Category Archives: Health

Butchering the Backyard Chicken

set-up for butcheringSome time in July, between netting salmon and harvesting cucumbers, the time arrives for the chickens to transition from the yard to the freezer. These little gems are between six and eight weeks old when I butcher. I buy day-old Cornish-Rock cross birds (actually, I get them in the mail – my post office is great about calling me the morning the birds arrive.) I’m not going to go into the details of raising them here. If you are interested, I will create another post on that topic.

Slaughtering a chicken

Insert the tip of the knife to the right of the neck bone with the blade facing out. Slide along the bone toward the front of the bird and pull the blade out to sever the muscle and buried artery.

This is an old traffic cone I nailed to a board. The cone hugs the bird’s limbs so it doesn’t break a leg or wing and it allows me to humanely sever the artery in the neck. The chicken barely makes a sound as the blood drains into a bucket below, and eventually just “goes to sleep,” as the neighborhood kids like to say. (I seem to always have an audience, but then, I am in my front yard, so what do I expect?)

Removing limbs

Once the bird is dead, remove the neck, legs, and wing tips. If you pluck, you may want to keep the wing tips, but I prefer skinless chicken, and there’s not much meat on the tips, anyway.

skinning

Carefully slide a thin knife up the breastbone between the meat and the skin, then pull it back to expose the meat.

breast exposed

off like a sweater

Pull the skin down the back and off the “arms” like removing a sweater, then the same with the legs until the skin comes off. Cut off the tail.

body cavity

Now that the skin is removed, it is time to open the body cavity. Be careful not to nick any internal organs as you slice the thin muscle just below the breastbone.

innards

Pull out the innards. Don’t forget to scoop out the lungs, which nestle between the ribs. If you want to save the liver, heart, and gizzard, put them aside.

Then dig your finger on either side of the backbone to remove the kidneys.kidney

Dig your finger on either side of the backbone to remove the kidneys.

hose it out

To really get the last bits of kidney removed, I jet out the inside with the hose.

Check for any bits of stuff you wouldn’t want to eat, paying particular attention to the neck area and the crevasses between the body and thigh.

I don’t recommend eating poultry immediately after butchering because rigor mortis makes the meat tough. I place the birds in a big cooler with ice water (well water here is around 38˚ F. If you need to use ice, do it.) Let them soak 24 hours, which allows the muscles to relax and removes extra blood. Then cut them up and freeze them according to your preferences.

cold waterLet me know what you think of my method! I’m always open to suggestions.

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Gluten Free Italian Recipes

You Can Eat This Gluten Free Italian RecipesI’m pleased to announce the release of my latest gluten free cookbook — You Can Eat This! Gluten Free Italian Recipes. It’s stuffed with full-color photos and step-by-step instructions for each recipe. If looking at these photos doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t know what will.

I’ve made most of these dishes for years, and the real challenge was writing down the actual measurements (I often eyeball quantities when cooking at home.) The second challenge was the photography, mostly because I had to work fast to get the photos taken before my house gremlins (aka family) swooped in to take bites out of my finely arranged meals.

I don’t have a formal test kitchen for developing recipes. These are true, home-cooked recipes made in a real kitchen with easily acquired tools and utensils. Taste testing is my family’s favorite part of the process, of course, but besides feeding my family, I cook for guests, take food to test kitchenpotlucks, and share beloved recipes with friends who want to cook.

I hope you give my gluten free recipes a try! You Can Eat This! Gluten Free Italian Recipes is available online everywhere, but here are a few links to make it easy for you. From my family to yours — Buon appetito!

Kindle,   iTunes,   Nook,   Kobo, and apparently Amazon has already discounted the paperback, plus it qualifies for free super-saver shipping! Get your copy today!   Paperback

Pizza, Biscotti, Ravioli, Calzone – you can eat it all with these gluten free Italian recipes.

51 recipes with full color photos and step by step instructions.

Appetizers, like Tomatoes Parmesan and Fried Mozzarella Bites. Fresh, homemade pasta, including five different kinds of ravioli. Meat Dishes from Parmesan Crusted Halibut to Chicken Saltimbocca. A wide array of sauces for use on pasta, meat and vegetables. Breads ranging from Self-Rising Pizza Crust to chewy Focaccia Bread. For those with a sweet tooth, try baking Florentines or get more creative with homemade Cannoli or gluten free Tiramisu.

What’s in YOUR Food?

