Have you ever stopped after a seemingly simple moment and thought to yourself, “I think my life just changed”? I had this feeling last week, and it was such a distinct feeling…I was immediately in awe of how my future could have been drastically (okay, I’m being a bit dramatic) different had this one second of life not happened. I hope the following doesn’t come off as too creeeeeeepy…maybe Halloween has an influence on this post!
Several things occurred in building up to this moment. First, Evan bought me a new chef’s knife. He’s super into techie websites that find the best of everything without being painfully expensive. So, he found this knife and got it for me because I’m always complaining about our dulling knives. The first thing I cut with it was a big four pound rutabaga, and with the first effortless slice I let out an audible gasp.
You see, I have been envious of those with great knife skills for a long time. It is so impressive to see expert chefs break down a duck or perfectly fillet a large salmon. The knife appears to find the perfect spot to slice through. When watching a good knife handler dice onions or even cut an apple, their skills are apparent…but I’ve discovered that a lot of this skill is in the knife! Now that I have used a truly sharp, nice knife, I am not intimidated by whole chickens or thick skinned winter squash. The beautiful halibut fillets I’ve butchered in the past will be no more. Squished tomatoes will be but a memory. I will no longer be intimidated by whole meats and other foods!
The height of this epiphany came last week when I decided to finally roast a pork belly I’ve had in the freezer for awhile. It was from a pig that I helped raise a little bit–a nice fatty heritage breed. I’ve been a lifetime fan of bacon, even going so far as to be one of those lame vegetarians who still eats bacon! However, I’ve heard here and there that a well roasted pork belly is superior in many ways to the salty deliciousness that is cured bacon.
To prepare this pork, I had to score the fatty side of the belly. It was AMAZING to do this with the new sharp knife. The responsiveness of it was incredible, I could feel where the fat layer ended and the meat began, allowing me to score it deep enough but not too much. Writing this out now makes is sound kind of silly or weird–but it really was one of the more illuminating moments in my life. I think my culinary possibilities have multiplied many fold, and I was already pretty satisfied with how I handled myself in the kitchen.
So, I have this new knife…and other life changers.
I used a pressure canner for the first time last week–major life changer! I love having home made broth, and I usually just freeze it. I also keep all of my vegetable trimmings in freezer bags. By the end of the farming season, my freezer is usually overflowing with onion tops, beet peels, carrot tips and all sorts of various veggie parts. We don’t have a large chest freezer or anything, so it was taking up precious freezer space. So, I borrowed a friends pressure canner and now I have many pints of vegetable, chicken, duck and beef stock. YUM. I plan on expanding my pressure canning repertoire in the future but thought I’d start this year with broths and stocks.
Another life changer: Ava’s mobility! She is now able to get to where she wants to be in a relatively fast manner. She didn’t crawl for a very long time–instead she scooted backwards or did this silly sit, lean forward, move one leg forward, sit, lean forward, move one leg forward kind of thing that took forever to get anywhere. Now she’s a crawling and cruising machine! She’s even standing unassisted for about twenty seconds at a time. Her new favorite activity is splashing all of the dog water everywhere and getting soaking wet. She is no longer a little baby (sigh…) and is well on her way to being a toddler. Time goes so quickly.
Before I know it, she will be using a truly sharp knife for the first time…and other life changers.
Have any relatively “normal” things happened to you lately that have changed your life for the better? I think every Farmgirl has or should have a truly sharp, responsive chef’s knife and access to a pressure canner (as for a newly toddling toddler…probably not a necessity!). What tools of the trade do you think belong in every Farmgirl’s repertoire?
I hope Halloween next week is fun for all and that you have a sharp knife to expertly carve those Jack and Jill-o-lanterns!
Until next time,
Sending Peace and Love from Alaska,
Alex, the Rural Farmgirl
I have really enjoyed all of your emails, Alex, and especially about your new knife skills. Our son lives in the very same area as you do and I understand how your climate works. Hurrah for your new found pressure cooker skills. We have a freezer full of meat that needs to be pressure canned and I will be doing just that this winter now that the summer garden has been put up. I fall into the category of the less than skilled with the knife category. Would you be willing to share the name of your knife and the website Evan uses to find excellent reasonable buys? I am so curious. Thanks for your uber interesting posts that I look forward to each time.
