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Whew. We have had a busy, productive, and rewarding summer here on the farm! Between farmer’s markets, meat chicken processing, hatching three rounds of baby chickens, processing another pig, and growing a whole lot of food we haven’t made our website and podcast a priority, but we are getting back around to it, promise.

Anyways, we’ve been so busy that “Living the Country Life” magazine decided to write a little story about Callywood Farms! The story is featured on their website and we invite you to hop on over and take a read! Of course, Farm Baby steals the show with her prize beet harvest. Check it out here. Thank you to the magazine and Anna for thinking we are worthy of inclusion on their great website!

Here’s the story – http://www.livingthecountrylife.com/becoming-farmers

Also, if you happen to be an Instagram user, we are too! We post very regularly on Instagram and welcome you to join us as we continue to tell our tale in pictures. Search for us @callywoodfarms or look to the right towards the bottom of the website and you will find our Instagram link there too!

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Homemade Chicken Stock

Chicken stock. The backbone of a delicious and nutritious kitchen. Chicken stock is the reason that chicken soup is given to those who are sick.  Chicken stock is not only a great healing food, it is incredible nutritious, has versatile uses in the kitchen, and making your own is a fantastically frugal and easy option. Skip the boxes and cans, this is the real deal.

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I want to explain a few parts of the recipe you will find below…

About the chicken part: While you can definitely use just the carcass (as opposed to boiling a whole chicken first and then stripping the meat off for meals), I get a better stock when I use 2 or even 3 carcasses. Sometimes, I use just one. It still makes a great light chicken stock, which is a perfect base for soup or risotto, so if you only have one, go for it! Add whatever parts you have: neck, gizzards (save livers for pate or another use because they are so good!), and feet. I’ll talk about the feet in a minute.

If you have an old chicken (stew hen), this is a great use for an old bird. As pictured, I used a stew hen here.  From time to time, as nature calls for, our older laying hens move on from the flock and serve yet another amazing purpose. What I will often do is boil the bird until tender, then remove and pick all the meat off and make something with the meat like pot pie or enchiladas. I reserve the leftover liquid for “cooking liquid” (which I use to cook grains or beans and in a pinch can sub for regular stock) and then put the carcass back in the pot with fresh filtered water for our amazing stock. Double score!

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Let’s talk feet. Chicken feet. Now I know some cultures eat the feet and many have tried it before. And I might one day, but that day is not today. Instead I use the feet in the stock. The feet are loaded with gelatin. Gelatin has been shown to help digestion and contains healing properties for our stomachs. Many resources say to blanch the feet, but I just throw mine in au natural. If you want to learn more, check out this website.

The next weird thing on my ingredient list, “random vegetables peelings.” Often I don’t even put onion, carrots or celery in and just use random vegetable peelings. I keep a bag in the freezer marked for this and fill it with onion ends and peels, carrot ends and peelings, celery ends and insides, potato peelings, herb stalks, etc. The only thing you want to stay away from is cruciferous vegetables or vegetables from the brassicas family (broccoli, cabbage, etc.).

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Okay last explanation. Why 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, and why do you let it sit for an  hour before bringing to a boil? Great questions. Letting the bones sit in slightly acidic water before boiling helps bring vitamins and trace minerals contained in the bones out into the stock. If I have the time and the forethought, I always do this, if not, I just turn the burner right on!

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Ingredients:

  • A chicken carcass or stew hen including neck, gizzards, and feet, preferably from a pastured chicken
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar (bragg’s)
  • 1 onion
  • Celery (I use the middle pieces and outer pieces that you don’t use otherwise)
  • Carrots (about 3)
  • Random vegetable peelings (as explained above)
  • Filtered water, fill up pot so that the bones and vegetables are firmly covered in water
  • 1 tspn. sea salt
  • Optional: Black peppercorns (1TB), Bay leaves (2), Herbs (parsley stalks, thyme, rosemary all work well)

Directions:

  1. Fill a large pot with everything listed. Let it sit for about 1 hour.
  2. Turn heat up to high and let it come to a boil. Once it does, turn it down as low as possible. You want a big bubble to surface every few seconds. Low and slow, baby.
  3. Simmer for 12-24 hours.
  4. When 24 hours is up, strain through a fine mesh sieve and place into glass jars/containers and freeze or refrigerate.

 

Getting the most out of your chicken.

Today was the first pickup for our pastured meat chickens. Hopefully, we will have a podcast out soon with details on the day, but I wanted to share a post for our customers who have one or a couple tasty chickens in their freezer and may not know exactly what to do with a whole chicken (or for others who maybe want to spice up their dinner routine!).

It’s a reality these days that a whole chicken is a daunting task in the kitchen. We have become used to the convenience of packaged, parceled out chicken. And that can be great! However, it is also costly for families, especially if you are looking for humanely raised, pastured, or organic chicken!  So I thought I would share my routine and a couple recipes that we have come to love!

