Jowl Bacon and Sauteed Spinach

I do love Jowl Bacon – when ordering a pig, I highly recommend you specify some Jowl Bacon for yourself. I think the pairing of the bacon and spinach is about perfect and for this recipe, I added a bit of garlic and onion for the saute and then a bit of chicken broth to give it a little bit of soup to make a nice finish.

What you need on hand:

  1. Pan to cook in – I like a stir fry pan and lid but most any medium / large pan will do.
  2. Bag of spinach – cooking spinach is the most economical, but you can use most any type.
  3. Jowl bacon or your favorite type of bacon. Smoked gives it more depth if you are into that. ūüôā
  4. Salt – kosher, coarse if you have it.
  5. A few cloves of garlic or crushed garlic, whatever you have on hand
  6. An onion or so, depending on taste. A large sweet, or a regular cooking onion. Really it is about what you like.
  7. Some soup stock (1/4 cup or so) you can substitute bullion, powdered soup base with water, etc…
  8. Fire & Water + Patience and a sharp knife and cutting board.

 

Start with a stir fry pan if you have one, and if not, a large sauce pan that you can cover. Slice up a generous portion of the bacon into small pieces.

Throw the bacon into the preheated pan and fry it up on medium heat while you dice up some onion and fresh garlic to taste.  Once the bacon has reduced and is almost done, drain the grease into a jar for use later. Throw in the garlic and onion and stir it a bit while the onions caramelize a bit Рthis is also a good time to toss in a few pinches (or to taste) of coarse salt. I like Kosher or sea salt.

Once the onions are caramelized and looking ready to eat, toss in as much spinach as you can fit into the pan. You can see from the photo I pile it high as it wilts down when you cook it. Cover and let it steam for a few on low heat. Toss in about 1/4 or so cup of water or chicken stock when you do this to help steam the spinach. Most of the liquid will cook off but it will also help flavor the spinach. I like to use a spoon or two of the dry chicken soup base here.

As the spinach starts to cook down, start tossing it a bit to keep it cooking evenly. Once it is reduced as you see in the photos, plate (or bowl) it and enjoy!

 

Green Shadow to the Rescue!

So, maybe not a superhero move here, but our neighbors continue to be pretty superb folks. While doing chores, my bride and I were discussing how we can help our pigs and chickens that live outdoors get their feet dry with the incessant rain we have been having.

Across the street from us, our neighbor owns Green Shadow tree service, so  I walked over to ask Chuck  about getting some of the wood chips from his piles to put in our pens. He stopped what he was doing, filled his truck and brought two loads to the front of our pens for me to load in with our tractor, without me asking him to do so. I brought a few more loads from his place with our tractor and the pigs were ecstatic, or at least I interpreted their crazy running around, rooting and jumping as such.

This is another example of the type of people and friends we have around us, and reinforces how grateful we are to live where we do. People who jump to help each other, and who go beyond the need to make sure each other are ok are not common enough anymore.

green shadow chipperIf anyone needs tree service done in the greater Bethlehem area, give Green Shadow a call – he has been in business for over 30 years and has a great reputation in the area.

 

Review of pork butt/shoulder recipe

Jim posted a great article about recipes for pork shoulder.. I decided to review one of the recipes posted.

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Below is our home -grown pork shoulder.

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The directions called for 8 hours of slow roasting at 250 degrees. I rubbed celtic salt and pepper all over the roast.

I chose to use my turkey roasting pan with parchment paper on the rack.

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It was very nice to have the house smell like a delicious roast all day. The roast was removed after 7 hours in the oven. You tent the roast with foil while pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees. Put the meat back in the oven for 20 minutes or until the fat layer can get crispy.

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I was disappointed to see how much it shrunk! Something to take into consideration for the future. This roast fed 5 people, including our 19 year-old son. I think I will adjust our cut list to include larger roasts.

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This was juicy, melt in your mouth meat. It was served with cooked small multi-colored potatoes with butter and scallions on top. We also had a side of asparagus with fresh lemon on top. Great meal for a cold January night!

Homemade Suet

imageI wanted to create some good calorie boosters aka boredom busters for our chickens and turkeys. Jim and I decided to use the fat from our butchered pig along with various grains.

I chose black oiled sunflower seeds, cracked corn, scratch grains and then filler. I found oatmeal pancake mix that had not been a hit with the kids as well as bulk oatmeal that has been around a while.

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I looked around online and saw interesting articles by folks who also were including herbs. I checked the cupboard again and found the oregano that I normally sprinkle in the food and dried dandelion for teas.

I cooked the fat down and did equal parts of all bulk ingredients of 1 cup of each with 2 TB of the herbs. Cooking the fat is also called rendering.

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All the ingredients were stirred and pressed into bread pans or whatever I had around.

