For me the New Year doesn’t start when the ball drops at midnight in Times Square. It begins somewhere around the second or third week in March, when mud takes the place of snow, the robins return, and the cows begin to calve.
Joe and I have what is referred to as a seasonal dairy, meaning we try to get all the cows pregnant at the same time, so we can dry them up at the same time, so we can take two months off while the cows are dry, and so on and so forth.
Getting all the cows pregnant at once is about as realistic as me sticking to my new year’s resolutions. What usually happens is I get two or three cows calving the second or third week in March and the rest a month later. The three cows that are “fresh” (as we call it on the dairy farm), will not produce enough milk to have the milk truck stop every other day for a pick up—so that means until I have more cows freshen, I am stuck with about a hundred and eighty pounds of milk every day. What’s the saying? When life hands you lemons make lemonade? Well, when life hands you a hundred and eighty pounds of milk you make yogurt, fresh mozzarella, pancakes, milkshakes, butter, and you start eating cereal three times a day.
Well, it seems like home cheese making is all the rage, so I decided to try my hand at making whole milk ricotta, and the results were/are delicious.
Whisk in a small bowl:
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Makes ¾ cups
Combine into a food processor:
4 oz. local goat cheese, room temperature
¼ cup whole milk
2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1 tablespoon minced parsley
Pinch of salt, pepper, & lemon zest
Thoroughly combine ingredients, add more milk to thin the dressing if desired.
Makes 1 cup
Pour into a small bowl:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Add big pinches salt and pepper
Stir to dissolve salt, then taste (salt subdues acid of vinegar)
Add small pinches of salt to taste if needed
Whisk in 3-4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Taste as you go
2 cloves of garlic, adjust for preference
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, adjust for preference
1 tablespoon of Lemon zest or juice, adjust for preference
Touch of honey or sugar, adjust for preference
Makes ¼ cup
Recipe by Chef Nathan Berg
1 small shallot, diced
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 oz apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons dijon mustard
2 Tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup sunflower or grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
To prepare the vinaigrette:
Place shallot, buttermilk, mustard and vinegar in medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk until combined. While whisking rapidly, slowly drizzle oil into mixture until fully incorporated. Lastly, mix in fresh dill and season with salt and pepper to taste.
1/2 loaf of crusty sourdough bread
2-3 Tablespoons of quality oil (sunflower, olive, grapeseed, etc.)
Salt and pepper
To prepare the croutons:
Preheat oven to 400º. Rip bread into bite-sized pieces.
In a mixing bowl, coat the bread chunks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and heat in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Croutons should be firm and crispy on the outside but still relatively soft in the center. Allow to cool to room temperature.
1 pound of fresh green and/or yellow beans
1 cup of fresh grape, cherry and/or pear tomatoes
3-4 cups of sourdough croutons
1/2 cup buttermilk vinaigrette
Salt and pepper
To prepare the bread salad:
Bring large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil.
Snip stem ends from beans. Boil beans for approximately 3 minutes, or until beans are just beginning to soften. Immediately remove from boiling water and place into an ice bath until cool. Strain beans and pat dry.
Halve the tomatoes. Place the croutons, beans and tomatoes together in a large mixing bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Salt and pepper to taste.
You can utilize add additional fresh vegetables to this salad (grilled sweet corn being the best that immediately springs to mind) or you can substitute different vegetables and dressing/vinaigrettes altogether to suit your specific meal. Sky’s the limit…
Recipe by Chef Nathan Berg
8-10 fresh mint leaves
3/4 cup greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
Peel, seed and chop the cucumbers into 2 inch chunks.
Combine all ingredients into a blender and puree on high speed for 1-2 minutes.
Strain soup through a sieve or some cheesecloth. Add salt & pepper to taste (white pepper seems to work better for this soup, but you can use either).
Season some additional greek yogurt with salt and pepper to use as a garnish, along with a sprig of mint.
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 inch of ginger, grated
1 gallon of cold water
fresh seasonal fruit for garnish
In a jug large enough to hold a gallon of water, mix the honey, apple cider vinegar and water together, taste add more honey or vinegar if needed. Serve in glasses filled with ice and garnish with seasonal fruit.
1 pint black currants
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
In a sauce pan, combine the currents with the sugar and water. Cook over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Let the mixture cool before continuing with the next step.
In a small bowl, beat together cream, sugar and vanilla until the cream thickens but remains a bit runny.
In pretty glasses, layer the mixture of currents with the cream. It also looks nice when the two are slightly mixed together.
Garnish with an edible flower, a sprig of mint or even lemon balm.
1/2 pound lard
1 Cup warm water
5 Cups flour
To prepare the pastry:
In a small saucepan, bring water and lard to a boil, stir until lard is dissolved. Place flour in a food processor, add the water and lard mixture slowly to the flour until just combined.
Turn the pastry out into a bowl, cover with a tea towel to keep warm while preparing the filling.
