September 2018 AMA

Topic/Focus

We are leaving the floor open to any topic. Please note that your questions (and our responses) will be featured the following day as post for the entire C3 at Pans & Perspective to see.

Frequently Asked Questions

“How do I ask a question?”

Please post your question below as a comment. We are standing-by to give a nearly instantaneous reply to your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask away, but try to keep topics separate. For example, if you want to ask about what were working on for the week and what Nathan’s favorite food is, post it is as two comments. (But asking our inspiration for a recipe and how to execute it would go great as a single comment.)

“Is anything off-limits?”

Even though this is an AMA session, we’d like to avoid polarizing topics. Favorite chef knife, game on – political preferences, not so much.

“Are there any stupid questions?”

There’s no stupid questions, just stupid people. In all seriousness, we hope to use these sessions to educate you and the other members of the C3 about P&P and food. We want this to be a relaxed setting where it almost seems as if were sitting across from you giving responses. In short, there are no stupid questions (or stupid people for that matter).

“What are the rules?”

Very simple: have fun and learn. We have a strict policy against inappropriate language; this includes, but is not limited too verbal discrimination – hate speech, racism or otherwise – verbal abuse or toxic behavior and intense profanity; we know that these can be used as “sentence enhancers” but we like to keep it clean for all our readers.

“How do i participate in the next AMA?”

We reserve this privilege for our patrons. But it’s extended to even the lowest tier of donation. Check out how to join the C3 and our AMAs here.

“When will you host the next AMA?”

As of right now the date is still up in the air. We want to get it down to a specific date each month. (That’s right, this may be the first, but it isn’t the last.)

The Purpose: Why I Came to Pepperfield (Revisited)

This is the recent featured story on Rettlers. After some edits, I have revisted this post to make it more comprehensive and concise.


