in which we lament: don’t hate us because we’re (not) beautiful!

in which we lament: don’t hate us because we’re (not) beautiful!

A continuation of my series about  foraging at the farm and what I’ve done with my bounty.  Haw berries first, today the apples and you’ll have to stay tuned for the black walnuts. Includes links to the recipes.

Apples from  one of my favorite trees – crisp, tart and spicy.  But, wild as can be, not so waxed and polished.

Face it, we Americans are harsh when it comes to our demand for physical perfection.

Oh sure,  we all know the do-good-character-building salvos like “Beauty is skin deep”, and “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but we all know too it’s not really that simple.

We also know we should not be blinded by mere physical beauty and should instead value those precious inner beauties which are more rare. Of course knowing that doesn’t mean we don’t all lose our hearts and good sense to selfish, cruel yet beautiful loves who use us callously before tossing us aside from time to time.

I have to also, in a fit of indecision contradiction, acknowledge the kernel of truth in this one from Ralph Waldo Emerson; “Beauty is an outward gift, which is seldom despised, except by those to whom it has been refused.”

Who among us doesn’t have a single physical blemish? My knobby little apples are juicy with inner beauty…

Who among us doesn’t have a single physical blemish? Come on, admit it’s true! But no matter, I’m not talking about love today; I’ve got apples on my mind. My apples are blessed with more than a few wormholes and scabs but the Ladies and I don’t mind. Our apples are juicy with inner beauty.

I love what Terra Brockman has to say about imperfect peaches in The Seasons on Henry’s Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm:

“I confess that I have a soft spot for soft spots. Just as they reveal genuine, sensitive human beings, they are a reliable way of showing that a fruit has not been sprayed with poisons, and that it is at its peak of ripeness, of flavor and nutrition, of juiciness and pleasure. The quest for cosmetically perfect fruit has resulted in the loss of vibrant tastes – the sharpness and depths that make great fruit great. Fruits in the supermarket are glossy and perfect on the outside, but insipid on the inside – watery, at best, and permeated with the stale taste of long-refrigerated storage, at worst.”

I’ve enjoyed sampling apples from all over our new pastures and am thrilled with the diversity and flavors. It will take a long time before I am able to identify the varieties, but I already know where to find my favorites.

Because these apples have grown wild and unappreciated by anyone with fewer than 4 legs for a long time, they are as organic as apples can be. Which means they are not beautiful in our modern retail-jaded eyes.

But, they are beautiful to me. And to the Ladies (and Men – yes, you’re right; they don’t get enough mention around here).

I was determined that my spiced apples would be rings. And so they are…

To make the most festive use of the apples I harvested from my favorite little tree, I made a holiday relish tray favorite of mine, spiced apple rings. I love spiced apple rings but have never had any other than the commercial ones. And sometimes, they’re hard to find.  And forget local and organic.

I adapted my recipe from the Apple Wedges in Cinnamon Red Hot Syrup in the cheap and ever-useful Ball Blue Book of Preserving. Of course, I made some changes to sass it up a bit and make it more versatile, but I guess the name gives away the secret weapon – cinnamon red hots.  Have I mentioned how much I love cinnamon red hots?

The not-so secret weapon – Cinnamon Red Hots. You wouldn’t guess it eating the finished spiced apples, but your spiced apple rings wouldn’t be the same without them…. have I mentioned how much I LOVE cinnamon red hots?

I’ve been eating these spiced rings all week with cheddar cheese & grainy mustard, in risotto, on chicken and even chopped some with celery, garlic and onion in a relish (I’m more than a little excited about that relish).

I’m not tired of them yet and I’m not really an apple-y sort.  The recipe calls for peeled apple wedges, but I was determined that mine would be rings. With the skin on. And so they are.  Click here for a link to the full recipe.

I’m beaming with motherly pride over my knobby little apples all dressed up – you wouldn’t let a scab or knob here or there scare you away from some tasty, nourishing, spicy-syrupy red fruit would you?

Bling wants me to tell you that  the apple situation is getting desperate here.  She’s hoping maybe you’ll send her some.  They have mostly been eaten, are rotten or are high up in the trees beyond grasping tongues and tree shaking farmers.  There’s begging, hiding, running, fighting and growling (I didn’t know cows would growl – it’s really something to see) over the last of the apples.  Not pretty and sometimes a little scary if you find yourself standing between two cows holding one apple…


What’s your secret apple-enhancing weapon?

In which we say a surprised hello

In which we say a surprised hello

Who says Hannah is too old? Welcome Hannah's new little girl.....

Who says Hannah is too old? Welcome Hannah’s new little girl…..

Hannah, Mrs. B, Hannah Banana, whatever we call her, Hannah is a girl who knows just how awesome she is. The only one of the Ladies who answers to her own name, Hannah is truly the matriarch of our herd.

She came to us from New Hampshire with her daughters Ruby and Sprite, son Hodil and granddaughter Sally.

Her contribution to our herd has been multiplied many, many times. Ruby has given us Regina and Rose, Hodil is father to nearly all of our calves this year and will be again next year. Sally has had Saralee and Sammy and Sprite has given us Spritzer. Last year, Hannah had another girl, Hannabelle and now, today, wonder of wonders, the old girl did it again.

Though Hannah was with Rocco the bull all winter, we really didn’t expect Hannah to have any more babies. I guess she showed us who’s too old. Hannah is very proud of her role as a mother and apparently isn’t about to give it up.

I wish we could teach all our daughters to be as free of self doubt as Hannah. With an udder like a saggy bag of rocks, wrinkly ankles like loose pantyhose and long, flat feet, it would be easy for Hannah to focus on her flaws and lose self esteem surrounded as she is by young, gorgeous Ladies.

But that’s not Hannah’s style; she frets not one bit – she knows she’s got it going on. She sashays her wide self right into the center of all the action and everyone had better just step back and make room.

Having Hannah for a mother is the best advantage a calf can get...

Having Hannah for a mother is the best advantage a calf can get…

More handsome than beautiful, Hannah is a large, imposing Lady with a rich, chestnut coat and stately posture. A couple of blinks of her big, brown eyes and you’ll do whatever she says.  She is a great girl and has been such a help teaching the younger Ladies the ropes. Like the advantage gained by attending the best prep school, any calf gets a boost from being Hannah’s kid.

Here she is, minutes old, getting ready to make her first effort to stand up. Hard to manage those big feet and legs at first....

Here she is, minutes old, getting ready to make her first effort to stand up. Hard to manage those big feet and legs at first….

Today’s young Lady looks like she’s off to a bright start – we expect great things from Hannah’s calves. She’s already got her eye on her sister Rose – I can see those two beauties will be fast friends as soon as our new girl is allowed to go off and play.

Welcome little Lady!

A new baby is an exciting event for the herd. Everyone needs to see the new kid. Then, excitement over, it’s back to work everyone!

In which we locally groan

In which we locally groan

Eat Turkey Responsibly

I wish I could say I thought Locally Groan up myself, but I have to fess up and give credit to Tim Philpott of Grist,  a favorite site of mine.  In Philpott’s blog post this week, he referred to the New York Times blog of Peter Meehan’s, Grass Fed. Do read both please, you won’t regret it.

Anyway, Philpott writes, “Insofar as the sustainable food movement is about consumption — buying this and not that — then snobbery, over-earnestness, and tsk-tsk-ing of people’s personal choices is devastating. It turns off out-of-the-know consumers; and there goes the growth prospects of your consumers’ movement. Memo to judgmental and/or snotty locavores: meet people where they are.”

So, as I write this, please accept my sincerest effort to not be THAT food tyrant/bully.  My interest in your shopping choices is not about impressing you with my on trend coolness. It’s because food is not just about eating; food is a whole package of politics, civil rights, worker rights, animal welfare, environmentalism and corporate watchdogging packed into every yummy bite.

The holidays are the perfect opportunity for me to slap you around with my horrid statistics about the true cost of the free gift turkey from your big box grocery store, how chemical laden cranberries aren’t good for you or anybody and don’t even get me started on the Stove Top Stuffing. But I won’t because those foods are now an actual holiday tradition for lots of people, not just a rushed homage to the Norman Rockwell original.

Pittsburgh is really stepping up to the plate where food choices are concerned.  Check out this link to Slow Food Pittsburgh’s Farmers @ Firehouse Market and consider ordering your holiday meat from the Laptop Butcher Shop.  Plus, the market is one of Pittsburgh’s best Saturday morning traditions! What a great holiday kickoff to enjoy now, while you still have time to be discriminating. The market opens at 9, so you have plenty of time for breakfast at Pamela’s or DeLuca’s first.

No, your turkey will not be free. And yes, you may pay $4.00 or more for eggs. But – I served one of Maggie Henry’s turkeys last year and I guarantee you have not eaten turkey until you’ve tried one of hers.  And, while you’re at it, buy Maggie’s eggs – I never knew eggs could be like this.  Nutrient for nutrient, carefully raised meat, dairy and eggs are a bargain at the price.

You, the environment, the animals and the economy are much better off when you choose the least expensive cut of the best reared meat over the fanciest cut of factory raised.

To REALLY up your game, check out the definitive meat guide – The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, my Bible of responsible and delicious meat.  And, Darina Allen’s Forgotten Skills of Cooking is a great inspiration.

Like all the best things, unforgettable holidays take a bit of time to plan, so get to it!


Who does not thank for little will not thank for much

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx— Estonian proverb