Hand Raised and Homemade

Sunday, July 31, 2011

This past week has been a whirlwind of post fair chaos, preparing for our county fair and heading down the road to a first college semester. Needless to say it has a bit overwhelming for two women who value the calm and slowness of their farm life.

But, tonight is different. The laundry is washed and folded and put away. The trailer has been unpacked, restocked and packed up again, waiting patiently for the day it will leave on its next trip. The animals have settled back into their “home” routine. The night is slow. A westerly breeze rolls through the house, sweet and cool, from a distant coast.

After a week eating out of an ice chest or eating at restaurants, putting a crimp in our desire to eat more locally, we are more than ready for a home cooked meal. One that was raised or grown either feet from our back door or a few miles from the farm. Tonight’s menu: lamb chops from a lamb we raised last year, potato salad, made from white new potatoes and accented with celery, onions and pickles; and corn on the cob I picked up from the local farm stand.

The boiling pot of potatoes started earlier in the day, were cooled and transformed into my great grandmothers recipe later in the afternoon. The outcome…creamy tangy goodness that reminded me of my childhood summers. The olive oil, red wine and balsamic vinegar marinade was mixed up while the potato salad melded in the fridge. The chops sunk deep into the rich mixture and stayed submerged until the grill was ready.

I start the BBQ at 6PM. The coals crackle as they change from black to grey to red hot. The smell rises from the grill and drifts in the kitchen window. These are the days grilling was made for; long, clear summer nights, made fresh by a coastal breeze. When the chops go onto the grill they sizzle as the cold olive oil and vinegar hit the hot grill. The smoke that wafts up catches the breeze and fills the house with that unmistakable BBQ aroma. You know the smell…the one that catches everyone’s attention and tells them dinner is only minutes away. While the chops sizzle away, a pot of water is set to boil on the stove, a warm fragrant bath with its splash of vinegar to cook the corn in.

By the time the sun sinks just below the tree tops, casting a warm glow over the farm, a picnic blanket is laid out on the grass, under the Sycamore tree. Plates and silverware are set out for a buffet style, help yourself meal. There is a last minute flurry of activity as chops come off the grill, corn comes out of the pot and the potato salad comes out of the fridge. Lined up on the counter it looks like a feast of summer time goodness. We all grab a plate and fill them to overflowing.

It constantly amazes me how wonderful a simple home cooked meal can taste; truly much better than any five-star restaurant. We chat over mouthfuls of lamb and laugh when none of us can contain the corn butter dripping down our chins, reminiscing of the show just past and the one yet to come. We make plans over that summer meal…plans of things to do, weekend trips we’d like to take and fall projects we’d like to finish before winter sets in.

When it seems like we can’t eat any more I emerge from the kitchen with dessert. A white baking dish brimming with a blackberry crisp topped with an oatmeal brown sugar crumble. Served with vanilla ice cream it has to be the most decadent thing on a summer menu.

We lay on that picnic blanket for more than an hour watching the night sky and listening to the chickens cackle and scratch as they performed their evening dance before retiring to the safety of their coop home.

That meal under the stars, in the cool of the evening was the rejuvenating boost we needed to remind us that all things in our life are relative, but the one’s we value and love the most are right in our own backyard, whether they be furred or feathered or wooled; hanging on a tree, clinging to a vine or a cane; plucked from a bush or pulled from the dirt. Our life is simple. Our life is good.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Blackberry Crisp

4 cups blackberries
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour

Crumble Topping:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 stick butter melted
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup nuts (optional) (I use pecans)
Cinnamon to taste

To make filling: Place berries in a large saucepan, sprinkle with flour and mix in sugar. Let stand for 15 minutes. Bring pan to a slow boil. Boil until mixture thickens slightly.

To make topping: mix topping ingredients with fork until a course crumble forms.

To assemble: Divide crumb mixture in half. Layer half on the bottom of a greased bake pan. Pour in berries and layer second half of crumb mixture on top.

Bake at 400 for about 30 to 45 minutes. If top begins to brown too much, cover with foil.
Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

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