Food for a Year: March 17-April 1

oat-elderberry-yogurt - normandyalden

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: March 17-April 1

One of the challenges of growing all of my own food this year has been coming up with good desserts. I bartered some beets and a big squash with a fellow grain farmer for a bag of oats he grew. I then went through the laborious task of removing hulls from the grains. Oats have very, very tightly bound hulls, and I can’t recommend taking on a bushel of hull-on oats unless one is desperate. To dehull the oats I heated them to 180 degrees for about 3 hours in baking dishes. Then I ran them through my food processor two cups at a time. After being whacked about by the processor the hulls mostly separated from the grains, but they created a shattered and dusty and mix with the part I wanted to save. The next step was winnowing. I used a stiff, shallow cone shaped hemp basket and stood in front of leaf blower. Then I tossed the oats up and down in the bowl and let the chaff blow off.  Finally, with cleaned grains in hand, I made oat flour in a home-size grain mill. I’ve tried a number of different cookie and quickbread recipes. All of them have turned out on the crumbly side since oats don’t have any gluten. The photo above shows my favorite concoction to date: oat muffin with greek yogurt under an elderberry syrup.


8 ounces oat flour

4.5 ounces lard

4 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

I mixed the eggs and lard in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. Then I added the dry to the wet and stirred it into dough. Place in muffin tins and bake at 350º for about 20 minutes.


I bartered a big bag of veggies for milk with some dairy farm friends. They have an Ayrshire influenced herd, a type of cow known for its small fat globules which rise very slowly. The milk barely creamed off, even after sitting over night. It was not low-fat milk, just closer to goat milk in natural homogenization. I made yogurt with a store bought starter culture, and I could barely believe the thickness of the curd when I opened the incubator in the morning. I strained it further to get a luscious final product.


I made this syrup from elderberries I picked last summer and froze. I put them through a hand crank food mill and sieved out the few seeds that squeezed through. Then I reduced the juice gently for a long time on my woodstove. Toward the end I added some cider from apples I picked when it appeared the elderberries alone were not going thicken well. I knew the cider was rich in pectin because I reduced it to a sort of jelly on its own a few weeks ago, and it did help get the elderberries to behave more like syrup with some further reduction.

Depending on the sweetness of the cider, the dessert may benefit from a drizzle of honey or maple syrup at the end too. –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 Normany Alden

1 thought on “Food for a Year: March 17-April 1”

  1. Pingback: Food for a Year: April 1-16 | Edible Finger Lakes | Edible Finger Lakes

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