Tag Archives: Slow food

Goat butchering day: a graphic photo documentary

Warning: This post contains graphic photos of the butchering process. Do not read any further unless you are genuinely interested in learning how to butcher animals.

Leading Sundown to her meeting with her maker.

Leading Sundown to her meeting with her maker.

Well, I had thought I would have to wait until hunting season was over in order to muster the courage to do in one of my goats; but after butchering the rest of my ‘Jenny Craig’ Cornish Crosses (25) and all of my turkeys (32) this week, I found I was in the mood to keep going. My friend Clarence called last night to see if I wanted to go for breakfast this morning, “A pick up and delivery,” he said, letting me know he would do the driving.  He took me for pancakes at the local diner, and over breakfast we talked about various things, the upcoming moose hunt being one. “You know, I saw a big bull moose on Wednesday on my way home from Williams Lake. He crossed the road in front of me right there at Louis Creek,” hands moving out in front of himself from left to right, “and he had your initials on his ear, my dear.”

While on the subject of meat, I asked him if he’d help me butcher one of my goats,”Why sure. Any time. When do you want to do it?” “Today, after breakfast.” He said he had a few things to attend to first but that he’d be back later in the afternoon. When he dropped me off he called out, “I’ll be back at 2pm to help you out, OK!”

When I asked him if he would mind helping, I imagined that he would do the actual killing part; after all, that was the part that I thought I would have the trouble with. However, when he arrived there was no discussion about whether or not I’d be doing the shooting. “OK my dear, place the bullet right here,” he gestured with his left finger-tip-less hand to her forehead. “You only need one cartridge to do it right and she’ll go down, just-like-that.”

I was surprised by my own matter-of-factness. After all, I’d named and tended to Sundown for nearly five years. But my only concern was that I shoot her well so she wouldn’t suffer–I certainly didn’t want to have to shoot her twice or, god forbid, a few times. She was pretty calm  as I led her to the ‘gallows tree’ but every now and then kicked against the rope that held her. I was a bit concerned that she would kick up a fuss just as I was about to shoot so I got in close, took aim quickly and fired. She went down instantly, “That’s it. It’s all over.” Before I really registered that I’d done it, Clarence was already slitting her throat and she was bleeding out.

We went to work on skinning her front side before hanging her from the tree so we could spill the entrails. He talked me through most of the work–I like that about Clarence: he doesn’t take over and do the job for you. Rather, as a good teacher and mentor he’s happy to watch over his apprentice and even endure a few mistakes. “Oh my, she is fat… I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much fat on an animal I’ve butchered before!” he said, cutting through the beautiful white lard that was between her body and her skin. Indeed she was fat–too fat. I’d been feeding the nursing goats a lot more in order to keep their weight on, and the other goats were clearly taking advantage of the extra grains, hay and forage.

Once we had the goat butchered out, I sawed her in half and split her into two sides until she looked like two minuscule sides of beef. Clarence helped me rinse her off and bag her up, before he left. I then put her in the truck and drove her to the local butcher for hanging. On the way in to the store, I barely got a second look. On the way out, however, I stopped to talk to a friend then as I went to leave a stranger nodded politely at me. “After you,” he said gently motioning to the doorway, looking me up and down, “A bag of blood in your hand, and blood spatter on your pants… I’d hate to think what happened to the guy that cut you off!”

Step one: shoot the goat in the forehead. If you do not know how to do this, or do not have a good understanding of the animal’s anatomy, then get someone experienced to help you. This should be a clean kill so the animal does not suffer needlessly. Although this was my first time, I had Clarence watching over me as I did this. Also, I now have a lot of animal butchering experience and know exactly where to place the bullet.

Get close to the goat with the gun so you don't miss in the event she moves.

Get close to the goat with the gun so you don't miss in the event she moves.

Step two: slit throat being sure to cut through both jugular veins so it bleeds well and completely.

