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Thursday, August 30, 2012

School Lunch Soapbox - The Price Is Not Right

How much did you pay for your lunch yesterday?  I'd like you to think about it.  Did you eat at home, grab something in a drive-thru, eat in a restaurant, bring your lunch or skip it?  Yesterday I was in Sioux Falls, SD for a meeting to plan farmer training programs across the nation.  We ate lunch in the hotel as we worked and it was $11.50 a plate.

When a student registers for school, their parents are often asked to fill out a financial statement form to determine if their family qualifies for free or reduced lunch assistance.  Per the USDA (article found here),
"Any child at a participating school may purchase a meal through the National School Lunch Program.  Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals.  Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents.  (For the period July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, 130 percent of the poverty level is $29,965 for a family of four; 185% is $42,643.

Children from families with incomes over 185 percent of poverty pay a full price, though their meals are still subsidized to some extent.  Local school food authorities set their own prices for full-price (paid) meals, but must operate their meal services as non-profit programs."

What does this mean financially for a school lunch?  (facts and figures are again from the USDA article)
For a student who receives a free lunch, the school lunch program receives $2.86.
For a student who receives a reduced price lunch, the school lunch program receives $2.46. (The student pays 40 cents.)
For a student who pays full price for lunch, the school receives $0.27.

These prices do take into account overhead and personnel costs.  Things that are necessary like stoves, ovens, staff, dishes, etc.  When overhead costs are subtracted, many schools are left with just $1 to put a healthy lunch on a child's plate.  (source:http://visual.ly/school-lunch-food-thought)

When was the last time you had lunch for a dollar?  A small bag of chips from the vending machine costs a dollar.  And we're asking school food personnel to source and serve a healthy, nutritious, filling meal to our children for just a dollar.  Until just a few years ago, schools were required to take the lowest bid on food.  Now there are some preference points that can be given to locally sourced food.  But, with only a dollar to spend on food, the lowest priced option is the logical choice.

Why do we believe that the mantra "you get what you pay for" applies to everything except food?

Think about the last car you bought.  Did you walk onto the lot and say to the salesman, "I want the cheapest one you've got."?  Or scan the classifieds and search just for the lowest price?  What about your cellphone?  Did you buy the cheapest phone?  Or were there other considerations when you were making your decision?  I'm not saying there aren't values to be had, of course there are things that are a good value.  But by and large, there is a price to be paid for quality.  And quality in food is nutritional value.

If we want to have better school lunches for our children, it will require more money to be spent on food.  One of my dad's favorite sayings was "You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear".  We can't take the cheapest food we can find and make it good enough.  It isn't possible.

Our bodies are designed to eat until our need for nutrients is met.  The current epidemic of over-eating is directly related to the lack of nutrition in our food.  USDA Deputy Secretary Merrigan said at a talk in Bismarck last year, "The United States doesn't have a calorie production problem.  We produce enough calories.  We have a nutrient production problem."  A study published in 2004 (listed here) documented the decline of nutritional value of vegetables since 1950.  In the interest of higher production, ship-ability, and shelf life, we have lost the nutrition that food once had.  If we are what we eat, then (quite literally) we are less healthy than our grandparents.

Many parents are making different choices regarding school lunches for their children.  Some of them are packing lunches that they feel are better serving their children's nutritional needs.  Others, including a friend of mine, have pulled their children out of school and are homeschooling.

If we want better quality, more nutritious school food, the cold hard fact is that it will cost more.  And I don't have the answers right now on how that should happen.  I'd love to work together to explore solutions.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Things aren't always what they seem

Remember when I told you about my favorite chicken?

I named her Cleopatra and she was the ONLY chicken we have named.

Well, one morning we heard a rooster crow.  I turned around and guess who did it?  That's right, Cleopatra!  She is Cleopatra no longer, my friends.  Now she he is just Cleetus.  And he's starting to sprout some tail feathers.  

I'm sure he'll be a beautiful rooster, but I'm terribly disappointed.  We don't really need roosters on our farm.  Some people think you need a rooster to have eggs.  Not so!  Just as a woman will ovulate (lay an egg) without a man, a chicken will as well.  If you want to have fertile eggs to hatch, then you would need a rooster.  

