Hello. We’ll take your challenge and raise you one! We are the Hileman family of Kistaco Farm in Apollo, PA, a small town about 30 miles slightly north and east of Pittsburgh. My husband, Tim, and I are third generation farmers on land purchased in 1922 by Tim’s grandfather. Our children, Miranda, Alex and Leah, are the up-and-coming fourth generation. We grow small fruits and vegetables, specializing in apples and apple cider. Currently we produce 24 different varieties of apples, as well as peaches, plums, sour cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and just about every summer vegetable imaginable. We have our own farm market which is open year-round and we attend The East Liberty Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings in Pittsburgh, PA. Challenging your members/readers/fans to plan a Thanksgiving menu around local, family farmed and/or organic foods was an excellent idea. We’ve raised the stakes by including as much of OUR OWN homegrown produce in the menu as possible. Where that wasn’t possible, we made our usual effort to support other local farms and businesses. Read on; see if you wish you had been here!
Coleslaw: Tim prepared the coleslaw with OUR OWN homegrown cabbage, hot banana peppers, and cubanelle peppers. His dressing came from Betty Crocker and included sour cream from Turner’s dairy and Vidalia onion vinaigrette salad dressing.
Applesauce: This is a staple at our house. Made with OUR OWN Jonagold apples overnight in the crock-pot, our Thanksgiving applesauce also served as Thanksgiving breakfast! (Fill your crock-pot with peeled, cored and sliced apples, nothing else; put it on low overnight, and in the morning smash your cooked apples into a wonderfully thick and chunky sauce.)
Peaches: These were OUR OWN homegrown and deliciously sweet peaches canned in mid-August during the height of our peach harvest.
Turkey: Since there were only four of us here for Thanksgiving (Miranda is studying Environmental Sustainability at Utrecht University in The Netherlands this semester), we chose to have just a turkey breast for the main focus of our meal. This we purchased from Pounds’ Turkey Farm, our neighbors and friends in Leechburg, PA.
Stuffing: I prepared the stuffing from fresh jalapeno cheddar bread from Wood Street Bread Company while the turkey was baking. This was a new experience for me; I’ve always used one of those quick and easy boxes of stuffing mix. However, in an effort to use as much locally produced foods as possible, I searched the Internet for a stuffing recipe, cut my jalapeno cheddar bread into cubes, got them toasting, sliced OUR OWN leeks, added Turner’s butter and eggs and the remainder of the ingredients. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly; I never do! But the end result was FABULOUS, best stuffing I ever made, although it did have a bit of a kick!
Smashed Butternut Squash: The last year we grew potatoes here on Kistaco Farm was the year I married Tim — 1985. Worn out equipment and low, low prices, led us to abandon potatoes. Some years we are able to purchase potatoes to sell in our store from “hobby farmers” in the area. However, this year none of them produced potatoes either, so, we opted for smashed squash instead. For this we used OUR OWN homegrown butternut squash. Baked and whipped with Turner’s butter and brown sugar, these were a suitable alternative for mashed potatoes.
Sour Cherry Sauce: Once again, trying to rely on homegrown/family farm grown produce, we chose to replace the traditional cranberry sauce with sour cherry sauce. We grow sour cherries, but lost ours to late frost this year. So, I substituted canned sour cherries from King Orchards in Michigan, a family farm which produces multiple sour cherry products. We offer several of their products for sale in our market. King Orchards sour cherries mixed with OUR OWN Jonagold apples, a pureed lemon and orange plus sugar made a tasty garnish for the turkey.
Kale: This was OUR OWN kale freshly picked Thanksgiving morning! Our cole crops — cabbage, kale, collards… — are still alive and well, so we steamed kale with OUR OWN leeks and organic garlic from Wendel Springs Farm, then sautéed them with Turner’s butter and Pounds’ turkey bacon.
Broccoli: Again, this was OUR OWN picked fresh Thanksgiving morning and steamed to a crunchy perfection!
Beets: We still have fresh beets available, but in order to save some time, I chose to use OUR OWN beets which I had previously canned. These were prepared with Turner’s butter and cinnamon and served warm.
Tomatoes: Actually, it was one tomato. But, it was OUR OWN fresh tomato picked prior to our first hard frost and allowed to ripen at room temperature. We only had one because not all of us like tomatoes and I saw no need to waste one of those delicious fruits!
Pickled Beans: Yep, these were OUR OWN beans which I pickled during the summer. Everyone in this family LOVES pickled beans — I can never “put up” enough to get us through the year.
Pickles: OUR OWN pickling cucumbers canned during the summer. I’m still not satisfied with the end result, but each year the pickles I preserve come closer to the crunchy ideal I imagine.
Apple Cider: This is one of our specialties. OUR OWN cider produced here on our farm with OUR OWN apples. Tim is the master mixer of this delectable drink which we served both hot and cold.
Apple Pie: Every apple will bake, and I’ve used just about all of them to make a pie, but given a choice, I will always go for either the Golden Delicious or Northern Spy. This Thanksgiving I chose OUR OWN Northern Spy for my apple pie. (No rhyme intended!) Slightly tart and fairly firm, mixed with unrefined sugar, apple pie spice and Turner’s butter, this pie was wonderful.
Pumpkin Pie: Made with OUR OWN pie pumpkins, Turner’s eggs and whole milk, this pie, too, was delicious.
There you have it! Did we raise the stakes enough to become one of your winners? We certainly hope so…but not for ourselves; it’s for our friend that we want to win. I mentioned earlier that we attend a Saturday farmers’ market in Pittsburgh. This indoor, year-round market begins at 5 AM, yes, five o’clock in the morning, and runs until noon. During that same time, we have our store on the farm in Apollo, PA, open, also. Finding dependable employees is EXTREMELY difficult, especially for Saturday mornings from 5 – noon in Pittsburgh, and with our kids growing up and going to college — Miranda’s a junior at Berea College in Berea, KY, and Alex is a freshman at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA (John’s alma mater) — we often have stressful and trying times, especially on Saturday mornings in East Liberty. Thankfully, though, John Lovelace walked into our lives. A former customer who became an adored volunteer one totally chaotic morning, John Lovelace has continued to offer his help Saturday mornings in East Liberty for nearly FIVE years. VOLUNTEER! John refuses pay and accepts very little of the free produce we offer. He comes to our kids’ plays, musicals, parties, and takes them to the Benedum or Heinz Hall when he has extra tickets. He shows up 48 out of 52 Saturdays a year, and he’s often there before Tim and, now, just Leah, get there. We could not manage Saturdays without him (or his sense of humor), and it’s to him the Whole Foods gift certificate would go, should we win.
Thanks for the homegrown Thanksgiving suggestion. I hope many, many others made the effort to support local agriculture and enjoyed, as we did, delicious and healthful Thanksgiving meals.
Suzanne Boyce Hileman, wife of Tim, mother of Miranda, Alex & Leah
PS – The beautiful Desert Rose Franciscan Ware was my grandmother’s.