Category Archives: Food

Image of Agriculture – Conformity and Loss of Individualization

As a farmer, I like to think I express a great deal of my own individuality. I’ve heard it referenced in the past (by myself, I think) that “farms are like snowflakes, no two are the same”. Each farm has different soils, different landscapes of rolling hills or flat ground, different weather (NY sure is a whole lot different than Hawaii) and each farm has a unique set of owners, operators or managers bringing in their own beliefs and perspectives.

Recently, some research has come to my awareness that has me rethinking that statement and adding much more detail. All farms, no matter where they are located are impacted by authority. Nationally, we are all impacted by the USDA, the EPA, even organizations like Farm Bureau. How does their authority impact what we do as farmers? The laws and regulations handed down from our government officials are enforced by some, others hold political clout that impact these decision making government processes. The end result is a law or regulation that dictates things like our planting schedules, our water usage and testing, slaughtering and food safety processes, emission recommendation on our trucks and tractors and even recommendations about the foods we all eat.

Regionally, we are impacted by state run organizations like NY Ag and Markets that set standards, recommendations and laws on things like milk pooling for dairy products, testing and even additional standards on exactly what can be sold without a license and what cannot. We also have the Department of Environmental Conservation that watches us to see how much manure we spread, when we spread it, and they monitor for things like soil erosion and runoff issues.

It doesn’t matter what state, region or locale you are from as a farmer. We have federal laws, state laws, intrastate laws, county laws, and local town laws. Talk about being overloaded with authority. We may say that we are doing things the way WE want to do them based off from a decision making process on the land WE own or operate… but are we? How much of an impact about what we do is derived from one or more of these laws, rules, recommendations or regulations? Coming from NY, the second least friendly state for agriculture, I will flat tell you that authority dictates a lot of what we do. From filing documents on manure application, to agriculture exemption forms for taxes, to how we can slaughter an animal and even what types of fuels we can run in our equipment, we plan according to authority.

Sure, we make small decisions on stuff like what kind of operation to run, whether it be confined or pastured for example. Still, there are many outside influences that factor in. Farmers like Joel Salatin have been pushing to buck that trend for years. He also takes a lot of flak from other farmers too about what he’s doing.

The rest of us are doing the best we can, without bucking the system (always issues somewhere by the way). That means we are conforming to authority, whether we agree with it or not.

As we have progressed through the years and have become a society of conformist to laws handed down to us under the guises of sustainability, environmental soundness, or food safety, have we traded off our own values and beliefs to not end up being punished? I’ve read countless articles about the sales of raw milk that have landed sellers in court, broke and some have been threatened with jail time. 75 years ago, this wouldn’t have happened. Times have changed, without a doubt, but at what cost?

Growing up on a small dairy in Upstate NY, we didn’t have these high overhead expenses from these laws and regulations of today. My grandfather used belly milkers on his dairy herd and stored milk in milk cans until the milk truck came, which wasn’t a tractor trailer either. Today’s milking happens with pipelines and goes into rooms filled with giant shiny equipment that sparkles in the sunshine. The glistening effect has come at a cost though. Dairy farmers conformed to laws or went out of business. These milk house rooms that have more stainless than professional chefs see in a lifetime cost a chunk of income to build, equip and maintain. Not only did many conform, they went bankrupt doing it or they ended up adding to the herd to get more milk to cover the new bill each month. Why would they just conform? They conformed because authority told them they had to, all in the name of food safety. They either conformed or they would not get milk pickups which meant no income. What do you think you would do at the prospect of losing any prospect of income? Would you conform or rebel against the new laws?

Dairy farmers across the country were impacted by this change. I can almost visualize the conversation around the dining room table. My grandpa with his weathered skin, hat next to him on the table, scooping his food around his plate with his head hung down. My grandmother sitting by the fire, sewing up patches in the boy’s pants because they couldn’t afford to keep buying new ones, watching everyone eat the meal she made from the goods she pulled from the garden that morning and the meat from the cellar that had been smoked last fall. Everyone is tired from a long day of work, the heat from the wood fired cook stove keeping it hot inside. Grandpa says, “Boys, we won’t be getting new tractor this year. We gotta buy a new fancy thing called a bulk tank and a bunch of fancy pipe to meet this new law so we can still get paid for farming.” The oldest probably rebelled and ensued in a heated discussion about what a bunch of bull it was to change the system. One probably spoke up and commented that its progress and it’s not healthy or sanitary to milk this way anymore. I’m sure an argument ensued. It probably went on for weeks, if not months.

