Farm Blog

Growing More Than Food

Growing More Than Food

The Peoria Public Library District recently sponsored a program called Peoria Reads and the book they chose was Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy. We requested two copies – the original and the young readers’ version. We’ve read through both and based on Tallamy’s research and 

Borscht – Vegetarian/Vegan Optional

Borscht – Vegetarian/Vegan Optional

This classic Borscht recipe comes from our favorite Moosewood Cookbook.  It can be made completely vegetarian, vegan or you can use a meat stock for the broth addition.  Delicious, simple and absolutely gorgeous. This soup deserves a place on your table. 1 1/2 c thinly 

Making Broth – Keep It Simple

Making Broth – Keep It Simple

Many of you have asked for broth making recipes.  Making broth is not difficult and should not be intimidating.   If you can simmer water, you can make broth.   And, the results are so delicious, you’ll never go back to store bought.   We make broth regularly and use it mostly for soups and cooking grains.  Our soups come together easily when we have broth on hand along with fresh, frozen or left over veggies and a protein such as meat or beans.

Here are some tips to get your started.

First, if you start with good quality cuts, you can make an outstanding broth with just meat & bone, water and salt. No need to complicate things if you have excellent ingredients.

Second, use 1 quart water for each 1 lb. of meat/bone in your stock pot. Too much water and your broth will be weak and flavorless.

Choose the Cuts

BEEF

The best beef broth is made with a variety of cuts that include bone and meat.  You can make a fabulous broth by slowly simmering a beef chuck or arm roast until tender.  Or,  you can use a variety of beef cuts & bones to enrich your broth with more nutrition and flavor.

Great choices include Soup Marrow Bone, Knuckle Bone, Marrow Bone, Beef Neck Bones, Beef Short Ribs and Beef Back Ribs. Beef Neck Bones are particularly wonderful giving your broth great flavor, gelatin and tender fall apart meat.

You have one more decision when making your broth – to brown or not to brown. Brown the bones/meat prior to simmering if you want a darker broth – think French Onion Soup. If you want a milder flavor, add raw cuts to your stock pot without browning.  You can oven roast the cuts or brown them in a heavy skillet on your stovetop.

Simmer cuts containing meat just until the meat is tender.  Then, remove meat from the bone and return bone to the stock pot to continue simmering. If you overcook the meat, it can become dry.  How long to simmer to finish is really up to you.  We might simmer a pot of broth for 4-5 hours, turn it off and simmer again the next day for another 4 hours.  Or, you can call it done after 3-4 hours total.

When you declare the broth done, strain and add salt to taste.

CHICKEN

Hands down, the absolute best chicken broth is made with Chicken Necks & Backs.    Other great cuts are wings (lots of gelatin!), drumsticks, whole chicken and chicken feet.  These cuts can be simmered raw or you can brown them to make a darker stock just like the beef broth.

You do not have to use raw cuts to begin your broth.  You can also use any leftover bones, skin, etc. after you enjoy a meal with chicken.  In fact, to make the most of your chicken and stretch your food dollars, try to simmer your leftover bits and bones.  You can always use a little stock for something.

We used to make our chicken broth with carrot, celery, onion and a sprig of thyme, but now we make it with just water and chicken – 1 quart water to 1 lb. chicken parts. Our chicken makes such good broth, we don’t miss the veggies.  We save them for the soup.

Check out our blog post for more details about making chicken broth.

PORK & LAMB

Our favorite cut for making pork stock is the Pork Neck Bone. These bones have a good ratio of bone/meat for making a flavorful gelatin rich stock. We also have bulk Pork Bones to enrich your stock pot with more flavor.  Pork stock is great for making sauces for Asian stir fries.

Lamb stock can be made using any leftover lamb bones/fat or using the bulk lamb bones.  Lamb is seasonal and it not available year round.  Check out our broth making store for availability.

We hope this gets you started making great broth for your family.  We have recipes for some of our favorite soups in our Farm Kitchen.

Creamy Potato Vegetable Soup

Creamy Potato Vegetable Soup

On a recent chilly night, we had a pot of chicken stock on the stove just waiting for a recipe.  Brian took a few ingredients and created the most delicious soup.  He made a nice big recipe so there was soup the next day which 

Our Love for Maple Syrup – with Recipes

Our Love for Maple Syrup – with Recipes

We’ve had a long and happy relationship with Maple Hollow pure maple syrup.   It was around 2001 when we were living at our first 5-acre farm in Woodstock, IL.   I read an article in Yankee magazine about the original Hatch granola along with a recipe.  

Foraging Chickens

Foraging Chickens

Here’s a look at our laying hens and meat chickens on our pastures.

There’s nothing prettier or more enjoyable than seeing any of our livestock foraging. It’s healthy for our chickens to be outside foraging. They are in the open air, in sunshine and rain, wind and even snow. They find bugs and earthworms that supplement their certified organic grain ration. And, they dine on everything from grass and clover to dandelion, dock and lambsquarter. Plus, chickens like to be busy in a diverse landscape with plenty of room to scratch and search for any extra morsel. All of this contributes to a healthy, pastured life for our chickens. And, healthy delicious food for our family and customers.

For shelter and protection from weather and predators, our chickens have a spacious hoophouse – one for meat chickens and one for laying hens. The hoophouses are home base and we have movable poultry netting to rotate the chickens into different grazing areas. Since the hens can’t always keep up with the rapid growth of grass during the warm months, our grassfed beef herd with play clean up crew and happily graze down anything our hens can’t handle. While the hens prefer short forage, our beef herd readily tears off long blades of orchard grass and fescue.

