Rural Brazil – Piglets

As promised, here is a very quick update about our sow. 

Nine PigletsYesterday afternoon she gave birth to nine little piglets. This is her first litter, and much bigger than we were expecting! We are super excited and can’t wait to see them grow.

They are already following their mom around when she gets up to eat, stumbling across the grass and making all kinds of funny sounds.

We plan to keep one on the farm for meat and we will sell the other eight!

Nine Piglets

Nine Piglets

 

 

 

 

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Rural Brazil – Raising Pigs

DSC_0697It’s exciting writing a new post after such a long time about rural life in Brazil. There is so much to share that I was in doubt of where to start. But, finally I decided to write a post about raising pigs on my farm as I have so many fun and exciting pork recipes to share that I think this is the perfect place to start.

Raising pigs has been one of the most exciting things that my husband and I have involved ourselves in over the last year. We have always wanted to have other animals besides dogs on the farm, but never really knew with which animals to start. Sometime in 2014 we bought some little chicks with the hope of raising them so that we could have our own eggs. Unfortunately, after about 2 weeks of raising them we needed to leave for the day to São Paulo and when we came home all that was left of our chicks were feathers and feet scattered around the house. Yes, our dogs had eaten them. After this massacre we gave up on chickens as it will require quite some infrastructure to keep out our dogs (we have one who is a hunter and will eat anything that moves). Getting a cow has always been something we have thought about, but the work involved in milking is too much and with a busy vegetable production neither of us have the time to milk a cow every morning, nor, to be quite honest, do we want to!

Our brown female pig and our second male pig! This picture was taken a few days after they arrived on the farm and were still getting used to the electric fence.

Our brown female pig and our second male pig! This picture was taken a few days after they arrived on the farm and were still getting used to the electric fence.

So, last year, our employee and his wife bought a pig from our neighbor down the road to fatten and kill for meat. We spent a lot of time talking to them about how they did it, who killed the pig…etc, etc. Additionally, we both did a lot of research into raising pigs, we talked about it and eventually decided to give it a go.

In the region where we live, Serra da Mantiqueira, pork is very common and a lot of people raise their own pigs for meat. Most people raise one pig in an enclosed area on their property. Some pigs have a little bit of access to dirt, but almost never to grass. Also, all pigs are fed corn and only corn. Right from the beginning we knew that we wanted to grass feed our pigs and rotate them around our farm. We planned to use electric fence and rotate the pigs to areas which needed cleaning. We also didn’t want to feed our pigs only corn, from our research we learned that a variety of different grains would give a pig the best possible diet.

Out to pasture!

Out to pasture!

So, in November 2014 we bought our first pig from our neighbor and brought him in our pick-up truck to our farm. To the great surprise of everyone around us we managed to quickly train him with the electric fence and got him to eat grass and vegetable scraps from all around the farm.

With our first pig we actually only fed him corn, we were still researching and learning a lot about other foods for pigs and didn’t quite manage to build up a varied grain and protein diet for him. We noticed that because we only fed him corn he was actually picky about the vegetables he ate and didn’t always eat everything.

It was great fun raising him. At one point we thought that we could turn off the electric fence because he was well-trained. To our surprise he escaped his fenced area and when we came home from going grocery shopping he was by our house hanging out with our dogs. He escaped on some other occasions and found our compost piles, but in general we managed to keep him contained in his fenced area!

Our second male pig enjoying a shower on a hot day!

Our second male pig enjoying a shower on a hot day!

After about 5 months of living the good life it was time for us to take the plunge and kill the pig so that we could finally have our own meat. This was not easy, but I think we managed to make this part easier because we had raised the pig from the beginning with the intention of killing him for meat. This meant that he did not get a name…we called him porco (pig).

My husband and I had never killed or butchered a pig so we asked our employees wife to do the deed for us. She is one of the few people in our neighborhood who knows how to kill and butcher a pig and one of the few people who has the courage to do it. Without her, we never would have been able to begin raising pigs!

Helping us clean-up our vegetables. We have a lot of scraps or vegetables that we don't end up selling. The pigs love them, carrots is one of their favorites.

Helping us clean-up our vegetables. We have a lot of scraps of vegetables that we don’t end up selling. The pigs love them, carrots is one of their favorites.

Killing the pig is the most difficult process in raising an animal for meat. Pigs are especially unpleasant as they scream a lot when you try to move them, pin them down and kill them. When killing our first pig I kept my distance as I wasn’t too keen on seeing everything. Our employees wife kills the pig with a knife and I was a bit worried that there would be tons of blood. Surprisingly, it was not too bad and once the pig had died, the rest of the process was easy and actually quite a lot of fun.

The meat that we got from our first pig was absolutely amazing, the best tasting pork I had ever eaten in my life. Since eating my own pork I don’t think I can ever go back to supermarket pork. Our meat is much more fatty, but it is a rich meat with tons of flavour.