Be sure to slice through both jugular veins on either side of the windpipe to get a good bleed.

Be sure to slice through both jugular veins on either side of the windpipe to get a good bleed.

Step three: slit skin from ankle to anus on either back leg and then slit the skin up the belly to the neck. Begin to skin the goat separating the skin from the meat.

Make a cut through the skin from the ankle to the anus on both hind legs.

Make a cut through the skin from the ankle to the anus on both hind legs.

Carefully separate the skin from the animal leaving the meat with the carcass.

Carefully separate the skin from the animal leaving the meat with the carcass.

Step four: When the skin is off the front of the body, make two cuts in the ankle between the tendon and the bone with your knife. These holes are for slipping a rope through in order to hang the goat. Hang the goat high enough to continue working comfortably.

Cut hole between the tendon and bone of each hind leg then slip a rope through for hanging.

Cut hole between the tendon and bone of each hind leg then slip a rope through for hanging.

Rope threaded through legs for hanging.

Rope threaded through legs for hanging.

Step five: Finish skinning the goat completely and cut the head off the goat.

Once the skin is completely off the animal, you can sever the head away from the carcass.

Once the skin is completely off the animal, you can sever the head away from the carcass.

With a knife or meat saw, remove the head once you get the animal completely skinned.

With a knife or meat saw, remove the head once you get the animal completely skinned.

Step six: Cut the belly open carefully making sure not to cut the intestines. You want to just cut through the skin. When you get to the breast bone you will need a meat saw to finish cutting to the neck.

Carefully cut open the belly of the goat being diligent about not cutting any of the innards.

Carefully cut open the belly of the goat being diligent about not cutting any of the innards.

Step six: Begin to let some of the contents fall out of your way. Take the meat saw and cut through the pelvis. Grab a hold of the rectum with one hand and cut the anus away from the inside of the goat. Do not cut the intestine or rectum! Let the contents spill out of the cavity.

Open the belly up completely being careful not to let the innards begin to fall as the rectum will rip and spill fecal contents throughout the belly cavity.

Open the belly up completely being careful not to let the innards begin to fall as the rectum will rip and spill fecal contents throughout the belly cavity.

With a meat saw (or in my case my knife) cut through the breast bone right up to the neck.

With a meat saw (or in my case my knife) cut through the breast bone right up to the neck.

Cut through the pubic bone and around the anus so it can come free as you pull out the rectum along with the innards.

Cut through the pubic bone and around the anus so it can come free as you pull out the rectum along with the innards.

Step seven: Save the heart and liver. Cut the heart open and bleed it. Wash the liver and heart well and put in cold water until you can refrigerate them.

Cut open the heart and rinse the blood out of it.

Cut open the heart and rinse the blood out of it.

Step eight: Cut the esophagus and trachea away from the neck and throat area.

Esophagus and trachea removal.

Esophagus and trachea removal.

Goat carcass cut into two sides. We are not cutting off the extra fat before taking the meat to the butcher for hanging.

Goat carcass cut into two sides. We are not cutting off the extra fat before taking the meat to the butcher for hanging.

Step nine: With the meat saw, cut the carcass in half from tail to tip. You now have two sides of goat ready for hanging in a meat cooler. Wash them with clean water and hang for several days to cure.

As for how I’ll cook it? I’ll likely follow one of these tasty suggestions from Phelan of a Homesteading Neophyte!

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Filed under Butchering, Educational, Food Security, How to..., personal food sovereignty

Rod and Gun Club dinner and dance

David Hall's cougar watches over the Rod and Gun Club annual dinner and dance.

David Hall's cougar watches over the Rod and Gun Club annual dinner and dance.

Last weekend we held the annual Rod and Gun Club fundraiser dinner and dance. In preparation for the dinner, the members of the Rod and Gun Club prepared the meat they hunted this fall, butchered farm raised food animals, and taxidermied animals for the display. Earlier in the year, I helped Clarence butcher the turkey he planned to donate and also helped his son, David, skin and butcher out the cougar which he recently prepared for the display. The dinner provided me the opportunity to bring my duck breeding venture to a close. I butchered the last of the Muscovy ducks and took them to the dinner.

