Laid in the USA ~ Salt cured egg yolks are the answer!

So…here we are three years later into starting our chicken flock.  My, how times have changed!  Let me tell you, if you’ve heard chickens are addicting?  True story!

We started with seven sweeties.  We made a huge mistake naming them as babies with no feathers because, these birds are hard to tell apart once their feathers come in! (We now use different colored leg bands to help us determine age and dates of introduction)

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I can’t believe it’s been 2 1/2 years since I purchased a single egg from the grocery store. This is my favorite investment so far.  We started with seven and are now up to almost 30!  Most of our hens are in a coop with two roosters.  New roosters get “booted” out of the coop and are left to free range.  Don’t worry, they aren’t without their own hens.  We decided to incubate some eggs twice and let them free range with the roosters after the attempt to integrate them into the flock didn’t go so well.

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Now, I’m going to tell you some things most chicken experts would probably cringe about.  After two rounds of incubating, my husband decided to “help” the baby chicks get out of the egg a little quicker.  I’m on the fence about this one but, he swears he’s helping them survive.  If he thinks they are taking too long to get out of the shell (after we see it start to peck its way out) he will gently tap the shell with my tweezers and pull some shell off.  He delivered this fine hen and she’s now starting to lay.

The trouble with helping chickens is some of those he saved aren’t exactly the strongest or very large.  I’m sure natural selection would have taken a few from the start but, with a little patience and perseverance, we’ve had more of a success rate with incubating than when we left the chicks on their own to break free and hatch.

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Isn’t she cute?  This is about an hour or two after the shell was off and she’s starting to dry out.  Did I say she?  I meant HE.  It’s funny, we struggled after we had our first seven hens begin to lay and we really wanted a rooster.  We bought a few more which all turned out female and we eventually broke down and purchased a year old rooster. We wanted more eggs and the capability of replenishing our layers when necessary without the need of chicken days at Tractor Supply.  We’ve produced about 5 roosters from incubating and only 3 hens.  The last round we went for, we ended up with three roosters and two hens.

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The breeds we chose were Rhode Island Reds and Americauna’s (The ducks aren’t with the chickens anymore).  We chose them for their egg production and to be honest, I see on average more green eggs than brown.  I still love the brown eggs so, we’ve introduced more Rhode Islands this past year. (We tried Cornish Rocks last year but, they got so big so fast, most of them died of heart attacks before we could get them in the pot!  They seemed so unnatural because of their size, we chose not to proceed with this breed.)   I also love the  Our daily average with 25+ hens is about 2 dozen a day during peak months and 1 dozen a day during the winter months.  I’m totally OK with this yield!  It makes getting creative with eggs a mission rather than an option.  Here’s where we are going to learn something together!  Salt curing egg yolks! YES!!!!

My gift to us?  Valerie’s salt cured egg yolks!  Believe me, you’ll burn out on scrambled, fried, omelettes, pickled eggs, hard boiled, deviled, quiche, etc… Let’s try this together.  Our challenge to you?  Try her recipe and comment below.  If you’re really smart, you’ll follow her blog too because, she’s just that awesome!

https://livingmydreamlifeonthefarm.com/2017/02/15/food-in-jars-challange-2017-salt-curing-egg-yolks/

Above photos are courtesy LivingMyDreamLifeOnTheFarm

I am making these Sunday and plan on another post about the results later.  I always give credit where it is due and Valerie deserves all the credit for this one.  I love egg on salad but, I’m thinking how much better this will taste than the standard hard boiled.  The entire point here is, buy your own chickens!  Even if you have two, you’ll be amazed at the egg quality difference between store bought and fresh.

 

Blueberry Clafoutis

Don’t let the fancy French word scare you!  Today, I had 2 pints of fresh picked blueberries leftover from a friends farm I wanted to do something with.  I’m a little burned out with the typical blueberry jams, syrups, and cobbler type recipes so I remembered a quick and easy alternative.  Blueberry Clafoutis!  Pronounced Cla-foo-tee.  Traditionally, this is made with cherries but any fruit will do just fine.  This recipe is SUPER easy and fast to make.  It resembles much like a pudding, custard, and cake had a baby.  It’s a little more on the custard side but, not quite custard.  I made two but, the recipe below is for one and here’s what I did:

Pre-heat the oven to 425

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One pie pan well buttered and add two cups of blueberries.

Next, in the mixing bowl, blend:

1 1/4 C. milk

1/3 C. sugar (You can use 2/3 C. but, I prefer a little less sweet)

1/2 C. Flour

3 large eggs

1 1/2 Tbl. Vanilla

Pinch of salt

Pinch of nutmeg

Blend this on high for 45 seconds to a minute.

Pour the mixture on top of the blueberries in the buttered pan

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Shake or gently tap the pan, much like you would a cake to get any excess air bubbles to the top.