We had a rooster two years ago.  And he went into the stewpot when he attacked me with his spurs and claws, scratching and bruising my legs.  I won't have an animal on our farm that we can't turn our back on.

Cleetus isn't the only one.  There's another Ameracauna we named Jethro.  And at least one Silver Laced Wyandotte and one Barred Rock.  Four roosters is about 3.75 too many.

I love the sound of a rooster in the morning, I'm not opposed to having them.  But they better behave themselves...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

School Lunch Soapbox - How to Fix the Problem Without Food

Last week, I wrote about my concerns with the changes to the school lunch program.  To say this sparked a discussion would be a mild understatement.  My Facebook and blog blew up with comments, readers, likes, etc.  Many of you personally messaged me.  I was very excited that so many of you were not just interested in the topic, but had personal, vested interests!

And because I firmly believe that if you're going to criticize something you must offer an alternative, I want to share my vision for the greater solution.  I'm not claiming to have all the answers, but I've got some ideas and I think they merit consideration and discussion.  I'm sure we can use these as the springboard for something even better!

What's the heart of the issue?  Childhood obesity
What are the related issues?  Children and families do not make healthy food choices, children do not have sufficient activity levels

Here are some other solutions that don't involve school lunch:

1.  Reinstate mandatory physical education classes.  
Most states only require 1 credit of physical education to graduate from high school.  That's just one school year of 50 minutes per day of physical activity!  Many elementary kids don't have PE classes every year, nor are they every day.  Often, just one or two times per week.  How will we increase the activity levels of our children if we don't teach them how to be active?  PE classes allow active, kinesthetic learners to use their big muscles.  (Here's my science nerd coming out again...)  The contraction and relaxation of the large muscles is the primary action that blood is returned to their heart. Also the mode of action that lymphatic fluid is returned to the blood stream.  Both of these physical processes are vitally important to the function of our bodies.  Remember how invigorating a brisk walk around the block can be when you're feeling lethargic?  Kids need that even more!

2.  Reinstate or increase recess times for elementary students.
In the interest of time, safety, dollars to pay supervisory staff, etc. many schools no longer have recess (or they have cut back on the amount of time/frequency of recess).  My mom is a veteran elementary teacher, one of the best.  And by veteran teacher, I mean 30+ years in the classroom.  One of her personal student management policies was to never keep a student in from recess as punishment for bad behavior.  She firmly believed that if a kid was misbehaving, making him/her sit for even more time was not the solution.  She found it to be far more effective to allow the student to go outside, experience free and active play, and then return to the classroom with a fresh attitude.  And it worked.

3.  Reinstate home economics curriculum, for all ages.
Do you remember when all schools had a classroom filled with stoves and counters?  I don't.  Our school eliminated the home ec program the year I was in 6th grade.  (For those of you keeping score, that was in 1989.)  Our interest and skills in the culinary arts decreased dramatically when we lost our home economics programs.  Students no longer receive basic instruction in food preparation and therefore have no knowledge of food beyond what appears on their plate.  If students had even just the basic knowledge of food preparation, they can use that knowledge to discern the health benefits (or lack thereof) of the food they eat.  And guess what?  If a child knows how to cook something, they will go home and show it off to their family members...maybe teaching mom or dad how to cook!

4.  Expand agriculture education programs.
It's no big secret that one of my favorite classes each year was my AgEd class.  So I may be a bit biased when I say that every student should take AgEd.  Why?  Because we all need to know where our food comes from.  We all need to realize that plants grow in the dirt, animals eat plants and eggs come from a chickens hind end.  When we were doing our CSA, I posted a picture of our potato plants and one of my customers told me, "I didn't realize potatoes had a plant part!"  And don't just educate them, have them be a participant!  Use those large lawn areas that are just mowed by the custodian and grow a class or school garden and prepare and eat the produce.  Have a hoophouse behind the school with laying hens to recycle the kitchen scraps and provide eggs for the kitchen.  Have some sheep grazing the football field.  The possibilities are endless...

What other non-school lunch alternatives can we think of?

Monday, August 27, 2012

And then there were nine...

