Breaking Ground + RECIPE: Leek & Apple Cornbread

We broke ground on Monday morning. So to speak.

The septic man (Kurt) came out to our potential home building site with his soil scientist Gary and Gary’s daughter (Anna) to dig test holes. Anna is a soil scientist in training. This process called a perk (short for peculation) test is one of the first stages of home-building. Kurt dug holes and Gary evaluated them. Apparently the goal is for something to perk so you can build a traditional septic. And apparently that almost never happens today and no one has a traditional septic anymore. I don’t know guys. Lesson number one of home-building: hire experts you trust because you are only going to understand 20% of the things they tell you. You’ll just be nodding your head the rest of the time.

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My Carrot understands more I think. The kind of septic you have has everything to do with the soil on the land where you’re building and I don’t think I told you this before but my Carrot has a soil science degree. I’d even go so far as to call him a soil nerd. He was on a soil judging team in college. (I’m serious. That’s a thing). We are contemplating naming all five of our future children after soil types. Cute, right?!

My Carrot had a great time during this whole process (if that wasn’t already obvious). With her soil texture triangle and her Munsell Soil Color Book, Anna and my Carrot become instant friends while Gary played professor.  I guess we’ll be building on what was once, a bazillion years ago, the edge of a glacial lake. Gary knows that because of how the soil looks and feels.

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While my Carrot was getting all giddy about soil, I was (as usual) contemplating all angles of our decision to build a home. I started thinking about something that’s never been easy for me: change and saying good-bye. With every new door that opens, another one must close and I hate closing doors. Even if it’s for something better. I absolutely hate saying good-bye to anything be it a friend, a job or a home. So although we’ll be building a beautiful home on property that has been in my family for 4 generations so that we are better able to expand our farming enterprise, we’ll also be leaving somewhere we’ve called home for the past 3 years. And it’s a home I have really loved.

I’m sure much of my winter will be spent preparing for the reality of leaving. There will be countless trips to the cheese store that’s 2 miles down so I can stock up on all the local cheese and Amish hand-rolled butter I can get my hands on! But never on game day. The cheese store is always closed on Packers’ game days. There will be hundreds of miles ran with the puppies, up and down the Sugar River Bike Trail. There will be hundreds more miles of snowshoeing and exploring on the thousands of acres of public land behind our house. There will be many trips to the near-by state park and my favorite local restaurant.

And there will be recipes with apples. There will be lots and lots of recipes with apples.

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Our current rented home has a small orchard. We are welcome to harvest from it whenever we like. It’s a luxury I’ve definitely gotten used to. I know we’ll grow a small orchard on our new property, but do you know how long it takes to establish an orchard?! I don’t either, but I know it’s a pretty long time! We’ll have children in grade school before we have free apples in our yard (and as of now we have zero babies).

This leek and apple cornbread is spectacular. And not only because it’s with leeks that my husband grew and free apples from my yard. This cornbread is certainly delicious because of those things, but also because of the massive amounts of butter, buttermilk, fresh herbs and fancy cornmeal that goes into it. This is the key to cornbread: a whole lot of creamy richness and interesting flavors tossed into a cast-iron skillet.

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I hope you enjoy and I hope you are having so much fall fun with apples of your own!

-Leek

LEEK & APPLE CORNBREAD
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Takes 50 minutes
Serves 8

14 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large leek or 3 small, green and white parts only, sliced
2 apples
2 teaspoons fresh sage, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
5 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1-1/2 cups cornmeal (I’m obsessed with Hazzard Free Farm’s selections. I tend to use a fine cornmeal for a more delicate cornbread)
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Remove all but two tablespoons and reserve for later use. Add leek to the pan with a little salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute for 5 minutes until soft. Add apples, sage, thyme, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and another dash of salt and pepper. Saute 5-10 minutes longer until apples are soft and just beginning to caramelize. Remove to a small bowl. It’s ok if a little bit of the mixture remains in the skillet. Don’t wash or wipe out the skillet!
In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir until combined. Create a well in the center. Add remaining (now cooled) butter, eggs, remaining 3 tablespoons maple syrup and buttermilk. Stir until smooth. Add half of the apple and leek mixture into the batter. Pour batter into skillet. Top with remaining apple and leeks. Bake for 35 minutes or until cooked through. Enjoy warm or cold (with pumpkin chili!).

**If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet or don’t want to have it full of cornbread because you cook with it constantly, feel free to prep leeks and apples in any regular skillet and then bake in a 8×8 or 9×9 pan.

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