Friends. I hope this note finds you doing well on this blustery spring day. The grass on the burnt off prairie is just starting to show the first signs of green. We've had a couple inches of rain this week, but it is still dry on the western edge of the state. Unlike friends to the east, we had no snow cover this year. But our alfalfa field is starting to green up, so our fears of winter kill are lessoning.
The cold, wind, and rain meant there was no gardening or yard work and so... we ventured to the pantry to see what was left of last year's produce and to curb my compulsion
The remainders of last year's potatoes will be used for seed in a few days. They've already proven their 'storability' since they still taste perfectly delicious.
But it is the squash that I had to get off the shelf and cooked or lose them all together. My boys are now 9 years old and perfectly suited to the job of "Go get the rest of the squash from the pantry!"
The boys were a little uncertain about whether to touch some of the squash. In case you are wondering, the white is, well, fungus/rot/mold. We started out with about 100 of these squash and only had to toss a few into the compost bin.
Big call out to our local veggy farmer Jan for her generous unloading of extra squash. We made good use of it Jan!
Since they are 9 year old boy, we had to take a scare mom and SCREAM!! break with a fake spider. How many times can a mom fall for this old gag?
But overall, I am so grateful that I have this window of time where I have sweet boys who can haul my soggy, smelly, questionable produce up from the 100+ year old pantry.
And then the fun begins. Chopping out the rotten parts and getting the squash ready and baked.
This squash, named Sweet Mama, is fleshy and stores well. I would highly recommend it to gardeners and foodies. It's a great tasting squash to eat baked with salt and butter or to use in hotdishes. Yesterday's batch was destined for some Oh Sweet Mama Chipotle Soup!
And the squash is ready to go into the oven-- WARNING CUTE PUPPY PHOTO BOMB BELOW!
There's something I'm rather compulsive about- I don't like to waste food and I like to use as much of my food as I can. So this soup started with last Sunday's Easter Ham juices. First, I have to say that the ham we got from Big Stone County's newest farmers, Peter and Anne Schwagerl, was fabulously delicious with a very special, unique and mild flavor. The quality of the heritage breed hog they raised really come through in that ham.
I had decanted off some of the fat (1/4 cup) from the ham drippings along with about 1 Cup of the juices that I didn't use in the gravy. I saved it in the fridge and used that delicious, rich and flavorful based in which to fry the onions for the soup base.
To that, I added the very last cloves of garlic from 2013's crop (thank you Theresa, Russ, Les, and Jess!). What's more, I dehydrated the last of the garlic that would have been rotting before I could use it fresh and then ground it up into garlic powder. That is simply the best garlic powder imaginable. In fact, I almost prefer it to the fresh garlic- it has a strong but richer flavor than fresh garlic.
I added the garlic, smoky Chipotle spice, and the squash to the simmering onions. The soup needed a bit of sweet to balance the savor and so I opened a can of candied crab apples that had been on the pantry shelf a couple years. The crab apple tree is well over 50 years old and still grows and produces on the north side of our house, depositing apples on the garage roof. I pulled the apples apart, removed the seeds, and tossed them into the soup as well.
I'd also saved the water that I poured off of the potatoes from last Sunday's dinner and stored that in a quart jar in the fridge (this is the compulsive part- I don't even like to waste the potato water). And that was used to thin the soup so that it went from hotdish consistency to thick soup consistency.
Use the hand blender to whirrrrrrr it all together and VOILA'! You have Oh Sweet Mama Spicy Chipotle Soup! Top it with some crumbled blue cheese and you have a meal fit for, well, a well deserving farmer. I guess that means I should bring some over to Jan!
Pretty soon the sun will come out, the nettles and dandelions will come up, the garden will go in and we'll start the whole process over again. Plant. Grow. Weed. Weed. Weed. Harvest. Eat. Store. Prepare. Enjoy.
Mike asks me what the return on investment is. I'd say it is a day well spent. String a bunch of those together and what to you have? A life well spent.
RECIPE: Oh Sweet Mama! Spicy Chipotle Squash Soup
- 5 Sweet Mama Squash, baked and removed from skins
- 2 onions
- 4-8 cloves garlic or garlic powder
- 1/4 C oil (Ham fat ideally)
- 2 t Chipotle spice
- 2 cups of candied crab apples
- 2-3 C of potato water
Simmer. Blend. Enjoy.