Posted in Back in the Day, Canning & Preserving, Food Facts, From Scratch, Hen Cackle, Historical, The Scoop from the Coop, Things to Crow About, Uncategorized

Water Bath or Pressure Canner? And a Vintage Water Bath Chart.

1304176654-hey-who-s-the-designer-here-before-after-design-talk-oyxnog-clipartAre you like me? Ready to pull hair and scream over this whole: Water Bath or Pressure Canner debate? I feel you. I really, really feel you. And I can even understand why newbies to Canning are so freaked out. It’s not like the “Canning Police” and the “FDA” attempt to ease our mind any. They have more Do’s and Don’t’s than Grandma and her switched did.

 


And for those of us who were raised on our previous Ancestors, and how they did things, that’s a real struggle. I’d like to see the “Canning Police” or the “FDA” tell my Grandma or one of my Great Aunt’s how to Can. I’d love for them to say….


  • “You aren’t allowed to Can Potatoes”
  • “You aren’t allowed to Can Tomatoes in a Water Bath and if you Can, which better be in a PC (Pressure Canner), then that better have added Acid in it.”
  • “No Onions allowed!”
  • “Stick to a recipe to a T. If it calls for four cloves of Garlic, you better stick to 4 cloves. If not, you will kill the whole family.”

And last but not least….

  • “Best not EVER use a Water Bath to Can meat!!!!!”

My Grandma would have beat down the entire government. Canning police? Wouldn’t be a switch left on the tree.


Still, today, in nearly every Canning Group out there, the Nazi’s still shake a finger and the FDA is still beating fear into the Masses. And while I WILL NOT tell you what you can or can’t do, I did stumble onto this cool little vintage chart of rules for Water Bath Canners that probably swam around in every kitchen back in Grandma’s day. And I will offer one bit of advice. Not a demand,. Not a threat, just advice….

If you are Canning, do what you feel most comfortable with. I’ve used a Water Bath for everything before I finally bought a Pressure Canner a year ago. I don’t add acid to my Maters. I Can potatoes religiously. And the only difference I can offer you is this one:


PC’s Can in a shorter amount of time. Example: Canning Green Beans in a Water Bath Canner can take up to 4-41/2 hours. In a PC, 25 minutes.


Yep, that’s it. If you are on unfamiliar ground where Canning goes, a PC may make you feel safer but for those of us who were taught by Grandma and those before her, we also feel just fine the Water Bath way. So when it comes to Canning, so what the hell you want. Ask for advice by finding a great support group but a great support group doesn’t bleed and spew nothing but fear. If a Jar is bad, you will smell it. Sometimes you will see it but in case your glasses are fogged that day, the smell will tell you. That’s always worked for me.

And if a recipe calls for 4 cloves of Garlic, don’t think the entire family will die if you add 10. For the love of God, folks, stop trying to duct tape everyone into the same box. winks


 

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Posted in All about them Chickens, Food Facts, The Scoop from the Coop, Uncategorized

The 411 on Raising & Cooking Meat Birds

Head of 2 big white chickenThere are a ton of Meat Bird articles out there on the web. How to butcher, raise and so on. This one has a few tidbits I never saw in those. Hopefully, they will help you– the things that others may have missed or I learned the hard way. winks


It’s been quite a while since I last posted. I apologize for that. It was a busy time for my Salon, small Farm and then, of course, I had to have some serious surgery, which could have all been avoided if I wasn’t misdiagnosed several years ago. (Long, long story). I don’t want to talk about that, though. I want to talk about some of the major things I had going on in the “Farm” department. And when I say “Farm”, ya’ll know I only have an acre or so, that’s backed up to National Forest, but that’s enough to raise chickens, turkeys, rabbits and even some hogs.


This past year, we decided to try our hand at Meat Birds. The Cornish breed. The kind that raise up and get nice and plump within’ 8-10 weeks. I know there are a million articles on these suckers out there but I think I have a few things to add that those articles missed or didn’t realize like we did. Here’s hoping something here helps you….

We had been considering these birds for some time and  after stumbling into Tractor Supply and finding them marked down to a buck one day, we went ahead and took the plunge. I decided to roll with them instead of the other meat variety like, Red Rangers, for quite a few reasons. I wanted them raised up fast for the freezer. Rangers, and others, take longer. The cost of Feed and what you would be getting didn’t pan out to me compared to the Cornish Crosses. For example, A Ranger might free range, but it still lives anywhere from 4-6 months. It wouldn’t be as easy to pluck, perhaps not as plump (I found by research) and not as tender. Everyone has to weight the pro’s and con’s and decide for themselves, though.