Exactly two weeks ago, I blogged about the mountain lion attack that killed seven of our turkeys.  I'm sorry to say, it's happened again.  Saturday night we lost another eight turkeys.  That leaves us with nine, and one of them was injured by the lion.  

This was in May when the three and a half week old turkeys went to pasture.

This is about 10 weeks of age, they probably weigh 15 pounds.

Turkeys out on pasture coming to see why I'm carrying a little black box.  They are very curious.

And very sleepy at night, which is why they make an excellent meal for a hungry mountain lion.  

We have never seen it, but neighbors who have tell us it is a small cat.  Probably a juvenile out on his/her own for the first time.  That would explain why he is attacking the turkeys and not the chickens or the cow/sheep/goats/pigs.  

Well, we're done messing around.  Today the remaining turkeys will be butchered so that at least eight of our customers will have MJF pastured turkey on their table for Thanksgiving.  (We will keep the injured one.)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Our Biblical Cow

Sometimes I forget that we have a cow.  We do, remember?

Her name is Karlek, pronounced "KEAR-lic", which means Swedish for love because of that heart on her forehead.

It's a pretty accurate name when we read Paul's letter to the Corinthians where he defines love.

He begins, "Love is patient, love is kind..."

This is Karlek taking a nap.  She loves to sunbathe.  

Enter these little boys who love to run and jump and twist.

Can you imagine what happens next?

They use our beloved cow as a launching pad, a king-of-the-hill mountain, a racetrack.  Both Hubby and I have witnessed this and it is hilarious.  Karlek just lays here and chews her cud (digests her dinner) and the boys, Woody and Buzz, have a wonderful red and white playground.

This is very entertaining but also very exciting for this hand-milker.  It takes a pretty calm heifer to lay there and allow those goats to jump all over her.

Ahh, Karlek, you ARE patient, you ARE kind.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


The past few weeks I have been cleaning out my parent's home in earnest for an auction sale this fall.  To say that my folks have stuff is like saying that Niagara falls is a waterfall.  My parents came from small families which means they inherited it all.  And by all, I do mean ALL!  In addition, they were professional teachers, farmers, crafters and woodworkers with lots of business related stuff.

And when you're working on your parent's home, wading through all their stuff...well...it makes you think about your stuff.  And why you have stuff.  And what your kids will do with YOUR stuff.

I used to collect things, antiques mostly.  Then I got married and sold a bunch of it.  Now I collect children, we've been adding one a year until recently.  And with those children comes a different kind of stuff.  Which isn't all bad.  But when I struggle to find my living room floor, there's a problem.  A stuff problem.

I have a calling to have a home that runs smoothly, looks nice and is functional.  Hubby assisted me in this call by buying me a book entitled, "Organized Simplicity" by Tsh Oxenreider for Christmas.  Quite frankly, it's awesome.  Slowly but surely, I'm putting into practice those things I've always wanted to do.

And I'm looking at stuff in a whole new way.  She asks this question (my paraphrase), "So many of us have stuff because it reminds us of someone or some place or some thing.  But can't we still have the memory without the stuff?  Do we have to have the stuff to have the memory?"

Another thought that resonated with me is that keeping something has a cost.  A cost of space to put it, a cost of time to dust it or move it, a cost of strain to look at it cluttering up an area.  And that is a cost I'm no longer willing to pay.

Friends of ours are nearing retirement age and are downsizing to a condo.  We helped them with their moving sale.  I gave them each a hug and I said, "Your daughter will rise up and call you blessed because you are doing this now and not making her do it when you are not able to."  I'm quite certain that's what that verse in Proverbs is referring to.  There must have been a tent in Israel crammed with stuff....

My great aunt did that.  She had an auction sale and sold all her stuff so that none of us would have to do it.  I bless her name.

Cleaning my parent's home has been just as emotionally exhausting as it has been physically exhausting.  Daily, sometimes hourly, I vacillate between sorrow and grief at cleaning out my dad's bathroom that still smells like him and frustration that I'm having to deal with all of this stuff, THEIR stuff.  And I call my husband in frustration and say, "Who does this to someone they love?"

But then I calm down and realize that my parents were not physically capable of doing this and this is just one way that children are called to honor their father and mother.

