Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday, August 23 2016


     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:


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!