Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Kale Series, Recipe 5

Beans and Greens

**note that this recipe can be used with cabbage, kale, spinach, chard, braising greens etc

1 bunch kale
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 can kidney, pinto, or white beans
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 squeezed lemon
A pinch of sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
mixed herbs (parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary), just a pinch of each
1 small red onion, sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

1. Heat your olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add in your crushed garlic and sliced onion, sautee until soft, careful not to burn.
2. Add in the beans, and season with salt and pepper. Add in your 1/2 lemon, and your balsamic vinegar. Cook for a few minutes, until there is a nice integrated sauce going, then add in your kale.
3. Turn the heat down to low, and let the kale cook down a bit. Throw in your herbs, watching for the kale to be done (about a 1/3 size loss in properly cooked kale). Top with parmesan cheese.

I really like this as a side dish to rabbit, or a really great chicken salad sandwich. I also love this as a main course, served with pasta salad and another grilled veggie, or with a fritatta or omelette.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kale Series, Recipe 4

Herb-Brine Chicken Over Kale

Adapted from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

1 gallon water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 spring thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig oregano
 Pinch of parsley
2-4 leaves fresh Sage- crushed with a knife
3 cloves garlic, cut in half
 2 onions, sliced
3 tbsp black peppercorns, crushed
2 lemons, halved
1 Orange 
1/2 or 1 whole chicken
1 bunch kale
2 carrots
2 medium potatoes
1/2-1 stick UNSALTED butter
  1. Combine all the brine ingredients (everything but your carrots, potatoes, 1 onion and butter) in a large pot; squeeze the lemons and orange as they are added. Bring to a simmer over high heat to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until chilled.
  2. Add the chicken to the brine and weigh it down with a plate to keep it submerged. Allow to brine for 8 to 12 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse well, and dry with paper towels.
  4. Let the chicken come to room temperature for about an hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Chop your carrots and potatoes. Layer your kale on the bottom of a glass roasting dish-  you may want to spray with Pam or drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom. Then top the kale with the carrots and potatoes.
  7. Soften the butter, and spread it liberally underneath the skin of the chicken. (get a little messy, it's worth it). 
  8. Set your chicken on a roasting rack, then set the rack OVER the vegggies in the dish, so the chicken will season your veggies. 
  9. Set your chicken in the oven, and turn it down to 350ish (watch how it's cooking). Cook the meat until it is 160-165 degrees. 
  10. Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Kale Series, Recipe 3

Sausage and Kale Pizza Bread

1 pizza dough (either homemade or store bought, but not a rolled-out crust, the actual ball of dough)
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese
1 bunch kale
½ lb ground sausage or 2 links of sausage
2 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper
Pinch of basil (fresh or dried)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400
  2. In a medium size skillet, sautee the sausage. If using ground, break it up, if links- cut into slices or chunks. Add the two cloves of crushed garlic.
  3. Once the sausage is two thirds of the way cooked, add in your kale, cut or broken into bite-size pieces.
  4. Once the kale is wilted slightly, and the sausage is done, remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Roll out your dough into an oblong shape. Be cautious not to roll your dough too thin, as you will need to work it a bit.
  6. Spread your kale and sausage mix down the center of your dough. Sprinkle your salt, pepper and basil on top.
  7. Top the mix with the cheese.
  8. Slowly roll the dough and mix up (like a Stromboli or a little Debbie swiss cake), taking care to seal the ends of the dough so the kale/sausage goodness doesn’t leak out.
  9. Carefully shimmy your roll onto a baking sheet that has been dusted with cornmeal.
  10. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until your crust is golden brown.
  11. Slice and serve with a light marinara for dipping if desired. We eat this as a main course with salad and another veggie, or as an appetizer solo.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Kale Series, Recipe 2

15 Minute Kale and Veggie Soup
1 can tomato soup
2 cups of veggie or chicken stock
1 bunch kale
Your favorite soup veggies (frozen or fresh green beans, corn, mushrooms, carrots, onions, peas- we use any/all of these or whatever is around)
The dregs of that box of ziti or other small pasta, or 5 minute instant rice that's been sitting in your cup board for 3 years because it's not a full serving but you won't throw it out
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of chopped basil (fresh or dried)
pinch of chopped parsley  (fresh or dried)

Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan. Add in your selected frozen or fresh veggies, minus the kale. You should have about 11/2 cups veggies total for a hearty soup, a little less for a more carb-focused soup. Sautee them lightly with salt and pepper.

Pour in your can of tomato soup and your two cups of stock. Bring to a boil, and add in your pasta or rice. Turn down heat, and let pasta/rice simmer and cook through.

