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Episode 55 – Cider

10.12.12

So I built a big cider press. Or rather, I had one built. A metal fabricator built the steel frame, and @landonschedler crafted the oak tray. It didn’t take long in test-phase to be in awe at the faucet flow of fresh juice pouring out of it. It works well.

Cider season, having happened the first part of September, feels like a blur. Chad Moss and I spent nearly every day for two to three weeks [don't remember, the blur thing] either in a fruit tree, under a fruit tree, in a vehicle finding a fruit tree, or in my garage crushing and pressing the yield of the fruit tree. We did take breaks to light a fire and prep a meal here and there. And slept. But that was pretty much cider season. If it takes 100lbs of fruit to fill a carboy, I estimate we saw 5-6000lbs of fruit, marked by roughly 400-600lbs of 3-4 different varieties of pears in the mix. Everything from little red crabapples tasting like watermelon jolly rancher to huge baking apples, to apples with bright pink flesh – we saw a lot of apple. Need to keep better records next year, but I’m confident we cracked the kilo-L this year, and likely made it into the 1200-1300L range. Not all for me, of course. And that’s what makes this cider season an epic one. Spent a lot of time with good friends having a lot of good times, revelling in the wealth of fruit, dipping glasses under the tap of fresh juice, sharing meals and drinks and the satisfying fatigue of hard work. A memorable stretch of life, this cider season was. And the cider will now penetrate into our homes, affecting how we’re cooking and drinking, etching itself more deeply into our food culture. Love it.

Episode 54 – Grouse

10.11.12

There are photos kicking about of me when I was 3-4 years old, holding grouse. I think there was talk of this hunt the first week my first daughter was born – an excited grandpa eager to get little ones out hunting again. As she grew up, she increasingly wanted to leave with me when I set out moose hunting. This year was her inaugural hunting trip. It was a lucky one, with a lengthy black bear adventure, mule deer, white tailed deer, a weasel, and lots and lots of grouse. We came home with our possession limit of 15 ruffed grouse. Interestingly, not a single spruce grouse – all ruffed. Don’t remember it rolling that way when I was a kid.

An artsy diary-esque episode this one is. A point of interest for me is that it shows how to break a grouse down with your hands into the breast on breastbone with the necessary wing attached to be able to legally transport the bird – preserves identity of species – and also shows a grouse being plucked. Grouse skin is super fragile, tearing easily relative to waterfowl, say. Whenever I skin a bird though I have Hank Shaw in the back of my head, he having spent ample time a number of years ago pre-him-being-a-rock-star prodding me in the comments on this very site. Skin-on wasn’t a revelation like I had expected. Seemed to deliver more value on the waterfowl front, for me. More research required.

Episode 53 – Duck

10.09.12

Confession: I packed in waterfowl hunting for a number of years for a few reasons. First reason – the more I learned about appropriate practices around animal slaughter in general, the less it made sense to shoot a hundred+ pellets at any and all of the prime cuts of an animal, have it fall from the sky to bruise on the ground, not necessarily killing it immediately, and not to be bled. I would not do that to a pig, say. Second reason – I had yet to prepare it in a fashion that I could really get excited about in the kitchen. There are a million ways to screw it up, and it took half a decade for me to realize that it’s kind of like squid – needs proficient quick preparation execution, or very, very, very long cooking time. Skip absolutely everything in between at your own peril.

Having been served some really nice goose a couple months back by Danny VanCleave – the guide in Episode 52 – I was re-inspired to give waterfowl another chance. And I’m glad I did. Turns out my displeasure with it in the kitchen was simply due to my inefficacy around its preparation. I admit it. Still think the slaughter method is crazy and wasteful, and that plucking in the presence of any shot hole in the body is insane though…

Episode 52 – Killam Waterfowl Outfitters

10.07.12

I grew up hunting geese and ducks southeast of Killam, Alberta. This summer, while shooting Episode 49, an outfitter that worked near that area asked if they could hire me to produce a video for their website. Default answer: yes. So down south I went to meet up with the outfitters, their guests, and many, many thousand geese and ducks.

As I get older I increasingly appreciate folks who are passionate about what they do, and carry with them a tremendous respect for some of the more challenging bits in life – like killing animals for food. Unlike many other ‘sports’, when spinning in the right crowds at least, hunting is a celebration of the season, moral fibre, ethical backbone, and respect for both the land you’re on and the animals you’re harvesting. This hunt had that vibe. I grew up around that vibe, but am well aware that not all hunting parties are cut from the same jib. So thanks to the guys involved in this one for being good advocates for what they do.

