Monthly Archives: February 2015

Beef and Barley Soup with MacCurdy Farm beef soup bone stock

Beef and Barley soup is, without a doubt, my favorite winter comfort and home remedy food.  If the pot has soup in it after two days, send a search party, because I usually like the pot to finish.  My love for this type of soup originated with the Campbell’s Soup variety and now, just as I did then, I can’t stop eating it until the pot is empty.  Even better than that, the nutritional elements of this homemade soup far exceed that of any canned variety.  It’s breakfast, lunch, supper, and in-betweensies when I make this soup.  Hope you enjoy this hearty traditional favorite of the MacCurdy family!

Homemade Beef Stock

You will need a bag of 2 lb soup bones.

On a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, bake the soup bones for 45 – 60 minutes until nicely browned at 350 degrees.  Some people suggest longer at higher temperatures.  You want the bones to be nicely browned before adding them to your soup pot,

Ingredients

  • 2 onions chopped coarsely
  • 2 carrots chopped coarsely
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped coarsely
  • 1/4 tsp of summer savory
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (Draws minerals out of the bones)
  • I bag of browned soup bones
  • 1/2 tsp of sea salt (optional)

Preparation

Cook in a 4 quart soup pot.  Make sure that the bones are completely immersed in water.  Bring all ingredients to a boil.  Turn down and simmer for a minimum of 12 hours (I did it over night) and up to 48 hours.  The longer it cooks, the more flavor emerges.  Skim the scum as you simmer.  Remove the bones and give to the dogs for a treat if they are still hard.  I used a soup ladle to fill freezer containers with the excess stock that I didn’t use in the beef and barley soup.

Beef and Barley Soup

Soup is Served!

Soup is Served!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of homemade beef stock
  • 8 cups of water
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (You can use a smaller can if desired)
  • 1/4 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of pearl barley (Don’t use too much)
  •  2 cups of stewing beef (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots
  • 1 cup of chopped celery
  • 1 cup of chopped onion

Prep

In a large soup pot (4 quart), add your beef stock, water, diced tomatoes, and spices.  Saute the vegetables in a separate pan or simply add them to the soup after it has been brought to a slow rolling boil.  Add your beef (I’ve used uncooked stewing meat and leftover roast on separate occasions although I prefer cooking the stewing beef into the soup.  Add the 1/2 cup of pearl barley and cook the soup for 45 – 60 minutes.  Taste to check to see that all ingredients are tender and cooked.  Serves up to 12 individual bowls.

Serves well on cold Winter days and during cold/flu season.  Spruce yourself up with this homemade belly warmer.  Finally, a big shout out to Mark Hengst for his cooking wisdom for producing healthy soup stock.

Best. Soup. Ever.

Best. Soup. Ever.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Three days of meals with Heritage Breed Chicken

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The past two years, when our meatkings go to table, we send our heritage breed roosters along with them.  Sadly, they don’t make the selection for breeding due to either temperament or less suitable breed traits.  The first time I cooked a heritage breed rooster, I made the mistake of cooking it like a meatking, which is a type of bird that amasses muscle very quickly due to selective breeding and is super tender when roasted.  Unexpectedly, I bit into a drumstick the consistency of rubber, and less along the lines of the meat that falls off the bones with meat kings.  With a potential customer base for heritage breed chicken, I set out to cook atleast three meals in three days from two roasted heritage breed roosters to provide customers with some recipes and quality feedback on the taste and texture of heritage breed chickens, the type of chickens that my grandparents grew up raising and eating in their barnyard/backyard flocks.

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Each and everyone of us has a different level of expertise in the kitchen.  Hopefully, you can take these words of advice and add cooking heritage breed chicken to the list of culinary favorites.  As I continue to pursue a larger disconnect from the “supermarket” mentality that once governed my decisions on food, I find myself spending more time in the kitchen and making more efficient use of food items that have come from our small diversified farm.  Each time I cook a heritage breed chicken my imagination takes over and I picture myself operating a homestead and cooking around an old L’Islet cooking stove like the one we have inside our farm house.  Before the age of the supermarket, people cooked in the name of efficiency.  They made multiple meals from a roast beef or roast chicken.  The one and done approach didn’t cross their minds.  They ate to survive and cooking was an experience, not a quick stop in your day.  I try to keep this in mind when I look at the left over meat on the chicken carcass.  The chickens gave their lives to feed my family so I’m not going to throw the meat that didn’t get eaten into a garbage can (Like many of us often do) but rather I’m going to make multiple meals.

Before I cooked the two heritage breed roosters, I did a little research on cooking heritage breed birds.  I found a gem on Mother Earth News, which I had incidentally read about in Joel Salatin’s book on pastured poultry.   Just click on the following link for an informative read: http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/cooking-heritage-breed-chickens.aspx.  This article, as well as other leading authorities on chickens like Gail Demerow, Joel Salatin, and the many contributors to the backyardchickens forum, talk about the four different types of birds available for cooking.

