Farm Tales

Farm to Table

Posted by MaryAnn the FarmWife on October 5, 2015 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (2)

Yesterday, was the first time in several months, that I had a weekend day unexpectedly off. Thank you Joaquin. We do Farmer’s Markets every weekend from the beginning of June through the end of October. Those three days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, are generally packed with tasks, and far overscheduled to have any social time for spending with friends. We do figure out a way, to go to other people’s parties, celebrations, but we are like walking zombies and always have to run home to milk a cow.

Last Thursday though, the Sunday’s Farmer’s market was cancelled. So what do I do? Shove a social event in the few hours of down time I will get. It was wonderful. If any of my dear friends is reading this and were not invited, patience please. I only had the kitchen for entertaining, and we can only get 6 dinner guests in here. The dining room, is filled with Farmer’s Market and dairying equipment…no room for a crowd in there. You will all get to visit us very soon…And we do miss you all.

As for yesterday, after milking the cow, doing dairy stuff, feeding livestock, washing/boxing eggs, vegetable stuff, and about a dozen other farmy things, I had about two hours to straighten up the kitchen…and then an hour or two for a bit of cooking before the neighbors arrived.

The important things were tidy. There was a table and chairs to sit at, and the bathroom was user friendly. It was not a perfect home, but not completely embarrassing.

A kitchen supper is rather informal and fancy place settings were not necessary. A stack of plates, and some silverware were put out for each course, and everyone seemed to fare pretty well. My friends were fed, wine was poured, and all went to bed with full tummies and content with a night of talk, laughing, and tasting.

So for the most intriguing part of this post, the food. I cooked. I really enjoy cooking, and it was a good day for me. The reason that I started growing all these odd varieties of gourmet vegetables is that I really like to cook. Ingredients are key.

So what did I make? I only did four or maybe 5 courses. We were eating on a Sunday evening, and a late night doesn’t work for those who have to get to Manhattan early on Monday morning. I had to be done with it all by 9PM. I only had a couple of the items prepared ahead of time and had to cook or finish the courses with my friends and a glass of wine.

I started with some homemade sour dough batons and some fresh mozzarella. Plain, nothing fancy, and the bread was straight out of the oven.

A pan of Tomatoes Provençal was introduced. Hot carmelized garden tomatoes, were cooked until soft with olive oil, and fresh garden herbs…divine with the bread and cheese. I had slid these in the oven as people arrived. Now tomatoes roasted doesn’t sound as heavenly as they truly are. You have to try them one day.

Then I threw together a pan of Veal Saltimbocca with a Marsala Mushroom pan sauce. Pounding the veal cutlets, while I sipped a cocktail, and rolling them up…a leaf of fresh sage in each roll. Lovely.

While a couple people went for a stroll to look at the calves I scrubbed the potatoes, and then cleaned the kale. They arrived back just in time to help finish the cooking and put together the main course. Boneless Oxtails simmered in ruby port with julienned carrots, fresh chopped tomatoes, torpedo onions, fresh celery, fresh herbs and leeks. Served with our purple mashed Magic Molly Potatoes, with a healthy amount of fresh butter and cream and then some Nero Di Tuscano Kale with garlic and olive oil… Rich, and wonderful after a few blustery cold damp days.

A bit of cleaning up after dinner, and I peeled a few apples, sautéed them in some butter, added a good dose of Krakken Rum, an assortment of raisins, pecans, a bit of sugar…then sealed it in some puff pastry squares. Popped them in the oven. Once the pastries were done, a slice of Vanilla Krakken Rum Semi Fredo from the freezer was added to the plate with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Not too shabby.

Done. Dishes and silverware went in the dishwasher, a few pans were washed, and a good meal was finished.

