Monday, October 4, 2010

Tomato management

Oh the jewels of summer! I think now would be a good time to talk a bit about tomato wrangling.  Here at knife & fork I have set as a goal the preservation of excess product in the harvest months for use in the dark days of winter.  After having been through one particularly bleak winter here in the mountains I can tell you how rewarding it is to be able to put your perfect ripe tomatoes in a rich winter stew and feel all that sunshine from the summer warming your insides as you watch the snow fall.  Last summer and fall I canned 750 pounds of tomatoes and that lasted until new year's eve at the restaurant for all my needs.  This year the tomatoes have been more abundant than last and I have gotten a bit more aggressive.  My goal this year has been to put up 2000 pounds of tomatoes and i believe that I am almost there.  It has been my routine most mondays since july to spend a few hours here at the shop, on our one day that we are closed, and can one to two hundred pounds of tomatoes. 

 I used as many methods as possible to achieve as much as possible in the least time so that I could get home to put my feet up on the porch or maybe do a little grilling.  I would blanch and peel many of the paste tomatoes.  I had romas, san marzano, amish paste and ox hearts as the main varieties.  While I had my peeling operation going I would also have a pot on with a couple of onions lots of garlic and about forty pounds of tomatoes whole with skins and cores and all.  I would let this cook down a bit and then use a stick blender to puree the whole batch so that I could can sauce as well as whole tomatoes in their own juice.
 After all the blanching and shocking in ice water and peeling is done and the whole tomatoes are in the pressure canner I would combine the blanching water and the ice water and reduce this to one quarter of its original volume and have delectable tomato juice that could also go into jars.
 What was left was usually put into the dehydrator for easy dry storage in ziploc bags.  I found it easy enough to chip away at my goal for the summer in this way so that in three or four hours I had put up around 200 pounds of product with no standing around or waiting for a batch to come out of the canner. Then I experienced a bit of a quantum leap when I got a bunch of half gallon jars and a fifteen gallon pot that my parents found at a yard sale for $25!  Then i was able to can 9 half gallon jars and eight quarts at the same time.
 Another great breakthrough was the restoration of a great root cellar on my father in laws land.  It had be used to store gas and tillers and whatnot for fifteen or so years and we cleaned it out and insulated the ceiling, sealed the cinderblock walls inside and laid a concreete floor.  Then we added some shelving and all it needed then was jars!
 Here is the inside and the start of my tomato collection.
After all the snow that we received last year and all the fun of dragging supplies on sleds up the mountain when our subaru could not get up, I am excited to be so prepared should I be snowbound again this year. Bring it on winter!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The last tidbits of lamb

 Ok. Like I said before this one pretty much cooks itself.  Here I am making nice vertical slices of all the veggies, letting their color and form shine.  Then I cube the eggplant.  This is my preferred way to treat eggplant whether I am sauteing or roasting it.  It's texture comes through in velvety perfection.  Isn't it great to be surrounded by so many colors and textures! to be alive and involved? 
 The grill is hot. The lamb has been massaged with an herb oil that contains dill, rosemary, parsley, basil, lemon and garlic.  Once placed on the grill's hottest spot I like to place fresh thyme around the chops to impart a subtle smoke to the meat as it cooks.  I allow approximately one minute, then rotate 90 degrees, one minute more.  This gives the lovely cross grill marks.  Then i flip the meat and repeat the process.  For the final step I set the meat up on end for about one minute more. During this step I rub sumac berries in a sieve to release their fragrant pollen onto the meat.  This assures that the bones in the chop are hot and conducting their heat through the morsel.  Then the meat needs to rest off the grill for about four minutes which gives an ideal opportunity to work on the vegetables.....
 Applying the sumac to the lamb.
 These lovely veg need about a tablespoon of olive oil and a hot pan for just long enough to add color marry the flavors of the oil, garlic, and onion to the peppers and eggplant.  Then toss in a handful of fresh basil leaves and turn onto a plate.
 Then the lamb goes on top. I had some lamb stock on hand and I deglazed the veggie pan with it allowing it to reduce a bit and poured it over the lamb.  The smells and sounds here are amazing. I really need to incorporate video and scratch and sniff!
And here is the final centerfold piece.  Robin and Tammy are so patient to shoot it from every possible angle and on several tables before they dig in.  I just got another lamb in from Gaelan yesterday and i can't wait to try some new things out with it but this was truly delicious.

