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We raise the majority of our meat here on the homestead.  Since we don't raise beef we use ground pork and ground turkey when cooking calls for ground meat. The pork is all ground and packaged for the freezer when it comes home from the butcher but not so for the turkey.  They arrive back on the homestead as whole birds.  From there I need to process them into ground meat.  Actually I cut the breasts off and then into two roasts and the rest of the bird is made into ground turkey.

The legs and wings are cut from the body followed by the side breasts.  The skin is removed from the breasts then They are cut in half or sometimes thirds depending on the size of the turkey.  Each breast roast is then vacuum sealed, labeled and dated.  Then the real work begins. I remove all the meat that I can from the carcass then each leg quarter is skinned before separating the pieces.  I find it is easier to skin the whole leg quarter then each individual piece.  After cutting the leg quarter apart the deboning begins.  The thigh is a piece of cake but the leg takes a little more precision.  With all the sinew and small bones it is important that you use a sharp knife.  I actually use my paring knife freshly sharpened by my husband.  I find that the short sharp blade is good for cutting around all the small bones and sinew of the leg.

Once you get all the leg quarter meat off it is time to move on to the wings.  Again, I skin them with all three joints in place.  However, I only skin to the first joint.  The wing tip is then removed and ready for the broth pot.  The second section is really hard to skin so I leave it whole and save it to make monster buffalo wings later.  I then debone the the largest part (closest to the body) of the wing.

As you can see there is quite a bit of meat left despite my sharp little knife.  This along with the carcass can be roasted then simmered to make a wonderful turkey broth that is canned.  I use this broth all year for soup and stew bases.

All the meat that has been cut off the bones is cut into chunks that will fit into my grinder's feeder tube.  As I think I mentioned in a previous post we use a stand alone electric grinder since we do a lot of meat grinding.  I wore out two grinding attachments for my KitchenAid mixer before we purchased this one.

I use a #12 grinding disc for the turkey meat.  It is not as fine as I would use for beef but it dose not turn the more delicate turkey into mush either.

Before I package the ground meat I mix it up with a spoon to get the white and dark meat evenly distributed so each package will have some of both.  I use my Food Saver to vacuum seal all our meat.  This makes it last longer in the freezer.  As you probably know air is the enemy of anything frozen.  Taking all the air out prevents freezer burn and the nasty taste it imparts to your food.

Food Saver vacuum sealer
Food Saver vacuum sealer

Ground meat is packaged in one pound portions and sealed, labeled and dated.  It takes me around 45 minutes to do one bird and depending on the size of the turkey it yields between 5 and 8 pounds of ground meat and 5-10 pounds of breast meat.


Packaged for freezer
Packaged for freezer

This is the reward for hard work, well actually the big reward is when we eat it.  You can see from the marking on the front ground package that sometimes the last bit vacuum sealed is not a full pound but I just mark it as it weighs and then when I need a small amount or extra for a recipe I'll use that package.

Be sure to check back next week.  I'm going to share one of my ground turkey recipes with you, Enchilada Bake.  I promise it is easy and yummy.





Well, it is finally here....Fall.  We had our first hard frost last week where it hit 24 degrees and we have had frost every morning since with the exception of the morning it rained.  Fortunately it is getting into the 50s during the day which is really nice if it is not too windy.  So the woodstove has been keeping us cozy on these chilly nights.  My husband is happy to see the frost come since it pretty much eliminates the pollen that causes his allergies.

Fall is a busy time on the homestead there are so many things that need to be done before the days do not get out of freezing temperatures and the snow flies.  This week the pigs will go to the butcher and we will be butchering the final batch of broilers for the freezer.  The pigs have grown very well and we feel blessed that our freezers will be full before winter.

We will have a good amount of pork this year and I think I will can some of it for instant meals.  Rich meats like pork and lamb when canned almost make their own gravy and are delicious in soups and stews.  I confess that sometimes I make a quick soup or stew when I get home from work by using one jar of canned meat, a jar of canned broth and one bag of frozen mixed vegetables.  This cooks up in less than 30 minutes and I can flavor it with the dried herbs and spices that I want.  I may also throw a batch of biscuits in the oven or toast up some sourdough bread and have one great comfort food meal.

We got 10 heads of cabbage out of the garden and so there will be a couple of large jars of sauerkraut fermenting in the very near future.  I will be adding just a little bit of purple cabbage from our last CSA pick up to our green cabbage and the sauerkraut turns out to be the most beautiful shade of pink.  To some that may sound weird but it doesn't change the taste at all.

Of course after the pigs and chickens are processed we have to clean out their pens and get those areas clean and dry for winter.  The pastured poultry electric net fence will have to be rolled up and stored for next year.  That was a investment that needs to be taken care of but it worked really well being able to move the pastured chickens several times during the season.

The fall weather gets me is a baking mood too.  I made my first apple pie with apples from the orchard that we picked up last week.  There is nothing better than a hot slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on a chilly evening.  Unless it might be hot spiced apple cider which is one of my favorites.

Well, so much for talking about what needs to be done, time to get to it.  I'll visit with all of you soon.





New Breed?
New Breed?

Our first try at Red Ranger chickens for meat has been a success.  We butchered our first group and of the 40 we ordered we had 36 go to butcher.  That is a loss of only 10% unlike last year when we had a terrible time with the Cornish Rock and a huge loss.  We also got two of the above with our chick order of Red Rangers.  They look like a cross between a Ranger and Cornish but I am not sure.  I'm going to send some pictures to the hatchery and see what they have to tell me.  These actually raised up very well.  Those are some of my new Americana laying hens in the back ground.  They are three months old now so hopefully they will begin laying eggs in October or so.

We took a week of vacation to take care of many things on the farm including the butchering.  Fun things like having the septic tank pumped, cutting wood, chipping wood for mulch and getting ready for the next round of poultry.  The baby turkeys and more Red Rangers arrived at the end of the week.

After a morning of butchering the chickens need to cool for 24 hours before being vacuum sealed and put in the freezer.  For the first time ever we kept one fresh for us to eat.  I found a recipe in Better Homes and Gardens for a brine and it was fantastic.  I don't normally read BH&G but it came in the mail to me because I purchased some other item.

Grilled Feta-Brined Chicken

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used sea salt)
  • 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
  • 2-3 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs (I used a whole cut up bone in chicken)
  • 1 large lemon, halved
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a blender combine water, feta, oregano, salt and cracked black pepper.  Cover and blend until smooth.  Place chicken in zipper plastic bag or container.  Pour feta mixture over chicken; seal or cover.  Chill 8 hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from brine; transfer to a towel-lined tray.  Discard brine.  Pat chicken dry.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Grill chicken on the rack over a covered grill over medium heat 12-15 minutes (longer if you use whole bone in chicken) until interior temperature reaches 170 degrees, turning once.

Transfer chicken to a platter.  Squeeze lemon over.  Drizzle with oil.  You can top with additional crumbled feta if desired but it was great without it.

Dinner was wonderful and it is so nice knowing where your meat comes from, what it has been eating and the fact that the chickens lead a happy life while they were with us.

So in 12 weeks or so we will do it all over again with our second batch of pastured meat birds.  This is the first year that we have done two batches but now that we have a separate building and the movable fencing we have the room.

Our next project will be getting a out door run for the turkeys built.  We are having some fill brought in to level out an area next to the barn that we can make a outside area for them.  I'm not sure it will get finished this year but oh well, there is only so much time in a day.