Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sarah Hayden Williams

More news from friends of Quillisascut

Sarah came to tcafe-sarahhe farm during our early foray into introducing cooks to the source of their ingredients. At that time we were inviting people working in the industry to come out and spend a few days on the farm and learn along side us as we went about our daily chores. She now owns the delightful and delicious, Cafe Sarah in North Creek, New York.

At what stage of your profession were you when you first learned about Quillisascut?

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– I learned about Quillisascut shortly after starting my job as pastry chef at Rover’s in Seattle. I was 25 and scaling a very steep learning curve in my career, like being thrown in with the lions… Chef Thierry Rautureau introduced me to Rick when he brought a cheese delivery to the restaurant. Karl Vennes, who was lead line cook at Rover’s at the time had just recently been to the farm and wouldn’t stop talking about it. Rick and I got to know each other during subsequent cheese deliveries and I finally got out there for a visit and met Lora Lea in late summer 1997. It was such an incredible, magical weekend and it changed my life!

Share some of the memories from your first visits?

– so many…. I do remember the first time I pulled up that driveway and saw the house and the view of the mountains behind and I had such a feeling of comfort and home, immediately. I arrived right on time for afternoon milking, so Rick handed me a coverall, introduced me to Lora Lea and led me to the milking parlour. I had never milked an animal in my life, but learned awfully quick, no nonsense in the milking parlour! I swear the goats were testing me, I would get a bucket just about full and she would put her hoof right in it so all that milk had to be dumped. Rick dumped it in a basin for the barn cats and literally poured it all over them, but they didn’t care.
My favorite time of day at the farm was right after morning milking and chores, Lora Lea and I would make breakfast while Rick finished up in the barn and we would sit down and have coffee and listen to the radio and talk. So peaceful.
-being so amazed that every single thing we ate was produced on the farm or by neighbors nearby, nothing was purchased, except beer and wine.
-watching Rick and Oly work the goats in perfect harmony. She was an amazing dog
– making felt hats and soap with Lora Lea in the winter; lazing about the yard in the middle of a summer day, making ice cream from the fresh morning’s milk.
-I stayed at the farm with Willow and Daisy Mae while R and LL went to Oregon, so many funny things happened that week, but one of things that really stuck with me, (besides the baby goats being born when THEY WERE NOT SUPPOSED TO..) was going out to the barn in the morning and it was barely light and all the wild turkeys would drift down from the giant pines like giant beachballs, silently. I didn’t know turkeys roosted so far up in the trees. I became very good at chopping wood that week, a skill I still use and value today. I could go on and on.

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Fill us in on what you are working on now.

-I moved back to the Adirondacks in upstate New York, from Seattle, in 1999. My dad flew out and we rented a U-Haul and a flatbed for my car and drove straight to Quillisascut for goodbyes. I was so sad, but very glad my dad could meet the Misterly’s.
I opened my own bakery in 2001 and proudly brought the first espresso bar to North Creek. My time spent at Quillisascut really influenced how I run my business. I try to do everything as close to nature as possible and with love. It is my 12th winter in operation. I only wish I could get back out there for a visit, hard to do when you are the sole owner and operator.

Tell us about the changes in your life related to a more sustainable future.

– Being at Quillisascut showed me how connected to our food we can and should be. I was so impressed at how every single thing could be made with my own two hands. I’ll admit that I didn’t love watching the butchering, but the way Rick was so loving and careful with the animals made me respect not only him, but the way our food brings us life from life and we must give back in return. I am very aware of what I feed my family and do my best to buy local and fresh always.

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My experiences at Quillisascut are some of the things I value most in my life. I learned what real work was, not just “going to work”, but HOW to work and how it can be so enjoyable and rewarding and worthy. I consider myself very, very lucky to have met the Misterly’s when I did, at a time in my life when I needed them and the farm and a new way of looking at the world. I have so many happy memories of time spent around the table with great friends, old and new, after a day of milking, hauling, chopping, cheesemaking, baking, grinding, digging, kneading, twisting and plucking. I always slept so well there. I cherish that time so much. I can’t wait to drive up the driveway with my daughters someday..

