Saturday, 3 December 2016

Food for winter

Vegetable Garden August 2016

After Storm Angus and Jack Frost had thrown their worst at the garden, I took a walk around the vegetable beds to see what had survived and was pleasantly surprised. Although the vegetable garden looks less than orderly or pretty at the moment, there is still plenty of produce to put on our plates for the coming months.

Here's what we have in the garden
Dwarf kale
Purple curly kale
January King cabbage
Red cabbage
Swiss chard
Perpetual spinach
Lambs lettuce
Red oak leaf lettuce
Purple sprouting broccoli

Stored in the freezer
Borlotti beans
Runner beans
Broad beans
Purple French beans
Patty pan courgettes
Rainbow chard stems
and fruit that includes
Apples (windfalls from our neighbours' garden)
White Currants
Grapes (a gift from a friend)

And stored in the larder
Plus a collection of sauces, jams, jellies and syrups.

Given that this is our first year, I am delighted with the range of vegetables and fruit that we have to see us through until the next crops arrive.

We have had to buy a few vegetables, but not very many, since the garden starting being productive and it feels quite strange to go to the fresh produce aisle. We have, of course, had to buy fruits like bananas, pineapples and citrus fruit. 

Since starting to plant the food forest I have discovered that we should be able to grow peaches, nectarines and apricots so I will be ordering trees very soon, to join the apple, pears, plums and cherries that I have already planted. I have taken hardwood cuttings of red, white and black currants, tayberry and loganberry. Although I don't eat nuts, Mr J does, so I have planted several hazel trees for hazelnuts and will be ordering a sweet almond tree too.

With all this abundance together with the eggs and meat from the chickens and ducks, I feel as though we have much more food security than we could have hoped for and, being able to buy meat from our friends, like the pork from Martha, means that we can be more certain of how and where our food is produced.

As Christmas is now only three weeks away, I have started to think about what we might have to eat over the holiday period, one thing that I can be sure of is that a large portion of it will be coming from our garden.
- - - - -

If you'd like to receive my blog posts direct to your inbox just enter your email address in the box below and follow the instructions. You'll probably need to confirm by clicking a link in your email inbox and then you will receive my blog each time a new entry is published. You can, of course, cancel your subscription at any time.
Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Whole Hog Part 2 Liver Pate

When we bought half a pig from Martha last week I stored most of it in the freezer with the idea that, bit by bit, I would experiment with cooking the pork in different ways. I also want to explore just how much of a pig we will enjoy eating and which parts are just too funky for us to want to eat again. So Martha bought us some offal together with the muscle cuts to start our experiment. Next time she will bring us other parts of the pig to try, I find it frustrating that generally we eat such a limited percentage of an animal.

I've called this blog part 2 because I've already talked about roasting the large joints. After they were roasted I sliced and cubed the meat and froze it in two-people portion sized containers to use in meals at a later date. I also saved the jelly from the roasting trays, freezing it to use as a stock and gravy base. The dripping has been frozen while I've been looking for the best way to use it and store it. Curiously a video has very recently been uploaded to YouTube about how to do just this by Guildbrook Farm. It's an American video so the dripping is called 'drippings' (which gave us the giggles for the entire video), but it was a timely answer to my query.

Anyway, I have started with some of the easier dishes like a rich and creamy liver pate. I used around 2.5Kg of pig's liver in this recipe and the results are very tasty.
 First I chopped three large onions and softened them in a frying pan with ghee, adding some dried mixed herbs, mixed spice (which is usually used in fruit cake but add a rich, round warmth), salt, pepper, a pinch of paprika. When the onions were soft and the seasonings well incorporated, I removed the onions from the pan draining them as much as possible and put them into a heavy based deep saucepan.
 I gently cooked the liver pieces a few at a time and then added them to the onions and added some boiling water (not quite enough to cover the livers) Then I added some other flavourings including a shot of brandy, 1/4 pint of Kopparberg elderflower and lime cider, tomato puree, lots of garlic, the zest of an orange and a lemon, more black pepper, gluten free Worcestershire Sauce and a dash or two of balsamic vinegar.
 I also added a large handful of frozen hedgerow blackberries. Then I added 500g of butter. The mixture was cooked on a medium-low heat for 30 minutes to allow the butter to melt and blend into the liver mixture and for the flavours to infuse. I checked the taste and adjusted the seasoning a little by adding more salt and more balsamic vinegar.
 After the mixture had cooled for a little while (but not cold), I spooned some into the food processor leaving enough room for it to expand and blended it into a coarse pate for Mr J.
  This photo shows the texture of the pate for Mr J. I then blended another batch for myself that was much smoother. To help make it smoother I added some cool water to the blender. 
 I blended it until it was velvety smooth and then poured it into ramekins and jars.

I melted some more ghee (clarified butter) very gently and poured it over the pate making sure that no pate was protruding through the butter. Once cold and set, I covered the ramekins with greaseproof paper and then food wrap and froze them for later use. The jars had the lids put onto them and I've stored the pate in the fridge as these are not mason jars and there is a risk that the glass would crack in the freezer. I also put some into small plastic freezer tubs and put them into the freezer. It made around 5Kg of pate which should last us a few months.

