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Ducks, in my opinion, are a highly underutilized animal on the homestead. So many people don’t have ducks. 

But… they’re a great source of eggs, meat, and entertainment. There are tons of duck breeds out there, but many of us have no clue what they are. I know until I started researching them before we added them to our homestead last year I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount. I had no idea there were so many!

While many people find it beneficial to have a mixed flock of ducks, we’re actually transitioning to breeding just two different duck breeds. One for eggs, the other for meat. While I love our current mixed flock, I want to help conserve a heritage breed and this seems to be the easiest way. 

Our current flock consists of several breeds and they’re all fantastic in their own way and will be staying for a while longer until they’re no longer productive. If you’re looking for a fantastic duck breed for your homestead for meat or eggs, read on. 

Note: Like chickens, there are dual purpose breeds as well as breeds that are best for eggs and best for meat. All of the breeds I will list are heritage breeds. Several are critical or threatened status. The reason I list these, despite the fact they can be difficult to locate, is because these breeds were 1) specifically bred for small, homestead settings , 2)they need to be conserved and 3) they are docile and perfect for small, family homesteads.

Best Duck Breeds for Meat

Duck meat is a healthy, easy to prepare meat. Ducks breeds specifically for meat do not require long to grow out, even heritage breeds. This is a great way to add sustainable meat to your own property even if it is a small property. However, if you’ve never had duck, be forewarned. It’s a lot less like chicken and a lot more like steak. 

Aylesbury
 
 
 
 
 
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Aylesbury ducks came from England, but were one of the first duck breeds brought to the United States. They’re a very rare breed and there is a critical need for more breeders here in the US. 

These ducks will grow to slaughter weight between 5 and 9 weeks, which is pretty quick especially if compared to heritage meat chickens. This breed is very docile, making them perfect for family farms. While most American’s prefer pekin duck, it is said that the white fleshed aylesbury has superior flavor. Making this a great addition to backyard homesteads for flavorful meat production. 

Rouen

Rouen ducks look almost identical to wild mallards. While a lot of people utilize Rouen’s for exhibition, they also make a great, heritage meat breed. They don’t lay many eggs, only 35-100 or so a year. But, they make delicious meat perfect for roasting. 

Rouens, do, however, take a long while to mature. Roughly 6-8 months. This is perfect for someone just wanting to produce a little bit of meat on their homestead, though. While it won’t give you much for any kind of commercial production, it’s perfect for the small farm. 

Best Duck Breeds for Eggs

Ducks are known for their consistency in egg laying, unlike chickens. Duck eggs are also fantastic in baked goods. They have a higher moisture content, a larger, richer yolk and more nutrient content than chicken eggs. Making ducks a great addition for nutrient rich, eggs that taste pretty much like chicken eggs!

Indian Runner

These ducks look like little bowling pins running around. As they stand more upright than most duck breeds. Runner ducks have been around for thousands of years, according to Javan temple carvings that indicate this style of duck existed then. 

Runners will lay 250 or more eggs a year, but aren’t very heavy making them great for eggs, not so much for meat. They’re a docile breed, but they are active. They love to explore and are great at foraging for bugs. 

Khaki Campbell

The khaki Campbell was the result of a cross between an Indian runner and a Rouen duck and resulted in one of the most prolific laying breeds there is amongst ducks. 

A docile, beautiful duck you can expect khaki Campbells to lay anywhere between 250 and 350 eggs per year. Yes, almost an egg a day can be expected from this breed. We currently have one in our mixed flock and she has laid all year. 

Best Dual Purpose Duck Breeds

Ducks, just like chickens, can be great producers of both eggs and meat. I really like dual purpose breeds because you can buy more than you need for eggs for meat, and once the egg layers are no longer productive, they can be utilized for meat as well. 

Saxony

We have one Saxony in our mixed flock that we named Geronimo despite the fact she’s a female. She grew so fast, and is a very large duck. With that she lays very large eggs and a lot of them. 

Saxony’s will lay upwards of 200 eggs a year and up to around 250. They take a little longer to grow out than some other breeds, but produce very flavorful, leaner meat than other breeds as well. They’re also very docile and can be great mothers.

Ancona
 
 
 
 
 
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Anconas are very prolific layers and a breed we are considering breeding in the future on our homestead. There is a need for more breeders and they have a calm disposition which makes them great to add to small, family homesteads like ours. 

