Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thicken Plot Pie

So here is the cleaned corpse of the rooster- many thanks to Spice, who in spite of having presided at quite a few mammal cleanings, was a little squeamish about cleaning a bird.  As you can see; it's a pristine carcass.  Spice opted to just chop the wings, since a major part of the trickiness here was preventing a rather dirty exterior from coming in contact with the clean meat; it was just too fussy for too little reward, in this case.

It was all a great success.  We simmered the bird for a half day or so, on the back of the wood stove, to the point where it was fork-tender and falling off the bones.  It smelled wonderful.  We moved the bird off the heat, covered, to wait for evening, when we'd add the veggies.

And then we got interrupted again.

Spice and Smidgen went out to the greenhouse to do daily chores- and found Smidgen's pet bunny, which she named Horton, when she was 2annahaf, after the Suessian elephant, dead in his hutch.  Old age, in this case- he was given to us when he was 6ish, several years ago.

Farm kids learn about death, and life, immediately.  So it wasn't the earthshaking trauma it can be for kids who've been insulated; but still, no fun, and right on the heels of the death of the rooster, whom she also knew personally.

No, we didn't eat the pet rabbit!  sheesh.

But things had to stop for a while, and a funeral and burial arranged.  Secure burial, so dogs and coyotes wouldn't dig it up, we hope.  Though the ground is still frozen, a foot down- so it was tricky.

Then as part of the consoling process, another, longer, interruption was launched.

Smidgen announced at the noon meal that she was going to get another rabbit.  A very positive little girl.  Mummy and Daddy were not enthusiastic about this, however, since the bunny was pretty much a dead drag on resources and space, and we really didn't have a sensible place for it to fit in.  So by way of distraction, I reminded Smidge of our intention to get another puppy; fairly soon.  And I tried to convince her that having a little fuzzy puppy to hold would be at least as good as a rabbit; and maybe better.  She was a little wary of the idea, but the campaign for a new bunny went quiet.

Now that the topic of the puppy was open, however, Spice asked if she should go ahead and call the shelter lady- right now, while we were thinking about it.  Since it's spring(ish) and we were going to be pretty specific this time about what kind of puppy we were willing to accept, I figured we'd be looking at a 1-2 month wait, for the right pup to be located and transferred, etc.  So, I said; sure, go ahead.

I'm not sure if this was a good bit of karma, or bad- but the shelter lady called back immediately, with the news that in fact, she had exactly the puppy we were looking for, right now today- and - she was leaving for two weeks (shelter convention and break time) - in two hours.  So- NOW is when we needed to take the pup.

This is Theodore; a half Anatolian Shepherd, half - Collie? Aussie? cross; #10 out of 11 pups in the litter; just weaned, the only black one, and the biggest.  (No plott hound involved, in spite of the post title...)  The shelter lady leans toward the Aussie for a father, because of the black color.  But we don't really know.

The time spent in getting the puppy from the shelter, and cuddling him through his introduction to our family, including Delilah, who still sleeps in the house, and is not a puppy (sizewise) anymore- kind of made it impossible to finish off the chicken pot pie and actually pay attention to it, or appreciate it.  Our plot had thickened; just a bit too far.

How this pup came to be; and came to be available, is a story of the deepening depression.  His mother is a purebred, registered Anatolian- with a chip in her ear.

The chip identifies her unequivocally, of course- so how is it such a valuable dog was found abandoned, injured (missing several toes), skinny, and pregnant?

She had been owned by a couple in Iowa who were running a poultry business, in fact.  Which went bankrupt.  And the owners- just disappeared; leaving everything behind.  The shelter lady says most shelters are full these days- the number of dogs being abandoned is way up.  Part of the reason for the conference she's attending- they're trying to figure out how to cope.

So, meanwhile, we're back to puppy pee and puppy poop all over the place.  Theodore is not yet paper trained, alas.  Plus, Delilah is frequently explosively ecstatic to have a buddy to chase and chew on- you do remember that The Little House is 15' x 20' downstairs?  With a sink, woodstove, dining table, bookshelves, desk, and two window seat thingies?

