Renaissance Mama

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

{Written with Jack, our eldest son and charcutier}

Yes bacon.  Home cured, home smoked bacon from pastured pigs.  You can do this.  It takes some space, but it is really simpler than you’d think.  You don’t need one of those expensive smoker contraptions for Christmas.  The curing was done in a roaster in our spare fridge, and Jack built the dry brick smoker in about an hour.

Curing and smoking your own meats allows you to control ingredients and flavour.  It can also save you $1 or more per pound, than if you get it from your farmer already smoked.

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

Smoker in Wonderland

 

{Real Food, Pure and Simple} | Bacon

Jack’s smoker is a 36″ cube, give or take.  It has an old grill rack inside it that rests on a ledge inside the smoker, made from scrap wood.  The rack sits about 2/3 way up the smoker.

 

What you need:

15 lb fresh slab bacon, right from the farm or butcher (make sure you specify that you want it uncured, unsmoked)

Maple wood for fire

Maple wood splits  (1-2″ thick by 20″ or so), or chips for smoke, green.

Brine:

  • 1lb salt (we used Kosher)
  • 3 qt very hot water
  • 1- 2/3 c. maple syrup

Dissolve the salt in the water, add syrup.  Cool the brine before adding the meat. Place a clean stone on top of the meat to hold it under the brine liquid. Do NOT use anything metal. Cure in the fridge for 2 weeks.

Remove bacon from the brine, and drain.  Build a small, slow fire in the smoker.  Let it burn until you have a bed of coals in the bottom of the smoker.  On top of the coals, place a few small, green maple splits.  When the splits start smoking, place the bacon on the smoker rack.  Add logs as needed to keep the smoke going.  You can smoke the meat from 2-6 hours, depending upon how much smoky flavour you want.  Keep your smoker temperature below 120° F.  Flip your bacon over halfway through smoking for even flavour.  Bacon is NOT cooked at this point.

Bring that slab indoors.  Slice and fry up as normal.  You can also freeze or fridge your meat.  What we’ve read says that you can keep it for up to a year, even in a pantry.  I doubt it will hang around that long.  You’re going to eat it right up, aren’t you?  This amount will last our family 6-8 weeks.

There are loads of curing options, and several smoking options.  We have just given you what we used for our bacon.  We are experimenting with dry and wet cures, and with various smoking woods.  We chose a hot smoke method to improve storage time.  It’s what we would recommend to you, particularly if you are making sausages.

We choose not to use ‘pink salt’.  There is a lot of controversy about the safety of sodium nitrite and sodium nitrite.  If you have enough salt in your liquid to float a potato, you should have the right amount of salt.  If you don’t use ‘pink salt’, the meat portion of your bacon will not be red.  It will be gray.  But awesomely delicious.  Yum, yum. yum.

We used slab bacon that was not aged.  Aged slabs are supposed to taste even better.

Bricks were reclaimed from an unused chimney in the farmhouse.  Our spare fridge was picked up on FreeCycle.  You could probably pick up used bricks on FreeCycle, or from a architectural salvage company.  The corrugated top on the smoker is a piece of sheathing that had fallen off of our barn.  The steam pan was purchased, used,  from a local restaurant supplier.

Next up… rosemary ham for Christmas Dinner

Free Pattern:: Simple Hat

It’s getting to be that time of year again. So much knitting to do before the weather turns colder. I was going through some old posts and found this one for instructions for a funny little fuzzy hat that I had made for Sophie when she was a little baby. She’s now a big girl of nine!

It’s a super easy project that even beginners can work up quickly.  The top is closed purse-string style, but you can taper it down by decreasing every few stitches over several rounds first, or work it down to 3-4 stitches and end in a long i-cord and tie that in a knot for an umbilical hat.  The whole thing is worked in the round in stockinette and the edge rolls up. If you knit the hat a little longer – 2 inches or more – you’ll have a neato slouchy style hat if the knitted fabric isn’t too stiff.  Try using a lighter weight base yarn and the same sized needles for a lacier and drapier hat.  No rules.  Just fun.  Did I mention that this is a great project for a new knitter – especially for a child who is working in the round for the first time.  He or she will have a new hat to show off in no time flat.

