Monday, May 26, 2014

Extra Special 7-hour Leg of Lamb

Extra Special 7-hour Leg of Lamb

Since I need to learn how to cook lamb  I thought I’d begin with the sirloin end of a leg of lamb which is the upper end near the hip joint.  Most of ours weight between 1.5 and 2 lbs and all of them are bone-in.  The bones make it challenging to de-bone but because it is the sirloin, it is more tender than the shank end of the leg.  Because our lambs tend to be lean and have a light fat cover, we still recommend a moist cooking method such as roasting with liquid in the pan.  I’ve found a recipe that promises both simplicity and mouth-watering goodness.

Extra Special 7-hour Leg of Lamb
by Chef Alex Levine, Whole Earth Center

1 bone-in leg of lamb roast, half or whole.  There should be some fat on the roast.
Olive oil for browning the leg
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 carrot, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 celery, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup white or red wine, per your preference
1 ½ cups crushed or diced canned tomatoes (or fresh if in season!)
A couple of teaspoons of herbs: some combination of thyme, oregano, rosemary, fresh or dried, or perhaps some Herbes de Provence.
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Remove lamb from refrigerator, uncover, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack positioned to fit the lamb.
  3. In a large casserole that can go into the oven, heat up a little olive oil. Sprinkle the lamb with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and brown from all sides. Remove lamb from the pan to a platter and add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables start to soften.
  4. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any leftover brown flavorful bits. Mix in herbs and tomato product.  Return the lamb to the roasting pan with any pan juices. Cover the pan.
  5. Cover the casserole and place in the oven. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees, and roast for 3-4 hours.
  6. Remove pan from oven and increase oven temperature to 450. Transfer lamb to a plate and cover to keep warm.  Remove the vegetables from the casserole with a slotted spoon and reserve them for the sauce. Strain cooking liquid into a fat separator or glass measuring cup; spoon off any fat that rises to the surface and discard.
  7. Spread a bit of olive oil on the bottom of your casserole, and return roast, uncovered to the hot oven.
  8. Make the sauce: combine the cooking liquid and reserved vegetables in a small saucepan and purée.  Add a tablespoon of butter or heavy cream, if that’s the sort of cook you are.  Keep sauce warm.
  9. When the lamb is crisped up and – if there’s a layer of fat on it – sizzling, remove it from the oven. Carve lamb and arrange slices on a large warm platter. Drizzle with sauce before serving, or serve the sauce on the side.
  10. If the whole carving thing is too elegant, place the meat, right in its casserole, on a trivet on the middle of the table, and have your family or guests remove hunks of meat from the roast with a pair of tongs.  Yes, it’s that tender.

Alternative Method (Margaret’s)

Does your crock pot come apart into a base and a ceramic and glass lidded crock?  Perfect!  (If not, use an appropriately sized casserole and foil as described in the recipe and transfer between oven and pre-heated crock-pot quickly.)  Use the crock as your casserole dish.  The lid substitutes for the foil cover.  After the initial roasting, move the crockpot out of the oven and onto it’s regular base.  Set it to high and come back in about 4 hours or when it is nearly as done as you like it.  In our case and as most recommend, keep lamb somewhere between rare and medium done-ness.  When you are close to that point, pick back up with the recipe by getting your oven heated to 450 and leave the lid off.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lambs Finally!

Lambs are HERE!  Did I say that already?  Oh well, there were a handful showing up last week but this week seems to be THE week for dropping little lambs.  We’ve even had a rather amazing group of them!
            Jacobs, being a smaller, heritage breed of sheep, are not known for having more than one lamb each season.  They can, however ewes who regularly drop twins are comparatively rare.  Larger, more commercialized breeds of sheep, such as Rambouillet or Suffolks have twins and even triplets as a matter of routine.
            One of our lovely Jacobs, gave birth to not just twins but triplets on Sunday!  Two little girls and a little boy, all with plenty of spots.  One of the girls, the tiniest of the three, we decided to make into a bottle lamb.  If we still had our barn or another place where we can pen them up and keep a much closer eye on mama and babies, I would have loved to allow her to keep all three for a few days to see if she really could raise all three.  In the interest of the welfare of the smallest lamb, she is now living in our house and for the most part, is relatively quiet as long as she has company.  Whether it is one of us, the children or the dogs, she doesn’t much care.  So far she has been eating enthusiastically and growing well for starting out at only three pounds or so at birth.  Her siblings are outside with their mother and also doing well.

            All of the lambs are growing fast and stretching their springs.  One of the older rambouillets has already made it to 16 pounds! Granted, they usually weigh in at around 8lbs at birth so far.  They are adorable to watch spring around the pasture playing while their mothers rest or eat.  Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to take some photos before next week’s newsletter!

Hoophouse Raising!

Our newest hoophouse that you have all been hearing about will be ready for its covering on Sunday, June 1st  at 10am!
 We will need all the help we can get to maneuver 4,500 square feet of plastic into proper alignment!  Anyone and everyone are welcome to come out and assist!  Much like an old-fashioned barn raising, we’ll all work together to get the hoophouse covered and then there will be food to celebrate the fact that we didn’t get to see a huge sheet of plastic floating its way across the Palouse.
Please come on out at 10am on Sunday June 1st, bring a small dish to share, Omache Farm will provide meat.  After the hoophouse plastic is in place, we'll enjoy good food, good company and a farm walkabout.  You can see where we grow your food!
No experience of any sort will be necessary, even older children can help.  (Our children will eagerly and happily show off their best farm hiding places to children too small to help.)  We would love it if you could set aside part of Sunday, June 1st to come out to the farm and participate in the growth of our farm!

