September 5, 2011

Please Pass the Lard

July’s blog was getting a little depressing, we’ll admit. Truth be told about August, it’s one of the most trying months of the season. It’s dry, hot, stressful, and big decision time. We’ll just leave it at that and talk about something more entertaining: FOOD.

Food is why we farm. Seems like an obvious statement but we spend so much time in the great outdoors dealing with dirt, bugs and plants, carving out some sad excuse for a cash flow system that we forget how vital our line of work is. That is, until this time of year when we are overloaded with market leftovers, bumper crops, final harvests and everything else we cherish. We alternate between feeling panicked and blessed as we work like bees to ensure that as little food as possible goes to waste. Waste is a poor word here for in the worst cases, food becomes compost or hog feed and therefore remains in the farm food cycle and out of the landfill. We hit some sort of stride this season though where we worked overtime to preserve what will realistically get us through the winter months while still feeling somewhat satisified with our market.

For the first time we went at canning full force. First were green beans, then tomatoes, red sauce, salsa, and now we’re on to pickled okra, a favorite to both hoard and sell at market. This year’s AWESOME basil crop has warranted biweekly pesto batches which are frozen for later.  It’s an odd feeling to spend days and evenings sweating in the kitchen during the hottest times of the year all with meals months away, in the coldest season, in mind. We’re harvesting and curing winter squashes which we grow in the summer and store for winter (that’s where the confusion of the name comes from). Thrashing, shelling, and winnowing the dry beans and grains is also an evening past time. On the weekends we’re skipping around to neighbors’ blueberry patches and bringing home gallons to wash and freeze. The resident mechanic/engineer/ultra man Thomas has repurposed an old Frigidaire this month into a monstrous utility sized dehydrator. We’ve dealt with tomatoes molding overnight to burning in hours as he tweaks the temperature, air flow, screen prototype and exhaust rate. This will go down as one of those projects that will pay for its self in the long run and show you just what your man is made of. Mine must have copper wiring for a circulatory system.   

Tomatoes waiting for Winter
Green Bean Glory

The Dehydronator

I am actively attempting the art of cooking and baking for the first time in my life this season. Obviously I have learned a few things before now, but they were mostly variations on spaghetti, pancakes, and zucchini bread and I have had a tendency to lean on roommates until now. Thank you for feeding me for so long; you know who you are. I seem to be actually interested in recent months in getting better and broadening my repertoire. Kitchen confidence is the main goal here and at 26 I think it’s time I had some.

 I feel like I’ve mastered frying eggs, finally, with the right combination of oil, heat and cast iron. Just in time, too as our first large flock of 30 just started laying. Last week I made a very successful batch of sausage gravy but I’m still working on biscuits. We use locally milled whole wheat flour and our own rendered lard, so if anyone has pointers on how to make a tall biscuit from that, please share. Mine have been short, dry and crumby at best even with baking powder.  With eggplant in season, I made my first batch of baba ganousch…yummy.  We’re working on new ways to cook okra – baking, stewing, and of course frying.

And then there is the cheese. Because we do not have a temperature controlled room in the house, we’re limited to chevre which requires only an even 24 hours at 78° to both set and drain. That’s conveniently the temperature this mobile home stays ALL THE TIME. Well, sometimes the kitchen gets hotter so we move it to another space. In order to relieve boredom, we’ve been experimenting with flavoring the chevre. Walnut and honey is my favorite so far with rosemary and garlic, hot red pepper, and pesto not far behind.

Thomas is a big fan of wild fermentation and is always tinkering with kimchi. Kefir is a new endeavor quite different with goats milk from the cows milk kefir we’ve had before.  We just got a mother to start some kombucha after trying some delightful vanilla ginger kombucha earlier this summer. Very exciting probiotic stuff we have brewing in the crocks.

Of no relation to this topic but worth celebrating: Thomas and I harvested our first successfully sweet and accurately ripe crop of sugar baby watermelons this month. And our expired bean patches from early summer kicked back into production as well. Hooray.

As I recently wrote a friend: my life is like Julie and Julia now, I’m learning to cook, gaining weight as a result and I have a blog. Basically the same thing. Now where’s the book deal and movie?

Current favorite cook books:

Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
Good Meat by Deborah Krasner
Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables
The Complete Tassajara Cookbook by Edward Espe Brown
Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz

1 comment:

  1. How'd your Kombucha work out?? Get a scooby? I love making homemade butter from raw milk (and you can keep the buttermilk for biscuits..mmm) SO cool to see y'alls journey :)