Sunday, August 23, 2015

Homemade Liver'ish Sausage'ish Braunschweiger'ish Stuff

Not sure why they call liver sausage, liver SAUSAGE.  To me, sausage is ground meat & fat & spices that you form into a patty and fry up in the cast iron skillet with eggs in the morning, or stuffed into the cleaned intestines of the animal you just used to make that sausage.

I'm not exactly sure where I acquired my taste for liver.  Maybe in a past life I was a successful bison hunter and got to sink my teeth into the fresh, still hot liver as my prize for making the killing shot.  Maybe my body is severely lacking in B-12 thusly causing my cravings.  Or maybe I'm just itching to get a bout of gout.  Regardless of the real reasons, I really do love livers.

As Ohio Farmgirl knows well, one of the benefits of raising your own Creepy Meats is the feast you have before you feast on a roast or fried chicken.  After a hard day of butchering chickens, you are left with a bowl (or six) of fresh chicken livers.  Batter & fry those puppies up and you've got yourself a well-deserved reward after all that back-breaking work of chicken plucking & eviscerating.  Or, if you're feeling fancy, you can make a pate out of those livers.  But, but....Pate is made from GOOSE liver, you say?  Well, sure it is.  But that's not going to stop me from making it from the livers I have sitting in a bowl of ice water on my counter top.

We've recently begun butchering our own hogs here on the homestead.  And like any animal (well, except for a sea cucumber or something), you're going to get yourself liver along with all that other meat.  Do you know how big the liver is of a 320 pound hog?  Me neither.  But it's a shitton bigger than a chicken liver I tell ya.  The first hog liver we cut up for Charlie.  And it pained me to see the Giant Sloppy Dog (GSD) get to eat it and not me.  So the second one I sliced up, battered and fried and served for supper.  Unfortunately it seems that I am the only liver-lover here.  Rhiannon will eat it with the bribe of ice cream for dessert.  Paul will choke it down and then remind me how he does not like liver.

The last pork liver was sliced up and shoved in the back of the freezer earlier this year and was recently brought out on accident by my husband thinking it was some sort of roast.  We need to be more diligent when labeling frozen packages.  Anyways, he called me at work and asked me if he could give it to the GSD.  I squealed "No!", and even though he said he wouldn't, I dreaded coming home to see the dog's food dish heaped up with the liver.  So I made a compromise; the GSD could get half of the liver and I would get the other half.

When thinking about how I was going to prepare the liver for myself (as it was already made known to me that Paul was NOT going to be eating liver with me) I though that I could try to make liver sausage.  I love that stuff.  Well, I love it enough to buy it once in a while and have a sandwich, but not really knowing how or what went into that little plastic wrapped tube of "liver sausage" it doesn't make it to our refrigerator more than every few years.  So I started looking up liver sausage recipes online.  Almost every single one of them required the majority of the ingredients to be pork meat, not so much liver.  And I'm sure it would be yummy, but I was hoping to get something akin to the wonderful chicken liver pate I made before.  So I did what I normally do.  I winged it.

Basically I took my Hillbilly Pat-Hay recipe and substituted the pork liver for the chicken livers.  And used six times as much of everything.  I told you a hog liver is a shitton bigger than a chicken liver...and I didn't even use half of the liver from the hog.

So.  How did I do it?  Well, here's the recipe I used:

3 lbs. pork liver, sliced & soaked (and soaked & drained & soaked & drained & soaked....)
1 1/2 cups diced yellow onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tsp. rubbed sage
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. marjoram
2 bay leaves (mine were old so that's why I used two)
4+ cups water
2 sticks butter at room temperature

Bring all (except butter) to a boil for 10 minutes, skimming the foamy stuff off.  Drain and pick out bay leaves.  Put small amounts into your food processor or blender and small chunks of butter & blend away until smooth.  Keep putting the liver/onions/garlic and butter into the processor until it's all smooth.

I don't have a food processor so I used the blender.  I'd have to say that having a food processor would have made it easier and probably made the paste a lot smoother, but I got what I got and that's what I used.

If you're a proper cook, you'd put the paste into a ramekin, but I don't have one.  So I put it into glass dishes (because, again, I don't have ramekins. I got old, rectangular glass dishes with lids.  Deal with it.) and shoved it in the refrigerator.  And then I had to wait because you're supposed to let it cool in for like six hours.  So I watied it out.  For like four hours.  Ok, ok.  I waited two hours.  It was still torture.

I opened the smaller dish and slathered the livergoodness over a cracker. And it was good. Was it $80 a pound foie gras good?  Well, seeing as I've never had "real" pate, I couldn't tell you.