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I can say that the thing I’ve learned now that I’ve shared these with the birds is that putting wax paper to ease the pressed and solidified cakes out of the pans is very helpful.

I pressed the ingredients into the pans and repeated the process a dozen times. In order to not have the fat stay sift, I stored all the pans in our garage where it’s below freezing here in NE PA in January.

The birds are getting a chunk every few days and the suet has been a hit.

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Pig Cut List

In a prior post, I referenced the cut list that we were putting together as well as the source of our planning numbers. Please check that out for some background.

Here is a link to our Cut List as a PDF file. This list is for our pigs. At this point, we will ask that you save it to your computer and print it out, fill out your preferences and then email it back to us.

If you do not have a scanner, please feel free to take a photo with a camera phone and send that or simply mail the form back via USPS. In the future, we hope to have this available to fill out online, but for the next couple of cycles, we hope to work out any issues with this more manual approach.

 

 

Lessons in Commercial Pig Butchering

This being our first year butchering our own pigs, we learned some good lessons in how to manage our expectations and also what to expect from the process.

While we have purchased 1/2 pigs and steers from other farmers in the past, it was a simple agreement to the hang weight cost and then we got what the butcher cut. We approached the process in much the same way this time, but going forward we will be better educated, and in turn, those who buy from us will be. The options on cuts are significant, as are the ways to use the cuts and trimmings. We have prepared a robust cut list document that will be the subject of a follow on post, and will use that for all agreements going forward to help both us and our customers get the maximum value from their investment.

Note: The data here reflects estimates and approximations and there will be some variability. The source we are using as a base is the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture as they have a great resource available as a reference. You will note the parallels in that to how we structure the cut list for maximum clarity and ease of reference.

When butchering an animal there are a few weights to be aware of.The estimated standing weight allows you to estimate the hang weight. The hang weight is what costs are based on, and reflects the butchered animal, prepared for retail cutting at about a 28% loss of original weight. The retail, or packaged weight reflects all the trimming and related loss to final retail cuts and amounts to approximately another 20%. Some of this can be retained through selection of the trim for other use, including lard.

In related posts, we will cover some of the many options here, as well as recipes for these cuts for those of you who may be new to the array of options a whole or half animal represents.

Others peoples’ trash

We have used many items on our farm in a repurposed fashion. Large spools from a local antennae company for our goats, pallets under sheds to make relocating easier, IBC totes as shelters, spent grain from a brewery to augment our feed for all animals and junk apples off the ground to fatten our pigs. There are many other things that we are doing and using daily that contribute to our goal of sustainability but today my thought is about an event happening soon, we will be sending our pigs to be butchered. A local farm sits empty with a neighbor as the caretaker. The apples in the orchard have not been treated in 16 years. We have benefited from his desire to not mow around apples since he takes them into the bucket of his Kubota and brings them here. My neighbor is in his 80’s and prefers to not sit idly watching life go by. He and his wife of over 60 years came to see our pigs this last week, along with the remaining apples for the season. She had never seen a pig in person. I fed the crisp ones to the alpacas and llama to her amusement.

What a gift these apples have turned out to be. I’ve been brought closer to these lovely folks, shared some typical-to-me experiences with them and gave them some fodder for dinner conversation.

Berkshire Pigs

The Berkshire swine traces back to over 300 years ago, with importation to the United States happening around 1823.

“Three hundred years ago – so legend has it – the Berkshire hog was discovered by Oliver Cromwell’s army, in winter quarters at Reading, the county seat of the shire of Berks in England. After the war, these veterans carried the news to the outside world of the wonderful hogs of Berks; larger than any other swine of that time and producing hams and bacon of rare quality and flavor. This is said to have been the beginning of the fame of the Reading Fair as a market place for pork products.

This original Berkshire was a reddish or sandy colored hog, sometimes spotted. This would account for the sandy hair still sometimes seen in the white areas of some modern Berkshires. Later this basic stock was refined with a cross of Siamese and Chinese blood, bringing the color pattern we see today along with the quality of more efficient gains. This was the only outside blood that has gone into the Berkshire breed within the time of recorded livestock history. For 200 years now the Berkshire bloodstream has been pure, as far as the records are known today.” Source Credit, the Oklahoma State Agricultural Department.

We have selected the Berkshire for our farm for the rich meat and characteristics of this breed. They are good foragers, have a strong heritage / lineage and predictable growth as differentiated from the common hog.

Our line of Berkshires is coming from another local breeder, who we are working with to establish our  first boar and sow pairings. In our first year, we experimented with  a couple of breeds, including a Berkshire cross and a Landrace, and going forward our intention at this point is to focus on Berkshire, and potentially add one additional breed that might focus more on bacon production or be otherwise differentiated. All of this is part of our learning process and we have learned there is so very much to learn!

Reference Links