Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Excerpt from a letter to a friend:

Yesterday, during a long train ride I finished reading “Winners Take All,” the very recent book by Anand Giridiharadas that Katherine had recommended. I read through it quickly, but I did mark some passages that I considered relevant. The main issue that he focuses on has to do with the strange hypocritical dichotomy behind the actions of some of the ultra-rich, who are the root of both environmental and social problems worldwide, but who donate a small portion of their multi-billions to well-intentioned causes that seek to ameliorate some of those same issues. In other words, they take billions and give back millions.
Wealth becomes more concentrated in the hands of a very select few, climate change and the abundance of totalitarian governments continues to grow apace, aided and abetted by these self-same billionaires and their bought and paid for allies in government. Their technological “solutions” represent a vain hope that their lives can go on as usual, while they look for a magic bullet that will keep the imminent disaster at bay. Those false non-solutions cannot and will not make any significant difference and might, no probably, will make things worse.
For instance, he quotes Kavita Ramdas (she is an executive at the Ford foundation) as follows: “The nuance and inherent humility of the social sciences — the realization that development has to do with people, with human and social complexity, with cultural and traditional realities, and their willingness to struggle with messy and multifaceted aspects of a problem — have no cachet in this metrics-driven, efficiency-seeking, technology-focused approach to social change."
So what to do?
The reason I live in Vermont and the impetus for buying this small farm, was and continues to be my conviction that “a tear on the cheek belongs to the sea.” In other words, right action by individuals is part of the key, perhaps the entire key, to unlock a sustainable and just future for all of humanity. Small is beautiful, to use yet another cliche.
This is a challenge dear reader and I know you have many other interests, but I do welcome your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thoughtful Stewards - Burelli Farm Q&A

December 7, 2016 Peter Burmeister, Katherine Fanelli and Boo (an Australian cattle dog) raise chickens, cows and pigs in Berlin, Vermont. Peter answered a few of our questions to give us a picture of life on Burelli Farm.

What led you to farming? 


I grew up in a rural area of New York State, where all of our neighbors were either dairy farmers or orchardists. So I was exposed to farming at a very early age, although my family did not farm. I developed a great love for the soil and the rural landscape and expressed a desire to be a farmer. However my parents and public school teachers discouraged that wish. Farming was considered a low-class pursuit, as far as they were concerned, something to be engaged in by people who were not capable of doing anything else.  I was urged to get a "good education" and to "make something of myself." as though I were not "something" already. It was very depressing and I had a hard time making up my mind what career to pursue. After graduation from high school I went to college, but dropped out after three years. For a while I lived in the country and spent my time hunting, fishing and gardening. Eventually I went back to school and then had a long career in the commercial printing business, becoming the CEO of two printing companies in New York City and nearby New Jersey. I moved to Vermont in 2003. Katherine and I were married a year later and shortly thereafter I became the general manager of the Vermont Milk Company, a farmer-owned cooperative that had been organized by (now Senator) Anthony Pollina.  In 2007 we began raising chickens and beef cattle in Marshfield, and in 2010 we purchased 85 acres of land in Berlin, which we named Burelli Farm, by combining syllables of our last names (Burmeister and Fanelli).

Katherine was born in Hanover, NH, but early in her childhood her father, a college professor, joined the diplomatic service and the family was posted to Rome, Italy. Katherine was educated there and she still speaks Italian fluently. When the family returned to the US, they lived in the Washington D.C. area where Katherine finished high school. She then went to Goddard College, graduating in 1970, after which she bought property in Lyme, NH and operated a small farm. Later her travels took her to Georgia, Virginia and Maryland, before returning to VT about 25 years ago. She has worked for the Vermont Cheese Council and for Goddard and also attended St. Michael's College, where she received a masters in administration. Katherine has a deep love for animals. In past years she was a passionate horse person and more recently she is the main person deeply engaged in raising our chickens, meat birds as well as layers, which are major components of the Burelli Farm business. Katherine is a talented artist, her media include pastels, photography, ceramics and quilts.
The third member of our family is our Australian cattle dog, Boo. The breed, also known as "blue heeler," is known for its superior intelligence and loyalty and Boo is no exception. She is a constant joy to us and is also at times a source of frustration because of her quirkiness and sometimes unpredictable behaviors.

