Pin It Crippen Creek Chronicles: 2011

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Stockings Were Hung

It was 13 years ago that Kitty stitched in needlepoint the first Christmas stocking for our family. This week she completed her seventh stocking. Each stocking has approximately 3000 stitches and countless hours. If that, in and of itself isn't amazing, consider that when she started that first stocking, Kitty was in a battle for her life against melanoma. It did not seem possible that she would ever complete the first stocking let alone seven of them and plans to start on one for our grandson Luca for next year. There will never be room for any coal in these stockings because they are already overflowing with love, hope and gratitude. We wish each of you the happiest of holidays and a New Year filled with the gifts that truly matter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

French Onion Soup

"Only the pure of heart can make good soup."

Is there anything more comforting on these frigid days than a bowl of piping hot soup? It's probably fair to say that whatever soup I happen to be eating is my favorite soup of that moment. But truly at the top of my list has to be French Onion Soup. We have had several requests for the recipe after posting a picture of it on Facebook, so here is my favorite version from a book called Taste by David Rosengarten.
The best we have ever enjoyed in a restaurant was at The French Cafe in Omaha, Nebraska.


Makes 2 servings

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds of yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin
Large pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of beef stock
½ cup of dry white wine
Cheesecloth bag containing 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 12 parsley sprigs, 8 peppercorns, and 1 bay leaf
6 slices day-old crusty French baguette (enough to cover the surface of each soup bowl), cut 1 inch thick
1 large clove garlic, halved
½ cup finely minced onion
2-3 tablespoons of cognac or brandy
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over moderately low heat. Add the onions, and toss them with the sugar. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally until soft. Uncover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 30 minutes.
2. Add the flour, and cook, stirring for 30-60 seconds. Add the stock, wine, cheesecloth bag, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook, partially covered, skimming off fat occasionally, for 40 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange the slices of bread on a baking sheet; brush both sides with melted butter, season with salt and pepper and bake, turning once, for 15 minutes, or until golden and firm. Rub each slice with the cut garlic.
4. Transfer the soup to individual oven proof crocks, each 4-5 inches across the top. Stir the minced onion and cognac into each crock, dividing evenly. Cover the soup with bread slices, fitting 3 slices into each crock so they cover as much of the surface as possible. Lay the slices of Gruyere over each crock, letting the cheese hang over the sides of the crocks. Sprinkle with grated cheese and drizzle with a little melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
5. Run the crocks under a preheated broiler until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Bon appetit!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Where did Summer Go?

“Summer is kind of like the ultimate one-night stand: hot as hell, totally thrilling, and gone before you know it.”
-unknown source

At first it seemed that summer would never arrive here in the Northwest. The rain was relentless leaving us with a muddy garden that was too wet to plant. It was June before we could get anything in the ground and it had all the makings of a green tomato year. We finally managed to get two hoop houses up and Kitty worked diligently to get our hot weather crops and watering system in while I cobbled together some raised beds for the outer garden. While folks in the East and South suffered oppressive heat, we were teased with only 2-3 days in a row of sunshine only to have the rain return for several days. It was August before any semblance of summer actually arrived. Here it is fall already and lo and behold we are harvesting our best garden crops since we moved here. Tomatoes are actually ripening and they are some of the best we have ever tasted. Bell peppers have always been difficult to grow here even in a hoop house and this year they are prolific and huge. It looked like the eggplant was never going to produce and now it’s all we can do to keep up with it. Here's a photographic look at this year's bounty. We will devote the next few postings to sharing ideas and recipes for using our bounty.

So how did your garden grow and what preservation tips do you have to share?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Cherry Pie and Buttermilk Ice Cream

My obsession with cherry pie began 3 years ago when a neighbor let us pick cherries from his Montmorency cherry tree. He said that he didn’t like these cherries, but he sure seemed to like them when they were transformed into a pie. I also discovered after 36 years of marriage that cherry pie is Kitty’s favorite. Why is the husband always the last to know? It was that same year that I also discovered a “foolproof” pie dough recipe. Until then, I shied away from making pies because of my frustration with rolling out pie dough, even though a well made pie is one of my favorite desserts and breakfasts.
So life is looking pretty good now. I have a neighbor with a flourishing cherry tree, I have overcome my fear of pie dough and I have a way to score extra points with my wife (and I need all that I can get---one “ah shit” wipes out a hundred “atta boys.”)

