Friday, July 30, 2010

Teasing You: New Glarus Brewery Sampler

I'm still posting from the farm, but this one is a little off-topic from farm fresh produce, county fairs, and canning adventures that usually fill my "posts from the farm". If you're enjoying those posts inspired by my time in rural Indiana, then hold onto your hats, because I've decided to extend my visit for another week! I put up 84 pounds of green beans yesterday and I'm shootin' to can some tomatoes next week, so stay tuned for more of my adventures in food preservation!

But today I want to talk about beer. Really good beer. Wisconsin beer. Not available here beer.

When I arrived at my parent's house last Friday night, my dad mentioned that he would be travelling to Wisconsin during the week and invited me along for the ride. I was tempted, but then I mentally listed all of the "stuff" I wanted to accomplish on my visit and didn't see how I could possibly squeeze in an overnight trip to Wisconsin. As I explained all of this to my dad, he broke into his default guilt trip song, "And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon, Little boy blue and the man in the moon...." I held my ground and stayed behind as he departed for Racine on Tuesday morning. Just like when I was a little and he'd take a trip without us, he arrived home with a souvenir to share late on Wednesday afternoon.

Okay, not just like when I was a little girl. Back then it was a t-shirt, a keychain, a rock.... This time Dad brought an assortment of beer from the New Glarus Brewery!

I've been a fan of New Glarus Brewery since 2007 when my dad's real estate and auction business first took him to Wisconsin and he brought back some Spotted Cow and Fat Squirrel for a family cookout.

Over the last couple of days I have worked my way through this sampler. Below you will find pictures of each bottle. I have also included the description of the beer as printed on each label. I'll throw in my 2 cents here and there too....

Before I get started, I should clarify that I am NOT a beer connoisseur. My taste in beer trends toward anything on sale with the word "Light" after the brand name. My knowledge of hops and barley and wheat are limited to a couple of brewery tours that I took years ago. When I read the description on the New Glarus Brewery website, "A naturally cloudy farmhouse ale" I was a little skeptical. Cloudy beer? Here's the description from the label:

Cask conditioned ale has been the popular choice among brews since long before prohibition. We continue this pioneer spirit with our Wisconsin farmhouse ale. Brewed with flaked barley and the finest Wisconsin malts. We even give a nod to our farmers with a little hint of corn.

Naturally cloudy we allow the yeast to remain in the bottle to enhance fullness of flavors, which cannot be duplicated otherwise. Expect this ale to be fun, fruity and satisfying. You know you're in Wisconsin when you see the Spotted Cow.

This is a good beer! Turns out that I didn't mind the yeast in the bottle at all.

One deceptively spring like winter day, Brewmaster Dan walked home from the brewery, sat down to dinner and said, "Boy, there are some fat squirrels out there. They're running all over the place. I think I should brew a Fat Squirrel Nut Brown Ale." Deb agreed and so another beer legend was born.

100% Wisconsin malt of six different varieties impart the natural toasted color to this bottle conditioned unfiltered ale. Clean hazelnut notes result from these carefully chosen barley malts. Hops from Slovenia, Bavaria and the Pacific Northwest give Fat Squirrel its backbone. When the going gets tough, remember to relax a moment and enjoy the "Fat Squirrel" in your neighborhood.

My husband really likes the Fat Squirrel.

This is Dan's bold creation. You hold the international marriage of a sophisticated Bavarian Hefeweiss and an assertive American Pale Ale. Amarillo dry hopping drives Wisconsin Red Wheat. Traditional open top fermentation cultivates our proprietary Bavarian Weiss yeast in our own Wheat Beer Cellars. Absolutely 100% natural bottle conditioned. This is a living beer.

Expect to pour a thick creamy head into your glass. Savor the fierce onslaught of clove, cinnamon, and citrus nose. Our very popular Imperial Weizen ratchets down for the session. Drink to adventure and friends in Wisconsin. We are the state of beer.

I drank this one "Blue Moon style" with an orange wedge. YUM!

