Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Ok… we finally had to do it. Twelve ducks were getting to be TOO MUCH so we picked one out (the big Swedish Blue below) to practice our duck butchering skills on. Yes, I did say butcher but before you think “how cruel!” I would like to remind you that our ducks and chickens have a very good life here on the homestead. Well, good up until the butchering part, that is. Let’s face it… if you’re trying to be self-sufficient and want meat on the table I guess you’re going to have to process it yourselves.

They (the ducks and chickens) aren’t crowded into little pens all day and night but are allowed to roam about the homestead to free range for forage. They also receive some commercial feed to supplement their pasture forage. Hey, they even get picked up and petted now and then!

Blue Swedish Duck at Hickory Hollow Homestead.
(Click image for larger view.)

The Process

Day one – we placed the drake in a holding pen and limited him to just water for a day. This helps to “clean out” the duck so to speak. The next morning hubby picked the big blue up and brought him to the spot we selected for the butchering job. Next he put the duck’s feet into a piece of bent wire so that we could hang the duck upside down on 2 screws that he had already driven into the tree.

The book we read said to cut the jugular vein to bleed out the duck. This should be done about one inch back from the bill on the left hand side. Easier said than done. This vein wasn’t very easy to cut so after several attempts we use the second method suggested in the book which was to cut off the duck’s head with an axe.

Neither one of us had ever plucked a duck (or a chicken for that matter) and since we were planning to roast this one and wanted to leave the skin on we started pulling out the feathers. Oh what fun! Actually it wasn’t too bad. Just messy.

Finally Bob finished the process by removing the guts, liver, etc. We used poultry shears to open the bird up all the way because, at least for this first time, we wanted to make sure we had removed all the necessary parts. From start to finish (with 2 of us plucking) it took a little over an hour to complete the job. We put the duck on ice overnight per the instructions in our book.

Please note that I decided not to post any “bloody” pictures 😉

The next evening we roasted it in our 12″ dutch oven. When I went to put the duck into the dutch oven I thought it was going to be too close to the lid and was worried about it burning so, since we had cut the breast bone anyway, I SQUASHED IT! My sister calls it Pressed Duck but I like “squashed” better.

All we did was rub a little bit of seasoning on it and baked it. Bob and I had heard that a lot of folks don’t like duck because it’s too greasy but ours didn’t turn out that way at all. In fact it was quite tasty!

Pressed duck roasted in a dutch oven.
(Click image for larger view.)

Bob built a campfire and used wood coals (instead of usual charcoal briquets) to cook the “squashed duck” in the 12″ cast iron dutch oven.

He did a WONDERFUL job of getting it nicely browned, don’t you think?

Be sure to notice where Blaze’s feet are in the photo. She could smell something good was cooking and wasn’t going to be too far away when it came time to eat! She thinks “Squashed Duck” is very, very good!

Since then we’ve reduced the duck bevy by 3 more ducks. This time we just skinned them instead of plucking the feathers because I planned to stew them up for soup meat. This went MUCH faster than plucking did. I pressure canned 8 pint jars with meat and stock both and then 12 pint jars of just stock. Obviously there were 2 different canning sessions because the jars with meat needed to be processed much longer than the ones with just stock.

Between butchering, stewing, picking off the meat, and canning — this was pretty much an all day affair but I know we’ll enjoy the soup that we make with it this winter 🙂


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Ok… here’s some more about blackberries. We went berry picking (again) yesterday evening and got enough to make my very first batch of blackberry jam.

I’ve been reading about making soft spread jams without pectin and was anxious to try this out. As one of our new friends here says… I made it the “old fashioned way”.


9 cups blackberries

6 cups sugar

We purposely picked some less ripe berries (about 10% of the total amount) because they’re supposed to have more natural pectin.

After assembling my canning equipment, I crushed the berries in a large bowl with a potato masher. Then I put them in a large sauce pan over medium heat and started adding in the sugar. As I said in yesterday’s post, we don’t like things super sweet so I a

ctually only used 5 cups of sugar.

I cooked the berry mixture for quite a while in order to get it to the “gel stage”. Ok…. I admit it, it was getting late and getting dark and I was having a hard time telling if I had indeed reached the “gel stage” but I said the heck with it… I’m canning it up anyway.

We think that a lot of the commercially produced jams and jellies are almost too hard to spread so it’ll be ok if our homemade jam is a bit softer. If it’s too soft then we can always use it on pancakes or waffles…. RIGHT?

Luckily, I’m thinking it’ll be ok. The little bit left in the pan thickened up nicely after it cooled off.

We’ll let you know how it turns out when we open the first jar 😉

(Click image for larger view.)

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Yum! Yum! The wild blackberries here on the homestead are finally getting ripe. Hubby and I went berry pickin’ and got enough to make our favorite cobbler recipe. It’s more of a “quick” cobbler recipe rather than a traditional one. We really like this because it’s quick and easy!

(Click image for larger view)

Just in case you don’t have wild blackberries growing in your back yard, it also works well with frozen berries (drained) or canned pie filling. Don’t forget to check out your local Farmers’ Market for fresh fruit that’s in season.

