Category Archives: Recipes

Homemade apple cider vinegar success (sorta)

During the summer, we had bought a pint of Alander’s Acres raw apple cider vinegar+”mother”. Then this past fall, we bought some raw apple cider from down in Amish Country. We had read several different articles on how to make your own ACV, and after we were completely overwhelmed, decided to “wing it”, lol… πŸ™‚

So we let two gallons of raw apple cider ferment for 4 days on our countertop. (This was our attempt to turn the cider into hard-cider, like one of the articles we had read said to do…) Transferred the cider from the plastic jugs they came in into glass gallon jars and added the rag + rubberband on top, so it could “breathe”. On the 4th day, we added one cup of the “mother”+ACV to each batch. Re-covered them & waited… Here’s the end result after 2 months. πŸ™‚

First, there’s the “sorta” successful batch. Rubberband had broken, so it was a fruit fly magnet. 😦 We were able to filter out the fruit flies and the vinegar was fine. But we threw the new “mother” or “scoby” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) away. Figured there were probably fruit fly eggs that had been laid on it. 😦

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Fortunately, the rubberband didn’t break on the other jar! πŸ™‚

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This is the “mother” we threw away…

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Here’s the “mother” from the good batch in the new raw apple cider – I forgot to take a pic of it when it was on the plate, but you can see how much nicer/thicker it grew… πŸ™‚

For this new batch that is fermenting right now, we decided to skip the part where we try to turn the cider into hard-cider. Just threw the new “mother” in the fresh gallon of raw cider along with 1c of the raw ACV from the previous batch. Perhaps a future blog post will reveal that outcome… πŸ™‚

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Moral of the story: always back-up your rubberbands, lol! πŸ™‚

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Oh – and what do we do with all our ACV??

Canning and pickling…

Healthy salad dressings (I prefer oil & vinegar as a salad dressing, but the boys prefer this ranch dressing)…

In our roasters as we cook down our beef and chicken broth (it helps to draw minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium into the broth)…

And in a tonic we drink to help keep our immune systems strong:
2T honey + 2T raw ACV + 1/2 gallon water all blended together. We each drink maybe 1c every other day or so… Click here for more fun beverage ideas. πŸ™‚

Rendering our suet into tallow

Had two marathon suet rendering days here this week, last week, a couple weeks ago, LAST MONTH, lol… Yeah. That’s how it’s been around here. Start writing a post one day and the next thing you know it’s over 30 days later! 😦

We rendered suet (fat around the kidney) a couple years ago, when we made tallow filled birdfeeder logs. But it was a messy job that no one was very fond of. So we weren’t gonna mess with it anymore – EXCEPT I kept hearing & reading about how healthy tallow from grass-fed beef is! It’s not just for the birds, lol… πŸ™‚

Anyways…

Every time we take a beef in to get butchered, we get all the suet – the fat from around the kidney. (Why? Oh, because deep down, we want to be more efficient with what we have… But we are s-l-o-w learners!) After awhile, all that fat takes up a lot of freezer space (duh), lol… So getting these big awkward chunks of suet out has been nice. πŸ™‚

Day #1, we rendered these four bags: a little over 45 pounds. πŸ™‚

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Day #2 my 3 boys weren’t available to help, so my dear friend, Angie, came down & we rendered another 65 lbs. BLESS HER HEART! πŸ™‚

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And it was cool how this task fit in perfectly with our health lessons for school. πŸ™‚ Coordinated well with studying about why we’ve chosen to try to consume less corn/processed foods, avoid trans fats, and eat more of the natural, saturated fats. Here’s a link to a great flier from the Weston A. Price Foundation: All About Trans Fats, and here’s a link to the health textbook we are using: Real Food Nutrition & Health.

Here are several of the sites I used for my research of tallow & the rendering process. Click on their names to go to their articles: realfoodforager.com and gnowfglins.com and nourishingdays.com and theprairiehomestead.com.

