Category Archives: Freezing

SNOW

it’s gonna be a long day.  We have to make it back down the road to dig my car out since I couldn’t make it up the curvry hilly part.  I resigned myself to having to walk the two miles home in the snow, but as I got up to the top of the dangerous part my husband was walking towards me, with the car running on the flat part of the road.  He’s a good man!

LOTS OF SNOW

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Chickens weren’t happy about the snow.

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Pork glorious pork

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We picked up our half hog today.  It’s over 100lbs of meat.  Sausage in the back is hot Italian and the packs in the front are ground pork.  A few roasts, two page is of ribs, a tenderloin, which I think will become like Oogies tenderloins, jowls and fat on the left front.  That should take care of a third of our dinners for a year.

As always, thanks to Brent and Anna for what they do at Bramble Hollow Farm.  A few times this past summer I was jonesing for Italian sausage.  It would be on a Monday, no farmers market, and I would just breakdown and get some from the store.  And after a couple years of only eating local, it tasted fake and rubbery.  I compare it to bank tellers who are so familar to the feeling of real money that a counterfeit is obvious because it feels off and wrong.  We are spoiled.  We know what chicken and pork should taste like when raised on pasture, with good non gmo feed, with room to move and scratch and root around.

chicken for the winter

We picked up our 15 chickens on Sunday

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We let them “rest” for a day or two in the fridge, making it easier to cut up. IMG_6296

I leave some whole.

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Mom got me an early christmas present, a food saver, which has made the process easier.  I am confidant that the birds will be free of freezer burn.  They could last a year or more in there, but we eat them up before that happens.  Nice to know we have food for the winter.  We have been doing this for a couple years now, and have it worked out that we are usually on our last bird end of May, which is around the time of the first chicken day.

I know people think it’s weird that we choose to spend our Sunday processing chicken.  Even more odd is how kind of bummed I get after the last chicken day.  We started going out to the farm to get more connected to our food and now we have these great friends.  I look forward to seeing everyone, talking and laughing while wrist deep in chicken guts.  Sharing a meal with folks who believe like we do in real food, humanely raised meat and supporting local farmers/business.  I am glad that I met Anna at the Grandin Market in 2011, she was the only vendor selling chicken at the market at the time.  I had done a search to find local chicken and Bramble Hollow seemed to be one of the only farms doing it at the time.  If you go saturday, there are a handful of folks selling birds, maybe you can find a farm that will let you take a tour of the farm, and eventually let you start bagging, and when someone who usually helps out on the table goes off and has a baby, you might be one of the people they ask to help you do this.  Brent and Anna are always so grateful and appreciative of us coming out to help with the work, but we talk about it every drive home away from the farm how we feel like the lucky ones!

 

What are you doing?

Sometimes when my mom calls she asks that, yesterday I said everything and I wasn’t kidding.

Pepper and Onion Relsih

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Getting the chicken broth strained and put in the freezer.

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Making spaghetti  sauce

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And when I had 5 minutes to sit, I was knitting.  A friend is having a baby and I am knitting a blankie.  I just wanted to see what pattern I was going to do.  I think I am going to do the checker board…making each square about 16 stitches wide.  Should be cute without getting to fussy about it.

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You might think I have today to relax, but its a chicken day, so again no rest for the wicked!

CORN!

When your friend calls you and says she has access to a bushel of corn with no pesticides or chemicals, you say Yes please!  I was able to get to process it today. First I sorted out the ones I thought were most likely to look good for us and the folks at work I was sharing with.  The basket of the good ones.

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And then the not so pretty ones.

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I got myself set up on the porch, to start the long process of shucking.

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I love sharing my love of locally sourced food with anyone interested. I feel if people can taste the different they might be inclined to try and shop at a farmers market.  But I also know people don’t want to deal with the reality of no pesticides and chemicals, which means bugs and with corn, worms.  So they got corn that looked like this.

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Then I was in the kitchen blanching all the rest.

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That is my water bath canner, full of corn.  So how much corn does that end up being?

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3 cups in each bag, so 18 cups.  One bag of little cobettes for Madigan to enjoy.  There are a couple bags that are more like creamed corn, where the ones on the right are mostly kernels.

I know people like to argue about time, or money and how preserving foods for later is what a grocery store is all about.  I like making the effort to provide food for my family that I know how and were it was grown.

Great problems to have

Too many cucumbers.  I have given them to everyone at work. Shared some with family.  I have made cucumber something every day to do my part.  I have 8 sitting in my fridge right now.  That is just from the weekend.  Those are the slicing cucumbers.  I have a dozen or so if the pickling cukes.  I am going to make another batch of fridge pickles.  I pulled all the greens out of the raised bed up front, cooked those up last night, got 8 cups of cooked greens out of it.  I froze half for later.  Not sure how frozen greens will taste but enough salt and butter makes shoe leather taste good.  The tomatoes are starting to turn.  I suspect I will be canning those babies next weekend.  Another great problem to have, no rooster so far.  We buy 6 chickens at a time, because that’s how they sell them and because we expect to lose a few.  So we are living with 10 chickens.  That also seems like too many chickens.  We have a couple we could process for meat birds that are certainly market weight, but it’s a long time till chicken days in the fall and we never know what can happen with those crazy birds.