Sarah Williams owns Cafe Sarah in North Creek, New York. Visit her website or if you are in her neighborhood, stop in for a treat!

Share the Seed

Are you saving your own garden seeds?

Concerning all the hubbub about seeds, patents and who owns what; wouldn’t it be fabulous to create more localized seed distribution and sharing? With that in mind, we need to understand more about the science of saving seeds, how pollen is moved from plant to plant (is the plant self fertile? pollinated by insects or the wind?) There are lots of good books to help Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth is fantastic. And you may remember this post for my easy technique for saving tomato seeds or you were inspired by this unique idea on NPR about a seed lending program at a public library in Colorado.

Do the plants need to be isolated? If you cover them to keep out pollinators you will need to do the pollination by hand, sometimes simply shaking the plant might work or do your best insect imitation by using a cotton swab or tiny soft brush to collect pollen from one flower and spread to others. Can you tell the difference between male and female flowers? Oh the things to  discover. Back to Erica at Northwest Edible Life for Sex in the garden!

You don’t want to save a squash seed and realize months later, when you are cooking up the harvest of squash from that seed, that the plant had cross pollinated with another variety creating a hybrid that is not delicious. (Yes I speak from experience, the squash looked like an acorn but the inside was stringy like spaghetti squash. We did eat it, with lots of butter, since it was the vegetable that I cooked for dinner, but what was leftover went to the chickens. (they didn’t complain)

That is a mistake you only want to make once. QPepperWAlthough I have had some other seed failures, peppers that never produced fruit, and radishes that didn’t look right. Was it a seed saving problem or a growing misstep?

I know I wouldn’t want to share my flops with friends. I do have a few seeds that I have been growing out for years, Jacobs Cattle Beans for one, the Teton de Venus tomato  and the sexy Sivri Biber chili in this photo. The Sivri Biber is a flavorful chili, delicious sliced thin (HOT) and topping scrambled eggs, on a slice of pizza, or dried and crushed and added where ever you need some tasty heat.

I would be happy to share some of the Sivri Biber chili seeds with you, leave  a comment below, email me your address and I will get them to you asap so you can get them planted. I hope I don’t run out!

Save the Seed

Do you find it disturbing that the corporate seed industry is messing with the free sharing and saving of seeds?

Seed Packets

As you are merrily surfing seed catalogs and dreaming up plans for the season ahead, please take the time to voice your concerns for the free sharing of seeds. Vandana Shiva has been advocating for the freedom to save seeds for years. You can read more about this at Declaration of Seed Freedom and sign on while you are there!

I don’t think any home gardener is coming under attack for saving and sharing seeds. But one of the disturbing stories that came up for me while watching Food Inc was the guy who had a seed cleaning business and worked with mid-western farmers that saved their own seeds to replant. The record of farms he worked with was subpenaed by a corporation to find out which farmers were saving and reusing seeds.

And while we are on the topic of seeds and corporations. Here is a fabulous post from Erica Strauss at Northwest Edible Life: A Brief History of Monsanto and Seed Houses Who Got Screwed. Erica does a fabulous job of following the story and sharing the research trail with her readers. If you are gardener and an eater, you will love her garden inspired journalism.

 

Happy Valentines Day!

Why is it called Valentines Day?

I agree it is wonderful to have a special day to focus on love so where did this celebration originate? Are you ready?

February 14 is the feast day of Saint Valentine. Like many of the saints it is a gruesome story of martyrdom, here is a cleaned up version from the Catholic.org website.

“St. Valentine was a Priest, martyred in 269 at Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way. He is the Patron Saint of affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travelers, young people. He is represented in pictures with birds and roses.” Excerpted from Catholic.org

Love Apples  or  Pomme d'amour (from the belief in the tomato's aphrodisiacal powers)

Love Apples or Pomme d’amour (from the belief in the tomato’s aphrodisiacal powers)

Where we came up with candy hearts that say “be mine” or the newer version “text me” is such a big step from the story of Saint Valentine, who is there to support us in our time of need. It helps to know we are not alone in our struggles towards love and happiness.

Although, I agree with whoever dreamt it up — chocolate does help in times of need.

