Posted on

Our Chef Dinner

Yesterday got a little hectic, I won’t pretend otherwise.

At the farmer’s market, a family of five came by and expressed interest in joining us for our Chef Dinner.  I was feeling prepared for our small contingent, but almost doubling the guest list meant we needed to kick into high gear.  I was so excited by the prospect of our new guests that I went to another market vendor and commissioned some bouquets.  When Peggy from Newfield Herb Farm came by with her flowers, she spontaneously offered to run to the local nursery to pick up some chrysanthemums for me!  She kindly brought me back three ‘mums about 45 minutes later.

Nadav and Bru arrived around 3:45 to set up.  I had gathered all of my most quaint and charming items, but I am not really much of a decorator.  Bru swiftly set up my mason jars, straw bales, lamb fleece and photos to create more ambiance than I have ever seen in any other hastily-tidied carport.

IMG_8692

IMG_8690

The apples and the leaves strewn artfully about was 100% Bru.  It was really a treat to get to chat a little and get to know Nadav and Bru while we worked to get this set up.  There’s something magical in taking ordinary objects and arranging them artfully so they lend gravitas.

Soon after the table was set, we received an unfortunate phone call.  The family of 5 was having a family emergency and would not be attending.  We appreciated their call but it was hard not to feel a little disappointed.

Our joy was renewed, however, when our first guests arrived.  Dan and Marda have been friends ever since I worked at Fat Toad Farm in Brookfield.  They purchased and refurbished the drafty old farmhouse I lived in during those years into a house with the same charm as the old place, but with modern conveniences and full insulation.  They are kind and generous people, so getting to show them around my sheep farm dream, realized, was a real privilege.   Dan and Marda raise bees, harvest apples and boil maple syrup, among other endeavors.

Then Matt and Reeni arrived.  They are friends of Matt’s from before he and I knew each other.  Matt and Reeni also appreciate the journey Matt and I have taken in our relationship and in creating this farm as it stands today.   Matt works in management at a large food co-op in Chittenden County, so he has perspective on the other side of food-dom.  Reeni’s family is Egyptian, so we got to discussing her family lamb recipes with Nadav, who is Israeli-American.  Reeni is interested in writing a recipe book that we can offer alongside the lamb we sell.  She would get paid per-book, and we would have recipes at-hand to help people get the most out of their lamb orders.

Seeing our friends was wonderful, but I imagine you’d like to hear about the food:

IMG_8714

Our first course was braised lamb riblets over a fall salsa with a currant glaze.  I am completely in awe of how Nadav made the riblets so tender, yet crisp.  I usually get one or the other.   The salsa, entirely sourced within 10 miles of the farm, provided a sharp, tangy contrast to the lamb.

IMG_8715

Our salad course provided another flavor and texture contrast with three layers of vegetables.  On the top, a variety of the freshest local tomatoes.  In the middle, lightly wilted greens with a subtle dressing.  On the bottom, local brussels sprouts over discs of beet and carrot.  The carrot was braised in beet juice, creating a delicious and original flavor and texture.   The sprouts were sauteed in lamb sausage fat and apple cider, which eliminated the bitter undertones and left a pure brassica bliss.  On top, crumbled lamb sausage and goat cheese.  Delicious!

IMG_8730

The main course was Nadav’s most creative venture yet.  We were advised to play with our food, and handed a little glass of opaque pinkish-orange juice.  We learned that the juice was raw tomato water.  The tender, thin, ravioli revealed tomato puree inside.  Underneath was a subtly-seasoned pulled lamb.  So we mixed our ravioli and lamb while drizzing tomato juice on top.

You know that tangy, sour flavor you get from cooked tomatoes?  That canned flavor?  Imagine lamb with tomato sauce where the tomatoes don’t have the slightest hint of that sour, metallic, “cooked” flavor.  Just pure lamb with pure, fresh, bright tomato.  I didn’t really think that there could be a new way to put lamb with tomato, but Nadav found one and it was amazing.  Real creativity in cuisine is a marvel to behold.

IMG_8732

How to top this series of lamb revelations?  Why not have a generous slice of apple pie with local ice cream on top.  Nadav said that our apples are as good as he’s found.

I am very grateful to Nadav, Bru, Dan, Marda, Matt and Reeni for coming to celebrate our harvest of lamb and apples.  Next time, you should join us!

If you are interested in learning more about Chef Nadav and his farm dinners and private chef services, check out his website: http://chefnadav.com/

Posted on

On Farm Dinner

Join us on the farm for a dinner celebrating the harvest.  Craftsbury chef Nadav Mille will be preparing a tantalizing menu of foods using lamb from our farm and other local ingredients.  Chef Nadav’s cooking is vibrant with flavor and creativity – I sincerely hope you will consider joining us for this special evening.

