KW Homestead

Emma & Jason's pasture raised poultry, homesteading thoughts, and wild adventures.

Month: April 2016

Video Tour: Checking In On the Chicks, Turkeys, Ducks, and Piglets!

We have a lot of exciting things happening here at the homestead, with babies being born and gardens growing!

Check out this brief video tour to see what’s happening:

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Meet Ruby and Dani: Dexter Cows

After having our cows for a little while, we’ve finally become used to them and we thought that it was time to share a video with you so that you could meet them too!

Ruby and Dani (formerly known as Dutchess) have been in our lives for about a month. I was amazed at how large they are (even though they are a smaller breed of cattle than the average US varieties), and it took me weeks to feel comfortable near them.

Being used to pigs, it was a shock to learn how laid back they truly are. Pigs are naturally skittish and jumpy but cows are more relaxed and trusting of your intentions. They don’t always love what you’re doing, but they don’t squeal and run away if you make a sudden movement like a pig would.

At first, when they would come close to me (especially Ruby) I imagined that they were getting prepared to bowl me over and trample me to death (that is how ridiculous I am). In actuality, they were simply hoping I was bringing them food (how non-threatening!). I’ve worked around horses before and I know that you have to show them your confidence despite how much larger they are than you. I soon realized that this was necessary in dealing with Ruby and Dani, as well. When Ruby bumps me in hopes that she’ll knock her treat out of my hand, I bump her back and firmly tell her no. She’s starting to get the picture.

After working around them for weeks, scooping poop (which is perhaps one of my favorite homestead chores, no joke!), forking them hay, walking them into new pasture space, I’ve come to love them already. And another aspect of the cow world that I’ve come to love is their smell. Now they smell like home. Perhaps our future farm kids will feel the same?

We chose the Dexter breed for various reasons. They are a Scottish highland breed, and are thus well adapted to terrain that is similar to ours, here in Stokes County, NC. As I already mentioned, they are a smaller breed and therefore require less feed to grow into healthy adults. They are also very thrifty, and are good at foraging for food like the leaves of bushes and brambles as well as grasses.

Most cattle raised today in the US are much larger, but they also are bred for a sole purpose, either being a breed used for milk production or a breed used for meat production. The Dexter cow is great for both, making them a perfect breed of cattle for a small homestead looking for access to meat and milk without the hassle of complicated breeding practices.

We’re already in love with our cows, and we can’t wait to meet the next addition to the cow clan–Ruby’s baby. We’ll keep you posted about this development, as often as we can.

Check out the video below for a chance to meet Ruby and Dani!

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How To: Rendering Your Own Duck Fat

First of all, let me start by saying that cooking with duck fat is about the best choice you can make for your health and your taste buds. Duck fat is versatile and flavorful, it stores for long periods of time in your fridge, and a super long time in your freezer! Fantastically, it can be reused over and over (unlike butter or olive oil) and it has a high smoke point. What’s not to love?!

Duck fat has a rich, creaminess to it that rivals pork fat in “yum factor” and lends a subtle umami to any dish!

We recently rendered our own duck fat from our very own pasture-raised, non-GMO Pekin ducks. The process is simple (really) and since we also sell our unrendered duck fat, you too can make cooking with duck fat a reality!

All you need for rendering duck fat:

  • large pot
  • a few cups of water
  • long-handled, metal, slotted spoon
  • duck skin/fat pieces
  • time (a few hours)

We began with 6 pounds of leftover, trimmed skin pieces from our butchering/portioning process. We placed all of this in a large pot and added some water (a cup or two) to the pot to ensure that the fat and skin wouldn’t burn. Then we turned the pot on low.

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Once you get to this stage, you’re done with the hard part!

All you need to do now is keep an eye on your fat. Over time, you’ll see the fat start to cook out of the skin and the water will begin to evaporate (leaving just the delicious fat).

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In the last stage, the skin with shrink and brown up. This is a sign that your fat is almost ready. Be sure to keep an eye on your fat, especially at this stage, since your little skin-bits are closer to burning, as well.

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Once your skin bits are fully browned, your fat is ready! Remove your pot from the heat and let it cool for A LONG TIME. Keep in mind that fat is way hotter than water. Even though your fat will never reach its boiling point (this is intentional… Don’t let it smoke or boil!) it is going to be roughly TWICE AS HOT as boiling water. So be very safe when handling.

You can use a long-handled, slotted, metal spoon to scoop out your skin-bits, or cracklings. Let them drain over the pot before moving them to a place to dry and cool. Congratulations! As a by product of rendering your fat, you’ve creating the most delicious snack known to mankind: duck skin cracklings. Salt and consume with great decadence!

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In the meantime, continue to let your pot of fat cool. We let our fat cool off for many hours before pouring it into containers for storage. Always be safe!

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6 pounds of skin/fat pieces makes approximately 8 cups of rendered fat. We store ours in a huge container in the fridge and scoop out of it every time we fry eggs, sauté veggies, etc.

And sometimes, when no one else is looking, we sneak a small spoonful of just plain fat. We think of it as “duck fat ice cream.”

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