Happy Holidays from all of us at Virginia Lamb & Meats.
This time of year, we can’t help but pause and reflect on all the wonderful friendships we have made over the years. Thank you for becoming part of our farm family. Your continued support and loyalty is what strengthens us, allowing us to continue a family tradition of farming!
One of our favorite family traditions and greatest holiday joys is receiving one of Mama Childs’ Applesauce Cakes. We’ve been known to fight over them, hide them, or do whatever it takes to claim the prize of this wonderful winter treat. This delicious cake dates back to Corey’s great-grandmother, Delpha Belle Garver Childs, affectionately known as Mama Childs. She was a true farmer’s wife, canning in the summer, raising backyard chickens, and being known for her hand–me-down family recipes. Born in 1892 she lived into her 90’s. Although Mama Childs is no longer with us, her Applesauce Cake continue to be a family tradition.
I am not much for chaos. I know, four children right! Add to that not being the ideal morning person and well, sometimes there needs to be a backup plan from the very get-go.
When I know mornings are certain to be hectic, such as the first week of school, I like to bake a batch or two of muffins Sunday afternoon. Because these are sure to be breakfast on the go, I like the large double-size muffins that can be individually wrapped in sandwich bags. That way I can keep a basket full right on the kitchen table.
Since zucchini is still in season here, I decided on Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins, a favorite of the kids. As fall approaches I’ll make Banana Nut, Apple Cinnamon, and Pumpkin Spice Muffins too.
Both of my boys love to cook and are quite good at it. My oldest son spent years as the head cook in a local restaurant. My youngest, well, he has become the true hunter-gather of the family.
This past winter Brady shot his first deer, a historical passage from boy- into manhood. Corey and I believe experiential learning is the best teacher, so Corey did his best to turn this opportunity into a learning experience.
All of my children have been in the cooler at the processing plant and have seen a whole steer, hog, and lamb hanging before it is cut and packaged. Corey often organizes carcass workshops for local 4-H kids so they can visualize how meat is graded as well as understand where the cuts of meat are located. The more they can connect pasture to plate the more respect they have for their job raising animals. However, a carcass before it has been cut into steaks still looks like a big hunk of meat. We wanted Brady to have a deeper connection now that he was interested in hunting.
Brady shot his deer on the last day of hunting season. With Corey’s help, Brady gutted and prepared the deer for harvesting. An Old Hunter stopped by the farm and offered to assist the guys in cutting and packaging the deer. As the Old Hunter efficiently broke down the carcass, Corey and Brady diligently wrapped every steak and roast. To pass the time the Old Hunter, having hunted for decades, recounted his years of experience. Many of the stories shared that day were priceless antiquities of another era – echoing the age old need to put food on the table. Collectively, all of them gave Brady an even greater respect between hunter and prey. That day Brady and Corey stepped back in time, sharing a moment between father and son as old as mankind.
If Brady is not busy making deer jerky, you might talk him into fixing you a burger or even a steak. But one thing is for sure, when Brady’s cooking dinner, venison is always on the menu.
Below is one of Brady’s favorite meat rubs. He uses it most often on venison but it works equally well on beef.
August is county fair season. And I can safely say that I have never missed a county fair in 2535, okay, 40-something years. I mean ever! I was born in November and by the following August I was in a baby stroller attending my first fair. From the age of 9 to 19 I showed Jersey cows. Every year my family loaded up bags of feed, hay bales, straw, pitchforks, buckets, brushes, halters, hoses, cattle clippers, and portable milking equipment and headed to the county fair. We would arrive at the fairgrounds with a trailer load of cows from 6 months to 12 years old, filling half the barn. It was always a family affair including grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles and cousins galore. My Grandfather Bob, along with my father and uncles built many of the barns still there today.
