Summer on a plate, in a glass

BLT on lettuce

It happens every year with that first bite into a vine-ripened tomato, a splash of juice as my teeth pierce the skin, the subsequent slurping as the acidic fruity tang slides over my tastebuds, that I think this just needs some bacon.

Green Zebra is my favorite BLT variety, and I’ve often though it must have been bred to pair specifically with the fatty crispness of pork belly, the smokey maple-syrup sweetened decadence of bacon.  Unfortunately, we lost all but one green zebra in a late frost this spring, and amid the ripening red orbs, the green fruit sometimes eludes me on harvest days.

No matter, one can’t stop the pairing of fruit and meat as August turns toward ripeness.  I’ve found the joys of German Johnson, a tomato to rival Brandywine; It’s size trumps green zebra, with some slices as big as bread, and we eat BLTs open-faced on a bed of oak-leaf lettuce, crowning them with basil leaves and a dollop of chèvre.  Summer on a plate.

And then there is the glass–a tall one with muddled spearmint and blueberries, three ice cubes and a long pour of seltzer, or as I like to say, bubbly water.  At another time in my life I got excited about mojitos and gin and tonics, but these days its the clarity of cold water and herbs on a hot day that quenches my thirst.  Sometimes I get fancy with a squeeze of lime, or go the lemon-ginger-honey route, or steep strawberries and lemon balm in a quart jar for hours in the fridge.  Sometimes, I imagine the most refreshing thing in the world would be to steep in a cold mint bath, though the earthy scent of lake water does just as much to cool and revive.

What’s to come

cilantro seedlings

share basket

I shouldn’t do this, but after reading John’s post, I couldn’t help myself–I had to take out the spring and summer photos and remember the heat and taste of what feels to still be a distant season.

We made it through last night’s cold, and the car engine managed to turn over this morning, despite it being -23.  If I sit close to the wood stove and stare into the photos enough, I can almost imagine that we’re tumbling amid all that food right now.  Soon.  Soon.

For now, I’m thankful for the heat of the stove, for bacon from our friends at Humble Rain Farm, and for the photos that remind me of what’s to come.

Farmer Wordplay

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The words we use as farmers and eaters has a real impact on how we view our food.  This summer I started thinking more about the words harvest and slaughter when it comes to chickens, and my musings turned into an article in the latest edition of Vermont’s Local Banquet.  Read an excerpt below:

With both hands, I reach into the crate of chickens.

“I’m sorry!” I say to the chicken as it flaps in my less-than-confident grasp. The butcher just showed me how to properly handle a bird: two hands on their legs, chest down, and pick up. They won’t flap this way. I put the bird’s chest on the ground until it calms and pashand it to the butcher.

“No need to apologize to them for that,” he says, easily putting the bird upside-down into the cone and, with a sharp knife, cutting its head off in a blink.

“I hate picking up chickens,” I tell him. “I like eating and raising them, but I’m not good at this part.”

“Eating is the easy part.”

To read the full article, visit Vermont’s Local Banquet

A Thanksgiving Goose

Crisp crackled skin, juicy fat, deep flavorful meat.  A Thanksgiving goose!

Thanksgiving Goose

The goose was a gift for Waylon’s birth.  Our friends at Gozzard City brought it over one late summer day last year when Waylon was still a floppy little baby unable to hold his head up, and the goose went into the freezer with the intention of pulling it back out come Christmas.  Instead, it got lost among the pork and chicken and turkey and beef that also filled the freezers, and so over a year later we finally took it out to thaw, and cooked it on Sunday for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration with my parents and brother.

It was my first goose, and though I rarely follow recipes step by step, I tried my best with this bird.  In the middle I switched the recipe I was following for a simpler one, and the goose didn’t seem to mind one bit.  The temperature and length of time were different, but it was still stuffed with caramelized onions, bits of fatty bacon, chunks of apple and torn bread.  It still dripped fat that became our leek-laced gravy.

pumpkin pieIn the case we discovered that none of us liked goose, the bird was joined by a smaller fowl in the form of beer-can chicken.  Luckily, we found that not only do we like goose, but especially when dribbled with gravy, we love goose.  Nothing went to waste.

By the time dessert came around, Waylon was past ready for bed, but he sat on his uncle’s lap and tried his first taste of pumpkin pie, which happened to be just the thing to keep him going a little longer into the night.

The left-over goose and pie kept us fueled as we drove to New Jersey yesterday, and primed us for turkey tomorrow.  This year I am thankful for all these things: friends who raise geese, our bumper crop of pumpkins, the leeks that started in our field and ended simmering in goose fat, the soil that grew our vegetables, the grass that fed the animals, and family, always family, who share these meals with us.

pies and candlelight

Little Gems in November, or, Lettuce is Beautiful

November Lettuce

Spretnak, Rhazes, Mirlo.  Lettuce in November!

We started these late in the season, and yesterday was likely our last lettuce head harvest.  These little gems and mini-butterheads have been holding under row cover for a few weeks, and though there are still more in the garden, I doubt they will size up even to their mini-maturity.

If this is the last harvest, I marvel at them even more–lettuce is so beautiful.  I love the ruffled texture of the butterheads, the deep green cones of Spretnak, a little-gem romaine, and the rich velvety red of Rhazes, another little-gem (“little gem” really is the actual term for these mini romaines.  It suits them well).

If I didn’t want to eat a salad, or cut them in half to grill with balsamic oil, I’d sit and stare at the lettuce like a painting.  Is that crazy?  Shouldn’t food be beautiful, shouldn’t we take the time to notice when it is?  Maybe it’s only my perception, but I believe food tastes better when we take the time to notice its textures, colors, and dimensions.  There is so much to take in before we ever take a bite.