You can expect anconas to lay around 280 eggs a year and they also quickly grow out to produce flavorful, less fatty meat than some other duck breeds. It is said they make great yard ducks and tend not to stray too far from home. 

Cayuga
 
 
 
 
 
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If you’re looking for a beautiful duck that lays unique eggs (they range from almost black to white, depending on the time of year), then you should definitely consider cayuga ducks. 

Cayugas are said to be very easily tamed if they are hand raised and are known as one of the hardiest duck breeds. They lay around 150 eggs a year and produce an excellent meat, but it is said they can be hard to clean because their feathers are dark. They are a beautiful bird, though and known for their unique shell color.

Silver Appleyard
 
 
 
 
 
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The silver Appleyard is listed as threatened on the livestock conservancy. They are a beautiful breed and one of the best producing heavyweight breeds there is. 

A docile breed, which is something I think is important, the silver Appleyard should produce 225 to 260 eggs a year. They also produce excellent, lean meat. This breed is great for backyard homesteads as it will stay nearby as long as you feed it well. 

Other Duck Posts You’ll Love: Do you raise ducks on your homestead? What’s your favorite breed?

The post 8 Duck Breeds to Consider for Your Homestead appeared first on The Rustic Elk.

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Backyard meat rabbits are the perfect addition to any homestead. Even for someone who thinks they can’t get past the cuteness factor. And they’re especially beneficial to a homesteader that is limited on space, like we are. 

We’ve been considering adding meat rabbits for a while and are just now taking the plunge. While we strive to think outside the box and become more self sufficient on our little acre of land, raising meat has become a huge consideration. 

Sure, we hunt and get wild game that way, but if you’ve ever hunted you know it’s not a guarantee. Especially with the amount of poachers, deer-car accidents, and diseases like chronic wasting disease wiping out the populations before they can be hunted. 

We also source local meat. Last year we were lucky enough to find someone who was selling pastured hogs to be butchered, and we butchered our first pig. There is a local farm that raises grass fed beef as well. But, none of those give us the security of raising our own meat. 

While I trust these small, local farmers and I asked the right questions and have gotten to know more about their practices, it’s still not us raising them. 

So, while I find rabbits incredibly cute and we even have a pet rabbit, we’ve found that the pros of raising backyard meat rabbits far outweigh the cons, and I think you’ll find you come to the same conclusion. 

And yes, I do believe that anyone can, and should raise meat rabbits. There are ways to get past thinking they’re adorable, but I’ll talk about that in another post. For now:

11 Reasons You Need to Raise Backyard Meat Rabbits 1. Meat Rabbits Don’t Require Much Space

We only have an acre lot, that acre lot also has a house and a garage on it. Add in a chicken coop, gardens, a shed for dairy goats (that we currently have converted into a feed shed) on top of the fact that we have a septic field that takes up the majority of the back portion of our lot and you’ll see we won’t be raising any beef steers any time soon. 

Since we’re pretty limited on space, backyard meat rabbits are the perfect solution. They only require a hutch for each rabbit and depending on the breed (and your personal preferences) those don’t have to be very big. I would suggest leaving them enough room to hop around a tad and to stand, but some don’t find that’s a necessity. 

If you’re limited on space or even just have a small urban lot, you can raise rabbits for meat. 

2. They’re an Inexpensive Investment

Rabbits don’t require a large investment. Most people recommend a buck and two does, but you could even start with just a breeding pair. Most pairs sell for around $50-$60 so they’re not going to cost much to purchase. 

Then, you just need hutches, water bottles, feeder, and feed (which can actually be as simple as grass, read below) and you’ll be all set. If you have some scrap lumber and some hardware cloth, you can easily make their hutches for free. So, not a ton of cost up front. 

3. Backyard Meat Rabbits Are Prolific Producers

Yep, it’s no secret, rabbits reproduce like… rabbits. And their grow out time is short. In about 12 weeks you’ll have a large quantity of healthy, lean meat to feed yourself and your family. A trio of rabbits can produce upwards of 600 pounds of meat in a year which is more than a dressed one year old steer. That’s pretty impressive. 

