Kids and meat

It’s been a busy year: baby 3 was born in November so we had trouble doing much in the garden or with the chickens. I haven’t eaten a single bird that I raised all year, I think, though we have been given a few. As a consequence we have bought a few chickens from the shop.
Today, while we were shopping, I told Miss 5 about a chicken in pastry dish I’m going to make this week since we were buying the ingredients at the time. “chicken?” She asks: “can I have the heart and liver?” I explained that the ones from the shop have had them taken out already. “where do they go?” She asks. I tell her it’s probably pet food. She’s a bit crestfallen. “can you kill a chicken so that I can eat its heart and liver?” is her response.
Cut to tonight: she’s enjoying a stew I made. She comments on how soft it is: I tell her it’s because it’s made of pork neck and hock, pointing out the corresponding parts of my own body. I tell her that the hock is what makes it feel good to eat: “tendons” she says, knowingly. We go on to discuss the cuts of meat, and she pokes around my neck to feel where the pork cut comes from.
I feel like this is what cooking and eating meat is about: knowing where cuts come from, why they’re different, which are fattier, leaner, tougher, or have more tendon. And being in touch with the offal is good too. When I was a kid I was shocked when I learned that meat comes from animals. My 5 year old knows that she and I are made of it! I guess that I’ll have to start showing Mr 2 all of this soon, but it will be easier with him: I’ll have Miss 5 to help him learn.

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An early start to curing

Last year’s bresaola was sufficiently successful that I was determined to get an early start to curing this year.

First to be finished is a pork belly. I did a half salt, half sugar cure with instacure #2, black pepper and garlic powder for two weeks in the fridge, changing the cure half way through. This was a cure-in-the-bag arrangement, so it started dry and became wet with the extracted moisture.

This was followed by two months under the house wrapped in muslin. The finished product was inedibly salty but a day in fresh water fixes that. I think the extra salt was probably what let me get away with curing while the temperatures were a bit too high.

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The finished product! Now that it’s winter we’re not getting any eggs from our hens, so it’s nice to have something else home made on the plate.

Note that this is not a “how to cure”. I don’t have enough experience to help someone else do this: it’s just a record of my own experiments. If you intend to cure at home, I’d recommend getting a good book or doing a lot of googling.

Autumn 2014

It’s autumn again; almost winter. New baby is 6 months. We lost a cat to a snake bite but we have a new cat now. All of the summer veg is out and winter crops are in, hopefully not too late to germinate.

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The basil is under a makeshift cloche: Jerusalem artichoke stems tied together to make a frame, with a plastic bag over them.

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This is the kids genuinely helping to harvest said artichokes! Miss 5 even helped to scrub them.

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In another bed, we have silver beet and rainbow chard just starting again, self seeded from last year’s crop. Silver beet is our most reliable winter veg, but it’s hard to get the kids to eat it.

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Miss 5 gave me a sticker for my hard work.

A poem to read your kids in spring

We’ve been reading poems to our kids at bedtime for a while. Every now and again we try to add one. This season being spring, we’ve added Wordsworth’s I wandered lonely as a cloud. I get my Wordsworth from: http://www.rc.umd.edu/rchs/rime/wwdaff.html

Poets being the bleak bastards that they are, winter is a much easier season to find poetry for. We do Frost’s stopping by woods on a snowy evening, Teasdale’s winter stars, and Hardy’s Darkling thrush. But with the weather warming up its nice to add something a bit brighter to the mix.

Feeding the kids

It’s always hard getting home grown chicken into my kids. It’s usually tougher and stronger flavored than shop chicken. Also, it’s easy to overcook the breast and then it becomes very dry. On the basis that no-one has studied kids’ tastes as much as the red-haired clown, I decided that the breasts of the four boys we were given on the weekend would be chicken nuggets.

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I chopped the breasts finely, and mixed in tarragon, garlic, egg and a little flour. Then in went a bit of cheese and corn. The coating was ground up crackers and desiccated coconut. I formed them into little balls, and coated and flattened them.

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Voila! Both kids finished theirs all up! You see dessert in the background: it’s a brioche with blueberries poked in. It also worked it pretty well:

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Here’s hoping that full bellies make for a long sleep!

Mulberry cuttings

Ever since friends had their engagement party at a park near some white mulberry trees, I have been keen to go back and get some cuttings. That was years ago: this week I managed to get the cuttings!

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The black mulberries are also great apart from their fruit making just about the worst stains!

I have them in some willow tea. Apparently willow steeped overnight in hot water will make a diy rooting hormone. The kids and I collected a few handfuls from a nearby creek and cooked it up the day before we took cuttings.

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I haven’t ever had much luck with cuttings, but we’ll see how this goes. I’ll post the progress.

Broad bean and broccoli progress

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The broad beans actually have beans on them! This is the prize bean, a whopper in miss 4’s lexicon.

The broccoli is coming along too:

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I don’t think we’re growing it at the right time of year, but we’ll see how it goes.

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