Amazing Tallow

Tallow, it’s not just for cooking…

When you think of tallow, I’m sure nothing appealing comes to mind. The thought of it may  even make you a bit queasy.  I completely understand, however, once you realize the the benefits of tallow you may change your mind.  I’m not making any medical claims here, but I can say for certain that it has done away with my daughter’s eczema and diaper rash.  It has also kept my dry hands and feet moisturized during our Texas windy “winter.” Tallow is a wonderful base for healing salves, balms, face creams, and body butters.

So what is tallow?  

According to Wikipedia, Tallow is “a rendered form of beef or mutton fat, processed from suet. It is solid at room temperature. Unlike suet, tallow can be stored for extended periods without the need for refrigeration to prevent decomposition, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation.”

You see, I warned you… totally not appealing!

Tallow – a super brief history of fat…

Animal fats have been used for centuries going back to Ancient Babylonians, Native Americans, and are mentioned many times biblically.  These fats were used for medicinal salves, cosmetic purposes, and cooking. Candles were made of tallow by the Romans beginning about 500 BC. and Cleopatra herself was known to have bathed in tallow to keep her skin creamy and moisturized. If it’s good enough for Cleo, it’s good enough for me!

“Historical evidence shows that Egyptians bathed regularly and combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance for washing.” ~  The History of Soap Making.

Throughout history, tallow has been combined with medicinal plants and applied to the skin to assist in healing.  Its uses are many: burns, chapped skin and lips, rashes, wounds,  pain, and even ingrown nails.

I can vividly remember my grandmother having tallow on hand at all times.  It sat upon her worn white stove in a repurposed Folger’s can next to the bacon grease.  This smooth and creamy rendering had many uses from frying chicken and French fried potatoes to moisturizing hands.  It was not uncommon for grandmother to cut a piece of an aloe vera plant along with a handful of herbs and combine it with tallow over a low heat for hours to produce a healing concoction that could rival most pharmacy brands.  She would slather this miracle salve on our wounds (usually a result from getting into things we shouldn’t have).  This, in addition to a short prayer, kiss, and hug during application, would always do the trick and soon after our wounds would heal up seamlessly with little to no evidence of our horsing and monkeying around.  Today, I continue to keep a slow steeped tallow and herb salve on hand for cuts, abrasions, and moisturizing. What’s that saying? “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Is tallow the same as lard?

Fat is fat, right?  Nope… tallow is rendered beef fat, where as “lard” is rendered pork fat. The taste is slightly different and grass fed tallow is by far more easily absorbed due to its composition being so similar to our natural  skin oils.  Due to tallow’s absorption rate into our skin, it leaves skin incredibly supple and and soft.  Lard, on the other hand, has less saturated fat which is what tones our skin or cell membranes.

I thought animal fats were bad for you…

“Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grass-fed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hard and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard.”  – Source:  Beeftallow.com

Beef fat on my skin? No way! 

Now that you know what tallow is,  you’re probably wondering why you should slather fat on your body…

Believe it or not, you’ve probably already done it hundreds of times!  A large majority of skin care companies produce creams, lotions, and other skin care products with tallow under different names to not discourage you from purchasing it.  The difference is the majority of these products come from tallow packed with antibiotics and hormones and if that’s not enough they’ve added in fragrances, phthalates, and other toxic ingredients into the mix as well.

The benefits of tallow …

20161214_210402.jpgOur grass-fed pasture raised beef tallow comes from the Ploughshare Institute  For Sustainable Culture in Waco, Texas.  We searched high and low for the highest quality tallow and this place is truly heavenly for cows.  The cattle are treated with great respect and are able to roam on hundreds of acres of beautiful lush green pastures.  I make my weekly trip to Waco and enjoy walking the fields and visiting with the wonderful community of people. If you are ever in the area, I encourage you to visit and take a class or two on: soap making, candle making, weaving, forging tools, pottery, beekeeping, organic farming, sustainable living, or just have the most fabulous farm to table lunch ever.  Make sure you have several hours to hang around to chat and learn.  It’s truly an experience!

 Sorry, I get so excited about this place.  Back to tallow…

Tallow is jam-packed with lipids that are found in our skin naturally. These lipids are what make our skin  youthful and healthy.  The fatty acids in purely grass-fed tallow are incredibly compatible and similar to the molecular structure of the oils (sebum) found in our outer layer of skin which makes it highly absorbable.  Tallow protects,  regenerates and moisturizes.  Grass fed tallow contains fat soluble vitamins A,D, E & K.   It is as pure a moisturizer as can be- no additives, no preservatives, no chemicals, and no toxins. It’s just good ol’ nature at its finest.

We hand-render and triple wash the highest quality grass-fed tallow on low heat for 15-24 hours in small batches to ensure quality and to maintain beneficial antioxidants.  To this we add organic oils such as olive, vit E., coconut, shea, medicinal herbs, and essential oils. We then triple strain and filter the infused oils to ensure a smooth salve , balm, or butter.

Our organically grown medicinal and beneficial herbs and flowers  are added to tallow to soothe and heal irritated, dry, and itchy skin.

The long laborious process of infusing oils for weeks and even months begins long before we make our salves and other tallow products.  We hand pluck and pick specific herbs and allow them to infuse into our healing oils which are added to our herb infused tallow for an extra boost of healing power and a glorious natural aroma.

Calendula, marigold, chamomile, lavender, rosemary, St. John’s wort, parsley,  comfrey, peppermint, echinacea, sage, thyme, chickweed and Mexican marigold are all great healing and soothing herbs.

Even our bees love being part of the healing and moisturizing process by sharing their beeswax and honey.  Nature is amazing!

Want to know more about  how to render your own tallow?

Now that you know a little more about tallow, you may want to try it out and experience the benefits for yourself, or maybe you just want to fry up some of the best fried chicken and French fries ever…Mmmmmm

Jill Winger with The Prairie Homestead has a wonderful site you should take a gander at.  She gives step by step instructions with photos on how to do this yourself.  Rendering tallow takes a little time, well actually what I call a “lotta” time, but it is well worth it and it stores for quite a long time in an airtight container or in the fridge.  Remember to use grass fed, pasture raised tallow from a reliable source and ensure that there are no hormones or antibiotics in it.

You can check out Jill’s blog at:

http://www.theprariehomestead.com

Not wanting to go through the hassle and time of rendering, washing, filtering, etc. ? We’ve got you covered! Shoot us an email or check out our “shop” page.

Until Next Time…

Keep it Real & Keep it Local Y’all! 

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The Texas Chick & Farmer Rob

Preserving Figs

Preserving figs is a way to ensure there are plenty of figs to eat in the winter months when there is not access to fresh figs.  
At Boca Family Micro Farm, picking figs this time of year is a daily duty; sometimes we pick them twice a day.  We are always careful to wear protective clothing due to sap allergies and rough leathery leaves. Always be aware of your surroundings; snakes love fig trees. 
Preserving figs is pretty simple, but time consuming. It’s important to be prepared and set aside some time.

 

Here’s what you will need : (It’s good to double it up if you can and have enough figs)

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 5 cups fresh figs, stems removed- keep whole and in tact
  • 1 cup water
  • 1  1/2 cups white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon of chopped candied ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger or fresh grated ginger
  • 1-2 teaspoons of orange zest

Directions

Before you begin, dissolve the baking soda in about 2 quarts of cool water and immerse the figs in the treated water in a large bowl. Gently stir to wash the figs, drain off the water, and rinse the figs thoroughly with fresh cool water. 

After thoroughly rinsing figs, the stems should be removed and then placed gently into a large pot.  After I took this photo, I ended up changing the pot to a larger one to avoid hot syrup splattering on me.

Add 1 cup water, sugar, butter, vanilla extract, lemon, lemon juice, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

Add chopped oranges, orange zest, and chopped candied ginger.

Very gently stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar, keeping the figs intact as much as possible. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to a simmer, cook until the figs are golden brown, and coated in syrup, for about an hour. Stir gently a couple of times to keep the figs from burning on the bottom of the pot. If desired, add a pinch of salt to tame the sweetness.

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 10 full minutes. You may do this in boiling water or the dishwasher on a full cycle.

Pack the figs into the hot, sterilized jars and top off with syrup, filling the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids and screw on rings to only a fingertip tightness. You don’t want to over tighten the lids or you will not have a good seal and it may end up a mess.

Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot, fill halfway with water, bring to a boil over high heat, and then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. If necessary, pour in more boiling water  until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10-15 minutes depending on your altitude.

IMG_6303Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface several inches apart until they cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store the jars in a cool, dark area and wait at least two days before opening.

Until next time,

Keep it Local & Keep it Real Y’All,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

See our blog for more on figs: fig jam, dehydrating figs, and how to care for and grow figs.

bocamicrofarm.com/2016/07/23/oh-fig

We be Jammin’!

