Essex Farm Note
Week 38, 2015
If you’re looking for me this time of year, try the kitchen first. The air is cool, the kids are in school, and there are so many good ingredients to play with. The kitchen is where I rest my brain after a few hours of trying to stick words together in a pretty, coherent way. Turns out I think more clearly with a knife in my hand. This week, I toggled back and forth between the butcher block and my computer, chopping produce, chopping sentences, repeat, repeat. My major culinary accomplishment was putting up a huge load of tomatoes. Those vines have kept producing long past my dire predictions. As you all know by now, I like to aim for the sweet spot where easy and delicious intersect. So my new favorite method for getting tomatoes up goes like this: Fill two big hotel pans with halved paste tomatoes and roast them in a moderate oven until they are just soft and beginning to release a little water, about 10 to 15 minutes. Then pop each pan under the broiler for a few minutes, until the surfaces begin to bubble and char. Then run them through a food mill or other device (I use the strainer attachment on my kitchenaid) to remove skins and the seeds, leaving any water in the pans. The charring adds a nice layer of flavor to the sauce without added effort, and the result can be canned or frozen, or boiled down to make a thicker sauce.
Outside, we had another unseasonably mild, unusually dry week, great for haymaking and field work, but not so good for the late-season grasses. The pastures are looking a little burned out, and we’re not getting the usual re-growth that helps power the grazing animals through fall and into winter. So it goes. No season is perfect for everything, and we have plenty of hay in the barn now, even if we have to begin feeding it earlier than usual. In the vegetable world, it has been an incomparable year for eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli and peppers, and pretty darn great for raspberries, but largely a failure for cucumbers, watermelon and cantaloupe. Sweet corn was delicious while we had it, but it didn’t last as long as we’d hoped. The field corn looks fantastic, but we can’t officially count it a win until it is dry, harvested and in the bin. Same thing with the popcorn, which must dry to a very precise 13.5% moisture in order to optimize its popping ability. Longtime members will probably recall the years in which we missed that mark, and had to make due with the half-popped stuff that Colin Wells dubbed Iffy Pop.
In other news, congratulations to Racey and Nathan at Reber Rock Farm on their marriage, formalized today. I remember watching the first sparks fly between them when they met in our milkhouse several years ago. Meanwhile, we are still waiting for the first calves to arrive in the dairy herd, but we’re beginning to see some tight udders and softening around the tail head, which are signs that calves will be here soon. Huge thanks to Patagonia for the great Worn Wear event last week! And to Poco Mas Tacos for the food, Plowman’s Lunch for the music, and to everyone who attended, for bringing the fun. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this hot hot hot 38th week of 2015.
-Kristin & Mark Kimball