Welcome to Painted Hand Farm

Painted Hand Farm is a 20 acre Civil War era farm located in Cumberland county, Pennsylvania. We raise meat goats, veal calves, turkeys and organic vegetables using humane and sustainable agricultural practices.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Never Again

Talk about an exercise in futility! Somewhere along the line, I had the bright idea to process all the excess Muscovy ducks milling about at Keswick Creamery instead of having them sent off to the local auction house. They could sell them at the farmers markets in DC. What a great idea.

The first butcher date for the ducks found me flat on my back with a nasty bout of food-borne illness (I thought that tuna roll tasted funny) combined with freezing rain. So a week later, I picked up the processing equipment and headed over to the farm where all hands were on deck for a day of processing.

The plan was to do the excess roosters for stew chickens first and then add the "secret sauce" (vinegar, dish soap & baking soda) to the water in the scalder to do the ducks. You see, since ducks live in the water, their feathers and skin contain much more oil & fats than chickens do making them much harder to process. Much, much harder.

Although we had close to two dozen ducks to process, we gave it up after only six ducks. What a MESS! The only way to effectively get the feathers off of them was by using paraffin wax--basically giving them Brazilian--totally not worth the effort.

So, from now on the ducks will either end up at the auction house or they can get hauled down to Lancaster County where there's a professional processor. Fortunately, Mark had some Troegs' Mad Elf Ale to numb the agony of defeat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Let the Holiday Feasting Begin

When I was giving a few folks from the local Slow Food Chapter the unofficial artisan cheesemakers tour of Newburg, one of the people asked if I knew where they could get a goose for the holidays. Although I didn't know anyone personally, we had driven past a farm with a huge flock of geese in their pasture. They also had ducks, chickens and a shingle hanging in their driveway advertising brown eggs.

"Turn in there," I said the driver.
"Why?" he replied.
"We're going to see about getting you a goose."
"Do you know these people?"
"No, but I'm guessing they've just might have geese for sale."

They did and so I met a new local producer, The Shirk family, who at Pecan Acres, raise pastured ducks, geese, laying hens and beef. The Slow Food guy got his goose and I couldn't pass one up either.

It's been a long time since I cooked a goose, so I double-checked on the basic temperatures (450 the first 15 minutes and then 350 for 20 minutes per pound) and then winged it. I started by loosely stuffing the cavity with a few fresh tangerines, Toigo Orchard pears and rosemary. Seasoned only with sea salt and white pepper, the bird went into the oven. Next, I cut up a variety of winter vegetables--yams, crook-neck squash, carrots, fennel and onion, tossing in fresh brussel sprouts and a handful of cranberries before marinating in a mixture of olive oil and white truffle balsamic reduction sauce and roasting on the rack below the goose for a good hour until all the vegetables had caramelized. For the last 15 minutes of roasting, I glazed the goose with tangerine zest & juice, local honey and smidgen of freshly grated ginger. What else was on the table? Freshly baked bread, my farmstead butter, a variety of artisan cheeses from Keswick Creamery and Birchrun Hills Farm and two phenomenal bottles of wine--a 2006 Staatlicher Hofkeller Wurzburg Slivaner Troken Franken from one of the oldest wine estates in Europe and a 2007 Testarossa Castello Chardonnay brought from the central coast of California, by my good friends Nick & Pan who were home visiting for the holidays.
We did a pretty darn good job of picking that bird clean.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas Shopping

I want to be on this farmers market shopper's Christmas list! What a great idea to give family & friends locally produced products while supporting small farmers and businesses. As we are constantly bombarded in the news each passing day of the economic melt-down and unbridled corporate greed, it's time for responsible human beings to step forward and say "enough is enough". How do we do this? Just like Matt is doing...by supporting our local communities when we spend money, especially our food dollars. So this year for the holidays, instead of buying your loved ones fancy baubles and 'luxury' goods which were probably produced in some third-world country by slave labor, transported thousands of miles and resold at a hundred times their production cost only to line the pockets of faceless shareholders, consider shopping in your local communities. Check out the small family-owned stores in downtowns and forgo the big box discount stores. Look at the label and make a conscious effort to choose Made in the USA. And most importantly, when planning your holiday meals, keep your local farmers and producers in mind. I can guarantee that ham from a pastured pig or prime rib from grass-fed beef will not only be the best you've ever had, but help make the holidays brighter for those have dedicated their lives to bringing sustainably-raised food to your table.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tails, I Win!

