About Joanna

Joanna manages many behind-the-scenes aspects of work on the farm, taking primary responsibility for vegetables & other cultivated plants; she selects varieties, develops and implements the planting plan, monitors and identifies problems, and saves seed. She also takes charge of recordkeeping, database management, scheduling, technical aspects of web development, and accounting. A geologist by training, Joanna enjoys landscape exploration in various forms, including hiking, canoeing, and nature observation, especially bird watching. She also enjoys cooking and eating really good food.

Cooking with kid: Sauerbraten with shoulder #2

Editor’s note: This was written in late winter, but delayed due to various circumstances. The next post in this series will be a new, current one and hopefully the series stays up to date from now on.

In honor of my German heritage, I decided that sauerbraten should be in my cooking repertoire, as I enjoy it when prepared by Eric. So, in spite of my plan to minimize “meat and potatoes” meals in this series, I decided to embrace and feature that combination…this time. Why? For a culturally complete meal, I wanted to serve the sauerbraten with potato pancakes, another German specialty that I make routinely. Our dwindling storage potato supply suggested that I either make this now or wait until July, the earliest more potatoes could be ready for harvest. Sauerbraten in July doesn’t sound as appealing, so I opted to prioritize this as a nice winter meal.

Although my parents have handwritten recipes for sauerbraten from my grandmother, I simply went for our cookbook shelf and took guidance from the recipe in Mimi Sheraton’s The German Cookbook, our favorite resource for traditional German cooking. I followed the recipe moderately closely, though of course it calls for beef rather than goat. What matters is the braising theme, and the basic components of this technique are quickly becoming familiar: brown the meat, saute some aromatics, add some liquid, put it all together, and slow cook. The twists here are that sauerbraten starts with a specific marinade, and final preparations include making gravy.

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Cooking with kid: Shoulder #1, dry vs. moist heat

After a bit of an interlude due to some travel and other distractions, I’m returning to the (goat) kid cooking series. Readers who are in tune with seasonal eating will quickly notice that the meals described here happened some time ago, back when storage onions were still in good condition, and prior to the season when we’ve started eating greenery from the fields again. This piece and the next (which will go up in a few days) describe late winter meals featuring Crystal’s front shoulders. The remainder of the kid is still happily in the freezer, and I intend to resume kid cooking (and timely blogging) quite soon.

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Mercuri Winter Keeper Tomato

The Mercuri Winter Keeper Tomato is a rare and worthwhile variety of heirloom tomato that produces fruit with outstanding storage characteristics. The flavor can’t compete with a summer tomato, but we’re less picky in December, January, February, and sometimes beyond.

We acquired the seed through the family of one of Eric’s college friends, and we offer seeds through Seed Savers Exchange. Here’s the listing that we wrote for the Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook:

indet., potato leaf, winter-keeping variety, disease-resistant plants yield abundant golf-ball size yellow-orange fruits, store easily to December, an occasional tomato has persisted until the following summer, will ripen in storage if picked green; traditionally stored by hanging clusters of tomatoes, though side-by-side storage of individual fruits on shelves works well; preserved by Italian immigrant communities in Toronto, Ontario, seeds passed from renée I.A. mercuri; grown in Missouri since 2006

Members of the Seed Savers Exchange can request seeds from us for a small fee. We’re pleased that other members who have requested seed have liked the tomato enough to also offer seed that they’ve grown though the Yearbook, thus helping to make this wonderful tomato more available to others.

Planting date: Getting the planting date right can be a little tricky, as the goal is to have a big pulse of tomatoes ripening before frost, but not too long before frost (because that just means a longer storage time until they’ll be eaten). Relatively mature green tomatoes will ripen (but we’ve had more trouble saving seeds from tomatoes picked green). For the moment, we’ve settled on starting the seeds in late April/early May, followed by transplanting in early to mid June.

Growing: The plants are robust, and they’ve stood up well to some extreme insults. We often relegate them to less desirable growing areas, both to isolate them from other tomatoes for seed saving purposes, and because we know they can handle rougher conditions than most plants. One year, a bout of inattentiveness (that we attribute to a family visit) meant the plants were almost entirely defoliated by hordes of hornworms. Impressively, the plants managed to recuperate enough to still yield tomatoes by frost.

Harvest: We start harvesting when a meaningful number of fruits have turned yellow/orange. Our current preferred method is to lay these out side by side on plastic shelving with holes (to encourage air circulation) in a part of the house that stays cool-ish (50ºFs-60ºFs). If we can’t get to this task immediately, we’ll temporarily store them in a bin that has holes to allow air circulation; a solid container is just asking for mold & rot. We harvest periodically leading up to frost, and when a killing frost is looming, we’ll take (more or less) everything remaining, green or ripe.

In the kitchen: We’ve developed a liking for green Mercuri tomatoes over other green tomatoes; we think their firmness and tartness results in especially delicious fried green tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes can certainly be eaten on salads and such for those who want “fresh” winter tomatoes. We often prefer roasting them for a nice sauce.

Cooking with kid: Heart and tongue

We consider heart and tongue to be delicacies. I don’t remember ever encountering these on a plate before we started raising and eating our own animals, but I had no problem learning to love them. Both are muscles, and don’t convey the strong innard-y smells and flavors that challenge my quest to love liver. However, as very specialized muscles, their textures differ from each other and those of other muscles, and so certain preparations are preferable.

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The photos above show the tongue and heart of the goat kid featured in this series. For the preparations described here, I also used the heart and tongue of a second kid that we butchered on the same day.

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Midland Brown Snake

Perhaps our most commonly encountered snake, Midland Browns are often present in the mulched beds of our produce growing areas. midland_brown