Your favorite family farm getaway just got more family friendly.Read More
It was 12 years ago when Kitty and I happened on to a fabulous restaurant in Palermo, Sicily and discovered the dish known as Pasta Ricci. Our waiter did not speak English and my Italian was quite limited. The best that I could determine is that it was pasta with seafood. However when my pasta arrived there was nothing discernible on it as seafood. It was actually quite nondescript. But oh, the taste! The next day we learned from our local driver that we had been eating pasta with sea urchins. I'm not sure that if I had known that at the time if I would have ordered it. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. I have been chasing that flavor ever since and have never met anyone that's ever heard of it that is until we met Jaime and Keith Bussell. The Bussells are guests that have been coming to our inn for several years. They are well traveled and very food savvy. Last year when I mentioned the pasta ricci, not only had they heard of it, they had recently prepared it. So imagine our surprise and delight when FedEx arrived with fresh uni and the Bussells showed up to prepare it for us. It was as wonderful as we remembered it in Sicily and perhaps even more so because of the thoughtfulness of our guest chefs.
Should you happen to travel to Sicily, I recommend that you search out this dish. If you happen to have access to fresh uni, I recommend you cook it for yourself. It's quite easy.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it until it tastes like the sea. Meanwhile lightly saute 3 - 4 cloves of chopped garlic with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes in a half cup of extra virgin olive oil. The garlic should be soft but not brown. Turn off the heat until the pasta is done. When the pasta is done, add it to the olive oil along with a 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the uni and toss well until the uni breaks up into a creamy and unctuous sauce. Serve immediately and do not add any cheese. Buon appetito!
BREAD! Can you think of a more universally loved component of a meal than bread? Italians love their focaccia and ciabatta, The French their baguettes and pain au levain, Indians their naan, Mexicans their tortillas and the list goes on and on. Bread finds its place at breakfast lunch and dinner.
It is believed that bread first appeared about 4000 years ago in Egypt and probably as a by-product of beer making. There is no shortage of metaphors and spiritual references to bread. In Hebrew texts God feeds his people with manna from heaven. Christians have Jesus as “the bread of life.” The word Bethlehem means “house of bread.” Our word companion is derived from a Latin phrase, “com pan” which translates to “bread with.” How comforting is it to break bread with a companion? Suffice it to say that bread plays a significant role in almost every culture and religion.
Many of you in Wahkiakum County remember the bread we sold for several years at the Puget Island Farmers Market. It got to the point where the production schedule conflicted with our Bed and Breakfast business which was our real “bread and butter” so to speak. The farm market hours conflicted with the most popular day and time that most of our guests check in. Although we have been absent from the market, we haven’t exactly been loafing. We have continued baking for our guests, for special orders and have even taught many of you how to bake bread at one of our cooking classes. During this time Don has continued to learn more about the art, craft and science of bread baking as a member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America. Visits to such luminary bakeries as ACME in Berkeley, TARTINE in San Francisco and KEN’S ARTISAN BAKERY in Portland have inspired us to try new recipes and techniques that challenge us to build a better loaf of bread.
All of this is just a long way of saying, “We’re back in the bread business.” But we are back with a new model because the scheduling conflict that caused us to leave the market still exists. So here is what we are proposing. As our schedule permits, we will make bread available for pick up after 3 PM on Tuesdays at The Inn At Crippen Creek Farm or at Skamokawa Resort if that is more convenient. We will notify you via email (you can subscribe to our newsletter on this page.) of our bread offerings and occasional specialty items (such as eggs, sausage and produce) for the following week. You can then email your order to email@example.com or phone us at 360-795-0585 no later than 3 p.m. Saturday to place your order. Rome was not built in a day and neither are our breads. Some of them take 3 days to build. That slow fermentation is where all the flavor comes from. We use flour from Shepherd's Grain, an alliance of local Pacific Northwest farms that are economically sustainable, Food Alliance certified and practice direct seed farming.
We are going to kick off our re-start with our newest creation, a French Country Levain. In France this would be known as a pain au levain. This hand crafted bread is naturally leavened with wild yeast and slowly fermented. So basically this is sourdough but that term is misleading because this dough is tangy, not sour so it pairs well with almost any meal. This slow natural method makes the bread more digestible, gives it a longer shelf life and a truly superior taste. This will be our only offering for the first month and we will expand our choices as your demands and the whims of the baker dictate. As we are a small batch bakery our quantities are limited so call early to place your order. What would you like to see us offer? Focaccia, ciabatta, baguettes, bagels, rye bread, cinnamon rolls?