If you dream of wheat this brew will get your toes tapping. Since 1995 we have brewed Bavarian style wheat beers exclusively for the same great state that grows and malts our own Wisconsin wheat. In a world full of posers this is a true hefe-weizen naturally 100% bottle fermented and hazy. Expect this beer to cascade effervescent into your glass. The rich spicy clove and cinnamon notes will greet your nose while sweet fruit and wheat kisses your lips.

Lick the foam from your mouth and admit sometimes you just gotta get up and dance.

This was the first bottle I cracked open. I loved the description...and as it turned out, this was one of my favorites in the group.

Moon Man is a seriously cool cat. Always comfortable in his own skin, he never tries too hard. So cool we named our "no coast" pale ale after him.

You hold a session beer with a bright bold blend of five hops that flirt obligingly with the smooth malty backside. Don't let this one lay around it is brewed to be enjoyed today. Bold and engaging without pretense, because in Wisconsin you do not have to be extreme to be real.

Just be

This just wasn't for me. I let my dad finish it for me. But don't write it off based on my dad liked it.

Who is qualified to judge one's contribution? Is it the pure Wisconsin barley malt or shall credit be given to traditional German and English hops? Maybe it is the Belgian Monastic yeast or the Brewer's tender care? Combined, this is a sophisticated Abbey style ale. Both elegant and drinkable this ale is cleanly aromatic with spicy notes of clove and ginger. Crisp and fragrant up front while gracefully sliding into warm malt notes at the finish.

Fermented naturally in the bottle, this beer is a living testament to the value of many working together to create something bigger than the individual parts. Moving a mountain begins with a single stone.

I really like this one too! It tasted just like you would expect it to from the description.

Pure and crisp this is a beer with nothing to hide. Wisconsin two-row barley malt ensures a mellow and smooth body. We imported Noble Hop varieties from Germany and the Czech Republic to ensure a fine mature aroma with no coarse bitterness.

Expect this beer to pour a delicate golden hue that sparkles in the summer sun. This lager is brewed using all natural ingredients with no artificial additives of any kind. Kick back, relax and enjoy the simple unadorned flavor. This is beer at its most basic.

Loved the Totally Naked! Maybe this isn't a good thing, but this is a beer that you could drink ALL NIGHT LONG! Very nice. : )

My beer drinking readers are probably wondering where they can get their hands on some of this beer. Well...unless you're reading this from Wisconsin, you can't. New Glarus Brewery products are only sold in Wisconsin. You can go to their website and view the beer, but don't bother trying to order...they're not permitted to ship it out of Wisconsin. Sorry for the tease.

My advice: Plan a trip. It's pretty up there. And stock up on some brew on your visit. Bring some home. There's no law against driving it (un-opened, of course) across state lines. At least I hope not, or I've just incriminated my father.

Have a great weekend everyone...and if you're drinking, please do so responsibly ; )


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Posts From the Farm: A Storm, Fair Food, Rocky Mountain Apple Pie, And Pulled Duck

Here's what I've been up to for the last 24 hours....

One of the things I forget about until I'm back on the farm is how far you can see into the distance on this flat Indiana farmland. If there's weather approaching from any direction, a quick glance at the horizon can provide an idea of what's in store for your immediate future. I still love to watch a sheet of rain travel across the field toward me, feeling those first few front-running drops on my face before the downpour hits and soaks everything. Late yesterday afternoon, my mom pointed out that "it looked pretty dark to the north of us". I grabbed my camera and stepped into the yard to watch as the storm rolled in. There's something exciting about watching the skies darken, seeing the lightning flash in the distance and hearing the rumble of thunder, and then feeling the temperatures drop and the wind pick up, blowing through your hair and carrying the scent of rain.

This storm was a bit unusual because most storms come at us from the southwest. While these clouds simply rained on my parent's house without incident, the storm hit my sister's house (about 15 miles South) much harder. Today they have power lines and limbs down in addition to damage to their barn.

Here's the view to the northeast.

And to the southwest.

Just look at the angry storm clouds converging upon those unsuspecting happy, fluffy white clouds.

The clouds looked pretty ominous.

Even the birds decided to "make a run" for it.

Here's another look to the south, just as the first raindrops started to fall.

It rained hard. And then...just like that, it was over.

