From the farm kitchen November

Boy has this been a busy week. Of course, Thanksgiving was this week. But we also (shamelessly) picked up a (fresh) deer that had been hit by a car (legally – here in MI you have to call PD out to issue a kill tag before you can take it). The day before Thanksgiving I was cutting up the carcass when I should have probably been preparing more for our feast the next day.

Surprisingly, that deer gave us 68lbs of completely free meat and 1.5 gallons of bone broth/stock so far just from the front shoulders. I will brown the bones and make additional stock from the hind end when my kitchen slows down a bit. We process all of our own deer. Well, I do. My husband taught me the basics a couple years ago. I skin them and let them hang long enough to get the blood out. Normally we hang deer from the hocks, so I start butchering them with the front legs, though we have had a few deer with broken legs from car accidents and I have had to hang them from the neck and work from the hind end up. I normally remove the lower leg (those go to the dogs), shank (those are delicious braised in beer), shoulder (this is where we get most of our stew meat and meat for grinding). Sometime in here I remove the back straps and tenderloins, then the neck (for the roast), cut up the ribs, dislocate the pelvis, disconnect the spine (the chickens eat the spare meat off of that, then I usually bury it). Then I remove the hind legs, one at a time, from the hook and carefully disconnect the lower leg (those are for the dogs) then bring the whole hind end inside to piece out.  the bones are browned and we made stock from them.  The inedible bits go to the dogs.  The hide is frozen for future tanning or friends who would like to tan it.   I like to make use of everything we can.

Once I had pieced out the meat into roasts, stew meat, shanks, ribs and set trimmings aside for ground meat and sausage, I placed them in freezer bags, labeled them and put them in the freezer. Then, I began getting ready for the holiday.

There is a lot of food prep you can do to prepare for a holiday the night before (and several days leading up to it). This year I didn’t get as much prep done as I would have liked, but it all worked out alright. The night before I prepared our pie crusts, set out ingredients, made sure the turkey was thawed nicely, made a check list, and made a few casseroles to set in the fridge overnight to bake the next day.

We made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, then we began meal prep. My husband traditionally does the turkey, and as the kids get older I delegate some tasks to them. My oldest daughter could probably handle the whole feast herself if she had to. This year she got off easy with apple pie, her candy turkey and cranberry sauce made from scratch. My oldest son is the pumpkin master. He made the pumpkin pie. My youngest daughter did the cheesecake. They all helped peel potatoes. My middle son helped make the pumpkin spice rolls in the shape of pumpkins.

Each year, I guess as tradition, we burn the marshmallows that top the sweet potato casserole. We were prepared this year with three bags of marshmallows in case we have to remove the burnt ones and try again. The casserole is done last (so the marshmallows are still soft and warm), as all the other last minute preps are done to get dinner to the table. It always gets forgotten about as it sits, browning under the broiler. This was not one of those years – because we forgot to put it under the broiler. I guess if something has to be forgotten, the broiler is probably the best thing! Instead we put it in the oven that was cooking casseroles and about ready to cook the pies for dessert. This worked out nicely – normally we heat it in the oven at 350 to warm the potatoes and sauce up. Then we broil it to melt and lightly brown the marshmallows. By the time the gravy was made and the dishes were set out, my husband and I looked at each other, gasped, and raced to the oven expecting to find our usual first attempt….. But it was perfectly lightly browned, nice and warm, and perfect. I’m telling you, this has to be a first! Of course, I could set a timer as soon as I put it under the broiler (and maybe one of these years I’ll remember that) but at that time of the day there is so much happening on counter tops and stove tops, its very easy to forget about something in the oven! One of these years we will get this down to a science – we haven’t always cooked Thanksgiving dinner on our own so its still a process full of learning.

I had some ducks prepared to be roasted as well but we decided we already had more than enough food being cooked, so we cooked them up the day after. I roasted them with a orange bourbon glaze and it was phenomenal. We still had casserole leftovers, so we ate the rest of them with the ducks and called it good.

We did have a bit of an interruption to our day. Shortly after I began cooking, we discovered the main sewage line was backing up into the basement (oh joy!). We had to attempt to clear the clog without a snake because we didn’t have one long enough… My husband did with some redneck ingenuity involving inserting a roll of plastic tubing (left behind from the last home owners) into the access. It was enough to clear the lines until the kids were in bed, then we discovered it just wasn’t enough. So we tried again. The next day it clogged up again but the plumbers were so busy they couldn’t get to us until the next morning. Happily, at 7am the next morning our line was clear out to the septic tank. They said it our pipe might have a crack in it, and dirt build up from that might be the culprit. So I suppose we should try to get a camera down the pipe to verify before we begin repairing. Luckily that is something we can do ourselves.

I finally got back in the blind today, hoping to score enough venison to supply our red meat needs until next season. I’m not sure we will reach our goal, but every little bit helps. Regular gun season ends at the end of the month, then bow season opens back up for the month of December with a late gun season finishing up the year. I’ll be out there as much as I can.

Happy cooking!

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