Latest Posts

Local meat – sausage making & bone broth

Now that we have slaughtered and butchered the pig, we need to move on with processing some of the last parts, which in this case was the bones, skin, fat and meat that was set aside for sausage making, including the heart and tongue.

The easiest and longest part of this process is making bone broth. There are many ways of doing so, and depending on how you plan on using it, you can make it as simple or complicated as you wish.

When I am looking for a stock with lots of flavour, I tend to roast the bones in the oven with onions and vegetable scraps before covering with water and setting aside to cook. But with the quantity of bones we had on hand, we decided to simply get the best nutrients out of them and leave them with a neutral taste to use in a variety of ways. Many claim that the bones should be soaked in vinegar to enable better leaching of the minerals from the bones, but I have always been content with a long 24 hour process that leaves you with a silky broth that gels as it cools. You can heat it up with ginger, garlic and chilli when you have the flu and need a warm pick me up, or you can add it to sauces or use as a soup base. It is full of nutrients, minerals and gelatine which is pure goodness for your body and soul.

Note: The organic vs conventional debate is one that I am not going to get into. I believe in knowing where your food is coming from, and being able to look your farmer in the eye. But when it comes to bone broth, do try to get access to animals that are raised without hormones/antibiotics. My husband Dag, who at some point at some point will end up guest blogging here, points out that younger animals tend to have picked up less heavy metals and environmental poisons than their older bretheren, whether you are talking about domestic or game.

pigpart2-21

We set aside some bones to pack down for the freezer, then filled two 20 liter pots with the rest, including any scraps of skin that we had left over. We had already scraped the fat from them to use in the sausage. Top with cold water, and bring up to a slow boil. Many say you need to remove the scum that appears on the top, we have seen that it often works itself back into the base and when strained is not a problem. Nothing like low maintenance work. When done, remove solids, strain (cook it down further if you want to concentrate it and store for future use. (double sealed vacuum bags work well or pour into sterilised jars.)

Meanwhile, we went to work on grinding the meat, including the tongue and heart, as well as the fat to make sausages. This was our first time, and we were thrilled with the results! So if you have never done this before, I urge you to give it a try.

I have a KitchenAid mixer that is 20 years old that I bought when I lived in Canada. I need to use a transformer on it now, as we have 220V in Norway. But, I remember when I bought it and thought ‘this is a big investment, I hope it is worth it’.  I have to say that it was a great purchase. I bought the heavy duty version which has the overload button and lifting bowl vs tilt head and larger bowl capacity. I have only had to hit the overload button twice, but it makes it a powerhouse that I know I can rely on. I have a pile of attachments for this unit, and have to say that the meat grinder worked like a charm, but if I had my druthers, I would have a dedicated sausage stuffer for a job this size. Chances are , someone in your neighbourhood may have one to lend, check around before buying a new one, and check your second hand listings. But for this session, we had a great team who was willing to take turns and spread the labour around.

We chose to use the coarsest grind we could, and it was the right decision. At first, you may think you want something finer, but once you start mixing it by hand to add seasoning, if will loosen up, and the final stuffing stage does so even more.

This day we were making a fresh sausage vs. a cured one. We are quite keen to enter the world of cured meat, hence our experimental pancetta, but with limited time and resources, we opted for fresh that can used within a few days, or frozen to be enjoyed throughout the rest of the year.

With 20kg of sausage on the agenda, we decided to try out a few varieties. A friend sent us her fathers handwritten italian recipe for toscana sausage which laid the base for everything else as it was a simple salt/pepper/meat ratio, but clearly indicated that the meat should be 5-6 days old (details that are often left out – love that!)

We measure out the ratios, and added them to the meat. In hindsight, we would have divided the meat into 2  – 10kg portions, so that as we tested the flavouring, we could have added more meat if ours were over seasoned. We were on the verge of too much salt, but are still happy with the results. Note: I am going to be doing some research on the various salts, and how they impact both flavour and nutrients, as there are so many options on the market (pink himalaya, sea salt, course vs fine…) in this case, we used a fine sea salt.

Once we had the base salt/pepper seasoning, we decided to experiment. Our group included five adults and four children. We decided to do some taste tests by taking small amounts of the meat, seasoning and frying up portions for tasting. Part of our arsenal of pantry items included: dried ramsons (ramsløk aka wild garlic), smoked hot paprika from a trip to Spain, and a lots more. There was no question that smoked chilli/ramsløk was going to be a test, Sandra found some dried jalapenos in the pantry which turned out to be a crowd favourite and a traditional thyme/oregano version made the list as well as an extra hot version, not for the faint of heart!

Meanwhile, while all of the taste tests are happening, make sure that you have prepared your casing. You can purchase a variety of casings ranging in both size and source. The come from pig or sheep, alternatives are available, and they also range in diameter. Tables are available to determine how many kilos of meat you will use per meter. Prepare them as directed. Some are sold in brine, other salted and require soaking in water from anything from 20 minutes to 3 hours, But all natural casings need rinsing.

Once your meat and casings are prepared, it is time to stuff them.

Your first step is to thread the tube through the casing ,and it truly is easier than one would imagine (Tip: make sure the tube is wet to lubricate it and avoid tears).

pigpart2 - 33.jpg

We quickly realised that one needed to control the speed at which the casing came off the tube. This makes it a two person job: one who controls the density of the sausage, and one who stuff the meat into the machine. (as noted above, for large quantities, a dedicated machine is ideal, but a simple attachment will do the trick in a heart beat!)

Do not over-stuff, as you will need to link the sausages, and if there is too much pressure you can risk breaking the casing. Natural casing are unbelievably resilient! Any inconsistencies can easily be smoothed out. We were all in awe as to how we were able to handle the sausages, and quickly became confident.

