Fiber Friday: Bernard the Pembroke Welsh Corgi in Felt!

Bernard’s Fiber Friend was a gift to a very lucky wife from a very savvy shopper of a husband. I love felting the pale faced Corgis and could felt these little ‘plush’ duckies (a la Chompers) all day!

Bernard was a custom ordered Fiber Friend with a ‘plush toy’ add-on in duck form. I think he turned out great and i can’t wait to work on his big brother, Jett – a German Shepherd!  I can’t wait to feature them both on the blog later this Summer. In the meantime, here’s Bernard with his Fiber Friend buddy!

 

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Filed under Dogs/ Corgis, Felting, Fiber Friends, Fibers

Making Sausage!

Here at Birdsong Farm we raise pastured poultry and domestic rabbits. Our ducks are born on grass, live their lives eating grass, fermented grains and garden waste and entertain us with their beauty and silly tactics. Our chickens have never lived in a cage and their eggs are bright orange and delicious. My domestic rabbits live in cages but are fed high quality pellets supplemented with garden scraps and pasture clippings and are ensured plenty of space in said cages, never overcowded. A few every year get to live in our ‘rabbit tractor’ running about and having a blast. My breeders are treated as pets and my fryers are snuggled until the day of their humane dispatch. I’m proud of the way i raise my animals and am even prouder when i do their little lives justice by cooking up something REALLY.DELICIOUS. Which isn’t hard when you’re working with quality ingredients.

My husband bought me a meat grinder/sausage stuffer for Christmas last year and we FINALLY tried it out! I’m brand new to the world of ‘charcuterie’ and only recently learned how to pronounce it (char cue ter ee) so am by no means a master, but i thought i’d post some notes on our first two batches of sausage to encourage others to give it a shot! *Apologize for the poor quality camera phone pics.

First off, some resources. I highly recommend the book, “Charcuterie” for great advice, recipes and basic instruction on all things sausage (and some things cured meats). They have specific recipes along with a ‘master ratio’ for getting the meat/fat/liquid/salt just right before adding fun flavors to your sausage. I also recommend the website www.ButcherPacker.com for all the ingredients you’ll need for seasoning, stuffing and curing your sausage (and bacon). For the meat? Head to your local butcher or farmer’s market if you don’t grow your own, or seek out a ‘hog share’ from a local grower as we did to stock up on meat and save money on retail prices.

Sausage is traditionally made with pork and beef – pork fat is the perfect binder and both meats have a lot of flavor. I don’t grow either of these animals, however and i like to enjoy something a little leaner in my sausage (sometimes) so we played around with what we had: pork from a neighbor and rabbit and duck from our farm. I like a little grease and a lot of savory with breakfast, so we made a pork/rabbit breakfast sausage. I prefer a leaner sausage for dinner, so we blended pork fat with muscovy duck and rabbit for a stuffed dinner sausage. Both are great! Here are my notes on each.

Pork/rabbit breakfast sausage

  • 5 pounds total meat: about 3 pounds rabbit, 2 pounds fatty Red Wattle pork
  • “Hot Pork” sausage seasoning from ButcherPacker.com

The pork was already ground. The rabbit was de-boned (by me on butcher day) and ready for me. If you ask me, the de-boning of hte smaller animals is the hardest part. It takes me forever. I hate it. I require fierce dance music to keep me going. An important part of grinding meat and making sausage is keeping everything cold. I de-boned and stripped/cubed the meat ahead of time and then put it in the freezer along with all the bowls i was using, until the meat was just ‘crunchy.’ Ground the rabbit twice then blended both meats in a stand mixer for 2 minutes to integrate flavors and create the ‘primary bind’. I seasoned both meats ahead of time with the correct ratio of seasoning. Saute a bit to check taste: taste = delicious. Formed into patties, laid out on a cookie sheet between wax paper, freeze then store in a ziplock. Ta da! 36 2 ounce patties of delicious breakfast food ready to be enjoyed! Leaner than pork sausage thanks to the rabbit, but just greasy enough to fry those eggs in. :)

Muscovy/rabbit dinner sausage

  • 8 pounds total meat and fat: about half/half duck and rabbit, de-boned and stripped/cubed with close to 2 pounds Red Wattle fat added
  • 1.75 percent of the weight of meat/fat: salt
  • 10% of weight of meat/fat: of ice cold liquid (white wine in this case)

