Sunday, 23 December 2012

The last porky tales - part 6: Dem bones

Sorry poochies, I'm not wasting these bones on you! Roasted in the oven until brown, then into the stock pot they went. I made about 6-7 litres of good quality stock to use in soups and casseroles, and then "canned" it in the pressure canner. It will be happy on the shelf for a year at least. Not that it will last that long.

I've already used some for lunchtime pork and noodle Asian style soups - delicious.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The last porky tales - part 5: Liver for beginners

And that includes me, as I was a liver novice. However when confronted with 4kg of fresh liver you just have to dig in - or rather dig out your Hugh F-W Meat book or Pig in  Day DVD and get creative.

First I should point out that I got the liver and other offal on processing day (the day the piggies were "dispatched"), so the liver was super super fresh. One liver I vacuum-sealed and put in the freezer for later. The other I used to make pate and liver, bacon and onion.

Pate-in-pictures below, more or less following Hugh's recipe here. I used prosciutto rather than bacon as there was no decent streaky bacon to be had nearby.

And this is the liver, bacon and onion I made for Jerry. I can't say it will ever be my favourite dish, but it was quite tasty, and Jerry said it was the best liver "ever".
Thanks piggies!

Monday, 17 December 2012

The last porky tales - part 4: Use your head

Or in this case, their heads. Now don't go all "eeeewwwwwwwwww" on me. OK so it wasn't the nicest preparation job in the world, but if Hugh F-W can do it, so can I !

I soaked the heads (halved by the butcher) and assorted bits in a light brine solution for a few hours as per Hugh's method, then followed the recipe on his pig in a day DVD. I used the heads (minus most of the cheek meat which I saved for other things), tongues and the tails and a few assorted bones.  When the heads had cooled I then set about picking off all the meaty scraps, which was quite time consuming. Some meat I saved to use in Asian soups, and the rest went to make a few pits of brawn,

Because I didn't use the hocks or trotters  (saving them for baked beans) I did cheat a bit and add some leaf gelatin to the stock. Turned out pretty well I think,and it was rather tasty with some cucumber pickles on white bread.

There was a good few kilos of meat from the heads so well worth saving and using.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Now that's what I call a pork chop

Forequarter to be precise

Pickled radishes

As work plus uni plus a real need for soil improvement means that our garden will be limited this summer, we're getting our veg from a local organic CSA this season. This means that sometimes you get things you wouldn't normally grow or eat. Radishes are one of those things. After 2 weeks of radish bunches we had way more than we could use before they were beyond their 'use by' date. Fortunately I remembered reading a recipe for pickled radishes on David Leibowitz's excellent blog here Pickled Radishes | David Lebovitz.

And of course then I forgot about them in the back of the fridge. They were rediscovered today and we had our first taste....MAGIC! Crunchy and flavoursome, they will be brilliant on a cheese platter or plate of mixed nibbles. I highly recommend giving them a try next time radishes are in season where you live.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The last porky tales - part 3: In praise of fat and a varied diet

If I had to pin down just one thing about the taste of home grown pork that was a revelation, it would be the fat.

I should probably point out that we haven't eaten commercial pork for a number of years now, preferring to buy from an excellent free range producer nearby (King Valley Free Range - hi E!), so we were already eating pork that has amazing flavour. So to be honest I wasn't expecting there to be much (if any) noticeable difference with our own pork as long as we got it right in the cooking. I was wrong.

I can taste the difference, particularly in the fat. Honestly the fat is so tasty it's almost better than the meat. I think this is because as a home producer we had the luxury of being able to provide a more varied diet for our 2 piggies, including trailerloads of apples and chestnuts from a neighbour, plus a regular supply of vegetable scraps from the local green grocer. Not only did this help keep our food bills down and our piggies happy, but I think the diet has had a difference to the flavour - in the same way you can taste the difference between grass fed and grain fed beef, or between a home grown and a commercial chicken. It was interesting that the butcher was shocked at the size of our pigs compared to their litter mates (who were processed 4 weeks before) - and I put that down to their diet too. Granted they were a bit spoilt and probably got a bit more food than was strictly necessary, but as you can see from the previous porky tales post there is a very nice layer of fat, but it isn't excessive - there is still plenty of meat.

A few weeks ago in Bendigo we went to the fabulous Dispensary Enoteca, and Jerry had a pork belly entree (free range, rare breed). We both agreed that the fat had no flavour compared to ours. It was really interesting as before growing our own we would have said it was pretty tasty.