Once your pasta/rice is cooked through, add in your basil and parsley, and check the salt/pepper ratio. Add in your kale, usually I just tear it into smaller pieces. Let all of the flavors are mingle (about 3 minutes) and you're done!

This can be a great lunch, or a nice light dinner when served with a fresh salad and a slice of thick bread. Especially a homemade thick bread coated with a local chevre cheese...and drizzled with honey....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Kale Series, Recipe 1

Since many of our CSA members are new to the wonders of kale, we are going to do a recipe series on how we use kale as a main dish, a side dish, and a great addition to soups. We are hoping to do one recipe a day this week!

Lemon Kale and Rice

(4 servings)
2 cups cooked brown rice (we use the 5 minute kind b/c we are always running late)
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (apple cider vinegar or other fave will work fine too)
1 bunch kale

Cook your rice normally, set aside. We tend to cook our rice in veggie or chicken stock, starting with seasoned rice ensures a well seasoned final dish.

Add a generous portion of olive oil to a large skillet and heat on medium-high. Once heated, add 1/2 a squeezed lemon and the vinager.

Turn down the heat so that your oil isn't scorching hot,  and add in your kale. Toss the kale in the skillet, coating it thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper liberally. Once your kale starts to cook down to about 1/3 less then it started, add the rice. Turn off the heat completely. You don't want to totally wither the kale. Mix in the rice, and check to see if you need more salt and pepper.

That's it!

You can also add chopped garlic (about one clove) in the beginning when you are heating your oil, or red onions.

We like this dish as a side to steamed or grilled fish, or any chicken recipe you can think of!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The following blog post describes some aspects of  the butchering of both rabbits and chickens. Sensitive readers beware.

Usually when we tell people that we process both the chickens and the rabbits on our farm, we get one of two reactions. Either we hear "Ew, omg I can't believe that" horror-- or we get "whoa". I'm not going to pretend that when I first started butchering, I didn't kind of feel both of those things simultaneously. But it's part of life now, an act as crucial to the week as watering, planting, weeding.

But it never gets 'easy'. The skill, the rhythm, the actual steps required are habitual now. I know what needs to be done. I still know though, that I am setting up for a day of turning a living creature into food. I don't feel guilty exactly, because this is the reason I'm raising these animals. I know they've had a really high quality of life. It's more like a really solemn moment, each time, a recognition that the harvest involves blood, a moment of pain, and death- at my hand. I don't feel that's it wrong, I just feel the weight of the responsibility.

I often process alone, which can lend me to feel pressure to rush, keep it moving. Butchering is time-sensitive. It has to be done cleanly, and the meat must be cooled almost immediately. There is a lot of clean up involving gore, feathers, parts and fur. Usually, I have orders that must be filled- so there is a lot of pressure to get it all done. So I guess I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that the act of raising and butchering your own meat does change you. You can't ever think of meat the same way. I can't disconnect myself from where it comes from. Even if I never processed another chicken or rabbit again, I can't un-know how it turns into meal.

I'm glad for this, it helps us not waste any bit of meat that we grow or buy.

It's one of the most transformational aspects of farming.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

27 and counting....

After two weeks of deliveries, I'm finally feeling like we are finding rhythm in prep work for the CSA. We invested some of the share payments into some new equipment, including a rototiller that is doubling the speed at which I can get things done. There is absolutely still an enormous amount of work to do, and there is no time for dawdling- but I'm still happy with the progress and the streamlining that's happening.

I'm also really excited to have some company to help this weekend!! We have shareholders coming on Saturday, who work for a discount on their year's share, and then friends visiting later in the day. We had a surprise delivery of 300 bales of hay- which I'm kind of desperate to get under cover and in the barn ASAP. How does one have a surprise delivery of 300 bales? Well, when your father in law is a hobbyist hay farmer, sometimes he forgets to tell you he made you hay and shows up with a dump truck and trailer full, surprised you're not ready to stack it at 8:30pm. Problem of privilege, so we aren't complaining.

Today I'm doing a little butchering, just taking care of the orders I have for tomorrow. We want to deliver fresh chicken and rabbit both days this week, so I'm doing a limited batch since fresh won't keep until Saturdays delivery. I'm thrilled to say that everyone who has tried rabbit has absolutely loved it! We're upping the breeding here like crazy since the demand seems to be high. We've been battling a mysterious predator who has been stealing meat birds, so we making modifications to the tractors and leaving the radio on overnight. Maybe the music will make the chickens taste better, who knows!