On our farm, our pastured meatkings qualify as broilers as they are processed up to 12 weeks.  By this point they have amassed a substantial amount of meat but are not impeded by the weight gain to the point that they are immobile (unethical and poor management at that point).  However, meatkings do not qualify as heritage breed birds so you’ll rarely see a heritage breed rooster processed that young because they are a much slower growing bird.

We have not produced fryers yet, but this year when we have our turkeys processed in the fall we will also be doing our heritage breed roosters that have not made the cut for breeding or have not sold to other farmers.  Our Plymouth Barred Rock Cockerels/Roosters are supposed to make excellent fryers.  When it comes to livestock I also offer them a chance for life on another farm first before having them processed.  We have sold more than a few roosters over the last couple years in exactly this effort.   When we keep our roosters through the winter we process our roosters at an age that qualifies them for roasting and slow-cooking techniques.

The recipes/meals in this blog are written for roasters, which are birds on our farm that are still the first year of their life, but past physical maturity.

Finally, we seldom process stewers, or our laying hens that are near the end of their egg production days.  We do not butcher on farm so these birds often end up finishing out their days on another farm as pets or, strangely enough, stewing hens.

Cooking:

Take a roaster, Close the vents.  Add a 1/2 cup to a cup of water and some olive oil to the roasting pan.  Place the birds breast side down in the roaster and cook in the oven for 3.5 hours at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is important to note that a pastured rooster will have very yellowish fat.  There is nothing wrong with the bird, it simply means that they had the luxury of enjoying the great outdoors and the healing power of the sun during their life cycle.  The carotenoids found in the grasses that the chickens forage on deepens the yellowing color of their fat, filling it with nutrients that make their way into your soups and gravies.

Day 1: Chicken Wraps

Our family is big on wraps and sandwiches so we use up the tenderest white meat in our own concocted wraps, which usually includes sautéed onions, peppers, and mushrooms.  You can choose to use any part of the chicken for your meal but I suggest delving into the tenderest meat, especially if you have young ones.

Day 2: Baked Chicken and Rice with assorted peppers

At this point, day 2, we start to pick away at the meat on the legs and wings as well as anything left over from the breasts to cut into cubes for our baked chicken and rice, which is a family favorite.  You can make changes to the recipe as you see fit.

Day 3: Homemade Chicken and Rice Soup

Finally, my favorite day, soup day.  I have grown increasingly fond of hearty soups and stews this winter (Our Northern New Brunswick winter has been especially hard on people of all ages).  I have added two soup recipes (Heritage Breed chicken and rice soup and Grass fed beef and barley soup) to our farm website menu.

Heritage Breed Chicken and Rice Soup

Stock

Place your left over chicken scraps (back, legs, wings, etc.) in 4 quarts (16 cups) of water.  Including a small amount of vinegar will help to break down the ligaments and sinew on the bones.  Bring to a boil and then put on low heat for at least 3 hours.  Skim the water as it cooks.  Add a 1/2 cup each of celery, carrot, and onions.   When the broth is done strain the liquid to remove the chicken bones and pieces of vegetables.  These can be composted.  Place the pieces of meat from off the bones in the chicken stock.

From chicken bones to chicken soup

From chicken bones to chicken soup

Soup

Again, add a half cup of celery, carrot, onion and rice to the stock with chicken.  Then add a whole can of diced or whole tomato for color and flavor.  Add a tea spoon of sea salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper for taste.  You can change these amounts at your discretion.  Add a small amount of garlic, a 1/4 teaspoon of celery salt, and a bay leaf.  You’ll remove the bay leaf after the soup has finished cooking on a low heat for an hour.  This makes a hearty soup.  I prefer to leave the vegetables sliced in larger size pieces for a chunky appearance.

Soup is Served!

Soup is Served!

Enjoy this soup as a natural treatment for a cold or on a cold winter day with friends and family.

Categories: farming, Heritage breed chicken, Locavore, MacCurdy Farm | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Snowblower Ramp Build

In case you haven’t noticed, Winter is here.  It is here for a good time … and a long time.  And, according to our little shadow fearing varmint, the groundhog, there will be 6 more weeks of it.  I haven’t checked my farmer’s almanac but judging by the frequency of snowstorms this Winter, I felt it was time to extend the reach of my snow blower.  It was time to build a snow blower ramp so that I could load my Ariens Deluxe 28 snow blower onto the farm truck for some snow therapy at the farm.  The high winds over the past few days have cause hard packed drifts to litter landscape of the farm, even making our farm lane impassable.  Our tractor blower has been out of commission since my grandfather passed in August of 2003 and these cold days with windchill up to -39 degrees Celsius have rendered the old Massey 383 out-of-order due to severe frostbite.  Time to bring up the Ariens to the big leagues and blow out a path to my chicken barns.  The cold has been a nasty opponent to our flock’s health and laying production this winter.  I’m in the process of adding more ventilation to my chicken barns, some poop boards beneath their roosts, and some heating via heat lamps, which will be run off of a solar panel on the south side of the barn.  A diversifying farm is never without projects.  In fact, if you’re not careful you’ll get bogged down with them.

