All posts by Irena

Squash Souffle, 2 styles

Have you ever wondered what to do with winter squash that still haven’t gotten completely ripe when frost hits?  Seed grower and heirloom advocate Rodger Winn told us about a family recipe for squash souffle while we visited his farm one summer.Jul2015 (811) making squash souffle from int stage Mrs Amer prcsd

It starts with intermediate-maturity squash.Jul2015 (806) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs A prcsd

Most squash recipes call for either winter squash, which are harvested at full seed maturity, or summer squash, which are harvested when the seeds are just beginning to develop.  Most squash varieties that are bred for use as summer squash, if allowed to get to the stage of seed maturity, will be unappetizing.  However, most squash that are bred to be winter squash, if you harvest them when the seeds are just beginning to mature, are a wonderful substitute for regular summer squash.  They’re also quite tasty in-between.

When your squash plants are on their last leg and many of the leaves have died, it’s not hard to find a squash that’s still immature; they’re just easy to see. And, when your first fall frost is around the corner and you’re doing your annual winter squash harvest, you’re bound to find a few immature fruits along with the mature ones. If the peel is tough,  you’ll need to peel them. If the seeds are tough, you’ll need to scoop them out.  (The seeds are likely to be tough unless the squash is just barely past the summer squash stage, but, depending on the variety, the skin might remain tender much longer.)

Irena’s Squash Souffle

I really liked the sound of Rodger’s recipe, but I didn’t remember the details, and I often don’t have the patience to measure ingredients.  Here’s how I made a squash souffle that my housemates and I really enjoyed.

Jul2015 (808) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs A prcsdJul2015 (810) making squash souffle from intermediate stage Mrs a prcsdFirst, I cut an intermediate-stage Mrs. Amerson’s squash into big chunks. Mrs. Amerson’s is a moschata type, and I’m pretty confident that other squash in the moschata species, such as Seminole and Butternut, would produce very similar results.

I removed the seeds and the parts of the peel that were tough.  I sliced the squash thinly.  It wouldn’t all fit in one frying pan, so I put it in two. Those frying pans mostly gets used for savory dishes, but I didn’t worry about how their seasoning would affect this dish.

I let the squash cook a bit, stirring occasionally, while I beat about 10 eggs, then mixed them with about 5 cups of milk and about 2 cups of evaporated cane juice (i.e., sugar, but not as processed as most white or brown sugars).  I poured the mixture over the squash, sprinkled it with nutmeg, covered it, and cooked on low heat until the surface was solid.Jul2015 (812) making squash souffle from int stage Mrs Amer prcsd

I enjoy strong flavors, so the next morning as I was enjoying my squash souffle for the second time, I picked some Anise-Hyssop and Mexican Mint Marigold from the garden to eat with it.Oct2016 (296) squash souffle prcsd

Then, I decided to write this post, so I asked Rodger for the family recipe.  If you want to cook from a recipe, this is probably the one to use.

For Rodger’s South Carolina family, this is a Thanksgiving recipe.  They tend to get their first frost in early November.  Intermediate-maturity squash will keep just fine for a couple of weeks, and sometimes much longer, but won’t keep until spring.

Winn Family Squash Souffle

We use pumpkins that are almost mature but still have a green rind.  If they are too immature the pie will be mushy. Cut the squash lengthwise in 1 in strips and peel. Then slice very thin, about 1/8 in. Layer the slices in a pre baked pie crust till filled. For the custard use 1 or 1 1/2 cups white sugar or unrefined sugar, 2 cups milk, a tsp. of vanilla extract, and 3 eggs. Mix well. This is enough custard for two shallow pies, or one deep dish with a little left over. Then bake at 375 degrees untill set (about 45min to 1hr). Enjoy.

Growing Grain and Making Bread

Farm and Sparrow bakery in Candler, NC buys grain – especially Turkey Red hard winter wheat – from farmers, and grinds it to make flour, bread, and pastries. Jul2015 (442) oven at Farm and Sparrow bakery small

Ken and I visited Farm and Sparrow on our summer road trip, which we’ve also written about in posts about seed growers, breeders, and research stations, and most recently, using home-grown grain and why I care about locally grown grain.

The crew of Farm and Sparrow bakes bread and pastries in a wood-fired brick oven.  They sell to a local pizzeria as well as directly to consumers at several markets in nearby Asheville.  We greatly enjoyed the powerful fragrance of fresh flour in the milling room and the taste of their Heirloom Grit bread.

We also visited two of the farms that Farm and Sparrow buys from.Jul2015 (511) at Dayspring Farm small
DaySpring Farms in Commerce, Georgia is operated by Murray Brett and his son Nathan.  They grow Turkey Red wheat as well as NuEast hard red winter wheat, Appalachian hard white winter wheat, canola, corn, cowpeas, dry beans, and fresh vegetables. During our visit we picked up the Turkey Red wheat seed we’re now selling.  Murray and Nathan are enthusiastic about growing corn and legume seed crops for us in the future, and we hope to line them up with some crops next year.

The last stop of our two-week road trip was Looking Back Farm in the northeast corner of North Carolina.  There, Kenny Haines and his son Ben grow corn, wheat, cowpeas, and soybeans, much of it for Anson Mills. Jul2015 (744) at Looking Back farm small

They also do soybean trials for the Rural Advancement Foundation International.  Kenny has been growing organically since 1987, long before organic food was popular.  His wife was a nurse and insisted that their sons not be exposed to pesticides.

