Building a better world… with tomatoes and goats

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Sometimes it’s hard to feel anything but angry about the current state of things, but there are lots of positive actions that can be done that boost personal resilience and wellbeing as well as reducing ecological footprints.

There’s a new book all about this, currently on Kickstarter here. My new book ‘Backyard Dairy Goats‘ is included as a stretch goal on it!

Preserving tomatoes at home

This year I did something I’d been thinking about for a long time. I bottled our entire tomato supply for the year…

I’d delayed this in the past due to annoying finicky instructions that insist on peeling the tomatoes, removing seeds, putting them through an expensive single-purpose gadget, and all kinds of stuff, but in the end I thought it was about time I tried this myself, using nothing more than a kitchen knife.

Our own garden harvest was not that big this year, for a few reasons that I’ve hopefully learned from, but rather than buying in bottled tomatoes from the other side of the world, I found a local organic grower, bought more than 30kg of sauce-grade tomatoes and bottled them all.

This is how we did it:

Step 1:
This step is only worth doing if you have too many tomatoes to fit in your pot at once. Sort through all the tomatoes and separate the damaged and super-ripe ones from the ones that can wait for a bit longer. Put the ones that can wait aside for another day (we preserved our 30kg+ of tomatoes over 3 days).

Step 2:
Wash the tomatoes, remove any leaves and stems (this is a good job for little helpers).

Step 3:
Roughly chop the tomatoes and put them in a big stainless steel pot (I used my 20 litre one).

Step 4:
Heat the chopped tomatoes over medium-high heat, smashing them up as you stir every so often. Once the tomatoes are bubbling you can either bottle them now, or reduce them for a bit. The jars I used were a bit smaller than the passata bottles I’m used to, so I chose to boil them to reduce them by around 1/4 to 1/3, to make for a more concentrated jar of tomato goodness. If you’re using plum tomatoes or paste tomatoes you’re more likely to get away with boiling them for less time, but ‘sauce tomatoes’ here just means any tomatoes that aren’t quite perfect, so they can use a bit of boiling to get rid of the extra liquid.

While you’re waiting for the tomatoes to heat up or reduce, sterilise your jars and lids and keep them warm.

Step 5:
If you’re concerned about the tomatoes not being acidic enough on their own to store safely, then add a tablespoon of cider vinegar or lemon juice to each 500-600ml jar, or 2 tablespoons to larger jars.

Put the hot tomatoes in the warm jars and seal them with their clips or rings, depending on which jar type you’re using. Put a big canning pot with a false bottom or canning rack on the stove (or use a tea towel or some cutlery at the bottom of a normal pot), put a small amount of warm water in it (so that the hot jars aren’t shocked by a sudden change of temperature), then carefully add your jars. Add more water, so that the jars are surrounded by water either to just above the top of the lid, or at least 3/4 of the way up.

Put the lid on the pot and bring it to the boil, or at least above 90ºC (195ºF). Hold it at this temperature for 40-45 minutes, then allow the pot to sit with the lid off for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the jars using a jar lifter and allow them to cool on the bench before storing.

Fill up the next batch of jars for the pot and repeat until you’ve run out of hot tomatoes, making sure that the water in the pot at the beginning is around the same temperature as the jars. You can do this over two or more days, as long as the tomatoes are brought to the boil and kept hot for a while before bottling, and put into hot sterilised jars.

The result:
Bottling my own tomatoes at home has reduced the amount of far-away foods in our diet, reduced our tomato costs by half, made us more resilient, reduced waste, and they taste better than factory-bottled ones. It was an enjoyable time with family, with all of us appreciating the process and the results.

More Goaty Goodness

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Just a quick post to let you all know that for this week (until the 12th I think) I will be officially answering goat questions over on the Permies forums. Here is the link. If you have any questions about goats at all, feel free to ask over there (or in the comments here if you like).

I would also like to thank everyone who has contributed to my Kickstarter campaign so far. Here is the link for that. There’s now less than two weeks to go, so if you’d like to get a discounted book, a signed book, or books with extra goodies please select a reward and make a pledge there.

The lovely people at Pip Magazine have kindly offered to send a free digital copy of issue 8 (the goat issue) to all supporters with pledges above $10.
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“In issue 8 we feature articles on backyard goats,  an urban goat co-op, growing your own raspberries, communal living, earthships, bush foods, neo-peasants, a beanie pattern, DIY compost toilet, permaculture in Afghanistan, bush schools, urban farms, plus all the usual profiles, growing guides, kids section and more!”

Click here to learn more about the Kickstarter campaign for my book ‘Backyard Dairy Goats’.

Backyard Dairy Goats: A Natural Approach to Keeping Goats in any Yard

I am excited to announce my new book Backyard Dairy Goats: A Natural Approach to Keeping Goats in any Yard

You can read more about it by clicking here.

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To help cut out the middlemen involved in publishing I’ve started a Kickstarter campaign for the book. This means that if you’d like to pre-order a copy for less than the future price, you can easily do this on Kickstarter. You’ll get bonus mini-ebooks too, and the option of other exciting rewards like cheesemaking kits, tree planting, and getting your name on the acknowledgements page of my book.

The campaign is only on for 20 days, so please click here if you’d like to read more about it and be a part of this unique and independent new book.

Backyard Dairy Goats is a book focusing on raising dairy goats in a way that respects their nature, on any amount of land. My aim with this book is to make backyard dairying achievable for anyone.

Most books about goats focus on keeping them on a larger scale, and don’t address many issues for those who just want some milk from a couple of goats in the backyard. Topics covered include:

•Natural goat health, how to prevent and fix most issues without a vet.

•Small batch cheesemaking.