4. They’ll Fertilize Your Garden For Free

Rabbits have a knack for creating a ton of poop in a short amount of time. I don’t know what it is, but what goes in the one end comes out the other times two it seems. However, rabbit manure can be put straight on the garden. It isn’t hot and it does not have to be composted, though its a great addition to the compost pile as well. This is great, because you can just bucket it up and put it right on the garden for some great, natural fertilizer. 

I’ve even seen rabbit poop for sale! So, it could be a way to make money on your homestead if the little critters are making too much for you to use up. 

5. Backyard Meat Rabbits Don’t Require Much Care

Unlike a lot of livestock, large or small, meat rabbits don’t require a lot of care and intervention. As long as you provide them with a safe environment the only real involvement is occasionally cleaning up the cages and putting out fresh food and water every day. It’s nice that they’re something that doesn’t require a lot of investment of time and care. Which makes them ideal not only for small spaces, but for beginning homesteaders and weekend homesteaders that are pressed for time. 

6. They Don’t Need Special Butchering Equipment

A .22 for dispatching and a good knife is really all you need to butcher rabbits. They don’t need a plucker, no equipment to boost them up and hang them. No cones. Nothing special. Most of us have these things lying around. Also, some people dispatch rabbits by breaking their necks. While it may seem cruel, it isn’t, I just can’t see us doing it that way. A .22 is quick and humane. 

7. You Can Feed Them for Free (or near free)

Rabbits are perfectly happy eating grass, weeds, flowers, and vegetable ends. You don’t have to feed them pellets. In fact, we’re currently working toward not using processed, pelleted feeds for any of our livestock, so I’ll share more about that later. 

In the winter, when you don’t have grass readily available, you could grow fodder for them or purchase (no spray) hay. And they won’t require much of that. If you’re blessed to live in an area that has grass available year-round you’re even luckier. But, fodder is a really low cost, easy option to feed year round. No going to the feed store and spending lots of money. Awesome, if you ask me. 

8. They’re Quiet

Live in a space where you’re not supposed to have livestock? Rabbits are a fantastic way around this. Not only do most municipalities not have rabbits on their list of “illegal” animals to have in your own backyard…. Ahem. No one will know they’re there. 

They don’t make noise. They’re not going to be crowing at the crack of dawn. And as long as you keep their cages clean and their poop cleaned up and put in the compost or garden, you won’t get a lot of flies out of it, either. See? No one will ever know….

9. They Can Be Multi Purpose

Some rabbit breeds, like the silver fox, can be multi purpose. I say multi instead of dual because not only can you use the meat and the fur, you can also sell the offspring as show animals. So, while that may cut into your total meat yield, it can bring in about $25-30 per bunny. That may be worth the loss of meat once in a while. 

10. You Can Help Conserve Heritage Breeds

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Heritage livestock breeds are fantastic for homesteaders. These breeds were bred specifically with small farms and homesteads in mind. And many, many breeds are at the risk of becoming extinct. There are several rabbit breeds that are threatened, or critical status. You can help conserve these breeds and keep our heritage alive by raising meat rabbits. 

They’re usually pretty easy to locate, as well. Unlike some really rare poultry or goat breeds. I’ve not had much trouble locating breeders nearby of some threatened rabbit breeds. 

11. Rabbit Meat Is Good

And it’s healthy for you. It’s high in protein and low in calories. It has a mild chicken-like flavor to it. It’s fairly easy to prepare and you can even substitute it in a lot of recipes that call for chicken and you’ll never notice the difference. 

Rabbits are a great addition for any homesteader looking for a little more food security and self-sufficiency. I can’t wait to get started with our rabbits and see where it takes us! 

Other Livestock posts You’ll Love: Do you raise rabbits for meat? What are your top reasons? 

The post 11 Reasons You Need to Raise Backyard Meat Rabbits appeared first on The Rustic Elk.

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This easy maple syrup apple sauce has just a few simple ingredients and no refined sugar. It can be made up and canned when apples are in season for a healthy snack or dessert any time of year.  

Applesauce is a favorite in our home. We have a few great no spray orchards near by and we visit at least once every fall. With a toddler and two other kids, it’s a go to snack and dessert for our family. 

I used to buy organic applesauce at the store. But, it still contained refined sugar and it was expensive. I’ve found it is much cheaper (and easier to control the ingredients) when we make it at home. So, even if we run out, I’ll pick up some organic apples at the store and make more. It’s fun to make with the girls and it’s really pretty easy to throw together. 

How many pints of applesauce does a bushel of apples make? 

A lot of this will depend on the variety of apples. But, a bushel will typically yield around 15 pints of applesauce when all is said and done. 

I usually can up right around 13 pints with the bushel we purchase. But, with 3 kids and a desire to eat healthily, we go through them really fast. Then, it’s back to get more apples. Usually from the store by this point. I think this year I’ll purchase at least two bushels and make a day of it. We really like applesauce and winter is a long time…. I don’t always use it all for canning up applesauce, either and not all of the jars will fit in the water bath canner at one time. So, I can up around 9 pints per batch when I can it up. The rest are used for apple pie ice cream, eating fresh, or homemade apple pie. 

What are the best apples to use?

Every single apple will make applesauce, but their texture, taste, and their response to heat are all different. Which variety you choose depends a lot on personal taste. I usually grab whatever is available from the local orchard in large quantities. Depending on when we get to the orchard dictates what’s readily available for the picking. 

The apples that are best are going to be soft, not firm like baking apples. So, when given the choice opt for the soft apples. They simply cook down quicker and puree more easily than a firmer baking apple like Granny Smith. 

We tend to use:

  • Fuji
  • Rome
  • Jonathan
  • Gala
  • Golden Delicious

Sometimes we mix and match, depending on what we picked up and what was available at the time. Sometimes we make the entire batch out of one variety. There are several soft apple varieties, most orchards (and even stores) have them labeled if they’re best for baking or what have you. So, go for the ones that aren’t labeled baking apples for the best variety and find your own favorite.

Do you have to sweeten applesauce?

I like to keep things simple and as healthy as possible. My kids, on the other hand, prefer things be sweet. I’m not a huge fan of refined sugars and we are trying very hard to ditch them from our regular diets. That means I’ve been trying out other ways to sweeten things with natural sweeteners. If they’re readily available locally, even better. 

I sweeten this with maple syrup. And it’s fantastic. Maple syrup is sweet, but not too sweet and adds a great flavor to the applesauce. Do you have to add it? Of course not. But, I implore you to try it. It adds a great flavor in combination with the cinnamon and nutmeg. 

Equipment Needed to Make This Applesauce Recipe

Nothing super fancy or specialized. You can use a food mill in place of the immersion blender and paring knife if you have one. We don’t, so I use those two items instead because they’re already in the kitchen. If you do have a food mill, you will not have to peel or remove the seeds, the food mill will do that work for you. The directions do change a little bit, so you can read the notes at the bottom of the recipe if you’re lucky enough to have one. 

Yield: 9 Pints Applesauce Recipe
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
This easy maple syrup apple sauce has just a few simple ingredients and no refined sugar. It can be made up and canned when apples are in season for a healthy snack or dessert any time of year.  
Print
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 Lbs Apples (peeled, cored, and diced)
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 2 T Maple Syrup
  • 12 1/2 Lbs Apples (peeled, cored, and diced)
  • Water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1/2 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
Instructions
  1. Begin by peeling, coring, and dicing the apples into small chunks. Add them to a large pan.
  2. Add the apples, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and maple syrup to your saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and continue to simmer for around 30 minutes.
  3. Once apples are soft, remove from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the applesauce to desired consistency.
  4. While apples are cooking down, prepare your canner, jars, and lids by washing in warm, soapy water. Place jars in canner with some water and allow to boil for about 10 minutes to sterilize jars. Keep the jars warm while you wait on the applesauce to finish.
  5. Once applesauce is ready and pureed, return to low heat and maintain a gentle boil.
  6. Carefully ladle applesauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Using a plastic spatula, work out any bubbles. Check headspace again adding if necessary.
  7. Wipe the jar rim, center the lid, finger tighten the ring and place it back into the canner.
  8. Continue until all of the jars are filled and mixture used up.
  9. Once they're all filled, adjust the water in the canner to ensure that the tops are covered by about 2" to 3" of water.
  10. Place lid on canner and allow the water to return to a boil over high heat.
  11. Once water is boiling, process the jars for 20 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.
  12. Remove jars to a towel lined surface and leave undisturbed for 24 hours before checking the seal.
Notes

If you're using a food mill, you will add the chunked, cored, unpeeled apples to a saucepan and cover with water. Allow to boil and wait until apples are soft. Once they're soft, allow to cool for about 5 minutes before putting through the mill. Add the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and maple syrup back to the pan and allow it to come to a gentle boil. Enjoy fresh or process normally.

Nutrition Information: Yield: 36 Serving Size: 1/2 Cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 114 Total Fat: 0g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 165mg Carbohydrates: 30g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 23g Protein: 1g
Nutrition information may not be accurate
© Danielle McCoy
Cuisine: American / Category: Preserving
More Apple Posts You’ll Love: What’s your favorite apple variety? Share in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook or Instagram

The post Easy Maple Syrup Applesauce Recipe for Canning appeared first on The Rustic Elk.

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Winter, in my opinion, is the absolute perfect time to work on a few new homesteading skills. The garden lies in waiting, more time is spent indoors, and while we should definitely take a break and sit back to relax, I’m one of those people who loves to learn and winter affords me much more time to do that. 

Whether I’m just picking up a book gleaning knowledge from another homesteader, or actually working on learning or brushing up on a homesteading skill, I do a lot of learning and re-learning in the winter months. 

It not only helps keep me occupied (which I thrive on), but it helps the cold, wet, and dreary days more tolerable. It also allows me to not only learn the skills myself, but help my girls learn right along with me. 

This list is perfect for skills to learn and brush up on in the winter, any time really. But, none of them make you get outside. So, even if you find yourself tied down to living in an urban area, you can also learn a lot of these skills this winter season. 

Homesteading Skills to Learn This Winter 1. How to Make Soap

Soapmaking is probably one of my favorite things to do, especially in the winter. I really enjoy making our own soap. I know exactly what’s in it. I know that it’s all completely natural, cleansing, and not drying. 

To me, it’s a skill everyone should have. It’s not difficult, you just have to be careful with the lye. My children even help me (as long as they’re protected). It’s fun to use fats we were able to render right here on our own homestead and saponify them. Add some essential oils for scent and let it cure. The girls really love helping me cut the loaf of soap into bars once it’s cured in a couple of days.

2. How to Crochet, Knit, or Sew

I learned to sew with a machine many years ago, and while I can mend by hand, I’m not very good at hand sewing. I’m currently in the process of brushing up on those skills. Sewing with a machine is great, but I like to learn to do things by hand as well. 

I taught myself to crochet a few years back and I’m so glad I did. I enjoy taking natural fibers and crocheting them into hats, scarves, and blankets. Knitting is the next handicraft I plan to learn this year and I’m excited to get started so I can make the girls a pair of knitted mittens. 

These handicrafts are becoming lost, sadly. I’d love to get our own fiber sheep or dual purpose sheep, learn how to sheer and process and spin our own wool into thread in good time. Spinning is another great skill to learn! 

3. How to Make Yeast Bread

Nothing, I mean nothing beats the smell of a fresh loaf of bread baking in the oven. I absolutely love making homemade bread. While we do make it year round, I avoid it when I can in the summer. Warming up the oven when it’s already a gazillion degrees outside just isn’t very fun. But the winter time? Bring on all the bread.

I’m currently perfecting my dutch oven loaves of crusty, artisan bread. The girls really enjoy helping me bake bread. I like to do the entire process by hand from the mixing to the kneading to forming the loaves. I enjoy the movement and the feel of the dough in my hands. 

If you don’t know how to make yeast bread, rolls, pretzels, yeast dough at all. This time of year is a great time to start. I’m planning to start working more with einkorn and see what we can do with that. But, for now, a good bag of organic white wheat does wonders.

4. How to Make Wine (or other ferments)

Wine takes a while to make and while a lot of wine making ferments aren’t readily available fresh in the cold winter months, you can find organic options at the store to help you learn for the coming harvest season. 

If you have frozen fruits in your freezer, they can be thawed and utilized to make wine. You can also learn how to make other ferments, like fermented ketchup, sauerkraut, or even kefir. 

5. How to Make Candles

Candle making is fun. Our homeschool project this week is to make taper candles. We’ve made beeswax candles in jars in the past, but I like to put tapers in candleholders. I think they’re pretty and old-school. They’re more primitive than jar candles I guess. I don’t know, I just think they’re cool and enjoy burning them and they’re nice to have for emergencies because you can just pick up the candleholder and light the way. 