And so we did what most logical people would do after observing a line of impending thunderstorm doom stretched across the radar. We went to the fair! The truth is, I'd already made plans to meet some friends at the neighboring county's fair and I didn't want to stand them up. With the hope that we might miss those storms, we headed out.

When I go to a fair, I'm all about the food! I subscribe to the following theory: If you can't find it deep-fried at your local county fair, then it might not exist.

This booth was a new one for me. I'm all about Shrimp, Crawfish, and even Frog Legs (yum!)....but Fried Gator? Really? I probably would have tried it, had it not been $8 for a tiny skewer.

I settled for a Fried Catfish Sandwich from the Morning Optimist Club instead.

A conservative choice, compared to a giant basket of fried vegetables with a side of ranch dressing that seemed to be calling my name. I may have discard a bun and eaten my sandwich open-faced (See, I was trying to be good), but not before smothering it in tartar sauce!

After dinner, we visited the barns and exhibits and rode the carousel...and then the rain started again.

Relentless, pouring, rain! We sought shelter under tents and awnings as we made our way back toward the parking lot. There seemed to be 5-15 minute intervals between downpours. Just enough time to grab my annual elephant ear! Seriously, I only eat 1 elephant ear (shared with friends or family) per year. Back when I was a kid and I had jack-rabbit metabolism, I could eat 3 or 4 of these over the course of a fair week and still shimmy into my skinny Wranglers. These days, if I even look at a piece of fried dough for too long, my pants feel tight!

Now, some might say that one buttered up, sugar-covered, fritter of fried dough is as good as another.

Wrong! The consensus around here is that the elephant ears sold out of The Red Barn take the cake!

I would agree. My mom, my youngest daughter, and I sat under the cover of an awning and enjoyed our last fair treat while listening to the Lone Star concert playing from the grandstand before heading home.

We returned to my parent's house late last night and I went to bed even later...probably because I wasn't tired after my elephant ear sugar high.

This morning, I was awakened bright and early by a heavenly smell drifting up to my room from the kitchen. My thoughts were a bit fuzzy as I padded down the stairs. I clearly smelled apple pie....but it seemed so early for apple pie. What was going on?! Rocky Mountain Apple Pie, that's what! My mom had gotten up early and made two of my Great-Grandma Light's favorite apple pie recipes. I took a picture just as she pulled the first one from the oven.

I've eaten this pie for as long as I can remember, but I'm not sure about the story behind it. I suspect that the big chunks of apple rising out of the pie (mountains) with the white cream and sugar on top (snowcaps) are how the pie earned it's name, rather than the region from which it originated. But I could be wrong...

Tonight for dessert, we sliced up that pie and ate it a la mode with homemade vanilla custard. Yum! (Pie recipe provided at the end of this post).

This afternoon my mom had arranged for me to paint my own set of measuring cups at a local paint-your-own pottery place in The Village of Winona. I decided to grab a late lunch at the 1000 Park Bãkafé next door to the Pottery Bayou. I was pleased to find this sandwich with Pulled Maple Leaf Farms Duck in a blueberry barbeque sauce on the menu. It was served on a toasted rosemary roll and topped with gouda and greens. Ya'll know how I dig duck! This was delicious!

Following an afternoon of pottery painting, I returned to my parents for the evening. I was just getting ready to change into my tennis shoes and work off last night's elephant ear when my grandma called to inform me that my uncle had arrived with a whole load of produce from his trip to Michigan.

Anyone want to guess what I'm doing tomorrow?

Here's that pie recipe:

Great-Grandma Light's Rocky Mountain Apple Pie

1 single crust pie shell
A "whole bunch" of "transparent" apples (I'm still not really sure about transparent apples) my mom used Lodi apples.
1 c. sugar
2 T. flour
Heavy whipping cream (up to 1 cup)

Mix together the sugar and flour. Sprinkle "a little" in the bottom of the pie shell. Peel and quarter the apples. Set "on end" in the pie shell. Sprinkle remaining sugar and flour over the apples. Pour cream over the apples. Stop pouring before the cream goes over the edge of the pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees, until the apples are tender.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Posts from the Farm: Straw vs. Hay and Adventures in Freezing Sweet Corn

Hi everyone! I hope you're all having a wonderful week. I am truly enjoying my week on the farm, spending time with my family and basking in the familiarity of country life. This evening as I watched my neighbor round-bale his straw, I decided to take some pictures and share them with all of you. In addition, I thought I might indulge in a quick plant identification lesson too. Now here's the thing, I don't intend for this to be condescending. If you already know the difference between straw and hay, then just skip right over the next few pictures and read about the corn. But if you're one of those folks that takes a "hay ride" in the Fall but really hasn't given much thought as to what hay is, then read on....

