Thursday, November 24, 2016

Give Small Farms a Big Hand

A small family with big hearts, dreams and the strongest of work ethics reach an even bigger community through the animals they raise and the foods that they sell.  Beef, pigs, chickens, eggs, sheep and turkeys-all raised humanely, free range and chemical free on their West Virginia farm-then processed in their USDA plant and sold in their own farm store. . . it's a 15 hour a day project, 7 days a week.  Then there's outreach through Farmers Markets and restaurant sales.  Other farmers bring their animals to the plant for processing and the devoted customers grow even bigger.  There seems to be no stopping the Hardesty family and their work at the Working H Farms.  But it's never easy.  Sickness and sometimes excessive demands rear yet they make it through, with even more satisfied customers than before.  Small business supports an extended community. . . and we support them.  

I get a message early Monday morning (Thanksgiving Week) asking for help at the store.  Two of the six regular staff will not be in and 200 turkeys plus are ordered.  Four relief staff quickly respond and the work continues.  I get the easy job, working the front of the store, taking calls, waiting on customers and organizing.  The professionals tackle the turkey processing line. 
The work continues, ice baths, trimming, weighing, vacuum packing and tagging.  One of the most tedious parts of the process was matching a specific turkey and weight to the customer who ordered. Think about it, finding a 16.27 pound turkey in a cold cooler with a couple hundred turkeys can't be easy, yet making a game of it made it fun.

Less than 24 hours after the turkeys walked cage free they were delivered to customers to place in their home refrigerators ready for the Thursday meal.

Here's my Thanksgiving platter-full of local foods: 
Turkey from Working H marinated in a brine made with Martinsburg Apples,
Cornbread Stuffing made with Hawthorne Valley Blue Cornmeal, Working H Italian Sausage, Stewart's Farm Celery, Evans Knob Farm Fennel and Mountain Harvest Onions,
Maple Roasted Carrots featuring the crisp roots from Mountain Harvest and Charm Farm Maple Syrup,
Mashed Potato Casserole with Potatoes from Harmony Farms and Firefly Farms Cheese. 
Our appetizer platter contained Broccoli and Purple Cauliflower from DeBerry Farms.

My friend Becky made delicious homemade rolls and Black Cherry Jello.  The black cherry dish was Luke's Grandmothers' recipe that "cleaned the palate" and was a delicious alternative to cranberry sauce.

The potato recipe was inspired by Food and Wine Magazine, a make-ahead recipe assembled, then baked prior to the meal.

Mashed Potato Casserole

(Serves 8)

Combine potatoes and water to cover by 2 inch in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and cook 12 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl.
2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in inch pieces

Add buttery spread and mix.  Fold in cheese and spices.
1 tablespoon Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk, warmed in microwave
1 tablespoon celery leaves
1 1/2 teaspoon sage
4 ounce Gruyere Cheese, shredded
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash
Spread into baking dish greased with olive oil spray.

Mix crumbs and cheese.
3 tablespoon breadcrumbs
3 tablespoon Parmigiana Cheese
Sprinkle over potatoes.

Bake at 400 F. until internal temperature reaches 150 F.

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