But at a buck, who could pass that up? Thanks, Tractor Supply! That day, we brought home 17 Cornish Crosses and then after finding them a few more times, we ended up with about 40. After getting a taste of it, that led us down the road of ordering 100 more from a Meat Bird Hatchery. One experience was completely different from the other– which I will explain.


The first 40 were actually divided up because the first batch had about 2 weeks or so on the second half we bought. This actually taught us a huge lesson – one we wouldn’t realize until our 100 arrived. Again, more on that a few paragraphs down.

Two weeks may seem like nothing when you’re raising regular chickens but 2 weeks between these birds defines a bold line between toddler and teenager. That is a drastic statement, I know, but that’s what it seems like between the size difference. This is why we didn’t mix one batch with the other. We didn’t want the two week ones snuffing out the younger birds’ chance at food.

A food is what they want and need most of all. They want food and water. They need heat, as well, like other birds, and get ready to do some cleaning because they go to the bathroom ALOT.

Feeding time is like dealing with a bunch of raptors. You need more than one bowl or feeder. Usually the first feeder gets them detracted long enough so you have a chance to fill the others before they just completely swarm and overwhelm you.

 

Feeding goes like this…

For the first 2 weeks (some say 10 days, others, a month) you will give them food 12 hours with and 12 hours without. Water all the time. We did 2 weeks. They say this lessens the chance of heart attacks, etc. While you want to feed the birds enough, you don’t want to overfeed. While I didn’t have any die of heart attacks, some family members did. You start off with a Starter Feed, either non-medicated or medicated. That’s up to you. I chose, with these, to actually use a medicated with the first and second batch. With my egg-birds, I never used that but with these, I did because I wanted them to get a healthy start and since they weren’t going to live long, I didn’t have the same concerns – them becoming immune to meds, etc— that I had with my lifers– the egg ladies. I didn’t use medicated with my 100, and I think that led into some problems– which, again, I’ll explain in a bit. I kept them on the Starter Feed for two-three weeks.

After that, we fed a Grower Feed, early in the morning and in the evening. Some family members also fed during the day. But again, a few of theirs fell over from heart attacks.

My first two batches were BIG birds when it came time to butcher. My husband, who usually eats about four thighs from the store, was more than satisfied with just one thigh and a slice of breast from our home-grown. That’s one of the differences that I noticed, that you may not find in another article. What we raised ourselves, took less to feed us than what we bought. Not only in weight, but as far as when we felt full. We also felt full without feeling uncomfortably bloated and miserable. Now, I can’t argue the science of that. I can only tell you how we feel. We went from eating about two whole birds from the store, to one home raised one.


Size wise, the first and second batch of birds ranged from 6-10 pounds. We bought a chicken plucker – a Yardbird, to be exact– so when time came to butcher, it took us about 3 minutes per bird. That’s carrying the bird to the “Cull section”, carrying it to me to “Scald”, me taking it to the Plucker – which took all of 15-20 seconds– and then handing it to my husband to clean out and toss in a cooler of ice. To be honest, it took us longer to wrap the birds for the freezer than it did to do the rest.

Our experience with the first two batches were absolutely great! That set us off in a whole nother direction. We ended up ordering 100 more. At first, we kept the babies in totes or swimming pools with heat lamps until they were too big. We took dog kennels with roof tarps and kept them inside those. We hung a heat lamp in case they still needed it. These birds do not handle heat and cold the way other birds do. They do not feather out as quick and they do not have all the layers of feathers that regular birds have. They were designed this way to make butchering a bit more easy. These birds are also more fragile than others. I had some break their wing over nothing and I mean, bone- right- through- the- skin—broke! I had a couple with hernias out their bottoms– the other chickens pecked them nearly to death, so I had to Cull them. And, they ended up getting worms – which could have been a freak thing or the fact that my husband messed up and didn’t get medicated Starter. This affected the growth of many birds as well as the competition for food. The lesson learned there, next Spring, we are going to divide them up into groups of 20. Seriously, no matter how many Feeders we had, the big ones still ate faster and over-ate compared to the littler ones that just couldn’t get a foothold. With all the problems, we still ended up with some good sized birds. There weren’t as many 10 pounders as we had in the first two batches but the others did reach 6 pounds or for some great sized meals. And I am still only cooking one Roaster at a time.


