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Smoker Recipes and Tips

I bought an electric smoker, after using my charcoal and propane grills to indirect smoke for years. My idea with the electric smoker is to be able to gather data in a more controlled way, allowing for consistent reproduction of results and more accurate recipes to share here. I bought my model through Sams Club, and got a pretty good price but here is the same model on Amazon.  Note that the smoker is considerably more buying from Amazon, but I am including the link for reference as to what it is.

I will be putting up a page for links to smoker recipes now, and related information as I experiment more, and once I get a good handle on this model, I think I will likely adapt it for cold smoking as well using an old wine fridge I have.

The first projects are just to understand the machine, but then the work begins in earnest. The challenge I am working on is managing boar taint smell in meat from an intact male pig. We butchered our large intact boar, and there is a strong odor when cooking as a result of hormones in the animal. There is no problem with eating the food, but the smell is off putting and hence I need to figure out a good way to prep and cook it. I will have more details on the successful ideas in a related post.

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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. 🙂
  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 – this 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!

 

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Figuring out the paperwork

In 2014 when we purchased our first 3 Nigerian Dwarf goats, Sushi and her two daughters Raindrop and Sashimi, all we knew was that we wanted to buy registered goats. Having done our due diligence to research breeds, registries and how to check out new dairy goats, we felt equipped to begin the goat buying process.

Fast forward to January of 2016 where we now have the original 3, 1 full grown Buck named Mattis, 2 wethers named Dwight and Doug, 4 goats were sold last week and I brought 2 new ones home this weekend. The newest additions are Chloe and her daughter Cleo. They bring new bloodlines in as well some other great traits. Chloe is a dream on the milkstand, has blue eyes and is friendly. Her doeling Cleo is polled so horns are not an issue and she will carry that gene hopefully to her offspring. She does not have blue eyes and lets everyone in the barn know if she needs attention.

I registered in 2015 with AGS in 2015 since the 3 girls all came with paperwork that needed transferred to our farm. It was not until we wanted to begin showing and getting more involved with the goat world that we learned that we also needed to register for ADGA . AGS gave me one tattoo acronym to use for our farm. ADGA gave me a different one. I had to call and straighten it out but it took 4 conversations since I have to come up with alternate solutions for each location till we agreed that they will match.

On our small goats you put the farm name on the right ear and the identifier for that particular goat on the other ear. It wasn’t a possibility to have 2 different farm identifiers for the 2 registries. Just seems like it would be a lot easier if they communicated through a shared database instead of having customers doing the the hunt. I told Adrienne that I felt like Nancy Drew finding the hidden treasure or something.

In the end it feels so good to have accomplished sorting out the registries, getting the certificates for all the girls in both organizations and also being able to sell dual-registered goats from our herd. The first two does leaving were born in the fall of 2016 to Sushi and Sashimi. So hasta luego to Blue Barnyard Lilly and Blue Barnyard BlueBelle as their customers named them for their certificates.

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Preparing for poultry shows

As a member of 4-H, my daughter is heading into fair season with great excitement to show her poultry at the local 4-H Fairs. I am also excited for her but the reality as the parent is a little more daunting. There are several things that need accomplished in order for your child to show at the fair. We at least have the basics covered, she is a 4-H member and we own chickens. woo hoo. Ok, the next part is that you need to register for the fairs in advance, have bloodwork drawn on your birds and receive the results in enough time to take those results with you as you go to the fair with your birds. The 4-H member will be judged on Showmanship and then the birds are judged on how they stand up to the Standard of Perfection.

For Pennsylvania, along with many other states, 2015 was a year when poultry shows simply did not happen. Due to the Avian Influenza, the fairs did not have poultry at the fairs so that makes this year even more fun to see the birds all return. We registered for the Northampton County 4-H Round-Up Fair. The Poultry Club leader coordinated bloodwork for all of the families to make the process simpler but also to keep track of it all. For folks with a dozen chickens, the task wasn’t big, simply do a blood draw on each bird. However on our farm, we have over 100 birds, between Bourbon Red turkeys, chickens and our 2 lone ducks. So the day came, the poultry techs arrived, put on their white suits, protective foot coverings and got to work. There was a cost for them to come out of $20, then there was the lab fees which were about that also.

Sherry and Sarah It was a hot, sweaty, sometimes bloody and often poopy job. I caught birds from various pens for a random sampling. Not all birds wanted to cooperate and Adrienne held them afterwards to soothe them, sometimes hold a paper towel to the draw area to wipe excess blood off. We didn’t want to send fresh blood into pens so some birds needed held longer than others. The Bourbon Reds definitely took longer to heal than the chickens and we did 12 of them.

Afterwards, my little 4-H member helped to clean up, sort through her birds and make final decisions about which birds would go to fair. The ones she chose were an Easter Egger (Ameraucauna crossed with a Wheaten Marans) and then her Buff Orpington hens that she received for her 9th birthday. The normal day to day routine continued up until 2 days prior to fair.

That’s when it gets hilarious. You gather your chickens in order to bathe them! Adrienne  and I got chickens for fair up to the house and used the bathtub to wash them. Outside a pen was set up in the sun for the birds to dry off and preen.