1 pound ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce
1 tablespoon finely minced herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, or sage
To prepare the filling:
In a medium bowl, add ground pork and remaining ingredients.
Remove 2/3rds of the pastry, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a biscuit cutter or small bowl, cut pasty into about 7 inch circles. Place circles in the muffin tins.
Spoon pork mixture into the pastry lined tins pressing down and filling just over the tops of the tins.
Remove remaining pastry from bowl. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 thick. Using a biscuit cutter or small bowl, cut pastry into 4 1/2 inch circles. Place pastry on top of the pork filling
Brush the tops of the pies with an egg wash, then, put the pies in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes. Take the pies out of the oven and carefully lift each one out of the muffin tin and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush the sides of the pies all over with the egg wash then place them back in the oven at 400 for an additional 30 minutes.
This will make 6 larger individual pies. For smaller pies use a traditional size muffin tin and cut out the pastry to fit.
This recipe originally came from the Joy of Cooking. I fell in love with it years ago when I started growing Swiss Chard. It can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Experiment with adding different Wisconsin Cheeses.
Preheat oven to 425
To prepare the pastry, whisk together in a medium bowl:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Stir in with a fork until blended:
1/2 Cup Sunflower Oil
1/3 Cup Milk
The pastry will be very crumbly and difficult to roll out. Press it evenly into an 11 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Make sure to press pastry up the sides of the tart pan. Prick the bottom of the tart pan all over with a fork so that bubbles do not form. Bake the tart shell for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Meanwhile, cook in a large skillet over medium-low heat until well softened, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes:
2 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil
1 Small red onion, finely diced
Increase the heat to medium and cook until tender:
3/4 Pound Swiss Chard, leaves chopped ( you can also use the stems, just finely chop them and sauté them with the onions)
2 Cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
Combine in a large bowl:
3 large eggs
1/3 cup cream
1 cup grated hard cheese, such as Parmesan, plus another 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top of the tart before putting it in the oven
Add the chard mixture, then scrape the mixture into the prepared tart shell. Sprinkle more cheese on top and add 1/4 cup crushed pistachios (optional). Reduce the oven temperature to 375 and bake until filling is firm, 25 to 35 minutes.
It’s almost dinner time. I sit in the kitchen on a fold out step ladder that looks like it has been in my family for generations, although in reality it’s probably only as old as me. My Grandmother uses it to reach for things stuck way up high in her pantry. One of my hands cupping my six year old face, elbow on my knee, while the other is scratching dried bits of seven minute frosting off the step that I sit on.
I watch my Grandmother, her back to me, apron stings tied around her plump waist and forming a messy bow in the back. Her short blond hair is rolled up tight in rollers except for the delicate pieces on either side of her face, they are looped then fastened with a bobby pin. She has a small roast in the oven and the creamed corn that we froze last summer is thawing out on the counter in a Zip Lock bag.
Grandma is at the old farmhouse sink peeling potatoes, always mashed up russet potatoes with a roast, and next to the roast in a small tin, I spy pickled beets. I don’t remember my Grandmother ever pickling her own beets, although we put up almost everything from the garden, green beans, corn, raspberries. We always butchered our own animals, beef and pork, never chicken though (Grandma was always partial to her fowl, even going as far as to taxidermy a few of her favorite roosters and place them on the stairs as decoration). I wonder why we never pickled beets?
I never liked those pickled beets, in fact, I never really liked beets at all until I started growing them in my own garden. That’s when I fell in love with the intensely earthy and sweet taste. There is something about roasting, then peeling homegrown beets. Your fingers get stained red, but it’s OK – job well done.
I now enjoy beets most any way, but I really love homegrown quick pickled beets, so much nicer than the tinned beets found often on my grandmother’s dinner table.
2lbs beets, greens removed
1 Cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon pepper corns
1/2 Teaspoon salt
5 Whole cloves
1/2 Teaspoon red pepper flakes
Boil or roast the beets until they can be pierced with a fork. Peel beets. Slice thinly or dice into medium sized pieces.
Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil. Gently simmer until sugar is dissolved. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for at least 5 minutes. Strain, then add the liquid to the beets, let sit for at least a 1/2 hour before enjoying.
“He who likes Cherries soon learns to climb.”
It was the end of the growing season, and I was wandering through what was left over at our local nursery. As I walked past the under-watered annuals and the leggy tomato plants, I found a little cherry tree that I just had to have.
Four or five years ago, the cherry tree only reached up to my elbows. Today, after a few applications of composted cow manure, and lots of water, the tree stands, magnificent, well over head.
There are a few problems you might run into if you don’t give any real thought to how big a tree will grow before you plant it.
One, if you plant a little tiny bargain bin tree directly in front of your front porch, there is a really good chance its going to grow like crazy and block all view of what’s happening in your driveway. This may cause you to walk out past the once little tree in your nightgown and barn boots to see what your dog is barking at, thinking that the cows may be standing in the front yard, only to find out a salesmen has just arrived.
