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Showing posts with label freezer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freezer. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dual Purpose in the Garden


Even though we have a large garden, we still try to apply the permaculture principle of stacking in some of our plant variety selections. Many times it is to save work, and sometimes it saves on space to choose a dual purpose type of plant.  Celeriac or celery root is one, I no longer grow celery, since the celery root is growing all summer anyway, does not require the water that celery does, and a few leaves taken for the kitchen here and there barely make a dent in the crop. Another is hardneck garlic which puts on scapes and gives me a lot of extra garlic for cooking and preserving.

Music garlic scapes
Sometimes we find these gems right under our noses.  What to do with hardneck garlic scapes?  They come on at once and giving them away is about like trying to give away zucchini during August.

garlic scapes for the freezer
My solution to run them through the food processor and freeze them has changed the way I look at my garlic now.  Previously come tomato processing time, I would spend lots of time peeling garlic for roasting for sauce and salsa, and I was always a little worried about using too much of my winter garlic supply.  Now I use the mild scapes for my tomato roasting endeavors.  Chopping would work fine too, but if you have a food processor you can make short work of a lot scapes.  To fully maximize the potential, I freeze the scapes in half pint canning jars.  Initially I froze the scapes in larger quantities and found that once I thawed them out, I needed to use them up fast.  And you know garlic, a little goes a long way.  One cup of chopped scapes seasons a large roasting pan of tomatoes or other vegetables perfectly, and really saves me time too.  No more peeling and chopping, but you do have to remember to thaw out the scapes beforehand. 

What types of stacking have you discovered in your garden or kitchen?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rethinking Convenience Food

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Cooking from scratch doesn't necessarily come to mind when one thinks of convenience foods. We have been trained for several generations to purchase ready-made goods. It started out innocent enough, but now people are yearning to go back to an earlier time and sets of skills and do more for themselves. Whether it be cooking, gardening, farming, or other lost skills it's all the same, we thought we were saving time and ended up getting busier and busier with no time (we were told) to do for ourselves. But really we lost a lot by not paying attention. I call myself Throwback for a reason. I am a throwback to an earlier time, when tasks like cooking, sewing and all the ins and outs of gardening were common knowledge. I'll give the luck of the draw some credit, I grew up on a farm, my parents were older and still kept some of the old ways, likewise with their circle of friends. My husband and I joke that our habits are so old, that they're in again.


As I prepared soup for dinner today, I went about my work gathering ingredients. We grow most of our food and preserve the harvest in a multitude of ways to last us through the dark days until the growing season starts in earnest.

You know, it sure is convenient to just go to the fruit room, freezer or root cellar and go shopping for meal preparation. I grabbed home canned roasted tomatoes, garlic, onions and potatoes from dry storage, ground beef, peppers, cilantro pesto and corn from the freezer, and grabbed a quart of chicken stock from the fridge. This task made me realize just how convenient it is to have great ingredients on hand to prepare meals with. We grow our own, but if you're not there yet with your pantry stocking from your gardens, you can still load your pantry with purchased goods. The key is having it on hand. Many good meals have been made on the spur of the moment - as long as you have the basics you're good to go.

I guess what I want to say is, if you're a new cook or gardener slaving away trying to master the skills, it's worth it. We need to rethink the idea of convenience food, nothing is more convenient than having good food on hand for preparing a home cooked meal.

Here is the recipe for our dinner made possible by our pantry and my guess and by gosh cooking. This recipe is just a general idea that can be changed to match what you have on hand. In the summer my chilies, corn and cilantro are fresh, in the winter the freezer stores have to do. Pork or chicken are good in this soup too - just use what you have. This recipe is convenient too because of the long cooking time, I can leave this to cook on the back of the woodstove, or even in the slow cooker if I wanted to. Truly convenient.

Beef Stew with Cilantro

1 pound ground beef or stew meat
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup coconut oil or butter
1 quart whole canned tomatoes
1 pint roasted whole tomatoes
1 quart chicken or beef stock
2 pounds potatoes, coarsely chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 or 3 anaheim chiles, chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro or cilantro pesto
1 cup frozen corn
sugar to taste - 1 teaspoon or not?
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In large saucepan over medium high heat, brown onion, garlic and chopped pepper in 1/4 cup coconut oil or butter. When onions are caramelized, add meat and cook until brown. Remove meat and alliums from pan and set aside. Over medium heat in same pan, add all other ingredients, bring to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, add meat and alliums. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the cover and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. Serve. Much better the next day.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bulk Meat

Last time, I wrote about our Home Butchering journey.  Today I will share what happened the second time the butcher came, a week later, to cut up the hanging quarters of beef.

Whether you are buying a quarter or half or whole slaughtered animal, or have a homegrown one, the result is that you will end up with a LOT of meat, and some of it may be unfamiliar to you.  It sure was to me, and I'm really glad I asked a lot of questions throughout this process.

We'd purchased our freezer a couple of weeks earlier, switched it on and tested it.  I gathered about a dozen shallow cardboard boxes - the type mushrooms and stonefruit travel to the supermarket in.  This was a tip from a friend to separate different types of meat and allow airflow in the freezer, so the meat would freeze quicker.  It also prevents bags from sticking together.  The boxes did mean that the meat didn't pack as tightly, but we had enough space, so that was okay.