We transported the birds to fair the following day using small dog crates in the back of our pick up truck. Signing in was easy but we needed a few things also:20160806_132011

  • Pine shavings for bedding
  • Containers for food and water for each pen
  • Vaseline to shine their combs and feet
  • Baby wipes to clean up messes
  • Kitty litter scoop to take care of droppings in each pen
  • Q-tips to clean out dirt from various places
  • Fresh water was suggested to us also

I was so impressed with how Adrienne held up under pressure. This photo to the right was taken immediately following the second time she has ever shown a goat! We learned from the poultry judge that Adrienne’s Buff Orpingtons were too small in stature. They simply did not compare to the other birds in their class. Class is where each breed originally derives from. So for the Buff Orpington, they are in the English class. Another 4-H member had beautiful, large Australorps in that class as well so it was pretty easy to see why her Buffs were considered too juvenile. Lesson learned, bulk up the hens! ha!

After the show ended and we could take our birds home, we quarantined them in a pen away from the rest of ours. I did a a DE dust bath to each bird, added probiotics to their water and lots of fresh water and feed. All that travel, public commotion and  being in a confined area with other birds puts them at risk of getting sick. Just doing a little precaution is what was suggested to us and I am thankful for that.

In case you’re interested in knowing more about The American Poultry Association’s list for the Standards of Perfection for Poultry, here is a link.

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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.

 

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Goat Kidding

We have had several births this year, our first full year of raising goats. We have a post about preparing for kidding, but we were hoping we were truly prepared. While our first two mommas gave birth during the night, the last one was a mid day affair, and it turned out to be a very good thing!

sashimi in labor

Sashimi, on the left in labor, is being attended to by her mom and her sister. It was very cool to see how they wanted to keep an eye on her and seemed to be encouraging her in the process. At this point in the deliver, I was not too worried, and feeling pretty relaxed about being a labor and delivery nurse for a goat.

sashimi - baby crowning

When the baby started to come out, we (my bride – Mrs. Blue Barnyard) realized there was a problem. She said the head and hoof were not lined up correctly and she needed to “go in” and fix things. Ok – so now I am not feeling so good about the whole goat nurse thing. I was convinced that nature was cool and would handle it, but she said it was time to glove up and help her out! I held the goat and kept saying nice soothing things to her to calm her down, at least that was my intent.

new baby

After the intervention, things went smoothly and a little beauty was born. Momma took care of her and it was pretty amazing to witness. Later, after speaking with our vet and describing the process, he confirmed that if Jess had not intervened, we would have likely lost the mom and both of her twin babies. I was quite proud of all the research and the cool calm and collected way she handled this.

baby-momma-grandma

This photo shows our youngest girl, her new momma and her grandma, all in one picture. It is so neat to see them all care for each other!

baby and roo

Adrienne was the assistant nurse with me, and was helping care for the babies through the process.

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Pork Ribs

Ribs are almost a religion in many parts of the United States, and the world for that matter. There are those who swear by the dry rub, those who say the secret is all in the sauce, those who will say there is no other way than smoking on wood and any other permutation you might think if.

I love most ways they can be prepared, but I lean to smoked with a dry rub and finished with a sauce that does not over power the pork flavor. If you do not have a smoker, you can make do with a grill and a smoker box for wood chips. If you do not have that, you can use a grill and put your wood chips in an aluminum foil packet after soaking them, poke some holes in it and toss it in the coals or on your hot side of the grill. The ribs will mostly cook on the indirect heat, or non fueled side of the grill.

Please check out AmazingRibs.com for this part. I have linked to their site for other cuts, but they do such a good job on rib options I think it it THE place to start. Once you get a foundation there, feel free to experiment and search the internet for other options.

There are options for every taste. My main advice here is to not fall into any single camp or accept any one of the rib religions. Play around, enjoy them and take the time to search out hole in the wall rib shacks in your area or on your travels. Learn from them, ask questions and apply your lessons at home.

If you are still reading at this point, and not already at the Amazing Ribs site, go now to the recipe for “Last Meal Ribs: The Best Barbecue Ribs You’ve Ever Tasted!

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Picnic Roast / Pork Shoulder

The Picnic Roast is the lower half of the shoulder, the top half being called the Boston Butt. This cut can be combined into both and the cooking options are similar. This is a heavily used muscle and a flavorful meat with good fat and connective tissue that will render when cooked low and slow.

Over at the Dizzy Pig site, they have a recipe for pulled pork that uses both of these shoulder cuts to make pulled pork, an all time favorite. The low and slow method is at the extreme here, but the results are worth it. Check it out for it’s nice explanation and detailed instructions and options.

Ultra-Crispy Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder is a favorite of mine, due in large part to the delicious cracklin from the final step in the process that produces crackles on the outer layer. The recipe at serious eats has some nice suggestions on this that you can build on with links to sauces and related dishes. Additionally, this is a simple meal to make though you will have to plan ahead and budget 8-10 hrs.

The general rule to keep in mind for shoulder cuts is that you need to cook it at low temp for a long time to melt all the fat and connective tissue, but they are rich and flavorful cuts. If you have smaller roast, you will reduce the cooking / smoking time accordingly.

I encourage you to check out AmazingRibs for a very good article on cooking temps and times. This is a great site overall to familiarize yourself with and you will find we link to it frequently.

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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.