There is a big difference between straw and hay. Straw is a by-product of wheat and serves as bedding for farm animals, a cover to keep your grass seed moist after planting, and as a nice fluffy filling for "hay ride" wagons, to name a few uses. Straw is golden in color. Hay, on the other hand, is made up of a mixture of grasses and legumes such as alfalfa and clover. For grazing animals, it contains a high amount of nutritional value. It is generally green in color. To review: Straw is bedding. Hay is food or fodder.

Here's the wheat field before harvest.

And tonight... after the wheat was harvested, and the straw was baled.

In this field, the farmer chose to make great big, giant round bales like this...

But you can also find it in rectangular bales that look like this.

Either way...straw is an excellent medium for a hayride! This October, when you're on your annual outing to the pumpkin patch for that perfect, happy, round pumpkin that will become the best jack-o-lantern ever....look a little closer on your "hayride" out to the field. If you're riding in a wagon full of smooth, golden, straws, then you can know that you're sitting on the left-behind stalk that grew the wheat your hamburger buns and breakfast cereal. If it's green and "flaky" with lots of plant particles everywhere, then,'re on a authentic hayride. But I won't envy you. Hay is messier than straw AND always gives me a rash. : ) So if you're on a "straw ride" glad! And now that you are privy to this little bit of plant identification trivia, you can sit and smugly smile amongst the other city slickers visiting the pumpkin farm and know that your group is actually sitting in straw!

Alrighty, enough of the country-style enlightenment. Let's talk about freezing corn!

On Monday morning I set out to pick up enough sweet corn for freezing. I called my friend, Kyle, because his family's farm always has sweet corn. He instructed me to come out to their farm office and pick some up. I told him I'd be over in 30 minutes. Then I called my mom to let her know I was leaving to get the corn. No reason, I just thought it would be nice to let her know where we were off to... since we're staying in her house and all. She told me that she loaned the "corn pot" to her neighbor. So next, I called my neighbor and she told me to stop on by and pick it up. So I did. As I pulled out of my neighbor's driveway, I called my grandparents (I intended to use my grandma's "canning kitchen" to process the corn) to give them my ETA with the corn. My grandpa insisted that I needed to stop by their house first and get his truck to pick up the corn. So...I stopped by his shop and switched my toddler and her carseat into his monstrous diesel dually. In case you're wondering, a dually is any pick-up truck with 4 wheels on the rear axle. Okay, so finally I was off! I arrived at the Tom Farms office after the longest 30 minutes ever. It seems that this is the way things go when I'm back home. My friend greeted me with a bit of disbelief, "Did you just pull up in that dually?" Well, of course I did. Just because I've subscribed to life in a sub-division these days doesn't mean that I can't handle a truck. Geesh. After all, you can take the girl out of the country...

Here I am behind the wheel.

My friend took me to their refrigerated semi trailer where they were keeping the sweet corn. It was empty. Darn it. We headed out to the field to see if there was anything left. Driving down the bumpy, muddy path to the sweet corn field, I was glad my grandpa made me take the truck. It was slim pickin' in the corn field after the weekend pickers and raccoons had gone through. We gleaned every row and came up with this much corn:

I think we were able to get around 4 bushel. Sweet Corn by the Numbers: A bushel of sweet corn in the husk weighs approximately 35 lbs. Cut off the cob and frozen, you can get about 14-17 pint of corn per bushel. There are 2 cups in a pint, so that's 28-34 cups of corn per bushel.

We freeze ours in 3 cup portions in quart size freezer bags. This time we ended up with about 40 bags of corn and couple plastic grocery bags leftover for eating off-the-cob.

I backed the truck up to my grandparent's garage where my grandpa and Jesse, his current high school hired helper, set to work husking the corn. When I was growing up, this was often my job. Back them, the whole family would gather to put up corn. This small amount of corn is small potatoes compared to the heaping truckfuls that we put up in those days. My mom, sisters, aunts, cousins, and grandparents would all have a job. The huskers, the silkers, the boilers, the cutters, and the baggers. Every summer we put up enough corn for 30-40 people to eat all year long. Watching my grandpa and Jesse shuck the corn made me a little sad. I realized that this is the first year that my Great-Grandpa Gene was not behind the truck shucking or in the kitchen cutting. I really missed him on Monday.

Once the corn was shucked, I moved it to the basement canning kitchen for silking. Silking is my least favorite part about sweet corn. Lucky for me, my grandma had an Amish girl helping her out for the day, so I assigned her the task of silking.

While Tricia silked the corn, I started a big pot of water boiling for blanching the corn. In the 9th grade I did a whole science fair project, complete with petrie dishes, a tri-fold poster display, and a detailed report about why it's important to blanch vegetables before preserving them. I think I received an honorable mention. I'll spare you all of the details of my report and give you the short version: Blanching vegetables destroys enzymes, changes the texture and sets the color. For extended storage, like freezing, destroying the enzymes improves the keeping quality of the vegetables. The same enzyme that causes fruits and vegetables to ripen also cause them to rot. Blanching before freezing is not necessary, but blanched vegetables will look and taste fresher for a longer period of time. I blanch my corn on the cob for 3-4 minutes.

While the corn blanches, make a cold water bath in your sink.

Immersing the corn in cold water immediately after blanching not only stops the cooking process, but it makes the corn easier to handle....

when cutting it off of the cob. I've found that the easiest place to cut corn is on a baking sheet with sides. You can get all kinds of cutting contraptions to remove the kernels from the cob, but I'm still partial to a plain old sharp knife. Be sure not to cut too deep to avoid getting cob in your corn. After I finish cutting the kernels off, I scrape my knife over the cob to get every last bit of the corn.

Keep a waste basket handy to discard the cobs.

I prefer to label my bags before filling them. It's just easier that way. I started out labelling each with "July 2010" and then I realized that July is the only time we freeze corn anyway, so I just went with "Corn 2010".

My youngest sister stopped by with my 10 week old niece to help out for a couple of hours. She took over the bagging. Baby Lilly was a fine helper. : )

Press out as much air as possible, and seal up the bags tightly before freezing them.

Freezing corn isn't tricky, but it is sticky and time consuming. If you can assemble a team of friends or family for this project, then go for it! It's easier to divide up the responsibilities and the time goes faster when you're in good company. Because of the mess that comes with putting up corn, some people prefer to do it outside, on covered picnic tables. The Amish girl that was helping me shared that her family does corn on their porch and then just hoses everything down when they finish. Easy clean up! However, I have found that corn attracts flies...and flies gross me out! Therefore, I prefer to clean up the mess indoors.

I had intended to do a series of posts on food preservation while I was home this week. Usually my grandma's garden is overflowing with veggies, ready to be preserved. Not this time. Apparently there was a mishap with some pesticide/herbicide that my grandpa sprayed across the road from the garden. The drift killed off the whole thing and by the time that I arrived in town, my grandpa had already tilled the shrivelled garden under. Bummer. I'm heading off to a county fair this evening, so I'll be looking for inspiration for my next post there instead. Stay tuned....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Scenes From A Down Home Cookout

Hello friends! Without warning, I disappeared from Krista's Kitchen after last Wednesday's post. Sorry about that. But I'm back...alive and well in rural Indiana. That's right! I'm home on my family's farm. I planned to blog from here on Friday night and then again last night, but we have spent the last two evenings around the firepit. I thought about typing up a post when we came in each night, but 1 am is not when I do my best blogging...I promise! Since I moved away from home, I try to spend at least one week "back home" every summer. You can check out last year's visit HERE. I usually plan our visit for county fair week, but this year I was helping at VBS in our city when the county fair was going on at home, so we missed it. That's okay...this week works out better. Saturday we attended the wedding of one of my cousins and next Saturday is my high school class reunion. It's the perfect week to spend at home, sandwiched between two fun Saturday events.

