Saturday, September 29, 2007

More is Less

It's time to put by the last of summer's crops. The change is in the air. I am sure you have all felt it. Our CSA share this week looked quite different: turnip greens, red cabbage, sweet potatoes, potatoes, red peppers, apples, pears, onions, garlic. Still quite a bounty, but a different bounty. Since I personally prefer a different different bounty I called up Farmer Art King of Harvest Valley Farms to ask for a bulk order of all of the produce that will not be available for very much longer.

We made an arrangement whereby he would bring some extra stuff to our drop off site when he was picking up the CSA crates. So, no extra gas used for anyone this time. Yippee! And no waiting in lines or wrestling with children and wagons at the farmer's market. For $50 I got 4 dozen ears of corn, a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes, a peck of grapes, a peck of red peppers and several large bunches of basil.

I dried 10 red peppers and here is the result of that:


These can be used in soups, stews, sauces, etc. without rehydrating. Another suggestion from Preserving Summer's Bounty was to pulverize the dried vegetables into flakes to use as "nutritious, colorful seasonings."

The rest of the red peppers I diced and froze on trays on then transferred to freezer bags. These are 3 for a $1.00 at the farmer's markets right now. I have paid $4.00 for a single red pepper (they usually cost $3.99 a pound at supermarkets and good ones weigh about a pound). Talk about more with less.


I also froze three cookie sheets worth of basil (and then transferred to bags). The leaves turned an awful shade of black, but they still smelled good. According to the book Preserving Summer's Bounty by Susan McClure, "when you are ready to use an herb, pull out the crisp-frozen leaves and crumble them into the dish you're cooking. If you let the herbs thaw, they're likely to be soft textured." There are many other ways to preserve basil. This website has many recommendations: http://www.apinchof.com/preservebasil1106.htm The basil can be had for about $2.50 a bunch (for example) at the Farmers @ Firehouse Market (Saturdays in the Strip District)-- thanks to my M-I-L for picking me up some today. A bunch is about 30 times the size of the little plastic box you can get at the supermarket for the same price. So, even if your end result with preserving is not perfect, just think, is it 30 times less good?

I also distilled about 30 pounds of tomatoes into sauce.

Following the suggestion of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving I added fresh basil leaves and 1/2 teaspoon of dried seasoning to the jars before ladling in the sauce. I am excited about tasting this summer treat in the darkness of a winter evening.

More tomatoes are in the dryer right now turning into sun dried tomatoes. Now, they won't be "sun-dried" but they will taste the same and I'm sure everyone knows how much those cost and how good they are. For about 40 pounds of tomatoes, I paid $12. That's 30 cents a pound! Have you ever seen tomatoes at that price at the supermarket?

It's also a good time to stock up on green beans and zucchini if you see them. They won't be around for much longer. Zucchini can be shredded and frozen to use in baked goods and sauces (just thaw and squeeze out the moisture before using). It can also be sliced and frozen to stir fry later. Green beans can be frozen as is also and then boiled or stir fried within six months.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

An Old Chestnut



I am so excited that "other" people are reading this blog (other than my husband and his kind relatives, that is). As is becoming apparent to them (I already knew this, of course), I have no idea what I am talking about much of the time. I was really hoping that this blog would take on more of a bulletin-board-type aspect where people could share what they know in the form of comments so that all of us who are trying to eat local food could do so more easily and with more knowledge.

So, here is an example of how I am struggling along with limited knowledge. At the Joseph King stand at the East Liberty Farmer's Market the other day, I saw some nuts. I had no idea what they were, so I asked. Chestnuts. I did not buy them for reasons having to do with a wagon, a two year old and some missing nectarines, but anyway. . .The next day, my kids and I were walking up to Blue Slide park and I saw what I thought were the same nuts on the ground!

