February 2017 Value-Added Meat CSA


Value-Added Meat CSA

Welcome to the third installment of our value-added meat CSA. We hope you enjoy it. Below are a few comments about some of the articles in your box. If you have any questions, please let us know. You can contact email Susan here.

Maple Smoked Bacon

We are proud of this bacon. It was cured using locally sourced maple syrup and then hickory smoked. It has not been sliced, which gives you the opportunity to slice it thick or think or to dice for a recipe.

Smoked Ham

This is a fully cooked food. Thaw in the fridge to slice and eat. Or let it come up to room temp and slice. It also is good fried, sliced thick or thin for sandwiches, or in your favorite recipe.

Smoked Andouille

A spicy, smoked Cajun sausage ready for your favorite recipes. Delicious in jambalaya or Susan likes it in fried cabbage with apples. One of Andrea’s specialties.

Italian Sausage

This is not like the stuff you get at the grocery store. We toasted the fennel, we minced the garlic fresh – this stuff is the best. Your share may include links or bulk sausage, all fresh and ready for you to fully cook in your recipe.

Poultry Bone Broth

This delicious  poultry bone broth is made from bones and the feet of chickens and ducks. Yes you read that right, feet. Don’t be afraid because the cartilage in all of those bones is so good for you! We combine the bones with carrots, celery, onion, garlic and dried herbs from Susan’s garden and plenty of cold well water. Simmer for hours on the wood stove.

Maple Sugaring at Hillside Homestead

Time to make sugar at Hillside Homestead

Maple Sugaring season is upon us at Hillside Homestead. How long will it last, only the weather knows. The perfect weather is around 40 degrees during the day and dipping below freezing at night; that allows the sap to run up the tree and then drop back down at night.

Just for fun here are some maple sugaring entries from Sarah Palmer’s diary. Sarah and her husband farmed in my community and she kept a diary from1876 to 1915, not every day, but many days.

April 9, 1893
Perry got home this morning. Lorin came down this morning. Nellie is sick. Elmer brought Edwin & Clyde up to stay while they went over to Eri’s. Indian (a sir name was given but it was unclear) came here & brought us a pail of maple syrup. Mother was here a while. Elmer came for the children after supper & Lorin went home in the evening.

March 17, 1904
Lyle went up to Norris’s Mill with a grist of wheat, Pa done the noon chores. Rosa’s cough keeps troublesome, she is taking Kings Discovery. It is not very cold nor very bright, it snows. my cold bothers me a good deal. I am eating maple sugar every day. Lyle got his grist ground and got back home about three oclock. Pa walked to town this afternoon and got a letter from Amzi and one from Catherine Peck. I will make biscuit for supper.

April 23, 1907
Pa went to town afoot the boys went to school. I sent a letter off to Perry, also one to Amanda Weaver at Gr Rapids. Eri came before dinner. Clyde Peck is plowing across the road & brings his dinner up here at noon at sits at the table with us. Lyle is plowing. Rosa finished her washing. I made bread six loaves, and a batch of cookies. We had a dish full of maple syrup that I made on the stove.
Notes: evidence of making syrup on the stove and not outside! And the neighbor is already out plowing and she is still making syurp, overlapping seasons.

Sept 24 and 25, 1908
Baked bread, cake, cookies, and apple pies and made sauce. We went to the Leelanaw Co Fair, Melville took Ned and Dennis and the Calf. I took a big plant of California grass and Arthur’s cake of maple sugar, 25 years old. We took our dinners with the Catholic ladies. School closed for afternoon and the boys went from school.

We all went to the Fair again. We got our dinners with the Ladies Aid of the Keswick church. the boys went from school again to day. Melville got First premium on Ned & the calf and winter squash, we had watermelons and onions there, I got 1st premium on the plant and Arthurs maple sugar.

Notes: 1st premium means first prize which usually included a monetary award too. So She won an award for one of her houseplants and a 25 year old cake of maple sugar! And she uses an old spelling of Leelanau, replacing the U with a W .

Three meals a day, literally and figuratively. The cure for what ails us.



