Rabbit Recipes!

Now that we are about to start providing rabbit at our markets I thought we would share a couple of great recipes for enjoying rabbit. Rabbit is truly delicious, lean, and one of the healthiest meats available. 

Lapin a La Cocotte (Fancy name for French Rabbit Stew)

Here is what you will need:

 

1 (2 1/2 lb) rabbit, quartered
3 slices bacon
1 1/2 cups sliced onions
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 large carrots sliced

1 rib of celery chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup broth
1/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Directions:
In a large black iron or heavy skillet or medium-sized Dutch oven, cook bacon; remove bacon once it is done and save the drippings.
In the bacon drippings, cook the onion, celery, carrots and garlic until transparent or soft.
Next add the rabbit pieces and saute over a medium heat until the rabbit is golden brown color.
Sprinkle on the flour and continue to brown rabbit for another 5 minutes and then add the broth, red wine, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour, adding more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste  Serve with mashed potatoes, rice or egg noodles.

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Grilled Rosemary & Garlic Rabbit

1 (2.5 lb) fryer rabbit
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves
2 sprigs rosemary

Directions:

Cut the rabbit in 8 pieces; the legs, 2 pieces from the loin, and 2 from the ribs.
Place them in a bowl or Ziploc bag, and add oil.
Mince the garlic and chop the rosemary; add the rabbit, mix to coat well.
Season with salt and pepper.
Allow to marinate for at least 2 hrs, or overnight.
Prepare to grill.
Grill over low to medium heat for 8-10 min per side.

Fall 2012 Update

Hope all is well folks.  We’ve been crazy busy, but having fun growing the farm.  Our work has focused on continuing to improve our annual and pig pastures, and growing our beef and sheep herd.  Additionally, we’ve added rabbits to the farm.  And lastly, we’ve been blessed with some wonderful new customers that make all of this effort worthwhile.

As far as the pastures, the cows and sheep enjoyed the millet we planted during the summer.  Was nice to get rain this year.  We’re still behind as far as rain, but much more timely rains this year.  We’re hoping to get some good rain in the next week or so to help our winter pastures get going.  In the meantime, the ruminants are enjoying bermudagrass hay.  The minerals and dolomitic lime we’ve added to the pastures has done wonders.  It takes time to convert pine forest to pasture, but there are many benefits to the conversion.  As far as the pig pastures, the pumpkins we fed last year created an amazing array of pumpkin plants all over the place.  The hogs have enjoyed pumpkins, pecans, persimmons, acorns, and of course grass over the past few months.  Has been great to see the hogs relish such nutritious feed.

As far as growth of the herds, a good friend of ours in the Pineywoods cow community was downsizing, so was a great opportunity to pick up some really nice 5 year old cows.  We added 13 Cows, 2 Bulls (1 is in the freezer), and all their calves.  The beef herd now numbers 33 beautiful Pineywoods (permanent crew includes 18 Mamma Cows and 4 Heifers)!  We bragged we would always know the name to every one of our cows, and this year it was a challenge…for a few weeks.  They all have a very unique personality, so it quickly becomes easy to get to know them.  All the cows have been very good this year…raising really nice looking calves.  We only had one cow incident this year, and it was one of the new bulls (the one in the freezer) deciding he wanted to breed one of the girls that was in a different pasture.  He made his way through the fence to visit with her.  We helped him find his way onto the trailer.

The other exciting news is the addition of rabbits.  I was inspired to raise rabbits by one of our customers at the Perry Farmer’s Market.  She raised Angora rabbits for their wool (and to show), and asked me if I’d ever skinned a rabbit.  Having been raised in the rural South, we enjoyed rabbit as a delicacy after deer season ended (and if we shot straight).  We’ve since skinned many rabbits for her, and have enjoyed the meat she has shared with us immensely.  The meat is very lean and tasty, and has some amazing health attributes.  We have started small with 2 does and a buck, but will expand in the next month or so.  We’re going to grow the rabbit herd to about 15 does in 2013.  Should work out to harvesting about 500 rabbits next year…  As for breed of rabbits, we are raising New Zealand Whites, and will add heritage breed Silver Fox towards the end of the year.

