Monday, July 14, 2008

What Did You Do With that Cabbage?

I LOVE my CSA, but there are two vegetables that I always have trouble using. Beets and cabbage. Last week we got a cabbage in our CSA box (or maybe it was two weeks ago -- at least they keep well) and I still have about 1/3 of it left. We don't like regular cole slaw or sauerkraut in our family, so I sent out a request for suggestions to our yahoo group (send an e-mail to to subscribe). I suspect if I lived in Massachusetts, where I grew up, the bulk of responses would be different. And most people would say, "Boiled Dinner." They didn't say that here (which is great, because I don't like it), but a lot of people recommended a sort of polish/ hungarian/ slovakian/ Pittsburgh twist on cabbage -- that is cabbage fried in butter or oil and onions and blended with egg noodles. Here is what Barbara recommended in that vein:

Fry one or two heads of cabbage in a generous amount of butter (onestick? maybe more?). We use our wok. Stir frequently and cook downuntil the cabbage is very soft, brown and sweet. Add noodles, salt,and enjoy! Egg noodles are good, or sometimes my husband'sgrandmother makes her own dumplings, as in this recipe:

Of course, there are cabbage rolls. Here is Kathryn's dad's recipe for these -- called pigs in blankets:

2lb hamburger (cooked)
2 eggs (you can also use applesauce which makes it sweeter)
1 cup rice (cooked)
1 cup saurkraut (not for me, thanks)
8 oz tomato sauce
8 oz diced tomatoes (sometimes I use spiced ones)
1/2 onion ( i use flakes sometimes)

Mix these all together

1 head cabbage

Cut the center out of the cabbage and put into a pot of boiling water so the core hole is in the water -
Boil for 5- 7 minutes depending on how large the cabbage is.
Layer or wrap the meat mixure in the leaves and place in a crock pot or pressure cooker.
If you wrap it, slice the big leaves down a little so they are not so thick.

after you layer the mixture or wrap all the pigs. cook for at 300 for 2 1/2 hours. I usually like to cook it alittle more by at least a 1/2 hour, it helps soften the cabbage even more.

Then there are the variations on cole slaw, i.e. cabbage salad.

Here is Jesse Sharrad (aka Corduroy Orange)'s advice for that:

As far as regular cole slaw goes, i've got some hints for making it a bit more interesting. I tend to use a mix of 1/3 cabbage, 1/3 carrots, and 1/3 turnips. the other veggies add a bit of variety to the flavors. The last batch i made, i crumbled blue cheese into, and definitely enjoyed that. I never use "cole slaw dressing" out of a jar--it just winds up tasting like it came out of a jar. While I often use mayo, I don't always--sometimes, I'll just use a vinaigrette (balsamic is nice). Even when using mayo, I add plenty of citrus--lime or lemon juice adds a pleasant touch. And what really makes the cole slaw worth eating is a big old heap of pulled pork underneath it, inside of a toasted hamburger bun.

I have to say, though, that my favorite cabbage bent is the American version of Asian way. I grew up eating cabbage in stir fry -- with celery, carrots, peas, broccoli, onions (and I'd add garlic though my mother can't) with soy sauce and ginger over rice (sorry, the last 3 ingredients are not local). There's also Asian Slaw, which is basically the same thing, but raw. Here's a recipe for that.

Combine 3 cups shredded cabbage, 1 cup snow peas, 1/2 cup shredded carrots, 3 tablespoons onions

Combine (with wisk, or shake): 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/8 tsp. pepper

Pour over cabbage mixture and toss to coat.

Hope this has helped you find a way to use and enjoy your cabbage too!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Free Range Chicken

A chicken in every pot, right? Americans love their chicken these days. I admit, I used to be one of them. Then I learned a little more about how chickens are raised these days. CAFOs -- concentrated animal feeding operations -- are how most Americans get their meat -- be it pork, beef, chicken or turkey. You can read a little more about the myriad of ways these are bad for the surrounding generally poor, rural populations from the ammonia emmissions that are a threat to public health to the noxious smell, fecal coloform levels in streams, run-off, dust, etc., etc. Then think about eating these birds who never see the light of day, who are packed 25,000 under one roof, and whose feed is contaminated with arsenic, ammonia and other chemicals. And don't get me started on antibiotics and bio nutrients.

If you still want to eat chicken, you may want to support one of our local growers of PASTURED chickens instead. These are chickens that are raised eating grass and bugs and other things real, natural chickens eat. And they taste a little different, too. During the summer months you can purchase fresh or frozen chickens for about $2.90 a pound from Steve Misera at the Strip District Farmers at the Firehouse Market market the 4th Saturday of each month. Spend a bit more a pound to have them cut into parts. West Liberty Farms is another fine producer of grass-raised chickens. They were at the Strip Districts' Farmer's Market last week for a slightly higher charge. Joe Rush, mentioned in an earlier blog, sells pastured chickens also. He delivers these (among other things) all over Pittsburgh every other week.

I recently bought 4 fresh chickens from Steve Misera. The neat thing about buying them fresh, is you can part them in a way that is convenient for you and then freeze them so that they are ready when you need them instead of having to roast a whole chicken every time. My good friend Angela was kind enought to show me how to dissect the chickens.

I will do my best to describe our method. Here's what we used: a very sharp "chef's" knife -- I think it is 7" long, a sharp pairing knife, and something I didn't have, but which is crucial to the process -- kitchen scissors, or, in Angela's case, carpet shears. We also had several plastic cutting boards and glass casseroles to put in the parts as they were parted. Ziploc bags were at the ready, too.

Create a trash pile and a stock pile (oh, that phrase really makes sense in this case!) that you will use to make stock/ broth. First, cut off the neck and the excess skin. Neck to stock, skin to trash. Then, cut out the back bone by using scissors or a chef's knife to cut both sides of it. Then, turn the chicken over and hold it up by it's leg (the thigh part). Let the weight of it separate the thigh from the body and find the joint and cut that. Do the same for the other leg. The wings hold on a little stronger, but the same can be done for them. Then you can split the breast right down the middle. After that, you can skin and de-bone the breasts and store them away. Or leave them with skin and bone. Whatever you prefer. I would not recommend deboning the thighs and wings. Way too much of a pain.

So, I saved the wings separately and used a recipe from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's food section. I tried the Asian Mahogany Wings. The recipe was quite easy to make and the sauce was very, very tasty. I wish the skin had gotten more crispy - perhaps I basted too much. I would definitely make them again, though, and you should, too. But not with CAFO chickens.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Make Hay While the Broccoli Shines

One of the things about living in Pennsylvania as opposed to some place like Florida or California is that for several months of the year, nothing much edible grows. So, if you want to eat local in January, February, March or April (and even May), you need to preserve the Summer and Fall harvest.

There are different ways to store different fruits and vegetables. One good way for a number of things is to freeze them. And a good way to get these things is to buy in bulk from a helpful, local farmer.

So, I asked Farmer Art King of Harvest Valley Farms about some things my family likes which I am hoping to preserve for the winter that seem to be in season right now: peas, broccoli and green beans. He told me that he can sell at retail all the peas he can harvest because they are so time consuming to pick. Hmm. Bummer. But he did offer to sell me a great big crate of broccoli.

After making an arrangement in advance, I picked up this crate at the East Liberty Farmer's Market for $15.00. It actually was more full -- by the time I took the picture, I had already sliced up several broccoli heads. I used the book The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food by Janet Chadwick which I find very helpful.

1. That same day after I bought the broccoli (i.e. ASAP), I chopped up the broccoli into smaller pieces and let them

2. soak in a sink full of salted water for thirty minutes.

3. While the broccoli was soaking, I filled a big canner with water and heated it up to a boil.

4. After thirty minutes and the water was boiling, I placed one pound of the broccoli in the boiling water, returned it to a boil and cooked it for 5 minutes.

5. I then removed the broccoli to a sink filled with ice water to stop the cooking process and let it hang out there for 5 minutes.

6. Next, I put the broccoli onto some towels to dry.

7. After the broccoli was dry, I placed it on wax paper-covered trays or cookie sheets and put those into the freezer.

8. After about 24 hours, I removed the broccoli from the cookie sheets and placed it into labeled and dated plastic ziploc bags.

Now we have broccoli for the rest of the year!

Friday, July 4, 2008


Last fall, I wrote a post about how actual food growing from a tree in my neighborhood was too good to be true and could never happen. Well, guess what? Actual food does grow in my neighborhood on a tree. It happens to be in my neighbor's yard, but that seems like a start. They invited us over to pick mulberries, which are ripening all around us right now. I've never had them before, but Chris assured me that they are edible. I'm not sure what variety they are -- they look like Morus Nigra, "Black Mulberry."

He said they taste just like water at times like this, after it rains, but after the sun has been on them for a while and dries them out, they taste more sweet and berry-like. They are ready to be picked when they fall right into your hand as you pick them. I think a good picking strategy might be to put a clean tarp beneath the tree and shake it. Lots of them were up way too high for us to reach, but plenty grew on the branches that trailed all the way to the ground.

They are best when eaten right away -- they don't really keep in the refrigerator. But, they can be used to make jam or jelly, or in a berry "crisp" or pie.

The really good news is, Chris and Pam say that there are some mulberry trees growing in Frick Park. They said continue along the path past Blue Slide Park and they are along the left. I've never noticed them before, but hope to get over there tomorrow to check it out.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Berries, Berries and More Berries

If you are lucky enough to have brambles in your yard, you are probably aware that raspberry and black raspberry season is upon us. It seems to me like growing raspberries is the way to go. They grow very easily (too easily? they might takeover if you're not careful, I've heard), they are super, super expensive to buy (over $5.00 a pint is the average I've been quoted) and are so delicious in a variety of uses. That's my plan for next year, anyway.

For this year, I decided to try to pick some raspberries. I called around -- Kaelin's, Soergel's, Triple B's all had raspberries in their farm stores. Simmons' had some from another farm. Soergel's were not open for U-Pick yet, but check back later. Trax was $5.00 a pint. Triple B was $5.99, I believe. Kaelin's and Soergel's were somewhere in the middle. Reilly's Summer Seat Farm was open for pick it yourself at $4.00 a pint. I decided to go there and brave the thorns. I was the only one there and there were tons and tons of black raspberries. I filled up my peck container, but had to move everything into pint boxes in order to pay for them. I heard, after all that work, that Harvest Valley Farms is selling black raspberries for $4.00 a pint.

Reilly's also had lots and lots of blueberries just starting to be ready. It was a little difficult to pick them, though, because each bush is under a net. Last year I picked at Soergel's and Trax (who said theirs will be ready on Tuesday) and it was easier because the net was built onto a structure covering the entire blueberry area.

Blueberries are much easier to pick -- no thorns. Also, unlike strawberries, they grow at about kid arm-reach level. I recommend you take your whole family. I will be doing so sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Strawberry Ice Cream

Some wonderful strawberries are still available from farmers all around the city. We had some fantastic ones from Harvest Valley Farms and from the Oakland Farmer's Market (from the Dillner Family Farm). I (with a little help from my family) ate all of those strawberries just as they were.
I had a bunch of strawberries in my freezer dieing to be put to good use though, so I figured out a way to make ice cream with no eggs.

For those of you following the exciting saga at home, I had tried (and succeeded) earlier this year to make peach ice cream. Just about every recipe I found called for using eggs. So, I did. Although the ice cream set nicely and several people actually ate it -- it wasn't terrible, I decided I would try to make ice cream without eggs the next time to see if I liked it better.

Funnily enough, I found the instuctions for my ice cream maker wedged into the pages of another cookbook with a nice folded page of a magazine inside. That page contained a recipe for peach ice cream. With no eggs! I had it all along of course. So, I subsituted strawberries and came out with a delicious product.

No Egg Strawberry Ice Cream

2 pounds strawberries (mine were frozen, so I let them somewhat thaw, but not all the way)
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Place strawberries in a bowl and roughly mash by hand using a potato masher. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the sugar, salt and lemon juice and let sit for 30 minutes.
2. While strawberries macerate, put cream and remaining sugar in saucepan with vanilla. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to keep from scorching, until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
3. Pour cream over strawberries and mix thoroughly. Taste to see if it needs more sugar. (This will depend on the strawberries). Refrigerate until chilled.
4. Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions until set but not quite hard. Pack the ice cream into a bowl or mold and place in the freezer until hardened.
Yield: About 1 1/2 pints, 3 to 4 servings.

It came out to be absolutely delicious. Even my daughter who never eats food remotely connected with the natural world ate a few bowls of it.

More frozen strawberries became strawberry jam. Raspberries are coming up next!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bona Terra

There have been a couple of articles lately about restaurants that are pledging to use local produce. For example, there's Chipotle, the fast-food Mexican restaurant, which will, "This summer. . . purchas[e] 25 percent of at least one produce item for each of its stores from small and mid-sized farms located within about 200 miles. Those purchases could include lettuce, onions and peppers" for their 730 restaurants. They have to source from farms of 500 acres or more, they say, though, because "tiny" suppliers are too unreliable.

Also, Eat N' Park has been buying local produce for years, and pledges to use 15% local produce. And there's now a new non-profit group that's trying to organize the farm to restaurant/ grocery store distribution:

Fast food and mass markets are all well and good, and extremely important, but the really fun part is going to a fine dining establishment that uses local produce. I was lucky enough to go to the only one in Pittsburgh to be recognized by Gourmet Magazine as one of the best farm to table restaurants in the nation, Bona Terra in Sharpsburg. Here is the four star review from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Many people write restaurant reviews in blogs and on websites, and you can easily find a ton on Bona Terra, which won Pittsburgh Magazine's best new restaurant in 2004 after it opened and continues to be on local best lists. I don't think I can do the genre justice. I would just like to say that the restaurant is in a very unassuming location, next to the St. Vincent dePaul thrift shop and across from Jocko's Pub. And its decor is likewise unassuming. Its prices assume a more consumptive clientele, but the menu, which supposedly changes daily, reflects an appreciation for using local, in-season produce. Almost each menu item mentioned something which came from a local source from the Firefly Farms goat cheese, through the local pork, and on into the local kale. Strawberry sauce figured into one dessert I heard about and strawberry vinaigrette was part of the salad menu as well. Honestly I expected a little bit more from local souces, thinking that all of the produce would be local, but it was not. However, many, many items were. So, if it's your anniversary or something and Uncle George has sent you some money, you might want to splurge on a local restaurant that supports our local farms.

Other upscale restaurants that serve the best possible food, that is food that is freshly produced locally, include Casbah, Lydia's, Cafe at the Frick, Six Penn Kitchen, Legume, and Ubuu 6.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Strawberry Festivals

Sorry I've been away for a while. Taking a full-time job for the first time in eight years will do that to you. Anyway, school's out and so are the strawberries.

Yesterday, after being inspired by the food section of the PPG about local strawberries, the kids (ages 7, 5 & 3) and I headed to Triple B Farm in Monogahela to pick our own. There were plenty of big, juicy strawberries, but there also were plenty of people arriving in a steady stream. "Pick your own" hours were 9-2, including a hay ride out to the strawberry field. Call for updated information about hours (724) 258-3557. If you bring your own containers, you can get a discount. They have some there if you don't have any. I can't tell you exactly how much the strawberries were, but your containers will be weighed and then you pay by the pound. They take credit cards. Our totals were confounded by our buying of fudge, pickles, cookies and "Pop's pop" at the Triple B farm store. Then we sat in the shade on their porch swing eating our goodies. Afterwards, the kids played on the playground (my 3 year old could sit on the tractor all day) and checked out the four-legged animals. I think they were mules, or perhaps they were ponies. I'm not sure.

And tomorrow and Sunday they will be having a strawberry festival. We went there for the pumpkin festival in the fall and it was crazy busy. I imagine unless it is pouring rain (which it is supposed to), it will be the same Kennywood-like atmosphere. Other places are having strawberry festivals tomorrow including Soergel's in Wexford and Trax Farms . Still more places have "pick our own" hours including Janoski's Farm (out by the airport) and Paskorz Berry Farm in Cheswick. We went there last year. The berries were teeny-tiny, but the propieter blamed that on the lack of rain last year. There are no facilities there. It is a straight-up farm -- note the lack of website.
And of course, after we picked about 15 pounds of berries (thanks to my industrious seven-year-old) we got two more quarts in our CSA from Harvest Valley Farms. So, I decided to freeze two trays worth to make jam, ice cream or sorbet as soon as I have a little time.
You can get fresh-picked local strawberries from just about any farm store right now, I imagine. Let the tasteless California ones rot at Giant Eagle and enjoy a sweet/ tart juicy bit of heaven today.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Signs of Spring

First it was crocuses. Then daffodils. Then magnolias. Then tulips, crabapples, and dogwoods. Now the lilacs are blooming. And the phlox. And apparently, that means it is also asparagus time! Hooray! "Home grown" asparagus were two bunches for $4.00 at Janoski's in Clinton (out by the airport) today. You can combine a visit to Janoski's with a trip out to the Raccoon Creek State Park Wildflower Preserve (further along on Rte. 30) and see trillium and Virginia bluebells along with bluets, phlox, and Dutchman's breeches. Just check the weather forecast before you go.

In case that area of Western Pennsylvania is not in your plans, local asparagus is also currently available at Soergel's in Wexford. There it is $3.29 a pound. Rick Zang of Zang's Greenhouse in Butler, a vendor at the East Liberty Farmer's Market Cooperative, said his would be ready next week. Harvest Valley Farms promises theirs will be in their Farm Market when it opens on May 5th.

My favorite way to eat asparagus is when it is roasted. Wash asparagus and break or cut off the woody bottom part of the stem. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the asparagus with olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook for 10 minutes or so -- until it just begins to get tender and is still bright green.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Peach Ice Cream

I'm pretty much down to the bottom of my freezer now with just about no fresh produce left (until tomorrow when I see what's out at the East Liberty Farmer's Market Cooperative). I've been struggling with a way to use the peaches I froze last September. I saved a lot of them. They turned out to be not so great in most of the ways I tried to use them. Too mushy. And there are just too many for smoothies only. However, I finally hit on a nice idea now that the weather has turned. Ice cream!

I already have an ice cream tub in our freezer. Once that has been freezing for 24 hours, it is ready to be used.

First, I skimmed the cream off the top of some jersey cow-produced, raw, unhomogenized milk purchased from Joe Rush . Next, I trawled my cookbooks and the internet for a good recipe. Not as easy as it sounds. I tried a Betty Crocker recipe and ended up making scrambled eggs and curdling some milk. I left the ice cream base mixture on the stove just a little too long at a critical moment. Turns out seven and two year old boys can't be trusted not to color in their mouths with markers. It's hard to stay focused when you are confronted with a multi-colored tongue.
Since that batch was ruined, I turned to Alton Brown, who is always good for general cooking advice, and went on from there. Tempering the egg mixture. Ah-ha. Then you basically make pudding and throw in some pureed peaches (I used a food mill) and put them in the ice cream maker and wouldn't you know it? Peach ice cream. I used a custard based recipe, and it turns out I don't really like peach ice cream made from a custard base. Other people who ate it claimed to have liked it, so I will share the recipe. In the future, I will look for a non-custard style (one with no eggs). I think that would be easier too since it wouldn't require cooking.

2.5 cups ripe peaches pureed
3 eggs lightly beaten at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
dash of salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla and salt until well blended. Set aside.

In a large, heavy saucepan over low heat, heat the milk and cream, just until it begins to steam. Pour a little of the heated mixture into the egg and sugar mixture, and stir. [there's the tempering]. Then pour the bowl of egg/sugar/milk mixture back into the heavy saucepan. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick and smooth. [this can take quite a while. I read elsewhere, stir until mixture coats the back of a spoon]

Remove from heat, and refrigerate the mixture for several hours or until well chilled. Add the puréed peaches to the chilled mixture, stir well, and pour into an ice cream freezer. Continue freezing according to the manufacturer's directions. Allow ice cream to ripen for at least an hour. Makes about 3-1/2 quarts.

Now I have to figure out what to do with all that frozen corn. And corn ice cream is not an option.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Weatherbury Farm

Weatherbury Farm was another exhibitor at the Farm to Table conference. They raise grass-fed beef and lamb 40 minutes southwest of Pittsburgh. You can order now for October delivery of lamb and December delivery of beef. You can order by the quarter or half animal. Their website fully describes what cuts that comes with, how many pounds it is, and how much it costs. The 1/4 cow is about $440. If that seems like too much meat for you (as it does to me!), consider splitting with friends. They are having a field day on May 18 from 1-4 where you can visit the farm and learn more about their operation. If you are interested in going, you need to let them know soon to reserve a spot as parking is limited.

Another way to visit their farm is through the bed and breakfast. You can stay in a room or a suite (which sleeps up to seven). Fees get cheaper per person with more staying and cheaper for longer stays (you can stay six nights or more). There is a swimming pool open Memorial Day to Labor Day. The main attraction for many is the farm. Guests (even the young ones) help with farm chores like feeding animals, pumping water, searching for eggs, or checking out the farm equipment. Hopefully, our family will get to visit this summer. Anyone who has visited, please write in and let us know how it was.

By the way, they sent an e-mail to me with this information and also let us know that the documentary King Corn will be airing April 15th at 10:00 PM on PBS.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Time to Sow

Actually, it's a little past the time.

I am new to gardening you see. Sort of. I grew up having a big, big garden in our back yard. We even had a greenhouse and fruit trees/ vines/ bushes. But mostly, as a kid and then a teenager, my main job was to weed. And I hated that job. So now that I want to grow some food here at our house, I am a little lost. It helped that the previous owners of our house had built a tiny raised bed. It had all sorts of things growing in it when we moved in. Maybe we can grow some things in it again.

According to a few different authorities, it is time to start your seeds in the garden. . Or maybe just past the time, but I think it is not too late. I am using the book Month by Month Gardening in Pennsylvania by Liz Ball. Her Pennsylvania Gardener's Guide was also recommended to me. Some seeds you can plant directly into the soil are: lettuce, spinach, peas, potatoes (not exactly seeds), onions (more like bulbs), radishes, parsnips, kohlrabi, endive, escarole, cauliflower, swiss chard, carrots, cabbage (not chinese), brussel sprouts, broccoli, beets, and just about all the herbs (except basil and marjoram). Corn can be planted soon. Of course lots of seeds can be started indoors (or should have been, but that kind of preparation is beyond me at this point). Many of these things can be grown in containers, also, including potatoes in five gallon buckets. I've got lettuce and spinach growing in containers right now. The lettuce has already yielded a delicious salad. These came from Goose Creek Gardens ( ) at the Farm to Table meeting. They have a CSA and sell at Farmers@Firehouse. Some seeds sources recommended from the Yahoo group are Johnny's, High Mowing, Seeds of Change, Territorial Seeds, and the local Heiloom Seeds I bought some seeds at the East End Co-op and inherited an onion set from a generous friend. I'm trying lettuce and onions right now and hope to add herbs (particularly cilantro), spinach and broccoli soon.

Those seeds that need to be started inside? Well, I usually buy those from other people. Everyone is talking about Garden Dreams in Wilkinsburg for all that good stuff. One reason is 95 tomato varieties. Plants are $2.75 each. You must order soon to pick up May 2nd through May 10th. There also will be a plant sale at Garden Dreams on Saturday May 24 and Sunday May 25. They also sell gardening supplies, compost and mulches, as well as seedlings. Many products are organic and the nursery is Certified Naturally Grown. Another option if you are a gardener, is to attend the Pittsburgh Garden Swap at Frick Park. You can bring your ten best seedlings to swap with others.

If you want to try growing fruit, group members recommend Miller's Nursery,, particularly for their customer service. I'm trying raspberries from a friend's raspberry canes that she thinned out. I hope also to put in some strawberries if it's not too late.

I'm sure there are lots of other great places around to buy plants, seedlings, seeds and garden products. If you know of any to recommend, please post a comment.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


So, last week I got some raw milk from Joe Rush. There is a good bit of controversy over the safety of raw milk (see, for example, this article about a new California law, what the FDA says vs. what the Weston A Price foundation says in response Many believe that raw milk from cows that are grass fed can be beneficial because of certain enzymes, vitamins and helpful bacteria that are present-- which are destroyed by pasteurization.

The thing about raw milk, though, in addition to being unpasteurized, is that it is unhomogenized. The fats haven't been distributed throughout the milk. Instead, they just rise to the top as cream. Joe Rush's milk is from grass-fed Jersey cows and has a very high percentage of butter fat.
If you squint really hard and use your imagination, you can see the line where the thick, pure white cream starts about 2/3 of the way up the jug. It is there, it just didn't photograph well.

After hearing that someone had used this cream to make butter, I decided that was too crazy not to try. I mean, make your own butter? Wow. And apparently, it wouldn't be that hard. Hmm. So, a friend loned me her butter churn, which is a crock with an egg beater attached, and told me what to do. I enlisted my other friend to help who had made butter before.

First, I needed some way to get the cream out from the milk jug, so I figured I would pour all the milk into something with a wide mouth. First, I tried to sterilize a glass sun tea pot/ pitcher that I had bought at Target. I boiled some water, let it cool a few minutes and then poured it into the pitcher. The pitcher promptly cracked beyond repair. So, instead I used the large pot that I had boiled the water in and poured the milk into there. I have since realized that using two see through 1/2 gallon orange juice/ kool aid/ lemonade pitchers would be wiser. But anyway, I let that sit in the fridge for about 18 hours or so.

The next day, I sterilized the equipment (the crock and egg beaters) by putting them into a canner filled with boiling water. Shortly after I took them out, I put them into the freezer. Not a good idea. The crock cracked. Very slightly, but still. And it isn't mine. Sorry! So, the moral there is, sterilize the night before. Let the crock come back down to room temperature. THEN put it into the fridge overnight (which is actually what my friend had told me, but I didn't read her instructions until it was too late).

While the crock was cooling, I ladled the cream off the top of the pot into a pitcher (that I had previously poured very hot water into, but not as hot as almost boiling). I let that sit out for a while to come up to room temperature. But perhaps I did not let it sit long enough, because, despite the fact that my friend and I and our daughters churned for almost an hour,
all we got was frothy cream. We had to go to do other things, believe it or not, so, I put the crock with cream into the fridge to try later. When later came and my daughter and I churned for 30 more minutes and nothing happened, I decided to forgo tradition and enter the modern age. I had read that one could make butter in a blender or a mixer. So, that's what I tried next.

I tried that for a good, long time. Maybe 20 minutes? Still, no butter. More frothy cream. After reviewing another website ( and still no answers and no butter, I had to help put the kids to bed. I left the butter out, and by the time I finally got back downstairs, I may have inadvertently cultured the cream a bit. It kind of smelled like baby spit up. But, I remembered what my 7 year old always tells me, "Mommy, if you believe in yourself and really try, you can do it." I don't believe in myself, really, but I do believe in my Kitchen Aid. I let it whirl away for a while longer, alternating between very high and very low speeds, and before I knew what was happening, buttermilk was splashing over the sides of the bowl and I had butter! I poured off the buttermilk (and saved it for making pancakes), washed the butter, and kneaded it with a fork until it seemed like all the liquid was gone. I added a bit of salt (I have no idea how much), put it in this nice ramekin, and covered it with plastic wrap (I know, I know, but I haven't yet removed plastic from our lives). Butter! I have no idea how my Kitchen Aid did it, but it did. Think it would make a good children's story? "The Kitchen Aid that Could"?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Maple Festival

It's about this time of year when I always get really antsy. Spring fever as it were. The proverbial sap starts flowing. I bet you can guess where this is going if you read the title. I have always wanted to take part in maple sugaring. Well, we missed the real deal this year (it was mid March when we were travelling), but I thought we would check out the Beaver County Maple Festival instead. It was today and also runs tomorrow, April 6 at Brady's Run Park.

As someone said who had been to 26 of the festivals, all of Beaver County was there today. And since we are from Allegheny County, it was all of Beaver County plus. We had hoped to get some pancakes with syrup and see the making of syrup from sap. Neither of these things happened. The line (to get pancakes) was the longest I've seen since visiting Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey in 1989. We didn't even attempt it. And they were not making syrup, though you could peek into the sugar shack and someone was talking about the process there (which doesn't do a thing for the under 7 set I was accompanying).

We did buy some syrup, which they make by tapping the maples in Brady's Run Park. We visited some craft booths. We enjoyed talking with and looking at the Civil War and Revolutionary War re-enacters. The kids got their faces painted (it wouldn't be a festival without that), but the part that I liked the best was watching them grind local grain!
They used this here coal fired engine to turn the mill which they used to grind locally grown buckwheat, wheat and corn. I bought five 2 pound bags of the wheat flour and am keeping them in the freezer. Those were $2.00 each. Corn is also $2.00 and buckwheat is $2.50.

If you can't make it to the festival, contact them at

Beaver County Conservation District 156 Cowpath Road
Aliquippa, PA 15001
Phone: 724-378-1701

Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Great Joe Rush

If you are a faithful reader of this blog you are probably related to me, but also, you may have noticed that I started a yahoo group (send an e-mail to if you want to join) and already I am so happy I did. I knew there had to be more to this eating local scene that what I had discovered on my own. I knew there were others out there meeting in back alleys and parking lots. And at the corner of Darlington and Denniston, as it turns out.
Twice a month Joe Rush, of Rush Acres Farm brings the good stuff from the country to the big city. He sends a Monday reminder with what is available. You tell him what you want. He brings it to a few places in Oakland and then to Squirrel Hill and you pay for what you get. Here's what he had available this last week:

Cows' milk (pure pastured Jersey raw milk) - $6.50 gal
pure Amish butter - $6.50 lb
natural brown eggs - $3.50 doz
pastured frozen broilers - $3.50 lb
Sam Beachy's Apple Butter - pints = $4.00 /quarts = $5.00
our maple syrup - half gallons = $20.00/quarts = $11.00/pints = $7.50
pure raw honey - clover, wildflower, & goldenrod - bears = $4.00/jars = $5.00/quarts = $10.00/combs = $6.50(when available)
Grandma's jam - pints - Strawberry, Southern Sunshine, Elderberry - $4.00/Blueberry - $4.25 Black Raspberry = $4.50 Annie Marie's jam -half pints - Strawberry, Elderberry, Peach = $3.00/Black Raspberry = $3.25

We purchased eggs, maple syrup, honey, broilers and milk. He will have pastured pork and lamb available in the future among other things. If you are interested, e-mail

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Greenhouse Lettuce

Milestone Lettuce Retailers was another exhibitor at the Farm to Table conference. They grow red leaf, green leaf, Bibb and a few other varieties of lettuce in greenhouses in the Pittsburgh Metro area year round. They offer this lettuce in the form of a CSA-type of arrangement of two heads a week April 2 through June 25. The cost is $50 (for 26 heads of lettuce over the 13 weeks). Or you can choose 4 heads a week for $100. There are four pick up spots: Elizabeth Township (at the greenhouse?), 640 McGowan Street, Lawrenceville, Gallery on 43rd -- 187 43rd Street, Wilkinsburg, 600 Ross Avenue, and Monroeville, Enterprise -- 510 Seco Road. I tasted the lettuce at the conference and it was wonderful. Here is a link to a Post-Gazette article about the grower. There are no pesticides and some of the seeds and fertilizers are organic. They are grown hydroponically and when you get the product, it is in a plastic shell with a cube of soil (?) attached, so it is still living. They also sell at some Giant Eagles. And here is a video about it Call 412-371-7391, ext. 116 to sign up.

A neat thing about this grower, is that it is actually a nonprofit community mental health and mental retardation agency

I think they are doing a really neat thing, but I have some questions about the environmental sustainability of the product. Ms. Bayer, at the conference, told me that during the winter they spend $1700 on each gas and electric bills. Also, I don't have happy feelings about the plastic clamshell box though it keeps the lettuce lookin' great. While I was talking to Ms. Bayer, a man from a biodiesel group (whose name I can't remember for the life of me, but his name tag said something about Space Farms, perhaps) came to speak to the director. He has hooked up a greenhouse in Wexford with a biodiesel processing system. Biodiesel, as he explained to me, uses the grease left over from cooking (like from fast food establishments) and turns it into useable energy. Now, that sounds a lot better to me. For more about biodiesel, check out this city paper article. Milestone is not using biodiesel now, but hey, who knows?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Allegheny Market House Cooperative

was another exhibitor at the Farm to Table conference. Although I am not exactly sure what this Market House is, I get the feeling that it is exactly what I have been hoping for. I have trouble making it to farmers' markets on specific days and times (particularly since most of them are in the afternoon on week days and that is a tough time for me and the kiddoes) and have often wished that there was a farm market in the city similar to what one might find out in the burbs at an actual Farm Market (like Soergel's, Schramm's, Trax, Triple B, etc.). These are nice places, but they are a good 30 minute highway drive from our house. Not exactly environmentally friendly in our mini van.

There are many other cities which have public markets, and some cities are similar in size to Pittsburgh. Columbus, Ohio has North Market Seattle has Pike Place Then there's the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. Cleveland has West Side Market.
There was one in Portland, Maine when we lived there called Portland Public Market, but unfortunately it closed. Then they opened with a smaller venue. And of course there's Lancaster's Central Market. In fact, Rick Seback recently filmed a special on these markets called "To Market, To Market. . ."

And, many other cities are starting markets or trying to start them. Boston, for example. And, Portland, Oregon, among many others. Apparently, even the business folks are whole-heartedly behind this resurgence in interest in markets:

Here is some text I stole from a market website for a St. Louis market about why public markets are so great if you need convincing:

"Public Markets, with their locally grown, locally made and locally owned businesses, accentuate the qualities that make a community special. They create dynamic places, stimulate economic opportunity and instill community spirit and cultural exchange.

Public Markets provide needed goods and services such as farm fresh fruits and vegetables, ethnic foods, crafts and personal services that are often unavailable at the same level of quality, variety and price.

Public Goals of Public Markets:
attracting customers to urban areas
supporting affordable retailing opportunities for small businesses
addressing the problems of street vending
providing opportunities to farmers thereby preserving farmland
activating the use of public space
providing quality produce to urban customers where supermarkets are unavailable or limited"

Apparently, I am not alone in having this wish for Pittsburgh. The Allegheny Market House proposes to restore the North Side's Market House and fill it with micro businesses and a farmer's market. It would like to have an indoor location and be open year round. I have high hopes for this project and will be contacting them (412-322-0265) to find out if I can help in any way. I hope you will do the same. Perhaps someone could work on their website. . .

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Time to Sign

up for a CSA! If you haven't already, that is.

As I'm sure you all know, C.S.A. stands for community supported agriculture. It is talked about in "shares" in that you, the consumer, purchase a share of the harvest. You sign up with a farm in advance, and then over the course of the specified season, you pick up your weekly (or biweekly, or whatever) portion of the harvest. It can be produce, meat, dairy, flowers, etc., depending on with whom you sign up. You may pick up from a farm or some other location that the farmer has determined -- usually points around the greater Pittsburgh Metro area.

As I posted earlier (and I believe Art King quoted from my blog at the Farm to Table conference) joining a CSA is like having Christmas every week because you never know what you will get, but it is always a wonderful surprise. Also, Don Kretschmann mentioned at the conference that joining a CSA is a way to make your life less complicated because it is one good, solid decision that will provide you with weeks and weeks of healthy, delicious eating and support of your local farm community. That way, when you walk into your local GE, you are not tempted by those California fakes and all that processed stuff (in fact, you may never have to go there at all). And you don't have to worry if you can't make it to a farmer's market at a particular day and time. Make your decision now (today!) and you will be set for the season.

Ah, but which CSA. Last year we used Harvest Valley Farms for a CSA over the summer. We got a very manageable, varied amount of produce (8-9 items per week), and most of it was stuff with which I was already familiar and comfortable, with a few other less comforting, but equally good items, thrown in. We also occasionally got bread, eggs, cheese, honey, etc. They practice sustainable farming methods -- that is, use as little pesticide as necessary.

We also used Kretschmann Farm in the winter and a lot of people love the Kretschmanns' CSA also. Their food is organically grown and they tend to include a lot of it. They are one of the oldest and biggest CSAs in the country. For both of these farms, we picked up in Squirrel Hill, where we live, and they both have lots and lots of drop off sites.

Another CSA I discovered at the Farm to Table conference is the Penn's Corner Farm Alliance which sells the food of 15 area farms. It began by delivering primarily to restaurants, but now has a CSA with many drop-off points (ex. Point Breeze, Highland Park, Squirrel Hill, Morningside, Friendship, Lawrenceveille, North Side, Mt. Lebanon, Green Tree, Whitehall, Monroeville, Oakdale, etc.). The brochure mentions Pucker Brush Farm salad greens, Matthew's Farm and Kistaco apples, Goose Creek Gardens herbs, oyster and portabello mushrooms, and Nu-way Farms free range eggs. There are three shares available, Cabin Fever (which starts first week of April and runs 10 weeks) for $240, Harvest Share (20 weeks -- Late June through October) for $465, and Farmer's Friend Share which includes both time periods for $690. E-mail:, call: 412-363-1971 or check out their site I, personally, am very intrigued by this early April share (that's next week!) since I am very tired of frozen corn and zucchini. I bought some organic, potted lettuce and spinach from the head of the PCFA who runs Goose Creek Gardens. So, I guess there's another way to get some early produce.

And last, in case you missed today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette, there is a fairly complete looking list of CSAs there.

I hope anyone who has had experience with a particular CSA will feel free to submit a comment, good or bad. . . Farmer Troy? I noticed you on the list above. . .

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Farm to Table, Heritage Farm

The Farm to Table conference was great today. I met a lot of nice people and found out about some interesting new developments in the field of local eating. Instead of running through each in list-like fashion, I will write about one thing a day (or, I will try to).

I met some folks from Elk County today who follow the farming practices delineated by Michael Pollan in Omnivore's Dilemma as practiced by Joel Salatin (in the chapter on Grass). In fact, Peter Burns of Heritage Farms, pictured below on the left, is mentioned in the book because he happened to be interning at Salatin's farm when Pollan visited.

Anyway, they raise poultry (chickens and turkeys), eggs, grassfed beef, pork and produce. They sell their products to a buyers' club via e-mail. So, if you are on their list, they send you an e-mail with an order form about once a month. You tell them what you want, and they bring it to the East End Food Co-op. How great is that? AND, their product is so good, that it has attracted the attention of Bill Fuller (executive chef of Big Burrito), who may be ordering pork and chicken from them in the future. After having some terrible chicken from Sonshine Farms, I am excited to hear them say that they have never had a complaint about their meat.

This is not a CSA. You just order from them and pay as you go based on what you want. Check out their website:; send an e-mail:; or call: (814) 772-0210. And, if you are a Christian (and maybe even if not), you should look for Gregory Burns' new book, Growing a Heritage about raising his family close to the land following biblical value.

More news coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A New Yahoo Group, Farm to Table

I was really hoping to start some kind of online community when I started to write this Blog. It was pointed out to me last night that I was going about it all wrong (thanks Nicole, Lori and Katherine). While some people have been great about responding and contributing advice and comments (mostly you, Angela. Thanks), I was hoping for a lot more feedback. So, I have created a yahoo group that will be devoted to the discussion of the issues of eating local. If you wish to join, please send an e-mail to It will be a members-only group in which you can post a message and/ or a reply to everyone else in the group. I am hoping we can share recipes, tips, and up-to-date information as well as meet physically for "field trips" and cooking sessions eventually.

Speaking of field trips, this Friday and Saturday is the Farm to Table conference at the David Lawrence Convention Center.
It is $15 for a ticket for both days. It starts at noon on Friday and goes all day on Saturday. You can register online at the website (above). I'm not sure if you can buy a ticket at the actual event. There is also a local food tasting on Friday evening from 6-8:00 p.m. for $20.
Art King (of Harvest Valley Farms) and Don Kretschmann (of the famed CSAs) will be speaking as well as keynote speaker Sandor Katz (the author of The Revolution will not be Microwaved). There will be lots of cooking demonstrations and recipes available as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Locavore Walking

Well, not really walking. On Friday we are off on our annual Spring break pilgrimage. This year we are going to both Philadelphia and Ft. Myers, Florida. Being a locavore away from home is very difficult. I am definitely going to remember the motto, "don't let perfect be the enemy of good," on this trip. However, using a little research and some flexibility, I am excited to see what kind of local cuisine we can find in each place. Of course there are the Philly cheesesteaks and pretzels. No, no. Just kidding. So far, I have been looking into some local food options in Philadelphia and have come across a very well-developed local food scene there. I plan to spend a lot of time in Reading Terminal Market, and in particular at the Fair Food Farmstand. I'm not sure what will be there at this time of year. I also hope to visit the Essene Market and Cafe which sounds like it may be similar to our East End Co-op. And I'm very excited to eat a special meal at the White Dog Cafe. They even have a children's menu!

Here are "25 Thoughts from a Locavore" stolen from their newsletter.
Obviously, this list was created for Philadelphia (no Mummer's parade here), but all of it is pertinent anywhere in this region. And, I am sorry to be very obviously in violation of # 23 (though we are going to FL to visit family. Honest.)

1 - Locally owned businesses provide unique character to the streets of our towns and cities.
2 - Buying local builds community wealth, while buying from chainstores drains capital from our community.
3 - Local merchants - the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker - provide personal relationships that enrich community life.
4 - Supporting local musicians, artists, writers and artisans strengthens our creative class and builds local identity.
5 - Producing basic needs locally builds regional self-reliance, reducing our dependency on long distance supply routes, easily disrupted by climate change and the rising cost of oil.
6 - Buying locally produced products cuts the carbon emissions of transport.
7 - Eating local food strengthens family farms and increases food security for our region.
8 - Buying local renewable energy such as wind power and biodiesel increases our energy security while protecting our environment.
9 - Localizing clothing productions decreases imports of this basic need, building self-reliance. Let's legalize hemp, the natural fibercrop for our region.
10 and 11 - Food from the industrial system has been modified to extend shelf life for long distance shipping and conformity of size and color, while reducing flavor and nutritional value. Food grown locally is more nutritious. And it tastes better!
12 - Fresh beer tastes better, too, and eliminates preservatives needed for shippoing.
13 - Locally owned businesses make larger charitable contributions to community causes as a percentage of their sales than do chain stores.
14 - Supporting and honoring local heroes builds community pride and encourages civic activism.
15 - Engagement in local politics - supporting candidates, running for office, and taking a stand on local issues - builds responsible government that protects our place.
16 - Local independent media covers events important to our community and provides views independent of large corporate ownership.
17 - Local knowledge - the history of our place, understanding where our water, energy and food comes from, and where our garbage and waste goes to - supports wise decision making that protects our natural environment and culture, and builds a healthier and happier region.
18 - Investing locally through local banks, credit unions, and The Reinvestment Fund, puts our capital to work locally, providing a "living return" - the benefit of living in a healthier community and stronger local economy.
19 - Drinking local tap water cuts out wasteful plastic bottles, long distance shipping and the draining of aquifers in other communities.
20 - Buying from locally owned companies brings economic control to our communities away from distant board rooms where decisions are not always made in the best interest of local communities.
21 - Buying local spreads ownership, wealth and power more broadly, which builds a stronger democracy rather than concentrated wealth and corporate rule.
22 - Buying from local producers allows greater transparency. Whether tracing contaminated spinach or children's toys, local production allows exact identification and first hand relationships with producers who reside in our own community.
23 - Local traditions - festivals, parades and annual gatherings - provide collective joy. (Like the Mummers Parade and White Dog's annual New Years Day PJ Brunch). Having fun doesn't mean we have to burn carbons and dollars travelling to exotic vacation destinations. We can create fun at home.
24 - Making a commitment to a place and taking responsibility for its care and well-being is personally grounding, meaningful and satisfying.
25 - Being a part of a local community brings a sense of belonging and security that money cannot buy.

If anyone has any advice about visiting Philadelphia, I'd love to hear it. . .

Friday, March 7, 2008

Winter Farmer's Market

Tomorrow, March 8 from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church Parish Hall in Highland Park! It is sponsored by SlowFood Pittsburgh and is related to the Farmers@Firehouse Market held in the strip district in the Summer and Fall.

St. Andrew’s: 5801 Hampton St, Highland Park, between N. Highland and N. Negley Avenues, one block south of Bryant Street, four blocks south of the Park, in Highland Park.

First, if you ordered from the laptop butchershop, this is where you can pick up your order. If you did not order in advance, show up early to see if you can pick up some extras.

First-come, first-served:
Heilman’s Hogwash Farm premium pastured pork
Pucker Brush Farm limited ground lamb, chops
Sonshine Farm humanely-raised veal
Wild Alaskan Salmon Co. wild-caught salmon

There will be some other vendors as well.
Pam Bryan’s hand-spun, hand-dyed yarns. Pam is also bringing radish micro-greens and peashoots, and Spring Creek Organic Tofu from Spencer, WV.

Najat’s Cuisine—small-batch Lebanese prepared foods.

J&B Apiary Polish Hill honey, soaps and lip balm.

Mushrooms for Life.

Terry Seltzer’s yarns/fibers, felt items, comfrey salve, goat milk soap, vinegar.

Colonial Classics 24-mth aged cheddar cheese.

Laptop Butchershop is sponsored by Slow Food Pittsburgh to connect buyers with local organic and/or carefully raised meat and poultry. Laptop is held at Farmers@Firehouse farm market during the outdoor market season.

For information on pre-ordering meat and poultry, contact Susan Barclay at

Farmers@Firehouse Market opens Saturday, May 10 - Nov. 22, 2216 Penn Avenue in the Strip, 9 - 1. Everything for Saturday dinner: Pittsburgh's only mostly organic farm market. Unusual produce, carefully raised local meats, poultry. Wild-caught salmon. Artisan breads, prepared foods, honey, flowers.

St. Andrew’s: 5801 Hampton St, Highland Park, between N. Highland and N. Negley Avenues, one block south of Bryant Street, four blocks south of the Park, in Highland Park.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Making Yogurt, sort of

I used a combination of recipe/ advice in making yogurt. I took the basic method from Simply in Season, but used the more comprehensive discussion from Super Baby Food to inform what I did.
The S in S recipe suggests using a 2 quart (64 ounce) Thermos to keep the yogurt warm while it is incubating. So make sure you have one of those handy. Mine happens to be 3/4 the size recommended in the recipe, so I adjusted amounts accordingly. You, of course, can do the same. You will also need a candy themometer -- a themometer that can clip onto the side of a pot.

Step One:
Heat a big pot of water to boiling to sterilize the spoon, pot and thermometer you will use. Keep it at a low boil to use in a later step.
Step Two:
Pour out eight cups of milk. I chose to use raw milk despite Angela's warnings. I knew I would be trying to grow bacteria, which I hoped might have more of a chance in raw milk. I also knew I would be heating it, which supposedly kills off harmful bacteria. You could find all sorts of Web pages proclaiming the benefits and/or detriments of raw milk and/ or raw milk yogurt. I just wanted to give it a try. My raw milk comes from Frank White in Monogahela.

Step Three:
Heat milk in a saucepan to 185 degrees. Stir constantly and use low heat. The milk should not boil. Scald the milk, which means let tiny bubbles form on the outer rim of the milk where it touches the sides of the saucepan. I used a candy themometer to help me estimate the correct temperature.
The book suggested pouring the milk into another container after it reaches 185 degrees. I skipped that and just turned off the heat and left the themometer in until the themometer and the milk reached about 112 degrees.

Step Four
Pour boiling water into the Thermos and close the lid.

Step Five
Measure four tablespoons, i.e. 1/4 cup, of yogurt "starter" so that it can rise to room temperature. Yogurt starter is yogurt with live, active yogurt cultures. The books suggested using store bought yogurt for your "starter."
Also, according to the suggestion, I froze one tablespoon portions of fresh, store-bought yogurt in an ice cube tray. After they were frozen, I then emptied the yogurt cubes and put them in a freezer-safe plastic zipper bag and put them back in the freezer to use later.

Step Six
When the milk has cooled to 112 degrees, add the "starter" to it and stir.

Step Seven
Pour the water out of the Thermos and pour in the milk and yogurt combination. Close it up tight and put it someplace warm. Maybe wrap it in a blanket or heating pad or something and then don't move it for four to six hours.
It was tricky for me to keep the yogurt warm. It is supposed to incubate at 110-115 degrees for hours. In truth, I have no idea what the temperature was. I did not want to open the Thermos and let out any heat. Our house has plenty of cold spots and very few warm ones, so I put the Thermos in front of the warmest spot in our house.

Step Eight
After carefully maintaining a temperature of 110-115 degrees for 4 to 6 hours check on the yogurt. When you feel it is thick enough, it is done. If you leave it for longer, it can get more sour and you should add additional sweetener. In my case, I had to go to do kid stuff and just stopped the process at 4 1/2 hours. The result was less than ideal.

The yogurt seemed runny to me. Probably because 1) raw milk does that and 2) I don't think I let it incubate long enough and 3) it may not have been at a warm enough temperature.

At this point, you can add honey and fruit or whatever, but stir it gently. Good luck. It's not hard to get a taste and smell like real yogurt, but in my brief experience, it is more difficult to get the right consistency.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


So the other day I had a wisdom tooth extracted. And as you may know, when you have that done, for the first day you have to eat only cold, very soft foods. So, my husband brought home several pints of Dave and Andy's ice cream. But, I did feel a little bad about only eating ice cream for 24 hours. Since I don't really like many of the oral surgeon's other healthier recommended suggestions (like cottage cheese and yogurt), I thought I'd try to make a smoothie.

To make my post-surgery-palatable treat, I used Seven Stars yogurt purchased from the East End Coop. It comes from Eastern PA. Certainly not within in the 100 mile radius, but I'll get back to that. I added frozen blueberries, strawberries (both picked last Summer), 1 tablespoon of honey, and the juice from 1/2 an orange. The oranges are local because they were delivered to our doorstep by our cousin (thanks, Karen). Wow. That smoothie was delicious. I had been wondering what to do with all of my frozen peaches and cherries, also and now I have the answer. If anyone has a good recipe for a smoothie involving sweet cherries, please send it along. Otherwise, I'll probably just combine things haphazadly. That is something one can definitely do with a smoothie. One of my next experiments will be to try to give them to the picky, picky children.

The bigger experiment, however, will be to try to make my own yogurt so that it will be more local and cheaper. I have seen raw milk out and about (at the East End Co-op, McGinnis Sisters and now at the East Liberty Farmer's Cooperative) and I think that would be very useful for this project. I have a recipe from Simply in Season and one from Super Baby Food. According to Ruth Yaron, the author of Super Baby Food, homemade yogurt does not have that tart flavor of store bought until after several days. Which would really appeal to me. . .

If you have any tips or advice about making yogurt at home, please feel free to comment.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Farmer's Market Cooperative of East Liberty

It really is a wonderful thing to have a farmer's market that is open year round. Even in February, one can find some locally-produced produce. The East Liberty Farmer's Market Co-op ( is open year round on Saturdays from 5:00AM to 12:00 PM. It is sort of behind Home Depot near Highland Avenue and Penn Circle.

Here's what I found today that was local and will be around next week as well. I get the feeling that most of the products at the market are sold by "middle men" for the Amish. Most of the fruit and veg stands also have lots of produce from away.

J.L. Kennedy Stand Meats
They always have local (from farmers in Armstrong, Butler and Westmoreland counties) beef and chicken from Eastern PA. They often have local pork and sometimes have local lamb (its next appearance will be 3/15) and local veal (3/22). They can be very, very busy and by the time I saw them at 9:00 they were mostly sold out. They told me around 7:00 AM is when their line starts to get really long. Usually bacon and chicken breast and boneless chicken breast are the first to go. They said they almost never take home any ground beef. It looked to me like they wouldn't be taking home anything today. The prices are amazingly reasonable. You can try calling ahead to place your order: 724-898-2316 in advance or 412-661-1875 day of (Saturdays).

Best known for their eggs. They are all local, free range and come in a variety of sizes. The price is crazily low. I bought a dozen large eggs for $2.00 today. They have extra jumbo ($4), jumbo($3.50), extra large ($3.25), large ($3) and "pullets" I got mine for less because I used some discarded packaging. So, bring your own egg crates.

Greenawalt's also has dried pasta (flavored with garlic, chives, thyme, chicken, beef, oregano, etc.), many kinds of jellies, apple and banana bread, sauerkraut, American cheese, pickles, relish, honey and milk from Schneider's along with raw milk.

B & G Enterprises
Has a big bucket of garlic. They did not look so pretty, but I bought several heads/ bulbs for .50 each a few weeks ago and put them in the refrigerator. The cloves themselves are as white and clean as fresh garlic-colored snow and taste great. The trick is to squeeze the garlic bulb (ever so gently or you will expel the cloves across the room) to make sure the cloves are firm before purchasing them.
Some small cabbages, Butternut, Carnival, Acorn, and Sweet Potato squash provide him with the most variety of locally grown produce. He also has some potatoes -- red, yukon gold and white -- which are looking a little worse for wear at this point. All of these vegetables have been harvested long ago and have been in storage.

My favorite apple growers. Still have red and golden delicious, rome, empire, ida red and McIntosh apples (all of which were picked in the fall and have been in storage). They also have apple cider (which all in our family Luh uh uh ove), honey and maple syrup.

Mushrooms for Life
These folks used to be at the Farmers@ Firehouse market in the Strip District. They currently have White Button ($4/LB) Crimini ($5/LB), Oyster ($9/LB), Shitake ($14/LB) and Maitake, also known as Sheeps' Head ($6 for 1/4 LB) mushrooms.

Zang's Greenhouse
Has cabbage, mushrooms (Portabello and Button), Carrots (which are enormous but very tasty) and white potatoes grown locally.

Califonte Foods
These folks sell prepared pastas and sauces, mostly frozen. There were too many varieties for me to list. Many of the frozen fresh pastas had sold out when I got there. Here's a sampling of what was left in the freezer case: manicotti, ravioli, cheese stuffed rigatoni, spinach, sweet potato, plain and whole wheat gnocchi, jalapeno cheddar ravioli, and cheese and spinach and cheese stuffed shells. They also sell eight varieties of dried pastas in addition to flour to make pasta at home (durum, semolina and whole wheat). Sauces were available canned and frozen.

Another visitor from the Strip District. They sell their own hummus, baba ghanoush, pita, and other prepared middle eastern foods and baked goods.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Laptop Butchershop and other Announcements

Just in case you're not on all the same e-mail lists I am, I just wanted to share some information in case you need it.

First of all, Laptop Butchershop. If you don't know what this is, and you are fond of your laptop, the name might frighten you a bit. No worries about the computers. It is the animals that are butchered. However, they are local animals that are raised in sustainable ways. No CAFOs here.

Instead, you may order from individual, local producers and pick up your orders at a church in Highland Park. Here is the e-mail including some updated dates.

Slow Food Pittsburgh Offers Laptop Butcher Shop/Winter Market March 8

CELEBRATE: Slow Food Pittsburgh's fifth year of the popular Laptop Butcher Shop--connecting Pittsburgh with organic and/or carefully-raised local meats and poultry. The animals are pastured, meaning they are raised outdoors on grass, the way nature intended. Some animals are fed grains, also carefully raised. The meat is exceptionally delicious and heart-healthy, rich in correctly balanced CLA’s/nutrients. These products contain no additives (except nitrites in smoked bacon/ham), no prophylactic antibiotics and no hormones. Many vendors allow you to pick the cuts and quantity you want—just like a real butcher shop. Please understand: our producers work on a very small scale—this is why we love them! But, they must sell the whole animal, not just steaks, loins and chops so try roasts, stew meat, ground meat.

WHAT: Place your e-mail meat and fish pre-orders now. See individual vendor order cutoff dates below.

PICK-UP: Pay when you pick up on Saturday, March 8 from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Bring your coolers.WHERE: St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church Parish Hall, 5801 Hampton St, Highland Park (directions at end).Also available at Winter Market on 3/8 from Farmers@Firehouse vendors: Pam Bryan’s hand-spun, hand-dyed yarns; Najat’s Cuisine—small-batch Lebanese prepared foods; J&B Apiary Polish Hill honey, soaps and lip balm; Colonial Classics aged cheddar cheese. Terry Seltzer’s yarns/fibers, felt items, comfrey salve, goat milk soap, vinegar.