My routine:  I usually use one of the whole chicken recipes listed below. Sometimes I venture out and try something different, and I included some of those ideas as well. If you stick to the basic recipes (or even Jamie’s Chicken in Milk recipe), depending on the group you are feeding, you might have some chicken meat leftover to use in another meal! If so, I shred/chop it up and freeze in 2 cup portions. This is the time to dig deep into the chicken. There is some great meat in the neck/backbone area and let’s be real, you want to get every piece of meat when you are paying good money for top quality pastured chicken! Just like your store bought rotisserie chicken, this leftover meat can be used for endless recipes (also listed below).

After cooking and picking off all the meat, I usually stick all the leftover bones and carcass, plus the neck and feet, into a freezer bag until I’m ready to make stock. So stay tuned, I am going to put up a post later this week about how I make yummy and super-useful stock and some more resources for that!

If you don’t want to use the whole chicken because your favorite recipe calls for leg quarters or bone-in breasts or whatever, here are two tutorials for breaking down and cutting up your chicken that have been helpful:

Alton Brown on Good Eats.

Melissa Clark from NYT.

Recipes

Basic Whole Chicken

Something a little different:

Leftover Chicken Meat Meal Ideas:

  • Chicken Pot Pie
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Chicken tacos (for a different taco recipe try this chicken tinga recipe)
  • Soup – Chicken Tortilla, chicken n dumplings, or the “throw everything in your fridge that’s about to go bad and add chicken” soup are a couple favorites!
  • Chicken “pockets” – Like a calzone, kinda. I use this yogurt dough and stuff it with endless things. Mediterranean (artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, feta, chicken), Spinach artichoke chicken, Indian Samosas (potatoes, peas, carrots, chicken, curry powder), etc.
  • Chicken salad – We don’t do a lot of chicken salad. It’s just not our thing, but some people love it, and leftover shredded chicken meat is ideal. One day, I’d love to try this recipe for Apricot Basil Chicken Salad.

We’d love to hear some of your favorite chicken recipes! And for our customers, we can’t wait to hear how our chicken turned out in your kitchen!

 

Callywood Pigs! (Part I)

Hey everyone, Farmer B here.  We are quickly approaching processing day for our first ever round of pigs here at the farm, so it seemed like a good a time as any to start back at the beginning or our little porcine experiment and fill you in on everything related to our foray into pork.

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One of our Ossabaw Island Hogs,                      3 months old

This first part of this hog history will focus on the rationale behind raising pigs here at Callywoods and the initial construction.  Part II will touch on the type of pigs we raise, Ossabaw Island Hogs, our daily routines, and what we have learned through the process.  Part III will get to the meat of the matter: processing, consumption, and looking into the future as we take our next steps into the second generation of Callywood pork production.

A couple years ago, after many discussions about our progression in livestock beyond our lovely egg-laying flock, we decided that raising pigs for meat was the best choice for us.  We originally thought it would be dairy goats, as we crave fresh, local milk, but several factors occurred to us that made us change direction towards the other white meat:

  • We don’t have much proper pasture land.  Yes, goats aren’t exactly grazers like cows or sheep, but it didn’t seem ideal to have goats living on dirt (ie, mud)
  • Goats are a handful, require substantial fencing, and daily (if not twice daily) milking when kept as regular dairy animals.  This livestock conversation coincided with the then pending arrival of Farm Baby, and the huge time commitment with dairy goats didn’t exactly seem to jive with our soon to be changing energy & sleep patterns
  • We had recently discovered a fantastic local source of raw milk in the neighborhood, Harmony Diary and no longer had as urgent a need of milk source.  (Sidenote: we are fortunate enough in SC to be able to legally buy raw milk from local sources, a “luxury” that not all states afford their citizens…more on that in a future post)
  • We love pork!  It’s probably our favorite meat:  pulled pork, grilled tenderloin, carnitas, homemade sausage, smoked bacon…

We selected the location on the farm for our pigs between two small creeks where a section of land was naturally bounded in creating a small peninsula that we affectionately call the “Pig Pen” for short.  Yep, that’s the kind of clever stuff that keeps us going around here.  I opted for electric fencing.  It has worked wonderfully.  More on the details of our adventure of “training” the pigs to the electric fence in the next part of this discussion, but suffice to say that after a very rocky start to pig fencing, we haven’t had a single issue of note.  Our pigs are happy and healthy in their electric enclosure.  I use a DC powered charger run off a deep cycle marine battery.  It lasts 3-4 weeks on a charge depending on how often the pigs decide to bury the lowest of the 4 lines in mud while rooting.

Fence Charger & Battery by creek

For housing, I utilized a tradition “pig ark” design that is more popular in Europe, especially in the UK.  A separate floor and roof section make for easy cleaning and somewhat easier moving when need be.

Arc & Base

The roof fits directly over the floor for a seamless pig house!

The roof fits directly over the floor for a seamless pig house!

This particular 6’x8′ design is said to be ideal for 3-4 adult hogs or a mother and her litter of piglets.  So far I have no reason to disagree with that.  Our 3 adult pigs have plenty of room in the ark with ample wiggle room.

