Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The King of the Southern Table

We are so pleased that our good friend and fellow farmer – Brian Miller of Winged Elm Farm – has allowed us to cross-post one of his recent “Farm Notes” that we thought was just great.  Do be sure to visit his farm’s website and blog, the addresses of which are below.  Here it is:

“Mogul of appetite, lord of misrule, the king who must die": John Thorne, a favorite quote from a favorite author. More pork is butchered each year per pound than beef, lamb, goats or chickens and any other competing livestock. That is more pork around the world. Scratch the billion plus Muslims, scratch the kosher adherents of Judaism, pork is still tops.

The pig has been our constant companions for over ten thousand years. A fellow omnivore, a perfect companion, a domestic vacuum cleaner or gleaner of all things left over. The pig converts food into pounds at a ratio of 33%; a sheep does the next best at 13%, and a steer at a measly 7%. The hog plunges out of the starting gate at a couple of pounds and ends the first year at an easy 300 pounds. Take that you squalling human infant!

I have no books on my shelves celebrating the sheep or goat (excluding the instructional), only one on the steer, a handful on chickens and an even two dozen celebrating the hog: Serious Pig, Pork and Sons, Pig: King of the Southern Table, The Whole Hog, Pig Perfect and Everything but the Squeal, to name but six.

Pig meat: nothing is more communal than a pig roast. Next to it beef is positively boring. Pig meat is accessible and democratic. We all eat  “high on the hog” with pork because pork is easily raised by one and all. In Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson, she speaks of how little kids gather choice thistle and grasses during the day to feed to the family pig: A year-long family project to fatten the pig so that all could enjoy the sausage, flitches of bacon, salted hams, head cheese, chops, loin, blood puddings.

Pigs are the meat of choice for the sustainability crowd. We can survive, do for ourselves, a pig in a paddock proclaims. Pull up an overturned bucket, hunker down and watch a cow eat hay and you feel nothing. Watch a pig tuck into a trough of steamed zucchini, corn and stale bread and you shout Comrade!

Tonight we dined on what Cindy referred to as a keeper: Lacon Con Grelos, A Galician dinner that could be ripped from the pages of any decent Southern cookbook. We physically restrained ourselves from eating until sick. Fix this immediately and restore your soul, find a new center for well-being, toss out the yoga class, deliver up your Lipitor to the porcelain god. Better to check out a few years early than to squander those extra years deprived of good eats.

Lacon Con Grelos: as adapted from The Food and Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas.

1.5 pounds of smoked or salted pork. We used left over smoked shoulder
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 pound collard greens, rinsed and roughly chopped
Half a pound Andouille sausage or other piquant cased meat
4 new potatoes

Place pork in pot and cover with water. Add salt and pepper. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for one hour. Add greens and sausage and potatoes. Simmer for another hour. Serve.

This dish is so elemental that it blew us away in its complexity. Get thee to a pig!

Brian Miller
Winged Elm Farm

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Artisan Sausage

We sampled some of the best recipes we could find, and came up with three of our own that combine the best of the rest.  We took out all of the extras and left only the best ingredients to highlight the best pork sausage in these here parts.  Eat well.  Be well.

Breakfast Sausage
No MGS or Nitrates
Perfect Pancake Partner
Great for Casseroles

Italian Sausage
No MSG or Nitrates
Makes Wonderful Lasagna
Seasons Red or White Sauce for Pasta

Chorizo Sausage
No MSG or Nitrates
Makes Great Tacos or Enchiladas
Authentic Spanish-style Seasoning

Ecotone Farm sausage is available for purchase at the farm and at Green Door Gourmet.  For farm pick-ups, please contact us at to schedule a visit; to purchase at Green Door Gourmet, visit their Farm-to-Fork Market Tuesdays - Saturdays from 9 am to 3 pm.

All sausage comes from Animal Welfare Approved, pasture-raised pork.  The pigs at Ecotone Farm are raised outside, given room to root in the woods, in the pasture, and occasionally, in the backyard!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Thoreau 1

From Walden:

"When I consider my neighbors, the farmers of Concord, who are at least as well off as the other classes, I find that for the most part they have been toiling twenty, thirty, or forty years, that they may become the real owners of their farms, which commonly they have inherited with encumbrances, or else bought with hired money, - and we may regard one third of that toil as the cost of their houses, - but commonly they have not paid for them yet.  It is true, the encumbrances sometimes outweigh the value of the farm, so that the farm itself becomes one great encumbrance, and still a man is found to inherit it, being well acquainted with it, as he says.  On applying to the assessors, I am surprised to learn that they cannot at once name a dozen in the town who own their farms free and clear.  If you would know the history of these homesteads, inquire at the bank where they are mortgaged…."
"The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself.  To get his shoestrings, he speculates in herds of cattle.  With consummate skill he has set his trap with a hair spring to catch comfort and independence, and then, as he turned away, got his own leg into it.  This is the reason he is poor; and for a similar reason we are all poor in respect to a thousand savage comforts, though surrounded by luxuries...."
"And when the farmer has got his house, he may not be the richer but the poorer for it, and it be the house that has got him.  As I understand it, that was a valid objection urged by Momus against the house which Minerva made, that she “had not made it movable, by which means a bad neighborhood might be avoided;” and it may still be urged, for our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed in them; and the bad neighborhood to be avoided is our own scurvy selves.  I know one or two families, at least, in this town, who, for nearly a generation, have been wishing to sell their house in the outskirts and move to the village, but have not been able to accomplish it and only death will set them free."
"My imagination carried me so far that I even had the refusal of several farms, -- the refusal was all I wanted, -- but I never got my fingers burned by actual possession. The nearest that I came to actual possession was when I bought the Hollowell place, and had begun to sort my seeds, and collected materials with which to make a wheelbarrow to carry it on or off with; but before the owner gave me a deed of it, his wife -- every man has such a wife -- changed her mind and wished to keep it, and he offered me ten dollars to release him. Now, to speak the truth, I had but ten cents in the world, and it surpassed my arithmetic to tell, if I was that man who had ten cents, or who had a farm, or ten dollars, or all together. However, I let him keep the ten dollars and the farm too, for I had carried it far enough; or rather, to be generous, I sold him the farm for just what I gave for it, and, as he was not a rich man, made him a present of ten dollars, and still had my ten cents, and seeds, and materials for a wheelbarrow left. I found thus that I had been a rich man without any damage to my poverty. But I retained the landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without a wheelbarrow. With respect to landscapes,
  'I am monarch of all I survey,
    My right there is none to dispute.' 

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer  supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk."