Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WHOLEsome Food: EGGS

Yesterday, on Facebook, I saw a post that I found eye opening.  

The post got my attention but so did the comments from folks still talking about the price of eggs.  I hear folks gripe a lot about the price of farm fresh eggs.  

No question, farm fresh food can be pricey in comparison to the big box stores. We're so conditioned to the prices established by the industrial size farms, when we're faced with the prices associated with the small, local growers offering the most healthful alternatives we often feel a bit of sticker shock. 

Many folks realize the choice they're making but for those that want to be a bit enlightened I thought it was time to share a bit of chicken and egg farming reality...

Yes, you can buy a dozen factory eggs from chickens lucky to see the light of day.  You can always be assured your eggs come from tightly confined hens dropping their eggs on a conveyor belt.  And yes, you can get those for around $1.99 or sometimes less!

Pastured, free range chicken eggs run $4-$5 in our neck of the woods.  Organic are even higher I'm not going to engage the "organic" discussion here, that might be a future Blog. 

Let me show you what you get for that extra $1.50.  

Look at the difference in nutrients!

And, if nutrients don't get your attention (the foodie in me never leaves the room) have you tasted the difference in a farm fresh egg and a store bought? 

Can you see the one?  Now you should taste the difference!  

What the farmer feeds the chickens, or pigs, cows, and sheep or even vegetable crops will have a direct impact on the price they have to (or should) charge the consumer.   You want your farmer sourcing the best inputs.  Small farms like ours don't always have the luxury of buying in bulk or spreading our costs.   On our farm the quality of input is so important.  We end up sourcing our inputs from specialty vendors and the cost is at a premium. 
Did you know....chickens are pigs
Not the cute pink squealing type. So named because they eat and eat more then you imagine they could.  Creative farmers are always thinking of ingenious healthy ways to keep them full like planting a field of something chickens love but then they have to worry about the need for a balanced diet.  Yep, no kidding, they need proper attention to balanced nutrients.  

This time of year we also face slowing of egg production due to shorter days and molting.  Industrial farms, well they just pour another concrete pad and add some light bulbs.  They have learned how to manipulate nature, we small farmers are still figuring out how to work with in her parameters!

 So, next time you pick up a dozen matter the source...think about those chickens and think about your health.  Most important though....if we want to have small farmers growing healthy food for us we need to 
Rethink our Food Choices!

As a farmer raising chickens I am blessed to see with my own eyes the bright happy spirit in these animals sniffing, scratching, rolling, cackling, and eating what nature provides....

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cinnamon Pickles

Have I said it before?  I love pickles!  This recipe is adapted from a Caswell County, NC neighbor.  I am sure it would rightfully be referred to as, "old timey".

As so often was the case, an old recipe came out of need for preservation or desire not to be wasteful.  This recipe is just that.  You know those cucumbers that stay on the vine just a bit too long?  Either hidden under all the growth, or, more likely with me...I didn't pick it in time.  The seeds are way too developed for your regular pickle recipes...well, here is the answer to your "i don't want to be wasteful" woes.  

I first had these pickles a few years back and fell in love with them immediately.  They're very different. They're crisp and spicy like fall, not from heat but from cinnamon.

The only issue I had with the original recipe was the bright red color which came from red food coloring and red cinnamon heart candy.  If you don't know, you should read up on red food coloring.  An unnecessary additive I choose to stay away from so I didn't use the candy or the food coloring.  The recipe also uses alum (yes, derived from aluminum) and I found some controversial information about it too.  Alum has always been used in pickling to get the crispness. Although controversial, I used it anyway, this time.  It is a tiny amount and I didn't want to alter the character of the pickles...Next time I will try eliminating the alum and see what happens.

The recipe is time consuming but quite easy.  Know that the next few mornings (yes you read that right) you will have a few basic steps.  The important thing to note is starting this today means you won't be actually canning until the 3rd day.  I do love canning but I also know I have to block off the time and kitchen space and I'll bet if you've read this far into this blog you know exactly what I'm saying!