If you can’t join us, we have plenty to lamb for sale!

69528844_388883655149404_2552596190403231744_n

Posted on

Doner Kebab

Have you ever experienced the magic that is a vertical stack of meat, slowly rotating and barbecuing, then shaved into a pita or flatbread with lettuce and sauce for eating?

I have.  In a perfect word, I would have a vertical Doner Kebab spit, but this is not a perfect world and I don’t tend to favor “unitasker” kitchen implements anyhow.

When I discovered the Spruce Eats “shortcut” Doner Kebab recipe, I was elated.  And friends, it works.  It’s not QUITE like the vertical spit kind, but it’s crispy and good and close enough to fill that void in my life.  And it’s so simple: in short, make a spiced lamb loaf, then finely slice and fry the slices.  Nothing elaborate needed, no special skills required.

Here are my lamb loaf slices, cooking up crisp.  I didn’t have good pitas available, so I just ate it on bread like a sandwich – delicious, nevertheless.

We have ground lamb available in all of our Lamb Boxes – order today and I’ll deliver as soon as I am in your area in NH, MA or VT.

20190820_192155

Posted on

Riblets

Raise your hand if you like Barbecue.

Alright…

Raise your hand if you like the crispy parts where the sauce and the fat melt into tasty meat.  Is that your favorite bit?  Would you nibble on bones all day?

Congrats, you are my barbecue twin.  Because that’s my favorite bit.  I’m all about texture in food, and the crispy/juicy contrast has to be my favorite.

Cue the Lamb Riblet.

I dry-rubbed some of my lamb riblets with Memphis Dust and cooked them at a low temperature on our Weber kettle grill for 3 hours.  I probably should have stopped at 2.5 hours- they were a little overcooked in spots.  The meat had a rich pink smoke-ring and the fat was well-rendered.  I love that unlike pork, which is kind of a neutral flavor substrate, lamb tastes lamby no matter what.   I paired it with a sour beer that broke up the unctuous fattiness nicely.

20190803_18312720190803_180654

Instructions for cooking riblets vary a great deal depending on your grill or oven setup.  I recommend amazingribs.com for real, tested recipes.  Don’t let the shouty, blinky nature of the site fool you- I promise it is the real thing for food science-based recommendations and techniques for making great barbecue on any kind of grill.

We have 18 more sets of riblets, so get some for your next barbecue at the next Craftsbury Farmer’s Market!

 

 

 

Posted on

To The Geese, Raising Their Goslings in Our Midst

20190530_190622

20190530_085513

 

Dear Mr. Gander, Mr. Gander and Ms. Goose,

First, my most sincere condolences for the loss of the other Mrs. Goose and one gosling on 5/27 at the hands of Mr. Fox.  We are truly sorry for the loss of your dear sister/wife/mother/son/daughter.

We would like to express our absolute joy at the growth of your brood of seven.   Your parenting would shame even the most anxious Manhattan mom or dad, as your helicoptering and minding ceases neither day nor night.

To the task at hand: As laudable as your efforts are, we are writing to remind you that the landowners, Katie and Matt, do reserve the right to utilize and occupy shared spaces including, but not limited to:  1) the driveway  2) the front yard  3) the entrance to their house  4) the garage and environs.  It has come to their attention that you wish to dispute this ownership, and that you have in fact chased them and several guests in the driveway at numerous times, employing threatening gestures while disturbing the peace. In his affidavit, the UPS man reports “they are not the worst geese on my route but they chase my truck every time.”

Your landlords would like to remind you that you inhabit this farm at their pleasure, and the threatening words and gestures that you employ are unwelcome and could be grounds for termination at a later date.  The terms of your lease are non-negotiable because you are birds and birds cannot sign legal contracts, even upon reaching the age of majority.

Please cease and desist your aggressive behavior, or our actions will escalate.

 

Sincerely,

Katie’s pretend-lawyer, conveniently also named Katie.

Posted on 2 Comments

Bringing Home the Bacon

Matt had a hard task ahead of him:  Ten hours of labor taking the front of the tractor off,  replacing a $12 gasket, then ten hours of labor putting the gasket back on.

I thought that the best way to thank Matt for a really grungy, fiddly job would be to finally make a big pork belly from the freezer into bacon.  The belly weighed ten pounds, so I cut it into thirds for easier handling and to adhere to the recipe suggestions.

I tried a recipe from The Spruce, which has generally been a decent source of recipes for me that aren’t to fussy or involved.  I read the bacon recipe over three times and decided it seemed about right.