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Place the pan in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  It is completely fine if the center is a little jiggly, just make sure it’s not total liquid and DONE!  Cool the Clafoutis until it deflates.  It’s like watching a soufflé go wrong but, don’t worry!  It’s supposed to calm down.  Once it’s just warm and deflated, it’s ready.

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This has to be one of the quickest and easiest recipes I’ve done in a long time.  Seeing how busy our entire home has been the last few months, I’m happy to have something so simple to do and savor the rest of my time with the hubby and kids. (Except when I’m blogging says the husband) LOL!

Cranberry Sauce Made Easy!

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That’s it!  All you need is shown in the photo above.  The best part is you can choose if you want to have whole berry sauce or if you want to blend it and have the jellied version.  How stupid simple is this?  By the way, using orange juice instead of water makes ALL the difference in the world.  Here is my recipe:

1 Large bag cranberries (32 Oz)

2 1/2 C. Sugar

2 C. Orange Juice

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/4 tsp Kosher salt

Mix sugar, orange juice, cinnamon, and salt in a large saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Med-high heat.  Add cranberries and turn to medium heat.

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Cranberries will start to “pop” and  at this point I usually add a lid to keep from getting splattered.  Keep the lid cracked open, not fitting tight on the pot. Your cranberries should start to look like this:

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Bring this to a low boil for about 10-15 minutes.  You’re done!  Jar these in a water bath if you like and they will keep shelf stable for a year or longer.  Mine don’t last that long.  This recipe makes approximately 5 1/2 pints.  **If you don’t can this, you can put it in the fridge for approximately one week.

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This year, I’m cooking for my husband’s Christmas party.  I decided to do both whole and jellied style in Quart jars.  It is delicious!

Feta Blue Dressing – An Alternative to Blue Cheese Dressing

Wings.  It is probably the only time I have a true appreciation for blue cheese dressing.  I must have it with my celery and carrot sticks as well as the wings.  Without it, I’m not eating wings.  Trouble is, I actually despise blue cheese because it looks nasty and is a bit too strong at times for my liking.

I made wings last night and found the PERFECT alternative!  Feta.  Here’s a quick easy recipe for some damn good dressing:

3 oz Feta crumbles

1 1/2 T. Milk

3 T. Sour Cream

4 T. Mayonnaise

1 T. White Vinegar

1 T. Sugar

1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder

Salt & Pepper to taste

That’s it!  This was so delicious last night, I decided to put it on my blog so I can reference it easier.  Let me know if you make this and how you like it!

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Pig Slaughter – Bullet Choice & De-Hairing

Yesterday, we had a family day dedicated to pig slaughter.  I’m attaching photos so don’t look if you don’t like it and please PLEASE don’t give me grief!  We treat ALL our animals like our children and we do things as humanely as possible.

The photos aren’t too graphic but, I definitely wanted to open discussion for those who slaughter their own pigs and those who haven’t done this yet.  First, let’s talk caliber.  I’ve heard of MANY people using a .22 and that may work for most.  We had to put one of the babies down last month and used the .22 only to find out we weren’t convinced this was not our best option for a much larger pig.  If you disagree?  That’s totally ok.  I’m just going off what we have experienced here.  So, yesterday we chose to use our 5.56.  I’m thankful about our choice.  One shot and she dropped.  We hate anything to suffer.  So, a bucket of sweet feed and with the shot we stuck her to bleed her out.  This was very hard on us, since we literally delivered her.  I am glad she didn’t suffer though, not a peep out of her which made me feel a little better.

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Onto the de-hairing.  This was our first pig slaughter from raising our young babies to the age this has to start happening.  We have researched and talked to other pig experienced people and decided to de-hair the pig instead of just skinning it.  We cut the lid off one of our empty drums and filled it about 1/2 way with water.  Started a fire underneath it and brought the water to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  We had some blankets left over from our move (thank you Uhaul).  I put two blankets in the water to heat up.  We laid the pig on a table, thoroughly cleaned all the mud/etc…off her.  We then used long BBQ style tongs to pull a blanket out of the water and lay it on the pig.  **Some people just dunk the pig into the water much like you would a chicken.  We have learned that if you don’t do this exactly correct, you risk the hair actually fusing to the skin and then you’re pretty much screwed!

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We laid the blanket on the pig until it started to get cool, then we pulled another blanket and pretty much swapped them out.  About four times total.  First, we tried our draw blades.  Nope.  Didn’t work at all.  Then, we just decided to use our skinning knife and another flip knife.  Success.  The hair was coming off and relatively easy.  You have to be careful not to cut the skin and pretty much just drag the blade, much like I imagine shaving only a little more pressure.  This takes TIME.  Move as quickly as you can but efficiently.  Once one side was done, we flipped her over and did the next.  Then the belly, etc… I’d say the de-hairing process (not counting the head) took us about 2 hours, slightly under.