This post will walk you through our journey, and hopefully by the end, we’ll have a confirmed method. πŸ™‚

Since: the smaller the pieces of suet, the quicker the fat will “melt”, we first ran cut-up pieces of fat through the meat grinder attachment on our mixer.Β  (This is howΒ  we did it a couple years ago.) But it was really hard on the mixer after just a few batches, so we decided to stop since we had such a large quantity to render. (All the suet was partially thawed, because it’s easier to cut it when it’s more firm.)

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Then we tried using our 17-year-old electric knife. After a few slices, it started to smell like it was burning up, so we stopped using it as well. 😦

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Then we cut chunks with a regular old knife and I just used my hands to pull it into smaller pieces. It worked just fine (for me)… My 3 boys were less than thrilled at this option, lol… Yes, this is a GREASY, DIRTY JOB!

{Speaking of “greasy” – Cleanup from this process requires SUPER HOT WATER and preferably, lye soap. And I say that because we have both lye soap & a generic dish liquid that we used during cleanup. Hands down, my homemade Alander’s Acres lye soap cut through the grease soooo much better than the other stuff! :)}

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Has a neat membrane-type “wrap” around the fat that you try to pull off. Once that gets pulled away, it’s pretty easy to pull the fat out.

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And then we used the food processor & pulsed batches just until it was “crumbled”. We found that filling the food processor HALF full was better than full like the pic below shows. πŸ™‚

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For Day #1, we borrowed our friends’ turkey fryer & just kept adding crumbles into the pot. It worked nice because it was a huge pot & it kept the distinctive smell OUTSIDE… πŸ™‚

But for Day #2, we used our stovetop since it was a rainy day. It worked fine, but outside rendering is definitely our preferred method. πŸ™‚

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Each cat got it’s own personal stash of scraps, lol. Next time, we’ll have to give them smaller batches – they were full for DAYS after this and didn’t even come to the barn for milk each day… I see why this is fed to the Ididerod sledding dogs in Alaska! πŸ™‚

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Stirred it every-so-often…

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After a good 6 hours of rendering, it was finally done as the solids went to the bottom. Next step would be to strain it into jars. *KEY NOTE* Tallow will strain better/quicker if it is HOT. This was not a problem with the turkey fryer batch – we got it all strained before it cooled. Not-so-much with the Day #2 batch. Definitely didn’t have it hot enough for long enough, so it was more of a messy chore “fixing” it. Lesson learned! πŸ™‚

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Strained best through a thin, muslin cloth…

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It didn’t take long, and the tallow solidified at room temp. It was neat to watch it change. Day #1’s batch all went into glass quart jars. Ran out of lids for jars, so Day #2’s batch went into one gallon plastic lidded buckets. I keep the tallow I use in my cupboard at room temp. The rest are in the fridge & freezer. We’ve shared some as gifts, and are hopeful this will be another product-line our customers are interested in. We are continually amazed at how the Lord opens new doors for us as He provides for our daily needs! πŸ™‚

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I’m gonna be honest here. My boys were NOT THRILLED about this project. Namely, because of the smell. And I’m not sure if it didn’t bother me because I already knew of the health benefits, so I was already poised to like it no-matter-what…? I mean, YES, it’s a distinctive “beefy” smell, but even Angie didn’t think it was too bad on Day #2… Though, she was already pre-biased, too, lol… πŸ™‚

My boys asked that I NOT tell them when I cook with it.Β  Soooo, I didn’t (for awhile). THAT was a bit challenging, as they are in and out of the kitchen VERY often.Β  But, I’m happy to report they are officially converted. πŸ™‚Β Guess that’s a benefit to this post taking so long to publish – I’ve had lots of time to “play” with my tallow! πŸ™‚ The biggest test, was using it in our sourdough crackers and tortillas.Β  Each batch uses 105g (1/2c) of saturated fat.Β  Normally, I use coconut oil. But if they turned out the same using tallow, OH MY, that would save us A LOT in off-farm purchases.Β  AND THE VERDICT:Β  SUCCESS!!Β  Worked like a charm. Very cool. AND, I’ve told the boys, AND they’ve accepted it. (Probably helped that I didn’t tell them until AFTER they had scarfed down eaten several batches and had complimented me on how good they tasted!) πŸ™‚

