November 23, 2013

Some Farm-to-Table Thanksgiving Prep

Our heritage-breed turkeys this year can breath a sigh of relief, as they have been officially pardoned ( by me).

Don't worry, I am not going to show any photos of slaughtered turkeys as I did last year, in fact, I don't think that we'll even be killing any turkeys this year due to time, and well, the fact that the entire turkey-slaughter process ended up being a significant weekend-long event last year. I think I am OK with a nice store bought turkey this year. It won't taste like that years delicious turkey feast, but I can use this time to prepare something different - say, like fresh ground corn meal from our own heirloom green Aztec corn.  This post will focus on more of the gardens harvest - particularly, that task of making home made cornbread for stuffing, and continuing to prep the pie squashes for pies later in the week. And, of course, some puppy shots plus a surprise addition to the poultry house, at the end of the post.

I have never raised dry field corn before this summer, but I think it will become an annual crop. Even though we don't have a large garden anymore, a few hundred square feet dedicated to field corn will provide enough corn for at least ten pans of corn bread - and believe me, if you have never tasted freshly ground corn meal made from a nice, flavorful, richly scented heirloom corn variety - you are missing one of the true gifts from a garden.
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Ancient 'flint' and 'dent' varieties make excellent corn bread, and their kernels are often colored, here, I am using a dark green Aztec ancient variety, of course, setting aside about a pound of seed for next seasons crop.

Removing corn from the cob will be the most difficult task, thank goodness I've been spending lots of time at crossfit and the gym. Still, my hands were pretty beat up at the end of the process. I grip the corn cob with my fist, and them squeeze and twist, removing the kernals as the loosen, somtimes in one, swift twist, but one must grib all the kernels tightly to remove them. The twisting motion, like wringing out a dish towel, is the trick.

Once removed from the cob, the kernels, which have been drying on the cob for a couple of months on the back porch, still need to be dried more in the oven, to remove any residual moisture. A dry kernal will grind perfectly, and will store well when placed in air tight containers. I use old canning jars.

The kernels are spread out on a baking sheet, and given a nice, slow warm session in a 175º F oven for about 2 hours. Once they are removed, the kernels are placed into jars, or ground in the Vitamix blender. There are very nice grain grinding machines available ( I wish I had a stone grinder) but the Vitamix does a very good job.

Freshly ground corn meal from the Vitamix blender. The trick with grinding in the Vitamix is to use only 1 to 2 cups of kernels at a time, grinding in small batches. I start with the variable speed set to 3, and then raise the speed to 10. It will only take about 10 seconds to grind the corn to this consistency. Notice how it isn't green or blue anymore? You should smell this freshly ground corn - it smells just like......fresh corn. I mean, open a bag of corn meal, and any scent is absent.

Delicious, fresh, home grown corn meal makes the yummiest corn bread. Moist, buttery and flavorful. This will become the base of our oyster stuffing later this week for Thanksgiving, but until then? I think a nice pot of buffalo chili is in order. You know, just to 'test' the bread.

I think some other members of the family want some too....

Bantam chicks arrived from the New England Bantam Club show this weekend. Naturally, Joe couldn't help himself because, well, we obviously don't have enough poultry. Oh...and he came back with some quail, too.

New Bantam chicks rest in a wooden bowl while their brood box gets prepared in the hen house. With temperatures dropping to 18º F this weekend, they will need a good amount of heat offered by radiant heat lights in the coop.

The blue hubbard squash will be smashed onto rocks year the woods, to break them open, and then the chunks deseeded, and roasted in the oven tomorrow. After being prcessed in the meat grinder ( which makes a nicer, texture for pie, I think), the processed squash flesh will be drained and ready for pie making on Wednesday night. An annual tradition in my family for nearly 80 years.

The puppies are getting some 'mommy time' in the studio. Liddy is just about done feeding them, but she still allows them to sneak a snack, every now and then. Obviously, she doesn't have much choice in the matter.


Each fall, we have to replace some glass in the greenhouse, often pieces that have either broken from hail, or from late winter ice sliding off of the roof. This year, I have to contend with some of the curved pieces of glass - costly to replace, but I have no choice. Does anyone know if there are curved pieces of twin wall available? Glass needs to be shipped from Texas at nearly $200 a panel via truck. Glass greenhouses are nice, but not inexpensive.


  1. Anonymous10:52 PM

    That cornbread looks awesome.

    What's the size of your greenhouse? Last pic looks like you've got some broken glass?

  2. Anonymous6:58 PM

    I love your blog. Your puppies are the cutest. Good luck fixing your greenhouse. Happy Turkey Day!
    Melanie from Ohio

  3. hopflower10:54 AM

    How beautiful a bird! Is he a Narragansett?

  4. So much cuteness! The cornbread looks delicious, and that squash is strangely gorgeous.

  5. Anonymous8:42 AM

    why do you take glass? Is it not possible to do with Plexiglass? (acrylglass)
    For the curved Pieces i would try it with Plexiglass.
    Best wishes Thomas


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