We tied and linked the sausages (there are a ton of methods, you will quickly find a solution that works for you) separated them into portions of 4 or 6 and proceeded to vacuum pack and label them. Once the kids were comfortable with the vacuum machine, we were content to hand off the job!

pigpart2-37

By the end of the day, we had produced 4 varieties of sausages, packed down ground pork, stock bones and even made some burgers as well as prepared bone broth. Everyone left with a feeling a having had a very productive day, and a freezer full of goodness to enjoy.  I can not recommend highly enough trying this yourself… if you are unsure, check around and see if there are any courses available in your area, and if not, post on social media, you are surely going to find some kindred spirits to take on a new adventure.

By the way, one must not forget when using the whole animal, so plan from snout to tail. We have both in the freezer. The tail as a quick add on to a stock pot, and the head is set aside to make sylte (traditional Norwegian head cheese for christmas.. stay tuned!

local meat – butchering and processing

As mentioned in my earlier post, we have a pig that we slaughtered earlier this week, and when you have that kind of meat coming into your house, you are best to have some sort of plan as to how you want to manage it. We did a lot of reading in advance (highly recommended), and arranged to have all of the tools/supplies need as well as cleared our calendar in order to take care of the meat. Now that we are all done, we have seen that it took us three days with multiple people each day in order to manage the task. This is definitely a group project!

Here is how we broke it down:

  • Day 1: Slaughter
    • halving of the carcasses
    • removal of heads
    • hanging
  • Day 2: Butchering
    • cutting the primals
      • leg
      • shoulder
      • belly
      • loin
    • deboning the legs and removal of hooves
    • tying and packaging roasts, ribs and chops
    • scraping stock bones
    • setting aside fat and meat for grinding and sausage production
  • Day 3: Production / Processing
    • making stock from the bones
    • seasoning for dry curing
    • grinding of meat and fat
    • sausage making
    • vacuum packing (we also do a lot of sous-vide cooking, so having a vacuum packing machine is essential. I never knew how much we would use it until we had one!) It is a work horse!

You can read all about Day 1 here.

Day 2: There are many ways of butchering a pig, and we decided that for us, we wanted to think about what were the pieces that were highest on our list to keep whole. We wanted:

  • ‘Ribbe’ the traditional christmas eve roast pork belly
  • the tenderloin
  • the hocks (to be bagged and pre-seasoned for Ropa Vijea sous-vide.. recipe below)
  • fat and meat for sausages (goal of 20kgs to be ground)
  • and boneless belly for pancetta
  • everything else was going to be cut into roasts

Before anything, we scrubbed and cleared everything away in the kitchen and set up stations for the various tasks. We are fortunate to have a kitchen that can accommodate these kinds of projects. It is by far the heart of our home, and food is a major part of our lives.

With everything prepped, we were ready to bring in the first half of the pig. We made a plan of attack and went at it. One purchase that we were happy to have made was a set of butchering knives. They were not expensive, we picked them up at one of the sports stores in the hunting section. We came across them by chance, as they were next to the meat hooks we needed. a Simple set of 4 knives with plastic handles in a carry pouch. Best deal I have seen in a while, and they worked like a charm, so you can forget going out and buying those expensive kitchen knives. We will use them often.

Lugging around a side of pork is not an easy task, these guys have carried their share of meat in the last week, trust me, that moment in the shed in the dark after a long day at the slaughter –  with each of them hoisting a half pig while I was trying to get the hooks behind the ankle tendons in a dark shed lit up only by a flashlight is not a moment we will soon forget! The sides weighed in at just under 50kgs a piece. So now, how to process nearly a hundred kilos of meat:

Tip: arrange to have a bowl set aside for cuttings and scraps that are unusable. They do not add up to much, but glands, bloodmeat and arteries etc.. need somewhere to go, and keeping a clean setup makes this an easier job. Our scraps were given to our hens.

As for what you will need to gather in the process, pieces will quickly begin to pile up.

  • Some are immediately ready for packaging (loins, chops etc..) have a tray or space set aside for them. Oven trays and baking pans work well.
  • Have a dedicated space for fat trimmings, and a spot for anything that will later get ground up.
  • Stock bones can either go straight into a pot or set aside for later use.
  • Skin can either be left on and scored for roasts, set aside and used for crackling, or tossed into the bone pile for making stock.

We do a lot of sous vide cooking and love a cuban food. One of my favourite recipes for pork is to make it sous vide as Ropa Vijea. Often made with beef, we prefer pork hocks. So prior to freezing, I added the seasoning to the bags so that we can just take them out of the freezer and drop them in the water bath.

The recipe for sous-vide Ropa Vijea: (this really should be its own post)

  • 1 pork hock, skin on in a vacuum bag with the following seasoning
    • smocked, dried mexican chillies
    • whole cumin seed
    • bay leaves
    • oregano
    • salt
    • pepper
    • garlic powder
  • cook sous-vide at 68.3 degrees for minimum 6-8 hours up to 24 hours
  • open bag
  • remove stock (it is divine! as it has all of the collagen and nutrients and minerals from the bone and skin)
  • remove the skin, slice into strips, season with salt and fry as pork crackling snacks to enjoy while you make the rest
  • the meat should be falling off the bone, shred with 2 forks and add stock, cook to reduce
  • serve with rice and refried beans, fried plantain is a lovely addition!

OK.. back from my cuban side track! 😉

Last steps of the day, we knew that pancetta was something we wanted to experiment with. We have access to a place to hang the meat once it has been cured which has good ventilation and the right temperature, so we decided to bite the bullet and give it a try.

We used a recipe that was based on 3.5% nitrite salt (which has a 6% nitrate content) we purchased online here in Norway at godmiddag.net (disclaimer: I rarely mention where I acquire items, but we had such great service and advice from Kai, he shipped things out in a rush so we could have them in time and gave us great advice, I thought I would share the info). We combined: the nitrite salt, pepper, ground juniper berries, nutmeg, brown sugar, ground bay leaves and thyme. The pock bellies were rubbed down and every crevice covered. They are now packed in vacuum bags which will be turned every day in the fridge for seven days. Once done, they will be rinsed, dried, re-seasoned and hung to dry for 6-8 weeks.. we can’t wait!

