This past month, I had the wonderful opportunity to take on a “meaty” project for the New Hampshire Magazine’s March issue. The food editor, Susan Laughlin, took a great leap of faith in asking me if I would like to tackle a feature article…research, writing, food photography, and food styling.
The magazine wanted to find someone who loves to cook (and who just happens to photograph and style her food, too) and is trying to source that food locally here in New Hampshire. Being new to the state, I am in the process of learning about my local suppliers and the assignment would dovetail nicely for me in my endeavor to become more familiar with producers. I could continue becoming familiar with NH’s leading meat farms, dairy & cheese farms, local bread bakers…with a new mission of the work being featured in a magazine I so admire!
I love taking on this kind of challenge. I commend Susan for taking a chance in tasking me to accurately curate a list of top meat, dairy, and cheese producers in the state. I climbed into my pumpkin orange jeep, pulled on my farm boots and started a wonderful journey around the state visiting, tasting, and slogging my way through the muddy fields and hay filled barns of many farms filled with the people tasked with being stewards of this land for future generations.
Right in my own backyard, here in Warner, I found several gems that provide delicious produce and cheeses. Kearsarge Gore Farms grows much of the produce for our farmer’s markets in the area. I took a bumpy but stunning pastoral winter drive further into the countryside towards Kearsarge Mountain to meet half of the farm team, Jennifer Ohler, the other half being her husband, Bob Bower. Jennifer showed me all around the farm as their adorable dog, Charlie, bounced at our heels. What impressed me most at the farm, being that it was still the middle of winter and little produce was growing, was their beautiful steep metal roofed maple syrup house with its tall regal chimney stack reaching through the trees into the sky. Their maple house is tucked cozily back into the woods and umber rounds of wood were stacked high ready for the month ahead. They were getting excited for the upcoming maple tapping season. I promised I would return to see the operations in full swing…and also because we are almost out of maple syrup at our house. When I left, Jennifer handed me a beautiful bunch of slate-streaked white winter garlic. I knew I was going to use it in my final pasta dish that I was going to prepare for New Hampshire Magazine.
I happily left the Gore farm, ruffling Charlie’s happy furry head, and bumped back down the frosty winter roads, excited about the prospect of visiting more farms and discovering how these hard working dedicated people supply the local community as well as the state.
Speaking of the final dish that I was assigned to prepare using local ingredients, I decided that the month of March up here was still roaring away like a lion. Old Man Winter was giving us quite a final kapow.
I thought a rustic pasta dish sounded warm and inviting. A pasta dish filled with a hearty bolognese sauce would be just the right meal to end these snowy winter months before we turn to the fresh produce that will soon be springing out of everyone’s gardens.
I began to source local farms and came upon a really good meat producer. My bolognese sauce called for beef and pork, hearty mushrooms, cheeses, and fresh pasta. I had been wanting to try out the buffalo meat from Yankee Farmer’s Market. Brian and Keira are adamant about putting farming back into the hands of the small producer so quality can be better maintained. They have beautiful pastureland where the buffalo can roam free in the picturesque countryside of New Hampshire.
So with beef procured and a list of ingredients to go, I needed to source the rest of my recipe fresh. I left our small village and drove into the big city of Concord. There is a thriving co-op there, the Concord Co-Op that brings in local produce from surrounding farms. There I found fresh pastas made by Valicenti Organico. I chose the pasta shape called “rustici” and decided to use that as the base for my pasta dish.
A farm called New Hampshire Mushroom Company produces a variety of mushrooms and supplies them to markets and co-ops all over the state. I filled a bag with their mushrooms at the co-op and began to get excited about how this meal was coming together. I was also pleased to see how easy it was to really buy locally once I knew who my suppliers were in the area. Some cream and butter from Contoocook Creamery and I was almost all set.
Sourcing and sampling local bread bakers from New Hampshire opened up an entirely new love affair with our local producers. By far, my favorite finds were the breads of Canterbury Bread Shop, located in beautiful Canterbury, NH. Dane Percy’s loaves are as gorgeous as they are delicious. I came home with a splendid loaf of their Aromatic, which has a deep chewy satisfying texture with a touch of curry spice added to it. Lightly toasted with a swab of Contoocook Creamy butter on top…swoon.
While I was in the big (compared to our little Warner) state capitol of Concord, I stopped into the local bakeries there called The Crust & Crumb (the Shaker Pumpkin rolls were plump, soft, and delicious) as well as Bread & Chocolate bakery (the place for that necessary french baguette).
I had easily collected all my ingredients between these local farms as well as our local co-op and I was ready to return home to our little kitchen farmhouse and create a satisfying March pasta meal.
One of the surprising things I learned about this new state to us is how many wineries exist here. I had no idea. After realizing that there are at least 10 wineries or more in NH, I opted for a bottle of bold red, called Granite State Red, from the winery La Belle in Amherst. We enjoyed the bottle with the pasta bolognese and are now eager to explore this land of wineries as well and sample more of the labels produced in the state.
It was thrilling to take on the task of magazine article curator and food styling photographer as a more serious endeavor than just a hobby. I recall fondly reading the New Hampshire Magazine when we were “researching” which state would become our new home.
To be a part of their team is thrilling. In fact, it was so enjoyable that I’ll be providing them with a monthly article that highlights a dish per month featuring local seasonal produce. My orange jeep and I will be bumping along more country roads, shaking dirt covered hands with more local farmers, and then stirring simmering pots of ingredients back home in my New Hampshire farmhouse kitchen.
Locally sources produce, meats, dairy, and cheeses mentioned or photographed in this article:
Pottery Platter – Sharon Lee Budd
Mooreland Apiaries Honey – found at Concord Co-op
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1¼ lb. (625 g) ground beef
- 1¼ lb. (625 g) ground pork
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 4 oz. (125 g) pancetta, cut into ½-inch (12-mm) dice
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 1 celery stalk, finely diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- ⅓ cup (3 oz./90 g) tomato paste
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) dry red wine
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) milk
- 2 cans (each 28 oz./875 g) whole tomatoes, passed through a
- food mill
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind
- 1 lb. (500 g) pappardelle, cooked until al dente and drained
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
- In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the ground beef and pork, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the pancetta to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium and warm the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the ground meats, pancetta, milk, tomatoes, bay leaves and cheese rind. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
- Cover partially, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, 1½ to 2 hours. Remove and discard the bay leaves and cheese rind.
- Toss the pasta with about 3 cups (24 fl. oz./750 ml) of the sauce (reserve the remaining sauce for another use). Sprinkle cheese on top. Serve immediately and pass additional cheese alongside. Serves 6 to 8