But I also vow that I will not do this to my children.  That when I die, they may collect my Bible and my journal and say, "Thank goodness we had her, because she sure didn't leave a lot of stuff."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

School Lunch Soapbox

Some of you may know that I was a teacher in a former life.  For five years I taught 9th grade physical science in the second largest school district in our state.  I started as a wet-behind-the-ears 22 year old college graduate.  I knew a lot about science and education, I didn't know much about teaching.

As a teacher of freshmen, most of my students were 14 and 15 years old.  But we had a few 16 year olds mixed in, depending on birthdays, retention, etc.  One young man will forever be burned in my mind.  He was a tall young man who every day would fold himself into one of my desks and place his head upon his desk and immediately fall asleep.  He never caused a problem, but he also never did any work.  Even on lab days (which were at least twice a week), he would sleep on the lab stool with his head on the table.

I went to my team leader, a salt-of-the-earth man who taught next door to me, and asked him about this student we both had in class.  Yes, he slept in George's class as well.  The only thing he didn't sleep through was lunch.  I asked, "Why is he here?  If he doesn't want to be in school, why doesn't he just drop out?  He's sixteen, he could do it."  George put his arm around this polyanna-teacher's shoulders and said, "He's here because it's probably his only safe place.  He probably doesn't sleep at night because of some sort of family trouble, he may be homeless.  And he's here for lunch because I'm sure it's the only hot meal he gets all day."

My eyes were opened in a way that day that they could never have been opened in a college classroom.
I came from a home where food was never an issue.  My safety was never an issue.  I may have had to work hard on the farm, but I always had a hot meal and a warm bed at night and breakfast in the morning.

This past month, the USDA released new dietary guidelines for school lunch.  (You can find them HERE)  As a biologist and someone who taught anatomy and physiology as a part time job, I'm appalled.  Apparently dietitians no longer take anatomy courses because the first thing you would learn about the nervous system and the brain in MY three credit college class is that the brain is fueled by protein and fat.  And the USDA has all but eliminated protein and fat from the school lunch menu.

Sally Fallon Morrell of the Weston A. Price Foundation shared the following in a speech in 2010: (source - http://www.westonaprice.org/mentalemotional-health/nutrition-and-mental-development)

"Now, if we look at the fats in the brain, the two major fats are saturated fat and a fat called arachidonic acid.  But we're not supposed to eat saturated fats, right?  Yet saturated fats like butter, meat fats, lard, and coconut oil are the kinds of fats your brain wants and needs.  And if you don't eat those fats, your body says, "Well, give me that next best thing:  refined carbohydrates."  Your body can make saturated fats out of refined carbohydrates.  And that's how people get cravings for refined carbohydrates - especially pregnant women and growing children.  Unfortunately, eating refined carbohydrates robs the body of nutrients, while natural saturated animal fats provide some very important nutrients.

The other really interesting fat in the brain is arachidonic acid.  Arachidonic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that is only in animal fats, such as in butter, egg yolks, organ meats, and meat fats.  Like saturated fats, arachidonic acid has been the victim of demonization."

And what happens when the brain is deprived of its preferred fuel?  Ms. Morrell tell us in the same speech:
"Today the horrible condition called autism - along with other manifestation of brain starvation such as learning disorders, mental problems, inability to concentrate, behavior problems, violence, addiction and mental retardation threaten the fabric of our culture.

I'm not going to mince words here.  These problems are the direct result of the dietary guidelines coming out of the Department of Agriculture since the early 1980's,...

Having recently given birth to three children in three years, I know a little something about the pregnancy and the infant/toddler diet recommendations.  Do you know why pregnant women are to eat fats?  Do you know why infants and toddlers are to drink high saturated fat breastmilk, formula and whole milk?  The fat is necessary for brain development and function!  But, I guess when you reach school age, you know longer need to develop your brain or require it to function.

I have a friend who used to work in the ED classroom.  If you don't know, ED stands for emotionally disturbed.  These are the kids who suffer from many of the brain starvation diagnoses that Ms. Morrell listed above.  In this classroom, the ED staff decided to modify the diets of their students to eliminate refined carbohydrates, and to add more fat and protein.  It took about two days for the students to detoxify and after those two days, their behavior problems were dramatically reduced.