On Friday night, our minivan rolled into my parent's limestone driveway just before dinnertime. They were cooking out. When you have a large family, there is always an occasion to celebrate. Tonight it was my sister's birthday. In attendance: both of my sisters, their spouses and children, my grandparents, and one of my uncles and his girlfriend. It's never a small affair when we cookout.

My kiddos leapt from their carseats and ran to reunite with their cousins (this is not an exaggeration).

Here are the two oldest cousins, my daughter (the oldest grandchild) and my nephew (the next oldest). They were born exactly one year and one week apart. They are too much alike. What one doesn't think of, the other does. Can you spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E?

Once the initial hugs and greetings were finished, the kiddos all headed off to play in the dirt. Actually, if I'm putting on my "farm girl hat" this week....dirt is the stuff that you sweep off of your floors or scrub out of your clothes...if it's still in or on the ground, it's SOIL!

Once the kiddos ran off to play, it was quiet enough to notice the familiar, RrrrrrRrrrrrrRrrrrr noises of the ice cream maker on the patio. Homemade ice cream?! This was going to be a good night!

Kids playing happily. Check! Children adequately supervised by the husbands "shooting the bull" in the lawn. Check! Dad "manning" the grill. Check! Ice cream maker spinning away. Check!

With all bases covered, I headed inside the house to grab an apron and help out. Only, as I walked into the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, I saw my sweet grandma, holding the newest member of our family, 10 week old baby Lilly. Oh my goodness, she is gorgeous! Forget helping in the kitchen...I had to get my hands on that baby!

She scrunches up and smiles with her whole body! I love it!

Finally, my youngest sister had to pry this sweet angel from my hands to feed her.

Things seemed under control in the kitchen, so I snuck out the side door to see what my mom has been up to with her landscaping these days.

When I was little, we found this double bicycle in my grandparent's potato cellar. I remember enlisting my sisters or cousins to ride it up and down their hilly driveway. We were pretty wobbly, but we loved every minute. Now it's part of my mom's landscaping.

Hollyhocks and lavender. If I close my eyes and block out the noise around me, I can almost pretend that I'm in the spa, waiting for a relaxation message. Seriously, there is lavender blooming everywhere between the house and barn. It's completely lovely. Like a subtle, 24 hour air freshener.

I have no idea what the flowers from the next two pictures are called. They skirt the edges of my mom's awesome herb garden. Pretty, aren't they?

Mom's hydrangea bush was just starting to bloom. Love hydrangeas!

As I examined the hydrangeas, I noticed that my sister, the birthday girl, had emerged from the pole barn and was headed for the patio with some celebratory beverages. Time to end my "Tour de Fleurs" and join in the fun!

By the time that we poured our wine, dinner was ready.

There were burgers (and some incredibly big, deliciously marinated chicken breasts that I failed to photograph).

My contribution to this meal were the Sirloin and Vidalia Kabobs from Paula Deen. I could devote a whole post to these, but at this point I think I'll just give you the link to the recipe. They were pretty good. Strangely, they were better cold. True story. I took a vote and everyone agreed. Still, I'm even more convinced that the Beef on a Stick recipe is the ultimate beef kabob recipe.

There were also Cowboy Beans. In my opinion, this is the mother of all baked bean recipes. It's like regular baked beans on steroids! There's beef and bacon and all kinds of stuff in there. It's amazing! I definitely have to post that recipe soon.

We ate traditional cookout stuff too, like potato salad.

Oh, and Cukes n' Onions. Very similar to the Black Eyed Pea Salad I recently posted about.

On the sweet side of things, my mom made a fruit tray.

My youngest LOVES fruit. She put a away a whole plateful on the playhouse porch.

Finally dessert rolled around. After we sang, and my sister blew out the candles, we cut into the HoHo Cake. (It tastes like a Hostess Hoho).

We served the cake with homemade frozen custard. The custard is perfectly delicious on it's own, but I went ahead and topped mine off with a dark chocolate syrup and some mixed nuts.

Ahhh. It's good to be home.

Stick around! I'm away, but I'm still cooking. Tomorrow we're freezing corn and I hope to can some green beans too!
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