Dave – Central Pennsylvania – Born: United States
Dave and I met through a mutual friend, from my childhood, that we both served in the Army with. Dave was an infantry paratrooper and I was a line medic, and even though we were never stationed together, we have a unique understanding and bond with one another.
Our typical interaction is me asking ridiculous ‘city boy’ questions and him teaching me the ‘country life’. Some examples of my shenanigan’s would be… Can I drive your tractor, show me how to gut, skin, and butcher a deer, how do I grow a garden? Or my biggest insecurity, how do I use a gas weed whacker, because my grass grows 40 feet in one week it seems living out here in Pennsylvania.
Either way our friendship is always fun. We enjoy an occasional PBR, exchanging war stories, talking about guns and hunting, and of course, making and sharing delicious food. Dave has a unique background of growing up on a dairy farm. He has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to agriculture and the care of animals. I have had the warm pleasure of learning from his expertise, sharing in his hospitality, having our families become friends, and the joy of our children playing together. I hope you enjoy learning from his lived experience!
- What is the one meal that you can always count on to bring your family back to the table?
It would definitely be comfort food. That always brings my family back to the table. Meatloaf, with mashed potatoes, and some peas will win everyone over.
- What is your fondest memory of food from your childhood?
I loved barbequed chicken. As a kid living on a dairy farm we would always milk the cows at 5pm, but in the summer I knew there would be plenty of daylight left to swing and play, catch fireflies, and look forward to my mom grilling chicken. I would just be excited!
The smell was just awesome. Charcoal burning, chicken cooking, with fresh tomatoes out of the garden. Home grown sweet corn, rolled in a stick of butter that everybody shared. Chicken was always the best, steak was terrible because it came from one of our old dairy cows and that was just like chewing leather, so chicken was my favorite.
- How has your cultural upbringing affected your views and lifestyle about food?
Comfort food comes from my mothers recipe book. She would always include me into cooking. Teas to be brewed, baking pizza from scratch and letting me put all the toppings on. Around 5 or 6 years old, she taught me how to cook eggs. I loved getting to crack them open and cook them on the stove. I always got to cook eggs for everyone on Saturday. I would take everyone’s order and I remember my Grandpa would always order fried eggs and I got to cook it for him.
I can guarantee that is why I love to cook so much now. Because my mom just had an incredible amount of patience and was very supportive and relaxed as I learned in the kitchen. It was so much fun. Thank you mom for giving me a love of cooking!
Also, as a son of a dairy farmer, we never bought milk. It was always scooped from the tank! We would just dip a gallon of milk out of the tank for the house every two or three days. It was obviously raw milk. It was heavier. You wanted to be the first in the morning to get the cream top. Eating it with cereal, making chocolate milk, or adding it to your coffee.
I consumed so much milk and to this day, even from all the accidents I had, I never broke a bone. Even after falling down a 12-foot hay hole, dragged by a horse for 300 yards, being crushed by a raging pregnant cow, and sticking a pitchfork through my big toe! My bones are strong, so drink you milk, kids!
Funny story, when I was about 10, my dad had just put new tires on the tractor, and I jumped up to sit with him as he was driving off. But, my foot got caught in some bailing wire and yanked me under the tire. The tractor ran over my knee, blessing in disguise, my knee went in between the new tire treads, so no damage was done. However, when I went to the hospital to take x-rays nothing was broken. I told them my ankle had been bothering me for a couple of weeks, so they x-rayed my ankle, and it had an old fracture but had healed properly. So, the lesson again is, drink your milk kids, because it will do your body justice!
Lastly, farming is not just a job. It is your life. You are a farmer all the time. Holidays, weekends, when you are sick, when your animals are hurt, rain or shine, there is no stopping. You are always farming. The hardships of drop in pay, the weather, power outages that destroys your product, creates intense resiliency. It allows you to appreciate everything so much greater. You must be a true steward of not just the land, but, the animals because that is how you make your money. Truly appreciate where your fruits, vegetables, and meat come from. Someone is in the dirt, in the manure, creating a wonderful healthy product for you and your family.
There is a detachment from getting it in the grocery store. It is almost defective. I am ingrained to do it myself. Farming, hunting, gardening, cooking, slaughtering, curing, smoking. They are life skills that I desire to teach my children because it allows them to value the importance of their food and the hard work it takes to make it taste the best.
- What is one bit of advice you would give to readers for refining their skills in the kitchen?
Do not be afraid to take the chance to try new things. Do not get caught up in one technique or food. That is how you change recipes through culture and different foods and integration. It changes everything for the better.
For those that say ‘I cannot cook’, it is far easier than you think. It is okay to mess it up. You will mess it up, just cook. Less is always more. The quality will play out so much better than doctoring it up. Do not rely on seasoning, rely on the quality of the meat, or vegetable.
Go out and find local farmers, and dairies, to get reattached to your food. Thank them for what they do, and truly engage into your local agriculture because it is what drives this country. Find value in the people and places that nurture our bodies. And again, thank a farmer.
[recipe title=”Farm Friendly Sour Cream Apple Pie” servings=”8″ time= “70mins” difficulty= “Easy”]
“This pie is kind of weird, but the sweet and tangy compliment each other very well. It ends up setting almost like a custard and can be enjoyed both warm or cold! Also, you can thank my beautiful mother for this delicious recipe.” -Dave
2 tbsp of all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg, ground
1/8 tsp salt, fine
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup of whole fat sour cream
5-6 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thicker wedges
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
9 inch pie dough, homemade or store bought
apricot jam for brushing pie dough
- Preheat your oven to 400F degrees. Using an ungreased 9-in pie pan, place pie dough inside and brush it lightly with with apricot jam to create a moisture barrier for the pie filling. This step is not necessary but can add to a better baked pie that is not soggy. Set back in the refrigerator till you are ready to fill.
- Mix your dry ingredients together for the filling, set aside. Next, beat the egg and mix it with the sour cream in a separate bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine, fold in the apples. Add apple filling to your 9 inch brushed pie dough.
- Bake at 400F degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F degrees and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
- While the apple pie is baking. In a bowl mix together all the ingredients for the crumble. Making sure that the butter is evenly coated with the flour, sugar, and cinnamon. You want to use your finger tips to mash the butter and dry ingredients together, till crumbly. Set aside.
- Remove the pie from the oven, remember that it is hot and then add the crumble on top. Increase the oven temperature back to 400F degrees and bake your pie for an10 additional minutes.
- Remove the pie from the oven after 55 total minutes of baking and let it cool. This pie can be enjoyed both warm or cold.
Feel free to Pars bake your pie dough before adding the pie filling. You can brush it with the apricot jam prior to Pars baking to create the vapor barrier. *Click here for a wonderful pie dough recipe and Pars baking instructions.
Granny smith apples are a wonderful tart baking apple, however, try different apples that you enjoy. Words of advice, using a crispier apple will prevent a soggy texture. Apples such as honey crisp, crimson crisp, cosmic crisp, and jazz apples will all work great because of their texture. You can stay away from macintosh, and red or golden delicious as they are much softer and will become mushy.
The Mellinger Farm, the farm that made us all! There are no shortages of stories or traditions coming from home.
We are thrilled to be a part of the stories and the traditions and, of course, the delicious food from the Mellinger Farm!