2015 Pigs….

pigs

Do you want to know the most worrisome part of raising pigs??

The escapes!

Pigs are naturally curious creatures and want what is on the other side of the fence, that is until they learn what the fence can do.  But until then they try and this crew succeeded well, multiple times!  These guys and gals were an adventurous crew to say the least.

The day that we picked them up happened to be the day of our son’s 9th birthday…happy birthday kid!  You get pigs! Yay!

Anywho, we safely got them into their new enclosure.  This crew is the first to be re-homed directly in the new enclosure.   We really thought they’d be good little piggies and stay within the fencing since this was their home now.  Umm..nope.

In the middle of the party the hubs and I taking turns watching the pasture for our little friends.  Then it happens…I don’t see them anymore!  First, let me say that they are little babes when we get them and have over an acre of tree filled pasture to themselves so they can be hard to spot even when they are grown and 235 lbs.  In the middle of the party, in our party clothes, we slam on our boots and run out the door.  Searching the enclosure they are no where to be found.  PANIC!  I grabbed a piece cardboard and off we went into the woods to find them.  These wonderful heritage breed pigs are not your typical pink color, these beauties are black, which makes them veery hard to spot in the forrest.   Especially when they are tiny, fast, and low to the ground.  Luckily they stayed together and eventually we spotted them, got in front of them with our make shift cardboard corral and nudged them back toward home at which time they WALKED right through the electric fence without even a squeal!

We need a plan B…oh and can some one pass the party punch??

We were so afraid they would do it again, that we stole the chicken fence (the chickens got a crash coarse in free ranging) and put that inside the electric fence. Ha! Take that cutie pies DOUBLE electric fence.  While all of this is going on, the guests of the party are non the wiser to the pig chase, until one notices that I’ve changed my clothes.  Then I had to explain how I fell in the mud in my dress clothes chasing pigs, during the party.  All in a day, right??

So we we are all good, pigs are back and in a double electric fence!  Phew!

Umm..nope.

Escape numero deux…

About a month and a half later while playing a video game with my little guy, I glanced out the window and see a black pig casually stroll by the window, then another…hmmm I thought, that is odd, then it hit me, the pigs are out!!

PANIC!!

It’s just me home and 4 pigs on the loose.  What to do??  Well. honestly, I don’t know what I did but after a bit of chasing and enticing with feed (I am built for comfort, not for speed), I got one back in the fence and the others followed.  Thank the lord!  It was decided then that we would have to run another electric line in order for me not to end up in the looney bin.  So that is exactly what we did and they stayed put, grew well and were happy.

These guys are the first to live their whole time with us with an entire acre + to do as they please.  They had a favorite wallow spot that I would fill once a day and on really hot days, they would bound down the hill to get a daily spray down of cool water, then back up to lay in the shade.  These guys were wonderful. ❤  Sweet, good natured, attentive and they came when called.  They loved their organic apple snacks and all of the organic garden goodies.  I am so very thankful that we can do this, raise our own animals for ourselves and for our friends.

We are truly blessed. ❤

2015 pigs

What to do with that fresh ham steak??

Last year when we butchered our first batch of pigs, we kept the ham fresh because the butcher used nitrates in curing and that is something that we don’t want in our food so we decided that we’d cure it ourselves.

It was a BIG ham and we’d never done anything like that before.  Long story short, because it was so big, the cure didn’t penetrate through the whole thing and only the outer 3 inches tasted like ham, the rest like a delicious pork roast.  No harm, no foul…it was still delicious.  Just not “ham” as we know it.

Fast forward to this year with a new butcher (still nitrate curing) and fresh ham steaks vs. a whole ham.  2 of the ham steaks I threw in the crock pot with apples and onions and they were good, but drier then I’d like.  This week I pulled out the last 2 steaks and decided to try curing them, again.

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Cured ham steak

For 2 steaks about 3/4 inch thick

In a large shallow baking dish for the brine:

1.5 qt of water

1/3 cup organic brown sugar

1/3 cup organic maple syrup

1/2 cup sea salt

1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla

Mix it all up until the sugar and salt are dissolved.  Put in the ham steaks in and made sure that they stayed submerged (you can weight it down with a plate if you need to).