The webiste is thewirecutter.com and thesweethome.com and the knife is an 8-inch Victorinox chef’s knife! Thanks for your comments! Have fun with the pressure canning. I found it to be a very fun process!
Soooooo, what is the name of this perfect knife? I love personal recommendations.This was a real tease to tell us the beauty of the knife and then no further information. Knife information please?
Hey Karole–Didn’t know if I should give a plug for a product in the blog or not…but here you go! It’s a Victorinox 8-inch chef’s knife. Victorinox also makes the harvest knives we use for harvesting veggies. http://www.amazon.com/Victorinox-Fibrox-8-Inch-Chefs-Knife/dp/B000638D32?tag=viglink20605-20
Try a real ulu (Eskimo woman’s knife). Go to AFN this week and find the one that fits you best. Right or left handed. I filet salmon etc with my big one but I use the smaller version all the time. Easy to sharpen if you keep up. Enjoy your blog. Becky Gay, Alaska old timer and Go K9 Farm and Garden in S. Oregon
Oh yeah, that’s this weekend, huh? If I make it to Anchorage I will definitely check out a good Ulu. I only ever see the cheapo tourist ones at the farmer’s market and in boutiques downtown. It’s good to hear that you like it so much. I always enjoy advice from a fellow Alaskan!
Alex, Thanks for sharing the information on your knife. That’s the first thing I was going to ask and then read it in the comments above! I’ve been needing a good knife for some time – think I may need to check this out. I grew up with a Momma that used her pressure cooker all the time. Not just her pressure canning cooker but also a normal size pressure cooker. She cooked potatoes, beans, and stew meat in it and so I’ve always done the same. I love it. It especially makes beef stew meat melt in your mouth tender! I loved your blog post and really loved the pictures of your precious baby girl. And yes, they grow up WAY too fast. – Dori, the Ranch Farmgirl –
Ahhh, the possiblities of pressure cooking! I can’t wait to become more proficient and comfortable with the whole thing. I do love the knife! It’s given me a whole new determination in life. I’ve even been excited about splitting wood. I am woman here me cut things into smaller pieces!
Oh, I totally understand! We have a nice set of knives, but after years and years and years of being used everyday and sharpened and re-sharpened, they just were not the best. Last year, my husband bought me a new set of really sharp knives. Oh my goodness! What a difference! At first they scared me – I really had to get used to the sharp and quick cutting of the blades! My pressure cooker just died last week…miss it already.
I have a question for you…what breed of dog is the one pictured on the right? She could be my dog’s “twin”! Mine is a husky/shepherd mix. I bet your fur-baby is wicked smart, too, and very watchful of your precious daughter!
Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole (Suburban Farmgirl)
Hi Nicole! RIP to your pressure cooker. I hope it’s replacement becomes a trusty appliance! The two dogs on the right in that picture are my friend’s. I was house sitting for her. Maya, on the far right, is a rescue and a mutt, so we don’t really know her breeds. She was called a “husky mix.” We all think she’s a shepherd/ Alaskan husky mix! tourists up here love taking pictures with her because she kind of looks like a wolf. She is super smart and loyal. I love taking her on walks because my dog, Moki–on the left, behaves WAY better when they’re together!
Oh, yeah…I’ve had that feeling for both knives and canners…your whole repertoire for food processing opens up! Get a really good, easy to use, professional knife sharpener…it will last forever and you will always have sharp knives…process on!
I hope you saved the fat from the pork belly and made candles. You just have to reboil the fat , skim off the scum from the cooked meat, and cool the fat and remelt with a scent fr candles. Makes good candles. We done that once….with leftover fat from a friends roasted pig-we had the whole pig cooked in reynolds wrap and just boiled the fat with water we sented , and we made quite a few candles from that whole pig.
Wow! what a good use of the lard. I actually used it to deep fry some potatoes, and it was excellent! However, I do have a bunch of pork fat that I still need to render, I will have to use some of it to make some candles. Thanks for the tip!