Monday, April 28, 2014

How to Kill a Catfish

Those of you who have been reading my blog up to this point may be tempted to believe that homesteading is nothing more than eating homemade food, doing cute crafts, and keeping house.  Those things are important, but it's time that I expose a not so pretty fact of life(on the farm): we omnivores eat living creatures.

While many urban and suburban never have the opportunity to raise and butcher their own meat, most people have been fishing,even if just to cast a line and relax by the water. Cleaning fish is a good introduction to processing your own meat. So If you are not squeamish keep reading and I will show you how to clean a catfish.
I'll start with a recipe for fried catfish just in case you opt for store bought fish filets.
Cornmeal  Fried Catfish
2 filets per adult
1 per child
enough buttermilk to soak fish
enough cornmeal to coat fish
about a teaspoon cayenne pepper per 2 cups
about a teaspoon of salt per cup cornmeal
enough peanut oil to fry fish
Soak fish at least an hour up to overnight.
Dredge fish in cornmeal mixture.
Meanwhile, heat peanut oil in a deep skillet or
deep fryer. Cook fish for about 5 minutes per
side.Allow to drain on brown paper.
Eat hot with biscuits or hushpuppies.

Springtime is a wonderful time of year to fish. Our pond is teaming with catfish, bluegill and ,I suspect, bass. My children caught 27 fish last week. I let them keep about 10 which we fried up on Friday.

If you have a teenage boy(or girl) you can put him in charge of the whole process, he'll probably beg for the opportunity.

First, get a large cutting board and a sharp fillet knife.

If your fish is alive when you're ready to clean him you'll need to stun him so he won't squirm during the process.
To do this,hold him by the tail and whack him against the cutting board a few times.

The next step is my least favorite, cutting off the head. Hold the fish firmly by its middle and just above the fin saw a few times to get through the bones, the head will come off easily after the bones are broken.

After the head is off the guts need to be removed. To do this, flip the fish over and with the tip if your knife or a pair of kitchen shears slice or cut down to the anus(a small hole near the tail of your fish)being careful not to pierce any of the organs.

Use your hands and pull out all of the guts. You can bury or compost these, we fed them to our pigs.

Cat fish have no scales,however most other fish do. There are de scalers that you can buy at sporting goods shops or with a sharp knife, scrape your fish against the scales until they are all removed.
Other than cat fish I usually leave the head on.

When your fish is gutted, beheaded,and descaled, rinse it well in cool water.
Place it on ice until you are ready to cook it.
The flavor of catfish improves if you soak in buttermilk for a few hours.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pine Needle Basket

Yesterday I finally finished the pine needle basket that I had been working on for over a year.
I have some projects that have taken longer due to lack of time or loss of interest. However this one was due to lack of materials.

My home town in Florida is just filled with the most wonderful long, thick, and dark brown pine needles.
I can gather enough to complete a good sized basket in a matter of minutes.

Here in Virginia everyone tells me that they have plenty of pine needles. I have a forest of them myself. Sorry to complain, but these pine needles are a pain in the butt to work with. They are skinny,brittle,and half the size of my Florida pine needles.

If any of my Virginia friends know what Florida pines are like and thinks they have the right kind of tree please let me know, or if any of my generous readers back home have a tree and a box,I would be deeply indebted to you for sending me some. In the mean time, I plan to experiment with sage grass.

 Pine needle basketry is my absolute favorite craft and so simple. It is more appropriately called coiled basketry; any pliable material can be used including tall grasses,straw,cattails, and rushes. I just happen to think that the most aesthetic medium is pine needles.

I will will be starting a new coiled basket in a few days(or weeks) and demonstrate step by step on how to sew a coiled basket. For today, I will do things backwards and show you finish a coiled basket. Often times thrift shops and garage sales are laden with baskets that could use a little refinishing.

There are a few different ways to add waterproof and shine to  a basket. My favorite is using beeswax and paraffin.
First, I put on leather gloves and run my hand around the basket to remove any sharp ends or loose needles.
After the basket is smooth I shred equal amounts of paraffin and beeswax and melt them in a double boiler or makeshift double boiler.

The next step is to thoroughly coat the basket with the melted wax. I use a cheap short bristled paint brush.
It will look really ugly. Don't worry, it'll melt.
To melt the wax set your oven on the absolute lowest setting and place the basket on a newspaper or brown paper lined baking sheet. Put the basket in the oven and check every 5 minutes to see if all the wax is melted into the needles.

When the wax is melted remove your basket from the oven and rub it real well with a rag.
Allow it to cool and polish it with the rag once again. It should be shiny and firm.
Alternatively, you can melt the wax in a hot car or greenhouse. Be creative!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Italian Fried Doghnuts

The last time I posted, I wrote about once a month cooking. So I have a lovely freezer full of food and what happens? I run out of propane. I do not own a microwave and my stove and oven run off of gas. So last week I could only cook on an electric skillet.Oh Well. The propane company refilled the tank yesterday so I can finally make use of my well prepared freezer.