Today I spent some time reading a 19th century book called, “The Hearthstone; or Life at Home. A Household Manual. ” by Laura C. Holloway, 1883.

It eloquently describes many housekeeping themes from the 19th century  most of which I am familiar with. They seem trite in todays world, they include topics like,  understanding why there should be a parlour for company and a sitting room for family, reconciling with the tyranny of carpets, the dangers of overcrowding and cluttering in furnishings, window decorations and more.

But I heard a theme today that I had not really considered as of late and that is the home is the center of all that is good and right, “… the best security for civilization is the home, and upon its perpetuity rests the future of the world.” This idea of individual homes that are the center of it all seems lost to history to me. I don’t recall that emphasis in my 52 years on this planet. I can sense a theme in my life of family being very important but somehow that seems a bit different from the ‘home’ emphasis here.

But do not think the author of this book is entirely focused on lace curtains and window boxes, although she does expand a lot on those topics, she extrapolates her idea to say this, “The basis upon which all homes should be founded is good living  and no matter how straitened the circumstances  how little there is to be spent, this can always be secured if housekeepers will begin at the beginning –that is, in the kitchen.”

So then she goes on to explain how three well-planned meals, served at a consistent hour each each day, in an attractive dinning room will lead to family togetherness and harmony. I admit this all appeals to me — especially that is, because it comes from the kitchen. I adore the kitchen and all things food.

I am thoughtfully considering these ideas and comparing them to the modern world today where there seems to be such division, falseness, intolerance and fear. It makes me wonder if three meals a day, at a lovely table would give us all the chance to engage in conversation. The author of the book expresses it thus, “The dinning room out to be the pleasantest place in the house; it is the meeting room where the family are expected to be always present at stated times, and where the events of the day are talked over while the pleasant business of eating is being discussed.”

Of course it is dangerous to look at history with rose-colored glasses. No generation is devoid of strife. But the theme of home and three meals a day, literally and figuratively, as center in our lives and how that might apply in 2017  gives me reason to pause and think and to….that is, digest.

"The Hearthstone; or Life at Home. A Household Manual. " by Laura C. Holloway, 1883.

“The Hearthstone; or Life at Home. A Household Manual. ” by Laura C. Holloway, 1883.

Thoughts on chicken breeds from 1884

So I spent some time tonight reading about chicken breeds or varieties in a lovely,thorough and lengthy at 1234 pages, book from 1884 called, “The People’s Farm and Stock Cyclopedia” by Waldo F. Brown. The chapter on chickens certainly warrants a second, third and more readings, but I did glean a few things this evening.

I have a mixed flock, which perhaps I am tiring a bit of because I am observing and beginning to real understand the differences in the chicken breeds. I’ve been keeping chickens now for about six years and at last I am honing in on what I want from my flock.  Last summer I had some chicks hatch out her for the first time. The father is a Buff Cochin and the mother is a Light Brahma. This book suggests crossing Light Brahma hens with Partridge Cochin cocks (I do appreciate that they use the real word for an intact male chicken, rooster is a Victorian euphemism) to obtain a large fowl for meat purposes. So that peaked my interest. Of course my cross was with a Buff Cochin and not a Partridge Cochin. As an aside I do have a Partridge Cochin hen.

But the author goes on to say that it is only the first cross that is desirable to produce a large fowl. It states that if one allows “..the half-breed fowls to breed together the stock will rapidly degenerate.” It goes on with this good advice, “Caponize the cockerels and fatten the pullets for hte fall and winter markets, when they will bring a good price.” I don’t know how to caponize and I do not understand that entire process.

I wondered if my mixed chicken breeds would produce strong young. This book says no. This may help me decide what to do with those birds who I call my ‘Brochins’. My funny way of mixing Brahma and Cochin.

It also states that the Buff Cochin is a favorite among the chicken fanciers. But they are not popular among farmers because they are poor layers. Well I do keep a few birds just because they are fancy. But as the years go by, I become more and more a farmer. My selection of chicken breeds is starting to reflect that.