For those of you who may not be familiar with Jerseys, they are a beautiful fawn colored dairy cow. They can be brown and white or can range from very light solid brown to almost black. I should also mention that I grew up in a family with a very sarcastic sense of humor. So what would start off on Monday as very informative answers to common urbanite questions often gave way to quick wit and humor by the end of a very long and exhausting week. One year we had a black Jersey cow in the show herd and by Friday my uncles had convinced most of the innocent city folk passing through that she gave chocolate milk. Sigh…
Getting married didn’t end my county fair career, it only perpetuated another generation of county fair goers. Like me, Corey grew up attending his county fair every year. His Grandfather David was fair president and his Grandmother Boots (the other side of the family) manned the information desk for years. As newlyweds, we exhibited purebred sheep and before long our children were following our footsteps showing livestock of their own. They have shown dairy cows, beef cows, sheep, hogs, rabbits and goats. This year my youngest daughter will be showing her very first chickens.
The county fair is so much more than animals, barbeque chicken dinners, carnival rides, and funnel cakes. Oh, don’t misunderstand, those are all important necessities. But the county fair is also the time of year when the whole community comes together to socialize, reconnecting with friends you haven’t seen in years (or since last year) and sharing stories with neighbors. It is the very essence of community.
Inspired by fellow blogger Tara Weaver of Tea & Cookie, I decided to reflect on the community I live in and offer my neighbors some face to face handshakes and hugs. I have met so many wonderful people through my food blog and Twitter. But I also need to remember to take my passion for food, bake a batch of cookies, stir up some sweet tea and share myself with my offline community too.
When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, there is simply nothing better than the real thing. I always follow the Original Nestle Toll House recipe as reprinted below.
I have wonderful childhood memories of spaghetti. Of all the dishes my mother fixed, this was one of my favorites. She would always leave the sauce to simmer the day away while Dad read the Sunday paper and watched football on TV. It didn’t take long before I began to associate the smell of spaghetti with family and lazy days at home. Even now when I make spaghetti for my own family, I have an odd craving for the sound of football playing in the background.
Like my Dad, Corey is a no nonsense eater. No onions. Hold the garlic. Nothing fancy. (Of course, unless we are talking desserts. Now that is a different story.) This is one of the many reasons I thoroughly enjoy cooking for the farmers markets. I can explore any ingredient including exotic spices and far away dishes without the face of a picky eater staring me down. So be assured this spaghetti sauce recipe is one that even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.
Old Fashioned Beef Spaghetti Sauce
1 pound ground beef
2 -28 oz cans tomato sauce
1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Brown beef in 3-4 quart pan over medium heat. Drain fat. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir and allow to cook for an additional 30 seconds to season meat.
Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and herbs. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for at least two hours. If sauce begins to bubble, reduce heat slightly.
Serve over angle hair spaghetti.
Note: Today’s pictures are actually one of the sauces we sell at the farmers market. I took the basic recipe for Old Fashioned Beef Spaghetti Sauce, tweaked it considerably and added onions, minced garlic and carrots to make our Lamb Bolognese Sauce.
I can only imagine how many thousands of pancakes, waffles, and French toast Corey and I have made in the past twenty five years. With four kids, family breakfasts and quick-n-easy dinners revolved around these stables.
Corey is Breakfast King when it comes to the syrupy dishes. Me, I prefer bacon and eggs. However, when Corey is gone and the kids are craving sugar and starch, I can be persuaded into fix French Toast. Don’t tell Corey, but the kids will unanimously admit that my French Toast is the best, at least that is what they assure me when begging for this favorite dish.
In a medium size bowl (I prefer flat and wide) beat eggs. Add milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Wisk until eggs are thoroughly incorporated.
Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray.
Working with one slice of bread at a time, place bread into egg/milk mixture wait 5 seconds. Flip bread over and coat other side in egg/milk mixture, waiting 5 seconds. Add additional cinnamon as necessary.
Place bread into hot pan. Cook until lightly brown on both sides.
Serve with maple syrup or powdered sugar.
Note: For the absolutely best French Toast use thick sliced stale or lightly toasted bread.
Hardy breakfasts have always been a tradition in my family. Everyday my uncles got up early to go to the barn to milk cows. Sunrise was mid-morning to these boys! Their day began while it was still dark, rolling out of bed at 4:00 am. For the record, I am definitely not a morning person. Talking to me before my first cup of coffee should be done at one’s own risk. And I am not the only slug in the family.
