Archive for the ‘Ham Making’ Category

Smoking!

May 18, 2014

This week Lydia organised the building of a smoke house for us, so that we could cold smoke some hams from the pig we processed the week before.  (Only one pig left now!)  Yesterday we tried it out, and though the fire box will need some tweaking it did the job just fine.

Smokehouse

The hams had previously been cured in a salt and glucose brine and here they are being cold smoked, along with one of my home made cheddars.

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Our brine cure was a simple 2 litres of water, 3/4 cup salt, 4 teaspoons pink salt (insta cure #1) and 2 cups glucose (also called dextrose – in order to go along with the “sugar-free” diet we are currently trying).  The hams were kept in the brine in the fridge for 2 lb or 900gm per day.  As it turned out this was not quite enough and the cure did not reach completely into the centre of some of the hams, leaving some of the sliced ham with pale roast pork colour instead of the usual pink.  This doesn’t really matter as mostly the flavour is there, however another recipe I read later suggested 1″ thickness of ham per day.  I will do them a bit longer next time.

When they came out of the cure, the hams were sat in the fridge for a day to dry in preparation for the cold smoking.  We smoked them for 6 hours which seems to have given them a good amount of smokey flavour.

After the smoking they get cooked.  We baked ours until they reached 150°F in the centre and thereafter they could be sliced and eaten!  Yum.  The family find them particularly delicious when hot, and the first one I cooked to try it out almost disappeared in an evening as a rather more-ish snack.  The rest are now waiting for me to slice them up and store them away.

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The taste is delicious though the texture is a bit different from store bought ham and is perhaps reminiscent of corned beef.  I’m not sure why, perhaps it is the pigs age or the fact that they free range, however it does not affect our enjoyment of the product.  Kim wants us to try the old fashioned dry cured ham now, so we can hang it up outside for a few months instead of using the fridge and freezer.

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Last weeks weather and Lupo

January 13, 2014

Summer in Tasmania can be variable!  Last Monday we woke to a cool morning with fresh snow on the mountains.  Over the day we had rain, nasty gusty winds and finished with the evening being sunny and still.  Quite a variety for one day!  The gusty winds were pretty bad, we had 5 trees or tree portions come down and one last furious gust totally shredded one of our plastic carports and also did some damage to the wood framed carport attached to the shack.  (This now has us making plans for some changes, since we have to pull part of the roof off to do repairs anyway.  We actually lost power for 24 hours as there were lots of trees down on the lines.)  Then yesterday we were all sweltering during church with temperatures around 30°C, and Wednesday is forecast for 37°C which is sure to challenge us.  🙂  You never know what to expect.

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I told my dad a story about our dog, Lupo, a little while ago and he was still chuckling about it the other day when I spoke to him so I thought it might be worth sharing the tale.  Lupo is usually my shadow around the place, she likes to follow me wherever I go, which is mostly nice but occasionally annoying.  One of the highlights of her day has always been the feeding of stock in the morning which is expanded these days because we milk the cow at the same time.  She has always loved to bark a lot during the feeding, to warn us how dangerous the pigs were or to let us know that we should come out of the paddock and back to safety with her.  It was rather frustrating with all the noise, but she really did love to be there with me so I put up with it.
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Every morning Josiah and I milk Twinkles into a stainless steel bucket, then when we are finished I pour all the milk into a plastic bucket with a good fitting lid and pop it on the outside of the fence waiting for me to take it all up to the house for straining and refrigerating.  One of the doggy perks of coming milking was that Lupo gets to lick out the metal bucket once I have poured the milk out.  Just recently we weaned Blaze, Twinkles calf, and started milking twice a day.  Blaze was not at all amused that he could no longer get to his mum, and he was quite agitated for a week or two, pacing up and down the fences and calling out to Twinkles constantly.  Normally I had been turning the whole electric fence off when I went milking, but with Blaze’s behaviour I was concerned that he would try to bust through the poly wire gates that we have, so I made a point of leaving the electric fences on.  Instead I just turned off the one gate that was essential to let me into the paddock myself to do the milking.
Milking
Well, one sunny morning all was going as per normal.  I had just finished milking and popped the buckets over the fence.  Lupo was indulging herself, head deep in the bucket, while I took Twinkle’s halter off and prepared to get some hay.  Suddenly there was a desperate yelp and Lupo hurled herself backwards, landed in a heap, frantically scrabbled up and took off howling, racing flat out towards the house.  Somewhat taken aback, Josiah and I ran after her to see if she was okay, but she wasn’t stopping for anything and I couldn’t possibly keep up!  Josiah raced after her on his bike to check she was okay while I went back to the paddock and realised what had happened.  In her enthusiasm at licking out the bucket, Lupo had slowly moved it, closer and closer, until it hit the bottom wires of the -very- live electric fence.  Poor dog!  Our electric fence gives a good solid hit, and I can only imagine what it must have felt like – zapping her wet tongue and face, ears and all as her head was right in the bucket.  Poor old Loop.  I’m not surprised she took off, but what does surprise me is that she has refused to accompany me for the milking ever since.  I keep expecting the memory of the experience to fade, and her to return to her old enthusiastic routine, but it’s been about 6 weeks and it hasn’t happened yet!
In other news we finally got around to making our own ham again.  We tried a simple recipe and smoked it as well, and actually really liked it.  It came out looking a bit more like corned beef than ham.  I’m not sure if that was because the pig was older or because the meat had been frozen or what, but it tasted good anyway so it didn’t matter to us.  I am looking forward to making more ham when we do our next pig.
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We are also making some changes with vehicles, trying to rationalise what we have.  Just before Christmas we purchased a 2000 Peugeot 206 GTI, deciding we wanted a small economical modern car with more safety features for the kids to drive.  The Peugeot is lovely to drive but it has the misfortune of being black.  🙂  We subsequently sold the Toyota and more than covered the purchase cost of the Peugeot, which worked out rather well for us.  Then last week we sold our old kombi to a young fellow who is going to restore it, which is something we were never managing to find the time for.  It was a bit of a wrench to sell the kombi, as the prices of them are going up and up all the time as they become older and rarer, so we may not be able to have one ever again.  However we wanted to be sensible and we just do not have the time or the facilities to restore old cars and keep them under cover so that they will last.  Our hope now is to find a VW T3 Caravelle to replace the kombi.  Once that is done we will be considering whether or not we want to sell the old VW Wagon too.  There are no plans to sell the beetle though!  Kim is most adamant about that!!!
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We haven’t had a lot of visitors this summer, but did have one couple visit when Lindon and Debbie came and bravely stayed overnight with us.  We worked out that we hadn’t seen Lindon for about 15 years!  It was really great to catch up with them both but they had to leave all too soon – though not before they showed Lydia how to improve her trimming of her horses hooves, which was greatly appreciated.  Thanks guys – come back again sometime!

