Wednesday, 22 February 2012


Becky asked me about what we use Lardons for.

We use lardons as the fat for frying off mince (beef, pork or veal mince)ready for use in other dishes. Bolognese, meatballs, lasagne, chilli, anything really. The bacon fat adds an extra depth of flavour, and the crispy bacon bits that are left are delicious. I scoop them out o fthe fat when they are crisp and then I  usually add them back into the dish, either in the meat part or sometimes in an accompanying sauce (eg if I am making meatballs, I put the bacon bits back in the sauce I make to accopany the meatballs, rather than in the meatballs themselves). 

Sometimes I can't resist just eating them.   

They should be smoked really...we might invest in a small smoker to smoke a small amount of bacon or ham.   Maybe later in the year.

Becky, I was very interested to hear that you are raising your own porkers - what breed do you have? I  hope you will be starting a blog about your experience, as I think it would be really interesting to read.  Let me know if you do start one.

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Bit Rash

Today was the day for sorting out the bacon.

We (or, more accurately DH) had cured a piece of loin, a piece of belly, and another piece of belly for lardons.  The large electric slicer came out of the cupboard and, as theblade was sharpened, we discussed whether we should get a bigger one.   We agreed (as I think we concluded last time) that (a) a bigger one was yet another jump cost-wise,  (b) it wouldn't fit in the cupboard at all and (c) the day of slicing was a bit too late to think about it all.

We have a breakfast bar. DH stood one side, driving the slicing.  I stood the other side, retrieving the rashers and stacking them into 2-person-portions then wrapping them and putting them into bags ready to vacuum seal.  The end bits I cut up into lardons.

Next, the back bacon, same procedure.   Then DH cut up the lardon-piece by hand, while I vac sealed everything else.  Lardons weighed into 50g portions and bagged and vac'd.   I then printed labels, and everything went into the freezer.   Loads of bacon, loads of lardons!

Spring was in the air.  No point in spring cleaning as we're still using the stove (and I want to repaint the living room this spring. And the kitchen) instead I satisfied my need to clean by targetting the fridge.

I emptied the fridge, washed all the shelves,  cleaned all the permanent contents and checked sell-by dates.  I decided it was time to chuck ut the Jif lemon and limes.  The sell-by dates for both was 2007;  they've been open for several years and I think I probably last used them 3 years ago (we have fresh lemons as I like hot water and lemon first thing,  and cold water and lemon during the day).  I also threw out a half-used pack of shop bought lard, which was a couple of years past its sell-by date. . There is still a rather old unopened pack of shop bought lard in the fridge,  but it's unopened. This has happened because for the last year we have been using our own lard.

Other than that, nothing else needed to be thrown.

Was that Spring?

Valentines Day is, traditionally, the day by which pure breeds should have come back in to lay. My Garden Girls were unimpressed by this piece of information, which I gave them on the 7th of February so they had plenty of notice.

Milly, my loopy cream legbar, is back in lay.  She laid for about 7 days in January, then stopped. Then she laid for a couple of days in February, and stopped.   She started crouching for me in January, so I knew she was getting ready.

She's also started getting very squawky in the mornings.  Not an egg announcement,  more an exasperated, loud, long, shrill trill.   She's presumably feeling that Spring has sprung and she objects to being confined to the (extremely spacious) run before I let them out.

The other Girls show no intentions of coming back in to lay.  Florence (Australorp) and Roobarb (Australorp/Indian Game) have lovely clear eyes, red combs and wattles, but nothing else;  Custard (Sasso, 4th in pecking order and horrible to Tilda) does not have bright red comb and wattles. Still, she started to lay at 19 weeks old, so I don't really mind her taking it easy.

Tilda (Sasso, number 5 in pecking order, disabled chicken) I don't particularly expect her to lay.

I think the two bouts of snow, with Spring in between, has thrown out their clocks.
Elsewhere, the Allotment Girls are laying prolificly - especially those that aren't yet a year old.   I expect the bouts of broodiness will start soon.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Fathers pinches


DH grows fabulous parnips. Fresh from the ground, they are sooooo delicious. We've been waiting for the right moment to unearth this year's crop.

Yesterday we decided to make Curried Parsnip Soup and, as usual, we planned to make a large quantity so we could freeze some.  DH dug up some of the parsnips...
 ... a few more than I needed for soup.  They were beautiful. Big, creamy, tender.

So, I made a huge *vat* of soup.  We had soup for dinner,  and then I froze an extra 7 double portions Fortunately, the soup was very good.

I also made Delia's Parsnip, parmesan and sage bread to go with it (mmm, heavenly, don't know why I waited a year to make it again);    and then I steamed the remaining parsnips, pureed them, and put them in the freezer to have with roast dinners.

DH made a spare rib marinade and cooked the spare ribs left over from Friday.  They were great, I'm not usually a rib person but these were yummy.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Pork, Again.

The pork weekend continues.  Yesterday, we made a gelatinous stock (using the bones,  stock veg, and - most importantly - the trotters). This cooled and set overnight, and we'll be making pork pie later today.

Today DH de-boned the leg of pork, ready to make ham. We're doing a wet cure this time, so he prepped the brine, and that's cooling at the moment.

I'm just about to cook ham hocks ( one each from the last two half pigs) for dinner tonight.  I've had ham hock once before, in Bavaria somewhere. Or it might have been a Bavarian restaurant somewhere else in Germany, I can't remember (travelled a lot for work, and it was with team mates from all over Europe). I remember that it was beautifully cooked fat, and not  lot of anything resembling ham.     Not sure what mine will turn out like, I guess we'll see in a few hours.

