Thursday, November 24, 2016

Apple Sauce

Aside from the usual fall shenanigans (NO Chocula, she's not to get bred until NEXT month and NOT BY YOU), I got a screaming deal on seconds apples by the bushel.  My husband talked me down so I only bought two bushels of apples (about 100 lbs), which was probably smart.  I do nothing half way, which is the nice way of saying I'm really good at over committing.

I also discovered that this year narrow mouth quart jars are two dollars less than wide mouth jars.  Two whole dollars!  My family is going to have to cope with narrow mouth jars.

But all that is to say that I've been making lots of apple sauce.  The nice thing about apples is they have enough acid and enough sugar on their own to be pretty canning safe, so you don't have to worry too much about following a recipe.  As such, my apple sauce recipe is actually more of a method.  If you wanted to try this with other similar fruits (like pears), it would probably work, and you should tell me how it turned out.

How to Can Apple Sauce

First, acquire a large number of apples.  They cook down so don't mess around with this part.  The best kinds are fairly firm (Red Delicious sucks) and moderately tart, in my opinion.  This year we're using Rome apples.

Core the apples and cut out any weird bits.  I leave the skins on, partially because I am lazy, and partially because the internet told me that that's where all the nutrition is.  But the seeds need to come out, as do the blossom ends, stems, and any icky bits.  You can use an apple cutter/corer if you want.

Put all the apples in a big ol' pot with a couple of inches of water in the bottom.  You can add some cinnamon sticks at this point if you're into that sort of thing.  Put the whole mess on low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until everything is mushy.

Run the apples (skins and all!) and apple liquid through your food processor or powerful blender in batches until it's all the consistency you expect from apple sauce.  Or if you're a bum who doesn't like skins in their applesauce you can use a food mill.  Put it back in the big pot and have a taste.  Is it sweet enough?  Not enough cinnamon?  Season to taste with sugar, molasses (yum!), cinnamon, or what have you.  I usually add cinnamon and a small amount of black strap molasses.  Keep it simmering!  If your sauce is too watery you can also let it cook down some more.

Ladle your finished applesauce into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath canner for twenty minutes.  Remove canner from heat and allow jars to stand in hot water for ten minutes more.

Tah-dah!  Apple sauce!  And you didn't even have to measure anything.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


The pigs are gone!  Or rather, the pigs are in the freezer!  This is quite a relief as, with the cooler weather and shorter days, the pasture isn't growing as well as it was.  And that means it was becoming increasingly impossible to prevent the pigs from turning the pasture into one gigantic mud hole.  One of the great things about buying meat by the whole animal (or raising your own) is that you get all the extra weird parts of the animal, many of which are really quite good.  Case in point: lard.

Our butcher isn't accustomed to people asking for all the fat off their pig back, but they did remember to bag it up for me (even if I did have to make a second trip, as they left it in the freezer the first go around).  This is the amount we got back from two year old American Guinea Hogs.

This is the back fat (fat from off of the pig's topline) and leaf lard (fat from around the pig's kidneys) mixed together, because I forgot to ask them to separate it out.  If you remember, it's nice to have the leaf lard separate, as it is rather different.  It's softer and less likely to have a pork smell/taste, and therefor nicer for things like pastries.

You can see it's in pretty big chunks - which is fine.  You are going to have to either cut it into small pieces (like about one inch cubes), or run it through a meat grinder.  I use the coarse disk on mine, and it's very helpful because then I only have to cut it small enough to fit in the meat grinder.

All that mess goes in the crock pot with a quarter cup of water.  The water keeps the fat from burning until some fat liquefies, and will cook off.

Set the crock pot low, and come by and stir every now and again.  As the fat comes to the surface, you can ladle it off and strain it through a large handkerchief.  The trick is to filter off all of the fat before the solid bits (cracklings) turn brown.  If you wait until it's all brown, you will get more lard, but the fat will be brownish and smell like bacon.  But if you get it all out while the solids are still soft and whitish, the fat will be white and odorless.