And number two, one day that cute little cherry tree will grow too big for you to simply stand on the solid ground below to harvest its goods. This is only a problem if, like me, you have no idea where the magic spot is that you put your ladder the last time you used it—when you were thinking to yourself, “This is a really ingenious place to put my ladder.”
That’s how I found myself in the bucket of my skid steer, bowl in hand determined to get every last one of those cherries down from my little cherry tree.
As soon as I was safely back on solid ground, I pitted the cherries with a pickle fork (I think my cherry pitter must be sitting next to my ladder), and cooked them down with a bit of sugar making a delightful cherry syrup. Since it was Friday night, our night to have “Cocktails with the Cows”, I turned the cherry syrup into a base for a wonderful cocktail (see below).
At the end of milking, when the last of our cocktails were drunk, my husband turned to me and said “You know, we should plant more cherry trees”.
Not until we find the ladder…
3/4 Pound pitted sour cherries
1/2 Cup sugar
Heat the cherries in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the sugar, stir to dissolve. Smash the cherries a bit during the cooking process to release some of their juices. When the sugar has dissolved, set the cherry mixture to the side to cool.
Fill a tall glass with ice cubes, add a heaping spoonful of the cherry mixture to the glass.
Now add 2 ounces of gin and top it off with club soda. Stir to combine.
Danish Rye Bread is an essential ingredient at a Smorgasborg. It’s quite the process to make it but well worth it in the end.
1 1/2 Cup Rye Flour
1/2 Cup Wheat Flour
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt, divided
1 1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1/2 Cup Water
In a medium bowl mix together: Rye flour, whole wheat flour, 1 tablespoon Kosher salt. Slowly add buttermilk and water until well mixed. Place mixture into a clean, small bowl (a cereal bowl works well). Sprinkle the starter with the remaining 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt, then place a paper towel over the top and store in a cool dark area for seven days. This will allow the starter to ferment and start working.
1 Teaspoon Dry Yeast
1 Teaspoon Sugar
2 Tablespoons Honey
2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 Bottle of Beer
6 1/2 Cups of Rye Flour
All but 3/4 Cup of the starter (reserve the rest for your next batch)
3 Cups of warm water, divided
2 1/2 Cups Cracked Rye
1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds
1/2 Cup Golden Flax Seeds
1. Add the yeast and sugar to a 1/2 cup of very warm water. Stir with a fork to dissolve. Let sit 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook add: The rye flour, honey, beer, Kosher salt, and the starter, mix to combine.
3. Slowly add 2 1/2 cups of warm water a 1/2 cup at a time until the mixture is well mixed. This will take about 7 minutes and the mixture will feel and look like cement!
4. With the mixer on low speed add in the cracked rye, sunflower and flax until just combined.
5. Pour mixture into a 3 liter bread pan and let sit at room temperature for 6 hours before baking.
6. Bake the bread at 350* for two hours, every half hour spritz water into the oven.
7. When you take the bread out of the oven, take it out of the pan and spritz with water on all the sides, then turn the oven off and return the bread to the oven to cool. Once cooled wrap in plastic wrap and store for a day before serving.
The most memorable part of Monday mornings was not the journey home, but the breakfast grandma would make us before we left. You see, she used her cast iron skillet for everything, but mostly for frying chicken and cooking pancakes and she never cleaned the pan in between, just wiped it out every now and again with a paper towel and it was good to go. As a result Monday morning pancakes where speckled with Sunday afternoon fried chicken bits, but we smiled and ate ever last piece anyway because those where the days that kids ate what was set out on the table regardless of having fried bits of chicken or not.
I was thinking of those pancakes this morning. It was a particularly cold March day and one of the heifers was having a difficult calving. I was underdressed and overtired, but there was no going back to bed. I pulled some twine off a bale of hay, made a loop and pulled the calf. The cow was up right away licking off her calf. I made my way back inside and knew the only thing that could warm me up and fill me up were buckwheat pancakes made in a cast iron skillet, chicken bits not included.
Buckwheat Pancakes with Wild Blackberries
I found a buckwheat flour that’s grown in Eau Claire, WI that I absolutely love. It’s from Bee Healthy Foods and I found it at The Coffee Grounds. I used their recipe for pancakes but added wild blackberries that I had frozen last summer as my own touch. Use a bit more milk if you like thinner pancakes.
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg beaten
1 cup milk
2 tbsp. melted butter
3/4 cup frozen blackberries
Preheat griddle to 375. Grease lightly with oil. Mix dry ingredients together; add egg, milk, and butter, beat well after each addition. Fold in blackberries. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto the griddle. Cook 1-2 minutes, turning when edges look cooked and bubbles begin to break on surface. Continue to cook 1 minute more or until golden brown.