Looking Back Farm was one of the largest farms we visited on our trip.  They farm 350 acres, all by themselves, with more and more help from Ben’s sons.  They’re precision tractor operators, planting and weeding and harvesting all their crops with their equipment.  Like many of the farms we visited, they scale their work to their family’s labor, since it’s hard to find skilled farm workers who’ll commit to the work and the farm.

When we had the opportunity a couple years ago, we were happy to buy some Iron and Clay pea seeds from them, but generally they grow no less than 10 acres of any crop.   Southern Exposure’s inventories are small enough so that it would only make sense for them to grow seed for us if they were also growing the same crop for food or seed for someone else.

We asked David Bauer of Farm and Sparrow if Aug2015 (639) At Sub Rosa bakery, Richmond smallany other bakeries also mill grain and buy from farmers.  He mentioned Sub Rosa bakery in Richmond, VA.  When I visited Sub Rosa, baker Evrim Dogu was making Polenta bread with Bloody Butcher corn from our neighbor William Hale, who also grows seed for us.  The sourdough loaf we bought was very crusty on the outside and very creamy on the inside.  I usually prefer a more even-textured bread, but found this loaf deeply satisfying.Aug2015 (607) At Sub Rosa bakery, Richmond small

Growing Grain in a Home Garden

Jake Holt, a physician and a father of young children, somehow finds the time to grow small seed crops for Southern Exposure in his home garden.Jul2015 (301) in Jake Holt's garden smallJul2015 (306) Jake Holt demonstrates small scale rye threshing small Not only that, but he also processes home grown rye into flour for pancakes.

During a visit this summer, Jake showed us one way to thresh rye at home.  We pulled seedheads off rye stalks until we had about half a gallon of seedheads in a bucket, enough for a demonstration of the process.

Jul2015 (313) Jake Holt demonstrates small scale rye threshing small Then Jake brought out a flail made of chains attached to an eye attached to a cordless drill. The contraption also included a shield made from a plastic dish. He put the flail in the bucket and ran the drill for several seconds to thresh the grain.

Jul2015 (312) Jake Holt demonstrates small scale rye threshing small The deseeded husks, still attached to the stem, were easily lifted off, leaving us with a few handfuls of rye seed and light https://www.southernexposure.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=3351&action=editchaff. Jake would then winnow the chaff off by pouring the grain in front of a fan, then grinding it with a hand-crank mill. There is no need for a separate dehuller, as the hulls remain on the stems.  You can read more about Jake’s type of thresher in this Mother Earth News blog post.

It isn’t very difficult,  and his famJul2015 (319) threshed grain to be winnowed and ground smallily really loves the pancakes, but this process is long enough that almost none of us will get a significant portion of our calories this way.

If your goal is to get a significant portion of your calories from home grown grain, grinding corn is much easier – you can harvest it with a pair of hand pruners, shell it with a hand corn sheller, and hardly winnow it at all.  But most of us want wheat products, too.

You can grind corn as well as small grains at home in a hand-crank grinder such as a Grain Maker mill.  With some grains, you can also find recipes that use whole kernels.

For wheat, rye, oats, and other small grains, I hope there will be a revival of intermediate scales of threshing, winnowing, and milling – larger in scale than Jake Holt’s method, and smaller in scale than modern commercial millers – so that homegrown or locally grown rye flour can once again be used as a staple, rather than just a once-a-week pancake treat.

Yanceyville mill

It might be a long shot, but then again, so was the organic movement 30 years ago.  And even as recently as the mid-1980s, a water-powered grain mill in our part of central Virginia was grinding grain from neighboring farms.

You might think, “Flour doesn’t cost much at the supermarket. Why grow grain in a moist climate like mine?” Michael Pollan, in his book Cooked, provides us with good reasons.

fromdon'twastethecrumbsdotcom
image from http://dontwastethecrumbs.com/

Almost all the flour at the supermarkets has been separated by modern roller mills into its component parts: germ, bran, and endosperm. Even the whole grain flour at the supermarket has been separated out before being reconstituted. Commercial mills just aren’t set up to do it any other way anymore. As Michael Pollan writes,

“Not long after roller mills became widespread in the 1880’s, alarming rates of nutritional deficiency and chronic disease began cropping up in populations that relied on the new white flour. Around the turn of the century, a group of French and British doctors and medical experts… many of them posted to Britain’s colonies in Asia and Africa, had observed that, soon after white flour and sugar arrived in places where previously what one of them (Robert McCarrison) called ‘the unsophisticated foods of nature’ had been the norm, the Western diseases would predictably appear.”

Pollan also cites a 2003 study by epidemiologists at the University of Minnesota, showing that “the health benefits of whole grains cannot be completely explained in terms of nutrients we know those grains contain…. Either there are synergies at work among these nutrients, or there is some X-factor in whole grains that scientists have yet to identify.”

You might think, “In that case why don’t we all just buy whole wheat flour or whole wheat bread at our supermarkets?”  I’ll mention a few of the reasons:

— Once the germ is separated from the rest of the grain, it can deteriorate and become rancid.
— Former workers in big commercial mills told Pollan that those mills leave out the germ (and thus most of the identified vitamins) when they reconstitute “whole-wheat” flour.
— When modern industrial bakeries make dough, they usually add a lot of ingredients that most of us can’t pronounce.
— When we use local grain, we support the local farm economy rather than CEOs and shareholders.

There are still wheats, ryes, and other small grains (in addition to corns) that are adapted to growing in the Southeast.

In an upcoming blog post I’ll share our experiences visiting two bakeries that mill their grain, bake with wood heat, and buy from farmers, two of whom I’ll also profile.
Jul2015 (452) at Farm and Sparrow bakery small