Thursday, May 16, 2013

I fell of the edge...

It's been a long few weeks.

Right after I last posted, I was inundated with traffic plan work (good, but tiring), as well as having to do a major dye run to prepare for not one, but three fiber shows in less than 30 days.

I didn't do much other than work and dye (die?). Because the traffic plans are done at the computer, the last thing I wanted to do was to  sit at the computer and blog. Sorry...

In the interim, I've been to 3 shows - 1 very good, 1 so-so, and 1 outstanding. Check out Fiber Voodoo for the complete recap.

I've also traded spinning wheels around - I sold the Country Craftsman (which I still love, but don't need too big, fast wheels), to buy this beauty:
 It's a Canadian, tilt-tension production wheel. Presumably made by one of the Vezinas (there are 2 or 3), and while it has some alignment issues, spins very, very fast. I have met my match! With the Ashford in the picture, you can get a sense of the scale. The drive wheel is 29" diameter.

I've also tried and failed to hatch turkey eggs in an incubator. It's hard to get anything better than a 70% hatch rate, and because I had to hold some of them almost a week before putting them in, and having to take the incubator to a friends when I was out of town (it needed water about every 2-3 days), I wasn't surprised. However, 2 of my 3 turkey hens are sitting on a communal nest, and are close to hatching peeps (if they can manage better than I did). I'll be sure to update that soon.

I'm in a photography class, and we have to do homework before this week's session. I went around yesterday with it on auto and took some cool pictures of Mr. Big's feathers and the pavo real (Peacock in Spanish - it means royal turkey).
Sunlight iridescence - lovely!

He is royalty!

The back-stage view

Tang is doing well, had a little gas the other day, which after last winter's ordeal, I'm a little hyper about, so she got slop with peppermint, and she's fine. I think she got some hay that was a little higher fiber than some in the bale pile. You all know what high-fiber foods do...

I've also added some new stock - a trio of satin rabbits. The copper doe kindled on Mother's day - 7 vigorous kits. She's being a good mom, and protective. The chocolate doe is due on the 21st, so the nest box will go in on Saturday, just to make sure. The buck is a broken Siamese, and looks kind of like a clouded leopard on his back - he's young, so will be ready for the girls in about a month. I won't breed them back that quickly - there's only so much rabbit one can eat! I make killer rabbit tacos - I can't wait!

Leigh emailed me, asking what the baking progress has been. With work and shows, I really haven't been baking at all. However, I'm hoping to very soon. I will post a recipe blog when I get my sandwich bread dialed in. Interestingly, I have psyllium husk on hand - I give psyllium powder to Tang for sand accumulation. I'm just going to use that. I can tell you that it makes her slop (soaked timothy hay pellets) very slimy, so it should work really well to help replace gluten in bread.

Because I love her, here's a candid shot of Tang, licking her salt block - her tongue is very wide...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Baking and Birds

I have been slowly progressing toward a wheat-free existence. This week, I will remove all wheat pasta, flour and wheat containing packaged food that's been hibernating in my pantry, which will remove a big temptation.

I've had successes in baking, one thing that I'm very fond of. Last month, for a spinning get-together, I made a pumpkin spice cake, substituting GF flour for the regular. It was a hit. I was stoked - I can DO this!!

So with the addition of GF pasta, life was swimming along, with an occasional lapse, until yesterday, when I attempted to make GF red velvet cupcakes for the next spinning gathering. The first recipe was an actual Red Velvet recipe, and encouraged by my previous substitution success, just made it with GF flour.

They fell, the stuck to the wrappers, and after addition of additional flour and oiling the wrappers, they tasted funny (like the food coloring, of which you use a lot). Knowing that I would/should not eat 4 dozen substandard mini-cupcakes, I took them to the birds.

The chickens weren't too sure about these red things flying into their pen, until I cracked them open.

The turkeys weren't as shy (Mr. Big was "protecting" his girls from the flying red missiles).

The peafowl were interested, with the peacock taking the opportunity to "impress" the hens.

Back to the drawing board. I searched out a GF recipe and settled on a white cupcake recipe that I modified by adding cocoa and red food coloring. The were topped with cream cheese icing.


Success!! They are a bit dry, but I will tweak them further by adding a little more moisture and more cocoa to boost the chocolate flavor (it was very subtle). I only came home with 2, which were last night's desert.

The local weaver's guild meeting is Wednesday, and I'm one of the hostesses. I'll be bringing another load of these to the meeting, with the addition of little flat heart candies on the top.

I need to work on a good bread recipe - I have "The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread," but a lot of her recipes use bean flour, which I'm sure works, but I'm a little leery of it, because, well,  you know what beans do... I'd rather my bread didn't do that. The addition of soaked psyllium husks or chia or flax seeds produces a "slime" that helps with replacing the gluten's action in breads - I'll try that first.

