Farming ice and sugar snow at Bull Brook Keep

I have to admit – I really loved the thaw this past weekend – temperatures in the upper-30’s, sunshine and no wind. And that’s what did it. That combination of warmth and sun-filled breezes melted the snow, transforming snowy tractor tracks to rounded ice ridges, and making every level surface a skating rink. All across the farm, snow crusted over shoals of deep, loose snow and ice crystals. 16-second video: Farming ice and sugar snow I had to move hay this afternoon, regardless of the treacherous conditions. It was snowing sideways, and every surface posed a challenge. My boots slipped … Continue reading

New. Limited. Natural Veal – really

Veal wasn’t something my Mom put on the table when I was growing up in the Bronx. A dinner of pork or fish, rice and beans, and a salad was the usual fare at our house in the 1950s and 60s.

Veal also never made it to my shopping list in the 1970s and 80s, when I was old enough to stock my tiny kitchens in Manhattan and later in Duluth, Minnesota, because by that time, news stories told us that those pale cutlets were the result of calves kept isolated and in the dark. Ugg.

Now, here I am, selling veal! We’re offering our Nature’s Veal in limited quantity for the health of the pastures, the cattle, and for economic sustainability.
Rotational grazing. Because we rotate the herd from paddock to paddock throughout the growing season, we have to manage the herd size to promote top-quality grass. We’ve reached our maximum herd size given the 72-acre size of the farm. Our pastures are lush and diverse, but can provide highly nutritious grasses, herbs and legumes for 35-40 animals during the growing season. It’s also about giving the pastures time to recover and regrow for 40-60 days between grazings.
Cow, pasture and economic health. If we keep more and more cattle on the pastures, they’ll decline, and the cattle will require hay to keep growing and staying contented. Fresh grass is more desirable. An alternative would be to sell the extra calves to the conventional food system, where they would end up in feedlots. We don’t want that! So we offer naturally raised veal.
Working in harmony with nature. All our cattle – bulls, cows and calves – are provided fresh water, open pastures and a natural diet every day of their lives. That means grasses, legumes and herbs on the fields throughout the growing months, and good quality hay in the winter. They never get grains, hormones or subclinical antibiotics. It also means the calves stay with their moms, nursing 9-10 months and grazing more and more as the season progresses.

A few of our grazing Buelingo beef cattle


Know that when you buy our veal, you’re part of a sustainable food system. You can purchase ground veal in bulk, or variety packages that include delicate, low-fat roasts, cutlets and ground veal. Order here.

Questions? call, 651-238-8525, or email,
Sylvia

The tough challenges older farmers face as they shift to retirements and strive to transition land to next generation – 2 interviews

Land Stewardship Project’s Karen Stettler on the challenges facing older farmers looking to retire and transfer land to next generation

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Video

Slides: baking mild French sourdough

I wondered how the dried cherries would work. Would they turn to a mush and water down the dough? Should I have chopped them first?

Mild French sourdough with dried cherries and coriander


As it turned out, they worked beautifully. I plumped them in hot water for about 20 minutes, drained them, and then added them to the dough of mild French sourdough. I mixed them in along with a heaping tablespoon of freshly ground coriander. That spice, and freshly shaved nutmeg, have become favorites.
I came back to the dough every 45 minutes or so to stretch and fold the dough, a step that strengthens the gluten structure. Why? Because it’s the gluten that captures the carbon dioxide released by the yeast, and this is what causes dough to rise.

Interestingly, I could have just as easily walked away from the dough for a few hours by refrigerating it to slow the process. Yup, there are ways to use temperature to extend the breadmaking process to fit your schedule.

Sourdough w roasted beets

It is amazing how the feel and strength of the dough changes over time. It looks different, and its aroma shifts.
There’s nothing like getting up to your elbows in flour to learn how to make loaves of artisan French sourdough in your home kitchen. There’s no substitute for seeing and feeling the way water, flour and sourdough starter come together and transform those simple components from dough to crusty, flavorful bread. And the beauty of it is that once you know the basic recipe, you can make dozens of variations: olive, herb, cranberry and walnut, cornmeal and pumpkin seed, roasted squash, seeded, and more.

This quick slide show highlights steps in the process. I invite you to join us at Bull Brook Keep and get your eyes, fingers, nose into this magical metamorphosis. Click here for upcoming classes and to register.

Crisp crust and tender crumb

Sylvia

45th Parallel Distillery – WI, award winning, world-class and committed to local

When you think scotch, whiskey, bourbon, vodka, brandy – what comes to mind? Maybe Makers Mark, Jamison, Wild Turkey, Dewer’s, Korbel? (To name a tiny few.)