Friday night jammin’ has a whole new meaning for me these days.  Fig jam is one of my favorite things to make and eat! It’s super easy to make and you don’t have to fuss with pectin or use a lot of sugar due to the high sugar content of figs.  In this recipe, I combine oranges with my figs to give it a little citrus kick.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 10 cups fresh figs, stems removed and chopped in quarters
  • 3  oranges, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped candied ginger
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger or fresh grated ginger
  • 2  teaspoons of orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions

Before you begin, dissolve the baking soda in about 2 quarts of cool water and immerse the figs in the treated water in a large bowl. Gently stir to wash the figs and then drain off the water and rinse the figs thoroughly with fresh cool water. 

After thoroughly rinsing figs, remove stems, chop and place gently into a large pot.  

Add all ingredients (spices, butter, sugar, oranges, zest, lemon juice, butter and vanilla) to your pot and place on stove.

Bring to a boil, stir frequently, and let simmer for an hour or until liquid begins to thicken nicely. Remember to keep your eye on it because it can scorch and burn. How do you know if it’s ready after an hour? You can always spoon some out on a plate, let it cool in the fridge, and see if the thickness is to your liking.

I love this little chopping/masher tool I bought at a Pampered Chef home party at my friend Amy’s house.  We use it for ground beef, mashed potatoes, beans, and anything that need some mashin’; it’s great for chopping!

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars and lids in boiling water for 10 full minutes. You may do this in boiling water or the dishwasher on a full cycle.

Once the jam is to your desired thickness and has simmered for about an hour, you may begin to fill your hot sterilized jars. Make sure you clean your rims with a wet towel or cloth before placing your lids on to ensure a good seal.  Only tighten the rings to finger tip tightness. You don’t want to over tighten the lids or you will not have a good seal that it could end up a mess. 

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Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 10-15 minutes depending on your altitude.

Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store in a cool, dark area, and wait at least 2 days before opening.

Enjoy on toast, muffins, biscuits and just about anything your heart desires.

Until next time,

Keep it Local & Keep it Real Y’All,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

See our blog for more on figs: dehydrating figs, preserving figs, and how to care for and grow figs.

Want to grow figs?  Check out bocamicrofarm.com/2016/07/23/oh-fig

Like us on Facebook:www.facebook.com/bocafamilymicrofarm

bocamicrofarm@gmail.com

Dehydrating Figs

What do we do with all these figs?

It seems our ripening faster than we can preserve them.

Here is an example of what we picked off one tree in just a few minutes.  Hundreds were left on the tree.

My friend Dana ,  a fellow micro-farmer, suggested dehydrating them.

Hmmmmm….Why had I not thought of this before?

It was a genius idea on how to preserve our figs and not let them go to waste.

I immediately logged on to Amazon and ordered a dehydrator.

Like magic, two days later, it arrived.  Who doesn’t absolutely love Amazon?  They save you time, gas,  and money!

I ripped the box open and immediately got to work.

It’s as simple as 1,2,3.

  1. Wash figs
  2. halve or quarter them
  3. place them flesh side up on the trays and dry!

So simple a three year old can do it…and she did!

What can you do with dried figs? Oh, the possibilities! 

Add to: oatmeal, yogurt, breads, cookies, salads, stews, sauces, pies, pizza, ricotta, stuffing, granola, and the list goes on…..

Need some more dried fig recipe ideas? Check out epicurious.com/tools/searchresults

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Until next time…

Keep it Local & Keep it Real Y’All,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

 

bocamicrofarm.com/2016/07/23/oh-fig

 

Summer Garden Veggie Soup

 

Summer Garden Soup…cold or hot, this soup serves up a heaping load of nutritious veggies for lunch or dinner.

After a day in the garden I found myself with a cart load full of zucchini squash, butternut squash, carrots, and onions.

I decided to whip up some soup and some zucchini, apple, carrot bread .

I made this garden soup a few weeks back and it was a hit.  Honestly, I just dumped all my veggies in a pot and quite remarkably it came out wonderfully.  I tried searching a recipe but couldn’t find one with all the veggies I had harvested and I thought… how hard can this be, really?  It turned out to be an amazingly delicious soup, and one my whole family loved. This large batch made for plenty of leftovers to freeze and eat another day.

What you will need:

  • 6 cups shredded zucchini
  • 6 cups shredded carrot
  • 6 cups shredded butternut squash (one large butternut squash)
  • 64 ozs of chicken broth (organic if possible)
  • 1 & 1/2 cup onion -chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (large)-chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil OR 1/2 stick of  butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of  half and half
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • sea salt & pepper to taste

Add oil or butter to a a large stock pot, then add onion, bell pepper and garlic till onion becomes transparent and fragrant.

Begin to add other ingredients… zucchini, butternut squash, and carrots

Add chicken broth.

