Tag Archives: farm to table

Brooder Box

Unless you have a broody hen or a capon* to tuck your knew little chicks under, you will need a brooder box to get them started. The new chicks will need to be at 95º which is hard to do unless they are confined to space with a heat lamp.

Brooder Box
Brooder Box in Chicken Coop

My Brooder box is just a wooden box that I rigged a lid over. The lid is attached with hinges to the wall and rests on the box when closed. I placed a latch and loop to it, to be able to hold the lid up to the wall when tending the baby chicks. The box is placed in free standing and can be removed for cleaning or if it is not going to be in use.

Brooder Box Lid Up
Brooder Box Lid Up

I made a rail  in which to attach the heat lamp, it is also removable.  Notice I have a clear heat lamp, they work just as good as the red style. The red style is used to prevent chicks from pecking at another if it gets a wound. The red colored light masks the wound, and makes it less visible.

Chicks in their temporary, heated home
Chicks in their temporary, heated home

It is important to keep the chicks supplied with fresh drinking water, and food at all times. Their small bodies need consistency at this young age. Paper or wood chips are the best substrates to use in your brooder box. I start out with paper and when they start to eat well out of the feeder, I switch to more wood chips.

*Capon– When chickens were kept on almost every farm for food and eggs, capons were an important component. Capons are surgically castrated roosters.  A flock with too many roosters is not a healthy flock. Too many roosters over stress the hens, They can become mean and aggressive, and their meat grows tough and stringy with age. Surgically castrating the roosters made them docile and more hen-like.  Plus the added bonus was in the meat quality, the reduction of hormones allowed the capon to continue to grow to a bigger size and retain a great quality of meat. Before the popularity of the genetically engineered Cornish crosses, the capon was the sought after bird for the table. Capons were once shipped all over the country and sold at a premium.

If you would like to read more about capons, let me know in the comment section.

 


 

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Makin’ Bacon Trial #1

Curintg Pork Bellies
Pork Belly in bag with cure mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, I started making bacon last night. I separated out 5 lbs. of pork belly to cure. I have 2 packages that are about 2.5lbs. each in the fridge curing. I am  already excited to taste the final product.

I did some reading and compiled the information that I found into one recipe and process for making my own bacon. I went with a brown sugar and salt cure mix with some additions.

The working part of the cure is the salt. Salt removes moisture and prevents spoiling. Sugar is added for flavor and to smooth out the roughness of the salt.  Other spices and flavorings can be added to suit your individual taste. I added some of my favorite pork spices like garlic, pepper, cloves, and some liquid smoke.

It is important to measure out the correct amount of Curing Salt #1 for the weight of the pork. Curing salt ( Pink Salt) is used to retain the red meat color and to prevent botulism. There are recipes that do not include pink salt, but to obtain the  true flavor for bacon it is needed.

I decided to add the curing salt to my mix last. I mixed all the ingredients in one bowl for the entire batch of pork. And of course, I tasted the mix to get a feel for what the flavors would be. (One of the reasons to add the Pink salt last, don’t taste test after the pink salt is added.)  I then weighed the separate portions of meat that went into each seal-able  bag and figured the amount of Cure #1 for each bag. I separated out the amount of mix I wanted in each bag and then mixed in the curing salt at that time. This way my flavor profile for the mix was consistent, and I knew that the correct amount of Cure #1 was added to each portion of meat.

I rubbed down the pork belies with the cure mix while they were sealed in the bag. the cure mix will draw out the moisture from the meat and infuse some of the flavor from the spices. A brine will form in the bag over the next few days. I will turn the bags over each day and rub the mixture into the meat. As the meat cures and the moisture is removed the meat will shrink slightly and start to firm up a bit.

Before the weekend, I will check the meat and see if it is uniformly firmed up, or if some areas feel like they need more salt. I can always add a little  more salt (not pink salt) to draw out more moisture, or I can allow a bit more time for the process to complete.

Once the curing is complete my next step will be to rinse off the cure.  I will then work on getting our bacon smoked. I can’t wait until next weekend when I fire up the smoker. I will let you know how t goes.