Please call us if there is anything we can do for you.

2012 Update

Folks – it’s been awhile since we posted, so wanted to update all on the farm.  Current livestock inventory includes about 60 hogs…6 Mulefoot Sows, our Mulefoot Boar, 3 Tamworth Sows or Gilts, one young Tamworth Boar, and one Hampshire Gilt….and their litters and about 15 Hampshire feeder pigs.  We are still at five Pineywoods cows and our bull, but have five calves…3 steers and two heifers.  Then our Sheep herd includes about 40 ewes, two rams, and about 25 lambs growing for market. 

Forage wise we have cleared and planted about 90% of our open land (which includes about 55 acres).  We have planted many different forages for the stock over the past year including Rye, Ryegrass, Oats, Crimson Clover, Millet, Sunn Hemp, Indian Grass, and Beggarweed.  We will continue to plant the annuals for the next several years as we continue to improve the soil with our manures and lime. 

Our soil tests continue to improve with PH numbers and all mineral numbers improving.    Am convinced that in a few years we will have completely transformed this soil from unproductive cutover to the richest soil in our area.

Market wise, we are 100% direct marketed and almost 100% direct to consumer.  We visit the Mulberry Street Market on Wednesday’s in Macon from 4 to 7pm, the Fall Line Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s from 9 to 12 in Milledgeville, and the Perry Farmer’s Market on Saturday’s from 8 to 12 in Perry.  We are investigating a few other markets in the local area as well, as well as a few restaurants, but at this point we are marketing all we produce.  This year we have also been able to do a better job of staying in stock with our customer’s favorite pork cuts, but lamb and beef have been absent from our freezers for most of the year.  We are saving all of our female cows and sheep and will grow our herd to the point of being in stock on these throughout the year as well (we should have some exciting news in this regard in the near future). 

Our goals remain the same: Our goal with raising hogs (and cows/sheep) is to produce the healthiest possible pork (and beef/lamb) in the most sustainable manner.  Imagine zero off-farm inputs, and minimal labor producing healthy pork.  To expound upon healthy, visualize pork that has meat nutrition beyond that of Wild Alaskan Salmon, and the fat and oil nutrition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Umbrian region of Italy. 

Through this production and marketing we strive to grow the Local Food markets in Middle Georgia to a much greater part of our culture and way of lives.  We believe in supporting each other in these efforts, so give me a call if there is anything we can do to help with these efforts.

Middle Georgia Local Meat Market Share

As we think about Local Food, an interesting and exciting way to think about the potential is to analyze the market share of Local Meat.  Many companies within America have achieved staggering rates of market share growth.  While market domination is not a goal for local food that I think is achievable in the coming decades, I do believe Local Food should grow it’s market share.  A nice goal for market share for local food could be 5% by 2017…5 years from now.  Let’s see where we might be now by first looking at our local population:

Our are of Middle Georgia includes the following populations:

Bibb County
155,715
Houston County 140,713
Peach, Crawford, and Monroe Counties 66,772
Twiggs, Bleckley, Pulaski, Dodge, and Wilkinson Counties 65,372
Jones and Baldwin Counties 74,369
Laurens County 48,439

 

About 551,380 People.  Next, we should look at annual meat consumption:

Beef 64
Pork 52
Chicken 53
Turkey 14
Lamb 1
Fish 15

 

When we put the two together for our study, we see the following:

Mid GA Population–> 551,380  
  Annual Per Person Total Lbs Consumed
Beef 64 35,288,320
Pork 52 28,671,760
Chicken 53 29,223,140
Turkey 14 7,719,320
Lamb 1 551,380
Fish 15 8,270,700
  Total—> 109,724,620

If we were to take an educated guess at the local food market share of the meat consumption of our area, if we added up all farmer’s that market locally we would come somwhere near 100,000 to 300,000 pounds.  As an example, our farm is in the 12,000 pounds a year range.  The local meat market consists of local abbatoirs, commercial catfish operations, and local farmers that direct market their meat.  So, that puts our market share somewhere in the .2% range.  The production and marketing would need to double almost 5 times to reach the 5% goal.  This could happen, but our industry would need to bring on many new farmers, new abbatoirs, and new marketing solutions…all new jobs.  We would also have to penetrate the market in different ways…grocery, restaurants, CSAs, etc.  These ideas could be a future blog post, but wanted to get some folks thinking…  What do you think should happen?

Pasture Grass

This past year, the pigs have created several paddocks that are well fertilized, tilled, and ready to be planted to pasture.  Additionally, the cutover land needs to be seeded with a pasture grass as well.  As we consider which types of pasture plants to seed, I’ve narrowed the available options down to three.  Our three chosen options are no seed, bahiagrass, and a mix of Indian Grass and Beggarweed.

The first option is the cheapest…seed with nothing.  The areas of the farm that we have mowed to control the brush over the last several years have created a sod of grass (mostly crabgrass) which is palatable to our animals.  I’ve noticed that this sod doesn’t green up as early as other grasses in the area of our farm, and isn’t as vigorous, but is certainly simple to establish.  The animals seem to relish this option as well.  At least they relish it while green.

The second option is bahiagrass.  We have chosen Bahiagrass over Bermuda due to the ease/low cost of establishment and the tolerance for silvo systems (shade) and poorly drained ground.  Another benefit to Bahiagrass is the low cost of maintenance compared to the Bermuda grasses.  We will use the Pensacola variety of Bahia over the most recently improved varieties due to P’cola being the easiest/cheapest of even the bahia’s to maintain.  The main drawback I can see to Bahia is that it forms such a thick and persistent sod that it can be difficult to establish legumes or other grasses in a bahia field.  It is also more difficult to drill a winter oat or legume into due to the thickness.  The other drawback is that the crude protein is a % or two less than Bermuda.  On the other hand, the last and potentially most important benefit to Bahia is that the neighbor of ours that raises a commercial cow/calf herd loves to talk the benefits of Bahia over the Bermuda for the cows…

Our other choice is a combination of a few natives…Indiangrass and Beggarweed.  Indian grass is very stemmy, tall growing, excellent for wildlife habitat, low yielding, late maturing, and tolerant of drought and poor growing conditions. Indiangrass, however, is relatively easy to establish and is more vigorous and competitive than the bluestems.  Indiangrass is tolerant of other species in the field, which will allow us to incorporate a legume into the field.  We will plant beggarweed in our indiangrass field to raise the crude protein levels of the stand, to utilize nitrogen from the air, and to provide a diversity for our animals.  The concern I have with beggarweed is that it is so relished by ruminents that I have seen reports of it’s near demise due to deer grazing pressure.  Beggarweed has a crude protein level of 22% in a vegetative state…this protein level lead to the following quote in a 1907 USDA Farmer Bulletin: “when it is so abundant as to afford good grazing, it will fatten horses, mules, and cattle more quickly than any other plant”.

Next, we’ll need to post on which paddocks will get which pasture seeding, and how much seed we’ll need.  Two other pasture establishment options to consider are annual forage peas or velvet beans and Sericea Lespedeza.

1st lamb of 2011

While doing the sheep count to ensure all were accounted for, got a treat today with our first lamb of 2011.  Very exciting…haven’t seen a baby lamb since last spring.  The Ewe had just lambed when I got to her, so the lamb was very awkward on her feet as she suckled her first colustrum.  This is the second single lamb for this Ewe.  Not as desirable as a twin or triplet, but we’ll feel blessed nonetheless.  Since we graze multi-species, there was much excitement at the new arrival.  Every heifer had to come see and smell the new lamb.  Malcolm had to come make sure it wasn’t a threat.  Then Malcolm decided to chase everyone else around in some form of celebration.  I’m thinking we’re going to move the sheep and Malcolm to a new paddock to reduce some of the multi-species stress, but we’ll see.  Worried about the horns on the bull and heifers.  Have three more Ewes that look about ready to lamb, but some of the others may be due also, as this one today didn’t look ready to me yesterday…