I am often asked,  “Do you eat your chickens ?” or “Do you make your broth from your chickens?” Well, when I started on this micro-farming venture, I had every intention of eating my chickens as well as their eggs.  Unfortunately, I made the mistake of naming them, and then falling in love with them.  They truly give me such joy and I can’t say enough about what a stress reliever they are for me. No matter how difficult my day, when I get home , I grab a glass of tea, some grain, and head straight for the back yard where I plop down in a chair or hammock and watch these beautiful creatures scratch and peck under a big blue sky. I could sit there for hours…it’s chicken therapy…and they feed me to boot!  No, I’m not at the point where I can make my own broth from my feathered friends, but it’s in the works; I just need to get there mentally ….and emotionally.

Your broth will probably not cover the veggies at this point….no worries, their will be plenty of liquid once the veggies cook down a bit. Give it a good stir.  Once it comes to a boil, cover and simmer until all the veggies become soft (about 45 minutes)

Once all veggies have become very soft and are cooked through, add in half & half cream, and salt and pepper to taste. If you choose to at this point and you feel a bit more spice it needed…go for it! Add it some garlic, minced onion, powdered onion, chicken bouillon, etc.  I enjoy the flavors of the garden coming through in this soup, therefore,  salt and pepper worked just fine.

Let simmer an additional 20 minutes, stir often.

You may eat it at this point if you choose to have the veggies chunky, OR you may use an immersion blender to make smooth (I use my immersion blender to make soap and use strong essential oils, so to ensure I don’t transfer any of that over to my soap, I’m going to put it in my blender and get it a bit smoother). Yes, it’s hot, so be careful if you choose to do it this way. If you are using an immersion blender, be careful not to lift it up in the pot, OUCH!

And that’s it! You can definitely feel good about this soup. It’s full of nutrition, antioxidants, beta carotenes, and carotenoids.  If you’re watching your dairy intake or want to slim it down, you can always eliminate the half and half and use a nut milk or use whole or 2 % milk in its place.

Add some shaved fresh parmesan, croutons or a warm slice of bread…mmmmm...

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Dont’ forget the girls….(chickens)

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Until next time,

Keep it real & keep it local y’all,

The Texas Chick

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Me & the hubby “Farmer Rob”

Zucchini, Carrot, & Apple Bread

 

Today, as I was adding fresh wood chips and compost to our garden, I decided to harvest some squash and carrots.  I ended up with more than I could make for dinner tonight, or tomorrow, or the entire week! What to do with so many carrots and squash?  Bread and Soup!

Ironically, though we try to grow most of our food, our son will not eat a vegetable or a fruit, so this is a  great way to sneak in tons of veggies, fruits and nuts in a healthy snack. It’s so much better than those store “fruit bars” and it makes for great muffins too!

Ingredients  you will need for zucchini, carrot & apple bread

  • 2 cups sugar ( you can use coconut sugar, or other natural sugars, although honey may make bread gooey and this bread is already very, very moist! )
  • 1 cup coconut oil – melted  (or vegetable if coconut is not available)
  • 3 eggs (farm fresh if possible)
  • 2  teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup shredded apple (red or green)
  • 3 cups stone ground wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger

Optional below but make for a great bread! 

  • ¼ cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • ½ to 1  cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)
  • ½ cup shredded coconut (optional)

First things first…. preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour 2 loaf pans or generously oil with coconut oil and dust with some flour.

In a mixing bowl:  add eggs, sugar, vanilla, and oil. Beat until well blended and eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

In another bowl:  add flour, baking powder, salt,  baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground ginger , and cinnamon

Hand mix the dry flour mixture until all spices and other ingredients are well blended.

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Add the sugar/ egg/oil/ vanilla mixture a little at a time to the flour mixture and mix well.  You will notice the batter it is very thick. This will change when you add your veggie/apple mixture and  will become more moist.

IMG_5936Add shredded zucchini, carrot and apple

Mix well.  Choose all, some or none of the optional ingredients and fold in- below I have added dried cranberries, coconut, pecans and chopped crystallized ginger.

Once you have added in optional ingredients and squash, carrots and apples your mixture will resemble something like this.  As you can see it’s FULL of goodness! IMG_5947

Divid between the two prepared loaf pans and bake for 1 hour or until a wooden toothpick is inserted in center and comes out clean.  Mine took about 1 hour and 10 minutes to fully cook due to all the extra “optional” ingredients.

You can see that the zucchini, carrots and apples are very visible and in their whole state.  This is a very moist and dense bread and it’s always better the next day 🙂

Now for the test….

Goal and score! My non-veggie and non-fruit eater loves it! We can now add this to his picky food list of peanut butter sandwiches, egg & cheese tacos,  and yogurt.

