When folks hear I work from my home and I’m a homesteader, they make some pretty lofty assumptions when it comes to my dinner table. It is true that I am lucky and blessed to have good food, good animals, and good people all around me and that makes for some amazing homegrown fare. However, as a single woman running a farm by herself, time isn’t always available to make sure everything is basted, brined, and tables are set with cloth napkins. In truth, some days are so long and exhausting on the farm that the last thing I want to do is cook. And that is why I am grateful for the amazing Dutch Oven.
The design has not changed in centuries, and why should it? A cast-iron dutch oven is all you need to create one-pot meals like chicken and biscuits or savory stews. During our harsh upstate winters, and even now in springtime, Cold Antler Farm depends on its dutch ovens more than ever. They are the original crock pot, the ideal slow cooker, and easy to care for while lasting forever. When people new to farm cooking ask me what they should get, I tell them before they even order a stove they should get a cast-iron skillet and dutch oven, because that is the original homesteader’s grill and oven.
The most basic chicken dinner this farm does happens in a cast-iron dutch oven. All that is needed is a defrosted whole chicken (small enough to fit inside the oven), some olive oil, chicken rub, and root vegetables of your choice. Around here everyone grows potatoes, parsnips, carrots and rutabagas: all make fine bottom veggies for your meal! I strongly encourage you to chop fresh kale as well, as there is no better way to enjoy kale than oiled under a chicken! I promise!
I roughly chop the carrots, taters, and other vegetables and place them in a pile, half filling the cast-iron container. (If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can do the same with a deep skillet.). All vegetables get a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of chicken-rub herbs and with my two clean hands I make sure all get a good coating of oil and herb. Once that is done, the bird is set on top. The root vegetables act as a natural lift for the chicken, letting the hot air circulate all around the bird and the juices and fats to drip onto the vegetables below, which is exactly what you want!
I preheat my oven to 425 and let the bird get a flash roast to brown the skin. This only lasts about fifteen minutes and then the temperature is lowered to 350. I let the bird sit in that oven while I do chores, go hunting in the back field, take the horse out for some training or a cart ride. That oven does all the work for you. In about two hours a fat chicken is falling off the bone and you know it is done when you can grab a back drumstick and it falls right off into your hands, separating from the rest of the roasted bird easily. Another test is to make sure that when you pierce the breast the juices that flow out are clear and not red or bloody at all. These are the ways homesteaders checked their birds before every kitchen had thermometers and cooking shows selling the latest electronic gadgets. They are good tips to know!
This all may sound involved and complicated, but it isn’t. Try it a few weekends and before you know it, it’ll take you less than five minutes to chop your vegetables, oil them, and place a bird on top. Then the oven does all the work for you! Easy.
So get some cast iron, get a fat farm chicken, and dice up those potatoes, folks, because after you start roasting birds in cast iron at home you’ll never go back to any other way. And the best part? Once the meal is done and everyone has had a good helping of meat and vegetables you can add a few cups of chicken stock and some salt and butter and set it on the stovetop to heat up into a fine stew. Meals need to stretch around here as long as a rooster’s tail feather. And to have a tool you can roast in, then set the same meal on the stovetop and make a hearty stew in is a farmer’s blessing.
Happy Spring to you all, and may it be filled with many fine meals!
Editor’s Note: Welcome to new blogger for Lehman’s Country Life, Janet Pesaturo. Janet is the writer and photographer at OurOneAcreFarm.com, where she blogs about backyard farming, sustainable living, and nature.
Birds are beginning to sing, the daffodils are poking up, and it’s time to think about baby animals. Spring is a wonderful time to plan for a new flock of chickens, and if that’s what you’re planning, you have many choices ahead of you. One important decision is which breed(s) to raise. The wide variety makes selection a rather daunting task, but also ensures that you’ll find at least one to fit your needs and desires. Chicken breeds differ in many ways, from productivity to appearance to temperament, and more. Exploring the options will help you choose. Continue reading
From all of us at Lehman’s, our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015.
For super moist, flavorful turkey this year, brine that bird!
Shelley, Lehman’s Merchandising Assistant, has been brining her family’s Thanksgiving turkey for the past couple of years, and she shared her simple recipe with us. We’re passing it on to you! Brining the turkey for at least 12 hours before roasting makes it extra moist, and this recipe gives the meat a slightly sweet flavor (which Shelley says her brood loves). Try it this year – it’s quick, easy and it just may become part of your Turkey Day traditions.
Classic Turkey Brine
- 1 gallon water
- 1 cup coarse salt (such as sea salt or pink salt)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 orange, juiced and rind finely grated
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole allspice
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 turkey, 12-15 lb (thaw turkey and remove giblets before brining)
- Ice (enough to cover turkey)
- large stockpot and/or storage container with lid (such as a 5-gallon bucket or 4-gallon bucket)
In a large stockpot, combine all ingredients except turkey and ice. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve salt and sugar. Remove from heat and let stand 30 minutes. Chill. Place the turkey, brining liquid and ice in stockpot or lidded bucket and let stand up to 12 hours (overnight works well). Roast and feast!
Lehman’s fan Brianne and her partner Eric are in their second year of not-so-urban homesteading at their place 20 minutes from downtown Fayetteville, NC.
The young couple is proud of the progress they’ve made raising chickens.
“Last year was our first year with the chickens,” said Bri. “They needed a new home, and we had the space. Eric and I rebuilt a hand-me-down large chicken tractor for them, and we took apart old computer monitors, using the casings for roosting boxes, and tossed in a huge pet crate that the girls just love.” Continue reading
We’re Not All Martha Stewart
It’s tempting, when you read a blog post, to believe that the farming life is all fun and accomplishment. Who, after all, is inclined to write about their mistakes and disappointments? Well me, for one. If I only wrote about my successes, I would run out of material in the first week.
Here’s the truth of it. A whole lot of my life is just one disaster after the other. I may write about digging parsnips but I’m not going to waste a lot of ink on how many got eaten by voles. I will tell you about making cheese but not spend a lot of time on the many times my efforts fed the pigs rather than people. And don’t get me going on the fruit. My strawberry pictures were gorgeous but I’m not posting the pictures of the joys of trying to get the row covers on in the wind.
So when I tell you all about the pleasure of canning turkey and how good it tastes and how convenient it is to have all the lovely jars filling up the shelves in my pantry please know that there is more to the story than a lovely afternoon in the canning kitchen. Continue reading
Pole barns or sheds are simple structures ideal for agricultural purposes, but can be useful on rural homesteads and even suburban lots. These simple structures are perfect for firewood storage, housing tools and machinery, or even shelter for livestock. One only needs basic skills, as well as lumber and some tools, to build one. Materials are inexpensive and can be adjusted to any size needed.
The exact amount of materials needed will depend on the desired size of your shed.