Gary carving the elk, moose and grizzly bear roasts.

Gary carving the elk, moose and grizzly bear roasts.

The vast array of different foods there was surprising given the small community and was a testament to the amount of ‘industry’ the people in this valley are involved in. I could have tried every kind of meat on offer but managed to limit myself to what I could fit on the plate and still be able to remember which meat was which by the time I got from the smorgasbord back to the dinner table. On offer was nearly everything one could imagine and then some: deer, moose, caribou, elk, wild boar, duck, turkey, beaver, llama, black bear, grizzly bear, and of course, David’s cougar. He presented it freshly roasted as well as smoked sausage and hams.

Animals of hunting trips past on display at the game dinner and dance.

Animals of hunting trips past on display at the game dinner and dance.

I tried everything except the caribou and beaver. I had tried caribou before and the beaver just wouldn’t fit anywhere on the plate by the time I got to it, though it did look delectable having been made up into a beautifully presented stir-fry. I was surprised to see that the dinner even catered to vegetarians, with salads of various kinds and several versions of tofu, vegetable stir-fries and bean dishes. I also took a home made loaf of bread and others had made rolls and biscuits. The meal was scrumptious and most of us ate far too much, but I did manage to save room for dessert!

What struck me most about the dinner, besides the fact that it was such a  unique example of local culture and something particular to this valley, was the fact that the vast array of meats differed little from each other. I was expecting to notice a greater difference in texture and taste between the carnivorous animals and the ruminants. My favourite meat was the elk, with the cougar and the grizzly bear roasts tied for second place. So similar in taste and texture were most meats that I’m certain I could feed my mother a grizzly bear roast and tell her it was beef! Of the options I sampled, the animal that had the most distinctive taste was the llama.

The Rod and Gun Club puts on this dinner and dance every year to raise money for the club and to raise awareness of hunting and animal conservation. Many would find it curious, if not ironic, that the hunters in this valley are some of the most aware of conservation and environmental issues and the most active people in terms of environmental conservation and preservation of animals. They are by far the most knowledgeable bunch of folks I have ever had the pleasure of learning from about the complexities of the natural world around us and the balance of nature.

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Filed under Animal issues, Bears, Conservation, Cougars, Educational, Food Security, Hunting, Locavore, Politics of Food

The staff of life

Wheat and breadmaker Yesterday, I finally had time to do some baking. I decided I would break open the bag of Canadian Heritage Red Fife Wheat, grown in Saskatchewan on organic farms but sent to me by Bruce at True Grain Bakery in British Columbia.

Canadian heritage organic Red Fife wheat from Saskatchewan.

Canadian heritage organic Red Fife wheat from Saskatchewan.

Marc Loiselle, an organic Red Fife wheat grower from Saskatchewan who owns and operates the Loiselle Organic Family Farm, was able to tell me exactly where this wheat came from:

That wheat [you have just bought] is part of the Red Fife we grew. It is actually a blend of 5 different lots of Red Fife from Saskatchewan…from members of our Prairie Red Fife Organic Growers Cooperative. 50% is 2006 and 2007 harvests from our farm, 24% is from the Wyatt farm at Canwood, 14% from the Schriml farm at Bruno, and 12% from St. Peter’s Abbey (Benedictine monastery) at Muenster.

Since I do not yet own a wheat grinder, I had to improvise so I talked my coffee grinder into doing double duty. It would only take about 1/3 of a cup of wheat berries at a time, and needed frequent breaks in order to make up the two or three cups of flour I needed for the recipe.

Wheat ground in the coffee grinder ready for use in baking.

Wheat ground in the coffee grinder ready for use in baking.

