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Yummy Soup?  Free Chocolate?  Wow!

This week's Weeklyish is action-packed.  Or, at least content-packed.  So I'll limit myself to just one photo of last night's snow.

Meanwhile, there's a lot to dig into, including a chocolate giveaway, celebrating Chad's Crème de Menthe Bon Bon, the much anticipated recipe for Cheeseburger Soup, and the continuation of our annual review, looking at financial capital.  Dig in!

Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now

Chocolate Giveaway


We love our Weeklyish readers.  And, with Valentine's day approaching, it's time to express our love.  So, a little head's up for you:

Next week's 'ish will feature an opportunity to enter a drawing for a free 4-pack of Chad's Chocolates, available only to subscribers of the Weeklyish.  Would you like to double (or more) your chances?

Forward our newsletter to a friend, and ask them to subscribe online.  If they subscribe, ask them to drop Chad an email at chad@holeinthewoodsfarm.com, saying you referred them.  You'll get an additional entry for each new subscriber you refer!  Look for info on how to enter the drawing in next week's newsletter!

Crème de Menthe Bon Bon


This week, we'll explore another liquor-based ganache bon bon, our Crème de Menthe Bon Bon.

We will again journey back to 19th century France.  But this time not to the estate of a celebrated distiller, but to the laboratory of a skilled Pharmacist.  Emile Giffard was investigating Corsican Mint, a variety of peppermint, and its use as a digestive aid and refreshment.  He steeped the mint in alcohol for several days, to extract its flavors and healthful compounds.  Then he strained it, mixed it with sugar (most likely beet sugar, as it was the commercialization of beet sugar in Prussia, later expanded by Napoleon, which allowed the price of sugar in Europe to stabilize), and aged it for a month or more.

He later developed a clear, refined version (which would be most similar to today's "white Crème de Menthe," made by first distilling essential oil from the mint leaves, thus leaving the green tint behind), and tested it on customers at the Grand Hotel in Angers, where it became a roaring success.  Today, it is perhaps most associated with the Grasshopper cocktail (a combination of Crème de Menthe, Crème de Cacao, and cream), Thin Mints Girl Scout Cookies, and Andes Mints. 

For the musically inclined, the 24th variation of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini is nicknamed the Crème de Menthe variation.  Rachmaninoff was a renowned pianist, and generally a teetotaler.  But this variation was so challenging, he often took a drink of Crème de Menthe to calm his nerves before performing it.  Just a little "Fun Fact" for Bill Browne ;).

For our bon bon, Chad first decorates the mold with subtle swirls of cocoa butter colored green with kale powder.  He then molds a dark chocolate shell, yielding a shiny appearance reminiscent of the Aurora Borealis.  It appropriately brings to mind the the energy and excitement of a cold night often associated with dark chocolate and mint.
He then makes a creamy ganache using a Belgian dark chocolate flavored with Crème de  Menthe to fill the shell. 

The result is exquisite - a refreshing, mouth-coating chocolate and mint that at once soothes frazzled nerves and brings a refreshing jolt of excitement.  It pairs extremely well with bourbon, as well as a drier, aged Reislings, particularly those from Austria.

Four Cheese Cheeseburger Soup

Cold, windy, damp...  Mid-winter calls out for a hearty soup.  And this winter, in particular, has needed the comfort of cheese.  Lots of cheese.

I had a craving for cheeseburger soup for about a week.  But I couldn't just create a boring, ordinary cheeseburger soup.  I needed a cheeseburger soup that would put that craving to rest for a while.  I also wanted to make a big enough batch to get through a rather hectic few days in the schedule.  This recipe makes a large batch - you might want to cut it in half, or even a third.  I gave quantities of veggies in terms of volume, rather than number, to make that easier for you.

Makes 10.5 Quarts (a bit over 2 1/2 gallons, or 28 servings)

2 lbs Ground Beef (Amor Beef)
Pinch Salt
Pinch Pepper
2 teas Paprika
14 Tbsp Butter, divided
2 1/4 C peeled and diced Carrots
2 1/4 C diced Cellery
2 1/4 C diced Onions
1 Tbsp Dried Basil
1 Tbsp Dried Chives
11 C scrubbed and diced Yukon Gold Potatoes (don't peel)
2 Qt Chicken Stock
1 Qt Beef Stock
1 C All Purpose Flour
11 oz Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 lb Pepper Jack Cheese, grated
14 oz Gouda Cheese, grated
4.75 oz Parmesan Cheese, grated (real Parmesan, not that sawdust stuff in a can!)
4 1/2 C Milk (whole, of course.  I mean, look at all that cheese...)
2 tsp Pepper
2 tsp Salt
3/4 C Sour Cream
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

In a 12 Quart lidded stock pot, brown the ground beef, seasoned with salt, pepper, and paprika.  When the beef is browned, drain it, and set aside.

Return the pot to medium heat, and melt 3 Tbsp butter.  Add the carrots, celery, onions, basil, and chives, and saute just until the onions are translucent but not yet beginning to brown. 

Add the potatoes, chicken stock, and beef stock.  Cover the pot, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  When the pot comes to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, but not falling apart - about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make a roux.  In small saucepan, melt 11 Tbsp butter.  Add flour, and stir until smooth.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, until the roux just starts to change color.  remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

When the potatoes are tender, gradually add the cooled roux to the soup, stirring briskly to blend in while avoiding lumps.  Increase the heat, and bring the soup to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Stir constantly once it begins to boil, and cook for about 2 minutes.  It will begin to thicken a little bit. 