Cleaning the pin of the 100 was also a chore. If we got busy with work, or the kid’s after school activities, we played hell catching up. Because of this reason, I’ve got a better system designed and in mind for next Spring. We are definitely doing it again next Spring and not only that, I have more family members who are wanting to do it now, too. That’s something else to consider, the more you order, the cheaper the bird. We ended up, with shipping, paying about 1.50 or so per bird. Without shipping, they were around 1.24 a piece.


Other differences between what I raised and store bought?

Call me crazy, but not only is the taste cleaner, but the texture is different– for the better– and it cooks, way faster. Yes, cooks faster. I’m not sure why that is? Maybe because they don’t have all that stuff stores or commercial farms inject into them?

The skin is different. It doesn’t have all those fat clumps of gel-like fat clustered up underneath it. The skin seems a bit thicker to me, in general, but this is wonderful when it comes to roasting. It turns out crispier– if that’s your intention– and seals in the juices of the meat more.

And this little tidbit is not just in my head– yesterday I made chicken and dumplings. I pulled an entire roaster from the Freezer and stuck it in a pot full of water. I boiled until it was all falling off the bone. The ONLY thing I added to the water was a bit of celery salt. When I tasted the broth, it was absolutely amazing. I didn’t have to add any chicken bouillon !!! NONE !!!! I repeat, NONE! When I cooked a store-bought chicken this way, I would always have to add a ton of stuff including chicken bouillon. The broth was never flavorful enough on it’s own. I couldn’t believe the difference between what I had raised and what I had purchased before.


So I am absolutely sold. I have a different system in mind for next year…. we will separate our birds into groups of 20 and I am most certainly, worming and giving medicated food early on. I also have an idea in mind of how to keep their areas clean for the days we can’t get out there to do it. I’m still plotting that one, though.

But for those who are considering meat birds, I highly recommend it. And buy or make a chicken plucker. While their feathers are not hard to deal with, it does make the whole process easier and faster.

And coming soon, Meat Turkeys. At some point, I will be writing about the different breeds I have tried since last year, how those cooked up and if they were easy to pluck and so on. I’ll also give my evaluation on the taste difference between the quick growing two meat varieties–Broad-Breasted– and the Heritage Breeds. I’ll also be posting recipes and pictures of my delicious Meat Birds soon, too. So look for that!

Until then, I hope you found this useful. Any questions, just shout.


 

Feeding chart I found at this link:

Feeding program for meat chickens

The following table provides an estimate of peak rates of feed consumption and weight gain. The data were obtained from White Cornish Crosses under conventional management (without additional forage).

Age (weeks)

Type of feed

Feed consumption (weekly per bird)

Live body weight

kg

lb.

kg

lb.

1

Chicken starter

0.13

0.29

0.15

0.33

2

Chicken starter

0.28

0.62

0.36

0.79

3

 Chicken starter

0.47

1.02

0.65

1.43

4

Chicken grower

0.67

1.48

1.03

2.26

5

Chicken grower

0.85

1.87

1.46

3.21

6

Chicken grower

1.07

2.36

1.91

4.21

7

Chicken finisher

1.18

2.60

2.36

5.20

8

Chicken finisher

1.30

2.86

2.79

6.14

9

Chicken finisher

1.41

3.11

3.20

7.03

Total

7.36

16.20

Based on data from Nutrient Requirements of Poultry. 9th Ed. USA National Academy of Sciences. 1994. Note that free-ranging organically fed birds will have both lower rates of feed consumption and slower rates of growth


Please Note: I am not affiliated with Tractor Supply, Yardbird, or any other I have mentioned. That’s just where I shop for my Farm needs, along at the Augusta Coop.

Posted in Back in the Day, Country Treasures & Landmarks, Food Facts, Herbicidal Hens, Uncategorized

It’s Almost Time to Hunt Ramps!

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This, is a Ramp and if you live in the South, you already know what these are. If you don’t, they’re a cross between an onion and garlic. You find them in the woods. And believe me, there are lots of folks out there findin’ them!

original

So, maybe you’re wonderin’ what to do with them? Anything and everything. People fry taters with em. Grill trout with em. Anything that you would normally put onions or garlic in, well, that’s what folks use a Ramp for.

They are strong, though and not many people can handle them. My father-in-law’s wife, who is from up North, won’t even allow him to cook em in the house, lol. Our Uncle Eddie, though, will cook them from sun-up till sun-down and most folks will dry em or preserve them tryin’ to make em last throughout the season and even into the winter.

Like I said, they are a cross between an onion and garlic and will start to pop up in the Spring. They’re easy to find and easy to dig.

Ramps are high in in Vitamin A, C, Selenium (antioxidant), Chromium (important to metabolize fats and carbs).

