Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Preserving Meat - Sausages

I love making sausages but haven't made too many for a long time as I haven't needed to. The only exception has been the couple of batches of Turkey Sausages I've made. The recipe I used for them was one that I adapted from a pork recipe in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. I would've liked to do one like this with our pork, but is was always a little tricky asking to get extra or new things done. I'll include my recipe below but there's a few things to remember when making fresh sausages.

  • aim for 20% fat ratio to meat
  • add seasonings before mincing the meat
  • when using the mincer, and add a little water if you need to get it to mince better
  • always sample a little bit first - this way you can adjust seasonings
  • use less salt and add more after tasting if you are concerned about the amount of salt

Test small samples for correct seasoning
My turkey sausages - before I learnt how to correctly twist them!

Turkey and Fennel Sausage (you could use pork or chicken for these)
  • 3kgs Turkey Meat
  • 500g Fat 
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds - toasted and ground
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
Cut the meat and fat up, mix the seasonings through and then mince. Fill the sausage skins. I like to leave my sausages for a day in the fridge before I package and freeze them.

The reason I mentioned above for not needing to make sausages often, was because our business Dawson Valley Freerange ensured that we had as many pork or beef sausages as we could want. We had three different butchers using the same recipe but they were all different and I think its all about the ratio of fat to meat. Each one probably had a different view or maybe because they used different type of salt. When measuring salt in a volume, be careful as all salts have different strengths and really should be measured in grams. Which is why I suggest to use less until you've done the taste test.

If you don't feel up to, or don't have the required equipment to making your own sausages, you could probably ask a butcher to make some up for you. They may require you to get a certain amount done at once - our original butcher liked to do a minimum of 10kgs, otherwise too much meat is lost in the process in their big machines.

Please be aware of what meat you are using - ours tasted good, as we had grass-fed/grass finished beef and proper free range pork. I know it's difficult to get both of these but you can only try. A lot of beef is sold as grass-fed, but often times it's been grain assisted. But, that's another whole blog post....

I was (not so) recently asked on my facebook page for our DVFR recipe, so I thought I'd share it here as well. 

DVFR Paleo Sausages
  • 10kg Pork or Beef (fat included)
  • 6 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons mince garlic (from the jar)
  • 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs
  • 4 cups water
I have found in the past when killing our own beef, that we have two lots of trimming - one for lean mince and one for sausages. The 20% of fat is a rough guide and with beef it's fairly easy - all the hard to trim meat is the perfect fat ratio for sausages :). If you're worried about fat, don't be, it's the single biggest factor in having tasty (or not) sausages. Most of it is cooked out anyway.

A recent thing I saw was to emulsify (fine and quite smudged looking) some of the minced meat and then mix it in with some courser mince. I think it was about 50/50 or maybe 30/70. I've never tried it, but it may give a more "sausage" like texture, whereas our paleo snags were a little like a rissole sometimes. 

Good luck and please let me know how you get on - either making some yourself or getting a butcher to make them for you. I also am going to have a go at smoking some of our sausages, so I'll let you know how I get on when I do it.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Preserving Food

I love preserving food, especially if it's something I've grown myself. In the past (when I haven't had the time to grow too many vegetables or fruits) I've often bought excess so that I can preserve some. We are lucky in Queensland that we can grow something all through the year, but some things do only have a season and if we want to stretch that, then we need to preserve in some way.

Methods that I use include:

  • Drying - vegetables, fruits, meat (jerky), turmeric, wild mushrooms
  • Freezing - tomato products, broths, mango, banana, pineapple
  • Pickling in vinegar - beetroot, cucumbers, new guinea beans, chutneys and pickles.
  • Pickling in brine - cucumbers, beetroot, carrot, garlic
  • Fermenting - cabbage and other veg, cheese, yoghurt, turmeric (paste), garlic in honey, mustard
  • Water bath (either in vacola jars or regular jars) - brawn, fish, tomatoes.
  • Sauces - chili, tomato, mushroom
  • Jams - star fruit, rosella
  • Mead and fruit wines (I need to do more of this)
Mead - it was even sparkly and drinkable!