We hope to pick up another lamb on Friday, I want to raise a good one for butchering. Kim's uncle is a farmer and is graciously helping us out with one of his Suffolk ewes, a breed twice the size of the girls we have now. It will be interesting to see how our two trouble makers make friends with the new lady, I'm hoping she gives them a run for their spoiled money. We are also going to be purchasing another Jacob ewe (like our Maybell) to raise for breeding. Maybell is going to be bred in August. Sheep are probably my favorite livestock, I find them hilarious, though meddlesome. Plus, I really love to eat lamb. IF all goes as planned, we might up the flock and offer specials for the CSA. We'll see though, I don't want us to over commit.

Yesterday was my first birthday on the farm. It means a lot to me to be starting 27 working full time for us, at a place we love. If you'd asked me at 24 if this was possible, I'd have said probably not. Glad to be proving myself wrong. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lost strangers, tricky hens, and rabbit kits

So, the first week of deliveries was certainly challenging, but also very rewarding. As with any first rounds, there were a few snags that will undoubtedly sort out a bit moving forward.

It took us longer than expected to pick, clean and pack all of the veggies. We need some additional infrastructure for prep, including a sink in the greenhouse and a hanging scale. We had a rabbit kindle Saturday morning. She is a first timer (named Barbara), and kicked two of her kits out of the nest. So when we went in for morning rounds, we had to resuscitate their tiny little bodies under heat lamps. She seems to be caring for them now, so we are keeping our fingers crossed. Mysteriously, her neighbor doe, bred on the same day has yet to kindle. I'm pretty confident she is bred, and won't be worried unless we don't see any kits after Wednesday (31 days).

Our polish hens (the ladies with large fancy feather hats) decided that on Friday, they would begin an annual molt. Which means they stopped laying eggs, and won't resume for several weeks. We had enough eggs to make the CSA orders, and bought in some more hens. But we've got to do all of their health checks now, and get everyone regulated to laying again. So we aren't offering eggs this week. This was unpredicted (it couldn't have really been expected honestly), and we're not thrilled. This afternoon I have to put off some planting in favor of boosting the size of the hen pen and adding some roosts. We're trying to reduce stress with the latest additions, and prevent any onset of illness amongst the flock.

Yesterday we spent some time trying to get our personal affairs in order- by this I mean cleaning our damn house which looked like we had been farming indoors and buying in the groceries we don't grow ourselves. After evening chores, we ate dinner and sat down to relax before 7pm for the first time in over two months. We were indulging in some missed tv episodes when Harper, one of our dogs started sounding the intruder alarm. We thought it was about a neighborhood wild turkey at first, but when I got up to shut the curtain and send the dog away from the window, there were two strangers on our porch.

We live literally right in the middle of a huge state park. Hiking trails surround us, and these two were horribly lost and ended up cutting through the farm access road through the hay fields to land right on our doorstep. They had been hiking since 1 that afternoon, and it was after 8. They had this war torn looking map which only trails on it, no local intersecting roads. After some quick google searching, we realized their cars were still over 10 miles away- in Massachusetts. We ended up giving them a ride back, it's way dangerous to hike for that long without the right supplies, in mountain lion territory, after dark. I'm sure we were a sight, in jammies, looking all kinds of worn out and in need of hair cuts. But they still seemed grateful.

Alright, back to outdoor work!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Meditation of a farmer before a meal

Once of my favorite parts of farming is the required presence of mind. Things that in modern society passed unnoticed or are determined unimportant have serious implications in my world. Of course, we've often discussed the weather- not just the drama of a storm- but the literal amount of inches of rainfall, the specific way in which the sun falls- matter.

The way in which a chicken clucks can tell you if they are frightened, or just merrily looking for treats. When the rooster crows, even if my eyes are still glued shut, I know that the sun is rising and that it's probably not raining. Todd crows later if it's cloudy. The slightest glimmer of yellow or brown on a leaf can indicate disease, bugs, or soil failures.

This presence of mind takes adjusting too, it can be overwhelming to require oneself to watch for, and listen to, just about everything. It carries over to just about every aspect of daily life.

Tonight, I didn't manage to get dinner until just a few minutes ago. I worked until about 6 on the farm, and then still needed to run some errands, including getting some materials we need (produce bags) for our first CSA delivery. By the time I got back, the hens were already roosting and the sheep were waiting to be gated in the barn. I spent a few minutes washing eggs for tomorrow's order while my dinner cooked. Kim is working late, and I was ravenous at this point, so I decided on fried eggs, a slice of bread with jam, and cheese. Nothing special, right? I disagree.

The eggs that I cracked were light brown, and from this I know they came from one of two buff colored hens. Only two girls we have lay that color, I've pulled the eggs still warm from underneath both. One egg had slight indents on it, which is why I didn't box it for the CSA. Those dents indicated to me that the hen had trouble passing the egg, so it's time to up their rations of fruits and veggies, easier now that the field is producing. The bread was made by my wife, warmed the house just yesterday, and was so delicious that this little half slice is all that was left. Though the flour wasn't some I milled-- I know the process of milling grain and I can smell the stones grinding.

