Thursday, August 12, 2010

The August garden is a glorious sight to see. More importantly, it holds a large amount of the vegetables we'll be eating over the next several months. Everything is growing and getting bigger right now, and yet there is only so much time to pace out the harvest before the frost and snow come. Unfortunately I have not found a way to store food in the garden here as so many of you are able to do in more temperate climates. So everything has to come out, even the kale and cabbage will freeze and turn to mush by the end of October. We have an area under our house that we heat to above freezing to keep our water and water pipes working. The last couple years I've tried with various success to store potatoes, onions and garlic there. The biggest issues I've had are that the temperature and humidity fluctuate depend on the outdoor conditions. The floor is just bare earth, so what I'd like to do is dig a large hole or a couple holes in this area that we can cover, so the conditions inside the hole would be more consistent.

Last year the onions, garlic and potatoes kept downstairs until February, and by then we had used them all up. We stored beets and carrots in our back up fridge until December. They would have kept much longer but I needed the space so we rushed to eat them up, making lots of vegetable juice and blended soups. I've been making a couple gallons of sauerkraut each fall which gets us through most the winter. I've also been making lacto-fermented veggie pickles which store in the fridge, lasting us till spring. Other than that, most of the vegetables have been going into  the freezer. Last year I blanched and froze more broccoli, kale, swiss chard and beet greens than we needed. So I've been a little reluctant to start a greens blanching and freezing spree.

I tend to push my luck with the harvesting and the inevetable frost. Unlike some gardeners I know who are on top of their fall gardens and have everything safely stored away, all the vines and stalks in the compost pile and the soil turned and ready for spring...I tend to go into winter with stalks and vines still in the garden and wait until that day where it starts snowing and the ground is mostly frozen before I finish digging the last of the potatoes and carrots. This may be my last year for leaving stalks and vines in the garden, as I'm more on top of the garden this year with our farm helper preferring garden work to stall mucking.

Soon here I'm going to put together a list of the different varieties we grew this year and how they performed. In other news, we'll be harvesting twenty-eight Cornish Cross in the next couple weeks. They are about nine weeks old right now. I'm looking for a good number of seven to nine pound birds in the freezer. We've got four turkeys that will join the chickens in the freezer in September sometime. We've also got a whole pig coming to us, and I'll be having a hand in the processing. So I'm starting to research what cuts I want to do what with.

Last night I stayed up reading about making sausage. We'll be buying an electric meat grinder in town soon, so I probably don't have many options. I'm hoping to find one that can easily process large amounts of meat, and that also has a sausage stuffer attachment. I'm feeling like I should be putting the garden into the freezer now, to make time for all the upcoming meat processing...but it is so hard with everything just growing bigger. If you have any tips for dealing with a whole pig, or opinions on meat grinders let me know. Fortunately we've got someone who supposedly knows what they are doing that is going to kill the pigs and help with the initial butchering process. I'm hoping to cure and smoke some bacon and the hams, make some sausage and hot dogs, render lard, and I'd really like to make some salami and cured meats but I'm not sure if I'm up to the task yet or not... I checked out three books at the library on meat curing and sausage making which I'll be pouring over in the following weeks to come.

On a side note, I made a quiche last night for dinner with our own zucchini, onions, tomato, basil, eggs and goat milk...and we gobbled it up. I thought it would last a couple mornings, but I was mistaken. I love making meals with almost all our own ingredients.


Geek 3000 said...

I just finished rendering the last of the lard from our last pig today. You know I haven't gotten around to making sausages yet. We had planned to but the amount of ground pork from leftovers really wasn't very much. It was a good size pig too. We get our pigs cut into steaks and chops instead of hams. This way we don't end of cooking too much at once. Ours was free range and very fatty, but that actually works great because we cut the fat chunks off the steaks and put them in the freezer to use in place of oil or butter. So tasty!

Plain and Joyful Living said...

I am going to be making quiche as well for company this weekend and it is wonderful to use our own eggs and veggies - we are still aiming to have goats by the winter and I have enjoyed reading all you have shared.
Warm wishes, Tonya

Bruce King said...

Dealing with a whole hog... Couple of things. If you're going to scrape the hog, I posted pictures and a step-by-step recently on my blog at this entry:

You scrape the pig to allow you to do skin-on ham stuff (like proscuitto or smoked country ham)or skin-on bacon, or lardo. The skin can also be added to sausage to make it a little more interesting texture. i have a recipe you can try if you're interested.

My suggestion is to mix the brine or dry cure for your hams and bacon at least the day before. it's sugar and salt and nitrate (if you use it) and it's shelf stable. One less thing to do on butcher day.
the hams and bacon are the portions of the pig that require the least processing on butcher day. With pre-mixed brine or cure, you dunk the hams and bacon and that's about all. that accounts for roughly 30% of the finished cut weight of your pig right there.
Roasts are the easy way to get rid of big chunks of the animals. A scale helps here. Aim your roast portions for what you usually eat in a sitting. I like shoulder roasts for slow cooking applications, but the coppa cut (muscle that runs from the back of the head down to the mid-back) is a nice roast as well. Use a scale to get even portions.

As you work through the animal, save all trimmings and all fat until you're all done. Proper good-tasting sausage is 20-30% fat, and the back fat and trimmings combined make good stuff.

Don't forget the jowls. They make good bacon. Cut off the portion of the lower chin from lip to base of neck, all the way across. think about a bandana across the neck of the pig- - that part. Cure as you would bacon. it's got meat and fat striations, and the fat is a finer texture and its really tasty as bacon. More so than as sausage, I think.

If I'm interested in conserving freezer space I will make a huge batch of pork chile (chile verde) and can 1 quart jars of it in my pressure canner. You can also can the pork itself. Both provide an easy meal on those days you'd rather not spend too much time cooking, and are shelf-stable, so conserve your freezer space.

The organ meats are the hardest to deal with. I don't know if you eat them, but the heart and liver are usually pretty good fresh. the ears, crisped, are tasty as well. The back fat and associated skin can be rendered (and the skin made into cracklings while you're doing that. )

Premix brine or cure before the slaughter.
Cut bellies and hams and put in brine first thing -- gets rid of 30% of the animal.
Roasts are easier than smaller cuts.
Don't neglect the head. There's a lot of good meat there.
Don't worry too much about the cuts. it'll all taste good.

Shaz said...

I love reading your blog, your way of life is so different from mine currently, though I do want to get into producing sufficient vegies to discourage reliance on supermarkets. I live on the other side of the world (literally) - in the Western districts of Victoria (Australia).

Emily said...

Bruce, thank you so much for the wealth of information. I plan on following much of your advice. I'm intending to scrape the pig. Now I know to premix my brines. I was thinking to have more roasts than small cuts, I like slow roasts more than steaks and chops. I also really enjoy having ground pork in the freezer, so I think I'll be grinding up some of the tougher cuts for ground meat and sausage- which I'm hoping to have a lot of, not sure how many pounds of ground meat I'll have...can't wait for all the lard for cooking and baking with, I'll be referring to your post on rendering lard. I was thinking about using the liver in a sausage recipe. I'll make sure not to let the head go to waste, the bacon jowls sound like they are in our future. Thanks again, I'll be sure to share how it all goes.

Tonya, are you familiar with the fiasco farm site? It is a wealth of information for the first time goat owner.

Shaz, glad you are enjoying the blog. My brother spent a winter surfing in Australia. Sounds like a great place to live.