We woke Sunday morning with that familiar feeling in our limbs that today would be the day. After our bellies were full of warm creamy oats, Miles and I strapped on our snow shoes and headed out into the chalk drawing scene in our back yard. The powdery snow filled our cuffs as we tumbled down the hill towards the frozen stream. Crossing was treacherous, one wrong step and a small body could sink up to their neck. Alls well that ends well and we stood in the still air of the pasture. Tracks from a bounding deer, no less than eight feet apart had us rolling as we envisioned Finn McCool paying us a visit. The sun felt warm. 15 isn’t so bad when a ray of light sticks to your chin. It is especially acceptable when you have knowledge of a 37 degree day in your future. Yes, It was the fall down on your knees, eyes brimmed with tears, thankful-so thankful for the turning of the earth, day.
The temperatures have dropped back down, deep down. -24 upon rising this morning. This time though the indoors are a bit more welcomed as we know their days are numbered. Soon we will be spending every waking moment under the blue sky soaking up all that mud and thick wet air. We are keeping busy with woodworking projects, and pouring over seed catalogs. We are baking and stirring thick hearty soups. One in particular that was more remarkable than any other this season. This was because it was a first meal. Our nearly seven month old Jasper has scoffed at all things solid until this one was served up. Much to our surprise our boy had a hankering for some lentils. I thought it was appropriate to share.
Rosemary Red Soup
(Ever so slightly adapted from) Feeding the whole family
3 carrots chopped
1 beet chopped
1 onion diced
1 clove garlic
1 tsp rosemary (dried or fresh)
1 cup red lentils
2 bay leaves
5 cups of chicken stock
2 tablespoons light miso
Saute the carrots, beets, garlic, and onions in olive oil for about five minutes. Add the rosemary and lentils until the smell creeps into your nose and they are good and toasty. Add the stock and bay leaves and a touch of salt and pepper. Not too much though, the miso is salty too. After about 30 minutes, when the veggies are good and soft puree in the blender in small batches removing the bay leaves first. Add the miso, stirred in a touch of water to dilute. Serve with a crusty loaf to deserving (babies) folks.
Our wood pile, though thoroughly buried is surely dwindling. We will be spending the weekend slicing and sawing, that is for sure. But, in the meantime the boys and I have been a baking. It has been a long time since I shared a bread recipe. I recently committed to a 30 day venture of NOT eating grains or processed sugar, and while it healed a weary tummy, my soul has been starving! The last few days I introduced the glorious foodstuffs back and the results have been phenomenal! My heart feels like its been placed back into my chest.
Chunked up apple cinnamon bread
(adapted from Sarabeths bakery cookbook)
2 tablespoons yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup of whole milk
2/3 cup of water
splash of vanilla
4 cups of flour
pinch of sea salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 large apples (something firm that will hold up baking I used empire)
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
whisk yeast, sugar, water, and milk together. proof a couple minutes until it looks nice and creamy. add vanilla, egg and butter. one cup at a time mix in flour. Knead for about five minutes until smooth and soft and elastic. let rise in a toasty location (next to the wood stove!) until doubled. This took about an hour for me. Put little hands to work peeling apples. Slice and core them. chunk into 1/2 inch cubes. A three year old can certainly do this job. And a five year old will excel at it! So let your little ones do the work while you join the rising dough and warm up your tootsies. Mix, the cinnamon, sugar, yolk and apples together. When the dough rises flatten it out into a thick rectangle and mash in the apple mix. Fold it all up into a messy, very messy mash. Chunk it up with your knife and place into two well buttered, and floured bread pan with the bottoms lined with parchment. Let rise again for about an hour. Cook at 350 for about an hour until its just about 210 degrees F. Cover the top with a piece of foil if it starts to burn.
Slice and serve with lots of room temperature butter. Great as french toast. Trust me.
Eight dollars of apples, bruised up fallen ones plucked right off the ground made a whole mess of food. Four quarts of sauce, 3 quarts of vinager, 2 pies and a lot of easy snacking. In some orchards, this time of year, you can get bushels for next to nothing if you look down instead of up. This has been our thing these past few years. Before the frost comes and before the slugs take ’em over we barge in and clean up the lot of them.
I made my vinegar from wild fermentation, by the fermenting guru, Sandor Katz. If you don’t have this, you should sprint to your library, like now. The cider is so easy, and massively rewarding. I roasted the apples whole (a mixture of grimes golden, macintosh, and hewes) until fork tender and just sent them through a food mill to make the sauce, what was leftover, the apple carcass as we were calling them, was used to make the apple cider vinegar. Amongst all the other amazing things you can do with apple cider vinegar I have been rinsing my hair in it and I can promise you, nothing on the market compares. I typically have straw for hair, and with just a little bit of this magic fall scented liquid it transforms into something a Disney princess would envy. I promise. Oh these apples went a long way, I even froze a few pies this year! And I will tell you a secret, the last pie that came out of the oven had a layer of almond paste over the bottom crust and oh my, oh my, this one would knock your boots off.
Apples galore! What have you been doing with the apples in your neighborhood?
Turns out we picked the most beautiful place in the world to call home. Early in the morning it is these sites that get me.
Mid day, I can hardly bare to look, because what I see feels like make-believe.
And by the afternoon, those beautiful fields are giving us the most amazing foods to dine on. (The ice cream in the making, is honey thyme and I have to thank my dad for that one! He sent a weary pregnant woman an ice cream maker… Isn’t he a stellar man??)
Yesterday I processed about 10 cups of blueberries into blueberry butter. It was simple and lovely and it tastes like blueberry pie in a jar. You take the 10 cups of berries, mash them thoroughly, either with a ladle as I did, or in the food processor, probably more efficient…. Cook them on low for 3 hours or so, as low as your stove can go, stirring occasionally. Add in two cups of sugar, a big dash of cinnamon, a fine grating of nutmeg, and the zest and juice of a lemon. Continue to cook for one more hour, stirring every ten minutes or so. Jar em up as you would jar anything. Share with your neighbors, the gifts will come back ten fold, spread on some home-made toast with mascarpone, or my personal favorite, wait until a snowy day in february and take a big spoonful of summer.
The rain has been consistent since last night. Consistently dripping, at times pouring, but mostly misting, keeping the air very heavy and wet. I am quite sure this is just the weather vegetable plants adore. Pregnant women on the other hand? Well, we have to take solace in the idea that this weather produces delicious meals to satisfy us because surely, surely, wading through our kitchen to pour a cup of coffee is not ideal.
We pulled our first zucchini from the garden yesterday. It was short, sweet, smooth, and crunchy. I can’t help but be reminded this time of year that all this, (minus our tomatoes and brocolli), started off in egg cartons when the ground was still frozen and the air was crisp and dry. I don’t miss those days right now, despite my previous thoughts. The most magical piece of art in our garden, and the most spectacularly grown in size, must be the cabbage. It looks like a giant purple rose to me, baffling me with the fact that her seeds were no bigger than a poppy seed at the start. I truly look forward to those thick leaves being tamped down into some jars to be fermented and stored for the winter. I had to pull up a few dozen watermelon radishes this week, handing them over to a neighbors piglets to enjoy, for they were stunted and nawed on by some sort of maggot or worm. I started a new, this time with french radishes, the little two toned oval-shaped classics that you can envision with butter, or on a tray of fresh raw vegetables. I hope this comes to fruition. I have heard the worm bothering me so is a springtime pest so I shouldn’t have to worry for the rest of the growing season.
In the land surrounding my beautiful fence built with love everything is coming together as well. Black raspberries have blackened, the juiciest star cherries off of our newly discovered cherry tree have dripped down our chins, at least the ones the birds havent carried away, and little apples are beginning their life way up our of our reach. Everything is thick and thorny and damp and mysterious. We spend a lot of time just wandering. Slowly mind you, but when you are 3 or 4, slowly is preferable anyways. So we get along just fine most of the time. Yesterday, one of these slow stops allowed us to investigate a flitting bird traveling in and out of a brambly berry bush. It was a lovely find. Piles of ripened berries are always toted around but mostly enjoyed at the time of picking. So many interesting insects are plucked up and thoroughly examined.
This is a lively, lively time of year.