Don’t forget the chickens!  We divide our scraps up between chickens, BSFs (black soldier fly larvae), and red wiggler worms.

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Keep it real & keep it local y’all,

The Texas Chick

 

Squash Flower Quesadillas

Squash Flower Quesadillas and a little lesson on the birds and the bees…..

The nutty, buttery, and delicate flavor of squash blossoms makes for a delicious appetizer or meal when added to some stone ground corn tortillas, cheese, and fresh herbs.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic- minced/finely chopped
  • 30-40 squash blossoms
  • 6-8 corn tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
  • Oaxaca cheese
  • jalapeños and cilantro  (optional)

Squash blossoms are often eaten in Mexico and Italy. They can be used in anything from omelettes, to soups, stews and pizza.  Often they are stuffed with fresh goat’s cheese, mozzarella or ricotta or dipped in a milk/egg mixture, lightly floured and fried.  If you don’t have a garden, don’t despair, you can often find these at farmers markets, Latin grocery stores or specialty markets.

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No school bells means more time in the garden and more time in the garden means more cooking! I set the alarm extra early today to make sure I would catch my squash blooms fully open.  I had great intentions but I snoozed, and snoozed, and…well you get the picture and before I knew it it was 7:00 A.M.! I threw on my boots, put my hair in a baseball cap and I was out the door with a garden basket in hand determined to cook up some squash blossom quesadillas for dinner.

In this Texas heat, squash blossoms do not stay open very long.  It is best  to harvest  them while the morning is still fresh and cool to avoid damaging the blooms in attempts to pry them open and prepare them.

I was careful to pick only the male blooms, leaving some for pollination. Now, y’all know I’m new to micro-farming, so when learning how to plant squash, harvest and preserve them I also learned a little about the birds and the bees, literally! Seems my bees love my squash blooms, and thanks to our bee hives here on the farm our gardens are healthy, thriving and producing…or is it reproducing? Hmmmm…

I found one of my honey bees filling his pockets with pollen :

When picking blooms,  it’s a good idea to leave a few male blooms and certainly leave the females alone; they are going to be dinner soon (squash)!  Don’t know the difference? No worries, neither did I a few years back. Here is a little guide:

Male flowers grow on a long narrow stem. You can also tell the two apart by looking at the reproductive organs found in the center of the flower. The female flowers contain the stigma. The female part, or stigma, generally looks like a flower in its own right. It has several “bumpy structures” that cluster around a central opening. It also has a swollen bottom called an ovule.

The male part, or the anther, are longer and thinner and the base of the bloom is not swollen, rather just attached to the stem.

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Once you have picked your male blooms leaving some for pollination, it’s time to prep your blooms. You’ll want to pick a fair amount of blooms. For about 4 quesadillas you should have about 30-40 blooms.  This may seem like a lot, but once cooked it really is very little.

Rinse in cool water, snip bottom off the bloom and slit down the middle to remove the anther and stem.  Flatten out flowers as you go and put aside.

I will be using these later for our dinner, so in this case the best way to store them is to place the slightly dampened and prepped blossoms on a paper towel within a plastic bag, laying flat and placed in fridge till ready to cook.

I had some beekeeping and chicken chores to tend to and  returned hours later from the garden with cilantro and jalapeños as well as  onions and garlic from our curing table.  Our onion and garlic harvest was less than hoped for due to the heavy Texas’ rains March through May that drowned many of them.

(once onions and garlic are harvested they are to be placed in a well ventilated and shaded area where they will cure for 3 weeks or more till the tops dry, after they can be kept in a cool dark area such as a basement, root cellar or in our case the baskets in the bottom of our pantry)

Chop onion, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno.

Prepare the Oaxaca cheese by slicing thin or chopping up. It melts relatively quickly and can be fun to eat when fully melted into a stringy and gooey mess.

Oaxaca cheese is white, semi-hard cheese  from Mexico. It reminds me of Monterey jack with a mozzarella like string cheese texture.  Its name comes from the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico where it was first made. The Dominican monks brought the string cheese process originally from Italy to Mexico. In Italy they  produced mozzarella, but goat milk was unavailable so they used cow milk instead.  When you remove cheese from package, you will notice the Oaxaca resembles a ball of yarn. Once pulled apart, you can see ribbons of cheese that have a striking resemblance to mozzarella string cheese.

Heat a skillet and have corn tortillas ready to go.  These are fresh hand made corn tortillas  my garden helper made this morning while I was out and about doing chores.

Place 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet, add onions and garlic and sauté.