Monday, September 13, 2010

more details on a really simple recipe

Great scenes from an August harvest.  Again I really have to emphasize my jealousy of Nicole and Gaelan and their office on days like this.  The mornings and nights are cool and the days are perfect.  It is so easy to be inspired and so easy to know just what to do with these veggies.  The answer seems always to preserve their natural beauty.  Not too much fuss just cut them a few times to make them more fork-manageable but not enough to diminish their shape. These amazing sweet peppers actually taste different where they are green and where they are red so I like to cut strips that have red fading into green. Man, people all really need to grow their own food.  We all need a little more work in our lives and a little less convenience.  I think this would be a good way to fight american obesity and get people to move away from congested city centers and search for land.  I don't want to make all this seem too simple or give you the impression that I have all the answers. I do not.  I can cook and I can work hard and these two things have been a catalyst of great joy and a decent chip in a barter based local economy.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the lamb....

The air and the light are subtly changing as we begin to round the slow curve into fall. The colors and textures of onions and garlic curing in the top of the green toe barn make me think of every fall i've ever been through and the excitement and energy in the air. i have been in a mad rush to put up tomatoes and potatoes for the winter. Not to mention keeping tabs on firewood and household repairs that need to be done before the roof is covered in snow. And while that is still a good ways off it must remain on my mind.....
This session at the farm was easy to plan as on each visit all the ingredients seemed to jump out at me. Onions, garlic, eggplant, sweet peppers, basil, and LAMB! I love getting lamb from Gaelan because I know what a luxurious life they have had. Sunny southeast pastures and lovely grass and fresh water all abundant. After eating so much of what this farm has to offer I feel that I could pick out their products in a blind taste test. The terroir is very evident and delicious.
This recipe almost made itself. I massaged a fresh basil and garlic paste onto two lamb chops and grilled them rare while I sauteed garlic, onion, pepper, and diced eggplant in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, salt,pepper, thyme and a splash of fresh lemon. Turn the sautee out onto a plate and top with a few fresh basil leaves and mount the chops on top and then drizzle a reduction of lamb stock over the whole! Fantastic!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

4 the pig hot sauce recipe

The hot sauce is real easy.
Just take one cup of sugar and two cups of apple cider vinegar and put them in a sauce pan. Add four cloves peeled garlic, one tablespoon salt, and ten mixed hot peppers. I used czech black, cayenne, poblano, jalapeno, and hidalgos. Then add two sweet peppers that are red. Bell peppers will work but I had jimmy nardello peppers and sweet red pimiento peppers. Bring all this to a boil and allow to simmer about thirty minutes or until all the peppers are soft. Then blend. I use a stick blender but you could use any other blender just make sure to follow maximum hot liquid recommendations as to not have caustic hot liquid explode in you face or all over the walls of your kitchen. This sauce will keep in the fridge in a jar for months but i usually don't have the chance to find out.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

So, without digressing into just the details of all the mad fun that we had at this last fourth of july roast, let me get into some details. When feeding a frenzied, hot, and tipsy crowd of revelers a roast pig make sure to have around one pound of animal per person. This includes bone weight and in this case pepperoni weighed in at about 140 with the three chickens and the organs and herbs.
It is of the utmost import that the fire is vigilently tended and maintained. The most quoted internal temperature for a fully cooked, pullable whole pig is 200 degrees F. This took us a full nine hours and to keep people from pulling too much skin off before she was done there was a giant, mostly vegetarian potluck buffet about an hour before the pig was done. This was a most capital idea. Also we had endless entertainment including the tunes and general MC talents of DJ Abbot and after dinner we had live music where I got to beat on the drums a bit and of course, fireworks, a fashion show, and lots of dancing. I long to do this again. If you were not there you really missed out.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the adventure continues

The setting of the outdoor pit could not have been better as I think these pictures illustrate. There were about 125 people there and everyone was helping with something. As you all may know if you build a fire and there are other people around the men will assemble and discuss the merits of proper firebuilding. Well imagine what happens when you stuff a pig with chickens and herbs and stand by it for 9 hours. Usually people would come, scrutinize and decided the pig needed some action so we would spin her. But then they would leave and I would be alone again with pepperoni. Jay Bolemon and Sally James did a good job of hanging out and taking it all in. There was lots of wine. Then the farm olympics began. I lost in a scuffle hoe contest against Joe, but he has a lot more practice than I do. Finally Gaelan and I hauled the pig over to the serving table and everyone dove in. There were hot corn tortillas and pickled jalapenos and some people just walking around with huge hunks of meat in their hands. It was greasy and barbaric. Then I took a huge bite out of the heart. It was the best meat I had ever tasted in my life. The world was spinning and I was in love and in the sun. Then the music began.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The amazing july fourth pig roast