Cherry Season 2010

Fast forward to the 2010 cherry season. It was only the year before that life seemed like a bowl of cherries but this year I found myself in the pits. My neighbor’s tree failed to produce as did many of the fruit trees that year. I could not find anyone else in the area with a pie cherry tree and there were no cherries available from the local markets. I am suddenly acting like a junkie looking for his next fix as I set out on a quest to find pie cherries. Internet searches for nearby orchards proved futile. Finally out of desperation I enlisted the help of my faithful friends on Facebook. It suddenly seemed like a race to see who would be first to find these elusive cherries. “Ask and you shall receive” is what the Bible says and within a week I found myself awash in pie cherries. Friends, Pat Herrington and Sherry Booth called me from a farmer’s market in Portland saying that found two flats of pie cherries....”do you want them?” “Is the pope Catholic? Of course---just tell me where to meet you,” I replied. “Don’t bother---we’ll drive them out to you,” Pat says. That’s an offer I can’t refuse. So I jump on Facebook, announce the “winner” of the race and thank everyone for their efforts. Ten minutes later, the phone rings and Jane Robinson says that she just picked up some pie cherries for us in Hood River. Apparently Jane isn’t obsessively checking Facebook every few minutes for updates. Kitty met her halfway and returned with 25 lbs. of cherries so you know what our work was for the rest of that day. But it was all worth it to have a little more than a pie a month in the freezer.

Cherry Season 2011
The extended rainy season, the absence of summer, and taking up the slack while Kitty recovers from surgery put cherries far from my mind. However, the phone rings, and Pat and Sherry are there making a preemptive strike. “Hey Don,” Pat says, “we are at the cherry festival in Hood River, how much do you want?” After calculating my work load, I figured that 20 lbs. sounds good. The next day, 20 lbs of cherries delivered to my front door. Those cherries are now stemmed, pitted and frozen for this years' pies. I hesitate to even say this but I just might need another 10 lbs for good measure.

Where’s the recipe already? Hang on—I’m getting to that. I have taunted my Facebook friends over the last year with pictures of pie and ice cream but you can thank recent guest, new found friend and inveterate food blogger, Penny Klett for inspiring me to finally post the recipe. Penny recently honored us with a blog posting called Up On Crippen Creek. Her blog is a real candy store for foodies. Penny recently posted a recipe for Sweet Cherry Pie and made mention of the fact that when she was here, she failed to get my recipe for Sour Cherry Pie and Buttermilk Ice Cream and that my friends is how this post came to be. So without further ado, here is the recipe for Cherry Pie and Buttermilk Ice Cream.

Cherry Pie

This recipe is adapted from THE AMERICA'S TEST KITCHEN FAMILY COOKBOOK. The recipe call for cornstarch as the thickener but I use a product called Instant Clear Gel. That was a tip given to me by a former professional pie baker, Dana Gerstlauer who used to own and operate PIE IN THE SKY in Portland, Oregon. Dana, who is a frequent guest at Crippen Creek swears by Instant Clear Gel and so far I have to agree with her.

1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup cornstarch*
6 cups of fresh sour cherries
Pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon of almond extract
1 recipe of Foolproof pie dough

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position, place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 500°. Mix the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the cherries and almond extract. Spread the filling in the unbaked pie crust bottom.

2. Top with a second pie crust or weave lattice strips over the top for a classic look. Seal and crimp the edges. Lightly brush the top with water and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the top.

3. Place the pie on the heated baking sheet and lower the oven temperature to 425°. Bake until the top is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet, reduce the oven temperature again to 375°, and continue to bake until the juices are bubbling and the crust is a deep golden brown, 30-35 minutes, longer. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and cool to room temperature before serving.


The secret to this "foolproof" pie dough is vodka. One of the problems that I have always had with pie crust is that the minimal amount of water called for made it difficult to roll out the dough without it splitting. Apparently, adding more water develops the gluten and makes for a tough pie crust. According to COOK'S ILLUSTRATED, adding an equal amount of vodka to the water allows you to double your liquid without the gluten building qualities of just using water. Hence, you end up with a more pliable dough that is easy to roll and as flaky as you would hope for.

I use a combination of butter and lard unless I am making it for a vegetarian and then I use shortening. I recommend Spectrum Shortening as it contains no trans fats. It's difficult to find lard today that has not been hydrogenated but we render our own so that's not a problem here.

• 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon table salt
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
• 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces*
• 1/4 cup cold vodka
• 1/4 cup cold water


1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.


I found this recipe on one of my other favorite food blogs called SMITTEN KITTEN.