Candles are a great thing to have in abundance for emergencies. Such as when the power goes out on one of these dark, cold winter days. So, make up a bunch, they don’t take long, and keep them for a day when the electric is out, or just use them in place of all those lights. 

6. How to Tan a Hide

This is on the top of our list of new skills this year. We’ve both wanted to learn how to tan for a long while, but this year is the year. We have a deer hide that we want to tan and it’s just a skill we want to learn. I don’t like to waste things, and this helps us learn how to utilize the skins of the animals we harvest so that no part goes to waste. 

7. How to Make and Can Bone Broth

All those soups and stews you make in the winter can inspire this skillset. Bone broth, made right in your own home from the meat you harvest or that of organic, locally, pasture raised meat makes the best, most nutritious bone broth there is. 

You have to pressure can it, but it’s totally worth the effort. Canning bone broth is easy, and just another way to eat homemade (and use up those animals). 

8. How to Make Cheese

I really want to try my hand at making cheese. Not only does it sound fun, we love cheese and I don’t like to buy cheese at the store. So, we spend quite a bit of money finding locally made cheese. Since it’s something we eat a decent amount of, I’d like to learn to make it ourselves. This is on the list before winter is up, but not until we can get a more abundant surplus of milk to work with. 

9. How to Make Lotion

I think I was more scared to make lotion the first time than soap. Why? I have no clue, but the whole idea of it kind of scared me. I guess I thought it wouldn’t turn out and I would be wasting all of those ingredients. Thankfully, it’s not actually that difficult and it turns out well for me. 

I really like to make goats milk lotion (and soaps) because of the moisturizing properties in goats milk. It’s simple to make and it doesn’t last long in this house. I’m working on adding different essential oils to it to not only change the scent, but change the aromatherapy it provides.

10. Herbal Remedies

Winter is a great time to learn more about herbal remedies. Learn how to make your own tinctures, salves, tonics and more using herbs that were grown on your own homestead or find organic, dried herbs online or at a local health food store. 

Herbs are a great way to help support a more self-sufficient lifestyle and learning their safe uses never hurts. This book is a great resource for beginners and experts alike. 

11. Grow Microgreens or a Windowsill Herb Gardens

Whether you’re just craving some dirt therapy or you’re tight on space to begin with. Microgreens and indoor herb gardening can be a great way to not only get your hands in the dirt, but grow some food and remedies year round, no matter where you live. 

Microgreens and herbs alike are really easy to grow indoors and don’t require a ton of specialty equipment to get going. Fresh food and herbs in the cold, dark winter? Count me in.

12. How to Sharpen a Knife or Axe

Keeping your tools in top shape and sharp is important. No one wants to use a dull axe to split wood or a dull knife to field dress a deer. So, learn how to keep them sharp so they’re ready for work any time. 

13. How to Make Homemade Household Cleaners

You don’t have to clean your house with a bunch of chemicals. You can easily make natural household cleaners from laundry detergent to scouring scrub for your home. It’s usually cheaper, much less damaging to the environment, and less harsh to you and your home. 

14. How to Vermicompost

While most people don’t think of composting in the winter as a new skill, it’s a great time to get some practice. Vermicomposting is easy and doesn’t require a lot of space, plus you don’t have to go outside to toss your scraps in the compost pile. The bin can stay right in your kitchen under the sink if you want. Composting gives your garden some nice, beautiful nutrition come spring, and it’s never too late to learn how, get started, and get into the habit of composting. 

15. How to Relax

Yes, I think some of us, definitely myself, need to learn how to relax. A lot of us are constantly on the go and while we should always be learning and adapting, sometimes it’s time to just relax a little bit. 

That isn’t to say you can’t still be learning. Pick a skill you want to learn more about and grab a book on the subject. Sit back in the evening, cuddle up with a nice cup of homemade hot cocoa and read about it. This year my pick is permaculture. With our small amount of land I find learning more about this will be the most beneficial thing I can learn. So, just grab a book and relax a little. Spring will be here before we know it.

Other Posts to Keep You Busy This Winter: What are some skills you’re working on this winter for your homestead? Share in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook or Instagram

The post 15 Homesteading Skills to Learn This Winter appeared first on The Rustic Elk.

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The Rustic Elk by Danielle Mccoy - 1M ago

This marinated venison steak recipe is easy to prepare, tender, and not at all gamey. 

