Friday, November 28, 2008

5 Milkers, and We're Ready For Cheese !!

As of today we are milking 5 cows ( Wizard, YooHoo, Hershey, Boffo, and Bosco), with 2 more to come ( Timothy and Roxie) . So now that the cow part is pretty much under control, we're on to cheesemaking.
The cheese room cleanup is, of course, much more intense than the barn. The room is scrubbed from the ceiling and walls right down to the floor. All of the moulds, presses, buckets and various cheesemaking paraphernalia are washed and sanitized. Right now, it seems insurmountable, but somehow, it always gets done. Thursday will be our 1st "make". The first batch might be a bit short, but on a normal day, we set about 1000 pounds of milk, and end up with about 140 pounds of cheese.
I'll write more about the process along with pictures as our season progresses.
But for now, on with our new season!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter Chores

I have been walking down the hill from the house to the barn every morning and every evening for chores during these dark winter days for the past 28 years. I have to tell you, I'm amazed by that statement. But its true. And, probably most amazing, is how much I still love it. It's so familiar. Every step I take in the barn is a known step. We are the ones who have worn the steps from the stable to the milk room. Even after a summer of not milking, I embrace the continuity of it. The cows calving, the milking, the haying, the sound of the milk pump the sweet smells of the barn. It really is a wonderful way to begin and end each day.
As of today, we are milking two cows, Yoohoo and Bosco. Bosco had a really beautiful heifer named Bingo, Yoohoo had a bull ( cute, but still a bull). Here's a picture of Bingo:
Milking two cows is like priming the pump. We get back in the swing of things, but slowly
Three more are due right off. Then we're on to cheese.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


I love fresh pasta. It really makes any dish special. Simple stir fries, tomato sauces, anywhere noodles are used. And,it's really easy.... all you need is some flour, salt and eggs.
A well is made in the flour and the eggs are added to it. Here I used 9 yolks and 4 whole eggs. I know it seems like a lot, but there are so many wonderful meals that can be made from it.

I like to mix up a big batch, for ravioli, and roll the extra pasta into sheets. When the sheets are fairly dry, I roll them up and put in a plastic bag to be used as needed. From this batch I got 10 dozen raviolis , and a meal of pasta with a tomato sauce.

When our nieces, Isabel and Lily were visiting this summer, we cut the sheets of rolled dough into thick noodles.

They only need to boil for about 2 minutes. We put butter and cheese on it.
Another thing we do is to make lots of ravioli for freezing for a quick meal in the middle of the winter on a day where we need something fast and wonderful.

For these ravioli, we made a filling of sauteed onion and chard mixed with ricotta. But really, any filling is wonderful!!

They will be boiled for about 6 minutes, and tossed with sage butter.
The sheets of dough can also be lasagna noodles, or cut small for soups...
really, there is nothing like fresh pasta!

My recipe for pasta is:

9 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
3 cups white flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 tsp. salt
* note on the flours: I never really know how much I use, I keep adding it to the dough until it is workable
Mix flours and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add eggs and yolks. With a fork beat the eggs, slowly incorporating the flour. As the eggs absorb the flour you might need to add more flour. When the dough is formed, turn onto a floured work surface and knead ( adding more flour as necessary to keep it from sticking) into a smooth ball.
Put dough in a clean bowl and cover for an hour or so.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Pantry

A vegetable garden is truly amazing. In the winter, we pour over seed brochures , imagining all those succulent tastes. Next comes the greenhouse, truly an act of faith that each seed will indeed grow into tasty veggie. The time between setting the vegetables out and the first taste seems interminable . Finally, we bite into a still warm tomato the wonderful taste just exploding in our mouths.
Then comes the canning, drying, salsa making and freezing. Really, the glory of the garden is in the pantry. I stand in the door of the pantry and marvel over our hard and seemingly endless work. The rows of canned whole tomatoes, tomato puree, fire roasted salsa, dried tomatoes. The jams we made from our own strawberries and raspberries. The jars of peaches.. not our own, but canned fresh. And the freezer full of frozen corn, and peas. Bags of swiss chard, and eggplant parm.
All beckoning us to keep enjoying our garden with wonderful winter meals.

Monday, November 10, 2008

storing root veggies for winter

Our basement/ cold storage area is starting to look mighty fine. The potatoes are easy, we just dig them, let them dry off a bit ( turning once after a few hours), and pack them into boxes. Onions need to be pulled and cured on screens in the greenhouse, then put into boxes. Carrots are a little more involved, but we eat huge amounts of them all through the winter. Grated for our winter salad of carrots, red cabbage, cave aged cheese and dried cranberries.. we never buy lettuce from some far away place when we can just walk into the basement! The dogs also love their carrots. They each get a carrot for dessert every night.
To harvest carrots, they are pulled and the tops taken off with just a few inches of the green left on. They are allowed to air dry, and turned after a few hours. If just left in a box in the basement they'd sog out really fast. We've tried to store them in sand, sawdust, and hay. But the sure winner for us has been dried maple leaves.The carrots are layered with the leaves in containers.
Using these storage methods, we get firm potatoes, onions and carrots right until early summer.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Fall Chores

Fall tilling is a time for reflections. What we could and should have done differently this year, and what will be different next year. The beauty of the garden, is that there is always another year. And though every year is so different than anyone before it, the structure of the seasons are the frame in which the different seasons flow. Every year certain events happen at the same time, yet, every year is so different. I think this as I sit on my tractor, looking out over the fields, and the pastures where the cows continue to graze, even though we are into November.
I reflect on the garden, and all the rain we had this past summer. Surely, we wont have another year like that, but of course, next year could be so dry we ache for just a bit of that rain. This year was fairly cool, few of those hot days where even a breeze feels like a furnace. It's the finality of the seasons and the knowledge that soon we will be pouring over the seed catalogs that makes gardening so wonderful.
The cows will be off the pastures soon, and it will be too cold to till, and mow. But, for now, for this brief moment, it is warm enough to get our outside chores done.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Family Feast

I love winter eating. Gone are the easy meals of running out to the garden for a handful of basil, some heirloom tomatoes, a quick saute, and there is a fabulous meal. These days speak to slower, more deliberate meals. This past weekend my folks, aunts and uncles came for the first of our truly short day meals.After a beautiful antipasto plate ( and some Campari) , we had a small bowl of winter vegetable soup.

For the main dish, I had been thinking of a wonderful tart of slow cooked onions, some wilted chard and some roasted red peppers, and a sprinkling of our cave aged cheese. Afraid it might be too sweet, I made a dried tomato tapenade with some garlic, black olives and olive oil and spread it on the bottom of the tart to cut the sweetness and add some saltiness. It was wonderful, although I think next time, instead of phyllo dough, I'll use my own pie crust . A salad of fresh picked lettuce, and home made bread completed the meal. My dad made a wonderful apple tart for desert. He pre baked ( his own) pie crust, made an applesauce for the bottom, and beautifully cut apples on top, then baked it.
The warmth of family, and a wonderful meal....

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Snow !!

This Was our world on Oct. 29th, as our summer world came to a screeching halt. Last week we were bringing truckloads of produce to market, and now, nothing. It happens every year but not always with such a vengeance. The snow slowly melted, but what a glimpse into what is just around the corner! So, we did the best thing we could think of, we made soup.
Just a basic, throw everything in the pot soup. I picked leeks, potatoes, carrots, chard and parsley out of the garden. Got some onions from the basement, and corn from the freezer. Plumped up some dried Jacob Cattle beans and, viola, a wonderful winter soup. The soup, some fresh bread and butter, and all is well with the world.