Category Archives: Pastured Poultry

Producer Profile: Abundant Acres

I’ve recently dipped my toes into rabbit as a means of keeping backyard meat but decided to wait a bit.  It’s true you can buy rabbit from Bill the Butcher but what a sham that turned out to be. The Bill the Butcher expose only strengthened my resolve even further to know the person raising my meat animals, know their living conditions, and know the processing method and circumstances around the animal’s death.

I’ve scrutinized farmer Brad for months now about the living conditions and the livestock feed and feel pretty comfortable recommending him. He traveled to Polyface Farms in 2008 and met briefly with Daniel Salatin before starting up his rabbit operation, attempting to make it as sustainable as possible.

A quick blurb about the ideals they strive for on the farm:

Abundant Acres Farms is the result of many years of thought, research and learning. We are committed to providing our family, friends and customers the freshest and finest pastured meats.

Located in Toledo, WA our farm was originally homesteaded in 1935. We purchased the farm from the son of the original homesteaders! At nearly 40 acres, there is plenty of fresh air, grass and water for all the animals to express their natural instincts–a trait we hope to foster and encourage.

We will never be a mass producer, rather a “boutique” for more discriminating folks who care about their family, food origin and nutritional value.

Our logo “Ceres” (pronounced Series) is the ancient Roman goddess of plants. As we are a pasture based farm, grass quality is the foundation of our farm. We seek to use rotational grazing to naturally fertilize the fields, our flock of hens will work in the manure and insure bugs and flies are kept in check.

All animals are brooded on the farm in Toledo, Washington. They begin lives on conventional feed but are moved onto grass and local, unsprayed oats and alfalfa as soon as possible.

Farmer Brad raises chickens, ducks, geese, turkey, rabbits and occasionally pigs. You can email cereshill@yahoo.com for pricing or to reserve meat animals. He also sells breeding rabbits.

We thoroughly enjoyed our rabbits from him and I got a duck for my birthday dinner which I’ll be posting on soon I hope. It was amazing dark meat – the perfect thing for a special occasion. I’m looking forward to a fine Dickensian goose for Christmas and perhaps a steamed pudding to go with it.

Have you thought much about your Thanksgiving meal? Cascade Harvest Coalition always hosts an eat local contest with some pretty nifty prizes. Now is the time to be thinking about stocking your larder and freezer for fall and winter eats and farmer Brad is a great place to start!

Can of Casserole – Scratch Style

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I have to admit back in the day I called this the Can of Casserole because it involved opening a can of cream of chicken soup, a can of olives, a can of Rotelle, a can of green chile peppers and buying a pre-roasted chicken or poaching a Costco chicken breast while I was opening all those cans. At one point in my life, and I shudder to admit this, I even used crushed Fritos as the base layer.

Boy have times changed. I do still shop at Costco – it’s a great place to buy cases of Northwest wine and beer, Beecher’s or Tillamook cheese, organic sugar and maple syrup. But that’s my consumable limit there.

My challenge since taking this local pledge is to replace as many of my family’s comfort foods with “from scratch” options as possible. In this case that has meant figuring out how to make things like tortillas from scratch and replace canned items with home grown and home canned things.

And while I do generally make all our tortillas from scratch, either using Wardeh’s spelt tortillasor the recipe on the back of the Bob’s masa harina bag for corn tortillas. I even went so far as to nixtamalize dent corn from Oregon last year and grind it in the food processor but I’m trying to take a step back this year and regain some balance in my life so I broke down and bought corn tortillas. I don’t know where the corn was grown or where they were made so it was a bitter pill to swallow but something has to give and that seemed a good place to push this week.

I’ve previously mentioned I like to make build upon meals where one night you roast a chicken (or two or three while you are at it) and successive nights you turn that into new meals lest your family mutiny. I do this not really to save money because sometimes pastured meat costs less than other things you may fortify it with, like local cheese in this case. The chicken was $4.50 per pound but the Beecher’s cheddar, even through Costco was $8 per pound. However, eating cheese and eggs seems more sustainable in the long run to me than consuming lots of meat which it sometimes feels like we do in excess while trying to eat locally.

