Soul Food for New Years: Trotters (Pig’s Feet)

(I am posting two New Year’s recipes today.  The below, the trotters, was actually made last August.  The black eyed pea and collard soup was made yesterday, and will appear here an hour or so after this one today. DO enjoy either or both.)

I have some packages of pigs feet in my freezer, and they have several uses.  One can use them for bone broth, one can make Korean jokbal, one can add them in to meatier ingredients to make head cheese or souse.  Or one can take a different leap of faith, and make a good Southern standby, a soul food pig’s foot recipe as below.  You might not be able to imagine it, but this is really good, tender, and tasty.

soul food, southern, pork trotters, pigs feet, recipe

Pork trotters, nicely braised

I was all up for the Korean recipe, but lacking enough ingredients I decided taking a gustatory page out of our Southern and African-American heritage in this country could be a good idea.  Back in the days of slavery, the enslaved would usually get the least “desired” bits of meat, and they were able to infuse flavor and nourishment into meals.

soul food, southern, pork trotters, pigs feet, recipe, Paleo, Whole 30

The butcher had cut these in half.

So, how do I have pigs’ feet in my freezer?  It is a side effect of ordering either a quarter or half a pig from local farmers — we’re asked if we want to take some of the awful, er, offal bits home with us, and I always say YES.  You can say NO, but if I’m sharing a portion of that pig with you, I’m willing to take your share of offal off your hands, too – in these cases it is generally free.  Yes, there are parts I am not crazy about – but if I can turn pig liver into pate or liverwurst, I’m your woman.  And there’s always bone broth for these feet.  I guess I’m Daddy’s girl after all.  He scoured all corners of New York City for unusual things to take home and try, but I actually don’t recall trotters.

soul food, southern, pork trotters, pigs feet, recipe, Paleo, Whole 30


This does take a while to make, and I’d be tempted to serve it as a side, with Hoppin’ John or another black eyed pea recipe as the center star.

soul food, southern, pork trotters, pigs feet, recipe, Paleo, Whole 30

For me, this served two. Hence a new plate for the second day of my enjoying this.

The author of this video states that pigs feet are a part of a soul food New Year’s tradition.  While this is the first I’ve heard that, I’m not exactly in the loop to truly know.  I did make minor changes in the recipe, mostly to keep things Paleo, or to deal with the lack of a couple ingredients in my house.

Prep time:  20 minutes (the meat soaking stage is optional)
Cook time:  3-4.5 hours
Rest Time:  Not needed, but you may want it to cool a bit.
Serves: 2
Cuisine:  Soul, Southern African American.
Leftovers:  Yes.
Serve with:  Hoppin’ John or a black eyed pea soup.

Soul Food Trotters / Pigs Feet

  • 1.5-2 lbs / 650-900 grams (2) trotters, more or less.
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 6 ounces / 170 grams diced bell pepper, any combo of color  
  • 3 cups / 710 mL liquid, (2 cups / 475 mL veggie broth plus 1 cup / 235 mL water)
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca powder (to make it Paleo)
  • 2 tablespoons Worchester sauce (for those who need, there is a gluten-free variety.)
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste
  • 1/2 cup / 120 mL apple cider vinegar.
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika.
  • 2-3 stalks, Celery, diced… I would add this in but this was the one ingredient I didn’t have in house when I cooked this.  60 minutes round trip, we do what we can do.
  • Optional crushed red pepper or hot sauce.

Soak feet in salt water for around an hour, then rinse.

Take 2 tablespoons of broth and the tapioca starch, mix in a small bowl until smooth.  Return to the rest of the broth.

Add to large cooking pot, then all the veggies, and all the seasonings (except the crushed red pepper/hot sauce) then all the liquids.

Bring to a boil, then a simmer.  Cook until it reduces some, cover.  Simmer 3-4 hours, and then check.  It should be tender, and if you wish to reduce down the liquid further, remove lid, stirring occasionally, maybe 15 more minutes.

Add in any hot pepper or sauce, adjust for salt and ground pepper, and serve.  Recommended to serve with black eyed peas, especially if you do this for New Years.

This dish is indeed truly tender!  Leftovers will thicken up in the fridge, due to the large quantity of healthy gelatin in the feet.

soul food, New Years, southern, pork trotters, recipe

Yes, folks, I WILL be making this one again!

Let’s hear it for Fiesta Friday, and indeed have a great Fiesta.  Mine here is sleety and freezing rain atm, but that’s how it goes.  Angie is a wonderful owner of this linked place, and we also, this week, have the co-hosts:  Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau and Liz @ spades, spatulas & spoons.

In addition, let’s also celebrate a pre-New Years here this Sunday, over at What’s For Dinner? Sunday Link-Up.  I already see a plethora of good luck dishes there.

Happy New Year!!!



Posted in Cooking, Offal, Southern Hospitality | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Sea Scallops, Shrimp, Shiitake, Sprouts, Asparagus, Onion – Stir Fried

Winter Solstice is a big deal around here, raising hens.  From henceforth, there will be more daylight each day, until one gets to the point where the chickens notice, and will up the production line.  (Yes, one can keep lights on in the hen house later at night [or as would be my wont, starting them up earlier in the morning, as I don’t want to wait late at night to close the door to the coop when they decide “bedtime!”]).  Another thing I’ve noticed, moving to the countryside where my windows face south and west, is that I’m getting up and awake around dawnish, even in the summer, and I’m loving it.  When planning bedroom location I’d assumed I’d be sleeping in a lot now that I’m retired, but this seldom happens.  I get so much done by 6:30 AM in the summer, and I’m not remotely out of bed by 6:30 these days.  It’s dark… no reasonable human should be up!

