Archive for the ‘Rosh Hashanah’ Category

A Family Meal at Diemand Farm (try it for Rosh Hashanah!)

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

It would be hard to imagine a more beautiful or serene location than that of Diemand Farm. A gently sloping 175-acre property on Mormon Hollow Road in Wendell, Massachusetts, the farm sells chickens, turkeys, and prepared foods. It also offers seating for a few lucky customers.

When I visited the farm a few weeks ago, co-owner Annie Diemand was getting ready for her wedding three days later.

Nevertheless, she took the time to give me a tour of the property and to share a meal with me. That meal, prepared by part-time cook Doreen Stevens, featured a simple yet elegant chicken dish that mingled sweet and sour flavors. Family members, neighbors, and farm hands stopped in to share the feast.

Diemand shares ownership of the farm with her siblings Faith and Peter. Each has an area in which he or she makes decisions, although all three pitch in to help the others whenever needed. Annie Diemand is in charge of the kitchen.

The farm first came into the family in 1936 when the Diemands’ grandfather purchased the property. The Diemand siblings’ parents married in 1940. Their father worked in area factories for several years to supplement the farm income until around 1950, when the farm started to sustain the couple and what eventually proved to be 11 children.

The family began by raising meat chickens. “I remember standing next to my mother cleaning out the gizzards,” Annie Diemand told me as we ate. “That was my job.”

In the mid-1960s the economics of chicken raising made the family change over from meat hens to laying hens. As time went by the Diemands expanded into selling hay and raising a small number of cattle for beef.

In 1989 they tried raising turkeys, starting with 500 birds. This year they plan to raise over 5000 turkeys. I myself have ordered a Diemand turkey for my Thanksgiving table, and I know I’m not alone in my area.

Customers began to ask about purchasing chickens to cook, and the family returned to meat chickens, although the Diemands continue to sell eggs. They also continue to diversify.

Baby Chicks at Diemand Farm

Faith Diemand has added sheep (for food and for wool) to the farm. Peter Diemand is working on a sawmill. Another sibling a few miles away has begun raising pigs and strawberries. A wind turbine is in the works to help power the farm.

Until three years ago the farm’s official store was a self-service enterprise. Now it has regular hours, a cash register, and tables for eating. Popular items to take out and/or eat on the spot include beef shepherd’s pie, pot pies, a variety of soups, and baked goods.

“We have individuals who come every single morning for a cup of coffee and a muffin,” said Annie Diemand. She estimated that from ten to 30 parties stop in each day for food.

Doreen Stevens, who has been working for the Diemands for over a decade, acts and clearly feels like family. She cooks in the roomy farm kitchen three times a week. A former chef at the local technical school comes in one or two days a week to supplement her culinary efforts and those of the Diemand family, who pitch in as needed.

The food is hearty, relying in general on the natural flavors of the Diemands’ poultry and herbs from the garden. “My theory in the kitchen is that nine out of ten times simpler is better,” Stevens told me. The chicken dish below reflects that philosophy. It features few ingredients but packs in a lot of flavor. It would be delicious for Rosh Hashanah, when honey chicken is a perennial menu item–but it’s delicious at any time.

Annie Diemand (left) and Doreen Stevens in the Diemand Farm Kitchen

Diemand Farm Honey Ginger Chicken

Ingredients:

1/2 cup grated fresh ginger (watch your knuckles as you grate!)
1/4 cup finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 cup native honey (Doreen Stevens uses Warm Colors Apiary’s Deerfield Wildflower flavor)
5 to 6 pounds Diemand Farm fresh chicken pieces
chopped herbs as needed for garnish (parsley, chives, and a little thyme)

Instructions:

Place the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, water, and honey in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture just enough to melt the honey and combine all the ingredients. Cool the liquid briefly; then put it in a bowl with the chicken pieces. Marinate the chicken in this liquid in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours, or overnight if possible.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chicken, skin-side down, in a large roasting pan. Pour the marinade over it, and cover the pan with foil. Bake the chicken for 3/4 hour.

Remove the foil, turn the chicken over, re-cover the pan with foil, and roast for another 3/4 hour. Remove the foil, and put the pan back in the oven. Brown the chicken for 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a platter, and cover it to keep it warm. Strain the pan drippings through a fine sieve into a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the drippings are reduced in half to make a sauce. (When I tried the dish I didn’t bother reducing the sauce, and it had plenty of flavor!)

Pour half of the sauce over the chicken and serve the rest on the side.

