Local Food

My Breakfast for Today

This is just another reason I love our farm/homestead… this is what I ate for breakfast this morning:

  • Swiss Chard (Verde Da Taglio)
  • Mustard Greens (Southern Giant Curled)
  • Kale (Forage Kale Proteor)
  • Kale (Nero Di Toscana)
  • Thai Red Roselle Leaves (Roselle is a species of Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and Thai Red is the variety)
  • Pea Shoots
  • Rosemary
  • Free-Range, Organic-Fed Chicken Eggs

The variety of healthful foods we regularly eat here on our farm/homestead just blows away any grocery store I’ve ever visited. These greens were harvested FIVE minutes before they were eaten!

I don’t share this to gloat, but hopefully to inspire others. Eating fresh, high-quality food is possible without a lot of work; it just takes being intentional.

So get out there and grow your own breakfast!

 

All photos in this article are ours. If you would like to use one, please let me know!

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Rendering Duck Fat

I wrote in my previous article on Bone Broth about how I save the fat that rises to the top of the cooled broth. I scoop this out and put it into a dutch oven on the stove. The fat is rendered down and put into jars, and I use it for cooking. Duck fat is considered one of the most prized cooking fats by chefs and foodies for its flavor and cooking qualities, and is becoming more popular of late because it is high in monounsaturated fat, the “good” fat.

All the cooking fat we render on our farm comes from our pasture-raised, grass and organic-fed chickens, ducks, geese, and sheep. We use it mostly for roasting, sauteing, or pan-frying vegetables, and it is delicious.

I have also prepared this fat by rendering the skins of the ducks we have processed. I’ll be honest. I have processed our ducks and geese many times, and trying to get all the feathers off is almost impossible for me. I have tried every combination of dry and wet plucking, by hand and with an automatic plucker, with single and multiple dips into wax, and I have yet to come up with a system that is effective and efficient. I can get all the feathers, but it takes so long, that it is almost not worth it. I end up doing the best I can, which is pretty good but not good enough for sales, and then I skin the bird. But I save the skin. There is so much great fat in the skin that I just can’t waste it.

Duck skin cracklings

Duck skin cracklings

Rendering fat from the skins is easy. Just add all the skins to a cooking pot; I prefer a dutch oven. I add a little bit of water to prevent the skins from burning at first. Then I put the pot on to simmer. As the skins heat up, they release the golden fat. Eventually, the water all boils off and we are left with the rendered fat and the cooked skins known as cracklings. We eat the cracklings if the skin is cleaned well, and they taste great sprinkled with a little salt.

The image at the top of this article is the duck fat I most recently rendered from the skins… beautiful, liquid gold! There are a number of ways to get this great cooking fat, and if you have the ability to produce or procure it, I highly recommend it.

 

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Making Bone Broth

I love bone broth.

Bone broth is the flavorful liquid produced when bones from poultry, fish, beef, lamb, etc. are simmered for hours to days with vegetables, herbs, and spices.

Here is our 62-quart stock pot... the Bone Broth Pot!

Here is our 62-quart stock pot… the Bone Broth Pot!

It tastes great. Seriously. Bone broth has a rich flavor that reawakens the sense of what food is supposed to taste like. It also can contain a lot of gelatin which is a natural thickening agent useful in soups, stews, sauces, and curries. I use it in many meals that I cook as one of my “secret ingredients” because it imparts a difficult to describe depth or layered flavor. I think this may have to do with how nutritious it is.

We make stock from the animals we raise and process on our farm.

We make stock from the animals we raise and process on our farm.

It is healthy. There are numerous medical research studies showing that chicken soup really is healthy for you, but bone broth goes even one step further. The long, slow cooking releases many minerals making them bioavailable (meaning we can easily absorb them). It also provides a great source of gelatin, as mentioned above, which contains arthritis-relieving glucosamine and chondroitin.

Bone Broth simmers for a couple of days on the stovetop.

Bone Broth simmers for a couple of days on the stovetop.

It is easy to make… not quick to make, but it is pretty easy. This is slow food not fast food!

Let’s get to the specifics. On our farm, we freeze our poultry whole after we process them, but we rarely want to cook or roast the whole bird, so after we defrost them I break them down to breasts, thighs, drumsticks, wings, etc. This leaves us with the ribs, backbone, and other bones that are difficult to utilize unless we make stock. We freeze these leftover parts until we have enough for a large batch of stock… or until we start running out of room in the freezer! I also save the chicken feet when we process our birds. Chicken feet have a lot of gelatin it in, so these are a great addition to the stock. I throw in a few big handfuls of roughly chopped onions and carrots, a head or two worth of peeled and crushed garlic cloves, a few stalks of celery, a fennel bulb, peppercorns, and some fresh or dried herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, etc. Any other spare vegetables can be thrown in; I’ve used parsnips, turnips, rutabaga, etc. I also add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for every gallon of water. The vinegar helps extract the minerals from the bones.

