What do we do all winter?

You call this snow?

You call this snow?

I grew up in Harford County, just to the east of the city. Our current farm is in "Hereford," the name broadly referring to the higher elevation, very rural top half of Baltimore County.

When I was a youth before the days of internet (and into my high school days with dial-up as I'm now remembering), any time we got the slightest dusting of snow, I would wake up and rush to the TV at about 5 am to watch the slow chyron of school closings and delays crawl through the alphabet. More often than not, the jump would be from mountainous Garrett County to "Hereford Zone schools," skipping Harford entirely and crushing my hopes yet again. So naturally, I spent a fair bit of time wondering about this mythical Hereford place, just a few miles and a few letters away, where schools were seemingly always closed.

Anyway, this week our snowy farm has finally felt like the Hereford I envisioned as a kiddo, and most of our "farmwork" has been on the computer on the couch. Basically, I pretty much feel like I'm living my best life right now. I live in Hereford. I made it.

Snow days

Our tunnel emerging from the snow.

Our tunnel emerging from the snow.

These snow days are a great opportunity for farm planning. We actually have quite a bit to work on. Getting started on our USDA Organic Certification for 2018, crop planning and putting together financial projections, finishing up a loan application for some much needed new equipment, listening to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" next to the tree, there's quite a bit to do.

But really we'd be doing that even if it was 70F outside. We're only halfway through the "Persephone" period, Nov 15 through Jan 25 in Maryland, during which our plants get less than 10 hours of daylight.  During this time everything grows very slowly, and new plants are very hard to establish. We have one full and verdant tunnel (left) from which we'll harvest through February, and two more on the way that will carry the baton through late April (below). Beyond keeping these weeded and in good repair, there's only so much we can do outdoors. Mostly just prepare for Christmas.

Which, segue, if you would like to showcase any of our lovely produce for your Christmas meal, remember: this is the last opportunity to order before Christmas! Also, this is your last opportunity to order snazzy Good Dog shirts, bags, and mugs before the ordering period closes on Monday. Order here!

and here are some great recipes to show off our produce on your holiday table

Joanna and my families' Christmas desserts differ, hers preferring a variety of cookies, and mine being devoted pie-eaters, and much the worse for me as we plan to spend the holidays in Massachusetts! But I would encourage you to bow down before "the tyranny of pie" and serve this delicious and stunning purple sweet potato pie to your guests/ family. (Bonus points to serve it on Christmas Eve to match the traditional color of the season). Both recipe and image stolen from Joscelyn Abreu.

Gingerbread Pie Crust:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of cloves
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2-4 tablespoons ice cold milk

Sweet Potato Pie Filling:

  • 2 cups cooked purple sweet potato
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ - ½ cup pure maple syrup 
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 eggs

Streusel Topping:

  • ¼ cup oats
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Gingerbread Pie Crust:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut in butter, shortening, and molasses until mixture is coarse and crumbly. Mix in milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until dough comes together. It only took 2 tablespoons for my dough, but it will depend on your flour and the humidity in your kitchen. You don't want it to be sticky. Add a little more flour, if needed, to make a soft dough. Shape the dough into a round disc and cover with plastic wrap. Place into the fridge for at least 15-20 minutes to chill.

Sweet Potato Pie Filling:

  1. Combine your cooked sweet potatoes along with the remaining pie filling ingredients. Use a hand mixer or potato masher to blend together all of the ingredients. These purple potatoes were already sweet, which required less sweetener. Before adding the eggs, you can taste your filling and add more sweetener, if desired. Also, if you use granulated sugar or if your potatoes are more dry on the inside, a little more of milk may be needed.

To Make The Streusel Topping:

  1. In a small bowl, combine pecans, sugar, and cinnamon. Add melted butter and mix together until well incorporated. Set aside for later.

Putting The Pie Together:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and place between two pieces of wax/parchment paper or plastic wrap. This makes it much easier to roll out. Roll the dough between the paper into a ¼-inch thick circle. It should be a few inches larger than your pie pan. Remove the top piece of paper and use the bottom piece to lift up and flip the dough into your pie pan. Carefully peal the paper off and gently fit the dough into the edges of the pan. It's okay if the dough tears, just pinch it back together. Fold the edges under to form a crust and remove any excess. Use a fork to crimp the edges or you can use your fingers to make an easy scallop edge, like in the photo above.
  2. Pour your sweet potato filling into the formed crust. Place pie plate onto a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes. You'll need to add the streusel topping at this point and then bake for an additional 30-35 minutes. It will bake for a total of 55-60 minutes or when the filling is no longer jiggly and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. The crust gets very brown easily, so it's recommended to cover the edges with aluminum foil when you add the streusel topping. Let cool throughly before serving.