Friday, December 30, 2011

Bone Broth

A poet is someone
Who can pour Light into a cup
and raise it to nourish your
beautiful parched holy mouth

Tis the season folks to be preparing and using your bone broth.  Winter is a good time to give yourself some extra nutrition, building up your immunity while you're at it.  Found in many traditional cultures throughout the world as a mainstay of the diet and as a base for traditional dishes, bone broth or stock, is not only extremely healthy but also greatly enhances the flavor of your food.  Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions writes in detail about the constituents and properties of bone broth which can be prepared from fish, poultry, beef, goat, venison, or any left over bones you have on hand.  The key is the gelatin that acts as an aid to digestion and can sooth and treat many disorders of the digestive tract.  So here are the basics of how it's done...

Bone Broth (see Nourishing Traditions specific recipes)
1)  Start out with the bones and any other leftover meat, or parts from the animal, several sorts of bones are best.  The feet, hooves, knuckles, gizzards, or shells (if using shrimp) all make a good hardy stock.  Remember you want the gelatin to be released into the stock so using those knuckles, marrow bones, and feet yields the richest broth.
2)  Place the bones in a very large pot with 1/2 cup of vinegar, cover with water and let stand for 1 hour.  Meanwhile if you have any meaty bones you can roast them in the oven until browned then add them to the pot. 
3)  Bring to a boil, remove all scum that comes to the top.  After skimming reduce heat and add any herbs you like, peppercorns, thyme, sage, etc. 
4)  Simmer stock for at least 12 hours or as long as 72 hours.  I have heard of some people making stock in their crock pots.  As the stock simmers all week long they dip in, here and there, for a mug full or to cook in their rice, then adding water again so the stock liquid does not diminish. 
5)  When you are ready to use your broth remove from heat, strain, cool, and store in glass jars.  Take a moment to notice the bones in the pot.  They should crumble easily showing the marrow.  (This is a great moment to share with children to show them what is inside their skeletal system!)  It is really convenient to freeze the stock for future use. 

As for you vegetarians out there, I know how very foreign this may all sound to you.  I was once in your shoes, but making bone broth gives me a sense of satisfaction that I am providing my family (mostly my growing children) with some essential components of nutrition they can not get elsewhere in their diet.  But if the idea of bone broth is just way too nauseating for you, here are my suggestions...

1)  Either have someone make it for you and use it in your cooking instead of water or,
2)  Make a vegi version which will not have the same constituents as the bone broth but is still full of healing properties ...

Nutrient Dense Vegi Broth
In a large pot of water add the following,
-lots of fresh ginger root
-one or two chopped onions
-fresh chopped garlic
-fresh sliced burdock root
-2-4 large strips of kombu seaweed

Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours making sure the water level doesn't drop too much, you can always add more water.  The stock will become a dark brownish-green color.  Strain and store in glass jars in the fridge or pour some in a mug and add a spoonful of miso to enjoy immediately.  This broth is very good with lots of vegis, mushrooms and udon added then cooked as a soup! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Window Farming

I stumbled across this inspirational video and link about window farming that I had to share with you.   There is no end to what the creative mind can produce.  So no more excuses, even if you have little or no soil to plant in where you live you can still grow your own food (for almost free).  Watch and find out how!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Goat Cheese and Whey Bread

Cheese making is a whole world of it's own as I am beginning to discover.  I've been making cheese weekly with our goats milk.  Two out of the four of us in our home are enjoying it.  I suppose there are many ways you can use fresh goat cheese but the only way it has been consumed at our house thus far is spread on freshly baked bread, lightly toasted with olive oil.  It almost makes your taste buds explode.  I have mainly been making chevre and fromage blanc, although I did try mozzarella, which did not turn out aesthetically pleasing but tasted good and melted successfully on our pizza.  We are very interested in trying the harder, aged cheeses in the near future.   A great resource for supplies, recipes, etc. is New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
If you want to try a soft, fresh cheese yourself, it is pretty easy.  There are basically only four steps involved. 