Day 3 sausage making: coming soon!

Local meat – farm slaughtered

In recent years, we have been fortunate to have truly become involved in being part of our food supply chain. The appreciation you have for what is on your plate when you are part of the entire process is something I can not convey in words. This year, we took it a step further and I am so grateful to have been able to partake in the entire process.

A smallholder farm a few kilometers from where we live offered us the opportunity to be part of a small group who would buy, slaughter and butcher our own meat. We of course jumped on the chance! So this spring, three little pigs were introduced to their new home where they had lots of place to play and dig up the ground, be fed well and live a happy life.

Well last week, the time to do the dirty deed came along. With the help of another local farmer, we as a group learned by doing. And it was a very educational and rewarding experience.

The pigs had grown significantly, the weather was perfect and all hands were on deck. We were very fortunate to have a group of people who worked really well together. Group chemistry has a very important role to play when you have a job like this. When you have a group who are all hard working, willing to lend a hand anywhere, and take the initiative to tie any loose strings, it is a pleasure to work together.

One of the key reasons why we were keen to do this, is that Norway’s only mobile slaughter system closed down last year. We have been working to revive it, and hope to be able to find a way to provide a humane, stress-free end for these animals. I do not believe that putting an animal on a truck to send it off to slaughter is the way to go. But I will not delve in to that now, or this will be a very long post!

Ours were blissfully unaware that their time was up, they were given extra special goodies on their last day, and the time from their last nibble to their lights going out was mere minutes.  Everything was ready, Lots of hot water for scalding, an old bathtub, a tractor for transport, scraping cups (they were new to me but very smart!) and a slaughter bench.

With the help of an experienced farmer, and a carefully aimed the bolt-pistol the deed was done. With a sharp knife, you cut the jugular and in an enamelled bowl with salt you collect the blood. It needs to be stirred until it cools so that it does not coagulate. There are a variety of ways to prepare blood, we offered ours to one of the other members in the group who was keen to try. We knew we had enough on our plate already!

The hind legs of the pig are then slit to expose the tendon which you can then hook for hoisting.

Once transported to the scalding station, they were lifted into the tub. Let me tell you, there is an art to lifting a pig! It is not as easy as one might think. The water was at just the right temperature for scaling the hairy outer layer off the skin. This was one of the parts that I was interested to learn about. As we are so used to seeing the smooth pork bellies at the market, and I saw how hairy our pigs were. It worked beautifully. You had to work hard and fast, using the metal cup scrapers, as if you did not remove the outer layer soon enough, it would set again. Three people working at full force cleaned each pig within 10 minutes.  The scraper cups by the way are round so that there are not edges that would nick the skin.

Once clean, it was hoisted again with a spreader bar on the tractor. A blow torch took care of the last remaining whiskers and time to gut. I have seen many a youtube video on this part, but being there was a new experience. We removed the innards, and set aside the parts that we would be using. None of us were interested in cleaning the intestine for sausages, as we had access to clean casings already, but we set aside the heart, tongue, liver and certain other parts. I prepped the parts, and cleaned out the heart. You need to clean out the blood from all four of the ventricles. We had brought our vacuum machine along, and packed them down on the spot for everyone to take home.

The carcasses were cut in half with a saw, which was not an easy task, heads were removed (we will make traditional norwegian head cheese aka ‘sylte’ with ours. Those who were leaving theirs to hang at the farm hung them in the barn, we packed our in the car which we had lined with plastic and hung them in our shed in a net hunting bag. The temperatures have been perfect to hang it there, and 5 days later we butchered the entire pig. But that post will have to wait, as that was yesterday, and today is sausage and stock day.. stay tuned!

img_9974

Coq au vin and stock from rooster feet

When you raise hens in your garden, you are bound to end up with more than a rooster or two. We opt to let ours enjoy life with the girls, happily free-ranging until the day comes, when it is time to become part of our food cycle.

We have learned quite a bit about how to take care of them in a humane and careful manner. I will not go into the details in this post, but will try and write about it sometime in the future. But for the time being, what do you do with a rooster?

I have always been a fan of coq au vin, many people make it with chickens, because roosters (unless you raise your own) can be very hard to come by. You will find a variety of recipes online, each with their own nuance. Some call for armagnac vs. cognac, pearl onions vs. shallots, I say go with what you have and feel free to experiment. But one of the key ingredients is a good quality chicken stock. If you do not have any in stock, no pun intended, now is the time to use all the parts from your rooster, including his feet!

Did you know that poultry feet make for a thick, healthy stock due to the high collagen and mineral  content? Yes, and they are easy to prepare. In order to use them, you will need to scald them in boiling water for a minute or two, and peel off the outer membrane. It comes off easily, and only takes a minute. You must also remove the outer sheath on the talons, which when done, leaves you with a pristinely clean foot to toss into your stock pot. Add the neck and what ever other inner organs you have on hand, and let them simmer on the stove for a few hours so that your stock is ready when you prepare your meal. Perfect for a sunday dinner, or easily put into a day when working from home. (I wrote this post and took pics as I cooked, on a weekday while juggeling conference calls and working – last minute details while the kids are still clearing the table 😉 It is not a time consuming meal, it just needs tending on occasion throughout the day )

Once you are ready to start preparing your meal, chop lardons or bacon into chunks and brown them in a thick bottomed, preferably enamelled pot (cast iron may react with the wine). While they are browning, cut your bird into quarters, season with salt and pepper on each side.

TIP: if you want to get nicely browned skin that does not stick to the pan and tear, let the skin air dry before browning.

