cooking, farming, gardening, homemade, homesteading, recipes, salsa

Pork Empanadas with Primo and Mary’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

As our fellow homesteaders are aware, the barter system is still alive and well. We have traded many things such as pickles, vegetables and honey for many other things, including the fertilized egg that gave us Mr. Wing (remember him?).

But, a new trade came about recently that was a little unconventional. Eggs and maple syrup for salsa. Yes, salsa. We have many of your basic pantry ingredients like flour, sugar, salt and spices, the usual suspects. We don’t buy or eat many pre-packaged foods, but this is the exception, and one we like to keep in the pantry. We have all heard the term, “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it”, and there are some very scary labels out there, but not this one! It is Primo and Mary’s All Natural Salsa (primoandmarys.com). We know, seems like a shameless plug, but we assure you, it is not, and you won’t regret it.

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So, back to the trade…we had an abundance of chicken eggs for sale as well as some maple syrup and an old high school friend contacted us, the owner and founder of Primo and Mary’s. She wanted to buy both eggs and syrup. Now, we have had her salsa before, and loved it, so we knew that we had to at least try to arrange a trade since her products are not readily available to us locally. So a meeting was made, and of all places, in our Church parking lot one Sunday morning after services. So our proposition was to trade the maple syrup and eggs for some salsa and in return we would also create a recipe using her product and share it with all of you.

Pork Empanadas with Primo and Mary’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Empanada Dough

1 ½ c flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp shortening (Crisco)

3/4 c ice water

Empanada Filling

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 lb ground pork (feel free to substitute ground beef or venison)

1/2 lime, juiced

1/3 c Primo and Mary’s Black Bean and Corn Salsa

1/2 avocado, diced

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 egg white mixed with 1 tbsp cold water

To make the empanada “shells”, using a hand or stand mixer, combine the flour and salt, add the shortening and mix until the mixture looks like coarse sandy crumbs. With the mixer on, slowly add the water until the dough sticks together and cleans the side of the bowl. Gather in a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the filling. In a cast iron pan, heat the olive oil on med high heat. Add the meat and cook until browned and no longer pink. Turn heat to low and add the salsa, avocado and cayenne pepper and the juice of the 1/2 lime. Stir to combine. Remove from heat.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Now the fun part! Grab about 1/4 of the dough and roll out to about 1/8th inch thickness on a well-floured board.  Using a 4” round cutter, or in our case a 4” round plastic container (homesteaders are great at improvising!) cut out the shells and set aside for filling. Gather the extra pieces and by hand, mix back in with the remaining dough.

Lay each shell out flat and in the center place about 2 tablespoons of the filling, we use our trusty 2 inch cookie dough scoop. Fold over the shell to create a half moon shape and using a floured fork, press the seam together to seal. Set on a greased baking sheet and repeat with the remaining filling and shells.

Mix together the egg white and water. Brush the tops of each empanada with the egg wash. Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Serve with a side of the salsa for dipping and a black bean, corn and avocado salad dressed with a little lime juice and a sprinkle of cilantro. Enjoy!

There are lots of variations on the empanada, some are baked, some are fried, and they are all filled with an abundance of different ingredients. Use what you have in your pantry, and get yourself some of this amazing salsa!

We are blessed on the homestead with delicious fresh food, and bartering some of our surplus has become a great way to get more from our harvest than just the food itself.  Bartering allows you to make new connections and see old friends.  And it seems like every time we do it everyone leaves smiling.

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backyard chickens, cooking, duck eggs, ducks, farming, homemade, homesteading, raising ducks, recipes

Maple Bourbon Smoked Duck, what “farm to table” means to us

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The term “farm to table” is another one of those terms, in our opinion, that is way over used and frankly, not even used properly. If we were to define our way of homesteading, we would say that the term, “farm to table” applies. On our homestead, we have ducks and chickens. (Our ducks were introduced to you in an earlier blog, so look that up if you did not see it) In all farm or homesteading life, most of the animals serve a purpose, such as eggs from the hens and ducks as well as their meat.  Last fall, we hatched 14 ducklings and ended up with a total of 7 males and 7 females.

As in life and nature, too many boys are not a good thing! Frequent fights and domination can cause quite a ruckus in a flock of ducks. So the tough decision has to be made, it was time to thin the flock. We have a friend that already had a female duck that mentioned that they wanted to get another duck for a mate. So of course, we offered one of our boys and they gratefully took it off our hands. As for three other males, we carefully, and as respectfully as possible, butchered them. No other details necessary here. They went into the freezer for a later meal.

Easter was fast approaching and in thinking of what we had in the freezer for our Easter dinner, we remembered the ducks. One of our favorite ways to have any of our fish or meat is brined and smoked. We have yet to perfect our home-built smoker, so in the meantime we use one that is a part of our gas grill. The wood we use for smoking is apple wood, and yup, you guessed it, from our small orchard of apple trees.