And oh, that blackberry jam? That jam was squirreled away last summer, the berries were seconds too soft to sell at McEnroe Organics. I picked them during my time there, setting perfect pints on shelves in their farm stand while filling boxes of crushed, ugly, wet, and mouth watering bits in my truck. The cheese was store bought, but I still know that somewhere, a cow was milked and her fruits were cultured to the slices on my plate. I hope she is treated kindly, and scratched just at her tail base where cows like.

I don't waste food anymore. We cook only what we will eat, either immediately or before it spoils. Knowing the sweat, the time, the investment that food requires has required me to pay attention to each bite. This is why I farm, and it's also why we wanted to start the CSA. I want to share this presence, the details with others. I want others to feel the genuine appreciation you feel in a simple fried egg dinner.

Farming changes the overlooked moments of our world into an extraordinary story. Tomorrow, we start to share that story in our first delivery. I can't wait.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Knowing what you're made of

I never forget that I am privileged to work on our on farm, and that this is the first year of the rest of our time building our business. Unless something really dramatic happens, I work for us, and for our CSA members from now on. This is an amazing and fulfilling dream. It is everything I could hope for, and more than I could have ever believed possible.

But there is always a flip side. The dramatic weather changes, and the budgetary constrictions along with some necessary equipment choices that lean heavily on brute force can be really challenging. I'm really frustrated with the slowness of this spring, brought on by some impatience and crazy rain on a weekly basis- then drastic heat. I'm thrilled with the fact that we aren't stressing about droughts or water transport. But I'm not pleased with the amount of planting that had to be shuffled, we still are in fine shape, but I'm hitting a feverish pace to keep it up in the midst of the weather and impending deliveries. This isn't a plea for sympathy, I'm comfortable with the choices we've made, and the work we do. AND I love my job. It's just acknowledging that this isn't easy, or simple, and it's okay to hit a wall. It's what they call "character building", it forces you to remain calm and keep the season moving. There is no choice, and that is  good thing. The force of the season keeps you focused. Because it's going to happen whether you are ready or not.

I'm speaking tonight at the Roe Jan library in town, on a panel with other new young farmers. I'm excited, and hopeful it will give me a little perspective. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Chicken Story

We have had a number of inquiries about how much chicken two people need in a week, or how best to use the chicken. We thought we might share the journey of a chicken in our kitchen.

Let's assume we start with a whole, fresh chicken weighing about 6 lbs, which is actually on the small side for our farm.

1. First thing we would probably do is take the wings off the bird. The wings don't do anything really special when roasted, but turned into hot wings are amazing. We keep a zip lock bag in the freezer. Once that bag hits about 6 full wings, we know we have a dozen split wings (like you get in a bar) which is plenty for the two of us to pig out on.

2. I love to brine poultry. It keeps it super moist, and lets us experiment with all kinds of flavors. You can find all kind of recipes for brine online, we usually play around and add some herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary).

3. Once the chicken has been set in a brine- it becomes a roaster. Usually, we roast with a mix of carrots, potatoes, kale and onions directly underneath the roasting tray. That way- it's a full meal with a nice side salad. The recommended serving size for an adult of meat is about 1/3lb. We probably average closer to 1/2lb after a full day of farm work. Well, at least I do.

4. Once the chicken has cooled down a bit, we 'pick it'. This means, we clean a bunch of meat from the carcass. I usually set aside about 11/2cups for chicken salad for lunches the next day.  Curried chicken salad is a favorite on homemade bread. Of course, it can also be used as chicken for tacos or burritos, mixed in with rice and veggies etc. The rest is for soup.

5. Truth be told, I firmly believe the best stock doesn't come from an already cooked carcass. But, wasting isn't in the farmers nature, and the stock tastes pretty darn good. So, in a large pot, we set whatever is left from the roaster (picked meat aside) along with half an onion, salt, a bay leaf, maybe some herbs, and  couple cloves of garlic and let it slooooowlllly simmer covered in water for several hours, covered. Then we strain the stock, and leave enough out for a batch of soup (maybe 4 cups for a small batch). The rest is put into containers and stored for a rainy day.

6. Chicken soup. A good chicken soup can heal you, warm you up, and keep you going. In a later post, we will outline how to make an easy one.Usually, we make a batch up, and keep it in the fridge for lunches, or a quick snack on the go. 

This way, we usually get at least 4 meals from one bird, all of them different, and all of them delicious!