Thursday, December 18, 2014

Preserve Your Hunting Bounty

While most of us are scurrying about tending to holiday-induced deadlines, some are more concerned about having a successful deer hunting season, which ends on January 1st in Watauga. Last weekend, Extension livestock agent Eddy Labus and I offered a deer butchery and processing workshop. I was amazed at how much effort it takes to cut edible muscles off of a carcass.

Fortunately, either home butchering or using a local processor yields a good amount of edible protein, averaging 48% from a field dressed carcass. Not only does the meat have a rich flavor, nutritionally, deer meat is lower in fat and higher in iron than even the leanest cuts of beef.

The easiest way to preserve meat is to freeze it. Use a good packaging that prevents air contact, such as freezer wrap, aluminum foil, or butcher wrap. If you choose freezer bags, it’s important to make as air-tight as possible. Vacuum sealers work well. Keep a thermometer in your freezer to make sure it is below zero degrees.

Canning venison is much more time consuming than freezing, but has the advantage of keeping safe in case of a power outage. Meat must be canned in a pressure canner, which makes it really tender. For more information, visit the national center for home food preservation at

Meat jerky is convenient to take along backpacking, hiking, climbing, or hunting. Here is an easy recipe that also works well for beef. Boiling the meat in marinade heats the meat to a temperature that kills any dangerous microorganisms.

Deer or beef jerky
Place the meat you plan to cut in the freezer until slightly frozen, to make it easier to cut into thin strips. With a very sharp knife, slice across the grain, 1/8 to ¼ inch thick, 1 to 1 ½ inches wide and 4 to 10 inches long. Marinate in the refrigerator at least one hour, but preferably overnight. This recipe will marinate 1 ½ to 2 pounds of meat:
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon each black pepper and garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
When ready to begin drying, make more of the marinade to cook the meat in. This recipe makes 2 cups of marinade.
1 ½ cups soy sauce
6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ teaspoon each black pepper and garlic powder
3 teaspoons onion powder
6 teaspoons liquid smoke
Bring to a rolling boil. Add strips and reheat to full boil. Boil for one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and place strips on drying rack. Make sure there is plenty of air flow by not letting strips touch each other.
Using a dehydrator, set at 155 degrees. Check after 2 hours and if not dry, turn. May take up to 4 hours to dry. Properly dried jerky is chewy and leathery. To see if it’s dry enough, let cool, then bend the jerky. It should crack, but not break when bent. Store in the refrigerator for a longer life, up to six months. Will keep up to two months at room temperature.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Continue to support local food producers

Even though our first snow has fallen, local food is still available. Some producers with green houses or tunnels continue to grow throughout the winter. There are also products such as meat, bakery items, canned items, and craft beers that are not sensitive to the cold. Here are a few ways to procure local food throughout the winter:

The Watauga County farmers’ market is open on Saturdays from 9 until 1 through November. Seasonal produce includes apples, greens, cabbage, potatoes, garlic, carrots, turnips, and winter squash. A good variety of meat is available including beef, lamb, pork and chicken. You will also find eggs, breads, bagels, and pastries, jams, jellies, and molasses.

High Country CSA is a multi-farm endeavor, and they are rolling out a new online ordering platform soon that will enable consumers to order products throughout the winter.  Go to to sign up to receive updates.

Wild Pilgrim Farmstead, located in Caldwell County, delivers organically raised meats and fresh produce to Boone throughout the winter. Caldwell is typically 10 degrees warmer than Watauga in the winter, plus they grow in greenhouses, allowing for great variety. The delivery site is the visitor’s center on Blowing Rock road, Thursdays from 4:30 to 5:30. For more information, visit Wild Pilgrim Farmstead on Facebook or contact them at

North Fork Farm, located in Zionville, offers a variety of high quality, grass-fed meat, including vacuum packed frozen beef, pork and chicken. Check out their selection at They take orders by e mail,, or by phone 828-297-5755 / 828-773-0305. After placing your order, they will arrange a place to deliver. Also have a store on their farm, but call first before visiting.

Chestnut Grove Farms, located off of hwy 194 towards Todd, offers a variety of cuts of Angus beef that graze on a mixture of orchard, clover, and timothy grasses. Check out the selection at  Bare Essentials natural market carries their beef, or you may call them at 264-7764 to arrange a delivery.

Springhouse Farm, located in Vilas, has pasture-raised pork available. Pricing and contact information is on their website,

Bare Essentials Natural Market has supported the local food system for many years. Located at 273 Boone Heights Dr. in Boone, they offer a variety of produce, meat, eggs, honey, Bald Guy Brew coffee, and pasta.

Blowing Rock Produce and Provisions, located at 8100 Valley Boulevard, Blowing Rock on 321 Bypass beside Papa Joe's, houses over 40 local food vendors and 20 local beverage vendors. Included is Ashe County Cheese, Bald Guy Brew, Bella Rooster Jams, Boone Bar, Blue Ridge Apiaries, Fire from the Mountain salsa, Heritage Homestead goat cheese, Highland Brewing Beer Company, meat from North Fork Farm, Old Hickory Brewery beer, Sunburst trout, the Wild Salmon Company, plus produce from local farms.

Stick Boy Bread Company, located at 345 Hardin St is famous for high quality baked goods. They also carry a variety of locally produced products, including jams, eggs, pasta, and goat cheese.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Carve and taste fresh pumpkins

Just like leaf peeping, carving and tasting pumpkins is an expected fall treat in the High Country. Field pumpkins, which are bred for jack-o'-lanterns, tend to be too large and stringy for baking, and not as sweet as baking varieties. Pumpkins are members of the squash family.

Similar to pumpkin baking varieties, there are many types of winter squash that grow well here, including Acorn, Spaghetti, Butternut, Blue Hokkaido, Hubbard, Kobocha, and Delicata. Go ahead and stock up, since if stored in a cool place, they last for up to three months. 

Nutritionally, one cup of mashed pumpkin contains only 49 calories, but boasts 245% of your recommended daily value for vitamin A, converted from the brilliant orange beta-carotene. Vitamin A is essential for eye health and help the retina absorb and process light. This large amount of A also helps your body fight infections, viruses and infectious diseases. Plus, pumpkin is packed with nearly 20 percent of the recommended daily amount of daily vitamin C, which may help you recover from colds faster. People who eat a beta-carotene-rich diet may have a lower risk of some types of cancer, including prostate and lung cancer.

A five pound pumpkin or winter squash should yield around 4½ cups mashed. This may be used in all recipes calling for canned pumpkin.

Here is an easy way to transform an uncooked winter squash into the puree used in baking:
Pumpkin puree for recipes
Scrub with a vegetable brush under running water just before cutting. Cut in half and discard the stem section and stringy pulp.
In a baking dish, place the two halves face down. Add an inch of water to the dish.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 1½ hours, or until tender.
Once it has cooled, scoop out the flesh and puree or mash it.

You can refrigerate your fresh pumpkin puree for up to three days, or store it in the freezer up to a year, enabling you to enjoy fall pumpkins for months to come.

This recipe is moist, not too sweet, and freezes well.
Winter squash bars
2 cups cooked and pureed winter squash or pumpkin
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
Beat together in a mixing bowl.

1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Stir together, then mix in with other ingredients. Pour into sprayed 11 x 17 inch jelly roll or similar pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 – 30 minutes.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Fall Watauga Operation Medicine Cabinet Success and Project Lazarus!

Another successful Watauga County Operation Medicine Cabinet this past Saturday! Thank you to our wonderful law enforcement for supporting this valuable community program, including; Watauga County Sheriff's Office, Foscoe Police Department and Volunteer Fire Dept, Blowing Rock Police Department & Boone Police Department! Thank you to all in the community who came out to support the event! Results: 37,722 pills, 5,826 sharps, 327oz of liquids collected and incinerated!

Sheriff L.D. Hagaman deposits the thousands of pills collected on Saturday in the incineration barrel.

If you forgot about Saturdays collection, no worries!  There are options!  

1.) Appalachian State University Operation Medicine Cabinet this Friday, October 31 from 11am to 2pm in the Solarium Lobby at the Plemmon's Student Union.  

2.)  Project Lazarus Mailboxes are now located in the lobbies of the Boone Police Department and the Watauga County Sheriff's Office and you can drop off your unused, expired meds any time! 
The new Project Lazarus mailboxes located in the Boone Police Department and Watauga County Sheriff's Office Lobbies. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Watauga County Environmental Technology Tour

High Country Environmental Technology Tour:  Come see environmental technology being put to use in Watauga County.

When:  Nov. 13th from 1:00-4:00p.m.

Stops on the tour:
Boone Wetlands:  Wendy Patoprsty, Natural Resource Agent Watauga Extension Service will give background on how the wetlands were constructed, how the wetlands function to protect our water, she’ll show us wetland plants and how she propagates them.  She will also discuss other ongoing water mitigation projects in the Watauga County area.
ASU Recycling Facilities:  Grant Powers, Recycling Coordinator for ASU Physical Plant, will show us what goes on behind the scene in the ASU recycling department.  Using information gathered in the 2013 Waste Audit, they have developed new methods to handle large volumes of recyclable materials to implement new and innovative ways to reduce landfill waste and work towards the goal of zero landfill waste on campus and at football games.
ASU Composting Operations:  Eric Dendy will show us how ASU is increasing the amount of compostable materials that are recovered from the waste stream.  They are also working with vendors to reduce the use of materials such as styrofoam and increase the amount of compostable materials.  We will see how they handle large volumes of material through the composting process to produce a product that is usable here on the ASU campus.
ASU Appropriate Technology Greenhouse:  This greenhouse is located at the top end of the Watauga County landfill.  Graduate Students will show us how they are studying the use of solar thermal panels, anaerobic digesters and compost heating systems.  Wind power along with waste heat from the biovolitization is a possible means that local growers could feasibly heat a greenhouse for winter food and ornamental production in the high country.  

Where: Meet on the Boone Greenway Pavilions at the Clawson-Burnley Park off Hunting Hills Lane, Boone.  Click here for directions to the park (scroll down and you will see a map on the Explore Boone website)
Please call The Watuaga Extension Office at 828-264-3061 by Nov. 12th to let us know you if plan on attending, transportation will be provided or you may caravan to the sites.