Laptop Suppliers: (Rose Ridge, Misera Farm, West Liberty Farm—sold out, will return later in season)
WIL-DEN FAMILY FARM, Mercer County – Denise and Bill Brownlee, ownersSlow Food Pittsburgh and friends have become addicted to this lean, flavor-fabulous pastured pork. Due to changes in processors, Wil-Den is offering three ordering options this year:
1. NEW, economical “Pig in Bulk”—whole, half or quarter pigs. This option includes bacon and ham (smoked products are not otherwise available at this time). Call Denise to discuss the processing of wholes and halves. Quarters include chops, bacon, shoulder roast, ribs, half ham, 2 ham slices, ground pork, breakfast sausage. Vacuum-sealing is not available; meat will be wrapped in butcher paper. ORDER CUTOFF: Sat., 2/16.
Note: smoked products contain nitrates but no MSG.
2. Sausage Sampler with option to buy from “a la carte” – products will be vacuum-sealed as always. ORDER CUTOFF: Sat., 2/23
3. 10-lb minimum order from “a la carte” list – products will be vacuum-sealed as always. ORDER CUTOFF: Sat., 2/23. NOTE: “A la carte” list includes no smoked products at this time. Try “fresh side”—natural, nitrate-free bacon--generously salt and pepper both sides, bake at 350 degrees until crisp.

PUCKER BRUSH FARM, Indiana County – Pam Bryan, owner
Pam’s succulent, pastured lamb has been a hit at many SFP events. Limited ground lamb and very limited racks. First come, first served.

SONSHINE FARM, Mercer County – Terry Seltzer, ownerTerry is a new producer to Laptop and is offering our first goat and veal—humanely raised, plus lamb, skinless poultry and eggs, all raised on her organically managed farm. If the weather cooperates she’ll have goose, duck and chicken eggs. Limited quantities of all--first come, first served.

WILD ALASKAN SALMON COMPANY – Sara Pozonsky and Trish Kopp, ownersAlaskan native Sara Pozonsky has been bringing her family’s premium wild-caught seafood to Farmers@Firehouse market for several seasons now. Sara will be flying in all pre-ordered fish especially for Laptop Butcher Shop and she’s waiving the normal shipping charges—what a bonus for us!

To Order:
--Wil-Den Pork – complete and return the attached Wil-Den spreadsheet via e-mail to Denise Brownlee at . Call or e-mail Denise with any questions, especially regarding your “Pig in Bulk” choice. “PIG IN BULK” ORDER CUTOFF: Saturday, 2/16. “A LA CARTE” and SAUSAGE SAMPLER ORDER CUTOFF – Saturday, 2/23.

--Pucker Brush Lamb – e-mail your order to Susan Barclay at
NOTE: Pam has extremely limited racks @$12/lb and ground meat @ $7.25/lb. First come, first served. ORDER CUTOFF: Saturday, 3/1.

--Sonshine Farm – see attached Word doc for product/price list. Send your order in an e-mail to Terry Seltzer at Limited quantities. First come, first served. Eggs may be plentiful or limited due to weather. ORDER CUTOFF: Saturday, 3/1.

--Wild Alaskan Salmon Co. -- check for current prices and product availability. Shipping charges will be waived. For best selection, email your order to Sara Pozonsky at by 3/1. She will be flying the pre-ordered fish from Alaska for the 3/8 Market pickup. She will accept orders from 3/1 - 7 but cannot guarantee availability after 3/1.
ORDER CUTOFF: Saturday, 3/1.

Complete orders as follows: Quantity – indicate number of items Contact Info – name, address, phone, e-mail in case the producers need to contact you.
Send your orders to the appropriate addresses by the specified cut-off dates.
Wait for CONFIRMATION email – this is your way to know a producer has received your order. If you don’t receive an email in 2-3 days, please email again or call. If you have questions, you may call or email the producers directly, call Susan Barclay at 412-247-4853 or e-mail her at .

--Pay for your orders when you pick up on Saturday, March, 8, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., at St. Andrew’s.

--Payment methods: cash or checks directly to vendors at pick-up.

St. Andrew’s Directions: 5801 Hampton Street, between North Highland and North Negley Avenues, one block south of Bryant Street, four blocks south of Highland Park.

The attachments aren't attached, but you may e-mail the individual vendors for more information or Susan Barclay at We ordered from Wil Den farm in the fall and I have to say that their pork is fantastic! We have loved the boneless cutlets, tenderloin, ground pork, sweet italian sausage, breakfast sausage, ham slices and sausage links. I still have a loin in the freezer I'm saving for when I figure out what to do with it (it is BIG). I would highly recommend their products.

Also, I have some more information on a cow share available. Here is an e-mail I received from Steve Hasley (

I have not forgotten about this project, in fact have a potential cow lined up. Still trying to get the details on how much of what cuts, and how much a share would cost, but I think we can bring this in for around $3 a pound. A dressed cow should be almost 800 lb, so a 1/20 share would probably be close to 40 lb, or around $120. We have 20 people who have contacted me to express interest.

Obviously if we cut up the whole cow -- with bones -- we would have more weight but less meat. If we made all hamburger, we would have much less weight, as the bones would be disgarded. (speaking of which -- let me know if you want bones for stock/soup/your dog, etc). So I hope to be back with you soon as to the details.

I assumed we could distribute the shares on a saturday morning (or Friday evening) at the EEFC parking lot. I also thought that there may be some trading of cuts between members, in that I thought from my end I would have 20 fairly evenly divided boxes, and everyone could trade amongst themselves if they wanted more this or less that.

My last thought is, lets try this once and see how it works. If it is a rousing success, then perhaps we should have a steering committee As for now, I'm happy to have feedback.

Please let me know if you are still interested.

I would e-mail him if this sounds interesting to you. I have not worked with him or his cow parts before, but I may be giving him/ them a try.

Last, someone I have worked with before and would highly recommend: Harvest Valley Farms. They are taking sign ups for their summer CSA. Here is the e-mail I received:

I hope that this fine winter day finds you all in good health and in a warm place. I want to thank all of you for being part of our CSA "family" this past year. It was a good year for us as the weather was mostly cooperative. I am just bursting at the seams with enthusiasm in anticipation of the upcoming season!

CSA 2008
After considerable discussion we have decided that we will maintain the Pittsburgh CSA at current the level for this year. The situation is this: We use a pickup truck with a high cap to make the CSA deliveries. The truck holds about 150 crates. The only other larger truck we have is in use at the Market Square Farmers Market that day. If we wanted to expand, the only other alternative would be to add another pickup day. We decided against this idea because of gas prices. We decided instead to increase our CSA at home where members come to the farm to pick up and our Cranberry CSA, because that truck is not full.

We have not had an increase in 7 years of doing CSA, so we are long overdue. The main reason we have a need for an increase is labor. The government mandate of a 34% increase in the minimum wage was quite a blow for us. Even though most of our help makes more than minimum wage, it still affected us accordingly. Also, our fertilizer costs have increased 30% in the last two years, and I don't need to mention the fuel increases. So, after careful consideration, we have decided to increase CSA membership by 17%. It works out to 480.00 for a regular membership (20.00 per week), and 540.00 for an advanced membership (22.50 per week). We have held the monthly payment amounts the same to make it easier.

What's up in the winter?
I can't tell you how many people ask me, "So what do you do in the winter"? It might be snowy and cold outside, but I am busy as a bee inside these days. Placing orders for supplies, repairing equipment, shopping for new equipment, and then there are those taxes. :( Just the USDA Census of Agriculture took me 5 hours the other day. It was 24 pages long! Of course we are constantly trying to improve our farming methods and sharing what ideas we have put in place too. Kathy and I were in Great Lakes, Michigan in December for a conference and then to Hershey, PA two weeks ago, then Dover, Delaware last week for more conferences. These conferences help us do a better job of growing fruits and vegetables and managing our farm to be successful. I will be speaking at the “Farm to Table” conference here in Pittsburgh and also at a Penn State conference in Beaver County next month.

Next month will be my annual pilgrimage to State College to speak to the Ag Ethics class there. David and I also taught the Environmental Science class one day last month at our local Mars High School.

Let us know
We would like to know that you will be returning for 2008. We will hold your spot until March 15th. After that, we will start signing members from our waiting list. If you will not be returning, please send us an email now, so that someone else can know if they can become a member. We do anticipate about 15 spots to be available through normal attrition. I have attached more information that you can print out if you like. You may send your deposit as soon as possible, or you may also pay online from our website (but I prefer a check, as it costs us 3.8% less).

Please know that you are all in our thoughts and we are looking forward to providing you and your family with healthy food again this coming season.

Here is their e-mail: That's all for now.