Frozen, concentrated Bone Broth

Frozen, concentrated Bone Broth

I toss all the ingredients into my 62-quart stockpot (that’s 15.5 gallons or 58 liters), fill it up with cold water (I prefer the water from my Berkey filter), bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let it go for the next day or three. It fills the house with a wonderful aroma. Cooking time is variable, but I keep the stock simmering until the bones crumble when I squeeze them between my fingers. This may take 24 hours or 72 hours; it depends on the bones. I then strain the stock. I sometimes pick through and save the meat for fajitas or other meals, but everything else goes to our pigs. I put the strained stock into the refrigerator and allow it to cool. All the fat rises to the top, and I scoop this off for rendering (see my next article). The remaining stock is put back into a stockpot and simmered down or “reduced”… basically, some of the water is boiled off, and the stock gets thicker and thicker. This results in something like a demi-glace. I spoon this into ice cube trays and freeze them. I then dump the cubes into a freezer bag, and I have readily available, serving size, concentrated bone broth ready to go whenever I need it!

Bone Broth ingredients consists of things most people throw away nowadays.

Bone Broth ingredients consists of things most people throw away nowadays.

It uses things most people throw away. Specifically, and unashamedly, I am talking about all the bones, wingtips, necks, and feet of poultry, and the bones and joints of sheep and beef. These are parts of the animal that most people throw away, but our ancestors wisely saved. I have learned that when I raise an animal from hatch or birth, fed and watered it, checked on it once and sometimes twice or thrice a day, and then ended its life with my own hands, I have a strong desire not to waste anything.  We often use the word “process” to distance ourselves a bit, but the reality is that we are eating an animal that was alive. We treat every animal on our farm with the utmost respect. We give every animal the best and most natural life we can offer it. Our promise to our animals is that they only ever have one bad day. That respect continues after life, and we try not to “waste” any part of the animal. This was common sense a century ago. It’s how we make bone broth today.

 

Here is a great article about Bone Broth on the Weston A. Price Foundation website. It is written by Sally Fallon who I happened to briefly meet while visiting her farm a few years ago.

 

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Making an Herbal Tea with Local Ingredients

All people have a specific set of taste preferences. This is a combination of genetic predispositions, culture, food and taste exposures, and likely many other factors. My oldest daughter (currently age 4) has a set of taste preferences closest to mine; we will pretty much eat anything. This will range from “common” American food to those foods that are more “acquired tastes” such as sushi to olives to sauerkraut to organ meat. She is the only one of my four children that will drink tea with me. Most mornings she will ask if we can have a “cuppa”.

I thought it would be fun to teach her how to make an herbal tea from ingredients we collected from our farm.

We went for a walk through our pastures, and we collected Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) flower buds, Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) flowers, Pasture Rose (Rosa carolina) flower petals, petals from another species of wild rose with deep pink, double flowers but less fragrance than the Pasture Rose, and new leaves from Blackberry (Rubus species) plants.

BK_Herbal_Tea_02

All the ingredients mixed together.

All the green parts from the Red Clover and Honeysuckle flowers were removed. We saved all the petals from the Roses. Then we dropped it all into a glass bowl. Everything smelled wonderful and very fragrant.

We poured almost-boiling water over the whole mix and let it steep for somewhere between 12-15 minutes. I’ll be honest, this smelled rather vegetal, and not so good.

We then strained the tea into mugs. I tasted it, and it had a mild, pleasant flavor. We added some local honey and a little bit of cream, and this made a huge difference. The sweetness of the honey really highlighted to floral essence of this tea. My daughter and I both finished our mugs and decided we need to do this again soon!

 

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Goose Egg for Breakfast!

Typically, geese only lay eggs seasonally and not in high numbers, so goose eggs are not commercially available. But for those who raise geese, and are not quite ready for goslings, then it is a rare treat.
 
Honestly, goose eggs don’t taste dramatically different than good, farm-raised chicken eggs. The whites are almost identical. The yolk is rich and tasty.
 
Goose eggs are quite a bit larger than chicken eggs. About 3 chicken eggs equals the volume of one goose egg. Goose eggs (and duck eggs) have a higher proportion of yolk to white than chicken eggs.
 
The photo of the three eggs is pretty accurate, but the eggs in the pan is a little deceiving. You can’t quite appreciate how much higher the goose egg is standing in the pan compared to the chicken egg!

Uniformity is Unnatural!

Thought I’d share a photo of some eggs from our farm.

Be a Food Snob! (a new article I wrote for AgriTrue)

The following is an excerpt from my new article at AgriTrue.com

You probably know one. A Food Snob. This is a person who typifies the word “snob”. This person will go on and on about the wine they drank with “cherry aroma and a strong, yet balanced, oak finish, with hints of chocolate and prunes.” While they may know what they are speaking about, in reality, their goal is to tell you they spent $200 for the bottle of wine. They want to make you feel less informed and cheap. They want to feel better about themselves. They are sad people.

If you want a humerous and witty read that further defines Food Snobs, take a look at this excerpt from The Food Snob’s Dictionary.

But to me, there is second type of Food Snob… call it a second-tier Food Snob, or a nice Food Snob. I am one of these Food Snobs. Some may call us “Foodies”, but this term conjures an image that is a bit too casual and pedestrian, so I still think Food Snob is a better term for people like me. I like food… okay, I love food. A lot. I love most food, but I really love good food. I talk about food. I read about food. I cook a lot. I experiment and practice in the kitchen a lot as well. I also love to teach others about food, not to make myself sound informed, but because I want everyone to appreciate good food as much as I do. To me, eating good food is one of the simplest, yet most important, pleasures in life, and I feel everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy a great meal.

(click here to read more…)

 

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