Taking Stock + What the Groundhog Saw

What the groundhog saw + taking stock

Along with Groundhog Day, I’m told that February 2nd is the traditional day to check on what’s left in storage to see one through the rest of winter. With only six more weeks to the Spring Equinox, it’s a good time to start making plans for the next canning season!

What the Groundhog Saw

Some upcoming nearby workshops while waiting for the snow to melt:
• Grow Your Own Seedlings at Home — Wells Reserve at Laudholm Farm, February 10th
The History of Agriculture as Told by Barns — Stratham & Exeter Heritage Commissions, February 20th
Winter Planting for the Spring — North Shore Permaculture Group, February 21st
5 Nights, 10 Farms: Explore Your Farming Dreams — Jeremiah Smith Grange Hall, February 23rd
Growing and Preserving — Sanford Adult Education, February 26
Kittery Community Garden Planning Meeting — Kittery Adult Education, March 2nd
Planting a Preserving Garden — Kittery Adult Education, April 28th

Posted in cooking, interlude, local food, preserving | 11 Comments

Interlude: January Blizzard

January Blizzard



It appears winter storm Juno has decided to drop into the neighborhood and stay for awhile. I’ve a pot of stew warming on the stove, a pile of good reads beside me, and the thermostat turned up. Hope you’re all snug and safe, dear friends.

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New Year’s Cotechino Sausage with Lentils

Cotechino Sausage with Lentils

We began our New Year’s celebration early, and cooked up a luscious Cotechino sausage to serve with a potful of nutty lentils, and a side of winter-sweetened braised carrots. Many thanks to Rook, the talented butcher at Maine Meat, for his house made version of this Italian specialty. As with many foods traditional to New Year’s, this simple dish symbolizes prosperity and good fortune — wishing you all a Happy New Year’s, we’re feeling lucky already.

New Year’s Cotechino Sausage with Lentils

2 cotechino sausages, about 1 pound each
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib celery, very finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1 pound lentils, rinsed
Salt and pepper
Red wine vinegar, to taste
Minced parsley, for garnish

– Place the two sausages in a large pot, and fill with enough water to cover the sausages. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Poach the sausages until they are heated through (around 160°F internal temperature), about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When done, turn off heat.

– Heat the olive oil in a medium pot, add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and 5 to 6 cups of the cotechino poaching liquid. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and continue to simmer until the lentils are tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Add a little more liquid to the lentils as they cook, if necessary. Season to taste with good olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.

– Remove the cotechino from the liquid, peel off the casing, and slice thickly. Serve over a platter of lentils, garnished with parsley and last drizzle of good olive oil.

Adapted from “Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 7: La Dolce Vita”.

Local ingredients: Cotechino sausage from Maine Meat; onion from Black Kettle Farm; carrot, cutting celery, garlic and parsley from the garden.

Posted in cooking | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

A time of counting…

A time of counting...
“December is … often a time of counting. Making it count, checking our list, watching the short hours of daylight. The year end knocks persistent on our doorstep, our growing children and aging elders continue on their time-bound journeys…. If we slow, who is to say those we love will slow with us?”
— Marada Cook, Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative

Happy Solstice, dear friends — on this longest night of the year, the lengthening light of day is a most welcome thought.

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11.25.14 Rossa di Sulmona Garlic

11.25.14 Rossa di Sulmona Garlic

Late November may be pushing it but, as long as the ground is workable, it’s not too late to plant garlic. Of the 3 varieties of we grow, the Rossa di Sulmona from Seeds from Italy is my favorite — a terrific balance of pungency and sweetness, and its distinctive pink color never fails to bring me cheer. Have a delicious Thanksgiving, dear friends — there’s always so much to be grateful for.

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Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

Learning to forage is a way of naming the world. Little by little, what was once unknown becomes known, and as familiar as picking a loved one’s face out of a crowd. In the process, we become aware of what’s edible and, just as importantly, recognizing what’s not. While shopping at Maine Meat earlier this fall, co-owner Shannon showed me the satiny smooth chestnuts littering the ground around the tree out back. I scooped up a few to take home and, though tempting as these were to sample, I held off until friend John Forti could identify them. Much as these reminded me of ones I ate in Italy, these were horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum), inedible and to be avoided for the toxic saponins they contain.

Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

Telltale signs: The horse chestnut is rounded in shape with only one side flattened, and the absence of a pointed tip. Though there are medicinal uses for the nut, leaves and bark, horse chestnuts are known to be especially toxic if eaten raw. I’ve read that slow cooking does render these safe to eat, if not perhaps exactly palatable — the meat will be bitter, in complete contrast to the edible sweet chestnut.

Fall Foraging: Horse Chestnuts

The leaves are another way to identify the horse chestnut, which are palmate, with three to seven leaflets fanned out in the shape of an open palm. Lastly, if the squirrels won’t eat them, neither should you.

Chestnuts vs. Horse Chestnuts, Washington State University Extension
Chestnuts, horse chestnuts, and Ohio buckeyes, University of Minnesota Extension
Chestnut FAQ, Badgersett Research Corporation

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Fall’s Bounty from Orange Circle Farm

Fall Bounty from Orange Circle Farm

As we face shorter days and cooler temperatures, there’s something comforting about having a well-stocked kitchen. Though it’s that time between the end of our outdoor farmers’ market season and the beginning of the indoor one, Orange Circle Farm offers a way to help bridge the gap. Organic farmer Jeff Benton makes local food accessible through online ordering, a choice of three pick-up days and locations — either at the farm in Stratham or through Yoga on the Hill in Kittery, depending on day — and a generous order deadline of the night before desired pick-up. Order from what’s currently available or, for those who can’t decide, Jeff also offers a variety box.

This week’s variety box (above) contained braising greens, two heads of lettuce, Kennebec potatoes, onions, carrots, rutabaga, and a spaghetti squash. As a supplement, my order also included some baby kale and chard, red kuri, butternut, and delicata squash, sweet potatoes, more carrots, dried black beans, and a couple dozen eggs. If you hurry, you can still get an order in for this Saturday’s pick-up in Stratham.

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