Because we killed a whole pig and kept all of the meat for ourselves I have had to learn how to use every single part of the pig. Usually, there are only a few cuts of the pig that we eat/buy at the supermarket, but since I have everything and I don’t want anything to go to waste I have had to learn how to cook all of the odd parts of the pig. It has been so much fun using parts of the animal that I would have never purchased and have become really creative in my cooking with pork. Also, since I have a lot of fat I have began rendering my own lard and using a lot of it in pastries (these pastries turn out extra flakey and tasty). And, since I also don’t want to eat all of the fat I have begun to make my own lard based soap (recipes and soap making tutorials coming up in future posts).

In conclusion, our first pig was a huge success. We loved having a pig on the farm and especially having our own meat. It is so satisfying knowing exactly where your meat comes from!

About two weeks after killing our first pig we bought two new pigs from our neighbor, one male to fatten and slaughter for meat and a female so that we could begin raising our own pigs!

At the beginning of November we killed our second pig, he is now in my freezer waiting to be eaten. And, our female pig is heavily pregnant and about to give birth any day now. We are keeping our fingers crossed that she will have a litter of 4 to 6 piglets, but since it is her first pregnancy and she is still quite small and young we can’t expect too many piglets.

The first fenced in area the pigs helped us get under control. They loved the freedom to be able to run around and forage for bugs under the trees!

The first fenced in area the pigs helped us get under control. They loved the freedom to be able to run around and forage for bugs under the trees!

After gaining experience through our first pig we became a little bit more adventurous with the second two. We immediately diversified their feed and expanded their grazing areas. The result of these two changes was two pigs that weren’t fussy about any food that we gave them. They ate absolutely anything we put in front of them. Additionally, the male that we slaughtered in November had much less fat than our first pig and we got much leaner meat.

Although my husband and I are still not keen on doing the actual killing of the pig we are slowly learning how to butcher and, who knows, maybe one day we will actually do the deed of killing. First though, we will need to learn how to castrate piglets…that will be coming up pretty soon actually!

I promise I will send a little update when the piglets are born, I am super excited and am keeping a close eye on our soon-to-be mom. Also, stay tuned for lots of wonderful pork recipes….

 

 

 

After two years……I’m back!

IMG_3861This morning I decided to make one of my favourite Brazilian desserts, Manjar Branco. I hadn’t made it in a very long time as the last time I made it I had a complete disaster and never wanted to try making it again. But, I tried, and it worked wonderfully. While making the Manjar Branco I thought about A Taste of Brazil and thoght that it was about time to try and restart this blog.

It has been two years since I last posted and a lot has happened during these two years (I won’t tell you everything that has happened here, but definitely some things will come up in the next posts). YES, I am still in Brazil, YES I am still cooking, but, NO I do not have much time for blogging, photography and experimenting with new recipes. However, I am going to try and start posting more regularly and sharing my Brazilian recipes.

In the past the main focus of this blog was for me to learn Brazilian cooking and share my experiences, post recipes and tell people about the foods of Brazil. I intend to continue this, but I will bring more of a focus to rural life and what my husband and I do here on our farm in the south of Minas Gerais.

As some people may remember, my husband and I grow organic vegetables. As you can imagine, farm work has taken me out of the kitchen for the past two years and has kept me super busy. Farm life still continues and still keeps me extremely busy, but I have a lot of new recipes to share and new experiences with old recipes! I also have lots of fun stories about rural life and lots of different experiences to share.

Stay tuned for upcoming recipes and stories about life on my farm.

 

 

Pickling has taken over!

Oh my I feel as though I have deserted A Taste of Brazil for the past weeks and all of you must be thinking that I disappeared and gave up on cooking. Please don’t despair, I am still here, I am still cooking, and I am still writing!!!!

The past weeks have been crazily busy and finding the time to try new recipes in the kitchen has been impossible along with having no time to sit down and write. With summer on the farm our vegetable production is in full swing and instead of spending time in the kitchen cooking Brazilian foods my time has been taken over by harvesting vegetables and creatively finding ways to preserve the left over vegetables that we have.

We are coming to the end of a busy few weeks of harvesting cucumbers, and we are now beginning to harvest lots of tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. My kitchen has been constantly filled with different vegetables waiting to be processed and now tomatoes are starting to flood through the doors.

It has been cucumbers that took over my kitchen for the past weeks and all I have been doing is turning these beautiful fresh cucumbers into relish and a geléia de pepino (cucumber jam). Yes, pickling has taken over my life!!!!!

Although relish has been priority number one, pickled beets managed to make there way into the canning process last week, and this week I started turning tomatoes into a simple tomato sauce and a blend of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, roasted, and canned for a richer flavored pasta sauce.

So, although this may not be a Brazilian recipe, it is what has been going on in my kitchen these last weeks. Hopefully, I can get these vegetables a little bit more under control and be able to find the time to do some Brazilian cooking soon.

Enjoy this wonderful relish recipe. In the next weeks I will share my other recipes for  geléia de pepino, pickled beets, simple tomato sauce, and roasted cherry tomato sauce. 