We have our own full scale demonstration of entropic doom now.

Sigh.  At any rate, Theodore looks like a winner, so far.  Very cuddly; already comes when called, has no trouble holding his own in the rough and tumble with the much bigger dog- in fact when they get to the play-growling point- his growl is the most impressive.  He's definitely serving his purpose of wearing out and calming down Delilah.  And seems to have good common sense.

We've been paying our shelter fees with barter, incidentally; the shelter lady has been happy to do it that way.  Otherwise, it's $100 minimum, and likely more, depending.


Back to the chicken pot pie!  We put it off until the next evening, then took off from a mixture of Joy of Cooking and Farmer's Daughter's (thanks!) recipes; added onion, carrots, and potatoes, a little thyme, salt and pepper, made gravy with some of the cooking liquid, which was then stirred into the whole; and finished it off with baked biscuit on top.  Alas, no photo- we were too hungry at that point to remember.  But it was wonderful.

The chicken, by now, was just a bit overcooked.  It was falling into fibers, rather than hanging together in tender chunks.  And it was just a tad on the bland side, as it came out of the oven; I think we'll spice it a little more next time; and the rooster was not quite as flavorful as I'd hoped- actually a bit young for this treatment perhaps.

In any case, a great success.  We got 3 suppers out of it; two with biscuits, and the third time out it was starting to look really cooked by now from all the re-heatings; so we took it out of the pot and fried it in a little butter, hash style.  Oh, yeah.


Crunchy Chicken said...

Ok, I've got a food handling question for you. If you got three suppers (dinners?) out of it, what do you do with it in between days sans refrigerator?

Congrats on the puppy!

Greenpa said...

It's really quite easy. We had two options- because it's still cold outside; we could have used our "porch refrigerator"- which involves rigging up something that insulates from sun, but can get cold at night. We do have an "ice chest" doing that duty right now- but putting a hot casserole in there would screw it up. Cooling it sufficiently before putting it in- too much work.

So; option two- takes just a little attention. After finishing tonight's meal- put the lid back on the casserole- and put it back in the oven; bring it just back up to full heat. That quite effectively kills any bacteria that snuck in while you've got the lid off.

Then- the pot was just put on the cool top of the stove water reservoir- and carefully NEVER opened. It's a sterile vessel- as long as it's closed; no bacteria can get it. Then; heat; eat; heat; store.

It really takes no more time or attention than getting a hot casserole into the fridge- and back out. Maybe less. This is something we do all the time- you know the rhyme, "bean porridge hot, bean porridge cold; bean porridge in the pot, nine days old..." We've never managed to keep bean soup for 9 days- but we do a big pot and eat it for 5 days, fairly often; skipping days in the middle so we don't OD on it. It gets seriously tasty in the later days!

You do need a house where everybody knows- DON'T open this pot here, to see what's inside. That'll goof things up. But- really, not that difficult.

Farmer's Daughter said...

Sounds great! A puppy and a chicken pie, I don't know how to make that a better day :)

I'm glad you got to check out my recipe!

My husband and I have been talking about getting a puppy, since we left our dog Duke when we moved off the farm. I just couldn't take a farm dog off the farm, I just couldn't even though I miss him so much. We still visit him often though. Our next dog will definitely be a shelter dog :)

SlowBro said...

This is not related to the blog post above, but since you don't read your email...

Interesting website; I can see that lifestyles like this may be required if the U.S. economy really goes south.

I searched your site for the terms "solar stove" or "solar cooking" but it came up empty. I wondered if you were aware you could cook that way?

Here are many free plans. Most of them looks extremely simple to build, especially the CooKit. And it's an excellent way to avoid propane use in the summer, and wood burning most of the year.

Water is sterilized at 150 degrees, according to their FAQ but if you need to, you can boil water. According to their FAQ, practically anything can be baked, even if it typically requires higher temps, just by waiting longer. They say that it's hard to over-cook and of course, you're not heating up your house in the summer.