Tomatoes are probably the most common thing I like to preserve. I puree them and freeze in containers; I puree them and then cook them into a simple  passata sauce or pasta sauce and either freeze or water bath; dry them in the dehydrator to then preserve in oil with herbs (smaller tomatoes are used for this); tomato paste - the easiest method I've found so far is to do this in the thermomix. This recipe for tomato paste only made a small amount, so I just froze in small containers, but you could water bath them too. I also make a lot of tomato sauce (ketchup). I use my thermomix for small amounts (1kg) but if I can buy a box, I'll make up 6 litres and bottle them into wine bottles or other sauce bottles. This lasts for months in the pantry.

I pickle vegetables, both in vinegar and brine. Beetroot and cucumbers I do both methods, depending on how much time I have (I roast the beetroot first with both these methods, if I'm doing sliced beetroot). Carrot is yummy to have - just grate it and put it in a brine and ferment for a few days. And every year I make up a big batch of sauerkraut. Last year I did two cabbages, which has gotten me through to this year - with the addition of a couple of smaller batches of kimchi. My kimchi is not like a traditional Korean kimchi, it's really just a spicy mixed vegetable one, with fish sauce added!

Fermented Carrots 

Ingredients for Kale Kimchi - I would've added fish sauce and salt

After our trip to Melliodora, I learnt a simpler version of preserving fruit. I thought that you always needed to do a water bath after boiling up fruit in sugar water, but all their fruit is simply prepared by peeling/chopping etc, bringing to the boil in water and then placed into clean hot jars, leaving as little room for air as possible and then screwing the lid on tight - the lid sucks in and that's a sign that it's sealed correctly. 

This is 3 pears and 3 apples sliced, boiled and then bottled into the jar, no sugar, no water bath. Not sure how long it'll last because it'll be eaten before winter ends as we like it with our porridge. But I'll eat the Fruit and Nut Kimchi with our porridge first. 

This is a mix of apples, dates, brazil nuts and walnuts, with whey and salt added and then left to ferment for a few days. I forgot to take a photo when it was finished, but there was no visible liquid left and we had it with our porridge this morning (after scraping a little bit of mould off the top)

I also dry lots of things - herbs and vegetables mostly, but during mango season I dry (and freeze) a lot of mangoes. Dried vegies are great - I dry them really crispy and then process into a powder. This is used to add flavour to soups or stews. I often dry a mix of vegetables and then this is used as a stock powder. Herbs are easiest to dry in a cloth bag - just leave to hand somewhere airy. If I'm doing lemon grass, I cut it first, but most other herbs I just dry and then process finer in the thermomix.

We had so many snake beans so we dried some. I'll add these to a stew or soup.

And I haven't even started on some of the other things I like to preserve, like fish, dairy and meat.

Caerphilly cheese in the making - 8 litres of milk and this cheese will be over 1kg when ready.

We get fish from my brother-in-law and while it's not the most premium fish fresh, it goes pretty well as a preserved fish.

If you cover pate with enough melted butter, it will keep for a month or two.

Google is a wonderful tool if you want to know how to do any of these things. I've learnt from either an online search or from some other good cook books. One of these days I will put some more things on the recipe tab of this blog.

Nourishing Traditions - This book is amazing

Friday, June 14, 2019

Melliodora and the Permie Love Shack

Kim and I have recently visited Mick (our former farm employee) in Hepburn, Victoria. Mick is an amazing young bloke who came to work for us to find out more about free range pig farming and regenerative agriculture. He's a passionate environmentalist and was ready to go vegetarian due to his concerns about farming and it's damage to the environment. Coming to us, he learnt that there are people that farm in a way that can save us from environmental disaster and help to mitigate the damage from climate change. He left us to further his education and went on to learn about permaculture, before starting a journey travelling around Australia on a push bike learning about permaculture. After living and working within his values - his journey also included learning about yoga - he is now a yoga teacher and a permaculture teacher. The journey so far has taken him to Melliodora in Hepburn.