Today I’m at Romancing the Genres talking about my passion. I love to garden, I love to cook, and I love to eat. My novel, Botanicaust, is about about a future world where these things are taken away. Taken by a rogue genetic manipulation (GMO) that devastates food crops across the globe, and leaves humanity struggling for survival.

You might think this means I am anti-genetically modified organisms. I’m not. READ MORE HERE

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and I got Glutened

Česky: Pšenice. Deutsch: Weizen. English: Whea...Some of you, dear readers, may know that I am gluten intolerant. Eating out is always a challenge, not only to find something on the menu that is safe to eat, but trusting the chef to prepare it gluten free. It surprises me how unaware people are about what their food is made of. Soy sauce, modified food starch, or maltodextrin I can understand people not knowing might come from wheat. I stopped in a little cafe once and asked if they had anything without wheat in it (I find this is an easier way to address the gluten issue than using the word gluten.)A variety of foods made from wheat.

The woman behind the counter turned around and picked up a bag of hamburger buns. “These don’t have wheat.”

Seriously?

She didn’t know that all-purpose flour is made from wheat. So I gently educated her on the matter, and then left without eating.

While I don’t grow grains, part of my joy in farming is getting to show the neighborhood kids where the food they eat comes from. They ride by on their bikes, infatuated with the pigs my son is walking. Yes, we walk our pigs; it develops muscle (which is meat) keeps them happy and well trained for showing at the Fair. Small children want to help gather eggs, full of questions about why they are brown. They might want to know what I’m digging when I’m harvesting potatoes. Or they beg for the apples from one of my trees. They love to come help pick strawberries or carrots or peas. I reward them with some to take home and share – or devour on the spot, as some are excited to do.

America is losing touch with its agricultural roots. People don’t make their own food from scratch, let alone grow it from the ground up. In a world that seems to show increasing food sensitivities, I encourage you to educate yourselves. Educate others. Maybe try growing a pot of herbs or another vegetable in a pot on the porch.

And most of all, know what you are eating.

How to Make Gluten-free Beer Part 1

My introduction to making beer was with a five gallon bucket and a copy of The Alaskan Bootleggers Bible. Like any true Alaskan, Mr. Kania has a lot of instructions on how to use what you might have on hand in the kitchen, which works well for me. I tend toward the frugal side, and figure mankind has made beer for thousands of years without things like hydrometers and fancy fermentation locks. I have moved to glass carboys since my primitive beginnings, but the rest has remained the same. The only thing I am adamant about is that if you use plastic, make sure it is FOOD GRADE plastic that has not been used for non-food items. We don’t want any icky toxins infiltrating our good, healthy beer!

Equipment List:

  • Large stainless steel stockpot
  • Large funnel
  • Long spoon
  • Grain bags for the malted grains (3 or 4)
  • Hops bags (2)
  • Candy thermometer
  • 5 or 6 gallon glass carboy
  • Food grade, 5 gallon bucket
  • Blow-off hose to fit into mouth of carboy
  • Another 2 quart container to act as a catch-pot for the open end of the hose.
  • Siphon hose, racking cane, bottle filler, wing-capper, plus bottles and caps for bottling

The first thing I want to emphasize is sanitation. Everything that touches the beer after it is boiled must be sterile. You can buy commercial sanitizing agents for this (I use OneStep because I don’t have to be fanatic about rinsing) or you can use plain old unscented chlorine bleach at a ratio of 1 Tablespoon in a food-grade 5 gallon bucket with water. Immerse all the equipment to be used in the solution and let it sit for a few minutes, then remove and rinse everything well in hot water. Do not leave your clear plastic siphoning hoses in bleach solution for more than a few minutes, or they will turn permanently cloudy.

Gluten-free Beer Ingredients:Beer Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb flaked rice
  • 1/2 lb millet seed (unmalted)
  • 1/2 lb teff (unmalted)
  • 1/2 lb malted buckwheat (instructions on malting here)
  • 7 lbs sorghum malt syrup
  • 1 oz Czeck Saaz pellet hops
  • 1 oz UK Kent Golding pellet hops (feel free to substitute your preferred hops for either variety)
  • 1 package of gluten free beer yeast (I used Windsor brewing yeast)

Why so many grains? To make a beer out of just one of these malted grains would, indeed, produce an alcoholic beverage, however, it would taste nothing like beer. The combination of flavors brings this concoction as close to beer as I could make it. Feel free to play around with different gluten free grains – you can find a large selection in many health food stores. Just be aware that unmalted grains are mostly starch, which the yeast cannot digest. I found buckwheat is by far the easiest grain to acquire and malt at home. Millet takes too long to sprout, and ends up turning sour every time I try to malt it. And teff is too fine. I add grains in small amount for flavor, and the rice flakes give it a nice, creamy quality. The sorghum malt syrup provides the bulk of the sugar for the yeast to digest.