After a while, the ED staff stopped the special lunches.  Why?  Did they quit working?  No, but the parents wouldn't feed them those same foods on the weekend so it took until Wednesday every week to detox the students from their diets at home.

I tell you that to illustrate the foundation of my philosophy of education:  
The school (teachers, coaches, bus drivers, school lunch programs) can do NO MORE and NO LESS than what is reinforced at home.  

The USDA changed the school lunch guidelines to reduce calories...across the board...for every student.  Athletes, video-game junkies, dancers, science nerds, boys, girls:  they all get the same calories.  For a student in K-5, they are allowed 550-650 calories for lunch; a high school student gets 750-850 calories.  My toddlers eat more calories than that!  But we're expecting children to not only function, but to use their brains in higher learning processes.

When it comes to protein, it gets worse.  A K-5 student is only allowed 8-10oz of meat (or meat alternatives), high schoolers get 10-12oz per WEEK!  A large egg without a shell weighs 1.7oz, my kids routinely eat at least three eggs for breakfast.  Oh wait, did you think that kids who eat breakfast at school would be getting eggs?  Sorry, no student can have protein for breakfast, only lunches.  Breakfasts are strictly grains, fruit and milk.  No protein allowed.  Oh, and the milk is skim milk, which is basically sugar water.  No healthy fats there.

To boil it down (school kitchen humor intended), this is my question:  Per the Feeding America website,
According to the USDA, over 16 million children lived in food insecure (low food security and very low food security) households in 2010.      
We have 16 million children in this country who don't know where their next meal is coming from, but we're going to limit their food intake at school?  The only hot meal some of them will get in a day?  

I have a friend who is an amazing mother.  She and her husband have fostered many children in addition to raising their own five children.  Last spring she told me of a moment that broke her heart.  They were planting their very large family garden, everyone was helping.  Their foster son, who had been with them for about 6 months asked what vegetables they could plant in pots.  My friend said, "Well, almost anything could be planted in a pot, but we've got plenty of room here to plant anything you want."  Her foster son kept asking and wondering, particularly about carrots.  Finally, she asked him why.  He replied, "If I plant the vegetables in pots, then when I get sent back to my mom I can take some food with me."  After some questioning of the social worker, my friend discovered that this boy's mom would use her money to buy video games rather than food.

USDA officials, are you willing to look in the face of this boy and tell him he can't have seconds or leftovers?  Because by painting the child obesity situation with your very wide brush, you are adversely affecting so many others.  You cannot change the eating habits of children by limiting their caloric intake in 5 or 10 meals a week.  That's only 25-50% of the meals those kids consume per week.  

And the calories you are providing them are not calories that provide brain nutrition.  Everyone needs a balanced diet...but this diet is not balanced.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a colorful plate and eating fruits and vegetables.  But adding more fruits and vegetables to the exclusion of fats and proteins is not the solution.  You are depriving children of the very fuel their little (and not so little) brains and bodies need to power themselves.  

The USDA wants to boil it down to a matter of calories.  It's a matter of children.  Those children who can afford to buy another meal will, or they will go to the gas station after school to buy junk food.  But those children who can't afford another meal are the ones who won't be getting food at home on a regular basis. And you've just sent them to bed on 850 calories...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Tidbit - What Dads Are For

...To be ponies.
...To start the pig pile.
...To tickle.
...To pray with.

That's what Dads are for.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Debunking Myths About Goats

In the interest of full disclosure, I love goats.  We raised goats growing up, showed them in 4H, milked a few when we needed to.  I'm a big fan.

And because I love them, I'm always working to debunk the myths that seem to perpetuate about goats.

Myth #1 - Goats are dirty.
Truth - Goats are obsessive about being clean.  They are fastidious.  If you'd like to annoy a goat, just put a single blade of straw on her back and she will work and work to get rid of it.  They dislike being wet.  I believe it's because then they would get dirty.  Of all the animals I've been around (and that's a LOT), goats are by far the cleanest animals.  When we showed goats, all we did was trim a little of their hair, if it was long on their tail or by their udder and blacken their hooves.  They were already clean and tidy, we didn't even wash them!