Place it in the fridge for about 24 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

After 24 hours, rinse the brine of well.  Dry off the ham steaks very well.  Pan sear the steaks in a frying pan with some butter or even better bacon fat!!! Mmmmm..

When they are browned on both sides, place the pan (make sure it is oven safe) in the oven for about 20 minutes.  Depending on the thickness of the steaks, it may take longer or less time to cook.  Make sure your pork is 145 degrees in the thickest part.

Pull out of the oven and let rest for a few minutes…then eat!! Yummy!!

I served this with sliced potatoes roasted in bacon fat and sea salt and steamed cauliflower finished in the oven.

It felt like a frontier meal to me (minus the cauliflower of course). 😉

The kids gobbled it up and the hubs was in awe of the impromptu ham experiment.

All in all a great meal and the leftovers of ham and potatoes made an excellent breakfast skillet the next morning. 🙂

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Cured Ham Steak

The Dinner Party….

Our son hosted his first dinner party this past week!

He’s 7. 🙂

This child has been groomed to be a foodie.  He was never given the option to eat or not eat.  His only option was try it once, if you really don’t like it, then you don’t have to eat it.  To this very day he eats everything, except mushrooms

Lately his favorite show to watch is the Pioneer Woman!  He loves to watch her cook and his favorite episode is “Ranching in the mist”.  He has watched this particular episode so many times that he knows the recipes and the wording by heart.  The last time he watched this episode, he asked again if I could make the pop pulled pork.  Well, we don’t really drink soda , so cooking with it is out of the question for me, so I’ve said  no in the past to that recipe.

That same week we were all struck with the flu…boooo!  The hubs came back from the store with a natural soda called Dr. Better, because sometimes you just need something carbonated and it tasted just like Dr. Pepper!!  Light bulb!!  When everyone was feeling better and Ree Drummond was again on the screen, he asked again and this time I said sure!

He did the entire meal by himself!  I put everything in the oven and made the dough (which was Gluten free) but he did the rest from chopping onions to peeling and slicing the apples for the pie.

The hubs took the little one away for a few hours so we could have some space alone to work, and work he did!  He started at 11:30 am and finished when dinner was served.

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Cutting Onions

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Seasoning the pork shoulder

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Adding a little Dr. Better

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Slicing apples for the flat apple pie

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Cutting the cabbage for slaw

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Mixing up the slaw

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Making the potato au gratin (yes, he diced all of the potatoes) 🙂

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The finished pop pulled pork!

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Dinner is served!!

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Making caramel for the pie

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Pie is done!

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My guy! Sorry for the bad picture. 

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The whole meal was delicious!  The gluten free dough was so good!  You could never tell that there was no wheat in it at all.  The caramel was not my favorite recipe…it was a quick caramel and it lacked the depth that I love in caramel, but I wanted to stay true to the Pioneer woman evening, so we made all of her recipes.  I would certainly make them all again, with the addition of this salted caramel. 😉

I loved the feeling of pride that I saw on my little guys face when everyone was eating HIS dinner!  He was exhausted when bedtime rolled around and I think a little bit more appreciative of the meals that we eat…knowing a little bit better what actually goes into them.

He is already planning his next party with meatballs, pasta and cake.  I love that he loves being in the kitchen and I love even more the time that we get to spend together cooking.

Spring is not here yet….

I’m not sure that I have EVER wanted spring more than I do this year.

I am not quite sure if it is because we just finished reading The Long Winter, by Laura Ingalls Wilder or if I actually feel like this has been the longest winter EVER!

Long Winter

Either way I am desperately craving warmth and sunshine even though the low tonight is supposed to -9 degrees….I am trying to be positive as the over 4 feet of packed snow in the yard dwindles slowly.  On the warmer days, every inch it melts is one inch closer to seeing grass.  It usually seems to happen over night anyway.