I ground the wheat roughly and then put it in a loosely woven sieve, repeating grinding of the leftovers from sifting (the tailings, I like to call them) each time until something akin to a flour was left in the bowl. The consistency was much coarser than the stone-ground whole wheat you buy at the store, but I used it anyway.

Bread-maker set on the dough cycle, gently kneading the fresh ground wheat to life.

Bread-maker set on the dough cycle, gently kneading the fresh ground wheat to life.

I always use a bread maker and set it on the dough cycle. I like that it keeps the majority of the bread-making mess inside the machine and makes for an easy clean-up job. Plus, it has the added benefit of making dough while I continue to write, or address other items on my ever burgeoning ‘to do’ list.

I made three loaves yesterday, each with a different amount of the freshly milled flour. For the first I used only 1 cup of the fresh grind and 3 cups of white, for the second I beefed up the amount of the whole wheat to 2 cups and 2 cups of white, and for the third I used 3 cups of whole wheat and only 1 cup of the white.

ready for proofingMy husband and I did a taste test when he got home. We agreed that the best of the three loaves was the ‘half and half ‘ loaf  as we called it, made with 2 cups of each white and the fresh ground wheat flours. It had risen nearly as high as the first loaf, but had a much more interesting texture and robust  –yet rustic — flavour. The third loaf was decidedly heavy. It had a nice flavour to be sure ,and was really good for dredging the final depths of the soup bowls, but didn’t pass the ‘butter only’ test as well as the second ‘half and half’ loaf.

The first loaf just before taking it out of the oven.

The first loaf just before taking it out of the oven.

Overall, I can’t get over how different the fresh wheat tastes. I had been told by others that there is nothing like milling your own wheat and baking bread with it, but I had no idea! If you haven’t tried it, and are a bread fan, then you owe it to yourself to give it a go–like me, you may never go back!

The second and best loaf of the day; rustic and ready.

The second and best loaf of the day; rustic and ready.

This second loaf had a gorgeous crusty outside and generous chewy inside. It may be the best loaf of bread I’ve ever made and possibly the best one I’ve ever tasted. If only I could be guaranteed to replicate it every time!

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Filed under Bread making, Heirloom vegetables, Heritage foods

Grow your own bread

Anita Loiselle's freshly baked bread from her home grown Red Fife wheat. Photo courtesy Marc Loiselle.

Anita Loiselle's freshly baked bread made from her own home grown Red Fife wheat. Photo courtesy Marc Loiselle

Because of my poor wheat harvest this year I realized I was going to have to buy in flour if we were going to enjoy bread, muffins, and pancakes this winter. I just couldn’t see ourselves going without bread products as they have become such a staple in our diet. Not only don’t I want to go without, there is a whole bunch of new experiences and learning to do in order to convert raw wheat kernels into bread products. Therefore, this year we will ‘cheat’, buy in the whole wheat kernels and spend our energies instead learning how to mill our own flour and how to make bread and other products with it.

Another part of food security and personal food sovereignty for me is having access to seed. In other words, above and beyond our bread making needs, obtaining the wheat kernels was also important in terms of securing seed, sufficient for next year’s planting. I am determined to grow my own wheat but until I am successful, I will just have to give in to those who know how to!

Because I had knowledge of the Marquis 10B from the Seager Wheeler farm, I began my search by contacting the farm via the email ‘contact us’ information on their website, asking if they might sell me some more of the heritage wheat. Several months later, with no response from anyone from Seager Wheeler Farm, I began looking further afield for a source of Canadian heritage wheat. If I could not get more Seager Wheeler wheat, then I would like to find another Canadian heirloom wheat: Red Fife, organically raised if possible.

I began my search for the above on the Web. Surprisingly, it did not take long for me to find what I was looking for. The Loiselle Organic Family Farm, in Vonda, Saskatchewan grows the Red Fife wheat. Not only that, they grow it organically on their biodynamic farm. Through a link on their website, I found a source of what I was looking for in British Columbia, the True Grain Bread of Cowichan Bay Village.