Like I’ve said before, I love venison. I used to object to even try it. But once my husband and I married, he went hunting and I tried a teeny, tiny bite. And I’ve been hooked since. 

While I love using some of our deer roast meat to make venison jerky, my absolute favorite is a delicious, juicy backstrap marinated and grilled to perfection. This marinade even makes round steak tender and delicious, though.

And if you’re worried about it tasting gamey… stop. This stuff doesn’t taste like game, at all. It just tastes like delicious, tender red meat. 

My dad has always refused to eat deer meat. And I’ve fooled him before with our deer chili. I know he would like these steaks, but since venison and beef don’t look quite the same cut… I haven’t been able to talk him into it. He’s afraid it will taste gross. 

It doesn’t. 

I never thought I would be the type of person that would eat wild game, but we actually enjoy all sorts of wild game. And rabbit, wild turkey, and home cured meats are also all on the menu. Seriously all things I never, ever thought I would even try have become some of my favorite meals to put on our family’s table.

Then again, I never thought I would be a homesteader, or hunt, or the dozens of other things I’ve immersed myself and our family into. I wouldn’t change those things, and I certainly wouldn’t change eating venison. 

How to Avoid Gamey Taste in Venison Meat

The trick to good venison that doesn’t taste gamey is making sure you remove as much of the silverskin/fat as possible. The more fat you have left behind, the more it’s going to taste off. I can actually eat a steak without any marinade at all and not notice an off taste. Some people say they swear they can taste it, I mostly think it’s in their heads, though. 

Another trick is to age the meat in the refrigerator for around 3-5 days. Some people recommend soaking it in a buttermilk/salt solution to remove the flavor from the actual muscle. I never have, it’s never been necessary. This marinade takes all of that flavor away, if there was any there to begin with. 

Make sure you marinade this for a minimum of 12 hours will also help get rid of any excess game flavor left in the meat. 

How to Grill The Perfect Venison Steak

Venison is a lot more lean than beef and for that reason, it’s easier to overcook it, dry it out, and make it taste like a brick of yuck. 

To make the best deer steak, or even burger, you need to cook the meat quickly, and cook it to no more than medium rare. The longer you cook it, the more brown it will become. The browner it is, the less flavorful and dried out it will be. 

Another thing that’s different than beef is that unlike beef, you don’t want to add salt. There is salt in the sauces of this marinade, but I never sprinkle my deer steaks with salt before I throw them on the grill. It makes the meat dry out faster and takes away the flavor. 

After you’ve cooked the meat, allow it to rest, covered, in the juices in order to get the best flavor out of deer. 

And have an open mind. I didn’t until I was an adult and I regret it. So many times people offered me venison before I got married. My did I miss out. And my daughters? They all love venison, but my oldest won’t hardly touch beef, even grass fed

Yield: 4 Steaks Marinated Venison Steak Recipe
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 20 minutes
Venison steak recipe that is marinated and grilled to perfection. No gamey taste, just delicious, juicy, lean meat.
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Ingredients
  • 4- 4 Ounce Venison Steaks
  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tablespoon Coconut Aminos
  • 3 Cloves Garlic (crushed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dried Parsley
Instructions
  1. Whisk together olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, coconut aminos, garlic, black pepper, thyme, and parsley in a bowl.
  2. Place steaks in a shallow dish (I use a 9X13 baking pan with a lid). Pour marinade over steaks, cover and place in the refrigerator.
  3. Marinate steaks in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, and up to 24. Flip steaks over once in the marinade.
  4. Preheat grill to medium high heat and oil grates.
  5. Remove steaks from the marinade. Discard the marinade.
  6. Grill steaks over medium-high heat until outside is browned and center is still pink. This takes roughly 5 minutes per side. Or until an instant read thermometer reads 150°F.
  7. Remove from grill, allow steaks to sit in juices, covered for about 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition Information: Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 273 Total Fat: 12g Saturated Fat: 3g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 96mg Sodium: 162mg Carbohydrates: 3g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 1g Protein: 36g
Nutrition information may not be accurate.
© Danielle McCoy
Cuisine: American / Category: Main Course
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The post Marinated Venison Steak Recipe appeared first on The Rustic Elk.