Asian, stir fry, recipe, shrimp, scallops, sprouts, onion, asparagus, shiitake, Chinese

Hearty helping of a Chinese-inspired shrimp and scallop dish, with Oyster Sauce, shiitake, asparagus (?), and a plethora of sprouts.  Feel free to spread on a bed of rice!

By any account, however, I want to get a seafood recipe in here before Christmas Eve, the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes that Dad, once he discovered this feast, always wanted to honor in his kitchen.  Not sure what I will actually do on the 24th, although I know it won’t be SEVEN of the denizens of the sea, but at least a couple of them, I hope. (If I can get to ShopRite in Connecticut, they’ll have their yearly shipment of eel…  Pricy, but once a year I might do it.  At any rate, they and Stew Leonard’s always have a wonderful seafood collection this season.)  

Asian, stir fry, recipe, shrimp, scallops, sprouts, onion, asparagus, shiitake, Chinese

Scallops and shrimp, among the mess in place (er, mise en place)

Being as it’s the Christmas season, I really wanted to add in red bell pepper as a contrast to the green, but it appears they were all sold out. Do as you are inspired!

Typically, serve over a good Asian rice, but I’m trying to cut my carbs, since I’m not always eating at home.

Asian, stir fry, recipe, shrimp, scallops, sprouts, onion, asparagus, shiitake, Chinese

All ready for the skillets… that white bowl to the left holds some washed-out onion. Missing here is the tamari.

Anyhow, I had frozen sea scallops already here.  I do recommend, for a better sear, you get FRESH sea scallops, and make sure they weren’t injected with water (to up the price per pound, eh?)  I found shrimp wild caught in Argentina, which sounds reasonable to me since they don’t seem to sell uncooked American shrimp in this burg.  At least, it’s not farmed in Southeast Asia.  So…. here goes!

Asian, stir fry, recipe, shrimp, scallops, sprouts, onion, asparagus, shiitake, Chinese

A nest of just-added shrimp in the middle of veggies that have been pushed to the side. Large, so they were cut in half.

Asian, stir fry, recipe, shrimp, scallops, sprouts, onion, asparagus, shiitake, Chinese

Two minutes later, shrimp are done, please toss the shrimp a bit. The dish is now ready for the previously-cooked sea scallops to make an appearance.

Prep Time: 20 minutes.
Cook Time: 25 minutes.
Rest Time: None.
Serves:  4-5.
Cuisine: Chinese-Inspired Seafood.
Leftovers:  Yes, re-heat minimally.
Serve over rice, if desired.
Serve with a nice Oolong tea.

Sea Scallops, Shrimp, Shiitake, Sprouts, Asparagus, Onion: Stir Fried

  • 9-10 ounces / 270 grams fresh, raw shrimp, de-shelled and de-veined.  If your shrimp are large, cut them in half.
  • 13 ounces / 370 grams sea scallops.  Buy scallops that are not injected with water.  It is best to use fresh, not frozen.
  • 1 medium onion, yellow or white, chopped.   (I used red for color, plus I had it left over…)
  • 6 ounces / 170 grams shiitake mushroom, stems removed.  Sliced.  
  • 9 ounces / 250 grams asparagus, chopped into 1.5 inch lengths.  (I weighed after removing bottoms since there was so much bottom on these to remove.  I prefer the thin asparagus, but use what you find.)
  • 8 ounces / 225 grams mung bean sprouts.  
  • Optional hot pepper, de-seeded and sliced.  I used part of a Jalapeño that turned out no hotter than a poblano pepper, so I added a sliver of an actual hot pepper.  Use whatever’s in your comfort zone.
  • Cooking oil, I used leftover bacon fat (and reduced any added salt).  Otherwise, I recommend high temperature avocado oil or grapeseed oil.  Ghee / clarified butter would work.
  • Oyster sauce. This is hard to pour for measuring (especially if kept in the fridge).  Approximately 3 tablespoon by eyeball.  I have not yet found a variety without gluten… you could use San-J’s Teryaki sauce if so desired.
  • San-J’s Asian BBQ sauce (this has no gluten), also hard to measure, about 3 tablespoons.
  • 3 tablespoons low sodium tamari.
  • 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste.  
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder.
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander.
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  

In a large skillet of sufficient size to hold everything, lightly brown the onions in cooking oil or bacon fat, about 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, and stir.  Cook for another five minutes or so.

Meanwhile in a second, small skillet, using a little oil or fat, add dry scallops to medium high heat.  Allow them to brown and turn them accordingly.  You don’t want them falling apart, or turning rubbery, which may happen if you leave them on too long.  Remove after about 5 or so minutes of cooking, set aside.

Back to the original skillet:  add in the asparagus.

Then, add the optional hot pepper, the three sauces, plus the seasonings.  Depending on thickness and how you like your asparagus (au dente or flabby), sauté another 5-10 minutes.  (Taste.)

Add the sprouts, stir until they are warmed, about two minutes.

Push the veggies to the side(s) of your skillet, and add the shrimp in just over the hottest part.  Saute until translucence goes away, about two minutes.  Add in the scallops, and mix everything together.

Remove from heat and serve, typically over rice.