  1. Remove the lardons from the pan, leaving the drippings.
  2. Brown your meat, careful not to overcrowd in the pan.
  3. peel your onions (I used shallots) you can choose to leave them whole if they are small, or cut into sections, whatever your preference is.
  4. turn your meat to brown the other side
  5. add a good splash of cognac or armagnac and enjoy the smell! You can flame it off, but I prefer to let it cook off
  6. add a few cloves of garlic, thyme and a bay leaf or two and return bacon to the pot – optional: add tomato paste
  7. add two glasses or cups 😉 of red wine and the equivalent amount of stock that you have prepared earlier.
  8. Cover and let simmer for 3 hours, while your home fill swith the smell of pure goodness!
  9. cut the mushrooms in quarters, and pan-fry. Some prefer to add them earlier in the process, but I like to add them toward the end to retain their texture.

Serve with boiled potatoes and enjoy!

Note: I would have taken an ‘after photo’ before serving, but quite honestly it was just time to dive in as it smelled so good!

Here are the ingredients I used, when it comes to cooking, I tend to go for inspiration and just wing it from there. Baking on the other hand is chemistry.. follow the proportions. But a little tender loving care, quality ingredients and time will give you a great result.

Ingredients list:

  • rooster, with neck, giblets and feet (contact a local farmer to see where you can get one if you do not raise them yourself) otherwise a hen will do.. chickens will fall apart if cooked this long.
  • bacon/lardons
  • onions/shallots
  • garlic
  • salt/pepper
  • bay leaf
  • thyme
  • red wine (Côte du Rhône worked really well for us)
  • cognac or armagnac

Expanding the flock with a broody hen

Our chicken adventure began a few years ago when we joined a local CSA farm (Community Supported Agriculture), we wanted our children to get a better understanding of where their food came from and enjoy the experience of being with the animals that provide for us. It was not long until we were so enamoured with the lifestyle, that we decided that we would have both chickens and bees at home.

Freya and her chicks

True to my nature, I read up on everything I could to figure out what would suit our family and property best. It was quite clear that having a rooster was not going to sit well with our neighbours, many of which have hens as well and also conceded to ‘no roosters’, so we needed a plan on how to expand the flock when that time came. When we chose our girls, we purposely selected heritage breeds and wanted one of those breeds to have a strong instinct to go broody.(see Broody Hen Notes at the end of this post). For that reason we chose two Icelandic hens, and they did not disappoint! Our girls are free ranging in the garden, and last year one went broody, unfortunately up in the blueberry bushes, it took us a while to figure out what had happened to her, as she simply disappeared and we of course thought the worst. Once we realized what was happening, we moved her inside along with her eggs, and decided that if she remained on them, we would switch them for fertilized eggs. She did not take well to the move, and abandoned her clutch. It was not a problem, as we still had more hens and eggs than we needed, but it was a good learning experience. About a month ago, her best friend went broody in one of the nesting boxes, as we siezed the chance to take advantage of her position. After an unfortunate encounter with a fox, we were also in need of expanding the flock, so the timing was perfect. We contacted a Anne Karin Bohdal who I had heard about via the farmers market, she raises a variety of fowl including turkey, ducks, and hens, all of whom lay a range of colourful eggs. So my gang hopped in the car to pay her a visit.

left, Plymouth Rock, middle and right Icelandic hens

left, Plymouth Rock, middle and right Icelandic hens

We arrived home with 10 eggs, and waited until the evening before making the shift. We did not want to disturb Freya (our broody) during the middle of the day, as it could lead to her not taking to the eggs. My husband took her from the nesting box (with gloves, as she had become quite aggressive, typical of broody hens) and I switched out the eggs and added some extra padding to the nest. She settled back down for the night, and three weeks later, we heard pipping! I can not begin to describe the look on our children’s faces when they saw the first chick, still wet and only just emerged from it’s egg. The first one hatched on Day 19, the last on Day 21. We had chosen 10 eggs, in hopes of getting 3 or 4 hens in the end, with a 60% hatch rate, and the likelihood of 60% hens to 40% roosters on average, I think we are bang on track.

fertilized eggs

fertilized eggs

We have friends with incubators, and had considered going that route, but we know that a broody hen can do the job better than any of us.

So far, we are thrilled, looking forward to figuring out which are boys, which are girls, and what races they stem from. see Broody hen notes at end of this post.

Broody hen notes:

  • Breeds that ARE likely to go broody:
    • Cochin, Silkies top the list, as well as heritage breeds that have not had the instinct bred out of them for production, including Orpington, Australorp
    • Icelandic such as ours are perfect in Norway, as they are also cold tolerant and do not require an insulated coop.
  • Breeds NOT likely to go broody
  • Broody hens will not defecate in the nest. They will leave the nest once or twice a week and leave a big stinky mess somewhere else. Broody poops are unmistakeable!
  • Due to their eating and drinking only minimally throughout the incubation process, they are quite malnourished and easily at risk of being infested by lice etc. Do check her for parasites, and use some Diatomaceous Earth in your coop and roosting boxes. It is a staple in our coop.
  • Broody hens can sit on up to 12 eggs proportional to her size (Bantam hen on Bantam eggs, larger breeds on their own sized eggs.)
  • Broody hens will lose their feathers on their breast area to warm the eggs and coincidentally ‘feather their nest‘ as the saying goes 😉
  • Provide her with ‘chick crumb’ as feed, she does not need the extra calcium from her regular layer feed while broody.
  • If you are going to change out the eggs for fertilized ones, wait until evening to do so.
  • Broodiness is contagious. I am not sure exactly why (feel free to let me know if you do!) but I am guessing that there is potentially a hormone/pheromone thing going on. Our other Icelandic went broody in the box next to her within a week, and then our Norwegian Jærhøns did the same.
  • A good broody hen will be a better mother than any human, protecting her chicks, teaching them how to forage for food, as well as socializing them into the flock.
  • Provide her with a place that she can call her own if you have the chance. We have a mini coop in our outdoor covered run that is there should we ever need to segregate a hen for health of other reasons. It will provide her with a stress free place to take care of her chicks, help keep the other members of the flock from pecking  and allow for socialization into the flock.
look closely, one of the chicks is hiding in her feathers

look closely, one of the chicks is hiding in her feathers

seasonal food – squash

When the growing season provides you with an abundance of produce, find a variety of ways to preserve it to enjoy throughout the year. Right now, squash is about to burst onto the market (our local food initiative is a great way for us to follow the seasonal food cycle), and one of our favourite recipes in which to use it is in this chutney.
Make more than you think you will need, many a dinner guest has requested a jar to take home

COURGETTE CHUTNEY by River Cottage

Time honoured traditional Indian spices turn a pan-full of courgettes into a superb chutney to enjoy with just about everything; cheese, cold meats, curries etc.