Reduce heat to its lowest setting.  Add the cheeses, stirring until each one melts before adding the next.  Add the milk.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat, and blend in the sour cream.  Finish by adding the Worcestershire sauce to brighten the soup up a bit - let taste be your guide.  Serve alongside a great crusty bread.  Our Italian Semolina is perfect, and baguettes also work well. 

Yum!  You're not hungry any more!

REHEATING NOTE: it can be difficult to get a reheated soup with this much cheese and milk to be as smooth and silky as when it was first made.  The key is to reheat slowly, with lots of stirring, so the dairy solids fully emulsify back into the liquids, but without scorching or burning.  I like to use a double boiler to accomplish this.  If using a microwave, try using the "defrost" setting to gently warm it most of the way, stirring frequently before finishing for a minute or two on high.

If you plan to freeze this soup, it is usually advised to not add dairy such as cheese, milk, or sour cream to frozen soup until you are ready to serve it.  Keep those separate, portioned for the amount in each freezer container.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and stir in the dairy.  However, some folks have good luck freezing the soup in its finished state, then very slowly re-heating in a crock pot on its low setting.

Financial Capital


This week we examine our farm's Financial Capital.  If you've been keeping up with our annual review, you probably are beginning to see a well-rounded view of the farm take shape.  If you haven't, please check the December 28 Weeklyish for a description of the process, and the eight forms of capital.

Financial Capital is the one most familiar to most people: money, currency, and other means of financial exchange.  Our society puts a great deal of focus and weight on it - so much so that many people believe "capital" and "money" are synonyms.  As this entire review indicates, they are not.

However, financial capital is our primary means of exchanging goods and services with other people.  As such, it is often seen  a proxy for value: if something is worth a lot, it should generate or be traded for a lot of money.  It is, however, questionable how accurate it is as an indicator of value.  Nonetheless, it is necessary to conduct business.

Farms require many things that cost a lot of money: land, tools, equipment, energy, seeds, etc.  In our case, our top three expenses every year always include taxes and regulatory compliance, charitable donations, and labor, usually in that order (though sometimes the second and third switch places). Meanwhile, generations of heavily subsidized industrial agriculture and processed food has hidden the true cost of food from most people: they expect food to cost far less than it costs to produce, pushing prices down, and obscuring its value. 

Thus, as with most farms, our growth has always been limited by available financial capital.  Prior to 2020, we managed fairly well, though, as we had no employees and two off-farm incomes.  This past year, however, marked the first full season of dedicating all of Chad's activities to the farm, as well as hiring our first employees.  The farm must now truly fund both its operations, and its existence and growth, instead of relying on off-farm jobs to fund daily life.

2020 also brought a lot of turmoil.  The pandemic nearly stopped our sales to restaurants (visit Lucrezia Trattoria in Culver - the only restaurant to continue with us through the pandemic.  Local communities are most resilient when their businesses support each other!).  But it dramatically increased our sales to individuals.  People were eating at home more, and saw the benefits of eating the freshest, most nutritious produce possible.  We added home delivery, which increased energy, labor, and maintenance costs, but also provided easier access to our produce for more people.  Delivery, plus the change from pick-a-mix bulk greens to pre-packaged greens at farmers' markets added a great deal of packaging costs.  Implementing an e-commerce system increased sales, but also added costs for the e-commerce system.  Additionally, online sales, coupled with an aversion to using cash, greatly increased the amount we pay in credit card processing fees.

The overall result is that we had a sizeable increase in our gross sales this year, which likely could have been even bigger if supply chain disruptions and time constraints didn't limit our production.  We rarely had sufficient inventory to meet demand throughout the whole summer season.  However, the increased sales were outpaced by increased costs, so our net income was actually lower, just as we needed it to be higher.  Additionally, winter sales, while always slow in the past, have been drastically reduced, far more than we expected.  January 2021 sales were less than 1/4 of 2020's January sales!

This limits our ability to expand production and deal with ongoing supply chain disruptions for 2021, chiefly seed.  A lot of the seeds we rely on are simply not available at all this year.  Or take a lot of hunting to find.  The price of seed has also increased considerably, some varieties by as much as 300%! 

We also face a critical infrastructure need in the near future.  In order to meet regulatory requirements as we grow our business to the next level, we will need to build a compliant wash and pack facility.  It is a two-edged sword: the facility will make post-harvest processing, storage, and packaging far more efficient and pleasant, allowing us to grow.  But funding it is difficult before that growth, and the law only allows a three year window to accomplish it. 

Thus, on our Tragic-to-Great scale, we rate our current financial capital as "Poor." Overall, we believe these issues are mostly a combination of temporary struggles due to the pandemic, and growing pains.  Once we persevere through them, we should reach a healthy and sustainable level of financial capital that will allow us to continue serving our community the best, freshest, Certified Naturally Grown produce available. 

Order Deadlines

Delivery Option     Deadline
Home delivery | Thursday     Tuesday, 10pm*
Pickup @ Culver Farmers' Market | Saturday     Thursday, 10pm
*Sourdough orders for delivery require an additional 24 hours
Shop Now
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