Winter is going by quickly and it's amazing that we'll be signing papers with 2015 dates in just a couple days. I guess with the every-other-week schedule I've been forgetting to write about things going on around here.
Freedom Ranger Chickens
This week's chickens are "freedom ranger chickens." The Freedom Ranger is a heritage chicken that is noted for it's slower growth, smaller size, and richer meat flavor. For anyone who came on the Farm Tour, these were the chickens served at lunch. In my opinion, they have superior flavor to the standard cornish cross chicken. The packaging will not say Freedom Ranger on it. By USDA rules, we can't specify a breed on the package without having a federally registered procedure for proving the "label claim" to be true and having third-party audits to satisfy that the claim is true. In short, we want to sell you a chicken that costs less than your mortgage payment, so please just write on the package "Freedom Ranger" yourself if you care to keep it separate from other chickens in your freezer.
This week we were so excited to get some broccoli that one of our growers has been saving under row-cover for months. We were so thrilled that it survived the heavy freezes in early November, and recovered nicely. When I saw it a few weeks ago it was looking nice and the mild weather the last couple weeks would seem to be gentle on it.
And right before Christmas it looked nice. Then we had a warm weather. I'm only sharing this with you because of the irony of it. Between last Monday and yesterday afternoon, the broccoli developed some form of mold and rot on the heads. It appears that the warm weather last week and over the weekend created excessive moisture under the row cover. With the row cover laying against the heads of the broccoli, the area of contact couldn't breath and was wet. It actually rotted and formed mold on the heads due to it being too warm! How is that saying? Damned if I do, damned if I don't? Just another Fresh Forking day around here.
So in place of broccoli we will add a quart of chopped, frozen tomatoes to this week's bag. These are great too stew with the green beans and garlic or simply stew them in the bottom of your roasting pan with the chicken, some onions, and some carrots. Put the tomatoes through the food mill afterwards and reduce down a little more. Serve this tomato sauce over your chicken.
Each year for Christmas Eve my family does a traditional Polish wigilia and has a meatless dinner with kraut, pierogies, fried fish, and many vegetarian sides. For the last five years or so my grandmother hasn't felt like making the pierogies anymore, so Allyson and I took over. For the first couple years, we did OK. They tasted fine, but the shape was off. But now we've gotten it down a little better.
So this year a couple friends wanted to learn how to make them. So we had a pierogi party and made about 300 pierogies. The stuffings: potato with kraut and onion, potato with smoked cheddar cheese, and sweet potato with pumpkin pie spices.
Pierogies are really quite simple. The stuffing is just mashed potatoes with different flavors infused. The dough is also quite simple (recipe below). The hard part is how long they take to make and the mess they make.
Here is the process:
1) Make your stuffing and allow it to cool.
2) Make your dough. Refrigerate for an hour or two to help it set-up.
3) Roll out your dough. Stuff the pierogies and pinch them together.
4) Boil the pierogi until it floats. Remove and let dry on a rack.
5) Toss pierogies in a bowl with oil, arrange them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and freeze them. Once frozen, place them in a zipper bag or freezer container.
Thaw or cook from frozen. Place in a skillet on medium heat with butter. Saute until golden brown on all sides. Serve immediately so they stay crunchy. We serve ours with raw kraut.
Pierogi Dough Ingredients:
4 cups flour
3 tablespoons oil (sunflower or olive preferred)
1 teaspoon salt
Appx 1 cup warm water
Mix the flour and salt. Whisk together the oil and eggs (but not whisked too much that you emulsify the oil into the eggs). Add that to the dry ingredients and mix well. Add warm water a couple tablespoons at a time, kneading it in or working it in the mixer. The dough should form a tacky (but not wet) ball. This may require a little more oil or water (or less) depending on the flour. We like to use hard red winter wheat as it tends to make nice thick pierogi shells. The spelt flour and golden white pastry flour (soft red) are also OK choices, but the dough will be much thinner and harder to work with.
Starting Thanksgiving Day, I start hunting. My cousins have a cabin in the hills in northern West Virginia and that's my get away for Thanksgiving weekend, then the following Monday starts Ohio gun season. This year was an exceptional year for gun season for me with 2 bucks and 1 doe. Nothing photo worthy but great meat.
Since I know we have several hunters out there who are always looking for new ideas on what to do with their deer, consider saving some of the roasts. I bone out the hind legs and break the muscle groups up, then peel the silver skin and connective tissue from in between the muscles. You'll get some nice roasts, mostly the flat roast (bottom round, inside of leg), knuckle, and rump. They can be prepared similar to beef roasts - low, slow, and with lots of moisture.
I also saved a lot of trim this year and froze it. Later this month when I have more time, I'll make sausage. I'll report back then with what seasonings worked well, if I had to add any pork or beef fat back in, and how to prepare them. I'll photograph those ones better and share the recipes.