Last week was Holy Week, the last week of lent. Lent,the 40 days preceding Easter, is a time of a prayer,fasting,and almsgiving. Traditionally Christians "give something up" for lent. Our family gave up sweets.

Lent officially ends the Saturday before Easter at noon so armed with only an electric I had to think of a sweet treat to make to break our fast.

Fortunately, I remembered one of my favorite childhood treats that my Grandfather used to make during the Easter season, Italian fried doughnuts (Zeppole,or crispelle.)

My Grandparents always found a way to tell people how healthy their desserts were.  My grandmother would always tell us exactly what we were eating.  “There are fresh eggs, whole wheat, milk, butter, and no chemicals in here,” she would say in her musical New York/Italian voice. Grandpa’s cake (or whatever it was we were eating) made a wholesome breakfast according to grandma.

 These doughnuts may not have a heart healthy seal of approval from the FDA, however they are Grandma Grimaldi approved, easy to make, and perfect to break any fast or diet with. Italians traditionally serve them on the feast of St. Joseph, March 19, at Easter, and on picnics. They are usually served for dessert with coffee, but rarely for breakfast.

Italian Fried Doughnuts

6 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup sugar
3 eggs
¼ cup olive oil
Water about 2 ½ cups
1 quart of peanut (or other suitable oil) for deep frying
Powdered or cinnamon sugar for dusting

In the bowl of a mixer add flour, yeast, salt and sugar.
Scramble the eggs with the olive oil in a separate bowl.
With the dough hook attachment turn the mixer on low to incorporate the dry ingredients.

With the mixer running, add the egg/oil mixture and as much water as you need to make a cohesive dough. 
The dough should be sticky but hold together.

Knead the dough by machine for about 10 minutes. Scrape the mixing bowl a few times to ensure full incorporation of ingredients. 

Next, cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to rise in a warm location for about 2 hours.

When the dough has risen oil your hands with a little olive oil and sprinkle the counter with a bit of flour.

Knock down the dough. To form the doughnuts, pinch small pieces of dough and form into balls about half as big as you want your doughnuts to be.  Palm size is just about right but some people like them smaller.

Allow the doughnuts to rise for about half an hour more.

Meanwhile in a deep skillet, frying pan, or deep fryer add the frying oil. Heat the oil to about 400 degrees.

Being careful not to overcrowd them, place the doughnuts in the hot oil. Cook them for about 3 minutes per side until they are golden brown.

When they are cooked, drain them on brown paper for a few minutes.

Finally, sprinkle them with powdered sugar or roll them in cinnamon sugar. They’re also delicious with fresh jam.

These are best served piping hot. 

I hope you had a blessed Easter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Once a Month Cooking

    I was first introduced to once a month cooking after the birth of my first child. I checked a book out from the library that promised that I could could cook for a day and eat for a month.
    I must admit I was a bit disappointed because most of the recipes included ingredients that I was trying to avoid such as condensed soups and bottled barbecue sauces. I was also skeptical about the quality of reheated frozen food. So I returned the book and forgot about once a month cooking for a few years.
     I did a little bit of extra cooking and freezing things like chili and lasagna before the births of each of my children but nothing like once a month cooking.
    Fast forward to last year amidst moving to a new house/farm, homeschooling 3 children,chasing a toddler, and nursing an infant, and a husband who commuted 1 hour+ to work, I was overwhelmed. Spending an hour every night to get dinner on the table was a real challenge to say the least.
    Well  I was at the library one night browsing through the cookbooks and I happened to come upon the cookbook that I checked out 13 years prior.  I decided that I had to try it, I would just make up my own recipes and use the book as a guide.
    I went home and googled once a month cooking and  was thrilled to find the website Once a Month Meals.It does a whole seasonal meal plan every month and a variety of menus, traditional, whole food, paleo, diet, gluten free/dairy free, and vegetarian. It has a monthly fee but I figure we save time and money by eating this way so it pays for itself.
    Today was my cooking day. I cooked 7 double batch meals.  The last few days I put together 7  more. That equals 28 meals total. This usually takes about 10 hours to pull off  in one day.
     Yes, 10 hours is a long day so you can break it down
like I did into a once a month cooking week. But the advantage to doing all the cooking in one day is that all chopping and  prep work for all the recipes can be done at once ,and only one giant (I mean GIANT)clean up needs to be done.
          Be prepared, few bloggers or writers are brave enough to take pictures of their dirty dishes and let the world see them, but here it is the reason I love once a month cooking. My kitchen only looks this bad once a month....                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
nice clean dishes 

  Now this is what I have to look forward to all month.