I couldn't believe my luck. No, really. I couldn't believe it. So, I picked one up to bring home, and went to look on the internet. It looked just like the pictures, but I am too skeptical to believe that real, actual food would just be falling out of the sky. So, I brought my identifying pictures ttp://www.masschestnut.org/basicTreeID.php and went back to check the tree. I'll save you the suspense. It is a horse chestnut and the nuts are either bitter or poisonous.


However, real chestnuts are available at the farmers' markets these days and as is usually the case, Marlene Parrish wrote about them and how to use them in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05293/591378-34.stm. (Every time I think I've discovered something I realize again that Marlene Parrish has been there first--- she knows everything about everything eating local!) And here is another site which describes ways to store the chestnuts and many different options for cooking them, none of which I have tried. http://www.oldhouseweb.com/gardening/garden/03900044.shtml. I hope to. And, if you four readers out there have any suggestions, please share them!

Monday, September 24, 2007

End of Corn?

I know many in the know consider corn to be one of the newest evils of American Society. In fact, in case you didn't read Omnivore's Dilemma you can catch the movie King Corn http://www.kingcorn.net/ sometime this fall (I hope we will get it here in Pittsburgh; we are not listed on their website) if you want to know more about why I say that.

But that corn they are berating is not sweet corn. Thank goodness. It's one of the only whole foods my daughter eats regularly (the other being honey crisp apples). And, of course, who doesn't love corn on the cob? or off it? (well, my daughter, actually will only eat it on the cob, but what can you do?) So, I understand that we are nearing the end of corn season here in Western PA. Those corn fields will soon be turned into corn mazes for Halloween season farm visits. Several farmers today at the East Liberty Farmer's market mentioned that this was their "last field of corn." I guess each field matures all at once and provides only two to three days of corn cobs for us consumers.

So, if you haven't done so already, now's the time to buy some extra ears to cut the kernels off to freeze for the winter. I got fifteen ears for $4.00 from Farmer King today. Of course you probably know to eat the corn ASAP and leave it in the husk for as long as possible (because the sugars start turning to chewy starch as soon as the corn is picked). When my father used to grow corn, he actually wanted the cooking water to be boiling before the corn could be picked and husked.

The method I've read that is good for freezing is the following: The day you get the corn (see above), boil a big vat of water. Husk the corn. Boil ears for four minutes. Immediately dunk them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Remove the ears quickly from that water, too. Remove the kernels using a sharp knife (I use my chef's knife). I've heard some tips to make that easier too. Like place the cob in the center of a bundt pan to hold it stable for kernel removal. Or impale it on a piece of wood with a nail sticking up. Place the kernels in a freezer safe plastic bag or container. Or you could go the extra step of freezing the kernels on a cookie sheet so that they don't stick together as much and then transferring them to a freezer bag within twenty four hours. Use within a year. I got five fairly full quart size bags from eleven ears of corn. Not bad for $4.00 (plus we ate some for dinner).

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Apples, Apples Everywhere

My very best apple memories are of going to my cousins' house to help them with their apple harvest. They live in Harvard, Massachusetts and own a two-hundred+ year old apple orchard. They used to be a "pick your own" operation that also made and sold apple cider every year. My mother and I would go out to help them by gathering the drops and feeding them into the cider mill, which we hand cranked. We filled the jugs directly from the mill and sold them just like that. No pasteurization or anything. And that stuff was like the elixir of life. I have never tasted anything like it. We would put half gallon jugs in the freezer to take out through the year as a special treat. And boy, was it.

It took me a while to figure out why I would never taste anything like their apples or apple cider anywhere else. There was the lack of pasteurization, of course, which you can't avoid these days. Also, they always said that their apples were MacIntosh, but they were not like any MacIntosh apple you could get at a store. That is because they were technically heirloom apples http://www.tomsofmaine.com/apple/heirloom/default.asp since they were from trees that were so, so old and nothing like the twenty or so varieties today that have been bred for looks, tranportability and shelf life. Like Red Delicious. Have you ever had anything less delicious? Yuck.