Having been the benefactor of some of the birds harvested, I can honestly admit that my appreciation for waterfowl in the kitchen has been greatly increased – which I’m excited about. More on this coming soon.

Episode 51 – Cold Frame Build

10.04.12

I built my first cold frame back in March of 2011. It has undoubtedly changed the way I grow food. I’m now up to 8 frames under lids, with another 6 soon to be built for the 2013 season – the majority for market. This vid is simply a look at how we’re building them now, after much homework in old-school books about how the Dutch and French used to rock this technology, and much debate between Travis and I about the best way to tackle it.

A simple description of the current design: 2×10 back and sides, 2×6 front for the frame on the ground. The lid is a 2×4 back board hinged to the ground frame. 2x2s are then added to the sides and front of the lid, and a space-age corrugated greenhouse plexi is affixed to the top. That’s it. It uses geothermal and solar heat to assist on temperature, and the biggy is the lid itself protects against hail, pounding rain, heavy winds, and frost. And leaf debris, and house sparrows, and neighbourhood cats, and romping children. And snow. I’ve grown greens as early as April and as late as November before without much effort. Now that we’re supplying restaurants, food trucks, caterers, the local culinary school, and the public, it’s time for some effort to extend the season in an energy-passive way and with some volume. I’m not interested in heaters – not just because they’re energy pigs, but because they falsify seasonality, and alter the culture around it. I am however interested in advocating for a re-think about what’s in season, helping sharpen the #yeg pencil around terroir, if you will. There you have it.

Beef Butchery Workshop 2012: The Details

10.02.12

After a successful first go at ‘Pork Butchery Workshop‘, and due to loads of demand, we’re now taking a crack at an inaugural ‘Beef Butchery Workshop‘. In case you’re wondering, I deleted the workshop page from my site because my inbox was getting inundated with inquiries. Still figuring out what to do about that exactly. In the meantime I’m posting details of coming workshops here.

Date: October 20th

Location: Sangudo Custom Meat Packers

THE GAME PLAN

8am. Kill a cow. Then, gut and skin cow, taking the necessary time to harvest and chat beef offal. Speed tour of the layout of the meat shop. We’ll then break down a side of certified organic beef and talk through your cut options with each primal. Eat some beef lunch. Spend the afternoon doing some beef charcuterie preparations, this time courtesy of chef Chad Moss. Then, we shall dine on beef and red wine. The end.

Everybody will go home with a minimum 5lb box of beef goodies – bones for stock, some fun off cuts and offal, etc.

Buy-in for this one’s higher because a head of certified organic beef costs the same as about 10 pigs in this case. That, and quite frankly the food and booze at pig day was largely donated, and we are trying to price this to be a financially sustainable endeavour. To keep costs manageable, we’re doing a price point of $250 for the whole day, meals and booze included, and you go home with the 5 lb box referred to above as a party favour. If you want in on the meat we’re cutting that day, which certainly would be a wise move, we’re going to be dividing a side into 10 equal boxes and you can take home one of those boxes [1/10 of a side of beef] for an additional $100, which is essentially at cost. So $350 w/ a meat share, $250 w/out. Up to you.

This one is a long way to selling out after a couple tweets that it’s going down, so if you want in, you’d better act quick. I’m taking registrations via email: kevinatkevinkossowan.com.

Deal will be the same as before: cash day-of. We’ll hold you to your word on you being there if you’re going to have us reserve a spot for you.

ps. a game butchery workshop is in the works too. november. elk.

Late September Salad Greens

09.20.12

I find I’ve been under-representing how much I’ve dived head first into salad greens production for market with Travis from LACTUCA. It’s been a weekly harvest and seeding gig for the past few months, and I’ve learned loads, about zero of which I’ve documented here. Can’t win them all I guess. I blame spending most every waking hour in the past two weeks either picking or crushing or pressing apples and pears.

Today’s salad going to market is delicate and lovely. The endives are starting to shine, growing robustly and light on the bitter in the cool weather. The varieties that are brown or red are also entering their season – a striking difference in color intensity vs even a few weeks ago in August. Growth has slowed considerably, which is posing some challenges for yield. The spring and summer blossoms are long gone to seed. Cold hardy varieties like spinach, arugula, minutina, and mache are about to have their day again, closing out the growing season that they brought in. The romaines and leaf lettuces that were gorgeous through July-August are now being trumped by the epic scarlet frills and merveille des quatres saisons. What a treat to watch varietal performance evolve through the seasons – the best teacher for how to nail down the best seasonal salad mix possible.