It has been a really long time since we have blogged. Our last post ended on a dark note with the loss of our sheep but that’s not the reason for our long absence. The real reason is simply that I succumbed to the convenience of quick and easy Facebook postings. But recently some people reminded me that not everyone is on Facebook and that they actually miss reading the chronicles.
So with the start of a New Year, I resolve to post more frequently with interesting and useful content.So what has us so fired up? Quite simply…this: our wood-fired oven.
If you know anything about our passion for and history with bread and pizza baking, then you probably figured that at some point we would graduate to a wood-fired oven. It was in 1974, while living in Omaha that we baked our first pizza. A few beers had been consumed that evening but not so many as to prevent me from recalling the details of that venture. Our friend David Williamson was helping out and decided that we needed to throw the dough at the wall to see if it was ready (apparently he thought it was akin to that old adage about throwing pasta against the wall to see if it's ready).
Deeming that it was, we stretched the dough into a pan, topped it, put it in the oven and waited with bated breath, all the while consuming more beer. Twenty minutes later, the moment we had anxiously waited for arrived and we marveled with delight as I removed it from the oven.
Then, we watched in horror as it slipped off the pan and ended top side down on the floor!
By that time enough beer had been consumed to influence our judgment. We just scooped it up, put it back on the pan and figured that a few minutes in a hot oven would make everything ok. That night was the first step in my quest for a better pizza.
It has been a delicious journey as we have experimented with different formulas, different flours, pans, baking stones and a variety of oven tricks and gimmicks to simulate a professional pizza oven. For many years now we have served and enjoyed our Sicilian sheet pan pizza.
It’s not a NY thin crust nor a Chicago deep dish but more of a focaccia with traditional pizza sauce and toppings. Don’t get me wrong. We are not abandoning “old faithful.” She has fed us and our guests well over the years and brings comfort like a pair of old slippers. What makes this pizza great is its taste, texture and accessibility. This is the pizza that we teach in our Artisan Bread Baking Class so that anyone can have great pizza at home. But as the saying goes, "variety is the spice of life”.
And when the craving for a Neapolitan or NY slice comes on, with its crusty bottom and smoky charred blisters, nothing else will do. Unless you live in a town with purveyors of such pizza then you do it yourself or do without.
Visions of a backyard wood-fired brick oven have filled my head for years. It’s the Holy Grail for bread bakers. But the costs, the time to build it, not to mention a lack of building skills have made that vision just a pipe dream.
In a recent Google search for wood–fired ovens I stumbled across this beautiful wood-fired oven. A number of things intrigued me about it. I loved the design and stainless steel seems like a good thing in our rainy climate. It’s portable. I could move it to different areas on our property depending on the event. Seems like it would be a natural next to the bocce court.
We could possibly transport it to your yard for a catered pizza event. It’s made locally. We met with Todd Millar, the creator of the oven at his home and shop in Yacolt, WA. Todd is an amazingly talented and creative young man with a passion for excellence.
Not only does he produce wood ovens but espresso machines and wood roasted coffee beans. His coffee roasting earned him a write up in Saveur Magazine last year. Oh and did I mention his awesome barley wine?
And if that’s not enough, I would be remiss in not mentioning Todd’s after-sales support. That’s almost as important to me as a consumer as the product itself. It’s practically plug and play. The only assembly required was the stand and for that we are grateful to Ed and Theresa Videan (You can bet they have some serious pizza points in their account.)
And now the real work begins. We have to learn how to use the darn thing. It’s not just flipping a switch and turning the temperature up and down as we please. We have fired it up three times and realize there is a learning curve here. It’s very interactive. You can’t just throw a pizza in there and walk away from it. It requires frequent rotation and repositioning, a good exercise in mindfulness.
Now here’s the fun part and you are going to love this. We need to practice. Kitty and I cannot eat pizza every night and even if we could, it’s not practical to fire up the oven for just a couple of pizzas. So, we are recruiting volunteers. Volunteers that like to eat pizza and offer critical feed back.
Of course our disclaimer is that perfection is not guaranteed. We have had two events so far. We have received high marks for taste and quality but I have given myself low marks for pizza tossing, work flow and wood and heat management.
If you would like to be a Volunteer Pizza Critic, here’s what you need to do.
- Leave a comment here on our blog.. Tell us about your favorite pizza.
- If you have a Facebook account and have not already done so, “Like” our Inn At Crippen Creek Farm Page.
- Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line “Volunteer Pizza Critic”. Make sure you include your name and phone number and of course none of that information will be shared, sold or otherwise distributed.
We will run our tests in groups of 6-10 people for several weeks so get in on this before we get it mastered.
Meanwhile enjoy some pictures from our wood-fired adventures.
Another new skill to learn
Artichokes and mushrooms
Mushroom and Italian Sausage
Spinach and Pancetta
Pepperoni and onion
Pears and Gorgonzola
And it's not just for pizza and bread!
“It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.” That’s what the old timers told us when we first started farming 6 years ago. The matter in this case is losing livestock to predators. When arrived yesterday.
The day started like so many other days. We lingered over breakfast with our B&B guests, sharing stories of our adventures in farming. Ironically, we boasted of our luck about our minimal loss of livestock. There is always some sadness to finding a still-born lamb or losing a baby chick to a hawk but those are some of the givens that we fully expected would happen from time to time. We never even begrudged the idea of losing a chicken or two to a coyote as a “fair tax” for all the good they actually do, such as cleaning up carrion and controlling the population of smaller varmints such as moles, voles, and raccoons. A few years ago we did lose more than a chicken or two, not to a coyote or even a smaller varmint but to a couple of dogs that some irresponsible pet owner decided to get rid of by dumping them off at this end of the valley. If you have ever visited us, then you well know how free-ranging our chickens are. Our larger animals are in pastures “protected” by 8 joules of high tensile wire. We have often credited our low loss rate to the presence of our watchful German shepherd, Jessie.
While we visited with our guests, our son Mark, (aka Farm Boy) went about his morning chores. He fed and watered the chickens, milked the cow and subsequently processed the milk. After our guests had left, I was ready to help Mark with the project of the day…moving a large animal shelter into a pasture across the bridge. The sheep were grazing over there as well as Chuck Norris, our 7 month old calf that we recently separated from his mother Dottie, our Jersey cow. Mark immediately noticed something wrong with one of Chuck’s eyes. From a distance it looked like something was in his eye but a closer inspection revealed that his eyelid had been torn loose and was hanging in front of his eye. I will spare you any photographs today. Suffice it to say it was not a pretty sight. Standing in disbelief, we speculated about what could have happened, and then I turned my eyes to the sheep and counted only six. There should be ten. We looked in every corner of the pasture but our four baby lambs were nowhere to be found. We did find some wool on a low strand of barbed wire indicating that something had chased them under the fence. Kitty combed the adjacent woods looking for a carcass and some footprints from perhaps a coyote or a cougar, but could not discern anything more than hoof prints from elk and deer. Some neighboring farmers speculate that it was most likely a cougar. I guess that makes sense as a coyote most likely would have investigated the fence with his nose and received quite a jolt. A cougar on the other hand could easily have climbed a tree and dropped in. I also cannot imagine a coyote going up against a 400 pound steer but then what do I know? The answer will probably remain a mystery. The question now is how to prevent or at least minimize future loss. Soon, nine piglets will be reared in that pasture as well, so we have much to protect. Any suggestions from veteran farmers are welcome.
Farm Boy learns the art of making fresh pasta
Learn how to make ravioli
Learn how to cook pasta perfectly
Do you ever find yourself longing to put on a great dinner party but daunted by what it takes to pull it all together? Does the idea of baking fresh bread at home sound like a great idea only to find yourself mystified by the process? Perhaps you are already a great cook but are in need of some fresh ideas. Well, we think The Inn At Crippen Creek Farm has something to offer each of you. We offer classes and recipes in Italian Country Cooking that will wow your guests and amaze yourself at how easy they are to prepare. After one of our Artisan Bread Baking classes your home kitchen will smell like a world class bakery and you will never have to have soggy pizza again. Learn the secrets of great pasta and how to make the infamous "Sunday Gravy" even better than Carmella Soprano.
Click here for our schedule of cooking classes for 2012. We'll be adding more soon and are looking for suggestions from you. How about a class in Southern cooking and learn to make the best fried chicken ever? Or a charcuterie class and learn how to make fresh Italian Sausage, or cure bacon and pancetta? Get your own group together and we will customize a class for you. Meanwhile enjoy some pictures from our some of our classes.
Goat Cheese and Olives
Sunday Gravy, The Big Ragu
Artisan Bread Class
It was 13 years ago that Kitty stitched in needlepoint the first Christmas stocking for our family. This week she completed her seventh stocking. Each stocking has approximately 3000 stitches and countless hours. If that, in and of itself isn't amazing, consider that when she started that first stocking, Kitty was in a battle for her life against melanoma. It did not seem possible that she would ever complete the first stocking let alone seven of them and plans to start on one for our grandson Luca for next year. There will never be room for any coal in these stockings because they are already overflowing with love, hope and gratitude. We wish each of you the happiest of holidays and a New Year filled with the gifts that truly matter.
"Only the pure of heart can make good soup."
Is there anything more comforting on these frigid days than a bowl of piping hot soup? It's probably fair to say that whatever soup I happen to be eating is my favorite soup of that moment. But truly at the top of my list has to be French Onion Soup. We have had several requests for the recipe after posting a picture of it on Facebook, so here is my favorite version from a book called Taste by David Rosengarten.
The best we have ever enjoyed in a restaurant was at The French Cafe in Omaha, Nebraska.
FRENCH ONION SOUP GRATINEE
Makes 2 servings
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds of yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin
Large pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of beef stock
½ cup of dry white wine
Cheesecloth bag containing 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 12 parsley sprigs, 8 peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf
6 slices day-old crusty French baguette (enough to cover the surface of each soup bowl), cut 1 inch thick
1 large clove garlic, halved
½ cup finely minced onion
2-3 tablespoons of cognac or brandy
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1. Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over moderately low heat. Add the onions, and toss them with the sugar. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until soft. Uncover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
2. Add the flour, and cook, stirring for 30-60 seconds. Add the stock, wine, cheesecloth bag, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, partially covered, skimming off fat occasionally, for 40 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange the slices of bread on a baking sheet; brush both sides with melted butter, season with salt and pepper and bake, turning once, for 15 minutes, or until golden and firm. Rub each slice with the cut garlic.
4. Transfer the soup to individual oven proof crocks, each 4-5 inches across the top. Stir the minced onion and cognac into each crock, dividing evenly. Cover the soup with bread slices, fitting 3 slices into each crock so they cover as much of the surface as possible. Lay the slices of Gruyere over each crock, letting the cheese hang over the sides of the crocks. Sprinkle with grated cheese and drizzle with a little melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
5. Run the crocks under a preheated broiler until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Bon appetit!
“Summer is kind of like the ultimate one-night stand: hot as hell, totally thrilling, and gone before you know it.”
At first it seemed that summer would never arrive here in the Northwest. The rain was relentless leaving us with a muddy garden that was too wet to plant. It was June before we could get anything in the ground and it had all the makings of a green tomato year. We finally managed to get two hoop houses up and Kitty worked diligently to get our hot weather crops and watering system in while I cobbled together some raised beds for the outer garden. While folks in the East and South suffered oppressive heat, we were teased with only 2-3 days in a row of sunshine only to have the rain return for several days. It was August before any semblance of summer actually arrived. Here it is fall already and lo and behold we are harvesting our best garden crops since we moved here. Tomatoes are actually ripening and they are some of the best we have ever tasted. Bell peppers have always been difficult to grow here even in a hoop house and this year they are prolific and huge. It looked like the eggplant was never going to produce and now it’s all we can do to keep up with it. Here's a photographic look at this year's bounty. We will devote the next few postings to sharing ideas and recipes for using our bounty.
So how did your garden grow and what preservation tips do you have to share?
My obsession with cherry pie began 3 years ago when a neighbor let us pick cherries from his Montmorency cherry tree. He said that he didn’t like these cherries, but he sure seemed to like them when they were transformed into a pie. I also discovered after 36 years of marriage that cherry pie is Kitty’s favorite. Why is the husband always the last to know? It was that same year that I also discovered a “foolproof” pie dough recipe. Until then, I shied away from making pies because of my frustration with rolling out pie dough, even though a well made pie is one of my favorite desserts and breakfasts.