Three of my uncles split the milking schedule so that two always milked in the morning and two always milked in the afternoon. The other uncle was in charge of field work. He got plenty of help when needed, but plowing, planting, and harvesting was his domain. Dad once told me a story of Grandad trying to get “field worker” uncle up in the morning to milk cows. After his third warning Grandad sent him to the barn in his underwear. Believable? Yes. This totally sounds like my family. Me? I preferred doing my chores once the sun was happily up to greet me (and I was fully dressed). However, my uncles and I never did agree on what time that was.
Once the morning milking was done and bottle calves fed, everyone would head to Grandma Hazel’s house for breakfast. And although cereal might be a great evening snack for this crowd, breakfast always meant plenty of eggs, bacon, and sausage… oh yes, and fresh milk!
1/2 pound bacon
4 fresh eggs
1 large tomato
1/2 cup lettuce
8 slices of bread (4 slices for open faced sandwiches)
Place bacon in large pan over medium heat. Turning every 2-3 minutes. Once bacon is done to your preference, remove from pan and place on paper towel on plate to absorb excess fat. Keep in mind that bacon will continue to cook after being removed from heat.
Meanwhile, slice tomato and wash lettuce.
Using a clean pan, add 2 tablespoons of bacon grease and heat over medium heat. Once hot, gently add eggs to pan being careful that they have enough room and do not touch. Fry only two at a time if necessary. For sunny side up, fry eggs until white is completely cooked and no longer clear. If you prefer firm yokes, carefully turn egg and continue cooking.
I don’t remember my Grandmother Hazel canning, but most of what I remember was after her five sons had moved out and she was living alone. Corey’s great-grandmother however, canned everything! As she had either forgotten that all her children had left the nest or found it hopeless to convince PawPaw White not to plant their larger garden.
This is another one of Corey’s grandmothers, Nanny Bea. She was the cafeteria manager at the local high school for over thirty years. And in her day, every bit of food that came out of the school cafeteria was homemade with the freshest ingredients from hot cross buns to green beans seasoned with pork to cinnamon scented baked apples. And she lived her preference for real food at home with a garden the size of our entire backyard. Then again, she lived in a time when all food was real food.
This is Nanny Bea’s recipe for Watermelon Rind Pickles, an absolute I-will-not-share favorite of Corey’s.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
1 large watermelon
3 tablespoons salt
6-8 sticks of cinnamon
2 tablespoons whole cloves
2 quarts white vinegar
16 cups sugar
Slice watermelon into one inch sections and remove all of the pink fruit. Using a potato peeler remove the green peel from rind so that you are left with only the white section of the rind. Cut rind into one inch squares.
Add to a large pan and cover with water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until rind is tender.
Drain. Chill rinds in very cold water preferably overnight but for at least two hours. Drain water. Set aside.
In another large pan, add vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil. Once boiling add cinnamon sticks, cloves tied in cheesecloth, and the drained watermelon. Simmer at a low boil until rind is clear and transparent.
Remove spice bag and cinnamon sticks. Pack the rinds into hot sterilized jars. Cover with the boiling hot syrup and seal immediately. Makes 6-8 pints.
Note: Depending on the size of the watermelon you may need more or less of the vinegar/sugar mixture. This is fine. Just be sure to keep to a 2:1 ratio of two parts sugar to one part vinegar.
These pickles do not need to be processed in a water bath. Using hot jars and boiling hot syrup is sufficient to cause the jars to seal. After jars cool, test seals by pressing the center of each lid. If lid does not pop up and down it is sealed. If any lids do not seal properly within 24 hours, refrigerate and eat promptly.
I found this old newspaper clipping of my dad and uncles in a Hecht Company ad in the Washington Post dated 8-19-1957. Left to right, Michael Stiles, Kenneth Stiles, and Dad, Blair Stiles, getting their calf, Playmate, ready for the Montgomery County (MD) Fair.