Fall farm food

We’ve neglected the food and cooking side of the blog lately. This is partly due to the death of my camera (Joanna’s camera can’t handle indoor shots), and partly due to simple lack of attention to writing things up. However, we’ve had a series of especially good meals lately that I want to mention simply to point out the diversity and quality of fresh food from a diversified farm this time of year. And to post something different from me complaining about the government (I have another one of those coming soon enough).

Greens, cabbages, parsnips, potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, sweet potatoes, peppers (held in the cooler post-frost) and more all figure heavily into our cooking this time of year. We’re using our winter-keeping Mercuri tomatoes regularly, delaying the opening of canned tomatoes until well into winter. We had mild success with broccoli and cauliflower, which have been delightful features in stir fries and pastas.

Fall means the return of German cooking in our household, a great delight. Butchering and hunting give us a large and diverse selection of meats to work with, along with fall produce such as cabbages, onions, carrots, and apples. And December brings our month-long spree of traditional German baking. Every animal we process gives us fresh organ meat to play with. The liver we either make into fresh leberk√§se (liver loaf) or freeze for the same use later. We marinated the latest heart in a sauerbraten base (cider vinegar, onions, juniper berries, etc.) and then slow-cooked it in the sauce. The latest tongue we brined for a few days, then also slow cooked. These two we served thin-sliced with farm cheese, fresh-made beer mustard, farm pickles, and a large helping of cooked cabbage, apples, and onions. A friend’s homebrew complemented this perfectly.

The same evening, we started our first two gallons of real sauerkraut fermenting. We make this to a very traditional recipe, simply shredding cabbage and mixing it with salt, juniper berries, and hot water before closing it in glass jars to ferment for use later in the winter.

Beyond the increasingly Teutonic feel of the kitchen, we’ve been enjoying many other aspects of fall farm food. Last week we had Leigh Lockhart of Main Squeeze over for a farm tour & dinner, partly as a social occasion and partly as a business meeting to discuss what we can grow for her next year. We served an all-vegetarian meal of African ground-nut stew of cabbage, sweet potato, onion, garlic, peanut butter (not ours), spices, and more; fresh pitas, cowpea hummus, and our feta; and fresh Asian slaw of cabbage & peppers with a citrus/ginger/garlic/soy/vinegar dressing.

I’m thinking ahead to what we’ll serve next week when Mike Odette of Sycamore comes out for a similar meeting; hopefully fresh venison will be available with hunting season starting Saturday and we can do something fun with that.

Sunday we butchered our second goat kid, with the help of a friend who (as an omnivore) wanted to experience the process. For lunch, we cut out one of the tenderloins and pan-cooked it with a fresh rub of our own ground dried ancho peppers, cumin, coriander, and salt. Sides included fresh slaw (same recipe as above), fresh flatbreads, aged cheese from our friend (made with our goat milk), and more.

Though our milk supply is naturally declining, there’s still room for fresh cheese. We made a very simple yet delightful pasta with a quick sauce of fresh-made ricotta, broccoli, and garlic. I’ve gotten better at properly brining feta and we’re able to keep a 1/2 gallon jar going with feta we can dip out when desired as a basic all-purpose cheese. Eggs are in short supply now, with chickens quitting laying and us trying to withhold a supply large enough to handle the coming onslaught of December’s German baking.

Made a nice batch of chili using ground goat, Mercuri tomatoes, lots of peppers, purchased beans (our beans were a complete failure), and my home-made spice mix. Served over rice, a big pot of this can last us days.

We’re also planning ahead to Thanksgiving, when my mother and brother will be visiting and possibly Joanna’s parents. While we didn’t raise a turkey this year, I’m just as happy to celebrate the harvest holiday with our own farm’s foods (here’s our menu from the last on-farm Thanksgiving, in 2008). The menu may include a young roasted chicken (one of this year’s hatch), my favorite apple-pecan stuffing (with market apples and pecans gathered locally), a venison or goat roast (possibly in our outdoor grill/smoker), root vegetables roasted in goose fat, applesauce from Missouri apples, spinach/lettuce salad, fresh rolls with farm jam, various pies (like sweet potato and bourbon-apple-pecan), and more. Thanksgiving is the holiest day of the year here, and we’re going to do it justice.

All of this just goes to remind us, and our readers, one of the core reasons we chose to farm: the food. A love of food and cooking drew us steadily into this life and this business, and the quality, diversity, reliability, and safety of our dominantly farm-sourced food supply is one of the top benefits for us. I have a hard time imagining returning to a life reliant on grocery stores anymore, and appreciating the food keeps us going through some of the hard times. Even if it doesn’t pay the bills or affect our health care costs, we eat damn well.

2 thoughts on “Fall farm food

  1. Frank,They're not available commercially. We currently list them through Seed Savers Exchange, where members can request heirloom seeds from each other. We've filled several requests this year, meaning we're no longer the only ones growing them in the US (along with Joanna's parents in Arkansas).There are various regulations regarding seed-selling in Missouri that we haven't quite untangled yet, and thus have not yet moved into seed sales. We'd be willing to share some to get your review, but you might as well wait until spring to get them from us, unless you really want to store them yourself. We've found that it works well to start these later than other tomatoes, since you want them just starting to ripen when frost comes. If they mature earlier, they won't compare with fresh tomatoes and you'll be adding time to their storage life. The ideal result when frost comes is a lot of green tomatoes with maybe the first flush of ripe ones.If you do want seed now, we can bring some to the pre-Thanksgiving market in two weeks, which we're tentatively hoping to sell at, weather-depending. Otherwise you won't go wrong getting seed from us in April.Email us at contactus at cherthollowfarm.com if you want to discuss more.