Add chopped squash blossoms. Be careful not to overcook as I did.  Once onion and garlic are done, turn stove off, add blossoms and toss lightly. Turning heat off and gently tossing will help keep the vibrant and beautiful color and shape.

You will find that the blossoms shrink quickly….a bit too quickly and too much in my case…

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Place corn tortilla on hot griddle (comal) and fill with cheese and blossom mixture, cover with additional tortilla.  Check for a golden brown and flip. Continue to cook till cheese is fully melted. Flip to avoid scorching or burning.

I personally like my corn tortillas extra brown as it brings out a nice smokey flavor.

Cut in quarters, garnish with cilantro and add jalapeño for a little extra kick! Great as an appetizer or add a side of black beans or charro/boracho beans and some avocado and you have a meal!

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And of course… never, ever forget the sweet tea with fresh squeezed lime and mint from the garden, just the way I like it 🙂

Tip:  Here are a couple of ways to keep leftover cilantro fresh:  Place in clean cool water in a cup or glass and keep it on kitchen counter and change  water daily.  You may also keep in in a glass of water, place a zip plastic bag over it and zip both ends at bottom (or use a rubber band to keep encapsulate), place in fridge and change out water every few days.

Always remember your chickens ! Our brood loves our veggie scraps.

 

Until next time..

Keep it real & keep it local! 

The Texas Chick

 

 

 

Butter Me Up!

Nothin’ says love like butter…real butter.  I’ve often wondered if the first 4 letters of butter were intentional or maybe somewhat of a warning? Hmmm. None the less, no matter what diet or calories you’re watching, there’s always a little room for some warm bread and creamy homemade butter.

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My oldest daughter….she loves herb butter!

My oldest, a police officer, rarely visits due to her schedule and busy life. When I have withdrawals, I simply pick up the phone and mention food.  I’m not quite sure what lured her home on this particular day, the fact that her dad was smoking a brisket and ribs, or that there was fresh bread in the oven and I was going to make a batch of herb and honey/cinnamon butter. Regardless, she showed up 20 minutes later….hungry

 

Funny thing….so did my friend, Margie, AND her parents! See how butter  spreads the love and brings people together?

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Margie working on her buttering up skills

I purchased this handy-dandy butter churner at the Mother News Earth Fair in Belton, Texas this year thinking I’d try my hand at real hand-churned butter.  BUT….. 25 minutes later, carpal tunnel and tennis elbow, I decided to follow the advice I often give my students, “Work smarter, not harder”, and so I brought out the old faithful Kitchen-Aid stand mixer and got to making some butter. Every time I bring out this stand mixer, I give my husband praises and say “best gift ever”, however,  25 years ago when he gifted me my first Christmas gift, (a blender) I gave him a lecture on “gifts for your fiancé”.  Now when I ask for an appliance for birthdays or holidays, he gets this very confused and nervous look on his face . 

What you will need:

  • 2 cups fresh raw milk from a local dairy farm / OR 2 cups organic heavy cream
  • pinch of salt (optional)
  • herbs of your choice (in this case I used basil, chives, and parsley) 2 tablespoons of each.
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • OR local honey  (3 tablespoons) and
    • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • stand mixer or hand mixer
  • ice water bath
  • fine mesh strainer
  • mixing bowls
  • wax paper

Collect your herbs ( I take any opportunity to use fresh herbs out of our garden). Herb butter is great on bread and whatever is left over can be made in 1″ rolled balls, wrapped and frozen for use  to sauté  veggies, baste beef, chicken or fish or thaw and used on bread at a later date.   I’m going to use basil, chives and parsley for this particular recipe. However, there are many other great combos:

  • The zest of one organic lemon and one organic lime (great on fish)
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced toasted pecans or walnuts and 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 tablespoon each of finely minced fresh parsley, chives, rosemary and tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced mint and 1 tablespoon lemon zest (great on lamb)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh minced dill weed and 1 tablespoon orange or lemon zest (great on fish or vegetables)

Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free…or $10 ?  We have a dairy in town that has amazing grass-fed milk.  Nearly a third of it is cream!  You can see the amount of liquid missing and if I let it sit a bit more, I’m sure I could easily get another inch or two out of this gallon.

I pour it off into a glass container, so that I can see the separation of cream and milk and am able to skim off the cream without taking too much milk with it.  Let cream sit out on the kitchen counter till it reaches room temperature, about 2 hours…or on a hot Texas day, 10 minutes! When it reaches room temp, skim off all the cream you can, or about 2 cups.

Put 2 cups of room temperature cream in the hand butter churner   bowl of a stand mixer (you may use a hand mixer, just make sure you are in great shape and have something to drink in the other hand because you are going to be here a while).