Time for an update

May 6, 2011

We’ve been progressing with the pigs lately.  Both Stunner and Trouble are in the freezer now and even though they were both about 2 years old the meat is still tender and tasty.  They had a good long life for pigs I reckon, so I don’t feel bad that their time had to end at last.  Horace the boar is the next on the list, with Pink and Skinny Minnie being saved until later when they have put some condition back on after weaning their piglets.

I am glad that the pig numbers are going down as it has been a bit of a juggle moving them around.  For example, Mirax is due to farrow again soon so we moved her into a paddock of her own last week.  That is so easy to say but was much harder to do.  To get her there we had to move her through the piglets area.  I really didn’t fancy coping with a big pig chasing lost of squealing little pigs all over the place, so I decided that the solution was to shut the piglets in the trailer hurdles and then Mirax could just walk through with no distractions into her own paddock.  Of course the easiest way to get the piglets into the hurdles was to put food in there and sure enough they were happy to crowd in and eat.  Mirax came through the gate readily enough, leaving Erlestoke and Pigachu behind, but she then discovered some spilt food outside the hurdles and was so busy munching away that she just didn’t want to leave.  Then she smelt the food inside the hurdles and was rooting up the end of them trying to get to it!  Most worrying, to both me and the piglets inside!  And Mirax is so big now it is no mean feat to move her when she doesn’t want to go.  Pushing and shoving was having no effect, but with Kim valiantly holding the hurdles down I finally managed to get her attention by sprinkling a trail of grain all the way through the piglet area to where she was meant to go.  I was most relieved when she followed the trail to her new paddock.

It is a fairly major ongoing expense to feed all our pigs so it was most welcome when we had a call from a gardener in Deloraine offering us some acorns that were otherwise headed for the rubbish tip.  So last week Lydia and I loaded the kombi with numerous sacks full of raked up acorns to try out.  About half of the adult pigs quite like them, as do the piglets, though a few of them sniff at them and then look at us as if saying “where is the food?”.  We sold the last 9 piglets yesterday which worked out well.  The people who came to get 2, took 3 instead, and the guy who came to take 4 took the remaining 6.  Funnily enough the 6 were taken by a farmer who is going to run them under his oak trees to clean up the acorns there.

My latest bacon recipe has been a big success.  I bought some saltpetre mix from the internet with some hickory chips for smoking and made a maple syrup cure from the Redback trading company website which everyone seems to like.  It almost tastes more like cabonossi than bacon to me, but is still very pleasant.

Our sookie calves continue to munch away on the grass in a neighbouring paddock to the church in town.  They are growing bigger all the time but continue to be sweet and quiet.  I  do miss them being so far away but it is much better for them to be on pasture than eating hay here.  One day I hope we will have some pasture here too.  Patience, patience!  We still have Izzy and her calf at home.  There are plans in the works for yards but they haven’t reached the top of the priority list yet, so remain just plans.  More patience required!

