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May 5 / Jamie

Local. Seasonal. Fresh. (Lots of recipes and food suggestions)

 Friday morning was spent putting away all four pigs in the rain and reinforcing their stalls.  The big pigs escaped easily as we did not do a good job of securing their fencing when we moved them last week.  The little pigs were loose in the barn, bothering our poor turkeys who are in the end stages of brooding their eggs.  That afternoon and evening Jackson and I painted our beehives, our packages of bees arrive on the 9th and we are now all set.  

On Saturday, we went to run a few errands including purchasing this.  I don’t know why we hadn’t bought one before.  I was prompted to do it after a phone call from my good friend at Hurricane Farm.  She had called to ask for some sausage recipes.  Additionally, I have been cleaning out the turkey and chicken from our deep freeze in preparation for the pork and the new sets of poultry we will be butchering over the next few months.  We ground up some of the chicken and made chicken burgers, plain for the kids, and mixed with the last of our homemade pesto for us.  They were fabulous, the meat was still slightly frozen which made it very easy to grind.  We also ground up another huge batch and mixed it with a mesquite spice mix and then browned the meat.  Now we have four pounds of meat ready in the freezer for tacos, mac ‘n cheese, etc.  That is what I call “fast food”.

We had a slight break in the weather Saturday and Mike went to buy the tiller attachment for the big tractor from our neighbor.  Then the two of them spent the next three hours pulling massive boulders from our garden.  Below is a picture of Jackson standing on the biggest one.  Our garden is now 2/3 prepped, the pigs are finishing off the last section before they go to the butcher.  This week we hope to plant all the cold-weather crops: peas, carrots, lettuce, onions, potatoes, etc.  We also restarted our seedlings that had failed from our previous attempt.  This was on the recommendation from a very well respected organic farmer in our town who said that we would be fine starting them this time of year and not to even think about putting tomatoes in the ground until after Memorial Day.

On Sunday we did a few smaller chores, fenced in the garden, moved the last few big rocks, and I moved over some of the newest set of chicks to the shed.  We also sold several more set of our now seven week old chicks and ducks.  I feel so much more confident in my abilities to care for and sell young poultry that I have one more order of chicks coming on the 18th and one more set of ducks and geese mid-June.  The “highlight” of Sunday was chasing all four pigs around the property-again.  The big pigs popped their fence and as they made their way to the barn, got the little pigs so excited they not only busted from their stall, but from the entire barn.  Imagine, all four pigs, three sheep, three cows, the two kids and Mike and I in the rain trying to round everyone up.  It took about an hour, but we finally got them all where they were supposed to be.  If you have never heard a young pig squeel, it is quite a sound.  We completely reinforced the pigs’ stall in the barn (the four most essential tools of any farmer, the five-gallon bucket, the zip-tie, baling twine, and a wooden pallet) using pallets and twine.  I also wove together the big pigs pen and we have not had any more break-outs for two days.

Yesterday when I got home from work, the kids and I checked on the animals and then went for a walk around the property.  This will be our first spring here, it is amazing to see everything filling in so lush and green.  All of the trees and berry bushes we have planted are sprouting and appear to be doing well.  Also, we have tons and tons of dandelions.  Jackson was picking them and gave me a “dandelion family” so that I could have one to put in my hair each day.  He wanted to know if you could eat dandelions which led to a check in our edible plants book.  I knew you could eat the greens, but I wasn’t sure what else.  It turns out you can eat the whole plant.  From what I understand, the dandelion has a bad wrap for two reasons.  The first is that people want to look out and see nothing but green in their lawn.  I personally love the bits of sunny yellow, but to each his own.  The second reason is that eating dandelions is associated with the depression and poverty.  During hard times many people have eaten them as they are extremely high in nutrients.

So, here is what we made.  I recommend that if you have never tried dandelions, you do, but NEVER, EVER, EVER consume them unless you are absolutely certain they have not been sprayed with chemicals.  We don’t use anything that is non-organic on our lawn, so we felt safe eating ours.

Fried Dandelions

  • Pick about 1 qt dandelions, try to get new blossoms and leave 1-2 inches of stem.
  • Rinse dandelions thoroughly and pat dry.
  • Mix the batter of your choice, we used 1 c. milk, 1 egg, 1 c. flour, and a little salt and pepper.  (Next time we will try it with a tempura batter)
  • Bring oil to 375F in your favorite frying vessel.
  • Dip the heads and stems in batter, turning to coat.  Place them in the oil in batches of 10-15 and fry for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.
  • Drain on a cloth napkin and sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
  • These taste like a cross between fried okra and asparagus.

We served them for dinner with. . .

Gravy of Chicken and Turkey Hearts on Toast

  • Dice the hearts (we used six chicken hearts and three turkey hearts)
  • Fry in a skillet with one tablespoon butter until golden, 2-3 minutes.  
  • Toss in one tablespoon of flour, cook for one minute.
  • Slowly pour in one c. milk while stirring.  Add salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning to taste.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.
  • Serve on toast.

I know this sounds like the strangest meal, but my kids LOVED it.  Jackson will eat pretty much anything if we grew it or picked it ourselves.  It was really amazing.  We have been re-watching the River Cottage Series with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, you can download shows from amazon.com here.  He is a huge proponent of using every last bit of the animals you raise, including the organ meat.  We are trying very hard to follow his example.

 

Chicken heart gravy on toast with friend dandelion blossoms.

Chicken & turkey hearts in gravy on toast with fried dandelion blossoms.

 

 

I also made a pate with the chicken and turkey livers, recipe courtesy of Jaques Pepin.

Mike and I ate the pate as a late night snack on crackers with dandelion jelly made from our earlier picking session.  It was extraordinarily delicious and we are used to eating very good food.  Here is the recipe for the jelly.

Dandelion Jelly

  • Pick 1 qt of dandelion heads.  Rinse them thoroughly and discard the stems and green leaves directly under the flower head.
  • Boil six cups of water and steep the dandelion flowers in the water for between 10 minutes and one hour.
  • Strain the water through cheesecloth, compost the flower heads and reserve the dandelion “tea”.
  • To this liquid add 1 tsp lemon juice and one package pectin.
  • Bring to a boil.  Then add 4.5 c. sugar.  Bring to a boil for one minute and remove from heat.
  • Ladle into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  
  • Makes about 5 pints.

We had this on pancakes this morning.  It tastes like spring, kind of earthy and sweet at the same time.

Last night I also made a sweet Italian chicken sausage and a turkey breakfast sausage.  I used the leg and thigh meat and added some of the pork fat we had from our friend’s pig.  They both came out lovely and we think that most of our poultry will be processed in a similar manner.  We also want to get a smoker at some point in the future.

Today we had a nice rainy-day visit with my parents.  We dyed play-silks with Easter egg dye, walked the property trying to identify more edible wild plants, and just tried to relax.  We will be trying to eat more wild food, I think nettle soup will be next on my list of things to make.  We will also be butchering more chickens later this week, so more sausage recipes are likely to be tried.

Please try to find something fresh that is grown near where you live, eat it, and be happy!

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