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cooking, cooking venison, cooking wild game, homemade, homesteading, recipes

Venison Chili The First Kiss of Wild Game

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The most popular dish at any hunting camp is always Venison Chili.  In fact, I would bet that this is the way most people have tried venison for the first time.  I suppose venison chili is like the ultimate first impression, get it right and you have a venison lover, get it wrong and a half bowl of chili goes to waste.  I guess this is what has caused us to refine our recipe over the years.  A great venison chili starts when you are butchering the deer.  We have learned the more deer fat in our ground venison, the more gamey it would be.  We make sure not to put any of the silver skin in our ground venison either, and we vacuum seal  it to keep it nice and fresh.  We also use fresh, frozen, dried, or canned  vegetables from our garden.  The result is a homestead meal that anyone would be proud to serve for dinner or at camp.

Venison Chili

2 Lbs. Ground Venison

1 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 Small Onion (chopped)

1 Large Bell Pepper (chopped)

1 Qt. Canned Crushed Tomatoes, drained of any liquid

1 cup dry back beans, soaked overnight in 3 cups cold water

1 cup of frozen corn (optional, but very yummy!)

1 Tsp. Paprika

1/2 Tsp. Cayenne Pepper (more or less to taste)

1/2 Tsp. Cumin

1/2 Tsp. Crushed Red Pepper (more or less to taste)

1/2 Tsp. Black Pepper

1/4 Tsp. Salt

2 Cloves of Crushed Garlic

In a large pot or cast iron dutch oven (our preference), heat olive oil on med/high heat and add garlic and saute until softened and lightly browned. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes. Add venison, stirring frequently  to brown, and cook all the way through.

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Unlike beef, venison is so lean,  so no need to drain as there will be very little fat, if any.

Add green pepper, tomatoes, seasonings and beans. Stir to thoroughly combine. Bring the chili to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally for 30-45 minutes or until beans are tender and cooked through.

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Finally, add the corn and stir. Enjoy with a hearty corn bread and top with whatever you like, although we find that we like to eat ours as is!

A big cast iron pot of fresh chili looks almost as good as it tastes.  There is nothing better to bring ice fishing and share with your friends, and every time we do it is gone quickly.  The next time you make venison chili, don’t forget It may be someones first taste of venison, so make it your best.

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backyard chickens, chickens, farming, homesteading, meat chickens

Raising Meat Chickens, you will never go back to store-bought again!

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If raising chickens for eggs is the gateway to homesteading,  then raising them for meat is stepping through that gate with both rubber boots.  Once you have raised your own meat, and see the difference from what you buy in the store, you will never go back.  We finally decided to raise meat birds after a few years of raising laying hens.  We decided to raise Cornish Crosses because of their excellent feed conversion rate.  You get one pound of meat for every two pounds of food you feed them. We also wanted to start with a bird that we were used to eating, and these are the same birds that the U.S. poultry industry uses.  Cornish Crosses also only take eight weeks to raise.  This would enable us to raise more than one batch in a year.  We ordered 25 chicks from Meyers Hatchery,  as this was the minimum number to receive free shipping.  Every dollar counts when you are homesteading.  We set up an eight foot diameter brooder, and we chose to make it a circle to keep chicks from getting stuck in corners and accidentally killed.  Finally our long awaited chicks arrived by mail.

 

They were so cute and fuzzy, and we wondered how we would ever eat such cute animals. We immediately realized that these chicks were much different than laying hens.  They ate almost non stop, and pooped almost as much.  We gave them unlimited food for a few days but quickly cut back to two feedings a day.  We learned with our research that they will eat themselves to death if you don’t restrict their feed.  After only a week, they had more than doubled in size and became something less than cute .

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In another week they were even larger and began to resemble a store bought chicken with legs.  They were a little stinky, so we were looking forward to getting them outside.

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We constructed a run with a place for them to get out of the sun, and waited for them to get their feathers so we could move them outside.

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They really didn’t move around much and were very happy to just eat and drink all day.  As they grew, we looked forward all the protein they would provide our family.

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They were also eating a ton of feed.  They truly had a one track mind.

 

 

We checked their weight regularly and soon they were ready for their big day.

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We read up on butchering, and watched videos.  It’s a really is a simple process.  The biggest issue is plucking, so we would recommend borrowing or buying a plucker.  We still don’t own one, but plucking 25 chickens takes two people most of a whole day, so we plan on purchasing one this year. Once the feathers are removed/plucked they begin to resemble the chicken we are all used to seeing in the store.  It only takes a few minutes to butcher and eviscerate (remove the innards) a chicken,  and then they are immediately cooled in ice water.

