Eating-up Stratford
Bite by Byte

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Field-to-Table, Part One: Erbcroft Farm Duck

Why didn't anyone tell me about the unbelievably useful webpage that lets you search specific farms to find local food in Perth County?!? Apparently, it's been up and running all summer... but I just learned about it last week! You can: 1) search for what is in-season/locally-available on any particular month, or 2) search the names of local producers, or 3) search by product to find out exactly where you can find whatever locally produced food you want, from kohlrabi to yogurt to elk!

So I fired up the ol' Savour Stratford Perth County Producer/Product search and thought I'd give it a tough one. I went to the product search, and selected "Duck". I was immediately reminded that Erbcroft Farm near Sebringville raises duck and sells them from their farmgate. I just met Tim and Luann Erb a couple of weeks ago at the Slow Food Sunday Market, where there was a bit of a stampede to buy their lamb, perhaps fueled by the incredibly aromatic and delicious lamb sausage samples they were offering to marketgoers. They'd mentioned to me that they also raised chickens and eggs for farmgate sales... and duck.
Fortuitously, not two days after I performed my duck search I was checking out my-food-peeps list on Twitter and one post instantly caught my eye. I've enjoyed following Luann's frequent Tweets about life on the Erbcroft farm all summer (follow them yourself at @Erbcroft). But on the day in question, Luann's tweet stated that the following Tuesday their most recent batch of ducks were going to be available at their farmgate. I messaged Luann to tell her to reserve one for me, and made a plan to come visit their family farm.
I brought the whole family along for a little farm tour. The kids were delighted by the flock of ducks that truly have free range of the whole farm (above is a photo of a Rouen duck, with Muscovy ducks in white). The sight of lambs frolicking in the pasture made me appreciate the wealth of vibrant family farms we have here in Perth County. To feel this appreciation for yourself, I encourage you to check out photographer David Charlesworth's Agri-Moments photo album of his own visit to the Erb's farm.
Tim and Luann (pictured above with their Pygmy Goats) found that once they started producing eggs, chickens, and lamb for themselves, everyone they knew wanted some too! Besides their farmgate sales, they now also have a market stand at the Mitchell Farmers Market, where every Friday you can purchase freezer lamb and their delicious lamb burgers. Erbcroft Farm is going to be one of the stops on Culinary Week's Perth County Farm Tour, taking place on Sunday, September 19th. Maybe they'll let participants pet one of their newly born lambs! They've also been paired with the chef from the Wildstone Bar and Grill of St. Marys for the Savour Stratford Sunday York Street Tasting Tent, where I've learned the collaborative dish they'll be presenting will be a duck confit.
I'd never actually cooked a duck before, so I decided I would stick with the basics and just roast the small Rouen I selected from the farm freezer at Erbcroft. I called upon the folk wisdom of Grandma Internet and found a few recipes that all seemed to have the same advice: there is a layer of fat that surrounds a duck, and in order to get that crispy skin a well-cooked duck always has, you poke holes in the skin at one inch intervals, place the duck on a rack, and place the rack over a roasting pan. As you cook the duck for a few hours at 375F, the fat drips out of the holes and into the pan, leaving nothing but crisp skin and dark, rich meat.
I discovered Erbcroft Farm as the best source for free range duck in Perth County through an online local food database search engine. I was informed that the ducks would be ready for me in a week by following a family farm on Twitter. I came home and found some really excellent guidance on how to cook my duck online. Then I wrote all about it on my blog.

Isn't the digital era a great time to be a Perth County foodie?

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