Category Archives: Food

My bacon has nipples, how about yours?

Wait – whuut??

Ok, let’s back this up a bit…

Two weekends ago we slaughtered our first pig, complete with traditional dip-scalding and scraping to remove hair and pigmented skin. We had lots of help, which is good because it is a lot of work!

The belly slabs and the jowels were liberally rubbed with a cure of 50/50 salt and sugar and stored in a cold animal-proof place. As the week progressed, the moisture drawn out would get discarded and more cure applied as needed. At the end of the week, the cure is rinsed off and the slabs are dried and wired-up for hanging.

Meanwhile, two hams, some hocks, and trotters were all immersed in a brine of again, about 50/50 salt and sugar and left for the week. As this was a bit long for brining the small pieces (too salty!), after the brine was poured off, we soaked them in fresh water for an hour or so to draw some of the salt back out. Then all pieces were dried and tied for hanging.

Hanging where, you ask? In our smoker! Our goal was to cold-smoke these pieces to get the flavour and to be able to freeze them and then thaw and cook at a later time.

We dug a bit into a hillock and built up three sides of firebrick reclaimed from an old chimney. There is a monstrous 20″ x 20″ paver as the base, the firebrick is dry-stacked (as this is a “temporary” setup), and a matching 20″ x 20″ paver on top. We shaped a few bricks for the terracotta pipe vent to direct the smoke out the back.

smoker firebox
smoker firebox
smoker firebox built into hill
smoker firebox built into hill

We filled in around the bricks and overtop the terracotta pipe with a clay-heavy soil. The front of the firebox was closed up with an old electrical panel cover – door opens to add more damp shavings; whole panel comes off when we need to dig out ashes! A bit of scavenged flashing helped to keep smoke from seeping out where the panel meets with the top paver.

The smoker box is several frames of wood stacked on each other. In the top frame we drilled some holes to slide electrical conduit through, from which we hung the meats! The lid is a full plywood pallet upsidown. Hard to see, but we inserted a long-probe brewing thermometer in the side to keep an eye on temperatures inside the box.

hillside smoker
hillside smoker

We initially made a hot fire of dry wood to have a good bed of coals and to ensure the pipe was warmed up so we would get an adequate draw – four feet of flame says our draw was too good and the temperature in the box was over 300 degrees F! We cooled the fire down by adding damp alder shavings and restricting the air intake. We cooled the smoke box down by wedging one of the frames up a bit to let some cool air mix in and by rotating the lid to let more smoke and heat out. There was plenty of smoke passing through so we weren’t missing out on the whole reason for this setup.

Those tweaks did the trick and we landed right on target of 75 deg F. About 5 or 6 hours of smoking has left a very nice smokey flavour in the bacon – not subtle and not overpowering, I don’t think it get’s much better than this!

Bacon slab, skin on, with nipples!
Bacon slab, skin on, with nipples!
Bacon slices, nipple skin removed.
Bacon slices, nipple skin removed.

Best. Bacon. Ever. xD

A Gift

We were gifted with a deer on Friday, whole and complete, and of course we accepted.

Oh deer!

We were pretty sure that it would be a lot of work, and a lot of learning.  It was a little easier than we thought, figuring out what to do – the internet helps, of course, but we found that by paying attention to what we were doing we could tell more or less what had to happen next.  Everything took longer than we thought it would, but that’s pretty normal for us.


The guts were surprisingly colourful.  We saved them, so the kids could see them (and then wished we hadn’t.  Stinky!)

Beautiful stinky guts
Beautiful stinky guts

We hung her overnight in a cold, safe place, then skinned her over the course of the afternoon.

deer04   deer06


From early evening until early into the morning, Jeremy butchered.

The next day, we scraped the skin, and salted it.  We plan to tan it when we have skins in sufficient quantity, and until then, the freezer.

It was beautiful, and yucky, and amazing.  We ate venison for dinner, and breakfast, and again for dinner.  Curried venison is delicious, and we may eat ribs this week.
What a gift.

Preserving the Harvest

When we butchered our half-pig, we planned to do some preservation.  Since the internet terrified me into not attempting a cured ham at this time of year (too hot!  and the words “Bone Rot”), we brined it instead.

Attempt at a container, #1
Attempt at a container, #1
Much better!
Much better!

Of course, one should never leave the meaty part out of the brine, and we weighed the ham down with glass jars and left it in the coolest part of the house for a few days.