I’m not sure if you can get the same yarns that I used back then, or even if you’d want to since styles have changed so much since I originally posted.  You can use any bulky weight yarn you like. or have on hand.  You can pair it with something bouclé or fuzzy, or colourful, or glittery…  I would really love to see what you come up with.  Maybe you would consider posting a photograph of what you whip up and link it back here?

Fuzzy Hat baby

 

 

You need:

2 balls  any chunky/bulky weight yarn ( I used Lion Brand “Kool Wool” in  ‘grass’)

2 balls  any fancy ‘blender’ yarn – or leave it out ((I usedLion Brand “Fun Fur” in ‘mango’)

Set dpns size 10.5

 

For baby:: CO 42 stitches, work in stocking stitch for 6″. Cut long tail and draw through all stitches to close. Secure by taking stitches across closure, bring tail inside and run tail through several stitches inside, trim. Viola!

 

For older child:: CO 54 stitches and work 7″

 

For adult:: CO 60 stitches and work for 8″

 

Happy knitting!

Summer Days

I’ve been so busy with adoption paperwork and fundraising, farm stuff, and homeschool preparations that I haven’t had time for posting. At least, I haven’t had as much time as I had hoped that I would.

Summer is passing so quickly.  And summer looks like it is going to be cut short if the trees around the place are anything to go by. Yellows, oranges, and reds are already popping up.

We are so grateful to be here in this place.  It is such a lot of hard work and we’re still learning so much about the land and how to make this farm work.  But we are blessed.  Just so blessed to be here.

How are you doing? What is happening at your place?

Wonderland

Wonderland

Wonderland

Wonderland

parable

Parable

Every once in a while a reading from Mass will stick with me.  Really stick.  It gets into my heart and mind.  I look it over, think it over, dream it over.  Yesterday’s Gospel (Mt. 13: 24-43) was just such a reading.

parable

It resonated with me because it illustrates for me how we faith-full bloggers and social media mavens ought to approach our time and efforts online.  We should be sowing good seed.  That doesn’t mean proselytizing everyone.  It means being the leavening.  Lifting people up.  Being positive, comforting, joyful.  Loving everyone.  Willing their good.

Too many of my Catholic friends feel that they must pull up the weeds.

Jesus teaches, in yesterday’s reading from the Gospel that we are to work gently, quietly, faithfully.  He tells us this using three different parables.  The parable of the wheat and weed suggests that in pulling up the weeds – the people who are doing the will of Satan – we may also destroy ourselves and be good for nothing.  At harvest, the wheat and weeds will be sorted out by the angels.

Trust that the wheat seed will grow and thrive. 

“The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…”  The Gospel of Life is small and humble.  It is simple.  Yet when it is nurtured, it grows into something great that outshines all other worldly messages.  When we show, through sharing our lives, the goodness of God, and when people witness our gentle ways, that mustard seed will grow into something glorious, and we will attract the ‘birds of the air’, who will come and ‘collect seed’ and spread it somewhere else.  Our branches are the people who share our posts or status updates, the birds are those who are inspired by us to write their own blogs and inspirational messages.

Grow where you are planted, let your branches spread wide, and welcome those who will share your inspiration.

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast…”  When we share the simple message of love with our readers, when we are living a small life taken up with mothering and being faithful partner to our husbands, it can seem like we aren’t making impact in the world.  Not so.  The third parable tells of a woman making loaves of bread.  If you’ve made a yeast bread before, you know that the measure of yeast is very small compared with that of flour.  Yet when water is added and it is left to prove, and when we knead the dough, that little bit of yeast lifts the dough to twice (or more) what it would be without leavening.  Sharing your life with readers, your small faith-filled life, uplifts others.  We are small compared with the world, compared with ‘popular society’, yet our small voice can uplift it. Without our small voices, our humble lives of faith and faithfulness, society won’t grow at all.

Let the world knead on over and around us, it will allow our uplifting message to make a greater impact.

We don’t need to be big or ‘special’.  We only need to RECOGNIZE the beauty of every day life for the marvelous, precious gift that it is, and then share that.  Be grateful and joyful in the sharing.  Be honest about the trials in life.  We all have them and it is good to acknowledge that.  But seek the blessing in the trial and share it so that others may be uplifted in their own sufferings, and, in turn, share the blessings in their own difficulties with others.

These are how we reveal the Kingdom of Heaven.

This is how we shine like the sun.