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The Rustic Elk by Danielle Mccoy - 1M ago

An easy venison jerky recipe that can be used for other types of meat as well. The perfect road trip snack, full of meaty flavor. 

I love venison. Oddly enough, after I met my husband I began eating venison. And now? I’ll take it over beef any day. Not that I don’t enjoy a big, juicy beef steak. But venison… I love it. It’s never tasted gamey to me. Just delicious, lean, red meat. 

And jerky, of all kinds, has been a favorite snack of mine for… well, forever. I remember the first time I bit into a slice of real jerky. My friends dad had made it when we were kids and I was hooked. That stuff at the store? They can keep it. But, real homemade jerky is delicious. 

Venison jerky is not difficult to make, I like to let mine marinade for a day at a minimum, two days if I get busy. It’s a great way to make sure the meat doesn’t go to waste and it’s the perfect road trip snack for those long camping trips in the warmer months. 

Tips for Making Your Venison Jerky Awesome

First, it doesn’t matter what kind of roast you use. Just whatever you have on hand that you need to use up. You will want to remove as much of the silverskin as possible if you haven’t already. Because silverskin in jerky equals pieces that are near impossible to chew up. They wind up hard and icky. 

To make slicing easier, I suggest you put the meat in the freezer for about an hour. You don’t want to freeze the meat. You just want it to be easier to slice and the partially frozen meat is easier to slice. 

If you ask my husband, he will tell you at least 30 times that the way to make it is to invest in a meat slicer. We don’t have the money for such a contraption. So, although it would be nice to throw it through a slicer to wind up with beautiful, thin-sliced strips of venison… we will have to stick with doing it the old-fashioned way. Such a shame… I know. 

Anyway, back to the task at hand. You’ll want to cut the meat against the grain, while it is partially frozen. This will allow you to get nice, thin strips. You don’t want them to be much thicker than around 1/4″. If they are, your jerky will take practically forever to dry. 

Can I use an oven to make venison jerky?

You sure can. But, it won’t be near as good as a dehydrator. We were gifted a dehydrator from a husbands friend a few years ago and while it isn’t the absolute best dehydrator on the planet, it does its job. I have my eyes on the excalibur… but not until funds allow. 

If you do use an oven, you’ll want to turn the temperature down as low as it will go. That’s typically around 200℉. You’ll have to put your venison in strips, not touching, on a rack and place cookie sheets or foil beneath it to catch the drippings. It’s not ideal, but it will work. Mostly your meat will dry out too much in an oven. But, hey, work with what you have. 

Yield: 1 Pound Venison Jerky Recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Additional Time: 1 days
Total Time: 1 days 4 hours 15 minutes
Easy venison jerky recipe full of meaty flavor perfect for snacking on long road trips or as sustenance while backpacking and hiking long distance.
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Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Start by removing all of the silverskin from your venison. Then, place it in the freezer for about an hour.
  2. Once the meat is chilled, slice it into slices about 1/4" thick and 1" wide. Roughly. This isn't an exact science. The thicker they are, the longer they will take to dehydrate....
  3. In a large, non-reactive bowl (glass, stainless steel, etc) combine the coconut aminos, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, sea salt and honey.
  4. Add the strips of venison a few at a time to the bowl, stirring each addition to make sure each slice is covered well with the marinade.
  5. Cover the bowl, place in the refrigerator, and allow to chill for at least 24 hours and up to 48 hours. The longer it sits in the marinade, the saltier the meat will become. I occasionally slosh it around, still covered, to make sure the marinade stays evenly distributed on the meat.
  6. Once the meat has marinaded, pull it out of the bowl onto cooling racks situated on top of cookie sheets to drain them off a bit. Discard the marinade.
  7. Place the strips on your dehydrator racks, making sure they do not touch one another. Dehydrate at 160°F for around 4 hours or until the jerky is finished. You'll know it's finished when it bends and cracks, but does not break in half.
  8. Place finished jerky in vacuum seal bags and vacuum seal to keep for several months. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, you can put them in ziplock bags for a few months. Store in a cool, dark place for best longevity.
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© Danielle McCoy
Cuisine: American / Category: Preserving
Other Wild Game Posts You’ll Love:

How do you use up your wild game? Do you have a favorite deer recipe? Share with me in the comments below or come join the conversation on Facebook or Instagram

The post Venison Jerky Recipe appeared first on The Rustic Elk.

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