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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Making It Pay

Trout Muniere for breakfast
This year I grew and preserved more food from the backyard than I ever have before, but after gathering it together I realize I am still a loooonnnnnnnggggg way off from preventing starvation in a down-chips environment. That is why I need to add more sources of protein to the mix, and do something constructive about growing more potatoes, which remain the highest source of calories per acre.  Both of these strategies will involve much thought, especially the potatoes thing.  I know I can grow spuds, but I don't want to grow them in the beds, because it's really true: once you have potatoes growing somewhere, you'll always have potatoes growing somewhere. It's been two seasons since I grew potatoes in the big bed and they are still coming up.  Thus I really want to get them into the potato barrels I made but the barrels need soil and I don't have any spare.  In fact, I've decided that next year I'll grow a much smaller range of vegetables in one bed and really concentrate on growing soil in the other beds, which I've already gotten a start on.  Next year's garden will still be the same but my yields will be much reduced, because if starting seed in compost has taught me anything, it's that I really, really need to do something in a big way about my soil fertility.  But this post wasn't supposed to be about growing things, it was supposed to be about adding fish to the mix!

Steve and I really believe in the whole notion of letting chickens have their winter off from production because that is what they do naturally. Aside from it allowing them to still be able to lay later in their lives, it saves on the energy and infrastructure costs to run a line out to the coop to keep a light on.  The opposite side of course, is a lower feed-to-egg ratio because you still have to feed them, but we still think this is the humane way to keep chickens.  So knowing that they are going to be shortly laying off laying, we've been saving eggs against the day when they quit altogether for the season.  We're trying more and more to eat seasonally, and even eggs have a season.  So- Steve found a very old article from the seventies in the Mother Earth News where they'd done the experimenting on saving eggs and found that the best way to keep eggs for the long term is to keep unwashed eggs in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  They found that eggs kept this way will be good up to six or seven months.  I don't want to keep them that long- just long enough to see us through to when the girls start laying again, and if memory serves, that was near the end of January (I think).  During the winter we don't have eggs for breakfast- they get used in dishes where you need one egg, like pancakes or other baked goods, and the occasional jar of mayonnaise.  It's all part of that seasonal eating thing, like I mentioned before.  So- replacing eggs for breakfast becomes something of a challenge because, frankly, I like eggs for breakfast.  I can also become completely bored with hot cereal.  Last winter I added a lot of tuna cakes into the mix because we had so much canned tuna, which I can still do, but I have far fewer jars of it and it also requires mayonnaise, which requires eggs, which kind of defeats the purpose.

However, I really like the idea of fish for breakfast.  This morning we had Trout Muniere made from some of the trout we caught on Sunday. The hardest part was scaling and butterflying the fish, largely because I found conflicting information and instructions on YouTube.  I mean YouTube worked well enough for learning some knitting tricks but it's less successful with processing fish.  Everybody seems to do it one way or the other, and the presenters each had different levels of expertise as well. The first guy I watched seemed to make a hash of his trout, and mine are considerably smaller.  I don't have that much fish to waste. What I need, it turns out, is someone with a great deal of skill to show me how to do it, and then watch over my shoulder to correct me as I attempt the job.  Let's face it- picking up a skill on your own, particularly one fraught with finesse, can be really, really difficult.  I think probably scaling, gutting, and filleting or butterflying fish is something at which you get good only by repetitive action.

Which means I have to get good at fishing.

I don't have any plans to do any more fishing this year because the way the fishing licenses work in the state of Oregon is that they are good for a year, based on the calendar.  I am just cheap enough to not want to waste forty bucks on a license I'm only going to be able to use another three months; I don't see myself getting good enough in that much time to make it worth the expense.  So at the beginning of next year, I'll go get my fishing license and get started.  I've already leafed through a couple of regional map and availability books, plus bought one on beginning bait casting that will make good reading for the interim.

And I'm really hoping that I can get good enough to justify buying the salmon gear so that I can try for a spring salmon next March or April.

For now though, I need to go finish butterflying and freezing the rest of the catch, and then digging the offal into the garden.*  One way or the other, I am going to make this pay.

* I learned from my neighbor who learned it from his mother who was a full-blooded Native American (Creek) that the way to successfully dig fish guts into the soil is to dig a hole, add the guts, and then add a good layer of wood ashes over them; it keeps the raccoons from digging them back up.


Chris said...

I grew up eating a lot of trout, and IMO it's not a fish you need to bother to filet. I certainly never have, and don't plan to. Just fry (or grill, or bake, or whatever) the cleaned fish, whole. It may not be as pretty, but it's also less wasteful and difficult. (You can remove the head and tail if you need to.) The spine and ribs pull right out as soon as you've eaten one half. They freeze just fine whole, too.

A whole trout fresh from the stream, some bacon grease, and a few potatoes, and you've got God's own breakfast.

Laylah said...

Good soil is distressingly hard to build, I'm finding. I've just been through my first growing season on a suburban-style lot, and my fledgling attempts to create new food-gardening space out of lawn have been sobering. The existing dirt is just so inhospitable to plants with needs. Good luck coaxing the life back into yours!

Paula said...

That sounds pretty good Chris. I wonder, did you guys bother to scale them or did you skip eating the skin?

Paula said...

Thanks Laylah- you too!

Barbara said...

Hi! I've learned a lot on all things fish from Captain Vincent Russo You Tube videos. Simple, clear instructions. But I agree with Chris above on leaving the bones to cook the trout. Quiche, baked or unbaked, freezes ok for breakfast meals. Just a thought.

Chris said...

The skin is actually perfectly edible -- no need to scale it, either. If the skin squicks you you can certainly skip it -- it comes off very easily once it's been cooked -- but that's where all of the bacony goodness gets stored!

simply living said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

While I've been able to grow some soil, have had to buy a lot - live in the AZ desert! Have had some success with growing potatoes in bags. Then you just dump the bag out to harvest the potatoes and re-use the soil. yes, right now have two potato plants coming up in a container of lettuce. Can let them grow or pull them like weeds.