Several days later, we hauled it out, coated it in a mix of brown sugar, mustard powder, and diluted jam, and cooked it.


Is this the Meat Of Our Doom?  Our handling of the meat was careful, but not exactly foodsafe, and I’m sure that leaving meat in salty water for a few days is not Recommended Practice for germophobic sorts.

I’d feel a little more comfortable if we were doing this in the late fall, with our own pig.  All my Italian ancestors rejoice in the preservation of meat, however, and this delicious ham feels wonderfully completing in my belly.

Tomorrow morning, we try the bacon.

Practice Butchery

We ordered half a pig, and had the option to have it come to us completely un-cut-up.  Since Jeremy had, most astutely, taken a course on butchery from Farmstead Meatsmith, we thought we could take this project on.

It's a Big Pig!
It’s a Big Pig!
Primary Sous-chef enjoys the idea of MEAT.
Primary Sous-chef enjoys the idea of MEAT.

Over the next eight hours, we butchered this lovely pig.  Parts went into a seasoned salt mix for bacon, and the ham went into a tub of brine.  We ate the pork chops the next evening, and they were roundly declared the best, juiciest, most tender pork chops in the entire history of food.  We borrowed a meat grinder and sausage stuffer (thanks, Streetbank!), and made sausages the next day.

Gory Stuffer
Gory Stuffer
sausage party!
sausage party!

Making sausages did not at all enable the proliferation of jokes about anatomy, because as adults we are past all that adolescent nonsense.

Home butchery filled our freezer without completely draining our pocketbook, and the work felt good and soul-nourishing.  We will definitely do this again.

(though next time, we’ll make sure to have a smoker, and even perhaps one of our own pigs.)

The Yoghurt Conspiracy

We eat a lot of yoghurt, and for a long time we bought only one brand: biodynamic, organic, raw milk yoghurt that was pretty expensive and often out of stock.  Still, it was good food, and was the only yoghurt my youngest could eat without getting horribly, disgustingly sick all over the floor, so we bought it.

A little while ago, we went to visit a small farm in Port Alberni, and she showed us how she makes yoghurt.  I had made yoghurt before, but it had never really worked out that well, and I left the farm determined to try again.

milk on the stove
milk on the stove

We bought the brand of yoghurt she was using as a starter, and gave it a go, and it was.. easy.  Simple.  barely any work at all, besides making sure the milk didn’t burn.  And less than half the price of store-yoghurt.

I don’t use a thermometer, I just eyeball the amount of steam coming off (optimal level: Pretty Steamy but not boiling), then I cool the milk down by a combination of waiting and pouring it between two containers.  I cool it until I can comfortably hold my finger in the milk for a solid count of 10.

starter yoghurt smeared on the jars
starter yoghurt smeared on the jars

I don’t measure how much starter yoghurt I use, either.  I just smear it around the insides of the jars until there’s a light coating.  Yoghurt grows from the outsides in, I learned, so putting culture on the jars seemed to make sense.


I pour the warm milk into the jars, then put it into the microwave to set overnight.  To keep it warm, I add three mason jars of boiling water, covered.  It seems to work best when there’s something cooking on the stove overnight, too, because our microwave is over the stove, but it’s not essential.

Is there a conspiracy to keep us buying expensive yoghurt, when it’s so easy and cheap to make?  I’m not sure, but I doubt I’ll ever go back to buying store yoghurt.

Pizza (and wheat)

We are reducing our consumption of wheat, though not eliminating it.  Most of us feel swollen and yucky when we eat a lot of wheat, but no one feels enough of a difference that they have given up wheat entirely.

Good thing, because my attempts at gluten-free pizza crusts have been edible, but not awesome.

Here’s the recipe I use:

In a big bowl, mix 1 Tbsp yeast and 1 Tbsp salt with 3 cups warm water.  Add 5 cups white flour, and 1.5 cups spelt/whole-wheat/rye/whatever-other-kind-of-flour-is-around.  Mix, cover with a pot lid, and let sit in a warm place for at least 4 hours and a maximum of 24 hours.  Do not knead, do not concern yourself with it in any way until you’re ready to use it.  When you’re ready to make pizza, turn the dough out on a floured surface, and mix in enough flour to make it the appropriate texture.  Stretch it into the right shape, then add toppings and cook until done at 450 (15-25 mins).  I find that if one doesn’t oil the pan, it sticks dreadfully, and that thinner crusts work out better than thicker ones.  And sesame seeds on the crust are really nice.