Start with at least a gallon of unhomoginized milk of any kind (cow, goat, sheep, yak, whatever you have)...
1)  In a large non-aluminum pot, heat your milk to between 86-92 degrees.  You don't even really have to use a thermometer, if you don't have one just heat the milk until warm but not so hot it burns your finger (in the old days this was called blood warm).

2)  Either add your packet of culture for the cheese you want to make (fromage blanc, chevre, etc.) or add 1/2 cup of white vinegar per gallon of milk.  Stir for about a minute or two, cover and set in a warm place overnight or for half of the day.

3)  Uncover the pot and you should see that the curds and whey have separated.  Strain the curds into a cheese cloth (I always use a cloth napkin or a piece of clean cotton fabric).  Catch and save the whey to use later.  Hang your cheese to drain in a clean place for another day or so depending on how hard/dry you want your cheese to be. 

4)  Unwrap the cheese and turn it into a large bowl.  Add cheese salt or sea salt to taste and whatever herbs you prefer, our favorite is with lots of dill.  Mix well with a fork and refrigerate, eat right away, or label and give to friends as a homemade holiday treat.

As for the by product, I have been very satisfied using the whey we have left over after hanging the cheese.  I usually get quite a lot from each batch and have been either mixing it into the chicken feed or using it to make bread.  The chicken's egg production goes up significantly when they are fed whey and the bread comes out moist, as well as with a higher protein content. 

Both of these are jars of whey are from the same batch of cheese. 
The milkier jar is from the first 12 hours of straining, the clearish jar is the second 12 hours.

I finally found a great bread recipe using 100% whole wheat flour.  I know lots of you out there are going gluten free so this is obviously not for you, but for those of us that like to grind our own wheat berries into flour or are just averse to using white flour, this bread comes out surprisingly moist and light. 

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison)

The sponge                                                                      The bread
2 1/4 c whey, warmed                                                    1/3 c olive oil
1 tbls. active dry yeast                                                    2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c unsulfured molasses                                              3 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c gluten flour
2 c whole wheat flour

Stir warm whey, yeast, molasses, gluten flour, and 2 c whole wheat flour until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, cover, set aside in warm place for an hour until foamy and double in volume.

you can buy yeast in bulk and store in the refrigerator

Gently stir down sponge, add oil, salt, and one cup of the flour and beat until smooth.  Add the remaining flour in one cup increments until you have a shaggy, heavy dough.  Turn out onto floured counter and knead in flour, a few tbls at a time, until dough is smooth but still a little tacky. 

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn it to coat the top, cover and set in warm place until doubled, about 1.5 hours.  Punch dough down, divide into two loaves, shape and place into greased bread pans, cover again and set aside until dough has rises to edge of pan, about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 and bake in center of oven until browned, 45-50 minutes.  Cool completely before slicing. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Babies

 "There is a privacy about winter which no other season gives you…
Only in winter … can you have longer, quiet stretches when
you can savor belonging to yourself."
 –Ruth Stout

Our first litter of bunnies was born Friday.  Only one of the two does we bred ended up pregnant, delivering eight little bunnies.  They are now 4 days old and it is clear by their markings they are not pure American Blues like we thought.  Not to much of a disappointment since we are so excited to welcome them to our farm and watch them grow.  They couldn't be more adorable and Mama seems to be doing a great job. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not for the Faint of Heart

In humble gratitude for those whose lives nourish us.

Even though I would say that this past Friday was one of the top ten most transformative experiences in my life, I thought twice about doing this blog post.  What convinced me to post these pictures and to tell this story was my strong desire to share with you how amazing, profound, and empowering, as well as, physically and emotionally exhausting this experience was for us.  Two days ago we harvested animals for food for the first time in our lives.  Let me begin by telling you that the only meat my husband and I eat is fish.  We do prepare chicken and turkey for our two children on occasion (when they ask for it), but for the most part we subsist on mainly a vegetarian diet.  So with that said this process was even more intense for us.  The main reasons we decided to harvest one of our goats was that we did not want to breed her and I wanted to provide some clean wholesome meat for my sons who really want to eat meat and seem to have constitutions that benefit from it.   

