Monday, August 31, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie



About Sweet Potatoes

For my money, sweet potatoes are one of the most, if not the most, versatile foods you can buy at a North American farmer's market or grocery store. You can boil them, bake them, mash them, hash them; puree, roast, French-fry, scallop or candy them; bake them in muffins, pies, cakes, biscuits, bread, souffles and casseroles; thicken stews and sauces, sweeten greens, tenderize meat with them.

And, yes, you can grow them north of the Mason Dixon Line. If you can start them early indoors and keep the field plants warm with mulch and compost, especially during the early tuber initiation stage, you'll be good to go. Your best bet, of course, would be to cultivate a local variety. The plant, which looks like a bush bean variety, flowers like a morning glory, to which it's distantly related. Some varieties have deep purple leaves and are grown purely for ornamental purposes.

The plant is native to Central America and unrelated to the potato. In most European countries, sweet potatoes are hard to find unless the country boasts an immigrant population who traditionally eat the tuber.

Many folks in the United States refer to sweet potatoes as yams, but this is misnomer. Yams belong to a completely different plant species than the orange-, white-, yellow- or purple-fleshed sweet potato and remains an important crop around the world, especially in Africa and the Caribbean. They are rarely found in the States.

Select unblemished, firm tubers with small soft spots and no broken skin. Do not refrigerate them. Ever.

Sweet Potato Pie

4 large sweet potatoes, washed and scrubbed
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cardamom
Splash of fresh squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup (12 oz) heavy cream
4 large fresh eggs, room temperature
3 9-inch deep dish pie crusts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place sweet potatoes directly on middle rack and bake until juices run and potato skins separate from flesh, about an hour. Place strips of aluminum foil on the bottom of the oven to catch the juice.

Remove potatoes from oven and let cool until comfortable to handle. Pull off peels and place potatoes in large boil. Add butter and mash. Add sugar, spices, zest, orange juice, and vanilla extract and mix well. For a smooth, custard-like pie, transfer filling to a food processor, puree for five minutes, and return to bowl. Adjust spices and sweetness to taste. (I prefer a sweet pie, so I tend to sweeten the filling to taste with pure maple syrup at this point.) Using a hand beater on medium high, slowly add cream and beat until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and beat until smooth after each egg. Pour filling into crusts and bake until center of the pie rises like a souffle and the edges crack, about 60-90 minutes depending on your oven.

Remove pies and place on racks to cool. Serve plain or with fresh whipped cream flavored with your choice of liqueur, essence, extract (all the above) or vanilla ice cream. Of course, if you want to be ghetto/country, you can always pull out a vat of Cool Whip and smother a slice with it, but I suggest you read the ingredients on the vat and stay as far away from that mess as possible.

Pies may be stored at room temperature for two days, in the refrigerator for 10 days, or frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, wrap pies tightly with several layers of food plastic, place in air-tight freezer bags, and store in freezer as far away from the door as possible. The crust will separate from the filling on the sides when thawed out. You won't notice till you plate a slice.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer On Annabessacook Farm



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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, 1932 - 2009

In this April 11, 1938 photo, Teddy Kennedy, center, and his sister Jean attend the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, London, as their father, the new American ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, paid a call on the king. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the last surviving brother in a political dynasty and one of the most influential senators in history, died Tuesday night, Aug. 25, 2009, at his home on Cape Cod after a year-long struggle with brain cancer. He was 77.

In this April 11, 1938 photo, Teddy Kennedy, center, and his sister Jean attend the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, London, as their father, the new American ambassador, Joseph Kennedy, paid a call on the king. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the last surviving brother in a political dynasty and one of the most influential senators in history, died Tuesday night, Aug. 25, 2009, at his home on Cape Cod after a year-long struggle with brain cancer. He was 77.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

11 Years Ago Today


Friends came...


...bearing gifts.


They gathered in our backyard to see us marry.


Before our altar...


...we exchanged vows.


Daddy sang "Ebb Tide," my favorite love song.


We joined our lights...


...and became one heart.


Everybody...


...cried.


Two families became one.


How sweet it is.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Way Life Should Be

THAT'S our state motto. And when I first saw this ad on television the other night, I thought it was a tourism ad.



How thrilled I was when I realized I was wrong.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Blight

HOW MANY places a day can go. First Shadow dies and now...

Late blight has come to Annabessacook Farm. I took one day off from farming -- just one fucking day -- and that's all it took for blight to ravage my tomatoes, reducing a jungle of lush, green foliage to a leper colony. Purple lesions that look like Kaposi sarcoma marked the stems and fruit and leaves of my crop.

I thought I was lucky because I grew my tomatoes from seed instead of from plants purchased at one of the huge outlets tagged for selling infected plants to thousands of gardeners across the northeast.

Nope.

The incessant June-July rain, the secession of cloudy days, the tropical-like humidity, the recent middle-of-the-night thunder showers, and all those infected plants growing in neighboring gardens releasing a million spores of the pathogen into the atmosphere and it was only a matter of when, not if.

The cause of the Irish potato famine in the late 1840s, late blight come early is vicious. I was skeptical it could wipe out an entire commercial crop of tomatoes within 72 hours, but I'm no longer a doubting Thomas. Just last night, after my single day off, I harvested green tomatoes to fry up southern style for dinner and I saw no symptoms on any of my plants. This afternoon, blight had spread like a bad rumor among my pomodoros.

The leaves turn their colors just as one looks away from them....

How many places a day can go.

The Death Of Animals

IMG_1797

YEARS AGO, when I was submitting a short story a week to fiction writing contests all over the country, the title of this post was the title of a short story that won one of those contests. I don't remember the story, but it was set on a farm.

Memory says that within a month of the publication of "The Death of Animals," Adeline, one of our two white mares, laid down in a spring-snow-covered pasture behind the barn and never got up. The look on Job's face broke my heart. He, a 175-pound man against a horse that weighed a ton, tried to get her up, but Adeline was already in shock. We had to call the vet to put her out of her misery.

We didn't have Adeline for very long before she passed, but bonding with animals happens without effort. I was surprised by how much I sobbed when I watched the tractor gently drop her body in the ground.

This morning, Job found Shadow lifeless in her shed. That look on his face.

There was something wrong with Shadow when we got her. I didn't want her, truth be told. She had been rejected by her mother as a little lamb and her previous owners brought her into their house and bottle fed her until she was old enough to go back outside and graze. Why they would part with an animal that needed so much human attention I'll never know.

Anyway, Shadow became stricken with diarrhea a few days ago and got so weak so fast, she couldn't stand up without help. Job stood her up several times to allow her to drink water, so dehydrated she was. We gave her grain and hay and called for advice, but Shadow got weaker and weaker and finally, sometime after we went to bed last night, her spirit left her body.

Job carried her lifelessness across the road and dropped her in the woods. No time to dig a grave. No inclination either, really. If the foxes haven't feasted, I'll probably go cover her body later. Whatever killed her -- bovine virus, a broken heart, both -- I don't want the crows to spread it.

Light, the sheep she left behind, is beside himself. He won't go into the shed they shared. Can hardly stop crying. Soon, he'll have another companion. For now, he's grieving like a lover who lost his lover.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunflowers



Sunday, August 09, 2009

Sunday On The Farm



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Sunday, August 02, 2009