Just over a year ago we were very close to becoming vegetarian in response to learning the truth about what we were eating. Instead, we decided to learn everything we could about food and only buy it from ethical and local farmers. Surprisingly, meat is one of the cheapest things we eat now. Pastured meat is cheaper even than local, organic legumes!

So build upon meals represent shortcuts for me more than monetary savings, although sometimes they also represent huge monetary savings in the case of bone broth that become the basis of other extremely frugal meals.

The Can of Casserole is one of those meals that can be frugal to make from scratch but can cost a small fortune when you are buying all those cans! I used to buy a rotisserie chicken, use the meat and throw away the carcass ($2.5 for half of the chicken), can of olives ($2.50), can of Rotelle ($3), can of green chilies ($2), can of cream of chicken soup ($2), container of sour cream ($3) and bag of tortillas ($3). I’m just guessing at these prices since it’s been so long now so if you think these numbers are way off feel free to let me know. That totals $18 to make this casserole.

I can now make it for $12 using all local, organic (Beecher’s is not organic in certification but is organic in practice), pastured chicken and home grown food. That represents purchased corn tortillas ($3), 1/3 roasted pastured chicken ($5), 1/4 pound Beechers ($2), home canned green tomato/chili sauce ($1), home cured olives ($.25), milk ($.75) and pennies for 2 tablespoons of flour, butter and odd spices. Not bad for a meal that feeds my family for several nights. You could make this even more frugal (shave off $2) by making the corn tortillas from scratch and omitting the olives since I recognize not everyone wants to cure their own olives. Also I buy local, raw milk which costs considerably more than buying organic dairy pool milk at the store so you could get this down even more by replacing the milk in this recipe (shave off another $.25 that way.)

That means what was costing $18 to make using highly processed ingredients of dubious quality and supporting food corporations I disagree with could cost $9.50 to make using all organic, local, pastured real foods. Granted it takes a little longer to make it this way but in all honesty if you are using leftover roast chicken and buying the tortillas it takes about 15 minutes to make the sauce – not too much longer than it takes to open, empty and rinse out all those cans for the recycling bin. You saved much longer than 15 minutes by not making a last minute trip to the store so you’ve got time to spare.

If you wanted to make this vegetarian you could easily replace the chicken with black or pinto beans but that would change the costs. Buying organic but non-local black beans would bring the cost down even further while buying organic local black beans might raise it.

Now on to the recipe…which is really a non-recipe. That allows you to use what you have in your freezer and pantry which is where things really get frugal. Cooking with what you have is lesson #1 in frugality.

Begin by making a white sauce. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan. Add 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk until they are blended. Cook them for several minutes. The mixture will begin resembling mashed potatoes.

making-roux

Add 2 cups of milk, whisking to smooth out the lumps and cook for about 10 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken. At that point you can add your spices – roast garlic or garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, oregano, grated cheese and/or home canned chilies or salsa to your taste.

chili-cheese-sauce

Spread one layer of corn tortillas (or polenta) in a lasagna pan. Over that scatter your cubed or shredded chicken, any corn of other veggies (squeezed of excess water) from your freezer and about 2/3 of your sauce.

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Cover that with another layer of corn tortillas or polenta. Top that with the remainder of your white sauce base and a generous layer of shredded sharp cheddar or other cheese. Queso fresco would be great here as well. I like to sprinkle chili powder or paprika on the top cheese layer because I like the added depth it gives to the cheese.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven until the sauce begins to bubble and it’s warmed through, about 45 minutes. This is another of those casseroles that you could assemble the night before and pop into the oven day of, or it could be frozen in smaller sizes for a future convenience dinner.

chicken-green-chili-enchiladas

How about you? Do you have any “can of” casseroles? I bet if you used this white sauce as the foundation to replace any of the creamed soups you could convert legacy recipes just like this. In fact, I’m thinking of going to the Rotelle website to get more casserole ideas for my green tomato chile sauce which I canned last summer and to the Cambpbell’s soup website to get more ideas for creamy casseroles like this since my family loves them.

Rockridge Orchard Apple Cider Smoked Turkey

 smoking-turkey

Inspired by the blazing lard incident we decided to smoke the turkey this year. It turns out turkey was meant to be smoked. The combination of brine and low cooking temperature ensures that even the most horrifically overcooked turkey will come out succulent and moist and fragrantly seasoned with an enticing smoky aroma. The fact that we used local honey and apple cider in the brine probably had something to do with the sweetness of the meat as well.

