On Cairncest Farm in Plainfield, two brothers, Edmund and Garth Brown, have resolved to eat only what they raise/grow/forage/hunt themselves for an entire year. Edible Finger Lakes is carrying biweekly updates from the Brown brothers as they embark on this food journey.
Food for a Year: January 16-February 1
For the last month I’ve eaten only from the produce of my own place. My goal is to go for all of 2015 eating only the most local of foods, that is to say, homegrown only. I began the year with a well-stocked cellar of roots, a bunch of frozen berries, another freezer full of meat, and some herbs in the pantry. I did not grow any grains, which is a decision I’m second guessing at this point. I wonder whether I made a mistake both for the “hungry gap” I might have between the end of my cellar roots and the first early tubers from the garden, and the variety of tastes and textures flours allow for. I actually did not eat a lot of grain before 2015, but I did mix up my breakfast here and there with a bowl of oatmeal. Now the list of ingredients I have to work with is quite limited. One of the best meals I’ve made so far is a shepherd’s pie—or perhaps I better call it a hunter’s pie since I used venison.
Hunter’s Pie1-2 pounds venison shoulder or other stewing meat 2 cups beef stock 2-3 cups of cubed winter squash 1 large rutabaga 2 onions 4 carrots a few small Jerusalem artichokes tallow, to taste salt, to taste rosemary, to taste sage, to taste
Brown the meat in a hot frying pan. Then transfer to a pot or slow cooker, combine with stock and simmer until soft but not disintegrating, around 3 or so hours depending on the meat. Once cooked, remove and dice the meat. Reduce the stock substantially.
Roast the squash on high heat until soft. Purée in a food processor.
Dice rutabaga, onions, carrots and Jerusalem artichokes and roast at 450º with a small smear of tallow until they begin to soften, but are not quite fully cooked.
Combine the roasted vegetables and meat in a baking dish. Add salt, rosemary and sage. Layer the squash mash over the mix and bake for another 20-30 minutes. The goal is to get the top of the mash to brown a little bit, but not overdo the insides.
I really enjoy the contrast in textures the mash over the roasted vegetables provides. I made variations of this meal at least four times in January and made it with different topping each time—potato, rutabaga, pumpkin and winter squash. If you’re less constrained than I am with choice of ingredients, adding butter to the mash would be a worthwhile improvement. Cornstarch or other thickener in the meat/veggie mix would probably make it even better. And a crust could make it truly out of this world. –Edmund
Brothers Edmund and Garth Brown are owner-operators of Cairncrest Farm in Plainfield, New York. They produce and sell grass-fed beef and pastured pork. They blog about their 2015 homegrown challenge here. Read the last Food for a Year post here. Photo by Normandy Alden