What are your growing practices? Why did you choose them?  


We are proudly certified organic for all of our products: beef, pork, chicken and eggs. We use no chemical fertilizers or pesticides on our land. All manure from our animals and birds is carefully composted before it is spread on our fields. Our small herd of heritage breed cattle is 100% certified organic grass-fed. We feed no grain, or synthetic supplements. Our hogs are fed on certified organic corn and other certified organic grains that we either grow ourselves here at the farm or purchase from other certified organic farms in Vermont, and nearby New York. We occasionally purchase a limited amount of certified organic pig ration from Morrison's feed mill in Barnet to augment the locally grown grains. Our chickens are fed certified organic grains from Morrison's and certified organic grains from our farm and other farms in Vermont and New York. We are one of the very few livestock and poultry producers in Vermont that are 100% certified organic. In addition to our commitment to organics, we are very excited about the rapidly growing regenerative agriculture movement in Vermont and worldwide. We work daily to improve the quality of our soil, by engaging in holistic resource management practices as described and promoted by Allan Savory, Jody Butterfield, and many others.

I have personally been a champion of holistic practices since my graduate school days. I received a master's degree in 2002 and my thesis was largely organized around the theories of holism as outlined by Jan Christian Smuts in the 1920's.

You process your own chickens - when did you build your facility and how has it changed things? 
When we first began raising meat birds we slaughtered them on the farm under the Vermont law that exempts up to 1000 birds from inspection. We soon realized that we would prefer to put into practice a series of procedures that would insure food safety. The building that we constructed three years ago for the purpose of processing poultry meets all the guidelines required by Vermont and Federal food regulations. Although our operation remains small, we feel confident that inspection is best for our customers. We follow rigid protocols as outlined in our HAACP plan, our sanitation procedures and careful monitoring of every step involved in slaughter and evisceration by Vermont's professional team of meat inspectors. We are proud to operate what the meat inspection service has told us is the cleanest slaughter facility in Vermont.

What's happening on the farm right now as we lead into winter? 


The warm weather has left the farm in a "twilight zone" between the end of the growing season and what we hope will soon be a snow-covered landscape. It is disconcerting and frightening to see how global climate change affects our farm. The fields where we planted cover crops are brilliant green, while the barnyard is a muddy quagmire. By now the ground should have been frozen solid, but instead it resembles mud season. We continue to prepare for winter by doing maintenance on our farm equipment, on the road that leads to the farm and other odds and ends. We have slaughtered some of our pigs and beef cattle and have a few more to go before the end of 2016.

What has surprised you about your chosen career? 


The biggest surprise about farming, which really should not have been a surprise at all, is how much I have learned. The teachers on this farm are the animals and birds, the soil, the sun, the rain and snow, the grass, the grains and the vegetables that grow in our extensive garden. I am a life-long learner and have been a teacher of young adults since 1983, and my personal credo, taken from the General Prologue to the "Canterbury Tales" comes from the Clerk of Oxenford: "Gladly would he learn and gladly teach." I have taught at Johnson State College, Norwich University, Champlain College, New England Culinary Institute and at various colleges in New York State and New Jersey.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

October 12, 2016

Oxygen Poisoning

     Two weeks ago Katherine and I took time out from the endless routine of preparing the farm for the impending onslaught of cold weather and went for a long drive to the west coast of Vermont.

     Our mission was to pick up a half ton of certified organic barley from Adirondack Organic Grains. Getting there involves scaling the Green Mountains and descending into the Champlain Valley in order to take the ferry across the Lake and into that distant territory of New York.

     It was a gorgeous early Autumn day.  The brilliant foliage that greets us these chilly mornings was still green, with just the merest hint of the yellows and reds that would astound us a fortnight later, and the air was warm enough to warrant short sleeves as we stood on the deck and watched the New York shore grow nigh.

     Mark Wrisley and his sons have been growing organic grains for a number of years now and they have made an impressive investment in huge storage bins, a combine that would do credit to any farm in the western U.S., plus new buildings to house equipment.  This year is the second one that has seen dealings between Burelli Farm and Adirondack Grains and we are grateful for the presence of such an abundant and credible nearby source of feed for our pigs and chickens.

