Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Making Chicken Saddles

Our rooster likes to play favourites with our hens and about a year ago he injured one our hens quite badly which I posted about here.
After a bit of TLC and some time in a fancy outfit, aka a chicken saddle, her feathers grew back and she was good as new.

But recently a couple of our other chickens have been the objects of his affection.  So this time I thought I would make my own chicken saddles (I brought the last one and the domes were not holing any more and it was starting to fall apart),

For the fabric I used the bottom of the leg from a pair of Op shop jeans I had brought for Hubby that didn't actually fit.

I cut the shape based on the previous one and instead of using domes I used elastic which means they do not come undone like the domes do as they wear out.

I used the whole thickness of the pant leg so I had a double thickness of denim and only had to sew the edges I cut.

You don't really need to sew up the edges but it stops the dirt getting trapped between the layers.

This is Speckles and as you can see she is not bothererd by her coat. If you look carefully in the first phot you can see a lot of pink skin peeking out the bottom and the last photo shows her tail feathers are all missing.  She was comp-letly bald across her back but she has now regrown half her feathers and I am hoping the others grow back soon.  The other day when it rained a lot her coat got wet so I took it off over night to let it dry (the denim held onto a lot of water and I did not want her getting cold) then put it back on in the morning.

Have you had to make any interesting outfits for the animals at your place?

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Rendering Beef Fat and Soap Making

The other day I posted nose to tail eating, and making the most of all the different cuts of meat that come from an animal. 

One of the thinks I asked the butcher to do was to save all of the fat and mince it for me.  He wanted to know what I was going to do with it as no one has ever asked him to do that before.  I told him I planned to use some for soap making and also for cooking.  
Mum said that she didn't think she could be bothered to render the fat for use and to make soap but it really wasn't that much effort at all.  Plus we were paying for it and we already had the other ingredients for making soap so it will save us money by not having to buy soap in the long term.

These days most people buy vegetable oils for cooking but historically animal fats were commonly used for cooking.  And when I say historically I am not talking even 50 years ago.  As a child (I am in my 30's) I grew up on a farm and I remember my mum pouring the fat off the roast each week into an enamel mug which lived in the fridge.  This fat was later used to cook other dishes.  The fat carried forward the flavours of each dish into the next.

All of the fat from our cow was minced and bagged up and it spent a few days in the freezer before we had time to process it.

Bags of frozen minced fat

The process of rendering is really very simple when you have a slow cooker.
You just fill your slow cooker to the top with the solid fat, set it on low and wait. I have seen instructions to add water but I don't bother.

Frozen fat into the slow cooker

As the fat renders the volume will drop so you can keep adding more fat as there is more space.

The fat is beginning to render

As the fat melts all of the meat bits will get cooked as well.  You are going to need to strain all the meat bits out at the end so if you can skim some off the top as you go this will speed up the process.

Meaty bits floating to the top

After straining all of the meat bits out of the fat I was left with a clear yellow oil which I divided into plastic containers. 
And what to do with all those meaty bits?  We didn't want to waste them so fed them to the chickens and they loved them.

The rendered fat ready for chilling

Once the fat cooled and set it changed to a pale cream colour.  Well made tallow can be stored at room temperature without spoiling but in our hot Queensland summer I was not willing to take the risk so I have been storing them in the freezer.  It doesn't freeze but it is easier to have it in there so we can use the fridge for fresh food.

With so much tallow the plan had always been to use most of it for making soap but I wanted to see how tallow one batch of soap would actually use up.

The ratios I used are:

1.5kg Beef Tallow
198g Caustic Soda
450ml Water
Essentail Oil 
Processed at 55 degrees centigrade with the essential oil added once trace was achieved.

I will not give any instructions about the process of making soap here as there are other blogs and websites that explain the process in enough detail to make it safe.  
I like to pour my soap into silicone molds as it is so easy to get them out.  You just peel the molds away, cut the larger block into portions and leave the soap to cure.

I ended up with 24 bars of soap and these are now curing.  They smell divine and I might have over done it with the essential oil but the last batch I made had no fragrance that was noticeable to this time I was a bit more generous.
I used a blended fragrance called Romance blend which I have had sitting around for years and it really need to be used up.  It is a blend of Cinnamon, Clary Sage, Patchouli, Sandalwood and Ylang Ylang.

Once it has cured and I have given it a bit of a test I will be giving some away so stay tuned.

What kind of soap do you make?

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Wet Weekend

Like many people on Queensland we have just had a few very very wet days.

Over Friday and Saturday we had 280mm of rain due to Cyclone Marcia.  We went to bed on Friday night and woke up to find one of the trees in our paddock had fallen over.  It had been leaning for a while and at some stage in the past some one had lit a fire at the base of it, so it was never in the best of health, but it was still sad to see it go.

There was a poor snake living in the base of the tree and he did not escape in time when it fell over.

Thankfully it will be no work at all for Hubby who is an arborist and in 12 months or so it will be providing the new owners of this house with a supply of firewood (assuming we have sold by then of course).

We were flooded in most of Saturday which did not really matter since we had planned to have a day at home doing some bits and pieces in preparation for putting our house on the market.
One of the projects was to re hang all of the pictures on our walls.  But there were 2 walls where we really needed large pieces of art to fill and balance the space.  I did not want to spend lots of money on art and had originally planned to do a painting for one wall but I was not feeling inspired so I opted for a quick and simple fix.  Covering canvases in fabric.
Because I already had a canvas I just needed to buy one more and some fabric.  Then it was just a simple matter of using my staple gun to attache the fabric to the canvas wrapping it around tightly and stapling on the back.