Maple Bourbon Glazed Smoked Duck

1 duck, 2-3 lbs

Cracked black pepper

The Brine (also great for chicken and pork)

4 cups of cold water

¼ cup of kosher salt

¼ cup maple syrup

1 oz of bourbon

1 tsp cracked black pepper

The Glaze

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tbsp bourbon

Whisk together the brine ingredients until the salt is dissolved. Pour over the duck in a large bowl. If you don’t have enough brine to cover the duck, don’t panic, just add a little more water. We also use a trick here that we learned from making sauerkraut. Place a small plate over the duck in the brine and it helps to keep it immersed and to keep it from “floating”. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

About an hour before cooking, soak the apple wood chips in warm water.

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After 6 hours, remove the duck from the brine and rinse the duck inside and out thoroughly with cold water. Place the duck on the smoker rack, and season simply with a sprinkle of black pepper. (let the smoke do the seasoning for you!) Smoke the duck according to your smoker’s directions with the wood chips that you have been soaking. We smoke ours at about 225 degrees for 2 hours or until the internal temp reaches 165 degrees. (There are varying degrees of duck “doneness”, this is just our preference.)

After the first hour of smoking, mix the glaze ingredients. Brush the glaze over the duck, then brush again every 15 minutes. After the agonizing wait for your duck to be done, remove from the smoker and enjoy!

So there it is, the epitome of “farm to table”, or in our case, “homestead to table”. We strongly believe in treating our animals, which also become our food, with dignity and respect from their births all the way to nourishing our tired bodies from the homestead life. It’s not any easy life, but the rewards are countless. A meal in our house never goes by without thanking the animals for giving their lives for us, or thanking each other for the time spent caring for the animals, gardening, canning, freezing or preserving, and cooking the meal.

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

How to Make Corned Venison Move Over Corned Beef

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Every Year when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around everyone thinks of corned beef, but here on the homestead we do it a little different.  We make corned venison and it has now become sort of a tradition, which we love.  We have no illusion that this is some sort of  long lost traditional Irish meal. Much like Rome was not built in a day, neither is corned venison.  Planning for this dish starts when we are butchering the deer in the fall.  We always set aside the roast that looks most like brisket for our corned beef and be sure to label it as such.  About a week before we defrost the roast, and then the magic happens.

Corned Venison 

1 venison brisket, about 3-4 lbs (feel free to substitute beef, also delicious!)

2 garlic cloves, cut in half

The Brine

1 quart of water

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup white vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp whole peppercorns

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

In a sauce pot, combine all the brine ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt. Once dissolved, set aside to cool. I am kind of impatient, so I use a little trick I learned from my grandma, pour the hot brine into a heat proof glass measuring cup, then put the measuring cup in a metal bowl of ice water. Stir occasionally and your mix will be cool in no time.

 

 

 

Place your brisket and garlic in a large gallon size freezer bag and pour the brine over it. Seal the bag, place the bag in a baking dish and refrigerate for 6-7 days, turning once each day.

 

 

 

After those very long days, remove your brisket (don’t be alarmed by its color, the “cooking” process has already started from the vinegar and salt) and thoroughly wash off the brine under cold water.

 

 

 

Place the brisket in a large pot, add one beer and enough cold water to fully immerse the brisket and cover. Bring the liquid/brisket to a boil, turn down to a simmer and allow to cook, covered for about 2 hours, or until the brisket is cooked through. In the last 20 minutes or so, add cut up potatoes, cabbage and carrots.

 

 

 

Just for comparison, the sliced meat on the top of the plate (darker in color) on the left is the corned venison, the other is a flat cut store-bought corned beef. The venison is much leaner and you won’t believe how great it tastes, you may never go back to that store bought one!   Whenever we treat venison like other meats we are pleasantly surprised with the results.  Having so many delicious recipes for venison allows us to make full use of our yearly harvests, and having another versatile source of protein makes us more self sufficient, even on St. Patrick’s Day.

 

cooking, homemade, homesteading, recipes, tostones

How To Make Tostones

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If there is one thing that life on the homestead revolves around, it is food.  We are always trying to grow more of it and we love to cook it.  As hard as we try, there are always foods we enjoy that we can’t grow on the homestead.  Every once in a while we treat ourselves to one of these foods.  This week while at the store, the checkout clerk handed Tracy a free plantain.  What a wonderful gift, since we love to make tostones from  plantains.  We acquired our recipe from a Dominican gentleman I used to work with.  The recipe is perfect in its simplicity, and it reminds us that good food does not have to be complicated.

You begin with a green plantain, it should be firm but not hard, it should also not be turning yellow or it will burn due to a higher sugar content.img_2352

The next step is to peel the plantain and slice it into 3/4″ slices

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Pour 2″ of vegetable oil into a large pot and heat until the oil ripples.  Then add your plantain slices cook 30 sec on each side then remove and drain.

While they are draining you can prepare a dipping sauce called Mojito.  Crush three large cloves of garlic and lightly brown it in a pan with olive oil. Once it is browned place it in a small bowl for dipping your tostones.

Now comes the fun part. My Dominican friend called it “the smashing”.  Take one of your cooked plantain slices and place it on a cutting board.  Take a second cutting board and place it on top of the slice.  Then push down until it squishes the plantain.  It takes a few tries to get the feel but you want the slices to end up being 1/8″ or so.

Then use a knife and scrape them off of the board.  Next place them back into the oil for a second fry and cook until golden brown, flipping once.

Drain again on a paper towel, lightly salt and place them on a plate around a bowl of your dipping sauce.

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This amazingly simple dish is full of flavors you will enjoy.  They are especially popular as a late night snack.  Homesteading is about getting back to the basics, and this dish does just that.  It is amazing how good 4 simple ingredients can taste,  and when you make them on a winter’s evening they warm you with thoughts of the Caribbean.  So next time you are at the market grab a plantain and take your family on a tropical getaway.

cooking, homemade, homemade pizza, pizza, recipes, sausage

Making the Perfect Italian Sausage

Often when things quiet down for a minute on the homestead, we take on a new challenge.  This usually happens in late winter, when we have had enough of the snow. We just want to stay by the wood stove drinking coffee all day.  A few years back we decided to try our hand at making our own sausage.  Because I am Italian we started with sweet and hot Italian sausage.

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In our minds we could see sausages hanging everywhere, maybe we would even branch out into a sausage business.  We do love to dream big,  usually we are brought back to earth very quickly.  We did some research, and found that there was a large price range for the equipment needed.  We dream big but don’t spend big, so we chose a meat grinder that attached to our kitchen aid mixer.  After that we ordered our natural hog casing, picked up some pork shoulder and wine, then waited for the weekend.  As it turns out red wine is a must when making sausage, it makes the whole process feel more like a party rather than stuffing an animal back into its own intestine.  We make our own food because we like to know what goes into it, so instead of ordering a spice mix we came up with our own recipe.  We used as many  ingredients from our garden as we could.  Then we set out to make a sausage you could not buy from a store.  We set up the mixer, cut up the pork shoulder, and poured the wine.  It is definitely best to keep the meat very cold this makes it grind much easier.

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We used two pork shoulders which gave us 15 lbs of ground pork .  The casing comes packed in salt, so while the pork was being ground we took the casing out of the salt, and soaked it in cool water.  Something we learned right away was that casing gets tangled. We found that if you put it in a big metal bowl, and untangle it before soaking you will save yourself a lot of trouble. Once the pork was ground, we mixed in the spices by hand wearing rubber gloves.  Pork is fatty, and its hard to wash all that fat off of your hands.  We then took the casing out of the water and put it in a strainer, next you have to run water in one end of the casing and push it through the entire length of the casing.  This helps get the salt out of the casing, we usually run the water through three times.  Then came the moment we were waiting for, it was time to do some stuffing.  We lubed the stuffing tube with oil, slid on the casing, tied the end, and poked a small hole with a knife in the casing to let the air escape.  I pushed the meat through the grinder with the stuffing tube attached, while Tracy caught it and twisted the sausage into links.  It is important to twist the links in the opposite directions each time you make a link, or they will come undone.  We then poured our second glass of wine.  Very quickly it became apparent that the stuffing was going to take a long time.  The stuffing tube on the grinder was not the best tool for the job, but this didn’t stop us from enjoying the time spent together.  If you can make sausage without making inappropriate jokes you are a better man than me.  We spent the next half hour laughing, sipping wine, and stuffing our first batch of sausage.

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Finally when all of the sausage was stuffed, we placed it in the refrigerator to sit overnight.  This allows the flavors to come together.  The next day, we pulled some peppers out of the freezer and grilled up our first batch.  We were pleasantly surprised, it was good, but we wanted great.  Over the next several months we made sausage tweaking the recipe each time.  Finally we arrived at the perfect recipe.

 

Along the way we learned a few things.  The first was that a real sausage stuffer was a must.  It makes the whole process quicker and easier.  Second, the casing needs to be soaked for at least an hour to make it easier to work with.  Third, casing comes in packages that make 25lbs and 100lbs of sausage.  The 100lb is much more economical, but the 25lb is easier to work with because the lengths are shorter. Fourth, fresh ingredients matter, we always use fresh garlic, and as many fresh herbs as possible.  Finally, wine will make the whole process easier on you and your spouse.  There is no wrong recipe for sausage, everyone has different tastes.  But when you make it yourself it will always be just right.

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Once we made one type of sausage we could not stop.  We now make kielbasa for Oktoberfest, breakfast sausage, venison pepperoni, and have even dabbled in andouille.

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It is always fun to learn a new skill, especially one that involves eating delicious food.  So the next time the winter blues have you down.  Get some wine and pork and make your own perfect sausage.