Tag Archives: CSA

Chai Spiced Apple Rings? ~ November Can Jam

When the theme for this month’s Can Jam was announced, I was excited.  Apples are just about the perfect choice for me now.    They are in season and in abundance here and I have a lot of experience with them.  I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  I wanted to try something new and exciting.  Rosemary Apple Butter?  Apple Chutney of some exotic variety? 

I’ve never made an apple butter.  The term “apple butter” has always kind of turned me off to it.  I don’t know why; it’s just one of those things. 

Chutney seems exciting, but it intimidates me.  Not because I don’t think I can make it, but because I don’t know what the heck I’d do with all those jars of chutney once I canned them.  Put them on the shelf to look pretty?  Eat them out of the jar with a spoon? 

So, as much as I really wanted to try something daring and new, I decided to stick with something familiar.  Last year I canned cinnamon apple slices for the first time.  They were delicious, but the experimental jar I made with chai spices was fabulous.  I actually ate the whole jar with a spoon.  Okay, I actually used a fork but the point is that once I started eating them I couldn’t stop.  So I present to you:

Apple sauce or apple rings?
Chai Spiced Apples

Chai Spiced Apple Rings
Made just over 7 pints.
(Based on a recipe I found at Myownlabels.com)

  • Vinegar-salt solution:
  •  2 Tbsp white vinegar
  •  2 Tbsp salt
  •  1 gallon cold water
  • 10 lbs. Apples  (I used 3 lbs. of Ida Reds from my 9 Bean Rows CSA share, 6 lbs. of Ida Reds from Maple Ridge Orchards and a pound of Jonathan apples from Maple Ridge .)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 T. cinnamon
  • 7 candied ginger medallions
  • 1 one inch piece of vanilla bean
  • 42 cardamom seeds
  • 42 pepper corns
  • 14 cloves
  • 7 star anise
  • 7 cinnamon sticks
Automatic apple slicer thingy

Dylan slicing apples

 

Mix salt and vinegar in 1 gallon of cold water; stir until salt is dissolved.
Wash, peel, core and slice apples and submerge the slices in the vinegar brine to prevent discoloration.  I like to use my handy-dandy apple slicing machine which peels, cores and slices all at once.  (And no, that’s not an Ida Red on the slicer, it’s a Yellow Delicious we dehydrated.)

Mix sugar, water, candied ginger, vanilla bean and cinnamon in a large sauce pot. 
Bring syrup to boil and boil gently for five minutes.
Remove syrup from heat and add apples.  
Allow the apples to rest in the syrup for ten minutes. 
Return pan to heat, bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool thoroughly.

While the apples and syrup are cooling, prepare your jars, lids and boiling water bath (BWB): Wash jars and caps.  Place rack in canning pot and add jars.  When the apples are nearly cool, bring the BWB to a boil.  Turn down heat but keep jars in simmering water until ready to fill.

Once the apples and syrup have thoroughly cooled, remove apple slices and vanilla bean.  Cut vanilla open and scrape the seeds out.  Add the vanilla seeds to the syrup and return to a boil.

ready for fruit

Aromatics in the hot jar awaiting the addition of apples and syrup.

 

When the syrup is ready add one of the candied ginger medallions, a star anise, 6 peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and 6 cardamom seeds to each prepared jar.
Pack the apple slices loosely in hot jars.
Fill the jars with boiling syrup leaving 1/2″ head space.
Wipe rims of jars, add lids and rings and process pint jars in BWB for 15 minutes.
Try not to open the jars for a few weeks to allow the spices to have time to really mingle in the jar.

The verdict:
If my goal was spiced apple rings, this recipe was an EPIC FAIL. 

This could be for two reasons (that I can think of; there are probably numerous other reasons that I haven’t even considered). 
The first reason is that I soaked the apples too long which caused them to soak up a lot of water and turn to mush when I cooked them.  I’m not sure that this is the reason because some of the apples kept their shape despite being soaked. 
The second (and most logical) reason some of the apples turned to mush is that they have been stored outside for three weeks.  Yes, it is cool outside now, but we’ve had many sunny, warm days.  Apples like to stay cool all the time, not just most of the time.  Some of the apples kept their shape beautifully.  While I can’t identify individual apples from the slices in the jars, I’m assuming that the CSA apples that I got Saturday morning are the apples that held their shape. 

Maybe I did make a chutney after all.

The jar on the right is a jar of spiced apple slices from last year. The jar on the left is the sauce? Syrup? Chutney? I made today.

HOWEVER, if my goal was a syrupy-sweet apple sauce, or an amazing topping, this recipe was a complete success.  The vanilla added a heavenly aroma and subtle flavor even when mingled with the other powerful spice flavors.  I think this will be a great addition to our Christmas brunch on pancakes and waffles or served with homemade vanilla ice cream.

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Pinot Noir Grape Jam

The four dresses I made for my sister and her "girls".

Pardon the angle; Gwen was the photographer.

Even though school started seven weeks ago, I’ve still been working my “summer job” selling croissants and produce for Nic and Jen Welty of 9 Bean Rows at the Farmers’ Market.  Between school, my sisters’ wedding (and sewing four bridesmaid’s dresses for said wedding), and Saturday mornings at the Market, I haven’t had much spare time for cooking, cleaning, canning or blogging. 

This afternoon when I got home from the Market I was supposed to go to a baby shower.  Or so I thought.  Once I arrived at the hostess’ house and found no cars in the drive I realized that the shower is actually tomorrow.  Graced with unplanned free time, I decided to clean out the refrigerator.  I pulled all the produce out of the drawers and made a ratatouille and a vegetable stock, started a crock of fermented dill beans and found some grapes from my CSA that I’d almost forgotten about. 

Dill Beans

Lacto-fermenting dill beans. (Ok, but not a huge success.)

 

My CSA share from 9 Bean Rows always has surprises in it: fall strawberries, whole chickens, unsprayed apples and even grapes.  I’m ashamed to admit how long these “found” grapes have been in the refrigerator. 

Picked through Pinot Noir grapes

One pound of wine-y goodness.

 The Pinot Noir grapes had to be picked through and I think I fed more to the chickens than I kept for the jam but I still had a pound. 

CSA grapes

Concord? grapes from my CSA

The other grapes are of an unknown variety, but I think they may be Concords.  They haven’t been waiting as long as the Pinot grapes and didn’t require any picking other than stem removal.

I decided a grape jam was in order so I present:

From the folks at Blackstar

My favorite local Pinot.

Arcturos Pinot Noir Jelly

  • 1 lb. each Pinot Noir grapes and Concord? Grapes (Wild grapes would probably work too.)
  • 1/4 cup Pinot Noir
  • 1 cup sugar

Wash and stem grapes.  Skin Concord? grapes reserving the skins. 

Squeezing the grapes over a bowl is a quick way to remove the skins.  This reminded me of those old-school “haunted houses” from my youth.  There was always a bowl of  “eyeballs” for us to reach into that was actually filled with peeled grapes.

Once the grapes have been skinned, combine grape skins, Pinot Noir and sugar in a non-reactive pan.  Bring to a boil to dissolve sugar and reduce heat.

In a separate  non-reactive pan, combine the Pinot grapes and Concord? grape eyeballs.  Bring the grapes to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. After ten minutes, transfer the grapes to a food mill to remove seeds and the skins of the Pinot Grapes.  Add the milled grape pulp to the pan containing the skins, sugar and wine and return to a low boil until the jellying point is reached.

Pinot Jelly

Arcturos Pinot Noir Grape Jam

Ladle hot jam into sterile jars.  Leave 1/4″ headspace and process in a boiling ater bath for ten minutes. 

Yields about 2 cups

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Why Have I Been So Busy Lately?? ~ Mercato Edition

Yesterday morning I got up and walked to the Farmers’ Market.  I do this every Saturday morning, most Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons.  I do this for lots of reasons.  The main reason I shop at the Market is that I like to know where my food is coming from.  I know which farmers use pesticides and which don’t or try not to.   

I also like to support the farmers, beekeepers and artisans of my community.  Shopping locally keeps money in the pockets of my neighbors and keeps it out of the pockets of multi-national corporations and agribusinesses like Tyson.  By buying local goods I’m using my dollars to vote for the little guy. 

Another reason I shop at the Farmers’ Market is that it is better for the environment.  Growing and transporting our food uses millions of gallons of oil every year.  According to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, our food system uses 20% of the fossil fuels we consume. 

When I shop at the Farmers’ Market I help protect my family from the tainted food that frequently plagues grocery shoppers around the country.  Spinach, lettucemeat and most recently, eggs, have been recalled due to contaminations by Salmonella or E. Coli bacteria.  The farmers that grow my food feed that same food to their families; they’re not going to do anything that will risk their loved ones.

Even though I love the Farmers’ Market, I don’t go there just to shop.  Don’t get me wrong, I bought a lot yesterday and I even remembered my wagon so I could get it all home but when I go to the Market each Saturday morning, I go to work.   All summer I have been working for Nic and Jen at 9 Bean Rows in exchange for my CSA share.  I love working at the Market.  I have met and formed great relationships with a lot of really cool people.  Most of them are farmers, but some are fishermen, beekeepers, vintners or soapmakers.  I support them and they take care of me.  Many of them I now consider my friends.

Silvertree Deli

The Silvertree Deli in The Mercato

In July, I picked up a part-time job.  Don’t ask me why, but I did.  I started working lunches in the Silvertree Deli.  The deli is a great place;  the architecture of both the deli and the entire Mercato is gorgeous, the sandwiches are delicious and everyone that works there is a lot of fun.  Despite all the wonderful things about the deli, I started having regrets the first day. 

“What have I done?” I wondered.  “How will I take my kids to the beach?  When will I make cheese?  Or jam?”  All these thoughts swirling in my head started keeping me up at night.  “I’ll quit in the morning.” I told myself day after day.  And then I’d get to work and I’d feel bad and not quit.  I lasted a whole month before I finally decided that my time was more important to me than my summer job. 

I’m still busy, but now I have more time for canning, cooking, knitting, sewing and the beach.

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Happy Birthday Gwen

 

Hope she made a good wish.

Gwen on her fourteenth birthday.

 

The arrival of my daughter, Gwendolyn, fourteen years ago today was a surprise; she was five weeks early.  She was ready for the world despite everyone else’s schedules and is the same way now; she wants to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it.

Life with a teenager is different.  I could spend hours telling you of our adventures through life but as you probably are already aware, everything a mother does embarrasses a teen; she wouldn’t approve.  So, instead of telling you all the wonderful and not-so-wonderful moments we’ve shared over the years I’ll share the birthday dinner.  It will still earn me rolled eyes but it’s been awhile since I’ve done a food post.

Gwen has been a vegetarian for over three years now.  There was a short stint in the middle when I could get her to eat locally raised and sustainably produced meats but she’s since reverted to her diet of cheese and bread.  Actually, she eats fish and eggs and dairy.  She’ll even eat a lot of vegetables, but when I start combining them into balanced vegetarian meals she turns up her nose. (Ratatouille anyone?)  Since both the boys in our house are devoted carnivores, it makes dinner interesting to say the least.  Generally what happens is that the boys get a protein with a vegetable and grain or potatoes on their plates and Gwen gets the same plate without the meat.  She doesn’t particularly enjoy soy-based meat replacements and I’m not sure I agree with them anyway given how unsustainable they really are.

But, it is her birthday.  Did I mention neither of the boys like fish?  So, in addition to cake I got to make not one, but two dinners today.
Let’s start with the common elements.  

Grilled corn and flatbread

Folded flatbread with an ear of corn grilled in its husk.

 

Everyone had an ear of grilled corn from Olds Farm and a grilled flatbread.  Leave your corn in its husk and soak it in water for an hour or two before you throw it on the grill.  I made grilled breads a lot last summer but since I’ve started using spelt or whole wheat flour, they’ve waned in popularity and nobody cheers when I cook them anymore.  I’ve been tweaking the recipe trying to find a balance of white and whole grain flour that everyone will eat; these were pretty good and nobody complained although I probably could have increased the white flour a little more.  The recipe is below.

Garden fresh Ceviche

Halibut Ceviche with veggies from our garden.

 

Gwen’s entrée was ceviche.  I’ve never made a ceviche before but I was very pleased with the results and will definitely be making it again.  Every time I grill fish Gwen asks, “Do we have anymore lemon?” so “cooking” the fish in the lemon seemed like a natural thing to do.

Grilled Dinner

I want my baby back, baby back.

 

The boys had baby back ribs.  We ordered a half a pig from Olds Farm this year.  It was processed last week and we picked it up on Wednesday.  It feels really good to have a freezer full of good, local meat but at the rate we’re eating it, I’m not sure it will last long.

Sneaky Cake with chocolate chip ice cream

Nobody will ever guess the secret ingredients.

 

I should have made homemade ice cream to go in Gwen’s ice cream cake but since I was already cooking two separate dinners and baking a cake in a 90 degree house, I cheated and bought some. 

Everything was a hit (even the sneaky cake) and Gwen had a great birthday.   Here are the recipes:
Grilled Flatbreads

2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup warm whey (or water if you haven’t made cheese recently)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 T. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sifted whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cups white flour plus more for dusting

  1. Combine yeast with whey or water and sugar and let stand about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in oil, salt and flours to form a dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl; add more flour as necessary.
  3. Knead the dough with your KitchenAid mixer until the motor dies or the dough is smooth and elastic, whichever comes first. (My mixer died at just about the same time the dough was ready so I guess I got lucky there.)
  4. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and drizzle the top with oil.  Cover with a damp towel or cloth napkin and let rise until double.
  5. Punch the dough down and roll it into a two-inch cylinder.  Cut the cylinder into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball and keep covered with a damp towel.
  6. Preheat the grill to high.
  7. Roll each dough ball into a thin disc about 8″ in diameter.
  8. Drizzle each disc with oil and sprinkle with salt before placing onto the hot grill.  Flip when the breads bubble and the bottoms brown nicely and cook until the other side has browned.

 

Birthday Ceviche

About 2 lbs. Halibut from Alaskan Premium Seafoods cut into 1/2″ chunks
1/2 cup lime juice
two small onions pulled from the garden along with some of the greens finely chopped
a medium yellow and two small Roma tomatoes pulled from the garden and chopped
two small hot peppers pulled from the rainbow pepper plant minced
several lime basil leaves finely chopped
2 tsp. salt

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl.  Stir gently to blend and place in refrigerator.  Stir again every hour or so to ensure all parts of fish come into contact with the lime juice.  The fish is ready when it turns from translucent to opaque.

Scoop into bowls with a slotted spoon to remove most of the juice and serve.
Ribs

There isn’t really a recipe for my ribs.  I had the oven on for the cake so I rubbed the ribs on both sides with salt, pepper and garlic and dumped them in a glass baking dish.  I poured half a beer in the pan, covered it with foil and threw it in the oven while I prepared and baked the cake.  When the cake was done I left the ribs in while the oven cooled and then finished them on the grill with the corn and the flatbreads.  My sauce is also very complex:

  1. Dump the drippings and beer from the ribs into a sauce pan.
  2. Add a liberal amount of brown sugar and a big squirt of ketchup.
  3. Boil until desired consistency is reached.

 

Birthday Ice Cream Cake

1 quart ice cream
1 1/2 cups purple puree*
1 stick butter
2/3 cup chocolate chips
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla
1 C. sugar
2 C. whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 T. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Chocolate frosting *

* Purple Puree is something the Sneaky Chef does, but mine is a little different.  Last summer, in an effort to use all the kale I was getting from my CSA, I decided to use purple kale to make a puree to add to my cakes.  It’s a little coarser than I think a spinach puree would be, but I haven’t had any complaints.  
In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup water to boiling.  Chop a large bunch of purple kale (3-4 cups chopped) and add it to the boiling water.  When the kale is thoroughly cooked, add it and the water to your blender or food processor with two cups of blueberries and a teaspoon of lemon juice.  Puree the mixture on high-speed until it reaches a smooth consistency.  This will make over 2 cups of puree; you can freeze any extra.

Before mixing your cake, remove your ice cream from the freezer to soften (unless you just made your own and it is already soft) and line a 9 inch cake pan with plastic wrap.  Scoop ice cream into the lined pan and smooth it down so that it takes the shape of the pan.  Place the pan in the freezer to allow the ice cream to harden.

Preheat oven to 340 degrees.

  1. Melt a stick of butter with the chocolate chips in a large, microwaveable bowl.  I used milk chocolate chips because I had them on hand,  but I would advise semi-sweet for a more chocolatey cake.  Stir the chips and butter until blended.
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups purple puree, vanilla, sugar and eggs and mix well.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Mix until blended.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients into the larger bowland mix until combined.
  5. Grease two 9″ cake pans.
  6. Divide batter evenly between pans and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Allow cakes to fully cool before assembling the ice cream tower. 
  8. Invert one cooled layer cake on a large plate.
  9. Remove plastic wrap from ice cream and stack onto cake.
  10. Top ice cream with second cake layer.
  11. Frost with Chocolate frosting *
  12. Place cake in freezer until ready to serve.

Chocolate Frosting

1 stick room temperature butter
powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a ratio of about 4:1
splash of vanilla

  1. Dump softened butter into medium-sized bowl.
  2. Add 1/4 C. powdered sugar and a T. of cocoa powder.  Stir until mixed.
  3. Add a splash of vanilla and stir again.
  4. Continue adding cocoa  and sugar until the frosting reaches a workable consistency. 

This post has been added to the Family Food Fridays bloghop.  Check it out for a selection of delicious recipes!

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July Can Jam ~ Cucurbits (Old-Fashioned Dill Pickles)

Okay, so I had fairly grand plans for this month’s Jam.  I was going to experiment with zucchini.  Or make an exotic pickled cucumber.  But, time got away from me and lo and behold today is the deadline!!!  And, I don’t have time now; there will be time for zucchini and exotic pickles later.  For now, I stuck with an old standby.  I didn’t even have time to take pictures yet; but I will and will add them later.  See, I promised pictures so you shall have pictures!  However, with T-minus-one-and-a-half hours, I just need to get the post up before my deadline (and my bedtime) and not mess around with this antique desktop trying to get pictures uploaded.  (Yes, the laptop is still out of commission.)

Without further adieu:

Classic Dill Pickles

Dill Pickles

Kosher Dill Pickles
4 lbs. (4″) pickling cucumbers (from both my 9 Bean Rows CSA share and Olds Farm)
6 tbsp. pickling salt
3 c. distilled white vinegar (I always use 4 cups each of water and vinegar since the year I ran short on brine; plus three and three yields a really salty dill.)
3 c. water
fresh dill (from my herb butterfly garden)
21 peppercorns
14 garlic cloves from Olds Farm

  • Clean and sterilize jars and lids; add to water bath and bring to a boil. 
  • Wash cucumbers and cut to desired pickle shape; I did a variety of spears and slices.
  • Combine salt, vinegar and water; heat to boiling.
  • Pack cucumbers into clean, hot jars.  Add three peppercorns, two garlic cloves and a sprig of fresh dill to each jar.  (I need to remember to add way more dill next time.  I didn’t buy any when I was at the Farmers’ Market and had to make do with the dill that grew in my yard.) 
  • Fill packed jars with hot brine to within 1/2″ of jar top and seal.
  • Process in prepared boiling water bath for 1o minutes.  (The book says fifteen but it makes the pickles mushy; read the footnote.)*

This made 8 pints with enough brine leftover for me to make a jar of “refrigerator pickles” which I didn’t process.

You can add more seasoning to make a spicier dill, but if I spice them too much, my kids won’t eat them.  I’ll make another batch for myself later. :)

*This recipe is from “Freezing and Canning Cookbook: Prized Recipes from the Farms of America” by the food editors of Farm Journal (1964).  I got this book at an estate sale about 15 years ago.  While some safety guidelines have changed over the years, I use this book as a reference and source of inspiration for lots  of canning recipes; I love it.  When I get around to adding the pictures, I’ll add a photo of the book too.  I know.  Boring.  Traditional.  DELICIOUS!

