With the first official day of spring right around the corner, I am getting so excited to welcome spring into my kitchen. There is nothing like cutting fresh herbs from my garden, gathering eggs from my hens, collecting milk from my cow. In today’s episode, Erin and I discuss the many ways that seasonal eating can be accessible to all of us. Whether or not you have a garden or farm animals of your own, you can find ways to eat seasonally and source your food locally. With all of our modern conveniences, we don’t have to eat seasonally, but Erin and I make a case for why you might want to consider eating this way. There is so much beauty to be found in living in rhythm with the seasons.
In this episode, we cover:
- Starting a spring garden
- Why it matters to eat seasonally
- What changes we make in our kitchens in the spring
- Farm animals’ production in spring
- How to approach meal planning when eating seasonally
- Incorporating bread baking into your daily routine
- Sourdough troubleshooting
- Living a homesteading lifestyle even if you don’t live on a homestead
- Where to start sourcing local, seasonal food
- Preserving and storing seasonal food
Erin is the head farmer and resident mom to all manner of living things at The Cedar Chest Farm! Together with her family, she tends their farmstead in Southwest Virginia, aiming to educate and empower homegrown-minded folks in their journey towards self-sustenance. Whether you’re living in town and supporting local growers, or seeking to raise your own food and resources more rurally, Erin is excited to partner with you in treasuring old ways, delighting in good food, and stewarding the good world around us.
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today, I’m going to be chatting with Erin from The Cedar Chest Farm. We are so excited to talk about gardening, seasonal eating, how our cooking and our kitchens all change whenever springtime comes. I don’t know about you, but I’m really excited about the changing seasons. The days are already getting longer. We’re already starting to experience some warm days here and there. And so just the shift that it’s going to take with seasonal cooking is exciting to me. Also, we really talk about embracing the changes in food as part of the seasonal change. And so being able to expand your excitement for new seasons from just the colors and how it feels and looks outside to the tastes and bringing that into your kitchen. So this was a really great conversation. I’m excited for you to listen to it.
Lisa Bass I’m so excited to have you on. Thanks so much for joining me. I found you on the @HomesteadMamas account. I’ve found a lot of great guests from there. So that’s a really wonderful community.
Erin Worrall I love @HomesteadMamas. Yeah, I’m happy you found me there.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I know I’ve met so many great women through there. So tell us a little bit about you and your farm and your family and your sourdough workshops that you have.
Erin Worrall Thanks for having me. I’m really excited to be here with you. My name is Erin Worrall. My farm is The Cedar Chest Farm. And I’m in Blacksburg, Virginia, just like southwest in the Appalachian Mountains. And so we’ve been at our homestead for five years this summer. My husband and I have four kids. They are almost 10, 7, and two 3-year-olds.
Lisa Bass Oh, I didn’t realize you had twins.
Erin Worrall They’re actually not twins. They’re 10 weeks apart. We are a licensed foster family also, and our son was adopted through foster care. So I mean, functionally, they’re totally twins. They think they’re twins. The world around them thinks they’re twins. My energy level thinks they’re twins. So we moved here, like I said, five years ago. And honestly, it was just because I wanted a couple of chickens and maybe like a modest garden. And I think most folks in the homesteading world will tell you that once you start, it becomes a rabbit hole spiral into all-consuming lifestyle. And that’s really how we got here. And so over the last few years, we’ve added pastured pigs, and way more chickens, also meat chickens. We now have dairy goats, and a dairy cow. And we did turkeys last year, so we’re really kind of like raising them all. And my garden has grown to over a quarter of an acre, which now I’m actually using for CSA production. So, yeah, that’s a little bit about our homestead. And then I do teach online sourdough workshops in addition to kind of running the farm locally. And that really was born out of a lot of friends wanting me to teach them how to make sourdough and me realizing that if I was going to teach them that process, that maybe having a forum for doing that would be good, and then it kind of took off.
Lisa Bass So do you start with how to make the starter and then go into like more advanced, like how to make certain recipes after that?
Erin Worrall Yeah, I have two classes. The first is an intro to sourdough workshop, and it really is all those basics, like how do you keep the starter? How do you know when things are fermented? Like, when are you ready to move on to each step? Cause sourdough, you know, it’s such an intuitive process. You can’t really follow the recipe because some days it might take six hours and some days it might take ten. So it’s just teaching all of those skills, and it follows a recipe start to finish. And then I do have a more advanced one that’s about using enriched dough that has, you know, butter and milk, things like cinnamon rolls or hamburger buns.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I have like tons of recipes on my blog for sourdough, and they all have about four-and-a-half stars. Nothing has five. Because there’s inevitably lots of people who want it to work exactly the way— like, “You said this,” and I’m like, “But if it’s this temperature—” and like you said, it’s definitely an art where you have to just work with it and learn it and not so much rely on the recipe. Yes, the recipe is great because it gives you a guideline, but you need to know whenever you can veer from that a little bit, which just comes from experience.