Asian, stir fry, recipe, shrimp, scallops, sprouts, onion, asparagus, shiitake, Chinese

PS, even though Dad knew the Feast of the Seven Fishes hails from Italian culture, his menu always included some preparations from Asian parts of the world.  So… I continue to follow along in his culinary memory.

SO much fun!  At any rate, do drop by Fiesta Friday, which is being co-hosted with Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and myself this week.  

There’s also fun and partying over at What’s For Dinner: Sunday Link Up.  Drop on by!



Posted in Asian & Asian Influenced, Cooking, Mushrooms, Seafood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

And a Partridge (er, Pheasant) and a Pear Tree…

My brother sent me a smoked pheasant from Burgers’ Smokehouse, a game poultry package, earlier this month (for my birthday, which is early December).

smoked pheasant, pear, holiday, Christmas, Yule, Solstice, winter

Smoked pheasant (NOT partridge) with pear and allspice. That’s the platter, sort of just smaller than the usual supermarket chicken.

Since I have no idea where one can get partridges hereabouts, as I think they’re strictly a British or possibly also a French thing (and these days they may not be easy to obtain even on that far side of the Atlantic), hey… I went with pheasant, since I had this previously-smoked one to hand.  Do read the bottom of this post… I had creative fun!!!  

Pears I could find.  I truly appreciate Anjou over Bartlett, and if you find Anjou, do go with those.  More flavorful, more “meat” and flavor to them.   If you find both red and golden, try one of each!

Pheasant, smoked pheasant, poultry, holiday, Christmas, Yuletide, pear

Cooking instruction sheet. Yes, they even have microwaveable instructions, but I opted for oven.  This bird is already fully cooked, should you just want to serve cold… (Not me.)

I am putting this as a Tuesday post as opposed to a Friday recipe… as it’s not a true recipe as I don’t show you how to smoke a pheasant (no, you don’t light it up like a cigar, or like that stuff that’s now legal here in Massachusetts to puff on).

Prep Time: 5 minutes.
Cook Time:  1.25 – 1.5 hours in this case.  Your smoked bird may vary.
Rest Time:  15 minutes
Serves: 3-4
Cuisine: British Old Time Christmas/Yuletide Song Updated?
Leftovers:  Yes, reheat as desired.

Smoked Pheasant and Pear

  • 1 previously smoked pheasant (or partridge, should you luck out and find one)
  • 2 Anjou (preferred, but others will do) pears, cored and sliced.  Leave the peels on.
  • 2 teaspoons allspice.
  • Ground pepper to taste (I used 1/4 teaspoon).
  • Salt IF needed.  My pheasant came previously brined… in such a case, don’t do it.

Read the directions on your smoked pheasant.  Mine called for an oven temperature of 350 F / 180 C.  Pre-heat your oven accordingly.  Wrap it in aluminum (or aluminium, if British) foil, if so directed.  This will keep moisture in, and keep the exterior from scorching.

Roast in oven for as long as your pheasant says, in my case, 1.25 – 1.30 hours.  I figured 1.25 hours would be fine here (it was).

About 1/2 hour more or less before the pheasant is done, add the pear slices around the roasting bird.  Sprinkle pear with the allspice, and the ground pepper.

Finish cooking, pull out of oven, and allow to rest.

Another cooking idea:  Bring this bird out of oven and allow to rest as above… turn broiler on, wait for it to come to temperature, pat dry the exposed upper surface of skin, broil for 3 or so minutes, checking… this may brown the skin.  With or without, this is great any ways!  Very tender.

recipe, pear, pheasant, smoked pheasant, holiday
Let’s hear for a great set of servings! Enjoyed that night, and a couple subsequent nights.


(no now-legal-here wacky tobaccy involved in the creation of this post.
I am naturally this way)

“On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Twelve drummers drummin’, eleven pipers pipin’, ten ladies dancin’
Nine lords a-leapin’, eight maids a-milkin’, seven swans a-swimmin’
Six geese a-layin’ five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens
Two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree

Which means by the end of the song, the stressed-out lass has received 12 partridges in 12 pear trees (although I doubt each partridge would just stay in the one tree), 22 turtle doves, 30 French hens (I have eleven hens, none of them are French but their ancestries hail from America, Australia, and Britain), 36 calling birds (maybe today they’d be 36 smart phones?), 40 golden rings (okay, something useful, practical, and welcome, especially to trade in to house all those birds….), 42 geese (who are thankfully laying lots of eggs, and the excess can be sold, or at least made into one ginormous soufflé), 42 swans (hopefully just with one pond of water for all of them), 40 maids milking (cows?  goats?  Let’s hope for goats, they’re smaller.  And, tasty, actually…), 36 agile lords (I hope they know food is going to be pot-luck, but they’re welcome to use the kitchen and the outdoor grill to make use of several of those excess birds, whenever they stop leaping and crashing into the bric-a-brak), 30 agile ladies (again, bring or make pot-luck!  But why they started dancing before the musicians got there I’ll never know), 22 pipers with their pipes, and 12 drummers with their drums.  The 34 musicians are welcome, and it’s only for two days anyway.  I hope they have a good and varied repertoire, along with a mixture of wind instruments and drums.

At the end of this courtship, the lass in question will no doubt have run off with one of the Lords a-Leaping.  The one with the best sense of (non-destructive) humor — I’m sure her old amore found all those gifts to be funny, ha-ha — who likes walks in the woods, reads books, and whom has no need to give her anything to impress her, except shared attention, conversation, companionship.  (But HOW to break him of the bric-a-brack leaping destruction habit??)  Or, maybe… just maybe… maybe best yet… she’d run off with one of those Drummers who is really into Mickey Hart or Cuban percussion… maybe him…

With those 40 golden rings of course… after she’s bitten them to check to make sure they’re real gold.  Ha-ha, her ex-paramour laughs!

We’re enjoying a fiesta at Fiesta Friday, which is being co-hosted with Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook and myself this week.  Come on by and party hardy!  Promises to be a lot of fun!







Posted in Cooking, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rooster Corfu

Rooster Corfu, homesteading, recipe, cinnamon, low and slow, onion

Rooster Corfu, ready to decant from the pot.

As some of you may remember, I raised some chickens for meat this summer.  They arrived May 3rd, and went outdoors sometime in June, and were harvested for meat September 30th.  After a short adjustment period in their chicken tractor, I allowed them to free range during the day when I was home.  Six roosters and 1 hen (a second hen was way too friendly and now lives with the laying birds, and is truly still the most friendly).

Five of us had gotten together, and we harvested one person’s drakes (male ducks) before we came over and harvested my small flock.  Teamwork makes any task go easier!!

Anyhow, with two of the birds, I’d taken the carcasses and bagged them as parts of each whole bird (minus wings and guts* — wings of which I wanted to save for buffalo, or other style, of wing appetizers, and it made more sense to put together two bags of all of those for such purposes).   I did include the backs, however.

After harvesting and cleaning, keep birds chill (ie in the fridge) for a day or two before freezing.  I did this and set up the new vacuum sealer, a cheap model, but so far on the small amount of use it has had, it appears to be working well.

The goal was to make Coq au Vin (Rooster in Wine) for one bird, and Rooster Corfu (for the other bird).  Both these dishes are/were intended to be shared with guests.  It’s a lot of meat per roo!

Rooster Corfu, homesteading, recipe, cinnamon, low and slow, onion

In the interest of expediting matters, I started adding in some onion to the skillet while the last of the rooster was being browned…

Rooster Corfu is simpler to make than Coq au Vin, and after having tasted the former, and looking at the ingredients for the latter… I think I am going to make the Corfu variant again for the next guests willing to try home grown rooster.  (Don’t raise your eyebrows… I have two nearby omnivore friends to date who told me they won’t ever eat a bird I  raised here – only one of whom who has actually briefly MET said birds — because even that sounds too personal — but they’ll chow down Tyson’s factory-raised poultry without a second thought.  No.  I seriously don’t get it.)

Corfu is a large island that’s currently part of the nation of Greece, and is located to its west.  Its main and municipal city is also named Corfu.  Corfu has a rich history stretching back into antiquity; unfortunately a lot of its architecture was bombed during WWII.  Cuisine has a decided Venetian influence.

Rooster Corfu, homesteading, recipe, cinnamon, low and slow, onion

Portions of chicken, browned.

Surfing around looking for rooster recipes, I found this: Corflu rooster: – from Sunstone Farm.  What interested me about their recipes is that they used rooster that was slaughtered after the prime tender time of harvest, but not ancient and aged rooster.  This fit what I had to hand.  And, the recipe sounded great.  

Rooster Corfu, homesteading, recipe, cinnamon, low and slow, onion

Still simmering…

Changes I made:  the use of healthy avocado oil, using sparkling cider instead of an alcoholic beverage, forgetting to reduce the final volume of fluid.

Prep Time:  15 minutes
Cook Time:  10-12 minutes of searing chicken, 15 minutes of other cook-prep work,
1 – 3 hours of simmering depending on age of rooster.  

Rest Time:  Five minutes.  
Serves:  5-6 servings as a main.
Cuisine:  Corfu-ian? (No:  Corfiot)
Leftovers:  Certainly.  Either reheat on the cook top, or in a microwave. I added some to a breakfast omelet, too.
Served with:  Scalloped Potatoes Au Gratin, and a tossed salad.

Corfu Rooster

  • 1 rooster, cut into pieces
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoon avocado or other high temp cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, or use red wine vinegar
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, sliced, and coarsely chopped
  • 3 ½ cups / 830 mL water
  • ½ cup / 120 mL sparkling cider (or feel free to use a dry white wine or vermouth)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Pat chicken pieces dry.

In a small container, mix together the cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

Sprinkle over the chicken, rubbing into it on both sides.

Heat to medium high your oil in a skillet.  Brown the chicken on all sides (two batches), and then put in a large cooking pot.

While the chicken is browning, mix tomato paste and vinegar together in another small bowl.

Sauté those onions for about six minutes (using more oil in the skillet as needed), until some browning.  Add the garlic, sautéing a minute or two longer.  Reduce heat slightly.

Now, add the tomato/vinegar mixture, and allow to simmer for a minute.  Move the onion plus the current skillet ingredients to the chicken cook pot.

Deglaze with half a cup (120 mL) of the water, and move that over to the chicken cook pot.

Again to the skillet, to bring over all remaining flavors, add the rest of the water, the cider or wine, and the sugar.  Simmer for a couple minutes, then bring all those to that chicken pot.

Put the chicken pot on a heating element, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer (covered).  Simmer this for 1 – 3 hours, depending on your rooster toughness/age.

I simmered this for 2 hours; this rooster would have been fine simmered for 1.5 hours.