For those of you who are ready to go, happy Ramp huntin’! Maybe we’ll see ya out there!

Posted in Bread, Rolls & Such, Food Facts, The Hungry Hen

Not All Flours Are Created Equal

 

Below, there are different kinds of Flours. I didn’t list them all, just some basic ones that I think you will easily run across. There are other kinds, at Health & Specialty stores, but what I have listed can be found in most Grocery stores. I’m not going over every single flour out there, but these are some of the most common.

All Purpose Flour — (See, also, self-rising) This is the most common and cheapest of flours on the grocery store shelf. This seems to be the bad stuff our mothers are weary of. If it doesn’t say “Unbleached” then it has been bleached. Plus, chemically, stuff has been added. Not that “unbleached” can be considered the Ghandi of all flour. It still lacks the chemical warfare “bleached” has undergone.

Self-Rising — It’s basically bleached All Purpose flour (unless it says otherwise) with baking powder and salt. It’s an easier step when people want to skip a few ingredients. I’d rather add my own ingredients. *winks*

To make Self-Rising Flour if a recipe calls for it and if you don’t have it on hand, simply add 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. People worry about the “shelf-life” of self rising flour that is bought in the store. if it has sat for too long, it won’t rise as it should.

Unbleached Flour— This is usually an All Purpose flour lacking the bleaching process and the adding of chemicals. While it doesn’t have the wheat germ or bran, it does have a higher protein count when compared to the general All Purpose kind. In fact, when you bake with this one, as far as texture, there really isn’t that much of a difference from the flour we have become accustomed too. (If you want the bran and germ back in, you can always add it.) This flour will cost you a bit more but not so much it will break the bank.

Stone Ground Flour — Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, in a land that we have forgotten, all flour was ground by stone. What once started as a woman grinding away with a rock (I’m assuming here) ended up leading to bigger facilities called Grist Mills. The Grist Mills use bigger stones and a more efficient way of grinding down grain. This is probably the healthiest form of flour. It preserves the bran and germ, keeping all the vitamins and nutrition. Believe it or not, there are still a few Grist Mills standing and operating today.

Whole Wheat/Whole Grain — Has all the good stuff a grain should have although you want to be careful because now a days, flours are processed quickly, which means chemicals and such are sometimes added to it. Enriched Wheat — bad. So make sure it is whole grain/ whole wheat. The texture is slightly grainier and if you are using it in place of a recipe that calls for regular flour, expect the batter to be thicker.

Soy Flour – a Flour made from roasted soybeans. (Gluten Free)

Almond Flour – A Flour made from Almonds. (Gluten Free). The Almonds have the skins removed and are blanched before grinding. Almond MEAL is a flour made of ground almonds with the skin ON.

Posted in Bread, Rolls & Such, Food Facts, From Scratch, The Hungry Hen

A Few Facts about Bread

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I’m going to keep these as straight to the point as possible. Meaning, I will try my best not to pull out my predictable Southern habit and ramble. Because I’m going to keep it as simple as can be, I’ll throw links at the bottom to other websites who have done some very impressive research — full detail research— if you want to do your own.

We live in a world where our food is basically fashioned for convenience. No one has the time or patience anymore and the companies that make our food have tapped into a cash crop because of it. The problem is, though, the basics of a meal — natural preservatives and such— have been tossed right out of the window. Bread is a perfect example of this. A basic bread recipe should consist of these few ingredients: For those who love bread and can eat it, enjoy. I can’t have it – cursed with an allergy to wheat—but I make it for my family which means, I wanna always dissect the information.

Flour, Yeast, Salt, Egg and a Fat.

This is all you need to make bread. If only the store-brands stuck to that recipe. Unfortunately, not only are those ingredients corrupted by the way they are processed BEFORE they reach the bakery-end,  but if you buy a plastic bag of bread, a lot more has been added for a whole list of not-so-great reasons.

Fresh Baked Bread

Even if you go to a bakery, most of the time, the breads there are just as unhealthy as the ones wrapped in plastic. They are not, made from scratch, but rather from prepackaged bread mixes. This is particularly true when it comes to “chain” bakeries that are located in many department stores.

Healthy Prepackaged Breads

Breads in plastic that claim to be healthy are not really healthy. If you see enriched wheat or flour of any kind then raise the red flag.

The Ingredient List

These are some of most common ingredients found in breads wrapped in plastic. dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium stearoyl-2-lactylate, mono- and diglycerides, calcium peroxide, calcium iodate, DATEM, ethoxylated mono- and diglycerides, azodicarbonamide. Links are at the bottom, which will give the depressing details. Can you say, yuck?

