Tag Archives: turkey

Let the holidays begin

It’s that time of year again! Let me say that again-It’s that time of year again!!!! In case you missed it I love this time of year! The crisp morning air mixed with the aroma of coffee perking and the anticipation of the coming days where the aroma of cinnamon, sage and roasting turkey will fill the cabin, yes I do love the holidays. I have so much to be Thankful for I am almost overwhelmed by the emotions. 

Holidays, for some can mean a time of stress, shopping and fretting over things that won’t matter in the coming years. For all of you reading this I would like to ask a favor-please take a minute to relax, breathe in a deep breath and ask yourself “What kind of memories are we building”? I posed this question to myself years ago and decided that very few fancy decorations and expensive gifts would be remembered in the future BUT laughter, good food and happy times would be traditions that would. With that realization I found freedom. My children have begun getting the holiday bug too with reaching the age where they too can take part in preparing the meal and atmosphere  that takes days to complete. 

Thanksgiving for us has always been a time of sharing and caring. Being off grid some things have changed but the meaning has not. It is a time of Thankfulness and building memories. This year is going to be a turning point for me. My children are already coming into their own with Cati taking on the responsibility of official pie baker  last year was her first “almost by myself” run and this year I will resist all urges to “help” and quietly sit on the sidelines and relinquish that department to her. I have so much to be thankful for but I might add there’s a bit of me that will shed a few silent tears at the thought of my babies growing up. Cami is not much for cooking, she doesn’t have the desire and I don’t push but I am sure she will find a project to commemorate the holiday with. A true artist in mind, body and soul she will create something memorable. Caleb, my youngest son who is at the age where he wants to be a man but still not sure how, will busy himself with getting firewood to keep the stove stoked. Caleb will have the most important job of all. My dear son who is warring with himself right now and looking for the direction he wants to take in life, will provide the most basic element yet the most crucial to keep both our bodies and our hearts warm. I hope each child realizes how each has a unique talent and gift that completes our family circle.

Yesterday we butchered a turkey. Let the preparations begin.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes. 

Cornbread dressing *note* this is one of those recipes that require self adjusting, meaning if you have to add a bit more or reduce the liquid then do so. Begin by baking the cornbread a day or two before. 

Cornbread-2 cups cornmeal, 1 1/2 cup flour, 2 eggs beaten slightly, 1 stick butter melted, 2 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp salt. 2 1/4 cups milk. Mix the dry ingredients then together well then add milk, eggs and butter stirring only until combined-you should have a thick batter.coat a cast iron skillet with oil and sprinkle in some cornmeal to coat bottom before pouring batter in pan. Bake at 350 degrees 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. *note this recipe is not what we call “eatin” cornbread it’s “dressing” cornbread. Cool then crumble into bowl and set aside. ****If you don’t have a cast iron skillet you can use a large cake pan to bake.


Cornbread crumbled

6 cups dried bread crumbs

2 large onions diced

1 bunch diced celery

1 whole clove garlic minced or 2-3 tsp jarred minced garlic

6 eggs slightly beaten

1 stick butter melted

2 pounds breakfast sausage crumbled and cooked and drained

4 cups chicken broth 

2 cups apple juice you can substitute water

2 tbsp rubbed sage

1 tsp salt 

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp poultry seasoning

Optional-1 cup dried apples, 1 cup dried cranberries 1 cup chopped walnuts-I use all 3

Sauté onions and celery until transparent.

Mix it all up well in a large bowl-it should be thick like brownies for a drier dressing or for moister add chicken broth to thin like a cake batter. Pour in a couple large cake pans and bake at 350 for about an hour or until center is firm to the touch. I like to bake some in a loaf pan for later. Remove from pan and wrap in plastic wrap, chill and slice then brown in skillet for breakfast. Served with maple syrup and butter it’s much like scrapple but with a twist!

This makes a huge batch. It freezes well though or you can cut in half.

Brine for turkey-

If you want a turkey that will be moist, tender and look like it came out of a cook book -brine it!

24 hours prior to cooking-

1 1/2 cups canning salt

1 orange unpeeled cut in wedges

1TbSP rubbed sage

1 TBSP minced garlic

1 TBSP dried  rosemary 

Large container like a cooler

Squeeze oranges to juice and toss juice and oranges in container-add remaining ingredients. Add 1/2 gallon hot water and mix thoroughly. Add enough ice to chill.

Place turkey in brine then add ice and water to cover bird. Stir it around to mix brine and let sit 24 hours adding ice if needed to maintain a temp 36-40 degrees. 

To prepare turkey remove from brine and pat dry-butter the entire bird lightly and place in pan breat side down. Add just enough water or broth to pan to cover bottom 1/2 inch. Roast in oven at 325 for 2 hours. Remove from oven and carefully insert 2 meat forks (one in each body cavity) then flip breast side up. Return to oven for remainder of cooking time. It takes about 15 minutes per pound of bird but the easiest way to check for doneness is a meat thermometer inserted in thigh it should read 165

Let bird “rest” 30 minutes covered with foil and a heavy towel before carving.

Turkey Butchering ****Warning graphic pics******

As promised I am sharing our turkey butchering.  Butchering any poultry you must prepare the animals the day before.  No food for 12 hours prior but allow water.  This will make cleaning the birds much easier.  Assemble the following: A very large pot for scalding and a heat source-propane turkey fryers work well. (you can dry pluck but I prefer scalding as it cleans the birds and removes a thin layer of skin where dirt gets trapped).  A second large pot or tub of clean cold water for rinsing after gutting, a propane torch or any source of flame for singeing the pin feathers (optional) sharp knives, a cooler for the dressed bird, a separate tub of cold water for the giblets, neck and feet if you choose to keep those.  A long wire with a weight (3-5 lbs.. sturdy string or twine for tying feet and hanging.  While one person holds the bird with wings pressed against its sides another ties feet together-these pics show my 60 lb. 10 year old daughter holding the 30 lb. bird while hubby ties its feet.  The bird is then hung up and the wire with weight is inserted in the soft tissue under the beak and through the mouth and twisted in place then quickly given a sharp tug.  This will break its neck and put it into shock so it doesn’t feel pain.  We then make a slit below the head (front side) to severe the artery and bleed the bird out.  Allow it to hang at least 10 minutes to bleed out.  You may seem some wing flapping so stay clear as the wings are powerful but it is only muscle contractions at this time. Grab head and pull while making a cut all the way around the base of the head to remove it.  You may encounter a tough cord, this is the spinal cord and just cut through it.

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Once the turkey is bled out untie legs and scald-make sure the water is right at boiling as it will make your job easier. Scald the bird for a couple of minutes pushing it down with feet to completely submerge any feathered areas.  This is the most difficult part as the bird gets much heavier with wet feathers!  Remove and test by pulling some of the leg feathers, if they come out easy then put it on the table breast side up and begin plucking.  I prefer to do wings first while still hot.  These feathers can be difficult.  You will find that when plucking if you leave a few feathers in your fingertips and rub the smaller feathers will roll out.  Some people swear by rubber gloves during this process but I have never been able to work with them on.  Get off as many feathers as you can.  Some new growth or broken feathers can be removed by squeezing (like a pimple) I know-yuck but that is the way it is and unless you want to find out what cooked feathers taste like you will get them out.  Some feathers are very small almost hairlike and that’s when using the torch comes in handy as it burns them off leaving a tiny back spot that will wash away.

Once you have plucked and singed put bird breast side up on table with neck facing you, grab the skin on the neck and slide down.  Cut this skin off 3 -4 inches from the body then push it back against body.  Holding bird with one hand stretch out the neck as far as you can.  This will separate the neck bones and make removal easier.  as close to the body as you can slice through the flesh all the way around the base of the neck and set down your knife.  If you have some help holding bird this will be much easier. Grab the neck and twist then with tip of knife sever any tissue that is still connected.  An alternative way to do this is to use large garden clippers to cut through the neck.

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Once this is completed take your fingers and slide along the skin on the right side and separate the craw from the attaching tissues and pull this out (this is why no food for 12 hours, an empty craw is much cleaner to deal with).cut it off and discard.

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Turn the bird around still breast side up and at the knee joint slice through at the bend and snap backwards to reveal the inside of joint and cut the tendon inside continuing on through to slice through skin and remove feet.  After a bit of practice this part gets easier to do.  once feet are removed then make a horizontal slit a half inch above the cloaca (yep its discharge end) this is made easier by sliding the skin up on the breast and making it taut.  Slip your fingers in to help guide knife and cut around the cloaca now enlarge the horizontal cut large enough to get your hand in.  Sliding fingers in an upward movement against the breast bone grab the gizzard, it feels like a hard rock in there. Pull that out and the innards will follow.  Cut the gizzard free and set aside  then find the liver it looks like a big red blob.  Notice the green sac hanging from it-do not puncture or cut that as it is full of bile (if you do quickly wash off all traces) cut around the bile sac to remove liver and set aside.  Now remove the rest of the innards and discard.  Reaching back in feel all the way up to neck and grab out the heart.  Trim away the veins and arteries and set that aside in your cold water tub.  Once all the guts have been removed rake your fingers along the rib cage to remove air sacs and windpipe.  Put the bird in the cold water tub and scrub the remaining blood and airsacs out then wipe over outside to wash off any bits that have stuck.