Instructions:

Place the grain in grain bags, tie them loosely, and add to your stockpot along with about one and a half to two gallons of fresh water. (If using teff, place it in a hops bag rather than a grain bag, since it is fine like sand.) Using your candy thermometer, bring the temperature up to 170 to 180 degrees F and keep it there for about half an hour – do not boil.

Remove the grain bags and discard the grain (if you can think of a use for the spent grain, let me know. So far, I have not had luck baking with it. My chickens love it, though!) To the warm grain “tea” slowly add the sorghum malt, stirring constantly while you bring it to a boil. Malt extract is very sticky and burns easily, so try not to make a mess or let it burn to the bottom of the pan. Cleanup is like removing epoxy.

Tie half the pellet hops into a hops bag and add it to the kettle. Watch carefully so the liquid does not boil over. (As soon as you turn away, it will, so make sure you are there to stir it down.) Keep it boiling for about an hour. Put the other half of the hops in a second hops bag and add it to the boiling mixture during the last 5 minutes of boiling. This step allows some of the more fragile flavors in the hops to infuse the beer without being cooked out.

Remove stock pot from heat and take out both hops bags. Put a lid on the pot. Allow it to sit for half an hour to settle and cool. The goal is to chill the wort as quickly as possible to get sediment to settle out before transferring it to the carboy. During winter, I set the covered pot on the back porch to speed cooling.

Using your sterile funnel, pour two gallons of fresh, cold water into your sterile glass carboy or plastic bucket. Dissolve the yeast packet in 1 cup of warm (110) water. Once the wort in the stock pot has fallen to room temperature (85), pour it into the carboy and add the yeast mixture. Add fresh water until the wort level reaches five gallons.

Normally, this mixes the wort with the yeast enough to begin fermentation, but if you feel it needs mixing, use a sterile, long handled spoon to further combine the ingredients.

The carboy must now be stored in a dark, out of the way place for two to three weeks where it won’t be too hard to clean up the mess if it bubbles over during primary fermentation. I used to quarantine one bathtub before I got a pantry. I only had overflow once, but I was glad I had planned for the mess. The area should stay at constant room temperature. I also wrap a thick, dark towel around the carboy to make sure as little light gets to it as possible.

Once the carboy is in its resting place, insert the blow off hose into the neck of the carboy. Put the other end into the catch pot container filled about halfway with clean water. This acts as an airlock to keep foreign yeast and bacteria from getting to that delicious wort and turning it sour.

Fermentation should begin within a couple of hours – certainly within 24 hours. If it does not, add another fresh packet of yeast and with a sterile spoon, stir it in (I keep an extra yeast packet on hand for just this type of emergency.) The first day or two, the wort will bubble furiously. This is when I had my mess, when the wort actually traveled up the blow off hose and drained into my catch pot. If that happens, sterilize another catch pot, fill with water, and quickly swap them out until the fermentation process is over. Do not leave the hose open to air for too long, and don’t worry about cleaning the hose yet.

If you want to get fancy, you can buy an airlock to replace the blow off hose after the initial burst of fermentation is over. I sterilize the stopper and the airlock, then fill the airlock with water, pull the blow hose and insert the stopper into the mouth of the carboy.

Check the wort every three or four days and count time between bubbles. Once the bubbles are 60 to 90 seconds apart (two to three weeks after fermentation began) the beer is ready to bottle. Do not bottle it sooner, or you may end up with grenades instead of beverages. Don’t wait too much past that, or the yeast won’t be strong enough to carbonate the bottled beer.

Next time: bottling your beer!

© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

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Diabetic Flourless Chocolate Cake

English: Disengaged base and wall of springfor...

Image via Wikipedia

I have a bumper sticker from Penzey’s Spices on my refrigerator. “Love People, Feed Them Tasty Food.” Why do people pull together around food? Food is a deep, primitive need that binds us together as humans. What do we do at social gatherings? Eat and drink. Where do people always end up gathering in a home? The kitchen.

Yet I have a lot of friends with special food needs. Diabetics. Vegetarians. Lactose intolerance. Nut and seafood allergies. I myself am gluten intolerant. But that only makes our potlucks that much more fun. “I brought these gluten free pretzels for you.” “I made this with soy milk.” “This is sweetened with agave.”