Happy Valentines Day to all lovers, travelers, fainters, bee-keepers, young and old!

Chestnuts

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” –Nelson Henderson

One of the pleasures of winter is eating roasted chestnuts. Sometimes we can find them fresh at the local market. Several years ago there was a family growing and selling them locally, but they retired from nut growing and I don’t know what happened with their trees.

So I was happy this winter when I saw a posting from Dunbar Gardens in the Skagit Valley, saying they had Chestnuts for sale and were willing to ship us a couple pounds.

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Once they arrived Rick and I rationed them out, roasting a few to eat in the afternoon or evening. As you probably know chestnuts should be stored in a cool place, they are not like other nuts that can cure and hold for a year or more. They must be stored in a cool humid place, cooked before eating and used in a reasonable length of time- before they mold or dry up. We put ours in a perforated bag in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator.

One afternoon when we were snacking on the nuts, I mentioned to Rick that it would be nice to have our own trees. He reminded me that we’d planted a couple back in the late 80’s and they didn’t survive. And so we discussed planting them again.

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Well, the Chestnuts must have agreed, the next time Rick pulled out the bag there were a few seeds with sprouts! There are now three of them growing in a plastic pot in our kitchen.

How long until we have our own nuts to harvest? Hopefully, in this lifetime. We’ll invite you over for a tasting!

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Kitchen Tools

Do you have a well loved kitchen tool or gadget, one that would be hard to live without?

One of my early home investments was to purchase a Kitchen-Aid mixer. I had used one at my first restaurant job and found it to be a workhorse of a tool.

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Rick and I had moved to Leavenworth for the winter to work and save up money to fund our farm habit. Okay, my desire at that moment was not on making the land or tractor payment. I used that first paycheck earned working at a pie and sandwich shop, to buy the mixer.

Purchased in 1983, it is the same machine we have now. At that time you could also purchase an attachment kit that contained a meat grinder, a shredder, and a fruit or veggie strainer. They all seemed like necessary items so they went in the shopping cart along with the mixer. Each of them have been used, used up, but never replaced.

Everyone who came to our early sausage fests and the early farm workshops had a chance to push stuff through the grinder. Who knows how much ground meat that grinder produced?  Pigs, lambs, goats, it is always up to the task, except for the time we wanted to make hamburger from our old milk cow, there was so much sinew we gave up on that task! (and started dreaming about getting a commercial meat grinder)

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Each fall the veggie and fruit strainer comes out for tomato processing season and later for getting the peelings out of the applesauce. The roto shredder wore out from grating hard aged cheese, it stripped the metal where it attached to the hub!

This old Kitchen-aid mixer has been a powerful helper in my life. Yes, it seems to be temperamental, sometimes it just won’t work. Wait a while and it comes back to life. I won’t trade it in for a new one, even though she has a lot of rotations under her belt. I have heard that the new Kitchen-aid mixers are not made as well and cannot holdup to the action that this old girl has endured.

What kitchen tool do you have that shapes your dining experiences?

Sour Grapes

Verjus (or sour grape juice)

If life doesn’t give you lemons, make verjus!
Chef Becky Selengut

Our desire to use local seasonalgrapeVerjus ingredients has us seeking replacements for citrus products.  During our workshops we use the sour juice of green grapes to add the sharp snap of lemon juice.

Verjus is the French name for the juice of under-ripe grapes used as an acidifier and flavor enhancer for cooking or in salad dressing.

The grapes we use are cluster thinned from vinifera vines that are grown here at Quillisascut. At this stage the grapes look like green peas. You can put the under-ripe grapes  through a juicer and refrigerate the extract  until needed.

Or what we do is put them through  a meat grinder, drain the juice from the pulp through a cheesecloth, pour all the juice in a large glass jar and when the sediment has settled to the bottom, siphon off the clear juice and freeze in pint size tubs.

If using semi-ripened grapes that are sweet the juice may start to ferment. To store the juice for an extended period of time freeze in ice cube trays and keep frozen until needed. One ice cube is approximately one ounce.

Have you heard the term sour grapes?  That’ what we’re talking about!