So there are all sorts of benefits and practically no drawbacks. Would like to hear your thoughts... my email, if you want to contact direct, is CBdeVidal (AT) Gmail (DOT) com.

Greenpa said...

Chris- sure, I'm aware of solar cooking. Are you aware I live in Minnesota? :-) Jacksonville is a different world. If I still lived in Hawaii, I might use it sometimes; here, the problems are: clouds, rain, winter, and nighttime. When it's 10 below zero, with a 20 mph wind, the cooker doesn't cook, no matter how much sun you have. And in mid winter, it's not much here, at Latitude 42; sun comes up around 8; and goes down around 4, Dec and Jan. Besides; I'm drowning in biomass (wood) here.

Anonymous said...

This winter we got our solar cooker up to 180 degrees by placing it indoors in an upstairs south facing bay window. [Washington DC latitude]

Meg said...

I must mention that I live in Michigan and cooked my Christmas dinner in my solar oven this year. Not to be contrary, but I did have to say it. It *is* doable in the upper Midwest in winter, but only on really sunny days, and only if you're cooking items with shorter cooking times, so there's no way you can use it exclusively, or as your primary stove/oven in the winter up here, but it definitely makes a good supplemental oven!

A Beautiful Mess said...

Chris- sure, I'm aware of solar cooking. Are you aware I live in Minnesota? :-)

I knew you were up north, but I hadn't considered that ;-)

Still, aren't the summers decent enough to give you some solar stove use? Would save you lots of chopping and heating up the cabin in the summer.

I don't work for any solar stove companies, just thought I'd pass on the tip.

knutty knitter said...

We lost grandma bantam this week. Sheer old age I suspect as she was over 10. There is still grandpa though. I think our bantams have turned into pets somewhat as egg production isn't high any more. On the other hand we could add some new hens to the mix and perhaps not name them this time!

Its still all apples round here although the tide is diminishing. We won't be short of preserves and jellies this year although plums were very thin on the ground.

viv in nz

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't reheat anything 3 times. I would rather set aside the parts not to be eaten and heat each meal once.

A Beautiful Mess said...

Oops this is Chris, didn't realize I was logged in under my wife's name (A Beautiful Mess) when I posted last.

Still logged in as her, haha...

jewishfarmer said...

Hi Greenpa - I'm really looking forward to hearing more about Theodore, since we are leaning in roughly the same direction - LGD of some sort, Anatolian or mix are among the leading contenders. We're not doing anything about it (for fear, precisely of finding the right dog too soon ;-)), until we come back from our Passover relative trip, but then we're going to get serious. I'm really going to be fascinated to see how Theodore works out.

BTW, on bunnies, my kids have angoras, which are also sort of pointless ;-), since I'm way behind on my spinning, but what's good about them is that they aren't much in the way of diggers, so if you do get a bun, they can spend their days clearing spots for new garden beds or eating up your garden wastes in a bottomless pen. We've found they aren't bad little mowers and cleaners for their size. Not that I think you need more rabbits (I almost wrote "buns" but that sounds like I'm critiquing your physique ;-)), just mentioning. I've seen rescue angoras.


tickmeister said...

I use 100% solar heat in my house. Sun shines on trees, I cut them and burn them. Way cheaper than messing with a bunch of collecters and stuff, I like the work, the trees look good and shelter wildlife, I get good excercise at no cost. Plus I don't use up a bunch of energy and resources (read "spend money")making or refining aluminum, glass, copper, and all that other high priced stuff that goes into solar gizmos.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the pup. We have seen many dogs here in rescues & shelters, dogs who would normally have kept their old home or been adopted in a heartbeat. Talk about the purely innocent victims of a tanking economy. You did a great thing by rescuing a dog instead of encouraging more breeding.

Laurie in Mpls. said...

That was one FINE looking chicken carcass! I can't believe the legs on it -- just goes to show that I've seen too many conventionally bred birds in my day. Very definitely a rooster that got to run around a bunch.