We make each other happy with food.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes that most of my friends can enjoy. (Warning, this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to chocolate.)

Diabetic flourless chocolate cake

  • 7 oz good quality dark chocolate (I use 2 Lindt 85% bars, but you can go lower percentage)
  • 7 oz butter (or margarine for the lactose intolerant)
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup xylitol, separated (it’s a natural diabetic sweetener – look in the health food section.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper on the bottom. Preheat oven to 350.

In a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, mix 4 egg yolks with 1/2 c. xylitol. Fold the two mixtures together.

With an electric mixer, beat 4 egg whites until soft peaks form, then slowly add another 1/2 c. xylitol, beating until stiff peaks form. Add a teaspoon of vanilla. Fold this into chocolate mixture.

Pour into the springform pan and bake for 40 mins. Cool on wire rack 10 minutes, then with a thin blade, run around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake before releasing the springform. Cool completely before serving. May be served with whipped cream (you can also buy soy-based whipped cream.)

Let me know how you like it!

Using agave syrup amendment: 12/28/2011 If you’d like to try making this with agave syrup, replace the 1 cup of xylitol with 3/4 cup of agave, separated.

© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

Self Sufficiency – Not for the Faint of Heart

I apologize to those of you looking for the gluten free beer recipe. You’ll have to wait, because I haven’t been able to get to the brewing process for pictures, yet.

Skinning the steer – yes, that’s war paint on his face

The last two weeks have been full of twelve hour days processing food in one way or another. For decades I have been obsessed with self-sufficiency, at least when it comes to food. And living in Alaska makes doing so difficult in some ways. Our autumn is short. Blink, and the carrots have frozen into the ground. Plus our daylight is disappearing at a rate of over five minutes a day – we are down to about ten hours of daylight if we need to work outside.

But the cool weather is perfect for butchering. We slaughtered my son’s 4-H hog and steer, which surprisingly took only one twelve hour day. Then we cut up and froze the pork while the beef “aged” in the back yard for a week. The quarters hung from a beam set across two industrial strength ladders. Game bags kept the marauding magpies at bay (mostly – the cheap game bag made of a stretchy material had several suspicious holes in it along the suet line, so I think little beaks may have nibbled a few bits. We cut those portions away.)

From quarter to burger

Sausage patties

Once we began butchering, it took us five full days of work to reduce all four quarters to neat little packages for the freezer.

Stew meat

Breakfast patties

Freezer packages

I’m no professional butcher, but my cookbook has pictures of cuts of meat with a labeled picture of what part of the animal they come from, so I am pretty pleased with our results. Last night we ate bacon wrapped Filet Mignon and maybe it was all the hard work, but I’ve never had better.

This isn’t mine – we ate too fast to get a photo

There is something intensely satisfying with setting a table prepared with food all raised by my own hand. I know if the world falls apart (like in Botanicaust) I’ll be able to at least feed my family.

And while I may not have been writing while bringing in all this food, I have been gathering ideas for future books along the way. Maybe I’ll figure out how to make leather 🙂

Salting the hide

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© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

Cancer

Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately. A dear friend has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She is one of the most confidant people I know, unafraid to try new things and explore life. Only last week she was hiking a mountain. I went dancing with her a month ago.

And now she has cancer.

Ovarian cancer is one of the most difficult to detect until it has progressed to significant levels. She’s at stage three. The cancer cells have spread beyond her ovaries. The doctor found and removed growths from several locations, but likely there are other cancerous spots as yet undetected. My friend has undergone two surgeries, and now faces chemotherapy.

And she is afraid. We all are.

What can she do, in addition to surgery and chemotherapy? I’m thinking diet may help. I just watched an interesting TED video on angiogenesis, the process our bodies use to grow blood vessels. Cancer cells can’t grow without a blood supply, and apparently studies show that certain foods can help control abnormal blood vessel growth, which supplies cancer cells. She is already on this path, having bought a juicer a couple of days ago.

So I encourage you, dear readers, get your annual check up. Encourage your loved ones to do the same. Listen to your body. Eat right.

And always live today as if it might be your last.

© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

How to Malt Buckwheat for Beer

I think a lot about food. I raise as much of my own as I can, and I love cooking. As a primary need, food drives almost every aspect of life. The thought of food shortages inspired my writing for Botanicaust. In a world where food is scarce, people need to preserve any excess for the lean times. Hence the invention of salting, pickling, smoking, fermenting, and brewing. I imagine most of these methods came about by accident.