1kg courgettes, green or yellow
2 tablespoons salt
2 medium onions
4-5 large cloves garlic
1 red chilli (more if you want to increase the heat)
25g root ginger
100ml sunflower oil
2 tablespoons black mustard seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon turmeric
300 ml cider vinegar
225g Demerara sugar

Start by wiping the courgettes over and cutting off the stalks.

Chop into 5-6mm pieces (for larger courgettes cut lengthwise and then slice).

Place in colander and sprinkle with the salt. Stand the colander over a bowl and leave for a couple of hours.

The salt will draw out excess water from the courgettes and will prevent the courgettes going mushy when they are cooked.

Meanwhile, peel the onion, garlic cloves, ginger and de-seed the chilli.
Place these four ingredients in a blender and blitz well to form a paste.
Rinse the courgettes with plenty of cold water and dry well.

Heat the oil a large roomy saucepan. Sprinkle in the mustard and coriander seeds and fry for a 3-4 minutes.

Add the ground cumin and turmeric. Keep shaking the pan to prevent the spices burning.

Add the onion paste and cook with the spices for 4-5 minutes. Add the courgettes, vinegar and the sugar.

Stir well and bring to simmering point over a medium heat. Reduce the heat and let the mixture cook slowly until the courgettes have softened and the liquid has reduced.

This will take approximately 45 minutes.

Pot the chutney whilst still hot in sterilised jars packing down with a spoon to remove any air pockets. Seal with vinegar proof lids.

Store in a cool, dark place.

Know where your food comes from – it’s ‘egg’cellent!

Eggs, have you ever tasted a really good egg? Chances are you haven’t. I am writing this post while visiting my mother in Florida for Easter, so eggs are on my mind (and yes, I am very fortunate to be able to combine family reunions and beach life.. I know!) Earlier this week, we went out with old friends for breakfast at a typical diner and ordered the standard bacon and eggs. My son looked at his food with a special look on his face and said ‘what is wrong with my egg?’ as he dipped his toast into a pale yellow yolk.

We are used to deep orange yolks, full of flavour and nutrients, and we eat them with good conscience because we have our own chickens. They quite honestly won the chicken lottery getting a spot in our hen house after having lived their lives indoors before they came here. Now they eat our kitchen scraps and garden slugs and free range in the sun. And in return, we get eggs, garden fertiliser and entertainment – they are great company!

After having been part of a local community farm where multiple families share duty taking care of a chicken coop with 60+ chickens and sharing the eggs, we decided we wanted chickens of our own. We began the conversion of the old outhouse into a chicken coop. The house we live in is the house that my husband grew up in. In those days, it was a summer cottage with no insulation, an outhouse and only summer water. It has changed a little since then 😉 The indoor part of the coop is the old outhouse measuring about 3 square meters, and we built a covered outdoor area around 12 square meters. The outdoor part has a translucent roof that keeps the area dry and lets light in, It has been a godsend, having seen how mucky a coop can get without a dry zone outside!

The biggest surprise we had was when we brought home our hens. We got them from a place that is checked regularly for disease and we were confident that we would be getting hens without salmonella or any other worrisome health concerns. What we were not prepared for was the state of the birds when we got them. They had apparently lived their lives indoors in cramped spaces, and the signs were hard to miss! Feathers broken and missing from either pecking or rooster damage, scars from pecking due to overcrowding, and their nails were long curly and overgrown from not having had proper flooring. It was bittersweet to watch them when we took the tops off the boxes.

The Motley Crew

The Motley Crew

When we opened up the boxes, they were stunned, not quite sure what to make of the situation, they did not move. They had never seen the sun, had a proper floor to walk on, space to spread their wings… I had to take them out of the boxes and sat back to watch them experience a whole new world.

Their lives have changed since then, free ranging in the garden,  often visiting the neighbours, taking dust baths in the sun. Their have become quite agile compared to when they first came, and come bolting up the hill when we call them for treats. They love to hang out by the kitchen door, and nap under the table free from the worries of overhead predators.

We know that very few people are in the position of having their own hens, and not everyone would even want to if they could, but that does not mean that they can not get access to quality eggs, and feel good about eating them. Visit your local market, support a trustworthy farmer, ask if any neighbours have hens and would like to earn some money for their eggs or join a community supported farm. You will not regret it, once you have tried a good egg, you will never turn back.

good eggs

PS. If you would  like to educate yourself on industrial egg production, google away, just know that something I often say is  “Ignorance WAS bliss” it is hard to ignore the truth once you see it.

Upcycled and put to new use

 

Every year for my daughters birthday, we try and include an activity as part of her birthday celebration. The girls are getting older, and it is a delight to see them work together. Last year, as part of the UN declaring 2015 the year of the Soil, we planted tomatoes (see our blog post here), I have heard some managed to even keep the plants going all season and enjoyed the ‘fruits of their labour’. This year, we decided to do upcycle old clothes and silk test samples from the studio into hair accessories, they were all very pleased with the results, so am I.

To learn how to make fabric covered button parts, you can read my post from 2009 here. The details about adding pony tails is also included.

My daughter who is now 10, is in full production mode to make a series that she can give as gifts, and maybe even sell 😉

 

Bagels – Montreal Style!