The only place I have heard of around here that grows heirloom apples is Sand Hill Berries in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I will be asking about their availability tomorrow at the East Liberty Market, but in the meantime, the next best thing (which everyone and their next door neighbor raves about -- just do a Google search) is the HoneyCrisp apple.

The HoneyCrisp apple was developed by the University of Minnesota in 1960 as a hybrid between Macoun and honeygold. They have been steadily gaining popularity and I am not the only person to have "discovered" this apple. It is so crunchy, juicy and sweet, it will be your favorite too. The best place I have found to get them is at the Saturday market at the East Liberty Farmer's Cooperative. Kistaco Farm (in Apollo, PA) sells a peck for $8.00. Buy a peck. Maybe two. Keep them in the refrigerator. They will stay juicy and sweet in there for weeks.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Harvest Valley Farms CSA




Community Supported Agriculture. Before this March I had no idea what that meant. Then I spotted a flier. "Did you know that a tomato usually travels 1300 miles from where it is grown before you eat it in your salad?" Hmm. Interesting. I stored the name away in my mind and weeks later I found Harvest Valley Farm's website. http://www.harvestvalleyfarms.com/index.html

When I figured out what a CSA was, it sounded too good to be true. Sustainable? Limited fertilizer and pesticide? Variety of produce? A crate of fresh produce delivered 1/2 mile from our house each week from May through November? It all checked out, so I sent in our deposit check. We pay $410 for the entire season (in monthly installments) for this privilege. I cannot tell you how convenient and wonderful it is every week to get delivered this surprising and varying assortment of produce. It is like Christmas every week.

Yesterday we got 12 ears of corn, three onions, five Gala apples, a head of Romaine lettuce, a giant spaghetti squash, three patty pan squashes, two zucchini, and a box of concord grapes. It was different the week before as seen in the picture above. Butternut squash, red peppers, apples, cantaloupe, concord grapes, green beans, arugula, and corn.
We often get fruits and vegetables that I am accustomed to eating (as noted above). Occasionally we got something new. Like kohlrabi. That was a nice surprise. Crunchy and delicately flavored. We also received some other treats in the beginning when the produce selection was leaner, like cheese, eggs, bread and honey. The farmers King send a weekly newsletter telling of happenings on the farm, what produce is coming up, what is ending and give a recipe for one of the items in the crate that week.

There are several options for CSAs in this area. One that has been around for a long time is through Kretchmann's Farm. The bonus of this CSA is that it is organic. According to a few subscribers I've spoken to, though, the downside is that they get "a lot of leaves" and have some wormy produce (an unfortunate fact of organic produce?). This link will lead you to Slow Food Pittsburgh's list of the CSAs available in this area: http://www.slowfoodpgh.com/csa.html. I would highly recommend to anyone to participate in a CSA. Share a "share" with someone if you think it would be too much for you or your family alone.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fruit Leather

The grape jelly set. Woo-hoo. It is a great favorite of everyone else in the family. It is way too sweet for me, though, and I am disturbed by how much sugar went into the making of it.

So, I came up with another option for the concord grapes. Fruit leather. My kids have been big fans of this store-bought treat from the very beginning. At upwards of 50 cents a piece, I am not as big of a fan. However, with twenty minutes of prep (and that's because my daughter was "helping") and a food dryer, we now have several servings of delicious grape fruit leather. I used an immersion blender to puree the grapes, then fed them through the food mill to remove the seeds and the bigger pieces of skin. Then spread on the food dryer and voila. No sugar. Pulp included. And probably some seeds and skin, too, which are supposed to be the most nutricious parts. And since I got a peck of grapes (that's a lot of grapes) for $10 at the East Liberty Farmer's Market, and I've already made 9 jars of jelly, I think I will at least break even this time.

And, in case you're keeping track, I also canned 7 pint jars of diced tomatoes, made 5 containers of nectarine freezer jam (not sure if these set well, though), and dried a few dozen tomatoes that now fit into a quart size ziploc bag.