What I forgot to do… in other preparations for my guests… was to transfer all the chicken out after cooking, and reducing the remaining sauce uncovered to approximately 2.5 cups of liquid (and onion), then replacing the chicken.  This would likely take about 10 minutes.  But, as I said, I forgot, and this dish turned out wonderfully anyway!  My guests informed me that this was better than some coq au vin they’d been served in a restaurant somewhere.  (Looking at the coq au vin recipe… I think I’ll stick with Corfu…)

Since this is an older bird, I notice two things:  1) While it may work best with a low and slow approach for most purposes, it has intensely better flavor than supermarket or even local quickly-raised free range Cornish Cross chickens.  2) It takes a lot less bird to reach a satiety point when you are eating them.  So, while having poultry on your hands for several more weeks may mean you are paying more for feed , the meat itself goes further.  For me, this is worth it (although I do plan to harvest most of my meat birds two or three or four weeks earlier in the future).  Yes, free-range birds generally get some commercial feed, too — in my case, I get them back in the tractor in the evening with bribery…  

NOTE:  You CAN make this with regular supermarket chicken.  Just cook it a lot less.  When it starts to detach from the bone, you’re done.  

pricechopper dessert

Despite leftover chicken, we were too full to eat these lovely little desserts I picked up at PriceChopper in Pittsfield. I gave my guests theirs to take home, and ate mine LATER. Chocolate over cheesecake.


( * The guts and other odd bits:  I combined hearts and gizzards, and made a slow braised dish for them, not recorded – for which some of you may be grateful…  The feet would normally become stock but a friend wanted them to try her hand at Chinese dim sum, so she has them in her freezer.  Livers are frozen and awaiting being turned into pate, but I want more chicken liver to make the time involved worth the effort.  I didn’t save the heads, but an inadvertent Internet surf turned up ways to cook rooster combs and wattles.  I have to admit it just seemed to “personal” to use those!  I’ve already posted a chicken unborn egg soup recipe from the one hen in the batch.  Since I don’t have the feet, necks have been reserved for stock.)   

You’ll find this recipe partying over at Fiesta Friday, with your wonderful co-hosts this week:  Antonia @ and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.

And, not to forget, What’s for Dinner, Sunday Link Up!  Another excellent party zone!

And, hanging out at Blurred Living: Let’s Party, for more enjoyment!



Posted in Commentary, Cooking, Poultry, Soups & Stews | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Raising Chickens, Part I (Intro & Overview)

This won’t be a totally organized guide to raising chickens, but I hope to provide some insight as a first-year chicken grower in New England, over a few posts that I plan to put up approximately once a month.  I won’t remotely call myself an expert, but I think first-year insights do have value.  If you’ve been doing this for five or ten years (as I’ve discovered in other fields of endeavor) you tend to forget what you learned to tell others in your beginner steps and mis-steps.)

Homesteading, poultry, hen house, chicken coop

All homes need décor. Even the chickens get some in their enclosed chicken run.  Yep, even to a feathered dino. 

I knew I’d like raising chickens, but did not realize I’d come to LOVE it.  This despite the fact that my egg layers are just beginning to step to the breakfast plate.  As it were. (Oh, note, I found my first eggs on November 20th!  Matter of time before everyone kicks in…  EDIT, I was writing this up earlier; to date as posting in the morning, I have 28 eggs, and it seems to be 2-3 eggs a day now.)

First off, though, before you even get your birds,  be sure your zoning allows you to HAVE chickens.  How many?  What size coops?

Here, I can have a bundle o’ chickens, even roosters, but I am decidedly rural.  I am allowed to build a structure on this property 10 x 20 feet without having to go through permitting.   Your milage may well, and probably WILL, differ.  Check your town ordinances, and note that some areas of your town may have more leeway than other areas.  So if your friend on one side of town tells you how she’s raising up 20 hens, don’t assume that applies to your zone, too.  The acreage you have will also determine how much you will be allowed.

Decide on your short AND your likely long term goals.  Short term should pretty much to be try things out, but note that it is cheaper to overbuild (if you CAN) and grow into it, than just build to your short term goals and add on later.  All this will depend on personal economics.

What do you want to do with chickens?

In my case, I wanted to try both meat birds (hybrids to get a feel for it) and laying hens (heritage in this case since that tends to be the best way to go for layers).  Long term:  heritage dual purpose birds that will lay, sometimes go broody, and hopefully make future generations of heritage birds that I’ll learn to breed up myself.  In this first year, my goal was 1) to discover what the process is for rearing meat birds (and the necessary unpleasant realities their last day entails), and 2) which heritage breeds may be most satisfactory on several levels for birds that are good laying hens in my region of this planet.  Long term:  I want to raise chickens here.  I mean, from parents to offspring, and then again, so a good dual purpose bird will be appropriate.

MEAT BIRDS:  For hybrid birds specifically bred for meat, there are a few choices.  Cornish Cross – I wanted to get away from the overabundance of the less-tasty white meat, I wanted more leeway for butchering time, and I wanted them to have a good and healthy life without bone fractures and heart problems.

I KNOW that many homesteaders raise Cornish Cross with no problems, but when I was talking to one person (who was to show me how he did it, but had to beg out because he had to process them a week early due to intensive heat — he mentioned that even a week early, his birds were showing signs of blood clotting around their hearts).  Many of his would not likely have survived  a heat wave.

There are red rangers/freedom rangers, who get an extra month of leeway in life, generally speaking.  I didn’t happen into them, but into red broilers/black broilers which I found through my local mom and pop farm store (sort of an independent Tractor Supply/Agway).  They can live out longer even, say to 16 weeks or so, optimally.  (They will LIVE and thrive past that, but they won’t be so tender, if you want them for meat.)  They do mature faster than dual purpose heritage birds.

roosters, black broilers, red broilers, meat, chicken, poultry

Red broiler, two black broilers. The depicted are roosters. The black matured more quickly, but I don’t know if that’s true across the board for these types of broilers.  Only three roosters of each, not enough to make a statement over.

As for dual purpose heritage meat birds… I didn’t add those to the menu this year (this was my trial year) but I have two breeds in mind for next year.  Those intended for meat will probably be harvested at 20 weeks or so, since they mature more slowly.  Hybrid birds discussed in the paragraphs above will not breed true if you want to raise chicken self-sufficiently on your plot of land (in my case, my eventual goal).

How many to raise?  Eventually, you want to figure out how much chicken you eat in a year (and any town restrictions on flock size), but seriously folks, the first year you want to see how doing this works out.  For YOU.  I ordered 9 birds from the local mom & pop farm store, one died in transit, and of the eight another was totally too sweet a bird to send on to the mealworm bin in the sky.   Note that often for these birds you might not be able to specify gender.  That’s called “straight run”… you’ll have cockerels (male) and pullets (female) in your mixed bag.  I ended up with 6 cockerels and 2 pullets, and it was one of the latter that won my heart.  TBH, Celeste is my sweetest bird to date!  (In a future post, I’ll indicate why I think this happened.)

Many of my readers who are indeed interested in raising chickens will find it impossible after they’ve raised these birds up, to butcher them.  There’s no shame in hiring out that task, AND / OR  there’s no shame in deciding to give those birds away (often mostly roosters, which can be hard to re-home…) and not doing meat birds again in your future.   Simply… don’t overestimate your desires before you are faced with knowing what you really ultimately wish to do.  (I was able to do it, aiming to provide the last moments as peaceful as possible.  And indeed I can be a softy, as I put that friendly hen in with my laying birds.)


Celeste. She’s a hybrid black broiler, born May 2nd. She’s as sweet as, and sometimes sweeter, than any of the laying heritage birds. So… she’s saved from the freezer. Right now in this pic she’s learning how to adjust to her new flock.  (It took 4 days.)

I’ll note that most chickens intended for meat are harvested before cockerels become true crowing neighbor-annoying roosters.  So you could have them where roosters are prohibited.  Mine lived longer due to harvesting logistics, but my neighbors (here where I can have roosters anyway) loved hearing them, and were saddened when the crowing… essentially vanished.  Yes, there’s one remaining rooster, read below!

PS, don’t name your chickens intended for the dinner table.  Celeste only got named after she got put in the laying coop.

LAYING BIRDS:  For these, I wanted heritage birds, and since I live in New England (Zone 5B), and this would be a year round commitment, I had several requirements:

  1. Winter hardy.  Even if the coop is heated, they need to be able to get out of the coop, even if only into the run.  If their combs and wattles freeze off, they’re neither happy nor healthy.  Chickens originally bred in northern climates are best for northerners.  Winter hardy chickens tend not to be bantams, and tend to have smaller wattles and combs.  Historically, they’ll come from colder regions of the planet.  If you live in a locale where it is seldom or never going to snow, you may want to concern yourself with heat-hardy chickens.
  2. Good eggers.  I wanted prolific to reasonably prolific.
  3. Docile AND friendly.  I learned that docile means good with each other, and friendly means they’ll probably be friendly to you, too.  More on this in a future post.
  4. A variety.  I wanted to have two or three of a few varieties that are suitable here in New England, just to see which ones I really appreciate.  I have not (yet) tried all varieties I’d like to try.
  5. No feathered legs.  They’re beautiful, but not all that practical for first-timers.  Stuff gets caught in those feathers.  Maybe down the road.  (Most, with an exception or three, aren’t winter-hardy, either.)
  6. The day old chicks should be reasonably priced.  $2-3 dollars or such apiece.  You can get some fancy colorations dropping $20, $35 or more for a day old chick.  That’s fine down the road when you are getting into breeding, showing, or trying to preserve a “new” coloration of an “old” heritage, but in your first year or so… that’s not a concern… or IMHO should not be!

I ordered 10 future laying birds from 4 different heritage varieties (day old chicks), and one unexpected plus is that is easier to count them if you don’t have to count 10 birds of the same color pattern, but two or three of each chosen pattern…  More about ordering day old chicks in the next post.

homesteading, poultry, hens, layers, eggs

A Family Photo, All Twelve Birds

(And yes, you do want to count them early and often, if you ever let them free range, electric fencing or not!)

In addition, since I don’t have restrictions on this, I ordered them a future rooster.  My feller doesn’t care much for me, but he’s very generous to his ladies.  No, you do not need a rooster to have your hens lay eggs!  Turns out Wyandottes, though beautiful birds, aren’t very friendly to humans, at least in my current level of experience.  But he’s my Fabio eye candy.  Roosters are able to protect and keep their flock together, but you don’t want to have more than one rooster per, say, 8 hens.  And you need more space if you have more than one roo.  They tend to be territorial.  You’ll notice in the above photo he’s the one closest to me.  Protective instinct, not the being-friendly instinct.  That’s how he rolls.

bird feed, chicken treats, pork fat, pumpkin seeds, mealworms

Tiny Dancer, the Silver Wyandotte rooster.