Anyone who has ever been to Montreal for more than an airport layover knows about our bagels. No, even if you have eaten bagels in Boston, New York, Toronto or anywhere else, you still have not tried the good ones. It is a simple matter of fact.. and no.. I am not in the least bit biased 😉

Montreal bagels are the perfect combination of sweet, savoury, crunch and chewiness! They are anything but a bun with a hole in it. Sunday morning bagel runs, 3AM post party bagel line ups at Fairmont or St Viateur, waiting your turn at the bagel factory watching them come straight out of the wood fired oven is a Montreal ritual, you do not even need to put any toppings on them. But if you do, you know that nothing beats ‘bagels and lox’! It was only when I moved to Norway that I learned that salmon is called ‘laks’ in norwegian, I loved that, having calling smoked salmon ‘lox’ since my childhood.

Every time I visit my gang back in Montreal, bagels are on the list, and whenever someone comes to visit, they ask if they should bring a dozen bagels with them. It is quite honestly what Montrealers do. Never did I think that I could get the taste of home right here in my kitchen but guess what? They are amazing!

So if you want to try and make your own, here is how:

adapted from a variety of recipes I have found online. some called for maple syrup, some used malt, feel free to try your own versions.
dough:
  • 300ml warm water
  • 65g tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 45g canola oil
  • 8g active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg (use will use another fro the egg wash)
  • 15g honey
  • 650g cups all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 15g salt
egg wash:
  • 1 egg (for the egg wash.. not for the batter)
honey bath
  • 4 liters of water
  • 150g honey
topping
  • enough poppy seeds or sesame seeds to coat the bagels on both sides.
  • you can also use dried onion, garlic, or you can add raising and cinnamon in the final stages of your kneading.

In a large bowl, combine water, sugar, yeast, oil, egg, honey and salt, whisk until dissolved and combined. Add the bulk of the flour slowly adding more until you get a shaggy dough. You may use more or less based on a variety of factors from the size of your eggs to the moisture in the air.

Let the dough rise for 10 minutes

Let the dough rise for 10 minutes

Knead your dough for 10 minutes. Once it is firm and smooth, let rest for 10 minutes in a bowl with a tea towel covering it in a warm place.

divide the batter into 12 parts

divide the batter into 12 parts

Divide your dough into 12 parts. My quick trick for this is to cut it like a pie.. first in half, then in half again then each quarter into thirds. Even sized every time!

divide your dough into 12 parts

divide your dough into 12 parts

To shape the bagels, roll the fat end between your hands until it is long enough to wrap around your hand. roll the two ends together so they stick together well. If you do not do this, they will come apart when your boil them.

freshly shaped bagel

freshly shaped bagel

it is fathers day here today, so helping hands were available. If 9 year olds can do it, so can you!

it is fathers day here today, so helping hands were available. If 9 year olds can do it, so can you!

Let the shaped bagels rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your honey water, egg bath and seeds and preheat your oven to 225 degrees celcius (yes, I know they should be made in a wood burning stove, but that will have to wait until my friendly neighbour fires hers up and I can run across the road and put in a batch!) but in the meantime, they taste great made in your kitchen oven.

Let the shaped bagels rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your honey water, egg bath and seeds.

Let the shaped bagels rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare your honey water, egg bath and seeds.

Once they have been left to rise for 30 minutes, take 3 bagels at a time and drop them into the honey bath. after 45 seconds, turn them over for another 45 seconds. Do not worry about being stressed with your timing, Life is too short for that, the longer they are in the water, the crunchier the crust will be, some people boil them for up to 3 minutes, just have a timer nearby so you can see what works best for your taste. They will puff up significantly in the honey bath, take them out of the water, let them drain for a moment while you put the next batch in. While they are boiling, take the first batch and dip in the egg wash then seeds and place on your baking tray (I used parchment paper) and continue with the following batches until they are all done. A spare set of hands can make this part much easier if you do it production line style 😉 but no required at all.

Put your bagels in your preheated oven, bake for 8 minutes, flip them over and bake for another 8 minutes. Let them cool if you have the patience! They are best eaten within 48 hours. Ideally with cream cheese, smoked salmon, capers and red onion.. but just about anything is good on bagels!

PS.. they also freeze well. Cut them before freezing, then you can put them straight in the toaster! Enjoy!

Bagels! Montreal Style

Bagels! Montreal Style

foraging – spruce tip syrup – granskudd sirup

Living and eating through the seasons means one needs to enjoy the bounty while it is at its peak and preserve it. Our home, a timber summer house built in 1921 is known by the name Granbakken, which means ‘Spruce Hill’ in norwegian. It is simply appropriate that spruce tip syrup is on the agenda for local goodness. The children and their friends are more than happy to gather the ingredients for many of our concoctions 😉

Spruce has many purported benefits, and one can preserve spruce tips in a variety of ways:

but one that we enjoy purely for the taste is syrup, and it is so simple to do!

  • bring the spruce tips and water to a rolling boil
  • turn down to medium high and let cook covered for 30 minutes.
  • strain and measure the liquid
  • for every 3 parts liquid, measure 2 parts sugar (ideally organic) you can add a splash of lemon juice for tartness if desired
  • combine the spruce infusion and sugar
  • bring to a rolling boil to thicken
  • if using a candy thermometer bring to thread stage (230 degrees Fahrenheit – 110 degrees Celsius)  if not using a thermometer, boil to reduce until is coats the back of a spoon
  • remove the white scum that rises to the surface in order to get a clear syrup
  • bottle and cool (note: if using corks, wet them first or they may stick in the tops of your bottles.. ask me how I know! 😉 )
  • the colour will change throughout the process from a pale ivory to a pink, and deepen with time, I love that!

Foraging and Ramsløk – wild garlic pesto

Ramsløk as it is known in Norway, is also known as ramsons, buckrams, wild garlic, broad-leaved garlic, wood garlic, bear leek or bear’s garlic.