The salt needs to be the right amount, as does the liquid (master ratios to be found in the book, Charcuterie on page 115). I wanted this sausage to be all homegrown (other than the pork fat) so i played around with things i liked and came up with this: 3 garlic cloves, 2 hot peppers, handfull of chopped basil, splash of olive oil and salt: roasted until caremelized. Plus some more fresh basil. White wine as the liquid and additional dried hot peppers to a portion. Same method: Season ahead. Place meat in freezer about an hour before working, along with all the bowls. Soak natural casings about 30 minutes ahead, then tease out one casing of the correct length. Grind the duck and rabbit together first on a course wheel, then more fine. Mix in batches in a stand mixer for 2 minutes each batch. Set up stuffer, fill with some meat until just peeking out the end, load casing onto the stuffer and stuff! Good luck doing this without giggling and making penis jokes. ;) Encourage the sausage to coil around on a damp counter while you’re stuffing. Having two sets of hands is helpful for stuffing the meat into the grinder and assisting the casing stuffage. Once fill, twist off your links: Measure link, twist. Measure the next link, skip, measure hte next link: twist in same direction. Get it? That make sthe link between the first and 3rd twisted in the opposite direction. Kind of smoosh the meat to either side of the twisting point. Once all twisted, clip apart and freeze!

That’s my beginner’s notes on sausage making. The hardest part is the de-boning, the grinding and stuffing is fun, the eating is delicious. Pretty awesome to have made something so delicious using ingredients grown right here on my own farm. My only complaint: the pork fat flavor kind of overtakes the dinner sausage – next time i’ll try and use all duck and chicken fat. Regardless:  Life is good!

Have you ever tried making sausage? How did it turn out?

 

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Filed under Birdsong Farm, Breakfast, Chickens, Dinner, DIY, Ducks, Eat Real Food, Kitchen Tools, Livestock, Preserved Food, Rabbits, Tutorial

Homestead Update: July 1 2014

Late again – but July has been busy already with Fiber Friends, a growing garden, and lots of hot buns in the barn to take care of. So, without further delay, let me take a quick pause to reflect on our accomplishments this past June.

The end of May throughout June is the season of daisies! One day our pasture will have been rehabilitated past teh point of daisy-making, but in the meantime they are sure pretty. I’m also very proud of the ‘landscaping’ i’ve been doing along the road and in front of our home. Calendula (a great multipurpose herb/flower), sunflowers, Oregon Sunshine, dill and other vibrant flora now border our homestead. I can’t wait to see how all these flowers and shrubs have taken off in, say 5 years. :) Do you remember the very first plant?

Lots of babies are being born every few weeks here at Birdsong Farm. From ducklings to goslings (whom shall be referred to as “Ryan Gosling” from henceforth) to heaps of baby rabbits, the heat takes its toll but the long days encourage all sorts of breeding and birthing amongst the animals. Our first batch of ducklings have already been processed, save 2 lovely hens we’ll be keeping in our flock. It’s amazing how fast meat animals grow and how efficiently they convert time, water, feed, pasture and enjoyment into meat.

AND we’re finally growing vegetables here on the farm! My veggie garden is popping (so much huger than this photo from a week ago already), we’re harvesting as much salad and kale as we can eat and then some and i’ll be digging up my first harvest of BIG Russian Red garlic this week. I even have a completed (almost) storage and compost shed, thanks to my increasingly savvy and skilled husband (with my help, of course). The fence is done, the shed is almost done, the well hasn’t run dry yet – i’d call that a success! (With some serious plans needed for long term sustainability of said well). PS remember the potato tower? So far so good – check out all those vines!

This is surely a busy time of year, both on the farm and with Fiber Friends. This coming month brings even more ‘to-dos’ with a little more time for vacations and rest… You just can’t work as hard in the heat (even if it is significantly cooler than our previous Texas home). We have a much deserved trip to the coast planned for this weekend and then the following weekend brings me to a county fair with some of my rabbits – i am so nervous!

Back to work now – thanks for checking out the homestead update for this past June. Comment with some of your accomplishments from the past month!

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Filed under Birdsong Farm, Ducks, Farming, Gardening, The Homestead

Happy Independence Day!

Have a safe and happy weekend, everyone!

Enjoy the fireworks show and remember your pets won’t be… keep them safely indoors or in their safe place through this weekend if you live around folks who may be playing with fire and noise. Panicked pets are known to run and become lost, so keep your dear ones near to you!

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Filed under Dogs/ Corgis, Pocket Pause