Monday, March 18, 2013

making stock

We had the honor and pleasure of a group of visitors the other day. It was a cold, grey, dreary day and the group had to get muddy to see what we do: kinda the worst sort of day to visit.

In spite of the gloomy day we had a wonderful time. Diane Ott Whealy, co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa stopped by the farm. Here for a presentation to Slow Food Harrisburg, she visited a number of other teaching and growing venues in the area.

We have been reading her book, Gathering, as a bit of preparation for her visit. Seed Savers Exchange was started with seeds from a beautiful morning glory that her grandfather gave her, seeds that had originally been carried from Bavaria by his grandfather as he emigrated to the US.

Now a nonprofit invested in the preservation of heirloom and open pollinated seeds, SSE has grown to employ about 70 people and operates test gardens, a seed bank, and the base of the reason for being, a database of annual dues paying members who have seeds and then trade seeds with others. While SSE offers some seeds for purchase, the real real beauty of what they do is to offer easy access to people that grow seed themselves, and exchange seeds based on the accumulated data the SSE aggregates. There are many more varieties of vegetables you know and eat than you see at the farm stand, and this exchange offers growers a way to locate other growers who have them. Most vegetable seeds are hybrids or genetically modified, both of which renders the seed produced by the plant sterile: unable to produce the same ear of corn, bean, tomato, squash...the list goes on to every vegetable we eat. what SSE offers, member to member, is fertile, not terminator, food. And is exactly what we grow.

We made lunch for the group. A couple of chickens from the freezer, with a bit of butter from a friends cow and chervil from our hoophouse slipped between the meat and skin, then roasted in the oven. Spinach from our hoophouse plucked an hour before we ate it, steamed and with a bit of the same butter. Onions browned, with our tomatoes canned last summer, a little capers and olives too, over pasta. Curtis Vreeland, a chocolate maven, brought along a couple of wonderful chocolates: raw with salt and chili pepper with orange. Jen and Bonnie, who have the farm across the street also joined us. Lots of laughter.

After everyone left, the chicken carcasses went into the soup pot. A bit later, the strained stock went into mason jars, and then into the freezer. As usual, the juices in the pan and the stock in the jars needed no skimming. The birds we grow just do not produce that stuff that turns into that ring of hard white fat.

It was an honor to have everyone here. And fun too! And a foundation for several other meals is now in the freezer. We are lucky people!

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