Erin Worrall Totally. Yeah. Honestly, though, I love that about sourdough because especially, you know, if you’ve got a busy life with kids or animals, sometimes you might plan that in four hours you’re going to put, you know, the bread in the oven and then something comes up and you can’t. And because it’s such a slow process, it’s like, “Oh okay, just toss it in the refrigerator and I’ll bake it when I’m done.” And so it actually is really flexible once you know how to manipulate the process. I love that.
Lisa Bass It really is. The other day I had some bread. It was an einkorn sourdough loaf in the fridge. It ended up being in the fridge for like two days. I had intended to make it the next day, and then one thing came up and then another thing came up.
Erin Worrall Life, yeah.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And it was totally fine. It rose even a little bit more. But yeah, you totally learn all of these things and it becomes really flexible. And everything’s edible. So I always tell people, “Whenever you have a fail, you can make it—”
Erin Worrall Yeah, even if it’s ugly.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it doesn’t have to be pretty. You put it into a French toast or croutons or whatever. We always eat it. People are like, “Well, I’ve thrown away.” I’m like, “Well, don’t do that. Why would you do that? Don’t throw it away.” I wasted so much. So we are going to be talking a little bit about seasonal cooking, about springtime because that is just something that’s so exciting on the horizon. I don’t know where— what zone are you in as far as gardening goes?
Erin Worrall 6B.
Lisa Bass Okay. I’m pretty sure mine’s the exact same. I know it’s 6, but I don’t know about B or A. I don’t know. So yeah, you’re probably in the stage where you’re starting to think about seed starting. Now for our listeners, I think this is going to come out more in March because we’re talking about spring cooking, but know that this is recorded a couple of weeks behind. So when we talk about like seed starting, you’re probably more— you know, you’re two weeks further along at this point whenever they’re hearing this. So yeah, where are you right now around mid-February?
Erin Worrall Mostly just dreaming. I’ve sown onion seeds. I love to do a method called winter sowing where you spread the seeds in some kind of like closed container. For me, I have, you know, seedling flats that have a humidity dome. But you literally put the seeds in the dirt and put them outside. And then the sun, you know, the day length and the temperature changes will cause the onions to germinate whenever, like onions would germinate in the wild. So it’s so hands off. So that’s the only thing I’ve sown so far. I guess by the time this comes out in March, I will have done my peppers and probably tomatoes, even though I could wait a couple more weeks. But I probably won’t have the patience.
Lisa Bass I won’t. You know, I always have like little tomato— not really. But I wait way too long. I’m like, “Okay, my flowers are literally blooming at this point. We need to move these out.” I’ve definitely started things too early and then had them get a little bit spindly. But yeah. Get a little bit eager around this time of year just for something alive. Anything.
Erin Worrall Oh, totally. And the weather has started to warm up. Not consistently. Today’s actually pretty chilly, but we’ve had enough days near 50 that it’s like, “Ooh, spring? Maybe?” Which is no. It’s not.
Lisa Bass Yeah, no, it’s totally not. But I think a lot of our weather pattern—just from watching on Instagram, like people who live where you live—we get them a couple days before. So we actually are 60 degrees today. And there’s several just like little breaks. You know, whenever it’s February and March and you start getting those breaks where it’s like, “Well, Thursday, we’ll go play outside all day long. And then Friday, we might be in a little bit more,” but you get those consistent breaks. So it’s really nice.
Erin Worrall Well, those days are so nice, too, because even though maybe I can’t start the seeds, I can prep the beds and do other things to get the garden ready. You know, knowing that kind of false spring is pretending, but it does allow us to get outside and work on the garden.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So what did you do to prepare like? Did you cover your beds with leaves or—?
Erin Worrall Well, so I mentioned a little bit before, this year’s going to be my first year doing a commercial CSA. And so we’re growing way, way more than just for our family this year. So I’ve tried to be kind of ahead of the game with bed prep. We used what’s called permanent raised beds. And so the soil is mounded, but there’s no wood on the sides or anything. So shaping those beds and putting compost down, and then I do have them all covered. I’m using like tarp or landscape fabric right now just so the compost doesn’t wash away or my chickens don’t scratch it up until it’s time to plant.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Perfect. So with with seasonal cooking, a lot of things shift, at least for me in my house. I have sort of my winter go-to which is stews and soups and lots of broth and meat and root vegetables, and then it slowly transitions into spring. What are some of the things that you look forward to for springtime cooking and some shifts that you might make?