So life is looking pretty good now. I have a neighbor with a flourishing cherry tree, I have overcome my fear of pie dough and I have a way to score extra points with my wife (and I need all that I can get---one “ah shit” wipes out a hundred “atta boys.”)
Cherry Season 2010
Fast forward to the 2010 cherry season. It was only the year before that life seemed like a bowl of cherries but this year I found myself in the pits. My neighbor’s tree failed to produce as did many of the fruit trees that year. I could not find anyone else in the area with a pie cherry tree and there were no cherries available from the local markets. I am suddenly acting like a junkie looking for his next fix as I set out on a quest to find pie cherries. Internet searches for nearby orchards proved futile. Finally out of desperation I enlisted the help of my faithful friends on Facebook. It suddenly seemed like a race to see who would be first to find these elusive cherries. “Ask and you shall receive” is what the Bible says and within a week I found myself awash in pie cherries. Friends, Pat Herrington and Sherry Booth called me from a farmer’s market in Portland saying that found two flats of pie cherries....”do you want them?” “Is the pope Catholic? Of course---just tell me where to meet you,” I replied. “Don’t bother---we’ll drive them out to you,” Pat says. That’s an offer I can’t refuse. So I jump on Facebook, announce the “winner” of the race and thank everyone for their efforts. Ten minutes later, the phone rings and Jane Robinson says that she just picked up some pie cherries for us in Hood River. Apparently Jane isn’t obsessively checking Facebook every few minutes for updates. Kitty met her halfway and returned with 25 lbs. of cherries so you know what our work was for the rest of that day. But it was all worth it to have a little more than a pie a month in the freezer.
Cherry Season 2011
The extended rainy season, the absence of summer, and taking up the slack while Kitty recovers from surgery put cherries far from my mind. However, the phone rings, and Pat and Sherry are there making a preemptive strike. “Hey Don,” Pat says, “we are at the cherry festival in Hood River, how much do you want?” After calculating my work load, I figured that 20 lbs. sounds good. The next day, 20 lbs of cherries delivered to my front door. Those cherries are now stemmed, pitted and frozen for this years' pies. I hesitate to even say this but I just might need another 10 lbs for good measure.
Where’s the recipe already? Hang on—I’m getting to that. I have taunted my Facebook friends over the last year with pictures of pie and ice cream but you can thank recent guest, new found friend and inveterate food blogger, Penny Klett for inspiring me to finally post the recipe. Penny recently honored us with a blog posting called Up On Crippen Creek. Her blog is a real candy store for foodies. Penny recently posted a recipe for Sweet Cherry Pie and made mention of the fact that when she was here, she failed to get my recipe for Sour Cherry Pie and Buttermilk Ice Cream and that my friends is how this post came to be. So without further ado, here is the recipe for Cherry Pie and Buttermilk Ice Cream.
This recipe is adapted from THE AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN FAMILY COOKBOOK. The recipe call for cornstarch as the thickener but I use a product called Instant Clear Gel. That was a tip given to me by a former professional pie baker, Dana Gerstlauer who used to own and operate PIE IN THE SKY in Portland, Oregon. Dana, who is a frequent guest at Crippen Creek swears by Instant Clear Gel and so far I have to agree with her.
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup cornstarch*
6 cups of fresh sour cherries
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon of almond extract
1 recipe of Foolproof pie dough
1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 500°. Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the cherries and almond extract. Spread the filling in the unbaked pie crust bottom.
2. Top with a second pie crust or weave lattice strips over the top for a classic look. Seal and crimp the edges. Lightly brush the top with water and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the top.
3. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425°. Bake until the top is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet, reduce the oven temperature again to 375°, and continue to bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is a deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes, longer. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before serving.
FOOLPROOF PIE CRUST
The secret to this "foolproof" pie dough is vodka. One of the problems that I have always had with pie crust is that the minimal amount of water called for made it difficult to roll out the dough without it splitting. Apparently, adding more water develops the gluten and makes for a tough pie crust. According to COOK'S ILLUSTRATED, adding an equal amount of vodka to the water allows you to double your liquid without the gluten building qualities of just using water. Hence, you end up with a more pliable dough that is easy to roll and as flaky as you would hope for.
I use a combination of butter and lard unless I am making it for a vegetarian and then I use shortening. I recommend Spectrum Shortening as it contains no trans fats. It's difficult to find lard today that has not been hydrogenated but we render our own so that's not a problem here.
• 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon table salt
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
• 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces*
• 1/4 cup cold vodka
• 1/4 cup cold water
1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.
BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM
I found this recipe on one of my other favorite food blogs called SMITTEN KITTEN.
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 to 12 large egg yolks (I used 6)
2 cups buttermilk
pinch of salt
1/2 a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
Bring the cream and 1 cup of the sugar to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat (if you’re using the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the cream while it heats as well.)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.
After the cream comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and dribble a small amount into the egg yolks, whisking them constantly, to temper. Continue slowly adding the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Once everything is incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan where you heated the cream.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain into a bowl and mix in the 2 cups of buttermilk (and the vanilla extract if you are using that instead of the vanilla bean.) Cool this mixture completely, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Makes about 2 quarts.
A Pie for Breakfast Fan
OK pie lovers, we'd like to hear from you. Do you have a tip you would like to share with our readers for pie crusts? What is your fat of choice? How about your thickener of choice....cornstarch, flour, tapioca? Are you a fan of pie for breakfast? We are thinking about hosting a pie for breakfast event here at Crippen Creek. If we bake it, will you come? If you post your comments on the blog and/or share this post on Facebook, we will put your name on the Pie for Breakfast invitation list.
I started my morning chores as usual, feeding the chickens and checking the pregnant ewes to see if any of them were going into labor when I heard the distinctive bleating of a baby lamb, "ma...ma.." As I walked through the sheep pasture, I first noticed a still-born baby lamb and then followed the sound of the bleating "ma...ma.." If there is a more plaintive wail than this sound, I don't know what it is. This sweet little lamb became separated from the flock and was actually outside the pasture fence.
I reunited it with its mother but was surprised to see that she seemed disinterested in her offspring. This soon became a community event as Kitty, our guests and our neighbor Andrew Emlen got involved in the bonding process. It's very convenient having the breeder be your neighbor. I guess the idea that it takes a village to raise a child applies to the four-legged variety as well.
Most of that day was spent trying to force a bond between mother and child. We had to forcibly hold the mother(Abrila) still so that the baby(Abba) could nurse. After several attempts at this throughout the day, we decided to pen Abrila and Abba up in very close quarters so that when Abrila stood to eat, the baby could nurse. This seemed to be working well so after a few days we released them to the open pastures thinking the bonding had taken. Not so! Everytime baby (Abba) tried to nurse, mom would just walk away. OK, back to the close quarters drill for more forced bonding. Three more days...release....but no go.
A little help from some friends
Abrila seemed very reluctant to be a mother. We realized that forced feeding or bottle feeding for the next several weeks simply was not going to be a sustainable venture. Then the phone rang. It was Andrew with a bright idea of grafting Abba to one of his ewes (that had just lost twins in a complicated birth). We coated Abba with afterbirth from one of the dead lambs and then turned him over to the bewildered mother, Megan. Megan just happens to be Abba's grandmother. She immediately began to sniff him, lick him and treat him as her very own. Andrew reports that the foster relationship is going well and that Abba can return to Crippen Creek after he is weaned in several weeks.
A reluctant mother
Another attempt at bonding
Grandma Megan to the rescue
A couple days later, it was Andrew's turn to call us for some assistance in birthing a lamb. Actually, it is unusual for this breed (Black Welsh Mountain Sheep) to need human intervention in lambing but from time to time it does become necessary. So Kitty and I and one of our guests headed over to Alcyon Farm to help contain the pregnant ewe while Andrew delivered the lamb. Don't worry if you are a guest at Crippen Creek...you only have to get involved in the farming if you want to.
Over 2 hours in labor and not making much progress
It's a special privilege to witness and assist a birth
Mother and baby are doing fine
Now back to Crippen Creek Farm. As Kitty and I were headed out to Portland yesterday, we noticed one of the ewes was missing. So we headed into the pasture to find our missing ewe huddled down in a hut with twin lambs that she had birthed during the night. All seemed to be well until later in the day we noticed that one of the lambs was walking kind of funny. She was walking on the knuckles of her rear legs instead of on the hooves. So today Andrew and I put splints on her and are just hoping for the best. One more pregnant ewe to go here. Wish us luck.
Mama is concerned that Farm Boy is a little too close to her babies
"It's at the end of nowhere and at the beginning of paradise."
