Soup Dinner

13 02 2009

We were not able to concern ourselves with seed starting today. It is true what they say, there is always tomorrow.
A friend told me today that it is going to be a long season. He too has noticed that has already been significantly warmer; sooner this year. He was gearing up.
This means that we need to get our shit together.
We need checks to arrive, and seeds need to be started.
While we procrastinate, we eat.
We had a meal this evening that adequately represent how well we eat.
Simple, and without waste.

Sweet Potato Soup
3 large Sweet Potatoes, whole roasted
5 Carrots. med. dice
3 yellow onions, med dice
1/4 bulb fennel, I just actually used one thick stalk, small dice
1 head garlic, chopped
1-10# fresh ham
1.5 c. long grain white rice
2 c. veg stock
1 magnum chardonnay
1 c of tomato sauce.
1-16 oz can unsweetended coconut milk
3. bay leaf
6 Tbl Mustard Seed
2 Cinnamon Sticks
10 Cloves
Black Peppercorns
1/2 c brown sugar
3 Tbl Ginger Juice

1 Tbl tumeric
1 tsp nutmeg.

This may seem like a lot. It is. It took about a 4 days.
1. Toast  5 tbl Mustard, the Cinnamon, Clove, and bay leaf.
2. I forget the total amount of liquid. The total amount of liquid will be enough to completely submerge the 10# fresh ham. I used a 1 cup to 1 gallon ratio to make brining solution. Pour brining solution over toasting spice. Add Brown sugar and bring to boil to dissolve salt completely. Cool. Add ham.
2. I brined it for 2 days. I read somewhere that you could do it up for three days. Brine the ham at least overnight.
3. Remove the ham from the brining solution and drain. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
4. Pan sear entire ham. Place in braising dish.
5. Deglaze pan with some of the white wine. Add liquid to braising dish with ham. Hard Sautee about half onions and carrots.  Quickly sweat about 5 cloves of garlic in the same pan and deglaze with the rest of the wine. Add this to the braising dish with pork in it.Adding water, bring the liquid to covering the pork by 2/3s.  Add bay leaf.  Cover and placeS in the oven overnight.
6. Remove pork. Toss it to scoundrels. Take braising liquid, bring it to simmer, and skim off crud.
7. Meanwhile make rice with the veg stock and the tomato sauce in a pilaf style.
8. Take the last of the onions, carrots, and the fennel. Sautee until very tender. Sweat garlic, then add the last of the mustard seed, the nutmeg, and tumeric.  Cover with ham jus.  Add Ginger juice.  Simmer together for a while.

9.  Scoop roasted sweet potatoes out of their skin and add to soup.  Add coconut milk.  Use and immersion blender to make soup more or less homogeneous.  Then add cooked rice.   Add water to adjust thickness.  Cook together for 5 minutes.

It is even better the next day.  It is good to share with Sadie too.  Could it be our inspiration to get our asses in gear and start planting?

The ham, carrots, onions, garlic, and tomato sauce were obtained directly from the producer.  The ham local to southern Oregon and USDA cerifitied.  Finding USDA certified meat around here is hard because there are no local processing facalities.  The pork has to be shipped as live wieght to a government approved facility few hours away, and then has to be shipped back to be sold in local marketplaces.  The prices this ham, and products like it are reflected in its cost.  The bureaucratic hoops that have to be jumped through are many.  And the overhead cost are sustaintial.  Too large for smalls producers to own, run, or operate, or cooperate.  It is undermining local production of meats here in Southern Oregon.  Non-USDA meat cannot be sold to the general public by way of stores or restaurants.  Therefore, the market for non-USDA meats has to be out of public view.

Lets put it like this.  Consumers are taught to go to the store to get stuff.  If that stuff is food related items, especially meats, it has to go through USDA inspection and regulation.   The overhead costs of having USDA inspected meats are most affordable to larger meat produtions.  This also goes for restaurants.  High costs make it difficult for small producers to get food on market shelves.  People shop at markets and eat out at restaurants.  Local food is not featured, and people have no other choice but to buy non-local.  Here is a disconnect between producer and consumer that is an issue affecting small meat producers.

We got this ham locally from Willow Witt Rance in Ashland.  It did good.


City Mouse, Country Mouse

31 05 2008

(post by Ben)

There are countless versions of the fable: it’s either a cat-dog-mousetrap-maid that scares the mice cousins out of the pantry-cupboard-cellar-restaurant… but the moral is generally the same (this one being my favorite): “Better beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”

In case you forgot the story, a city mouse goes to visit his cousin in the country and helps him work on his farm. The city mouse is a little lazy, and complains a lot about the food and the work and how there’s not a lot of “people” around… then the country mouse goes to visit the city mouse and is amazed at how plentiful the food is, the “people” (human and rodent) only to be scared back to the country by the dog-cat-trap-maid which leads him to his moral.

Why is the country mouse judging so harshly his own food culture (what’s wrong with beans and bacon?) and saying that city food culture (where’d they get the ingredients for their cakes and ale anyway?) is almost worth dying for?


The inspiration for growing our own Mud Puddle Produce happened in Chicago, a city famous for cakes and ale (okay — famous for hot dogs, baseball, “Chicago-style” pizza, beer… and the “Best Restaurant” in the country, Alinea) and also “famous” for fear (okay, a lot of cities are… but Chicago has the most infamous gangters and gangstas; the first serial killer; and the most recent elevated train derailment).

Almost one year ago (20 June 2007, I saved the email), Gabrielle, Chad, Jason, and me were sitting outside eating some fancy food with some surprisingly un-fancy ingredients: grilled monk-fish (“poor man’s lobster”) with a tasty corn and pork-rind relish. It’s too perfect as a background to such an ostentatious first year of farming. I had just gotten back from a month couchsurfing in France and Ireland, Chad and Gabe were about to go to France and Italy for a month themselves; I became obsessed with French Breakfast Radishes (our first harvest!). Gabe’s old apartment overlooked a police station and also overlooked the WORST intersection in Chicago (while cat-sitting I saw/heard five accidents over one weekend). Here we were just wanting to grow stuff to eat and get out of the city.

And here we are doing it.

Take a group of city friends with unlimited culinary and business skills and throw them at the most beautiful county in Oregon and let them grow as great a variety of fruits and vegetables that the deer, the heat-waves, and the notorious Pea Leaf Weevil will allow, and see what happens. For the good of the earth and all of those on it, for our own sanity… and to make new friends and get acquainted with the ones we haven’t seen in awhile.

What I’m gettin’ at is this country x city mouse is gettin’ home while the gettin’ is good

(Also, it’s almost time for your first CSA box! You better get ready!!!)