Erin Worrall Oh gosh, I think just that freshness. You know, it’s like, “Oh, there’s something new.” Because for the last several months, you know, through the winter, like you’re saying, we’re eating a lot of storage crops, root vegetables, meats, you know, soups, things that have been canned from the year before or frozen. And so all of them are delicious and nutritious, but they don’t have that vibrancy of, you know, fresh spring greens. And so when I think about spring and things like asparagus or fresh spinach or peas like sugar snap peas, it’s like, “Oh my gosh!” It’s so exciting. It’s something new. And yeah, crunchy. Usually you can eat them raw, which is things that you’ve not really done through the winter.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I agree. I start to really look forward to having some of the herbs and greens. So do you eat through the seasons for the most part? Because, you know, we don’t have to. You can totally eat like it’s spring all year round. You can eat like it’s summer. You don’t have to have any kind of shift. And I think before I started to go into the homestead lifestyle a little bit more, you know, as you said, you get chickens and then you branch into other parts of it and you see the cycles of things with the seasons. What motivates that seeing as you could just eat the same throughout the entire year?
Erin Worrall Yeah, there’s a lot for me that motivates the idea of eating seasonally. I mean, because I’m growing a lot of it, there is just the practicality of I can’t eat a strawberry in, you know, December because it’s not growing here. And like you said, we could go buy it, but I love and value local food for, you know, the environmental impact being smaller and the packaging usually being small. Like there’s so many practical sustainability elements to it, but also food that’s in season is so much more flavorful and nutritious. And you know, it’s picked at peak harvest. It’s often not transported as far. So it’s actually even better for our bodies. And so I find it more delicious, and it took me a long time, I think, to learn how to choose not to pick up the package of raspberries that my kids I know would love to have in their lunch right now because I’ve just learned over time that like, they’re never going to taste that good because they’re not fresh. And there are so many things that are available to eat. And so I don’t know. I think it was just changing my mind about what we’re going to have. And not thinking of it as an abstinence or like an inability to have it, but just choosing what’s better. And then once you get in the rhythm of it, it’s actually really exciting because, like we were saying, you know, you’ve got this new thing coming up and it helps kind of this just holistic feel of like living in tune with the land and the animals and all of the things around us to be like, “This new thing is available to us now. We’re going to eat it until we’re sick of it and we’re going to love it. And then we’ll be so excited because it’ll be summer and then the tomatoes are coming,” you know? I think it’s really beautiful.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I love seasons. And I think everybody—even if they’re not on a homestead—loves seasons. They love to see when it’s spring. You know, you get a little excitement that the days are getting longer and that it’s a little bit warmer, but it’s just that multiplied because now there’s something with the food element to look forward to the new season and think about. It just gives you an excitement knowing that certain things, you know, now we get to indulge in this. And I also think there’s something with our our bodies too, like needing those heartier foods in the winter, because that is what you would have where you are, even if you’re not living on a homestead. Homesteading really opened my eyes to it because, I feel like before, I just didn’t think about that. Like food didn’t have any seasonal aspect to it at all. It didn’t occur to me that there were seasons for food, and that’s obvious. But once you start really paying attention to all that, it’s very exciting. So what are some of your favorite recipes and things that you’re excited to start cooking whenever springtime comes?
Erin Worrall We’ll start having a lot of salads when spring comes. You know, really whatever you can pull out of the garden or, you know, find at the farmer’s market. I love to do big salads for lunch for myself. My kiddos even really like it. And then there’s some things like pastas or pizzas that I make all year long, but I change what’s on it, you know, based on what’s growing. My family is obsessed with pie. We eat pies—pot pies—all the time.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah, I saw your really beautiful— was it a cow?
Erin Worrall Well, you can’t call it a cow pie because that’s sounds—.
Lisa Bass Oh, yeah. Right.
Erin Worrall But yeah, I just, yeah, I cut it out with a knife. It was a— you know, I just freehanded my cow silhouette with a knife, as one does.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Well yeah, everybody— of course.
Erin Worrall Yes. So, you know, pie fillings or making galettes. One of my favorite things in the spring is using the last of my potatoes that I’ve stored. But I fresh baby dill in the spring and feta, and make this delicious galette with, you know, this new seasonal thing. I put peas in everything like pastas. And then, yeah, we do a weekly pizza night in our family with sourdough crust. And so then I might put asparagus on the pizza or, you know, whatever few things are available. Lots of fresh herbs.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Do you make goat cheese at all with your goat milk?
Erin Worrall Not yet. My goats are still too young to be bred. They’ll be bred this year. But actually, you know, you saying that though— dairy feels like a big seasonal spring thing for me too, because my cow— I mean, she’s just freshened on Sunday. We just had a calf a week ago. And so, yeah, we’ll start having lots more yogurts and soft cheeses and stuff like that.
Lisa Bass And have you had the dairy cow before, or is this your first freshen?
Erin Worrall It’s my second.