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Place in cooler and fill with cold water.  Add ice if needed to keep temp between 36-40 degrees.  maintain this for 24 hours then empty water, rinse bird and repeat.  Do this for 48 hours before freezing or cooking 72 hours is even better and your bird will be moist and tender.  Note***** DO not skip on the rinsing of the bird every 24 hours or changing water-this is important to maintain an enviroment were bacteria doesn’t grow.  Do not permit temp to rise over 40 degrees!!!!

Keep gizzard, livers and hearts in separate water baths under refrigeration until time to either cook or freeze.

If keeping the gizzard you need to clean it.  Lay it in your hand and cut it open  ( if you look at it you will see a white area that gets narrow in the middle-cut it there and turn inside out.  It should be full of rocks or grit.  this is how birds process food.  Empty the grit out and notice there is a rubbery lining.  peel that lining out and discard. in th pics here you will see bits of melted aluminum the turkey ate digging through ash pies.  I look at every gizzard-who knows someday we may find a gold nugget!

If freezing your bird place neck, gizzard, heart and liver inside a  plastic bag.  Insert that into body cavity for easy removal during thawing. Finding bags large enough for a 20+ pound turkey is almost impossible ( cooking bags will work) I use trash can liners and double bag, expel as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn.

With a little practice you will find that you can process birds in a matter of minutes. The prep and cleanup takes longer than the processing.  We do literally a hundred plus chickens and turkeys a year and hope that by the grace of God we are blessed enough to do even more next year.  Knowing where and how your meats are raised and processed is important in todays world.  Our animals lead a fulfilling happy life from the day they are born until the day they become meat on our table or someone elses.  Free to roam and not be caged up 24/7.

Holiday season is upon us

It’s that time of year again when thoughts of big family dinners, shopping and Christmas music is blaring at every turn. Of course we are sheltered from the commercializations of the holidays and our thoughts turn to things like butchering turkeys. That is what has been on the agenda for a week now yet the weather has given them a bit of a reprieve. Tomorrow-well today actually as it is after midnight, we will butcher the remaining birds and they will be on the menu for Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly we lost many this year to both predators and the flooding we experienced but with a bigger flock next year and proven broody mommas (both or birds hatched chicks this year) we expect that we will see a better year in 2016. For those of you wanting to know how the processing is done I will post after and hopefully dear hubby or one of the kids can get pics. Don’t worry if your squeamish I will warn in the title so you don’t have to see if you don’t want to. 

It’s 1:30 a.m. And I find myself wide awake after my nightly jaunt around the place checking critters. It’s become a difficult task with half frozen ground and I find myself either skating on the ice or sinking in the mud but as I slip, slither and slosh through the elements I am being rewarded with stars in the sky, a bit of the Aurora showing a hazy green and the wind whispering a mournful tune through the trees. 

The time is getting closer for some of the goats to begin kidding and I am sure now that Charlotte the pig absorbed her second litter of piglets so no guess as to when she will finally farrow. This off weather has been difficult for both the animals and us humans. Trying to keep the water away and from warm to cold to warm again has messed with their bodies natural coping abilities. This cycle will pass but it leaves devastation behind that isn’t as obvious to those who aren’t living it. Just a challenge though that time will overcome. 

It seems we now have two goats that think indoors is better than out. Our little wether Klondike (who is destined for freezer camp)fell in a water hole yesterday and luckily the kids were close enough to save him. By the time Caleb carried him to the cabin he was very chilled, weak (the goat) and showing signs of hypothermia. Getting him inside, dried off and warm again he soon was back to being an obnoxious little goat who now is standing at my door bellering. He doesn’t miss his momma he misses being spoiled. Of course the country kitchen cure all has wetted his appetite for sweet treats. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the country kitchen cure all was a milk replacer concocted of carnation canned milk, corn syrup if you had it or any other sweetener like honey or maple syrup. A bit of salt and some water to dilute it and you could nourish both 2 legged and 4 legged critters back to health. To this day I still use it.im sure there are those who would dispute it’s use but there are many an old timer that was raised on that mixture. 

I’m praying the weatherman is correct in his forecast. Only time will tell of course but it looks like we may see a solid freeze in the coming week. Would sure help with getting around out here-and getting in. With all the breakdowns we are waiting on parts so we can have a wheeler that is in working order. Our good friends Dan and Robin saved the day by loaning us a wheeler as papa Freds is now in need of new cv joints (this place is brutal on them)and our wheelers are waiting for parts to arrive. One of them still in the swamp until it is solid enough to drag it home and see what is wrong. We aren’t quite at total self sufficiency but we get closer each year and praying 2016 will be the year we accomplish it. If we truly had to we could survive without many things but our desire is not to just survive but to thrive in our little world.

Who else is already garden fantasizing? I know I cannot be the only one! With a full growing season under my belt I now have the confidence to get out and grow! Yes it was a lot of trial and error but it proved what worked and what didn’t!  Yes I can grow tomatoes and tomatillos here! While we didn’t grow enough to get us through until next season we did have enough to can and enjoy our bounty-next year will be better yet. 