One way to “feel” spring before it happens around here is to order our chicks and piggies for the year!  We have done that already! 26 day old chicks will be here next week (some for meat and some to keep for eggs) and 3 piggies in a few short months!

The newest additions to the farm this year….. Drum-roll please….

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30,000 Honey Bees!

Yes…we (actually the hubs) is taking on the chore of bees…which is good because although I am not scared of bees and really appreciate all that they do for us, they creep me out…they are in the buggy category after all.  I am getting better with that part of farming, although not fast enough in my opinion!

Next is a dairy cow…Oh, how I long for a dairy cow!!

Someday….*sigh*

Gluten Free Eating and Apple and Onion Roasted Pork…

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So….I’ve embarked on this gluten-free journey and so far so good!

 I have been so tired with a general feeling of crapiness for such a long time now, that I figured it was time to try something different.  Years ago, when the low carb craze hit, I did it and felt great (of course, I was a lot less fluffy then *wink, wink*)…but I remember feeling great.

 We eat great quality foods.  We eat organic foods with no preservatives or GMO.  We eat lots of fresh produce and meats that we raise ourselves (organically) or that we buy from friends who also grown organically.  We cook almost all of our meals at home, so we know what goes into them.  We don’t use chemicals in our home and use homeopathy as a means of getting ourselves well and  food based remedies as well.    We eat raw garlic and I make a bone broth (stock) at least once a week.  Why in the world am I so tired and icky??  I’ve been feeling that wheat/gluten is the culprit for a while but haven’t made the jump until now.  You see….I LOVE bread!  It is what I eat when I don’t feel good, it is what I eat when I do feel good, some form of flour is always being eaten here at home as a meal or with a meal.

I thought that the transition would be harder, but honestly, it hasn’t been!!  I feel better, have more energy (I’m not ready to run a marathon yet…) and am not craving the bread like I thought I would. Yay!

Sooo…as I embark on this journey I will create new recipes, I will try new recipes and let you know how they turn out!

My first official GF recipe is a Roasted Apple and Onion Pork Shoulder.  You could easily use a pork roast or tenderloin too!

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Ingredients:

4-6 lb Pork Shoulder (Pasture or organically raised if possible)

Bacon Fat saved from breakfast (you can use olive oil and butter or coconut oil)

5 Cloves of sliced Organic garlic

2-3 Medium Organic Onions, sliced

2-3  Organic Apples, sliced (skin on)

16 oz (or so) of organic chicken stock (homemade would be best)

1.5 Tbl Organic Balsamic Vinegar

3 Tbl Organic Maple Syrup

3 Tsp Organic Cinnamon

Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put about a TBL of bacon fat into the Dutch oven on the stove on a med-high heat and sauté the onions  and garlic.  Once they are beginning to brown, add the apples, cinnamon and the balsamic vinegar.  Cook for a few more minutes then  remove from the pan.  Add about a TBL of bacon fat to the pan.  Generously salt and pepper all sides of the pork shoulder.  Sear all sides of the pork to create a beautiful brown crust.  Once all sides are browned, add the chicken stock (should come  about 1/2 way up the pork) and scrape the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon to get all of the yummy splatters into the sauce.  Add the onions, garlic, apples and maple syrup to the pot.   Cover and place in the oven for 2.5- 3 hours or until the roast is easily pulled apart with a fork.

Remove the roast (or roast pieces as it will probably fall apart) from the pan and set aside.  With an immersion blender directly in the pot, buzz the juices, apples and onions together to create an amazing gravy.  I may have splashed a bit of maple syrup into the gravy before buzzing… 😉

Crock pot Option:  I would assume that you could throw all of this into a crock pot, put it on low, go to work and return to an amazing dinner too!!

Although I did not get any pictures of it, I served this with organic carrot sticks roasted in olive oil, salt and pepper and with roasted organic acorn squash.

