Making tomato sauce

Making tomato sauce

We picked thirty pounds of Roma and Better Boy tomatoes this week.  We will be taking the Roma tomatoes and making tomato sauce with them.  The Better Boy tomatoes will get cut into pieces and freeze dried in our Harvest Right home freeze dryer.  We love the Roma for making  spaghetti sauce.

Making tomato sauce
Making tomato sauce from roma tomatoes picked thus week

Juicing the Roma tomatoes

We use a juicer attachment for our meat grinder to juice our tomatoes.  The skin and seeds come out seperately from the juice and is collect in a bowl.  It is still pretty wet and lots of juice left in it.  It will be run back through the juicer several times until all the juice has been removed.  The skin and seeds are then taken out for the chickens to enjoy.

All the juice is collected in a large pot that will go on the stove to reduce.  Simmering it over the course of several hours causes the water to be reduced through evaporation.  This cause the juice to become thicker, making it into a sauce.  You can see in the picture below how far the level has dropped.

Hand operated juicers

If you don’t have a juicer setup like ours but want to start making tomato saucee you can get a hand operated juicer for far less money.

Water bath canning of our tomato sauce

After reducing our sauce down to the desired thickness it was time to begin the water bath canning process. We use the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving for all our canning. It is an inexpensive yet comprehensive canning book  for less than $8.

Making tomato sauce
3 and a half quarts of tomato sauce in the hot water bath canner

This batch is all straight sauce, no additional flavoring was added.  We will flavor it to taste when we cook with it.

After it cooled we labeled the lid and moved them to the pantry.

Making smoker wood chips

Making smoker wood chips

Recently we used the free Craftsman wood chipper we repaired to start making smoker wood chips  We had removed several mulberry trees for our greenhouse build and had a little apple and hickory wood that could be chipped.  We use a smoker often and go through more than a few bags of wood chips that we had to buy.  Now we can make our own and won’t have to buy any for awhile.

Making smoker wood chips
We will use this chipper to make wood chips for our smoker

Running the chipper and making chips

The process was fairly simple, we used the pruners to cut off branches from a limb downed during a recent high wind event.  Those branches were cut down more to make a straight branch that would feed easily into the chipper.

I found that with this particular unit it was best to keep the length of what we chipping to no more than a couple feet.  When we had a piece that was too long it would begin to bog down the Briggs and run the risk of killing the machine.  If you do then there will be wood inside the unit when you go to restart it.  When there is too much  material inside you won’t be able to pull start it.  We had to tear the unit apart once to unplug it. It wasn’t horrible, but it did take 20 minutes to clear and reassemble.  Lesson learned.  Limit the length of the material getting chipped to prevent this from happening again,

The finished product

This is our first chipper/shredder and we’ve never run one, therefor we weren’t certain how large of chips it would make.  The chips it made are smaller than I expected.  They’re smaller pieces than what comes in the bags we buy at the store. see the picture below.

Making smoker wood chips
wood chips from a mulberry tree that will be used in a smoker.

We have used them to smoke a chicken.  The smaller chips burn up faster than the larger store bought wood chips. Making smoker wood chips is pretty fast and we have an abundance of fruit trees. Burning more chips doesn’t concern me.  So far we have filled 2 feed sacks with usable wood chips.

Making smoker wood chips
Mulberry tree wood chips that will be used to flavor meat in our smoker

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper

Recently we picked up a free older chipper shredder that was in need of a little tender loving care.  It was free and could be used to make our own wood chips for the smoker.  We got it home and started the job of repairing Craftsman 5 HP chipper.

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper
Craftsman 247.797853 chipper repaired and ready for service

Finding manuals for the chipper and engine

With a grease rag and flashlight I was able to find model numbers for the Briggs and Stratton as well as the Craftsman model number for the entire unit.  It is a Craftsman 247.797853, 5 HP chipper/shredder.

Before I could begin Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper the model numbers were needed to see if replacement parts were even available. I was able to quickly find a free PDF version of the owners manual online.  With the model number for the Briggs we were able to find repair parts numbers for most everything we needed.

Engine repairs made

The little 5 HP Briggs actually ran when we got it, but it didn’t sound quite right.  Upon inspecting the gasoline in the tank it had the slightly sour taste of old gasoline.  It would need a tank flushing, and at a minimum, the carburetor bowl cleaned.  While taking off the air cleaner assembly it was clear the air cleaner needed replaced.   I was able to find an air cleaner and spark plug kit for $6.50.  The plug was ok, but was replaced along with the air filter.

After removing the gas tank and carburetor it was easy to tear into the carb.  The bowl had varnish buildup from our ethanol gasoline and needed cleaned.  The needle looked rough, so I elected to just purchase a carburetor rebuild kit.  It was around $10 from Amazon.

The carburetor kit made a world of difference in how this old chipper ran after flushing out the tank and adding fresh ethanol free gasoline.

Chipper shredder blades

To inspect the chipper and shredder blades on this unit I had to tear into it a bit.  With a few basic hand tools I was able to inspect our blades.  They were beat up but would be fine with a sharpening.  If you’re taking on this same job  you can still buy replacement blades.After installing my sharp blades I buttoned the unit back up.

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper
These blades were rough and need sharpening on this old Craftsman chipper/shredder

Chipper shredder bag

The bag for this chipper shredder was long gone but I had hoped I could catch the chips in a bucket or something similar. Unfortunately   I discovered the bag was going to be required, it generates too much wind and the chips were blown out of my bucket,  A serviceable replacement bag is available for around $46.  If you are good with a sewing machine it would be easy to make one of these with the dimensions listed through my link.

Repairing Craftsman 5 hp chipper
New bag installed on Craftsman 5 HP chipper/shredder and ready to be put to work.

The first chipping job after repairs

The first task for the old chipper was to make some wood chips from a mulberry tree for our smoker.  We ended up chipping some hickory and apple wood as well.

Chicken butchering tools

Chicken butchering tools

Our Freedom Ranger meat birds are near butcher weight and we thought it would be a good time to discuss chicken butchering tools.  We have been raising and butchering our own meat chickens for years.  As a child I learned from my parents as we butchered around 100 a year for our own consumption.  As an adult I use many of the same tools as my parents but have added some luxury time saving items like a scalder and a mechanical chicken plucker.

Chicken butchering tools - chicken plucker
Home built chicken plucker

A few basic tools can get the job done, many of which most folks have already.  Our list will include a set of the basic and inexpensive tools as well of some of those luxury items that make the process easier and faster.

Basic chicken butchering tools

A good set of knives is on my essential list of chicken butchering tools.  A good thin blade for cutting into the cavity of the chicken and a second knife with serrations for cutting through the neck and tail bones.  You can use the same blade for everything but cutting into or nicking the bones is hard on a blade and will cause it to go dull quickly.

Knifes and related cutting tools

For the thin blade I like a boning knife, like this UltraSource boning knife. It has a decent blade and the grip is easy to maintain control with wet, or bloody, hands.  The edge is easy to renew with a decent sharpening steel between chickens.

For my serrated blade I like an inexpensive hunting knife like this Gerber folding knife with serrated blade.  Half the blade on ours is serrated and the rest a normal blade.  If you you were wanting to work on a budget this single knife would work by itself.  Just keep in mind that a thin blade is easier to control inside the chest cavity of a chicken.

I consider our sharpening steel is a essential if we are butchering more than a few chickens at a time.  Being able to dress the edge of a knife between chickens makes the process much easier.  An inexpensive steel works.  We have been using our oval diamond sharpening rod for a decade and love it.

Tools for bleeding out a chicken

A couple different size kill cones are a valuable tool to have on the homestead where you are butchering your own chickens,  You can buy commercially made kill cones that are made from materials like stainless which are easy to clean.  In the link above is a XL model.  It is my preferred cone for large roosters from a bird bird breed,  For meat bird hens and smaller breeds we like the large size of cones.  Here at our homestead we run two cones and move them to some baling twine, which is discussed below,

An budget minded alternative to cones is simple baling twine.  We secure one end to something like a tree or fence post and tie a loop in the other end.  By simply pulling the line through the loop you create a hoop.

Scalder for plucking

Scalding a chicken makes the process of removing feathers much easier.  A large pot filled with water can be easily brought to temperature for plucking on a propane cooker.  A turkey fire kit that includes the burner, a big pot and a thermometer can be cheaper than buying individual components.  It goes without saying, you’ll need propane too.

After scalding the feathers will be removed by hand and simply pulling the feathers from the skin, or with the aid of a plucker.  You can make your own or buy one commercial made,  It is expensive, so it will be discussed in the “luxury item” section near the end of this blog entry.

If you’re not opposed to having skinless chicken you can remove the feathers without a scalder setup by skinning the chicken, the feathers are removed by by pulling of the skin and the feathers.

A cooler and ice

After butchering it is important to cool down the carcass.  We use a cooler and add ice and water to drop the carcass temperatures.  If you have a little extra cooler space and some plastic bottles you can save money by filling the bottles with water and prefreezing them.  You can reuse the bottles of ice in the place of ice from the store.

Chicken butchering tools - a cooler of ice water
ice water used to cool carcasses after butchering

Clean water

Clean water is an absolute necessity.  You need it to clean the chicken, yourself and the random accidental messes that occur.  A few buckets of water will work, but a hose with a nozzle of some sort is recommended.  We use a garden hose and the watering wand from our garden.

Luxury chicken butchering tools

The top two luxury chicken butchering tools would have to be a chicken plucker and a scalder. For the plucker to work properly you need a scalder capable of bringing your water temperature to 145 degrees.  If you don’t dip the chicken in that hot water the plucker won’t remove any fethers.

Chicken Plucker

A plucking machine is a massive time and labor saver. But they can also be expensive.  We built our first one off a set of plans, you can see it running and doing its job in the video below.  There are lots of DIY plans and even build videos on YouTube if you want to build your own.  For those who don’t want the hassle of building your own, there are a few companies that make a decent plucker that is made from stainless steel.  Coops n More carry a few different models.

Scalder

A comercially manufactured scalder is another luxury item but is such a time saver.  We are better able accurately maintain a constant temperature in this unit over the turkey fryer setup we originally used.   The turkey fryer was always tempermental and more difficult to keep at a constant temperature.  We saw fluctations in the temperatures which would delay the entire butchering process.  Water temperatures that were too high, or too low, make plucking far more diffucult. A good scaldeer that maintains a constant temperature streamlines the entire process.

 

Chicken butchering tools - 220 volt scalder
220 volt scalder from coops n more being powered by an electric generator

Shrink wrap freezer bags

A more inexpensive luxury item is the chicken shrink wrap freezer bag.  As you can see in the picture

chicken butchering tools - shrink wrap bags
Chickens packaged in shrink wrap bags and ready for the freezer