I rinsed the bacon and applied the pepper/salt/pink salt/sugar mixture.  Dutifully turning the bacon daily helped ensure a complete cure.  After ten days, I was ready to try some bacon.

IMG_20190514_224555_265

This is where things went a bit awry: I washed the first third of the bacon but didn’t soak it.  I smoked it on the grill, sliced off a few bits and tried it.

BLECHCH.  It was far too salty and some of the fat had a weird fishy flavor.  I spent a bit of time troubleshooting, and came to find that I had not rinsed away enough of the original cure.  So I rinsed the rest of that chunk and soon we had much more edible bacon.

The second two chunks were more thoroughly rinsed, and I am happy to report that they were delicious.  The meat is tighter and a little tougher than grocery store bacon.  The smokey flavor tastes stronger and more authentic.  The bacon is overall less “canned” seeming.  It’s less perfectly uniform.  The only downside?  I can’t achieve the thin slices that a machine will do.  Oh well.

20190521_185827

I would certainly make bacon again.

Posted on

Lamb-burgers

cloverworks farm vermont lamb

Matt kept saying “MMMMMMM” when he tried this simple lamburger.  It was hard to focus on my own lamb burger with all of the UMMM in the background.  The richness of the lamb, the creamy tang of the cheese and the tart mineral of the capers blends into a delicious medley.

As an aside – too many food blogs hide the recipe under a semi-relevant novel of personal experiences.  I’m going to share recipes on the top

This burger is incredibly simple:

  • 1/4-1/3 pound of ground lamb per patty
  • salt and pepper
  • 1-2 oz goat cheese
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of capers, without liquid
  • homemade or purchased bun of your choice (or no bun at all if you are avoiding carbs).  I recommend toasting and buttering the bun.

Naturally, we made this burger from lamb raised here on the farm.  I recommend buying grassfed lamb – 1 pound of ground should feed 3 adults or two adults and two children.   You can always buy pastured lamb from here, of course!

The key to a really succulent burger is salting and peppering the meat before you form the patty.  It takes a little trial and error to find the right amount of salt for you, but once you gain some confidence, your burgers will start to sing.

I prefer grilled burgers to pan-frying.  I like to semi-smoke them slowly over a lower heat.  Medium to medium rare is the rule in this house for optimum juiciness.  I have to credit Matt for helping me to learn to appreciate the texture of a medium rare burger.

I considered melting the goat cheese onto the burger, but found it was actually a nice temperature contrast on warm day to have cool goat cheese.  Plus, I didn’t have to worry about valuable (and pricey!) goat cheese dripping off the burger into the flames.

Assembling the burger is simple – toasted bottom bun, burger, cheese, capers nestled into the cheese, top bun, GO.

Enjoy this perfect weekday-dinner burger and let me know what you think!

 

Posted on 5 Comments

Making a Few Changes

I’ve had a long-term struggle with this website and blog that I am finally ready to talk about.

There is a conflict between my efforts to sell yarn and my efforts to sell meat.  It seems like the folks who are here to see the sheep and the yarn aren’t always keen on meat, and the folks who want to know more about the meat might not have a whole lot of interest in the yarn.  I have two audiences and splitting the difference seems to be hurting my bottom line.  In order to make my farm viable, I have to market my lamb and yarn effectively.  To sell lamb, I have to talk about lamb and lamb recipes.  At the same time, I also want to talk about yarn and sheep for all of my friends who love sheep stories and fiber arts.

So I have come up with a compromise.  I know that most of my visitors read my blog posts when they show up on my farm Facebook page.   I now have a second Facebook Page, Cloverworks Farm Kitchen, where I will share blog posts that are about cooking, recipes and lamb.  Cloverworks Farm Kitchen is also available on Instagram.  So folks who like yarn and sheep can follow Cloverworks Farm, meat fans have Cloverworks Farm Kitchen, and if you love everything we do, follow both!  If you follow this blog using RSS, you’ll get all of the content to enjoy.

I would love to hear thoughts and feedback about this – it takes a lot of pressure off me to constrain my writing.  I have recently had a lot of thoughts about our current cooking culture, so I am eager to have both projects on hand.

20190427_180146
A sample of my recent “simple recipes” inspiration.

 

Posted on

Honestly…

I really want to understand what is behind all of the meal-kit and meal-replacement services proliferating in my Facebook and Instagram feeds right now.

When I started raising sheep, we were at the height of post-Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Farmer’s Markets were peaking in popularity, and it felt like I’d have no trouble selling my products.  Small farms were popping up all around Vermont, while stores struggled to catch up with the rising demand for locally produced food.  “Loca(l)vore” was still a word in use?