Roasted Acorn Squash:

Halve the squash carefully as they have a tough skin

Scoop out the seeds

Add a small pat of butter to each half of the squash

I added a teaspoon of brown sugar, salt and pepper to the squash

Roast for at least an hour at 350 degrees or until very tender.  Spoon the juices from the middle of the squash over the squash and scoop out onto the plates.

The kids LOVED this entire meal…I thought the Hubs was going to dive into the pan, he was nuts over it.  I’m glad that I wrote it down!

Bacon and Sausage everywhere!!

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Bacon and Sausage everywhere!!  After the processing of the pigs, it is always bacon and sausage time.  With each of the 8 bellies weighing about 9 lbs and about 100 lbs of ground pork, we were in for a busy weekend.

We started by curing the bellies with a traditional salt, sugar, molasses and herb dry rub for 7 days.  On day 3 of the cure, we drained the liquid that had been purged and re-rubbed with more cure.  Using salt as a cure allows us to NOT use pink salt ( sodium nitrite/nitrate).

After day 7, we smoked the bacon with apple, pecan and cherry wood and froze the whole bellies and were ready to slice!

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Once it was frozen, we sliced and packaged the bacon…maybe we ate a bit too.  I’ll never tell!

 Homemade bacon from organically raised pigs is so different from store-bought bacon.  It’s flavor is so concentrated that you really only need to eat a few slices to get your fill.  Even the most carnivorous of folks get their fill after a few pieces.

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There is something so amazingly cool about making/growing your own food.  Actually it is not all that difficult and mainly requires a time commitment.  There are plenty of folks out there that do it and work a full-time job outside the home..it is entirely possible to do, if you really want to. 🙂

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The sausage…it really is the stuff  that dreams are made of!  Last year we went to a different butcher and for some unknown reason, the ground pork that we got wasn’t the best as it had hard chunks in it…gross sounding, I know.  The really unfortunate part was that we didn’t realize until it was too late and we had made 100 lbs of sausage with it and sent it off to our family and friends.  😦  We always taste test the sausage before we stuff it, but didn’t find anything odd in the samples that we tried.  That was last year…this year a different butcher and AMAZING Sausage!  We played around with maple syrup in the sausage, but found that it often burned when cooked, as pure sugar will.   I was poking around Amazon and found this maple syrup powder and thought we’d give it a whirl.

The stuff is amazing and was perfect for our maple breakfast sausage!!  We used quite a bit to get the flavor that we were looking for.  It turned out so yummy!  One word of caution..it is a very fine powder so it will get everywhere if spilled or mixed to fast.

We also made an italian sausage, neither sweet nor spicy…just in the middle and oh so yummy with fresh garlic, rosemary, fennel and other spices!!

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For the past 2 years of sausage and bacon making, we look at each other and say “we are not doing this again next year!”  I am not going to lie…it’s a lot to add to our plate, especially this year.  But, when we get the feedback from those who eat it and want to order again already for next year…it all seems worth it!

 There is a really great feeling that happens when feeding those you care about great, wholesome food.

**sigh**   I do love doing this. 🙂

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Ps…I wanted to add a picture of us making the sausage…but I couldn’t seem to take one that wasn’t terribly phallic. 😉

This Week…

This Week….

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~We are: learning about George Washington

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~We are: Drinking lots of coffee due to mid-night continuous wake-ups

~We are: Catching up on lots of work

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~We are: Falling way behind on laundry

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~We are: Wishing for spring but watching the snow fall

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~We are: Remembering where we were last year with piggie plans

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~We are: Planning for  this years piggies!!

~We are: Wanting a nap, very badly

~We are: Feeling pretty dingy for slipping on the ice while always preaching of “paying attention”

~We are: Wishing that the cleaning fairy would come over and do her magic

~We are: Thankful for the craziness of life and young, relentless spirit of these little ones

 

Bacon, Sausage and Lard…

Phew… we’ve had quite the busy week!

2 – 30 lbs hams curing and waiting to be smoked.

13 pints of lard rendered and canned just waiting for pie crust.

100 lbs of sausage (breakfast and Italian) made, stuffed and packaged.

