Though we did have some cold windy weather and deep frosts, our first two November weekends have been clear and sunny. Perfect for wrapping things up in the garden! At our new house, we had part of our field tilled, hoed rows, and spread straw on top of everything. We’re hoping that the garden will be in good shape for a first planting in the spring. No doubt we’ll have lots of grass weeding ahead of us, but we’re off to a good start!
This past weekend I finally had time to turn our end-of-season harvests of kohlrabi, cabbage, and carrots into pickles, sauerkraut, and kimchi. I was excited to be able to use Vermont-grown ginger for the first time in my kimchi! Maybe I’ll have to add it to our crop list next year. I happily pounded away at the sliced cabbage with my new tamper and smasher: happy results of my dad’s recent experimentation on his new lathe. Finally, in a team effort, we erected a fence around our new garden to deter the rabbits and herds of deer that pass through our land on their way from Mt. Philo to Lewis Creek. It feels good to have all of our outdoor chores crossed off the list. Bring on the snow – I’m ready for sledding season to start on our sunny slope of Mt. Philo!
Most people have pretty negative associations with the word “lard.” According to a recent story by NPR, we have Procter & Gamble’s marketing team to thank. “…Unlike lard, Crisco was made in a lab by scientists, not necessarily an appetizing idea back then. Procter & Gamble turned all that to its advantage. It launched an ad campaign that made people think about horrible stories of … lard. The ads touted how pure and wholesome Crisco was.”
It seems, however, as though tides are turning. Mainstream media are publishing articles “Singing the Praises of Fat,” “Ending the War on Fat” and “A Call for a Low-Carb Diet That Embraces Fat.” Furthermore, nutritionists agree that Trans Fat (like Crisco and Vegetable Shortening) should be avoided entirely. A final key piece of information: animals raised outdoors on pasture consume more vitamins through consumption of fresh green grass, other foraged food, and from the sun. They store important fat soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K) in their body fat. Lard from pastured pigs is especially high in vitamin D and in the same monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) that gives olive oil and avocados their heart-healthy characteristics.
Perhaps it’s worth revisiting the original shortening: Lard. On a frigid afternoon I decided to finally “deal with” the grass-fed lard leaf I’d purchased from a small farm in our neighborhood. If you know any local farms with pastured pigs, call them up! Leaf lard will likely be the cheapest item they sell. With a crock pot, my leaf lard turned out to be very simple to render.
1) Grinding the leaf lard makes everything very easy! If you don’t have a meat grinder, try asking a local butcher to help or pulse it in a food processor. You can also cut it into small cubes if you don’t have access to any processing equipment.
2) Put your ground leaf lard, along with 1/4 cup water, into your crock pot. The water will keep things from burning and will evaporate by the end of the cooking process. Set crock pot to low, and cook (covered) for an entire afternoon. You’ll notice the fat cooking out of the solids. I gave mine a stir every once in a while.
3) When the cracklings (the little pieces of solids) sink to the bottom, it’s time to strain. Pour the contents of your crock pot through a strainer, sieve, or cheesecloth into a bowl. Then pour the strained lard from the bowl into jars. It will look yellow, but will turn pure white when it cools to room temperature
4) Finish off your cracklings! Toss your cracklings in a frying pan with some salt, and cook as you would bacon. Like bacon, my cracklings browned better when I poured off the excess fat (I poured it into my half-full jar of lard) mid-way through.
5) Store lard in the refrigerator or freezer so that it keeps its fresh mild flavor and doesn’t go rancid. Cracklings can be used like bacon bits. I like to heat them back up again in a frying pan to get them extra crispy. I then sprinkle them over foods like guacamole, nachos, salad, or black beans as a special garnish. Lard is a great fat to use for frying, pie crusts, and baked goods. It is quite mild, so unlike bacon grease, it won’t add its own flavor to the foods you are cooking.
Want to add another traditional grass-fed animal fat back into your diet? Check out my post on making your own butter.
Snow is in the air, and people around here are excited for winter! With less than an inch of snow on the ground, my students immediately got to work building snow forts, catching flakes in their tongues, and following animal tracks through our wooded play space. I started dreaming about eggnog and Christmas cookies, and sat down to cut my first paper snowflake of the year. I’ve listed some December highlights from past years below for you to enjoy. Happy Winter!
Last year I did some delicious experimentation with my first batches of homemade eggnog. Now that it feels really wintery out, I’m eager to make another batch.
In my family, there are two cookies that must be at any holiday celebration: spritz and pepperkaker. This blog post includes the recipes for these two favorites in addition to fond Christmas Eve Smorgasbord reminiscing.
Snowy adventures are a key ingredient in transforming your kitchen into the coziest place on earth. This blog post includes my tips for enjoying snowy weather with kids or adults, plus step-by-step instructions for cutting beautiful six-sided paper snowflakes.
This holiday season I made eggnog for the first time. It was surprisingly easy – thanks to our electric mixer. My version was based on a recipe that used more milk than cream, and didn’t cook any of the ingredients. We’ve been getting fresh raw milk from a local farm and our chickens are laying lots of eggs, so I had great ingredients to use. Knowing the farmer is especially important with raw eggs and dairy! I used our neighbor’s maple syrup instead of the white sugar included in the original recipe. As an added bonus, the vanilla extract I made using rum earlier this year flavored the rich creamy drink. My final product had a lot of foam on top. To reduce this “head,” I suggest beating the egg whites and cream until thick but not to the point where they can form peaks. Leaving time for your final product to rest and chill is also important.
Recipe (makes 3 quarts):
6 large egg whites
1/2 cup maple syrup
6 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup dark spiced rum
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
-Take out three medium to large bowls and an electric mixer or beater.
-In the first bowl beat egg whites until they start to thicken (do not need to be stiff). Add 1/2 cup maple syrup, beat until thick.
-In the second bowl: Beat egg yolks and salt until the color begins to lighten.
-Combine beaten egg whites with yolks and beat until mixed and thick.
-In a third large bowl beat cream until it starts to thicken (as with the whites, thick but not stiff).
-Add 1 tbsp maple syrup, 1/2 tbsp vanilla, and 1/2 tsp nutmeg to the beaten cream.
-Add milk and rum beating continually
-Fold together all the ingredients, chill and let rest.
-Gently stir your batch before pouring into glasses. Serve with a a sprinkle of nutmeg on top of each glass.
Tonight, I’m going to freeze a serving of our eggnog in our immersion blender’s smoothie cup. Once it’s frozen, I’ll use the blender to make an eggnog milkshake! I’ve also heard great things about eggnog french toast and eggnog fudge…