2 cups heavy cream
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 to 12 large egg yolks (I used 6)
2 cups buttermilk
pinch of salt
1/2 a vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon good-quality vanilla extract
Bring the cream and 1 cup of the sugar to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat (if you’re using the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the cream while it heats as well.)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.
After the cream comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and dribble a small amount into the egg yolks, whisking them constantly, to temper. Continue slowly adding the hot cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking all the while. Once everything is incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan where you heated the cream.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring continuously, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Strain into a bowl and mix in the 2 cups of buttermilk (and the vanilla extract if you are using that instead of the vanilla bean.) Cool this mixture completely, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Makes about 2 quarts.

Pat Herrington and Sherry Booth

David Westmeyer

A Pie for Breakfast Fan

OK pie lovers, we'd like to hear from you. Do you have a tip you would like to share with our readers for pie crusts? What is your fat of choice? How about your thickener of choice....cornstarch, flour, tapioca? Are you a fan of pie for breakfast? We are thinking about hosting a pie for breakfast event here at Crippen Creek. If we bake it, will you come? If you post your comments on the blog and/or share this post on Facebook, we will put your name on the Pie for Breakfast invitation list.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lambing Season

The lambing season began about 3 weeks ago here at Crippen Creek Farm and Kitty and I have been getting quite the education ever since.

I started my morning chores as usual, feeding the chickens and checking the pregnant ewes to see if any of them were going into labor when I heard the distinctive bleating of a baby lamb, "" As I walked through the sheep pasture, I first noticed a still-born baby lamb and then followed the sound of the bleating "" If there is a more plaintive wail than this sound, I don't know what it is. This sweet little lamb became separated from the flock and was actually outside the pasture fence.

I reunited it with its mother but was surprised to see that she seemed disinterested in her offspring. This soon became a community event as Kitty, our guests and our neighbor Andrew Emlen got involved in the bonding process. It's very convenient having the breeder be your neighbor. I guess the idea that it takes a village to raise a child applies to the four-legged variety as well.

Most of that day was spent trying to force a bond between mother and child. We had to forcibly hold the mother(Abrila) still so that the baby(Abba) could nurse. After several attempts at this throughout the day, we decided to pen Abrila and Abba up in very close quarters so that when Abrila stood to eat, the baby could nurse. This seemed to be working well so after a few days we released them to the open pastures thinking the bonding had taken. Not so! Everytime baby (Abba) tried to nurse, mom would just walk away. OK, back to the close quarters drill for more forced bonding. Three more days...release....but no go.

A little help from some friends

Abrila seemed very reluctant to be a mother. We realized that forced feeding or bottle feeding for the next several weeks simply was not going to be a sustainable venture. Then the phone rang. It was Andrew with a bright idea of grafting Abba to one of his ewes (that had just lost twins in a complicated birth). We coated Abba with afterbirth from one of the dead lambs and then turned him over to the bewildered mother, Megan. Megan just happens to be Abba's grandmother. She immediately began to sniff him, lick him and treat him as her very own. Andrew reports that the foster relationship is going well and that Abba can return to Crippen Creek after he is weaned in several weeks.

A reluctant mother

Another attempt at bonding

Grandma Megan to the rescue

A couple days later, it was Andrew's turn to call us for some assistance in birthing a lamb. Actually, it is unusual for this breed (Black Welsh Mountain Sheep) to need human intervention in lambing but from time to time it does become necessary. So Kitty and I and one of our guests headed over to Alcyon Farm to help contain the pregnant ewe while Andrew delivered the lamb. Don't worry if you are a guest at Crippen only have to get involved in the farming if you want to.

Over 2 hours in labor and not making much progress

It's a special privilege to witness and assist a birth

Mother and baby are doing fine

Now back to Crippen Creek Farm. As Kitty and I were headed out to Portland yesterday, we noticed one of the ewes was missing. So we headed into the pasture to find our missing ewe huddled down in a hut with twin lambs that she had birthed during the night. All seemed to be well until later in the day we noticed that one of the lambs was walking kind of funny. She was walking on the knuckles of her rear legs instead of on the hooves. So today Andrew and I put splints on her and are just hoping for the best. One more pregnant ewe to go here. Wish us luck.

Mama is concerned that Farm Boy is a little too close to her babies

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Today at Crippen Creek

Today at Crippen Creek, we woke up to a winter wonderland. A day like to today underscores what one of our guests said about Crippen Creek,
"It's at the end of nowhere and at the beginning of paradise."
-Melanie Barker

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday