Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

A Duck Roast With Currant Jelly Sauce

  Let’s get it out of the way right now: duck is fatty, and duck is delicious, a rich dark meat that is quite distinctive and … – surprise! – does not taste like chicken. I sometime roast a duck mainly to collect its fat […]

The Miraculous and Delicious Egg

  To the music of “These are a few of my favorite things” – and  with apologies to Maria! – let’s all sing together: Soufflés & Quiches, Omelets & Crepes Clafoutis, Flans, and Croque-Madames Waffles & Cremes, Meringue & Mousse Not to mention sunnyside up […]

Lard: make it at home. A pictorial guide.

Despite Thomas Jefferson’s efforts 200 years ago, olive trees don’t grow in Virginia. Erratic winter weather with nightly lows in the single digit temperatures followed by days at 70F — as well as hot muggy summers — don’t make happy olive trees. Anything below -10C (14F) will severely damage even a mature olive tree.

Don’t get me wrong, I love olive oil. And I used quite a bit of it along with avocado oil and nut oils. But in the last few years, I have been switching part of my cooking  fats to … lard, specifically home-rendered lard from locally pastured pigs. Here, in the Northern Virginia Piedmont, what other cooking fat is locally available to me? in such abundance? and so easy to make at home? (more…)

Honey For Sale!

The 2014 harvest is now available for purchase at R.H. Ballard in Washington, VA,  and through Heritage Hollow Farms Store in Sperryville.  We kept a few jars for direct sale, if you are local and interested. It’s a very small harvest as we are letting […]

On Blackberries (and Creme de Blackberry recipe)

Before I planted blackberries in the garden, I used to go forage for them. They grow all over the place, tenaciously clinging to their chosen spot and taking over the neighborhood: the clump expands rapidly and any cane that touches the ground roots to produce […]

Foraging for Wild Summer Berries (and Shrub recipe)

Wineberries and a few wild blackberries
Wineberries – and a few wild blackberries

Who hasn’t plucked and munched on a handful of wild blackberries or huckleberries while hiking? Didn’t it feel like a tiny treasure hunt, the taste of wild berries sharper, more intense than their tamed counterparts?

Sure, foraging for berries takes time, but you didn’t lift a finger, did not drop a single bead of sweat  to propagate, nurture, plant, weed, fertilize nor water the little suckers! You only have to show up and pick.  Even with decent foraging skills,  a couple of hours of picking yields a harvest that may look slim.  After all, I can pick 5 times faster from tidy rows of ‘Apaho’, ‘Triple Crown’ or ‘Navajo’ – three widely planted thornless cultivars – than from a fiercely tangled thorny thicket of wild blackberries. (yes, I have measured!)… but of course the tidy rows have to be maintained, pruned, trellised, weeded, mowed…

Besides, there is nothing like picking wild berries on a warm scented summer morning: the sweetly clean fragrance of pink bouncing-bet, the sharp minty smell of trampled horsemint, the aroma of over ripe berries, the muskiness of rotting vegetation, the heady pervasive scent of flowering basswood humming with bees… it’s… wild! And some berries simply are not cultivated. So if you want them, you get to pick.

Most common berries fruiting in June or July for us include: (more…)

A Black Currant Streusel Cake With Black Currant Compote

So far, it’s been a good year for berries! A cold winter and abundant spring rains have given the plants what they want.  You will not hear me complain about the past winter nor about the rains (yet, at least…) I am actually harvesting red […]

Signs of Spring

  March 30:  black currant leaves just visible. April 2: 14F (14F!!!!!!) at night. Forecast called for 24. I did not cover my newly planted brassicas. A week later they show damage – the outer leaves show large whitish spots. April 3: spotted the first […]

Restarting The Kitchen Garden

I wish I could say that year-round gardening is the way of life here. But it has not been true for the last couple of years when several things have – ahem! – come in the way of winter gardening. So it’s spring, and I am planting!

lower garden 3.23 039
Lower Garden on March 23, 2014

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Postcard from the Winter Kitchen

Simple comforting lunch on this gray day: tomato soup (with canned tomato from last summer), buttermilk biscuits, grits & manchego souffle, roasted Hatch pepper & tomatillo salsa (peppers & tomatillo from last summer)