 

 

A gorgeous bowlful of mulberries.

Stopping to Say Hello

Life on the farm is extremely busy lately.  The vegetables are finally coming on, and I have been spending a lot of time making jams and jellies from flowers and fruits collected round and about the place.  We’ve even tried a new delight – mulberry jam.  I’ve never had a mulberry before in my life, but William discovered an enormous mulberry tree out by the barn.  It is LOADED with fruit.  Like other such berries, they aren’t all ripe at once, which means that I’ve got to make lots of smaller batches.  Now, if I can get the black raspberries to co-ordinate with the mulberries, we’ll alternate the two until we’re done.  Chance would be a fine thing!

A gorgeous bowlful of mulberries.

We’ve harvested lots of nettle, which is being dried in the carriage house, along with elderflowers and catnip.  We’ve got chive seeds harvested from the little clump at the corner of the schoolroom, and soon I’ll be doing the same with the catnip seeds.

I thought that I was done with flower jellies, but I’ve got just one more to go – Queen Anne’s Lace.  I always grew up believing that it was poisonous.  It’s not.  But you have to be careful that you’re indeed picking the right thing.  So, I’m off to do that, perhaps this weekend.  While I’m out there, I’ll look to see what we have for chicory root.  And OH! I forgot that I’ve been collecting burdock and dandelion root.  So, so much more to harvest from teh wild while we wait for our pokey veggies to get up and ready.  Blossoms everywhere, and wee bitty vegetables.

Queen Anne's Lace

It looks like we’re going to have a spate of veg all at once, rather than the steady stream we had originally planned.  But there it is.  Nothing can be done about how the weather behaves.  And God is good.  He knows what we need.  Our job is to have faith and always and everywhere to give thanks.

I have been working on two knitting designs. 

I had to frog back and re-work the Brendan longies I started several weeks months ago.  But I think that this revision will look much better.  I also decided to order a new skein of yarn to work it up – “Moorland” Madelinetosh Tosh DK (my current fave yarn) – it will go so well with a co-ordinating jumper/vest in Mad. Tosh DK “Filigree”, which I still have skads of from Georgie’s romper.  The green is very, very similar to the “Kiwi” Lamb’s Pride that I began with, but much softer.

The second is a pretty pair of socks that I’m calling “Métro”.  It’s a two-at-a-time toe-up sock.  Lacy and pink.  But it would be lovely in any colour.  I can’t wait to photograph my progress and share with you.  I am the world’s.  slowest.  knitter.  Or I was.  Until I rediscovered the Scottish style of knitting, also called Irish Cottage Knitting.  I knit this way when my oldest ones were little, but gave it up when I started knitting in the round.  And today, I discovered that Bulgarian babas knit Turkish or Tunisian style – with hooks!  Holy smokes, how much faster must that be?  Yep.  I’m going to try it.  The special, wonderful bonus is that it has a built-in lifeline in case you make a boo-boo.  At least, it has a lifeline for the previous row or round.  That’s enough for some of us. 🙂

And speaking of Bulgaria, we’re still beavering away raising funds for our adoption.  Our little gal just turned 10, and our little fella is about to turn 11.  We have been told that we have until the week before Christmas to get everything done.  Looks like a trip for Christmas-tide.  It’s coming really quickly.

Really.  Quickly.

I have applied to Reece’s Rainbow to see if we can get some fundraising help from them.  I hope we’ll hear back sometime next week.  In the meantime, we’re planning a little online fundraiser of our own.  I was given a loving nudge by my friend Cassan to have the kind of fundraiser that has a little progress graphic and would possibly make all of the asking a little easier to manage.  But because I can’t resist making a PROJECT out of a project (will I ever learn?  Don’t answer that.), I have made a project out of it.  LOL.  My intention is to bless more children, more families with it.  If I can do it for us, I want to use the same project to help others.  I’ll share more when I can.

In the meantime, we have to get a whole new term life insurance for parents.  It’s no problem, I said.  It’ll take about 5 minutes, I said.  WRONG.  Oy.  So worth it, though.  Can’t wait to see those two beautiful faces for real.  And hug those babies up.

If you would like to help us get those hugs a little sooner, you can make a gift of any size through PayPal (nissa_@_gadboisfamily_._com), shop at our farm shop, or book a portrait session or hire me to photograph your next event.

 

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