Slowly, the time came to when a bulk tank would have to be put in. Unfortunately, the decision was never really made. My grandparent’s house burnt that winter. They barely had enough money to pay for what few groceries my grandmother bought, let alone homeowners insurance. Not a week later, all the cows were sold and my grandparents retired. My grandpa knew that he had to conform or sell, that was the option he was given. It’s hard to believe that this all happened early in 1982.

In the mid 1980’s, along came some new issues for dairy farmers. Milk prices plummeted and the government offered to buy farms out to help offset the over saturation of milk in the pool. Farmers were given good prices to sell their cows for slaughter or continue struggling. I don’t know the specific numbers or percentages but I can tell you that I know of two small farms that sold out, took the money and ran. What do you think you would have done? Would you have risked your family heritage or sold off cows for a profit?

Also during this same time, the USDA started recommending to farmers that they could increase milk production if they confined the animals and started feeding in the barns. The reasoning also included a reduction in herd health issues, broken legs and the list goes on. Many dairy farmers followed along like sheep in a pasture being herded with a dog. I think many did because they had just been forced to build these fancy new milk houses and a penny saved is a penny earned. In retrospect, I almost wonder how many farmers transitioned because of the fear of another new law coming down the road that could cost them a lot of money if they waited.

More farms start shutting their doors, going bankrupt and more laws just kept coming down the pipeline. The farms that have stayed have conformed to all these new laws and regulations. Today, the general heading of farm has been gathered into this rather large group of a one size fits all mentality, even while the individual farmer struggles to find their own identity.

As a result, some of the people that have fought back against the grains of laws and regulations have also been taken over by government organizations. These farmers are now deemed as Organic Farmers. The farmers that have conformed have all been lumped into the nutshell of Conventional Farmers. In today’s society, something has happened nationally that I don’t think was anticipated by any farmer, group or organization…the deindividuation of the American farmer.

Today, less than 2% of the population is a farmer. The majority of people today don’t have any idea the plight of the farmer in the minority. Deindividuation when defined in a psychology term occurs when “individuals are not seen or paid attention to as individuals… [and there is] a reduction of inner restraints against doing various things.” The negative extremes of deindividuation are lynching, gang rapes, and riots, stealing and cheating.

The negatives I’ve witnessed, read about and later saw video, for farmers is astonishing. Social media provides an outlet for the bias against farmers, not matter how good of a job they do. Organizations like PETA and HSUS, to name the two major ones, post videos about the horrific treatment of animals using the scare tactics and emotional based content, to turn average citizens against farmers. The long term impacts have been devastating to farmers, as a whole not just as individuals. These tactics create modern day lynching on social media sites. Farmers are demonized for using animals (often referred to as machines) for milking. We’ve been told that we rape our cows, that we all abuse them like the videos portrayed. These sensational videos get hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views but farmer’s videos rarely hit the 10,000 views mark. Social media provides anonymity unparalleled to any venue seen in the past.

As the size of the social networks increase, the more vicious the attacks on farmers and some have gone to the extent of criminal arson of cattle haulers. As the size of the groups continue to grow, the stronger the urge to do non-normal behavior increases and the greater the diffused responsibility. This effect is rather overwhelming for a small portion of the populace. The minority perspectives do still have an impact on these judgments roughly 8% of the time; according to research experiments concerning the impacts of minorities on a group of majority. Yet, 25-35% of the people that don’t conform to the group dissent initially will before the “war” is over.

