Monday, May 31, 2010

Seven Hints for Selling Ideas

Regardless of how good it is, no idea sells itself. Before getting commitment to proceed with an idea for a new product, process, venture, technology, service, policy, or organizational change, innovators must sell the idea to potential backers and supporters, and neutralize the critics. They must find resources, expertise, and support. They must convince colleagues to advance the idea in meetings they don't attend.

People whose ideas get traction — that manage get out of the starting gate — take advantage of this practical advice for selling ideas.

  1. Seek many inputs. Listen actively to many points of view. Then incorporate aspects of each of them into the project plan, so that you can show people exactly where their perspectives or suggestions appear.
  2. Do your homework. Be thoroughly prepared for meetings and individual discussions. Gather as much hard data as possibly to have command of the full facts, and speak knowledgeably from a broad information base. Know the interests of those to whom you're speaking, and customize the message for them.
  3. Make the rounds. Meet with people one-on-one to make the first introduction of your idea. It's always a good idea to touch base with people individually before any key meetings, and to give them advance warning of what you and others are planning to say at the meeting. Then they can be prepared (and coached) in your point of view. And you know theirs, so you can modify your proposal accordingly.
  4. See critics in private and hear them out. One-on-one meetings are especially important when you expect opposition or criticism. Groups can easily turn into mobs. Avoid situations in which critics can gang up on you, or when a group of people leaning positive turn negative because the listen to a few loud voices. Never gather all of your potential critics in one room hoping to hold one meeting to brief everyone all at once. This kind of event mainly helps them discover each other and their common concerns, so they coalesce as a group united in opposition to the idea.
  5. Make the benefits clear. Arm supporters with arguments. You might rehearse them for meetings in which questions about your project will come up. Stress the value that the idea will produce for them and other groups. Remember that selling ideas is at least a two-step process. You sell one set of people so they can sell others. You convince them to back you because you reduce the risk to them by giving them the tools for selling their own boards or constituencies.
  6. Be specific. Make your requests concrete, even while connecting your idea to unassailable larger principles. Wait to approach high-level people until your have tested the idea elsewhere and refined your vague notions. The higher the official, the more valuable and scarce his or her time, and thus the more focused your meeting must be. Use peers for initial broad discussions, then ask top executives for one simple action.
  7. Show that you can deliver. People want to back winners. Early in the process, provide evidence, even guarantees, that the project will work. Later, prove that you can deliver by meeting deadlines and doing what you promised.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wild Side of the Menu No. 3 - Preservation of Game Meats and Fish

Wild game provides wholesome, nourishing food, but it should be handled and preserved carefully to retain quality. Like domestic meat, wild meat is perishable, so care is needed to maintain its safety. The purpose of this publication is to provide recommendations for safely preserving game meats and fish for later enjoyment.

Freezing meat and fish is the most accepted way to maintain top quality. Other methods for preserving game meats include curing and smoking, drying, corning, canning and sausage making. Fish also may be pickled or canned.

Food Safety Guidelines

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before beginning to work and after changing tasks or after doing anything that could contaminate your hands, such as sneezing or using the bathroom.
  • Start with clean equipment. After using, clean equipment thoroughly with hot soapy water.
  • After washing cutting boards, other equipment and surfaces with hot soapy water and rinsing, sanitize with a solution of 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach per gallon of water (or approximately 1 teaspoon per four cups water). After spraying the surface or dipping cutting boards in the solution, allow to air-dry. Remake sanitizing solution daily.
  • Keep raw meat separate from other foods on cutting boards and other work surfaces. Consider using color-coded cutting boards.
  • If using frozen meat in sausage formulations, thaw it in a refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below on the lowest shelf to avoid dripping of juices on ready-to-eat foods.
  • Keep meat as cold as possible (40 F or lower) during sausage processing.
  • Use a food thermometer to measure internal temperature of smoked meat and other preserved meat. Use a food thermometer to measure doneness in cooked meat, too.
  • Use a pressure canner (not a water bath canner) when canning game meat and fish. Dial gauge pressure canners should be calibrated yearly.

Freezing Game Meats

To ensure good quality in frozen meat:

  1. Freeze meat while it is fresh and in top condition.
  2. Select proper freezer wrapping materials. To ensure quality, the wrapping material needs to be moisture/vapor resistant. Be sure to use packaging material designed for freezing.
  3. Wrap tightly; pressing out as much air as possible.
  4. Freeze and store at 0 F or lower.
  5. Avoid long storage periods.

Most wild game will keep up to one year frozen without loss of quality. Vacuum packaging of meat before freezing will help maintain excellent quality of the meat.

In most states, hunting laws require that all wild game be used before the next hunting season. Check regulations for the amount of game you can keep and length of time that you can keep it.

Curing and Smoking Game

One purpose in curing meat is to make a high-quality meat product for future use. Only properly butchered and thoroughly cooled meats should be used.

Fresh meats can be home-cured by two methods: dry cure or pickle cure (often called sweet pickle cure). Traditionally, dry-cured meats were not injected with sweet pickle; however, when temperature control is difficult or impossible, injecting "pickle" helps to ensure a safe, high-quality product.

The purpose of injecting or pumping is to distribute pickle ingredients throughout the interior of the meat so that curing begins on the inside and cures outward at the same time that curing begins on the outside and works inward. This protects the meat against spoilage and provides a more even curing.

Pumping is usually done with a stitch pump*, an instrument with a hollow needle and holes in the needles through which brine can come out when the needle is inserted in the meat (Figure 1).

*Can use ordinary syringe. Inject into several areas.

illustration  of a stitch pump
Figure 1

Stitch Pumping

Pickle recipes usually are given on packages of commercial cure. Start by scrubbing the tip pump in warm soap water, then rinse. To keep the pump sanitary while pumping meat, don't touch the needle with hands or lay it down. When not in use, put pump needle-end-down in container that holds the pickle.

To use, draw pump full of pickle and insert needle all the way into the meat. Push with slow even pressure. As pickle is forced into meat, draw the pump toward you to distribute pickle as evenly as possible. Always fill pump full of pickle to prevent air pockets.

Meat will bulge a little and a small amount of pickle will run out of the meat when the pump is withdrawn. To stop the pickle from running out after the needle is withdrawn, pinch the needle holes together with thumb and forefinger for a few seconds.

Use three or four pumpfuls of pickle for legs and shoulders that weigh 10 to 15 pounds, and five or six pumpfuls for those that weigh 15 to 25 pounds.

The diagrams of the shoulder and leg (Figures 2 and 3) show the bone structure. The lines show how and where the needle of the pump should be inserted for making the five different pumping strokes for large legs and shoulders. For smaller legs and shoulders, fewer injections are needed.

Figure 2

Figure 3

Dry-curing Game

After pumping, apply dry cure using the recipe below or a commercial product.* Rub well over all the meat especially around the bones, hock and the knee joint.

*Freeze-Em-Pickle made by B. Heller and Company; "Morton Tender Quick Cure" or other products are appropriate. Each product has its own recipes.

Dry cure (for 100 pounds of meat)
6 pounds salt
3 pounds sugar
3 ounces sodium nitrate or 1 ounce sodium nitrite**

** Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite (USP Grade) can be obtained at a drug store. Salt peter (potassium nitrate) may be used instead.

Rub dry cure mix over entire leg surface:
1/3 of mix on first day
1/3 of mix on seventh day
1/3 of mix on fourteenth day

Place on flat surface, uncovered, at 38 F for two days per pound of leg, or approximately four to six weeks. Curing action stops when temperature inside the meat gets below 34 F.

When the meat is cured, let the smaller legs soak for 30 to 40 minutes and larger ones 60 minutes in lukewarm water. Then work and scrub with clean stiff brush to remove grease and salt. Meat is now ready to smoke.

Using Sweet Pickle Cure

Put pumped leg in a container such as a crock, barrel, sealed wooden box or a stainless steel container, or in a USDA-approved plastic container that is approved for food products, such as containers used in the restaurant trade. Do not use other metal containers. Add water to cover the meat. Make up pickle solution just prior to putting in the product.