      After loading the grain in our pickup truck, we returned to Vermont the long way around, driving south to the new Crown Point bridge that spans the narrowest part of Lake Champlain, then northeast to Bristol for a light lunch and finally climbing the formidable Lincoln Gap back to Waitsfield, and finally over Moretown Mountain to the Dog River Valley and home base.

      The beauty of that leisurely trip and semi-sea voyage contrasts greatly with an experience I had just a few days before at one of the farmers’ markets that I have been attending each week all summer.

     On that occasion I was straining to hear what the gentleman before me was trying to say.  The musician was singing about being “down on the bayou,” to the accompaniment of his amplified guitar, with a drummer in the background, and the combination just about drowned out anything else.

     I identified him as elderly, although chronologically he probably was not much past my own vintage of 70-plus.  He was bent over one of those high-tech walkers, made of titanium, or some other exotic material, and he spoke with a thick accent that I couldn’t identify.  Italian, perhaps, or eastern European?  The music made it impossible to place.

      So as to make the conversation more audible for both of us, I stepped out from behind my table.  The music had now segued into something about the joys of riding the rodeo but the song was coming to an end and during the lull I could begin to discern most of what the bent-over codger was saying.

     “When I first came to the country, I was so happy to go into a supermarket and see all the fruits and vegetables and meats together in one place.”  (I’m unable to replicate the cadence and pronunciation of the fractured English, but that’s the gist of it.)

     “I told my mother and father that I wouldn’t need to work in the garden anymore.  I hated it.  They had a big garden and fruit trees and they grew most of what they ate.  But I didn’t want to do it.  I told them it gave me oxygen poisoning.”

     I looked carefully for a hint of a smile, but his face didn’t change. 

     It’s not often that I am at a loss for words, but this time I couldn’t think of any way to respond.  So after a short pause, he resumed his shuffled walk, bent over the walking gadget, and exited the market, without looking to the right or the left.  I noticed that there was no sign of a shopping bag on his walker, so it is safe to assume that he hadn’t purchased anything.

     Oxygen poisoning. 

     Wherever this gentleman’s life journey had taken him, earlier in life, working in a factory or an office or some other indoor environment, he had long been deprived of sunlight as was evidenced by the unhealthy pallor of his face and arms.

     I am an organic farmer and an unabashed enthusiast for locally grown food produced without manufactured chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, so the following is my admittedly biased opinion.  Here it is: the supermarket food that he found so much more convenient than the bounty of his parents’ garden was hormone laden, poison sprayed, and devoid of nature’s nutrients.  A lifetime of that kind of eating made a significant contribution to his currently disabled physical condition. 

     OK, it’s fine if you disagree or have a very opinion.  I’m aware that my position is one that is frequently disputed and debated.

     But we might agree that there is a connection between diet, exercise and health.

     Or is oxygen poisoning a threat to be aware of and avoided?
     
     I think about this phrase daily as I go about my work with the cattle, the chickens and the pigs.  I am outside in the chill of early October mornings, remove my cold-weather gear under the brilliant sun of the afternoons, and don it again as it begins to grow dark later on.  In the intervals between chores, when I am in the house, it is usually in order to cook wholesome meals, using organic ingredients from our land or that of other similar farms.  Of course, there is also the eating of those luscious creations.  And in the doing of all those things there is the breathing.  Good fresh air, lots of oxygen, deep in the recesses of my lungs, bearing the necessities that make life possible.

     Oxygen poisoning?  Well, I guess I can't rule it out, but I'm a skeptic.  



     We’ve got a good stockpile of certified organic government inspected chickens in our freezers and we will be offering them here at the farm for as long as they last.  Beef and pork are on the horizon as well, and we’re taking orders now for Autumn delivery.  Contact Katherine to get on our radar.

     There are almost an infinite number of ways to cook chicken.  For those folks who tell me that they don’t really know much about it, I start by suggesting that a whole chicken can simply be put in the oven for an hour or so and the result will be a meal that is both quick and easy, as well as delicious.

       When it’s as hot as it’s been this summer, I try to avoid heating up the kitchen, so for those that are just a wee bit ambitious, I suggest cooking outdoors on the grill.  Again, there are many methods for grilling our amazing organic birds, and you don’t have to be limited by anything but your imagination.

     Here’s one of my recipes.

     Butterflied grilled chicken.

     To butterfly the chicken so it will lie flat on the grill, I make two cuts lengthwise along both sides of the back, about one or one and a half inches apart, depending on the bird’s size.  You could perform this operation with a poultry sheers or even a good heavy-duty scissors.  I use a sharp knife. Cut all the way through the soft bones from front to rear, releasing the back so it can be entirely pulled out.  Save the back for simmering to make gravy, or feed it to your favorite dog, (s)he will love it.

     Open the bird so it lies flat, using the breast bone as if it were a hinge.  Coat the chicken with coarse salt and garlic powder, or place several whole garlic cloves under the skin along the breasts.  If you like other herbs or spices, go with your favorites.  Rosemary and tarragon are good choices for chicken, and there are many more to choose from.

     Pre-heat the grill to a moderate temperature, about 300 degrees F, coat with the surface with cooking spray, and place the butterflied bird skin size up on the grill.  Watch the temperature carefully.  Higher than 300 degrees will result in burning the skin.  After about 20 minutes, turn the chicken over and cook for an additional 20 minutes.  For a 3 ½ to 4 pound bird 40 minutes cooking time should be sufficient.  Use a meat thermometer, if you have one, and check to be sure that the thickest part of the breast meat has reached 180 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, pull gently on a leg bone.  When cooking is complete the bone should pull away from the carcass and the juices should flow clear. 

     If either of the above criteria are not met, cook a bit longer.

     I like to eat chicken cooked this way with small potatoes roasted on the grill, but any of a wide variety of side dishes will compliment the bird really well.  This time of year a big salad with the let of the heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers fresh from the garden is a must.


     Enjoy!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

August 30, 2016

Sloppos for Breakfast

     Last Friday morning we awoke to the faint sounds of a gentle rain.  In the semi-lightness of the early a.m., I felt gratitude.  The soft soaking downpour was the kind that delights the soil and those of us that work with it.

     We’ve experienced an unusual period of near-drought this summer, punctuated by the occasional thunder-noisy torrent that results in deep gullies on the steeply sloping dirt road that leads to the farm.  After those storms, if we dig into the soil less than half an inch, we find it powder-dry, the water simply having run off.  Friday’s rain was the good kind and within a few hours our browning fields began to show green for the first time since the end of June.

    After a day or two the cows were grazing happily in the meadows and I no longer had to supplement the sparse forage with any of the hay that we’ve stored in the barn in anticipation of the coming winter months. 

     Katherine went out to feed the few hundred chickens that remain as we approach the end of our summer meat bird season.  Boo, our blue heeler, accompanied her as Katherine made her rounds.  Boo dearly loves both us, but it’s clear that Katherine is her number one and they are nearly inseparable.  Boo has good sense.

     My early morning tasks include filling the water troughs for our beef herd and the rapidly-fattening pigs, who also get their morning ration of mixed grains and the heirloom field corn that has begun to ripen in the field just beyond their pen.

     After chores, we sat at the big dining room table for a leisurely breakfast.  The morning meal is often the one of longest duration, giving us a chance to compare notes and brainstorm activities for the day, the week and often far beyond.  Lunch, if it happens at all, is usually a brief affair, eaten almost on the run amongst the jumble of farming activities.  And the evening meal is usually eaten from our laps in the living room, when we’re exhausted from the day’s labors and we mostly desire to sprawl on the couch until it’s time for an early bed.

     We eat eggs almost every morning.  Our small flock of laying hens produces eggs that are certified organic.  There’s a lot of demand for those eggs at the farmers markets, because a free-range certified organic egg is almost impossible to find either at the supermarket or any of the local co-op food stores.  Our supply is small, because we like to eat eggs and because we try to save some for our agri-tourism guests that book lodging through Airbnb.

     The layers that are currently producing are getting older, so the egg volume has been steadily decreasing of late.  We do have an up and coming batch of hens that are in their adolescence, so we’ve high hopes that we’ll have plenty of eggs to sell in the coming months.  We’ll let everyone know when that happens.

     Some mornings we simply have fried eggs over easy, which is what we did Friday morning.  Occasionally we make scrambled and on Wednesdays, which is processing day for our meat birds, we do hard boiled and fix egg salad sandwiches to eat quickly before the day’s harvest begins when the state meat inspector arrives at 7:30. 

     On days when we have a bit more time, I like to make omelets, using chopped up farm-cured ham or bacon when we have it, or sausage meat made from ground pork shoulder, sage, ginger and garlic.  Onions, tomatoes and zucchini when in season, and shredded Vermont cheese make up the rest of the ingredients.

     From time to time I take a few extra minutes to make what Katherine calls “Sunday breakfast,” regardless of what day of the week it might be.  My name for that particular gourmet treat is “Sloppos.”  My daughter, Anna Diaphenia Puchalski will appreciate this one; it was a staple breakfast for us when she was much younger.

     It begins with home fried potatoes, organic Yukon golds or red Norlands from our garden or, when our supply runs short, from a neighbor’s organic farm.  I parboil the spuds for a few minutes, whole if they are small, or cut in half if a bit larger.  Then I remove them from the pot and cut them into smaller bits before dropping them into a hot cast-iron skillet of bubbling bacon or sausage grease, or Burelli Farm certified organic lard.  As the potatoes begin to brown, I chop a Burelli Farm onion or two, depending on the size, and add the bits to the pan, lowering the heat to medium.

     If the grease came from our home-cured smoked bacon or either breakfast or chorizo sausage, I crumble some of one or both on top of the sizzling veggies. 

     When the potatoes are starting to turn the brown that resembles tarnished gold, and the onions are nearly transparent I break four eggs on top.  I cover the frying pan and let the heat do its work till the whites are congealed and the bright yellow yolks have begun to harden.  If I have some good Vermont cheese, like Cabot’s Mad River Reserve, I’ll grate some of that on top as well.

     When it’s all cooked to one solid mass, it’s ready to eat.  I like it with ketchup.  Annie’s or Woodstock organic are both pretty good.  Perhaps one day when I get time, I’ll try making my own.


     VOILA!  Sloppos for breakfast.

     We have lots of our amazingly delicious certified organic Vermont State Inspected Burelli Farm whole young chickens in stock, both fresh and frozen birds.  We will stop processing in three more weeks, and that means that come October and going forward we will only have frozen chickens until the stock is depleted.  Come and get 'em at the farm any day (please call first (802) 595-2573) or see me at the Waterbury Farmers Market (Thursdays 3 - 7) 5 Corners Essex Junction Farmers Market (Fridays 3:30 - 7:30) or the Randolph Farmers Market (Saturdays 9 - 1).

     The week of September 25th we will have our much loved certified organic USDA inspected ground beef available.  We plan to harvest two steers before the end of the year, and the first will be in a little more than a week.  The meet has to hang in the cooler for 10 days before it will be ready for grinding and then we will have it for sale here at the farm.  The price is the same as last year: $6.50 per pound and if you pre-order 10 - 20 pounds your price will be $6.00.  Because of limited availability, this first harvest is limited to 20 pounds per customer.

     Contact me: peter@burellifarm.com or Katherine: katherine@burellifarm.com to reserve your ground beef order and send us your check.

     And enjoy your Sloppos.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday, August 23 2016

Garlic.

     When I posted my recipe for pasta sauce a few days ago, I didn’t include one of the most essential ingredients: garlic.

     We grow garlic in our garden every year, planting it in mid-November and letting it “do its thing” over the winter months, till the bright green stalks emerge in April, one of the first signs of Spring.  We grew about 50 bulbs this year, which won’t be enough to last till next summer, so this fall we’re going to plant at least twice that many, maybe even more.

     In spring, about the same time the garlic begins to grow in earnest, I go off to my special private spot in the woods to seek out the earliest spring vegetable of all: wild leeks, or ramps.  Our good friend Andrea Stander, who is the executive director of Rural Vermont (an important advocacy non-profit that fights for the rights of farmers) was kind enough to share the spot where ramps grow, just a few miles down the road from our farm.  Harvesting ramps has to be done in a mindful manner as they are becoming an endangered species, even in the wilds of the Green Mountain State.

   Farmer extraordinaire, Alan LePage, of Barre, sells ramps at his Capital City Farmers market stand in spring.  He discovered a bumper crop growing on some vacant land that is in the process of being developed into housing.  It’s a sad case of urban sprawl, but in the meantime the ramps are there for Alan’s harvesting.

    Ramps are only available to eat for a few weeks in early spring, but they are a must on our table during that time and I’ve also been known to put some into the dehydrator in order to preserve their pungent flavors well into the year.  Ramps impart a garlic-like taste to almost any dish.  I particularly like them in omelets along with home-cured no nitrate bacon, derived from the bellies of our certified organic Burelli Farm pigs.

     Anyway, back to garlic.

     When I was a kid, we didn’t use garlic very much.  It was considered “vulgar,” and my Dad, his ancestry from northern Europe and the British Isles, didn’t care for it.  If we did find it in my mother’s cooking it was in the form of “garlic salt,” a strange synthetic mixture that you really don’t hear about very much these days.

    I find it interesting that a penchant for highly seasoned foods seemed to have skipped a generation in my family.  My maternal grandmother cooked with lots of garlic and other seasonings.  But my mother’s cooking, while often tasty, was very bland.  Perhaps that was a nod to what can best be described as “American food.”  (I would probably better characterize it as “non-food,” but of course that’s just my enlightened prejudice.)

     Grandpa Sam always planted garlic in our garden each spring and when he visited he would pull one of the plants and eat it immediately, savoring every burst on his tongue.  Back in those days I was never tempted to indulge.

     Now garlic has become respectable.  It’s rare to eat in a fine restaurant where a touch of garlic isn’t part of the savory flavoring of gourmet fare.  And it’s not because the chef is sprinkling garlic salt on top of whatever they have been preparing.  No, most probably the garlic is of the fresh variety, actual cloves that are finely chopped, sautéed, and then added to the dish you ordered.

     Why do I feel it is important to dedicate an entire blog to garlic?

     Well, I’ve been struggling with my omission of this vital ingredient in my pasta sauce recipe that I posted a few days ago. So if you’re going to attempt to make Peter’s Pasta Sauce, don’t neglect to include at least three or more cloves of garlic per batch.  I like to coarsely mince the garlic so that every once in a while I get a nice chunk bursting with flavor in my mouth along with the pasta, the veggies, and the Burelli Farm ground meats. Choose what suits you best and enjoy!

     At this time of year we have lots of fresh and frozen certified organic chickens available.  We will stop processing chickens toward the end of next month, so after that we’ll only have frozen ones, till our stockpiles are all depleted, probably around the end of the year.


     Also . . . next month we will have a limited supply of certified organic USDA inspected beef as well as chickens and we are currently taking orders for our certified organic USDA inspected pork that will be available in November.  Contact Katherine if you want to reserve any of the above, we expect to sell out quickly: Katherine@burellifarm.com.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

August 21 2016

     I have been hoping, or perhaps I mean fantasizing, that some reader to this page will be wondering what has stimulated two people, who have had careers in other professions, to put their hands and their hearts deep into the soil late in their lives.

      Should anyone care to know, this writing is my effort to respond.  Katherine can certainly speak for herself, and perhaps at some point in the future she will do so.  What follows comes from my musings on the topic and is as much an effort to answer the question for myself as it is for anyone else.

       Farming for me has its roots in my passion for food.  I love everything about food: growing, harvesting, preparing, cooking and eating.  Especially I love eating, especially when all the preceding leads up to a plate or bowl full of goodness.  The satisfaction builds every step of the way.

      Perhaps it’s not a stretch to say that food is deeply embedded in my DNA. Just a single generation separates me from my immigrant grandparents, who arrived in America from the eastern edge of the Austro-Hungarian Empire early in the 20th century.  The stories of their childhoods where they lived close to the soil, literally, in homes with earthen floors, always intrigued me.

      Although my parents were not farmers, our family lived in a rural community, where I have early memories of neighbors operating horse-drawn machinery.  There were apple orchards on three sides of our country home, and dairy farms a short walk up or down the hill on a winding dirt road.  We drank golden Guernsey milk in glass bottles that we obtained from a dairy plant on the other side of the small town, and farm stands supplied us with vegetables in season as well as commodities like eggs and luxuries like honey.

     Most of all, my childhood memories involve the food I experienced at the tables of my grandparents, aunts and uncles.  That food nourished both my child body and my developing soul.  Savory broths and stews, roasted fowls and meats, mingled flavors of mixed vegetables both cooked and raw in salads and finally, delightfully fragrant fruit soups and home-made pastries, were the highlights of visits with the much-loved elders of our once large tribe, now much depleted by time.

     Alas, there are no recipes.  After tasting the endless creations that emanated from the tiny kitchens of those days, primitive by 21st century standards, I would pester for details, only to be told that the only way I could be taught how to cook was by watching.  There were no actual guidelines.  Cooking the European way was by instinct and tradition, and those were the only methods by which it could be passed on to another generation.  An impatient child was too easily distracted and before I knew it, the elder generation had passed and wit them opportunity departed as well.

      Now that I am an adult, and in fact am now older than many of that generation were when I attended their funerals, I have had no choice but to develop my own repertoire of favorites for our daily fare.  These don’t even come close to replicating ancestral creations, but both Katherine and I find them enjoyable and satisfying.  The most important ingredient, besides the superb organic meats and vegetables that we grow at Burelli Farm or obtain from other organic farms in the neighborhood, is the pleasure of growing and cooking food that is both tasty and nourishing.

Today, and in the future, I will share some ideas for meals that we often fix for ourselves here at the farm.  Feel free to use them as foundations for your own creativity.  Improvise and improve; innovate and imagine.  Be bold.  If you start with good ingredients, it is very difficult to go wrong.

Peter’s Pasta Sauce:

Ingredients:

One pound each Burelli Farm certified organic ground beef and ground pork.
(You could substitute two pounds of either beef or pork and the result will be just as good.  We sometimes do that, but we like the combination of flavors best.)
One quart certified organic tomato puree
(We like to make our own puree when tomatoes are in season.  We freeze it in Mason jars and enjoy it all winter long.)
Seven ounces certified organic tomato paste.
(The tomato paste thickens the sauce.  It isn’t essential, but I like the texture of the finished product.  We don’t make our own tomato paste, perhaps some day we will.  Right now we use the canned variety.)
Two medium certified organic green, red or yellow bell peppers.
One large certified organic yellow or red onion.
One teaspoon ground red chili pepper flakes.
Two tablespoons Italian seasoning (we like to use dried oregano and basil from our garden whenever we can.)

Cooking Directions:
Mix the beef and pork in a large bowl using clean hands or a large sturdy wooden spoon.
When mixed, place in a large heavy pot such as a Dutch oven.  Brown the meat thoroughly over medium high heat, stirring often with the wooden spoon.
Chop the onion and peppers (not too finely) and sauté in two tablespoons of rendered certified organic leaf lard (we make lard at the farm from our pigs) or vegetable oil.  (Be aware that most commercial non-organic oils are made from GMO corn, canola, or other similar sources.)
Add sautéed vegetables to the browned meats, stir in tomato puree and paste with the wooden spoon.  Be sure all ingredients are well mixed. 
Add spices.
Simmer on top of stove for at least two hours or cook in slow cooker on low for 8 – 10 hours or more.
Boil one pound of your favorite organic pasta till al dente (or make your own using certified organic local flours; there are many wonderful organic flours grown and milled in Vermont and nearby Quebec.)

Drain pasta.  Ladle sauce on top and sprinkle with your favorite grated cheese.  Italian parmesan or Romano (or a combination of both)  are traditional, but local Vermont cheeses such as cheddar work well too.  Just be sure to grate your own cheese – pre-grated cheese often contains objectionable contaminants like wood fiber.

Eat and enjoy!