Week 32, 2021|Kristin Kimball|August 13, 2021

Four days of intense humidity and high temperatures that held on overnight made for an uncomfortable week here. The rules of a hot week are: Sweat, rinse, repeat, and no matter what, keep hydrating. So far, so good, no animal casualties, no farmers with heat stroke, and cooler weather coming.

In the midst of it on Wednesday we had a visit from Alex Halberstadt, a writer currently in residence at Yaddo, the artists’ community in Saratoga Springs, and Michael Blake, the head chef there. They were with us to discuss an event we’re doing together at Yaddo in September, but as we grazed our way around the steamy farm, sampling sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes and squash blossoms, we talked about one of the subjects Alex is writing about: wine. I don’t know much about wine or what makes a good vineyard. Moderate temperatures? Plentiful rainfall? Perfectly balanced fertilizer? Nope. The opposite. Alex said the best wines come from hard landscapes, places that look like the surface of the moon. When vines have to work extremely hard for their living, yield goes down, but the grapes develop character. The wine becomes interesting. Viticulturists call it rigor. Of course! But why don’t we ever talk about this with vegetables? It’s similar. Plants that have to work a bit, due to weather, pests, competition, or other imperfect conditions, produce the best tasting food. It’s more intensely flavored, more satisfying, and I’d lay money on the idea that it’s more nutritious too, perhaps in ways we don’t yet fully understand. This is why the produce from hydroponic places — where plants’ roots are fed a flow of soluble nutrients in a soilless medium — and from greenhouses and large-scale monoculture farms — where water and nutrients are optimized for high yield — taste so dang vapid. Those plants don’t have to work for a living, and develop no character. Now we have a word to pin on that idea. Here’s to rigor!

Our table has been full this week of simple, perfect things. Every meal is a constellation of small dishes around a main course: a bowl of radishes, another of tomato wedges, another of sliced sweet onions, a sautéed summer squash, and on and on until most of the table is covered and everyone is reaching over their neighbor to get to things and you forget what the main course was even supposed to be. The less you do to food this time of year, the better it is.

I am so sorry I wrote about pesto last week and then there was no basil available. My fault. We do have basil this week, in moderate amounts, so if you gathered your nuts and cheese last week you can make some pesto this week. Eggs are still very abundant, and I have been using them like crazy. My new favorite thing is a flexible, easy to remember custard recipe that can be frozen into ice cream if you have an ice cream maker (and I believe you should) or just eaten as custard, preferably with fresh fruit. The ratio of cream to milk is flexible. Members, keep in mind we’re not as rich in cream as we are in eggs right now and that if you are churning ice cream, don’t go any richer than 1:1 cream:milk, or else you might make butter by accident.

Easy Custard/Ice Cream Base

  • 2 C cream (or, however much cream you have/want, adding milk to make 4 cups)
  • 2 C milk
  • 1 C sugar (or less for less sweet)
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 T vanilla extract (Note, vanilla has become a luxury ingredient but if there’s a time to splurge and use your best vanilla this is it.)

Heat the milk, cream, sugar, and salt over medium heat until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. In a separate container, whisk the egg yolks together, temper the yolks carefully, then whisk them into the hot milk/cream mixture. Continue to stir until it reaches 170 degrees. It will be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla.

For ice cream, cool the mixture to fridge temperature before churning; this recipe is slightly too much for a 4 cup ice cream maker so remove some or else you will have a mess. For custard, just pour the mixture into a bowl, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Serve with fruit, fresh or cooked.

Late breaking news, we have bacon in the share this week. One of the best uses of bacon is in the service of greens. Especially collards. Cut a few slices of bacon into pieces and sauté in the bottom of a large stockpot. Meanwhile, cut out the tough ribs of the collards and chop the leaves. Add the collards along with a cup or two of the best stock you have on hand. Cook until the collards are very very soft and melty, adding more stock as needed. Salt to taste.

Now the short news. Apex Solar is installing electric vehicle charging stations at the front of the farm this week. Hooray for EV. And another cheer because Jane returns from France today, after almost 8 weeks. I’m zipping down to Newark to pick her up.We are hoping to cut some hay on Saturday, and fingers crossed we get some in, because we’re thinking ahead to winter now, and frost could be on us in four short weeks. Artemis the Great Pyrenees is spayed now and back with her brother Apollo and good old Captain guarding the sheep flock, in a very brushy section along Blockhouse Road. It’s high time to sort the ram lambs out, so we don’t have a repeat of last year’s early breeding. In the vegetable world, sweet corn is filling out nicely. It’s going to be delicious. Full tomato abundance is probably two weeks out. Lots of summer squash is available, and most of the herbs are plentiful.

And that’s the news from Essex Farm for this sultry 32nd week of 2021. Find us at 518-963-4613, essexfarm@gmail.com, on Instagram at essexfarmcsa, kristinxkimball and farmerkimball, or on the farm, any day but Sunday.

-Kristin & Mark Kimball