Rettland Farm

Rettland Farm

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Joint Lard Adventure, Part 2

A few weeks back, you may remember, I mentioned a little partnership we had gotten into with our friend Christine, who had been interested in getting her hands on some lard.

You might also remember that Christine, after learning that we didn't sell lard for several reasons, willingly, innocently, agreed to make her own at home.  And as an added bonus, she agreed to document the process for all of the rest of us.

Confession time.  I have made lard before.  I KNEW it wasn't quite as easy peasy as all the rustic homesteader or the foodie snob websites made it out to be.  And I also knew that it was a little...odiferous.

Stink?  No, not really, at least not to me.  But imagine the most intense musky, meaty, porky smell you've ever experienced.  Now double it.  And NOW you're in the ball park.

Throughout history, lard was probably rendered outside in the summer kitchen of the farmstead or even in the open air, in the dead of winter (cause that's when hogs were butchered), in a big open kettle over an actual fire.  No intense odors in the house while rendering it, or lingering of said odors inside said house for days thereafter.  Trouble is, most folks these days don't have a summer kitchen, or feel the urge to cook pioneer style in a cast iron kettle over open fire.

So I had the idea of modernizing the process and using that ubiquitous household appliance, a slow cooker, to slowly render the lard.  By doing so, we'd be able to put the whole operation and all its' intense eau de porkiness, outside.

I made this suggestion to Christine, and she RAN with it.

And I have to say, I think she has written some of the best Food writing I've ever read. I sincerely hope that this post of hers gets thousands of hits, because it's the real deal when it comes to rendering lard.  Her theme of "Hey, making lard ain't pretty, easy, or fun.  But it's worth it." is spot on, in my humble opinion. 

Check out her full post here. And then add it to your favorites.

And one last note:  I've been playing this as some kind of partnership or joint venture between Christine  and I.  It's not.  She did all of the research and all of the work.  She was the one jarring up liquid pork fat at midnight a few weeks ago, not me.  I'm just some farmer guy who gave up some pork fat.

Thanks Christine!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chicken CSA, 2013

It's hard to believe, but we are exactly one week away from the first day-old chicks arriving on the farm, which signals the official kick off for the 2013 Chicken crop here at Rettland Farm.

One of many jobs that has to be done to prepare for the season is to roll out and fill up our CSA 2013. You might remember that CSA means "Chicken Subscription Arrangement" here at Rettland Farm. (For the full story of our CSA, check here.) We put the CSA idea together for the 2012 season, and had a nice number of brave souls who gave it a shot. I think I can say that it was an overwhelming success, and that it was a really great experience for both the members and for me.

After getting some feedback from last year's members, I've made a few minor changes for this year. Most notable will be that we will provide the chickens in different forms this year, instead of just a whole bird every week. This should provide a nice little element of suspense, as you pull open the CSA fridge door and see just what form your bird is in this week! 

One thing that DID NOT change is the price per share. We are offering the CSA shares for the same weekly cost as last year, and guaranteeing the same minimum weight. Thought you might like to know that...

So, without further delay, here's the nitty gritty for CSA 2013:

1. Why are we offering our chickens this way? I want to operate a CSA that provides fresh chickens for my members on a weekly basis. It ensures my members a supply of fresh food, and provides me with a stable, known quantity of products that I have to grow every week. I also think that this arrangement will strenghten relationships between farmer and eater, which is something that is important to me.

2. How does it work? Each "share" in the CSA will entitle the member to 1 pastured broiler chicken each week, usually unfrozen, and packaged in plastic bags. The bird may be whole, in parts, halved, or otherwise cut to provide variety in the share. The form every week will be at my discretion, and all shares will be the same.

3. What are the specifics on the chickens? This CSA will produce pastured broiler chickens, weighing approximately 4.0 lbs or more, but not less than 3.5 lbs. These chickens will typically be commercial white broiler chickens. The diet for the chickens, besides pasture, will contain whole grains (excluding corn), oilseeds, and vitamins and minerals. All processing of the chickens will occur on the farm, and be done by the farmer and/or farm employees.

4. When will the CSA begin? End? The CSA will provide fresh food to the members every week from early to mid-May, run for 30 weeks through the summer and end sometime in November.

5. Where is the pick up location? The member will pick up their share at the farm, located outside of Gettysburg, PA once per week, every Saturday from 12pm until 7pm. We are also in discussions to have a drop location in the Baltimore metro area, specifically in or near Hampden. If you are from the Baltimore area and are interested in this location, PLEASE let me know. We will need a minimum number of members to make this location work, so let me know EARLY if you are interested!