For the gluten-free crust, I just substituted Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free flour mix. It was fine, just not quite as nice. It needs to be patted in place like a giant cracker instead of rolled and stretched like a wheat crust.

I recently ran out of white flour, and so I used 1 cup of white and the rest spelt flour, and it was fine. More stretchy and squishy with the white flour, but overall it was something I’d probably do again. Once we get a grain mill, I plan to make it with 100% whole wheat – I’ll keep y’all updated.

Happy pizza!

More food: Eggs Ranchero (WCH Style)

It might seem that eating is all we do here!  It is the biggest part of our budget, for sure; 10 people eat a lot.  With little kids, we need to make three square meals a day.  Not everyone takes part in all the meals, but we mostly eat together.

And breakfast mostly involves eggs.  Fried eggs, scrambled eggs, eggs in pancake batter with eggs on top.  Eggs.  We get about half of our eggs from Inishoge Farm (, and half from whichever farm gate we happen to be driving past (or The Horrible, AKA the grocery store).

When I was a kid, my father used to make Eggs Ranchero: toast, with salsa on top, a poached egg on that, and melted cheddar on top of that.  Delicious!  In 2005, Jeremy and I went to Japan to travel and WWOOF (, and I came home with what we termed a ‘rice hole’; if a meal didn’t include rice, I didn’t feel full.  I found all kinds of ways to include rice, including Modified Eggs Ranchero.

As you gaze long into the breakfast, the breakfast gazes also into you.
As you gaze long into the breakfast, the breakfast gazes also into you.

Eggs, on top of salsa and rice, with cheese melted on top.  Even though it does’t have any Braggs sauce or tahini, I labeled it West Coast Hippie (WCH) Style. That’s mostly tongue in cheek, due to the short-grain brown rice and locally-sourced ingredients.  Sometimes I add homemade nettle gomaishio, for extra WCH++.  Delicious!


The remains of dinner…

Well, everyone who knows me knows I love Lasagna.  So, for the past little while, as part of the dinner preparations for our little group, I have been creating my favorite meal.

Feeding 10 people 3 meal a day is a lot of work, usually covered by Tony or Erin. I usually cover the dishes afterwards, since our rule of thumb is that if you cook, you shouldn’t have to clean. Tonight is my night off from the dishes!

I made a double batch. Here is what was left by the ravening hordes:

Reminders of dinner
Reminders of dinner

This is the fourth double batch Lasagna I have made. Most of the kids came back for (kid sized) third servings, and I’m sure JS would have kept going if we let him.


Anya should be visiting tomorrow, so we will save some for her. She can comment after she has had a taste.


I used the Clueless in the Kitchen cookbook’s recipe, doubled so we can actually feed 10 people. The only changes I made were to add a grated potato to the carrots (also grated), plus some basil with the oregano. The cheese was all goats milk based cheeses, making this safe for E, who pukes on contact with processed milks and cheeses made from same. That would have been a sorry waste!

I wonder if this would have been Kendra safe too?!?

(My first try at posting this from my phone failed, I’ll have to try that again, on some other post.)

Good night, from a well fed Scott.


Neep Noodles

We’ve been eating a lot of root vegetables, because they’re seasonal and CHEAP.  Plus, I love them, and when we’re feeding more than two adults it makes sense to make a dish that is mostly just for us.  We do roasted roots (we call them Rude Vegetables, or ‘Neeps [turnips] and ‘Nips [parsnips], depending on the constituents), Bashed Neeps, and roots cut into wedges and dipped in coconut oil before roasting.  Turnip saurkraut.  So good.

Tonight, we have something new to add to the roster: Neep Noodles.  Tony took a raw turnip, peeled it, and then kept peeling long strips with the vegetable peeler so that the pieces resembled long, flat noodles.  We boiled them in salty water for a scant few minutes, then served them with butter, salt and parmesan cheese.  I think it’s my new favourite way to enjoy turnips.  You may ask, “Isn’t anything good, covered with butter and salt and cheese?”, and you may be right, but there was a certain turnipiness that comes through.

All hail the noble turnip, oft-scorned, but deserving of toothsome adoration!

(Next time we make it, I’ll take pictures.)