It’s hard to place the origin – both a time and the foundation – of my purpose for coming to Pepperfield. But, it began quite some time before my arrival and has evolved constantly. From its inception, this trip was intended to expand my knowledge of food. I desired to learn the origins of the ingredients I was intimately familiar with from my time in the food service industry. Additionally, I hoped to further develop my respect for food. Likewise, I wished to participate in all the steps – intensive labor and intimate care – required to propagate plants, specifically fruits and vegetables, but also animals. Furthermore, I hoped to begin a healing process that I had neglected or maybe ignored for many years.
Being in the industry for the last seven years, I believe that I began to lose sight of these origins. It’s easy to become disconnected from food when its acquisition is boiled down to a basic interaction; rather than going to a store or market to look at products, I would just pick up the phone and place an order to one of the purveyors. I wanted to correct my mindset: food doesn’t just come off the shelf or off a truck. It takes people, hands and care, or in some cases compromises of machinery, fertilizers and chemicals. Pepperfield acted as the medium for me to see the requirements and sacrifices of growing food. Likewise, it helped me realize why our food systems operates as it does.
I learned that hauling manure in wheelbarrows, turning the Earth by hand and meticulously weeding the gardens were only a glimpse into some of the components of producing food. If you substitute these inputs or actions with huge tractors and combines, petro-fertilizers and glyphosate – Round-Up – it became apparent why commercial agriculture could easily produce inexpensive, cheap products. My appreciation for organically grown and small scale agriculture skyrocketed as I connected the dots; this was the reason a case of conventional tomatoes cost the same as a dozen of its organic, heirloom counterparts. I wasn’t just learning what it takes to grow the food, I was learning the cost – physical, financial and mental – of producing food.
This trip was also to act as my sabbatical. I noticed – unfortunately later than desired – that the high stress, toxic environment of the industry was beginning to transform me into someone else; a person who promoted this very same environment, creating a cycle by demonstrating that anger, negative reinforcement and ego were the mainstays of kitchen culture. But – for better and worse – through my time in the industry I developed and grew. It helped me learn a tremendous amount about myself and the world around me. Unfortunately, this was at the expense of my happiness and that of my co-workers and acquaintances. Through Pepperfield, I hoped to begin a healing process that was much overdue. I yearned to find emotional balance, channel and refine my passion in a positive way and identify and fight my internal conflicts that had been impacting my life.
And, as I took the 1600-mile drive across the nation my mind began the transition. A combination of reading and thinking helped me realize that I wanted to make changes in my operation as a chef, but as an individual too. Subconsciously, this was where the refining of my food philosophy commenced. These thoughts perpetuated even further during my brief stay at my Uncle’s for Easter. While I prepared the evening’s meal, I shared my methods and thought processes with my Uncle as he observed. It was here that I began to understand my love for food that I hoped to share through education. But it wasn’t until the actual meal that I began to observe the potential growth I could achieve. Sitting among people from a lawyer, theoretical physicists, writers, a naturalist, and a clergyman – all new acquaintances – the evening unfolded into discussions about food, politics, religion and philosophy. I remember saying to my Uncle, “I don’t think I ever have participated in conversations stimulating as those.” I realized I was in an intelligent environment where I could learn about food and life.
But that wasn’t the end. The next day I drove out to Pepperfield and my spirit began to settle in. I was given a warm greeting, with some delicious snacks, by David founder of The Pepperfield Project. We proceeded to talk for the rest of the day about my history and what I hoped to achieve while here. I told David my goals and left it open ended by stating, “I don’t know what else I want to learn, I’m here to take it all in.” The week that followed was where my ideas about my future were rocked to their core. David asked me brilliant, thought provoking questions that caused me to delve deeper into my conscious than I have previously. He made me question my beliefs, the natural – and unnatural – universe, my predispositions, strengths and flaws, and my capacity in the food and hospitality industry; simply put, the path I hoped to lead. My understanding of what I hoped to learn began to broaden and my mind and spirit have never been more open. I knew that Pepperfield was where I needed to be.
The slowest, but equally rewarding, part of my growth has been the healing of my body. Pepperfield promotes “working meditation”, where individuals like me can work hard and see the direct results. Planting a row of baby kale or clearing a patch of weeds helped me create a direct connection with my actions and their results. Additionally, reinforcement of “a job well-done”, through praise and gratitude from the plants and the people has created a healing dynamic that feel satisfying on many levels. My time in the dirt, among the plants and in the sounds of rural nature has allowed me to be introspective and begin to address my inner conflicts. And, while still a work in progress, each day my body feels more relaxed and peaceful but also invigorated.
Nearly five months ago I was excited to learn about the intricacies of food through direct participation. I desired to learn about, understand and respect the creation of food. Likewise, I was thrilled to begin the process of defining who I was and identify who I hoped to become. But at the same time, I was anxious with anticipation to see what my future holds. I sought to find balance in my life and rejuvenate myself. While that still is true, during my time here at Pepperfield, I have discovered that I wanted even more. My purpose for coming to Pepperfield will continue to evolve, like it already has. Each step of growth leads to, what seems like, another staircase of possibilities. I have felt more relaxed, grounded, open and happy then I ever have. I have concluded that my only real purpose is to – as the Pepperfield mission states – grow my body, mind and spirit.

Monthly Video Update!

Check out this month’s video update!  We had some small technical issues that have since been resolved.

Future videos will be posted on a more consistent basis.  Thank you for your understanding!

August 2018 AMA

Topic/Focus

Since this is our first AMA session we are leaving the floor open to any topic. Please note that your questions (and our responses) will be featured the following day as post for the entire C3 at Pans & Perspective to see.

Frequently Asked Questions

“How do I ask a question?”

Please post your question below as a comment. We are standing-by to give a nearly instantaneous reply to your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask away, but try to keep topics seperate. For example, if you want to ask about what were working on for the week and what Nathan’s favorite food is, post it is as two comments. (But asking our inspiration for a recipe and how to execute it would go great as a single comment.)

“Is anything off-limits?”

Even though this is an AMA session, we’d like to avoid polarizing topics. Favorite chef knife, game on – political preferences, not so much.

“Are there any stupid questions?”

There’s no stupid questions, just stupid people. In all seriousness, we hope to use these sessions to educate you and the other members of the C3 about P&P and food. We want this to be a relaxed setting where it almost seems as if were sitting across from you giving responses. In short, there are no stupid questions (or stupid people for that matter).

“What are the rules?”

Very simple: have fun and learn. We have a strict policy against inappropriate language; this includes, but is not limited too verbal discrimination – hate speech, racism or otherwise – verbal abuse or toxic behavior and intense profanity; we know that these can be used as “sentence enhancers” but we like to keep it clean for all our readers.

“How do i participate in the next AMA?”

We reserve this privilege for our patrons. But it’s extended to even the lowest tier of donation. Check out how to join the C3 and our AMAs here.

“When will you host the next AMA?”

