Category Archives: Local Agriculture

Apricot Jam

I was so excited to make a small batch of apricot jam for the first time. I used the recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, since I know it’s a safe source for recipes backed by tons of scientific testing. These jars are destined to fill some Christmas cookies this year! Maybe I’ll try these Finnish Stars, but I’ll probably just make our family favorite apricot cookies.

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Three Horse Hitch

Sharing my photo and the story that I wrote to go with it, in honor of the beautiful wedding procession today!

Three horse hitch, 1998

I took this photo for my photography class in the fall of my senior year. Back then, I spent all day Saturday and Sunday at the farm, as I had since I was a small child. I did everything- put pumpkins in rows, waited on customers, stocked the big pile of sweet corn. By senior year I spent all day in the kitchen baking apple and pumpkin pies.

As I cut wheat designs in the crust, I’d gaze out the upstairs kitchen window to keep an eye out for our beautiful dapple gray Percherons coming back with the hayride. I’d sprint down the stairs, grab the cash drawer and tell my grandmother whether the next buzzer was to rotate the pies or take them out. I would help load the wagon, quickly making change for families. Rides were $2 a person back then so the math was easy. Then I’d get a few minutes to visit with Bob, Bill and Vinny, and of course my Dad, before heading back in to wash my hands and keep baking, with a quick eye roll at my mom’s “pumpkin lady” vest and jewelry as she waited on customers in the stifling greenhouse with a big smile.

As it got later in the day I would be able to slow down baking and could even go on the hayride. Sometimes I would just relax and enjoy the ride, and sometimes I would get to drive. I learned to drive the horses when I was in fifth grade, but they knew the route well and could probably have done just fine without me holding the reins.

When the customers finally left we could close up the store while my dad cleaned up the horses, and then have a little fun running around on top of the hay maze (though you’re not supposed to do that). We would go to a fair or a movie, knowing that I’d be back in the kitchen at 8:00 the next morning. In late October we would get ready for the Haunted Hayride and work until late at night. We had more fun in the woods than the people did on the rides.

It was hard work, and I didn’t appreciate then that I could pick and eat as many apples as I wanted, and I didn’t like the bees around when we made cider, and I sometimes wished I could do nothing on weekends like some of my friends. Looking back now, I’m happy I had all those experiences. Like parenthood, the days are long but the years were short. We do our best now to give our boys similar experiences.

When you go visit your local family farm this year, remember you are visiting that family’s home. They pour their hearts and souls, blood, sweat and tears into welcoming your family and giving them a good time. Enjoy yourselves on a hayride, picking apples, loading a wagon with pumpkins and grab a pie while you’re there. And for heaven’s sake, don’t complain about the price of pumpkins.

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Sampling the Maple Syrup

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Maple Syrup Season

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Yankee Maple Sugar Apple Pie

After taking a few years off from entering any of my pies in the local fair, I decided it was time to get back to it. I entered the State Two Crusted Apple Pie Contest, because I figured go big or go home! The rules stated that you could have other flavors added in as long as it was predominantly apple, so I decided to mix it up a bit so that my pie would stand out to the judges. I chose to develop a recipe using maple syrup and maple sugar because it’s a little bit different but still a traditional apple pie. I did a few trials, with feedback from my parents, brothers and sister in law (who are all apple connoisseurs) and my mother in law (who used to win all the baking contests and then became a judge at the fair). I also had my husband and picky kids as enthusiastic testers! I loved all the constructive criticism they gave me, because that made the pie so much better. My goals were to have a flaky, buttery crust that was golden brown and cooked well on the bottom, and tender, juicy (but not too juicy) flavorful apples. I pulled out all my tricks and got a delicious pie!

Crust

  • 3 cups flour
  • 12 Tbsp cold butter
  • 1/3 cup cold shortening
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6-8 Tbsp ice water

1. In a food processor, combine all ingredients except water and pulse until the butter is the size of small peas.

2. With the food processor running, pour in the water one tablespoon at a time until it forms into a ball.

3. Separate the dough in half, form into disks, wrap in plastic and place in the fridge while you prepare the filling.

Filling

  • 6 large apples, Cortland and McIntosh, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup maple sugar (granulated)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup flour

Other ingredients for putting it all together

  • 3 Tbsp butter, softened and divided
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water added
  • 2 Tbsp maple sugar (granulated)

Make the pie!

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and remove the dough from the refrigerator.

2. Grease a 10″ pie pan with 1 Tbsp of the softened butter. This is one of my tricks to get a nicely browned bottom crust.

3. Combine all the filling ingredients in a big bowl.

4. Roll out the bottom crust and place it in the pan. Pile in the filling, leaving behind some of the juices that accumulate in the bowl so it’s not too runny. Pile it high! I like a lot of apples.

5. Dot the top of the apples with the remaining 2 Tbsp of softened butter.

6. Roll out the top crust and place it on top. Crimp the edges and cut a hole in the middle for a vent. In my family’s farm market, we carve designs into the tops of the pies so we can tell them apart. The apple design is three sheaves of wheat, and I find it’s impossible for me to make an apple pie without that design on top! That’s how I know it’s apple!

7. Brush on the egg wash and sprinkle on the maple sugar. Place on a sheet pan lined with foil or parchment to catch the drips, and place it in the middle of the oven.

8. Bake for an hour, then move the pie to the bottom rack for 10 minutes to finish cooking the bottom crust. Finally, move it to the top rack to nicely brown the top for about 10 minutes. It’s done when the filling bubbles out and the crust is golden brown.

9. Let the pie cool for at least an hour before slicing so it’s not too runny. Or go ahead and eat it if you can’t wait! Serve with a couple slices or sharp cheddar cheese, or vanilla ice cream on top.

So after all that work, I got second place at my local fair. I was busy (I do have a job and three kids) and only baked one instead of doing a back up pie, and I got a huge crack in the crust! I lost points on the appearance, and ended up losing by one point! My pie scored highest for crust, flavor and texture though! Lesson learned, bake two and enter the prettier one. And eat the other! Next year I’m going to try again. The winner at the local fair goes on to compete at the state level.

I also entered my old favorite, Butternut Squash Pie, and won a blue ribbon for it. That pie is always a winner!

We brought the Yankee Maple Sugar Apple Pie to Thanksgiving this year and my family loved it. If you try the recipe, let me know how you like it!

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Pick Your Own

Don’t those look like delicious raspberries?

Too bad they’re not actually raspberries… they’re unripe blackberries.  Joshua likes to pick and squish raspberries, so when he grabbed a berry from the blackberry bush I thought that was what he was going to do.  Instead, he decided that after days of squishing berries he was ready to eat one.  He’ll probably never eat one again!

Later that day, while visiting my family’s farm, we went for a wagon ride and picked some sweet corn and peaches.  I hoped a sweet, juicy peach would make up for the unripe blackberry incident.

To my surprise, Joshua ate half of that very big peach, skin and all! He loved it!

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Scalloped Potatoes and Leeks

As far as I’m concerned, the best part of eating ham for dinner is having scalloped potatoes alongside it on your plate.  We have a freezer full of ham steaks that need to be used up before December, when our next round of pigs will be all grown up.  Have I shown you piglet pictures yet? I can’t remember, so here you go!

Anyway, I had a big bunch of local leeks in my fridge, so I decided to add them into my normal recipe and it was delicious! I don’t measure when I make this recipe, since it’s all about the layering, so these measurements are just estimates.  Seriously, you want to make this recipe!

Scalloped Potatoes and Leeks

  • 1 clove of garlic
  • half stick of butter
  • 3-4 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced OR 8-10 small red potatoes, washed and thinly slided (no need to peel them!)
  • 2 large leeks, well washed, halved and sliced
  • 4-6 Tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (I used cheddar this time, but any cheese you like will do)
  • salt and pepper to taste (I like LOTS of black pepper, and add a little bit to each layer)
  • 2 cups whole milk

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Cut the garlic clove in half, then rub the cut side on the inside of the a 9 x 9 pan to flavor it, then use 1 tsp of butter to grease it.  Begin with a layer of potatoes by placing them in the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and about a Tbsp of flour, then dot with about 1 Tbsp of butter.  Add another layer of potatoes, more salt, pepper, flour, and butter.  Next layer in about half of the leeks.  Add another layer of potatoes, salt, pepper, flour, and about half the cheese.  Add another layer of potatoes, salt, pepper, flour, and butter.  Add the remaining leeks, then another two layers of potatoes, salt, pepper, flour, and butter.  Pour in the milk until the potatoes are mostly submerged, then press the layers down with your hands.  Top with the remaining cheese, some more pepper, and maybe even some more butter.  Bake for an hour until bubbly and the cheese is nicely browned, then let sit for about 15 minutes to cool and thicken before serving.  I’ve found that if I double the recipe I need to bake for up to an additional half hour to make sure the potatoes aren’t crunchy.

Ham? What ham? Pass the scalloped potatoes and leeks, please!

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