Monday, November 30, 2009

Flog; It's all about the food

Thanksgiving dinner this year was a special one. We spent the day gathered with friends, new and old of all agesThe food spoke for itself. All in all a lovely day.

I had made a commitment to try and use as much local food as possible. The idea was not to obsess about it but rather to come up with a list of possibilities and go from there. I'd say we hit 99%.

The turkey was from Jones family farm on Lopez Island. The star of the dinner was a ham I cured from one of our Mangalitsa hogs that we had recently slaughtered. This was my first attempt at making my own ham. It was awesome. The only thing I would do different next time is to inject brine into the center of the ham at the beginning to insure proper penetration to the center We also incoropated the bacon into several dishes including a cabbage/celeriac/fennel slaw with homemade aoili. For apps we made bacon wrapped water chestnuts broiled off in the wood fired oven as well as fresh local oysters on the half shell and enjoyed a large pickle platter from some of the items we had put up earlier in the season accompanied by hand made farmers cheese. For veg we had fresh Maple Rock Farm brussel's sprouts, broccoli and a fall forage salad mix with the last of our fresh tomatoes. One big hit was the onion pie. Made with copra onions from Orcas Farm, and also included some of the Mangalitsa smoked jowl bacon. I use a spring form to make this one so it stands tall. It's rich and delicious.

I think the best thing was to share all of this with friends and good cheer in an un-pretentious manner. Good friends, Good food, good times.

I bid you well,

Farmer John

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jowl Bacon And Split Pea Soup

It was a good day, starting with bisquits made with lardo, smoked jowl bacon and eggs. Nothing fancy right. Just some good ol southern influenced soul food. The jowl meat is truly off the chain. Side by side of the bacon it is really it's own thing. Similar to regular bacon but quite distinctive. It has a European name but I cannot recall what it is. It does'nt matter, It's just good.

Katie fired up a couple different soups for the day. The first was a classic french onion soup made with Coffelts Farm beef broth and onions grown on island by George Orser at Orcas Farm. The other soup was split pea made with the pork stock and ham hock. This is all what one my call peasant food which in m opinion is the best food on the planet. Unpretentious, authentic cooking using on hand, local ingredients. It's what I would call living close to the bone or what others would perhaps say as living high on the hog. Anyway you say it, it's all good. It is good to be alive.

We're pretty much in pork heaven here right now. I smoked the jowls and a litle bit of the bacon. I have a cheapo smoker but it works quite well. I used all alder wood just by using that as the wood for the fire. It's a bit heavy sometimes but good if you dont over do it. I took everything to 150 degrees. I'd like to try some fruit woods that may create a less intense smoke flavor. I aslo have the to be ham in a brine soultion. Another few days in the brine and then I'll lightly smoke it and finish it off in the oven. Looking forward to that. It's all fun. I'm a newbie in this department so its all experimentaion. It never hurts to have a chef as a friend. Thanks Geddes for all of your help and guidance. My cooking skills are getting kicked up a notch.

Today? rendering some of the leaf fat I think. I'll be using some of the lard to make pie dough for holiday pies. We're swimming in pumpkins, apples and all kinds of other fruits and berries that we put up earlier in the fall. I'll make a few pies and tarts and pop them in the freezer for later use.

I'm hoping to host a few farm to table dinners here this winter. Hopefully that will come to fruition so We can share some of the goodness with our customers. I'll keep you posted.

Keep well,

Farmer John

Friday, November 13, 2009

This Little Piggy Goes To Market

We slaughtered the first of our two mangalitsa hogs a couple weeks back. Very interesting to see how these "Wooly Pigs" differ from the regular swine we have raised in past years. The obvious difference is how much fat they have. The fatback on this guy was about two and a half inches thick! Wooly pigs are famous for their high quality fat and I was perhaps a bit sceptical in the beginning but after working with and tasting the meat I a convert.

Yesterday was spent smoking ham hocks and bones and making copious quantities of stock. I also proccessed the scrap into ground pork. This was the first real taste of the meat I have had. Highly impressive. Without question the best pork I've ever tasted. The flesh is such a beautiful red color and the texture reminded me of a sushi grade tuna. Just fabulous.

Geddes Martin from The Inn At Ship Bay dry cured the bellies and jowls for bacon. The flavor is exceptional. The bacon is mostly fat but it's different than any bacon you'll see at the market. It goes translucent as soon as it heats the pan. The flavor is clean and the taste again, is out of this world.

I also rendered a pan sized piece of fat and wound up with four pints of high quality lard. We had around six pounds of leaf lard. I have not rendered that yet but I can't wait to do so and of course we're going to try some whipped fat! I'm especially looking forward to bisquits made with the lardo and a big pot of split pea soup made with the stock from the smoked bones. The smell in our house right now is delightfully one of pork fat.

My chore for today is to de-bone a large fresh ham and get it into a brine solution to cure so we'll have a nice ham for thanksgiving. We always have a big crowd at thanksgiving. We always eat fresh and seasonal and this year will be extra special using the mangalitsa as a critical componet to many of our dishes.

Time to roll. Take care all.

Farmer John

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Winder Down

We are rapidly coming to a close here. We have just one more farmers market after today. We'll be about town selling when the weather permits and supplying the local restaraunts for the next six weeks or so and then it's a wrap for the year. Not that the work ever stops. People ask me all the time what I do in the down time. There is not much of a slow time these days! It's always something. January is a slower more contemplative time. Lots of planning for the upcoming season and soliciting custumers for our CSA begins. Keeping the cash flow up is priority # 1. CSA dollars are what allow us to continue bringing Orcas Island a wide selection of locally grown produce.

For now we're just trying to keep as much product flowing as possible. There is still an amazing bounty coming from the farm. Believe it or not we still have some lovely tomatoes. Never have I seen the quality continue this far into the season. It's awesome. It's helped pick up some slack on our failed crop of potatoes (bummer) It's not often we get skunked but it does happen. It's a classic example of why we are diverse in the crops we grow. Other things we are bringing to the table right now include cabbage, beets, celeriac, leeks, salad greens, braising greens, turnips, brussel's sprouts, broccoli, swiss chard, kale, collards radish's and celery. We have a handful of winter squash but it is mostly done. Wish we had planted more.

The days are becoming shorter and the weather can be challenging. Yesterday was a little rough. Not so much the weather but just tuckered out. Therefore it is getting light and I must go finish the market harvest this morning. Stay tuned. I'm a better blogger in the winter months than I am in the summer.

Keep well,

Farmer John