Another couple of books have proved helpful in all of this food preservation. One is The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food: Easy Step-by-Step Instructions for Freezing, Drying, and Canning by Janet Chadwick http://www.amazon.com/Persons-Guide-Preserving-Step-Step/dp/0882669001/ref=sr_1_1/102-0803418-3078545?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1190340159&sr=8-1
The other (thanks Angela) is Preserving Summer's Bounty: A Quick and Easy Guide to Freezing, Canning, and Preserving, and Drying What You Grow by Rodale Food Center and Susan McClure. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0875969798/ref=s9_asin_image_2/102-0803418-3078545?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-amp;pf_rd_r=1M7JJ6Y21WQFJP9JQZ15&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=278240801&pf_rd_i=507846

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Canning

Sorry for the little hiatus in blogging for those of you who are following along at home. I was canning! I can't believe it. It's like I've entered another era. A galaxy far, far away. I feel like Laura Ingalls' "Ma." I have no idea if they canned on the frontier way back then. Probably not. Anyway, you get the point.


In this day and age of fast everything, canning does seem to take a while. Not too long. But, it's much longer than going to the grocery store. On Sunday I found some canning supplies at Rollier's Hardware in Mt. Lebanon. http://www.rolliers.com/ Although it was kind of pricey, they had everything I thought I needed: a big canning pot with a rack or "canner," jars and lids, pectin, wide-mouth funnels, lid lifter, a jelly bag, a jar grabber, even a foley food mill. Canning will definitely not save you money the first year. I'm hoping to break even by year three or four.



Anyway, I began by canning a tomato sauce on Sunday. I got the recipe and the method from a very helpful book called Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: 400 Delicious and Creative Recipes for Today http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Complete-Book-Home-Preserving/dp/0778801314. Of all the books and websites I reviewed, this book explained the method the most clearly to me and offered the recipe for the tomato sauce that I used.

On Monday my friend Emily had me over to make raspberry jam. We both used frozen raspberries. Five mashed cups. She made her jars first so I could watch her. She showed me some short cuts, like sterilizing jars in a microwave by inverting them in a tray of water, and pouring boiling water from a tea kettle on utensils and lids. She explained that there is a critical time in the jam/ jelly making process that does not exist with canning other things. The critical time is when your fruit/ pectin mixture comes to a full and rolling boil (and it was good for me to be able to see what a rolling boil looks like -- basically, when the boiling can't be stopped by stirring). You need to dump the sugar in all at once and then when the mixture comes back to a full and rolling boil, boil for exactly one minute and then ladle it in! Another time saver (and energy saver) tip was instead of using a water bath, Emily simply inverted all the filled jam jars for five minutes. Sure enough, we could hear the pop when shortly thereafter, they sealed! And the jam tasted heavenly. Hopefully it won't spoil.

Today, all on my own, I made grape jelly. I hope. I have no idea if it's set. It is all jarred and looks nice, but Emily cautioned that when she tried making grape jam it would not set for her. I found a very helpful grape-jelly-making web page. http://www.pickyourown.org/grapejelly.htm It took a while for the jelly to drip through the jelly bag, but I was hoping it would appeal to the picky four year old who has rejected the raspberry jam already because of the seeds. Sigh.
On the one hand, I did all the work for the jelly in a three hour period. On the other, I could have bought grape jelly at the supermarket in about 3 minutes. Is it worth it? I think if I can figure out how to do it without sugar, it will be. But that's a project for another day.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Laptop Butchershop

Today I went to the Strip District to pick up some meat. Not just any meat, mind you. This is the good stuff. Free Range. Pasture Fed. Organic. The real deal. You know, chicken that tastes like chicken. Not that I know what that is, being raised on corn fed chickens from feedlots.