{I highly recommend these varieties; if you want to grow them in your garden, you can find them at High Mowing Organic Seeds: Spretnak, Rhazes, Mirlo}

50 Pounds of Blueberries

Ripe blueberries Picking berriesa cluster of ripe fruit pick and eatWe cupped our hands hands and raked our fingers through the bush, producing a heaping pile of blueberries in seconds.  The 20-year old bushes were full and ripe, so heavy with fruit that we circled the same bush three times, harvesting from it as if we were coming to it anew each time around.  From bush to bucket, we worked quickly under a sky threatening rain.  We picked so fast that it didn’t matter how many berries Waylon took out of the bucket to eat–his appetite couldn’t keep up with our hands and those bushes.

Just under two hours later we finished, our buckets 50 pounds heavier, and our berry-filled bellies heavier, too.  And so we’re ready for the winter: strawberries and blueberries piled in the freezer, and canned peaches stored away.  Of course the lamb and chicken will help us through the cold months, and the vegetables, too, but summer’s sweetness is what truly brings sunshine into the yurt on cold winter nights–when the night falls early and the wind and snow blow outside, what better way to warm a home than a peach blueberry cobbler?  Berries ripen in the summer, but we pick for winter, ensuring our desserts will bring us through to another June.

Blueberry Season

It’s blueberry season, and yesterday I took Waylon to our favorite pick-your-own farm in Craftsbury, VT.  I got a bucket for each of us, and Waylon crawled and walked (with help) between the bushes as I picked the berries out of his reach.  It went like this: one berry for Waylon, one for mama, and a few for the bucket.  We managed to pick 7 pounds before nap time set in, and with tired eyes Waylon held onto his bucket as I carried him back to the car.

So this morning: blueberry pancakes!  It was Waylon’s first taste of pancakes–gluten free so papa could eat them, too–topped with butter and the last dribble of maple syrup (time to buy some more).  He smiled and pointed at the plate, and from his blueberry-stained mouth it’s safe to say he liked them.

Seven pounds won’t last long around here, so we put them in the fridge for fresh eating.  This afternoon will surely call for a smoothie, and tonight’s dessert menu is a blueberry crumble.  We haven’t yet mastered the gluten-free pie crust, but it’s a necessary baking adventure that we’ll soon begin.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until then, happy Saturday!

 

Zucchini and Egg Season

We’ve entered zucchini and egg season, by which I mean we only eat zucchinis and eggs due to lack of time to make any other meal.  What else could be so fast as summer squash sauteed in butter, eggs cracked in the pan and yolks broken with a spatula, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, a quick chop of parsley, folding in of some thinly sliced cheddar, and an easy transfer from pan to tortilla?  It takes maybe five minutes.  And we’ve got a lot of zucchini.  The eggs, not as many (60 layers and only our 8 oldest are laying…oh chickens, how much longer can you hold out?), but plenty for the two of us and Waylon, who has also recently discovered scrambled eggs.

I think we had the same meal three times in the same day last week, with perhaps a slight variation from rice tortilla to a romaine leaf wrap when we ran out of the real thing.  It’s high time for succession pulling and planting: the first round of kale, out.  Two rows of lettuce mix and two rows of Asian greens, gone.  Broadfork, compost, rake.  Seed, transplant.  Last night the dill finally went in, though the cilantro still waits in its trays, catching my eyes each time I walk by it, as does the next succession of summer squash.  Soon.  Soon.  If we don’t get it in, what will our quick scrambles turn into?

Despite all the work there is to be done, there are moments of reprieve: a coffee gelato cone, a dunk in the reservoir, a quiet hour after the babe and papa have gone to sleep.  I sink into these moments, these quiet breaths scattered like a trail through the day: this way now, there will be rest soon enough.

In another 6 hours the sun will rise, and we will, too.  Edge will make chai, Waylon will eat a banana, and I’ll turn on the stove to make breakfast of golden yolked eggs and zucchini.

zucchini and summer squash

A Fitting Start to Summer

looking southwest at the farm saturday night campfirehappy babe food and song  young musician saturday evening

Green.  It’s suddenly rolling across the fields and bursting out of the trees.  This morning as I stepped out into the sunshine, my whole body felt happier.
“I know it’s not summer summer yet, but it feels so good!”  I said to Edge.

“You can say it’s summer.  If you say it’s summer now, it lasts that much longer,” he replied, and so I turned my face up to the sun and smiled.

Last night we had dinner around a campfire: roast chicken and ramps, a salad of baby kale, chard, pea shoots and wild spring beauties, plus local bread and cream cheese with rhubarb chutney made by our friend Mary’s family, and a spattering of cider and homebrews.  Dinner ended with homemade (gluten-free) apple pie and ice cream, and as the sun set over the Worcester Range, Edge and Jeremiah took out the mandolin and fiddle and played into the night.

A fitting start to summer, indeed.

Cool nights still linger, but I’m calling it summer now.  The winter was long enough, and I’m ready for the season of campfires and song.

 

Good Heart Farmstead

Well, we still don’t have internet, but I have managed to finally put up a blog for our new farm, Good Heart Farmstead.  There, you can see some pictures of what I’ve been up to, and learn about the farm my husband and I are starting.  I hope you have a wonderful start to your winter!

The internet and phone company have promised they’ll be out to our farm in the next week, so keep your fingers crossed, and I may be back up and blogging soon!

Good Heart Farmstead, L3C Dove, Katie Spring