Lisa Bass Second, okay. Oh, how exciting. We’ve only had one, and I hope that she’s bred again. That’s all I can say about that.
Erin Worrall I hope so, too, for your sake.
Lisa Bass We actually borrowed a bull for two months, and I realized why not everybody has a bull anymore. Or why people don’t have a bull.
Erin Worrall Yeah, wow. That’s a big—.
Lisa Bass It was not my favorite experience. We just weren’t bull ready. He pulled the gates off the hinges. Apparently, you can’t have gates that hang on a hinge when you have a bull.
Erin Worrall That lift, yeah.
Lisa Bass Yeah, they don’t lift. You need to have a stock water that isn’t rubber or whatever— can’t have that. And he even escaped one night in the middle of the night. Actually, it was like 10 o’clock, but my husband was already asleep. And I was like, “Hey, the bull’s out. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do about this.” It was really an interesting experience. But anyways, yes, dairy can be very seasonal. Obviously, it varies homestead to homestead based on your breeding schedule and all of that. But yeah, you’ll be coming into the milk and you’ll be having— should be very yellow because—
Erin Worrall They’ll party.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s so exciting.
Erin Worrall Oh gosh, yeah, all the spring grass.
Lisa Bass Yeah, even if your freshen in is at a different time, you still have the seasonal aspect of having bright yellow butter or whatever in springtime because of all the things that they can forage. So that is exciting. Another thing on our homestead—which I’m sure is the case with yours—a lot more eggs. So a lot of egg-based meals in the spring, because the chickens are finally starting to lay again. Frittatas, quiche.
Erin Worrall Quiche is awesome because you think about, you know, in early spring, we’ve put a lot of things in the garden, but not a lot is coming out still and say you can stretch that little bit of greens or, you know, whatever thing you’ve harvested that you don’t have a ton of by putting it in a quiche. And again, that’s a pie. So I’m for it.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah. Yeah. Another pie. So with your pie crust that you are basing a lot of your meals, like the galettes and the pies, are you doing a sourdough pie crust?
Erin Worrall I don’t. I have a favorite pie crust recipe I love. It’s on Instagram just there for anybody, but it’s with lard and butter. And I love the flakiness it gives. I have done sourdough, and it’s great, but I’m all about the classic pie crust.
Lisa Bass Yep, yep. And lard definitely yields that fluffy or flaky— I actually just did that recently for the first time, believe it or not. We don’t have our own pigs here, but I do have a local farm— actually, my sister raises pastured pigs, and so I just requested all of the fat and rendered it. And yeah, that is really, really good. I was missing out with that for sure. So are you a meal planner? Are you able to work with the seasons very naturally or is this something that you have to put some more effort into as far as planning goes?
Erin Worrall Yeah, I am a meal planner. Less because I love the structure and more because I’m kind of terrible with time management, and if I’m out in the garden, I’m not coming in till five o’clock, and then all of a sudden I’m like, panicked, like, “What are we going to eat for dinner?” And if I haven’t thought about it, then it doesn’t go well. So I do like to meal plan, and I think that that’s gotten less rigid over time because we have a lot of food here, you know, so I might think, “Oh, we’re going to make a pork shoulder sometime this week,” and so I’ll take it out to defrost, and I might make it on Tuesday or I might make it on Wednesday. And you know, that’s fine. What about you? Do you enjoy meal planning?
Lisa Bass I am more—like you said—I will have the things that are easy to prepare. Like having a bunch of meat in the refrigerator thawing out and then keeping on hand just like certain staples really helps me to throw something together on a whim. I go back and forth. Sometimes I look at the week and I’m like, “Okay, we’ll think about doing this.” But then inevitably it ends up changing because something comes up. And so definitely has to be more of a flexible process. But having an idea of what we want to cook is definitely helpful. And then as spring comes, you never really know what’s going to be available or, you know, you kind of have to work with what you have.
Erin Worrall Well, I was going to say, especially for folks who would want to eat seasonally that don’t grow— you know, if you don’t have a large stocked pantry, I think meal planning can be really helpful because—just like you were saying—you’re not entirely sure what’s going to be available. And so to be able to have a more specific plan, if you don’t have the option to say, “Oh, I could pull green beans from the freezer or I could pull frozen kale,” it’s just more helpful to have a plan.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and I like the kind of recipes—like you were talking about—that you can really adjust. They’re really flexible. The pizzas, the pies, the quiche, the frittatas— those are all the same base year-round. But then you add in some kind of seasonal element, so it really doesn’t matter if you have it or you don’t. You can add it in or you can not, which is great. What about sandwiches and sourdough? I saw that you do bagels. I also do bagels. I love sourdough bagels. Those are another thing that are a nice base that you can really adjust with whatever you have going on. So if you’re at a farmer’s market and they have goat cheese and arugula, that can be something that you could come up with that week.
