Winter Here And Now

Are we halfway through winter yet? It’s always hard to say really, the upcoming months of February and March, can in fact, be brutal. The real snowfall here in Maine will often come at the end of this cold winter season, nudging itself into spring. This we know. Today, however, it is warmer. The wood stoves are less hungry at the moment, the chicken’s water may just remain unfrozen for the day, and our pups are not prancing back to the warmth of the house with icy feet. Today is a good day to put together a seed list. It’s a good day to burrow through the winter squash that is stored in the root cellar and cull out any soft ones. I think it’s a good day to make chocolate pudding as well. Agree? There is one recipe I always use for chocolate pudding, a pudding that is so dark and rich and silky smooth that once you put it in your mouth, you may regret swallowing and instead choose to let it linger on your tongue. Decadent, for sure.
How’s it going for you this winter? Are you faring well? I do hope so. Well, so long for now, I must go and raid the pantry for chocolate and get to that puddin’ making!
Here’s the recipe…

Favorite Chocolate Pudding

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 TBLS. granulated sugar
1/4 cup (high quality) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBLS. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups whole milk
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( again, high quality)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir together brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt with a fork in a heavy bottom saucepan, until sugars are broken up and the mixture is well blended. Add 1 cup milk and the chocolate and heat over medium heat, whisking, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup milk and cook, whisking frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, until large bubbles pop on the surface and pudding is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, then immediately transfer to a large bowl or 4 serving bowls.

The Help Of Many Hands

Picture 011As we have mentioned in the past , we raise a lot of our own food here at Fernwood. Along with the rows of canned vegetables and fruits lining the pantry shelves and the freezer bags full of blanched greenbeans, broccoli, and swiss chard, we round out our supply with the chicken, lamb, and pork we raise. Yesterday, it was time to process the meat birds we had bought as chicks back in June. Our system for processing chickens has become fairly efficient over the last few years. We always process our own birds, opting to not send them off and have a butcher shop do it for us. It’s the same with the lamb and pork we raise. We raise them here on the farm and see the process through to the end. It’s a choice. Most often, we share the work with another farm who also raise their own critters for the table. Many hands make light work, as they say. We process their birds on one day and the next day we are back here processing ours. Having the right set up for efficiently processing 70 meat birds is crucial. We start by making sure that the eviscerating table is set up, the knifes sharpened, and by keeping a big pot of water heated to 140 degrees. Once the chickens are killed, they are submerged in the hot water to loosen their feathers, then they are ready for the plucking machine.Picture 018 The plucking machine ( ours is a Picwick) is worth its weight in chickens and feathers. It saves us a huge amount of time. With the plucker, a chicken is defeathered in about one minute. We are very thankful for the chicken plucker! The chickens go from the plucker to large sterilized buckets filled with ice water. This cools them down and gets them ready for eviscerating. Once the birds are cleaned out, they again go into sterilized buckets of ice water. We chill the birds in ice water for 24 hours, changing the water several times, before bagging them for the freezer. Everyone has their job, and we tend to keep our ‘station’ through the whole process. I am usally running the plucker. Rick and our friend Len are usually at the eviscerating table. We’ve also had the help of our friend Rick H. , who before he began helping us pluck and clean chickens, had a lifetime career as a surgeon. He’s a very thorough chicken processor. We are very glad to have his help and he will usually take payment in the way of a chicken……and often some livers. The chicken plucker was bought between three small farms ( ours being one of them), and this helped with the initial cost. Now, all three farms have use of the plucker, and most often the help of many hands. Pluckers are pretty pricey and there is no real sense in each farm owning one, unless they specifically raise chickens as a cash crop and are processing on a regular and continued basis. It takes us about 2 1/2 hours to process 70 birds. Not too bad. As long as we continue to have meat in our diet, raising this meat from start to finish, keeps us very mindful and appreciative as to where the meat comes from. We are also committed to raising our animals in a healthy and humane way. We are always grateful for all of the food we raise and how it helps to sustain us. We truly give thanks. Always, after this big chore is done, we all sit down to share a meal. This is one of the best parts of sharing farm labor. The mid day meal. Always a treat after a job well done.