Yet more deindividuation occurs between the differing social groups within farming. The line has been drawn in the sand by both consumers and national advocates that you are either an organic farmer or you’re something else, typically defined as a conventional farmer. It’s an internal war waged about the good and evil of the farming culture. Farmers are pitted against each other in this debate. Modern Era farmers are tech-savvy and social media crazy. We know it doesn’t matter which side of the proverbial fence we stand on, we need people to side with our decisions and beliefs. When consumers lash out against one form or the other, the non-normal behavior rears its ugly head yet again. The conventional farmer is an abuser. The organic farmer gets deemed a greedy person due to cost structures. The comments will spin out of control; result in hate speech spewing from each side.

These actions and group sociology impact all of us as consumers of these goods. The arguments are always the same; each individual farmer should represent themselves clearly and defend their positions. Enflaming the counter arguments is unproductive and typically results in dissention among the groups, often resulting in a negative extreme on all sides of the table. Farmers need to be more aware of their beliefs on issues of conformity, as do consumers. Basing decision making processes on the “in-crowd” and against our own standards and beliefs is causing a larger rift between the sectors. We all need to be more aware of the agenda hidden behind authorities’ procedures and law making capabilities.

Educating yourself thoroughly, speaking up to others about your beliefs and communication is crucial to stop this cycle of negativity by all. Every person that has become involved in any of these arguments needs to heed these words of advice, farmers and consumers alike.

I know many farmers that are willing to answer questions and talk about what they do. I’m one of them. To name just a few additional blogs you can read or follow to learn more:

Ryan Goodman at I am Agriculture Proud

Carrie Mess at The Adventures of Dairy Carrie

Megan Brown at The Beef Jar

Jenny Rohrich at The Prairie Californian

and many, many others that you will see referenced and linked within other blogs or shared via Twitter.

To start the conversation with farmers, ranchers, veterinarians and advisors via Twitter

Doreen Barker @CNYFarmGirl
Lorraine Lewandowski @NYFarmer
Carrie Mess @DairyCarrie
Ryan Goodman @AgProudRyan
Megan Brown @MegRaeB
Jenny Rohrich @PrairieCA
Mark Rohrich @sunflowerfarmer
Howe Ranch @HoweRanch
Ryan Bright @Farmerbright
David Foster @fosterdairy
Sheila Marshman @Marshisms
Nicole Day Gray @CatskillsDay
Laine Lewin @2cylinderfarmer
Kathy Swift @cowartandmore
Bossy Eats @BossyEats

I could probably add a 100 more names to this list too. Each person above is linked with more from all around the world. I know that each one will take the time to answer any questions in a positive manner. I encourage you to NOT send hate mail but to reach out in a positive way to ask questions first. Let’s create a wave of positive change and I’m hoping that this will spur further conversations into the choices that farmers make and why.

Image of Agriculture vs Beliefs

I’ve written up a post before about the Image of Agriculture (following the link to read more about how farms and ranches can “dress for success”). Now, I want to utilize some stuff that I’ve just learned in a Social Psychology class.

I’m going to transpose an excerpt from the book “Social Psychology” by David G. Myers.  (This book is utilized within the course as a form of a textbook and contains lots of great information)

“…Research reveals that it is surprisingly difficult to demolish a falsehood, once the person conjures up a rationale for it. Each experiment first implanted a belief, either by proclaiming it to be true or by showing the participants some anecdotal evidence. Then the participants were asked to explain why it is true. Finally, the researchers totally discredited the initial information by telling the participants the truth: The information was manufactured for the experiment, and half the participants in the experiment had received opposite information. Nevertheless, the new belief survived approximately 75% intact, presumably because the participants still retained their invented explanations for the belief. This phenomenon, called belief perseverance, shows that beliefs can grow their own legs and survive discrediting of the evidence that inspired them.”

I want to point out here why this is important to agriculture. It’s important due to the power of persuasion used in advertising and marketing campaigns. Some of you are already aware of the fear tactics used by food companies pitting one style of farming against another (ie: the great GMO debate and Organic vs Conventional). These fear tactics play on our emotions and health concerns. *As an FYI, I’m not taking sides here, I’m just looking at the tactics and impacts*

How do these powers of persuasion in advertising and media affect our behaviors and beliefs? Here’s how! Let’s use the example of this image below.

