In This Edition:
Old Schoolhouse Brewery
Notes from the Farmer
Next Seattle Markets: Aug 5th (Ballard Only)
Online Special: 15% Off Hard White Wheat Flour
Notes from the Farmer
Weather-wise, July proved to be as interesting and exciting as any I recall here in the Methow. Mother Nature gave us some of the high heat we might expect this time of year, but also several afternoon and evening thunderstorms pretty much month-long. We experienced humidity reminiscent of the Northeast not the Northwest. Although anxious about our crops, the puffy skies, fresh breezes and multiple rainbows certainly did give an extra beauty to these rolling foothills.
What’s more, our grains seemed to have survived it all so far, if not a little grateful for the extra moisture. As I mentioned, we’ve gotten the heat and now as the month winds down the drier weather seems to have arrived and that fast, I noticed our biggest emmer field has begun to turn shiny and taken on a slight, golden hue. I spent a couple evenings walking through and evaluating the emmer while the wind tossed the long, awned heads about in spiral currents that indeed appeared river-like. I swear this grain holds special magic during every stage of its existence. Still and all, one of the best times will be when we get it harvested!
By the looks, we may begin this harvest by late August as I’d hoped. In fact, our earlier wheat fields may come off by the third week. Our irrigation is off for the season, we’ve serviced our combine and spiffed it up for the two weeks or so it gets to shine. Now that we’ve finished turning under our cover crops there comes a welcomed break in our field work. We hope August is full of hot, dry days to slowly cure our crops while the cicada begin to fill the evening with their wonderful voices and bird-song is more for the very early morning and again at dusk.
No shortage of activity here at the granary! July was another lively month for Walt cleaning and milling grains as the orders keep right on coming thanks to all of you. We’re getting down to the last of the 2011 crop which seems to be running very well. We are consolidating what is left, cleaning out our bins and preparing for a new crop. In next month’s news, I look forward to the first report of this year’s harvest and hopefully a positive report not just on volume, but quality.
Meanwhile, I’ll remind you readers about one of this farmer’s favorite summer meals: Half a dozen (or so) fresh-caught brook trout coated in Bluebird’s cracked emmer with just a pinch of sea salt, seared in a heavy skillet of peanut oil. For breakfast, I prefer the trout split on toast along-side fried fresh eggs. For lunch on a bed of butter-crunch lettuce. For supper paired with sautéed green beans, zucchini and onion. But just about anything else works.
Yes, the Labs and I have made it to our favorite stream! I hope many of you are getting out to enjoy the finer aspects of summer, however it suits your fancy. With August upon us and the daylight beginning to lean more each day, are we not reminded how fast the season goes...?
Bluebird News & Events
Monthly online special: 15% off Hard White Wheat Flour
Trout Unlimited Farm-to-Table dinner is slated for September 2 at Methow Valley Ciderhouse. For tickets go to www.brownpapertickets.com or call 509.881.7690. All proceeds go toward helping farmers in Okanogan County comply with Salmon Safe Standards.
Seattle Market Schedule
Our next markets are as follows:
August 5: Ballard Market
Please Note: NO U-District Market in August
September 1: U-District Market
September 2: Ballard Market
Recipe of the Month:
OH MY, Cherry Pie
Recipe by: Bluebird Grain Farms
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cherry Pie Filling
4 cups fresh pitted pie cherries
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca
Pinch of sea salt
Combine pitted pie cherries, sugar, almond extract, salt, and tapioca and set aside for 15 minutes.
While filling sits prepare pie crust.
1 1/2 cup Bluebird Grain Farms hard white whole grain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup chilled butter, cubed
3-4 tablespoons cold water
By hand: combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Work the butter into the flour with a knife, or pastry cutter or fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle the ice water onto the crumbly dough and with your hands push the dough from the sides to the middle of the bowl to form a ball that holds together.
Transfer to a work surface. Cut the dough in half, place half on top of the other and press down. Repeat this step a two more times until all the water in incorporated into the dough.
To Roll dough: On wax paper with a floured surface gently flatten the ball of dough with a rolling pin. Place another piece of wax paper on top of flatten dough. Starting from the center, roll the dough into a circle- the size of your tart pan. Peel the top layer of wax paper off the dough and flip the dough over onto the pan. Carefully peel the other layer off the dough and form crust to pan.
In food processor: Blend flour, salt, and sugar together. Add butter by pulsing cube by cube. When butter is incorporated slowly pulse in cold water until dough begins to bind. Take dough out of processor and follow steps above to roll the dough.
Spoon filling into crust. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Cool before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Vendor Profile: Laura & Casey Ruud of Winthrop's Old Schoolhouse Brewery
Many chefs and restauranteurs speak fondly of childhoods spent in the kitchen with mom or grandma, of baking yeast bread or hand-rolling pasta as teenagers, and of lives in which the preparation of food plays a central role. But not Old Schoolhouse Brewery owners Laura and Casey Ruud. When asked about their backgrounds in cooking, Laura answers readily, “Zero!” She clarifies, “[Before buying the brewery] we had no experience in cooking. We did, however, have strong backgrounds in project management and personnel management. When we bought the brewery we applied those skills to this project.”