We’ve cooked this cobbler with cherry pie filling and frozen berries but this was the first time we got to use fresh blackberries! I think it would also be good with apple pie filling 😉


1 stick butter
1 cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 tsp. Baking powder
½ tsp. Salt
½ tsp. Cinnamon – optional
1 cup milk
½ tsp. Vanilla extract

2 to 2 ½ cups berries or 1 regular size can pie filling.
Note: If you’re using fresh berries (cherries, apples, or peaches) you’ll probably want to add ½ to ¾ cup of sugar to them depending on how sweet you like them. We don’t like our cobbler super sweet so we try to add as small amount of sugar as we can. You’ll have to experiment with the recipe until you find out what works best for you.


Preheat oven to 350º.
Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
Add milk and vanilla and stir into a batter.
Mix fresh berries or fruit and sugar in a separate bowl. Be sure to test for sweetness. If you’re using canned pie filling you don’t need to add any more sugar.
Melt butter in the bottom of an 8” dutch oven (DO) or a 2 quart casserole dish.
Pour batter into DO or casserole dish.
Spoon filling evenly on top of the batter WITHOUT MIXING.
Bake at 350º for approximately 30 minutes. The batter will expand up and around the berries, fruit, or filling. Bake until golden brown.

Let cool to room temperature… if you can wait that long. Goes down well with a big scoop of ice cream on top!

(Click image for larger view)

Makes 4 – 6 servings depending on how big of a pig you are! Oops… I meant to say how hungry you are 😉

Got any other good recipes to share? Bring ’em on!

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Like I said in a previous post, the weather has turned COLD here. We're both still recouperating from the accident, we decided to stay inside the tipi and take it easy. Since we were going to keep a fire burning in the woodstove all day we thought it would be a great time to make…

8 Hour Chili:


1 lb Hamburger

1 lb Dry Beans

1 Onion – cut up

Green Pepper – about 1/4 pepper cut up

Garlic – 2-3 cloves (adjust to your own taste)

Spices: Salt, Pepper, Chili Powder, Cumin, and anything else you might like 😉


9:30 am Put dry beans in 10" dutch oven, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Used the propane cookstove for this step. Place dutch oven on the back of the woodstove to stay warm.

Top off coffee cups, sit down, and get out a good book to read.

10:30 am Check water level. Add more water as needed to keep beans covered.

Sit down – sip more hot coffee and read another chapter or two.

11:30 am Stand up and stretch. Check water level. Add onions and garlic and stir beans. I like getting the onions and garlic in early to give them as long as possible to flavor the beans.

Look out the tipi door, shiver, and go back to sit by the nice warm woodstove.

12:30 pm Brown hamburger (on cookstove) and flavor with spices. Add to dutch oven. Stir.

Fix a little snack to hold you over until dinner time. Read book.

1:30 pm Check beans and stir them just to look like you're really cooking 😉

Time for a little more hot coffee. Pick up book. Read.

2:30 pm Lift lid, add green pepper and stir.

Stretch. Sit. Close eyes for a quick cat nap.

3:30 pm Lift lid. Sniff. Mmmmm it's really smelling good now!

Pick up book. Read some more.

4:30 pm Mix cornbread up and cook it in the 8" dutch oven.

5:30 pm Slather some butter on the cornbread. Serve up the chili. We like to stir a little jalepeno juice into the chili after it's in the bowl. 

Serve and ENJOY!


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Breakfast is our favorite meal of the day. Don’t be fooled by the camp stove in the background we just set it there to take the picture. We’re getting this cooking with wood coals figured out!

First we fried up a couple of strips of bacon and then we used the grease to pan fry some taters. Next we added some green pepper and onions. We cracked a few eggs and put the dutch oven (DO) lid back on to let them cook. Cast iron cooking is so easy. We just took the DO off the wood coals and waited until the eggs were just about done and then added some cheese and let it melt.

This is a breakfast that will stick to your ribs! Is your mouth watering yet?


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I thought that some of you (especially the women) might be interested in seeing our kitchen set up. Bob and I have always enjoyed camping as a low-stress activity. Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall —  the season didn’t matter. Good thing, huh!

As you can see we have quite of bit of outdoor kitchen equipment. We didn’t purchase anything new (or used) in order to start homesteading. As the weather gets cooler we’ll hang some more tarps as side walls to block the wind.

Even after the tipi is set up, this “outdoor kitchen” will continue to be used for most of our meals. We’ll only cook inside the tipi on the days when the weather is REALLY bad.


Like most kitchens it’s always in a state of change 🙂

Bob has been cooking with cast iron for several years now. Please note the "workhorse" 10" and our cute little 8" dutch ovens stacked under the camp kitchen shelves. Up until now he's mostly cooked with charcoal briquettes but now he’s having to learn how to use wood coals.

We usually cook the main part of our meal in the dutches but we do have the good ol' Coleman stove as a back up. Mostly we use the propane stove to heat water for washing dishes.

This morning we had one of our favorites — Baked Apple Pancake. It didn’t brown up as well as when we cooked in our gas oven at our old home but boy, oh boy, it was mmmmm-mmmmm good!



Waste Not, Want Not

The weather has been very rainy here and, as any good homesteader knows, since water is precious we adjusted the canopy tarp to create a low spot and started collected rain water in our barrel. Not a perfect solution but this will work until we can get the storage shed with the roof surface and guttering built.


Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for looking!

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