Remove the meat and add enough salt to the water so an egg will float, measuring as you add. If you do not have a specific pickle cure recipe, add sugar to equal one-half the amount of salt used. Add commercial cure to pickle solution according to package directions.

Put leg into pickle solution. Let stand at 38 F for three days per pound of meat (45 days for 15 pounds of meat). If temperature becomes warm and brine becomes ropy, remove meat. Wash the meat. Boil and skim pickle solution or make a new one. The new pickle solution should be as strong as the original. If space is a limiting factor, it might be advantageous to bone out the wild game. This procedure is described in Circular FN-125, "Wild Side of the Menu, No. 2, Field to Freezer." Keep the pieces of meat as large as possible and then use one of the procedures described for curing. Smoke after curing is complete.


Smokehouses can be as simple as a tarp covering or as sophisticated as a commercial unit. An old refrigerator makes a useful smokehouse. Caution: For safety, remove the locking device from the door and replace with a simple latch that will lock only from the exterior. Plans for more elaborate smokehouses are available at North Dakota State University Extension Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering Department, North Dakota State University Station, Fargo, North Dakota 58105.

Hardwood such as hickory, maple, chokecherry, oak or apple is best for smoking. Never use a soft wood such as pine because the resin tars will produce off-flavors.

Smoke leg until golden brown at 110 F to 125 F. Then raise smokehouse temperature to 170 F until the internal temperature of the meat reaches a minimum of 137 F. Usually the internal temperature is brought up to 141 F. If you want to have a fully cooked product, then you need to bring the internal temperature to at least 148 F. Ready-to-eat commercial products are even finished at higher temperatures. Once the desired smoke color is obtained, you want to finish your product in your oven. Always use a calibrated meat thermometer to check temperatures.

Drying or "Jerkying"

Drying or "jerkying" meat is an art that has been known since the dawn of civilization. There are many recipes which can be tried, but before you begin check the jerky maker's checklist and then adapt these directions to your own circumstances.

A Jerky Maker's Checklist

1. Use fresh lean meat that is free of fat and connective tissue.

2. Slice the meat across the grain.

3. Add the correct amount of seasoning. If you do not have a scale, use approximate equivalent measures for seasonings as follows:

Salt.....10.5 ounces (298 grams) = 1 cup
..8.0 ounces (227 grams) = 3/4 cup
.......... 3.0 ounces (85 grams) = 4 1/2level tablespoons

Sugar...5.0 ounces (141 grams) = 2/3 cup
.......... 3.5 ounces (100 grams) = 1/2 cup
.......... 1.0 ounce (28 grams) = 2 level tablespoons

Ground spices...0.5 ounces (14.3 grams) = 6 level teaspoons
........................ 0.08 ounces (2.4 grams) = 1 level teaspoon

Saltpeter (Potassium Nitrate) ....0.3 ounce (8.5 grams) = 2 level teaspoons

4. Cure the meat the correct length of time at 38 F. Salted meat should be placed in wooden, stainless steel or stone containers.

5. Keep the drying or smoking temperature in the smokehouse or oven at 120 F (use a thermometer).

6. If an oven is used, line the sides and bottom with aluminum foil to catch the drippings. Open the door to the first or second stop, or prop open to allow moisture to escape and to lower the oven temperature. A fan will speed air circulation and the drying process.

7. Use hardwood for smoking. (Do not use pine, fir or conifers because they cause off-flavors.)

8. Remove the jerky from the smokehouse or oven before it gets too hard for your taste. Five pounds of fresh meat should weigh approximately two pounds after drying or smoking.

9. Store jerky in clean, airtight containers or plastic bags at room temperature, or wrap it in freezer paper and freeze. Check often during the first month to be sure jerky is dry enough to keep well. Although jerky will last almost indefinitely at any temperature, its quality deteriorates after a few months.

10. Seasonings and smoking or drying times can be changed to suit individual tastes. Be careful however, to maintain minimum temperatures to avoid bacterial growth.

Large pieces of meat that are pickle-cured make excellent jerky when sliced and dried or smoked. Corned meat pickle solutions are preferred because spices are included in the cure.

Smoked Deer Jerky

Debone hind leg, splitting into individual muscles; top, bottom and tip. Pump with brine* (two pounds commercial saltcure mixture per gallon of water).

Place in crock or USDA-approved plastic container. Do not use plastic containers such as garbage cans, plastic bags or supermarket ice cream buckets. Cover completely with brine and weight meat down to keep it submerged.

Store in cooler (38 F) for 10 days.

Every two days, change the position of the meat and weight it down again.

After 10 days remove from brine and smoke five hours at 150 F.

Hang to dry at room temperature (about two weeks). Cut off to use as needed.

Beef (or Deer) Jerky

  1. Pre-freeze meat to be made into jerky so it will be easier to slice.
  2. Cut partially thawed meat into long slices no more than 1/4 inch thick. For tender jerky, cut at right angles to long muscles (across the grain). Remove as much visible fat as possible to help prevent off-flavors.
  3. Prepare two to three cups of marinade of your choice in a large saucepan.
  4. Bring the marinade to a full rolling boil over medium heat. Add a few meat strips, making sure they are covered by the marinade. Reheat to a full boil.
  5. Remove pan from range. Using tongs, remove strips from hot marinade (work quickly to prevent overcooking) and place in single non-overlapping layers on drying racks. (Repeat steps four and five until all the meat has been precooked.) Add more marinade if needed.
  6. Dry at 140 to 150 F in dehydrator, oven or smoker. Test for doneness by letting a piece cool. When cool, it should crack but not break when bent. There should not be any moist or underdone spots.
  7. Refrigerate the jerky overnight in plastic freezer bags, then check again for doneness. If necessary, dry further.

CAUTION: Soaking the strips in marinade before precooking is not advised as the marinade could become a source of bacteria. Putting unmarinated strips directly into the boiling marinade minimizes a cooked flavor and maintains the safety of the marinade.

Source: Oregon State University

Hot Pickle Cure Jerky

Yield: Five pounds of fresh meat should weigh approximately two pounds after drying or smoking.

  1. Slice 5 lb. of meat (1/4 inch thick strips) with the grain. Use lean meat free of fat and connective tissue.
  2. Spread out meat and sprinkle on 3 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. ground black pepper, and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Put the meat in a pan or dish and let stand for 24 hours in the refrigerator.
  3. Pound the meat on both sides to work in the spice. Optional: Dip strips of meat in a liquid smoke solution (five parts water to one part liquid smoke) for one to two seconds for added flavor.
  4. Make a brine by dissolving 3/4 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 Tbsp. ground black pepper in a gallon of water. Stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.
  5. Bring the brine to a low to medium boil. Immerse the fresh meat strips (a few at a time) into the boiling brine until they turn gray (one to two minutes). Remove meat from the brine, using clean tongs or other utensils that have not contacted the raw meat.
  6. Spread out meat on a clean dehydrator rack or on a clean rack in the top half of a kitchen oven. If you use a kitchen oven, open the oven door to the first of second stop. Heat at 120 to 150 F (lowest oven temperature) for 9 to 24 hours or until the desired dryness is reached.
  7. Remove jerky from oven before it becomes too hard or brittle. Properly dried jerky should crack when bent in half but should not break into two pieces.
  8. Store jerky in clean jars or plastic bags, or wrap it in freezer paper and freeze. If kept dry, properly prepared jerky will last almost indefinitely at any temperature, but is quality deteriorates after a few months.

Source: University of Wyoming

Corning Game

Venison, antelope, moose, bear or beef can be corned following the same method. People who usually do not like wild meats may like them corned, as corning takes out the musky wild flavor and tenderizes the toughest wild meats. A good piece of round is wonderful corned, but less desirable cuts of meat like the brisket can be corned, too.