Melliodora is the property designed and built by David Holmgren and his partner Sue. You can read more about them here.  David is also the co-originator of Permaculture (along with Bill Mollison). Melliodora is 2 and 1/4 acres of food. Mostly fruit and vegetables but there are goats for milk and cheese and chickens for eggs and occasionally meat. It has been one of my goals to visit there and had always hoped that we'd be able to got to a PDC or even just a farm tour. So when Mick started working there, we that that it might be a good opportunity to visit, especially as we were in Canberra and only a days drive away.

We arrived at our airbnb in Daylsford just on dusk. It had rained all the way from Canberra and as we were unpacking the car it actually started snowing. I really wish I'd taken more photos!

Our airbnb hosts were Meg and Patrick from Artist as Family. The Permie Love Shack that we stayed in was very quaint, although lacking a kitchen was a little disappointing (as you know, we like to prepare our own food when travelling). This tiny house was positioned in the middle of their incredible permaculture garden. It does have a composting toilet so may not suit every traveller. I learnt a little about composting human manure here and while at Melliodora too. Once again, my photo taking let me down!

Human mane is a valuable resource, which would have been utilised in the past, but is not considered highly today. It makes sense that our poo would be the perfect fertiliser for our food. It's such a wasted resource to just flush a rich potential fertiliser down the toilet and either into a septic tank or a sewage system - either way, there is no benefit gained.

Human mare can be safely used as fertiliser once it has been through a long compost process. It should then only be used on tree crops and not vegetable crops.

The toilets we used a both the Permie Love Shack and Melliodora did not smell at all. I remember when I was a kid we had thunder boxes (as we called them) but I don't recall dad turning that poo into compost. What a waste! I wonder what he did do with it? I'll have to ask him....

This is a squat toilet and the side where the board is, is the one in current use. The other side covered with newspaper is the full side that will sit there until it's composted or until the current side is full and it will need to go somewhere else to compost. This was a Melliodora, the Love Shack had a much more civilised looking toilet system! They had one for pee only, a sit down one, which was a bucket  half filled with sawdust to prevent smell and the other was a squat style toilet with a bigger reservoir, which you threw some sawdust after depositing your poo.

We went for a walk around the gardens at Melliodora - everything looked so healthy and there was just so much food in a small area.

We walked down the creek where the 3 goats spend their days undertaking blackberry control and doing a great job. Walking further, Mick showed us where hill and creek and been mined for gold many years ago. 

Kim and Mick walking to see an old mine shaft.

This "track" was created to run water on the level of the hill to assist with the sluicing of the gold.

Fires went through here early this year and it was an incredible effort made by Mick and David to save Melliodora!

I would love to have a cellar!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Travelling, foraging and local shopping

One thing I was looking forward to on our trip was trying some different local food sources, and maybe even do some foraging. There just seems to be so much more to forage once you get out of QLD, although I haven’t actually found or tried too much yet. I also haven’t found too much local food, but hopefully that will all change this weekend when we go to the Bungendore Farmers Markets. 

I’m a member of a facebook group “Edible weeds, wild food and foraging in Australia”. This group is amazing - both the knowledge and the willingness off the members to help out. I thought this one looked like it could be edible but after posting the photo was told what it was and that it was toxic. So always a good idea to check! 

Traveling through Rylsdale, we found some local free range eggs at the butchers. They were in a box labelled with caged eggs, but the lady assured me that they were definitely Chookie Charlies eggs and were free range - he just doesn’t bother with the extra expense of cartons! This was reinforced by the friendly tradie that stopped to chat while we drank our coffee on the footpath - I do think he just wanted to talk to Jack the Russell (our dog and the reason why we were outside the warm cafe in the cold of the footpath). It just shows that if you can trust the person you’re buying your food from, it doesn’t need to be certified free range, or organic. 