The Gluten Man

The man who claimed Gluten was bad, may have made a mistake. Personally, I am living proof that he didn’t but since they shove wheat into everything – from candy to even dressings – how would one really know. Even if you set out to have it in moderations, thanks to everything on the shelves, whether you meant to or not, by the end of the day, you will be well beyond your daily portion limits. Wheat is in everything – from seasonings to MSG!

.
Gluten Intolerance May Not Exist – Forbes
Gluten Sensitivity And Study Replication – Business Insider

 

Summing up….

We do this as a society, constantly, you know. We scream one thing is bad, a new product is made to replace it, we all run to the stores and shovel it into our mouths and then years later, we say, “Whoops, that may not have been bad after all.”

Butter is a perfect example.

It was replaced by Margarine. We’ve done it with Eggs, Milk, Fat (the birth of Fat Free) and God knows what else. Is it possible we are doing it with bread? Is it possible that if the problems with the main ingredients can be corrected — Flour (use a whole grain, correct the funky lab-created strain of wheat that is causing such a fuss,  and ditch the bleached bag of crap), Salt (one that hasn’t been stripped or processed to hell and back), Yeast and a honest to god, real and true fat (that hasn’t been made by whatever poison they are shoveling)— would it then be possible for us to actually have some – BREAD— with the recommended serving? Could we have a sandwich at lunch again?

Wheat Belly—Beer Belly, some of us just. can. not. stomach. bread. Its creating a universe of problems that are not just limited to obesity. But for those who do eat it, who can eat it, who will refuse to do anything but eat it, hopefully these facts start you off on your own field of research. And, of course, as days go on, I’ll have more information and bread recipes.

Links for further reading . . .

http://realfoodforager.com/why-i-never-eat-commercial-bread/

http://www.livestrong.com/slideshow/1011109-10-ingredients-always-avoid-bread-plus-7-bread-brands-bets/#slide=2

http://naturallysavvy.com/eat/scary-ingredients-used-in-bread-manufacturing

Posted in Food Facts, The Healthy Hen

The Lo’ Down on Honey

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More and more people are getting back to the basics. Some have resorted to changing up ingredients, such as Sugar to Raw Honey while others are actually growing or raising their own of all sorts of goods— honey, eggs, milk, and meat. Whatever the choice or how far someone is willing to go, I think we can all agree on the reason— health. People are fed up and no longer trust where our commercial food comes from. Other folks are just getting picky as to what they put into their bodies. They don’t trust certain processed foods such as sugar.

 

Here are some interesting facts about Honey. I gathered them up from a pamphlet called, Honey Acres *Beekeeper’s Best*, and I hope you find them useful.

 

First off, let’s break down what Honey is. All Natural Honey is made of two key ingredients called fructose and glucose. Glucose is all about energy. Fructose is all about that very original flavor Honey can lay claim to all on its own. There are also minerals, vitamins and other enzymes that can be found in this delicious nectar considered worthy of the Gods.

 

Types of Honey (this means, what those little bees ate to make it):

Ever hear that saying, “The darker the berry, the sweeter the juice?” Well, the same can kind of be said for honey, except, “The Darker the Honey, the stronger the flavor.” That’s a good thing to keep in mind when you’re choosing.

Buckwheat — Honey that is very dark, reddish brown. It is strong in flavor but actually considered to be one of the healthiest.

Brasswood — They say that this is the perfect honey for tea. It is light and mild but don’t let that fool you. It also has a very distinct flavor.

Orange Blossom— Amber, light with a hint of citrus. If you dig honey on hot rolls or biscuits, then grab a jar of this.

Wildflower — Hearty and full of flavor.

Clover — Great for ice cream and cereals, a light and mild flavor.

 

They say if you suffer from allergies then take honey made from your area.

 

 

Keep honey is a dark, dry place. No moisture. If your honey starts to get a white grainy film in it, like sugar, then that means moisture got in. Don’t worry, though. If this happens, just heat it up by sticking the jar in water. Don’t bring it to a boil, though. Just slowly and lightly heat the sugary stuff away. And don’t become depressed if this happens. It’s actually a good sign—means the Honey you have is pure.

Honey has more calories than Sugar BUT don’t panic— it’s sweeter so you end up using less.

 

How to convert sugar to Honey in a recipe— generally, to every cup of sugar, you will use 2/3 or 3/4 cups of Honey— depending on your sweet tooth. When using honey, though, reduce the baking temps by 25 degrees.