Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a special time for many people. The Farmer has very pleasant memories of going to Grandma’s house for Christmas. Besides playing with the cousins, The Farmer loved Grandma’s nut tray, cracking shells and enjoying tastes that he did not get at home.

As an adult, The Farmer wanted to shape Christmas to his own liking, and since The Farmer’s Wife was willing, a unique format for our meals has developed.

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Dried Beans

Many of the pole beans we grow can be eaten as a dried bean. This means that you don’t harvest the bean when it is young and green. You let it grow full size.

As the beans mature, the seeds inside the pod get much larger. The pod drys out in the wind and sun, leaving the bean’s seeds as the part of the plant that is eaten.

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Fresh Turkey for Thanksgiving

Benjamin Franklin, commenting to his daughter about the bird shown on the Great Seal of the US, stated the following:

“I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
Source: Smithsonian Mag via the Franklin Institute

Yes, it is true that turkeys are a bit vain and silly. But I’m not sure about that courageous part.

The turkeys we raised this year are heritage-crosses, meaning that two heritage breeds were crossed. Like all of our animals,  the turkeys have been raised outdoors in fresh air and sunshine, regularly moved to fresh grass, and provided with non-GMO grain.

We will have six turkeys available Monday or Tuesday, November 20 or 21 (the week of Thanksgiving),  and they will be sold fresh (not frozen). We are guessing that they will be between 10 and 20 lbs and cost between $70 and $100 each.

Cooking helps with recipe links follow.

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After-Thanksgiving Turkey Soup

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After-Thanksgiving Turkey Soup

This is a soup that my children request year round. 

Course Soup
Servings 5 quarts

Ingredients

1 leftover turkey carcass (from a 12- to 14-pound turkey, or whatever size you have)

Vegetables - Use mixture of vegetables, perhaps the ones below, to equal about 4 cups

3 medium onions, chopped

2 large carrots, diced

2 celery ribs, diced

1 cup butter or oil or fat

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half cream or milk or cream

1 cup uncooked long grain rice

2 teaspoons salt, opt.

3/4 teaspoon pepper, opt.

Instructions

  1. Place turkey carcass, including bones, meat, and skin, in a soup kettle or Dutch oven or 8 qt. stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for at least 1 hour. Remove carcass; cool. Set aside 3 qt. broth. Remove turkey from bones and cut into bite-size pieces; set aside.

  2. In a soup kettle or Dutch oven, saute the onions, carrots and celery in butter, oil, or fat until tender. Reduce heat; stir in flour until blended. Gradually add 1 qt. of reserved broth. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

  3. Add cream, rice, salt, pepper, remaining broth and reserved turkey. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir about every 5-8 minutes as it has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan. If it gets too thick, add more broth, water or milk.

  4. Any remaining broth can be frozen for use another day.

Recipe Notes

16 servings (~4-5 quarts)

Original recipe

Whole Chicken – Part 2: Chicken Soups

Recently we talked about how to thaw and cook a whole chicken. So the chicken is cooked.  It can be eaten as is.  The meat can be used in casseroles or stir-fries.  Or it can be used in soups.

Our 2 favorite chicken soups are Chicken Corn Soup and Hearty Vegetable Chicken Soup.  Enjoy!

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Chicken Corn Soup

This is a family favorite from my growing up days in southern PA.  In August we would purchase corn to blanch and freeze.  In the winter we would use the corn to make this soup.

Course Soup
Servings 4 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole chicken about 5 lb, can be whole or frozen
  • 1-2 onions diced
  • 1/2 celery head chopped
  • Water to cover chicken
  • 2 bags frozen corn may use 2 cans of corn
  • 1 bag egg noodles

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken, celery, onion and water in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken; cool.

  2. Put 1/2 stock and cut-up chicken in 8 qt. stockpot.  Add corn. Bring to boil.  Add stock if it is too thick. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  (This can simmer as long as you want.) 10 minutes before serving add egg noodles, and add stock so that it is on the runny side.

  3. Add salt at the table as needed/desired.

Recipe Notes

We vary this by using other starches in place of the egg noodles - rice, barley, potatoes, alphabet noodles or rivels. Rivels are just 3/4 cup flour added to 1 beaten egg. (Place the flour in a bowl; mix in egg with a fork just until blended. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into boiling soup, stirring constantly. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until rivels are cooked through.) Rivel recipe

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Hearty Chicken Vegetable Soup

Course Soup
Servings 4 quarts

Ingredients

  • 1 roasting chicken about 5 pounds, can be cut up or can be whole frozen chicken
  • 2-4 celery ribs sliced
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2-1/2 quarts water
  • 1 can 14-1/2 ounces stewed tomatoes Or equivalent diced tomatoes
  • 4 medium carrots sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 1 medium turnip peeled and cubed, can substitute 2 potatoes

Seasonings - use ones you like - We especially like oregano.

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley opt.
  • 3/4 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and tarragon opt.
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt opt.
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper opt.
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder opt.

Additional veggies

  • 2 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 cups frozen peas optional

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken, celery, onion and water in a Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours or until chicken is tender. Remove chicken; cool.

  2. Remove meat from bones and cut into bite-size pieces; return to pan. Add the tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, turnips, seasonings; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add broccoli and peas if desired; simmer 15-20 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender. Yield: 16 servings (about 4 quarts).

Recipe Notes

Other veggies can be added.  Diced tomatoes can be used in place of stewed tomatoes.  We add salt and Parmesan cheese at the table.  Original recipe

Chicken Taj Mahal – Part 2

A while ago we posted about work we were doing on a new mobile chicken coop. That new coop is now in service.

It took several days for the chickens to learn that they had to walk up the ramp to get back inside the coop. The first few nights they would walk around  the coop knowing they had to get up in there, but unsure how. It  would have been comical except that we had to try and herd them to the ramp. Now they all routinely go in as the sky starts to darken at night.

We designed the coop to hold 60 chickens comfortably, and we have about 45 at present. By moving the coop regularly, the chickens don’t find alternate places to lay their eggs, which means we are not spending time searching for clutches behind trees or under weeds.

Sometime in November we will give the coop a good cleaning while the chickens are out. Then we will park the coop near the barn so that the chickens can have some artificial light. (This helps keep them producing eggs.) When snow arrives, they will be limited to this coop and a covered outdoor eating area.

When the weather warms, the coop will get another good cleaning, and the chickens will be off to the pastures again.

Both the chickens and the humans are enjoying the benefits of our chicken Taj Mahal.  Our thanks to the Farmer’s father for the idea and to the father and the Farmer’s sons for building it.  Excellent job!

Sty Guy

Our second son is currently working on his Ph.D. in mathematics. But his humble roots include being a pig farmer. He loved  his pigs like some kids love their dogs. He would play with them and ride on them.

Back in those days, we had sows that we would breed to raise a litter of piglets.

Now we buy our piglets in from farms which raise their pigs outdoors. Know why is this important? Continue reading “Sty Guy”

The Allure of Garlic

Have you ever thought about trying to grow something in a garden?  Garlic would be fairly easy to start with.

Why garlic?

  1. Here in the Northeast garlic is planted in the fall after Columbus Day. This means that you are not waiting for a wet spring to end or for snow to melt before you can plant it.
  2. Garlic doesn’t take a lot of space.  Several cloves planted 6 inches apart will give you several heads of garlic.
  3. Continue reading “The Allure of Garlic”