No, it’s not halloween..that ghost like image below has a  mixer  under it. The splashing from the mixer can get a bit messy…be afraid…be very afraid  prepared.

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After a while, this will turn into  whipped cream. You can stop here and just eat this on some fresh berries or continue on to butter. I’ll admit, I’ve done both :).  Once it turns to whipped cream it will continue to beat till it breaks apart and turns to butter. You will see thickened yellow colored chunks all about.

Remove your butter getting as many clumps and lumps out as you can not leaving any of these little buttery clouds behind.

 

Give your butter a bath, or two! or three! Continue to squeeze butter, knead it and rinse it in the ice water bath.  The water will become cloudy and your butter will begin to stiffen. The cloudy water indicates your leftover buttermilk is coming out and this is exactly what we want to happen. Change out ice water bath a couple of times if you like.  I don’t rinse it more than twice because we eat it as soon as it’s done.  The more you rinse,the longer your butter will keep.

What do you do with what’s left in the mixer bowl?  That leftover milk will not be forming into butter in the near future. This is buttermilk, as in butter’s milk.  This delicious leftover liquid can be used to make the most incredible scones, buttermilk pancakes or biscuits!!! Oh, how I love fresh buttermilk biscuits, but that’s a different blog.

Place your rinsed and strained butter in a mixing bowl. You can eat it as is at this point, or you can add in your herbs or honey/cinnamon or other combination of herbs. I’m going to divide the butter and use half for herb butter and the other half for cinnamon & honey.

First, the herb butter… rinse fresh herbs and chop.  I’m using a bit more garlic, because it keeps vampires away, unfortunately it also keeps the hubby away ♥ Oh the sacrifices foodies  will make.

As butter sits in the mixing bowl and out of the water bath it will begin to soften again.  Add herbs (1-2 tablespoons of each) to the butter and begin to knead in.  The butter will continue to soften with the heat of your hands which will help the oils from the herbs infuse into your butter….mmmmm.   If you choose, you may add 1 teaspoon of olive oil to help with spreadability. Transfer to a sheet of wax paper and form a shape:  ball, rectangle, longhorn, heart, or  the Eiffel tower. It doesn’t really matter and your family or friends will be too busy moaning and drooling to care. Wrap that baby ball of butter up! This is your “butter half”…bahhahahah, sorry couldn’t help it.

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Now for the honey & cinnamon butter…

Take the other half (if you’ve chosen to make 2 flavors) of this batch and place it in another clean mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 3 tablespoons of local honey, ours comes straight from the hive…talk about L-O-C-A-L!

Knead in and wrap in wax paper.

Place butters in fridge to firm them up.  If you plan on eating this soon, this will literally take a few minutes. If you leave it in too long, it will completely harden up and you will have to sit it out to soften enough to spread.  Fresh raw milk butter will keep up to 2 weeks in fridge. If it begins to smell sour, just make some pasta and throw it in with some parmesan.  Remember, the more you “rinse” the longer it lasts.

Confession: We baked our fresh bread earlier this morning and devoured that with some homemade peach jam from our orchard, so to make sure we ended this on a good note we hit the local bakery for a  warm French loaf to enjoy our just made butter.  My bread is not usually such a beautiful golden brown; I’m still working on perfecting that 🙂  With a family of 7, nothing lasts long in our home.

Until next time…

Keep it real & keep it local y’all,

The Texas Chick

Garden Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberries are one of my favorite fruits and I have the scars to prove it.  If you plan on going blackberry picking make sure you have a sturdy stick, short PVC pipe, or some great protective gloves and a long sleeve shirt to avoid pricks and pokes from thorns.

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On this particular day, we visited Sweetberry Farms in Marble Falls, Texas on it’s last day of business for the spring where we picked 7 lbs. of berries.  I am looking into putting in a 200 foot fence  with blackberry bushes and grapes vines at our micro-farm, so I wanted to gather any information and advice on how to get the most success with my harvest and learn about soil needs and amendments. Currently we have 15 bushes that do moderately well, but I know we can do better. Remember, in Texas, we go big or we go home.

There’s nothing like the taste of a perfectly ripened blackberry.  I have great memories of blackberry picking with my grandmother, knee deep in acres upon acres of robust blackberries nestled amongst large, bright, sky-scraping sunflowers.  We lived in south Texas on a small rancherito (little ranch) and I always knew we were near home by the smell in the air.  Coming down the long caliche road, windows rolled down, wind in my hair, I could smell that Texas breeze. There’s nothing like it and if you’re not familiar with the smell of a south Texas breeze in summer it’s the sweet, sweet smell of ripened berries, baled hay, sunflowers, palm trees and manure…yep, you heard right…manure! This  intoxicating mixture was the sweet smell of home and I delighted in every breath.

