Hot soups, cold nights, and maple farm delights!

I realize everyone is talking about the impending arrival of spring blooms.  I see photos of little crocus buds breaking through the soil in the southern states, shop signs that beckon passersby to buy their garden seeds soon, and recipes of soups made fresh vegetables in light broths.

But, the Kenney's are still thoroughly enchanted with the scenes of New Hampshire's stunning winter vistas. We haven't tired yet of  discovering the many winter weekend activities in this state.  We've trekked to nearby Ragged Mountain almost every weekend of the winter to ski the snow covered slopes. We've purchased ski boots, ski mitts, and ski pants for the first time in our lives...which is quite the novel purchase for southerners.  We can be found riding "The Magic Carpet" and sliding down the mountain passes with whimsical  names like "The Flying Yankee" and "Gobbler's Knob".

So with winter in full swing up here, we're taking full advantage and spring, with all of its soon to arrive delights, can hold off just a wee bit longer this year so we can continue our newly discovered fun.  Hours of waddling through ski hills usually means we land somewhere in the lodge afterwards with hefty appetites looking for steaming hot soups and cold frothy beers.  We've been in the humid tropics of the south for the last 4 years, so this wintry adventure is not only a change but a treat for us indeed.

Upper left: typical scenes alongside the road: turkeys
Lower left: the most handsome barn that houses a local pewter artisan

But, reality rears its ugly head and the winter fun has been curtailed a little recently.  We took the big plunge and made a move to purchase this farmhouse that has served as our resting spot for the last 3 months.  Because of  that holiday fiasco in purchasing a previous home that had us fraught with indecision and self doubts, we've been hesitant to move on but know it's time to make plans anew.

Unfortunately, we have sadly learned that the owners of this farmhouse are only interested in a number close to full asking price.  With the amount of renovation work required on this old farmhouse, doubt has crept back into our thinking.  With heavy heads and even heavier hearts, we've had to re-enter the house hunting market at full force since our lease is up in May.  With winter ebbing closer to spring, more and more options are coming on the market, but it is tough to let the dreams of this farmhouse go...

Celery root, potatoes, apples, smoked herring, and dried pumpkin seeds for a warming winter soup

We've decided to gather our supporters around us and plot out the next steps in a continuing adventure that is insisting on pushing us onward.  We had a winter luncheon with our realtor in order to pull out maps, look at market offerings, and march onward on our quest and determination to make New Hampshire our home.

whisking eggs for a creamy filling for my Goat Cheese Tart

I decided to make a comforting meal because comfort is what is needed right about now.  I made a creamy celery root soup, a simple but delicious goat cheese tart, and warm rich buttery carrots for our meeting with our realtor, Hilda.    

I love this celery root soup, but I must admit, I've noticed it is a "love it" or "hate it" kind of reaction to this particular soup.  I literally could eat this creamy smooth soup for lunch each day and it would be a while before I would tire of it.  For others, the creaminess is wonderful but the slight taste of celery from the celery root is a show stopper.  This soup contains chunks of potatoes, broth, and a little bit of apple to create layers of flavor.  To jazz it up a bit, I added whatever I had on hand...toasted pumpkin seeds, chives, smoked herring, and a dollop of crème fraîche.

Goat cheese tart, on the other hand, seems to be a perennial favorite with just about everyone.  I must admit, I could eat a slice of this for lunch just about every day as well as the celery root soup.  I'll spoon, slather, or swipe creamy goat cheese on just about anything!

Top Left: Authentic British scones with gooseberry jam and Devonshire cream

We are all trying to think positive thoughts about our future direction with house hunting.  I have to admit, it's tough.  Finding the right "dream home" is much harder than I thought it would be.  Not having geographic constraints is a wonderful blessing but can also leave one wandering in quite a wide span of directions with choices and options...which lead to uncertainly and indecision.  

So our realtor  brought over an absolutely wonderful treat for us!  English scones, devonshire cream, homemade gooseberry top it all off...a pot of gorgeous deep purple hyacinths, just ready to bloom.  What an absolutely mood lifting gift of generosity and creativity along the lines of...just what the doctor ordered!

The Kenney's are back on the house hunt again...but, we're determined to continue having winter fun whenever we can slip in some free time.  We adore winter activities and accumulating the assortment of  hats, mitts, and scarves that go with combating the cold temperatures.  For skiing, we now have black ninja-like face masks with little pointy protrusions for the nose when the weather is particularly bitterly cold.

So... all of a sudden, all chit chat around the small villages of New Hampshire is turning to noisier chit chat about everything maple! People are buzzing about maple trees, and running sap, and boiling syrup, maple snow candy, maple cream...well, you get the picture!

it's sugar maple making  season in New Hampshire!

...and we know nothing about this wonderful sounding endeavor.  But, we are ready to learn and more specifically, we are ready to taste the goods and weigh in!

Top Left: different "grades" of maple syrup flavors
Bottom left: drizzling maple syrup on freshly made pancakes

So, we looked around our area to see if there are any maple farms around here.  We discovered about 40 minutes away, there is a little family run working farm called "Charmingfare Farm".

Not only is the maple sap running from the trees right now, but at Charmingfare Farms, they offer sleigh rides that take families out in cozy comfort  into the woods to the sugar shack to see and learn how the maple sap tapped from maple trees is boiled down into maple sugar.

It is appropriately titled "The Maple Express" and their huge draft horses pull the sleigh about 20 minutes to where the maple sugaring process takes place.  

We bundled up in several layers, put on our sturdiest  snow boots, drove out to Candia, New Hampshire and had a marvelous stress relieving day learning about the maple sugaring process.

The air was frigid on Sunday.  Little plumes of frosty breath hovered over our huddled group as we snuggled deep into the sleigh behind the magnificent horses as they lumbered us through the woods and over the little rolling snowy hills.  

The children in the group, bundled from head to toe, squealed as they pointed out sap buckets as well as  large happy snowmen cut outs made of painted wood encircled with twinkling lights.  

Weeknight cooking: Pan seared swordfish with browned butter sauce and roasted tomatoes

In the distance, we could see the plumes of smoke swirling from the metal stack protruding from the top of the lopsided wooden sugar shack.  We stiffly climbed down from the large creaky hay strewn sleigh. Almost everyone was drawn to the warm fire lit in the middle of the woods that was crackling and spitting sparks into the frosty air.  After warming our hands for a bit (those who dared remove their gloves) we were invited to gather inside the sugar shack to learn about the process of gathering the sap and how to best boil it down to produce different grades of syrup.

I concentrated hard on trying to listen attentively to the farm's sugar maker as he pointed out the proper type of taps to use, how long to boil down the sap for the preferred flavor, and how much sap it takes to produce 1 gallon of syrup...alot!

But, it was difficult to stay focused because dozens of little golden pancakes were being poured, baked, and flipped right in front of us.  The scent was delicious.  The steam from the skillets wafted into the air and rolled around the tiny little sugar shack enveloping us in this delightful experience.  Each sample plate was then being drizzled with just boiled amber colored maple syrup.  

We were listening but many pairs of  eyes were darting back and forth from the farmer to the pancake making table as it sputtered and steamed.   The little ones were positively staring wide eyed as each pancake flipped and sizzled as it puffed up on the hot buttered skillet.

After the farmer ended his talk on maple syrup making, we were treated to those just-made pancakes doused with Charmingfare Farm's homemade maple syrup.  We were offered hot chocolate or maple coffee to keep us warm by the toasty fire as it was being fed continuously with heavy chunks of forest wood.  After a few minutes laughing and chatting with one another while enjoying our forest treat, we all prepared  to climb back into the sleigh to continue our ride to the barns that hold the farm animals.

The barn animals were all snuggled inside keeping warm from the winter chill.  There were baby chicks all bundled together looking like one large wiggly furry yellow pillow.  There were tiny baby ducklings flapping their fledgling wings as they stumbled and tripped over one another.

The stalls were filled with a variety of breeds of goats who where bleating loudly with glee as the little children fed them goat food from their tiny mittened hands.  

Eventually, back to the farmhouse we returned.  We sampled maple candy, maple cream, and maple cotton candy.  Maple cotton candy was everyone's favorite as it tasted like toasted marshmallows.  We bought a jug of bonafide New Hampshire made maple syrup to drizzle on our Sunday pancakes and waffles that I know will last for weekends to come.

We're still unsettled about the dream farmhouse of our own.  I must admit this is a difficult time for our family.  But, New Hampshire is a gorgeous state.  There are farmhouses around every bend, down every country lane, and tucked into mountain valleys.  We remind ourselves each day how fortunate we are to be taking this journey, free to make dreamy decisions, and slowly but surely we willfind that one home that  will become the place we hang our little Welsh plaque that says "Croesco" that we brought back from Wales many years ago.  It has hung on each front door of the many houses we have owned.  "Croesco" means "Welcome" in Welsh.

Labels: , , , , , ,