food, history, rural life, and how we connect our cultural past and future
The Fall Roundup !
Wow – we galloped from blazing hot summer through a colorful fall and now it’s actually wintery weather, although there are weeks to go before the official Solstice date (Dec 22). The temp dropped to 18 degrees last night here in my mountain farmstead. But as usual with our up and down Virginia weather it is now 40 degrees and bright outside.
The old laying hens have seriously slacked off and are slated for ‘severance pay’ soon. A farmer can’t afford to keep feeding animals that don’t produce. I know it’s hard for some folks to hear but my animals, except the cat, are not pets. I’ve already ordered next year’s new chicks that will arrive in late March. In the meantime outside chores are still on the list; moving and splitting up the wood left from the tree taken down by the power company is just one of the heavy-lifting jobs. The deer fence is nearing completion. Will somebody please come turn my compost! Talk about a chore that is easily put off time after time.
I’m eating greens that are protected by row cloth; the fall broccoli and cabbage didn’t make heads but the leaves are delicious as are the cold frosted collards . Even the romaine lettuce is producing. Oh, and the parsley is still a vibrant green!
After procrastinating for many months I finally began the sort/purge of my sewing room and can actually move in the space without falling over random boxes. I am not saying it is particularly neat yet but it’s getting there.
And of course I have been cooking; often with students over the canning kettle and using my brand spanking new tool an Electric Pressure Canner! I love it! See, old dogs can learn new tricks. Between the classes and my solo sessions I’ve put up apple pie slices, meatballs, sauerkraut, Yukon Gold potatoes, and over 30 pints of chicken stock. Pineapples on sale resulted in pineapple in jars! Half of the venison I was given will be made into jerky using my late brother-in-laws recipe, and the other half will be canned for stew or tacos. It is hearting to learn that these days “With nearly half of canners aged 40 or younger, the demographic of canners is shifting from Baby Boomers to Generations X and Y.” So says the Ball company, one of the oldest produces of jars and lids.
The Daikon radish I planted at the end of June made a super fall crop of huge two and even three pound radishes. So far I’ve made one large batch of Sweet Pickled Daikon with carrot. There’s a 5-gallon pail of the last of the harvest waiting to be processed when I get more rice vinegar.
My history dinners have been so lovely this year. Eight people, interested and hungry, sitting at a table learning about and talking about food history is both yummy and fun. The new Winter/Fall dinner schedule is up at the Indigo House History Dinner link.
And now because the weather is just right it’s leisurely bread baking time. Much of my year it’s the same ol’ same ol’ for me; a plain simple sandwich loaf that also makes good toast. But I’ve recently had a hankering to get back to some of my more time consuming favorites and here is one of them.
Sprouted Wheat Berry Bread
I have most often used whole red wheat cause that was what I could get easily. Soak whole wheat berries overnight. Drain and let sprout, rinsing at least twice a day, with the sprouting jar turned upside down. Depending on the weather it may take two to four days for the little sprouts to show.
Grind the finished sprouts to a course-grained mash.
Use the mash as the basis for the starter.
The mashed/ground sprouted wheat
All the liquid: lukewarm water (or milk heated to 110 degrees and cooled to lukewarm)
Enough whole wheat flour to make a thin slurry
Honey – some/a bit/or if you want a sweet bread even more
Let bubble and rise in a warmish place – draped with a dish towel
When the whole surface is bubbly and it all smells yeasty and wheaty
Oil (Canola, whatever)
Optional: eggs beaten
AP flour ( I have long used King Arthur and buy it in #50 pound bags)
I add the flour gradually till the dough is still somewhat sticky but has come together. Then I put it on the counter and add more flour as needed as I knead it till it doesn’t stick to the counter anymore and if you poke a finger in the dough it bounces back at you!. That’s as sciency as I get. I love to knead bread so this can take ten minutes.
Let rise till it has doubled and then punch it down and let rise again till almost doubled.
Form loaves to fit the pans you are using – leaf pans, round pans, and let rise once more. I bake in a 375 degree oven and aim for between 198-204 degrees on the thermometer. If you are using a cast iron pot with a lid you will have to check with one of those recipes to see the best temp.
Because I’ve used the same bowl for many years I don’t do too much measuring. There are a lot of baking books out there and a gazillion bread recipes online and in them you can find exact proportions if you are uncomfortable not measuring. I seriously encourage cooks to read a bunch of bread recipes to get the idea of what goes into the process and then try baking freelance! I don’t usually play the ‘in the olden days’ card but in the olden days cooks really did bake bread from a ‘recipe’ in their head cause they did it so often.