Myth #2 - Goats smell bad.
Truth - Only some goats smell bad.  Buck (male) goats in rut (breeding season) smell bad...to humans.  They smell really sexy to does (females) in heat.  I would imagine that goats think men who wear Axe body spray smell bad.  Some bucks have a trick they like to do to impress their ladies.  They hunch up their backs and lower their heads so they can pee on their beards (if they have a beard, not all goats do).  And, as you might imagine, that doesn't smell so great to humans...drives the does wild!  As a rule, goats do not smell.  If your goats smell and it isn't rut, you have a management issue.  Our goats are always pleasant smelling.

Myth #3 - Goats are destructive.
Truth - I hear this one more than any other.  Someone finds out we have goats and then says, "My (insert relative here) had goats and they jumped on cars and tore up fences."  There's even a saying that if a fence will hold water, it will hold a goat.  I always ask, "How many goats did they have?"  Usually the answer is 1, but occasionally 2.  Never more than that.  And therein lies the problem.  Goats are herding animals.  They thrive in a herd.  And if they don't have a herd, they will do everything in their power to be a part of your herd.  And that means breaking out of fences, climbing on cars, etc.  They just want to be a part of a herd.  We bought three does because I knew they needed a herd.  And they live with our flerd, a much larger herd.

Myth #4 - Goats will eat anything.
Truth - Goats are like three year old children, very inquisitive!  But they don't have fingers or hands to touch everything like a three year old child.  Instead, they use their mouths and tongues!  Goats are particularly fussy eaters.  They like to eat above ground.  They are browsers, not grazers.  Yes, they will eat grass, but it's not what they prefer.  They like to eat trees, shrubs, large weeds, etc.  Goats will not eat garbage or tin cans, although they may "mouth" it to see what it is.

Myth #5 - Goat milk tastes bad.
Truth - Most people who have tried goat milk have tried it as a dare or a joke.  If you've had goat milk and it tasted bad...you got bad milk.  Goat milk is delicious, sweet and creamy.  It is richer than cow milk as it is naturally homogenized, meaning the cream will not separate and rise to the top.  If you are not practicing STRICT sanitation procedures and caring for your animals and equipment correctly, your milk will taste bad.  And that doesn't matter whether you're milking a goat, a cow or a yak.

Myth #6 - Goats are ugly.
Truth - Goats are like people, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  
{Just look at those three beauties!}
I'm very partial to the Nubian breed. I love their pendulous ears and Roman noses.  Plus, I also have scientific reasons to back up my choice! (I know you're shocked about that one...)  Nubians have the highest butterfat content in their milk.  They've been touted as the Jersey cow of the dairy goats.  Also, a Nubian has a larger frame, particularly a large abdominal cavity.  And when you're grass dairying, you want that large gas tank to utilize all that forage to make milk while keeping the doe in condition.  We don't want her to lose a lot of weight as she goes through the milking season.

As for ugly, I vehemently disagree.  There is nothing cuter than a baby goat.  Not even puppies are as cute as baby goats!

These two buck kids belong to Rosie.  They are very similar but not identical.  We will start separating them at night and milking her in the morning soon.

Friday, August 17, 2012

12 Thoughts - vol I

i was …
working on cleaning out my mom's house.

i am … longing to sew again, but waiting until fall.
i think … my husband is wonderful.
i wonder … what my kids will play with today.
i wish … I could make Parmesan cheese.
i save … jars for canning and I have a lot of them, but always seem to run out...hmmm.
i always … eat dessert.
i can't imagine … living in a really big city.
i believe … growing your own food is the second most empowering things women can do.
i promise … to work hard.
i love … my family and our farm.
i grow … more of our own food every year.

Go ahead, share your thoughts!!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Make Peach Pie

Yesterday, we talked about making pie crust.  Today, let's talk about one of my favorite pies, PEACH! Every August, our family attempts to eat our body weight in fresh peaches and pie is just one of the ways we do it.

Peach Pie (makes one 9 inch pie)
5 cups fresh peaches (about 4 whole peaches)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or a little more)

Start with the sugar, flour and cinnamon.

Sift them together and set aside.

Use ripe, fresh peaches.

I use a small, thin knife for peeling peaches.

Start at the top of the peach with a small cut.

If the peach is ripe, the skin should pull away like this.

Slice the peaches into a large bowl.

