Recipe Thursday: Picnic!

Putting up was definitely a thing when I was little. Bushels of tomatoes became canned tomatoes and tomato sauce (we weren’t sophisticated enough to eat salsa or make pizza sauce – pizza, in fact, was really something we just had at school, in squares, with just cheese. We did not have pizza places and did not have a culture of pizza. I remember making pizza out of a box once because it was such an event!), baskets of green beans and yellow wax beans were ‘tipped’ and canned, beets and eggs were pickled together (right next to other gallon jars of pickled pig’s feet), we made some jam – mostly blackberry and if we were lucky to ‘pick your own’ strawberries once in a blue summer moon, then we could get strawberry jam. But other than that, our creativity was lacking.

Food was not ‘creative’ when I was young. Granted, I lived in a cake baker’s house so decorating was very creative (and hot buttered cake tops for breakfast – mmmm) but not food so much. My favorite meals were generally simple and fresh ones – just caught brook or rainbow trout with foraged sauteed mushrooms, homey venison stew, roast pheasant, catfish fry and corn on the cob – to be honest, most of our vegetables came in a store can. Once a month we would cross the state border to shop for real groceries (we had a small market in our town, and a moderate one in the big town 20 miles away, but in NY state we could go to the cake flour store and then go to the really big grocery store to get goods) – and it was the 70’s/early 80’s: processed food was resplendent. Bologna with cheese holes (hot dogs with ‘cheese’ in them), cheese puffs/balls, Velveeta and Kraft slices (man, our culture was obsessed with fake cheese foods, eh?), pop tarts, cream-filled cupcakes, Froot Loops/Fruity or Chocolatey Pebbles (oh, the crazy cereals – Cap’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, etc), cookies, chips, Kool-aid/Tang, Tab/Shasta ‘Pop’, Chef Boyardee Spaghettios, Chicken & Stars can soup, peanut butter with the jelly in it, Maple & Sugar Instant Oatmeal packets, it was ridiculous. Not to mention the candy and ice cream treats we could get at our own little market (Fat Frog Ice Cream treat anyone?). We lived in a country sort of paradise and ate all hunted/fished meats but when it came to almost everything else – it was junk.

I look around our kitchen this morning – the island is piled with fresh bread and bagels (and the starter crock), sourdough cracker bags, a pitcher of fresh baby leeks from the local Farmer’s Market (which was an encouraging experience), last night’s projekt of canned fresh rhubarb jam, pickled cukes/asparagus/fiddleheads, and the setting fresh ricotta (soon to be jarred up, and then I can pull out the new Kimchi batch to jar up, as well). The substrate bag of Lion’s Mane Mushroom. The bone broth on the backburner. It’s a homestead cornucopia.

And right then and there I realize – it’s picnic for dinner tonite. Fresh ricotta and sourdough baguette (with a little rhubarb jam), pickles, baby radishes with butter, pea shoot and violet salad with medium-boiled local eggs…we can sit up on the hill and survey the zooming and amazing flights of the dragonflies and swifts saving us from the mosquitoes.

It seems easy here to forget about the troubles in the world – we are not immune. We are not worry-free. We aren’t hiding. We all need to hold tight to the moments that make us sane, where we have a moment of safety or at least a moment to be able to reflect on what safety and sanity mean. We are working hard – to make this life meaningful, to make this world (what little bit we are a part of) functional and sustainable. We have little to offer you – our hospitality, our space, our food, our love, our lives, but it’s freely given. We (so far) have that ability – to work in service of the world, of each other, in the ways we are able. It’s all any of us can and should do…

Be safe. Be alert. Be responsive. Be caring. Be well.

IMG-5481

 

Duendesday

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

Any good birthday ideas? She’s feeling the pinch – she wants this year to be a big year (aren’t they all? but yes, 10, though not a cycle-year, is still a big year) and because she can’t have a party we’re hoping to make it as exciting as she might want…but how to pull it off? We were thinking a bunny, and had one in the works – it all seemed like a done deal: an already housetrained tiny lionhead bunny, we were ready to start building a little indoor pen for her room, it was even named Louise (which seemed like a sign – like Kate DiCamillo’s chicken story that has always been a favorite) but the woman was iffy on finally parting with it and the more we thought about it, it seemed like another mouth to feed and chore to negotiate. And we’re kind of thinking a treehouse – but that takes materials and time (the former which we don’t have/can’t quite afford and the latter we have little of, too), and we’re also considering maybe a real fish tank (10 gal, couple fish, a castle?)…any further thoughts? She’s too young for a tattoo (ha! joking – really joking).

