My goodness…I haven’t felt compelled to blog in a long while. Life has been very busy these days! But, I thought it might be interesting to share our experiences as our family makes our first ever attempt to give something up as a unit for Lent. And because we are no slackers (well, sometimes we are) we are going big by giving up both TV and sweets. And starting it during a snow day. Yea-seems so easy, right? Gulp. Here we go into Ash Wednesday peeps…
Nothing much to say today other than thank you to all who have served past, present and future. Sheldon (aka Mr. Blueberry Acres) is a Veteran and while he doesn’t like to make a big deal out of it, Blueberry and I are pretty proud of his service. I would imagine a lot of Veterans are like that-“don’t honor me..honor the next guy/gal..they did more than me!”
So, I say to all of our Veterans, young, old and like Sheldon, in between..thank you-your duty, honor, loyalty and sacrifice humble me. God bless you!
Sigh…this is a short but sweet post aimed at simply sharing my most recent d’oh moment. I’m attempting to recreate Alton Brown’s pumpkin bread recipe which calls for shredded/raw pumpkin. Despite my extensive internet research (by extensive, I mean I looked on 2 or 3 websites) on the easiest way to peel a raw pumpkin, I struck out. I even saw one eHow posting about the “easiest” way to peel pumpkins that didn’t deviate from my labor intensive way: cut it, scoop it, half/quarter it, then peel it with either the world’s studliest potato peeler or a knife. Yeah…not easy.
Enter in the box grater.. (cue also sprach Zarathustra)
I was too lazy to take a pic of mine (cloudy day, covered in pumpkin guts-you get the pic) and I couldn’t even find a pic online of my extremely pared down version of the box grater. It’s basically the smart car version of this multitasker. Simply cut your pumpkin into manageable slices (for me, it was quarters) and grate it into a bowl. Stop once you hit flesh and then get rid of the grated skin in the trash, compost, chicken or pig of your choice. Easy and fast! Take that eHow! Hallelujah! No more worries about cutting off my thumb peeling all of this pumpkin. Happy baking!
Nothing says the start of my favorite time of year like pumpkins. Our little Blueberry can sniff out a hidden pumpkin patch the way some kids know where you hide the candy in your handbag! There are 7 large pumpkins clustered in the middle of my dining room table right now as a result of multiple trips to pumpkin patches. If you are anything like me, you have a hard time saying no to buying yet another interesting looking pumpkin for fall decorations. But instead of decorating them and forgetting them, think ahead and plan for reusing those pieces of decoration for your baking! If you are thinking about trying to be a little more conscious with your food, finding fresh local produce from small farmers like us is a fantastic way to not only get to know your neighbors but it’s also a smart way to help your kids better connect with the food they eat.
To start, pick out some midsize pumpkins. If you have a choice, I recommend sugar pumpkins. They are typically easy to find and available both at farmer’s markets and your local mega mart.
Slice off the tops and then scoop out the interior. Once clean, bake flesh side up in a 350 degree oven for 20-35 minutes. Some recipes will suggest oiling them or seasoning them. I like to just roast them dry.
Just keep an eye on the pumpkins after 20 minutes to ensure that they don’t burn. A little bit of carmelization is a good thing but you don’t want them to look like the crazy tanning lady…
Once they have cooked and cooled, you can scoop out the flesh and just discard the skin, or if you are like me, make some happy little Berkshire piggies happy by giving them the leftover pumpkin.
I just love those piggies and will use any excuse to show pictures of them: Wilbur, Spot, White Fur, Stinky and Hubert (he’s French), our baby barrow Berkshire piggies. I love them. And yes, I will eat them too…but I digress.
From there, you can freeze the flesh or use it right away. I’m more of an instant gratification kind of gal, so I made muffins with my freshly cooled pumpkin. And when I say muffins, let’s be honest…I mean cupcakes that I call muffins so I feel a little better about myself:
Blueberry’s favorite Pumpkin Muffins
For the muffins:
1 cup room temperature butter 1 to 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 cups brown sugar 1 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground clove 1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon ground ginger 3 large eggs
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 2 ½ cups AP flour
1 ½ cups pumpkin puree (see above) ½ to ¾ cup instant rolled oats
For the topping:
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 3 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar 3 tablespoons AP flour
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, sugar and pumpkin together with an electric or stand mixture. Then add eggs and mix until thoroughly incorporated. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients. While you can absolutely buy pre-ground spices, I strongly recommend that you invest in one of these cool little things:
I cannot tell you how much I love this little grater. And if you are wondering what the heck that is in my needing to be manicured hand, its nutmeg. Once you have smelled freshly grated nutmeg, you will want it on and in everything. The little plastic jars of spices cannot hold a candle to this. In addition, this little grater can also help you discover the joy of freshly grated cinnamon:
I was trying to be so cool and give you an action shot here of me grating fresh cinnamon into the mix. However, shortly after I snapped this, I managed to grate about half of my finger into the mix. You will note that I didn’t include that in the ingredient list. You are welcome.
After you have mixed your dry ingredients, slowly incorporate them into your wet mixture. The dough should be wet but not overly wet..think cookies versus cake. From there, scoop into muffin cups-about 2/3 full. From there, mix all of your topping ingredients in a separate bowl and spoon generously on top of your muffins before baking for about 20-25 minutes.