When you have four peaches, pour in the sugar mixture.

Toss the peaches gently. 

Pour them into the prepared pie plate.

Spread out the peaches evenly.

Two beautiful pies ready for their top crusts!

Roll out a top crust using the same technique as your bottom crust.
Except this time, cut some slits in the sides of your quartered crust.  You can also do some decorative cutouts, if you'd like.

Again, center the corner of the quartered crust on your pie.

Unfold gently...

Piece the holes, if you need to.

Then crimp the edges with either your fingers or a fork.  I like a fork.

Then put some slivers of butter dotted on the top of the crust.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  (Sorry for the blurry pictures, soaked camera that I'm working to replace.)

The last thing is to get a long piece of aluminum foil.  Tear it in half width-wise.  You'll end up with two long, skinny pieces of foil.

Fold it in half lengthwise...

and fold it again.  We've got a four-fold thickness of foil that is long enough to wrap around the edges of the crust.

Why would we do this?  It keeps the edges of the crust from burning.  We'll take them off in the last 15 minutes of baking.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Remember to remove the foil wrap in the last 15 minutes.

And this is the marvel that is fresh peach pie!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How to Make Pie Crust

There was a time when I hated, HATED making pie.  For you see, I'm the daughter of a master pie maker.  My mother's pies are legendary.  In particular, her crusts are legendary.  

To say that I've struggles to make a pie that even come close to my mom's would be an understatement.  Pie was my achilles heel.  I just could not make good pie.  My mom came and held my hand and still my crust was a disaster.  She couldn't even identify where I went wrong!

I have even started a pie on fire!  It seemed that pie was just not meant to be for me.

But I refused to accept defeat.  I would not be bested by the pie!

I know a lot of you would say, "Just use pie crust from the store."  Oh my, that would send my mother to an early grave and I just couldn't do it.  No, I would persevere.  I would push through the giant wall that was PIE.

And I have.  So, today we'll talk about pie crust and tomorrow we'll make a peach pie.  

First, the recipe.  I have tried many a pie crust recipe and failed at most of them.  But this one works for me and my sister (who was also formerly pie challenged)...perhaps I should call this "Pie Crust for the Pie Challenged"!

Buttermilk Pie Crust (makes a double crust 9 inch pie)
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening 
3 Tbsp butter
2 tsp oil
1/3 cup buttermilk

This recipe comes straight from one of my favorites:  The Bridal Edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook!

Start with your flour, I was making two pies so I'm doubling the above recipe.

Then add the butter.  Mine was at room temperature. 

I used coconut oil rather than shortening.  And when we get our pigs processed in October I will use lard.  Glorious lard!!!  I cannot wait...

(If my mom is reading this, avert your eyes now.  She makes crust by hand.  I use my mixer.)
Add the paddle attachment and run until the fats are pea sized or smaller.  

And, of course, two adorable pie assistants don't hurt!!

 See?  Crumbly but not completely mixed...perfect!

Now add the oil...

And the buttermilk.

Here are those adorable assistants again.

Now, only mix until just combined and starts to pull away from the bowl.  Over-mixing will result in a very tough crust.  We want light and flakey!

Time to roll the crust!  Get out your broken rolling pin and some flour to dust on your rolling surface.

Divide your dough in half.

Remove it from the bowl and make a marvelous lump.
 Now, if I was making just one pie (a single recipe) this would be my bottom crust.

However, I'm making two pies so I'm dividing this half in half again.

This will be my bottom crust.  Flip it over to lightly flour both sides.

Start rolling...

dust with flour to prevent sticking...

Keep rolling in both directions until it looks like it might fit your pie pan.

And don't be afraid to check!

Carefully peel the crust away from the table...

and fold down...

and then over to make a quarter sized pie crust.

Put the corner of your pie crust in the center of your pie pan.

Carefully unfold the crust into your pan.
 What if it looks ugly like this one?  Should I just quit and start over?

No!  Just mend those tears with some pressure from your fingers.

What about those big holes?  You'll have excess hanging off the sides.  Trim those off and patch them in.

All mended!  You would never know it was so ugly when we started!

One of my assistants got into the flour...

Remember tomorrow, we'll make a peach pie!