As of right now the date is still up in the air. We want to get it down to a specific date each month. (That’s right, this may be the first, but it isn’t the last.)

AMA Session Update!

We are planning to host the AMA session next week on August 27th, 18.00-20.00 Central Time. There will be a post titled appropriately and patrons will be given a password to join the post. Don’t worry if you can’t make it; the post will be open to the public to view after the session is complete. We hope to have some great discussions about food and anything else that might be on your mind.

Want to learn more about how to become a patron and participate in these AMA sessions? Check out our patreon page and discover how to connect with the C3! See you then.

Week 17: Back in the Kitchen

Last week left off right in the middle of our second dining event here at Pepperfield. Over a leisurely evening we shared a fantastic meal with Rowen White’s seed keeping network.

Monday morning started by begining the braised lamb shoulder. Afterwards I cooked some beans for the starter plate. While those were cooking I took the time to french to racks of lamb and tie them into a crown roast. Then I portioned some cornbread and picked some flowers – borage, beesbalm and calendula – that were going to be used on the dessert. I took a break to compose last weeks post and then got ready for game time. I prepared a apple-butternut buerre blanc, put the crown roast in the oven and then finished the stuffing. At 6.30 we started the meal which began with three sisters – three ways (picture above). Next was a lamb duo of braised lamb and crown roast, served with cornbread stuffing and broccoli. The meal finished with raspberry sorbet and amaranth biscotti. The following day we spent serving breakfast to some of the our guests that spent the night from the dinner. Mid morning I split off to finish cleaning the kitchen and get the house reorginized. Afterwards, I went to town to run some errands and then met for a few hours with Hans, a gentlemen I met back at Sankt Hans Aften – the solstice party. I got back in the early evening to put together dinner. Korbin and her co-worker Meridith stopped by to help process double red corn (the corn used in the top most picture) and then stayed for dinner.

Wednesday I spent my entire day cleaning garlic. David had dug the entire patch and I sat, in the warmth of the hoop house, washing and peeling off the outside layers. I was amazed the different gradients of maroon that streaked across the skins. Korbin came back solo for another corn processing night and stayed again for dinner. We wrapped up the night with some dessert leftovers: raspberry sorbet, calomondin curd, cake and frozen yoghurt. The next day David and I went to the hospital. We planted the second crop of broccoli and summer squash. I came home briefly to get changed for an interiew and then headed back to town. Once I got back to the farm we spent a casual evening eating more leftovers.

Friday started to look normal. I mowed the upper vineyard and then helped David bag the remaining ears of corn. After lunch I did small house chores and went to my first day of work. I have obtained employment at a local burger and fry joint. [A quick aside, this is in no way the direction I am chosing as a chef. This is emplyoment to procure supplemntal income to offset my cost of living while here in Iowa. I have another interview scheduled for a gasto-pub, something I hope will be far more interesting than flipping burgers and dropping fries.] That being said, I had a tremendous amount of fun “flipping burgers and dropping fries.” I have never worked short order before, being able to bang out tickets at a lightning pace for endless hours was great. There was no stress, maybe some pressure, but everyone remained cheerful and the service went smooth. The following day was Nordic Fest. This is a huge event celebrating Norse – really all Scandanavian – cultures, in food, art and festivities. Check back next week for a full spread on the Nordic Fest food scene! I ate at a bunch of different food booths and spent a few hours wandering the streets watching people work and sampling their wares. I returned to work later in the evening. We were busier than the night before and it was still exciting. Sunday was spent catching up on the farm, I started with weeding various neglected areas and then helped transplant our second crop of broccoli as well as Chinese cabbages. I took a break for lunch and then went back out to finish the area I was weeding. Ellis made a dinner of chili, which we all enjoyed out on the deck until the mosquitos waxed and the sun waned.

Week 8: A Study in the Totalitarian Law of Physics (or Murphy’s Law)

Anything not expressly forbidden in the universe is compulsory.

If it can go wrong, it will.