Volcano was a purebred Jersey bull calf born at Carrock Farm to a heifer who had been given to their herdsman one year as a Christmas gift. The bull grew up next to the herdsman's hacienda on the back forty until he was turned into a steer and turned out with the young heifers to live out his numbered days. When fall came and the pastures grew scarce, it was Volcano's time to make the ultimate sacrifice. But when the herdsman picked up his packages from our local butcher, he left behind a few of my favorite things and I made sure they ended up on my dinner plate instead of the compost pile. So, just what did I get?
The tongue, liver, kidneys, heart and my favorite...the tail! Nothing takes the chill off of a fall day like oxtail braised with vegetables. I added a quart of veal stock, some wine and a pint of heirloom tomatoes put up earlier in the season in a dutch oven and baked for the better part of the afternoon. After removing the oxtail from the sauce, I added some fresh wide egg noodles and topped with Telford Tomme. Jess brought home fresh greens from farmers market and I had baked some chocolate chip cookies with my farmstead butter, eggs from the chickens across the street and some Scharffen Berger dark chocolate chunks. Life is too short to eat tasteless and soulless food.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Culinary Advantages

It was at the very first PASA pot-luck dinner I attended that I heard someone say, "we may be poor as church mice, but we eat like kings and queens." Given the incredible dinner we all shared that evening, I thought I understood what they had meant. However, it wasn't until I began humanely raising rose veal and going to farmers market that I really understood what they were talking about. Veal sweetbreads, kidney & fries in a tarragon caper red wine reduction.

Just a few weeks ago, a gentleman came up to me at the farmers market and asked if I butchered the veal young enough to get sweetbreads, which is basically the thymus gland. As calves age, the gland shrinks until it eventually disappears. My response to him was yes, however, they never make it to market as they are my 'treat' to myself for all the work that goes into raising the calves. I may not be able to afford dinner out (or more like stay awake) at an upscale restaurant that serves sweetbreads from organically and humanely raised veal, but by golly, I can cook them up right here at home!

That got me thinking about the other 'premium' items that I take for granted. While sweetbreads may be the cream-of-the-crop when it comes to veal delicacies, I realized that there are other items I routinely snag for personal consumption (heart, kidneys, fries & tongue). While I end up with as much as 150 pounds of gorgeous rosy meat cuts and several 5-pound bags of bones per calf, my goodies are in short supply with each calf only providing one or two of each item.

So today when I was rummaging around in the deep freeze, I came across a bag of what others consider offal squirreled away. The heart & tongue went into a pot for poaching the fries, kidneys and sweetbreads before I dredged them in flour and cooked them up in some of my tarragon, shallots and home-made butter. The remaining stock will be the base for my sister, Joan's awesome sausage kale soup I'm going to make tomorrow with some bulk bratwurst (what's left in the auger when the butcher does our links) and fresh kale from Prescott's Patch.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Local Wine & Cheese at Alibi's

Look what happens when you feature locally-produced products. This is Alibi's Eatery & Spirits in downtown Carlisle on a Wednesday evening and there isn't an open seat in the joint!
Why? Because Adams County Winery and Keswick Creamery had paired their products for a special event. Seating was limited to the establishment's capacity and was quickly filled. The people in Carlisle know great drink & food when it's offered!
Mark Dietrich Cochran, John Kramb and Jim Touloumes are ready and waiting for the crush of local wine & cheese aficionados. The tables are all set and ready to go!Mark, one of the owners and cheesemakers at Keswick Creamery cuts more cheese.
People enjoyed tasting local wines with hors d'oeuves artfully prepared by Alibi's own chef.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Day in Chester County

Yesterday, I attended a board meeting for the Pennsylvania Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Alliance in Chester County at fellow board member, Susan Miller's Farm. She and her husband, Ken own Birchrun Hills Farm where they milk a purebred herd of Holstein cows. A few years ago, Sue began making cheese from their milk at an unused cheesemaking facility a few miles from their farm at Camphill Village Kimberton Hills, an intentional farming community for adults with developmental disabilities.
Many years ago, Camphill Village purchases cheesemaking equipment from Europe, including a large copper cheese vat. The creamery had set idle for years before Sue approached them about renting the facility. However, she soon found how impractical and difficult it was to work with the copper kettle, so she has moved to a stainless steel cheese vat. A batch of Birchrun Hill Blue on the draining table behind the vat.From the cheesemaking room, the wheels are removed from their molds and transferred to the cheese cellar. Who ever built this facility had the forethought to build in a dumb waiter between the make-room and just outside the cellar door. Once in the cellar, the cheeses are ages for a minimum of 60 days since they are all produced with raw milk. This year, Sue expiremented with pressing aromatic hops flowers on to the tops of cheese wheels.
When sufficiently aged, the cheeses are packaged and sold at farmers markets (Phoenixville, Anselma and Head House), at well-known cheese shops such as DiBruno Brothers and to local chefs & restaurants.
In addition to the Birchrun Hills Blue, the Millers also make an Highland Alpine, a sharp nutty cheese and a tomme they call Fat Cat that has a delicious earthy tang with a pear-like finish.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Ok, bear with me. I know you're wondering what on earth an image of a discount toilet bowl cleaner is doing on the blog, but I wanted to share with everyone the source of some howling good laughter we had over the holiday. Sure, this looks like an innocuous package, but turn it over....
...and you have the best case of Engrish I've seen in a long time! Yes, I've submitted it to www.engrish.com. Just thought I'd add some humor on this cold, damp day.