Monday, August 24, 2009

To Uncle Lon's Farm

Ron's aunt Ruthie and uncle Lon have a giant garden on their hobby farm about 45 minutes from Minneapolis. Last year I posted about our trip there, though we've been visiting during the harvest season for many years. The trip to Uncle Lon's farm is always a highlight of our summer... up there on the list of favorites with the MN State Fair and trips to our local frozen custard joint.
Yesterday we spent the afternoon in kid and mom heaven-- picking corn, beans, cucumbers and a few tomatoes. Ron let me just pick while he took photos and herded the kids. The weather was perfect, low 70s and sunny. We munched on fresh picked corn while the milky goodness dripped down our chins. Our dog Molly is finally well enough to go on adventures post-ACL surgery six weeks ago, so she enjoyed roaming through the corn rows too.

Every year the boys are more and more able to participate on the annual tractor ride. This year Carl got to "drive" it on Lon's lap. He's ready for us to buy one for our farm so he can drive around. Some day... perhaps. This beauty of a John Deere is a vintage one, lovingly coaxed into service by Lon's mechanical skills. I think it was built the year Lon was built, er born. A true classic. I'm spending the morning "putting up" the fruits of our labor: shucking, blanching, and cutting the corn from the cobs to freeze. I'm also working on figuring out the best use for some wild plums we picked there. I'm considering this one. I'll tell you how it goes.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Pig Roast:: Part Two

This entry should be subtitled FOOD! You'll see the journey from the hog box on the trailer to the end of the delicious afternoon and everything in between. A huge thank you to my brother and all those who stood around the pig, pretending to know what they were doing.

Corn, fresh from the Minneapolis Farmer's Market that morning. Shucked by family and friends gathered around, a multi-generational task.
Doesn't every pig need some sort of garnish? Ours had two. And no, my brother did not share his with the pig.

Covered up with the burlap corn bag, the pig takes a breather.

Here is the end of the day, dividing up the many, many leftovers. Our friend Matt who teaches anatomy was very helpful in knowing where and what to cut. He taught the bystanders a bit about pig anatomy. As a result, we have two lovely racks of ribs in the freezer, waiting to be slathered with BBQ sauce.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A birthday cake for Mom

My mom turned (shhhh!) 60 this week. She looks fabulous and no one would ever guess she has reached the big six-o. My siblings and I joined my parents at their house after surveying the storm damage and toasted to her birthday. She requested a fancy cake... here it is!
Notes on this recipe: Due to the volume of the baking powder and eggs, this cake rises like crazy! I used two 8-inch pans and one 9-inch pan and the batter began to flow out as they baked. I would recommend placing your cake pans on cookie sheets to prevent a big mess that theoretically could drip onto your oven coils and well, maybe catch on fire. :) Also, I couldn't find creme fraiche at my local grocer and didn't have time for the mock creme fraiche recipe I had seen previously, so I used whipping cream with 3 Tbsp. of powdered sugar and a cap full of bourbon. Yum. Yesterday morning this recipe for creme fraiche was in the Star Tribune's Taste section. What timing!

Ginger Pecan Cake(from Martha Stewart)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 finely ground toasted cups (7 ounces) pecans, plus 9 toasted pecan halves
3 cups packed light-brown sugar, sifted
6 large whole eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pint creme fraiche
2 teaspoons bourbon, (optional)
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, or more to taste
1/4 ounce crystallized, ginger, cut into thin strips
Glossy Caramel Icing
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
Directions for Cake: Makes one 8-inch round cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with two racks in center. Line bottoms of three 8-by-2-inch buttered cake pans with parchment. Dust bottoms and sides with flour; tap out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and ground ginger into a medium bowl. Add ground pecans, and whisk to combine; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add brown sugar until fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating each time until batter is no longer slick, about 5 minutes; scrape down sides twice.
With the mixer set on low, add flour mixture to sugar-butter mixture, alternating with milk, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with flour mixture; scrape down bowl twice. Beat in grated ginger and vanilla. Divide batter evenly among pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating pans if necessary for even browning.