What I can tell you is that it wasn't nearly as smooth as the chicken liver pate, but in all honesty, I wasn't aiming for that, but a Braunschweiger'ish / Liver sauage'ish recipe.  So in that regards, I think it went well.  I was thinking about actually following the recipes for liver sausage, the ones that call for actual chunks of meat, but since Paul doesn't like liver sausage anyhow it would be a waste of pork chops; I think this is the best way to use the livers from now on.  We don't get much lunch meat here unless we slice it up ourselves, so it will be a nice addition to the Homemade Sandwich Fixin's.

Even Rhiannon had some on a cracker and ate it without making faces...and then asked for another "cat food cracker".  Which is a truthfully accurate description.  I'm certain she tells her friends that her family eats Catfood Casserole and smears cat food on crackers for snacks.  The file the DCFS has on us must be pretty thick at this point.

So.  Is this liver sausage?
And this braunschweiger?
Goose liver pate? Chicken liver pate?  Raccoon liver pate???
Cat food?  Makes you wonder now, doesn't it???
I'm going to freeze a chunk of it and see how it defrosts.  If it defrosts well, I'll definitely make this again.  The Giant Sloppy Dog will just have to lick his chops and watch me eat all that hog liver by myself.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tiny wildlife buddies

Several weeks ago, my daughter was digging around the goat / chicken yard with a stout stick as she is wont to do.  She usually digs up grubs or bugs or some other type of chicken "snackies" and feeds them to the biddies.

During on of her digging adventures, she was poking around a dead tree stump and found six tiny, leathery eggs:

Being the daughter of mine that she is, she wanted to keep them (instead of giving them to the chickens) and try to hatch "them" out......whatever "them" might be.

I was thinking it was some sort of small snake, so we put it in the terrarium with some of the rotted log material they were in, spritzed it with some water and waited.  Our wait didn't last very long because after about a week, I opened the lid to find a surprise.  Not snakes, but these incredibly adorable skinks:

I was giddy with joy.  I didn't even think about them being anything other than snake eggs which is pretty silly since our homestead is crawling with skinks & lizards.

We kept them in the terrarium and fed them small insects, but I'm not totally sure if the skinks actually ate them or their food managed to crawl out of the enclosure or just up and died somewhere in the peat moss and gravel.  Since I never saw one of the skinks eat anything, we released them after a few days into a moist area next to the house hoping that they'd fair better in the wild than in the terrarium.  I saw a tiny skink a few days after we released them so I'll just pretend it was one of our hatchlings and they didn't get eaten by the chickens or the cats.

We also have two other cute nighttime visitors, except these guys aren't reptiles, but amphibians:

Toad Buddy has been hanging out under our front porch since last year.  I make sure to keep the lights on next to the garage at night (where he hangs out) in order to draw his meals into closer range. The leopard frog is a more recent visitor; he (she??) too hangs out by the garage door lights.

Rhiannon and I look forward to seeing our little amphibian buddies each night.  Do you have any wild buddies that hang out at your place?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Rethinking & Repurposing

The roosters are long gone.  Nettie is gone, but missed.  The Nigerian kids are gone, but not so much missed.

I'm kind of embracing this purging of the livestock.  And I've been thinking about the fates of some of the other goats.

Annette is a great mother.  She puts out a lot of milk & loves her kids.  But unfortunately, for whatever reason we have yet to determine, her milk has always been off-tasting.  I've checked for everything; mastitis, worms, strange feed, etc.  And what really drives me bonkers, and what no one seems to know the reasoning for, is that I cannot for the life of me get her milk to set a decent curd.  I've ruined batch after batch after batch of cheese before I finally started separating the different goat's milk and testing which batch was the problem.  It was Annette's.

So with me in "Purge Mode" lately, I was thinking about taking Annette to the sale barn.  And then I felt guilty.  No doubt, this feeling of guilt is what ruins the bottom line of countless farms.  So if I couldn't (yet) bring myself to truck her off to the sale barn, what was I going to do with her?  I could breed her to a dairy buck and hope her kids don't have the same genetic predisposition to having off-flavored milk, but that's a gamble I don't want to take.  But what if I didn't want her or her offspring to provide us with milk?  She's a heavy milker and fattens up her kids just fine and apparently the kids aren't as picky about the taste of the milk as we are.  So if she can't provide us with milk, then she can provide us with meat.

I've decided to have her bred to one of our Boer bucks this Fall.  She'll be able to fatten up her half-
Boer kids on all that milk and we'll either butcher the kids for our freezer, or if they're up to snuff, keep the females for breeding stock.  Problem solved!

Then I got to thinking about the other dairy gals.  And how much milk we really use / need.  Right now I'm only milking MamaGoat and that is plenty for us.  I no longer bother selling the milk.  It did help pay for the goat feed / hay, but it was a bother having people come down here to pick up their milk.  That, and Paul kept tossing caltrops into the driveway to discourage people from coming here (he was never really keen on the customer relations aspect of selling goat milk).

