Sunday, December 21, 2014

DIY: Homemade Bacon

Very few things can make a person wake up and smile like BACON!
Little did I know, it is fairly simple to make.  The hardest obstacle to overcome for me, was waiting for the brine because it took 2 days. (I am very impatient when it comes to my bacon.)
Here goes!

Besides the meat, you will need the following:
Kosher Salt
Light Brown Sugar
Course Ground Pepper

For the meat, you will need to pick up a pork belly. We got ours at the local butcher shop. Ours offered a 12 pound side, but we chose to have them cut it down to 6 pounds (actually weighed 6.5#)

I cut the side down into more manageable sections that fit easily into some of our containers which we planned to use for the brine solution.

In a separate container, Mix 1 gallon of water, 3/4 to 1 pound of kosher salt, and 1 to 1 1/2 cups of light brown sugar until it is all dissolved.

pour the brine into the containers.
TIP: I used small wooden skewers broken into short sections, to help prevent the meat from floating. This essentially forced the meat to hover in the brine, creating maximum soakage. (My word, lemme have it)

This was the hard part....
Put the containers in the fridge for the next 48 hours. (stirring the brine half way is suggested, but we didn't do it)

Once the brine has done it's job, rinse the meat under cool water for about 30 seconds. Then pet the meat dry and place on a rack, or tray.

This is when you put on the ground pepper. Be liberal here. Remember that when sliced, each piece will only have a small bit of what you have put on it. 
A little does NOT go a long way.
A LOT goes a long way. 

Now the fun part. Smoking.
We chose to cold smoke the meat. The heat should be between 80 and 120 degrees F. (ours stayed at about 90-100 the entire time.
Using my highly sophisticated OLBF redneck smoker made from a 55 gallon drum, coffee cans, soup cans, an old grill grate, and an old camping stove that runs on the inky dinky little propane tanks, I used a bunch of hickory chips to help add the scrumptious flavor of our bacon.

After smoking the meat, allow it to cool to room temperature before cutting. 
Now, everyone else who has a meat slicer,  I am ENVIOUS....
But for the rest of us, slicing bacon with a knife is not that hard, you just need a few tricks.
Here they are:
First,  have a SHARP knife.
Second, keep it sharp (sharpen often)
Third, place the meat in the freezer for a bit to stiffen up before slicing
Fourth, sharpen the knife again!!!!!!

Lastly,  before you finish slicing all of the bacon, throw a few strips into a skillet to begin enjoying the fruits of your labor.
Thanks for checkin' out OLBF. Please like us on facebook

Monday, October 13, 2014

How to make goat butter

Goat butter is Sooooo easy. And we have yet to invest in a cream separator.  
But before I continue, I do have to disclose that we own Nigerian Dwarf  goats. Unlike most goat breeds, they consistently have about a 6% butterfat content in their milk. At certain times of the year, they are known to be even higher (around 8-9%) 
I only say this because I know many people who have told me that it is "impossible" to make goat butter. They say it is too hard because they cannot separate the cream from the milk.
 Another acquaintance stated that she could easily separate the cream, but didn't make butter because she didn't want to "waste" all of the skim milk after separating.
WASTE?....I think not. 
Personally, after separating the cream out, we use the skim milk for making goat milk soap, but you can also feed it to chickens and pigs. (I'm sure there are a few other options too!)
All you need to make the butter is 
-Goat Milk
-A mason jar
-a bulb turkey baster

Now, I did state that we don't use a cream separator, but I didn't take any pictures of how we gather the cream, so this is how we do it.
1) I filter the milk straight into a mason jar (usually quart size, but size doesn't matter)
2) I place the covered jar of fresh milk in the fridge for 2-3 days
3)I carefully take the jar out of the fridge trying not to shake or disturb it a lot.
4) using the baster, I slowly suction the cream off of the top and work my way down.
(about 1/6 th of the way down) (sometimes it takes a few go's at it)
5) I squeeze the cream out into a separate quart sized mason jar until it is half full
(You can freeze the cream if you don't have enough)

I have read that some people use large flat trays to separate the cream, and then "skim" the top, but I prefer to use a taller cylindrical container (I't makes for easy suction)
If you get a little extra milk, it doesn't hurt it when you make the butter (you will just get less butter)

This is my jar of Cream which I have already separated from the goat milk. The skim milk was used for goat milk soap. 
I had to collect this cream for about 3 days, so I just froze it each day until I had enough.
When I was ready to make the butter, I removed the jar from the freezer to allow the cream to get to room temperature  before I began.

To make the butter is easy. Just shake the jar. and then Shake it some more.....and some more....then recruit someone else to help shake it.....
We usually shake the cream for about 15-20 minutes before we get our butter.

You can open the lid and look inside to see the globules of butter forming and sticking together. Typically they form a sort if disc shape in the center of the jar. The butter will be floating on top of the .....buttermilk.  Mmmmmmmm

 Here you can see from the side of the jar how much butter there is floating on top of the buttermilk. It is kind of hard to see, but if you let the jar sit for a minute after shaking, it will settle some and allow you to make the distinction.

Slowly drain the buttermilk into another container. The butter, while floating, will usually stay to the back as the buttermilk drains out.

Here is the cream separated into butter and buttermilk. We use the buttermilk for making pancakes or other cooking projects. 

The butter will still have some buttermilk in and on it, so it must be rinsed to prevent souring. I use cold water (which will help to harden the soft butter)

Pour out the milky water carefully. The first time you lose your hard work down the drain, you will pull your hair out. 

Here you can see a cloudy mess of water under the butter.

Continue to rinse and drain the butter until the water pours out clean and clear. Work slowly....This is not a time critical mission.

After the final rinse, I use my finger to help hold the butter back while I drain every last bit of water out of the jar. 

Then I pour the butter, which is fairly soft, directly into the container I will keep it in the fridge.  The picture below shows the different texture the butter will have once it has been allowed to cool off in the fridge and become hard. 

We keep our butter salt free, but of course if you want to add salt, you should mix it into the butter while it is soft (just before putting it in the fridge)
Butter is EASY.....NOW GO MAKE SOME!!!!!!!!

Thanks from Our Little Backyard Farm

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Kids Mud Obstacle Course

So,.....although we can take credit for all of the building of this obstacle course, we can not take credit for blogging it first.  A very good friend of ours (Christy Marshall) blogged our son's party last year and she did a FANTASTIC job. Her cover photo, and blog address is at the bottom of this post. You gotta check it out, because all of her pictures are closeups of the obstacles prior to the race. She focuses more on the "fun" aspect of the race, while I will explain more of "the build", and hopefully show everyone how easy and cheap you can create the birthday party adventure of your childs' life. This course cost us only $60.00 to build (and about 40 man hours).  It was large enough that it took our kids over three minutes to run it at a dead sprint when everything was dry.  
Throw in a LOT of mud and about 30 more bodies, and it makes for quite a fun race. 

First thing's first, I needed to make a track.  The easiest thing to do was to let the grass grow well over the length that I would normally cut it. Then I just mowed a loop-De-Loop track which weaved in and about itself. The fact that we live on 3 acres was definatly a plus, although we only allowed the track to be on the south acre and a half.  Over the course of the next two weeks, and one more mowing, the track became very VERY clear.   
Besides obstacles, the only other thing we needed was direction arrows.  (I used an old can of orange marking paint.)

For the obstacles:
-Hay bales - $60.00 for 20 bales
-Pallets - free from local lumber yard
-tunnel - free from kids play things (ready to toss)
-rope - free (old clothes lines we were replacing)
-4x6's - free cribbing from lumber yard
-stumps - free, from a dead tree on our property
-tires - free from tire repair shop

Rat Run
The rat run was an easy build. each hump took two pallets, 1 hay bale, and a little bit of rope. I began by taking two apllets and standing them up next to each other. On the top, rope was used to lash the two pallets together loosely. Then the pallets were spread out at the bottoms, over a hay bale, until the pallet touched the bale. This made for a very stable platform.  Three of these humps were placed together to make the rat run.  

Log climber
The log climber took a little bit more muscle to complete. It started with a tiller and shovel. I boxed out the area I wanted to make the pit in, and began running a tiller back and forth to loosen up the soil. After a few passes, the easy part was over. A shovel was then used to mound up the dirt on both the front and the back of the pit. Actually, the mounds create another element to the obstacle. Then I took a few longer logs and spanned the pit to complete it.
Some kids climbed over the log, and some were much more adventurous and crawled underneath them (They got a little bit more muddy than the others!!)

Rope Crawl
The rope crawl was easy. Like the log climber, I used the tiller to prep an area for the mud pit. The only difference is the depth of the pit (The climber was much deeper).
A few short stakes were cut from the dead tree and used to suspend the old clothesline above the mud. 

Most of the kids didn't want to crawl, so they elected to try to hop through it. The best part was that the mud made this very difficult and it caused a few faceplants directly into the mud. (I had silent giggles every time this happened.)

Tire hop.
The tire hop was the easiest of all. Almost any tire repair shop will gladly give you as many old tires as you want. They have to pay for disposal, so why the heck would they not want to get rid of them for FREE!!!!. If they try to charge you......go to the next one.
As far as set-up.........Ummmm.......I don't think i'm gonna explain this one. Just look at the picture and replicate it.

Balance beam
The balance beam was completed with a shallow mud flat which was tilled first. Then a few stumps were buried partially into the flat at the right distance apart to allow for the 4x6 cribbing to lay on top of them. 
4x6's were used flat to add stability to the obstacle.

Hay Mountain
Another one which needs no explanation. 

Corn tunnel
The corn tunnel consisted of two hay bales on either side of a shallow mud flat, with 1 pallet spanned across them. A bundle of corn stalks were placed across the top to sort of conceal the tunnel and allow for a little bit of variation among the tunnels.

Pallet tunnel
Just like the corn tunnel, only without the corn. (Duh!!!)

Rabbit hole
The rabbit hole was made just like the corn and pallet tunnels, only it included a childs tunnel which was about to be thrown away. This constricted the tunnel significantly for the larger kids and it too was filled with mud. So for anyone who was "TRYING" to stay somewhat anymore.

Mud Pit
This Mud pit was made just the same as the log climber, but instead of logs, we just added more water to help "soup things up" a bit. 

After all of the racing was done,  most of the kids went back to their favorite obstacles for a second, third or even endless chance to have morefun. Miranda and her friend decided to chill in the mud pit while soaking up a little sun. THAT'S MY GIRL!!!!!!

NOW......since you have a better idea of how to build this friggin' AWESOME course.  Go check out Christy's blog too for a close up of each of the obstacles (including a few which are not on here.)
Thanks for checkin' us out.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Homemade Goat Cheese

Homemade goat cheese is the BEST!!!!.  This method is about as simple as it gets in the cheese making tutorials. All you need is......
-goat milk (about a gallon)
-rennet (or vinegar, although vinegar can sometimes leave a weird after taste)
- half a lemon
-salt and other fun things to add in if desired. (read on)

First we bring the milk u to between 90 and 100 degrees F and attempt to hold it there.

While the milk is heating up, this would be a good time to play on your smart phone and update your FB status.  Wait,....No....I meant it would be a good time to add a few drops of rennet into about a half of a cup of water. 

Along with the rennet, add a teaspoon of lemon juice into the water too!

When the milk reaches 90-100 degrees F, slowly pour the water mixture into the pot while stirring slowly. Continue stirring for a few minutes and then turn off the burner and cover the pot. 
Leave the pot alone for an hour or two. 
When you uncover later, the whole top layer of milk should be curd. 

Use a knife and slowly cut through the curd deeply to create 1 inch squares. 

After you are done cutting the curd, use a slotted spoon to carefully remove the curds from the pot while straining the whey. 

Or you can go for the less labor intensive method (like my wife typically chooses) and just pour the whole thing into a cheese cloth lined strainer while is settled nicely above a large pot to catch the whey. 

In our house, the whey is saved for making morning smoothies (Yum and YUM!!!!)

Once the curds are all in the cheese cloth, tie up the ends and hang it above the bowl to drain the excess whey. This can take a while, so walk away for a while and fight the urge to open it before it is ready. Ours took about 2 hours, but I can easily take many more. 

This is the "read on" part where we add goodies to make the cheese even BETTER. Add about 1 tablespoon of sea salt (or kosher salt) to each gallon of milk used.
-also, we like to add other flavoring to mix in to the crumbly soft cheese as well. Flavorings such as chopped green onions, honey, basil, nuts, etc.  

We find it easier to crumble the cheese up, sprinkle the salt and other flavorings in, mix well, and press it down into the containers. After refrigeration, the cheese is still soft, but can be chunked out of the container without it crumbling to pieces. 
thanks for visiting Our Little Backyard Farm.