He notes that all the other Cochin varieties are good layers, except for the Buff. Now I wonder how different the Buff Cochin is in 2017 compared to the 1884 Buff Cochin. Breeds evolve and change.

He states the Buff is a docile bird, which I can confirm in my barnyard observations. And this lovely quote, gives me something to think about as I close this post; again regarding the Buff Cochin, “They are very quiet and docile, and as sitters and mothers can not be excelled by any thing that wears chicken feathers.” I value quite highly chicken breeds that can successfully reproduce on their own.

Illustrations of chicken breeds from 1884

Illustrations of heritage breed chickens from an 1884 farming manual.


Farm manual from 1885 title page, includes chicken breeds and much more

Title page of the 1884 farm manual, “The People’s Farm and Stock Cyclopedia”


The Chicken Experiment: Heritage birds vs. modern birds

I have a keen interest in food history and agriculture history. I own and operate a historic Farm Stay. Cooking from 19th century cook books is one of my passions. I have a love for farming too.

But I knew that the chicken I could buy at the grocery store was nothing like the chicken that was being cooked in those old books. So I had to know. I had to try. So I had to raise some old style, heritage birds. or what we should really call, Standard Breeds. A standard breed chicken is capable of sexually reproducing by itself. The modern chicken that is most commonly eaten today, the Cornish Cross Broiler, is a hybrid and as thus can’t reproduce on its own. She and he is a hybrid that has been in development since about the 1950s. Today that bird gains weight quickly and is ready to butcher in 6 to 8 weeks. This chicken does not live long enough to mature sexually and would probably have some health problems if it did. They have the ability to rapidly convert grain/feed into meat.

So I settled on two standard breed birds for my experiment, Silver Laced Wyandottes and White Plymouth Rocks. I purchased them from Murray McMurray Hatchery in March 2016 and butchered them in September 2016 at about 22 weeks of age. At the same time my friend and partner in all things farming raised up a batch of Cornish Cross Broilers that we butchered the same day when they were 7 weeks old. Circa 1900 standard breed birds were used for meat and eggs and of course they can sexually reproduce. They take 20 to 24 weeks to reach a butchering weight. That is a lot longer than the 6 to 8 weeks.

The standard breed birds were smaller at 22 weeks then the hybrid birds who were only 7 weeks old. That was a bit disappointing. The broilers had larger breasts and smaller legs and a wider hip. The standard breed birds were taller, had a much smaller breasts, in fact the breast bone was sometimes prominent. The leg quarters were large and well developed compared to the broilers and that dark meat was very dark.

And then we had a chicken tasting. We roasted and fried one of each bird. The broiler tasted as I expected in both cases. Our home-grown broilers are quite tasty. The only thing I don’t like is the dry breast. The standard breed birds overall had a better ‘chicken’ flavor. The breast was much smaller but it was very tender, moist and flavorful in both the roasted and the fried. The legs were a bit tough, especially in the roasted bird. I wonder if brining will fix that? And some thought the skin was a bit too tough.

I plan to continue raising some standard breed chickens, even though it is more expensive ( more feed and more of my time) than the Cornish Cross Broiler. I want to try again and read more cook books. Make more observations. I’m not here to demonize the Cornish Cross hybrid, I’m here to learn and try to rediscover old foodways.

Please come back to this post in the future I plan to update it periodically ! thanks for reading. another interesting article is here, http://heritagefoodsusa.com/blog/the-chicken-of-tomorrow-needs-to-be-the-chicken-of-yesterday/

This webpage sells this sort of chicken, ready for your freezer http://goodshepherdpoultryranch.com/


 Catching free ranging birds is harder than broilers

Catching free ranging birds is harder than broilers

some of the roosters we butchered

some of the roosters we butchered

part of our butchering set up

part of our butchering set up

the broilers are on the left and the standard breeds on on the right

the broilers are on the left and the standard breeds on on the right



standard breed

standard breed

broiler leg on left. Standard breed on right

broiler leg on left. Standard breed on right

the tasting crew

the tasting crew