Latin name: Allium ursinum

Long overlooked, Ramsløk has made a comeback of late, gourmet restaurants and epicureans everywhere are hoarding what they can. There are few places locally where it grows, and hopefully those special places, much like favourite mushroom spots will remain secret such that it will continue to grow and those who harvest it are responsible and follow the foraging rule of take no more than 1/3 of what is available. Doing so will help it thrive for generations to come.

Last year, our family took a course on local wild edibles, wandering the path and woods, collecting and nibbling as we walked. It was a revelation to see what can be foraged locally and was of immense value to increasing our knowledge about local food. We are fortunate to live in an area where we are able to obtain wild mushrooms, game, mussels, oysters, fish and more. We are blessed to live amongst such abundance.

But for now, I will keep this post about ramsløk. Having obtained a batch, we wanted to preserve it right away, and opted for two of the many ways that one can enjoy ramsløk, one tried and true, one experimental.

You can read about our sauerkraut here, and see how we incorporated ramsløk into a batch. The other method we used was a pure and simple pesto.

A simple blend of ramsløk, olive oil and sea salt brings out the taste of ramsløk like little else can. But one can vary the recipe in a multitude of ways, add pine nuts and parmesan (or percorino romano for the casein intolerant).

There are many ways of using ramsløk,:

As garlic lovers (see my post on black garlic here), we have become so enamoured with ramsløk that we have sown seeds in our garden, hopefully they will proliferate and we will have enough ramsløk for family and friends, I encourage you to do the same.

Sauerkraut for your microbiome – by popular demand

We make lacto-fermented sauerkraut throughout the year, it is part of our diet including other pre and probiotic food. People around us have noticed that our daughter is no longer eating gluten-free, and that my neurological problems appear to be a thing of the past (see last paragraph for more details on that), Due to an influx of requests from friends and family, we decided it was time to document the process. There is a waiting list for a class to be held in our kitchen, so if you are local (Nesodden / Oslo)  and want to join us, send us a message.

Ingredients: Cabbage and salt – pretty simple!

Spring is not the ideal time of year to make sauerkraut, having fresh produce at peak quality makes for the best brine. Cabbage that has been stored over the winter will have lost much of the vital liquid needed, but as in any situation, make do with what you have. You can use any kind of cabbage, experiment with different varieties, but opt for local, unsprayed organic whenever possible.  Use sea salt that is non-iodized, we purchase 25 kg bags of organic sea salt from a wholesaler, it clumps but is worth it.

Equipment:

  • cutting board
  • knife or mandoline/vegetable chopper
  • scale
  • large bowl (if making a large batch like we did, use a food grade bucket)
  • mason jars or fermenting crock
  • wooden pounder
  • something to weigh down the kraut under the brine

Instructions:

Clean/sterilize your equipment (we do not want to promote the growth of the wrong bacteria) Remove outer leaves and save some to cover your kraut, they will help keep the small pieces under the brine.

Cut the cabbage in wedges and remove the heart (you can use it if you prefer, but it will take longer to ferment due to the density)

Weigh your cabbage and establish how much salt you will need. 2-2.5% is good, it has been said that in summer you need more due to the extra fluid in the cabbage and that in the winter you can do the same with less. Simply multiply your cabbage weight in grams by the percentage and you will know how many grams of salt you need for each batch.

Slice or grate the cabbage (by hand, using a mandoline or vegetable slicer) we like ours circa 4-5mm. For small batches we cut by hand, but today we took out the food processor as we were not in the mood to chop more than 6 kilos of cabbage!

Put your sliced cabbage in a large container. We used our 30L food grade bucket that we use when making apple cider. It was perfect, because it gave us the space needed to toss the cabbage and evenly disperse the salt. The salt extracts the water from the cabbage (via osmosis) this produces the brine in which the cabbage will ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the added benefit of keeping the cabbage crunchy by protecting it from enzymes and organisms that would make it soft and slimy. Allow it to macerate for 10 minutes, it will save you the elbow grease. Start working the cabbage with a wooden pounder to release the brine, you can see in the photos how compact it becomes.

Start packing your fermentation vessels with some kraut, adding and packing it down as you go.

If you want to experiment with other flavours, now if the time to do so. We made batches with apples and red onion, jalapeños and an experimental ramsløk (wild garlic).

Once packed, the remaining brine gets topped up, sauerkraut needs an anaerobic environment in order to ferment and not rot.

Use the clean outer cabbage leaves (that you previously set aside)  to cover and push down the small pieces, ensure that everything is submerged in brine, you can also weight it down with a sterilized rock, plate, ceramic weight or glass jar top (nothing metal)

Press down on the weight to add pressure and help force the water out, do this regularly (once daily at first) as bubbles that develop will increase the volume and cause a potential overflow. Leave the crock to ferment out of direct sunlight. NOTE: a sealed jar will build up pressure! burp them regularly or use one with an airlock to allow the gases to release.

Remember to keep everything submerged, if spots, mold or brown pieces float on top, remove them with a wooden spoon. It is only on the surface and caused due to the direct contact with air. The sauerkraut below is protected by the brine. Taste the kraut, it will develop a tangy taste that develops with time.

When it is ready to consume, use a wooden spoon or chopsticks to remove the portion required and repress to submerge the remainder. You can fill a jar and put it in the fridge if you want to let the main ferment continue.

Why lacto-fermented sauerkraut?

If you have read this far, maybe you want to read the last part 😉

Gut health (our microbiome) is one of the many reasons that our family relies almost solely on homemade food made from scratch. Preservatives, antibiotics and synthetic emulsifiers wreak havoc on ones health, resulting in a multitude of issues ranging from food intolerance, dermatological problems, autoimmune issues and depression. For over a year now, we have focused on boosting the breadth of our microbiome’s spectrum by introducing pre- and probiotics. Including raw apple cider vinegar, fermented food such as sauerkraut, miso, ‘salsa brutale’ our own concoction 😉 kombucha, oatmeal and more (blog posts to follow). The results have been beyond our dreams; our daughter no longer needs to avoid eating gluten, our son reacts less and less to casein and my auto-immune and neurological issues have disappeared! Not many people are aware, but over the last decade, I have suffered from mysterious neurological problems that have come and gone and I have been tested for everything from lupus to multiple sclerosis. It has not been easy and no doctor could give us an answer, hence my husbands quest to find an answer. The microbiome was it, and he has become quite the geek. This has been a game changer for our family, and so many have come to us asking for advice. We will gladly share our knowledge, and hope that others can also be helped. One thing we can say for certain, is that introducing these items to your diet will not hurt you.

