Updated: Jan 19
I giggled Christmas morning as I looked out my kitchen window to see a covey of Bobwhite quail playing in the front yard. Watching them running circles around each other and pecking through the short grass was a beautiful sight. It confirmed that the work we have put into conservation and predator control worked to bring back the upland bird population. In the last two decades of living in the country, we have never had quail near the house.
There were no gifts under the tree. Ronnie and I decided to start working towards getting out of debt earlier in the year. Stocking up for COVID-life took up any extra funds we had on hand. It was the first time we never had any presents under the tree, and I thought it would be upsetting, but instead, this Christmas, it was a feeling of security knowing we didn't go any further into debt.
I planned on a big Christmas dinner with Ronnie. It would be the first time in my life I would get to spend Christmas day in my own home. We have spent each year on the road visiting family, and although I missed them very much, there was something immensely satisfying about cooking at home for the Holiday.
The woodstoves were both running, and the cabin was cozy and warm. I readied a Berkshire ham I started curing three weeks ago. I planned on slow cooking it all day to enjoy the smell of fresh roasted ham. 98% of store-bought ham is already cooked, and cooking it further makes it tough and dry. If you buy ham from the store, read the directions! These hams are put in the oven to warm gently before serving, not for cooking! Only hams labeled as "Fresh Ham" are to be cooked in the oven, and the directions will clearly be printed on the packaging.
After getting my ham in the oven, I worked on making organic dinner rolls from scratch. I have been making bread for so many years that I no longer need a recipe and can easily balance out the variances of the ingredients. Store bread is full of preservatives and fillers to keep it spongy and on the shelf for as long as possible. My breads are made from milk, sugar, yeast, and organic flour. After the dough made its first rise, I portioned out the rolls on a scale and started to make them.
Most people don't know why they are called rolls. In the old-days, dinner rolls, hoagie rolls, and sweet rolls were made by rolling out the dough with a rolling pin and then rolling the flattened dough into a ball or cylindrical shape for hoagie rolls. Rolling rolls is how I make them, and I find that the flavor and texture are vastly different from grocery store rolls. They have much more flavor from the yeast fermentation not escaping so quickly, and they have a much more dense texture, making them heavy and spongy instead of light, fluffy, dry, and airy. These kinds of rolls put some meat on your bones instead of making you drink something to get them down.
I had saved up a few turkey eggs from a hen that decided to lay in the fall due to the solar light I have running to encourage my chickens to lay. Deviled turkey eggs are a homestead delicacy! The yolks are bigger and just a smidge richer than chicken eggs. I only make them once or twice a year, and I was really looking forward to enjoying a few.
Lastly, I wanted some buttery organic potatoes for a side dish. Ronnie requested that I skip mashing them. I questioned him for a reason, and he insisted that potato salad was delicious because the potatoes were in chunks. I felt he was right, so I heavily buttered the boiled pieces and gave them a good stir with some salt. It turns out that this is my new favorite way to serve potatoes! It changes everything!
Our Christmas dinner was simplistic and gratifying. I couldn't help being proud of the ham turning out perfect. It was the star of the meal with a basic market value of around $80.00. Our pork is different from standard pasture-raised Berkshire and would have a higher value. It took two years to grow our hogs on grass pasture, supplemented with nothing but oats, milo, and fresh organic garden vegetables. Even in the winter months, I would take them pumpkins and spaghetti squashes when the weather froze the ground and made it too hard for them to root.
I grow our food because I need to know what foods my food ate and the care it received. Since I processed my hogs at home, I knew that the processing was done cleanly, and there wasn't a mix-up at the butcher or cross-contamination from equipment not being cleaned between orders. I knew what went into curing my ham, and I kept it simple and chemical-free.
It is an incredible feeling to indulge in all of the wonderous meals the homestead can provide.