Saturday, 11 February 2012


This morning it's -11.6 outside.

Girls are currently still shut in their Run, I'll let them out to free range in an hour or so.   Tilda wasn't around when I went to defrost the water so, with some trepidation actually,  I went round to the egg port on the coop to see whether she was OK.

She was fine (thank goodness).  But apparently not ready to come downstairs yet.

Treadmilling in a moment, then I'll get showered and dressed and go and see how the freezer in the shed is coping with the extremes.  Sometimes they don't cope with low ambient temperatures, which is why many (most?) freezers - even chest freezers - invalidate their guarantee if they are stored in a garage/shed/outhouse.   The thermostats get confused and they start increasing their temperature.    I'm sure I paid extra to buy a freezer designed and guaranteed to be outhouse friendly.... but I still need to check.   We have all that lovely new pork in there.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Bacon etc

We cant remember what we did regarding bacon cures for the last half pig.  One tastes OK, the othernot so much.

So I;m making a note here. This time we are using Surfy's Traditional Bacon & Ham Dry Cure mix, from  We're going to use it on the belly bacon, AND the back backon AND the lardons.


We collected our half pig today.It was already spit into the4 primary cuts. We didn't take our half head this time, but we did take theliver and kidney. Initial weighing of the primary cuts (without offal) was as follows:

Belly 4.1kg
Leg 7.2kg
Shoulder 9.6kg
Back/loin 6.8kg

Total: 27.7kg

DH dealt with the big joints, I did the cutting up/breaking down of pieces. And the removal of the fat for lard, as my fingers are more nimble than DH's and I can get it off with ease. 

Start with Belly primary cut
Peel fat off for lard

1 piece for breaking down into dice/mince/sausages (626g)
1 piece bit for back bacon (728g)
2 pieces for roasting joints 1.3kg and 1 kg, bone in. Joints scored and tied.

Next, tackle the leg
Tail -stockpot
Hock 420g
Trotter (for pork pie gelatin)
Half leg for ham 2.9kg
Other half broken down into lean dice, lean mince, sausagemeat

Third, tackle Hand (front leg). Start by cutting into 2 (shoulder and hand)
Hand part was 3kg initially. This was split into a roasting joint (2.1kg), and stuff to dice/mince (620g). Bone bit (off top) for stock
The Hand 
Trotter - both trotters together 380g 
Shoulder part  - split into 2 bne-in roasting joints. . This time we ended up with  1x3.4kg (has shoulder blade in), 1x2kg.   Difficult to get them evenly sized, would have had to have shoulder bone in both.
Joints were scored and tied. 

(Didn't take me long to do the shoulder breaking down,  so I started to weigh diced meat into bags and vac'd.   I also took the joints that were ready to go into the freezer and put them in the freezer.

DH was only using the knife to mark where to cut - he used a proper butchers carving knife to make the cut (and proper butchery saw where necessary).

Finally, the Loin
This was more difficult this time, as we weren't sure what we wanted to do. In the end we decided NOT to have any chops.  So,  we had
Piece for making into back bacon 
Eye for making Lonzino, the underneath piece being used for sausages and lardons
Large chunk for sausages and mince, and fat for lard

Broken Down meat:
Diced pork: 5 packs each weighing between 250g - 300g
Diced shoulder to make into pork pie: 1 x 300g
Mince 1.5kg
Offcuts for Sausages 2.5kg
Spare ribs for roasting
Piece of back fat and skin to make crackling or scratchings
2 trotters
1 hock

Various bones for stock

Lots of fat to make lard

Belly (bone in) 1.3kg 
Belly (bone in) 1kg
Hand 2.1kg
Shoulder (Spare rib roast) 3.4kg
Shoulder (Spare rib roast) 2kg.  

Half leg for Ham 2.9kg
Piece for Lardons 
Back Bacon 728g 
Belly Bacon
Eye of Loin for Lonzino 

Waste: 1.8kg

Snow, again

More snow last night.   A good coating, but hopefully the temperatures will stop it freezing and being a real problem.

Girls are refusing to come out of their covered run, but they aren't complaining too much.just wandering around looking a bit dazed.

Off to clear the drive.

Monday, 6 February 2012


We had a few inches of snow on Saturday night. 

On Sunday, I cleared the drive and pavement in front of the house,  and I cleared a path to the chooks.  It was already soft, but I learned a few years ago not to be fooled.  Get it moved while its fresh and it's relatively easy.  Leave it and, if the temperature drops, you end up with ice.

The Girls decided they didn't want to come out of their (covered) run, thank you very much.   They stayed in all day.

Last time we had snow, Lily and Daisy were still here,  and *nothing* stopped Lily. Here's a pic of her in the snow..

And here are the others, watching her...
I do miss her.

Friday, 3 February 2012


I'm struggling to stay motivated with the treadmill this week (I'm in week 8), and I'm compounding the problem by sabotaging myself: eating crisps, chocolate, cheese....

I'm not losing weight (thanks to the snacking, which I didn't used to succumb to), and so I'm not getting  into the virtous circle of seeing the postive results.

The initial problem is, I think, partly because treadmilling for 2 miles (just over 30 minutes) results in me getting hot and sweaty, so I can't just do it at any time. Beginning of the day or end of the day is best...but I can't really do it at the end of the day because the noise of the treadmill makes it difficult for anyone else to hear the TV.

In addition, I'm finding that, when I'm on the treadmill, I really want to stop at about half a mile..the next half mile (15 minutes) it's a real battle. When I get to a mile, I'm ready to quit.  If I can make myself stay on for over 1.25 miles then it's marginally better.  

I need to work out a routine for next week that will try and overcome these issuettes.