Friday, November 27, 2009

Good Eating

Thanksgiving Dinner Plate

I am enjoying a cup of organic Yirgacheffe coffee and eating devilled eggs and smoked salmon, (courtesy of our hens and my dad who smoked the salmon and my brother who caught the Copper River Red Salmon this summer). Avery has been feeding me pomegranate seeds with her little juice covered fingers. I am blessed with good food. With two little ones sometimes I feel as though all I do is cook and plan the next meal. Thankfully I enjoy my job. Good eating takes an average day and makes it special. Growing our own produce, raising livestock and eating locally all add to our appreciation of each meal. With each meal we are acutely conscious of what is local (eggs, salmon) and what is not(pomegranates, coffee), where ingredients come from and how they were processed, If more people were this knowledgeable about their food we would see some serious changes in America's food system overnight. Looking at the average American family, their eating trends and attitudes towards food, I am not so optimistic.

Our Thanksgiving day was lovely. In the past few years we have made efforts to stretch the eating over the course of the day rather than consume it in a frenzy. Appetizers, soup course, main meal and dessert were spread over an eight hour time span. Here was our menu:


Appetizers:
Dad's freshly smoked Copper River Red Salmon (caught by Adam)
Marinated and pan seared Moose bites (prepared by Patrick)
Sparkly mulled spiced cider rum punch (myself)

Soup:

Scarlet Carrot Soup with fried carrot ribbons
(made by myself, recipe out of Gourmet, our own carrots and thyme, Rosie Creek Farm beets)

Main meal:

Two Wild Roots Farm Chickens brined and rubbed with sage pesto (D and I)

Cranberries sauce with carmelized onions
(mom made with self picked cranberries)

Yukon Gold Smashed Potatoes (mom's garden potatoes)
Gravy (made with chicken drippings)

Roasted Turnips with cardamom maple glaze
(grown and prepared by Adam and Tricia)

Classic Herb Stuffing (mom)

Fluffy Cranberry Salad (Adam and Tricia/ family recipe)

Sweet Potatoes baked with butter and cream (dad/ family recipe)

Pan seared fresh Green Beans with garlic
(my own garlic/ Fred Meyer beans)

Fresh baked buttery rolls (mom)

Lots of good wine, thankfully none local.

Dessert:
Pumpkin Pie and whipped cream (made from scratch (whole squash) by Adam and Tricia)

Pear and dried cherry pie (made by Dad)

Coffee


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

DEC Cheesemaking Regulation Proposal taking Public Comments

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is proposing changes to the existing state dairy regulations. Unfortunately these changes only increase the requirements needed for a certified dairy. The law is aimed at large dairies but there are no exemptions for small home dairies. DEC is currently taking public comments until December 3rd at 5pm.

Currently in Alaska it is illegal to sell milk or milk products unless you operate a certified Grade A Dairy. The only exception is that for now they are allowing farmers to sell cow or goat shares, similar to a Community Shared Agriculture concept. Technically consumers are purchasing a share of your animal and therefore allowed to take their milk home from your property. Otherwise it is illegal for milk or cheese to leave my property.

I think that the state should be making it easier for the small farm to operate a dairy. We need more small dairies across the state providing local milk and artisan cheeses. The only way this is going to happen if you the consumer demand the state change it's current laws. Here is what you can do to help:

1. Email or call Jay Fuller with the State Veterinary office. Give a short comment in favor of exemption for home dairies from the proposed regulation 18AAC32. There has been some suggestion that if they had enough public interest, something might be done about it. jay.fuller@alaska.gov


The proposed regulation is 18AAC32.

I have tried to post the link, and even copied just as is, it is not working. I'm not sure why the percentages are there, on the address window there is a space where each percent is at so you could try leaving spaces if it doesn't work otherwise. To find this page originally I had just googled DEC cheesemaking regulation proposals and it was easy to find. http://www.dec.state.ak.us/regulations/pdfs/Cheese%20Amendments%20Public%20Notice%20Version.pdf


Monday, November 23, 2009

Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner and Goat Pictures

In this picture. Xanadu standing in front of her new home. You can see the covered outer area, Now there are feeders on both walls facing eachother. Door enters into a ten by sixteen well insulated structure divided in half with a sliding gate.