So what do you do with so many blackberries? There are many options and we have a few on our blog, but a classic and my favorite is ….

Blackberry Cobbler

So let’s get to it.

What you will need:

  • 1 stick Butter, melted
  • 1-1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Self-Rising Flour
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 2 cups Fresh Blackberries
  • pie dish or other baking dish

First things first, rinse your blackberries. I can guarantee you they are full of bugs and little critters of all sorts,  so rinse them in a colander repeatedly and then place them in a bowl of water and drain.

Measure out all your ingredients and set aside-

Generously butter a pie dish or baking dish – set aside

 

Place 1 cup f measured self-rising flower  and one cup of sugar in mixing bowl, (reserve the other 1/4 for later) to that, add milk and whisk just enough to mix , then add melted butter and whisk again until well blended.

 

Pour mixture in buttered dish

Add the pint (2 cups) of rinsed and gently patted dry or air dried blackberries. Distribute evenly over mixture.

Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over berries – I must admit I forgot to add the sugar earlier and had to scoop out my batter and add it in, this is why my batter or mixture looks a bit purple in color.  I often am pulled while cooking for some major emergency : Lego pieces missing, broken crayons, shoes on wrong foot, or potty training accident. So, the sugar was missed, but no major issues…I just added it in.

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Place in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Meanwhile, make some fresh whipping cream.

Place 2 cups of heavy cream in a mixer or bullet. This bullet mixer comes in super handy for quick drinks, pestos, or whipping cream. Just add a bit of sugar (one teaspoon , though you can do without and it would still be just fine) and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to sweeten and flavor and turn it on for 10 seconds. If using a hand mixer or stand mixer, mix until whipped cream forms soft peaks.

DING! The timer went off and your cobbler is ready.  I was a bit disappointed in the overall aesthetics of the cobbler, but remember I forgot the sugar earlier and had to dump it all out and put it back in again, so this may have been the reason behind my “not so perfect” looking cobbler. Either way, it will taste divine.

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Serve warm, top with whipped cream, or unbutton that pant button and add some homemade vanilla ice cream…Enjoy!

 

Keep it real & keep it local y’all!

The Texas Chick

 

 

 

 

Garden Blackberry & Spinach/Kale Salad

 

Our  garden at Boca Family Micro Farm is bursting at the seams with blackberries, onions, spinach and kale, not to mention many beautiful flowers that not only look lovely, assist with repelling pests,  and add a pop of color to our garden, but are also edible!  As the heat increases, our spinach and kale crop will decrease as will our appetite for heavy or hot foods, so a light colorful salad is perfect on a hot day.

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What you will need:

These are all approximate and you may add a bit more or less as you please-

4 cups of spinach and/or kale-  rinsed and dried

1 pint of fresh blackberries

6 ounces of feta cheese

1 green onion/ onion tops

1 small red onion

¼  cup chopped pecans or walnuts

½ cup of edible flowers such as calendula  or what you have available in garden

Optional:  cooked and crumbled bacon

Optional: cherry tomatoes, halved

Your favorite balsamic dressing or bacon dressing

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Picking your blackberries from your garden? A few rinses may be necessary. If they are anything like ours you may find that insects love them just as much as we do. I find this to be a good thing and a sign that pesticides and insecticides are absent or greatly limited.  I rinse them individually and then let them soak in water a bit to make sure I get them all.  Drain and measure out a pint and put aside.

Pick young and tender leaves of spinach and kale rinse and spin or let water run off in a colander (if spinach and/or kale is not available in your garden organic spinach/kales mix can be purchased). Add 4 cups to a large bowl.

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Chop the green top and bottom of a red onion.

Measure out 6 ounces of feta cheese

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Finely chop pecans or walnuts. I prefer pecans because they are more flavorful and we have plenty in our freezer from our pecan tree last year.

Pluck petals off your favorite edible flower, in this salad I am using calendula. Calendula species have been used in cooking for centuries. The flowers were a common ingredient in German soups and stews, which explains the nickname “pot marigold“. The lovely golden petals were also used to add color to butter and cheese.

 

Toss all ingredients together lightly.  Drizzle balsamic dressing over salad and add cooked crumbled bacon if you have chosen this option.

 

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And what to drink?  So glad you asked!  This is a favorite here at our home.  South Texans love lime as opposed to lemon in their tea, add a bit of fresh mint from the garden and all you’ll need is a lawn chair and a nice shade tree.

Keep it real and keep it local y’all !

The Texas Chick