Out of all that fat, we got two gallons and a quart of lovely white lard.  Fabulous for making biscuits and all sorts of pastry, as well as for frying.  Of course... isn't lard bad for you?

KIND OF!  Of course too much fat isn't good for you.  But the difference between this fat and the lard you buy at the store is twofold.  First, the store lard is hydrogenated.  That stuff is BAD for you.  Of course it does have better shelf life, so keep the home rendered stuff in the refrigerator.  The second difference is what the pigs were eating.  Store pigs are raised in confinement (unless you purposefully buy pastured pork) and don't get to eat things like grass or do things like lie in the sun.  My pigs did that ALL THE TIME.  So lard from pastured pigs is actually a pretty good source of fat soluble vitamins, including Vitamin D.  There's also a bunch of science about how pastured pigs have different kinds of fatty acids than confinement pigs and that makes it better, but every time I turn around it seems they've decided a new kind of fat is THE healthy fat so I don't pay too much attention to that.  Too complicated.  The point is that you shouldn't be afraid of a little lard as long as it comes from pasture raised pigs, and isn't hydrogenated.  Also: it's delicious!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hot Sauce

Fall canning is in full swing around here!  Unfortunately I am not what you call a great gardener, so what I have to can is somewhat random.  This year the bumper crop appears to be habenero peppers, and there's exactly one thing to do with those: make hot sauce!  If you have an abundance of hot peppers like me, here is my favorite recipe.

  • 10 Habenero peppers (or similar volume of other hot peppers)
  • 2 large yellow peaches
  • 2 medium tomatoes (I use romas)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • generous dash of salt
Peel and quarter onion.  I use yellow onions, but other kinds would also work.  Pit and quarter peaches.  I prefer yellow peaches because the finished sauce is prettier than the white ones.  My husband is always after me to try apricots in this recipe but I haven't gotten around to it yet.  You can increase the volume of fruit as much as you want, but do not decrease.  Peel garlic.  Cut the stems off of peppers (WEAR GLOVES).  You can decrease the number of peppers if you prefer milder hot sauce, but if you increase them you might want to check the pH of your sauce to make sure it is safe for canning.  Quarter tomatoes (no need to peel or core them).  Put everything into your powerful blender (we have a Vitamix) or food processor and set to "liquify."  Work in batches if needs be.  Dump all your proto-sauce into a heavy bottomed pot and simmer for half an hour.  Pour into sterilized jars (I like half pints for hot sauce) and process in a boiling water bath canner for half an hour.  Sealed jars keep as well as anything home canned, but should be kept in the refrigerator after opening.

Note that this is pretty darn hot sauce, and while it is simmering your kitchen will smell like burning and it may make your eyes water.  The "simmer" stage is however necessary for making the flavors blend, and making it thicken up a bit and get "saucy."  We usually pour opened jars into an empty clean sriracha bottle for easy dispensing.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Things that cause Cedar to forget how to use a milk stand:

  • Moving.  It took nearly two weeks after we brought Cedar home to convince her that yes, this really is a milk stand, and yes, you really do use it just like the ones back home.  There is grain involved if you cooperate, girl!
"Like this, right?"
  • Turning the milk stand to face the other way.  She cannot find the grain.  It is gone.  Clearly this is some kind of witch craft.
  • Cleaning the milk room.  All the trash and dirt was clearly vital to her process.  Now that it is gone she can only get two feet onto the milk stand at a time.  Life is very tragic.
Hey, what did you do with my trash?
  • Presence of chickens in the milk room.  Chickens are sneaky and it's very naughty for them to sneak into the milk room, so apparently Cedar gets to be sneaky and naughty too.  Sprinkles' grain looks tasty.  Surely no one will notice.
  • Presence of human kids in the milk room.  They need a good sniffing and lots of kisses.  Again, it is impossible to get more than two feet on the milk stand at a time.  Cedar whines because her tongue is not long enough to reach the grain this way.
Ponchos might also secretly be snacks.  Forget the snacks ON THE MILK STAND...
  • Removing a doe from the milk line.  Clearly it is not actually the milk room if Sundae doesn't threaten her on the way in/out.  (Sundae is in the barn recovering from an epic case of found something bad for her and ate a whole lot of it.  She is fine but needs to convalesce.)  Attempts to crawl under the milk stand to find out if the trash can is full of used wipes yet.
Nope not yet.
  • Mom put the teat wipes at the wrong end of the milk stand.  Clearly it is a trap.
  • Mom put something new on/under/next to the milk stand.  Also clearly a trap.  Unless it's treats.  Cedar attempts to eat the new thing.
I am beginning to see why Sundae hates Cedar so much - she is a bit daft.  I can only imagine it's worse if you actually speak goat.  I'm rather fond of my little Cinnamon Bun goat, but enough is enough, girl!

Sometimes I give up.  You win this round, goat...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Great Johnes Scare of 2016

What're we going to do tonight, Sundae?  Same thing we do every night.  Find new ways to drive our human out of her ever loving mind...
One thing that is really, really scary, is when your goat suddenly has goopy sloppy poop like a cow.  This is both because a key reason why I got goats instead of cows is because cow poop is several orders of magnitude grosser than goat poop and because it is a sign that something has gone very, very wrong in Goat Digestion Land.

The first thing you always suspect is parasites.  Some vets will tell you that stomach worms don't really cause scours, and some will tell you what are you talking about of course stomach worms cause scours.  I don't really know which it is, but Sundae also had moderately pale eyelids (read: moderate anemia), which is definitely a sign of stomach worms, so I gave her medicine.  Which did nothing, so I gave her different medicine.  Which also did nothing.  Noting that her eyelids were actually starting to pink up by this point (which wouldn't happen if she were still fighting stomach worms), I called the vet.

Our vets are really very good.  We use the Virginia Tech veterinary school and have nothing but good things to say about them.  They are nice and calm and extremely knowledgeable about goats, and understand that "calm" is not something I'm capable of a lot of the time because I'm super high strung and have an anxiety disorder.  The first thing in a situation like this (assuming the goat is eating well, which she was, and reasonably energetic, which she was) is run a fecal float test.  Which revealed zero coccidia and very few worm eggs.  Sundae was about as parasite free as goats come.  Which means that the next most likely scenario was that she had somehow gotten Johnes.

Johnes is usually a disease of cattle, but sheep and goats can get it to.  It is bacterial, and infection is transmitted via the fecal-oral route.  The bacteria can live in the soil for up to a year, and it generally takes two years from the point of infection for animals to become symptomatic, during which time they have been shedding bacteria in their feces, contaminating the pasture and infecting their herd mates.  The symptoms of Johnes are scours due to mechanical damage to the intestines, rapid weight loss, and death.  There is no treatment except a bullet.

Needless to say there was much panicking.  Much, MUCH panicking.  Fortunately I had already sent blood to the lab for our annual testing, and had decided to add Johnes to the usual CAE testing this year.  While the blood test isn't great, it is a screening tool, and people ask about it from time to time.  The vet agreed that the blood test isn't the most accurate of tests, but in clinical cases it should turn up positive.

If you follow me on Facebook you know that the tests all came back negative, and in fact I had locked Sundae in the barn with a wether (I don't care as much if the wethers get sick) and her poop had gone completely back to normal by then.  Turns out she had in fact developed a taste for horse nettles, which are super poisonous, the chief symptom of which is scours.  But I have put together a list of things you can do to keep Johnes out of your herd, because once you have it, it's kind of an end of the world scenario.

