Fat Toad Farm Original Caramel wins First Prize!

Original Caramel (cajeta)

Original Caramel (cajeta)

Fat Toad Farm’s Original Caramel won first place in the “Confection” category at the recent 2009 American Dairy Goat Association Competition in Buffalo, N.Y. The national competition features goats’ milk products from cheese to butter to confections.

Fat Toad Farm is a goat dairy in Brookfield run by family members Steve Reid, Judith Irving, Calley and Josey Hastings. Besides the goats’ milk caramel, they specialize in making fresh goat cheeses.

The caramel is sold throughout New England while the cheese is available in Vermont. Both are available through mail order on the Fat Toad Farm web site.

The inspiration for making the caramel came from Josey, who lives in Mexico part time. Caramel sauce, or cajeta, is a traditional and common confection found all over Mexico.

Four years ago, Josey brought home recipe ideas for the caramel and encouraged the family to try them out. What started as a few batches made in the family kitchen is now a business. Today, the family makes three handstirred batches of caramel a week in their new cheese/caramel production room.

The main ingredient in the caramel is goats’ milk from the farm’s 24 milking Saanen and Alpine goats. Organic sugar is added to the milk and the mixture is simmered for four hours until it is a rich, golden, bubbly sauce. It is then bottled and hot water processed. Besides the original flavor, the caramel comes in three other varieties – vanilla bean, coffee bean and cinnamon.

Delicata Squash Puts the Competition to Shame

Delicata Squash

Delicata Squash

When I work with groups of children teaching them about food and farms, I have everyone introduce themselves with their name and their favorite vegetable.

Well, my name is Calley, and my favorite vegetable is delicata squash (though botanically it’s really a fruit).

Delicata squash has a gorgeous white/yellowish skin with green stripes. They grow in an oblong shape and measure 8-12 inches. They are not commonly found in conventional supermarkets, but many local farmers have taken to growing this variety, and they can often be found at local co-ops and natural-food stores, or directly at the farm.

The reason this type of squash is becoming so popular is because, in my humble opinion, it puts the other squashes to shame.

There are three main reasons I put delicata on this pedestal.

First off, they are small and manageable. You can make one meal with this squash and not worry about having leftover squash for the next five days that you feel compelled to consume.

Second, the rind is completely edible and probably the best part of the squash. That means no tedious peeling, boiling or skinning of the squash before cooking it.

Third, the flavor is outstanding. It is sweet, creamy and nutty.

In this recipe the sugars in the squash caramelize, and both the nuttiness and sweetness of the squash are enhanced by the coconut oil.

Instead of making this recipe too fancy, I am offering the most straightforward, simple way of baking delicata squash. This is a food that requires only a little push from salt and a little nudge from baking to allow all of its flavors to surface.

If you are feeling more creative, throw some sliced-up fingerling potatoes into the mix. Or you can add onions or garlic. You can also play around with the shape of the squash. Cut whole rings and scoop out the seeds. Bake for half the time and then add a filling: goat cheese with walnuts, risotto, rice with cranberries — you name it.

Enjoy, and as the seed catalogs begin to arrive in the coming months consider growing this vegetable next year. It’s easy to do, and it can provide you with a store of squashes to carry you through the winter months.

Calley Hastings runs Fat Toad Farm goat dairy with her family in Brookfield, where they produce goat-milk caramel and fresh goat cheese. Her family also raises more than 80 percent of their own food year round, and they enjoy cooking and baking especially in the winter months. Learn more about their farm and find more recipes at www.fattoadfarm.com.