Almost 70 lbs of bacon cured in molasses and maple for 5 days then smoked, sliced and packaged.

~Blueberry Maple Sausage

~Sweet Italian and Blueberry Maple

~Getting a little Maple Yumminess..

~Rubbed and curing for 4 days

~Resting an hour before the smoker

~Smoked for hours and ready for the oven!

We still have so much to do…I must have 80 lbs of fat left to render, but the majority of the hard work is done.

Rendering fat….

Thankfully a friend rendered fat from a pig that she purchased earlier this month and warned of the odor and being very sensitive to odor myself, I am glad that I decided to cook the fat outside on the porch in slow cookers…It definitely had a certain smell to it.  Outside it wasn’t bad, actually we were cleaning up the yard in anticipation of hurricane Sandy and my son yelled “it smells like potato chips!”, which it did. 🙂  That being said, when all was said and done I had the whitest snow-white lard I’ve ever seen.  Because our pigs spent their lives outside in the sun, their fat is chock full of vitamin D, second only to cod liver oil!  Can you imagine??  Have you ever tried to stomach cod liver oil?  Not my favorite by any means.  Good to know that my pastries and morning eggs will have serious amounts of vitamin D…perfect for the winter. Yay!!

Anywho, here is how I did it.  You can literally set-it and forget-it!

~Sunny day rendering a little lard

Cut your fat into small pieces, the smaller the better, the more lard you will render out.

Place it all in a crockpot

Add 1 inch of cold water to the bottom of the pan

Set the crockpot on the lowest setting

Cover and forget for about 6 hours

You’ll see the fat shrink and the lard will begin to fill the pan.  When the fat (which will become cracklings) begins to brown, it’s time to strain, strain through cheesecloth in a strainer.  This will be the whitest of white lard.  Perfect for baking.  Pour hot lard into sterile jars and top with sterile lids.  They will self seal and be shelf stable.

Place the fat pieces back in the pan and continue to render.  When the cracklings resemble bacon pieces, you can strain it a

gain and this straining will be a bit darker and have  a little bit of a bacon/pork flavor, perfect for breads and frying.  Anything that you want to have a little more of an in-depth flavor.  Some people save the cracklings and add them to salads or anywhere else you’d want a little crunch.  I can imagine that a chicken breast coated in panko crumbs and cracklings would be AMAZING!

I, however ended up tossing them as it was really late and I was kinda tired of them…if I’m being completely honest. 😉

~lard, glorious lard

Here is the dream shot, although not a great one…

Our goal….

~Our own eggs AND bacon!!

From the very first egg gathered from our backyard chicken house over 3 years ago we said “wouldn’t it be great to have our own bacon to go with it!”…

 Much to the nay-say of others and many thinking that we are nuts….we did it!

We did it!!

And we will do it again, next spring.

 It has been so much more than a learning experience, it has really made me more aware of where my food comes from and where I WANT my food to come from.

I do have to admit that I can’t wait until next year to have little piggies running around outside…they really are such neat creatures. ❤

If anyone local is interested for next year….let me know.  We would love to share our home grown food. 🙂

Off they go….

Off they go…

When we got these little ones over 6 months ago, we knew what their purpose joining us here on the farm was.  We respected, loved and cared for these animals from the moment they arrived to us.  We vowed to give them a healthy and stress free life in turn for them providing us with healthy, stress free meat for our family.

That time came this past Sunday…

I knelt down, looked each one of these creatures that I’ve been caring for in the eye and said a heartfelt thank-you.

It was now time and we had work to do.

The sun was shining for the first day in what felt like forever!  We gave them some of their favorite food to buy us a little time to make the necessary preparations…it is true that a pig will do just about anything for food.

We backed the trailer in, filled it with hay and positioned the ramp, we were ready to go…or so we thought.  When the time came, the gate was opened.  I stood in the trailer, shook the bag of food and after checking out the situation, 3 of the 4 came walking up  the ramp.  The other, well he wasn’t going anywhere.  He was going to make us work hard today. 😉

After a muddy 2 man, 2 woman, 1 hog, country fair style pig scramble, he was on the trailer and they were ready to go.

