I have spent the last year or so trying to encourage everyone in my family to become closer to the food they eat. No small task considering that L won’t eat anything that looks remotely like it did when it was alive (nothing dead with eyes can get through the front door) and that our kids tend to think that food comes out of a box or a bag or, most to their liking, a can.
Up till now, I have been subtle about it, showing them over and over again that things can be made from scratch so they get familiar with basic ingredients rather than the finished “product”. This has met with some success. After insisting on store-bought premixes for months, my 13-year-old daughter now makes pancakes from scratch. And she’s pretty good at it. My 16-year-old son laps up broth like a thirsty St. Bernard even though he is fully aware that it is made with bones and, in the case of my chicken broth, a pound of chicken feet (I leave these out on the counter in full view before I start the stock). My kids now understand that making food isn’t always pretty (visualize the scummy foam you have to skim from the stock pot) and that sometimes you have to get your hands dirty to eat.
We’re about to crank up the heat a little by meeting the animals that will end up on our plates.
We’ve recently joined a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. That means, essentially, that we pay up front for a portion of a farm’s crop. In our case, we’ve purchased half of a pig, one-third of a cow, some chickens (they are incubating at the moment) and 50 duck eggs. We have one of 30 CSA memberships in our farm and we share the risk with the farmer; if the eggs don’t hatch, we don’t get chickens.
“Our farm is your farm,” our farmer told us the day we met her. And she means it. Her farm’s CSA members can visit the animals, take part in farm chores and even plant a vegetable plot of their own.
Our farmer is committed to raising heritage animals; species that were once common on farms here and around the world, but have been pushed aside by faster-to-market breeds favoured by higher-speed modern farms. Her pigs are Large Blacks. You can listen to a radio documentary about her passion for this heritage breed here.
I want my kids to meet the animals and see how they are raised. I want them to appreciate that a pig’s life is short – one year from birth to basting. I want them get a sense of the contribution living creatures make to their well being. I want them to understand that it’s important to treat meat with respect because it it’s not just something that comes wrapped in plastic.
Chicken stock (with feet)
Put a whole chicken or a carcass or two (I collect them in the freezer until I am ready to make stock) is a pot with a couple of chopped onions (skins on to colour the stock), a couple of chopped carrots, tow or three chopped celery stocks, a sprig of fresh thyme (or a couple tablespoons of dried), a dozen black pepper corns, a bit of salt and a bay leave. cover with water.
Take a pound or so chicken feet (about 8-10; you can get them at almost any Asian grocery) and boil in a small pot of water for five minutes or so. Remove and cool. Chop off the talons and the tips of the toes. Toss them in the pot with the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours.
Drain the stock through a colander lined with damp cheese cloth (it will help it stick). Retain the meat if you used a whole chicken and discard the rest of the ingredients.
Season with more salt if needed. Enjoy
The chicken feet give this stock a richness that is worth the extra effort.