Back to the holidays. I’ve quite a delimma. Last year the girls and I overcame our limited space by creating a construction paper Christmas tree and hanging it on the wall-this year the wall is covered with shelves. I will need to be really creative to figure out where we will put a tree this year. To those who think a tree is trivial I must explain that because our income is so limited, gifts for the kids are not something we have the luxury of buying so I do what I can and start new traditions so they have fond memories of when we celebrate the birth of our savior. Priorities. It’s all about what truly matters.

Well the wind is really whipping and the cabin is beginning to feel the chill so I must go stoke the fire and think of a nap as I have a big day ahead. I pray your all warm and dry, safe from the storms that life can toss at us and Thankful for the blessings that you have. Until next time…..


Oh happy day!  Last night the hubby brought me chicks a friend has hatched out for me and I’m so excited!  Now before ya all go worrying, no I didn’t lose my others (well not all of them) I just wanted/needed more chickens and turkeys. Yes, I am that crazy chicken lady. Thank you Robin for adding 7 more baby chicks (these are Aracaunas I believe) and 4 more turkey poults (Royal Palms I think) to my menagerie. Once again the homemade non electric brooder will be my night light-as if I need one when it gets dark at midnight and light again around 4 a.m. Robin and her hubby Dan had fun hatching them and gave me updates regularly on their progress both during incubation and hatching. They referred to the eggs as their “kids” and doted over them. I called Robin Friday and got her on her cell in town shopping and jokingly said to her “Aren’t you close to being due? What’s a woman so close to labor doing out running around” Robin had a comeback for me though as she said no labor pains yet and had to prepare. She got me giggling Sunday though when she informed me she had to do a c-section on one egg as the chick was wearing down but yay!!!! She saved it. Yes folks I have awesome friends! 

 I just had to share this with you as I had a couple friends post to my Facebook page. Kristine and Wendy thanks for the giggles! 

 The weekend was busy as usual and my dear hubby literally ran his legs off. Saturday he had to hike in to take the kids to shooting sports. Our trail is still too wet to support the weight of adults, the wheelers and supplies (never do we make a trip in without bringing something) so the kids drive and we walk. Sunday he made 2 trips in and out! For those of you who don’t know that’s 15 miles of hiking!  He was pretty excited though when he went to retrieve one of my “deals” and loaded not 1 but 2 wheelers that need a bit of work onto the trailer. There was much excitement in his voice when he called and anticipation for the time they are running and we have extra transportation and work horses for logging. I will post pics when he gets them running and out here. His next errand he ran for me was picking up the hay I got for a song! He got there and was surprised that the cheap hay I committed to over the phone for 5.00 a bale was great Timothy hay. Mind you hay around here sells for around 25.00 a bale for good hay. He also met a new friend with many of the same interests AND who also has twin girls our Twins’ age! I’m telling you folks God is so good! He provided for yet another need.

My weekend was spent working on projects around the farm but did take time to make some butter after I separated the cream and some mozzerella cheese. It didn’t turn out perfect but it’s edible. One thing I am discovering is everything I know about cheese making is based on cows milk. I have to tweek my recipes as Goats milk is very different. It requires less rennet and now if I could just remember that BEFORE I add it perhaps I will get back to making awesome cheese instead of just so so cheese.  

   Two of our wethers went to new homes on Saturday and I will admit I do miss them. Every baby has its idiosyncrasies and little Blake definitely had his. The kids called it the invisible leash. You could get that little stinker to follow you anywhere by scratching his chin. They have found a new home now where they will be spoiled pets with a couples grandkids to play with.  

   The plant starts are doing well and I really must get them in the ground soon but am a bit anxious about the potential for frost. It’s been so warm I wonder if it will last. I guess I will just have to do it and pray that it stays warm. 

       Cami is starting to take interest in the goats more and is learning to milk. For those of you who have never milked it’s easier said than done. Milking requires the use of muscles that don’t normally get used and builds up forearm strength. It’s tiring until you get those muscles used to it and even though I enjoy it I will admit having 2 more sets of hands is a blessing. Cati has become a skilled miller already and can even milk my one doe who is a hard milker.  

 Much was accomplished last week with getting the farrowing pen done and having a happy pig and I hope this week we can be as industrious as last. 

I know I’ve said for months I would have a website soon with farm products for sale so by weeks end I will announce it. Our first offerings will be Birch syrup, Barley pancake mix, goat milk hot cocoa mix, lip balm and goat milk soap. I will also be running a contest so stayed tuned!

Well folks once again it’s been my pleasure to share our lives with you but duty calls. The roosters are crowing, everyone wants fed and there are many other projects to be completed. May your hands stay busy, your heart be happy and may God grace and bless you.