Essex Farm Note
Week 36, 2016
The harvest wagon is stacked high with heavy, red-ripe tomatoes today. This is probably the climax of tomato season. The drizzle and humidity we had this week will accelerate the growth of the various blights and viruses that creep up the vines and put an end to production, so, think about winter and how good those red jars will look on your pantry shelf, and take many many tomatoes home for sauce, salsa, frozen whole tomatoes, or whatever form of preservation your inner squirrel desires.
Speaking of the inner squirrel, it’s a putting-up week in the farmhouse kitchen. I have a quart of our favorite fermented hot sauce already in the refrigerator. (Recipe below.) This is a big heat, big flavor cayenne ferment, but the heat fades during storage, so by spring it will be fairly mild. Tomorrow, I’m going to take advantage of the confluence of daikon, napa cabbage, cayenne and scallions in the share to make a good supply of kimchi. (If you are looking for an easy kimchi tutorial, the kitchn.com has a good one.) Basil is peaking now, so if there is any left over after distro I will blend it with garlic, salt and oil, freeze it in ice cube trays, then pop it into ziplocks to store in the freezer. I’ll do the same with cilantro. This year I have to remember to label the ziplocks so I don’t land in Italy when I’m aiming for Mexico. No matter how much basil and cilantro I freeze in this way, it’s never enough.
The big fall harvests for winter storage have begun. Garlic has been in for a few weeks and is drying; this week, the onions began to come in. Onions are a multi-step harvest. First they are pulled and partially dried in windrows in the field, then gathered into large bins, brought to the barn, and spread in a single layer in the hot, dry loft. Later, when they are thoroughly dry and we are less busy, they will be cleaned by hand, roots and tops removed, and then bagged and stored in the basement. We still have humongous carrot, beet, cabbage, winter squash, and potato harvests to look forward to, along with the bountiful usual.
The close-to-calving cows are beginning to get that look: sunken around the tail head, tight in the udder. It feels like ages since we’ve had a doe-eyed, spindly-legged baby in the barn, and I’m looking forward to it. Ben & co. made some spectacularly beautiful second cut hay this week, so the cows and the calves will be well-fed this winter.
We are so happy to have Barbara Kunzi back in the dairy after her 4,000 mile cross-country bicycle journey. Welcome home, Barbara. In other bike news, Mark and Jane left on Wednesday for their annual birthday adventure. This year, they’re biking to grandma’s house, 330 miles round trip, which sounds extreme until you think about Barbara. Don’t forget the Essex Farm Institute Public Forum, Resilient Farms, Resilient Communities, is taking place this coming Monday, August 29th, with special guest Anthony Flaccavento, author of Building A Healthy Economy From the Bottom Up. Dinner available from 5-6:15, the event starts at 6:30 and is free. That’s the news from Essex Farm for this tomato-red 36th week of 2016.
–Kristin & Mark Kimball
Fermented Chili Sauce
(in the style of Sriracaha)
Before I started chopping chilis I looked at a bunch of recipes and read the section on fermented hot sauce in Sandor Katz’s fermento-nerd text, The Art of Fermentation. This is what I did, and I really love how it turned out – with complex flavors to go with the big heat. Feel free to vary it as you please.
1 lb cayenne peppers, stems removed but green caps left on, roughly chopped. For less heat, remove seeds and ribs.
2 to 5 cloves garlic, according to taste, peeled
scant tablespoon sea salt (or to taste, or about 2% of the weight of the combined peppers and garlic)
a splash of sauerkraut brine or other brine from a naturally lacto-fermented product will speed up the fermentation process but is not strictly necessary
Place all the ingredients in a mason jar and blend with an immersion blender, being extremely careful to avoid fumes and splatter. (If you don’t have an immersion blender you can do it in a blender or food processor, then transfer to a mason jar.) Cover the jar with a clean cloth or an air lock cap (not an airtight cap – the fermentation will release gasses that need to escape) and leave out of direct sun at room temperature until it has fermented to your liking, which, for me, was 4 days. After the first day, stir it once or twice a day to prevent mold from forming. Transfer to a clean lidded glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. It should keep several months.