Book Review - 'The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs' - Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin, the lunatic farmer of Polyface Farm in Virginia is absolutely the farmer for our times. I've read several of his other works, and find myself agreeing with, I think, everything he says. His concern and love for God's creation is brought out best in the current book, however, 'The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs'. This is Joel's manifesto - his collected viewpoints on why he runs his farm the way he does, and how the Bible supports his viewpoints on agriculture, sustainability, and health.

Who else but Joel could look so happy surrounded by beautifully and wonderfully made pigs?

Joel's arguments for a land-honoring tradition stand on their own, but in this work he bolsters his arguments with specific Scriptures that paint a picture of a God who appreciates those who treasure His creation - not as pagan groups have done over time, worshiping the creation, but as those who recognize that this Earth was God's first creation. God's gift to us of all natural resources is to be cared for like a family heirloom, it's been passed to use by our forbears, and we will someday hand it down to our own children.

Many of the topics he mentions are in his other books, for instance the concept of the large scale commercial chicken houses which are filled with airborne chicken poop and bacteria, the proliferation of food allergies in this 21st century, and the evils of genetically modified organisms (putting pig genes in a tomato is definitely disrespectful of God's natural order of things!)

If we as consumers aren't educated on what's going on in the food production systems, then are we truly being good stewards? Consider Daniel, who refused the king's meat - he would not defile himself with food offered to idols. He took steps to ensure the purity (spiritually speaking) of what he ingested. As New Testament Christians, we are not bound to those same laws, but we are to be cautious of not leading others astray in their own consciences:

But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
— (Romans 14:15-17).

That said, too, the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

The God who created the Universe, and who paid the precious price of Jesus' blood for our sins, indwells us who are saved through Jesus. We are free in Christ, but we know - and science has proven - that a diet of beer and Buffalo wings is bad for us. Therefore, we ought not to subsist on such foods - we have an obligation to care for ourselves - insomuch as we can only know what science tells us is healthy and unhealthy.

I truly recommend this book for Christians, who often need to be reminded of some of the basic facts that modern society tends to be come detached from. Equally I recommend it for those environmentalists, for whom it could be a valuable witnessing tool.

Another excellent book by Joel Salatin, "The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs" is a joyous read that had me quoting it all weekend to Sarah and Jemimah. My gratitude to them for putting up with my enthusiasm!



Maple Syrup Experiment

I have talked for a couple of years about trying to make Maple syrup. We have five beautiful Maples close around the house and while I don't know the exact varieties, I wanted to give it a try. As a child my family occassionally tried to make some, although the flavor was never quite what I was after.

I did some research and found out that Sugar Maples (obviously) and Red Maples provide the best quality sap, while other varieties will not be quite as good, but still viable alternatives.

I'm fussy, so I tried to get a good idea of what varieties we have here - and found what I think are Red Maples to tap. We have several Silver Maples, but the sap from those isn't so good, and since I was not after large quantities I opted against tapping those trees.

I went to the local Tractor Supply to pick up several taps, a skimmer, some bags, and bag holders. The bag concept seemed like a neat idea, but in reality I felt it didn't work out well. Some of the bags leaked, and occasionally they would slide out of the holder and spill the precious sap all over the ground. Next year, I will use buckets. I'm sure there is a good reason the professionals in our area use buckets or tubing as opposed to bags.

I had a two gallon bucket for fermenting handy, but quickly discovered I would need some more storage, so I ordered the same bucket in the six gallon size.

I seasoned a Dutch oven, and used a Lodge campfire tripod to suspend it to cook the sap down over a fire. I used mostly Walnut firewood. I can almost think I taste a little of that in the sap, but it could be my imagination.

There is a LOT of cooking required to turn sap into syrup! I was not too fussy with the process, and it certainly can be done more efficiently with low, flat pans as opposed to a deep Dutch oven.

For all that, six gallons of sap cooked down to about 2 cups of syrup. This was the BEST TASTING SYRUP I HAVE EVER HAD. Others who tried it agreed to its merit.

The trick in the final cookdown is to get the temperature correct: 7 degrees Fahrenheit above boiling: 219 degrees F, or 104 degrees C. My thermometer reads more easily on the Celsius scale, so I aimed for that. Too high - and you'll have Maple candy. Too low and the sryup will be watery and spoil more quickly.

I have to say, the syrup was thicker than other store-bought natural Maple syrup - which I often find too runny. The flavor was strong, but good.


Maple Syrup

Enjoy generously!