We received our first electranet fence the other day which is an essential part of the free range chook system that Lydia wants to set up.  It is a movable electric mesh fence to keep the chooks safe from quolls whilst they are being moved around in the bush on the block.  We have been considering different options for portable hen houses too, and recently picked up a cheap tent that we are going to use for the time being so that we can try out the system with our current pullets.  I think it will be pretty funny having bush ranging chooks living in a tent.  🙂  It seems pretty crazy but you have to try things sometimes, there is not too much to lose after all.  Hopefully by the time the tent dies we will have made a more permanent house for them.

One missing hen reappeared a week ago with 16 chicks in tow.  We discovered that she had been hiding in the bush in a bladegrass nest sitting on 2 dozen eggs.  I think she did a great job hatching so many as she is just a small hen and amazingly enough they all manage to snuggle underneath her.

Then just yesterday another small dark hen appeared from the bush with yet another 16 chicks!  I haven’t been able to make them stay inside the safety of the electric fence yet so I hope the quolls don’t get them.

We bought a dozen CSIRO Leghorn eggs and hatched 10 of them under a broody hen.  They are supposed to be good layers but it looks like only 4 of them are hens.  Leghorn’s combs grow very long and we are not sure how they will go in the cold weather here but we will have to wait and see as they are certainly not long yet.

Our turkey numbers are down to 7.  Our old gobbler was taken by a quoll a month or so ago.  He had been sleeping outside of the electric fence for so long that I had decided that he must have been too big for a quoll to take on, but I found out the hard way that I was quite wrong.  Then we sold a young gobbler to one of the guys who were buying piglets on Saturday. He will get to have his own flock of hens so I wish him well.  That leaves us with no male unless one of the two youngest poults is a gobbler, but I would quite like to get one of a different bloodline anyway.   Our hand reared turkey hens are driving us a bit crazy, one of them chases us around pecking at our heels when we feed the chooks and the other two carry on and chase Josiah whenever they are up at the house and he is outside.  They need to remember the farm motto of “be nice or be dinner”!

The cooler weather is definitely starting now and the plant life is slowing down in response.  We haven’t had a lot of frosts yet this year but I am sure that that situation won’t last long.  I planted a bunch of Tagasaste seeds this year and am keeping the seedlings in pots in the greenhouse over winter.  I hope when they are mature that they will be able to survive the frosts, but for now they need a bit more TLC.  Tagasaste is a good stock feed bush I am told, so it would be a useful plant for us to have.  I  believe that the deer farm in Mole Creek has Tagasaste growing so I am hopeful to establish some here as well. Our soil is not the best so it remains to be seen how it will go, worth a try though.

I have been involved with a homeschooling group up north of the state and we recently had a gardening swap meet one morning.  It was fun.  Josiah and I took along some bags of manure and some seeds and seedlings.  For everything we took we were given a token which we could use to get something that someone else had brought.  Our manure went fast, much to my relief as I really did not want to take it home again!  We brought home some garlic, walking onions, iris bulbs, jerusalem artichokes and agapanthus.  Josiah really enjoys the homeschool get togethers, he loves playing with the other children.  I’ve got to know some interesting folk there too.

Lydia is going well.  Her casual work at the guest house has finished now that the tourist season is over.  She is looking for more work but really wants to get started on the organic egg business soon, as that is what she really wants to do with her life.  She loves the country life, her chooks and her sweet horse.  Zorro was lame for a few months, after throwing a wobbly when his cow was moved out of his paddock, but is finally sound again.  He has a lovely nature and always comes when called but can be silly when he is in the mood.  Typical horse!

Caleb and Sam continue to be unwell.  However their latest doctor actually seems to be taking their problems seriously, and seems prepared to work through their issues methodically and thoroughly in an effort to help them.  Caleb is awaiting an endoscope appointment and is working through various treatment options in the meantime while Sam is currently on a course of the antibiotics for that bacteria that causes ulcers.  It would be wonderful if they could have their health improved one day.  Meanwhile we are thankful for what God has given us.  Sam had his 21st this year and is now the proud owner of an Apple iPad.

Kim is still struggling with his chronic fatigue.  He has heaps of things he wants to do and finds it very frustrating to be limited so much by his health, but is happy that he can at least do a bit here and there.  The cars seem to continually need his attention lately, no sooner does he fix one problem than another appears.  That is one of the realities of living with cars as old as ours are I guess.  However he has finished installing the LED lighting in our main building and we are now running all those lights directly off of the 12V batteries.  They work really well.  Kim also had a big birthday this year, turning 50 in April.

Well, that is the news for now.