2 gallons cucumber rings from too big cucs (peel, seed, slice in rings or as I've done half rings)
2 C pickling lime
3 C white vinegar
1 teaspoon alum
10 C Sugar
8 sticks cinnamon
1 C cinnamon hearts (if desired)
1 bottle of red food color (if desired)

Soak the cucumber rings, lime, and 8.5 quarts of water for 24 hours. Drain and wash well.  Cover with ice water and soak for 2 hours.  Pour off ice water.

Cover rings with 1 C vinegar, alum, and red food coloring if using and enough water to cover.  Simmer for 2 hours.

Drain and throw away the water.  Heat 2 C vinegar, 2 C water, sugar and cinnamon sticks and candy if using.  Pour the liquid over the rings. For the next 2 mornings, drain the liquid into a pot, bring to a boil and pour back over the cucumber rings.  Keep a lid over the rings to hold heat as long as possible.  On the 3rd day, reheat the liquid and rings together and bring to a boil.

Once you've reached your boil your ready to can these babies!  Put the rings in your hot sterilized jars, cover with liquid to 1/4 " head space.  Put on your sterilized lids and water bath for 20 minutes.  In 8-10 weeks your ready for the unveiling! I didn't miss the red color at all.  When they were first cooking they had a marvelous celery green color I wished had lasted.  The color is much more appetizing to me then the red ever was.  Hope you ENJOY!

Dog Biscuits

The more I know about farming and the food we consume the more engaged I become in sourcing our ingredients.  I'm a stickler about our food  and those choices are the same for all the animals on our farm.  I honestly don't know how it could be otherwise.

My, shall we say, enlightened perspective regarding our food has led to many of our food staples falling under the category, made from scratch.

Any of you that have experienced the shift from....
store bought:homemade in any of your food choices knows...
 it is always for the better.... in so many ways.

Today, our transition from store bought is all about our four legged kids treat...

We have a ritual, as soon as our pups hear the spoon hit the side of the coffee mug, there they are.  It's pretty cute, you can change everything about the moment, the setting, the cookies, the time, it wouldn't matter...the sound does it.  They know, it's morning treat time!

I'm sure those of you with pets can appreciate the journey through expensive food options.  I love our  kids and cost just couldn't be a factor, even on our farm income.  I learned to do with out pedicures some time ago.  I'll find something else to do away with before I feed our kids unidentifiable food!

Meet our Pups!

Earthquake (aka Quake)

Could you resist?
Not quite as photogenic but all personality.

After much searching I finally came up with this recipe,  adapted from one I found on  A really fun blog all about pet treats.  As always, I make a recipe exactly as I find it the first time.  Then an occasional tweak here and there for my taste...or should I say, Izz and Quake's taste?  So, here it is.  Hope your furry friends like them too.  

1 Cup water
1 egg (farm fresh of course)
5 Cups Buckwheat Flour
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/3 Cup Honey (sourced locally)
1/3 Cup Molasses (sourced as locally as possible)
2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Ground Ginger
Rendered Bacon Fat

Place the dry ingredients — buckwheat flour,flour, ginger and cinnamon — into a mixing bowl first and mix together. Then add the wet ingredients, water, honey, molasses and egg.   I used the stand mixer but you could mix by hand. Mix it until it forms a dough ball.  It does roll out easily but be sure to flour your surface well.  I also had some rendered bacon fat on hand so I brushed each cookie.  I cannot say whether it affected the cookie in flavor or texture but it sure sounded like a good idea.  I'll continue to use the bacon fat.  Our dry kibble foods, regardless how good the quality are just that; dry.  In the processing they loose the natural fats.
I like mine a bit thicker,  1/4″ and 1/2″ thick. I used a bone shaped cookie cutter for maximum affect.

Bake at 250 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour.  Viola, a treat you can feel mighty proud of.You cannot imagine how good they smelled coming out of the oven.  So much so I had to taste.  At first I thought, a dog treat, really?  Why not, look at the ingredients. Mighty tasty morsels they are, serious.  

The original recipe used all buckwheat flour because the author was after grain free.  I don't believe grains are meant for our canines but ours dogs don't have allergies and the all purpose flour gave the dough just a bit more gluten to work with.  I think you could change that 6 cups to whatever combo you like.  I also think the sky is the limited for flavors and such.  Have fun with it!

I'm even thinking I'll stack a few together, tie them with some pretty ribbon and give them as holiday gifts.