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A Bad Moment in an Otherwise Good Day

How many people can say they had only one bad day in their whole life? Just one bad day. Certainly not I.

A neighbour of ours…

I know. I refer to everyone in Cawston as a neighbour but Cawston you see is very small. Hard not be a neighbour here. One could say the community is insignificant were in not for the diverse makeup of residents who choose to call Cawston home.  Plus the fact that Cawston wears the mantle of the Organic Farming Capital of Canada. Not Saltspring Island. Cawston. Saltspring is Randy Bachman and everything rammed earth and yurt. Cawston is the Organic farming Capital of Canada. That is what the sign on the Highway says.

Highway Sign
Highway Sign

Even the Wikipedia entry on Cawston in insignificant. We are unincorporated. We do not have a community website. The URL mentioned in the photo is cleverly disguised as “404-Page not found”. We do have a Community Hall.  But again no website. Saltspring Island has a website. Perhaps as it should be. I digress.

… a neighbour of ours is Blackbird Organics. They are certified organic by S.O.O.P.A. for assorted ground crops, tree fruit, chickens, and eggs.

farmersdotter loves the free range eggs and chicken from Blackbird Organics. The eggs are fabulous. Rich and creamy with a brilliant orange yolk. The chickens are simply sublime. Every day is a day of free range fulfillment under a full sky for Blackbird’s….birds. Right up until the last day. Even then the last day really isn’t that bad. It is merely a bad moment in an otherwise good day. The moment when it was decided thou shalt end up on my plate. Perhaps as it should be. I have had more than one bad day.

Regardless, there is no duplicating the wonderful taste and texture of a free range organic bird.

To successfully roast a good organic bird requires no wizardry. farmersdotter favours a brined bird. Succulent saltiness is what we’re after and there is no other way to achieve this. Deep fry?  Deep frying a whole bird is so wrong on so many levels. There isn’t enough alcohol on Sunday football to get me to deep fry a whole bird. Yes, I have sampled whole deep fried Chicken. Not lovin’ it.

Simply brine your chicken or turkey in a container that will accept the whole bird.  We use a 20 litre food safe container. The process is forgiving but time consuming. Most important is the brine solution which consists of 1 cup kosher salt dissolved into every 4 litres of water. It is crucial the whole bird be submerged in the brine solution and appropriately chilled for the entire time.

Brine a roasting chicken for at least 4 hours while a turkey can be brined from 12 to 18 hours. After you remove the bird from the brine and have allowed it to drain, pat dry as best you can then return the bird to the refrigerator and set for a few more hours. This will nicely dry out the skin enabling it to crisp up better in the oven.

Organic Roast Chicken
Organic Roast Chicken

Preheated oven to 400 degrees and first place bird breast side down on a roasting rack and set in oven. This is to allow juices to seep down into the breast.  Remove the bird from the oven after 1/2 hour and flip so the breast side is up and continue to roast for 1/2 hour. Check temperature. The bird should be close to done. Remember there will be residual cooking and  again, a brined bird it is virtually impossible to dry out.

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First Christmas

We sincerely hope you are having a wonderful Christmas Holiday. We are. The new snowfall in our yard is truly reminiscent of a winter wonderland.

New Snow
New Snow

Our extended family is scattered hither and yon celebrating the season with friends and other family in various locales.

This is our first Christmas on the farm. We selfishly decided to stay put this year and enjoy a little solitude. Consequently it has been very quiet. The down time affords an opportunity to visit with friends and neighbours after a busy harvest. We get together and discuss pertinent issues. We get together and share food items we are passionate about and specialize in.

That can mean anything from the sweetest root veggies to delicious preserves and fabulous dried produce, organic eggs and poultry. The list goes on. We of course delight in breaking our bread. And wine. One can not swing a cat in the Valley without upsetting a bottle or two of Pinot Gris.

So nice to have vintners as friends. Especially considering the Similkameen Valley was recently named by enRoute Magazine as “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of,” garnering a staggering 37 medals at the All Canadian Wine Championships.

This week provided a different bounty in a very special way. A fellow known for supplying seafood will occasionally pit-stop in the Valley while on business. Amazing Shellfish. Simply amazing. That coming from a one who spent 40 years on Vancouver Island. From this bounty farmersdotter prepared a simple and elegant shellfish brunch for two.

Christmas Eve Brunch
Christmas Eve Brunch

Fresh Oysters set out in their own liquor on a bed of the aforementioned fresh snow.  Served simply with lemon and finely chopped local organic shallots this dish screamed Pacific Ocean. I like to add a drop or two of warmed local organic honey plus a drop or seven of hot sauce. Franks Red Hot if you please.

Quickly steamed in their own juice with local organic dried tomato, fresh local organic shallots, organic garlic and pinot gris from Orofino Wines, the mussels were plump and sweetly sublime.

At the last minute we decided upon surf and turf so out came a top sirloin from Tony’s Meats & Deli. If you are a carnivore and if you ever get to Penticton you must stop by Tony’s. Tony knows every one of his suppliers, every cut of meat, and every product he purveys intimately. The dude is old school and very proud of what he does. Tony’s staff are fabulous as well. If Tony isn’t in the store you never have to worry.

Lastly, farmersdotter grilled a selection of Olive & Rosemary, Roasted Garlic & Sun Dried Tomato, and Similkameen Sourdough breads to soak up the broth. Everything was served with an ample supply of lemon, fresh organic shallot and wine. That was Christmas Eve.

Imagine the creamy chowder that is going to come from the left over shellfish.

Cheers and Happy Holidays.

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Decadent Baked Eggnog French Toast

One hears artisan baker stories, especially wood fired artisan baker stories, that success of a ‘good bake’ is reliant upon, barometric pressure, phases of the moon, humanely harvested wood and the sacrifice of all things virginal.

This is our first recipe post, please allow a little indulgence. We’ll get to the recipe in a second…

…We can not say for certain such folkloric commodities have any currency in the bakery. In farmerdotter’s bakery we take science to the bank. Much more precise and the returns are much more predictable.

That is the main reason we have little if any bread left over from a bake. A good, well proportioned recipe not only yields a wonderful product it yields remarkable little waste. The capacity bake for farmersdotter is 60 x 700 gram loaves divided between 6 varieties.

We scale close. So close that less than half a loaf per variety remains after all loaves are placed in the bannetons for their final proof. That is less than 1 kilo on 42 or under 2%. Just enough for a personal nosh.

Fortunately I miscalculated on a recent bake and we ended up with an extra sourdough loaf or twelve. Anyway, after a week or so our bread begins to stale. That is the perfect time to consider french toast.

After some trial and error, farmersdotter has come up with this recipe we think worthy of smothering with expensive butter and real maple syrup.

Baked French Toast
Baked French Toast

First, in order to have enough product to make this recipe you need to consistently over spend on farmerdotter bread. We recommend either Raisin & Anise Rye, Flax to the Max or the Similkameen Sourdough. We think it prudent to try all three. Variety is the spice of life!

I digress…

Decadent Baked Eggnog French Toast:

Yield 8 – 10 servings


  • 8 large eggs
  • 1-1/4 cup milk
  • 1-1/4 cup eggnog or…
    • substitute 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1 teaspoon grated cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • citrus zest
  • 8-10 slices days-old Sourdough, Flax and/or Raisin Bread


  1. Combine and beat eggs in a bowl.
  2. Add milk, vanilla and eggnog or eggnog substitute to beaten eggs and whisk mixture well.
  3. Place 75% of mixture in a baking dish
  4. Dredge bread slices into mixture and saturate both sides. Cover with remaining mixture then refrigerate, covered, overnight or for at least a few hours.
  5. Place a parchment lined cookie sheet or baking dish into a preheated 375-400 degree oven .
  6. Fry one side of the French Toast in a well buttered skillet on medium-high heat until crispy.
  7. Lightly fry second side to a light brown.
  8. Place fried bread onto parchment lined cookie sheet or baking dish, crispy side up and continue to bake for 30 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly baked.
  9. Remove from oven and top with confectioners sugar and citrus zest.
  10. Serve with butter and real maple syrup.
  11. Sliced banana is nice too!

Baking Notes:

  1. For a crispier finish, add confectioners sugar to the baking dish parchment just prior to placing fried french toast. This will caramelize the sugar to the french toast but the timing must be close to prevent the sugar from burning.
  2. If you choose this method then add your citrus zest after removing the french toast from the oven. High heat may give the citrus zest a bitter aftertaste.
  3. For an interesting diversion read the BBC account of the Great Canadian real maple syrup caper

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Ms. Myriam Dumont from Alexandria Ont wins the Habanero Brittle Sampler for being the 200 Facebook like. PM us with your particulars and we’ll pop that hot puppy off ASAP
Fireworks 200
Fireworks 200
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Salute #5

Miss his humour and wisdom. George Carlin:


George Carlin
George Carlin