She’s not a ‘stuff’ kid. Don’t get me wrong, she’s got plenty of stuff – too much stuff (how do they accumulate all this stuff? We rarely buy her anything) but even with the toys she has, she barely plays with them. She still plays often with her blocks (bought at a yard sale before she was born) and Lincoln Logs (generally with trails for matchbox cars, corrals for a collection of plastic animals, or marble runs) and once in a blue moon has a ‘stuffy’ party but mainly she’s outside making mud cakes or stick forts, swinging on the swing, riding her bike. She’s an events kid that has no events right now.

Last year we found her a great dresser but the previous owners had painted it inside and out – so much so that the drawers would not open or slide. So Josh stripped the rails and the inside and with that, the front of the drawers. She recently painted it to her own liking and we rearranged her room (celebrated with a lovely tea party), and now I will move all her clothes up a size in the transition from the baby closet/dresser to a big kid dresser (this little baby closet/dresser was my brother’s when he was little -with all his little suits and ties that he liked to wear, then hung around for awhile finally used again by my sis-in-law for her three kids, and then back to us again for Duende – it has quite the little history!). So many clothes – and to be honest, besides a dress here or there, or as a gift, we’ve never bought her clothes, all have come from family or friends or free from the swap shack. It has been such a gift to have the hand-me-down-faeries take good care of us.

Ah, well, if you think of something good – pass it on, we need all the help we can get! I hope any of your birthdays that come and go are good ones – full of inventive surprises and a little bit of happiness. ❤

Happenings: Seedling Sale!!

This Friday and Saturday (June 5 and 6, roughly 10am – 6pm) at the Homestead we are setting out seedlings for sale. It can be a no contact- country drive – side of the road sale – for you. Or you can let us know you are coming and we can set aside some goodies. But we will be setting up seedling tables in the drive (you can park on the side of the road or across the street at the abandoned house or at Fuller’s Market) and honor jars. We’ll be milling about doing outside work if you have questions but also, feel free to roam the property and check out the work we’ve been doing – get some fresh air, take a hike on our wooded path, as well. PLANTS AND BABY CHICKS!! See? Now you want to come right up and hang out 6 ft away from us around the fire pit – ha! – CORRECTION: alas, we’ve been informed that our baby chicks will not come until next week. But we’d still love to see you!

Seedlings will be in varied pots with varied prices depending on their age/size/root needs (some roots don’t like a lot of disturbance) – cukes, summer squash, winter squash, melons, peppers, some tomatoes (a few heirlooms had to be restarted), herbs, flowers, etc. There will also be seed collections for sale (let me know if you specifically want anything, otherwise I will just have a smattering of options) including the new Succession Seed Collection (resplendent with beets, carrots, peas, kale, etc for late Summer planting to give you another boost into Fall).

Otherwise, we’ve been putting up some seasonal favorites – soon to be for sale (some we’ll sell now and some we’ll make you wait until Winter, to make sure you get some nutrition then, too) – like Rhubarb Jam, Fiddlehead Pickles, Foraged Kimchi (with milkweed, violet leaf, yellow dock, red clover, dandelion, and wild lettuce stalk), Honeysuckle, Dandelion, and Lilac jelly and syrups, and making some ‘later date’ aged bits like cheddar cheese. We’ve also been building some new beds, cleaning up old beds, and making general improvements. It’s quite lovely up here lately.

We hope you are well, and safe, and sane – and we hope to see you later this week (email us directly or leave a comment below for direction or address information). Happy Growing!

Monday Musings

Respiration
BY JAMAAL MAY
A lot of it lives in the trachea, you know.
But not so much that you won’t need more muscle:
the diaphragm, a fist clenching at the bottom.
Inhale. So many of us are breathless,
you know, like me
kneeling to collect the pottery shards
of a house plant my elbow has nudged
into oblivion. What if I sigh,
and the black earth beneath me scatters
like insects running from my breath?
Am I a god then? Am I insane
because I worry about the disassembling of earth
regularly? I walk more softly now

into gardens or up the steps of old houses
with impatiens stuffed in their window boxes.
When it’s you standing there with a letter
or voice or face full of solemn news,
will you hold your breath before you knock?

sunset

Special Seedling Edition, #2!