Base in Arc Side view

I used heavy duty flashing for the roof material with waterproof screws/washers to keep things high and dry.  It’s not as ideal as galvanized or aluminum would have been, but that’s very difficult and expensive to have set to this specific of a curved roofline, so I did what we do best around the farm and improvised!

Waterproof stain on exterior wood surfaces

Here is the final look at the Pig Ark in its home in the Pig Pen, surrounded by the electric fence (notice how wonderfully low profile and aesthetically simple the electric fence is).  You can see one small creek in the foreground and can picture the other creek behind coming from the pond dam in the background.

Finished Arc in Yard

All that’s left is to supply our new pig home with little porkers!  Stay tuned for Part II in this discussion when we learn about Ossabaw Island Hogs, bring our new piglets home, see them promptly escape and then return after a very stressful week on the farm, learn about their routine, and even see the pigs teach their naive farmers a thing or two along the way.

Homemade Ricotta

I know I have mentioned this before, but if you didn’t know, we have easy access to raw milk. In SC, raw milk is legal to sell. We hadn’t even tasted raw milk prior to moving here. In CO, you had to buy a share (upwards of $150) of a farm and then buy a gallon (upwards of $10). I had read a lot about the tasty, nutritious, mysterious raw milk, but it had never passed my lips. A neighbor told us about a little family farm, really close to us, Harmony Dairy. I’ll have to do a post in the future, just so you can see pictures of where I go to buy my milk. It’s literally the farm your parents told you that “Rover” went to when he got too old. I get out of my jeep after going through multiple chained gates (free roaming animals are happy, but also dangerous for cars!) and pull up to a refrigerated cooler that says, “Drink Milk.” I put my $5 in a little tool box and grab my delicious raw, un-homogenized, full-fat, cream on the top milk. On my way out, I usually pet a calf or two, whisper to a pig of give a loving nudge to a dog or chicken. Are you in love yet?

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We aren’t big milk drinkers. My milk usually ends up fermented in some variety (yogurt or kefir), in a roux, and I use it in my coffee every morning. I usually get a gallon every two weeks. Except recently I’ve been buying more and more, ever since making homemade ricotta! I’ve never been a big ricotta fan. I mean I buy it once a year when I make lasagna and never think much of it. That has definitely changed.

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While it takes some time (not much though compared to any other cheese), it is definitely worth it. You have a few minutes while the milk heats. Go nuts. Me? I play with this beauty.

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I’m shameless. Sorry. I couldn’t let one post go by without a pic!

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I heat the milk with the acid (lemon juice) and the curds and whey separate and just before it erupts into a boil is when I shut off the heat. You can see the bubbles about to surface and the temp is around 200-205.

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And then the straining begins. It takes a little while for me as I only have this little sieve. Quadrupled lined with cheesecloth, it’s ready to go. I pour and drain and pour some more and drain some more.

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Almost there…

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You can stop the straining process when it looks and feels like ricotta to you. I like mine a little on the wet side. Then I liberally sprinkle with sea salt. And eat it. And occasionally it makes it into a beautiful dish like this one.

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Summer squash and ricotta galette. Divine.

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Or on a plate alongside crackers and fig jam for an elegant snack.

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Or on top of a plate full of pasta instead of parmesan for a rich, creamy addition. So, go ahead, make some ricotta. I promise you’ll find ways to use it!

Homemade Ricotta

Adapted from: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/06/how-to-make-ricotta-cheese-from-scratch.html

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk (DO NOT use ultra-pasteurized milk, which is basically any organic milk sold at the grocery store. It will not curdle, I learned this the hard way a long time ago! If you don’t have access to fresh milk, look in the store for a low-pasteurized alternative. For instance, I know Publix’s whole milk is low-pasteurized).
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (From 1-3 lemons. I had super juicy lemons and only needed 1.)
  • Optional: 1/2 cup heavy cream (you might need this addition if using whole milk from the store), salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large, heavy-bottom pot (dutch oven or cast iron is great here), add milk and lemon juice, stir briefly.
  2. Set heat to medium-low heat. Heat milk until it reaches 175 degrees at this setting. This take about 30-50 minutes.
  3. After it hits 175 degrees, raise the heat to medium-high and watch closely. You will see the curds begin to separate from the whey (pictured above) and the whole thing will look like it’s about to erupt into a rolling boil. Shut the heat off before this happens. Let it sit for a few minutes while you get the straining station set up.
  4. Over a large bowl, set your sieve and quadruple line it with cheesecloth. Pour the curds and whey into the bowl and let it drain. I keep adding liquid as it drains down. It takes me about three dumps. I get in there with a spatula (pictured above) and help the liquid get under the curds by lifting and folding with the spatula.
  5. Once it looks and feels like ricotta to you, it’s done! Again, I liberally sprinkle with sea salt, but do your to your taste preference. Yes, this means start eating it now.
  6. Keep in air-tight container in fridge for over a week.