Allow me to introduce you to Shannon Hayes at http://grassfedcooking.com/. If you have an interest in cooking and eating grass-fed and pastured meat, you should know of her work. She is a farmer at Sap Bush Hollow Farm in Upstate, NY. She has authored two cookbooks: Grassfed Gourmet, and The Farmer and the Grill. She’s written a number of articles on her blog that I’ve found extremely helpful in managing a kitchen that revolves around the economical use of grassfed meat and pastured poultry.
I want to share several of her great ideas, but I’ll start with this one. Please check out this great article about the economical use of a whole pasture-raised chicken. She says whole chicken is the best bargain at the farmers market, and I agree–I’ve been cooking chicken in this general manner since well before we decided to raise them ourselves!
Beautiful things are blooming around here. Our first spring in North Carolina and on this farm is bringing beautiful flowering surprises around our property. It’s delightful to see what colors are popping out from where. Since our family sent pictures from our property in April of last year, we know to anticipate the culmination of the spring blooming in the azalea bushes that are lining the entire driveway and yard. Spring is definitely bringing about a freshness in my spirit. I feel like I’m stepping out of a winter fog and truly into a new season of life. It’s exciting.
We also have 200 new layer chicks, and our teen-age Cornish-Cross meat chickens just transitioned from the brooder out to their pen in the pasture, to be moved daily to fresh grass. It’s amazing how fast these birds grow–they should be ready to eat in 2 weeks or so!! Our next batch of meat chicks will be here tomorrow! There are chickens all over the place! These meat birds will be Freedom Rangers–the same we raised with our first batch.
The seeds Graham started for our garden are starting to sprout, and he’s got the garden space tilled up. We still have a lot of clean-up work to do on the soil before we can put plants and seeds in the ground. Hopefully we’ll get some dryer weather soon to allow us to get that done. For right now, Graham is hard at work updating brooder #1 for tomorrow’s chick arrival!
There seriously is nothing like home made sausage. Graham made ginger & sage breakfast sausage, tasty Italian sausage links.
We had some fantastic music on our playlist to set the sausage-making mood, inspired by Kramer.
Possibly one of the best creations ever is the house-cured-and-smoked bacon that Graham made from both halves of the pork belly.
The bacon has added amazing flavor so far to breakfast, beans, soup, bolognese sauce, spagetti carbonara, and this unbelievable meatloaf taken from the America’s Test Kitchen recipe.
I have a whole new respect for Charcuterie–the art of curing meats. Graham took his recipes from the book by the title of Charcuterie by Mark Rhulman. The book is amazing. I can’t wait to try more things in the future with another pig — pancetta, hams, hopefully salami’s… oh and I’d love to do some corned beef soon! I’ve seen several articles in my favorite food magazines lately about meat curing, and I feel like artisan meat curing artisans are serious rock stars of the culinary world. I would LOVE to see us get into doing value-added meat products one day when we have enough capital to invest in the equipment necessary to be certified to craft these kinds of beautiful foods for sale.
It’s the first time we’ve experienced snow since we’ve lived in North Carolina. While I don’t get too excited about snow (being from Ohio and all), it was a really fun birthday present yesterday to get to watch Ephraim get excited about the white stuff falling from the sky.
I should have learned by now not to take videos with the camera rotated, because I don’t know how to turn them upright. I want to share this fun video with you anyway. Ephraim was really excited about the snow!
It was a lot of fun learning to butcher a whole hog. We were so blessed to have a sweet Amish man come to give us a hands on lesson in breaking down a half hog. He did most of the first half, and Graham took on most of the rest. He did amazing, and I could believe how beautiful all the cuts looked when he was finished!
Our two pigs don’t live here anymore. It’s been interesting trying to explain that to Ephraim, who still wants to visit them in the barn and bring them acorns. Graham just got back from the processor with some hopefully-delicious meat. He only took the black and white pig to the processor on Monday. Her companion died Saturday night after laying behind the barn all day refusing to eat or drink or move at all. She had been gradually losing her appetite for a few weeks and we were just waiting it out to see if she’d get better. We’re sad to just have 1/2 the pork for the effort and investment we put in, but we have a feeling of accomplishment, nonetheless, and are excited about the butchering, sausage making, and bacon curing that comes next! More on that soon.
It’s all so normal to me now, but it’s so radically different from where I was a year ago in the bustling suburbs. I sit sipping in my comfy chair in the predawn mornings, enjoying the silence before my family emerges from slumber. The only sounds are the ticking of the clock, the lull of the heater, and the faint crowing of the rooster from across the field. When the sun emerges from it’s place of rest, I breathe deep and admire the dawning of a new day. Today the sky behind the bare skyscraper trees illuminates cotton candy pink and blue. The family stirs and I scramble fresh eggs, and the farmer gives breakfast to the animals. We eat.
My baby is already a junior farmer. He begs to be outside with Daddy, or at least in his basement office with him. He finds his own coat, shoes and hat, and points longingly outside. He carries a bucket of corn to the rooster and hens and tosses it out for them to enjoy as a treat. It’s precious. I can’t believe he’s so grown up. He admires the truck while making engine sounds “brrrrrr”, and pretends to drive the riding mower. He examines pebbles and plays with Dad’s tools. He takes acorns to the enormous hogs and says hello to the 70 layer “chicks” that also are no longer babies, but maturing hens.
The normal shouldn’t be taken-for-granted. Every moment is sacred. May I live in the moment and be ever so thankful for the gift of now.
We started raising 26 meat chickens about a month ago.
They’re the Freedom Ranger breed, which is different from the most common breed raised for chicken meat. They take longer to grow out (9-11 weeks) than the standard grocery store chicken, but they’re better for raising on pasture.
They’ve grown up quickly! They’ve been cozy in a refrigerator box in the barn, with plenty roaming around the nearby outdoor area.
Graham built them a new home for them to live in on the pasture. Ephraim had to inspect the construction before they could move in.
They seem to be happy in their new pad.
That’s them in the front, and the layers are in the back. The layers are giving us a great supply of eggs for our family, and it’s just a matter of weeks before we’ll have some delicious chicken pot pie!!