Sprinkle the chopped herbs over the chicken just before serving. At Diemand Farm this dish is usually served with barley (boiled and tossed with butter and herbs) or brown rice. Buttered noodles would work well, too.

Serves 6 to 8 farmers. (Diemand Farm portions are large!)

Friendship Honey Cake

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

 
One of the reasons that I love my mixed religious heritage (my mother is Christian, and my father was Jewish) is that I have extra holidays to celebrate.
 
I particularly enjoy the two traditions’ far apart and very different new-year markers.
 
The Christian New Year, just beyond the winter solstice, provides hope that spring will come, always a cheerful thought when it’s chilly outside. It gives us an excuse to light up the house on a dark winter night, to prepare something warm like onion soup or oysters, and to share wishes for the future with friends.
 
The Jewish New Year carries with it more religious importance than its Christian counterpart. It also feels newer. It falls in autumn, when we traditionally embark on new enterprises—school, diets, blogs (well, my blog, at any rate). Stretching out over ten days, it gives people time to get in touch with friends and family, to mull over the good and bad parts of the past year, and to get ready for the future. It is both introspective and social, somber and joyful.
 
Visiting my grandparents on Long Island for the High Holy Days was one of the highlights of my childhood. I loved sitting in the upper level of the Temple with my grandmother on Rosh Hashanah. The women kept track of what was going on downstairs, where the men (including my grandfather) went about the business of the shul.
My Grandfather, William "Wolf" Weisblat

My Grandfather, William (originally "Wolf") Weisblat (Courtesy of Bob Kraut)

 
The women also quietly gossiped and wished each other a happy new year, conducting their own social services to complement the religious ones below.
 
My grandmother was one of the social leaders of her community. I don’t mean that she was elegant or a trendsetter. She represented something far more valuable than either of those characteristics–a person to whom her neighbors turned for advice, for a friendly ear, for her large brain and heart. My family tells me that I look like her, and that I’m bossy like her. (I prefer such terms are assertive and knowledgeable.) I’d like to think that I have a little of her skill with people as well.
Sarah Hiller Weisblat in Her Youth (Courtesy of Bob Kraut)

My Grandmother, Sarah Hiller Weisblat, in Her Youth (Courtesy of Bob Kraut)

 
Whenever the Jewish New Year comes around, I like to remember my grandparents and their family with honey, a culinary highlight of this holiday. In the Jewish tradition, food is always more than just food. It’s a symbol of relationships and shared heritage. When we give our friends and relatives honey cake, we hope the gift brings them a sweet new year figuratively as well as literally.

William and Sarah's Children--Benny, Selma, and (my dad!) Abe (Courtesy of Bob Kraut)
William and Sarah’s Children–Benny, Selma, and (the baby, my dad!) Abe (Courtesy of Bob Kraut)
 
The recipe below comes from Micheale Battles, a busy attorney in the D.C. area who still finds time for cooking, family, and religious traditions. Her extended Passover Seder is legendary in northern Virginia. Michaele’s honey cake is called friendship cake because it makes two cakes—one to keep, and one to share with a friend. Michaele ALWAYS puts in the nuts, but I like the cake without them as well so I made them optional in my version of her recipe. The cake itself is dense and flavorful and tastes even better with a little fruit. The coffee in the recipe cuts the honey and makes the flavor subtle.
 
Michaele’s Rosh Hashanah Friendship Honey Cake
 
Ingredients:
 
1 pound honey (1-1/3 cups, according to my friends at Warm Colors Apiary)
1-1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup shortening of your choice (I used butter since I don’t keep Kosher!)
5 eggs, separated
3 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon or to taste
1/2 cup black coffee
1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in the coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts or toasted pecans (optional)
 

Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease 2 loaf pans.
 
Cream together the honey, sugar, and shortening. Add the egg yolks, and mix well.
 
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add them to the honey mixture, alternating with the coffee/baking soda solution. Add the vanilla and the nuts (if you’re using them).
 
Beat the egg whites just until they hold a peak, and fold them into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.
 
Bake for 1 hour (or a little less), or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out dry. Begin looking at the cakes after 40 minutes.
 
If they look brown on the outside but are wet on the inside, turn the oven down to 300 degrees, and continue checking every 5 minutes until the toothpick test works.
 
Let the cakes cool in their pans for 20 minutes;then gently loosen them with a knife or a spatula, and slide them onto a rack to finish cooling. Makes 2 loaves.