We have a birthday, and tiny little party planned, on the farm for Dave today. It’s a birthday that ends with a zero, so we can’t let it pass by. I think maybe he’s 20, which is a little crazy because he’s worked out here 28 years or so. We’re excited for a little fun together at the farm.
In thinking about this small party I am reminded of the handful of friend and family birthday parties that got put off early last spring, in hope of a chance to hold a celebration in a couple of months. Those postponed parties never happened, and bit by bit the newness and scariness of the pandemic gave-way to this current reality. The beginning of this month seems to have a lot of people reminiscing about the last “normal” gatherings they were a part of, or about the few days that things went from open to shut down.
One silver lining about the time we have all found ourselves in this past year might include food. Last spring, interest in our Summer CSA shares lead us to filling up, and going past our target number, very quickly. This year again, we filled up quickly for the coming Summer CSA too. This is nice for us, for the local economy, and, we trust, for you our members too. Perhaps preparing food and sharing food has turned into a different experience for some of you this past year with changing schedules and fewer places to go. Canning supplies, seeds, community gardens – all these things are in hot demand. This seems like a good thing to me. Of course, it can feel normal to most of us to think of having a pantry full of food or time to make some new pastries or bread, but this time has shown the immense inequity in pay, job security, and food security in our country and it is a privilege to have canning lids or instant yeast be the only scarcity some of us have to think about.
During this time, the partnership between food and celebration is what I miss most. Sometimes I catch some question in the news to the extent of ‘will we ever go back to… the old normal?’ Plenty of things about the old normal weren’t so great to start with, but when it comes to things like pot-lucks, Holiday dinners and other extraordinary but regular gatherings I am sure we’ll go back to it. Those things feel essential to our humanity in some way. If we never shared meals together again, it would be like never hearing music again.
This pandemic has felt like a year of holding ones’ breath. Whenever it’s safe- I’ll be ready with a plate and fork to eat with anyone who will sit with me.
For the farm crew,
In your share this month:
Beets – Red cabbage – Carrots – Onions – Russet and French Fingerling potatoes – Rutabaga
From The Smitten Kitchen
Makes 24 cupcakes (or one two-layer cake, instructions at end)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots (Note, I grate mine in my with my finest grater, though it’s slower. Worth it for a smooth and fluffy texture!)
1 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.
Bake cupcakes 14 to 18 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes or so, then transfer cakes to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing them.
To make a carrot layer cake: Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans instead of cupcake molds. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, and bake the layers for about 40 minutes each, or until a tester inserted into center comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off paper; cool cakes completely.
Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.
To assemble a carrot layer cake, frost the top of one cake, place the other cake on top. Frost the sides and top, swirling decoratively. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes to set up frosting.
For the layer cake scenario, you will probably have a bit of leftover frosting, which you can tint and use for decorating, or save to smear on gingersnaps. What, you don’t do that too?
Slow Cooked Rutabagas with pork
From the Southern Kitchen
2 to 4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, tied into a single roast with butcher’s twine
5 large garlic cloves, halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 (1-pound) rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste
2 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Apple cider vinegar
Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
Use a paring knife to poke 10 slits about 1 inch deep all around the pork shoulder. Stick one garlic halve in each slit. Aggressively season the pork shoulder with salt and pepper.
In a large Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the pork shoulder and sear until well-browned on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to the oven and roast until fork-tender, 3 to 4 hours. Let rest in the pot until cool enough to handle.
Use two forks to shred the pork into bite-sized pieces, leaving all drippings and cooking liquid in the pot. Add the rutabagas and sugar. Pour in enough chicken broth to come to the top of the meat and vegetables. Add water, if needed, to fill the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the pot over high heat and bring the cooking liquid to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the rutabaga is very tender and the sauce is fully-flavored, about 12 hours. (See note.)
After 12 hours of cooking, taste the stew and season with additional salt and sugar, if needed. Skim off any excess fat from the top of the stew. Stir in vinegars to taste, and serve hot.