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Next, we hung her up, let her finish bleeding out and finished field dressing her.  I haven’t attached photos of this but, if someone wants them in the future, I will be happy to.  I suppose at this point how others de-hair their pigs?  Did you have success dunking or try a different method?  For us, this worked beautifully and we maintained all the skin for future cracklins/etc…  ;)

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The biggest part of this was making sure our son was involved.  We let him not be present for the actual killing (since this was our first and wanted to make sure things went as planned).  After the hard part, he was every bit involved with the entire process.  It’s important our kids know where their meat comes from.  It wasn’t until yesterday he learned where sausage casings really come from!?  We thought he knew!  He did a great job and I am so proud to watch and help him become an extraordinary human being.  We prayed over the pig and thanked it for giving its life.  With death, comes the need to teach humanity.  This was a tough day for us but, we pulled together as a family and made it happen.  I’m very proud of my son and my husband!

Fatties. A “Smoking” Breakfast!

I found the mother load of breakfasts!  With a hungry husband and a teenage son, there is never a moment in our home where both boys aren’t 100% full.  Until now.  I woke up last week and decided to make a breakfast that should “stick to their ribs”.  Oh boy!  Not only was this perfect for our family but, it’s also something you can prep ahead and freeze!  Two birds, one stone!  Awesome!  The best part about this recipe is you can add pretty much whatever you like.

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Let’s talk sausage for a moment, shall we?  I took two sausage rolls (I used Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage since we haven’t culled one of our pigs yet).  Get it all into a gallon size Ziploc.  Doing this will help when it comes time to make your log.

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For this step, you can make your own hash-browns like I did, or just use the pre-made frozen kind.  It all depends on preference.  I had some potatoes I needed to use before they went bad so, I decided to peel and shred them.  I added a little salt and pepper, oil in the skillet, and cooked them to an “almost” done state.  I didn’t let them get crispy since I knew they were going to cook again on our smoker.

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Next, I added onions and bell peppers.  This is the kind of recipe you can add really, whatever you want.  Again, I had some veggies left from our garden and decided to use them.

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Now, it’s time to assemble.  What you can’t really see here is the cheese mixture I made first.  Cut the Ziploc off the sausage so it maintains the square shape.  I mixed cream cheese and grated cheddar cheese together and then pressed it w/my hands to a flat-like cheese mix.  I laid this on the sausage first.  Then, add the hash-brown, onions, peppers.  Make some scrambled eggs and throw those on there too.  (Remember, this is breakfast!)

Roll this into a log with all the goodness inside.  Sure, some might poke out the sides but feel free to cram it back in there.  **To do this, I used saran wrap to help me shape and form the log, then transferred it to a sheet of tinfoil.  

Time for bacon!  Weave your bacon around your log and tuck it under to the bottom.  By this point my log was looking ready for the smoker.  Holy…let me tell you how excited I was!

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There’s nothing better than smoking meat, in my humble opinion.   All that’s left to do from here is secure it in the tinfoil and place it on your smoker.  Let it go about 6 hours.  I started mine at about 175 degrees and then kicked it up to 225 degrees.

Once it’s done?  Slice it like bread and serve.  This was such a hit at our house, I went ahead and prepped 4 more for the freezer.  Once the bacon is added, just wrap it up and freeze it.  Next time?  All there is to do is cook it!    This meal is guaranteed to fill up the troops.  I appreciate things like this more than anything these days!  Especially during hunting season.  Can’t send the boys out and risk those tummy’s growling!

Fresh Basil Cubes ~ Quick!

It’s that time of year where my basil bush is ready to come out of the planter so I can put something else in its place.  This time, I decided I was not only going to dehydrate some of it for dried flakes but, I finally got around to making fresh basil cubes!

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Of course I pulled all the remaining leaves off my basil plants.  I washed the leaves and let them sit in a bowl of water for a bit just to ensure all the dirt came off.  Half of the leaves went into my dehydrator at about 95 degrees for an entire day.  Long process.  Here’s a quicker way to store basil, I think you’re going to love!

First, once you’ve washed the basil, throw it in a food processor.  Turn it on and slowly add olive oil.  Just enough to get it slightly thick but fluid.

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It’s not pretty but, it sure smells great!  I added just a touch of salt as well to this mix.

**Chef note here:  You can also add pine nuts and a bit of lemon juice to make pesto cubes!  I chose to do straight basil since I never know what I’m going to use it for.

Now, take an ice cube tray and fill it with your basil mixture.  Leave a small amount of space at the top.

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The photo above shows about how much space to leave and what it looks like.  Next, top off your cube sections with a touch of olive oil in each one.

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Bam!  Ready for the freezer!  It is THAT SIMPLE!  Once your cubes are frozen you can release them from the tray and keep them in a resealable bag.

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I used about 4 C. fresh basil and ended up with about a gallon size storage bag full of cubes.  Last night, I made homemade spaghetti and dropped one of these bad boys in my sauce.  It’s divine, it’s simple, and I now prefer the cubes over the dried!  The flavor is still just as strong as fresh.  Why haven’t I done this before?