To make six gallons of corning liquid:

3 pounds (6 3/4c.) salt
10 ounces (1 3/8 c.) sugar
2 ounces sodium nitrate
1/2 ounce sodium nitrite
3 level tsp. black pepper
3 level tsp. ground cloves
6 bay leaves
12 level tsp. mixed pickling spice

For onion flavor, add one medium-size onion, minced. For garlic flavor, add 4 garlic cloves, minced. Put the ingredients into a pickle crock or glass jar and add enough water to make a total of 6 gallons, including the ingredients. Cover the container.

The ideal temperature for corning meat is about 38 F. During the fall or spring months, this is not too difficult to obtain. In the winter, an unheated part of a basement can be used for corning meat. During summer months, it is hard to find a place around 38 F. Higher temperatures need not affect the end result of the corning process at all, if, for every 15 F of temperature above 38 F, you add one-third more salt. At 83 F, add three pounds more salt, making a total of six pounds of salt.

Place meat into the liquid. Put a heavy plate on meat; weight plate, if necessary, to keep meat below pickle brine.

Leave the meat in corning liquid for 15 days. On the fifth and 10th days, stir the liquid well, remove the meat and put it back so the bottom piece is on top. After the 15th day, remove the meat. Use what you want immediately and store the balance in a cool place refrigerated at 38 degrees. It is recommended that after meat is removed from the corning liquid it should be cooked and consumed within one week or frozen for up to one month.

The meat at this stage has a grayish pink color. When cooked, corned meat changes to the characteristic pink color associated with a cured product.

Cooking Corned Meat

Place the corned meat in a pan with a cover. Add cold water to cover meat. Bring to a boil and remove the scum from the water. Reduce the heat and simmer for about five hours or until tender. Season to taste and serve as the main meat dish.

Canning Game

Only good quality, properly cleaned and cooled game should be canned. To ensure safety of canned meats, meat must be processed in a pressure canner to reach a sufficiently high temperature for a long enough time to kill all bacteria that cause spoilage or food poisoning. Large game animals are canned like beef. Small game animals and birds are canned like poultry. Either type of meat can be raw packed or hot packed.

Small Game Animals and Birds

Procedure: Choose freshly killed and dressed, healthy animals or birds. Dressed meat should be soaked one hour in water containing 1 tablespoon of salt per quart and then rinsed. Remove excess fat. Cut meat into suitable sizes for canning. Can with or without bone.

Hot pack - Boil, steam or bake meat until about two-thirds done. Add 1 teaspoon salt per quart, if desired. Fill jars with pieces and hot broth, leaving 1 1/4 inch headspace.

Raw pack - Add 1 teaspoon salt per quart, if desired. Fill jars loosely with raw meat pieces, leaving 1 1/4 inch headspace. Do not add liquid.

Adjust lids and process as shown in Table 1.

Large Game Animals

(strips, cubes or chunks)

Procedure: Choose quality chilled meat. Remove excess fat. Soak strong-flavored wild meats for 1 hour in brine water containing 1 tablespoon of salt per quart. Rinse. Remove large bones.

Hot pack - Precook meat until rare by roasting, stewing or browning in a small amount of fat. Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart, if desired. Fill jars with pieces and add boiling broth, meat drippings, water or tomato juice, leaving 1-inch headspace.

Raw pack - Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart if desired. Fill jars with raw meat pieces, leaving 1-inch headspace. Do not add liquid.

Adjust lids and process as shown in Table 1, using "without bone" recommendations.

Table 1. Canning Time Table For Game

Pounds Pressure - Dial Gauge
Time 0-2,000 2,001- 4,001-
Pack Jar Size (min.) ft.* 4,000 ft 6,000 ft.
Without bone Pints 75 11 12 13
hot or raw Quarts 90 11 12 13

With bone Pints 65 11 12 13
hot or raw Quarts 75 11 12 13

Pounds Pressure -
Weighted Gauge
Time 0-1,000 Above
Pack Jar Size (min.) ft. 1,000 ft.
Without bone Pints 75 10 15
hot or raw Quarts 90 10 15

With bone Pints 75 10 15
hot or raw Quarts 90 10 15
*Local altitude

Ground or Chopped Meat

(bear, beef, lamb, pork, sausage, veal, venison)

Procedure: Choose fresh, chilled meat. With venison, add one part high-quality pork fat to three or four parts venison before grinding. Use freshly made sausage, seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper (sage may cause a bitter off-flavor). Shape chopped meat into patties or balls or cut cased sausage into 3- to 4-inch links. Cook until lightly browned. Ground meat may be sautéed without shaping. Remove excess fat. Fill jars with pieces. Add boiling meat broth, tomato juice or water, leaving 1-inch headspace. Add one teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars, if desired.

Adjust lids and process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes in a pressure canner with pressures listed in Table 2.

Table 2. Canning Time Table for Ground or Chopped Meat
Pounds Pressure - Dial Guage
Time 0-2,000 2,001- 4,001-
Pack Jar Size (min.) ft.* 4,000 ft 6,000 ft.
Raw Pint 75 11 12 13
Quart 90 11 12 13

Pounds Pressure -
Weighted Guage
Time 0-1,000 Above
Pack Jar Size (min.) ft. 1,000 ft.
Raw Pint 75 10 15
Quart 90 10 15
*Local altitude

Making Sausage

The lean trimmings from wild game make an excellent meat for sausage production. Try one of your favorite recipes and substitute wild game or fowl trimmings for the beef portions.

Venison Summer Sausage

15 pounds venison
10 pounds pork trimmings (5 pounds lean, 5 pounds fat)
7 ounces (2/3 cup) salt
1 ounce (2 Tbsp.) commercial cure
1 ounce (2 Tbsp.) mustard seed
3 ounces (1/2 cup) pepper
3 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
1/2 ounce (3 Tbsp.) marjoram

Mix salt and cure with coarsely ground venison and pork trimmings. Pack in shallow pan and place in cooler for 3 to 5 days. Then add rest of ingredients and mix well.

Cure is optional. It is used to develop a pink color and as a preservative.

Note: This sausage recipe is quite spicy. If you like less spice, cut down proportions of spices. Smoke sausage as described in the following method.

Smoking Sausage: Stuff prepared sausage into 3-inch diameter fibrous casings. Smoke at 140 F for 1 hour, 160 F for one hour and 180 F until internal temperature reaches 152 F (insert a calibrated meat thermometer in the thickest part of the sausage to check internal temperature). Remove from smokehouse and rinse/spray with hot water for 15 to 30 seconds. Follow with cold rinse/spray or place in ice water until internal temperature is reduced to 100 F. Let dry 1 to 2 hours. Refrigerate.

Wild Game Polish Sausage

25 pounds 50/50 pork trimmings (50% lean and 50% fat)
20 pounds wild game (lean meat)
1 quart water
14 ounces (1 1/3cups) salt
2 ounces (4 Tbsp.) cure
1/2 ounce (6 tsp.) marjoram
1 1/2 ounces (3 Tbsp.) mustard seed
3 cloves garlic
2 ounces (1/4 cup) pepper

Mix all ingredients together and grind the product through a coarse plate and follow this with a fine grind. Stuff in hog casing and smoke at 120 F for one hour, 150 F for one more hour, then at 170 F two hours or until internal temperature of 141 F is reached. Follow same procedure as described for smoking venison summer sausage.

Quick Sausage

2 pounds hamburger or deerburger mix
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
2 Tbsp. curing salt
1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. mustard seed (optional)

Pack mixture in a water glass to within ½ inch of the top. Use large glass container or enough glass tumblers. Cover and freeze overnight. Run warm water on glass to release. Plastic containers will not crack and are safer, but may pick up flavors from the sausage. Wrap in cellophane wrap. Tie ends. Simmer 1 hour in water. Slice thin.

Note: Hamburger or pork sausage can be mixed with ground venison.

More information and recipes on sausage making are available in HE-176 (revised), "The Art and Practice of Sausage Making" available from the NDSU Extension Service.

Freezing, Pickling and Canning Fish

Freezing Fish

Special care should be taken with fish because it tends to dry out more quickly than other meats. Glazing with ice or freezing in water are good methods of freezing fish.

For ice glazing, place cleaned, eviscerated fresh fish in a tray in freezer. When frozen, dip in near-freezing ice water. Place fish again in freezer to harden the glaze. Repeat dipping fish until about 1/8 inch of ice coating has been formed. Overwrap with film, freezer paper of foil.

To freeze in water, fill freezer container (clean milk cartons can be used) with water. Add whole fish or fish fillets. Completely cover fish with water, then seal and freeze. Whole dressed fish probably freezes best this way.

Note: The authors have had good results freezing fish for long periods of time by wrapping dressed fresh fish in plastic wrap and then wrapping again in aluminum foil.

Pickling Fish

While the term "pickled fish" sometimes is used to include fish cured in brine, it should be applied only to those products in which vinegar is used. Only a few types of fish are preserved commercially by pickling, but almost any species may be prepared for home use.

A Pickling Checklist

  1. When using the vinegar-spice cure, preserve only the freshest and best quality fish. The flavor, texture, color and keeping quality also are affected by the water, salt, sugar, vinegar, herbs and other miscellaneous ingredients.
  2. Use drinking water or water approved under all sanitary codes. "Hard" waters are unsuitable, especially those with a high iron, calcium or magnesium content. The minerals interfere with the curing process and can cause rancidity and off-flavors.
  3. Use high-quality white distilled vinegar of 5 percent acidity (50 grain). Acidity is usually listed on the label. Do not use vinegars of unknown acidity. Ciders and other fruit vinegars may give the fish an off-flavor and color.
  4. Use a high-quality, pure granulated dairy or canning salt. The salt must be as free as possible from magnesium compounds, as these impurities give a bitter flavor to the cured product and may cause discoloration of the fish. Non-iodized salt is best for pickling.
  5. Use table (cane or beet) sugar.
  6. Use fresh, high-quality spices. Best results are secured by buying fresh, whole spices, and making up the mixture, by recipe at the time it is to be used. Prepared commercial mixtures are convenient and time-saving if you can obtain the desired amount.
  7. Soak fresh fish in a weak brine of 1 cup salt to 1 gallon cold water for 1 hour.
  8. Drain and pack fish in a glass, heavy food grade plastic or enamel container with a strong brine (2 1/2 pounds salt to 1 gallon water) for 12 hours. Refrigerate at 40F or lower.

Pickled Fish

(Recipe is spicy*)

10 pounds fish
1 ounce whole allspice
1 ounce mustard seed
2 ounces regular mixed pickling spice
1/2 pound onion, sliced
1/2 ounce bay leaves
1 1/2 quarts distilled (white) vinegar
2 1/2 pints water
1 ounce white pepper
1 ounce hot ground or dried peppers (optional and to taste)

Rinse fish in fresh water. Combine the recipe ingredients in a large pan or kettle. Bring to a boil and add fish. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until fish is easily pierced with a fork. Remove fish from the liquid and place in a single layer on a flat pan and refrigerate for rapid cooling to prevent spoilage. Pack cold fish in a clean glass jar, adding a few spices, a bay leaf, freshly sliced onions and, if desired, a slice of lemon.

Strain the vinegar, bring to a boil, and pour into jars until the fish are covered. Cover jars with lids.

This product must be stored in the refrigerator at 40 F or lower and should be used within 4 to 6 weeks.

*For a less spicy product, use less white pepper and hot or ground pepper.

Pickled Smelt

2 pounds cleaned smelt
3 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cup onion, sliced
3 cups white vinegar*

Cook fish in water, salt, pepper and bay leaves and onion in a covered pan for 12 minutes. Drain and measure fish stock; you will need about 2 cups. Add the vinegar to the stock and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes and cool in refrigerator at 40 F or lower.

Pour over fish, let stand in refrigerator for several hours. Serves 4 to 6.

*If the taste of vinegar is too strong, offset it by adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar.

Norwegian Pickled Herring

3 salted herring
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup vinegar
1/3 tsp. white pepper
A few whole peppers
1 red onion

Be sure to use properly salted herring (see "Pickling Checklist"). Clean and cut herring into fillets. Soak in water (to cover completely) 12 to 15 hours. Skin and remove all bones. Dissolve the sugar in water, add vinegar, pepper and thinly sliced onion. Add herring and refrigerate a few hours before serving.

Store in the refrigerator at 40 F or lower and use within 4 to 5 weeks.

Canning Fish

(Blue, mackerel, salmon, steelhead, trout and other fatty fish except tuna)

Although freezing is the easiest way to preserve fish, canning does offer some advantages, particularly if one lacks freezer space. The only safe way to process fish is in a pressure canner. Fish that has been frozen can be safely canned; thaw fish in a refrigerator and can promptly. Follow recommended canning procedures carefully.

Caution: Eviscerate fish within two hours after they are caught. Keep cleaned fish on ice until ready to can.

Fish may be canned with its bones. They add to the flavor and nutritive value of the product; however, it is recommended only pint or smaller containers be used.

Canning Procedure

Remove head, tail, fins and scales. Wash and remove all blood. Split fish lengthwise, if desired. Cut cleaned fish into 3½-inch lengths. Fill pint jars, skin side next to glass, leaving 1-inch headspace. Add one teaspoon of salt per pint, if desired. Do not add liquid. Adjust lids and process according to Table 3.

"Mock" Salmon

Allow 2 1/4 to 3 pounds of whole fish for each pint of canned fish. Clean and prepare fish. Remove head, fins and tail. Remove skin, if desired. If the fish is slimy, a solution of 1 tablespoon vinegar to 2 quarts water helps remove the slime. The color of some fish can be improved by soaking the fish in cold water containing 1/2 cup salt to 1 gallon water for 30 minutes; do not reuse salt water. Rinse fish in clean water. Cut fish into jar-sized lengths. Make sauce.

1 cup catsup
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup minced onion
2 bay leaves, crumbled

Combine and heat the above ingredients. This makes enough sauce for about 8 pints. Pack fish into jars to within 1 inch of the top. Cover with sauce, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe jar rims, place prepared lids on jars and tighten the screw bands. Process according to Table 3.

Quick Pink Salmon

To each pint of fish add:
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. tomato juice

Leave 1 inch headspace. Adjust lids. Process according to Table 3.

Note: Glass-like crystals of magnesium ammonium phosphate sometimes form in canned salmon. There is no way for the home canner to prevent these crystals from forming, but they usually dissolve when heated and are safe to eat.

Table 3. Canning Time Table For Fish (except tuna)
Pounds Pressure - Dial Guage
Time 0-2,000 2,001- 4,001-
Pack Jar Size (min.) ft.* 4,000 ft 6,000 ft.
Raw 1/2 pint 100 11 12 13
or pint

Pounds Pressure -
Weighted Guage
Time 0-1,000 Above
Pack Jar Size (min.) ft. 1,000 ft.
Raw 1/2 pint 100 10 15
or pint
* Local altitude

More information available from the NDSU Extension Service

"The Art and Practice of Sausage Making" (HE-176) provides directions and recipes for making sausage.

"Food Freezing Guide" (HE-403) provides procedures and recommendations for freezing a wide variety of foods.

"Jerky Making: Then and Now" (FN-580) provides directions and recipes for making jerky products at home.

"Wild Side of the Menu, No.1, Care and Cookery" (FN-124) provides information on nutrient content, food safety and preparation of wild game.

"Wild Side of the Menu, No.2, Field to Freezer" (FN-125) provides information on field dressing, skinning and muscle boning game meat.

These publications and information about wild game and other food safety/nutrition topics are available on the NDSU Extension Service Web site:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What’s going on with 10 major projects around the GTA

Wonder what ever happened to plans for Downsview Park, Union Station or that aquarium at the CN Tower? So have we. Here is an update on 10 major initiatives either planned or approved around Southern Ontario:


PROJECT: A proposal for a 14,000 square-metre Ripley’s Aquarium at the base of the CN Tower is going ahead.