And where does your mind go? For me, it’s Scotland, Ireland, Russia and Poland, Kentucky, and California for the brandy.

It was almost two years ago, to the day, that I was visiting organic and sustainable livestock family farms in England, Ireland and Wales, and had the good luck to be treated to a hot glass of slightly sweetened and barely buttered Irish whiskey. My host and I were seated by a small fire after a full day of touring farms and meeting musicians and civic leaders in wet and blustery Wexford.

That experience stayed with me, so it was with great joy that I learned about 45th Parallel Distillery, a craft operation in New Richmond, Wisconsin – just minutes from my farm and a very easy drive from Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota.

I hope you enjoy this Deep Roots Radio interview with 45th Parallel’s founder and CEO, Paul Werni. He brings a passion, commitment to local sourcing and collaboration, and a team to the business that’s proven out in regionally- and nationally-recognized spirits.

Sylvia

Classes: Baking artisan breads, cooking pastured meats

It’s cold out, the holiday’s are upon us, and you’re committed to delicious, healthful, deeply nutritious meals. Plus, you’re looking for a chance to learn something new, chat with interesting people and enjoy some great food. If that’s you, take a class with us! Our teaching kitchen at Bull Brook Keep is just the place for learning to bake artisan sourdough breads, focaccia and ciabatta, and for examining how best to cook pastured meats. These classes feature strategies and tips for fitting sourdough, bone broth, and pastured meats into your busy schedule. For the class schedules and to register: – … Continue reading

The tough challenge of transitioning land from retiring farmers to the next generation – w Land Stewardship Project

The average age of the American farmer is nearly 60. An entire generation of growers – of commodities, specialty crops, dairy, and livestock – are staring retirement in the face and the transition is often a tough one for many reasons. Not only does the older farmer confront the end of a loved career, but perhaps a dislocation from the land he or she has lived on for decades, or an entire lifetime.
Just as critical is the challenge young people face as they try to acquire land so that they can begin farming.
In this Deep Roots Radio interview, Karen Stettler, the Farm Beginnings Program Organizer for the Land Stewardship Project, probes this sea change in American agricultural.
Who will you be buying food from in the future?
I hope you enjoy this interview.
Sylvia

Typing, invoicing, phone calls, map searches – getting our grass-fed beef to your table

I sat down to the keyboard a bit before 8:00 this morning, and now it’s after 1:30PM. How is that possible?! Well, there were all those emails with a subject line I love to write: Your beef is ready! Then there were the follow-up calls with customers to confirm delivery to drop sites in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN metro area. And there were Google Map searches to find out where I’d have to make home deliveries. And, of course, while all of this was going on, I was keeping a mental inventory of beef just picked up from … Continue reading

Video

What comes before focaccia? Before ciabatta and pizza? Quick video tells it.

Ciabatta, pizza and focaccia


It’s just three weeks before this Fall’s first artisan baking class at Bull Brook Keep!

What? You haven’t signed up yet!? Is it because you’re not sure you can bake great flavor, luscious crusts, and tender crumb in your home oven?

Never fear, my classes are designed for success in home ovens and for new, and experienced, bakers with busy schedules.

You can focus on breads built from poolish – a bubbly batter – used to make focaccia, ciabatta and pizza dough. Or you can get up to your elbows in flour to make the crispy crusts and delightful flavor of mild French sourdough. The basic formula can be used for all kinds of variations – with cornmeal, sweet potato, whole wheat, roasted beets, raisins and coriander, and more. In this class we explore two or three of these.

All classes are limited to 4-6 students because they are hands-on, include lunch, bottomless cups of tea or coffee, sampling and lots of conversation and fun.
All classes are held in my teaching kitchen. Our farm is an easy and scenic drive from the Twin Cities. And yes, you’ll see the cows.

Oh, about poolish and focaccia: here’s a 4-minute 50-second video that quickly illustrates the process.

Questions? Just give me a call. Want a private class? No problem. Get 4 to 6 people together and we can schedule it. What better way to warm up the house!
Sylvia
651-238-8525

Sliding seasons

Two days ago, it hit nearly 90 degrees. And the humidity – it was awful. It felt as if I was breathing through a sponge. This morning, the dogs and I walked to the mailbox in a cool drizzle. It was 58 degrees and I was glad I’d pulled on my old denim barn jacket and cap. Although our driveway’s only 600 feet long, my low boots and the hems of my jeans were drenched before I got to the road. Our driveway ends at a cattle grate that works to keep the cows inside our property (they balk at … Continue reading