Erin Worrall Yeah, I think having bread as a staple just forms the foundation of so many meals. I mean, a lot of times for my kids, seasonal eating for lunch means they get a slice of bread and then just piles of like veggies and cheese based on whatever we have. They really like eating kind of snack plate style that way. Yeah, bagels and bread, and naan, or just other ways that you can make sourdough or or buy bread. It’s so flexible.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I love the idea of having the base and then adding in whatever is available. Do you have a bread making schedule? I really have been wanting to do this. I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to start. Every day after lunch, I’m going to get my dough going. By night, the bulk rise will be over. I’ll put it in the fridge and then I’ll repeat, and then we’ll have bread every day.” And I just cannot get myself into the routine, mostly because things change. So like, maybe one day I have a podcast recording at 12:30, and so I couldn’t get to it at that time slot. So have you gotten yourself into any kind of routine with bread making?
Erin Worrall Yes. But also, let me just tell you, right now my oven is broken. It’s been broken for the whole week.
Lisa Bass Oh, I think I saw that. That’s the worst.
Erin Worrall And I feel adrift at sea because I haven’t made bread in like an entire week. But yeah, for the most part, I have a couple of different methods and recipes. I make a sandwich bread most of the time, honestly, because I find it just is more applicable to the way our family eats. My kids eat a lot of toast or sandwiches. We love an artisan boule with with soup or something. But you know, your jelly is going to dribble through the holes in an artisan bread. And so, we’re all about a sandwich loaf. And I have a sandwich loaf recipe that I kind of have tweaked over time that I make in the evening like right before I go to bed. And I actually make it in the KitchenAid so that it kneads for about five minutes with the dough hook. And I don’t have to do any stretch and folds. It doesn’t need any more tending. And so I just let it rise on the counter overnight, and then I bake it in the morning. And that has been really flexible for me because as long as my starter is being maintained and is active, I can think on any night of the week like, “Oh, we’re going to need bread tomorrow.” And it takes five minutes to throw it together in the KitchenAid. So I’ll like put it in the bowl, mix it, and let it hydrate— the autolyse, like while I go brush my teeth and put my pajamas on, and then I’ll come out and stand at the mixer for five minutes while it mixes, and then I go to bed. So that’s great.
Lisa Bass OK, so I’ve been stretching and folding all my recipes—even my rolls—because of the longer process of it. Is it the stretch and folds that gives the big holes. Or is it the kneading versus stretching and folding? That’s the difference? Or is it more in the recipe? This is just something I’ve been experimenting with and I’m curious about.
Erin Worrall It’s in the recipe. The size of the holes that you get is based on the hydration of the dough.
Lisa Bass Okay, so a more hydrated dough will yield the bigger holes?
Erin Worrall Yes, exactly. My sandwich recipe has 600 grams of water for 1,000 grams of flour for two loaves. Where my boule recipe that has big holes in it is 750 grams. So it’s like 15 percent higher hydration and that’s where you get your bubbles.
Lisa Bass And so are you just shaping it and then putting it into a standard bread loaf pan and then letting it out overnight and then just baking it in the morning? That sounds like a routine I could probably get more behind.
Erin Worrall I mix it in the KitchenAid, and then it rises in the KitchenAid bowl on the counter overnight. And then in the morning, I divide it in half and shape it and put it in the loaf pans. And then I let it proof in the loaf pans for maybe an hour, and then they bake. It’s so easy.
Lisa Bass Okay, so yeah, I’ve been experimenting with so many things. The bread I just pulled out right before I got on the call with you—or actually, as we were getting on the call—is a French loaf that I’ve had on my blog for a while. And I did it more in the process—like you were just saying—to where, no stretch and folds. I just kneaded it, shaped it, let it rise, and then did a bulk rise, and then shaped it, then let it rise, and then baked it. And I experimented this time with doing stretching folds, and then shaping it, putting it in the refrigerator overnight, and then scoring it this morning. And I was wondering if the oven spring— we’re getting way off track, but this is just interesting to me because I’ve been experimenting for so long with sourdough. I’ve had my starter for 11 years, and I’m still learning new things all the time. But like you said, it’s always edible, so it’s fine. But the oven spring, I’m thinking, comes from having the oven—you know, whenever your boule just doubles in size—is from the oven being preheated. I had them in a glass container, so I transferred them to a pizza stone, and it turned out a lot better as I was just looking before we got on this call. So do you find that? Do you find you need to preheat it to get the better oven spring?
Erin Worrall I don’t. Well, I mean, I definitely preheat my oven. I do my artisan loaves in a Dutch oven to trap humidity. And I think that that really helps. But I don’t preheat my Dutch oven. I did that for the first probably five years that I was baking bread, and I can’t tell you how many times I burned the sides of my hands trying to lower the bread into the 500 degree pan, so I don’t do that anymore and I honestly haven’t really noticed a difference. I think that the oven spring is more dependent probably on how well you’ve developed the gluten structure and the humidity available for it to rise. When you do it on a pizza stone, do you like cover it or add humidity to the oven in any way?