6. What is the cost? The cost for 1 share in the CSA for 2013, with the share being picked up at the farm will be $14 per week for a period of 30 weeks, for a total cost of $420. For the Baltimore location, the cost for one share in 2013 will be $16 per week, for 30 weeks, for a grand total of $480. (The extra cost is needed to cover the cost of refrigerated transportation). The total cost of the share will be paid by April 1, 2013, with a minimum 50% deposit due by March 1, 2013. If you are interested in the CSA, but will have trouble complying with this schedule, please contact me. We will consider all offers for alternative payments and payment schedules.

7. One share not enough? So your family eats more than one chicken a week, eh? OR, you are a planner and want to stock up on chickens for the winter while we are actively growing them in the summer? Good for you. Simply order as many shares as fits your needs. If that is TOO many chickens, there will be additional chickens available for purchase at retail prices when available.

8. Other benefits? Some CSAs do cool things like share recipes for harder to cook items. I'd like to teach people how to break down chickens into pieces, as some families prefer. Share tips for making stock (a must when you have access to fresh, flavorful whole chickens). Spend an hour with us on a harvesting day. Get a personalized tour of the chicken pastures. I'd be willing to do any or all of these things, if the interest was there. Anything to build a food community around our humble little chicken enterprise, and a sense of ownership for the members. What ideas do you have??

So what do you think?

Can you dig a fresh, premium, pastured chicken in your oven every week this summer?

Yeah, thought so.

So send me an email and get yourself on the list!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Teaming Up for Lard, Part 1

I sometimes get requests from home cooks for lard.  We haven't had a processor that was willing to make lard for us for several years, and when we did, we couldn't guarantee that the lard we received was from OUR hogs.  That's a deal killer for me (for many reasons, some of which you'll soon learn), so we stopped having lard made.

So a week ago I got a similar request for lard from Christine, a great friend of the Farm.  I gave her the standard answer. "No, we don't sell lard.  But I have pork fat, and you can use that to make your own."  After I give most people that answer, they usually thank me kindly, and that's the end of that.

But not Christine.  She was up for the challenge. And further, she was willing to document the WHOLE process for me, so I could share it here for other people to use in future lard-rendering excursions.

And that added bonus is that Christine is a blogger herself, and so she knows all the cool tricks about inserting pictures and hyperlinks and all the other blogger tricks that make reading a blog more interactive.  (You might notice I'm not so good at those things myself.  But I'm working on it.  Promise)

So, check out Christine's first of several posts on the what's why's and how's of lard making. 

And stay tuned.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Share-A-Swine, Second Month

We're already doing our second monthly pickup for the Rettland Farm Share-A-Swine program.  Below is the email I sent to the members, describing what is in their share this month.

I posted it for two reasons.  First, to show you what a typical monthly share looks like, in case we decide to do it again in the future, and in case you might want to participate then.  (Wink, wink.  Nudge, nudge!)

Second, to illustrate that there is so much more to eating pork than chops and tenderloins.  The pig is a culinary dream, and we as a society have been taught to accept lean, dry, flavorless meat based on an irrational fear of fat. 

We need to get back to eating "everything but the squeal!"

The Email:

Greetings everyone,

I thought you might like a preview for tomorrow's CSA pickup (here at the farm, 11am-2pm). I just finished packing it up, and we have some new things in there to share!

Sausage--Same variety as last month. Great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! New variety (ies) next month.

Bacon--Enough said.

Pork Shoulder Steaks--These steaks are cut from the very flavorful, but slightly tougher shoulder of the pig. They will be best if you cook them SLOWLY and with some liquid, like in a stew or braise.

Ham Hock, smoked--A few of you may find these in your package instead of the shoulder steaks. They are definitely a soup/flavoring item, and will make some insane ham and bean soup, or use it to braise greens like collards (I just made these last week with Northern White beans and they were AWESOME) or cabbage.

Ground Pork--We love to add this to our lean grass finished ground beef, and make a mean meatloaf or some burgers (Super Bowl Party idea!) Or, use it as a blank slate to make your own sausage at home, just add salt and spices. Also a nice alternative to beef in a weeknight pasta sauce.

Minute Steaks--These are one of our original products, so far, so you may not have encountered these yet. We slice the meat paper thin so it will thaw and cook in no time, great for weeknight meals when you're rushed. It is incredible when cooked with garlic and onions, salt, pepper, and/or cheese. We use them at home for a twist on Philly Cheesesteaks, or chop them for pork tacos or stir fry. They are a fun product, and I think you'll really enjoy them!

Hope this helps. See you all tomorrow!

Rettland Farm