Overlapping with the end of maple sugaring season, northern New Englanders also experience the joy of what we call mud season, which involves, you guessed it, lots and lots of mud. The good news is that the arrival of mud season means winter is over. The bad news is that spring, at least as people in other parts of the country would recognize it, is not quite here and your car just might get swallowed whole by a hungry dirt road.
But, as with many things, it’s often a matter of perspective and Amy Richardson of Richardson Family Farm in Hartland, Vermont always seems to find a positive spin on things. For Amy, mud season means the tide has turned, that spring is on its way. The first shift, she says, is more daylight, which is very much welcome when you’re headed to the barn for evening milking. “I usually walk across the field from the house to the barn and I can smell all the spring smells. I can smell the mud and the dirt and the earth,” Amy says. She also hears the difference: the sounds of birds and of water running through the culverts, released from its deep winter stilled silence. “It’s energizing,” she says. “It’s really my favorite time of year when the grass starts turning green against all that brownness everywhere. It’s just that eternally hopeful time.”
Her three sons, now 14 to 19, have also always welcomed mud season because it meant they could pull out their bikes and “tear around” the farm again, their mother says with a chuckle, or head off to explore a running brook or some tantalizingly wet spot in a field. They might come home with their boots, socks and jeans completely soaked through, but their mom never minded (especially once they learned to do their own laundry).
After they’ve worked up an appetite running all over the muddy, spring-softened farm, Amy might make chocolate pudding for her crew. It’s a great way to use up milk and was an easy activity for her boys when they were just learning to cook. With the magical thickening as you stir the pot, “it’s like a science experiment on the stove top,” she says. Her recipe came from her great-aunt Shirley who her boys never knew, although they know and love her pudding. Sometimes Amy will top it with a little Cabot Greek yogurt and some of the farm’s own frozen garden berries cooked down into a lightly sweetened sauce.
In homage to mud season, we offer up this twist on Classic Chocolate Pudding lightened and made a little tangy with some Greek yogurt swirled in at the end. So quick and wholesome to make from scratch, you’ll never go back to the packaged stuff. It tastes so much better, too. Even the gummy worms will agree.
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Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).