I’ll be honest; this isn’t a great shot of the muffins. By the time I took this, I had downed several of them…in the name of research, of course! However, all of that sugar made me a little jumpy. Sigh. The things I do for blogging…
Now, what I really love about these muffins is that they are idiot proof, and frankly, living my life, I need more things that are idiot proof. The first time I made this recipe, I forgot the baking soda and powder but they still turned out like rock stars…or rocks, but at least tasty rocks. If you wanted to riff on this recipe, you could substitute applesauce for some or all of the butter. You could also swap out whole wheat flour for AP flour. In addition, you could omit some of the sugar. Bottom line is that there are many ways to make and remake this recipe..just get in the kitchen and bake!
Our blogging has been a bit slow as of late, but life is always busy!
Sheldon and I have been on a walk (and will be forever) to live our lives the way God wants us to. If you are like me, you want a closer relationship with God. I think one of the best ways to forge that path is through introspection and bible study. I’m not as good about regular bible reading, especially compared to Sheldon who keeps his bible next to his spot on the couch, but sometimes verses/passages stick with me. Sheldon asked me to read Psalm 40 earlier this week and it keeps sticking with me. Normally when I feel like God is thumping me on the head with something like this, I need to pray on it but also share it. What do you do when you get that proverbial thump on the head?
From Bible Gateway
King James Version (KJV)
40 I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.
4 Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
5 Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.
6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.
7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,
8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
9 I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest.
10 I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.
11 Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O Lord: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.
12 For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.
13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me.
14 Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil.
15 Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha.
16 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.
17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
Well, he went and did it! Sheldon went last week to pick up our “couple” of pigs…except the maybe 3ish pigs turned into 3 gilts, 5 baby barrows and 1 very large boar. For those of you playing at home, that is 9 pigs….who need to go into an enclosure that was designed to hold 6 at most? Not only that but the gilts that we picked up are not quite at the farrowing (the baby making stage for you non-pig people) stage, so we need to keep the boar away from the ladies a bit longer. Have you ever tried to encourage a lonely 200ish lb pig of anything? Yeah..it ain’t easy. Gripety gripe gripe gripe.
Ok, so let’s reboot and start this post again.
Yeah! We were blessed to be able to afford 9 Registered Berkshire pigs that will enable us to begin our pig farming (on a tiny scale) but will also help fill our freezers with high quality, pasture raised pork for the winter. While the plan was to start with a smaller amount of piggage (I made that word up, don’t bing it for accuracy, ok?), Sheldon just became so enamoured of the piggy potential that he decided to up the ante by starting our pig endeavors with 3 gilts, 5 baby barrows and 1 ginormous boar.
And so I don’t make you go on out to Wikipedia, I will tell you what all of these words mean:
Boar: a male pig of breeding age. Some people refer to this as an “intact” male. Our boar is named Shoot after his sire, Shoot to Thrill and he is very very intact. Like I cannot look directly at the back of him intact. Like we had to have a biology lesson with The Blueberry intact. Ok, you get the picture.
Gilt: a female pig of breeding age who has not yet had a litter or maybe has only had 1 litter. Our gilts are named Charlotte, Hey You and Other Pig (ok, so we are a little behind on the naming) haven’t yet had any babies and should be totally ready to go later this fall/early winter.
Barrow: a male pig that is castrated at a young age before he hits puberty. Yes, pigs get pimples and act awkward too, except they don’t..but of course they do go through puberty. Barrows are often prized as feeder pigs because many people think that the lack of testosterone in their systems means their meat has a superior flavor. We have 5 barrows named Hubert (he’s French), Spot, Skunky, White fur and Wilbur. Of course we have a pig named Wilbur!
And just for fun
Stag: this is a male pig that is castrated at a later age. We didn’t get any of these, but when I saw this term in my pig books, I had to laugh…next time your husband talks about going to a “stag party” you can laugh with me…
Now here is where it gets a little more intensive. Because we had built the pigmahal and pig yard, we thought we would be set on pig buildings for a long time. It took Sheldon a long time to finish the pig house because that man built it out of concrete blocks with mortared in concrete blocks. No ramshackle pig house for our pigs!
Butttttt…because our girls aren’t quite ready to get pregnant and our male is very ready to make everything pregnant, we are building him his own little bachelor pad with an adjoining “birthing house” next door so we will be able to lead the appropriate pig to the appropriate place when the time is right. In addition, because we ended up with some little piggy barrows, we didn’t feel good about putting them in with the big kids, so they actually went into a temporary enclosure until we get Shoot moved this weekend. Ironically, they went into a chicken yard that I had just finished. This means that we are delaying moving around some of our chickens, but we thought it was better that than have Shoot step on them all in his excitement to get to the ladies. Once Shoot is settled in, we will move the barrows into the run with the gilts and then the chickens can finally get rearranged. Whew. It’s like musical chairs but with a lot more poop.
It’s been about a week since they have been here and while it’s a heck of a lot more work in the mornings, I’m really enjoying them. They all have personalities and I really enjoy being in with the barrows because they are such goofy little things. The big pigs are fairly docile but are interested in Sheldon and have given him some love nips a couple of times. While we don’t think they are about to eat us, they do seem to be naturally curious. We’re keeping them very well fed, so we don’t think we are going to end up as one of those horror stories of a farmer getting eaten by his/her pigs, but still..I prefer not to get love nips from someone who could eat me.
I’m looking forward to trying out all manner of pork recipes with these Berkshires, but for now, they are just eating, pooping, mess making machines. Enjoying it all the same! What’s new on your homestead?