Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Late July Grapes

View of our Chambourcin grapes from the side of the barn
(photo taken by Sam)

Saturday, July 27, 2013


The reason we have not posted anything on our blog for a while is that the blackberries have ripened.  We picked nearly 900 pounds of berries in the last week and the only reason we did not reach the 1000 pound goal is that we got rained out today.   We made it through 11 of our 13 rows one time so far.  That means we have two rows to go and then we will start over for the second picking.

So what do we do with all these berries?  The perfect ones get picked into quart or pint containers, which we sell at the produce stand, via Craig's List and at two local produce auctions.  We had flats of pints at the auction on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Each flat hold 12 pints, and this past week we took 648 pints to auction!

The imperfect berries get sorted out, washed, drained and frozen.  Freezing the berries ruptures the cell membranes of the fruit and more juice can be extracted.  We will use these frozen berries for jelly and wine later. 

Leif (who is visiting with Anja this week)  LOVES berries and is a real helper.  He knows how to pick just the ripe berries, and though he loves to eat them,  he picks them and puts them in boxes, just like  the rest of us! 


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Facebook Page is Up!

We finally got our Facebook page up and running - thanks mostly to Sam's efforts!  For now, the main purpose is to showcase the produce stand that Sam and Caleb started at the farm, but we are posting general updates and fun pictures from the farm and extended family as well.  Check it out

Friday, July 12, 2013

Brewer's Grain Bread

Anna, Duff and Leif visited us for the long 4th of July weekend and Duff decided to brew a batch of beer from scratch (as he often does when he comes to our house for a few days).  He bought several types of malted grains, which he mixed according to his own recipe.   After the grains were steeped, Duff offered me a taste, and it was delicious.  I had read about "spent grain" bread recipes, but I had also tasted spent grains and was skeptical as to their usefulness. Spent grains obviously lack all the malt sugar, which is still part of the steeped grains. 

Duff offered me a cup to use for bread making and I modified a "spent grain" recipe for the basic ingredients and used the steeped malted grain mixture.  Honestly, this turned out to be one of the best loaves of bread I made recently - very similar to the coarser, multi grain breads that you find in northern Germany, and obviously very rich in fiber (brewers grains are NOT hulled).

Here is my "Brewer's Grain Bread" recipe that works even if you don't have a home-brewer in your family.   Although you will need to find a homebrew store to purchase your malted grain and to have the grains ground/crushed - usually the homebrew stores will have a grinder available for their customers.

Brewer's Grain Bread (makes 2 loaves)

  • 3/4 cup steeped Dark Munich Malt (or other malt variety) - see instructions below
  • 1¼- 1½ cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3 tablespoons sugar or honey
  • optional - 1 ½  tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (gives a sour dough type bread taste)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 ½  cups bread flour*
  • 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour*
  • 1 cup of rye flour*
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
* amount of flour varies a lot depending on how wet the grains are.  I started off using ½  cup less of each of the flours mentioned above, but my dough was so sticky that I had to knead at least 1 ½  cups of additional flour into it after the dough cycle was finished in my bread machine.  Remember that it is always possible to add flour before the second rising of the dough, so better to err on the side of less flour than more.
Instructions for bread machine mixing:
  1. To make the steeped grains, cover 3/4 cups of malted grains with ½ cup of water, heat to 150 degree F, remove from burner, cover and let sit for about 30 minutes.  The sweetness in the grain will develop as it steeps (first step of beer-making)
  2. Follow instructions of your bread machine for the order of ingredients - mine starts with the wet ingredients:  add water, butter, sugar, salt and steeped grains into bread machine
  3. Add the three types of flour on top of the other ingredients
  4. Make a small indentation in the flour and add the yeast
  5. Start the "dough" cycle of your machine
  6. When finished, remove the dough - you can feel if it is too wet.  Ideal bread dough resembles a pie crust dough ready to be rolled out.  If the dough is too wet, add more flour and knead it manually until well mixed
  7. Shape the bread into two equal sized loaves (either standard oval shapes, or baguette style shapes), place next to each other on baking sheet and let rise for about 30 minutes
  8. Adjust oven racks to have one at the very bottom of the oven, and the second rack in the middle, place an empty metal baking pan on the bottom rack
  9. Pre-heat oven to 410 degree F
  10. When bread is ready, place in oven and immediately pour a cup of cold water into the empty pan - being very careful not to get cold water onto any glass of the oven door or the heating elements.  Quickly close the door.  This "steam treatment" creates a nice crust, like you would want for a baguette.
  11. Bake for 40-45 minutes (depending on the size of your loaves)
  12. Bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom
The bread keeps well for several days, perfect for sandwiches as well as jam.  We eat it toasted as well as plain.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wine Variations

We are still working on bottling our wine from 2012 and we emptied two more carboys today.  One was our "plain" apple wine, the other was one of our experimental blackberry varieties.  This particular blackberry batch contained a much higher concentration of fruit, but we did not oak it.  Rather it is lightly sweet - we just called it bold, to remember that it contained more fruit.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Strawberries and Cupcakes

We spent a lot of time over the last week freezing strawberries.  We bought close to 200 pounds of late berries at the fruit auction and cleaned, chopped  and then froze them.  (They just would not have fit into our freezer space without pureeing them).  We will make jam and wine with these, once we have some extra time. 

Fortunately, we also got the best strawberry cupcake recipe from a friend this week -  just in time for the 4th of July holiday - and we had all the ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup finely chopped or pureed strawberries
Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.
Mix buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract, set aside.
In a large bowl beat sugar and butter at medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.   Add the eggs, one at a time and reduce the speed to low.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, mixing until just combined.  Gently fold strawberries into batter.  Do not overmix!  Spoon mixture into 24 paper-lined muffin cups and make 22-24 minutes.  Cool on wire rack. 

Strawberry Frosting:
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup pureed strawberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat all ingredients with mixer at low speed until combined, then increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes, until frosting is smooth and creamy.  Spread on cooled cupcakes and enjoy!

Alternatively, you can bake them as mini-cupcakes.  Reduce the baking time to 15-18 minutes, depending on your oven.