We spend a great deal of time keeping our chickens happy and secure. Pasturing livestock takes extra time and management. There is no climate control, no thermostat to keep the temperature just right. There is weather in all forms, snow in the winter and frozen water, predators year round waiting for us to make a mistake. But, we could never raise our chickens or any livestock without access to the great outdoors. And, once you’ve seen how much animals need to have their feet in touch with the earth and sky over their heads, you can’t raise them any other way.

Classic Roast Chicken

Classic Roast Chicken

If you’ve never oven roasted a whole chicken, I can assure you it is simple, fast and delivers some of the best chicken you will ever eat.   A whole bird offers maximum chicken enjoyment.   You have multiple cuts to choose from so everyone can have 

Leaf by Leaf

Leaf by Leaf

One of our favorite vegetables to grow is Salad Greens and we’ve been offering various leaves since this all started way back in 1995. Now, almost 30 years later, Anita continues growing salad greens with the help of daughters Lucy, Susannah and Laura. We’ve learned 

Maple Glazed Pork Roast

Maple Glazed Pork Roast

One of our favorite recipes from America’s Test Kitchen, this recipe is quick, simple and creates the most delicious Pork Shoulder Roast.   Best if you use a deep, dark pure maple syrup from our friends at Maple Hollow in Merril, WI.

1/3 cup dark pure Maple Syrup

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of cloves

1 Pork Shoulder Roast, approx. 3 lbs.

Granulated Garlic

Salt

Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Stir together maple syrup and spices, set aside.

Season pork shoulder roast with salt, pepper and granulated garlic.   Heat high-heat stable fat in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet – we prefer our well seasoned cast iron.    Add roast and brown on all sides.  Remove roast and add maple syrup mixture.  Cook, stirring about 1 minute, remove from heat and add roast back to pan.   Turn roast over to coat all sides.  Place in oven and roast until thermometer reads 135 degrees in the center of the roast, approximately 45-60 minutes.   Baste twice during roasting time by spooning glaze over roast and/or flipping over.

Allow roast to rest for 15 minutes.  Slice and serve with extra glaze on the side.

Tip:  Dice leftover Maple Glazed Pork Roast in a pork stir fry with chunks of pineapple and fresh vegetables served over rice.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Bread and Butter Pickles

We make these pickles using cucumbers OR summer squash (zucchini) when either is plentiful.   Instead of buying relish, we use our pickles for topping burgers, brats, mixing into egg salad or just about anywhere we want a sweet, tangy pickle.  Delicious! You don’t have to 

Susannah’s Peanut Sauce

Susannah’s Peanut Sauce

Susannah took a little of this and that from existing Peanut Sauce recipes and came up with her own version we absolutely love.  We use this sauce to top one of our favorite meals – a noodle bowl that begins with Udon noodles, then ground 

Beets Me?  How to Use Your Beets!

Beets Me? How to Use Your Beets!

So, you’ve received fresh beets in your CSA share again and you’re wondering what to do with them.   You’ve only seen and maybe even tried beets when they’re in the lineup of salad bar toppings.  Not to worry!

We grow beets on the farm from early spring to late November.  They are in the lineup of root crops along with red & Daikon radishes, carrots and Hakurei turnips.  We love them and hope you will, too, after trying some of our favorite ways to use them.

Beet roots also have incredible keeping power.   Remove the greens/stems from the roots and store the roots in a bag or container in your refrigerator.   They will literally keep for several months.  We store a few fall harvested beets to enjoy all winter long.  The greens are like salad leaves and should be used up in a week or so.

Keep it Raw

The beets from our farm are tender and sweet enough to eat raw.  For topping a salad, trim both ends, peel and slice thinly.  Great with sliced apple, cabbage, cauliflower.  The greens and pretty purple stems are perfect for including in your salads, too.   Stems can be a fun alternative to celery.  Kids love purple stems they can eat with your favorite veggie dip.

Raw and cooked beets go very well with balsamic vinegar and we often dress our beet infused salads with a balsamic inspired dressing.

We make a delicious raw grated beet salad by grating trimmed peeled roots manually or in a food processor and tossing with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sliced fresh oranges along with the zest.   If you don’t have the oranges, use a couple tablespoons orange juice or leave it out.

Roasted

Oven roasting vegetables brings out their sweetness.   We’ve roasted beets sliced in half or 1/4″ slices if we’re in a hurry.   We don’t peel our roasted beets but you can certainly do so if preferred.   Drizzle any veggies you’re roasting with olive oil and brush or toss to coat the pieces.  We often roast a few different veggies on the same sheet pan – carrots, cauliflower, onions – and the result is a medley of caramelized, delicious tender veggies to serve as a side.

Classic Pickled

This recipe comes from our Australian friend who says beets are popular down under.   They even serve them on their burgers!   This is your ultimate simple recipe.  All you need is beets, water and vinegar.  Place washed and trimmed beets in pot and cover roots with water.  Bring to a simmer and cook until they are tender checking for doneness with a paring knife.   If you have multiple sizes of beets, keep watch on your smaller roots so they don’t overcook.  Remove tender beets from the water and reserve cooking water.  Allow beets to cool until you can handle them.   Run roots under cool water and skins should slip off with little effort.

Place cooking water in a bowl leaving the last bit in the pot to avoid any debris left from the simmering.   The water will be a dull color but wait!   Add apple cider vinegar to the cooking water – maybe half the volume of the cooking water.  The cooking water will turn a brilliant purple beet color.   Now add the sliced beets back to the cooking water.   Place in fridge and serve chilled.  If you need a sweeter pickled beet, add honey or sugar to the cooking water/vinegar mix and stir until combined.

Tweaks:  Add a tablespoon of pickling spice to the simmer water and leave the spices in when you add the vinegar and sliced beets.