Laptop butchershop is a program started by Susan Barclay of Slow Food Pittsburgh. http://www.slowfoodpgh.com/laptop.html
By ordering ahead, one can arrange to pick up meat (this week it was chickens, lamb and beef) at the Saturday Farmer's at the Firehouse Market.

First I visited Steve Misera of Misera's Poultry. From him I purchased three whole chickens, 2 chickens cut into parts and a dozen eggs. No pack of boneless, skinless breasts available here. He let me know that he would be back in November with more chickens, but then that would be it. Since his chickens are grass-fed, they are not available in the winter time and won't be ready next until June. But, one can call in the off season to see if anything is left in the freezer.

My next stop was with Deanna McMaken of Rose Ridge Farm.She is often at the East Liberty market, but it was good for me to be able to pay with a check and buy some meat without the kiddos. From her I bought 4 small beef tenderloin steaks, some hamburger patties and some ground beef. Her beef is also grass fed on a farm in Ohio. She often comments that she could easily sell every steak that she gets, but there is a lot more to the cow than steaks.

After two long trips to the car (parked far away of course, since it is the Strip District on a Saturday morning) I headed home.

What to do with those chicken parts, though. My experience, and most of my recipes involve cooking with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I had to turn to an old companion, the Betty Crocker Cookbook, to find recipes using "3-3.5 broiler/fryer cut into parts." Well, my parts weighed about 7#, so I was hoping to divide and conquer. The recipe I did use called for melting butter and olive oil in a 9 x 13 pan, then adding herbs (marjoram, basil, oregano), lemon juice, worcestorshire sauce, garlic and onions. Coat the pieces in the mixture and cook at 375 for 30 minutes, then flip over and cook 30 minutes more. It worked out fine -- not great -- and the chicken tasted like chicken.

Friday, September 14, 2007

McConnell's Farm Raspberries


Today I went to check out a book at the library and it was due in October! Oh My God! What am I going to do in the winter? Mild panic has set in. One thing to do, of course, is to prepare. Freezing, canning and root cellaring (which in my case will have to be in an improvised wine cellar that is where an old bulkhead entry way used to be) seem to be the recommended methods. But, you have to have something to preserve! The fruit is almost gone. Panic made me drive far away, again, to Beaver County (just past the airport) to McConnell's Farm.
I had heard they had raspberries and a phone call confirmed it. She said the berries wouldn't be around long, so come soon. http://www.mcconnellsfarm.com/index.asp
I did and found the old, family-run operation to be very quiet this morning when I showed up to pick raspberries. They had both golden and red varieties. The McConnells were obviously not using pesticides or herbicides in great amounts because the fields were overgrown with weeds and buzzing with bees and many insects (including japanese beetles).
I was very glad I didn't have the two year old with me because he would have been lost among the tall weeds and caught by the thorns of the raspberries. Just something to keep in mind if you are planning to go. The proprietress of the farm store gave me some pint baskets and a cardboard box to hold them. Pints are $2.50 each. I filled 6 pints in about an hour. The bushes were filled with ripe berries. I was wishing others were around to pick them because they are mostly going to waste. I also picked up a peck of peaches for $12-- a fruit they specialize in, and a peck of tomatoes. Ms. Farmer (I should have asked her name!) even gave me for free 12 quart-sized jars to help with the process.

I washed the berries at home and was dismayed to find that many had tiny mold spots that I swear weren't there when I picked them. The mold spores seemed to be multiplying by the second, so I washed, picked through and discarded many berries, then spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper to freeze. My next step is to transfer these to freezer bags. My intention is to thaw them shortly to make jam, but if I don't, they will be good as an ice cream topping, stirred into oatmeal, made into muffins, etc. through the long winter. Ain't they pretty, though?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What's for Breakfast? Frankferd Farms