UPDATE: The city’s planning department is hopeful that final approval from city council will come in August. At issue is a technicality with the bylaw that pertains to the land, which currently does not specify it can be zoned for an aquarium. Several other changes to Ripley’s original proposal, such as the shape and exact positioning of the structure, will also need to be made.

“We’re quite happy with the work (Ripley’s) has been doing to meet our requests,” says Linda Macdonald, a planning manager with the City of Toronto. As for changes to the bylaw, “it’s not a huge change in terms of what could have been built there; we just want the language to specifically state that it could be zoned for an aquarium and the location will be moved just a little bit to the east at the base of the CN Tower. We will report to the full council for the August meeting so we can get approval before the fall election.”


PROJECT: The $640-million renovation of Union Station, which will feature two new GO Transit concourses, a new 14,860-square-metre retail level below, refurbishment of the station’s main hall and a new sheltered pedestrian corridor connecting to the PATH network northwest of the station.

UPDATE: The project is underway and on schedule, but you probably won’t notice much work yet. “We’ve mobilized construction and we’ve issued small contracts for delivery items and prework,” says Richard Coveduck, director of design and construction for the City of Toronto who is overseeing the project’s construction. “We’re on schedule.” The massive project, which is getting about $300 million from the federal and provincial governments, is set to be completed in 2015.


PROJECT: Heralded in 2006 as a development breakthrough featuring high density with a natural habitat and plenty of recreational space, Oakville’s ambitious plan is steadily coming to fruition. The 3,100-hectare development from Dundas St. to Highway 407 between Tremaine Rd. and Ninth Line will eventually house 50,000 new residents and include a workforce of 35,000.

UPDATE: The first residential subdivision, at the northeast corner of Dundas St. and Neyagawa Blvd., was approved in March and earth has been moved to make way for more than 500 units. On the other side of Neyagawa, the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex, with four hockey arenas, soccer fields, a cricket pitch and a skateboard park, will open in September.

Zoning is also in place for a new hospital to be built at Third Line and Dundas St., but Oakville’s senior planner, Robert Thun, says it is hard to say when the rest of the development will be scheduled. “A lot of the infrastructure issues, sewage and roads, things like that, are up to Halton Region to move on.”


PROJECT: A $400-million Wasaga Beach development that was to include hotels, condos, restaurants, a large conference centre, an indoor amusement park, and a monorail to connect it all.

UPDATE: The plan was scrapped after a fire in November 2007 razed the area where the development was to take place. Twenty-one buildings were lost, which made the planned redevelopment of the area along the town’s popular main beach next to impossible. But the summer resort community on the shores of Georgian Bay did get the WasagaDome. Unfortunately, the multi-use entertainment facility at the middle of Beach Dr. that opened in July 2008 is one of six properties owned by Beachfront Developments, which recently went into receivership. The Dome was just renamed Waterfront Dome under new management and, because of the recent financial problems, is not expected to open for the season until July 1.


PROJECT: To tunnel a new path for a massive sewer pipe that serves about 750,000 residents in central Toronto. After a huge crack in the underground pipe was discovered using a robotic camera in 2008, the city decided bypassing the problem area was the best approach. The bypass portion begins adjacent to the parking lot for Taylor Creek Park, and will run beneath the ravine before it connects to the existing sewer at Coxwell Ave. and O’Connor Dr.

UPDATE: The project’s construction phase began about two weeks ago. The total length of the bypass will be about 500 metres and it is to be operational by January once it is connected to the pipe in the existing tunnel. Cost for the operation is $29 million, but the city says that is a fraction of what it would cost if the cracked pipe collapsed and sewage flooded into the Don River.


PROJECT: Plans are still alive to build a pedestrian tunnel under Lake Ontario to the Toronto Island Airport, but government may not be involved. The Toronto Port Authority abandoned attempts to get federal stimulus funding for what in 2009 was pegged to be a $38-million project. The TPA determined the 2011 deadline for construction completion to qualify for the funding could not be met.

UPDATE: The Port Authority has now turned to private investors to raise the cash, in what it is calling a P3 (public-private partnership) initiative. The process is underway with public consultations, a private environmental assessment and search for a private partner to put up at least half of the $45 million now budgeted for the project. The TPA has stated it will raise the other half and will implement a “user pay” system to generate revenue.


PROJECT: Plans for the eastern part of the Gardiner Expressway remain in limbo; however, Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto have devised an extensive environmental assessment process that includes a public consultation initiative to find a solution.

UPDATE: Four possibilities are being considered for the stretch of the Gardiner from the Don Valley Parkway to Jarvis St.: Removal, replacement, enhancement or maintaining what is already there. Waterfront Toronto is conducting an extensive environmental assessment to determine how best to integrate plans for the Gardiner with the rest of the developments in that area along the waterfront. To gather input, at least 16 public meetings are planned across the city. Details can be found at the Gardiner consultation website:


PROJECT: Much has happened since the original “Tree City” design won an international competition about 10 years ago to convert 230 hectares of the old military base in North York into one of the world’s largest urban parks. Unfortunately, not much activity has involved actual development.

UPDATE: The land is still owned by the federal government, but the Downsview Park board has come up with a new plan, unlike the original, which saw almost all of the land used for green space and recreational facilities. Instead, the new plan includes residential and commercial developments across the north end of the park, part of the east and the southwest corner. In total, 7,300 residential units will be built, along with commercial and mid-size industrial space. About half of the overall area will be kept as park space or used for recreation. The board is in the final stages of negotiation with a company to develop almost 1,000 residential units in the Stanley Greene neighbourhood in the southwestern sector. Plans have hit a snag, however, as city council has presented a long list of changes to the board’s plan for the area (because the land would be sold to a private developer, the city would take over jurisdiction from the federal government).

Until requests from the city have been dealt with, the park’s development is on hold.


PROJECT: East Bayfront development, between Lower Jarvis and Parliament St., and Lake Shore Blvd. to Lake Ontario, which includes 6,000 new residential units, 3 million square feet of commercial space and a continuous 1 kilometre promenade along the lake.

UPDATE: Waterfront Toronto will be holding two grand openings this summer to mark the early phase of the 10 to 15 year development plan for the East Bayfront project. Sherbourne Park (to be renamed July 16 after an open vote on and Canada’s Sugar Beach, set to become one of the country’s few urban beaches, are on schedule to open this summer. Construction of the Corus Quay entertainment building is also on schedule to open around the middle of this summer. The 280,000 square metre building on the shores of Lake Ontario, near the foot of Lower Jarvis St., will house Corus Entertainment’s studios.


PROJECT: A major facelift of Exhibition Place began in 2008 with the $49 million renovation of the Automotive Building, which was completed in October 2009 and reopened as the Allstream Centre. Major work still on the go includes reconstruction of the Princes’ Gates, the Direct Energy Centre and the Better Living Centre. A 320-suite convention hotel is also still planned.

UPDATE: Exhibition Place board chair Dianne Young says the various construction projects, with a budget of $24 million, are all ahead of schedule, with the first phase of work on the gates (a $6 million refurbishment) to be done by the end of May. The rest of the projects are to be completed by next spring. A $100 million, 320-suite convention hotel to be built by New York-based HK Hotels has passed a financial review by the city; if a site plan is approved, ground could be broken as early as the end of 2011.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Believe it or not, even if your back yard is no bigger than a queen-sized mattress (about 30 square feet), you can produce 200 pounds of homegrown meat every year ... by raising rabbits!

Domestic "hare" is a tasty, amazingly versatile food, too. Its flavor is often compared to chicken, and—like the barnyard fowl-rabbit is good fried, baked, stewed, cooked in casseroles, and prepared in many other ways. And the mammal's firm, fine-grained flesh actually makes for more healthful eatin' than does the bird's. In fact, rabbit has more protein—and less fat and fewer calories —per pound than any of our popular meats!