Same deal with roadside stalls - if the guy that grows the produce is there to tell you that of course it’s organic, you can tell when you taste it! And yes, you can tell when you taste it. We bought up fairly big at one stall between Kyogle and Scone (not sure exactly where it was). We bought some of the yummiest apples I’ve had for a while and picked the day before we bought them. Potatoes, kiwi fruit and tomatoes were added and then of course we had to buy some jam and chutney as well. 

The kilogram of tomatoes was half green and half red, so when I got to my sons house I decided to make a small batch of green tomato pickles. My mum has the best recipe for this, so after texting to ask for it, I got a text back with the recipe. I’ve tried many different recipes for green tomato pickles and none match my mothers. I cooked mine in the thermomix so it does look a little like a chutney. I had to reduce my recipe down a lot because I only had 320g green tomatoes and so had to do the math to reduce, and I’m not sure I did it correctly, but it does taste pretty good! I did put extra sugar in because I felt it needed it, so I’ll let you decide what to do if you have a go at the recipe.

This is the message I got from my sister: "Mums lost the scrap of paper that had the recipe on it, but these are the ingredients - 4lbs of tomatoes and 4 large onions, 1 litre of vinegar - 4 chilli's optional- 2 cups of brown/raw sugar(to taste), 2 tablespoons dry mustard, 2 tablespoons curry powder, salt. Mix all together, bring to boil, cook approx 30mins. May need some thickening with cornflour. Bottle as desired. Mum says add other stuff to taste."

This is what I did:

Green tomato pickles
320g green tomatoes
50g onion
65g vinegar
65g sugar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon curry powder. I used half cumin half coriander and 1 turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
In the thermomix - 30 minutes 100 rev 4 - I did 30 minutes, but I would check after 20 if I did it again. Mine has a chutney texture rather than a pickle, but I quite like that.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Eating Seaweed

Recently we went to the beach - it was a very quick visit, just an overnighter. We stayed with my brother and he suggested a quick walk on the beach to take Jack the Russell for a walk, and then to pick up a coffee afterwards. There was heaps of seaweed on the beach, which he said was unusual. I was telling him about how great it is for the garden, and for eating, and that I'd recently seen a recipe for a foraged seaweed condiment. I don't know much about seaweed, but I don't think there's any that are unedible - maybe some just taste better than others. This one is a small leafed seaweed and it tasted okay so I picked up some of the fresher, greener looking bits. Most of the seaweed was a darker colour, so I assumed it was deader than the pale green seaweed. The darker seaweed is the one you would collect for use in the garden. I didn't have a bag, so I only collected a small amount, mainly to make Gomasio which I'd never heard of until I saw it on a Milkwood face book post. Watch the video here

We did chop a little bit of this fresh seaweed into our breakfast mushrooms after we got back from our walk. It had a very mild flavour, certainly not as strong as it smelled and I really could've put more into the mushrooms.

I brought the seaweed home , washed and dried it for about 3 days and then turned it into Gomasio.  Basically it's equal parts of dried seaweed and toasted sesame seeds ground up and mixed together. I also added some salt to mine.

A couple of pieces of the fresh seaweed. 

This is not the first time I've foraged seaweed, but certainly the first time I've foraged for eating! Using seaweed in the garden, either to make a seaweed tea or put into the compost, or even put directly on the garden as mulch, you don't need to wash the seaweed, I only washed it because I was going to eat it.

Our soil in Australia tends to be deficient in iodine, therefore our food is deficient, so it's always a good idea to add seaweed to our diet. I usually have Dulse flakes mixed in with my celtic sea salt, so then it goes in everything I cook - both sweet and savoury. When cooking stews or bone broth, I usually add a little extra dulse flakes.

On the Milkwood video, Kirsten mentioned a white powder that might grow on the dried seaweed and that its called manite, which is a combination of sugars and salts and that it's close to a natural form of MSG so is a Umami flavour. I'm glad that she mentioned it, because mine had it and I may have been concerned otherwise.

Dried Seaweed and you can see the manite on it.

I crushed the dried Seaweed in the thermomix to get a measurement of amount. I had half a cup of dried crushed seaweed, so then toasted half a cup of sesame seeds. Then added them to the thermomix with the seaweed and 1 teaspoon salt.

I've added it to most meals since making it - it smells devine and gives a really nice flavour to food. I reckon it'll be something I make as often as I can forage seaweed.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

An end and a beginning

I've been wanting to get back to blogging now that I have more time on my hands. We recently stopped our Free Range Pork business and have plans to go on holiday, soon I hope. I was going to wait until we got away to start writing as there seems to be still a lot to do before we can get away, but I fear that may not happen as soon as planned (the latest plan is to head off in about 5 days time). And I feel like I'm ready to write now. I wasn't for a while, I've been feeling out of sorts since closing the business. Anger, sadness, a sense of failure and a sense of loss, all mingled together. I know other people have bigger problems than losing a business, and while there is so much I have to be grateful for, I can't really help feeling those emotions. I'm certainly grateful for the fact that I met so many wonderful people, some of who will remain friends well into the future.

Some of the reason I want to write now, is because of the emotion - Anger. Why am I angry? I'm angry because we had a business that I loved. It was a lot of work, and we did put so much work into it, Kim and I, plus our children at various times. We loved the pigs and we love farming regenerative, and at least we can still do that. We have loved seeing the land improve under our management. Seeing the different grasses come back seeing areas of erosion heal, seeing so many examples of the land and wildlife improving. This pig business was going to be a chance to make a living off our small block so that neither of us had to work off farm. So I think the anger comes from the fact that it just didn't work out. It nearly worked and I could think of many contributing factors to it not working but I don't really want to dwell on that. I need to start thinking far more positively - I have so much to look forward to.

I'm also feeling sad because we aren't the only free range pig farm closing it's doors. It's going to be very hard to buy free range pork and it will also be very expensive. Makes eating bacon an ethical dilemma for some. Luckily we managed to keep a small supply so I'll ration ours out until one day when we have pigs again. Yes, we'll have pigs, not many, just enough to keep us in bacon (hopefully smoked by me) and a little bit of pork.

If you can support a free range pork farmer, please do, before they become extinct. One subject I want to explore in the coming months, is how important regenerative farming is to stopping climate change. I believe it's one of the best ways to fix our environmental problems, but reiterative farmers need the support of the consumer.

Not sure what our future holds exactly, but I do know it will include farming animals and getting a food forest and big vegetable garden happening. It will also include the beginning of semi retirement.....well that's the plan for now......after we have a holiday.

I have the time now to go out and help Kim do stuff....with the dogs coming along too.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

February markets

Not sure what's going on with this weather - crazy weather up north and we're still missing out. It's been cloudy for days and you think it's just got to rain but doesn't rain in a drought!

Anyway, we're a lot better off than some people so shouldn't really complain.

We do still have some green grass down on the banks of the Dawson River Annabranch.

We've had our first market for the year and it was great to see everyone again and a few new faces as well. We are back to our regular schedule with markets twice per month, based on the 1st and 3rd Sundays. First weekend will include a Gladstone run and the third weekend will include an Emerald run if we can get enough orders.

Next markets:

Saturday 16th February in Yeppoon - 6 -10am
Sunday 17th February in Rockhampton - 6-12pm
Sunday 17th February Emerald delivery - 4.30 - 5.30pm at the bridge.

The Emerald delivery will be a trial to see how it goes. We'd prefer to only do the two markets each month, so this delivery is a compromise. I will need to have enough pre-orders to make the trip worthwhile, so please get orders in as soon as possible, but by Wednesday the 13th at the latest. We will have Pork, ham, bacon, goat, beef and mutton (no lamb sorry).

Please remember if you would like a different cut of meat to what we usually do, then please ask in advance and I can organise the butcher to do it. Next market we'll have the old style nitrate free bacon back, so if you want some of it, it may be best to order it as I don't know how much I'll have. We ran out of bacon last weekend so I'm hoping to have more this time.

Cheers for now,