So before I begin I have to share that I am drinking a mulled spiced cider rum punch mimosa - for breakfast! Actually I had tea and pumpkin bread a while ago but it is our general breakfast time. So my reasoning for this lavish start to my day; the punch was already made and the champagne leftover from last night, and it would be a shame to waste it. Yesterday we hosted an early Thanksgiving dinner for close friends. We often get invited to Thanksgiving dinner at friends but always decline and spend the day with my family. I think we have begun a tradition of having a dinner with friends as well. We have spent the last few days cooking and cleaning, so today our house is cleaner than usual and we have lots of yummy leftovers in the fridge. This entire week and really now until the New Year is going to be filled with extra special meals and treats. So let the festivities begin.

Last night we cooked up our first duck and two of our own chickens, both about seven pound cornish cross meat birds. The duck was fresh and I'm guessing about four pounds. It was a male Khaki Campbell, a laying breed and not very meaty. What meat there was, was very good. I rubbed all the birds with course sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, tangerine zest and fresh thyme and sage. Then they sat for about twenty-four hours, the duck in the fridge uncovered and the chickens on ice in a cooler. The duck was slow cooked for a couple hours at 325. We cut many shallow slits in the bird to let the fat out . We also had the bird up off the bottom of the pan so it wouldn't sit in it's own fat. There was a layer of fat under the skin but I just peeled it off as I carved the bird. The meat was very good and not greasy at all, just tasted like quality moist dark meat, yum. The chickens were great as well. Luckily I have double ovens so the chickens cooked at the same time as the duck, but at 425. My ovens are small though so I could only fit one chicken at a time.

I made a wonderful cranberry chutney from our own cranberries both fresh and dried. We had stuffing, sweet potatoes and rolls, (the sweet potatoes were not local and I recently finished up the last of my local celery and onions so we bought those. I did make the rolls from scratch and they had a cup of goat milk in them.) I also made yukon gold smashed potatoes from our own garden and gravy from the scrapings and our own canned chicken broth. I had cooked a large Sweet Meat winter squash last week and made two pies, four loaves of pumpkin bread and some muffins. The pies were for dinners last weekend. I had however, saved two loaves of pumpkin (squash) bread for last night. As an appetizer I filled endive spears with a little goat cheese mixed with pecans, cherries, thyme and garlic. The dinner was a potluck but I tried to cover all the essentials, I thought someone would bring a green salad or casserole type dish but everyone brought dessert. So we were missing out on green beans or brussel sprouts. However dessert was not lacking, we had: a fabulous pumpkin roll with cream cheese filling, sweet potato crisp, rum cake, apple pie, cherry pie and ice cream.

To drink everyone brought wine and beer. I made mulled spiced cider for the kids with a bottle of rum on the side for adults. I was in the mood for something cold and sparkly, as the house was toasty. We happened to have a bottle of champagne on hand so I made some apple juice ice cubes and cooled some of the mulled spiced cider. Right as everyone was showing up I added the apple cubes, Sailor Jerry's spiced rum and champagne to the cider. It was fabulous. But I was the only one that even tried it, as much as I tried to force it upon others (bunch of beer drinkers!) So last night I set the bowl of punch outside and this morning it was slushy, would have been frozen solid if not for the alcohol. There was still some champagne in the fridge. I thought about saving it for tonight but thought it would have more fizz now. This is going to be my new holiday party drink and next time I make it I will measure and share the recipe.

So in other notes, here are a few pictures of the goats in there new home. These pictures were taken about five weeks ago. Now the ground has about five inches of snow on it and the trees are all frosty. So to read more about the new goat structure you can go back a few posts, I'd promised some pictures so here they are.


Zuri, my pride and joy. She is the sweetest, most affectionate doeling yet...and the spitting image of her dam who we lost this summer.

Here is the herd exploring their new home. Heated waterer to the left. Noah watching from outside the pen.

View of goat pen from our front door. Much improved.

And one final picture of the last of our indoor ripened tomatoes. We finished these off making salsa and tomato dishes daily before we left on our vacation.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First cold snap

The kids are sitting on the couch side by side, watching Sesame Street. I should be using the opportunity to start a fire and bring some wood in, but I'd rather sit here, drinking coffee and looking out the window. This is the third consecutive day our outdoor thermometer has stayed between ten and twelve below zero. We keep the house in the mid to high seventies during the day, but I can tell it is cold out when I pass by a door or window and feel the cold coming through the cracks. Ice is building up on the insides of the windows and doors. Outside is an icy blue dawn. Snow covers the ground and tall frosty trees. Usually the bird feeders would be a flurry of action but even those are still. I filled the feeders last week for the first time this winter and thought the chickadees would discover the food within hours. The feeders remain full and still.

The goats are all keeping warm in their stalls. I haven't turned any heat lamps on yet but I will if the temperature drops. I've been spending time in all the shelters observing the animals and they are all doing fine. The biggest indicator I look for is movement and interaction within the flock or herd. If everyone was huddled up in a corner or moving around in a daze I might worry. The goats shiver outside at their feeders, but if I notice them shivering inside their stall, that is when I turn on the heat lamp. The bucks have a nice build up up hay insulating their floor and there are three of them to heat up their space. They come out during the day for grain, water and hay. At night I toss a couple flakes of hay in their stall but they still come out and eat the hay at the feeders as well. When it gets really cold the goats will hardly venture out of their stall for anything other than a quick sip of water and a short snack.

The chickens in the top coop have been closed in for three days now and haven't had much desire to leave. There are two lights with regular bulbs on timers and a heated waterer. Each day I toss down fresh hay, scatter grains on the floor and give them veggie scraps from the kitchen. We are getting about five eggs a day, if we don't collect them within a few hours they freeze solid. The chickens and ducks in the bottom coop have shown interest in going outside so I've been opening their door for them a few hours each afternoon. The ducks are the hardiest. Unlike the chickens, they actually enjoy playing in the snow.

Today I have no ambitious plans. Keep the wood fire going (once I get it started here soon), make some pumpkin bread and keep the kids content. Noah and I might get outside when Avery naps. If the kids get restless this afternoon I'll give them a bath and bust out some new toys (kitchen utensils) to play with. This time of year is easy for me, (but then I'm not the one snow blowing the driveway clear, or pumping water from the truck into the house daily, ahem.) The cold and dark bring new challenges. I find the extremes exciting. After a busy summer I'm ready for some down time. There is nothing I'd rather be doing than planning yummy meals and eating them. Wherever you are I hope you are staying warm and getting some down time on these short winter days.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Winter night

It is a cold clear starry night. I just came in from doing night chores and it is about zero out. I tossed everyone hay, filled waterers and closed everyone in for the night. The does have such a nice space now. The three senior does are in one eight by ten pen and our yearling and two doelings are in the other, so that I may milk in the morning. The dirt floor, low ceiling and super insulated walls are keeping their stalls warm and draft free. We haven't hung any lighting or supplied any heat source yet and so far there is no need. Their old stall was a third the size, but since the floor was wood and off the ground and the walls less insulated, the stall had more of a need for supplemental heat even though their bodies heated up the space fairly well.

In case you've been wondering where I've been, we've been on vacation. I started a post about our trip but it is rather long and needs some editing and pictures. We flew to Florida for a family reunion and then made our way up the east coast until we got to Maine where we visited my grandparents and enjoyed some unseasonably warm sunny weather. We just got back in time for a couple days of nonstop snow fall. I'm finally feeling ready for winter and enjoying the freshly fallen snow, we've gotten at least five inches since we've been home. The temperatures have felt rather balmy, in the teens and twenties, but they are dropping fast. I hear we are suppose to get down to twenty below zero for the next week. I'm all of a sudden not feeling so ready, wait for it, brace yourself. Ah. Well, some heat lamps might be in order after all.

Other than that I've been enjoying being home. I've made a lot of yummy food in the last couple days. Today I started a batch of rolls, made a carrot beet soup, cooked up a large squash for pies and managed to bake some salmon for dinner with rice and veggies for myself and the kids as Dustin was away at work. Yesterday I made some excellent carrot muffins and bread, lobster eggs benedict and lobster leek veggie soup with goat milk, (we brought home some picked lobster from Maine). My girlfriend had a baby girl on the third while we were away. I visited her yesterday and we are headed over for dinner tomorrow. She had a home-birth in her tub on the full moon. I will always be amazed at the power women can embrace in childbirth. I wonder if in my lifetime I will ever cease to long for another baby when I hold a new one in my arms... unlikely, chicks and goat kids just are not quite the same thing, although they may just have to suffice.

There are many things I forget over the course of the summer that come back to me this time of year. Every time I step outdoors I can't find words to describe the feeling of cold crisp silence that embraces my beating warm self. The feeling that only I exist. The stars shine and the moon is lit just for me. Extremes. Opposites. Leaving the warmth of the house behind me to trudge through the snow and up the hill with the smell of wood smoke lingering behind. Caring for the animals and knowing that they are settled for the night, I return to the house, warm and lit up, to the smells of food and comfort. I love how each makes me relish and crave the other, I love to be inside cooking and toasty warm and then to go out and come back, is just so, so satisfying.