Essex Farm Note
Week 3, 2017
Friday night team dinner is one of our strongest traditions at Essex Farm, dating back to our second or third year in business. It’s a celebration of the week’s hard work done, and the good food that came from it. Everyone who has worked on the farm during the week is invited. We eat in the farmhouse, after local distribution is wrapped up. Recently I realized I’ve cooked well over 500 team dinners, some of them dead simple, some elaborate, some for 5 people, some for 35. I’ve learned so much as a cook, and gotten so much joy from it. There is nothing as artificially affirming of one’s culinary skills as feeding a table full of hungry farmers. Sometimes, cooking for it is the best part of my week, especially if there is a kid or two underfoot in the kitchen, like there is today. Often, I don’t know what I’m cooking until I start gathering ingredients. Tonight’s dinner was inspired by Hannah, who is here from Oberlin College to work with us for a month, and made a gorgeous challah bread to share with us. I’m making chopped liver, roasted carrot soup, middle-eastern spiced poached chicken with wheat berries, and a kale salad. Maybe we’ll light some Shabbat candles before we eat tonight and send up an invocation for international peace through the beauty of good food.
Mark has been on a bread-baking tear the last couple of weeks. He recently read Michael Pollan’s Cooked, and has been working on Pollan’s no-knead 100% whole wheat sourdough loaves. It’s not an easy feat, but these loaves have been really good and getting even better. Pollan says most commercial whole wheat flour is made from grain that has been wetted before grinding (unlike ours), to make the bran separate more easily, but this is bad, because it sets off a series of enzymatic changes that degrade the flour and make an inferior loaf. Confusingly, you do want those enzymatic changes to happen, but not until just before the loaves are baked. Mark, following Pollan’s advice, has been mixing the whole wheat flour with water about 18 hours in advance, and turning in his sourdough starter the night before an early morning bake. The dough is quite wet, and baked in lidded cast iron pots in a 500 degree oven. The result is a pretty decent crumb for a 100% whole wheat loaf, ridiculously good flavor, and an absolutely top-notch crust. If you’re baking from Essex Farm flour, send us your best pictures and tips so we can pass them along.
What else? At managers’ meeting, we greenlighted the idea of raising a batch of 150 turkeys for the share this year. Turkeys are touchy in the brooder and there’s no guarantee it will be successful but I’m looking forward to trying. Mark’s talking about frost-seeding some legumes into the established pastures. The tractors are undergoing their winter overhaul. Kirsten and her crew pruned the raspberries, which makes me lust for fresh red fruit. The Belgian endive is sprouting, so we have that deep-winter treat to look forward to in the next six weeks. Safe travels to the farmers who are going to Washington this weekend to exercise their First Amendment rights, and thanks to the tight crew that is sticking around to keep the animals fed and milked while they are away. And that is the news from Essex Farm for this gray 3rd week of 2017. Find us at 518-963-4613, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa and kristinxkimball, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.
–Kristin & Mark Kimball