Rabbits are a wise choice for the small livestock fancier for other reasons, too: The critters are quite easy to raise, feed, and—because of their clean habits- care for. They're also quiet (which is an absolute "must" consideration for folks who're rearing animals in an urban area).

Of course, if you do get into caretaking a batch of the furry beasts, you'll want to keep your livestock as healthy and productive as possible. And—to help you in such efforts—I've prepared the following ten rules for raising disease-free rabbits (based on my earlier piece, "Ten Commandments for Healthy Livestock", published in MOTHER NO. 58, page 72).


The main reason for raising your own rabbits is, obviously, to produce meat. So before you get started in your venture, you should know just how much food you can expect to get. A good doe (female rabbit) will yield four or five litters with six to nine youngsters a batch—per year. Each of the young animals should reach a weight of 4 to 4-1/2 pounds (at which point they'll dress out to between 2 and 2-1/2 pounds) by the standard butchering age of eight to ten weeks. Therefore, a single doe can contribute 60 pounds—or more—of meat for your larder in one year. That ain't a bad output from one 10- or 12-pound animal. (What's more, unlike the steer that yields all its 500 freezer-filling pounds of "harvest" in one lump sum, your rabbit meat will be produced-in meal-sized portions through outmost of the year.)

You won't need to throw out your rabbits' innards, either. In my household, we slice the kidneys in half, deep-fry the segments, and serve them—with beer—as hors d'oeuvres. Rabbit liver can be cooked and chopped up into a tasty sandwich spread, or fried with mushrooms and bacon. Even the offal from your butchered fryers can be utilized ... as a tasty treat for dogs or pigs.

Rabbits produce more than meat, too. You can, for instance, shovel their high-quality manure straight onto a vegetable plot. "Thumper pellets" have more nitrogen and phosphorous than does horse, cow, or pig manure ... but won't burn plants, as chicken droppings will.

You could also set up a ground level bin under your elevated rabbit hutches and start a worm farm in the collected droppings (many rabbit producers have successfully combined bunny and earthworm raising operations). Furthermore, the animals' pelts make excellent hats, collars, and mittens. And—along with all that—you may even find someone who'd like to buy your leftover rabbit feet for good luck charms. (We have to bury ours, since everyone around here feels lucky enough just being able to live in Kansas.)

Always remember, though, that you are the real market for the bounty your bunnies produce! Sure, you might eventually want to try your hand at commercial breeding ... but don't undertake such an enterprise until you've had enough experience to understand fully the labor, costs, and marketing possibilities involved. (I'd also strongly advise that you avoid any firms that advertise "get rich with rabbits" schemes in which the companies offer to buy back the bunnies you raise.)


Domestic rabbits don't need a lot of space to hop around in, but—if they're to be as healthy and productive as possible—your animals will need some room in their cages. Each doe or buck should have a hutch that's at least 3 feet long, 2-1/2 feet deep, and 1-1/2 or 2 feet high. You can construct the sides and top of a "rabbit palace" out of small-gauge chicken wire, but be sure to use only sturdy (and easy-on-the-furry-feet) 1/2' X 1" galvanized hardware wire for the cage floor. The entire box can be framed on the outside with wood or metal (be careful ... rabbits will chew on any exposed wooden members) and should be constructed so that it stands well off the ground.

Your hutch will also need a door that's large enough to place the nesting box through (an entrance of about 14 inches on a side will do) and to let you reach every part of the cage's interior. You can build the portal from a piece of welded wire, and hinge the "opener" to swing inward.

Rabbits tolerate adverse weather and harsh climates fairly well. However, you should construct a rain- and snow-shedding sloped hutch roof and—if your area has harsh winter gusts —some form of windbreak. Actually, the animals suffer more in hot weather than they do in cold. Prolonged heat exposure can be fatal to your furry constituents, so be sure the rabbitry is positioned so it'll get adequate shade during sweltering midsummer days.

Along with a good hutch, you should supply your rabbits with a feeder, a waterer, and a nesting box. The food container can be nothing more than a heavy earthen crock, or a coffee can fastened to the side of the cage. On the other hand, you might prefer to buy one of the commercial automatic feeders that attach to the outside of the hutch and are therefore difficult for the bunnies to contaminate.

Waterers can be as plain as a frequently cleaned and replenished dish, or as elaborate as the commercial drip waterers. (You can construct a homemade automatic device by suspending a filled and inverted bottle over a watering pan. Just make sure the jug's lip is slightly under the pan's water level.)

Lastly, you should make a nesting box for each doe to use when she "kindles" (gives birth). This bunny nursery can be built out of wood and sized to be about 18-22 inches long by one foot wide by one foot high. Also, fasten a 3- to 9-inch wood strip along the bottom of its otherwise unobstructed front end— to keep the newborns from rolling out— and leave the top partly open to allow ventilation.


When you begin to look for your "seed stock" (most rabbit breeders start out with two does and one buck), you'll soon learn that the long-eared animals come in many different breeds and sizes. How. ever, most "hare raisers" across the country agree that the mid-sized (10 to 12 pounds) New Zealand White and California varieties make about the best backyard livestock.

Of course, you'll want to be certain that your potential purchases are all healthy, so examine each bunny—closely— before you buy. The inside of the critter's ears should not have the dry scabs that are caused by ear mites ... its hocks and feet should be free of sore spots ... its nose shouldn't be wet, runny, or crusty ... and its droppings should be firm and round. If the animal looks fit in these (and other) obvious respects (doe rabbits should have eight or more nipples, for instance), you can be pretty darn sure you've found a healthy critter.

By the way, NEVER lift a rabbit by its ears! Always pick up the fluffy furbearer by gently grasping a handful of skin at the scruff of its neck and—at the same time-placing a supporting hand under its bottom.


Many of the individual traits that go into producing plenty of meaty bunnies for your table are passed on from one generation to the next, so be sure to buy superior specimens. Only purchase bucks and does with excellent production records (or youngsters bred from such prolific propagators). In addition, you can tell a lot about what sort of offspring your breeding stock will engender by feeling the potential parents. Most of a rabbit's meat comes from its hind legs, so gently squeeze any buck or doe's rear thighs to judge how plump and meaty those areas are. Give a "squeeze test" to the back—between the critter's pelvis and ribs—as well. This loin muscle section should be long, wide, and firm.


It's an easy matter to remove the poor producers, negligent mothers, and seriously uncooperative breeders from your rabbit herd: Simply butcher and eat the critters. Unfortunately, though, even the most productive parents will decline in "breed ability" after five or six years, so your older animals should also be regularly culled.


Water is the single most important element in a rabbit's diet. A doe and her litter will consume a full gallon each day, so keep plenty of clean liquid refreshment in the hutches at all times.

When it comes to selecting a "chewable" feed, you should be aware that protein is the food ingredient most critical to assuring superior growth and production. Adult rabbits require a diet with at least 12% of the valuable foodstuff, while nursing mothers and growing youngsters need a 20% protein ration. A rabbit on a protein-deficient diet will grow more slowly, and—if it's a doe-bear fewer young and/or produce less milk.

Most rabbit raisers use commercially prepared feed, because the storebought pellets provide plenty of vital protein and are a completely balanced diet as well. To be dead honest about it, putting together a do-it-yourself rabbit feed that includes all the correct amounts of digestible nutrients, protein, minerals, vitamins, and sheer food energy—and at the same time avoids poisonous weeds, mold, or other toxins—is simply too difficult a task for the average guy or gal.

You can, of course, supplement your critters' meals with an occasional helping of root crops, green vegetables, and bits of hay. (WARNING: Greens will give young bunnies a severe case of diarrhea.) Keep in mind, though, that any time you add such a treat to your rabbits' ration, you will undoubtedly be decreasing the total percentage of protein in the animals' overall diet.

Baby bunnies should be given free access to all the feed they can eat ... to help them grow as quickly as possible. But don't overfeed your adults, because obesity is one of the most prevalent causes of infertility in both male and female rabbits. An adult buck or "dry" doe should be fed about three to six ounces of pellets a day, a pregnant female needs five to ten ounces daily, and nursing mothers may require as much as 20 ounces. (It's best to tape "ration sheets" right to your feeders ... so you know how much food each animal should get.)