Taking stock

Had to see what we have in the freezer. It’s this time of year we have to decide on how may chickens we need, how much meat we would like and if we want to buy into our CSA. This year with the purchase of our home, we are opting out of the vegetable CSA and trying to grow our own. We took 10% of what we spend on the CSA and bought seeds, hoping we would get at least the same amount of food from our own back yard. Only time will tell.

We did decide to get half a hog, as I mentioned the other day, instead of a meat CSA. I put in my cut requests. The hogs go to the processor on Tuesday and we need to make sure we have enough room to store what we get. I think we will, I hope we will. If not, we will have to run out and get a new freezer. We did it before and we will do it again if we have to. So I took stock of what we have.

15 lbs of Italian sausage (we bought 25 lbs orginally, and we still have over half)
5 whole chickens
1 whole cut up chicken
10 packs of thighs and legs
8 chicken breasts
4 lbs of ground beef
1 lb of ground pork
1 tenderloin (less than a pound)
1 loin roast (2 lbs at least)
2 jars of lard
A bag of backs and wing tips for stock
1 pint of butter

That’s a lot of food. First chicken days are in May and June. So we can assume my chicken stocks will be down. 13 weeks before we will have a new stock of chicken in the freezer. Which means 26 to 40 meals with chicken before now and then.

For the record we are frugal with the meat in the house. Before buying store bought stuff, we would eat a whole chicken in one sitting, we now get 2 or 3 meals out of one, depending on what else we have to eat. If we have a huge assortment of sides and other options we go easy on the protein but if we are stuck with corn and beans we will have more. So that chicken total might be closer to zero by time chicken day rolls around. With ordering in advance, knowing what we need, getting only the amount we will use but time chicken day rolls around, helps us budget and the farmer’s plan. They aren’t raising more than they need and being left with their freezers full. If they don’t sell everything at the market, they can’t do a managers special/closeout price.

The only problem with that list, it adds to the anxiety about needing a generator. I think I would be able to live with out a hot shower, no a/c and limited entertainment while the power was out but would hate to lose that investment of food.

Finally we have more Bramble Hollow chickens

This was our freezer Sunday night. I had to make sure it was empty and defrosted (we have food in the other freezer, so don’t think we are starving). We didn’t make it out to help process this time due to scheduling conflict. So we made the trip out today to the farm to pick up. When we got there, a few other folks were picking up their birds, so we went and fed the pigs.

It is one of my favorite things, bring food out for the pigs, we feed them and they eventually feed us. I like that we have a connection to our food, we know where it was raised and how it was raised. Most of the chickens were put up for the pick up time, so Madigan didn’t get to chase them around too much. We got to spend a little time hanging out with Jack and Marren, she cooed and smiled and seemed content with everyone making a fuss over her. Jack gave us a picture he colored, which made me smile.

We loaded up our coolers and had to get home to get them cut up and in the freezer before I had to go to work. I am very happy to have the Bramble Hollow chicken back in the house. Since last winter was the first time we bought local chicken we didn’t know how many to get, so in January or February we ended up having to get about 4 extra chicken from another farm. I am happy that the other farm had them available, but they weren’t as good. I don’t know why or how, I just know that the Bramble Hollow chickens are better tasting.

This is what the looked like out of the cooler, and this is what they looked like after an hour. Nicely cut up, in freezer bags, portioned out.

We picked up a rack of ribs for when my mom visits, cause I don’t want to have an issue like last summer when I couldn’t find ribs.

Inventory

I decided to check where we are food wise with our freezer. Here’s what we have left

9 whole chicken
6 lbs of ground beef
3 lbs of chorizo
2 lbs of stew meat
2 lbs of pork sausage
2 packs of sugar cured bacon (1/2 lb each)
1 lb of pork stir fry
1 lb of Italian sausage
1 pack of Ribs (2 lbs)

It seems silly to look at it, but when I plan for next winter I will need to buy more Italian sausage, ground pork and breakfast sausage. It’s good knowing what we have and what we used and if we over bought certain things. Also next year before I have a dozen or so whole chicken frozen into blocks, I will cut half of them up and put them in freezer packs. Much easier to thaw out a pack of two leg quarters then a 5 lb bird that is frozen solid. I have found that we aren’t just baking a whole chicken, except maybe if we have trying to have a nicer, special occasion dinner.

I know I am a little obsessive about the chicken, see we can still get beef and pork easily, I can stop by the market downtown and pick up all kinds of beef and pork. I am trying to make my chicken last.

We’ve got room for more

We went out to Bramble Hollow Farm and picked up our big batch of chicken. 10 cornish cross and 2 heritage breed. We needed to borrow a cooler to get it all home.

After we got all the birds into the freezer, we still have room. So in the chest freezer right now, 14 chicken, a couple packs of sausage, frozen veggies, chicken stock, gf bread crumbs, ground beef and 5 or 6 racks of ribs. If the budget will allow we will pick up half a dozen freedom ranger in a couple weeks.