So with Christmas coming, and my experience that the only decent pastry I ever make involves lard, I decided to render some from our piggies. I saved some of the fat for barding (the butcher had scored it), but the rest went in batches into a low oven in my cast iron pot to render. It took a few hours each time, but I was left with several jars of lard, and then some pork scratchings (crispy skin). I've never been bad keen on them so they mostly went to the dogs.

When I was rendering the back fat for lard I swear it smelt like roasting toffee apples - but better. The smell was more enticing than a full roast dinner! When cold it went a beautify snowy white, and it still smells great.

Since then I've used the lard to make lardy cake, as well as make some mighty fine crispy roast potatoes to go with roast dinners.

I can't say I was overwhelmed with the lardy cake, but glad I have tried it once. I'll be saving the rest of the lard for pastry and potatoes!

Coming soon: getting my head around brawn and pate, plus making bone broth.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

The last porky tales, part 2

The suspense is over folks - here's part 2 of the last porky tales.

So, where were we? Butchering day (as in the day the butcher comes to create all those lovely chops, roasts and so on). It was a fairly long one for our excellent butcher - probably about 6 hours to do both pigs. We had a chat about what I wanted, with the assistance of Hugh F-W's meat book for illustration!

My goal was to use as much of the pig as possible. I admit though that I didn't go so far as to use the caul or stomach or some of the more creative innards - mostly doe to the time available as I had to be in Sydney 5 days later for a uni course. Plus I'd bought myself a home vacuum sealing machine so I was pretty busy this day and the next just packing and labelling meat, as well as making various bits and bobs.

I did however use or keep the livers (more on pate later), kidneys, hearts, heads, tongues (more on that later). But much of the day was spent lugging in tubs of meat from the butcher's mobile workshop and packing them.

  So what was the end tally? From 2 heritage piggies 7 months old we ended up with:
  • 18kg of forequarter chops - most the size of dinner plates and more than enough to feed 2 per chop
  • 23kg of loin chops
  • 6.5kg of rack of pork
  • 7.5kg of hand of pork
  • 11kg of belly
  • 8kg of leg steaks
  • 10kg of boneless mini leg roasts
  • 6kg of hocks
  • 600g of fillet
  • 3kg of American ribs
  • 6.5kg of mince
  • 17.5kg in leg roasts
  • 6.5kg rolled shoulder roasts
  • 2.8kg pork cheeks
  • 4kg liver
  • 600g hearts
  • Forgot to weigh the kidneys but probably about 1kg
  • 1.2 kg of meat from the heads
  • Bones (lots)
  • Trotters (forgot to weigh them - treat for the dogs)
  • About 10kg of fat that was either saved for barding, frozen, or rendered for lard (more on that later)
So all up about 135kg of meat plus the fat.  We did a quick back-of-envelope calculation and worked out this cost us about $12 per kilo (including buying the piglets, feed, and paying the butcher). I think that's outstanding value for free range heritage pork.

So if you're at our place in the next year you know what will be on the menu!

The only waste from 2 pigs was 1 garbage bin of innards (went on a neighbours fire), and about 1/2 of a green garbage bag of hair/skin/fat bits that weren't worth salvaging. I'm pretty happy with that.

Stay tuned for more editions of the porky tales, coming soon(ish)

Friday, 30 November 2012

Thanks CFA

A few good men (not being sexist, they were all men) came out in their trucks last night to do some fuel reduction burns for us in the paddocks. Hopefully this is the only time we will have flames and fire trucks so close to the house.


The guys were here for about 2.5 hours, and then poor things were back at 11pm cause someone called 000 and they were paged. But it was all fine. During the burn off there were 12 calls to 000 so it's nice to see that people driving by are on the alert.
The picture above is how it looked this morning. It's been a long night for deputy fireman Jerry who has been up every few hours during the night checking on the smouldering bits to make sure nothing flares up, particularly as the grass in our neighbours paddock is waist high. Hopefully there will be a bit more rain overnight to really put it all out so we don't have to call the guys back on Sunday (restrictions start Sunday night so everything has to be out by then).

See the fun you city kids miss out on?!


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Curing the garlic

I've harvested 185 heads of garlic so far, and there are another 15 or so still in the ground in various spots. As it is so hot here today I have them in the sun to start curing.

I think we will be vampire free for another year :-)


Friday, 9 November 2012

The last porky tales part 1

Gosh, it's been ages since I posted. Sorry about that - work and work and study are sapping more energy than I expected! Anyway before the summer session starts I thought I should update you on the final chapters of the porky tales.