Once the trailer pulled away, the farm-yard was still sunny, but very quiet.  I have to admit that it was a little sad, they were my little buddies, always ready to greet me because I usually came bearing food. 🙂

Will we do it again?

YES!

 Our first year with pigs was a success!  And by success I mean, we raised healthy, well cared for, drug free, stress free pigs and my FEAR of them getting loose and having to chase them all over God’s green earth didn’t happen…thank goodness!

  We are very fortunate to have land and the time to grow food for our family and friends.

That is our pig adventure for now…

Perhaps next year, we’ll add some pastured chickens for meat….maybe. 😉

The last of the warm summer days…

Every year about this time I look around and think, did I have my windows open enough this summer?

Did we get enough fresh, warm air?

Did we do all that we wanted to this summer?

The answers:

There is never enough open window time. 🙂

The air is always fresh, though not always warm. 🙂

No, the summer escaped us, but all of the major ideas were accomplished.

Our garden was not uber fruitful this year.  We had a giant crop of cucumbers early on, before the beetles got them.  The  tomatoes did well before the hornworms got them.  Zucchini also did well, before the beetles came…We just donated the garden to the pigs, they loved it and are still digging out there, for a few more weeks anyway.

The seasons seem to change so fast around here!  One day it’s sweltering, the next the fire is roaring.  I fear that I’ve hung my last load of laundry on the line until the spring.  As much as I will miss all of the outside doings, I will have more time to take care of things inside now. 🙂  Bring on the baking, blogging, crafting and homeschooling!

I am ready.  We have had a very busy summer and are ready for a little slowdown.  We have some buttoning up of the farm around here, the chicken coop needs to be cleaned out and winterized, the pigs off to the butcher, summer gadgets put away for the winter and on and on….

Now that the warm weather is coming to an end, the grill will go away and so will one of our favorite meals.  It’s quick, a great vessel for leftovers and tastes great…

Since this is a quick grilling pizza, your sauce and toppings must be warm when they are put onto the pizza.

We used some leftover bacon from breakfast and garden goodies to make this one…

Pre-flip…

Post Flip.

Grilled Pizza!!

1 Dough ball

Leftovers from the fridge, garden etc…

Sauce

Cheese

 You can buy dough at the store or make your own.  I always pick one up while shopping, it keeps great in the freezer and is so quick and useful.  This dough was an organic sample given to us (perks of the “other” job)

Pre-heat grill to high, scrape your grill clean.  It often helps to take an old, clean towel drizzle  it with  olive oil and rub down the hot grill grates (quickly) using tongs to hold the towel.

Let dough sit out at room temp for about 20 minutes.  Rub a little olive oil on a sheet pan (leaving the corners dry).  Hand stretch the dough then place it on the tray.  Stretch the dough to the corners of the tray pressing the dough into the dry corners  (it helps the dough from shrinking back).

Meanwhile heat your sauce stove top.

Sauté all of your toppings.  I often just do this in a pan on the grill, top down with the pan handle sticking out while it is heating up….why waste the heat. 😉

Now….

Turn your grill to medium-high.  Slide your dough off the pan an onto the grill.  Close the grill and wait a few minutes.  Your dough will rise.  You are looking for nice grill marks on the underside and a nice crust.  Once that is formed, using a big spatula, place the spatula under the dough and begin to lift, quickly place your other hand to guide the top when flipping and continue the flip.

Now it’s time to top your pizza with the warm sauce, cheese and toppings.  Close the cover and allow cheese to melt and bottom to get a nice crust.  Once this is done, lift one side of your pizza, slide your original pan underneath and Voila! Dinner!

So Easy…you can omit the sauce and make it into a flatbread….

Pre-cook eggs, add salsa instead of sauce and you’ve got breakfast pizza…

Give it a try!  It’s an easy way to keep the kitchen clean and cool. 😛

If anyone out there has any organic remedies for squash beetles and hornworms, I’d love to know! 🙂