 

Once they are cooled, we wash them thoroughly and we place them in shrink bags which are inexpensive and easy to find online.  They are cheaper in bulk, so buy a few year’s worth at once to save a few dollars, again every dollar counts.

 

The first time we butchered chickens it was a few days before we felt like eating one.  We were nervous and unsure if we would enjoy them.  The first thing we noticed is that they took a little longer to cook.  They are not injected with broth like the ones in the store.  They also were not slimy and didn’t need a diaper like store bought.  When  you finally taste one you know that all of your hard work was worth it.  Guess what? They taste like chicken,  they are not bland and have a wonderful flavor, and they also do not taste like salt like the ones from the store.  The second time you butcher chickens you will have one for dinner that night, in fact I get hungry when I butcher them now.  So if you have ever thought about raising meat bird, pull up your rubber boots and jump in.  You will be rewarded for your effort in legs and breasts, it doesn’t get much better than that.

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duck eggs, ducks, homesteading, raising ducks, Uncategorized

Raising Ducks in a Chicken’s World

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We have all been there.  Walking through your local feed store and placed strategically in the center are troughs full of chicks and ducks. They are all peeping away and oh so cute.  Who hasn’t looked down at them and wanted to bring a few home? One day on the way home from work, I stopped for feed and couldn’t take it anymore. I had to take a few of those fuzzy ducks home, six as a matter of fact, as they had a minimum.  So with no plan, I headed home.  Everyone loved them and since we had all the equipment from raising chicks, we were able to settle them in quickly.  We had a large brooder box, heat lamp, waterer, and feeder.  Our brooder is big enough that we could set the heat lamp fairly low and the ducks would be able to adjust their temperature by moving either closer or further away from the bulb. Their cuteness was overwhelming.  Ducks need constant access to water in order to eat.  After eating they need to clean their nostrils with water, so the water needs to be deep enough for them to put their beak under water.

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It didn’t take long for us to realize they were a little different from chicks.  They were noisy and seemed to poop twice their weight a day.  They would splash all of the water out of the waterer, and ate almost as much as meat birds.  However, they were still the cutest things ever.  You could not help pick them up, they were very skittish and ran from us like we would murder them.

After a few weeks, we decided to let them go for a swim. Baby ducks can swim well, but they lack the oil gland to keep their feathers dry, so after a short swim, they need to be dried and put back under the heat lamp. In the wild, their mother would preen them.

Once they were a little bigger, we would give them a small dishpan to swim in.  We also made them a ramp so they could get in and out easier.  They loved to have greens chopped up and put into their swimming pool.  Twice a day, they would splash all  of the water out of their pool and soak the shavings.  Ducks are a lot of work.  They are certainly not chickens.  We decided to put them outside and built them their own coop out of scrap lumber, because homesteaders have to be resourceful. Which also explains the siding made from scrap flooring!

Ducks do not need a roost and we thought they would like to live in the vineyard.  But being ducks, they decided they would not go in at night and we would have to wrangle fast ducks every night. Soon they just lived in the vineyard, because they refused to go inside.  Finally, they began to lay eggs and we were able to make wonderful fluffy bread with them.  Duck eggs are delicious and soon we were enjoying duck egg omelettes as well.

They were happy to be outside and you could hear them at night quacking away, until disaster struck.  Something killed 4 of them in two nights, so we rounded up the rest and put them in a safe pen. Luckily the two surviving ducks were male and female, so we borrowed an incubator, thanks to a fellow homesteader, and set off to raise the first animals conceived on the homestead.   We placed an egg a day in the incubator.  Duck eggs take 28 days to hatch, and we found that our hatch rates were better when we turned them by hand and not with the automatic turner. After several failed eggs we began to hit our stride and it was baby duck heaven all over again.  It was fascinating to watch them use the egg tooth on their beak to get out of the egg.

Then they began to hatch, one after another after another after another.  14 in all we named them all after nuts: Peanut, Cashew, Pecan, Pistachio, Macadamia, Almond, Left, Right (use your imagination here), Filbert, Hazel, Coco, Acorn, Butternut and Brazil.  This is a short video of one hatching.

Our duck journey had come full circle, there is nothing like going outside and always having a flock of ducks in your yard.  They keep the slug population down and they have now taken over the mowing in the vineyard.  Well all except one.