The Build:

I’ve always enjoyed repurposing materials that are readily available.  I had two 2 x 6s that came out of an old green house frame, excess ice shield from my reshingling my home this summer for grip on the tracks, and an abundance of greenhouse strapping.  We could basically say, the cost is free, or better yet, undetermined.  Overall this project took under 2 hours to complete.  I assembled it in my basement next to my toasty pacific energy wood stove.

Modelled on an SUV

Modelled on an SUV

Cut list

  • 2, 2×6 @ 78″
  • 12, 1 x 2 strapping @ 5 1/2″
  • 3, 25″ long boards (any width).  I used 1 x 6 spruce.
  • 2, 5 1/2″ wide strips of gripping surface (I used ice shield)

Materials:

  1. 2 x 6
  2. 1 x 2 strapping
  3. Material for grip on the surface of the tracks (I used excess ice shield)
  4. 2 1/2″ screws
  5. Staple gun to secure the grip to the track
  6. boards (1 x or 2 x)

Tools:

  1. Cordless Power drill
  2. Staple gun
  3. Circular (skill) saw
  4. Scissors/shearers (To cut ice shield or grip material)

Steps:

  1. Cut your 2, 2×6 to 78″ (or a length that suits the vehicle you will be loading your snow blower onto)
  2. Cut the ice shield (or similar material) to 78″ length and staple to the tracks.
  3. Cut and fasten 3, 25″ cross pieces (braces) to the two tracks.  The boards are cut to 25″ to accommodate the width of the snow blower tire base.  Fasten, with 2 1/2″ screws, in three locations: bottom, middle, and top.  I used 4 screws on both sides of the ramp.
  4. Cut, and then fasten, your 5 1/2″ pieces of 1 x 2 strapping.  Fasten the first piece 2″ from the bottom of the track and then at 12″ spaces until you have installed the final piece on each track.
  5. Test the sturdiness of your ramp before you attempt to load your snow blower onto your truck or SUV.  If it’s bending, you may have to add thicker cross pieces or shorten the ramp tracks.
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Top side of tracks with grips

cross pieces screwed to the tracks

cross pieces screwed to the tracks

Loading your snow blower:

  1. Firmly set the base of the ramp into the snow.  The bottom cross-piece will act as a footboard so that you can brace the snow blower as it travels up the ramp. 
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    Foot board to stabilize the ramp

  2. Engage the differential lock on your snow blower, if it comes equipped with one, so that the wheels turn equally as it climbs the ramp.  Otherwise, one wheel pulls more causing the snow blower to come off the ramp.
  3. Walk the snow blower up the ramp in the slowest travelling speed.  Take caution as you do this and, if at all possible, have someone with you as an extra set of eyes and hands.  You may find that there are alterations and adjustments to be made with this plan to make the loading and unloading of your snow blower an easier endeavor.
  4. Once the snow blower is loaded, firmly secure it with ratchet straps and/or rope to the bed of the truck.  Do the same to your ramp.  Don’t forget, it has to come off at some point but the name of the game is safe road travel.
  5. Remove the key.  We wouldn’t want that to bounce loose on the drive.  Drive to your destination.

Unloading your snow blower:

  1. Firmly position and secure the ramp before loading the snow blower on to it.
  2. Do not bother to start the snow blower.  Slowly back the machine down the ramp.  Use the cross pieces as braces to give more resistance to the snow blower as you back it slowly down the ramp.
  3. Bundle up your ratchet straps and ropes.  Put up the tail gate and get to work.

I hope these plans and pictures can inspire you to make this functional ramp.  At 200 lbs, it safely handled my weight.  During the snow blower test, it safely handled the weight of my Ariens deluxe 28″, which weighs in around 250 lbs according to the specs.  I would suggest fortifying the track supports by using 2 x 4 instead of 1 x boards should your lumber flex more than it should.  I used true rough sawn 2 x 6 for this project.  This is a bit of a change in content from my usual blog posts but, I’m determined to make this a site for all things related to farming.  I’ve always admired DIYers and FIYers so projects like this continue to help me draw a deeper connection to the way things used to be done.  Namely, when people built their own needs and didn’t flock to the nearest hardware store to order something they could build with their own two hands.  People like Dick Proenneke, who built his own log cabin with traditional woodworking tools in the Alaskan wilderness, are becoming harder and harder to find but for people like us, the MacCurdy family, they represent a truer sense of sustainability and an honest way of living.  Enjoy your build.  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment. Next up, a blog on cooking heritage breed chickens.  After that, building a farmhouse table.

Categories: farming, MacCurdy Farm, snowblower ramp | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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