Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mike's beets

Back in the days when I had the restaurant, I would arrive to my kitchen very early in the morning to start the fire in the brick oven and begin the daily bread. Very often there would be a box at my back door filled with beautiful red beets
still fragrant and covered in fine black soil, barely roused from their previous life in the ground at Mike's farm up on the ridge.
Every so often he would give me a trophy beet, the size of a small child's head, leaving me with a somewhat macabre and uneasy feeling as I cradled the beet, washing , then cutting and preparing to roast.
Mike claims the beets come into their finest flavor and maturity after the first frosts. As if the coldness and tiny ice particles imbue and inspire the beet to rise to the peak of it's qualities. I have to say he's right. Even when the beets are large, they still are smooth and rich, pungent and sparked.
Last year Mike and his partner Karen bought a strip of land in downtown Point Arena, it runs parallel to Mill Street and flanked by rolling pastures and Shit Creek. There, on this narrow strip of fertile and gentle land
he raises Muscovy ducks, Nubian Goats, sheep, rabbits and chickens, all for food and feeding them from the orchard and bounty of the farm. He collects and uses compost from the nearby co-op and restaurants, and is devoted to the practice of sustainability and bio dynamic farming.
The beets at Mike and Karen's 'Windfall Farm' are one of his signatures. Deep red Lutz, the whimsical Chioggias, thriving in the cool microclimate of Point Arena.
Just a few weeks ago I went down to the farm and bought a basket full of beets and brought them home to pickle. After roasting them in my brickoven I tossed the warm beets in toasted cumin seed and paper thin slices of elephant garlic and preserved Meyer lemon, the toasted cumin seed and peppercorns crackling and hissing as they made contact with the beets, filling my kitchen with a fine and fragrant incense. I then topped off the jars with a sweet brine and processed for about 30 minutes. After I had processed them I lined them up on my stove top, admiring the jars glistening like huge rubies, more luminous than gem , more precious than treasure.

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