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Art of Fermentation

Percolating

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Percolating

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Percolating_01 With the ground still partially covered in snow and ice and our brains a buzz with plans for spring we have turned our energy towards food and turned our kitchen into a science lab. Cultures are bubbling and ideas are percolating here on Green Bow Farm. We have tried our hand at many different types of fermenting in the past but this winter we have every extra inch of counter space devoted to our fermentations. We have a new batch of Kombucha going which we have made in the past but this time we are trying out a dehydrated scoby (kombucha culture) that we haven't tried before, and a continuous brew method we found on Nourished Kitchen. This is the same great blog we found our recipe for Cultured Veggies for Flu Prevention, which I would love even if it didn't make any health claims because it has a subtle sweet and sourness that works with so many different kinds of food. I might even like it more than sauerkraut. The recipe called for whey which I had never fermented with but we happened to have some from our first batch of yogurt. The whey is a byproduct from the yogurt making process which I've seen used in many recipes but its also used as a health food for people and animals. When we start to milk our sheep and have a large amount of whey leftover from making cheese and yogurt we will definitely be feeding the whey to the animals. It's another way to create a circle of sustainability on the farm and be less reliant on feed that has to be bought off the farm.

Rice Bowl with Cultured Veggies

My favorite dinner right now is a big bowl of brown rice with some baked squash, a heaping spoonful of the cultured veggies on top, and then throwing a mixture of caramelized bacon, onion, and hazelnuts on for some extra goodness. The boys favorite from our fermentation experiments has got to be the sourdough pancakes that have just a tiny taste of sour in them and we can make them on days we aren't making bread, keeping the culture going and the house full of that great sourdough smell. We still haven't made cheese yet but I am sure there won't be any complaints when those experiments start to fill the fridge.

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One of the things that first got me interested in fermentation is the slowness of the process, the sometimes long term experiments that don't always work out because of the many variables but when they do they are incredibly satisfying, a lot like farming. My first real understanding of fermentation came when I got a copy of Sandor Ellix Katz's book Wild Fermentation and now 10 years later my head feels like its going to explode with ideas when I crack open his newest book The Art of Fermentation, an almost 500 page guide to fermentation possibilities from every corner of the world. There is a quote from The Art of Fermentation about culturing food that says a lot about the importance of fermentation but I think it also says something about the current rise in young people getting involved in farming, "the word culture comes from Latin cultura, a form of colere, 'to cultivate.' Our cultivation of the land and its creatures-plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria- is essential to culture. Reclaiming our food and our participation in cultivation is a means of cultural revival, taking action to break out of the confining and infantilizing dependency of the role of consumer (user), and taking back our dignity and power by becoming producers and creators."

Percolating_02

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Fall Forward

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Fall Forward

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The last two weeks have given us only one day of clear skies and many days where the air was considered too hazardous to breath for any extended period of time. Our self imposed deadline of the baby arriving and the one created by nature are still looming with several projects left so smoke or no smoke things must still move forward. That means some days getting work done with a mask and most of the time doing work in fits and starts. It also means constantly revising our to do list to prioritize what can't wait and what can be put off till spring.  The first thing to get taken off the list was a wood burning stove. We live in a large barn that was converted into a house and it doesn't have the most efficient heating system so we wanted to add a wood burning stove to keep our energy bills a little lower for the winter. Luckily we weren't counting on it for heat this winter so we will still have a nice cozy house to spend time cooking, reading, researching, and planning for our first full year of farming in.

One project we did accomplish was getting water and electricity to the pastures closest to the house. This involved hiring an excavator to dig a long ditch three feet deep (keeping below the frost line) from the yard near our house all the way out to the sheep shelters, running pipe for the water and electrical conduit inside the ditch, installing a frost proof hydrant, and an electrical outlet. What we thought would be a two day project turned into more than a week long project. There was one day a pipe burst because of a bad part we were sold, then there was a lot more time spent putting the fill dirt back into the ditch since we were using our tractor and not an excavator to get the job done. It was at the top of our list of things to get done because it means we will no longer have to haul 5 gallon buckets of water out to the pastures everyday and there will be an outlet to hook up a stock tank heater to keep the animal's water from freezing this winter.

My favorite part of getting ready for winter is putting up food. It's exhausting when your 8 months pregnant but when I look at all of our jars of tomato sauce, applesauce, apple butter, sauerkraut, frozen blueberries and pitted cherries and think of all the great meals we will make during the winter months it makes all the late nights worth it. We are still  hoping and planning for some more cabbage and beets from our CSA so we can make some fermented kraut-chi (from Sandor Katz's "The Art of Fermentation"), there is also quite a few apples left in the fridge from an apple truck that turned over down the road from us so more applesauce and apple butter, and if we are lucky enough to get any pumpkins from our very late planting, some pumpkin butter and pumpkin pie. We aren't putting up enough food to get us through the winter but its a small step to becoming a more sustainable farm. We are putting up enough hay to get the sheep through the winter because we don't want to be paying an exorbitant price per bale come January. Matt has loaded into his truck and then unloaded into the shelters three tons of hay and one ton of straw. We are thinking about getting a fourth ton of hay just to be on the safe side and looking into large quantities of grain to make feed for the chickens this winter. Every time we take something off the list we seem to come up with a new sometimes smaller project to add on.

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