Once these birds start really laying… I will be selling off the excess eggs.  I’ve identified one market, and right now, that’s all I need.  No, I don’t begin to presume that my egg laying hens will make my homestead self-supporting!  If you luck into a homestead with an old fashioned hen house already there, you might have a chance.  Maybe.  But at any rate, this ultimately wasn’t the case in my circumstance.

Best resource for heritage breed decision-making:  The Livestock Conservancy.  Resource, bar none!!!

SHOW BIRDS:  While I have no intent in doing show birds, this is a good way for preservation of various heritage breeds.  Note that when you bring your poultry to show, you do stand the risk of disease from other birds, although there are measures at place at country fairs and other breed showing facilities to minimize this risk.   You’ll be wanting to set up space for breeding birds, and incubating eggs especially if you don’t want to rely on your hens going broody to raise new generations.  (Certainly, you can breed chickens for meat and/or egg laying and/or heritage preservation purposes, too, without showing — something seriously to consider even if you are “just” going the homesteading route.

I love going to country fairs, and certainly if you see chickens on display, talk to the exhibitors.  You may get leads on breeds, or just general chicken-y information, even if you have no intention of ever showing birds yourself.

PETS:  Any of the above (except planned meat chicken, if you want to keep that plan going forward) can become pets.  There are farms out there that rescue chickens that have effectively finished laying, and would otherwise be destined for the stew pot.  They live out their lives until, as with a cat or a dog, they come to a natural end, sometimes assisted along if in pain or in an end-of-life lack of quality of life.  I did rescue Celeste from the freezer, but it is likely she will lay at least some eggs, anyways.  And if she lags a lot behind… she’s still the sweetest of the entire lot, so she’s a pet…

My own long term goal is to raise up two or three most desired (in this locale, and for my needs) breeds of heritage birds, hatch them on site (hopefully a hen or two will step up to the brooding plate, but investing in an incubator is wise anyway), where most of the cockerels (immature males) will find their way to the freezer and most of the pullets (immature females) will find the will to become layers.  It may take a year or two for me to decide which breeds I want to, ahem, breed.

Next Up:  Planning for your new chicks!!!  (By mid-January.  Which is a good time to do some serious planning, at least here in the Northern hemisphere!)   

Happily hopping over to the Homestead Blog Hop, please drop in!

And fiesta-ing at  Fiesta Friday, with Antonia @ and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives.






Posted in Cooking | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Lamb Shoulder Chop with Cabbage, Apple, and Onion

‘Tis the season for all sorts of holidays, and right now if you are Jewish it is Hanukkah.  So, I decided to post something that would be Hanukkah friendly (ie, it would be kosher).  It also sounds a bit Irish, or Eastern European, or…

Actually, it just sounds very good!

recipe, lamb chop, cabbage, apple, onion, kosher, gluten-free

Lamb, Cabbage, Apple, Onion

You can use shoulder chops or sirloin chops from the lamb, but it really won’t lend itself to those highly-priced loin chops (you know, those bits of rib with about 2 bites of meat on each one).  This is more rustic fare.

lamb cabbage

Sliver up that cabbage! You can use green (white) cabbage if you prefer.

One good thing about lamb… it is reasonably forgiving of time and temperature variabilities when being cooked.

recipe,, lamb chop, cabbage, apple, onion, skillet, gluten-free

Red cabbage, onion, apple, waiting for their moment in the sun… er, heat of the skillet…

I only made one chop (for me)!  Multiply as needed.  (Back in the day before I was retired, lamb chops made a great lunch to bring to work and nuke accordingly.)

recipe,, lamb chop, cabbage, apple, onion, skillet, gluten-free


I used my own rosemary that I’d dried from my herb garden.

Prep Time: 10-15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Rest Time: 5 minutes
Serves: 1
Leftovers: Refrigerate and nuke, or return to the skillet as desired.

Lamb Shoulder Chop with Cabbage, Apple, and Onion

  • 1/2 small to medium onion, diced.  (About 80 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon high temperature avocado oil (or other cooking oil)
  • 1 lamb shoulder chop (or sirloin chop).  Mine was 0.88 ounces (and bone is in).
  • red cabbage, slivered, then chopped… about 150 grams.  (White/green cabbage would work as well.)
  • 1 apple, cored and chunked.  Skin removal is optional.
  • 4 teaspoons blood orange balsamic vinegar (or another fruit flavor, or a concentrated unflavored balsamic)
  • 1.5 tablespoons low sodium gluten-free tamari/soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
  • 1 – 1.5 teaspoons dried crumbled rosemary.
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (or one lime)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or regular ground black pepper)
  • Salt if needed.

To be honest, this ended up being more than I (one person) could eat, but would not be enough for a second person.  Or maybe two if not so hungry?

At any rate, leftovers DO work!

Precise measurements not needed and at the end you taste and adjust for seasonings.

Saute the onion in oil in a large skillet until just translucent.

Turn the heat under the skillet to medium high, add the lamb and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side, moving the onions to the far side of the skillet.  Then reduce heat to medium and cook the lamb on one side.  Add the rest of the veggies in, now, and all the seasonings/spices except the lemon/lime juice.  Keep the veggies to the side of the lamb, but let the seasonings go where they will (okay, I did focus on putting rosemary primarily on the lamb!  I also did not add any salt at this stage, preferring to adjust for that at the end of cooking, as even low sodium tamari might possibly have enough salt.)