More seedlings are out and about! Some took off like crazy, others are still getting their groove on but many are ready. You should be getting ready at this point to get these babies in your windows, coldframes, greenhouses and gardens (I’m running out of room – ha!). Contact us directly: rockbottommaine@gmail.com to be added to the order form to get your seedlings and plants.

All of our seeds are responsibly sourced, many organic or in the 1-2 Fedco range (never more than 3), and grown with Coast of Maine organic potting or seedling soil. All of our seedlings have moved on to their ‘true leaves’ and are partially hardened. I try to give you the correct names of the particular seed so you can look it up further if you like, but please don’t hesitate to ask questions about plant care, vegetable size or taste, companion planting, etc, either in the comments below or use the email above.

Seedlings are bigger and heartier now in 3″ Jiffy pots or 4.5″ plastic pots (depending on their root needs): $3.00
Right now we have tons of Winter Squash ready to go: Jarrahdale, Acorn, Kabocha, Spaghetti, Delicata, Wee Be Mini Pumpkins, Aunt Ruby’s German Green Heirloom Tomatoes, Vernissage Black Cherry Tomatoes, Lemon Cucumbers, National Pickling Cucumbers, Orange Bell Peppers, Chocolate Mini Bell Peppers, Summer Squashes: Pattypan, Bennings Green Tint, Lemon Yellow, Zucchini, Tondo Scuro (like 8 ball), Celery, Melons: Blacktail Watermelon, Honey White Honeydew, Cream of Saskatchewan (yellow) Watermelon, Flowers/Herbs: Borage, Black Prince Snapdragons, Black Hollyhock, Johnny Jump Ups, Marigolds, and Calendula (Resina)

Plantlings are in 1/2 gallon pots: $6.00
Currently we have Aunt Ruby’s German Green Heirloom Tomatoes, Vernissage (black/red striped) Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini and Tondo Scuro (8ball), Pattypan Squash, Acorn and Jarrahdale Winter Squash, Wee Be Little Pumpkin, Cream of Saskatchewan (yellow) Watermelon and White Honey Honeydew Melon (both in pots of 3), Lemon Balm, Hyssop, are all available in big pots.

Seed Packets are also still available – $6.00 for a whole gardens worth of seeds, see our earlier post on the Garden combinations (subject to availability and substitutable only by us) – Free Seed Gift with every Seed Packet purchase! And a new Succession planting packet is available (ask for details).

And keep your eye out for companion marigolds, more heirloom tomatoes and yellow cherry tomatoes, eggplants of different colors and sizes, phlox, herbs such as oregano/marjoram/thyme/cilantro/basil and more of the above as they get to readiness.

Happy Planting and Growing!

Recipe Thursday: Rhabarberkuchen

Translated: Rhubarb Cake!!

But it’s more exciting if you take it into consideration of the German ‘kuchen’ time, which is essentially high tea or afternoon cake and coffee.

Many years ago now, my lovely friend Vanessa took me as her date to a wedding in Germany for her International Exchange friend that she met in Brazil. The bride housed us with an older couple (friends enough with the family) who spoke English in Buchen, Schleswig-Holstein (near the home of Gunter Grass, not far from Hamburg where we spent a couple of days, and easy to train to Lubeck, ‘marzipan capital’ where we visited) and they loved us. They stole us from the wedding party and stodgy garden parties to tour us around – we went and saw a giant canal bridge with an elevator, to a checkpoint between ‘East’ and ‘West’ Germany, we went to ‘an’ oldest pub in Europe (how many of those, are there? ha!) – they were lovely, we had such a good time. One day, we went to the stunning tiny town of Molln to shop around (and rub the foot of the statue of Till Eulenspiegel, notorious medieval trickster) and happened to be there during this miraculous time of day – around 3pm. Time for cake!

Huddled into the upstairs of a cafe easily built around the time of the trickster, black beams hung low around the stone work – we each ordered rich cake and coffee or tea and relaxed. Easily the best civilized tradition ever…this cake would be perfect for that kind of moment but is also super delicious for breakfast or dessert, or dinner, or snack…

Enjoy Kuchen-time!

Rhabarberkuchen

Serves 9

1/2 cup Half & Half (or mix of heavy cream and water/milk/whey) or Buttermilk
1 tsp Lemon (unless using buttermilk or lemoned whey)
1 stick unsalted Butter, room temperature (if salted, use less salt in recipe)
1 cup Cane Sugar (plus 2-3 tsp more for sprinkling on top)
1 Large Egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
2 cups All-Purpose Flour (leaving out 1 Tbsp to toss with rhubarb)
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
2 cups thinly chopped Rhubarb (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×9 baking dish. Add lemon to half & half and set aside (unless using lemoned whey in the mix or buttermilk). Toss rhubarb with 1 Tbsp flour and set aside. In another bowl, whisk remaining flour, baking powder, and salt, set  aside.

Cream the soft butter and sugar in a stand mixer, or with electric beaters, until fluffy and pale yellow. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the bowl as necessary.

Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and blend in. Add all of the half and half, and blend in. Finally, add the rest of the flour and blend just until combined, don’t over mix. Fold in the rhubarb. Note: the batter is on the thick side, like cookie dough -no worries though – the cake is light.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with a little sugar. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is turning golden and a toothpick in the center comes out without wet batter clinging to it (moist crumbs are fine).

Let cool a bit before cutting into 9 squares (this is delicious warm or cool). Serve with Maple Whipped Cream!

Maple Whipped Cream

In a stand mixer or with beaters, whip 2 cups (1 pint) heavy or whipping cream, adding 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup (or fine cane sugar with 1 tsp Vanilla) until just stiff and whipped (be careful not to overwhip or it will separate and turn to butter). Voila!

IMG-5301

Duendesday

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

Hot lazy days right now, for an almost 10-year-old. Sure, she has a list of chores she likes shirk – like watering plants, hanging (or taking down) the laundry on the line, the dishwasher, the cat box…but they all get done eventually. But the activity lately is all in La Petite Jardin (the little garden under the big Silver Maple tree) – with her swing and the hammock and climbing rope.

Early on, when we first hung her swing (that was Josh’s 5th Birthday present for her) they called her play area ‘Colonial Flippity’ – it had a sign and everything. Now we are building the bed beside it into an herb garden and the other side will be the extension of the grape fence with a new arbor (I can only imagine that means sledding trails are going to be even better this Winter!).

LPJ (as we like to call that space) has nice cooling shade and is surrounded by honeysuckle, forsythia, and growing lilac…it’s truly a lovely place to be in the Summer. Swing away my little peach, swing away!

It’s Tuesday, right?

My schedule is a bit off this week. I keep missing or losing some days in there somewhere. It is lush and green up here right now. There have been some apple blossoms (it’s an off year, so sparingly on the old trees and a few of the youngbloods are trying out their petal power).

We’ve been busy making up cocktail syrups (Josh has decided his drag name is ‘Forsythia Syrup’ – brilliant!) – so far yes – forsythia, violet, and pine (for those of you who want something a little spicier/less floral, it’s quite fun!), and soon to be lilac and honeysuckle. Also the new baguettes are rolling out, and the fresh ricotta has been a solid gold hit! I, myself, am a big fan of the fresh ricotta – fold a little chopped fresh basil into it and it’s a luscious dip for a picnic. Rhubarb jam and fiddlehead pickles might be available soon!

We’re managing some other little projekts, too. I’m digging into a furniture update exercise (a deconstructed upholstery on a couple of chairs, a lacquered buffet, new cushions for a glider…). Josh is making fences out of foraged trees/saplings – we are riding that line between crazy hippie homestead and country DIY – ha!

Meanwhile, the garden is progressing – never before have I made it to have the potatoes, the peas, AND the corn in before June. I planted the latter with purple podded pole beans and acorn squash and wee-be-little-pumpkins. The fingerlings and sweet potatoes are in grow bags (we upgraded this year to actual grow bags instead of saved feed bags since we didn’t have winter chickens). And the new chicks come in another week or so for the new brooder space that Josh is working on. The new elderberry hedge has been put in and will hopefully grown big and gorgeous and full of berries in no time.

It looks particularly ‘homesteady’ here right now – the kitchen island has multiple projekts: salted kimchi base, exploding sourdough starter, cracker making, cooling flower jelly, boiling bone broth – I can see the clothes drying on the line, the cold frame is opened for the day, the child is out picking flowers, and we’ve all had breakfast rhubarb cake that we made last night. It’s a lovely day. I hope you are having a lovely day, too. It’s a busy season and we need it. It’s good to be distracted by the hustle and bustle of life and care. Stay safe and sane.

Recipe Thursday: Spring Gnudi

A few years ago, when I was in NYC for skool, I desperately wanted to go to The Spotted Pig restaurant because I heard about these gnudi. Sadly, I didn’t make it. But I have the recipe (mwa ha ha) and have been dying to try it out. Thanks to some inspiration to whip up some ricotta for sale (with a little left for us!) I am going to try this today.

They take an overnight to set so keep that in mind. And do look up a picture online, they are gorgeous little enriched pasta balls made of fresh ricotta, egg, parmesan, AP flour, rolled in semolina…then flavored with sauteed veg and cream sauce – I’m drooling already. My Earth to Table cookbook pairs them with ramps, morels, and blanched fiddleheads. Foraging is highly recommended…splendid!

This is gratuitous and delicious with extra bread (garlic bread, hmmm?) to dip in the extra creamy sauce and a vinegar-y side salad (to cut the creamy a bit and make you feel healthier – these are scrumptious but not skinny making). They are little dumplings that ooze out cheese like magick.

Spring Gnudi

Serves 4

Gnudi Ingredients:
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1 cup fresh Ricotta Cheese (find at Rock Bottom Homestead!)
2 Lg Eggs + 1 yolk
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup All-Purpose Flour
2 Tbsp minced fresh chives or wild garlic
Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste
2 cups Semolina Flour (or more to cover if you need, though 2 was more than enough for this batch in a 9 x 13 casserole dish, covered with foil and refrigerated overnight)

To prepare the day before: In a large bowl, combine cheeses, eggs/yolk, and nutmeg. Whisk until smooth and airy. Fold in AP flour and chives. Season to taste with S&P.

With floured hands, roll gnudi into 1″ balls, place in clean bowl or casserole (spread a layer of semolina on bottom of dish first). Cover gnudi balls completely with semolina, cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, bring a large pot of water to a boil (and start your vegetables below). Add gnudi and reduce heat to simmer. Working in batches, poach gnudi until they float to the top, about 3-4 minutes.

Spring Vegetable:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Butter (or Ghee)
2 cups Mushrooms (local mushroom farms have lovely blue oyster mushrooms this time of year, or even just crimini if you are unable to get the wild goodies), or foraged morels
1 cup chopped Scallions (or shallots), or foraged ramps
1 cup chopped (1-2″) & blanched thin Asparagus (or pea shoots), or other foraged shoots such as fiddleheads, hosta, milkweed, lily)

While boiling gnudi, heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Add vegetables and saute until soft and golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from pan, drain fat if necessary and use pan with juices for next step.

Cream Sauce:
3 cups Whipping/Heavy Cream
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
a pinch of Nutmeg, and S&P to taste

Add cream to pan juices in skillet and heat over high, cooking until reduced by half (about 5 minutes). Turn off heat and stir in Parmesan until well combined.

To Serve: Divide gnudi evenly among 6 bowls, top with cream sauce, then vegetables.

Sounds amazing…I’ll be setting up mine shortly…

IMG-5143

 

Duendesday

{a day to check in with a 9 yr old’s doings}

Another typical day for this sunshine kid – cold homemade cheese and black olive pizza for breakfast, maybe a little Odd Squad or Wild Kratts, then some chores; clean the litter box, open the cold frame/water plants, hang laundry, and then a lot of play. These warm days we’re having right now involve a lot of mud and pails of water, sticks, grass. Swinging. Hammering. Playing in the creek. Or helping Josh do whatever it is he’s doing-especially if it involves the riding mower with the wagon or the wheelbarrow (she’s bound to get a ride), cleaning out the brush, building fences, planting trees.

Big hits: she’s learning to drive the riding mower with supervision (Josh has fantasies that someone else will mow someday), foraging for flowers and soon wild strawberry, cartwheels for days, and more Kiwi/Tinker crates.

Soon we’ll bust out the croquet and bocce (free range bocce is the best). And then there will be baby chicks! They always entertain. And then 2-3 weeks later – more baby chicks! (The layers come first, our new ladies of the homestead, and then the meatbirds). And then Ms. Bloo turns 10! We’ll see what excitement that brings!

Wishing you many beautiful days!