I asked around other farming friends I knew about bags, labels, cuts of meat and any other advice they had to share.  I purchased plenty of bags (and ties for some), a new marker pen and some labels.  We bagged a lot of the meat into sandwich size snaplock bags - these don't stick together in the freezer and can hold about 500g of mince packed flat, or a couple of steaks.  Obviously roasts, steak with bones, 1kg lots of mince etc did not fit in sandwich bags!  For these we used a strong type of freezer bag a neighbour picked up at a catering supply shop in town.  Twisty-ties, standard white sticky labels from the newsagents and a thick bullet-point permanent marker pen completed the packing kit...  We had hoped to vacuum seal some of the meat, but found that we just didn't have time.  If we had an extra person or two (and the space available), we could have delegated that task while other meat was packed into ordinary bags.

Source: Ausmeat Ltd.

The butcher arrived early and work started right away.  He asked lots of questions to find out what cuts of meat I was used to cooking and what would be of most use to us.  At a friend's suggestion, I had looked briefly at cuts of meat online, so I (as a non-beef-eater) was familiar with at least some of the options.  As the butcher cut each quarter and loaded the meat into a plastic tub, he told me the names of the cuts.  He was patient with me because I didn't know much about the cuts, and he even told me ways to cook some.  Occasionally I had to poke my head out of the shed, waving a steak in the air and call out, "Hey, what was this again?"  The whole butchering set-up was contained on the side of a truck which was parked beside the cold room.  There was a crane/hook device, a saw, tubs for meat and waste, and a mincer.  We decided not to make sausages this time, but he can do that on the spot too!

In the shed, next to the freezer, I had set up a large, strong, clean trestle table, somewhere to wash our hands, and the packing items all within easy reach.

My apprentice chef daughter (17) laboured away for over 2 hours with me, packing meat into labelled bags and stacking it into boxes while I wrote on bags, ran back and forth, helped her pack and asked questions.  She also shared some ideas for ways to cook various cuts and marvelled at some she'd not seen before, curious as to which part of the carcass they'd come from.  Even though we were rushing and hot she really enjoyed the process.

We were amazed at how fast the freezer was filling!  Our steer was young, and not a pure beef breed, so we didn't get as much meat as some people do when they do a home kill (or buy a 'whole beast' through their local butcher).

 

We now have a lot of roasts, heaps of mince, and various stewing cuts to experiment with.  There is more steak in the freezer than we've consumed in a decade!  So far we've only cooked some mince (chili con carne and meatballs in tomato sauce - both in the Thermomix) and some pan-fried steak. I tried some of the steak and it was tender and very mild in flavour.  I'm not sure I'm ready to begin eating beef again, but I did decide to at least taste some.

Because it's summer here, a lot of the cuts I'm not used to will have a bit of time in the freezer before they become casseroles and roasts.   I wonder which steak is best to cut into strips for stir-fries, and which is best to cube for curries?  I also have liver, kidneys and heart in the freezer!  I think the butcher told me a lot more about preparing various cuts than I remember...  In hindsight, a pen and paper (and clean hands) would have been handy for taking notes.

Apart from buying the freezer, and keeping it running throughout the year, this beef cost us a couple of dollars a kilo, butchered and packed.  That's cheap, quality protein, and I believe it's ethical too.  At this stage, I'd be willing to raise more large animals for the freezer.

There was very little waste from this butchering process - the skin is being tanned, the fat rendered, the bones are for dog food...  Reusable containers would omit the use of plastic bags, but we went with the easier way of packing this time.

I'd love any beef recipe suggestions you have! Meanwhile, I think this is one of the most inspiring collection of beef recipes I've come across so far...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Home Butchering

Posted by Bel
from Spiral Garden

I hope by sharing this I don't upset anyone.  I am not up for debate of the ethics of meat-eating.  In fact I'm possibly the least likely to know about anything to do with butchering...  I haven't eaten much meat at all during my adult life...  Some locally-caught fish, homegrown roosters, and very little else. Sometimes for years at a time I ate no meat (or even no animal products) at all.

But now I keep a house cow.  To produce milk, a cow has a calf.  Lucy's first calf when she came here was a Wagyu-cross male.  Unneccessary as a lawn mower and so deemed for the freezer.  And so, at 20 months old this week, his time was up.

 
 Wags as a new calf

Since we'd known all along that he was to be eaten, for most of our family it was no big deal to call the butcher out.  Some were in fact eager to watch the whole process, learn bovine anatomy and really find out how a walking beast became a packet of protein.  I didn't watch the WHOLE process, but surprisingly I watched quite a lot of it and was amazed at how peaceful and non-gory it was.  Everything was done humanely, quickly, cleanly.

Basically for us the process so far:
1. obtain a beef-cross calf (via Lucy, but there are other ways of obtaining cattle)
2. late weaning apparently promotes tastier beef, as does early castration
3. allow him access to abundant food (for us, grass) and water from birth
4. treat naturally for flies and ticks using neem oil, other essential oils, mineral supplements etc (diatomaceous earth as a worm preventative)
5. carry fewer stock so there is plenty of feed and less problems with pests and parasites
6. call the butcher, ask a million questions
7. buy a freezer
8. catch the steer in a suitable paddock, away from other stock
9. let the butcher do his thing

  
Wags had a beautiful life

So now we have a cold room in our front paddock for a week.  After this week of hanging, the beef will be ready to cut, pack, label and freeze...  So I'm researching types of freezer bags and different cuts of beef (I only know how to cook roasts, minced and diced beef so far)...  There are a TON of resources about home butchering on the 'net.

A few of our family members eat beef (local, biodynamic beef), who knows I might try some too?  I never would have imagined that I'd write about turning one of our animals into food, but this is where our farming journey has brought us...

I'll write about stage two of this home butchering process next time!