“This project” was the culmination of a vision that began simply as a desire for a river venue for family gatherings. Back when the pub was called the Winthrop Brewing Company, the Ruuds used to spend evenings there, sketching cabin designs on paper napkins. After building (and living in) several of these cabins, the Ruuds’ interest in transitioning out of the building business coincided serendipitously with the pub owner’s desire to sell the brewery. “We had a sentimental attachment to the place,” Casey says wistfully. “We’d always had a dream of having a big place on the river where friends and family could get together—and suddenly there it was.”
With no restaurant background and neither cooking nor brewing experience, the Ruuds took a bit of a plunge in buying the pub. When asked about their motivation for entering the restaurant business, Casey’s answer is unequivocal: “Because I’m married to a crazy woman.”
Crazy perhaps, but there is a method to the madness. “Our philosophy and operating policy was to offer simple and good quality food on our menu—things we could cook ourselves if we needed to,” Laura explains. “We’re lucky enough to have a head cook who has worked here for almost 20 years now,” she says, “but for one whole winter Casey and I did it ourselves. We just bought the best ingredients we could and we prepared them very simply.”
The ability to apply relevant skills apparently runs in the family, as evidenced by the Ruud’s installation of their son Blaze as the head brewer. “Blaze’s educational background is in physics, chemistry, and math,” Casey says. “He had no experience with brewing beer.” But Blaze understood the science behind brewing and simply figured it out; within a year of his first batch he was winning awards for his beer, in what soon became a trend that continues unabated. “Blaze is unusually gifted in his ability to make beer,” adds Laura.
With a mixture of pride and exasperation in his voice, Casey describes his son. “Blaze is the least adventuresome person on the planet. He’s a disciplined, rigid-thinking person, that’s why his beer is consistent and consistently good. He doesn’t have a lot of failures.”
“It’s a real challenge to get him to explore,” Casey continues. Casey, on the other hand, is very creative and bold, trying his hand at unusual craft beers whenever Blaze lets him into the brewery. “The Coconut Beer was my idea. I also made a Blueberry Cream Ale. It was spectacular. When we served it we put fresh blueberries in the glass and they would float to the top. It was so gimmicky. People loved it. Blaze thought it was blasphemy,” says Casey. “I’ve been fired by Blaze twice,” he admits cheerfully.
Laura’s analysis of the dynamic is more diplomatic. “Casey and I are spontaneous, Blaze is more methodical and pragmatic. It’s a good balance. We push things forward, he keeps us grounded. It means we move forward in a responsible way.”
Moving forward for the brewery currently means a gradual shift to healthier choices. “We’re a pub, so we have to have burgers, fries, and other regular pub items,” Laura explains, “but each year we’re trying to pare down our less healthy items and fill our menu with foods that are more local, more organic, more healthy and fresh.” Customers’ palates are shifting in this direction, too, says Laura, as a result of a nationwide movement toward healthy, local fresh foods that is increasingly subscribed to in the Methow Valley. “When you visit the valley you don’t want to be bogged down by heavy food,” says Laura. “You want to have a beer, have a veggie wrap or a homemade black bean burger, and get back out on the trails.”
In their quest to incorporate as many locally grown and produced foods as possible into their menu, the Ruuds encountered Bluebird Grain Farms. “We have such a great Emmer Farro salad,” says Laura. “I think it’s basically one of the recipes Bluebird has on its website, but it has our tangy-sweet sauce made with Rocking Horse Bakery’s spicy mustard and some secret ingredients,” she adds mysteriously.
Other locally-produced and sourced foods on the pub’s menu include organic chevre cheese from Sunny Pine Farm, Alaskan halibut from Hank’s Market, and fair trade organic coffee from Backcountry Coffee Roasters, whose cold-pressed espresso is also used in the Backcountry Stout.
For the Ruuds, one of many unexpected joys of owning and operating Old Schoolhouse Brewery has been the roots it has established for them in the valley. With two Ruud kids brewing beer and another working in the restaurant, as well as several long-term staff, the pub truly has become a family operation. Other connections have been formed within the community, particularly with the local vendors the Ruuds rely on. “We live in Pine Forest and every day we drive past Moccasin Lake Ranch, and there is Sam [Lucy] toiling in the fields,” says Laura. “We see him growing the emmer farro that will be on the table at the pub and we are reminded that we’re a part of this network of community resources. We’re forming these connections that are so much more important than how many burgers we sell.”
Casey says “Everything we’re doing is because we value our family, our connections with our community, and our relationships with friends. The pub is simply the stage we’re on while we’re living our lives.”
Learn more about Old Schoolhouse Brewery by visiting their website.