This was by far the most unproductive week, although maybe one of my earlier weeks of residence in the snow was comparable. The week commenced with more rain hindering us all from getting anything done. I spent the day indoors cleaning different parts of the house, browsing the internet and reading. Tuesday began to look optimistic; operative word: began. David and I started at the hospital garden with transplants. We had already established the beds earlier in the previous week so the work was easy going. We returned to the farm for a lunch break and then dove right back into more planting. This is when Magnifying the Magnificence of the Mundane occurred. The TL;DR is that during the first few minutes of work the roto-tiller stop functioning. Undeterred we persevered on and I turned the ground by hand with a spading fork. Deepest respects extended to all homesteaders of the earlier generations that did this, it is quite difficult. Once I got the ground turned, a 30 minute project that normally takes two minutes, I mulched the bed and transplanted eggplants and peppers. I really was farming. On our way back to the house, I took a brief detour and planted some amaryllis bulbs and mulched them as well. We shared a dinner of pizza, crafted by Chef Ellis, with David’s daughter and son-in-law, over discussions about their upcoming wedding party. The following day I helped David move the goats into one of the neighboring pastures. David wanted them to graze some of the forage before we mowed it down. I made the transition back to the garden where I did some more earth turning before mulching it with leaves. Afterwards David and I transplanted calendulas into this soft ground for both decoration and consumption later in the season. I continue to putter around in this back garden with weed management and some soil excavation as well. After a long day I retired to the kitchen and made some cornbread and did some knife sharpening.

I have to make a quick aside about this. For nearly three years I have struggled to maintain sharp tools. In school I was a knife skills tutor and have knives that were razor sharp; they could take the hair off my arms. But over time, for one reason or another, which I still haven’t determined, I failed to get my tools even remotely close to that edge. After some feedback from a neighbor of David’s who is an avid knife fanatic I have managed to bring my edges back to razor sharpness. Thursday, still awaiting a repaired tiller, David and I spent our morning moving all of the tropical plants from inside the house to the deck. It was like moving furniture with odd angles because each tree had a different shape and fitting them through each doorway, some large, but most small, required a different kind of patience and poise. We went back to the hospital garden because we still had a few beds left that we could plant in and I spent my time mulching them before moving on to turning a row of earth. Friday was the day that we expected to get the tiller back so we started with light tasks to fill the morning. Moving with the theme of the week, our truck had a flat tire, mounted securely with rusted bolts. Just another hindrance to our spring planting. I moved some pallets out of the way of the mower to provide easier access to some of the grounds. Afterwards I rabbit-proofed the walk-in gate for the squash patch with some guidance from Ellis. I have to say I was pretty proud of my handiwork. With the assistance of AAA we managed to get the tire off and made a trip to town to find a replacement. On our way we stopped at the hospital garden and I turned some more earth. At this point the tiller was so close to complete I could almost feel – I know my body sure felt it. I made corn pudding that night for our meal and we took off for an musical showcase at Luther College. It was a commencement concert for the graduating class and it feature both symphonic orchestra and choral pieces. Oh yeah, still no tiller.

Saturday started early again with the goats. They are animals of habit and even though we had made this small pilgrimage each day for the last few, they were still giving us trouble. Luckily after only a few minutes of herding – and cursing – we managed to get things under control. I spent the early part of the morning cleaning for the bed and breakfast guests. I then moved to to reading and checking emails while we waited for a new update on the tiller. But it wasn’t long until we were operational. About an hour later David returned with our machine and we began in the garden. Currently we are in a record breaking hot spell with temperatures in the high 90’s, with a humidity percentage to match. I set up piles of manure and spread them into rows as he tilled it under. Seeing this happen in a fraction of the time and an exertion of my energy just as low I was ecstatic. Birte came down to help and together we all transplanted lettuces, Asian mustard greens and more peppers. I did a few more rows afterwards for future squash transplants and finished up with some watering before retiring from the heat. One of David’s acquaintances, Peter, stopped by to camp out for a few nights. He brought wine and some snacks and we spent a leisurely evening together. I made stir fry with some of our odds and ends and the conversation continued through dinner late into the evening. Sunday morning we ate breakfast with our guests. I spent some time talking with Peter about some of his hobbies and he did a celestial chart reading for me as well. Back in the swing of things I spent the morning setting up more planting beds in the garden before jumping on transplanting. We had an extended lunch to dodge more of the oppressive heat. Shortly after David and I went to Highlandville to plant a garden for one of David’s old neighbors. We got back about an hour later and I prepared a dinner of pulled pork, baked beans and some other fixings as well. Again the conversation went deep into the night and I ended my day moving a bale of hay from the goat barn to the hoop house before going to bed.

Check out what you may have missed this week here!

