Monday, February 18, 2008

Climbing back on the wagon

Even though we have our friends here I have been trying to get back on track. I did not buy any bread, but just made white bread for the boys, which everyone has enjoyed. We did buy mac and cheese, but it actually does not contain plastic.

I am finding that my homesteading efforts and the low plastic trend go hand in hand. The more I grow and raise here at home, the less plastic I use. Homesteading also allows you more visceral, direct contact with your food and products. Just as shopping with plastic in mind causes you to be a more conscious consumer, homesteading makes you aware of every step in the process of bringing the food to the table. Add in eliminating fuel consumption and chemicals which comes from mass production and shipping of storebought food, and your impact on the environment shrinks even more.

I bought my years seeds from High Mowing Seeds and they came in today. I poured over seed packs of red and yellow pear tomatoes, white, purple and orange carrots, rainbow chard, burgundy and green beans, snap and snow peas, and lots of others. I still have lots of chili pepper seeds from last year so will try cayenne, habanero, jalepeno, and others. The red and blue potatoes will be in next month. Rainbows of fresh vegetables waiting to be grown. Today we had a thaw, it was practically balmy at 44 degrees, the snow started melting and the sun was out. Made me want to start digging in the garden, but the ground is too wet. The chickens were thrilled with all the grass uncovered this morning. Another few weeks to go for outside peas and spinach, and I will start the indoor transplants in another few weeks.

I usually use plastic bags to put up frozen veggies all year, but I could also use jars. Last fall I used jars to freeze applesauce, and it worked really well. I think this year I may use glass jars to freeze beans, peas, corn, carrots, peppers, etc. I could freeze them in mixes for 'pre-made' dishes such as soups, stirfries, and pot pies. I also will get my dehydrator fixed (the Bull Terror ate the plug off years ago and I never got around to fixing it) and will dry tomatoes, apples, and strawberries. I am looking forward to making my own sun dried tomatoes, packed with fresh garlic and basil.

Last weekend we butchered a 550 lb pig with a friend of ours. I skinned and gutted it with our friend, but then overnight got a cold so stayed home while DH butchered and made sausage. He saved me all the fat so over the week we made lard to use for soap, suet and candles (and pie crusts!) The lard was really neat to make, you take the fat, cut it into chunks, then slowly melt it in a pot. Once you strain it out and pour it into a pan to cool, it turns bright white. A by-product of making lard are cracklins, which are basically deep fried pork fat. Yum yum, you can feel your arteries hardening just thinking about it.

We brined the bacon and hams, they will have to sit in the brine for 3 weeks then will be ready to package. We are using our Uncle Bill's recipe, so the bacon should be so strong it makes you pucker when you eat it, but in a good way. Apparently you can brine a turkey, so we will have to try that with one of the turkeys I raise this summer. The hams were 30 lbs each, so we cut them into huge chunks since they would not have fit into my oven. We wrapped all the meat and lard in butcher paper, so avoid the Styrofoam and plastic from the store. I have the skin, organs, and the head in the garage, (frozen due to the cold) and plan on making pork rinds, treats and ears for the dogs.

The cool thing is how you can use just about every part of the pig for something. The dogs had two ham bones, they crunched them right down for dinner. Kept them occupied, especially Jack, the one on crate rest-had him busy for a whole day. I used the other ham bones to make broth, with which I then made potato-leek soup. We wasted a lot this time simply because we did not know how much time it would take to do everything. Next time we will glean even more. We are also buying a steer for the summer and will butcher it in the fall. Our friend will keep it with his, and we can butcher it at his house since he had the set up for it.

I finally came up with a potential answer to the cheese dilemma. I purchased cheese making ingredients today; rennet, cultures and wax. I shall endeavor to make my own cheese, starting with mozerella, which is supposed to be a fairly straight forward cheese to make. I have recipes for cottage cheese, ricotta, feta, cheddar and farm cheese, but will try them one at a time. I have a friend who has dairy goats, so I can get goat milk for the feta.

I just keep in mind when looking at all this work I have planned: a tired puppy is a happy puppy!


Tia said...

I just came across your blog and find it fascinating!

Just wanted to say that you can brine a turkey ( if that is the salt solution you soak it in). I did this for Thanksgiving and it was the most moist turkey I have ever eaten. I will do this from now on.

The Biscuit Queen said...

Oooh, thanks! I can't wait until the chicks come in....then they grow up so we can try this out. Was the turkey salty all the way through like a ham?

We tried our ham the other day, and it was very, very good. It was a bit tough when we just baked it, so we crock potted the next and it melted in your mouth. It was just the right saltiness.

I took the tough ham and chopped it up for lentil soup with swiss chard-it was phenominal.