So I think that I'll be breeding all the does - Boers AND dairy - to the Boer bucks this year.  I'll still get milk from MamaGoat for our use and her kid will end up in the freezer after s/he's fattened up.  Same with Annette and Pyewacket's kid(s).  That is, if we even still have Pyewacket for breeding season.

She was supposed to be a family milker, but I'm not very impressed with her udder.  I mean, I guess it looks nice for a first freshener, but it's just, well, "eh".
Pyewacket, August of 2015
I guess I've been spoiled by Nettie's ginormous udder.  I put Pyewacket on the FB goat sale page for $150 (which I thought was a steal for a first freshener, in milk nonetheless) and only got one bite....and she asked if she could have her for $100.  Uhm, no.  So I'm going to pull her off the page on Monday.  I'll breed her this fall to a Boer and sell her next Spring when the market is better.

I suppose I have to get over trying to breed a great milker from our own motley crew of a herd and just bite the bullet and get a purebred Saanen when we need another main milker.  It will probably end up costing us less in the long run, as well as less time and aggravation.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Shipping them off

Did I tell you how much more peaceful it was once Paul butchered all those extra roosters?  I could actually go outside during the day an not be audibly assaulted by the crowing wars of testosterone-pumped poultry.  I could hear crickets.  It was wonderful.

But there was still the issue of the baby goats.  Even though the Boer kids have been shipped off the 4-H barn for the summer, we were still up to sixteen goats and the basically useless Nigerian mix kids were still hanging out here, drinking too much milk from their mothers, eating too many leaves off our fruit trees, and of late, one of them got on top of the car.  That was the final straw.  Paul butchered one of the wethers, but there were still two wethers and two doelings left.  I couldn't for the life of me sell even the doelings.

The goat market had basically bottomed out recently and there was no way we (meaning Paul) were going to drive them an hour and a half away to the sale barn, mess around with paperwork, unload them, then drive another hour and a half home for beans.  So I put them up for sale again in the local FB sale page for cheap and a guy came and got them the next day.  A guy who was going to take them right to the sale barn that night.  But I didn't care.  I hope he made some money.  I was just glad that they were gone.  Yes, we could have butchered them and put them in the freezer, but even that would have entailed more work (for Paul, that is).  Their chances for survival were better at the sale barn than they were here so I suppose I feel a little bit better about it.
So now the goat yard is a much more peaceful, and much less crowded place to be.  That is until the end of September when we'll be getting back the four Boer kids....and bring us back up to sixteen goats again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Goodbye Nettie

Our first goat, Nettie, has passed on to the great green pasture in the sky.

Not long after I wrote the last “Hole” post, I went to do a goat check and she was lying down.  I couldn’t tempt her to get up so I brought her a drink & some fresh weeds.  When we went back out later to do evening barn chores, she hadn’t moved.

Everyone was clipped to their respective feeding station and was fed.  Nettie didn’t budge so I brought her a big ol’ bowl of grain and sun flower seeds and a bucket of cool water.  During her downhill slide, she never lost her appetite.  But now her appetite was going to do her in.  A goat that eats and drinks but doesn’t get up to move around is going to bloat.  And bloat is a horrible way to go.
After several attempts to try get to get Nettie up of her own volition, I admitted to myself that this was the end.

We kept the other goats clipped so she could eat her meal in peace.  Paul, Rhiannon and I spent some time with her, talking to her, petting her, feeding her vanilla wafers.  I know that her body was pretty much beyond saving, but the thing that was so sad is that SHE was still there.  You could see it in her eyes.  She was mentally aware; her gaze followed us around but her body was unable to do so.
She was buried behind our house along with an offering of dock, plantain and wildflowers.  Her daughter, Annette, is still with us, but she isn’t much consolation (sorry Annette, truth hurts).   I will always remember my first goat, Nettie.  Bringing her home in the back seat of the car (yelling the entire way, of course), being there for her (and my) first kidding and being there for her final moments on this earth.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Hole

Paul dug a hole with the tractor a few days ago.  And when I spy the excavated dirt next to it, I get teary eyed.

That hole was dug with one purpose in mind.  Not to plant a tree.  Not for another garden.

We’re still not quite sure how long that hole will just be a hole.  It may rain and fill up with water.  It may get filled in again from six unruly goat kids jumping on the pile of dirt next to it.  But there is one thing that is certain.  Regardless if the hole stays a hole, or if we have to dig it out again, in the very near future it will contain the earthly remains of my first goat.

Nettie is not doing well.   Over a year and a half ago she sustained a life threatening injury to her udder and never really recuperated from it.  The average life span of a diary goat is said to be 10 – 12 years and she’ll be eleven years old this winter.  I’m sure the trauma from that incident took its toll and the heat of late is not kind to old, injured goats.