One last note about rabbits' eating habits: You may one day notice that the critters are coprophagous (in other words, they eat their own fecal matter). This "recycling" process is a necessary part of the animals' digestive cycle that provides—among other essentials—niacin and riboflavin, so don't interpret the habit as a sign of ill health. On the other hand, don't worry if you never see co prophagy, either ... rabbits tend to engage in this (as well as most other feeding) at night, and are able to get the job done even in wire-bottomed cages.


All rabbit raisers should pay close attention to their critters' reproductive life patterns. Mature "hoppers" can be bred year round. Does actually don't ovulate until ten hours after they're bred, so every mating union should be a fertile one ... providing neither animal is overweight and the buck has not been exposed to too much hot weather (as with many animals, excess heat causes shortterm sterility in male rabbits).

You can tell whether your doe is "in the family way" by giving her a checkup two weeks after her mating. At that time place the animal on a table, restrain her with a one-handed scruff-of-the-neck grasp, and "palpate" her belly with the other hand: that is, squeeze gently and slide your hand from the lower rib cage back and up to the pelvic region, feeling carefully for any marblesized placentas.

A doe will usually give birth within 30 to 32 days following conception, so place the nesting box in the animal's hutch no later than 27 days after her mating. You'll be able to wean the fast-growing youngsters within two months following their birth—and the doe can be rebred before this separation—but be sure to give the mother a good two weeks' rest between the end of caring for her past litter and the beginning of raising the next offspring.


Now if you can imagine the difficulty you'll face in trying to keep track of when to wean and when to mate and when one doe is due to kindle and which of your bunnies came from which doe—and do all this while those busy rabbits are multiplying faster than electronic calculators—you'll readily understand the need for keeping good accurate records. (Without such information, it's flat impossible to tell which rabbits are your most—and least-productive breeders.)

You can design your own buck and doe breeding forms, or use the ready-made record-keeping charts available from Purina Chows. (To get a packet of 45 record cards and 30 record sheets—10 of each for bucks and the rest for does—just write Ralston Purina Company, Dept. TMEN113, Cashier 3T, Checkerboard Square, St. Louis, Missouri 63188. The feed company will send the material at no cost.) Plus, if your flock starts getting really large, you may even want to tattoo each rabbit's ear for identification.


Newborn bunnies don't need much human attention because their momma will take care of everything ... except providing the nest box (that's your job). Do be sure to give the nursery a good supply of clean straw or wood shavings:

three or four inches worth in summer, and twice that amount during the winter. Then put the box in the hutch three or four days before the doe is due (any earlier than that and she may turn her delivery room into a toilet). The mother will then contribute some of her own fur to the nest to make the home even more comfy for the expected young'uns.

The day after the bunnies are born, check the box and remove any deceased babies. Then—after the little critters are three or four weeks old remove the nest box itself and let the new residents get used to the hutch. (Remember that—before the portable nursery is brought back for a new batch of youngsters—it must be thoroughly emptied, cleaned, and disinfected.)


I sometimes get tired of pounding my fist upon the table and shouting, " Sanitation! Sanitation! Sanitation! ". But doggone it, if you buy and raise good rabbits ... feed your critters correctly ... and keep your rabbitry clean, clean, clean, you'll avoid 99-44/100% of all rabbit disease problems.

However, there are a couple of persistent health bugaboos that may require particular attention. For example, ear mites—that hide out in the crevices of your hutch and love to nibble the insides of rabbit ears—are often a problem. You can control the pests by plopping a few drops of mineral or olive oil into your bunnies' "antennas" once every six weeks or so.

In addition, the rough wire hutch floor can sometimes produce sores, scabs, and even inflammation on the animals' feet ... especially their hocks. You can help remedy that problem by placing flat 6" X 10" boards over part of the pen floors (away from the animals' favorite toilet comers) so your bunnies can rest their weary toes in comfort.

That about sums it up. You now know all the basic information you'll need to breed healthy, productive rabbits. Once you've tried raising the prolific critters, I think you'll be surprised—as I constantly am—that more folks don't take advantage of the good, healthful eating that the long-eared livestock can produce for rural, suburban, and urban dwellers alike!

How to Save Local Newspapers

Meet Bobbie Carlton. She’s come up with an idea that every newspaper publisher in New England should have had but didn’t. Her success demonstrates how news publishers can reinvent themselves and survive – maybe even thrive – but only if they have completely rethink what they do.

Carlton isn’t a publisher. She’s a career public relations professional who set out a little more than a year ago to figure out a way to drum up new business in a dismal economy. She knew that there were still plenty of innovative companies in the area that were starved for visibility. Finding investors and customers in a crummy economy was a time-consuming, trial-and-error process. The few conferences that were available for such purposes were either expensive or subjected applicants to long and seemingly arbitrary approvals processes.

Carlton hit on the idea of a cheap, frictionless approach she called Mass Innovation Nights. The events would be free to everyone. Entrepreneurs could show their stuff and hope to catch a big break.

Carlton borrowed meeting space from a local museum. She partnered with Dan Englander of High Rock Media to build a website and a Twitter account and started promoting Mass Innovation Nights entirely through online word of mouth. There was no hype and no inflated expectations. If the event bombed, then attendees got what they paid for.

Only the event didn’t bomb. MassInno, as the affair is now known, is a raging success, with exhibitors now competing for limited space. The most recent meetup was tweeted more than 600 times and drew more than 400 attendees. Carlton is toying with the idea of syndicating the idea across the country.

Today, Carlton has so much business coming in from startups that were boosted by Mass Innovation Nights that she’s having to refer work elsewhere. That makes her a popular person in the depressed local PR economy. Partner High Rock is booming, too.

Why was one woman able to exploit a simple idea at almost no cost while media institutions with hundreds of employees stood by and watched? Because newspapers didn’t think it was their job. They believed they were in the advertising delivery business, not the business of growing the local economy. Newspapers that continue to think this way will shrivel and die over the next few years. But there is a path to salvation. It’s in doing what Bobbie Carlton is doing on a grand scale. But how many publishers are willing to make the sacrifices to seize that opportunity?

The Folly of Paywalls

Newspaper publishers are confronting their current business challenges in the wrong way. They’re trying to battle online competition by becoming more like their competitors, building massive online presences to serve global audiences when their advantage is inherently local. They’re also hyper-focused on a source of revenue – advertising – that will only become more competitive and less profitable in the future. They need to change the rules.

The eyes of the industry are currently trained on The New York Times, which is trying to re-bottle the evil genie it released 15 years ago when it elected to give away its content for free. The Times’ paywall experiment will be modestly successful because it is The New York Times. Publishers in Baltimore, Dallas, St. Louis and hundreds of other cities will be unable to exploit the idea, however, because they lack the Times’ brand and international reach. Paywalls are a waste of time.

Instead, publishers should concentrate on diversifying their revenue streams away from advertising and into local business services that promise stability, growth and a future. This is a market in which they have a natural advantage. Small business is the one great untapped revenue opportunity left in America, which is why giants like American Express and Bank of America are practically throwing money at the market. But these global companies lack the local connections and the feet on the street to truly become partners in small business success. Local newspapers have that advantage.

Most major metro dailies have long regarded local business advertising as the cherry on top of the sundae of display contracts from national advertisers and department stores. Local businesses fueled the classified section, but counted for only a small part of the total revenue picture. Now national advertisers are marketing directly to customers, classified advertising has collapsed and local businesses are publishers’ only hope for a future.

The Local Opportunity

Look at the merchants in your local community. Most don’t know the first thing about marketing. Few are even very good at managing their businesses. Marketing is tough for little guys. They spend their dollars on a mishmash of coupons, flyers, Yellow Pages listings, classified ads and occasional radio and television. Few of them track ROI or have any means to assess the performance of these investments. Online, they’re practically invisible. They know nothing about search marketing or customer relationship management (CRM). In short, the kinds of sophisticated analytics and tools that big companies use are out of reach to mom-and-pops. Lots of businesses want to market better, but they don’t have anyone to teach them how or give them a cost-effective platform to do so.