RSVP is appreciated: 

Jason, Ronn and Aaron (Jason's Brother) putting up the last two hoops last October

All the hoops are up!  First purlin in the works.

Needs just one more purlin and the hipboard on the far side.  Just about ready for plastic!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Margaret's Honey Balsamic Recipe

Recipe of the Week:
It would seem that a great place to start with ideas for your CSA veggies and fresh veggies in general would be with Salad Mix.  It has become a household staple.  An easy way to eat at least some of the vegetables you need to eat each day and a type of vegetable with which you can quite literally please everyone.

Margaret’s Honey Balsamic Salad Dressing

A popular staple in our house is salad.  I’m sure everyone already has their old standby favorites but I thought I’d add one more that you can add to your repertoire for the season!

½ cup Balsamic Vinegar
½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Mustard (preferably your favorite stoneground or Dijon but plain yellow will do)
1-2 Tbsp Honey (We like raw, local honey of course!)


  1. add all ingredients together in a shakeable jar or whisk in a bowl.  (We use a pint canning jar and a lid from a glass spaghetti sauce jar)
  2. taste your mixture and adjust honey or vinegar and oil as necessary to suit your family’s tastes
  3. Store in refrigerator.  Allow time to come to room temperature or microwave just until re-liquified before serving as the olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator.

Other optional variations
  • Add walnuts
    • Chop walnuts finely and add to dressing.  Flavors will be best when given time in the refrigerator.
  • Add raspberries
    • Add rinsed and dried ripe berries right to your jar and shake well.  The berries should break up.  Give time in the refrigerator for best flavor.
  • Add walnuts and raspberries
    • Raspberry walnut is a classic combination.  Can’t go wrong here!

Salad Additions for a Real Meal
Want to turn your Salad mix into a full lunch or light supper?  Here’s my favorite additions:
  • Cheese: shredded parmesan is my favorite but Feta is wonderful as well as Cheddar
  • Nuts: I usually keep sunflower seeds in the pantry but Walnuts or almonds are great as well.
  • Dried fruit: Dried cranberries are my pantry staple and my typical go to dried fruit.  Try raisins or chopped up pieces of your favorite fruit leather

Other salad dressings:
Not a big vinaigrette fan?  Need something else for just the right flavor?  Our other favorite around here is Goddess dressing.  The grownups have to hurry when salad is served and there’s only just enough Goddess on the table or the munchkins will hog all of whatever is left!

The Great Sheep Escape

On Sunday, our sheep FINALLY began to lamb!  As of yesterday, we had three beautiful Jacob lambs and one Rambouillet lamb.  So far, pretty good, especially on pasture.  On Monday, Genny, one of our Interns, and I, Margaret, went out to fence fresh grass for all of our lovely ruminants.

If they could have only waited five more minutes for us to finish the last of the new fence, we’d have needed to earn our exercise elsewhere this week.  But no!  They had decided that they were apparently hungry enough that they had to simply try to reach fresh grass by sticking a head between a post for the electric fence and a post for the woven wire fence which of course popped the electric connector off the hotwire above the woven wire fence to create a lovely new gate.

Out they ALL go.  Well, except for the three Jacob mamas.  They decided to stay and let their babies hunker down instead of go adventuring.

The gate the sheep had made was about 15 feet away from where the new fence was going to be.  They decided to head up into the neighbor's field and then around the end of our woven wire fencing back onto our ground to gobble up as much of our winter wheat cover crop as possible.  The alpacas, while munching, must be charged with the duty of scoping out the new fence when they move.  The sheep generally follow the alpacas because apparently alpacas know where they're going, right? (hahaha!)

Off they go, gobbling as fast as possible and walking up towards the road and away from the new area into which they were SUPPOSED to go.  Genny and I drop what we're doing and race to try and get around the sheep and attempt to bring them back.  Whether they go back into the old area or the new we don't care as long as they are in some area with a fence.  We manage to get them back to the corner where they escaped, albeit on the other side of the woven wire fence and just as the sheep are thinking about heading into a fenced area, the Alpacas decide that can't be right and take everyone off in the other direction through our neighbor's field of peas.

Genny is on that end of the sheep so I send her to attempt to get in front of them.  The alpacas have done this game before and decide to keep up the pace and keep going.

They traveled all the way down the field, nearly to our distant ponds before a turn in the hills caused the alpacas (and entourage) to pause and think long enough for Genny to catch up with them and attempt to send them back the way they came.

Instead of going into their newly prepared fence, for which I was attempting to create an entrance gate, they took off back up the pea field back towards our winter wheat.  When they got there, the Alpacas decided that wasn't right so they kept going and took everyone up to the road and towards the veggies and our landlord's house.  Of course, Genny and I are now BOTH behind everyone.  without a speedy dog, there was absolutely zero turning them around at this point.  

Our only saving grace was the fact that Ronn, our other intern, Dave, and our employee, Dan, were down in that field transplanting green onions.  Dan happened to look up and see sheep.  Ronn turned around expecting to see a few renegade creatures and instead, they saw the ENTIRE FLOCK.  Thank goodness they were there because they were able to help us get them turned around and walking down the access road and back towards their original enclosure.

Now that they'd managed to gobble enough to sate their crazy appetites and were back to simply starving (likely from all that running now...) they were content to walk in a group down the access road and back into their fenced area.  Once they were in, it took us about 5 minutes to finish setting the new fence.  Dan and Dave herded the sheep from their old area into their new and as soon as they saw the fresh new grass, they were happy once again.

And we decided that it was lunch time.