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Salt Pork

The piglets arrived in late June. They ate all our food scraps, lots of spent plants from the garden, grass and clover in their pasture, and some commercial pellets. During a harsh old spell when the overnight temps dropped close to 0* they enjoyed a can of cracked corn each and extra flakes of hay. Everything was late except the cold weather. I was concerned about Red and White staying warm, and that maybe there wouldn’t be enough fat for salt pork.

There was no need for concern. I made put up 36 pounds of salt pork today. It will sit at the bottom of the cellar stairs, hovering above freezing, for the next month. I’ll check it weekly to be sure it’s curing rather than spoiling.

salt pork

Uncured pork belly.

I wasn’t able to find the tons of information I expected on curing pork, specifically how to make salt pork, online. Turns out there’s not a lot to write about. It’s a simple process.

My pork belly was cut into slabs, vacuum packed and flash frozen by the butcher. I thawed the pork overnight in a cooler.

You’ll need a container for your pork. A crock is great. If you don’t have a crock you can use stainless steel, plastic or glass. Wash your container thoroughly.

Salt Pork Recipe

Cut 2.5 pounds of pork belly into slabs that are six to eight inches wide. Rinse each piece with cool water and dry well with paper towels.

For each 2.5 pounds, mix together:

10 oz Kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup white sugar

That’s it. This is very basic. Coat each piece of pork belly and stack them close together in your containers.

 

I put a 1/4″ layer of salt and sugar on the bottom of the container before placing the first pieces. Add more salt and sugar blend to the pieces to make up for any you lose when moving the fat. More salt than necessary isn’t better. You don’t want your salt pork to be so salty it’s hard to use.

salt pork, how to make salt pork

My container of salt pork is sitting at the entry of the cold cellar (they lead in from outdoors so it stays cold), on the cold side that hasn’t been blocked to keep the cold out. I’ll check it every few days, and I plan to let it cure for at least a month. When it’s done I’ll wash the salt off, dry the salt pork well, and vacuum pack it before placing it in the freezer. My cellar won’t stay cold

One of the first recipes I’ll use the salt pork in is Boston Baked Beans. They’re a traditional Saturday meal around here. I’ll slice the salt pork and place it on top of the beans. The pork will help the beans stay moist and the meat will be delicious. I’m also going to dice pork to fry pan fried potatoes and saute mixed greens.

There’s always a little concern about using fat. Moderation! Use a little, only what you need. Use the same caution with salt pork that you use with butter and all other fats. This fat is all natural real food. Enjoy!

[NeighborWoods] Pond in the Woods

Join us! Won’t you please join us in the homesteaders [NeighborWoods]?

[NeighborWoods] Neighbors in or out of the woods but always outdoors. Created by Robin’s Outdoors. Please leave a comment and include the link to your [NeighborWoods] blog.

We found this pond in the woods while we were exploring back roads. It was cool and damp out but still a nice day for a drive.

Pond, woods, [NeighborWoods]

Our Favorite Grouse Recipes

Our Favorite Grouse Recipes

After writing Seven Tips to Improve Your Grouse Hunt last week it’s time to share some of our favorite grouse recipes. Grouse, also known as partridge, cooks up quickly. The birds are small so one grouse feeds one or two people.

Grouse looks very much like chicken but is a little darker in color. It often tastes like the bird’s diet. We cooked two last year that tasted a lot like pine. It wasn’t very good when the meat finished cooking so I seasoned it heavily, added water and used it in fajitas. I’ve cooked two dozen grouse a year for 20 plus years, and that was the first time I found the flavor to be unpleasant. We don’t waste meat so we made it work.

If you missed any pellets in the meat while cleaning the bird you should be able to see and remove them easily before you start cooking.

Seasoned Grouse Meat

grouse recipes, partridge recipes

Sliced grouse breast

Lightly oil the fry pan and place the grouse so that a full side of each slice touches the pan. Sprinkle with taco or fajita seasoning. Turn heat onto medium high and cook until the meat starts to brown. Stir to turn the pieces and flatten them on the pan again. Cook two or three minutes more.

Variations:

  • add additional seasoning and water to create a sauce
  • add sliced onions and/or bell pepper at the beginning of cooking

You can use the seasoned meat in fajitas, grouse salad (like chicken salad) or on top of a leafy salad.

Grouse recipes

Seasoned grouse meat

Roast Grouse

One grouse per person, whole
1 tsp fresh thyme per grouse
2 slices bacon per grouse
salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper inside of a whole, washed grouse. Place on a baking sheet with breast side up. Cut bacon slices in half and place on top of the grouse. Bake at 350* for 20 minutes. The birds are small and wild birds cook quickly. This is excellent served with mashed potatoes and wild fall mushrooms or winter squash.

Grouse Caccitore

3 or 4 grouse breasts, halved
1 quart stewed tomatoes
1 tsp fresh or 2 tsp dried oregano
1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, any color, sliced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Turn to low heat and allow to cook eight hours. Serve with wild rice and a vegetable.

Grouse is a nice addition to a pot of baked beans. Place the deboned breast meat on top of the beans during the last hour of cooking.

Camp Fried Grouse

A lot like fried chicken, but better! This is a popular grouse recipe during bird camp. Bag limits determine how many grouse you can possess at one time so we usually eat what we shoot so we can keep hunting, and take home the birds we bag in the last two days.