We’ve fried potatoes in it, cooked our eggs in it, grease our baking stones with it – basically anywhere I used to use coconut oil, I now use tallow.Β  Except in a pie crust. They say it makes a beautiful crust, but I haven’t tried that yet.Β  Pie is one of Mike’s favorites (and the poor guy hardly ever gets one, lol…), so I don’t know that I’ll experiment with that substitution yet. Sure would hate for him not to like it as much, and then not get another one for awhile! πŸ™‚Β  Oh, and our toothpaste – I’m gonna stick with coconut oil for that recipe, too.Β  Perhaps someday I’ll get that post up… [sigh] πŸ™‚

After reading this article about how wonderful tallow is for your skin, Angie & I experimented with a tiny batch of tallow balm. We added some olive oil and some of her therapeutic grade essential oils to it, and it is WONDERFUL. It smells amazing (lavender & tea tree oils), and feels great on our skin! It is definitely a “balm” – not super squishy like a lotion, but once it’s rubbed on the skin, body temp “melts” it and it becomes easier to spread. Definitely something I’d like to do more experimenting with – in my free time – [sigh], lol! πŸ™‚

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And yes, the birds are happier now around here.Β  We re-filled their log feeders just in time for this week’s snow storm! πŸ™‚

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Here’s my final “numbers”: Our tallow yield was 60% of the weight of the suet chunks. After two 9 hour days of working in rendering about 110 pounds of suet, we got about 66 pounds of tallow. Each quart jar fits about 1.6 pounds of tallow and each 1 gallon bucket fits about 7.5 pounds of tallow. Pricing: $12/Q of finished tallow, or $48/gallon of finished tallow, or for those adventurous folks who wanna try their own hand at rendering grass-fed suet: $3/pound of suet. πŸ™‚

Shredded apple & pear pie

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Apple pie with big chunks of apple are not a big hit here… But last year a friend brought Mike a SHREDDED apple & pear pie – and we loved it! πŸ™‚

So when my Dad gifted me two big boxes of apples and pears a couple weeks ago, I knew I needed to reserve some to try to re-create that pie. Mmmmm… πŸ™‚

Here’s my recipe for two pies:

2 pounds of apples & 2 pounds of pears. [Peeled, cored, and shredded – which yielded about 8 cups of shredded fruit.]

Mix in:

2c (448g) evaporated cane juice
6T (60g) of King Arthur Unbleached Flour (KAUF)
1t cinnamon & 1t nutmeg
4 beaten eggs
8 oz. of melted butter
2t vanilla

I let it sit while I made my pie crust:

With a pastry blender, mix up 2c KAUF (242g) with 1t (7g) sea salt and 3/4c (156g) coconut oil. Once uniform crumbles are achieved, I add 5T cold water & incorporate it with the pastry blender. Then I use my hands & form 2 balls. After letting it rest a couple minutes, I roll each dough-ball out on a floured lint-free towel, line my stoneware pie pans, and flute the edges between my fingers.

Then I added half the previously prepared pie filling on top of each pie crust.

Baked the pies for 10 minutes at 400Β°, then 70 minutes at 350Β°.

We TRIED to allow it to cool completely before sampling it, but we failed, lol. πŸ™‚

We have kept them in the fridge, and they taste great cold, too! πŸ™‚

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Our “beef jerky”

We met our goal & had 6 pounds of ground beef left from last year! Since we pick up more beef this week, we decided a celebration was in order…beef jerky! A true luxury FOR SURE, since 6 pounds of ground beef yields 3 pounds of finished jerky, lol. πŸ™‚

We use the same spices we put in our “salami“, roll balls of it out onto parchment paper atop the dehydrator shelves, then bake them in our dehydrator for about 6 hours at 145Β°. About halfway through the baking, the sheets are flipped & the parchment paper is removed. I blot the grease off with a lint-free towel & tear it into pieces. Half of us prefer the thinner crunchy edges, and the other half like the thicker middle pieces… Mmmmm! πŸ™‚

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Ghee

While I was peeling dried strawberries off of dehydrator sheets a couple weeks ago, Mike decided to try making clarified butter – “ghee”.

For years I’ve thought, why make ghee when we are blessed with an abundance of butter? Well, the answer to that question came as we began to run low on our coconut oil. Could there be a way to make our own healthy oil?

We go through a 5 gallon bucket of coconut oil every year. We’ve read alot about its anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral traits, so we try to use and eat it as much as we can. πŸ™‚

This year we went to order our annual bucket of coconut oil, but hadn’t heard back from our source. So as it got lower & lower, Mike started asking me questions about ghee. Begrudgingly, I began to research it, and was pleasantly surprised at what I found. My main concern was about pie crusts – could you use ghee to make a pie crust?? Yep! Once I read that, I knew this would be a worthwhile venture, lol! πŸ™‚

Mike made it look pretty easy… The whole procedure took about 30 minutes. Started with 2 pounds of unsalted butter that he had made that day. Melted it in a tall stock pot on “4” (medium low). Didn’t stir it – just gently moved the foam a bit to peak at the clarity every 10 minutes or so. Eventually the foam cleared away, and you could see how the muddy yellow liquid changed to a beautiful, clear yellow. Dumped it through a muslin lined colander into a glass bowl, and that’s it! Yield was a smidge over 24 oz. or 3 cups of ghee from 2 lbs. of butter. πŸ™‚

That 3 cups only lasted one week, lol! Worked perfect in our baked brown rice, for frying up our homemade salami, in our sourdough tortillas and crackers, in a cake recipe, for greasing my baking stones, and for frying our eggs in, too! Oh yeah. I am a ghee girl now… πŸ™‚

Haven’t had time to try a pie crust yet – so perhaps that’ll be a future post. πŸ™‚

We did finally get our 5 gallon bucket of coconut oil, so now my goal is to see if we can stretch it for two years instead of one… So exciting to find another product we can make ourselves to lessen the amount of money we need to spend off-farm! πŸ™‚

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2 days ago, I had my first try at making ghee, and it was a success! I clarified 6 pounds of unsalted butter & got 2.5 quarts of ghee. I put one quart in the fridge, and leave the rest in a kitchen cupboard. When I get around to making that pie – I’ll use the semi solid form from the fridge…

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Dried Strawberries 2013

Paul picked 9 more quarts of strawberries last Wednesday. So that afternoon I spent 4 hours cutting & arranging the slices onto our Excalibur’s shelves. They dried for 12 hours at 135Β°. I think they taste like pieces of fruit roll-ups, but better because there’s no added sugar! Drying the fruit captures & accentuates the natural sweetness of the berry. And it only takes a pinch of slices to add to a bowl of granola or throw in a smoothie. πŸ™‚

It’s certainly a “labor of love”, though – a yucky, sticky mess, but I’m ok with doing it ONCE-A-YEAR, lol. πŸ™‚

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our bean soup recipe

Since this is a favorite soup of ours, we make a huge stockpot of it, and freeze portions for future meals. I like that I can make lots of soup without using up a bunch of our canned broths…

Hydrate 2 pounds+4 ounces of dried beans. (Click here for my “bean formula” & how we prepare our beans.)

Once hydrated, place in 8 quart stock pot with 6 quarts of water.

Add:

1-1/2 pounds cooked & drained ground beef

2 quarts of whole tomatoes, crushed

3 cups of chopped celery

3 T sea salt

3 t dried parsley flakes

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 t dried thyme

6 bay leaves

1 T coarse pepper

a couple whole hot peppers, optional

Cover the pot & allow soup to simmer for hours, stirring occasionally. It tastes great the day you make it, but gets better & better as days go by! (May need to remove the hot peppers after the first day or so, depending on how spicy you like your soup!) πŸ™‚

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