In this post I'll talk about the butchering process, and there is a pictures of  meat hanging in a refrigerator. If the thought makes you squirm then I suggest you skip this post and move on to the next one where all you will see is chops, roasts and so on :-)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

It could have been worse...

About 7 weeks ago I became aware of a terrible smell in my office, which back on to the chimney. Basically it started to small horribly of creosote and I couldn't work in there (for 2 days as it ended up). So we let the fire go out (not fun when it's winter and less than 10 degrees during the day and in the 0 territory at night) and then got a chimney sweep out to do the chimney, thinking maybe it was blocked / dirty.

Only to find that the sweep doesn't actually sweep chimneys! "You'll have to do it yourself" he says. WTF?! Talk about false advertising - even after I clearly explained the situation and what I wanted on the phone. My favourite bit was when he said that he couldn't clean a real chimney because it was square and the brushes were round. Come on - has anyone actually ever fallen for that line?

Anyway, I've just about let it go, as you can see :-)

Next step was to get up on the roof to see if we could see anything obvious down the chimney - but we couldn't. So it was time for more drastic measures - and Jerry and friend pulled the fireplace out of the wall. This is what we found.
It seems the fireplace hadn't been properly set in the space, and with no flue the ash, debris and rain has been falling behind for 20+ years and had completely rusted the outer skin of the fireplace. We suspect some of this material caught fire and that caused the smell and us finding the problem. Phew! It really could have been much worse.

So the downside is that there's no fire. The very bright side is that I now had the excuse to do what I've always wanted to do - take the fireplace out, remove the wall and replace it with a freestanding stove with a cooktop! Yipeeeee  (although obviously very bad for the bank account!).

Lily tried hard to make the best of it in the few weeks before all this happened "think warm thoughts, think warm thoughts, there IS a fire"

Fortunately wall and chimney removal went well thanks to lots of hard work from Jerry and Dave. Although it was very, VERY dusty.
The roof has been patched, and the gaps filled in with new pine boards, that rather stand out, will should weather down and blend in over the next year or so.

Now to decide on a hearth covering. We've pretty much settled on the Lopi Endeavour as the new fireplace, although it won't be installed and ready to use until next winter. We're hoping for sales in the next few months to take a bit off the price tag!

Even better, Jerry managed to sell the old fireplace on ebay, which just about paid for the skip hire for the bricks.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Happy piggies

Love it when they smile for the camera. They must be enjoying their morning treat of vegetable scraps form the local greengrocer. Although I think the greengrocers have become attached to them (even though they have never seen them) as they often sneak in the odd treat like a perfectly good looking pumpkin, bananas, and even chestnuts.

Thursday, 28 June 2012


Honest we haven't eaten for hours.... (read: about 65 minutes since breakfast)

We'll even sing a squeely song about it........

Pavlov would be proud at how well we've conditioned our piggies to associate human with food. This is the kind of palaver we get every time we're near the fence, food or not :-)

Of course, we give in and give them a treat :-)

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

This one's for you Jason!

Jason's comment on the last post gave me the perfect opportunity to make another chart - and I didn't even pay him :-)

He asked how the 2011/12 season compared to last year - et voila! Last year we had about 261kg (of the things I counted), and this year is 189kg so far, but I did harvest at least 5 kilos of yacon on the weekend, and the oca is still in the ground. However, in spite of that I don't think we'll get too much closer to last year's harvest total. For those who are interested the 09/10 season total was 268kg (167kg accounted for by tomatoes!).

The main reasons this year's harvest is smaller, in no particular order
  • The birds ate most of the apple crop, which wasn't as abundant as last year on the main tree
  • I planted half the number of tomato plants - although interestingly they were almost as productive - I think this is due to the cages we used rather than traditional staking
  • The brambleberries had a significant haircut last year, and as they produce on last year's growth we knew we wouldn't' have many this year. Ditto redcurrants which I think were down due to over-zealous pruning
  • I was a pumpkin failure (again) this year
  • The damp summer wasn't good for the courgettes
However, the value of what we've grown this season is over $3,000 - which is a pretty satisfying saving all round!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Harvest tally update

So far at least 189kg of produce, which isn't too bad I guess. I don't count lemons, limes, herbs or leafy greens. Or eggs.

The water chestnuts were a big fail, only growing thumbnail size - very disappointing

I still have yacon, oca, cabbage, swedes, turnips, kale, collards, silverbeet, carrots, beets and cauli in the garden. Oh, and garlic - LOTS of garlic.

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