3 grouse breasts (again, one bird equals one breast)
2 eggs, scrambled
2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Bacon fat

Warm the bacon fat in a cast iron pan. Dip breasts in eggs first then bread crumbs. Allow to sit in crumbs for two or three minutes. Shake off the excess crumbs and pan fry in bacon fat.

Seven Tips to Improve Your Grouse Hunt

Tips to Improve Your Grouse Hunt

Hunting was one of the most important skills homesteaders could have back in the day. Before factory and even small local farms were common, hunting was the most important means of putting meat on the table and in the larder. For many of us, it’s still very important. We have seven tips to improve your grouse hunt that you might find helpful.

When most hunters talk about “hunting season” they usually mean deer – whitetail, blacktail or mule (muley). While one deer can put a considerable amount of meat on the table, birds can do their share to fill the dinner plate. Grouse, also called partridge, is a popular upland game bird.

improve your grouse hunt

Ruffed Grouse

Grouse are tricky. The blend into the brown grass on the sides and middle of gravel roads. They stand in grass taller than they are and are often first spotted when they burst into the air and fly away. Hunting with dogs adds to the success rate but not everyone has a bird dog. There are ways you can improve your grouse hunt.

Suitable shotguns for grouse include 12, 16, 20 and 28 gauge. I started with a youth model (more  on that in a moment) 20-gauge and was quickly discouraged. My hit to miss ratio was pathetic. I needed to be closer to the birds than I could usually get before they flew into the trees. I now hunt grouse with a 12-gauge. I use 2 3/4″, No. 6 game shot.

A few things to do and remember before you get started: Safety first. You’ll probably have to take a hunter safety course before you can obtain a hunting license. Choose a gun you are comfortable carrying and shooting. Try as many guns as possible.If you are of slight build, try a youth model. They’re made for smaller people. Become a safe, accurate shooter. Practice often in a safe area. Rod & Gun and shooting clubs often make their facilities available for use. Hire an instructor if necessary.

These tips should help you improve your grouse hunt.

  1. Look for the brown that doesn’t belong. Grouse blend into dead grass and debris along roadsides. What doesn’t look quite right?
  2. Look in clover. Clover provides protein needed by grouse.
  3. In the early part of the hunting season, look for a second or third bird when you see the first. Later in the season they split up and you’ll usually see only one at a time.
  4. Grouse like mixed stands of trees. Evergreen/softwood and hardwood provide cover and food.
  5. Listen for rustling. Rustling in the dead, dry leaves often means a grouse is moving.
  6. Listen for “quit quit quit quit quit.” It’s the alarm call of a grouse.
  7. Most grouse (also called partridge) are shot within 100 feet. Without a dog to find and flush birds for you, you’ll want to watch the sides and center of gravel roads most often.
improve your grouse hunt

Grouse are often found on the edge of gravel roads.

One more thing to keep in mind. This is easily overlooked. States impose a “bag limit.” You may shoot a certain number of grouse per day. There’s also a “possession limit.” You might be able to shoot four grouse per day every day of the hunting season but be limited to having eight birds, for example.

Good aim and safe shooting!

 

How to Make Popcorn on the Stove

How to Make Popcorn on the Stove

Earlier sunsets lead to earlier evenings which lead to movie and game nights.

Do you flavor your popcorn in a certain way? We love a little homemade butter with grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. It’s our current favorite but it changes from time to time.

Our stainless steel stove top popper is built to last. The handles stay cool. The lid vents to let steam out to keep your popcorn tender and light.

how to make popcorn on the stove, popcorn popper, old fashioned popcorn

Old fashioned popcorn is the best!

Popping corn on the stove takes only a minute or two more than tossing a bag into the microwave. Stove top popcorn is healthy and tastes yummy, and it’s adaptable to the seasons. I’m thinking of trying one of the Pumpkin Pie spice recipes in last week’s newsletter.

Pour two tablespoons of oil (coconut or olive) into the popcorn popper.

Add 1/2 cup popcorn kernels to the oil.

Place the popper on a burner and turn the stove on to medium to medium-high heat. Stoves vary so much that there’s no absolute setting. From the time you turn the heat on until the last kernels pop should span about three minutes.  Start turning the handle as soon as you turn on the heat and don’t stop until the popping is finished. When more than six or seven seconds passes between pops your corn is done.

Powdered Ranch salad dressing is a great topping. A little goes a long way so one packet will last for at least two cups of unpopped popcorn. Look through your packets of seasoning. There might be a few you can use on popcorn. Taco or Fajita seasoning are great. Try a soup mix like French Onion, but sift out the solid onions first.

Cinnamon toast popcorn is an old time favorite. Mix cinnamon and sugar in a 50/50 blend and sprinkle over hot popcorn.

Back when we ate chips, Salt ‘n Vinegar was a favorite, and luckily it’s easy to make Salt ‘n Vinegar popcorn. Spray malt vinegar on popcorn and sprinkle with salt.

Chocolate popcorn, anyone? Melt semi-sweet or dark chocolate in a double boiler. Pour over popcorn and sprinkle with salt before the chocolate cools and sets.

Once you know how to make popcorn on the stove the possibilities are endless. What kind of popcorn do you like?

 

{this moment} Applesauce Apples

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

By the end of the day this week’s drops will be applesauce.

Applesauce apples

Future applesauce