I'm interested to hear about your leftover method -- the DH and I have gone 'round about heating all of the leftovers up or just what we are going to eat right now. And yes, I *would* eat something re-heated 3 times. Some things only improve that way! :)

Congratulations on the new puppy! He is an adorable little guy, and glad to hear he's holding his own. I'm so sorry about his mum. Here's hoping she finds a good home too, if she hasn't already.

Laurie in Mpls. said...

I recommend adding some herbs and a pinch of salt to the initial cooking of the next bird. You didn't mention whether you did that or not, and that might help.

selfreliance said...

Sounds like you got yourself a fine pup. I lucked out over six years ago when I found my LSGD as a puppy---he's a black lab/Newfoundland cross, currently about 140lbs., and I've never met a predator (two or four legged) that he couldn't make a believer out of. Taking after his Newfie heritage, babies (baby anythings) are of paramount importance to him. He keeps both ends of baby goats clean, and sorts baby chickens into groups by colour...then makes sure they stay in their groups.

When I lived off grid a few years ago, I not uncommonly used the multi-meal food storage approach you describe and never had a problem. Having a healthy, well-populated gut to begin with probably plays in heavily though and I don't know that I'd recommend it for those indulging in the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet). :-/

Hank Roberts said...

Who was it who first did that experiment a few centuries ago?

I remember it was by boiling broth then leaving it in glass containers, some open at the top, some with long sideways openings protected from dust and stuff falling into it, that someone showed that some mysterious thing from the atmosphere, not spontaneous generation, caused life to emerge in the boiled broth.

Being a biologist's kid, we've always known about that routine -- bringing a pot of food to a simmer for 20 minutes or so with a loose cover, then leaving it on the stove to cool without removing the cover, to preserve it til tomorrow.

But do this with your enameled, or Pyrex, or stainless steel pots and lids.

Don't do this with your good cast iron Dutch oven or covered skillet. Cooling steam left standing in those _will_ strip the seasoning and rust the cast iron.

Aside: I got my good skillets thanks to someone who didn't know that, who had left them rusting in the college dorm sink after graduation, back in 1970. I cleaned them up, reseasoned them, and they're still fine.

Hank Roberts said...

Ah, here it is:

And it's cautionary -- there is a good reason to do your reheating and subsequent cooling in the oven, not on the stovetop! The cooling container will 'inhale' some outside air, and being in an oven surrounded by sterile air lessens the amount of bacteria drawn in during cooling.

"... The French Academy of Sciences sponsored a contest for the best experiment either proving or disproving spontaneous generation. Pasteur's winning experiment was a variation of the methods of Needham and Spallanzani. He boiled meat broth in a flask, heated the neck of the flask in a flame until it became pliable, and bent it into the shape of an S. Air could enter the flask, but airborne microorganisms could not - they would settle by gravity in the neck. As Pasteur had expected, no microorganisms grew. When Pasteur tilted the flask so that the broth reached the lowest point in the neck, where any airborne particles would have settled, the broth rapidly became cloudy with life...."

Hank Roberts said...

Hmmm, this suggests a needed product -- a pot with a cover that fits not into a notch around the rim, but by overlapping the sides all the way down over the sides, so the air gap is long and vertical, equivalent to the shape Pasteur used.

Find a clever way that a lid like that can be put over a pot, loose enough to cook in it, then some little lever turned to grab the pot from the bottom/sides -- and it'd cool off without problems. It'd cool a bit slower with two walls and the air gap, though. Hmmmm....

Deb said...

Your puppy looks remarkably like our Aussie shepherd/neighbor dog mix when she was a puppy. She is the most even tempered, low maintenance dog I've ever had. And easily trained. I taught her visual cues for stop and sit so when she was outside and couldnt, I could still give her a command. Just a thought.

Deb in Wis

Greenpa said...

Deb- yep, we use hand signals, too. Works fine, and certainly useful in noisy situations.