Just recently I had the pleasure of attending the U.S. Durum Associates International Durum Forum. It was incredible to learn all about durum production and be able to hear how the production of durum differs from the hard red spring wheat we grow. I am excited to be featuring a durum grower for Thirty Days of Food. Kyle Wasson grows durum (among other crops) in Montana. For those of you who don’t know about durum, here’s a little background information.
Durum is the hardest of all wheat which makes it the wheat of choice for producing pasta. Durum kernels are amber-colored and larger than those of other wheat classes. Durum also contains a yellow endosperm, which gives pasta its golden hue. When durum is milled, the endosperm is ground into a product called semolina.
DURUM: KYLE WASSON
When did you start farming?
2005 I was able to purchase farmland right next door to our family farm.
What brought you into farming?
I grew up on a farm, and ever since I was a kid I knew that’s what I wanted to do. My grandpa started our families farm in 1948. My Dad currently is farming land that my grandpa farmed back then, someday I hope to farm that land and have the opportunity to pass it on to my kids as well.
What chores did you have growing up on the farm?
The first chores I can remember was feeding the chickens and picking eggs. After a couple more years, I got to go with my dad and they let me change the shovels on our cultivator. That was cool for a young kid getting to use the air impact wrench and put new shovels on. I would get to keep all of the old cultivator shovels and take them into Pacific steel and recycling and get to keep the money, that was a pretty big deal!
Are there any differences between your farm now and your farm when you were a kid?
We don’t use a cultivator anymore, everything is done with sprayers, chemfallow and cover crops. Technology has improved tremendously, gps, auto steer, etc. We now top dress our crops with liquid fertilizer instead of dry. We grow more diverse crops. All we used to grow was wheat and barley. Now we grow, wheat, barley, peas, lentils, flax, canola, cover crops, and durum.
Who farms with you and what are their roles?
Our farm and ranch consists of my dad, mom, my wife and kids, and two hired hands. Dad and I usually run the big machinery during seeding, spraying and harvest. Tractor and drill, sprayer and combines. Our wives keep us in line, that’s a full time job in itself. It’s nice to be able to work and have my wife Kellie wanting to learn how to run the combine and moving cows with us. Our hired hands keep us going during these times. They keep our trucks full of seed, fertilizer, water, chemical, fuel. They will run tractor and drills from time to time. They run trucks to and from graineries on the farm during harvest as well. My father in law even comes out and runs our tractor and grain cart during harvest.
What has been the hardest part of farming for you?
Keeping up with technology, new chemicals, and figuring out if you want to sell a crop or wait for just five more cents.
What has been the most satisfying part of farming for you?
Being able to work with my family. It’s great being able to take my whole family with me to work. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with my grandpa, my dad, and now my wife and children. I guess that’s what it’s all about, family.
What crops (or animals) do you grow and why?
We grow wheat, malt barley, hay barley, durum, peas, lentils, flax, canola, cover crops, and raise black angus cattle. These crops seem to do very well in our area.
What do you think was the most useful advance in farming such as machinery, genetics, chemicals, etc?
Machinery advances are amazing. You can do so much now with one big machine. Technology plays a big part, it’s nice to have section control, gps and auto steer in fields that are not square. We have also seen a improvement in our cattle when we turn them out into our cover crops. Great calf weights at shipping time as well as our mother cows are in great shape after grazing our cover crops for Montana winters.
What is one message you’d like to get across to the general public about what you do?
A lot of thought is put into what we do. It is more than just driving big equipment around. We learn soil types, crop and animal genetics, chemicals and fertilizers and how to use the perfect recipe for certain crops and in certain soils. We have to be good stewards of the land, to keep it in great shape for our sons and daughters in hopes they have dreams of coming back to the family farm some day.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in getting into farming?
This is a tough one. I got into it because I love what I do.
Making pasta dough is something that is so simple and makes all the difference when it comes to your pasta. There is nothing comparable to homemade pasta dough versus any store bought pasta. I used all semolina flour for mine, although I have seen recipes utilizing all purpose flour as well.
I know goat cheese is something that is either a love or hate relationship so if you are a hater, feel free to use ricotta. And if you aren’t a pumpkin fan, it can be omitted. But it adds a little extra to these! The brown butter sauce is what makes these though!
- 1 1/2 cups semolina flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- In a stand mixer or food processor, combine semolina and salt. Mix or pulse for 30 seconds. Add beaten eggs, water and oil. Mix or pulse to make a stiff dough. Pour out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes or until dough is elastic.
- Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll out to desired thickness or put through pasta machine to form thin sheets.
- 1 cup goat cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tablespoon basil, thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 stick butter
- 8 fresh sage leaves, hand torn
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 - 2 tablespoons butter
- In a medium bowl, mix together the cheeses, basil, lemon zest, pumpkin, and egg. Set aside.
- Lay one sheet of dough on a lightly floured surface. Place about a teaspoon full of the filling in a row along the sheet leaving about 2 inches in between.
- Brush an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water) around each mound of filling and then lay a second sheet of dough over the top, pushing out the air bubbles.
- Use a ravioli stamp or pasta cutter to cut out ravioli and set on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and be sure to well salt it. Boil the raviolis for 3 to 4 minutes or until pasta begins to float. Do this in batches so that you don't overcrowd the raviolis. Once done, drain well.
- For the sauce, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the stick of butter and cook until it begins to brown.
- Add the sage leaves carefully as they will splatter once added to the browned butter.
- Remove from heat. Add the lemon juice to stop butter from browning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to add another 1 - 2 tablespoons of butter to make sauce creamy.
- Toss brown butter sauce with pasta and top with extra parmesan cheese. Enjoy.
This post is part of my Thirty Days of Food series where I am writing about food and farming for the entire month of November, to find out more about it all or how to follow along, visit my Thirty Days of Food page to find more great recipes with farmer features!