I chose 1 fabric printed with birds and the second with words.  In total I spent just over $30 for these two large pieces of art and when I am done I can either change the fabric and use it for something else and use the canvas to paint on when inspiration finally hits.

Here are the finished products:

How did you spend your weekend?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

How Do You Want Your Cow Cut Up?

How Do You Want Your Cow Cut Up?

That is what your butcher will need you to work out when you have a whole animal to be processed.  Our butcher provided a form to fill in that outlined all of the different cuts of meat and we had to select what we wanted from each side of the carcass and what thickness we wanted it cut - Thing, Medium or Thick.  
There is also a section where you can nominate if you prefer mince or sausages or happy with a 50/50 mix.

We really wanted to pay respect to Freezer 2 by using as much of her as possible.  So this means that we asked for things that many customers may not request including:

All the fat that would normally be trimmed off and discarded - Minced.
All of the bones  - split into: meaty bones for stock, marrow bones for extracting the bone marrow and all the other bones cut into hand sized pieces for our dog.
The Beef Cheeks - my favourite cut of meat on the animal for slow cooking.
Liver, Kidneys, Heart, Tail and Tongue.

Then it is a matter of deciding on the cuts of meat you want, keeping in mind that if you choose one cut you may not be able to have another as they both use the same parts.  
A good example of this is the T-Bone, the Sirloin (Porterhouse) and the Eye Fillet.  If you want to have Sirloins then you can't have T-Bones as they both use the same part of the animal. If you want the whole Eye Fillet then you are also dealing with the same are of the body and will have to forgo the T-Bone.
Of course when you are dealing with a whole animal you can opt for T-Bones from Side 1 and Sirloin and Eye Fillet from Side 2.  We always choose Sirloins and Eye Fillet as we love these cuts and find T- Bones just too big.

So what did we choose?
We asked for packs for 2 people which means the different types of steaks had 2 steaks (all medium thickness) per pack, mince was packed in 500g packs and sausages in packs of 8.
Where we requested roasts and corned beef these were also between 1- 2kg.

Well here is what we went with and the number of packs (not weight specific) of each that we ended up with.  

Sirloin Steaks - 19 Packs
Eye Fillet - 4 Packs
Rumps - 1 Left Whole and given to friends as payment for helping us with a job
           - 7 Packs and 1 Roast
Round Steak - 22 Packs
Topside - 4 Roasts
            - 5 Packs of Steak
            - One left whole to make beef Jerky
Silverside - 15 Packs Corned
Gravy Beef - 9 Packs
Osso Bucco - 8 Packs Bone In
Blade - 8 Roasts
Oyster Blade Steak - 11 Packs
Chuck - 7 Packs of Steak
          - 36 packs of Mince
Ribs - 3 Rib Roasts
       - 6 Packs of Spare Ribs
Rib - 10 Packs Rib Fillet Steak
      - 8 packs of OP Rib (Rib on the bone) steak
Brisket - 3 Roasts
           - Sausages
Off Cuts - Sausages - We ended up with 70 Packs of thick and 70 Packs of Thin sausages
Cheeks - 1 Pack
Marrow Bones
Stock Bones
Ox Tail - 1 Pack
Heart - 4 Packs
Liver - 8 packs
Kidney - 2 Packs
Tongue - 1 Pack
Dog Bones
Minced Fat - 8 packs

We are not fans of offal and so the liver will all go to our dog Jessie as will the heart.  The kidneys I am not sure yet and I would like to try the tongue but Hubby is dead set against it.  I might cook it and not tell him and see if I get away with it.
One of the things I decided was to get all of the Blade cut into roasts.  Later on if I am out of stewing cuts of steak I can dice this up, or if I run out of mince I can mince it.  
I also asked for the OP Rib (Rib on the bone) to be cut in thick slices as I have a plan to try something different with them and since we have so much meat I can afford to experiment.         

Have I listed any cuts of meat that you have never cooked with?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Home Made Re-fried Beans

This is such a tasty recipe and can be served as part of a meal as a side, replace the meat portion of the meal, work as a dip or a sandwich spread and even goes well on baked potatoes.

But best of all it is incredibly easy and costs next to nothing if you use dried beans.

Re-Fried Beans

4 Tbs Oil/Lard/Tallow
1 Cup Dried Kidney Beans 
2 Brown Onions
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Red Capsicum
1/2 Tsp Ground Chilli
2 Tsp Ground Cumin
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Sugar

Soak you beans and then cook until soft enough to mash.  Drain and set aside.
In a large saucepan place the fat/oil of your choice and add you finely diced onion and cook over a low heat until the onion is translucent and not browned.  Once the onions are cooked add the crushed garlic and finely diced capsicum and mix well continuing to cook over a low heat with the lid on the pot.  Once the vegetable are soft increase the heat to 3/4 add the spices and cook for 2 mins stirring constantly then add the sugar, salt and cooked beans.
Mix through then use a potato masher to break down the beans a bit and cook for a further 5 minutes stirring constantly (you may need to add a little water if the mix gets too dry) then remove for the heat and serve immediately or set aside for later use.  I like to garnish mine with chopped coriander.

You can make this in much larger quantities if you want and feel free to adjust the seasoning to your taste.