Upon discovering that they sell whole wheat kernels in 25kg bags, I phoned True Grain Bread to see if they would do a mail order for me. ‘Of course!’ said the voice on the other end of the phone, ‘Just come on down to the store’. This of course, is easier said than done: I’m a 13 hour drive from the port where you catch the ferry to get to Vancouver Island, never mind the drive to Cowichan from the ferry dock! ‘Oh’.

Upon hearing this minor obstacle, the gal on the other end of the line suggested that I send an email to Bruce, and ask him if he would do a mail order. So I did. Bruce was fantastic. He not only shipped me the wheat, but also he did all the legwork for me: contacted the post office, advised me of the cost of shipping, and put the wheat in the mail–he didn’t cash my cheque until I confirmed that I had received the wheat! When you live as remotely as I do, this sort of ‘over and above’ service is warmly appreciated. Moreover, it is a huge relief!

To cover my options, I also had emailed Marc Loiselle of Loiselle Organic Family Farm, about  my wheat shipping options (in case True Grain couldn’t fulfill the mail order request). By the time he got back to me, thanks to the efforts of Bruce at True Grain Bread, I already had the wheat in my possession.

I was pleased by Marc’s email response however because, despite getting the wheat from an entirely different source, he revealed its contemporary pedigree, adding another welcome layer of knowledge and an additional thread of personal heritage to the wheat I now own:

That wheat [you have just bought] is part of the Red Fife we grew. It is actually a blend of 5 different lots of Red Fife from Saskatchewan…from members of our Prairie Red Fife Organic Growers Cooperative. 50% is 2006 and 2007 harvests from our farm, 24% is from the Wyatt farm at Canwood, 14% from the Schriml farm at Bruno, and 12% from St. Peter’s Abbey (Benedictine monastery) at Muenster.

Wow. I was thrilled to learn more about ‘my’ Red Fife wheat. These sorts of layers and links to other farmers, friends and families, and the ‘ghosts of farmers past’, add a cultural, if not a spiritual dimension to farming for me. Now, I am part of those farm’s living heritage: their work, their wheat, their families’ heritage passed on through generations of seed growing and saving, will live on here in Bella Coola so long as I too am able to sow their seeds, grow their wheat, save the seed, add water and repeat.

Despite the fact that I no longer needed to buy wheat from the Loiselle Organic Family Farm, I did  have a bunch of other questions which Marc was kind enough to answer. The bigger questions for me with respect to my ‘Year in Provisions’ project for which I needed answers to were: how much wheat to grow, how much land to sow, and how much wheat might I need for my family for a year; I had no idea. All I knew was that a loaf of bread takes about 4-5 cups of flour, but that was the limit of my knowledge. How many wheat kernels it takes to make 4-5 cups of flour I also had no idea–let alone how many kilos of wheat one needs to sow over how much area of land, or how much yeild to expect, or how much we’d need to supply us for a year in bread.

To answer theses key ‘Year in Provisions’ questions for me, Marc Loiselle, rose to the occasion:

Sounds like a great project you have going! I’ve never had such a question about growing a certain amount for a year’s supply. But, presuming that you want to grow enough for your food needs and have enough left over for a subsequent year’s sowing, and are able to sow and harvest adequately, I suggest you could purchase a single 25 kg bag for example. If you sow 1/2 of it in good fertile soil with adequate spacing (30 lbs would sow about 1/4 acre….and save the other 30 lbs in case of need to resow due to natural disaster such as hail…) and it grows well, you could anticipate harvesting up to ~ 6 bushels (360 lbs) and that is based on a good yield of 25 bushels/acre.

A single bushel of harvested and clean wheat kernels would make ~70-80 regular sized loaves of bread. So you could do the math and sort of figure out what that would mean for you; especially if you have a family to feed too. 6 bushels x 75 loaves = ~450 loaves potential, which would be more than 1 loaf per day.

