There are many pictures of small-scale farmers out there. They generally show things like baskets of perfectly ripe produce, sweet chickens foraging around the feet of smiling woman holding bowls of pristine brown eggs and delightful children swooning over a jar of just bottled honey. You are far less likely to show a farmer beating her head against the barn because a late frost carried off the string beans, the same farmer trudging through 3 feet of snow to collect the eggs in the middle of yet another blizzard or the very un-delightful children complaining that all of their friends are going to Disney over April vacation but they have to stay home because the new bees are being delivered. All of this is leading up to the way I spent my weekend which was scooping up a mass of rotted potatoes that had frozen in the root cellar due to a defect in the air exchange system. Air exchange system is a pretty fancy term for a length of scavenged drier hose. There a probably some things that smell worse than rotted potatoes but I can’t think what they are just now. After tackling that nasty job, I figured I better write a post on the importance of spuds in your garden.
As far as bang for your buck, potatoes are as good as it gets. You can plant one potato in the earth, keep it supplied with some water and mound up the soil to keep the new tubers well covered and, in mid-fall, harvest several pounds of nutrient rich, calorie dense food. Nothing is more versatile than the lowly potato. They can eaten fried with onions for breakfast, stirred into some stock for soup at lunch, or mashed at dinner. They are also the basis for breads, pancakes, casseroles and even wine. As long as they remain disease free, you can save your seed potatoes and swap varieties with friends. I buy certified, organic seed potatoes each spring but I will admit that I’ve grown terrific crops with potatoes I got at the market up the road and even from potatoes I got from the supermarket. That was some years ago and I would not chance that now. I think they’re sometimes sprayed with something to prevent sprouting.
I used some of my potatoes to make perogies on Saturday. I want to tell you how easy they are to make from scratch but that would be a lie. Perogies are actually quite a bit of work. However, the batch I made was enough for dinner on Saturday night, lunch for Phoebe on Sunday and I froze enough for 3 more meals. I had enough leftover mashed potatoes to have fried potatoes with breakfast today and I’m making potato soup for dinner on Monday night.
The recipe is a hybrid. My friend, Heather, is a great Polish cook. I took her instructions and added a few things so they little pies are a lot less healthy but who can argue with sour cream.
For the dough.
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tbls soft butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
I mix the water, sour cream, and beaten eggs and butter in 1 one bowl and the flour and salt in another. Pour the liquid into a well in the middle of the salt and flour, then incorporate with your hand until the dough starts to hold together. Now knead for about 7 minutes and let the dough chill for an hour. While the dough chills, make up a batch of mashed potatoes. I didn’t weigh the potatoes but I’m guessing I used about 3 pounds. I added quite a bit of cheddar cheese and mashed it really well. You don’t want a chunky mash. You want a very smooth mixture that will roll into a ball. Now I used my pasta maker to roll out the dough into thin sheets. I went as far as #5 on my Atlas. You can roll the dough out by hand but it’s a job for sure and you might want some help. I used a water glass to cut the dough. You’re supposed to put a marble-sized piece of mashed potato in one half of the circle, then fold over but I made round perogies and just lay one circle on top of the other and pressed the edges with a fork. Children come in very handy for this part. When I was finished we dropped the perogies into boiling water until they floated (about 6 minutes) then fried them in bacon fat and served them with applesauce and garden peas, the last of the spring’s harvest. They were really good and worth the trouble but I was glad to sit down at the end of the day.