Friday, January 7, 2011

I met my meat

This past year my little family on our little farm made a big commitment. We decided to raise more of our own meat. Translation: Raise more animals specifically to eat. Any other meat we purchased would be directly from other local farmers.This commitment is at the core of why we even have a farm.....Living the dream of self sustainability. Meat is such a polarizing issue but for us it's simple ..make mine humanely raised, without hormones, free range, no antibiotics, no GMO's and organic feed please (better yet feed we've grown). What other way to meet all these requests but to do it yourself. Woohhoo!

We already had chickens and had been eating our roosters in a myriad of ways like Coq au vin which is traditionally made of you guessed it .... rooster. If you came to the farm for the Cowichan Wine and Culinary Festival and ate some Posole, it was made from rooster - wasn't it delicious! This is the gamble when you hatch chicks, there is a 50/50 chance of a hen but it doesn't always work out that fairly. Roosters are gorgeous playboys, the bird kingdom gives the males all the flash and dazzle. Unfortunately they are not passive pretty boys and on our farm, hen harassment is a capital punishment. The hens, I might add, approve of this dispatch.

In 2010 we added Muscovy ducks whom are endlessly entertaining. They actually get in a very egalitarian line to dive off the roof of their house into the pond. We had 15, slaughtered 10 and will hatch ducklings this spring. Duck is one of my most favorite meats and duck rilletes (recipe soon) are utterly delicious. What's interesting about these ducks is they don't quack and just hiss. Unlike our goats, who are breaking the sound barrier on a daily basis. Apparently knocking them up will fix this. Yes, we got Nubian Goats, adorable, friendly and a milk source after some babies. We will keep the baby does and eat/sell the baby kids. I think I'm ok with this part. This issue of eating small mammals, ones I will have delivered into this world. There is uncertainty in this omnivore's voice. I do love to eat goat. I joke about a 'hot kid on a spit' party but this is a new frontier on our farm.

Flora & Fauna our lovely Nubian Does
In 2009 we joined Slow Food here on Vancouver Island , which is a movement we are very passionate about but the surprising perk has been becoming friends with Don Genova ( he is the island`s Convivium leader) and his lovely wife Ramona. This relationship of course is built on a love of good food, good conversation and the porcine delights that are embodied in the pig. With the help of Lucinda and Wayne at Frog Song Farm whom are raising the critically endangered breed of pigs called (unremarkably) Large Blacks. We shared one of these excellent pigs and made bacon together. Glorious bacon ! How I love thee ! I made 3 different types of bacon a Chinese 5 spice and ginger, a Beer, thyme and black pepper and a Maple with allspice, nutmeg and clove. All delicious. 

Warning!! Once you make bacon you will never be the same. It unleashes this charcuterie making monster that dwells in the heart of any DIY'er.  My name is Marisa and I'm addicted to making my own charcuterie. 
This year we will be raising some Large Blacks here at our farm. I'm more than a little excited and have started practicing my 'sueeee piggeh' call  for them.

Large Black Sow nursing her darling piglets at Frog Song Farm with an avian audience

Met my meat before my meat met his maker
This was the 2nd time we raised Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys for Xmas. We raised 20 but one committed hara kiri into the duck pond just weeks before Xmas (no, we didn't eat him). Selling meat  for the highly anticipated Xmas dinner is stressful. My husband and I fretted over these turkeys. I literally could not sleep the week before slaughter. We let these turkeys have full run of farm with lots of harassing of our staff and showing off for farm customers. Thankfully none of the turkeys went home with anyone - not for lack of trying (shakes fist at friendly turkeys). They love people and despite the creepy habit of peering in the house at us, we loved them. Though on evenings when my husband wasn't home and it was my job to 'put the birds to bed' coaxing turkeys down from trees with a rake, calling it love would be a stretch. I am happy to report that all our turkey stress was in vain. Though they were smaller than last year they were wonderfully moist and flavorful. We only kept two for ourselves and our Xmas dinner was a perfect bird.

Through our friends Heather and Brock at whom organized a grass fed beef share with one of their neighbor's steers, we purchased some wonderful beef. 8 people participated in this meat share. A collective meat share is the way to go to support a farmer directly and get a quality product. I have heard of many such clubs popping up everywhere. We also shared a lamb with our friend Don and were gifted locally caught halibut and salmon. Having so much great food in the freezer makes me feel rich and very lucky.

Broad Breasted Bronze Turkeys-  2 Peeping Toms (this is my kitchen door) + a Hen

Muscovy Ducks in their beloved pond eating the expensive water lettuce.

Our chickens lay a gorgeous pastel palette and according to one customer we have 'The best tasting eggs in the world!'

Our favorite rooster Boris (spangled Russian Orloff) whom died of old age in 2010-we didn't eat him
 As incredibly challenging as this path towards family farm sustainability has been, it has been completely worth the effort. When you have animals to care for, your life is very different. You have a responsibility to them at least twice a day and they do reward you with a relationship beyond just being the meat you are going to eat. That in itself has been the most interesting part. Being dog and cat owners, we had love for our animals but farm animals that you are are going to eat are different. Not that different though, especially as small organic farmers that are simply tickled pink still about this whole wonderful process that is being responsible for your food. The personality that farm animals have (that you erroneously always compare to your dog) is profound. Having a farm is like living in the best zoo ever. It is hilarious on a daily basis. Teaching my children so many lessons about nature and the circle that is life and all life is an amazing gift. Though my 3 yr old is frighteningly practical. She wants to know exactly Where the feet and heads go?...Oh and the feathers Mommy !  I am thankful every day for this life that I have, for the opportunity to practice my beliefs in organic agriculture and that our little girls get to have a wonderful childhood. It is not easy but we love it. The many fruits of our labor make it all so gosh darn beautiful (did I mention delicious), some days it`s a just a dream.

Thanks for reading. Now get out there and meet your meat !

Gratuitous bacon pics
Pork Belly in a beer, thyme and black pepper amped brine

Bacon on the smoker... not quite ready

Gimme gimme gimme

Forever ruined by homemade bacon


Elizabeth said...

OH Marisa, you make me jealous. I never got to eat any of the bacon! *shakes fist*

I want some of that porcine delight too...I'll be seeing you soon!

Yvette McKay MacPhail said...

Great post Marisa, I am so glad you are in the family and I get to sample some of your cooking once and awhile. The kids and I love visiting the farm and seeing all the animals! You are a braver women then I though having them run wild in the yard!!

Happy New Year to you and the family :) We look forward to seeing you all soon and having a bite to eat.

Maryann said...

This is one of the greatest posts that I have ever read (this is a subject that I feel so strongly about). Well done!

Linda said...

Excellent post, I so wish we could be self sustaining but I think the town may have a problem with that. I do grow as many of our own veggies as possible and hopefully by next year I'll have a crop that will last throughout the winter.
But I have to ask, how can you eat something you've named?
Looking forward to future posts.

The Organic Foodie said...

Oh Elizabeth, next bacon session you're invited.

Thanks Yvette !Happy New Year to you and co. as well :)

Thank you Maryann, that means a lot coming from you :)

Hi Linda :) Good for you to do what you can to grow more of your own food.It doesn't bother me to eat any of our animals (so far) that we've named.I suppose, I feel like we respected these animals and gave them a humane existence.Raising them is indeed work, so I feel like we actually earned the meat.You do miss them their presence on the farm. When all the turkeys were gone I was a bit sad. Not sad enough to not want to cook one though ;)Thanks for following the blog !

JAdams said...

Try the Fish Taco @! It's very delicious.