Transfer pans to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, and return to wire racks, tops up; let cool.

Meanwhile, place creme fraiche in a medium bowl, and whip with an electric hand mixer until soft peaks form. Add bourbon and confectioners' sugar; beat until soft peaks return. Cover, and refrigerate to firm, about 1 hour.

To assemble cake, remove parchment from bottoms of cakes. Set aside prettiest layer; it will be used for top of cake. Place one layer on serving platter, and spread with half the creme-fraiche filling; repeat with second layer. Top cake with reserved third. Chill cake while icing is being prepared. Pour the icing onto the center point on the top of the cake, and let it flow down the sides. When the icing has set slightly, 5 to 10 minutes, arrange the pecan halves and crystallized ginger on the top. Serve.
Directions for Glossy Caramel Icing: Makes 1 1/2 cups
Do not let the sugar get too hot while melting; the hotter caramel is, the more it will harden when it cools, making the cake difficult to slice.

Place sugar in a large skillet over medium heat. Let cook until it begins to melt and turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. As sugar melts, stir with back of a wooden spoon if needed, until amber colored, and registers about 310 degrees on candy thermometer, 3 to 4 minutes.
Slowly pour cream into skillet; be careful as you pour, because it will splatter. Reduce heat to medium low, stirring with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring; hardened caramel will melt into cream and become soft and liquid. Change to a whisk; continue stirring slowly to minimize bubbles until completely smooth, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour icing directly onto chilled prepared cake. If caramel becomes too stiff to pour, warm over a double boiler.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Storm in the City

A huge storm took us by surprise yesterday afternoon here in Minneapolis. One minute my sister and I were discussing who would be baking brownies for my mom's birthday party, and five minutes later she called me back in tears, "My trees are all gone!"

Straight-line winds hit South Minneapolis in addition to a tornado, affecting a relatively small area of Minneapolis and a few neighboring suburbs. Unfortunately, it hit hard. Really hard. It also smacked straight into my sister's neighborhood, just a mile or two from our house, affecting six out of the seven beautiful, old trees in her yard. One landed on her porch, causing roof damage as well as breaking a window. Another landed on the house, perhaps the cause of her chimney now resting in her front lawn?

Here's a shot of her metal gazebo that used to grace her back patio with lovely shade. It is now wrapped around a tree that was to be cut down shortly after I took this picture. Also, look at the size of this tree trunk they removed in one grab of the claws. My sister, her husband and son were all home at the time and were able to call the insurance agency right away after it happened. Within an hour, their representative had sent out a tree company, a contractor and a disaster representative, almost beating the city's trucks to the scene. My brother-in-law and their three-year old son were in the back yard when the storm hit and just barely made it into the house. The wind was so strong that they couldn't get the door closed and had to weather the worst lying down in the back entryway of their house, surrounded by windows. They are all ok, their trees are not. It appears that there are no casualties in the city, just a lot of people without electricity and a lot of work ahead of them.

Their favorite shade tree in the back yard. Just splinters.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

This Morning in the Garden

This morning Louise and I went out the garden, after having been away all weekend, and found these lovely treasures. Quite a harvest for a Monday morning. The beans are a type of heirloom, but I can't remember the name. It was a huge surprise to see this many of them ready to pick as I figured the neighborhood bunnies had eaten their more-than-fair share. The cuke is an English style beauty, the long skinny type that costs triple the regular priced cukes at the grocery store. Can't wait to cut into it!
My from-seed zinnias are finally starting to bloom. There's a beautiful lime green zinnia next to this one, ready to pop tomorrow. Aren't zinnias amazing?

What's in your harvest basket? Any flowers inspiring you in your garden? Leave a comment here and I'll link to your garden beauties! A virtual garden tour.
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