Lisa Bass I did add a boiling cast iron skillet of water because of that. Because I’m like, “I can’t put these down into a Dutch oven, obviously, because they’re long French loaves.” And my with my other process, I have so much success with refrigerating the dough overnight.
Erin Worrall I do the same.
Lisa Bass So I’m like, “I’m going to incorporate that into this recipe and then somehow recreate the steam aspect.” And so that’s why I put it on the stone and I added the water. And so my scores all opened up really pretty and it sprung. And I’m like, “Now I need to know which part of this process I can take back out.” It’s so interesting and I love it. And it was great with 2020. It was all of a sudden like, here I am with my sourdough information. Everybody was finally interested. Nobody cared before then, it seemed like. It was a very niche interest and kind of worked out.
Erin Worrall Yeah, I thought that was so funny too. But I mean, you remember how nobody could find yeast anywhere, but also you couldn’t buy bread. And so I think people realized like, “Oh, wait.” The number of people who think that they don’t like sourdough because, you know, when they were a kid, they tried some like deli loaf that was extremely sour. And I think people, because it got this really crazy fad, tried it and realized like, “Oh, this is just bread and it can be sour or it can not, and it’s just delicious.” It’s not as specific of a thing as I think people thought it was.
Lisa Bass Well, yeah, like we were talking about earlier, there’s so much variation on season. Sourdough is seasonal. Here we go. Very seasonal. So if you’re leaving something to do a bulk rise at room temperature in the summer—because we don’t keep our house as climate controlled, I mean, it’s definitely hotter in the summer and it’s definitely colder in the winter. Now I do have the wood stove, which helps, because I always put my doughs pretty close to the wood stove, but you’re going to get that variation in sourness based on the season, based on if you’re doing a refrigerator rise. But yeah, it can taste just so— just regular bread now is plain. It’s just— no flavor.
Erin Worrall Oh yeah.
Lisa Bass Where’s the flavor on this?
Erin Worrall I don’t like it. We actually had to buy a loaf of bread this week because of the broken oven for the first time, and I was like, “Ugh.”
Lisa Bass What’s the status? Are they going to be able to get it fixed? Do you have a gas oven?
Erin Worrall I don’t have a gas oven. I really want one. We did a big renovation to our house in 2020. We were actually super lucky with the timing of the pandemic that we were able to do it. But we waited on the kitchen because we needed to put on an addition for our numerous children. And so it was like, the kitchen will be phase two and at that time I can add gas and we can kind of really upgrade it. So we’ve kind of been saving for that, but we’re not at the place where we’re ready to do it, because when I invest in a gas oven, I really want to have double ovens. I’d love to be able to have six burners. So no, we just replaced it with your standard Home Depot, you know—
Lisa Bass Well, you got to have an oven.
Erin Worrall Well, that’s just it. We have to eat. And with all of the delays in shipping right now, most of the different models are backlogged for months.
Lisa Bass Oh yeah. A custom oven like that, you’re going to be waiting probably till the end of summer to get.
Erin Worrall Yeah, so this one should be here in a week.
Lisa Bass Good. Yeah. When we were doing our kitchen renovation, I restored a 1949 oven because I wanted it for multiple reasons. I like how it looks. I wanted gas. But it took so long and so much longer than we expected that we had our— when we bought this house, it was probably a 80s or 90s coil. So it’s vintage, just not the kind of vintage I wanted. We kept that plugged in for forever. I mean, we just had it sitting there, plugged in in another part of the kitchen because you can’t go without an oven, especially whenever you start to taste sourdough.
Erin Worrall I know, but I’ve seen pictures of your oven and it’s gorgeous, so I’m sure it was worth the wait.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I do love it. I do love it. I love the oven. It’s very old fashioned. Like, I have to light it with a match, which is no problem once you’re used to it. But yeah, got to have it. So for people who aren’t living on a homestead but want to cook like they do— which I talk about this all the time because I lived on a quarter acre for 10 years before we lived here, and I’ve been cooking like this the entire time. So how would you recommend they start to incorporate more seasonal ingredients? Are there any resources you would recommend for them to try to get started with all of that?