Happy Valentines Day!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My Stock pile has gone up!

Yesterday, I canned turkey stock.

You may remember from my previous post that I had started it using butter, onions, roasted garlic, celery seed (I don't like Celery), and a bit of Poultry Seasoning.

I ended up simmering the stock for 36 hours, topping up the water twice. I also had returned the roasting pan to the oven, and put the resulting brown wonderfulness into the stock too. So, I needed to cool it quickly, as I had somewhere to go, and I needed to skim off the fat.

Hmmm... What to do?

I started in the sink, but there wasn't enough water surrounding the pot to absorb enough heat. But, hey - I have a bathtub! So I put the stock pot in the bath tub and filled it with cold water. In less than 20 minutes it was cool. Since I don't have enough room in the fridge for a big pot like that, I hit on the idea of using Mother Nature's deep freeze.

The ever-useful empty protein tub was pressed into service again - I put in some snow, put in the pot, packed snow around it, packed snow around the outside of the tub, and then inverted a small canner lid over the pot, and filled it with snow, too.

Because life happens, I didn't get to canning until yesterday, but the stock was still in the "safe" temperature zone, in spite of our warming trend (almost 50 degrees yesterday!).

After skimming the stock, I put it into a ginormous canner that was my mom's, and added the frozen stock from the Thanksgiving Turkey. It took awhile for the stock "ice" cubes to melt, but when they did, and I had a nice simmer going, I started up the pressure canner and started filling jars.

My canner will hold 7 quarts or 14 pints at a time. I chose to can quarts, as I use stock frequently for soup base, and a pint just isn't enough! It's been awhile since I used the canner, so in preparation, I had the local Extension Service check the gauge - it was right on. I also had to call a friend (Belinda, who got me started on pressure canning several years ago) to be reminded what to do next!

The process was interrupted by a meeting, so when the first batch was done, I just turned it off, and left the stock in the big canner on simmer. I came home and by 10:30 I was done with 12 more quarts.

My total was 19 1/2 quarts. There is one pint in the fridge that I'll use for rice or quinoa.

I'm feeling very secure in my larder right now, and this stuff is awesome. It's very rich, both in color and in flavor. I'm a firm believer in roasting bones before making stock, now. I think the amount of fat also affected the flavor, though it was completely skimmed before canning.

I still have 6 quarts of "proto-stock" - canned bones and chicken wings from several years ago, that I was using until now. It's good to have back up...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Great White Turkey harvest (warning somewhat graphic)



The great white hoovers are gone. I had been procrastinating doing the deed (it's not my favorite thing to do), but when I realized that I was just not doing it, I called my friend Sue, and made an appointment for her to come help. She had offered, and I was just being a wimp and putting it off.

So Friday, in the midst of a cold, very windy day, I found a semi-sheltered spot for us, and when Sue arrived, we chatted a bit, and got to work. I had set up the slaughtering spot in the lee of my shed, using the dog kennel gate frame to hang them from. A trashcan with bag and old ashes (to absorb the blood), was placed under the hanging area.

We started with the hen. I carried her up, and while she seemed big, she wasn't huge. I had cut a corner off of a feed sack and put her in that with her head sticking out. Her legs were then tied together, and we hung her up. The feed sack helps keep the flailing to a minimum. I held her head down so that she drained appropriately, and then we cut her down.

Since it was not my intention to pluck them (they are destined for sausage and ground meat), I was going to use my tried and true chicken method - cut them down the backbone with ratcheting pruners, scoop out the guts, and then skin them. Unfortunately, I couldn't even find the backbone through the feathers and fat, so had to partially skin her first, and then the pruners weren't up to the job on an 8 month old, double-breasted bird. What to do...

My face lit up, and I told Sue, "I have a battery-operated sawz-all!" She looked at me like I was nuts, but I gathered up the battery and attached it to the saw, and buzzinga - the backbone was toast. More power, arr, arr, arr!

We proceeded to remove all the parts I wasn't saving, and finished skinning her out, removing the wing tips and feet, and placed her in a clean, cattle protein tub full of cold water. The heart and liver were cleaned (bile sac removed, and heart chambers cleared of blood), put in a baggie, which joined the carcass in the tub.

Did I mention that it was cold? It was about 27, but with the wind, even out of it, it felt about 15. I had popsicle toes! 

We decided to get the tom and dispatch him and leave him to hang before we went inside for a break (and lunch). Neither of us wanted to carry him - he was huge... So we walked him up to the gallows, stopping to let him catch his breath, and since he wouldn't fit in a feed sack, tried to truss him up to minimize the flapping. It took both of us to heave him into place, so I could cut his throat. 