News organizations can be that platform. They can start by delivering a basic package of marketing and business services on a subscription basis and expand as local conditions dictate. They can potentially manage many of the overhead and backroom activities that sap small business owners’ time. Here are five ways news organizations can monetize this opportunity. There are plenty more where these come from:

Website Development – Few small businesses know anything about the Web. Outside of restaurants and entertainment providers, most have websites that are little more than online brochures, if they have websites at all. Their sites aren’t optimized for search, don’t deliver calls to action and have no means to retain visitors as subscribers. Forget about analytics. If small business owners want to adopt new platforms like blogs or Twitter, they either pay outside consultants or figure out the tools through extensive trial and error.

This is a huge opportunity for news organizations. These companies have long-term relationships with business customers, local credibility and expertise in publishing. They can deliver advanced online features like e-commerce, e-mail marketing, search optimization and analytics at low cost by leveraging economies of scale. There is no reason why the local newspaper publisher can’t also be the dominant provider of online services to local businesses.

Affinity Programs – Every hotel, airline, national retailer and supermarket chain has a loyalty program these days. The reason is simple: they work. Customers who carry affinity cards typically buy between 10% and 30% more product from the merchants who offer the programs than from those who don’t. Unfortunately, few small-business owners have the option of participating. The administrative overhead is high and customers won’t carry cards for every merchant in their community. News organizations could set up these plans as cooperatives, allowing groups of noncompetitive businesses to participate at a modest cost. Commercial grade analytics could be bought and scaled to provide reporting that demonstrates the return to business owners. Revenue would come from the fees paid by the participants and potentially even subscribers to premium buyers clubs.

Events – Lots of small businesses would like to use event marketing to share their expertise and meet new prospects, but if you’ve ever tried to stage a promotional event, you know what an ordeal it is. The details and hidden costs can be overwhelming and few small businesses have the means to manage the leads that result. Again, publishers can come to the rescue. By building expertise at event management and applying it to different businesses within the community, publishers can provide targeted thematic events (for example, outdoor recreation or pet care) at a scale and cost that makes them affordable to local businesses. They can gather and manage leads that result and create marketing programs that optimize them for their customers. The news organization becomes a business partner and consultant, not just an outlet for advertising. There’s even the possibility of generating fees from event attendees in some cases.

Value-Added Advertising – Craigslist has won the war for the low end of the recruitment advertising market. Publishers need to stop mourning the loss of this commodity business and move the bar higher. Christopher Ryan and Steve Outing published a manifesto for competing with Craigslist more than a year ago. Unfortunately, few publishers seemed to have noticed. We won’t try to reinvent their wheel; has some great ideas publishers can apply to take advantage of their local reach and marginalize Craigslist.

For example, they can offer real estate agents or car dealers video walk-throughs of the products they sell. Or they can provide peer recommendations like Angie’s List (more than one million members at $35/year). They can tweet ads and push them to mobile phones. They can even provide transaction and fulfillment services that Craigslist can’t. In short, they can do all the things that Craigslist doesn’t do and build these features into a monthly subscription service that makes them all but invisible to the customer.

Transaction Fees – If you’ve ever used Ticketmaster, you’ve experienced the sticker shock of discovering that those $40 Nine Inch Nails tickets carry an eight dollar “convenience fee.” But you pay it because it’s easier than standing in line for two hours. Publishers can tap into that revenue stream.

The local garden show probably isn’t interested in ticket brokering. It may outsource the task to TicketMaster for the sake of convenience but it would really be interested in using a local organization that could combine fees with demographic marketing, behavioral targeting and amenities like e-commerce. Who better to deliver that experience than a service provider that knows the local community? Do you think restaurant or hair salon owners would like to have automated scheduling? The newspaper could provide that, too, with fees from the buyer, the seller or both.

Bottom Line

The five scenarios outlined above are just a sample of the opportunities available to local publishers once they stop thinking of themselves as advertising vessels and become partners in the success of local businesses. At their core, newspapers are marketing tools. Instead of simply providing advertising space, publishers can become marketing consultants, value-added resellers and service bureaus. They can offer the kind of expertise and analytics at a price that mom-and-pops can finally afford.

There are many more possibilities: Publishers could offer accounting, tax preparation, creative services, executive recruitment, business telephony, technical support, facilities management, order fulfillment and so on. Where they lack in-house expertise, they could partner with local providers under an approved-vendor program. Does this mean publishers might compete with their prospective advertisers? Sure, but how many of those companies are advertising now, anyway? Members of the approved-vendor program could potentially buy bigger schedules from the publishers who feed them business.

Back to the Future

Few publishers will choose to pursue the business model outlined here. It’s too hard. Departments such as circulation will need to be downsized or eliminated. Sales people must be retrained or released. Experts must be hired in new areas and partnership networks will have to be formed. New services will have to be created and priced, software licenses acquired and technology infrastructure put in place. These changes are painful, but reinvention isn’t pretty. It’s easier to sit and hope that paywalls will succeed in letting you do what you’ve always done. Good luck with that.

If this transformation sounds radical or risky, consider that it’s already been done. More than 20 years ago, many computer companies faced the same kind of near-death experience that confronts newspaper publishers today. Their core hardware products, which generated 80% margins, were suddenly assaulted by cheap, standardized components. Many of these companies died or were acquired, but a few, like IBM and Hewlett-Packard, took the strong medicine that was necessary to transform themselves. Today, IBM derives more than half its revenue from services, a revenue stream that barely even existed 20 years ago. Its 2008 revenue was a record $103 billion. HP made the shift even earlier. Twenty years ago, it was less than one-fifth IBM’s size. In 2009, it was bigger than IBM.

Thanks for sticking with us through this long essay. Now tell us what you think. Are we off the wall or could business services be the prescription that nurses this dying industry back to health?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

An inside look at 573,948 Toronto homes

Pssst . . . wanna buy Toronto? Got a cool $254 billion?

That’s the total value of Toronto’s 573,948 single family homes, according to the property assessments, although in our current, overheated real estate market the actual sales figure could be 20 per cent more. That huge number is based on an exclusive Star analysis of the Municipal Property Assessment Corp’s (MPAC’s) property assessment data. Our number-crunching provides a snapshot of Toronto real estate that’s never been taken before, and has unearthed some startling statistics:

  • The biggest house in the city, with more than 31,000 square feet of living space, is 100 times the size of the smallest, with a mere 294.
  • Condos make up 75 per cent of homes built since 2000. In 2008, condos were 86 per cent of new homes.
  • Condo buyers are increasingly paying more for less. Assessments for newly built condos have skyrocketed to more than $400 per square foot — 40 per cent above the overall average of $288 — while the size has dropped 20 per cent over 10 years to an average of 795 sq. ft. in 2008.
  • More than 4,600 condos are less than 500 square feet.
  • The assessment rate for new detached houses — which are being built bigger — is 10 per cent above the overall average at $300 per square foot.
  • New, semi-detached houses offer the best deal per square foot. Assessment rates are less than $200 per square foot, 20 per cent below the overall $251 average.
  • In 39 of Toronto’s 532 census tract neighbourhoods, the average assessed value of a detached house is more than $1 million. Across the city, 24,000 detached houses are assessed at more than $1 million — and 33 at more than $10 million.
  • In 20 neighbourhoods, the average assessment is less than $300,000, and in one area, less than $200,000.
  • The largest condo in the official records is more than 8,000 square feet, 40 times larger than the smallest, with less than 200 square feet.
  • The average assessment of single-family homes in Toronto is $442,935, based on the estimated resale price in January 2008. The average resale price of single-family homes in Toronto in the past year was $447,609, and for April was $479,340, according Toronto Real Estate Board figures.

These numbers paint an extremely detailed portrait of Toronto property values.

Catherine Farley can be reached at