  1. Do not run your goats with cows of unknown Johnes status.  This is apparently the main way goats get Johnes.
  2. Do not feed your goat kids unpasteurized cow's milk from cows of unknown status.  Transmission via milk is fairly well documented.
  3. Quarantine all new arrivals (goats, cows, sheep, everything!) until you have negative Johnes tests in hand and it's been at least a month.  Three months is better.  I personally know a farm that narrowly avoided a new cow infecting their whole herd with Johnes because they had her in quarantine.  SAFETY FIRST!  This will also protect your herd from nasties like infectious hoof rot, CL, and sore mouth.
  4. Consider annual or semi-annual testing.  Many dairy herds are already testing for CAE - if you do your testing through WADDL, they can do a Johnes test too, from the same 5 ml red top tube of blood even.  It's only $6.50 per test as of this writing, the same as a CAE test.  Our current plan (which our vet agrees is reasonable) is to test for CAE yearly (using BioTracking for non-Johnes-test years, since it's cheaper there) and Johnes every other year.  Since Johnes is a slow-developing infection, and the blood test will not detect it in its early stages, every year might be a bit over kill.  Put if you're paranoid it's a small price to pay for peace of mind, and testing new stock is always a good idea.
  5. Do not let people walk around in your pasture.  Poo on their shoe becomes poo on your pasture becomes germs in your goats.  If you need to show an animal bring it out to the people.  The people will understand.  Or if they don't, screw them, because your animals, your rules!
  6. Do not wear your barn shoes off your property.  I am really bad about this, but the same principles as above apply - you don't know what germs you are walking through, especially at places like the feed store.  I actually have a special pair of feed store shoes that NEVER EVER EVER go in the barn.  Because feed stores are fun but their floors are kinda icky.
So in closing, BIOSECURITY.  It's important.  Also GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR VET.  We are very fortunate that this escapade in paranoia only cost us one fecal float (which are cheap) and one set of blood tests (which we were going to do anyway).  After Murphy and his meningitis of doom there is not a lot of money left over for the vet.  Or rather, not a lot of money that the vet hasn't already taken.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Kidding check list

That time of year is rolling around again, that magical time where baby goats are born and I completely loose my marbles.  So with that in mind, here is my personal check list of everything I do to get ready.  It is also a convenient list of why you might not hear from me as much as usual until about mid-March.

Thirty days before the does are due, put everybody on the milk stand, trim their feet, and give them CDT vaccines.

A couple of days later, remember that I was also supposed to give them their annual selenium (I use oral gel) and semi-annual copper bolus (think really big vitamin).  Wrestle with the goats because they think I'm trying to poison them.

Put together my goat midwifery kit.  Contents:
  • OB lube (I just buy whatever water based personal lubricant is cheapest at the grocery store.  In large quantity.)
  • Vet-strength iodine
  • Large numbers of towels
  • A tube of oral selenium (in case the kids need it)
  • Molassas, corn syrup, and CPMK (a calcium supplement)
  • Tums (For the goats, not me.  Ok sometimes also for me.)
  • Injectable Penicillin (kept in the fridge), needles, and syringes
  • A big pile of empty feed sacks, which I have yet to actually use
  • Bottles (the empty soda kind) and nipples (the black lamb kind), just in case
Two weeks before the does are due, I start them on their late pregnancy ration of grain, and start feeding alfalfa again.  The goats think I am God.

One week before the does are due, I start feeling tail head ligaments.  One of the surest signs a doe is about to kid is she "looses her ligaments" - ie, they become impossible to feel.  This is also about the time I start fiddling with their udders, which they hate, and trying to feel the babies move, which they hate even more.  The goats think I've lost my ever loving mind, except for Emerald, who will do anything to have her cheeks scratched.

I continue in this holding pattern until all the does kid - they are all due the same week this year, and goat due dates are plus or minus five days, so worst case scenario I've got about two weeks of absolute wackadoo.  I'll let you know how alive I still am when we have a head count and everybody is eating.