It's all well and good to eat local produce and meat for lunch and dinner. But, what can you eat for breakfast? Well, this one I know the answer to! A local organic farm, Frankferd Farms, http://www.frankferd.com/ grows and mills their own grains. From these, they make an organic buckwheat pancake mix to die for, sold at the East End Food Co-op. Two pounds worth is $2.89. The ingredients are Buckwheat Flour, Whole Wheat Pastry Flour, Corn Meal, Soy Flour, Monocalcium Phospate, Baking Soda and sea salt. To this blend, you add 1-1.5 cups of liquid (I usually do half yogurt and half milk), 1 Egg (which they say is optional, but I do it) and 1 teaspoon oil. The pancakes that result are tasty, filling, and perfectly textured. I make a double batch and freeze the left overs. The double batch made 18 pancakes this morning, but I make very big pancakes. A good cook could probably figure out how to use this base to make other things (waffles, muffins, etc.), but I haven't managed to do that yet.
A white peach from Paul's Orchard (purchased at the East Liberty Farmer's Market) and some local maple syrup (mine is Brenneman's puchased from Triple B Farms) round out the meal. The miracle is, everyone in my family will eat these! O.k., I confess, I do have to add chocolate chips to the batter to get the very picky 2 year old and 4 year old to eat them. But they used to eat Eggos before I became enlightened. When I think about all the ills of Eggos (the non-natural ingredients, the sugars and fats they are made from, the energy it takes to keep them frozen while being shipped and at the store, the shipping in general of all the ingredients) a few chocolate chips don't seem so bad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Slow Food

Tonight I attended the "All about Slow Food" lecture given by Marlene Parrish at the Carnegie Library. Slow Food (founded in Italy in the 1980s in response to a McDonald's opening in Rome) has many many-syllabled tenets. http://www.slowfoodpgh.com/ Their website is kind of short on content, but it has some useful information.

A quote from their website:
"Slow Food is an international educational organization dedicated to the revival of the kitchen and the table as centers of pleasure, culture, and community; to the invigoration and proliferation of regional, seasonal culinary traditions; to the stewardship of the land and ecologically sound food production; and to leading a slower and more harmonious life. Slow Food Pittsburgh has close to 200 members and is growing. "

I will be joining shortly. Membership will cost $60 annually. They host many events and try to be a center and clearinghouse for eating locally in Pittsburgh. They also run programs in schools and send farmers and local chefs to Italy for the bienniel meeting. The Pittsburgh chapter looks to be a major player within this very important organization. It is one of the top ten in the country alongside such cities as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Here is an article about Pittsburgh's involvement within the larger chapter. http://www.slowfoodusa.org/press/pilgrimage.html

And just in case you're making plans for May, Slow Food USA will hold its first ever national promotion of American Food. It will be in San Francisco May 1-4th and will be anchored by Michael Pollen (author of Omnivore's Dilemma) and Alice Waters.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fredonia Grapes


I am new to Pittsburgh, so I was quite surprised to see grapes for offer at the East Liberty Farmer's Market this week. The variety pictured here is Fredonia. These were all that were left at the Schramm's Market Stand for $2.50 a pint. I tried one and immediately ponied up the big bucks. It tasted like grape candy. So sweet. Now I understand why grape flavored popsicles taste the way they do. These grapes do have seeds, so the mechanics of eating them are a little tricky.
I also purchased some Concord Grapes from the King Farm which are slightly less sweet (one of the three fruits indigenous to the U.S. from my home state of Massachusetts). Here's a history of that one (I can't find one for Fredonia). http://www.concordgrape.org/bodyhistory.html
They seem to be a good option for making jam or jelly -- something I have never done but am eager to try. "Pick your own" options seem to all be in Erie county. In the meantime we will eat them as is.

Monday, September 10, 2007

East Liberty Farmer's Market




The bounty of the harvest is stunningly on display at the East Liberty Farmer's Market every Monday from 3:30 to 7:00. http://agmap.psu.edu/Businesses/1606 The listing of vendors on that site is not totally accurate.

This is the farmer's market on Penn Circle (near the McDonald's. . . not that I've ever been there) just west of Highland. Not the one next to Home Depot (which is much different, and smaller and open Saturdays year round). I think of it as Ground Zero for eating locally. I go there every week. You can get everything you need right there. Every type of produce under then sun. Organic. Conventional. Prepared foods. Meat. Cheese. Eggs. Milk (Turner Dairy). Bread. Cider. Baked Goods, etc., etc. Plenty of parking. Plenty of nice people.

There are several big produce vendors. My favorites are Harvest Valley Farms, the Joseph King Farm, Schramm's, Bluebird Organic, and Paul's Orchard. I also visit Rose Ridge for beef and pork, Farmstead Fresh Cheese, Sand Hill Berries and Cinco de Mayo Salsas. And there are several more as well that I am forgetting.
I have often needed the services of the slush vendor as well. It helps me get through the market with three small children somehow.
If you haven't been, you must go! More specifics about what's good where will come in future blogs.


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Milk

We go through two to three gallons of milk at our house.

After reading about what cows have been eating these days I feel like I now need to choose between shipping cold milk many miles combined with ultra-pasteurization or buying from a local farm which does not pasture its cows. Of course the easiest choice is avoiding Horizon milk after reading the Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (more on that another time).

One good choice seems to be Natural by Nature. They pledge to use milk from grass-fed, pastured cows and they do not use the regular high-temperature pasteurization. They are here in Pennsylvania, but Pennsylvania is a big state. Their products are available at the East-End Coop and they have other things besides milk.
http://www.natural-by-nature.com/index.htm

Another choice which works for me if I can time it right is Brunton Dairy Milk. They were featured in an article in Pittsburgh Magazine (which is not available online, sorry). Then another article ran in the Post-Gazette.
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07158/792023-57.stm

Their cows are fed hay (and corn and soy and vitamins) and kept in milking barns. Sounds awful, right? But you have to try this milk. It is the most amazing stuff I have ever tried. It is skim, but it tastes like whole. Or at least 2%. Perhaps they are not skimming it? Who knows, I have not done a calorie analysis. But they are in Beaver County, and it is a single family-owned operation. The problem is that I buy their products at Murray Avenue Kosher (and it costs an arm and a leg) and for some reason tha store does not keep to a regular supply date. I thought it was Fridays, but I showed up yesterday and there was no skim. No gallons either. I don't know where else close by to get Brunton's milk.

Then there are the second tier milks. Turner Dairy (local and pledging hormone free). Schneider's jumped on the band wagon after that. Of course, neither of these are available at Giant Eagle. That would be too convenient. Another milk I've never seen anywhere is Marburger Dairy milk. Marlene Parrish mentions it in her column.
http://www.marburgerdairy.com/index.htm
A milk I can find at Giant Eagle is Mountainside Farms. And it is less expensive ($2.50 per half gallon right now).
http://www.mountainsidefarms.com/about.html
I don't know what "ultra-pure" means, though. It is in New York which is not too far. Pledged anti-biotic free which sounds good to me. Not ultra-pasteurized.

And what about raw milk? Haven't seen it, but I am curious about it.

Hmmm. If only I had Michael Pollan to follow each bottle of milk to its source. Or maybe there is no best option. I see a lot of dairy farm field trips in my 2 year old's and my future.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Peaches

The peaches from Shenot farm are amazing. They are hefty, heavy, round, unblemished. The perfect shade of reddish orangy yellow. You know, peach. I had to wait a day for them to ripen, but now some are ready and I just ate one. Now the keyboard is getting all sticky. They were juicey and so sweet. I actually managed to convince my daughter to try one. An enormous coup. I wish I had thought to take a picture. This is a 4 1/2 year old who subsists on a diet of Goldfish, graham crackers and Cheerios (no, the organic brands will not do). She had a small piece. Then another small piece. Then another. Then she actually wanted a whole peach for herself. I had to remove the skin, but she dove right in after that, peachy juice running down her chin instead of the usual ice cream and orange-colored cheese dust.

I have heard great things about Chambersburg peaches and we tried some purchased from Schramm's market on Allegheny River Boulevard. These are far, far superior. I will have to blow more gasoline and buy a bushel to freeze.
I have read varying advice on preserving peaches. I am a person who most always only likes fruit out of hand, so I would like to keep the fruit in the most original shape possible. This web site suggests that I can freeze peaches whole, or at least in half, instead of boiled, peeled, stored in syrup.

http://www.countryroads.net/countrycook/story.cfm?STORY_id=405

Does anyone have any experience with this method? I will surely give it a try and let you know how it goes.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Newsworthy

Today I was quoted in a column in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette food section in an article by Marlene Parrish about her month of eating locally. Since my name is now in print in about 100,000 newspapers, the secret is out. No more hiding. I confess. I've stopped going to Giant Eagle. I am trying to eat as much of a local diet as I can. And it's been an interesting journey. I've never written a blog before, and I've barely even read them, so forgive my ineptness. I am just hoping if I share some of my (mis)adventures, I may provide some help for others in this area that are also trying to eat locally.



Despite the fact that it makes no sense and tainted my fresh produce with gasoline, I drove 30 minutes outside the city today to Shenot's Farm Market. http://shenotfarm.com/index.html My 2 year old and I had a couple of hours to kill before his second 1/2 day at preschool. Bringing him along solo to a store that takes credit cards seemed superior to me to wrestling all three kids (others aged 4.5 and 6) to the Bloomfield Farmer's Market (to which I have never been). If only one could get really good local produce in the city in the morning. On any day of the week.



Anyway, it was a nice little market. They had many peaches (I should have bought more and froze them, if only I knew how!) tomatoes, corn, watermelon, beans, apples, pears, plums, etc., etc. They seem to be more about the food they are selling and less about the atmosphere or "gimmicks" as they mention on their website. It had much less of a circus/ movie set atmosphere than the other market down the road. I feel bad about wasting so much gas to get there, but I am always curious about the farms in our area and this one has been around for about 150 years. Of course they are right across the street from about a hundred subdivisions. So sad.



I used the plenty available to make a lovely casserole during my sons hour and 45 minutes of preschool. Bought cheese from Ruggeri's market. Does that count? Not really. The store is small and locally owned, but that doesn't change the cheese. At least I had all local veggies and herbs from the garden and local eggs (for $3.79 a dozen, yikes) from East End Coop. Must not let perfect interfere with good as my husband says. So, here's the recipe. It's from the Moosewood Collective and is mighty tasty (though did not hold its shape).

Tortino Di Verdure (Italian Vegetable Casserole)
Ingredients:
1 medium eggplant
1 large potato
1 medium zucchini
4 fresh tomatoes
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (2 teaspoons dried)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste
half cup olive oil
one and one-half cups grated mozzarella cheese (6 oz)
one cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (2.5 oz)

Slice eggplant crosswise into half-inch rounds. Place eggplant rounds on lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake covered with foil at 400 degrees until they are tender, about 45 min. Slice potato and boil until just tender, then drain and set aside. Slice zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds. Slice tomatoes about 1/2 inch thick and set aside.

Mix bread crumbs, basil and parsley. In separate bowl lightly beat eggs with salt and pepper.

Oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and coat the bottom and sides of pan with about 1/4 of the bread crumb mixture.

To layer the casserole, begin with all the eggplant slices. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over them and sprinkle on 1/4 of breadcrumbs and 1/4 of mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Pour 1/4 of beaten eggs on top of cheeses. Next layer all the potato slices. Repeat layer of oil, crumbs, cheeses, and eggs. Finally, layer the tomato slices topped with the remaining oil, crumbs, cheeses, and eggs.

Bake covered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Allow the casserole to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.