Sage and thyme are both low fuss herbs that weather our maritime winters well as long as they are in a spot with good drainage. You can keep the plants for several years before they get too woody. At that point you can divide them or replace them with nursery starts. We used our own herbs for this recipe and honey from Tahuya Aviary.

This recipe is based on this one.

Rockridge Orchard Apple Cider Smoked Turkey
Rub:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rubbed sage
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Mix all rub ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

    Brine:

  • 1 gallon filtered water
  • 2 cups sea or kosher salt
  • 3 cups Rockridge Orchards apple cider
  • 1 cup bourbon
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2/3 cup local honey
  • 1 pastured turkey from Pastured Sensations
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups hickory soaked wood chips, or enough to smoke for 4-6 hours depending on the size of your turkey.
  • Mix all the ingredients in a 5 gallon bucket or brew kettle lined with a large plastic bag until the sugar and salt are dissolved. We used the bathroom size one. This steps helps you conserve the amount of brine you need and ensures the turkey remains in the brine the whole time.

    Place the bucket or pot in the refrigerator overnight to brine. Turn the turkey after 3 hours to be sure both sides get brined. We actually just put the turkey breast side down and didn’t worry about brining the back or drumsticks.

    Smoke your turkey at 225 F according to the manufacturer’s directions until a probe thermometer reaches 160 F. Ours took about 5 hours for a 16 pound turkey.

    One important thing about the smoked turkey – if you want gravy you need to place a rack with a bowl under the turkey in order to catch the drippings. I was afraid the smoke would be too strong to make a pleasant gravy but boy was I wrong! It made the most pleasantly memorable turkey gravy I’ve ever had.

    Lemon Chicken on the Grill

    Last week when it was so hot I couldn’t bring myself to cooking indoors so I made an old standby – lemon chicken on the grill. The best part about this chicken (other then the fact that I use Pastured Sensations soy-free and free-range chicken) is that it’s quick and easy and the next day the leftovers make one of my family’s favorite meals – penne with preserved lemons, sauteed or grilled zucchini, basil & leftover lemon chicken.

    This recipe can be made with standard pantry ingredients (lemon juice aside) and comes together with minimal planning.

    About 4 hours before grilling the chicken, or the night before cut it into 6 pieces – drumsticks, thighs and breasts left on the bone. I save the back, neck, and wings for making stock.

    Prepare your marinade.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons of vinegar, preferably white wine
  • 1 teaspoon of grated lemon peel (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Marinade chicken until ready to grill. Grill the chicken, skin side down on a medium low grill (300 degrees farenheit) for 20 minutes. Flip the chicken over and grill for another 20 minutes.

    I have to explain why I am using lemons out of season here. Last winter I bought a case of lemons, planning to juice and freeze it all to use all summer. I got tired of hand juicing them and they’ve been sitting in my fridge this whole time. They are finally starting to mold so now I’m in a mad rush to use them all up. Not a bad predicament to be in since lemonade, ice cream, tart and bars are some of our favorite things to eat in the summer, next to this lemon chicken dish that is!

    Rockridge Cider Roast Chicken

    This is my all time favorite roast chicken recipe – very simple to pull together and intensely flavored.

  • 1 Pastured chicken
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar from Rockridge Orchard
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 – 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 – 2 cups chicken stock
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees farenheit.
    Rinse and dry chicken.
    Mix all the ingredients together to form a thick paste. Gently separate the skin from the meat around the breast cavity and thighs. Rub the spice mixture under the skin of the breasts, thighs and drumsticks if possible but reserve about 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture. Rub some butter on the skin, then the reserved spice mixture on the outside of the bird.

    Place the bird breast side up on a roasting rack placed over a broiling pan and pour the chicken stock in the broiling pan.

    Bake at 325, basting occasionally with chicken stock until the bird reaches at least 165 both at the thickest part of the breast and thickest part of the thigh. Tent the chicken with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

    Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of dry white wine or Rockridge hard cider to make a very intense sauce perfect for drizzling over mashed potatoes.