Really, I’ve been preparing myself for this for a while now.  No matter how much special feed we give her or how many vitamins or “extras” she gets, Nettie hasn’t been able to put on any weight.  Her coat isn’t shiny anymore (yes, I’ve wormed her & done fecals), she doesn’t move like she did even just a year ago.  She lays down most of the time, either under the barn or under a shade tree. 

So I’m planning her last days / moments with us.  Barring making her ill, she’ll be getting whatever kind of yummy weeds she likes.  She’ll be getting vanilla wafers.  Extra cool water during the heat of the day.  Lots scratches on the head and pats on the shoulders.  She has given us fine kids and years worth of healthy milk and when I can best tell it is time for us to end her suffering, she will be surrounded by those that loved her.

Yes.  I kind'a love my goat.  I know I bitch on & on about what a PITA they are (and believe me, they are), but sometimes livestock become more than just meat or milk or eggs or fiber.  Nettie was a great milker, an awesome mother (and Auntie) and has a wonderful, patient personality.  I wish I could say that for any other of my herd, but it just ain't so.  Apparently a goat like her doesn't come around often; either that or I have a horrible breeding program.

I'm off to do a post-afternoon, pre-feeding barn chore check.  And I'm going to gather a bunch of dock and plantain for Nettie because I know it's two of her favorite weeds.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Glutton for punishment? Yep.

Stubborn?  Double-yep.

I know I said that I wasn't going to bother saving any of the half eaten, half rotted peaches.  I know that if I started trying to salvage any good parts, I would spend the entire time swearing about the bug/squirrels/blue jays (yes, blue jays are now hated by me) and asking myself exactly why it is that I was wasting my time doing so.

But damnitalltohell, I wanted some peach jam!!!

So Paul and I spent gawdknows how long in the kitchen blanching, peeling skins, cutting out bad parts and trying to salvage the tiniest bit of perfect peach flesh.  Then I put them in the freezer.  Then I did the same another day.  And again this afternoon.  And will probably do it once more before all of the peaches are gone; either salvaged and frozen by me, stuffed into some hole in a dead tree by the squirrels, turned to mush by the bugs, or pecked at by the blue jays.

So far we've managed to get twenty or so cups worth of edible peach flesh....and probably four hundred and sixty-three pounds of peels, pits, and bug, squirrel & blue jay eaten bits that went to the only mildly interested chickens.  Freaking ingrates.

Once every last peach if frozen, and I hopefully haven't forgotten about them, I'll  make a weekend of defrosting them, cooking 'em into jam and canning them for the pantry shelves.

I was also hoping to get some tomatoes on the pantry shelves as well, but for all the darned tomato plants Paul put in the ground, we're just not getting very many.  First it was too soggy, now it's too hot for pollination.  The majority of the plants are Roma and a handful of slicing tomatoes in there for fresh eating, but we've only had a half dozen or so fresh ones to eat and not more than eight quarts of tomato puree (in the freezer, along with the peaches, waiting to be canned).

There are wax beans ready to be picked, but there really aren't enough for me to consider canning them.  We'll eat those fresh and if I get a bean-canning-bug up my butt, I'll go to the farmer's market and see if I can get a good deal on a bushel of green beans.

There are still cucumbers crammed in every available spot in the fridge, awaiting, well, something.  I refuse to can another jar of pickles.  Last count there were twenty-five pints of various pickled cucumbers; dill, sweet & sour, sweet & spicy, bread & butter...and that's not even counting the six or more quart jars in the fridge that I made refrigerator pickles out of.  I mean, seriously.  How many freaking pickles can anybody eat?  I'm putting in only two cucumber plants next year as I doubt we'll be through these by next summer anyhow.

The red & green Bell peppers aren't doing too hot either.  We got four or five stuffing-sized ones, but the rest are pretty sad looking.  The banana peppers, however, are going gangbusters.  Too bad I don't care much for them, they just don't seem to have much flavor to them.  Wonder what I can do with them?

Still no squash.  Wait, I stand corrected.  We harvested ONE yellow straight neck squash before the lone surviving plant died.  But it's not like we canned squash anyhow.  Squash and green beans are on the list for the Fall garden and hopefully they'll do better than the Spring garden.

Paul just started harvesting the jalapeno peppers today and  I'm going to try making Cowboy Candy out of them when we get enough. Basically it's a candied jalapeno pepper recipe.  I might even venture to try one if they aren't too spicy.  The recipe showed a little slice of candied pepper on a cracker with cream cheese and I have to admit that it did look tasty.

And now I'm hungry.  And I've got a craving for a PB & J sandwich.  Which I will have to eat with either grape, blackberry or apple cider jelly.  Because I still don't have any peach jam.

Ugh.  And now I realized that I don't have any bread.

Guess I know what I'm going to be making.

What have YOU been canning this weekend???