Fast forward to now:  One of our local farmer’s markets has posted another year of declining sales and revenues.   It is challenging to get a balance of vendors (meat, cheese, veggies, prepared foods and crafts) because the sales balance keeps moving towards prepared foods and away from wholesome vegetables.  Once all of the vegetable vendors are gone, the market morphs into a street fair with food.

Meanwhile, just offhand, I can think of Sunbasket, BlueApron, Hellofresh, Marley Spoon, Soylent and umpteen other meal or meal-replacement kits.  Many of them have such similar names and ads that I can’t help but suppose that they are A/B marketing tests where sellers are trying two different names with the same kits behind them.   How many of these kits have you seen using paid blog placement and clickbait websites for promotion?

I know I am just ranting but I want to you feel how disheartening it is to be producing food with my own hard labor and then to see such aggressive promotion of food entirely disconnected from place, from farmer and from carbon footprints.  How much carbon goes into the individual plastic wrapping, boxing and shipping?   I admit that I can’t even feel good about Sizzlefish or Butcherbox- both feed the disconnect between farmer and the eater.

Of course, none of this is cheap – per meal, these kits are generally more expensive than homemade but a bit cheaper than a restaurant meal.   You don’t have to read too far into the comments to find complaints about shipping times, food condition, and rotten food mixed in with questions about allergens and sourcing.

Does the aggressive promotion of this new food paradigm reflect a new food culture?   Does the proliferation of such enterprises reflect their actual popularity, or just the whims of venture capital?   How ironic to consider that VC would never touch a business like mine, old-fashioned lift-and-carry-it sheep farming, but would love to disrupt how the food is distributed, taking dollars out of my hands and the consumers in the process.

Screenshot 2018-11-11 at 12.02.59 PM
(yes, I am in two Fantasy Football Leagues and I am still refreshing 538 on the regular)

I am curious whether people are actually subscribing to these, and what their experiences are really like.  More than one source finds that people unsubscribe at high rates from meal kit services.  Are people going back to cooking at home from scratch?  If you subscribe to my food-oriented Instagram, cloverworksfarmkitchen, you’ll see that I cook on cast iron and render my own lard.  Working from home, I can plan to make meals where I braise tough meats for hours on end.  That makes me an outlier among outliers, I know, and also puts me in a tricky position as I try to offer my products to people with more typical cooking habits and schedules.

As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts!

 

 

 

Posted on 3 Comments

Lessons from the Farmers Market

20180811_082819.jpg
My friend Mike helped get the setup done.

I had my goods for sale at Montpelier for the first time yesterday.  I still have a lot to learn about effectively selling my goods.

  • Don’t forget your tent!   The market was on Saturday morning.  On Friday evening that I realized that my pop-up tent was 150 miles away in Keene, NH with my parents.  Oops.  I didn’t get a sunburn but I did have to model my rather dweeby hat that I wear while doing fieldwork.  I always wear a hat because sunscreen just melts off me in a river of sweat while I work.
  • I still have a “Meat and Yarn Don’t Mix” issue.  My booth had a lot of yarn-based visual appeal, which attracted yarn lovers.  But the Venn Diagram of Yarn Lovers and Sausage Lovers doesn’t have a big enough overlap space, so I wasn’t able to get yarnies to try or to buy the sausage.  At the same time, I am worried that the huge yarn display was actually discouraging the sausage-seeking folks from coming over.  Or maybe they didn’t see the signs.  Bigger signs are a must for next time!
  • Speaking of sausage:  You would think that sampling out sausage would be easy!  Cook a link, cut it up, feed people.  But it isn’t.  Law requires that hot food be served hot, but I had long pauses between visitors where cut-up samples would have cooled.  So I pre-cooked and pre-chopped my sample sausage for reheating on a little butane stove.  Regrettably, the stove caused samples to crisp up and dry out, and one woman even complained (very politely and informatively) that I wasn’t doing the sausage justice with the dry samples.  I wish I knew of a way to better offer samples of our juicy sausage- I don’t expect people to stay to have a sample whipped up for them personally.
  • Continuing my sausage thought-process: In an ideal world, I would be able to sell them as a cooked snack sandwich, but being a food vendor is really different from being an agricultural product vendor and we would need to invest time and money in regulatory compliance.  I would also need another person at the farmer’s market to handle that.  I should look for a vendor who might like to sell my sausage on commission.
  • I noticed that of the two varieties of yarn that I now have for sale, everyone touched both kinds but all of the buyers bought my newer yarn because of the soft, fluffy texture.  I will add the new yarn to the store soon.
  • I am proud to say that I remembered almost everything I would need for a day at the market- markers, tape, cashbox, etc.  I remembered everything except a plate to put the tongs on and my coffee.  Realizing I had forgotten my coffee was disappointing, to say the least.