Erin Worrall Yeah, totally. Okay, first of all, I want to say I so agree with that. I say that to folks all the time, too, because I think people are really interested in the homesteading lifestyle, and they think they can’t live it unless they have, you know, 10 acres and a cow. And that’s just not true. Like, you can be homesteading. Like it’s a mentality, it’s a mindset. It’s choices about your consumption. And, yeah, all kinds of things. And so I think that this way of eating is accessible to everybody, regardless of whether or not they would call themselves a homesteader, and it would benefit them. You know, all that joy we were talking about for just like living in that cyclical way, it’s so grounding. So I think a lot of that, though— you know, homesteading is rooted in a sense of place. And I think that if you want to live or eat that way, even if you’re in a 14th floor apartment, it still has to be grounded in locality. And so like we were saying, you can get a strawberry any time of the year if you go in to the grocery store. But where you shop, I think, and how you shop is the biggest way to, like, incorporate seasonal ingredients into your cooking. And so the farmer’s market is an awesome place to start. Or like Roadside Farm stands, CSA—which I mentioned we’re doing before. And if people haven’t heard of that, it stands for a Community Supported Agriculture. And it’s basically just this contractual agreement between a customer and the farm where you pay for a subscription of whatever they grow. And so like, there were years when we lived in town I had a small garden and so I did a fruit CSA even that was like a collaboration of a couple of different orchardists in the area, and every week I would get a box of seasonal fruit. That was so fun. But you get a box of veggies every week that’s based on what’s growing. And what they harvested literally the day before— it ended up in your kitchen. So I think if you can shop at places like that, then you’re going to have the ingredients available to you to cook more seasonally. But, like we were talking about before, it becomes more intuitive, as you know. Like, “Okay, it’s March. I know these things are popping out of the ground right now.” But I have a collection of cookbooks that I really love that are all actually based around the seasons. Like the chapters are seasonal. I brought four of them because that’s what I have.
Lisa Bass Perfect. Yeah, that’s wonderful.
Erin Worrall So two of them are by Andrea Bemis. One of them is Dishing Up the Dirt and one of them is Local Dirt. She’s a farmer in the Pacific Northwest. She did this really cool project—I want to say in like maybe 2019—called the Local Thirty, where for 30 days, she only eat food that was grown within 30 miles of her home. It was really cool.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I like that idea.
Erin Worrall And then Feeding a Family by Sarah Waldman. And then Smoke Roots Mountain Harvest by Lauren McDuffie. But all of them, the chapters are organized by season. And so I think that’s a great place to start if you’re unsure how to cook seasonally is to find resources that specifically tell you, “Here’s a dish that you can make with things that are in the spring.” So I love all of those. They make delicious like wholesome, nourishing meals that are fresh and seasonally appropriate.
Lisa Bass That flow with the seasons.
Erin Worrall Yeah.
Lisa Bass Yeah, and like you said, it’s a learned thing. So once you start to get comfortable with what goes on with each season, it’ll be a lot easier to just cook seasonally without having to dig in and do the research and all of that. But, at first, you need those kind of resources.
Erin Worrall Yeah, I think a lot of farmers, too, want you to love the things you buy from them. So if you’re shopping at the farmer’s market, and you see this pile of a cabbage you’ve never seen before, ask them, “How would you cook this?”
Lisa Bass “What do you do with this?” Yeah.
Erin Worrall And they totally will give you ideas and examples. I send out a weekly newsletter for my CSA customers that has like different recipe ideas and storage options. How you could preserve this veggie if you wanted to. Because local growers, they want you to love what you’re getting so that you come back.
Lisa Bass Yeah. If they keep getting a box of stuff they don’t use, they’re going to stop getting the CSA box. So it’s in both parties’ interests to make sure that they know how to use it. Now as a CSA, are there places that you are listing your CSA? Are there online resources where people all across the country can find a local CSA?
Erin Worrall That’s a good question.
Lisa Bass Like a CSA index?
Erin Worrall Yeah, there are a couple of different software platforms that farmers can use to run their CSA. One of them—you might have heard—is called Harvie, and so I know that you can go to the Harvie website. It will tell you Harvie farms in that area. But I think you really could Google “farmers market near me,” “CSA near me.” A lot of your local farmers markets are going to have a website that has a listing of all of the different farmers in your area.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And I love the idea of whenever it’s getting towards the end of the season, buying them out and then, you know, preserving it all like you live on a farm. I have to also point out the fact that I do these things still. Like, yes, I live on a little seven acres and we have chickens and we have a dairy cow. I have to find somebody for my chicken, my beef, my pork. I do. I have people for all of that locally, so I get all of that. And then even still, there’s a lot that I need to brush up on. All through the winter, I do buy things that go with winter so that at least in my hope, they’re growing a little bit closer. But I’m still buying my potatoes just from Walmart or Aldi. Same with my carrots. Yes, I cook very with how the seasons should be, but this is all stuff that like— you’re reminding me, I need to go look up a CSA because even though I didn’t do well in my garden enough to provide my potatoes throughout the whole year, and honestly, with seven kids, I won’t again next year. As much as I want to, I just know I won’t. But getting better about that myself— it’s a reminder. Because I do have all like the base of my food, like with the meats and the milk and eggs, but there’s so much more that I could do.