Brownie with her 2011 Lamb

A most wonderful Ham Hock

Mulefoot Ham Hock

You know…we’ve been using ham hocks for years to season greens, beans, peas, etc.  We recently used our first Mulefoot Ham Hock from the two hogs we had processed.  Please take a look at that hock – that is the hock sitting in water with an onion.  Absolutely amazing…There is no comparison in the quality of this heritage local pork to what can be obtained from the grocery.  We used this hock to season some local turnip greens that we harvested, and after much turnip green washing and picking, a few hours of simmering, and a little added spice…woooheee!  Not even close to any we’ve made before.  Just had to share that.

Mulefoot Meat

A couple weeks ago we received from the processor two of our Mulefoot Hogs.  Oh my Lord…you wouldn’t believe the beauty and taste of this meat.  Here is a picture of the first porkchops we cooked.

After a few minutes and a few sprinkles of Cavender’s, these were some outstanding chops!  There is certainly a difference between this pork that was raised humanely and locally outdoors and the store bought pork that is raised indoors.  We’re very proud of these hogs.  Great Ham, chops, bacon, sausage, etc.

The economics of a Sow and her Piglets

A sow with five piglets.  Conventional agriculture might describe this as a unsuccessful farrowing.  However, this would be an average litter size for a Mulefoot Hog.  This farrowing represents Evergreen East’s fourth “successful” farrowing and smallest (1st three – 7, 7, 6).  I’d like to consider this in the context of sustainability and determine if this farrowing could be considered a favorable outcome.

To get to the point of this farrowing, the sow had to be raised for the last 15 months to get her to this fruitful stage of her life.  But, we have to consider that she will now farrow a litter every 6 months or so for the next four or five years.  So, each farrowing requires supporting the sow for about 7 months (6 for the heat, gestation, farrowing, and weaning and one for the first nine or so months prior to heat)  Also, for every so many sows, a boar must be raised.  We have five sows currently, so this farrowing required raising 1/5 of a boar – he was only needed about six months ago though, so 1/5 of six months. So, we would need to determine the cost of raising a boar for 6 months and a sow for 7 months.  This amount would be added to the cost of raising each pig – in this case the cost can be spread across five pigs.  This assumes all five are still with us at weaning age.  Determining these costs will have to be the subject of a future blog post…

The above is only the purely economic sustainability discussion.  We also should consider the environmental benefits to this farrowing.  An environmental benefit of the Mulefoot hog is that they are extremely hardy…these pigs can be raised outdoors with very minimal infrastructure.  The Mulefoot’s are excellent graziers, consuming pasture with vigor, and fattening on plant sources not readily available at the local corn or soybean silo.  These pigs are parasite resistant, heat and cold tolerant, and extremely docile…making them the perfect small farm pig.  They can be used to provide fertility, plow garden land, and clear pasture land.  All the while doing these things, the Mulefoot Hog is creating a most wonderful meat.  Can’t think of a better environmental reason to raise these hogs.  For now, let’ say definitely a prosperous farrowing…more to come on the economics…

Hog Raising Must Dooz and Hard Lessons

  1. Never run out of food.  We use these feeders from Brower.  We’ve tried several other options, but these are the only trouble free feeders we’ve used.
  2. Never run out of water.  We use the P-80 Waterers from Franklin.  Still need to figure out how to set these up with a float valve for auto-filling. 
  3. Don’t scrimp on fencing.  Must have electric with strong perimeter.  Check the fence often as the pigs will if you don’t.  We have hog and combo panels from TSC.  We have had electric off and on, and are currently learning our lesson with the electric fence. 
  4. Keep them stupid.  This one is related to #3.  If the pigs ever get out, they will continue trying to get out again unless you can make them stupid again…which takes time and strong electric fencing.

Right now, I’m out of town, and the some of the pigs have gotten out.  They got out earlier this week when we were getting some timber cut in their area.  So…we’re learning #4 again the hard way.