Archive | March, 2011

Peas, Favas and Garbanzo’s

26 Mar

Spring is here!

The Eastern Redbud and Dogwood flowers are blooming, reminding us (nagging us prettily) that it is time to plant crops!

Here in Middle Tennessee the change of the seasons is so dramatic and definitive I’m awed and humbled each time it happens and in every unique season.  Spring must be my favorite where the bleak brown/gray landscape pops verdant green seemingly overnight.  Of course this has everything to do with the warmer temps, longer days and frequent rains.

Jewelweed, good for that poison ivy outbreak that also comes with spring!

Phenology is the art of observing seasonal changes in a manner that provides clues, reminders or nudges; multiple road signs along the annual gardening loop with hints of what to do and what’s to come.  Though Mother Nature is brilliant, you know she’s also facetious because a killing frost does surprise the too early to flower fruit tree as well as those overzealous, impatient gardeners.  I would know.

Old timers around here might tell you to heed the calendar instead of planting by the moon or using methods of phenology.  Plant peas when the buttercups bloom certainly sounds great, but I would have had a little problem had I heeded that advice this year.

Old timers keep records and journals of the planting seasons for reference and future planning that go several years out.  This blog is my record, so for now, spring means planting around the thunderstorms and hoping seedlings don’t get washed away or rot in the ground.  Getting the crops in around the weeds and the bugs is a challenge and to do so immediately following the last frost is more luck than art, forget science (we’ll leave the science in the soil for now).

Phenology is interesting and valuable in that it reminds me to pay attention to the details provided by nature.  Phenology hints that I should feel the rhythm of the anticipated within an awareness of the unanticipated.  It’s a dance to a familiar tune performed by unknown musicians.  I just want to get the moves right, ya know?

This is a fava bean flower.  We grow favas in the spring and the fall (if I’m organized enough and the weather cooperates).  I am also attempting garbanzo beans (for the first time) and peas of the shelling, snow and snap varieties, a few of the exciting crops here this spring.  Driven by the longing for tantalizingly fresh produce, I envision grilled favas, hummus dip and fresh from the vine peas savoring these flavors even before the seeds have germinated.  No doubt, a passion for the best ingredients drives my efforts in the dirt.  And these dreams do sometimes disappoint with such lofty expectations prior to harvest!

Anything can go wrong.  Every year is different; luckily something always seems to do well to compensate for what doesn’t.  Growing multiple crops in rotation through four seasons and taking precautions with some (transplants) while sowing other seeds with abandon is the best way to guarantee food production on our small farm.  Tomatoes and green beans didn’t do very well last year but our peppers and eggplants were amazing.  Who knows what this year will bring?  Hopefully gorgeous tomatoes!

Naturally Raised Beef

21 Mar

Jimmy Jones is a local third generation farmer in Williamson County who produces the best beef I have ever tasted. I visited Jimmy at his farm this month to find out more about how he does it.

After 30 years raising Black Angus cattle, Jimmy has continuously improved his breeding stock for health, vitality and taste. Every year Jimmy starts with approximately 70 calves, then keeps only about 20 of the best to grow out for his local customers. Once the calves are weaned at 8 months, they get one dose of dewormer (with no withdrawal time for processing) and are fed out humanely on hay, grass and a blend of custom milled grains with absolutely no soy. Jimmy feels this combination of feed gives the beef the proper marbling, tenderness and correct ratio of fat to meat. No hormones, antibiotics or other chemical additives are given to any of his beef calves.

The processing of any meat might be just as important as how it is raised. Jimmy works with a local processor who will hang the meat for up to 45 days and is an expert butcher. This ensures that all of the time and effort to raise healthy, vibrant calves translates to the best beef possible.

Jimmy only has a few calves left this year, but if you don’t get a whole or half from him now, you can always reserve your beef for next year.

Contact Jimmy Jones at (615) 418-2119.

The case of the missing corned beef…

15 Mar

The March Charcutepalooza challenge was up on the Internet (challenge #3).  Brining, okay, I’m familiar with brining.  I would do chickens, very large chickens, brined for the appropriate time, rinsed and left to dry in the refrigerator for a nice pellicle and then smoked to perfection.  No worries, got lots of chicken in the freezer.

But then I came across some grass-fed brisket at C and F Meats, Co., Inc., in College Grove, TN.  I purchased a nice, center cut, well marbled five pound beef brisket following the brining instructions in the Charcuterie book to the LETTER.

The first thing I made was the standard cabbage, potatoes and carrots with the corned beef adding a little local honey and some stone-ground mustard, salt and pepper to taste.  Nothing special or creative in this traditional dish, I just craved it and wanted to see if it was different with the home brining.  It was.

Once the beef was cooked, I had to hide it in the fridge from Mr. Pink Guitar.  The dude would have just stood there at the refrigerator with the door open gnawing bites off the remaining hunk of meat until it disappeared.  He was told it was off-limits pending special recipes…

I made a soup with the cooking juices and the remaining vegetables, adding chicken stock, coconut milk, rice noodles, celery, more carrots and cilantro.  It disappeared in short order

We tried grilled sandwiches with rye bread, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut and delighted in all of the sweet and salty flavors and the wonderfully spicy notes brought about from the bay leaves, allspice, peppercorns and mustard seeds.

I was ready to execute MY special recipe.  I’d spent time taste testing the meat and thinking about how to give it a fresh, spring twist.  I had a plan and was ready to go.

But the night before I was to make my special tasty treat, it was gone, the meat, gone.  Used on pizza.  Gone.  Mr. Pink Guitar likes to make pizza.  I asked him about it and he said “you can just make another brisket”.  Uuh, it was 1 day before the deadline to post the results.  Ya think Mr. Pink Guitar considers it easier to ask for forgiveness than permission?

I have asked Mr. Pink Guitar if he would like to share his corned beef pizza recipe with you.  He says he will, so I suppose we patiently wait in anticipation of his recipe and pictures.   To his credit, he is very busy with a “real” full-time job and another full-time job on the farm in addition to playing music on Broadway in Nashville every other Sunday at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn.

So, if you learn how to brine or corn beef brisket, you will never have a problem wondering what to do with it.  It will not last long, you may have to hide it.  Even from people that don’t explore the far reaches of the refrigerator, you know the ones I’m talking about – those that think the fridge cleans itself out, those who don’t “go there” with leftovers?  So, I suppose I’ll be corning more beef!  MY recipe will be posted later.  The Chicken?  Yeah, eclipsed by the beef.  That post will come later too.

Innocent parties regarding the meatwagon (those that don’t sneak corned beef): Burley, Sophie, Lucy, Jack, Jane… Kids walking the Greats~!

It Feels Like Rain

13 Mar
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