“you say you want a revolution…”

In 1975 a visionary named Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) wrote a book, The One Straw Revolution. He was a farmer and philosopher, who foresaw the problems we face today. It was clear to him that the industrialization of agriculture and the seeming ‘progress’ of the last half century was misguided… and yet only now is the rest of the world truly understanding what was so evident to him.

The answers are clear, we know what we need to do.

We need to create a sustainable plan to provide our communities with ethically produced food from smallholder farms, championing seasonal diets from local resources and care for our soil. Now we just have to do it.

For the last 6 months I have been fully immersed in working on a solution for my local community, and in doing so met and listened to so many passionate souls from around the planet who wish to do the same for theirs. Whether those communities are remote rural towns, urban centres or major cities the likes of Oslo, New York, Washington or London. What has become obvious is that if we pool our resources and work together, building sustainable solutions, we can all benefit. Allowing us to connect, collaborate and make a change for the betterment of everyone. Learn from our successes, as well as our failures, creating an open database of knowledge that will allow other communities to follow in our footsteps building on it with each step. Hence the birth of Altifrem, a labour of love spearheaded by Myriam Bouré and myself. We are gathering the tools to help others who wish to do the same. Paving an easier road for the benefit of all. We are building a toolkit: databases containing business models, funding opportunities, surveys, open source tools and collaborative works. Now we simply need to gather together to help support our common goal so that years from now, all of these communities will speak the same language and take steps together… we can be the change that is so desperately needed in our world.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the #Food4Cities conference in Copenhagen arranged by Chora Connection. It was serendipitous that I learned about Chora, as my new friend and neighbour Åsmund Seip performed a reading of his poetry at their inaugural ceremony a few months back. After last weeks culminating conference of the EU URBACT project Sustainable Food in Urban Communities here in Oslo, I knew I needed to go… and I am so glad I did.

Mads, the Director of Chora quoted R. Buckminster Fuller (one of my favourites) in his opening speech “You never change something by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” I knew it was going to be a good day!

Thank you Emil for extending the invitation and thank you to everyone who shared their stories with me, I intend to stay in touch, and hope you will do the same 🙂

For those who wanted more information about our project:

OpenFoodNetwork: the open source platform with which we are in collaboration 🙂
You can learn about the project as well as The OpenFoodFoundation and see how it is working in Australia.  The UK team had their inaugural meeting this month in conjunction with a FarmHack event. American and South African OpenFoodNetwork teams are building their projects, and interest has been shown in Argentina, Canada, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, India, Russia, Thailand and Ireland.

It is happening! let us know if you want to be part of it .. be a Passionate Potato right Fia? haha.. yes, I guess you had to be there 😉

2015 – International Year of Soil

2015 has been designated by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization as the International Year of Soil. Today we celebrated our daughters 9th birthday, and soil was on the agenda!

Soil has been on my mind on more ways than one.. permaculture, composting, bokashi, chicken manure and more.. but today it was all about children, 15 níne year olds, your typical birthday party – with a twist.. a soil cake and a make and take party favour, that hopefully will yield edibles for them to enjoy this summer 🙂 Organic Heirloom tomatoes (blue beauty, black cherry and  yellow pear tomato) as well a few who preferred Big Max pumpkins (let’s hope their parents can find a place to plant those!) 😉  and calendula flowers (one of my favourites – see my post on calendula salves and tub tea)

I think our children enjoy party prep as much, if not more than the party itself… this year they did most of the work 😉  cake decorating has become a family affair and they even made the hand dipped beeswax on hemp candles

Stay tuned for more soil related posts.. it is going to be an interesting year!

Collaboration – just like bees in a hive

you can’t make honey alone, and even if you could… wouldn’t you want someone to share it with?

Lately the concept of collaboration and sharing  has been at the forefront of what is going on in my life. Having received many comments about how refreshing people find it that I freely share my knowledge and skills – I am always taken a little aback – and think about why that is so unusual? Isn’t that what makes everything work? We all have our strengths and weaknesses and when we band together to share, don’t we all win?

I redesigned the website this week to encompass the changing aspects of my life and projects, but one thing has not changed, collaboration is something I hold near and dear to my heart. I have made some wonderful friends working on joint projects, everything from FeltUnited, to Ekebo our CSA farm, to the farmers market, to our Lavvo project for the school spending many a weekend sweating in the woods with a hammer and a saw.  😉

My latest endeavour, a local food coop project has suddenly grown to a collaborative effort with people in Oslo, and in turn with like minded people in the UK and Australia! Exciting is puting it mildly 🙂 Myriam Bouré from France who is leading the Kjøpelaget food cooperative project in Oslo is an advocate of collaborative economy, and has a wealth of information on the subject. I am looking forward to learning from her as we work together establishing a non-profit foundation that will help others by providing them tools that will enable them to set up cooperatives in their home towns. Stay tuned for more info!

After one of our meetings in town, Myriam brought me along to Bitraf, where I met some brilliant minds. Bitraf is a Maker Space in Oslo with great people and fabulous technology. I left with my brain bubbling having talked about open source beehives, felt, bokashi, high tech greenhouse materials, CNC routers, 3d printing, kebony, eco-tech and the list goes on! My kind of place 😉 Bitraf was co-founded by Jens Dyvik, an innovative thinker who seriously impressed me with his openness, interest and knowledge. I look forward to another Bitraf visit!

So for now, I hope you like the new website, and I look forward to sharing more with you!