Unfortunately, my trussing job didn't work, and I was soundly beat around the head and shoulders for my efforts. The noise and movement even had Tang running around!

After a nice couple of cups of tea and left-over frittata, we went back to work. Somehow, it took less time with him - partially because both of us worked on skinning him, and partially because I used the saw more to disjoint the pieces that were being discarded. His neck was 3" around at the base... I used the saw. 

The reason he kept having to stop to breathe? He had 1" of sub-q fat. What a surprise! His liver was not the nice, deep red one associates with a healthy liver, having a brown cast, with some seemingly solid areas, so it was discarded (there was no evidence of any other abnormalities) and off he went to join the hen in the tub.

During this entire operation, there was much gallows humor, with the most memorable (at least to me) being, "Don't mess with farm girls - we know how to take you apart!" Lyra was very happy to try to clean up the red-snow popsicles - to the point of being annoying all evening, wanting to go out to sample... 

Yesterday afternoon, I went to get them out of the tub to begin the boning process, and, wonder of wonders in 27 degree weather, they were stuck to the sides! I brought the tub (sans water) into the house so that I could thaw it a bit, and begin.

It took 2 hours to get all the meat off of them. I weighed the carcasses before I began and the hen weighed around 21 lbs; the tom was about 38. My scale sucks, and since they were skinned, there was some additional weight loss there, too. After the first drumstick, I decided not to bone out the legs - saving them to cook later.

I ended up with a total of 37.736 lbs. of meat, of which 5.706 lbs. was the legs, leaving 32.03 lbs. of boneless turkey.

My chest freezer is now back to full status...

I roasted the bones last night, and this morning pulled them apart to become stock. In the bottom of a 16 qt. stock pot, I saut├ęd 1 onion, 8 +/- cloves of roasted garlic, a shake of celery seed and about 2 t. of poultry seasoning in 2 T. of butter. When it was beginning to develop a fond (the brown goodness on the bottom of the pan), I added in the bones, 8 chopped carrots and enough water to cover. I returned the roasting pan to the oven for about 35 minutes to develop the drippings, from which I'll either make gravy, or add it to the stock for flavor. The Tom's keel (breastbone) wouldn't fit, so it's in the freezer for the future.

The stock is now bubbling merrily away on the stove, where it will remain for most of the day. The weather is warmer today, with the temps predicted to reach 40, so tonight, I'll pack the stock pot in snow when the temps drop below freezing to quick cool it.

I have canned stock in the past - with 2 freezers, I'm freezing it in quart freezer bags, with 5-6 cups in each. 

I'm now on the hunt for some good sausage recipes, and Sue has agreed to smoke some in exchange for some of the finished product. She's so interested that she's providing me with links (no pun intended) to recipes online!.

Lest you think this was a light-hearted lark, I do slaughter my animals with a great deal of respect and thankfulness for their sacrifice. Prayers are said. I remember them every time I partake of their bodies. I laugh at the memories of their silly antics (with turkeys, there are many). While there will be more turkeys in my future, these two will have a special place in my memories...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

This is my 100th post - How did that happen?

So, in the midst of the coldest weather this season so far, and getting up to no hot water (it's fixed), I contemplated my goals for 2013.

Not to over-exert myself or anything, I decided to ride my horse. I borrowed this from Michelle, who has a tradition of getting on her horse on New Year's Day.

I got Tang tacked up (the throat latch won't buckle because she's too wooly), and used the Passier, which I haven't used in awhile. It's a 1964 model, rather venerable, and slick. I was stuck in the phase where I needed to feel secure, and the Toulouse, being synthetic suede and a deeper seat, seemed to be the ticket. However, I've noticed that she doesn't move as well under saddle as at liberty, and thought I should try the Passier again.

I love this saddle. It's just so comfortable, and it fits Tang perfectly. The panels are very flat, needing to be reflocked, but that's what makes it fit her - her back is like a picnic table.

So, much to Tang's amusement (so long as there were cookies in the offing), we went for a ride around the front field.

 So, since I was riding, I made her do things - like turns on the forehand, which she did both directions. She doesn't do turns on the haunches very well, and while being in the snow probably might have helped, I decided not to push it.

 Tang's pretty much done with this silliness... I was too, by this point. What you can't see, even though it's very sunny and looks warm, is that the wind is blowing, and with the windchill, it's about 10 degrees.

So, one goal has been met. It's good to have achievable goals. My next one is to get the Fiber Room fit for habitation and use. And then I'm going to work on getting the travel trailer turned into the Dye Shed! Oh, and get some work done...