Cover and cook for about 8 minutes, reaching in to move veggies around ever so often.  Cooking time will vary depending on 1) thickness of the chop, 2) your cook top heat, and 3) your preferred level of done-ness.  Mine was somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4 inches, and I like medium-rare to medium with regards to lamb chops.

Flip, moving the veggies around some more, and add the lemon (or lime) juice to all elements of the dish.  Cook another 5 minutes (approximately).  Feel free to use a meat thermometer, inserting the tip somewhere not near a bone.

Taste, adjust, plate and serve.  I put the veggies to one side for the sake of the photo, but serving the veggies atop or under is just as tasty.

recipe,, lamb chop, cabbage, apple, onion, skillet

Let’s hear it for Angie and the great folk at Fiesta Friday, where this recipe has happily gone to party.  With this week’s co-hosts: Liz @ Spades, Spatulas, and Spoons and Mila @ Milkandbun.

And, we continue to party at What’s for Dinner? Sunday Link-Up, since we love to party!





Posted in Cooking, Meats | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Mushroom and Brie Soup

It’s winter and I think this season I’m going to do a lot of soups and stews.  Gardening Zone 5B, after all!  And already we’ve had too much snow.   (Two towns east… no snow except leftover shoveling piles from the nor’easter over a week ago.)

mushroom, brie, soup, recipe, cream, allium

Serve and enjoy…

I adapted this recipe from The View from Great Island.

Essentially, I reduced the size of the recipe, since I wasn’t going to be sharing this time around.

mushroom, brie, soup, recipe, cream, allium

Onions and garlic sautéing in no-salt butter.

I’d bought shallots, but they ended up being used in the pumpkin soup from last week.  So, mostly onion plus a little leek – I saw baby leeks of scallion size in the supermarket last week, and nabbed them.  Never saw them before, so what I recommend for leeks below is for the adult, more common, variant.  Fresh thyme would likely be best, but the supermarket fresh thyme was in pathetic shape.  Punt.

mushroom, brie, soup, recipe, cream, allium

Soup before any of the dairy. Or, the pureeing.

Seeing Brie with mushrooms included in the cheese had me reach for that rather than the plain French Brie (of the same price).

mushroom, brie, soup, recipe, cream, allium

Prep Time:  15 minutes (the rest can occur while other parts cook).
Cook Time:  25 + 15 + 15 + 10 = 1 hour.
Rest Time:  not required.
Serves:  2-3.
Cuisine:  European
Leftovers:  Yes.  Nuke or use stove top.


Mushroom and Brie Soup

  •    15 ounces / 425 grams mushrooms, I chose cremini/baby Bella.  Remove dirt by wiping, if any, and quarter them.  If you use shiitake, remove the stems.  
  •    1.5 tablespoons unsalted butter or ghee. 
  •   2 large shallots or 1 medium onion or 1-2 leeks (whites).  Diced. 
  •   1-2 cloves of chopped garlic.  
  •   3/4 tablespoon flour.  (There’s so little I think it is fine to omit if you wish!)
  •   1.25 cups / 300 mL chicken or vegetable low sodium broth.  (You are welcome to knotch it up a bit with home-made!)
  •   1/4 cup / 60 mL Marsala wine. 
  •   Pepper and salt to taste.  It’s not much!
  •   1 tablespoon thyme.  Fresh is perhaps best, but I used dried.  
  •   1.5 teaspoons dried tarragon. 
  •   4 ounces Brie cheese, ideally with mushroom inclusions, peeled and chunked.
  •    1/4 cup / 60 mL heavy cream.    

Preheat your oven to 400 F / 205 C.

Toss your DRY mushroom pieces onto an oven-ready pan, and add nothing else.  Place in aforementioned oven for 20-25 minutes, periodically pulling them out to toss, to keep from burning.

While this is happening, melt your butter or ghee in a large deep skillet at medium heat, and when melted, sauté your onion/shallot/leeks, for 5 – 10 minutes, or until beginning to get translucent.  Then, add the minced garlic.

Let this sauté for another five minutes, or until everything is surely soft.

Add the flour, and mix in; the butter will prevent lumping.

Now it’s time for fun with vino… pour in the Marsala and deglaze the skillet.

Yes, there’s a reason you are using a large skillet…. next add in the mushrooms, and the chicken/veggie broth, the thyme and tarragon.   Allow to simmer lightly, not boil…, for around 15 minutes.   Cover during this process.  Taste, add a little salt and freshly ground pepper.  Oh, yes, turn the oven off!  😉

Using an immersion blender (and a deeper container!!!!) blend this to your preferred level of chunkiness.  I like a little chunk to remain in most of my soups.   You may have to do this in divided batches, depending on your container and/or how much soup you are making.

Add the dairy items…. the cream and the Brie… and mix occasionally, until everything melts.

If you judge it thicker than you’d like, add more broth.

Return to heat, briefly, and taste.  Adjust seasonings as desired.

Serve, with garnishes of your choice:  fresh mushroom?  Fresh thyme or tarragon?  Scallion shreds?  In my case, I went with thinly sliced slivers of that baby leek mentioned above.  And a little dried tarragon.
soup3 logo

This delicious recipe is being shared at:   Fiesta Friday, where this week’s co-hosts are:   Alex @ Turks Who Eat and Zeba @ Food For The Soul.   As usual, it promises to be a good party.
Also being shared at What’s for Dinner, Sunday Link-Up, for next Sunday’s food ideas.

And, over at Blurred Living: Let’s Party, for more dining (and holiday) ideas.




Posted in Cooking, Mushrooms, Soups & Stews | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments