Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wild Dinner

If you know me, you know I hunt, and I eat what I hunt, with great gusto. If you know hunting, you know the biggest complain is that game meat is tough and tastes horribly strong.

First off, "store meat" is generally made to have about zero flavor -which makes it good for cooking because it takes the the flavor of whatever you're cooking. I'm not that big on store meat.

Most wild game falls in the red meat category - even birds like goose and duck. (Turkey does have white meat). The trick is to treat it like red meat, with some extra care. Be kind to it!

And BRINE it.

Right now we are in the midst of heavy duck hunting, and wild duck can be some mighty tasty stuff. The first thing to do is take the meat (you can pluck them if you realllllly want to, we cut the breast meat out, which is that massive majority of the edible meat on them), wash it, and check for any shot. Remove blood clots, and just check all over for yuck. It should like like a hunk of red meat :) I like to give it a nice soak in ice cold water in the fridge for a few hours, then you can pack it and freeze it, or, if you're going eat today, brine that stuff.

Brining isn't hard. It's just sugar, salt and water. Sometimes I get fancy and use BROWN sugar, but sometimes just regular sugar. You want about one cup of sugar, one cup of salt (I use canning salt because it's cheaper) and a gallon of water. You'll want to leave the meat in there for at least an hour, preferably more, up to a day. If the brine gets really bloody, change it out for fresh (the ice water soak should help this.)

When you are done brining, you want to give the meat a quick rinse and THEN go to whatever marinade you want if you plan on a fast cook, or just prep it as you normally would for stew, chili, pot roast, whatever.

Today was duck day, and I brined it for about 4 hours, then made a simple marinade of crushed up mango (thawed from frozen), apple cider vinegar and some ground pepper. I let it sit for about an hour in the fridge, then placed the duck breasts in a hot pan with a little bit of oil. I poured the marinade all over, and let it simmer away, adding about another cup or two of frozen mango. I turned the duck over once, and I would guess it cooked at a simmer for about 30 minutes - a kind of braising. Usually duck is served rare-ish, but I'm not up to watching it that closely, and besides, I'm the only one in the house that eats meat rare - majority rules.

After about half an hour, the mango simmered down to a thick sauce, and the vinegar flavor had cooked off. We were left with some really tender duck breast with a tart fruity sauce. Even the kiddo loved it :) Didn't even have to use a knife to cut it!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Chicken Dinner Time!

First off, this is not how chickens are mass slaughtered, if you want nightmares, go watch Food Inc. While the following may seem mean or strange if you aren't used to raising your own animals for food, understand this chicken was raised with all the food and water he could want, a large coop and run, and daily free range time to stalk the yard.

Back in April, I chose to purchase straight run chicks from TSC, with the intention of having the hens for eggs and eventually the roosters for dinner. I ended up with 3 Silver Laced Wyandotte (SLW)roosters and a Rhode Island Red rooster (with a second RIR that is suspect).

I decided to let them decide who would be dinner, based on how they act - I have a small kid, and no mean roos allowed. Yesterday, one of the SLW decided to start following my daughter with that "look", so into the dog crate he went, and today, he went to rooster heaven smile  He was also harrassing the daylights out of the hens, and one of them has had a lot of feathers pulled out from him. He needed to go. I was hoping to get to that 20 week mark, but that's just didn't happen with this dude.

The 20 weeks is based on hertiage breed chickens for meat. Long ago, we didn't have crossbred chickens that grew at astronomical weights in a short time, we had plain ol chickens that laid eggs. Today, most purchased chicken is the Cornish cross, a hybrid that usually must be slaughtered at 8 weeks or so due to health problems with incredible weight gain.

This is a neat article about what chickens used to be like, and this is what I'm raising - chickens that are not bred to be dinner at two months old, but rather bred to be chickens that lay eggs and provide meat, ala how chickens were long ago.

Anyway, here is the convict:

My bad picture of my very, very simple "tree of death" - a rope tied around the tree that I had hubby make a slip knot on the end, and a separate rope that I had him also make a slipknot in. Yes, it is hot pink smile I couldn't find "normal" rope - I normally use it as a line for pulling my bow into tree stands. It's sturdy,

I got the convict out of his cage, and quietly carried him to the tree of death, and slipped his feet in the noose. I put the second one on his head. He is alive in this picture. Chickens have a tendency to just chill out/pass out almost when gently placed upside down. They will stay like that.

I have a scalpel and scalpel blades, which I chose to make the neck cut, as they are by far sharper than anything else here. I chose to cut his jugular/cartoid artery to bleed him out. He didn't move for a few seconds or more, then start flopping a bit. I let him hang for about 5 minutes while I checked on my scald water. When I returned, he was still.

I brought him to the inside "station", my kitchen, where I had a pot of water with some dishsoap at a good temp (148F), and one side of the sink with icewater. The counter had been washed and then a bleach solution wiped on to let dry, same with the cutting board. I tied a bag to the handles of my drawers for easy trash smile

I dunked and swished a few times, until I could pull out one big wing feather easily, then I put him in the ice water and swished. He then went into the same bucket I used to carry him in the house, and I took him outside so I could pluck him where stray feathers wouldn't be worrysome.

The wing and tail feathers needed some oomph to get out, but the rest came out with a gentle "rubbing" motion, against the lay of the feathers.

I got him mainly done and then just put him in the sink underwater and finished the bits of feathers out..

I'm not sure on his size, but I'm guessing at least 3lbs, maybe a wee bit more. I think I have a fish scale somewhere, have to find it. For ease of brining, I stuck him in a gallon pitcher which he just fit in, and filled with salt water to brine. We may have him for dinner tonight.

And that's what a 15 week old non-grocery store breed  rooster looks like smile Total time from catching to fridge was about one hour.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pickles Pickles Pickles!

Tis the season! I've had a few requests for my recipes, so here are three. Got them from Recipezaar, tweaked, and somewhat made them my own :)

The Best Dill Pickles EVER

* 7 wide-mouth quart jars, lids & rings
* fresh dill, heads & several inches of stems shaken free of bugs and rinsed off
* cucumber, washed, scrubbed (test pack in the jars before cleaning, to get an idea of how many - this particular recipe is for 7qts)
* bag of ice
* 14 garlic cloves (or more)
* 8 1/2 cups water
* 2 1/4 cups white vinegar
* 1/2 cup pickling salt

Wash the pickles the night before, and then fill the sink with cold water, the bag of ice and the pickles. Let sit - if you feel like it, add more ice through the night -just want to keep them cold! Makes them crisp

Wash and sterilize the jars, put the lids and rings in a pot of boiling water. Put the water, vinegar and salt in a big pot, bring to a boil.

Put a clove or two of garlic at the bottom, with a head of dill, then pack the cucumbers in. Put a clove of garlic on top, some more dill, and then pour the brine on top to fill to 1/2" from top of jar.

Cap snug (not super tight!) with lids and rings. Put in a water bath canner, fill with water to cover the lids, and bring to a boil. When steam rises, put the lid on, and time for 15 mins.

Remove from the bath, tighten the lids hand snug, and let cool.

Let sit for at least 6-8 weeks

I like to put in some extra dill and garlic - at least 3 cloves and 2 dill heads per jar. If the cloves turn blue over time, it is OK, its some oxidation thing, not a worry. The only time you shouldn't eat is if they don't seal (fridge and eat within a week or two) or the seal comes up over time (throw out).

Microwave Bread and Butter Pickles
Stupid easy and fast!

*NOTE!* This is NOT a preservation canning method. These do need to be refrigerated after being made, and consumed in a reasonable amount of time, couple weeks or so.*

* 8 cups cucumbers, sliced 1/4" or less, your preference
* 3 cups onions, thin sliced
* 4 cups sugar
* 2 cups white distilled vinegar
* 4 teaspoons salt
* 2 teaspoons mustard seed
* 1 teaspoon celery seed
* 1 teaspoon turmeric
* 3 quart canning jars with rings and lids

Mix all ingredients together (I like to keep the cukes and onions apart until I get everyone else mixed together, it's easier. The sugar will NOT dissolve, so just get it all blended together. Once it's blended, put the cukes and onion in and toss a bit.

Put it all in a large microwave safe bowl, microwave for 3 minute sections, stirring each time, usually for a total of 9 or 12 minutes, depending on your microwave. You the onions to be limp and close to translucent, but the cukes to still be firm.

Place in clean canning jars, wipe the rim, lid, and let cool, put in fridge when cool and eat!

Sweet Pickle Relish

I've been told by folks that don't like relish that they like this stuff a lot. My dad eats it with a spoon out of the jar...not sure I'd go THAT far! It is yummy, and good for overgrown cucumbers that aren't good for pickle making. I forgot how much this makes, guess 10 pints or so? 12?

* 8 cups cucumbers, deseeded and chopped
* 4 cups onions, chopped
* 4 cups bright colored bell peppers chopped
* 1/2 cup canning salt
* 7 cups sugar
* 4 cups apple cider vinegar
* 2 tablespoons celery seeds
* 2 tablespoons mustard seeds

To deseed cucumbers, cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon

I chop all the veg up to a coarse chop with the food processor. You want 1/4" chunks or so. Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.Sprinkle the salt over the chopped vegetables. Cover with cold water and let stand for 2 hours.

Drain vegetables well, then press out as much liquid as possible. I like to put them in cheesecloth and wring the daylights out of them.

In a large pot, combine sugar, vinegar and seeds. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables. Bring back to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, put into pint jars according to standard canning procedures. Once the jars are pretty full of relish, use a regular soup ladle to add the brine, this way they aren't soupy.

Process in a hot water bath (10 mins). Let cool, the lids should pop. As long as the lids don't pop up, they are good for at least a year. If they don't seal right away, use soon, if they pop after time, throw out.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Strawberry Jam

I posted this about a year ago, bringing over here to share as well for easy access...

How to Make Strawberry Jam least how I do it!

Ingredients are 9 cups of hulled, clean strawberries, 4 cups of sugar, and 1/3 cup of lemon juice.

I start by well, picking my berries! These are all from my garden:

I like to just dump a batch into a bowl, fill with water, and rub the dirt off. If you don't get all crazy, the dirt settles to the bottom, and the berries all float. I just cut the top off with a knife. I put them in a colander on the other side. I also check for bad spots and cut those out.

After I cut them all up (do the whole batch that is in the water at once, so they don't get waterlogged - if you have to leave them, take them out of the water!), I measure out 9 cups and put them in my big ol' pot. I got it for about $5 at the dollar store - it's just a cheap steel pot. It's awesome. You want a BIG pot, and you'll see why later....

Take a potato masher and just mash the heck out of them, depending on how big of strawberry "chunks" you want. They will break down more. If you want perfectly smooth jam, then measure your whole berries, then run them through the food processor. I like some chunks. Put them on medium heat and let them come to a simmer. Add the sugar and lemon juice. I can't remember if I've added the sugar and lemon juice here, but you can see the texture kind of...
I don't use pectin or anything, so now is the fun part, the boiling. Bring it up to a full boil, and just stir regularly, every couple minutes. This is after a few, maybe 5 minutes:

And now it's REALLY boiling. THIS is why you want a tall, big pot. They are boiling at 2-3 times the "height" of just the berries. I still have lots of room to spare.

This is probably 15 minutes of boiling, at the same heat. Notice how there is some red showing, it's not just pink juice boiling like mad:

This is something like 20-30 minutes (I don't really keep track). This is where you want to stir it regularly. I have JUST taken it off the heat, but it pretty much looks like boiling, thick goo, and the foam is just on the sides. If you stick a spoon in and drip it onto a cool plate and hold it vertical, the drops of jam will slide and then stop. I like to test again by pushing a line through the jam on the plate with my finger. If it doesn't move, it's done

Skim off the foam - you don't have to get all crazy, I just use a wide, shallow ladle, and tap it onto a plate with paper towel, and wipe the ladle until all the foam is gone.

I don't have skills to show putting the jam in, but I just have a cheap plastic funnel that you can get in the canning section of the store, and fill my clean jars by setting the funnel on the top, and then ladling the jam in with a clean ladle. I always clean more than enough jars - having not enough is NOT FUN. You want to put your jam in ASAP - while it's HOT - so that when you water bath it, you know it's getting up to a hot, good temp.

Wipe the tops of the jar with a clean paper towel, put the clean lids on, and put the rings on just snug, and put them in the water canner! Fill with water til it's well over the lids (I go for about an inch). Hint - fill with the hottest tap water you can get out of your faucet ) Bring to a boil - enough that there are bubbles coming up and steam. Then put the cover on it, and set a timer for 15 minutes. When the 15 is up, carefully remove the lid, and use tongs to lift the jars out. Place them on the counter on a towel. I like to then carefully, with a towel over the top, snug the lid down again. You don't have to get all crazy, just hand tight. The heat and cooling will seal against the lid. You should hear them "pop" when cooling. After they are completely cool (I wait all night), check by pressing the lid. If it pushes down and springs back, you have to reprocess, or just put in the fridge and eat within a couple weeks. If it doesn't move and is all the way down, then it's good to store for a long time, at least a year. I like to check them every few months to make sure the lids are still down. If they pop back up down the road, then just get rid of it, don't eat it.


Also, do not try to double canning recipes that require it to "set" like jams or jellies. It won't work. Do batches (thats why I have extra strawberries in one picture).

I personally don't use pectin because, well, I never remember to get it, and two, I prefer the SUPER taste - the boiling reduces the berries down and their natural pectin makes the jam - so you end up with a "concentrated" fabulous strawberry taste. It's amazing - like NOTHING you can get in the store. It also helps that I'm using ripe, just picked berries as they have a whole lot of flavor. Using pectin is faster as you don't have to boil nearly as long, but then you end up with not quite as concentrated flavor. There isn't anything wrong with pectin, I just prefer to take a few minutes longer and get that stronger flavor. There is also the pain of pectin when it doesn't decide to set for whatever reason, and you end up having to reprocess your jam (did this my first year with blackberry jam).


Friday, March 19, 2010

Time for Taquitos!

Because as usual, I can't follow a recipe for my life, I changed it :) First I used chicken - a whole one that I had cooked all day in the crock pot, and then decided to not have for dinner. I pulled out all the meat, and put in the fridge. I then picked it apart, so no bones or yuckies, and chopped it fine. I added the spices, and a can of diced tomatoes with chilis.

I heated a skillet with my fav, Crisco, so it had a thin layer of oil. I would place a tortilla in the oil for a minute or two, take it out with tongs, place on a paper towel oil side down, and put 1/2 cup of the chicken mix. I would use the paper towel to start the roll, and roll tightly, then place seam side down on the same pan - I had enough room to heat a tortilla and cook one seam down at the same time. As I was cooking the finished tortilla, I would heat a new shell in the oil, make it up, and then place on the pan, taking off the one that had been cooking, and placing in a dish. I made about thirty taquitos, and then just placed the whole shebang in the freezer. The next day (today, haha!) I took them out, and tapped the dish so they separated, and bagged them up. Of course, I had to have a taste test, so I popped two in the microwave in a paper towel, heated for 1.5 minutes, and TASTY!!!

As they don't seem to stick while frozen, I now have snackies for whenever I want!