Image clip from: http://newmacdonald.onlyorganic.org/
Image clip from:
http://newmacdonald.onlyorganic.org/

As a mother, the first thing I notice in this image is the toxic sign to the left of the image and the brown sky. Second thing I notice is the no spray zone and the sun shining in the blue sky. As a farmer, this is a polarized image with zero fact based information.

How does this clip use the power of persuasion with fear appeals? Well, that type of farming to left appears to be dirty (brown sky) and toxic (the sign). It looks unhealthy even with the corn growing exactly the same as the right image. The type of farming on the right shows me a beautiful landscape with sunny blue skies and the idealist image of what we would all want farms in our neighborhoods to be. See that little logo at the top, with the “join the New MacDonald Movement”, well that gives us a directive to what to do as the next step if we “fear for our environment”.

Here’s the funny thing. The New MacDonald is the OLD MACDONALD! It’s the image of what we all think as consumers of what we want farms to look like. It’s the image we’ve seen our entire lives as we’ve driven past farms in rural areas. To be honest, I’ve never once witnessed huge puffs of pesticides bigger than the clouds in the sky. I’ve never once seen green soils in corn fields. I’ve never once witness a brown, dirty sky (other than a dust bowl which I’ve never physically witness, just to clarify).

This image is very polarizing and untrue. Now, let’s see some reactions if this was done in real time with real people. (Pay close attention to the reactions in the audience, staged or not they still impact us with a power of persuasion)

Say you are a farmer now that sits on the other side of the fence. You aren’t organic, yet you aren’t a conventional farmer either (like me, by the way). I know you will find these images and tactics rather disturbing. I’m sure you noticed that NOT ONCE was there any factual information that discussed any type of real environmental impacts, crop yields, or hell, even a tractor (not one? How can this be?)

Peripheral routes to persuasion are one’s that makes us feel good and making us “feel good” about let’s say choosing Organic based products is saving the environment, creating a better life for animals and giving us the perspective of all those farms we pass by on road trips. While in reality, some organic farms aren’t any different than what’s deemed a conventional farm. Yet after many view this imagery, they associate a feeling of bad and negative to any farmer not carrying the organic label.

Why is this bad for all of us? Let’s go back to the  quote at the top about belief perseverance. If ten people see this image for the first time and believe the center line of demarcation, all farmers that are not organic are deemed as bad, untrustworthy and uncaring. Even when these 10 people are presented with fact based information and many times know farmers they can talk too (either in person or via social media), 7.5 people will still hold the belief that it’s organics only from now on.

Now, I want all of you folks that are non-organic believers to step back for just two seconds and put on your thinking cap. Haven’t some of us done the same thing? How many are sitting there right now thinking about where their beliefs come from that GMO’s are good or that spraying pesticides are okay for the environment? With the sheer number of farmers that are generational farmers, I will lay money on the table (that I don’t have to spare) that you use the systems you do because your dad did it and everything turned out okay. Some will say that they have read the research and they are confident in their belief. How can you be when for every pro scientific study their is one that contradicts the findings?

Many of us will immediately jump on the band wagon to refute claims, as I did above. Here’s the issue with counter arguing: If you aren’t convincing enough in your counter appeal, all you do is build resistance against your viewpoints. It’s called attitude inoculation and very much like immunizing someone with a low dose vaccine. The more you argue, the higher the vaccine and the more resistant the opposing side becomes.

Why is all this important in today’s world of agriculture? It’s important because to be FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED. We live in a world today full of available outlets and inlets for information. Just be aware that everywhere we look someone is trying to persuade us to their side. I think Myer’s had some good advice for everyone to use, farmer or consumer, it doesn’t matter….

“To be persuasive, you have to stimulate people’s thinking. stimulating thinking makes strong messages stronger and weak messages less persuasive.” (Myers, D.  Part 3 Social Influence, Social Psychology, p. 180.)

What we think of a message is crucial. That’s where our beliefs come in, but don’t argue your case unless you have all your counter arguments lined up and are prepared to have the case you’re making not result in immunization of the recipient. Second, if you are going to make your case…. make it first. I’ve said before (and I’m going to continue expressing it) that you need to be proactive, not reactive.

You have to get people’s undivided attention, present your case (with facts preferably) and keep repeating your message.

What’s my message in all this? I just want people, all of us, to sit back and think about the arguments we all have over food production. Some of us know and understand that it takes all of us and that many farmers make the best decisions they can based on the information and circumstances in front of them. Let’s stop focusing so much on peripheral and subliminal advertising and start communicating with each other directly. Today’s farmers are much more available than ever before. The diversity of farmers on Twitter alone is staggering and they are from all regions in the world.

Communication between the producer and consumer are crucial to the future. All of us have the same goals in mind for the future: Safe, healthy and nutritious food for everyone. Can we stop throwing up prison fences around one production form over another? No one wants to climb chain link fence to get ripped to shreds by razor wire. Each side does it too. Stop demonizing others for their choices, hold open discussions, everyone ask each other questions. Take the power back to make your own educated decisions, not just follow along because someone told you to.

I’m hoping this gives everyone as much food for thought as it did me. Please feel free to comment, add remarks, whatever.

Make It Monday ~ Pumpkin Muffins

Last Friday, I decided to make some pumpkin muffins. Rich’s family planted a whole field of pumpkins this year and some were rather small. I took a couple of them and made puree from scratch.

I just cut it up into chunks, removed the innards and baked on a rack in the oven at 350 until the pumpkin “meat” was nice and soft. I also find that if you add a little water to the pan, it prevents everything from drying out too much.

Once I removed the skin by scoping the pumpkin off with a spoon, I reserved everything into a bowl. While it cooled, I started looking up some recipes online. I happened to stumble across this one: Pumpkin Muffins and decided I would give it a try with some slight alterations.

Instead of adding in pumpkin puree and water, I assumed (yeah, I know…shame on me) they were using canned pumpkin which is much thicker. Instead, I decided that since the homemade puree was a little more watery I would just add 3 cups of pumpkin. In addition to this, I also added 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

Everyone who had any gave rave reviews. They were moist and very flavorful. I will be making more in the very near future. I may even try some with cheese cake frosting too.

When you open the link, you will find all sorts of alterations that can be done as well. If you make some, feel free to share your results!

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Make it Monday ~ Noodles

Okay…so I’m a day late. Been some issues around here with our furnace and our dog. They were more important than a blog post but I’m still here today.

Today, I want to share a recipe for something that we all know and love! Noodles! You can’t make chicken noodle soup or chicken alfredo without them.

I don’t have any photos but will get some the next time I actually make some.

My recipe comes from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook. It was originally published in 1896 and is hands down my favorite cookbook. You can get new prints used through Amazon for around  $5 and it’s well worth it, especially if you like old fashioned recipes with grandma’s home cooking tastes.

The recipe is called Homemade American-Style Noodles.

Ingredients:
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups flour

Directions:
Beat the yolks and egg until they are light. Beat in the salt and 3 tablespoons of cold water. Using your hands, work the flour into this mixture to make a stiff dough. Cut into three equal parts. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest a few minutes. Dust a board or pastry cloth with flour and roll out one part of the dough as thin as possible. Cover with a dishcloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat with the other two pieces. Sprinkle one sheet of dough very lightly with flour and roll up like a jelly roll. With a sharp knife, cut across the roll into 1/8″ wide strips for fine noodles and 1/2″ wide for broad noodles. Open out the strips and hang over a broomstick or chair to dry. (I use  wooden spoons over a stock pot).
They will be ready to cook when they have lost their surface dampness. About ten minutes should be enough. Bring a large pot of boiling salted water to a boil and drop the noodles in. Boil vigorously until just tender, roughly 5-10 minutes depending on how thin the noodles are. Pull one out with a fork to taste and determine doneness.

Following this recipe in the cookbook is also a recipe for Alfredo’s Noodles.

Ingredients:
1/4 pound noodle, 1/4″ thick
1/4 pound unsalted butter, melted
1 cup heavy cream, warmed
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions:
Have a large cowl warmed and ready before you cook the noodles. Drain the cooked noodles and put them into the bowl. Quickly add remaining ingredients, tossing briskly to coat all the noodles, and serve at once.

There are about 20 different recipes for these noodles with a multitude of variations. You can also flavor your noodles too. Instead of adding cold water, you can use cold carrot or spinach puree. I’m thinking of trying some with pumpkin and the alfredo topping, just to see what it tastes like as a nice fall alternative.

If you try any recipe shared, we would love your feedback and to hear of any successful alternatives or even failures! Just leave a comment or a link if you repost!

Happy Eating!

Make it Monday – Latte

Everyone seems to be buzzing this year on social media about milks in Lattes at certain coffee houses. In an effort to demonstrate the ingredients used and give you a choice an how to make your own at home, I did some research and some taste testing.
I used fresh, raw milk straight off the farm but you can use any milk, so long as it’s whole milk. I’ve read where others have used substitute items like coconut milk but I don’t keep those on any trees in my lawn.
I will tell you that I like a little vanilla flavoring, so I did a splash of extract to both the tea and the milk. This was especially delicious when I used peach tea instead of black tea.
I would love your feedback and recommendations on anything you try! Here is the base recipe I used:

Ingredients for Tea
• 2 cups water
• 2 black tea bags (add additional from stronger tea flavor)
• 2 whole cloves
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground ginger
• ½ teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
• 2 tablespoon maple syrup
Ingredients for Latte (Milk mixture)
• ¾ cup whole milk
• 1 tablespoon maple syrup
• Pinch of ground cinnamon
• 2-3 tablespoons pumpkin puree (or other fruit if you desire flavoring)

Directions:
For tea, bring water and spices to a boil. Turn off and steep for 5 minutes. Turn heat back on, add tea bags and maple syrup. Return to a slight boil. Turn off again and steeping for an additional 5 minutes. Remove bags and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Use ½ cup (per serving), reserve the rest in the fridge.
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, maple syrup, cinnamon and any optional fruit puree (whisk this in milk as it heats) to a slight boil. Make sure to stir often. Remove from heat and use a submissersion blender until milk is frothy.
Pour tea to use in a mug, slowly add the frothy milk to the tea. Garnish with a pinch of cinnamon and serve hot.

Tasty Thursday #4 – Donuts

It’s been a rough week around here with freezing cold temperatures, massive sinus issues (Doreen) and major organization (aka spring cleaning with a twist).  Since Mr. Farmer had Monday off from work for MLK day, I decided to make an extra treat this week full of goodies that I’m not really meant to have in my diet.

It’s rare that you will have me share recipes that include so much of these ingredients, but these are too good to not share!

Ingredients:
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp boiling water
1 tsp dry active yeast
2 cups all purpose flour (actually you will want slightly less and I recommend starting with about 1-1/2 cups then add a little until you get the right consistancy of “sandiness” when mixturing with butter)
3 tbsp of sugar
1 egg
1/4 stick of butter at room temperature

Oil enough to cover a few inches in the bottom of a deep pan or a deep fryer.

Directions:
In a large measuring cup, combine milk and boiling water. Add in one teaspoon of the sugar and yeast. Stir gently to combine and then leave in a warm place until the yeast mixture foams.
In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry blender until it looks like crumbles.
Add in the egg after a quick beat (I do this with my finger or fork right in the flour butter mixture prior to mixing it in) and add the yeast mixtures. Mix until dough is smooth. This could take a little time, so be patient.
Turn the dough onto a light floured counter and knead for 5-10 minutes. You will notice a springy texture and air bubbles forming in the dough when it is ready. Place it back in the bowl, allow to raise for about an hour or it’s double in size in a warm location. After it has doubled in size, you can either flatten the dough to cut into round donuts or just form balls for holes. Once you have the desired shapes, set them on a baking sheet, again in a warm location and cover with a towel. Let donuts raise while you are heating the oil to 375 degrees. Fry for approximately 2 minutes per side.

Glaze:
I use powdered sugar and a liquid (I will discuss the further in just a second) until it forms an running sauce for applying. There really is no need to measure this. Start by adding powdered sugar into a bowl, add a little bit of liquid and stir with a spoon. Keep adding a little liquid until the mixture is able to be poured from a spoon.

For the liquid to go into the glaze, you can add just about anything. To give your donuts a little pick me up kick, you can use orange juice or lemon juice. Want a little alcohol, you can add in a little tequila (works perfect with lime zest inside the donut and all you have to do is mix it in with the yeast) or even bourbon. You can even use melted butter for a creamier glaze.

So there you have the treat this week. Granted it’s not all that healthy but hey, it’s homemade! Hope you enjoy!

Tasty Thursday #3 – Thimble Soup

Beef Stuffed Dumplings

For a little background, I found this amazing recipe over on Give Recipe while doing an internet search for ravioli. Boy am I glad I did!

She calls it Thimble Soup or it’s called yüksük çorbası. It’s actually a popular wedding dish in Turkey according to her blog. We sure didn’t celebrate a wedding but the marriage of ingredients made my mouth very happy. I did have to change up the ingredients from her original recipe due to some dietary restrictions…so here is what I came up with.

Dough for dumpling wrappers
4 cups flour
3 eggs
2 cups water (I need WAY less, so I recommend adding about a 1/2 cup and then a little at a time until it balls together)
2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients, by hand mixing and kneading (wet hands to prevent sticking) until the dough doesn’t stick to you hands. Divide into 4 big equal parts.

Filling
Chopped Onion
1 lb Ground Beef
Parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together.

Now flour the counter and place a dough ball. Flour the top and flatten with your hands. I used a rolling pin to roll it out, dusting with flour to prevent sticking until I got it very thin. I could almost see through it at this point. You can now use a knife or pizza cutter to cut squares or you can use a small 2″ biscuit cutter. Now place a small bit of the meat filling into the center. Pull up edges and combine corners. There are many different methods to choose from. I like the referenced one in the link above or even small half moons. I actually have a tart crimper that would work perfect for this task! One sealed, set aside on a tray with a small space around each one.

Now that you have  your dumplings built, it’s time to boil them in broth. Use a large stock pot for this.

Broth Bath
2 cups beef broth
2 cups chickpeas (I used home canned sweet corn instead)
1 lemon (juiced)
4 cups water

I actually did 6 cups of beef broth instead of the broth and water since I also altered away from the chickpeas.
Bring to a boil, slowly add the dumplings. As they begin to float, in roughly 10 minutes, remove from heat and add one cup of cold water.
*Since I had several pots full because I made all of the dough and filling instead of cooking them in the oven for a later date, I would pull them out of the broth bath and submerge into a bowl of cold water with just enough to cover them until the pot was refilled. These have very good flavor at this point and could be topped with just about anything or eaten plain, as is (I had to taste test them at this point). I then added them into the sauce base after draining the water.

Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp pepper paste (I used 1 tsp of red pepper flake)
1 tsp dried mint
Paprika powder to taste
2 grated tomatoes (I used stewed tomatoes we had canned up this last year)

Once the sauce is heated and the tomatoes are just pulp, remove from heat. This is the stage that I just added the boiled dumplings. Once all of your dumplings are cooked, then go ahead and add in 1 cup of water to the last batch of boiling dumplings after removing from heat. Stir in your sauce base and pre-cooked dumplings and it’s all ready to be served.

On the page I pulled this recipe from, I noticed that she also tops with a yogurt and garlic cream. It’s 1 cup of yogurt with three mashed cloves of garlic combined. I think sour cream would work just as good or maybe even a cream cheese and garlic. For those that can’t have dairy, I recommend using mashed cauliflower and garlic.

So there you have it. The best overall meal I think I have ever experimented with. Not too overly spicy and perfect for subzero temperature days!

A steaming bowl of yummy goodness!
A steaming bowl of yummy goodness!