Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. It's been a busy last few weeks as we try to wrap up the last few outdoor tasks before the ground freezes for good. Shorter days definitely don't help, and we've been wrapping up the day by headlamp more often than I'd like. Still, we're very thankful for all that's happened to get us here. I would have loved to catch a few more pest infestations or weed invasions before they spiraled out of control this year, but from this vantage point looking back it's hard to ignore that both the successes and the failures will make us better growers next year.
Giving thanks is about taking stock of and appreciating what got you here. At Good Dog Farm, we're very thankful for everything that has made our first year a success and will allow us to have a second year. Starting a new farm business today is a risky move, but we've had more than our fair share of help as we walked out on this limb. We're thankful for our mentors and all their moral and technical support, for our families who believe in us and what we can achieve, and for the other small farmers, extension agents, and policy makers who have long worked to preserve Maryland's farmland and build a vibrant network of small farms. We're also thankful for the owners of Calvert's Gift Farm and their Farm to Table aggregator that is enabling many of us young farmers, for Hex Ferments for being such excellent customers and supporters of our young business, and especially for you all, who put your trust in us to feed you. It's a new relationship, but we really do hold it dear, and we're excited to see it grow into the future.
Now let's eat!
Let's talk squash...
You've probably noticed we have a few squash choices at Good Dog Farm. This was really a bumper crop year for them and we're loving them, both traditional and weird. As you place your Thanksgiving order, we figured we might brief you on their various qualities. Starting from the left above, we have the Waltham butternut heirloom. These guys are really the jack-of-all-trades in the winter squash world, very sweet and a manageable size to boot. Your go-to for a small family. Next is the Tahitian melon, an heirloom from the Pacific so sweet that it helped launch the modern interest in heirloom seeds back in the 70s. Otherwise, they are very similar in texture and taste to a butternut. They are huge, so they're good for big families or you can always pre-cook the bit you aren't using and freeze them for later. I love to save some leftover squash to mix into my cheesy grits in the morning.
Then there's the North Georgia candy roaster. This heirloom banana squash has softer skin than the others, and it really wins on texture. Super-soft and velvety, this is your ideal squash for puree and soup. The golden-yellow color flesh is also quite eye-catching. The darker orange sucrine du Berry is perhaps the most unique. The texture is a bit like a cross between a butternut and a spaghetti squash, and if cubed it holds its shape well when cooked. The taste is really something special, a little less sweet but with many subtle floral notes. This is my favorite for savory squash dishes, and the enterprising chef should find it opens up a whole universe of hearty antique French soups and pastries like this one. Finally, the Thai Kang Kob is a seed-saver's favorite. An all-natural, vegan pumpkin pie to itself, its sweet, nutty, and spiced flavor does a spot-on impression with almost no work on the cook's part. After roasting, you can even cut it into pie slices to double-down on the effect. It's also the squash of choice for all manner of Southeast Asian curries and stews.
Pecan-Sweet Potato Casserole
For a recipe this week, here's my take on a Thanksgiving classic that really highlights a quality sweet potato. The key to this recipe is that the mashed sweets themselves are barely spiced letting their full flavor stand out, and then they get paired with a complimentary nutty maple-bourbon topping. Sorry there's no picture, but we'll post to Instagram this week.
First bake two pounds of sweet potatoes for one hour at 375. When they're done, scoop out the flesh into a bowl, and mash with 1 tsp. each nutmeg, allspice, and cayenne, plus 1 Tbsp. salt. Place the mixture into an oiled baking dish. In a skillet on the stove, melt one stick of butter and stir in 3/4 C of brown sugar. Let the mixture start to candy for 3 or so minutes. Stir in 2 C pecans and continue to cook for two minutes, stirring regularly. Finally pour in 1/2 C maple syrup and 1/4 C bourbon, whisk together, and immediately pour contents of pan over the top of sweet potatoes.
All this can be done well ahead of time. To finish the dish just bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (add 10 minutes if it's been in the fridge).