Frost Seeding, and 100 year old family meat sauce recipe
Good afternoon friends of North Mountain Pastures,
What are we doing with these seeds in the middle of winter? I know, spring is in the air, but there’s still ice!
This is called frost seeding.
Cold nights and warm days don’t just mean good time for making maple syrup. It is also the time for frost-seeding pasture improvements. This is kind of a low-tech wonder for getting good seed to soil contact (which would otherwise require either the good luck of absolutely perfect weather conditions, or tractors and implements). In late winter/early spring, when the ground is freezing hard at night, and thawing during the day, the moisture in the ground freezes and expands, heaving the soil up into little mounds, creating tiny pockets for the seeds to fall down into. Then during the day, the ground thaws, contracting back down and pressing those seeds in.
Thanks, nature, for working in our seeds for us!
In spring through fall, we rotate sheep and sows (mama pigs) through the pastures. The pigs do eat a lot of grass and plants, but they also like to root, so they have a nice muddy spot to lay down in, and for roots or grubs or soil or whatever it is they like to eat in the ground. In an average paddock grazed carefully, about 1/8th of the area is left with bare soil when they are done with it. We then seed these areas with a pasture mix of seasonally appropriate grasses, clovers, radishes, and other plants. This allows a quick growth of plants to cover the exposed soil, which is necessary for increasing soil quality and stability, and it is also a way of improving the pastures. As I wrote about seeding before, many of the species of grasses and legumes that we plant are much more palatable and nutritious perennials than what was there before.
Thanks, pigs, for working up some of the ground for us!
Recipe: Nonna Santini's Famous Meat Sauce
This is a basic meat sauce that was passed down in my family from my Dad's grandmother Nazarena, who grew up in the Marches region of Italy. This sauce is so rich and flavorful that it makes a tremendous meal to feed a crowd or with lots of leftovers and freezer containers for another day. It requires slow cooking, so it is perfect for the crockpot or a weekend at home where you can enjoy the cooking aromas all afternoon. I know that tomatoes are not currently in season, but I feel lucky to have whole canned tomatoes this time of year to remind me of the summer sun. This is a great time of year to EAT this recipe, as it is warming and hearty. Does that count as seasonal cooking?
optional - 1 package of saltpork (our guanciale or tesa would be perfect for this, as they are not smoked)
extra virgin olive oil
1 head of garlic
1/4 teaspoon allspice
pinch ground cloves
1 small can tomato paste (optional) and same can of water
1 chuck roast or other beef cut that needs long cooking (short ribs would work well)
1-2 lbs hot italian sausage and/or 1-2 lbs pork shanks or shoulder roast
2-3 cans whole crushed tomatoes (use a good organic
This is super easy. Heat the oil in a large pot, and add diced saltpork (optional) and the chopped garlic and gently cook. While it is lightly frying, add the allspice and cloves, and the jar of tomato paste if using. If you do use the tomato paste, mash it around in the olive oil, letting it brown a bit, and then fill the can with water and add that to the pot. Don't worry about browning the meat, just add the meat to the oil mixture, and then add whole crushed tomatoes to cover the meat, about 2-3 large cans. Cook on low simmer, covered for 3 hours. If you are going to have it in the crockpot for more than 5 hours, I would omit the sausage or wait to add it in the last hour.
This is traditionally served with a large bowl of pasta, with some of the sauce mixed into the pasta, but with the meats in a separate bowl.
I wish I had a picture of this to share. I will try to post one next time I get to eat this at my Dad's house. Next time you get slow cooking pork and beef cuts in your CSA share, you know what to do. Enjoy!
Thanks as always for buying locally grown foods,