Friday, May 15, 2009

A little culture

So I spent yesterday morning harvesting and packing greens and herbs for today's deliveries. Kale, collard greens, chard, 6 different kinds of lettuce (including one related to the Chrysanthemum which tasted mildly like parsley and had me daydreaming about tabbouleh for the last hour before lunchtime), oregano, sage, and thyme. There were also some beets and asparagus that were too small for shipping so we divvied them up among ourselves. Yum.

As we worked, I had the opportunity to get to know some of the full-time folks at Maggie's: Phyllis, Eric, and JJ. (Cliff was on mowing duty for pretty much the whole day, so only a few jokes and sarcastic comments back and forth there.) Inevitably, the conversation turned to food. Sure, I can talk about all kinds of other things -- books, music, art, film, the need for universal health care coverage, the decline of the public education system in our country, the evil powers responsible for the inane Washington Sports Clubs' member cancellation policy (and how a lack of a forwarding address should not bring the system to a screeching halt) -- but food is my favorite. And as we worked in the cooler for hours with gorgeous, newly-harvested produce, I began to brainstorm. Arugula pesto. Sauteed chard with garlic and nutmeg. Roasted asparagus with mint and lemon juice. Baby beet salad with mustard vinaigrette.

[Writing intermission: snack break.]

Clouds lingered after lunch and the weather seemed iffy, so I worked with Phyllis for a few hours on the "Defragging Phyllis' Brain" project -- essentially, it was a download of a lot of information from the farm manager's brain onto a working spreadsheet to map out weekly, monthly, and seasonal plans for the farm. Again, during lulls in the work, food occupied the majority of the conversation, so once we got to what we deemed an appropriate stopping point for the day, Phyllis let me into her kitchen and I fiddled with some of the miscellaneous organic ingredients in her refrigerator and some herbs I'd snipped from around the farm. I'd cut some fresh lettuce in the greenhouse and we proceeded to enjoy an herbal salad dressing sampling for the prototypes I was working on, each one featuring a seasonal herb: oregano, chives, sage, and thyme.

It seems both Phyllis and I liked the thyme one best, which had fresh orange juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and mustard; I seem to have overdone it on the chili powder in the chive vinaigrette; the other two were fine, but nothing too crazy. As we nibbled, Phyllis told me of a gentleman in town with 6 Jersey cows who sells raw milk. I think I may have been out the door and let myself into her car and had my seatbelt on before she finished that sentence, but I can't be sure. Raw milk! We picked up a gallon, stopped for a few dozens free range eggs from another neighbor, and headed directly back to the farm....

I am perhaps a little overzealous about my affinity for fresh, plain yoghurt. It's hard to find these days outside of farmers markets. (I wouldn't characterize my frequenting of the 3 dairy suppliers at the Dupont Farmers Market as "stalking" per se, but I would get a little panicky when the supply of plain yoghurt ran low as I tried to wait patiently in line.) Phyllis pulled out her recipe and we got to work. The next morning, it was ready... and ridiculously delicious. We devoured about half the quart between us, garnished with raspberries frozen from last summer. And it was so easy!

If you want to make it yourself, here's the recipe:
- Heat 1 quart of raw milk (or store-bought milk is fine, too) in a saucepan to 180 degrees.
- Remove from stove top and cool milk to 116 degrees.
- Stir in 2 tablespoons of plain yoghurt culture. (This can be the last 2 TBSP of previous yoghurt batch or simply 2 TBSP of store-bought, plain yoghurt, preferably organic)
- Pour into a glass container and cover. (We covered a large glass jar with some tin foil.)
- Store at 116 degrees for 6 hours or overnight. (We wrapped the covered jar in a small towel, then a wool blanket, and placed it on a wooden cutting board set atop a small, metal space heater set on low overnight.)
- Chill for an hour or two. (This may apply to you, but certainly applies to the yoghurt.)

Soooo delicious.... and easy. I'll bet it would be a blast to make with kids. But then you'd probably have to set a good example and share some of it. Hmmm.... maybe make two batches.


  1. I am SO going to make yogurt now.

  2. Hey Ibti! It's Woody's mom, Leslie. Woody turned me on to your web and been enjoying it. I also make homemade yogurt. Sometimes I use my crockpot plugged into a dimmer switch to lower the temp. Sometimes I use a cooler, lots of towels, and jars of hot water in the mix to get the temp up to at least 105 degrees. Nothing beats homemeade yogurt.


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