With the beginning of cold weather, I've been reaching for canning jars of homemade chicken stock a lot lately. So much so that I'm completely out, not only of chicken stock, but of any stock whatsoever. I don't like being without this building block of good soup, which is so fortifying at this time of year. I have a few carcasses from roasted chickens saved in our freezer, but I know they're not going to make as much stock as I'd like to be putting up right now. Buying commercial stock, even the organic brand that I used to buy, just isn't on my radar these days. As anyone who's made their own knows, store-bought stock just doesn't hold a candle to homemade.
So I started looking through the market lists of the grass-based farms in my area. Even though I'm fully aware of how much work goes into raising healthy, ethical food, I'm still often initially surprised by the prices of animal products from these businesses. My next thoughts are always the same: the prices are fair, given what I know about labor and materials costs for this type of production, and given the methods they employ which show a proper respect for the environment; and to boot, none of these farmers are getting rich on the prices they're charging for the foods they offer. Still, when I saw the price of the chicken backs and bones from other animals that I would need for making stock, I decided to try a different tack.
I asked my Farming Friend whether she might be interested in bartering finished stock for the bones to make it, a 50-50 split. I know she likes to cook with stock, but she's a very busy woman, and I figured she wouldn't mind having someone else do the work. As it turned out, the offer was especially attractive to her, because she doesn't have time to do the canning. She has typically frozen her stock, but that ends up using too much of her freezer space, which is at a premium for the meats that she sells. So I told her I'd be happy to make and can as much stock as she has bones for over the winter months. It's a win for me because I get free bones and I can do this work when the demands of the garden and livestock are minimal. As a bonus, the heat generated by the roasting, simmering, and canning processes will be most welcome in the house at this time of year. She has agreed to return the canning jars and the re-usable lids and rings that I use. And she'll send lamb and goat bones my way any time she has them on the same barter basis.
I'm always so tickled when things like this work out - a benefit for both parties. I trust her to produce good, clean food. She trusts me produce tasty and safely canned stock. I call that win-win any day, and I'd like there to be more bartering in my life. It's something I sometimes feel shy about proposing to people, even though no one has ever seemed offended by the idea of barter.
I'd be curious to hear about any barter arrangements you have. If you barter, were you the one to propose the exchange? Have you ever been turned down on an offer to barter? Any tips on how to successfully arrange bartering agreements?