Receita de Relish

Ingredients

1 kg cucumbers, finely sliced
2 tbsp salt
water

1 1/4 cup white sugar
1 1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp black pepper corns
1/4 tsp turmeric powder

Slice the cucumbers and place in a large bowl together with the salt and enough water to cover the cucumbers. Cover and set aside for 3 to 24 hours.

To make the brine mix the vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, pepper corns, and turmeric in a pan. Heat over a medium heat making sure to not bring to a boil. Turn off the heat just before the brine begins to boil. Add the drained cucumber and leave in the brine for approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer cucumbers to sterilized jars (for sterilizing jars instructions see here). Fill the jars well and then add the brine. Clean the rim of the jars and close with lid. Place filled jars in a pan of water, bring to the boil and leave for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove jars from the water, and place on a towel to cool.

Enjoy this simple relish on sandwiches or on its own.

(Please excuse my picture on this post, it was taken with my phone so the quality is not that good, and pickling has taken over so no time for more a professional looking photo:/)

Recipe Source:
http://zakuskas.blogspot.com.br/2012/03/relish-de-pepino.html?m=1

Rural Brazil – Trees and Potatoes

Araucaria Tree: The Brazilian pine tree

Araucaria Tree: The Brazilian pine tree

Last Sunday of the month and that means it’s time to tell you a little bit more about rural life in Brazil. I can’t believe it is almost the end of November and that summer is really here. Days are getting warmer and it seems as though there is no time in the day to do anything else then to tend to the ever growing vegetables and weeds. We are already harvesting lots of vegetables and our fridge and freezer are full to bursting. We have zucchini, spinach, collard, broccoli, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, and tons and tons of blackberries that I am starting to turn into yummy jam! More vegetables are coming and soon I will hopefully be able to harvest lots of tomatoes.

Being a certified organic farm is wonderful, my husband and I really feel that every time we put something in the ground we are working to build up the soil; we are making it better. A constant topic of conversation in our house and in our work is ‘what do we need to do to make our soil better’. We are always adding things to our soil to make it better and to guarantee that our vegetables will continue to grow healthily and we are maintaining the earth where we work and live. But, we are a little island in the region where we live. We live in a region that is comprised of farmers and people who work the land. But, we are one of the only organic farms.

Two of the primary sources of work in the region where we live is logging and potato planting and harvesting.

Pine trees in the process of being cut down.

Pine trees in the process of being cut down.

All around our farm you see signs of forestation. From my office window I look out onto areas of land planted by eucalyptus and pines. Trees grow fast here, within six years eucalyptus can be harvested and ten years for pines. I always find it sad to see these forested areas as the natural forest of the region where I live is so beautiful. There is so much plant and animal diversity in the natural forests and with the planting of eucalyptus and pine trees these forests are being destroyed.

Looking up to the top of an Araucaria tree

Looking up to the top of an Araucaria tree

One of the native trees to Brazil that I like the most and that suffers due to the forestation is the Araucaria. This is a strange looking pine tree. With a very long trunk and a cluster of branches with large pine needles on the end it is a tree that is so unique to Brazil. The araucaria is not a fast growing pine tree and takes years and years and years to grow. Because of the planting and harvesting of trees in this region a lot of araucaria trees are damaged, primarily during the harvesting because the felling of the pines or eucalyptus causes the araucaria to fall. Unfortunately to replace these trees will take many many decades!

Logging is a big industry here. Driving into town on our dirt road always means at least one encounter with a huge truck carrying an ungodly amount of wood.

The other primary source of work is potatoes. It seems as though this is slowly changing and broccoli crops seem to be creeping into a lot of the fields, but still, there is lots of land that is planted with conventional potato crops. Because the region is so mountainous no potato field is beautifully flat. This year, about 10 minutes from my farm, is a potato field on a vertical hill. No kidding, the field just seems to drop down vertically. It is fully planted with potatoes and while they were preparing the field I would see the tractor making the treacherous trip down the hill tilling the soil. It seems as though there is a challenge between the potato farmers here ‘who can grow on the steepest fields’. This year it is that guy who is winning, it is by far the steepest field I have seen!

The area next to the tilled land (brown soil) is where potatoes are planted this year. It may not look steep from this picture, but trust me, it is!

The area next to the tilled land (brown soil) is where potatoes are planted this year. It may not look steep from this picture, but trust me, it is!

Conventional potatoes are a crop that seem to constantly need spraying with chemical and it is usually this that makes me extremely nervous, worried, and sad. You see here when chemicals are sprayed onto the fields it is not done with the necessary protection that is needed when handling such toxic chemicals. The last month seems to have been potato spraying season and every time I passed a field where people were spraying potatoes I would notice that the only protection they were using was a simple dust mask. A DUST MASK.

Besides destroying the soil with all of the chemicals that are being sprayed onto the potatoes the people who apply these chemicals face serious health risks. I always shudder to think about the people applying those chemicals and hope that one day things will change.

The brown tilled soil is a steep field where potatoes were planted one year!

The brown tilled soil is a steep field where potatoes were planted one year!