We had some very generous friends come and help with the slaughter, they basically did most of the work, the blessing, skinning, cleaning, and removing of the fat.  (We did not record or take pictures of this process because it seemed wrong and out of respect for the animal.)  Our very experienced friends told us it was a really good thing we chose to slaughter her now because she was so fat she may have become diseased in the near future.  You can see above the fat hanging on our walnut tree after it was removed from the carcass.  It's important to us to try and use as much of the animal as we can, so we plan to research making tallow and hope to turn this glob into soap. 

After removing the head and hooves and then burying the innards we left the carcass to hang for several hours and turned our attention to the hide.  

freshly skinned hide on the fence

The hide was washed then moved into the garage and carefully scraped.  It took a long time to remove all the extra fat and bits of meat left attached. 

Our eight year old was a very brave helper, as the hide will eventually be his in the end.  He agreed to help after he realized that wearing latex gloves was an option. 

  When the hide was clean and smooth, we poured salt all over it to draw out the moisture.  We will move it into the sun to dry and try finishing the tanning process when we have extra time. 

As if that wasn't enough of a big day, our friends offered to come back later that afternoon to help cull two of our roosters.  This time I really wanted to participate and was excited to learn the process start to finish.  I have to say it was surprisingly simple and not as gross as I expected.  The smell of the boiling water on the feathers was stomach turning, but once I got over that it was actually easy.  We talked at length about how amazing it is that we as humans have this innate way of seeing and accepting animals as food, something I have not been physically able to do until now that I have been part of the process.  It is a wondrous blessing to be able to have a hand in the food you consume, to be connected to the plants and animals that nourish you, to truly understand and appreciate the full cycle.  

Once we got most of the feathers off we came inside to the kitchen to wash the birds and clean off the feathers that were sticking.   

I was educated on how to remove the feet and head, how to remove the organs, and which organs are good to save and cook--heart, liver, kidneys, neck. 

I was then shown how to cut and prepare the heart, liver, and kidneys of the goat, Moroccan style.  They were washed, cut in inch sized cubes, and cooked in olive oil with cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and tomatoes.  Those that tried it said it was quite flavorful. 

The two roosters were marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, lots of garlic, and lemon juice.  We put them in the fridge to sit for a couple of days.  Today I roasted them with potatoes, butternut squash, leeks, and carrots in a slow oven for several hours.  The result was fantastic, and was served for my Mom's birthday dinner along with some roasted goat which I seasoned heavily (with cumin, ginger, turmeric, onion, salt, red pepper, and lots of olive oil) and cooked for a very long time. 

So after cooking a little and sharing some with friends, the rest of the goat harvest is simmering on the stove, slowly becoming bone broth while some meat is hanging in the garage.  I am planning on seasoning it to make jerky this week.  And that's it folks, the story of our incredible first animal harvest.  Slaughtering our own animals for food is not an experience I would want to have very often but it feels really good to learn how and to know that we are capable.  The best part of it all is that our boys participated and really appreciated the meat.  That makes it all worth while.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Bruno caught in the act
It's finally breeding time around here.  Three weeks ago we bred our two American Blue rabbits for the first time. If all goes as planned, with a gestation period of 28 days it looks like we only have a few more days to wait for little bunnies.  I just finished making, larger more comfortable quarters for the ladies. 

And even more exciting, the bucks have arrived!  Welcome to the boys, our guests for a month, from Green Faerie Farm in Berkeley.  Ellis and Bruno are pure bred Oberhasli, a very old dairy breed originating in Switzerland, also known as Swiss Alpine.  Oberhaslis tend to be quiet, sweet natured and hardy, have high milk production, and are fairly rare in the U.S.  Only six months old but fully equipped with the right parts,  they sure have been entertaining us all with their hilarious antics.  And what's all the hoopla I've always heard about how stinky the billies can be?  These guys are actually pretty mild smelling.  Dare I say, their scent is almost reminiscent of patchouli.  Did I also mention how adorable they won't be easy letting go of these two in a month.   Gestation for a goat is five months and their heat cycle is every three weeks.  We originally planned to breed only Bella and Rosemary, but since the boys are here and good breeding stock is hard to come by, we may go ahead and breed all four of our ladies.   After observing the herd for a few minutes it's clear that Bella and Rosemary have been waiting for some male attention their whole lives!