As it happens, I had bought exactly 25 kilos from True Grain Bread, which according to Marc’s calculations, is about double what I need for sowing purposes next year (allowing for poor harvest/return). That means I can use half of it now for bread making purposes. Of course, this will likely not be enough to get us through to next year’s harvest (thinking optimistically!), so I will have to order another 25 kg, maybe two, for our winter’s supply for bread making.

Not only did Marc answer many of my questions, he also was kind enough to send the above photo of Anita’s (his wife) freshly baked bread. In addition to this, he sent along  a couple of other recipes that use the Red Fife wheat in interesting ways, such as in salads. I will post these recipes eventually and link them to my recipe page, as and when. Thank-you Marc and Anita Loiselle!

Now, I’m on the hunt for a grinder so I can turn this gorgeous Red Fife heritage wheat into bread! Suggestions on grinders most welcome.

For more information on Red Fife wheat

See the Loiselle Organic Family Farm. They have a wonderful website with ‘everything you wanted to know’ about Red Fife wheat,  including interesting photos, as well as the history of the Prairie Red Fife Organic Growers Cooperative they helped found.

LOISELLE ORGANIC FAMILY FARM

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Filed under Bread making, Food Security, How to..., Learning to Farm, Sustainable Farming

Fast ‘Slow Food’

These samosas will soon to become my fast slow food.

These samosas will soon become my fast slow food.

I know that some days, by the time dinnertime comes along I’m too bushed to bother. I decided yesterday that I need to have some ‘fast food’ on hand. For me, that means something that I can pretty much take out of the freezer, pop in the oven, and within a half hour or so be eating a satisfying meal. Now when I say satisfying, I don’t mean some tasteless slog that will ‘satisfy’ hunger, be incredibly nourishing and sit like a brick in my belly: the sort of food my grandmother would say ‘sticks to your ribs’.  That’s not appealing. In this regard, I am a bit like Goldilocks: I want things to be just right, and that means leaning towards nouveau haute cuisine type fare.

Since I have a nice potato harvest, yesterday I decided to make samosas for the freezer. Tomorrow, I may make perogies. Some time this week, I should make my cabbage rolls and freeze them, as I’ve got two more 5 gallon crocks of sauerkraut on the go and one of the crocks has a whole cabbage sunk into it. As I look at the above list, I realize some of you will be thinking, ‘That’s not stodgy fare?’ Well it’s not, and here’s why.

My sauerkraut crocks working their magic.

My sauerkraut crocks working their magic.

The food that I will prepare my ‘fast food’ from is actually ‘Slow Food’ fare: heritage vegetables, chickens and eggs, beyond organically grown veggies (by that I mean the original, unco-opted, non-industrial organic) that are all from open pollinated seed, and home fermented foods.

My friend digging the Ozette potatoes that became my samosas.

My friend digging the Ozette potatoes that became my samosas.

For example, the potatoes that I used for the samosas yesterday were Ozettes, an ancient variety of fingerling potato. The Ozette was brought to the new world by the Spanish exploreres in the 1700s and grown by the First Nations on the West Coast of North America. It is a really flavourful potato and won first prize in the personal potato party I had last week (possibly more on that in another post).

The elegant Ozette potato...

The elegant Ozette potato...

I’ll use the leaves of my embedded sauerkraut cabbage for the cabbage rolls (that’s the haute cuisine part of what could otherwise be quite stodgy fare). Using the fermented leaves makes a world of difference in the flavour of the cabbage rolls. Everyone who has ever tried my cabbage rolls claims they are the best they’ve ever had, and I’ve served them to some self proclaimed experts (we have a lot of Germans, Swiss, Austrians and Norwegians in this area of BC).

As for other fast ‘slow food’, I was hoping to have had tomatoes to make spaghetti sauce, but that’s just not going to happen–the lousy summer we had this year made sure of that.

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Filed under Food Security, Politics of Food, Sustainable Farming