Next I am going to render the leaf fat (from around the kidneys) into lard and I'll let you know how I get on when it's done.
- - - - -

If you'd like to receive my blog posts direct to your inbox just enter your email address in the box below and follow the instructions. You'll probably need to confirm by clicking a link in your email inbox and then you will receive my blog each time a new entry is published. You can, of course, cancel your subscription at any time.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Moving chickens

 My younger brother came for a cuppa on Monday. He lives in America with his family, but had come back for a long weekend. He hasn't been here since early March, so I was keen to show him how much we've achieved since he was last here.

But first we had chores to do and so, in the morning we spent a short time tidying up in the yard and front garden, putting away gardening tools that I had left around, sweeping the decking outside the back door and picking up some unwanted items left over from projects that we've done during the autumn. We wanted to get all these things put away before the winter winds blow them around the yard and garden and the rain makes the decking too slippery to walk on safely.

Our project for this week was to move the Australorps from their field and give them a new area to graze, peck and scratch. There were two obvious choices of place to which they could be moved, one area is at the back of the piggeries, the other is the front garden. Sitting at the kitchen table looking out towards the front garden it became clear that this was the better option. The grass has grown much too long to use a lawn mower on it and the area is riddled with perennial weeds, actually it just looks a mess. 
 Before we could put the Austalorps in the front garden we needed to make it a secure area for them. We put five feet long bamboo canes along the front of the garden at a distance of four feet apart and secured chicken wire to the canes. We constructed a gate from a short length of flexible chicken netting and moved an empty chicken house into the front garden.

After my brother's visit (with my sister and brother-in-law) we spent a merry ten minutes or so running around after the Australorps trying to catch them to put into the chicken crate, so that we could move them with the minimum of stress to their new patch of garden. Initially they looked less than impressed, but within a short time the boys had started to explore their new environment. 
The three girls of the flock (2 Australorps and their best friend, a hybrid) didn't explore very much, but did make sure that they knew how to get into their house. At dusk, the girls went straight into their new house for the night while the boys all scrabbled and scrambled and climbed onto the top of the house and starting going into their nighttime stupor. Mr J and I scooped up the boys one by one and put them into the house, I am sure that from now on they will also head into the house at dusk. 

On Tuesday the older Australorp hen and her hybrid friend decided that they didn't need to stay in the new enclosure and spent much of the day flying over the fence and exploring the rest of the yard. I think a task for later in the week is to add more chicken wire above the wooden fencing (with the green windbreak fabric on it) to make it less easy for the girls to escape and I need to do this before they teach the boys to do it too. I think (hope) that they won't hop over the stock fencing at the back of the field as they are wary of the sheep that are in the next field.

 We have also moved the little chicks that were hatched eighteen days ago. Until Saturday they were living in a large cage in the kitchen. With previous hatchings we have moved the birds outside to the nursery pen in the stable within a week, but because it is late in the year to hatch chickens, we thought an extra week or so in the warmth of the kitchen would give them a better chance of surviving. They are settled in well and enjoying having the additional space in which to fly, scratch and run around. We are covering the nursery pen each evening with large rugs to prevent the cold winds and frost getting into their pen until they are fully feathered (and possibly for a while after that too). 

I am being much more cautious with this set of chicks as they were hatched so late in the year and one of the chicks had some problems at hatching and is slower in developing than the other two, so I will keep them cossetted and well protected until the smallest one seems strong enough to cope with the winter conditions.
Having moved the Australorps, the field that they had occupied was now free to house the Jersey Giants. On Tuesday morning, I opened the gate between the main flock's field and the vacant field and LIttle White followed me into the field in a matter of moments. The mid-sized two took only a little encouragement to explore a new space and the younger girls that arrived with us last week took a lot of persuading to join the other Jersey Giants. Within a few hours the new family group looked happily settled. They had to be put to bed at dusk as their instinct was to head for the chicken shed where they have been sleeping, but I am sure it will only take a day or so for them feel at home in their new house. 

For the first day in their new field I put the two small white hybrid birds in the field with the Jersey Giants as they have become firm friends, but at bedtime, we allowed the hybrids to return to the main flock. They are likely to be small birds as their father was the bantam cockerel and I am concerned that Little White might hurt them when they reach maturity if he tries to tread on them. We really don't want more hybrid birds with a bantam gene and I want to be sure that any Jersey Giant hatching eggs I sell in the future are actually pure Jersey Giant and not a hybrid cross by mistake.

Eventually the two Jersey Giant chicks (that are currently in the nursery pen) will join the rest of the flock. They are from a different bloodline to Little White and his family so they will be a vital part of our breeding flock.

It's continued to be a sociable time, not only did my brother, sister and brother-in-law visit, but we also saw our friends the tree surgeons as they dropped off some old gnarly wood for us to use in the food forest, James and Dee came for one last visit before their move to the Orkneys, a new friend from the local town came for a cuppa and Kayt popped by.

As so often happens when I get my teeth stuck into a project, I've over-done things in the last few days and plan to spend the rest of the week taking it easy (very, very easy), so with that said, I think it must be time to make a cuppa!
- - - - -

If you'd like to receive my blog posts direct to your inbox just enter your email address in the box below and follow the instructions. You'll probably need to confirm by clicking a link in your email inbox and then you will receive my blog each time a new entry is published. You can, of course, cancel your subscription at any time.
Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner