Dinner plans
Clockwise from top left: Napa cabbage salad, roasted fingerling potatoes with stuff, chorizo verde.

Clockwise from top left: Napa cabbage salad, roasted fingerling potatoes with stuff, chorizo verde.

"What do you do with this?"  This is a question we field at the farmers' markets with some regularity.  Well, when it comes to the sausages, many of them stand on their own, and our typical response goes something like, "Just cook 'em and eat 'em, with some greens and roasted potatoes to make a square meal."  The picture above represents a pretty standard dinner at Short Creek.  Simple and delicious, made with all fresh produce from our own vegetable garden. We don't bring veg to the markets, but our veggie-focused comrades will have everything you need.  The only thing that takes a minute here is the roasted potatoes, but it's very little prep time and mostly drinking-beer-waiting-for-them-to-be-done time.  In my experience.

Napa cabbage salad.  This one's pretty complicated, folks.  Slice some Napa cabbage, thinner on the stem end and a bit thicker on the leaf end.  Grate one clove of garlic on a microplane.  Slice one onion very thin.  Toss cabbage, onion, and garlic with soy sauce, sesame oil, and some vinegar.  Add more salt and/or vinegar to taste.  Add other stuff (a little fresh chili? cilantro?) as you wish - you are the master of your own destiny, at least in cabbage salad related matters.  Make this right after you get the potatoes in the oven so it can marinate a bit while the potatoes are roasting. 

Roasted potatoes.  We like fingerlings or Yukon Gold (or similar) for roasting.  Slice potatoes into wedges (if using Yukons), or in half or in oblique rounds (if using fingerlings).  Liberally grease a baking sheet with lard or bacon fat (fine, you can use olive oil if you want) and arrange the potatoes in a single layer.  Salt liberally.  Seriously, more salt, don't mess around - it's hard to over-season potatoes.  Now here's the trick - cover with foil (or just use a second baking sheet) and roast in a hot oven (450F).  The salt draws some moisture from the potatoes, so you're effectively steaming them in this first step.  After 20 - 30 minutes, remove the cover and continue roasting until golden brown and crispy, perhaps another 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes - this makes them easier to get off the sheet (a sharp flexible spatula like a fish spatula is helpful, too).  If you used enough fat, you shouldn't really have problems with sticking.  Salt to taste and you're done.  If you want to mix things up a little, you can do like I did in the picture above.  Toss those hot potatoes with some thinly sliced onion, lots of fresh parsley, a wee bit of olive oil and a few drops of vinegar, and some grated Parmesan.  Or whatever strikes your fancy.

Sausage.  Well, this one's easy - we're going with pan-roasted.  If you don't have one already, get yourself a decent digital instant-read probe-type thermometer.  Re-printed from the very well-regarded "How to Cook Sausage" flyer, a classic by the inimitable David Viola:  Preheat the oven to 200°F. Heat an ovenproof frying pan, slicked with oil, over medium heat. Cook sausage three minutes, flip, and cook another two minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven until sausages reach 140°F, roughly eight to ten minutes more.  We usually slice each link into five pieces before serving, but let them rest for a few minutes first.

Jeff Backer
More summer please
Pig pasture with cover crop growing.

Pig pasture with cover crop growing.

First, it's business time. 

1.  Having taken a fresh look at the winter slaughter schedule, and then a fresh look at the size of our freezer, we've decided to extend the discount CSA pricing until Ocober 1.  By joining the CSA early, you help us not only by taking some pressure off our storage capacity, but also by helping to finance the enormous costs of feeding and processing 60+ pigs through the fall and winter.  Check out the website for more info and to sign up.

2.  We will be doing the delivery to Grafton this Monday, Labor Day, between noon and 3pm.  Our hope is that the early pickup will give you time to come get your groceries at Potter Hill with plenty of time to prep for an afternoon BBQ. Sausages and ground beef will thaw easily (and safely) in less than an hour in a large bowl of cool water. Incidentally, the weather looks lousy on Sunday, but great on Monday!

Ok, moving on to more important things - namely, me griping about the weather.  Seriously, what the hell happened to summer? There's been a definite feeling of fall in the air the last couple of cool nights, and the forecast indicates more to come.  I do love fall, and I'll admit the weather has been pleasant in and of itself, but I can't say I'm ready just yet. With the tomato and pepper plants loaded up with fruit and a lot of ripening left to do on the squash vines, we're gonna need some more hot days and warm nights, please. There's no evidence in the forecast to support my hunch, but after the spring we had (remember April??) I'm betting on a long mild autumn with nothing but sunny warm days (but not too hot) and beautiful crisp nights (but no frost) until well into October. Ah, farm fantasies.

Back to reality, things really are cruising along here on the farm.  The last sow farrowed about 10 days ago, and so our spring/summer farrowing rotation is complete, with a total of 81 pigs born and raised to weaning-age since the middle of May. That's 8.1 piglets weaned from each of our 10 sows, if you're keeping score.  And if you're not, we certainly are.  With most of the sows actually being first-litter gilts, these are good results. Good, but not great - we aim to wean 10 piglets per sow on average and with little variation.  The sows are getting re-bred right after weaning (in theory), so that puts us on track for winter farrowing starting in November and continuing right through the middle of January (in theory), which in turn puts us on track to harvest starting in early May 2018 (...in theory).  Talk about planning ahead!  And, speaking of planning ahead, I suppose it's about time to nail down our winter farrowing setup..... erm, nope.  Not yet.  I need a couple of weeks to just exist, thank you very much.

As you know, SCF is a farm-to-kitchen operation, and things are cranking in the kitchen, too.  Though we've been coping with a tight pork inventory this summer as we transition to doing all of our own pig breeding, there's been enough produce coming out of the garden lately to make sure that Dave has his hands full.  Dill pickles, pickled beets, smoked chili sauerkraut, lacto-ketchup, and kimchi are all in the works, and you should start seeing some of this stuff at markets soon with more to come throughout the fall.

Thank you all for contributing to our pork shortage this summer.  We're thrilled to be struggling to keep up with demand in our second season on the farm, and your continued support means the world to us.  We understand that schedules get crazy as kids head back to school and the days get shorter, but don't forget that the farmers' markets are still in full swing.  In fact, September through early October is the most bountiful time on many New England farms, as summer crops taper off and fall crops take their place.

See you at the markets this weekend!

Jeff Backer
Gray day garden tour
Jeff Backer
Pastured pork chops, grassfed steaks, and instant-read thermometers

"Wow! Those look like steaks!" said our friend and neighbor Dennis when I dragged him into the barn to show off the pork chops we just got back from the butcher. What Dennis didn't know was that was probably the nicest thing he could've said. We strive to raise richly-colored and well-marbled pork, and it was precisely these qualities that made Dennis think "steak".  And let me tell you, they taste as good as they look.  Our well-exercised, well-fed pigs produce a cut of meat that bares very little resemblance, in flavor or appearance, to that insipid flabby mush that passes for pork in the supermarket. 

And speaking of steak... we have actual steaks! That's right, 100% grassfed heritage-breed beef is back in stock.  Strip steaks, rib-eyes, ground beef, and more.  The marbling and color on these steaks is amazing, and of course you can't go wrong with a couple of pounds of grassfed ground.

We're down to six varieties in the sausage department, but they're all delicious. If you can handle a bit of heat, I highly recommend the Carrot Habanero. Inspired by this Belizean hot sauce, the Carrot Habanero sausage is a perfect balance of sweet and spicy, fruity pepper and rich earthy carrot.  We'll be replenishing the sausage inventory over the next few weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for new stuff and old favorites.

Finally, do yourself a favor and pick up one of these instant-read probe thermometers. I really like the optional skinnier needle probe, though the included probe will get the job done. A good instant-read thermometer takes the guess-work out of cooking meat, and with the probe you can set an alarm to go off when a set temp is reached. This is really handy for things like sausages and chops and steaks and burgers that tend to get finished in the oven. 

Jeff Backer
More farm pictures
Jeff Backer