Home Smoked Bacon
Col. Kilgore (Apocalypse Now) may love the smell of napalm in the morning but I prefer the smell of bacon. And I don’t mean the smell from a squad room full of cops. I’m talking about the smell of bacon frying in a cast iron skillet. (It’s ok for me to make that joke---I was one.) The pleasure is even greater with the knowledge that you have cured and smoked it yourself and raised the pig that provided it. While most of you reading this are not in a position to raise your own pig, we can help you out with that task, but that’s a discussion for another time. In the meantime, get down to your local butcher and get a nice piece of pork belly and let’s get started.
Here’s a recipe and method from The Paley’s Place Cookbook
3-5 pounds fresh pork belly skinned
1 teaspoon curing salt (optional)
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup ground bay leaves
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt
To cure the meat, place the pork belly in a nonreactive storage container and rub thoroughly all over with curing salt. Rub the top surface of the belly with half the pepper, half the bay, half the sugar, and half the salt. Turn the belly over and repeat with the remaining pepper, bay, sugar, and salt.
Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 days. Turn the belly over, cover, and refrigerate for 3 more days. Remove the meat and pat it dry with paper towels. Discard the curing liquid that has formed in the container. At this point, the bacon is ready to use as is or to smoke.
When the curing was done, I couldn’t wait to try it so I fried some up and found it just a little too salty for my taste so I submerged it in a container of cold water and refrigerated it overnight. I tried it again the next day and was very pleased with the result. The salt balance was perfect.
Then I smoked it for 5 hours using apple wood until the pork belly reached an internal temperature of 150 degrees. The taste and texture was amazing although I think the next time I will probably reduce the smoking time to 3 hours. Don’t hesitate to try this. It really is easy. Once you’ve tried it though, you may never settle for store-bought bacon again.
Fresh Pork Belly
Out of the fire
And into the frying pan
A couple of farm-fresh eggs to complete the experience
Have you ever done your own meat curing? Would you share your experiences with the rest of us? Since we just got our pig back from the butcher we will be venturing into more charcuterie so look for a posting soon on home cured pancetta.
I was returning to the barn with the tractor, Jessie trotting along side and was shocked to see the pasture gate wide open and five of the sheep were out. I panicked a little fearing that Jessie would give chase and the sheep would scatter to parts unknown and never seen again. Jessie's herding instincts kicked in and she immediately started driving the sheep back to their rightful place. As soon as one was in the pasture she turned around and went after another one and had them all back in less than 5 minutes. So three cheers for Jessie!
Jessie and her flock
Patty, a farmer's daughter, is daydreaming as she walks to town with a pail of milk balanced on her head. Her thoughts: "The milk in this pail will provide me with cream, which I will make into butter, which I will sell in the market, and buy a dozen eggs, which will hatch into chickens, which will lay more eggs, and soon I shall have a large poultry yard. I'll sell some of the fowls and buy myself a handsome new gown and go to the fair, and when the young fellows try to make love to me, I'll toss my head and pass them by." At that moment, Patty tossed her head and lost the pailful of milk. Her mother admonished, "Do not count your chickens before they are hatched."
"So where am I going with this?" you ask. Several weeks ago I made a post about Turkeys that I received in the mail. I ordered 6 and received 11 of them surmising that the hatchery planned a high mortality rate. When they arrived they all looked like baby chicks although the 5 extra ones were a different color. I'm thinking this is a great windfall if they all survive. Well so far they have all survived and are thriving. They are all out of the brooder and on pasture. However the six that I ordered actually look like turkeys and the five extras are Rhode Island Red Roosters. What I have learned is that those roosters were sent along as sort of "packing peanuts" to keep the turkeys warm. I've tried separating the roosters from the turkeys by putting them in the chicken yard with the laying hens but they are having none of that. They insist on finding their way back to the Turkey yard and so there they will stay until Thanksgiving.
Eleven Turkeys? arrive in the mail
These are definitely turkeys
Hmmm, what's wrong with this picture?
Pesto Genovese ready for the freezer
Eggplant with more still coming on
First picking of Romano Beans
A mere handful of Haricot Vert
Tomato plants loaded with green tomatoes
One ripe heirloom tomato
We are still holding out hope for the tomatoes to ripen but it's a race against time as we are feeling fall in the air.
We failed again in growing garlic. I'm sure my Sicilian grandfather is rolling in his grave.
How about you? How has your garden fared this year?