•Everything you need to know about goats – their behaviour, how to feed them, handle them, what they need to thrive, and so on.

What this book is about:

•Caring for goats in a way that respects their goatness.

•Getting dairy goats now, wherever you are. It doesn’t have to be a dream that may happen one day in the distant future, it could happen now, and this book will show you how.

•Learning from observation, and goat behaviour in the wild to provide the right foods for goats to thrive.

•A permaculture approach, looking at the whole backyard ecosystem and the many interactions between goats, animals, garden, people, and trees.

•Cheesemaking and home dairying without artificial weird stuff.

Goat dairy as a homemade staple food, for health, survival and self reliance. Recipes included.

Not just for backyards

This book is relevant for larger bits of land as well, especially in the early years while you’re waiting for perennials to grow or waiting to build more fences. Goat milk provides an instant harvest, with a minimal amount of brought-in feed, using smaller amounts of land and food than cows, while providing manure for the garden.

Click here if you’d like to learn more.

Raising pigs for meat and lard

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Our pigs at around 12 or 13 weeks old. Healthy Wessex saddleback boars, raised in the forest with portable electric fencing.

How much time does it take to raise pigs on the homestead for meat? How much of a commitment is it? What do you need to get started? How much does it cost?…

I write this partly for myself to read next year, so that I remember how it all works, partly for others who are considering raising pigs.

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Cutting up a pig without a saw

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Before our pig kill (see this post) we had discussed what we wanted to do with each part of the pig. To keep costs down, we just had the mobile butcher here on one day to do the kill, hair removing, gutting, and sawing the pigs in half and leaving them to hang for a day before we would cut them up ourselves. If we wanted him to cut them into pieces he would probably have to come back another day.

We’ve never before cut pigs up ourselves, and how we handled it is a bit different to the process I’ve seen elsewhere because we didn’t have a saw. Every other instruction around is for how to do it with a saw, so I will write about how we did this using only 6” (15cm) boning knives, and maybe a firewood axe and a good aim (depending on how the spine has been cut).

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Pig day

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Our 6 month old Wessex saddleback boar pigs

The next few photos are of the pig slaughtering process, with commentary, to help others who want to raise their own meat or understand a process that has mostly been forgotten in modern times.

Our pigs have lived happy lives in the paddock above for the past few months. They have been able to express their pig-ness, and have enjoyed a diet of acorns, whey, scraps, and local gmo-free grains. Their natural behaviour is to search for roots in the ground with their snouts, turning over some of the soil in a gentle way, and also manuring it. They feed the soil life and prepare the ground for new plants to grow.

Vegetarians might want to stop reading this now.
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Perfection

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I am not that great at describing foods. I sometimes laugh at the descriptions on the back of wine bottles, and at the obsessions that plague the cosmopolitan boomer-inspired worlds of recipes and restaurants, when to me there is just nothing like simple foods created traditionally, and there’s not much to say except ‘perfect’.

This cheese deserves praise though. I will post pictures of it and tell its story.

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This cheese was the last cheese I made this year, towards the end of March when I switched back to once a day milking. I’ve had a few hard cheesemaking fails this season due to my rennet being old and stored badly, but there is just nothing like homemade hard cheese, raw and full of flavour from wild cultures, so I persist in trying them every so often. This one used a ‘washed curd’ technique that gouda and havarti use, I used some of my homemade viili yoghurt as starter, and I probably made it on a fruit day in the biodynamic calendar. I used an 800g cheese mould, using 5-6 litres of goats milk.

Lately my land and house have been wanting to grow camembert-style rinds. As this cheese became soft-looking as it aged, and the sides of the rind ‘splooged’ (for lack of a technical word) I noticed a beautiful white rind forming on the splooged bits. At some point it stabilised, but I eyed this off every time I tended to the cheeses, wondering if it would be similar to camembert when I cut it open.

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We cut it open the other night, it was like no other cheese I’ve had. Cheese perfection that doesn’t fit into any little cheese category in a book. This cheese can’t be replicated with packets of cultures and milk from the shop, it is just like all good foods should be, an expression of the land that makes it.

I sat it next to the ripening chorizos and saucisson secs in the larder, to spread the white bloom.

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Zucchini Pickle

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There’s not much that gives a feeling of abundance like zucchini does. It grows easily and prolifically, some people complain that it provides too much food, and then end up gifting some of their harvest to me. I end up picking most of mine before the flowers have dropped off, eager to make all kinds of zucchini cakes, zucchini gratin, minestrone and other soups, and making this zucchini pickle to accompany cheese and cold meats for the year ahead.

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Ingredients
1.3kg zucchini
200g onions (2 small-medium ones)
150g salt
Water for rinsing the salt off
5 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon dry turmeric or 3 teaspoons freshly grated
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger, or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
85g honey (around 2 tablespoons)
500ml cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

Grate the zucchini and finely dice the onions. Mix with the salt in a bowl and set aside for at least half an hour, or overnight. Drain the liquid, rinse the vegetables, and then drain again, squash them into a fine sieve to remove as much liquid as possible.

Sterilise some jars and lids and keep them warm.

When the vegetables have been drained and rinsed, put them in a pot with the spices, vinegar, and honey. Bring to the boil with the lid on, reduce the heat, and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another ten or twenty minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the onion tastes cooked. Put into the sterilised jars, put the lids on, then turn them upside down for a few minutes. Turn the right way up again and leave them to cool.

This pickle will taste best after it’s been in storage at least a month. It keeps for around 12 months in the cupboard. I’ve opened ones that were two years old and they were still good.

One day I hope to have enough zucchini to make this recipe and this recipe. This year we’ve had two plants, next year I think we will have four or more.

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