July 2010

News | In Season | Recipe | Commentary

Moon in the Pond is officially operating under non-profit status! Operating as a non-profit will provide us with the opportunity to do fund raising and to receive grant monies that will help MITP to become a stronger educational resource to young farmers and others. Many of the educational programs that will fall under the umbrella of the non-profit have been well underway for years, and more are part of a larger vision of a multi-facetted, multi-discipline farm school. More info to follow soon!

In Season: What’s in season?

Onions! Onions! Onions! And more onions! We’re at the height of summer and the harvest here at MITP. Besides onions we have lettuce, chard, potatoes, garlic, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, and blueberries. We’ve also got duck and chicken eggs and our usual meats (i.e. goat, lamb, beef, poultry, and pork).

Have you made something delicious lately with a Moon in the Pond product? Share your recipe in the comment section below! We’d love to hear about all the delicious things you’ve been cooking up!

Recipe: Roasting a Real Chicken

There’s not a great difference in how to cook a real chicken, but there is some. It’s important to understand that there will be more texture and ‘tooth’ to birds that have actually been able to walk and forage. The wonderful advantage to this is that there is also a proportional increase in flavor (and nutrition too)! So a little care can go a long way. When roasting start with the breast down. This will give the dark meat a little more time in the heat and allow the fattier dark meat parts to sort of self baste the drier white meat. So here are the super simple steps with options:
1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Salt the whole bird thoroughly and generously (don’t skimp on salt!) Pepper lightly. Options: a.) put a little butter under the breast skin. b.) insert 1 or 2 lemons and/or 1 or 2 onions, cut in quarters, and some herb sprigs (parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme) into the cavity.
3. Put the chicken, breast down, on a rack in a roasting pan with 1 cup water in the bottom. Options: a.) use half to all white wine instead of water. b.) put quartered, olive-oiled onions, carrots, beets, turnips or other hard vegetables (not potatoes) in the pan.
4. Cook for 20-30 minutes for a 3-4 lb chicken (See doneness check below.**).
5. Invert chicken to breast side up. Baste with pan juices. Stir optional vegetables if used. Cook for another 20-30 minutes.
6. Bring to the table whole on a platter with the optional internal and external vegetables arranged around. ENJOY!
**To test the chicken for doneness simply grab the end of a drumstick with a kitchen towel and give a pull-twist. If you feel the leg yield, and begin to give way—STOP. (Don’t go and yank the leg off!) It’s done. Serve.

Commentary: The Chicken Rant

Chicken is one of the most commonly eaten meats in the country and also one of the least understood. Huge industrial corporations select, produce and raise a horrifying meat product that is radically different in most ways from what has ever existed. That’s what makes what we’re doing here on the farm so important. We are the first farm in the northeast to take the extra giant step forward in sustainable farming of moving away from industrial breeds by committing to raise only heritage breed, pastured chickens.

Small chicken farms were everywhere in New England as late as the 1950s and 60s. A variety of breeds were raised and sold locally, including New Hampshire’s, Plymouth Rocks, and Rhode Island Reds, and others, all suited to dual production (both meat and eggs). Greed and profit in sheep’s clothing pushed farmers to produce more than the land would bear, more than the chickens could bear and eventually more than the farmers themselves could bear. Chicken giants (like Tyson and Perdue) blazed the trail with basic profit maximizing premises: sell more chicken, produce it faster, produce it cheaper. Chicken farms were moved south (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia/Arkansas) where it’s warm enough to raise chicks year round and farm land and labor are cheap. Increase the size of farms—pack in the chickens. Best of all, make the chickens grow faster. Meet the modern meat bird.

In a complete reversal of the natural growth sequence, genetics have been selected for muscles that grow before bones and joints that can support them. This accelerated muscle growth is at the expense of bone strength, mobility and even feathers, and produces muscles of grotesque size, like a baby with the musculature of Atlas without the strength. A percentage of chickens die in the first weeks from congenital heart failure while the remaining grow so fast they rarely move away from their feeders, their muscles are so big and structure so weak their daily routine consists of straining to stand and eat more, and plopping back down to a sitting position in an attempt to keep up with their accelerated growth rate. Viola! You now have “tender” cheap chicken meat.

Our New Hampshire chickens (a breed once widely grown in New England and now exceedingly rare) are known for flavorful meat, egg laying capacity, foraging ability, and beauty. They happily run around on fresh grass in our pasture mobiles called chicken tractors. They take twice as many weeks (compared to industrial) to reach maturity, nourished by the locally grown organic feed we provide to supplement their grass diet. We raise chickens only in our warm summer months (because we’re not in the DelMarVa chicken belt). All this adds up to a supreme, delicious, (real) meaty taste and a truly nutritious meal. We take enormous pride in being able to offer the world’s best chicken! Thanks for supporting our conservation efforts and our work to build sustainable, local production of good, clean, and fair food!

Slaughter or Harvest

I’m fascinated how our cultural use of language reflects various understandings, knowledge, realities and experience sets. When I write or speak about farm life I choose words carefully for my message and audience. Last week we posted on Facebook and our weekly email that we sent goats to the slaughterhouse and we slaughtered fifty chickens. Some folks responded with revulsion and seemed surprised and distraught. In modern language slaughter has come to mean only one thing that includes only extremely gruesome, evil mayhem. A contextual continuum does not exist in most peoples’ experience. Slaughter does not, in today’s lexicon, carry other connotations, or allow for any breadth of meaning that might be more or less horrific, or more or less benign. We are in a culture where slaughter, killing and to a large extent death are remote experiences kept, if at all possible, as far off as possible—and certainly NOT to be participated in! Perish (oops) the thought! This is the perfect example of the common disconnect that people have with their food. Why are we afraid of words like ‘slaughter’ and ‘meat’? Animals raised for food go to a slaughter house. Not being able to hear a word like that is not healthy. If we want to eat locally and sustainably, it means knowing where our food comes from, knowing that our bacon or steak was slaughtered at the slaughter house. These words are the reality of farming and raising your own food and until we come to terms with that, we can never be truly in touch with our food or the farmers who grow it. Should we perhaps use a different word like ‘harvest’ rather than slaughter? No, that’s just another way of covering up what we’re eating and where it’s coming from; adding yet another wall between us and our food. Here at MITP it’s our goal to break down those walls, so let’s start by getting in touch with our food, slaughtering and all.