Farm Share: Dream for a different life comes to fruition in Gill
The Recorder, May 16, 2017 by Tinky Weisblat
“It’s egg season,” Sorrel Hatch informed photographer Paul Franz and me. The farmer/cook was busy whirring an egg mixture with an immersion blender in her cozy kitchen at Upinngil Farm on Main Road in Gill.
I admitted that I hadn’t known that eggs had a season. I presumed that hens just laid the darn things pretty much all the time. Hatch explained that, like many creatures (humans included), hens thrive in the lengthening daylight of spring.
Hatch currently has about 50 hens. She carefully divides the labor among her girls. Some are layers, producing about an egg a day at this time of year. Some hens are in charge of sitting on the eggs Hatch sneaks into their warm little nests until those eggs hatch.
A special sort of nanny hen, experienced at motherhood, takes over raising the resulting chicks. When Paul and I visited, she was teaching two fluffy babies to look for worms in a small see-through coop.
One of the chicks found a grub so big that he (or she?) couldn’t figure out what to do with it. The foster mother ended up eating it.
I asked Hatch about the origins of Upinngil. She explained that her mother, Patricia Crosby, had grown up on a farm on Center Road in Gill. Her father, Clifford Hatch, came from a farm family in Granby. Clifford was a professional chef when his children were born. In 1988, he and Crosby decided, that they wanted a different life for Sorrel (then 4) and her younger brother Rhys.
“My father wanted us to be raised on a farm, as he was raised,” Sorrel Hatch recalled.
As they drove daily from their then home in Whately to revive the dormant Crosby farm, Hatch remembered, she and her brother would bounce up and down and rejoice: “We’re going up-in-Gill, we’re going up-in-Gill.” A name was born.
After a few years of homesteading on Crosby’s family farm, the Hatches purchased the property on Main Road. In the 1990s, they began to market pick-your-own strawberries and a variety of vegetables. A little over a decade ago, when Hatch was in college, her family purchased its first cow and began selling raw milk.
“The raw milk has become the cornerstone of the business,” Hatch told me, explaining that the milk brings regular customers to Upinngil’s farmstand. The Hatches sell 40 to 50 gallons of milk every day throughout the year.
Customers who come for the milk purchase other products from the farmstand: cheeses Clifford creates in his immaculate cheese room, vegetables, wheat grown on the farm and milled into flour nearby and eggs from Upinngil and neighboring farms.
Shoppers can also purchase pottery crafted by Hatch’s husband, Isaac Bingham, who also helps manage the farm, and other local products such as yogurt, coffee and pickles. Poultry and meat from Upinngil and its neighbors can be found in the freezer.
Farm helper Jodie Stafford and Hatch even use Upinngil flour and eggs in the farmstand’s popular baked goods.
“We love being a great place for people to visit,” Hatch explained as I purchased some cheese and eggs.
Hatch highlighted several of the farm’s products in the dish she prepared for Paul and I. Informally dubbed “Eggy Cheese Delight,” it is officially known as a skillet popover.
The recipe comes from Clifford, who sometimes makes a sweet version with apples. It can be adapted to take advantage of just about any seasonal fruit or vegetable. It does scream out for the rich color and taste of free-range eggs.
This elegant, puffy egg dish is gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to eat. Hatch and Bingham’s almost 3-year-old son, August, sleepy from a nap, joined us at the table as we shared food and conversation. His little brother Everett was still in the land of nod.
Upinngil Spinach Shitake Skillet Popover
½ cup roughly diced onion
1 cup sliced Upinngil shitakes or other mushrooms
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon salt plus a little for sprinkling
1 cup Upinngil sifted wheat flour
1 cup Upinngil milk
2 cups (½ pound) grated Upinnzellar cheese (or other Swiss-style cheese). Add a little more if desired
2 cups Upinngil fresh spinach or other sliced green vegetable
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium cast-iron skillet, sauté the onions and the mushrooms in the oil over low heat. Sprinkle very lightly with a little salt.
Using an immersion blender, regular blender, or whisk, blend the eggs, the flour, the milk, and the ½ teaspoon salt thoroughly. Stir in most of the cheese, reserving about ½ cup.
Once the onions and mushrooms are nicely cooked, turn the heat under the skillet to high and add the spinach. Stir until the spinach wilts and everything is sizzling hot. Pour in the egg batter.
Shake the pan a little to distribute the filling, but don’t stir. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, and transfer the pan to the oven.
Bake the popover for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden and puffy. Serve immediately while the popover is still aggressively puffed; it will deflate at the table as it cools.
Serves 6 generously.
Food writer Tinky Weisblat
of Hawley is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” For more information about Tinky visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.