Erin Worrall Oh, totally. That’s true for me, too. We actually did a CSA through the winter from a local farm because, you know, being in this transition period with trying to grow our farm to this commercial size, I was like, “I know I can’t be adding all this infrastructure and also tending a winter garden.” And so we were CSA customers all winter long and same with like— we have a little baby orchard that we planted when we first moved in. But I mean, my apple tree gave me one apple last year.
Lisa Bass Yeah, we’re on seven seven acres and we’ve only been here three years. So yes, we planted apple trees, but we don’t have apples. And I don’t usually buy apples beyond the fall. But being able to find these local people— this is something that I need to get better about. Like after this call, I’m totally going to find a CSA. Like, why have I not done that?
Erin Worrall Yeah. And you can do— like you were talking about with preserving. Like I found an orchard—it’s about an hour away—that will sell their second apples. You know, their kind of dented—scratch and dent apples—and I’ll buy four cases of them and then I’ll can applesauce that my kids will eat all year long. I totally think that’s eating seasonally because those apples were grown and picked at peak ripeness and they traveled just, you know, a handful of miles to get to my closet. My daughter called it the harvest closet, where we keep all our canned goods. Yeah, I love that. I mean, the difficult thing about this is if you don’t have food storage, you know, that really is a hang up for a lot of people. You could buy a case of apples and you could keep it in a refrigerator in your garage and eat apples all year long because that’s what the grocery store is doing. You know, the onions that you buy today or the potatoes you buy today— they’ve been in storage just in a warehouse somewhere. And so you could buy them locally and store them if you have that option. But not everybody does.
Lisa Bass Yeah. What would you recommend? Just like a corner in the basement? Or I guess a lot of people’s basements are finished and more climate controlled. What do you guys do in your home?
Erin Worrall We actually don’t have a basement because of the mountains unfortunately. Really, people don’t have basements here, which is a bummer because I would love a root cellar. But when I tell you that every square inch of this house is a secret food storage, I mean it. Like, we have plastic bins like, you know, the really thin under the bed slidey bins underneath our bed, our guest bed, where I’ll do like dry beans or just store dry, dehydrated stuff that’s been vacuum sealed. We have a closet for canned goods. My guest room stays chilly and so that closet has crates of potatoes and squash in the closet. I mean, really, we’ve got food squirreled away everywhere. So it’s kind of wherever we can find space. Really want to build like a fantastic cupboard situation that we could put all of our canned goods in at some point. But it takes over.
Lisa Bass But if you don’t have it, you can put it anywhere.
Erin Worrall Yeah, you put it under your bed. you know, a refrigerator or a deep freezer in your garage will go far. I mentioned we raise pastured pork, and so we actually have like five or six freezers, because we have our own family’s food—our chicken that we raise for our family too—but then also the stuff we sell. And so there is a seven cubic foot freezer in my master bedroom closet. There’s one in the living room closet.
Lisa Bass You’re taking away all of our excuses right now.
Erin Worrall I mean, it’s absurd. It’s really quite funny. You know, if it’s time to cook dinner, you’re like, “Oh, can you run in the closet and grab a pack of bacon?”.
Lisa Bass “Which bedroom is it in?”
Erin Worrall Yeah.
Lisa Bass That’s hilarious. I mean, we have a deep freeze because you pretty much have to have one if you’re going to be buying meat in bulk. So we buy, you know, half a hog— actually, last time, we bought whole. And then my dad and my husband do some hunting. And yeah, so you do need some stuff like that, especially if you’re going to go do meat. But if you’re just looking to can and store away root vegetables, it sounds like you can pretty much use any location in your house.
Erin Worrall Yeah, you just got to get creative.
Lisa Bass Yeah, if you really want it bad enough, you’ll find a place. Well, thank you so much. I feel like we covered a lot more than even just spring cooking, which is wonderful. Tell us where we can find you and all that you have to offer. I think Instagram— is that your hub or is your website your hub?
Erin Worrall Instagram is my hub. You can find me there @TheCedarChestFarm. I do have a website mostly just for sales of sourdough class tickets or, you know, local farm things. But yeah, definitely, you can find me on Instagram. And that’s kind of the main spot.
Lisa Bass Yeah, we will leave that in the show notes, as well as all the resources you mentioned, including the books. And thanks again, so much. I feel like we really got some good information.
Erin Worrall Thanks for having me. It’s super fun. And I’m yeah, I’m really excited keep following you and see what kind of spring things you’re making, too, as your garden picks up.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, thank you for listening to this episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. I hope that you learned something that you could bring into your own kitchen this spring. Maybe some new ways to find ingredients, even if you don’t live on a homestead. I really hope that we inspired you there. As always, thank you so much for listening, and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.