In the case of beer making, ancient people would store barley, only to find it had sprouted in storage, most likely too early to plant. In an attempt to salvage the food stores, they dried the grain, and somewhere along the way, it got wet, fermented, and someone said, “Hey, this is pretty good shtuff!”

Beer-makers today have it easy. Malt comes in extract form, ready to add hops and start brewing. But for those of us who are gluten intolerant, beer making is more complicated. Sure, we can use just sorghum or rice syrup, but for a truly full beer flavor, we need to combine several different grains.

Here I’m going to describe how to make malted buckwheat to add to gluten-free beer wort. Why bother to malt it? The process of sprouting a grain causes enzymes in the grain to convert starches to sugars, thereby making it easier for the yeast to turn it into alcohol. The malted grain also changes the flavor of the beer. You can use this process to malt almost any grain.

To begin, buy about a pound of raw buckwheat groats at your local health food store. Rinse and soak the buckwheat in clean water for about six hours, like beans. They will swell to twice their size. Rinse them well (they will be starchy) and drain them. Then put them in a loosely covered bowl (I used a sprouting jar – the same kind used for alfalfa sprouts) and let them sit at room temperature for two days, rinsing every eight hours or so. They will begin to grow a root, called a radicle.

Once the radicle is twice as long as the seed, spread the seed in a thin layer on paper towels to dry. After they are dry, pour them off the paper towels onto cookie sheets and place them in a 170˚F oven. Stir frequently until they are lightly toasted (10 minutes or so, depending on how dark you want them.) Go ahead and taste a couple if you want to.

Cool, and finish drying them in a paper bag for another week. Now they are malted and ready for beer! .

Coming soon How to Make Gluten Free Beer.

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© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

How To Make Fermented Garlic Dill Pickles

With the height of summer finally releasing a bounty of cucumbers, I thought I’d share with my readers my recipe for old-fashioned garlic dill pickles. These are great because they are not too salty, and just pleasantly sour. I’ve made this recipe for years, and keep the jars in the fridge (yes, they take up a lot of space, but there is nothing like a fresh, never-been-cooked pickle.) Canning is an option, but it inevitably takes away some of the fresh crispness that make these pickles so wonderful. Make sure you scrub all your utensils and crock before starting in order to prevent unwanted bacterial growth. To be extra sure, I do a final rinse of the crock with boiling water.

To make the brine, in a gallon crock or jar, mix together

8 cups water

¼ cup pickling salt (do not use regular table salt)

6 garlic cloves

2 Tablespoons dill seeds

2 Tablespoons mixed pickling spice

2 Tablespoons dried dill weed OR 6 dill heads or sprigs of fresh dill

*optional* 1 small Thai dragon pepper– a Thai dragon pepper will make a very spicy pickle. Any hot pepper will do, or if you don’t like spice, leave it out.

Next, wash and trim 2-3 pounds of pickling cucumbers. Make sure they are young and firm, and cut off about an eighth of an inch at the blossom end. There are enzymes in that end which will make your pickles soft. Add the cucumbers to the crock. If you don’t have quite that many ready, you can wash, trim, and add a few more to the brine over the next two days as they ripen in the garden.

Finally, fill a plastic bag with 1 Tablespoon of pickling salt and 2 cups of water. Seal it and gently lower it into the crock so that it presses all the cucumbers and garlic under the brine. Any not under the fluid will mold and rot instead of ferment. I use salt brine in the bag because one year a bag leaked plain water and diluted the pickle brine, with bad results.

Keep the crock at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. It will take less time if it is warm, and more time if it is cool. Here in Alaska, my house stays about 68ºF all summer, which is the perfect temperature for fermentation. Check the crock every day. If any scum develops at the top of the brine, skim it off.

After three days, taste a pickle, and if it is good, drain the brine and boil it in a non-aluminum pan for 5 minutes. Let it cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, re-pack the pickles into sterile quart jars. Once the brine is cool, pour it back over the pickles, put a sterile lid on, and store them in the refrigerator. They keep for me all winter. Unrefrigerated, these pickles only keep about a week because they are low salt, so eat ‘em, cool ‘em, or can ‘em!

Anyone else make pickles? What is your favorite?

PS I forgot to add that sometimes if I want a more sour pickle, I will add about a quarter cup of white vinegar (NOT cider) to each quart of pickles when I pour the boiled brine in the re-packed jars.

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© Tam Linsey, 2011. All rights reserved.

Here’s a great photo of finished pickles.