I have 8 4′X8′ sheets of corrugated greenhouse plexi arriving this week to top next season’s additional 8 production frames. Demand continues to be heavy, and we’re doing what we can to max out production for the 2013 year. What a project. Urban ag rocks.

Pears. Edmonton Pears.

09.20.12

Pears rank in my top 3 favorite fruits, for sure. Like with wines, I’m a sucker for the floral, high-toned aromatics. Problem is, until this year my only real source of pears was from the Okanagan. I knew there were pears around here, I just hadn’t seen or tasted any that made me think a realistic replacement to the Okanagan hook-up was in my back yard. Last year I had a spot in the lineup to pick the tree in these photos, but then headed to Normandy and missed my chance.

The pears in this photo are in Edmonton. That’s cool bit #1. Second cool bit is a mature tree yields hundreds of pounds of fruit. Not a 20lb box. Think 300lb box. Unlike an apple they’re hard at harvest and can drop to the ground and still be useful in storage. And the best bit is that there are many a pear tree tucked around Edmonton whose owners are happy to share their abundance of fruit. These ones are Ure. I’ve tried Early Gold [which I planted in my yard this year], Federovsk, and some unknown variety that’s easily as large as a Bartlett, which you might have spotted on my instagram feed, and if you know what it is please do tell.

What to do with hundreds of pounds of pears? Perry, or pear cider, for one. Secondly, it blends beautifully with apple juice. To my surprise, the pear juice we’re pressing isn’t pasty and pulpy like the commercial ones you buy – I really dislike that mouthfeel, which keeps me away from pear juices generally. We’re eating them out of hand as they ripen, will peel, cook and freeze some. May can some, although I try to avoid canning. Whatever the case, the following year will be marked by an abundance of pears.

My garage is filled with bins and tubs upon bins and tubs of ripening pears for the first time in my life. It’s glorious.

ARSAN’s Biointensive Farm & Eco-Village Projects

09.12.12

This summer I spent a lot of time doing video production work for Alberta Agriculture & Rural Development & a related project [partially funded by AARD] called ‘Think Local Market’ – a municipal and provincial initiative that provides rural producers access to an online sales and marketing environment. All told, I think I wrapped 16 videos related to those two projects in the past couple months – which to be honest accounts for some of the lack of generating my own content through the summer months. I wanted to share some of those vids here because 1) the content is completely on-topic and 2) it’s my blog now, isn’t it.

This one’s about two projects initiated by ARSAN, which in turn was funded by AARD. I’m particularly fond of their resolve to demonstrate how much biodiversity can be grown intensively with minimal resources – kind of my gig here at home. Their eco-village is a particularly interesting initiative too, as I know there are folks out there who would be keen to live in the kind of community Brian talks about in the video. More details on these projects at www.arsan.ca.

Arsan’s Biointensive Farm & Eco Village from Kevin Kossowan on Vimeo.

Episode 50 – Pork Butchery Workshop V1.0

09.09.12

Jeff Senger of Sangudo Custom Meats

If only 2002 Kevin knew this was coming in 2012. 10 years ago I lived in a condo, fondling my tattered copy of ‘Charcuterie’, longing for an opportunity to get my hands on a whole hog to do even just a few of the myriad of possible delicious preparations pork offered – many of which you can do at home but money can’t otherwise buy. But I had no space to do it. I had nobody to show me the way. I’d never met a pork farmer who I could ask to hook me up. In the spring of 2008, I had moved into our current home, and the previous winters’ pent up porcine desires meant its garage was pre-destined to witness many a pig butchering. 4 years on, many sides and porkventures later, and after a few pints of beer with Jeff Senger tossing around the idea, here we are putting on a pig butchery workshop. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no master at breaking down a side – but mastery was not the objective here. Instead my hope was to give folks that were in a position I recall all too well a crack at breaking the ice. To give them a shot at seeing pig go from live on the hoof to wrapped and packed in the freezer, largely by their own hand. Pig Butchery 101, down and dirty.

Huge thanks to Jeff Senger and Allan Suddaby for putting their heart into it and sharing their expertise throughout the day. An equally huge thanks to those who came, who took the leap. I think it was a day all involved will remember for a long, long time. And yes, we’re talking about maybe doing more. Maybe even a beef butchery workshop. Maybe.