Archive for May, 2020

bread, bone broth and bacon

That, my friends, is homemade bacon and homemade bread for breakfast on a Sunday!

The last few years, I’ve either been staying at Boyfriend’s house or traveling for work … a lot. Some weeks, I’d only be back here at the farmhouse one or two nights to change bags and whisper hello to my plants. Who am I kidding. All the houseplants died.

I hadn’t necessarily been planning on spending a lot more time at my house this year, but I’m not complaining about the opportunity to sink in and enjoy this place I love so much.

While working from home and sheltering in place, I’ve been experimenting with a gluten-free sourdough starter the last few weeks (start here and then try this). I know there are a lot of sourdough starters out there nowadays, but I haven’t actually seen a lot of GF versions! I’m loving this recipe. It takes some planning and some dedicated time, but the bread is delicious and the sour is getting stronger as the weeks pass.

sourdough starter in progress
keeping a scale and a bag of flour on my counter: not things my house has ever experienced.
slice of bread with loaf in background
good crumb, perfect crust (not too hard) and great flavor

It’s also been really interesting living in a state with a lot of pork production, and numerous meat processing plants closing and reopening due to covid-19 outbreaks. For a while recently, thousands of hogs were being euthanized every day because the processing plants weren’t open to receive them. Boyfriend’s family has the equipment and know-how, so we (and I mean a royal We — there were lots of hands helping on this one) located, picked up and butchered seven 250-lb hogs (for $50 apiece) in the meat shed on his parent’s homestead. I’ve had exposure to deer processing over the past few hunting seasons, so I knew some of what to expect.

What I did not expect was finding that anyone would throw out the feet — the most nutritious part of the hog! So while the brotherly assembly line tackled the big stuff, I learned how to skin and clean pigs feet so that I could bring them home and make myself some rich, gelatinous bone broth. It’s going to save me a ton of money at the grocery store, based on how much broth I go through.

Lauren holding a skinned pig's foot
Very proud of my first solo skinning job
roasted pigs feet
My method for bones is 1) blanch to draw impurities to the surface 2) roast for 2 hours at 450 3) low simmer for 24 hours with a bit of apple cider vinegar in a pot of water just covering the bones
bread in the oven, blanching bones on the stove
Bread in the oven, blanching bones on the stove. I bake the bread in a cast-iron skillet with a small pan of water next to it for steam.
Bone broth after 24 hours on a barely-there simmer. I know it’s done when I cool a spoonful and watch it jiggle like jell-o.

Boyfriend and I got one hog for ourselves, which yielded probably $500 worth of meat for the $50 we paid:

  • Eight bags of bones and feet
  • Seven racks of ribs
  • Eleven roasts
  • Ten hams
  • Pork belly and bacon
  • Many pounds of ground pork
  • One tenderloin and one loin roast
  • Seventeen chops
  • Six t-bones
slabs of bacon in a smoker
Bacon in the smoker, courtesy of Boyfriend and his very patient dad

The bacon is being cured and smoked now, and the hams are up next. I got to try the first batch of bacon this weekend. This particular cut is chewy, kind of like brisket burnt ends — more pork chop than crispy fatty bacon. And so delicious!

slices of bacon in butcher paper
Bacon fresh from the smoker

I’ve always been interested in meat processing and fascinated by the cuts and techniques. It’s one of Boyfriend’s particular skills, so it’s been a lot of fun to work alongside him on this project and start to learn how to help.

We now have pork recipes earmarked to last us a long while — probably a good way through the year. We’ll still buy beef and chicken occsionally, but have plenty of venison still in the freezer to cut in with the pork (they balance one another nicely – one lean, one fatty) so I don’t think we’ll run out of ideas before we run out of meat.

Next up: broiling the bacon with maple syrup from this spring’s harvest! Which was, entirely, another adventure…

seedling season

I said a few weeks ago that this stay-at-home spring feels a lot like the first few months as a homeowner. A lot of this is because that was the first — and last — year that I tried starting my garden from seeds instead of purchasing seedlings from a nursery. As soon as my employer told me, in mid-March, that we’d be working remotely until at least the end of April, I thought “well … I would finally be home to water seeds!”

And so, friends, I jumped in with basically no plan. I visited the neighborhood hardware store the weekend before Minnesota’s stay-at-home order went into effect, and I grabbed a bunch of seed packets, seedling trays and a grow light. It wasn’t until a month in that I realized my grow light situation was probably only 1/10 of what the seeds really needed … like I said, no plan. But it made me feel better about giving them a try, since spring weather in Minnesota means we don’t plant outdoors until between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

I’m excited about the herbs and veggies for sure, but I’m especially hopeful about the perennials. Buying a packet of seeds for $3 could yield dozens of plants that otherwise cost $15 or more apiece from a garden center. I know that’s because they’re time-intensive to nurture, so we’ll see if it works out in my favor by the end of the summer. But if I can fill my side yard with bee- and butterfly-friendly flowers that will come back year after year, I’ll be happppppy.

To be continued …

planted 4/5: lavender, green onion, oregano, lettuce, sweet basil, genovese basil, chives, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers; perennials: soapwort, black eyed susans, shasta daisies, coneflowers, butterfly flowers, hollyhock; annuals: cosmos, coleus, poppies
week 1 | the winner for first to sprout is … cosmos! three days!
weeks 1-3 | grow lamp and west-facing sunlight in the upstairs guest bedroom
week 4 | transition to the three-season porch
week 4 | everything has germinated except the soapwort and coneflowers

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