Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ode to Basement, Bacon, & Bread

The sky is only hinting at first light this morning, and I find Jeff where he is every morning these days, studying the seed catalogs over breakfast. Yes, the seed order is almost done, launching our minds into another season. January brings one of Jeff's favorite farming activities; logging with the horses. The logging is now in full swing. Jeff, our old apprentice Andy (who is staying with us in the farm house), and our new apprentice Rich, head into the woods daily with chain saws. About 4 days a week the horses join them, hauling out logs that we will have milled into lumber for my mother and step-father's house. A new horse joins our team this winter, Carl. Carl belongs to Django, our 12-year-old friend of Swallowtail Farm, who apprentices with Jeff. Django is boarding Carl here, and our old mare Mary is happy to have his company. We have the two of them separated from the other horses so we can give Carl's feet the extra attention they need, and so we can feed Mary extra grain and oil to help her gain wait until the pastures green up. Just before logging started, after the harvest was all in, and after the holidays were adequately celebrated, Jeff captured a bit of time to organize and set up the basement. We moved here just over a year ago, when Leah was only 3 months old, and have slowly been establishing order and systems, stealing time away from family and farm to do so. And how beautiful the result! You may prefer to see pictures here of the rosemary flowering in the greenhouse, or the horses nobly pulling a log out of the woods among pine boughs laden with snow, but indulge me here a few pictures of my basement, yes, basement!

Above the basement, and not too far from the wood stove, is where I dwell these days. Our wood stove is a wood cookstove, and I have been putting it to good use. Tonight it is chicken soup, made from a couple of stew birds who once graced our farm as laying hens. Cubed rutabaga is great in chicken soup (along with lots of other veggies) if you are looking for another way to use them up. I must practice restraint not to cook up the "Bengali Lentil Soup" recipe (shared with you below) every-other-day. Another family and apprentice favorite was black-eyed peas with carrots, chard, onions, garlic, celeriac, and our own farm-smoked bacon. Jeff and one of our pork CSA members processed our own pig here on the farm, then cut and froze most of it, and cured, smoked and froze the rest. The smoke and salt flavor of the bacon is wonderful but a little strong alone. It is a great addition to a soup. Jeff sliced all the bacon on our mandolin. Ruth has been busy in the kitchen as well, learning to spell her name! Luckily her name is only four letters; my oven could not fit another loaf. We bake bread every Wednesday, a very fine smelling anchor to our home-schooling week. I asked her what she wants to spell on her loaves tomorrow. "Dad", she answered. Jeff asked what we would put on our fourth loaf. A heart, of course.

January 18 CSA Share
white turnips
winter squash: butternut
daikon radish
tomatillo salsa
frozen broccoli or cauliflower
frozen colored peppers

February 1 CSA Share
golden turnips
winter squash
kim chi
sun-dried tomatoes
sweet relish
frozen chard
frozen green peppers
dried parsley

Below is my new favorite lentil soup recipe. It calls for red lentils, but I have used french (the small black ones) and the regular green, not the red. Both were totally delicious! I also add carrots (for what is lentil soup without carrots?) and chopped chard. I triple this recipe, to make a full pot for the hungry farm family and a bit for tomorrow's lunch.

Bengali Lentil Soup
from Hope's Edge by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe; serves 6

1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 cup canned tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. yellow or black mustard seeds
2 tsp. jalapeno pepper (1/2 small), seeded
4 cups onions (2 large), finely sliced
5 tsp. garlic (3 to 4 cloves), sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (I don't have these handy in the winter, so I added a bit of coriander instead with great results)

Add lentils to water in a large saucepan. Add turmeric and stir. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Add tomatoes and salt, and cook for a few minutes longer. Reduce heat.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and saute until fragrant, for just a few minutes. Cook at a low heat and be careful not to burn the seeds. Add jalapeno, onions, and garlic, and cook until golden brown (about 10 minutes).

Add onion mixture to lentils and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Add fresh cilantro leaves to the lentil soup and cover to steep for a minute. Serve while hot. For a final touch, scoop a dollop of fresh yogurt on top.

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