This amazing day started with a stout coffee and a 7:30am drive with my friend Tyler. We cruised along the south toe river's bends and pulled into the grounds of green toe. We were greeted by a crew of men that had been handling the details of the pig slaughter and cleaning. Pepperoni was peacefully laying in the back of Gaelan's truck wrapped in a clean plastic tarp. Fresh meat is such an amazing thing. No odors or questionable things to deal with. Using a good seven foot length of pipe and some bailing wire we prepared the pig for the spit. I had brought three fresh chickens from my friends Amos and Kaci Nidiffer in Elk Park and a half bushel of fresh thyme from Kelly Rothe. The heart, liver and kidneys of the pig had been saved as well. I placed the chickens, the organs , thyme and salt and pepper in the cavity of pepperoni then wound her all around with the bailing wire and we carried the whole package over to the fire and set her up about four feet over the fire. Then we jumped into the river!
The shot of salt and pepper and a mason jar labeled "4 the pig" leaning on the fire logs is a simple testament to minimalism. All the real work was done before we started cooking. Other than the ridiculous and glorious fact that we stuffed animals into another animal all we needed was salt and pepper and my homemade 7 pepper sauce made special 4 the pig. And of that I had made only two quarts that I occasionally dribbled on the upward facing portion of the roast throughout the nine-hour process. Not much active time here but a whole lot of great fireside chats with beautiful friends old and new. Here's a video by Jeff Goodman on proper saucing.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So for this recipe I wanted to keep it simple crisp and fresh. I sliced some cucumber and tossed it with sauteed baby carrots, onions, garlic, and fresh italian parsley. Then I added some rich chicken stock. Then I garnished the vegetables with that amazing chicken from amos that I was talking about.

I am finally sitting down in august to write about june. These times go by mighty fast.I have had several thoughts of bringing the computer into the kitchen with me but last week I put my japanese water stone in front of my cutting board for days and I still could not find or make time to sharpen my two point-less knives that the whole staff shares at the knife & fork. This season has been abundant. Last year I arrived in burnsville at the beginning of june and last summer was cool and wet. This year has been so different. Hot and dry with intermittent showers for three day spells have brought thick, ripe and sultry vegetables. I mean this is the stuff you would tell your grandchildren; "...I picked peaches the size of babyheads and all the cars ran on syrup....." . Utopian. It has been dificult to keep up with the garden. And, I don't do it alone. My brother-in-law has upkept the two garden spots we have and it is an overwhelming job. This is still a small concern compared to green toe ground. They have sixteen acres and have a hand in it all.
It is easy to be influenced at the farm. The pics I have shown you of cucumbers and carrots all come together so well with the help of an amazing chicken from amos nidiffer at trosly farm.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Carrots and cucumbers!

It is more exciting every time that I come here to Green Toe Ground. I have been harassing Gaelan about all the things i see.... "hey those fennel look ready! Can i have those cukes? You're growing parsley right?"
I know that I am jumping the gun but it is just so amazing to be surrounded with all this amazing growth. I have a few problems with patience. just a few. Anyway, its cucumber time and the sweet thin sugarsnax carrots have turned into brilliant subterranean icicles and I want them, in my mouth in my kitchen on your plate. God help Gaelan when the tomatoes start to ripen. You will soon see pics of me rolling on the earth smashing tomatoes into my eyeballs!

I really can't relate how much fun it is to pull your inspiration from the earth. It makes me breathe easier. It is my reason for being on this planet. I have been guided at times gently and at other times not so gently to this point my entire life. Divine providence is such a handy motivator! Thanks Nicole and Gaelan! It is wonderful that so many hard working craftsmen would dedicate their lives to an effort that betters so many other lives. This is the new selflessness that still can stand up to and hold hands with objectivist epistemology. We create our own eden in defiance of the blatant wholesale destruction of the rest of the world by those who solicit our trust and dollars. Am I ranting?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Junes promising bounty

So we find ourselves in the glory of June! My birthmonth! There is so much happening on the farm that I find myself constantly jealous of my farming brethren who get to spend their days out of doors fondling all these beautiful plants. I love the time that I do get to spend on Green Toe Ground with them and I always get a fun task ... like sheep herding.

I find it amazing that the sheep talk to you and come to you unless you need them to. As soon as they sense that you are indeed herding them they rebel. This was my first experience and my friends had no end of laughter for my involvement and my enthusiasm. Overall, amazing way to start the day. I had to put my coffee down but it didn't get knocked over!