who do these, we have friends who do these very activities, but for most, they are foreign!

Let me make it not so foreign.

*Disclaimer: We are not professionals at this and are sharing for the fun of it*

Now, here’s that cow tongue!

This is it almost done cooking, but we have a few steps before getting to that point!

We killed a cow the day before and didn’t want to waste any parts. I had never eaten tongue, but my brother-in-law assured me that “If you boil it a long time and then fry it, it will be delicious!” (He still hasn’t convinced my sister, to eat it yet)

You start by taking the raw tongue and cutting off any stringy, fatty or grisely bits. It takes a bit of time unless you’re super handy with a knife like Cowboy and can show me up in 10 seconds flat! Put it in a pot and cover it with water. Bring this to a boil, then a simmer and do so for a few minutes. Oh about 120 will be good. After 2 hours, your tongue is going to look something like this.

For a cow, this is a small tongue, but it was a smaller cow. Leave the tongue to cool until you can readily handle it. At this point you skin the white layer off. There is some technique to this we haven’t figured out yet, because it was a heck of a time.

Slice the skinned tongue into 1/4 inch pieces, then in half to make them a few inches long. and set aside. This method of cooking can be used with cutlets of pork, chicken, venison, elk, moose, whatever you fancy! I did this with tongue and my sister used the same recipe to do moose steaks.

We’re going to make four bowls of ingredients now!

bowl #1-Milk, 1/2 c may be good, or you may need more, depending on how much you need.

bowl #2- 1/2 c flour, 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste. (Onion powder here would add to it!)

bowl #3- Egg, scrambled. If you have lots of tongue, use two.

bowl #4- 1/2 c bread crumbs, and 2 tbsp mixture of dried herbs. I like thyme and parsley, dill would be good. Whats your family’s favourite? Use those! Optional, but delicious is 1/4 finely chopped nuts. This adds such a great flavour and texture to a breading.

Now we’re ready to get down and dirty!

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat then add 2 tbsp oil.

Dip a piece of tongue in milk, then flour, then egg, then bread mixture. Easy as bowl 1, 2, 3, 4! Then put in the frying pan. Continue until you have a full frying pan. Depending on how fast you are, the tongue may need to be flipped before then. We want the breading to be a good golden brown, the meat is already well cooked, it’s just about the breading. Once browned on both sides put aside (a pan in a warm over works) and go through the bowl 1,2,3,4, fry pan, until all the tongue is done. Serve up time! We ate with rice and roasted vegetables.

The verdict? I loved the flavour, but the texture of tongue I just can’t do!

Coming up? A delicious canning recipe that can only be made at this time of year. Better get your jars ready!

How we eat.

Something that boggles peoples mind is how we eat and grocery shop. To me, it’s natural, but it’s how we’ve trained ourselves to be! I believe every family should have a few rules they stick to when eating. Here are ours:

-Only eat produce from our province, BC, or Organic if from elsewhere.

-Meat must be local or organic.

-Sweets and baking are homemade.

We are so blessed to have the land to raise our own animals, for that, I am so thankful! We hunt, fish and farm to our fullest extent including: Our own milking cow, cows, pigs and chickens for butcher and chickens for eggs. Farm fresh is way tastier!

This is one of our Sows before she was pregnant. We raised sows, had piglets and raised them to butcher this year, but most likely will only raise piglets to butcher for a long time. Sows are a lot of work!

Cowboy loves to fish,

and I adore canning! This is my Mom’s cool room, which I contribute much to. Where we live, our canning is in boxes in a closet and I have a small cupboard in the kitchen that I keep a few of everything in.

This makes for a full pantry and freezer that we can call upon when needed. I can’t imagine any other way, but it’s not the reality for everyone, and even many who wish they could.

I’m going to start sharing what we eat during the week, not a meal plan, but what we actually ended up eating! This won’t be for a few days, since I just started writing down.

Questions: Do you meal plan? Do you like to keep a full pantry and freezer for quick meals?