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There is nothing like a smoked duck.  So the next time you are in the feed store and you see those fuzzy little ducks, grab yourself a six pack to go along with them, you are gonna need it.

cooking, homemade, homesteading, Jambalaya, recipes, Uncategorized

How To Make Jambalaya in Celebration of Mardi Gras (or any other night of the week )

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We love to create traditions on the homestead.  Some of our traditions come from our families, but we really enjoy starting new ones,  especially when they involve food or drink.  We have tried mint juleps for the Kentucky derby and the seven fishes for Christmas Eve, we even made a trout out of lights and drop it from a pole every New Years Eve.  One of our favorite traditions is celebrating fat Tuesday (AKA: Mardi Gras) , by making jambalaya.  We may or may not celebrate other Mardi Gras traditions, use your imagination!  Like so many other dishes, jambalaya recipes vary greatly, but we have come up with one the whole family enjoys.  We always use our cast iron pot, which has never produced a bad meal.  Jambalaya is one of those dishes that when being cooked fills the whole house with a mouth-watering aroma.  Our jambalaya is kicked up a notch by our own homemade hot Italian sausage.  Traditional recipes use andouille  but this is the homestead version that uses ingredients we have in the pantry and freezer.  We also use green pepper, onion, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, and canned tomatoes from last years garden.

Jambalaya

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 lb sausage links, we use hot Italian, but can substitute andouille, cut into 3 pieces each

1/2 lb raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 tbsp olive oil

salt

pepper

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp oregano

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup crushed tomatoes

1 small onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, finely minced or crushed

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a cast iron dutch oven on med/high heat,         heat 1 tbsp of olive oil. Brown the chicken in 2 batches. No need to cook through, just browning at this time. Remove each batch to a plate and set aside. In the same pot, brown the sausage pieces (if using andouille, skip this browning step) and set aside with the chicken.

Add the second tablespoon of olive oil to the pot. On med/high heat, saute the pepper, onion and garlic until slightly softened. Add the cayenne, red pepper flakes, paprika and oregano to the pot with the vegetables. Stir to combine and warm seasonings. (I find that doing this is a trick to “wake up” dried spices)

Add the chicken stock, tomatoes and rice. Stir to combine. Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot, and don’t forget to include all those yummy juices that have accumulated on the plate. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer and set a timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn off heat, uncover, add shrimp and stir to combine. Re-cover and leave covered for 5 minutes with the heat off. (trust me, your shrimp will cook!) After those 5 long minutes have passed, give the jambalaya one more stir and serve!

There are so many wonderful traditions out there, and not all of them require beads.  It is always exciting to try something new, so why not start a new tradition, we are always glad we did.

 

 

cooking, gardening, homesteading

Making Crushed Red Pepper, just like when life gives you lemons…

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We have all heard the saying ” when life gives you lemons make lemonade “.  Well Last growing season life gave us peppers, lots of them.  We had so many peppers in fact that we couldn’t really keep up.  Every night we were cutting up bell and jalapeno peppers and freezing them.  We were also canning tomatoes.  Harvest time is always busy and inevitably we miss a few things.  This year we missed the Anaheim chili peppers we had planted in pots by the pool.  By the time we got to them, they were past their prime.  Life had given us wrinkly rubbery peppers, now we just needed to find a way to make them into “lemonade”.  Our first thought was to freeze them and put them into dishes where they would be cooked down.  Then our “lemonade” moment came, we could dry them just like you see in all of those pictures of the old country.  So we found a spot, used a needle and thread, and hung them to dry.  They became a beautiful piece of art hanging in our kitchen.

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They looked so much like decoration that people would ask if they were fake.  After about 4 months, we felt they were dry enough for the next step.  We were going to make them into our own crushed red pepper.  We started by crushing them by hand, wearing gloves of course.  We had made the mistake of bare handed pepper handling in the past,  and let’s just say it didn’t just burn our hands.

Once the peppers were crushed, we decided that a quick run through the spice grinder was in order.  We wanted it to look like the real thing.

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   We finished it off by putting the finished product in a small mason jar.

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You can even see the flakes in our delicious soup .

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We had made “lemonade”, and now we had a delicious new home grown and chemical free spice to use in our food.  So often we are discouraged in life,  it would have been easy to throw these peppers away.  Instead we took a chance on a them and developed a new skill.  When we ordered our seeds this year, we ordered peppers specifically to dry and crush.  We will be making this batch of “lemonade” for years to come.