Magnifying the Magnificence of the Mundane

Imagine…

The crisp air lightly brushes against my skin. Rays of the afternoon sun beam down with glorious intensity bathing me in a contrast of deep warmth. Each step through the lawn is met by the gentle rustle of grass under foot, almost like a broom running across an old wood floor. With each step creatures, beautiful and unique in design, bellow forth to escape the oncoming assault to their once serene resting place. I reach the old worn wooden gate, paint peeling from its many days standing watch over the bounty housed just behind. It creaks gently as it is pushed open, moaning from arthritis in its hinges. The timid robin flutters away, each wingbeat reverberating through the air to create a soft rumbling. Welcome to the garden.

Intricate plots of seedlings push forth from the Earth, woven amongst patches of dirt and weeds, delicately swaying in the breeze, creating a surreal quilt surpassing the second dimension. I slowly walk across the grass paths, savoring each step among the culmination of our work. The grass abruptly transitions to earth which gently depresses as I waltz across the tilled ground towards my objective. I pull my yellow leather gloves from my back pocket and little bursts of dust and dirt liberate themselves from the mass of their caked-on brothern. As I split my hands into them the crust continues to crack resembling the ground to my left that offers the beans a chance at life. I grab the black tarp and gently pull it off the pile. Some of it disintegrates in my hands into black ribbons. A myriad of organisms come to life as the sun pierces into the once darkness. Prehistoric insects scuttle across the compost into crevices and earthworms writhe, like oiled spaghetti in a dish, before descending into the mass of decay.

I grab my manure fork, my senior by countless years, rust encasing each tine creating a brilliant gradient of rich brown tones before fading into a brilliant sheen at each tip. A quick thrust into the compost produces fleeing arachnids and a cacophony of crackling branches. Each matted scoop permits a resounding thud as it slowly fills the wheelbarrow. Again, again, and again. The air looms with the aroma of old leaves, rich earth and the slightest hint of fungus. I spear the fork back into the earth; it juts out like a piece of giant silverware in a chunk of chocolate cake. I tilt the wheelbarrow forward as it releases a quiet grown, vocalizing my sentiments as well. I push the load across the lawn with little resistance to its final resting place. I tip the wheelbarrow forward, rocks clatter against the metal and the compost scrapes out onto the ground. A collection of neat nodes of compost create an invisible line. I spread it in rows, new beds for the future. In the distance David pulls the cord to bring the tiller to life. A quick snap pierces the air proceeded by a flurry of colorful commentary. I look up from my work to see David scolding the tiller as if it were a misbehaved child. The simple task of setting up planting beds had no been brought to a screeching halt in only 15 minutes.

Txipirones Saltsa Beltzean Recipe

Background

Txipirones translated is baby squid in black ink sauce.  (The “tx” is pronounced as “ch”.)
This is a classic basque dish.  The squid bodies are stuffed and gently braised in a jet black sauce until succulent and tender. The result is absolutely amazing. Please feel free to ask any questions!

Yields 10 Portions

Ingredients

Stuffing and Txipirones

20ea Baby squid
4oz Serrano ham, minced
4oz Olive oil
4oz Spanish onions, minced
4oz Peppers green, minced
2oz Breadcrumbs

Sauce

8oz Spanish onions, minced
8oz Green peppers, minced
3ea Garlic cloves, minced
1C Alsatian riesling or other white wine
4oz Tomato paste
4 Squid ink packs
T.T. Salt

Method

Stuffing the Txipirones

1.  Clean the squid, removing the tentacles.
2.  Cut the tentacles in small pieces, and sauté on high heat with 2 oz. of olive oil.
3.  Remove from the pan with the released juices.
4.  Add the onions, peppers and garlic to the pan and cook slowly until caramelized.
5.  Add the Serrano ham and cook for 2 minutes.
6.  Mix in the reserved tentacles, the breadcrumbs and season with salt if needed.

Sauce

1.  Stuff the squids with this mixture, secure them with a toothpick.
2.  Sear the stuff squid evenly, remove and reserve.
3.  To the pan, add the onions, peppers, garlic, and sauté until caramelized.
4.  Add the tomato purée and make a pincage.
5.  Pour the wine and reduce by half.
6.  Add the reserve juices from the sautéed tentacles of the filling.
7.  Open the squid ink packages and rinse with water, add them to the sauce.
8.  Purée in a blender until smooth, season if necessary.

Final Steps

1.  Combine the squids with the sauce and simmer at very low heat for about 20 minutes.
2.  Taste sauce and season.  Taste squid, it should be tender and soft.  Serve immediately.

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