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More sausage

The time has come to make another batch of sausages.  We’re sticking with the hits – Hot Italian, Bratwurst, and Maple Breakfast.  The recipes come from friend and meat magician Dave V, and Dave and I make the sausages ourselves from our own pork and other high-quality ingredients.  I’ve been making it a point to taste sausages from other farms and meat processors, and I have yet to find anything that compares to ours.  And I’m not biased, or anything.  Sausages will be available for pickup this Monday, so please place your order as usual through the website.

In the veg department, pickings are getting slim.  Basically….. it’s beets!  Plenty of beets to go around, with the Cylindra having held up especially well in storage.  As for carrots, this is REALLY the last week.  Whatever’s left at the end of the day on Monday are going in the private stash.

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Still, snow

Spring is here!  Wait… spring is here??  Could have fooled me.  May not be much more snow in the forecast, but there’s too much on the ground for my liking.  Even with all the melting, there’s still too much snow in the pasture behind the barn for us to get out and fix the electric fence.  Looks like the cows will be cooped up for a little while longer.

I think it was two years ago that we had an incredibly mild winter, almost no snow.  I was out in the fields on the tractor in the last week of March, turning the soil.  This year, we’ll still have snow on the ground in April, and who knows when the ground will firm up enough for tillage.  The good news is that our first leeks and onions are sprouting in the greenhouse.  Let’s hope for some heat so that we can get a home ready for them in the garden.

As long as winter intends to stick around for at least another week, you may as well do some more roasting and braising.  We have several different cuts of beef and pork that would be great in the oven or crock-pot.

We should have some carrots this week, but the supply may be limited.  Either way this will be the last week for carrots, still just $0.75 / lb on account of their rough outside appearance.  Also, note that pickup will be at the Brigham Hill Community Barn FROM 3PM TO 6PM through the end of April.

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Human cost

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I read a very impactful piece of reporting last night, and I am ashamed that my eyes are only now opened to this particular dark side of modern agriculture.  The series of stories in the LA Times was about the workers who pick and pack the produce grown on giant corporate farms in Mexico.  The long and short of it is that these people are horribly taken advantage of – minimal pay (often withheld until the end of their contract), company stores that leave many workers in debt, poor living conditions, child labor.  These people are working on farms that export their goods to the USA.  To Walmart.  To Subway.  One bit of irony that hit me pretty hard was the fact that US concern for food safety has meant that these farms have state-of-the-art greenhouses and packing facilities.  And yet the field workers live in squalid camps.

Clearly, this isn’t OK.  I don’t know what the answer is – if we stopped importing produce from giant farms in Mexico, the supermarket shelves would be bare of fresh produce at many times of the year.  I don’t think that the local farming infrastructure could really pick up the slack in production anyway.  And the fact is that we live in a fast-food culture.  As an American, it’s hard to completely step outside of the agri-industrial complex that rules our food system.  Maybe it’s time to focus on Fair Trade being just as important as organic.  Why isn’t there such a thing as a Fair Trade organic tomato?

It strikes me that a lot of emphasis is placed on food animal welfare in the local food “scene”.  We decry the fact that beef cows must live in horrible conditions as they are fattened in the feedlot.  And, god forbid, pigs might live in barns, on slatted floors, above their own manure.  These are not good things – it’s not good for the animals, and it’s not the way to produce high-quality nutritious meats. And we recognize that the decision as a society to invest in factory farming bears environmental and even cultural costs.  But what about the human cost, the social cost?  We yearn to see cows on pretty green pastures, pigs rooting in the dirt, but what of the workers?  Where is the concern for the people who picked that “ripe” tomato found on shelves year-round at the supermarket?

Well, isn’t that a cheery way to start your weekend….

You can read a short summary of the LA Times story from Harvest Public Media.  Or read the entire four-part series here.

Back here in Grafton, we are finally reaching the end of carrot season.  We still have plenty left to sell, for now, but they are starting to show their age.  Still great for soups.  And horses.  75 cents / lb.  The beets and celeriac have held up incredibly well.  Tons of beets left, but we nearing the end of our celeriac supply.  Anyone have a good borscht recipe?

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February homegrown dinner

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Made dinner last weekend, looked at the plate, and realized that everything was home-grown. Even at the end of February.  Skillet pork chops, oven-steamed balsamic beets, mashed celeriac and carrots, sauerkraut.  For the beets, I used one very large Cylindra beet that yielded dinner for two with plenty of leftovers for a cold beet salad.  Seems to me that the Cylindra beets take a bit longer to soften up, and are even good with just a bit of crunch left to them.  Great flavor.  If crazy big long beets aren’t your thing, the Detroit Dark Red round beets will do just as well.

Nothing fancy, not more than two or three ingredients per dish.  But so good.  And it’s taken me longer to write this than to actually do all the cooking.

Do the beets first, then the chops so you can just turn down the heat in the oven when the beets finish.

Oven-steamed Balsamic Beets:  Heat oven to 450F.  Peel and chop beets.  Place beets into some kind of baking dish that can be covered.  Add salt, pepper, a few tablespoons of olive oil,  and a lot of balsamic vinegar.  Add enough vinegar to get to the point where you think to yourself, “Man, I think that’s too much vinegar.”  Cover the beets and bake until tender, about 45 minutes.  Stir them around a couple of times during baking.

Mashed Celeriac and Carrots:  Peel and chop 1 medium celeriac and 3 large carrots, so that you have about equal amounts of each.  Bring a pot of slated water to a boil, add chopped roots, cook until tender.  Pour out the water and then mash roots with a couple tablespoons of butter (or a few, but several might be overdoing it), and enough milk (or cream, or half and half) to get the consostency you want.

Perfect Pork Chops: Heat oven to 350F. Liberally salt and pepper both sides of a couple of chops. Really, don’t be shy with the salt. In a hot skillet, sear one side of the chops for 1 minute. Flip them over, and sear the other side for another minute. Put about a teaspoon of coconut oil on top of each and finish them in the oven for 6 minutes. Remove from oven, move to plate or platter, and let them rest for 5 minutes.