A menu for a Blustery Damp October Sunday:

Hot Sour Dough Breads served with Homemade Mozzarella

Tomatoes Provençal

Veal Saltimbocca in a Marsala Mushroom Sauce

Boneless Oxtail Stew served with Mashed Purple Magic Molly Potatoes and Kale in Garlic and Oil

Fresh Apple and Rum Pastries with Vanilla Krakken Semi Fredo and Homemade Caramel

 

The meats, cheese, dairy, herbs, vegetables, apples were all from my farm. Flour, sugar, salt, pepper, olive oil, mushrooms, nuts, raisins and liquors were all purchased. As farm to table as we can get in New Jersey. If we only had olive trees, I could figure out most of the rest.

 

Sugaring

Posted by MaryAnn the FarmWife on April 1, 2015 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Let's talk about Maple Syrup. It is one of those magical things that nature provides and we lucky humans figured out. In the dead of winter, nature has a lot happening that you don't see. One of them involves the trees.

Here, in New Jersey, after the coldest part of the year has passed, the days are starting to get longer, and warmer in February. This triggers the life cycle of the hardwood trees. They begin to draw up nutrients from deep in the soil and push them up the tree and into the branches to feed the buds. You can see the tips and buds swelling as the weeks go by...then in April and May they burst open with life.

The Sugar Maples, like all the other trees, go through this gentle quiet cycle, but with a difference - the sap is sweet and can be cooked down into syrup. They are a slow growing, gorgeous tree, and they have a particular climate they like to grow in...somewhere near a good stream or spring is best. We are lucky enough to have access to a few good trees. They are in a ravine with the most perfect picturesque brook running through it.

The ravine...It is pretty steep, and the photos don't do it justice. There is a drop of about 40 feet from the top to the lowest sugar maple we tap. The incline is close to 10 inches for every foot. The whole thing is a bit treacherous in good weather...not something you want to do with snow and ice. One of these days we should put some type of path in. There used to be a path, but it got overgrown in between various years and changes in life.


Last year, there was no way to get in there. February went by, and then all of March...It took until the second week of April last year for the ice to melt off enough to climb down there. It would have been impossible to haul 5 gallon buckets up that rocky icy slope. Plus, the sap season was over. Last year, 2014,  there was no sugaring done. This year? I was determined, as long as nature would let us.

The sap runs during the days that get above freezing, and the nights go below freezing. Generally, here in New Jersey, that is some time at the end of February. Well this year, there were NO days in February that met that criteria. It was unseasonably cold, with virtually every day being in the 20's if we were lucky. Plus, there was snow, lots of snow. Absolutely no way to get down there. I did a lot of pouting.

Then March came around. The beginning of March it snowed. And snowed again. And there was ice...but it was still a bit too cold. Then it thawed. We were lucky. Enough of the ice melted that we could get down there. It had stayed below freezing so the sap hadn't began to run. It would be a really short window, but we could get a week in before it got too late in the year.

The two of us fools, went out with the drill, the taps and the buckets, climbed down the ravine and tapped three trees. We only tapped three because it was late in the season and I have a lot going on at the end of March. I wouldn't have the time to boil down multiple batches of sap. Additionally, because it was late, we didn't want to steal too many nutrients from the trees. We want them to be healthy. The sap season was going to be short.

We tapped the trees. It is really neat, because as soon as you tap them, you can hear the sap dripping into the buckets. Blip,blip, blip...The sap only runs on days above freezing. We had three days, during that week, that it never went above 30F. The other days it was perfect weather. At night when the temperature drops the sap doesn't run. It was good. John hauled up the buckets and in two days we had 60 liters. Time to boil. It boiled for hours...hours...until we had our 6 cups of syrup. Yes, I said 6 cups from 60 liters. Then we collected enough on the second trip to make another 60 liter pot full...

John and Kurt, plugged the trees, and brought home the buckets and taps. Oh yeah, plug the trees. You don't want to leave the holes open. It would be like a wound and just keep leaking. John takes a piece of wood the size of the hole and taps it in the hole to seal it up. The tree will grow around the litle stick and heal perfectly fine. First aid for the tree.

So we now have a dozen cups of syrup. Golden good syrup. We did get some this year. One weeks worth from three trees. It was almost 3 quarts worth of golden sweet syrup. It is pretty, isn't it?