Freezing and Canning Cookbook: Prized Recipes from the Farms of America

Cool, huh? Don't you just want to run out and make a gelatin mold?

Oh, and Tigress, thanks again for getting me back to my blog!

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Random Drivel

If you are a regular reader, you have by now realized that I’ve been on a little hiatus.  Things are getting a little crazy around here and I haven’t had much time to devote to a “real” post. 

The craziness began with an amazing trip to Detroit (yes, I said “amazing” and “Detroit” in the same sentence) for the 5th National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.  I was too cheap to spring for an internet connection while I was there so blogging was out.  Not to mention the fact that I was busy for three days and spent every spare moment with my family.  I have an amazing opportunity to write about the conference for one of my favorite local publications, but I’ll save that for its own post once an article has been written, approved (hopefully) and gone to print. 

When I returned from the conference I went straight back to work.  It was/is end-of-the-year-assessment time and I had missed three prime days.  Add to that the half day I missed last week to have a lost filling drilled out and temporarily replaced and now I’m knee-deep in paperwork and running out of days to finish it all.

In all my spare time, I’ve been working in the garden a ton; helping with Girls on the Run; finding and starting a summer job at the Mercato in exchange for my summer CSA share from 9 Bean Rows and trying to finish up the final details for the Coop Loop.   There are lots of exciting developments and eventually I’ll tell you more, but I’m still working on sifting my compost heap.  I love you all, but a girl has to prioritize. 

 I’ve had lots of thoughts and ideas, but  I haven’t had the time and energy to sit down and compose something meaningful to share.  I’ll be back to a more manageable schedule soon.  Until then you’ll have to make do with this collection of random drivel.

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Spring CSA Update

So, you’ve signed up for a CSA.  You’re excited because you know the local produce you’re going to pull out of the box is the freshest produce you can get.  You also know that you’re saving money because even though you’re paying $20-$30 a week for your share, you’re actually getting a lot of veggies for your money.  But then, you get the box home and open it up and think, “What have I gotten myself into?? I don’t even know what half this stuff is let alone how to cook with it.”  I felt that way a lot last year.  I ended up making lots of salads.  So far this spring I’m still getting a lot of “salad greens” but there have been plenty of other goodies as well.  

Let’s start with week two:   

Week 2 Spring Cream of the Crop Share

Week 2 of my 9 Bean Rows Cream of the Crop Share.

This is the whole share.  Stephanie gets half of it, but a half  has worked out really well so far.  This box had collards, Red Russian Kale, blue kale, Easter Egg Radishes, Mizuna, Kaleini, chives, oregano, Ruby Red Chard, Arugula and two loaves of bread.   

So, as I mentioned before, it’s a really “salad-y” share.  Mizuna and Arugula are both peppery lettuce varieties, and radishes are primarily a salad vegetable.  However, a quick Internet search revealed 10 Tasty Radish Recipes including one for radish chips.  I think I’ll have to try that one out.  My husband, once a chef, has always been perplexed by radishes.  Cooking them generally turns them to mush and blanches most of the flavor out.  Chips might work.   

Once the salad vegetables have been eliminated, we’re left with herbs, cooking greens and Kaleini.  Kaleini is an invention of Nic’s.  I’m pretty sure it’s not a hybrid but the young flowers from kale plants, but I couldn’t guarantee that.  Sautéed with butter and garlic, it was delicious and reminiscent of Broccoli Raab or broccolini.  

I gave all the herbs to Stephanie because I grow both chives and Oregano.  It seems silly for me to split them when I have a whole yard full of herbs including so much Oregano that I generally pull it out like weeds and compost it.   

Chard can be sautéed like spinach or used in most cooked spinach recipes.  I ate some sauteed in roast pork tenderloin drippings for dinner tonight.  I haven’t tried it yet because I am not a huge fan of eggs, but Barbara Kingsolver has a recipe on her Animal Vegetable Miracle website for Eggs in a Nest.  

Although I like it, kale is something I still haven’t figured out.  I can never seem to eat it all even though we are splitting a share.  Fortunately it lasts a while. Unfortunately as soon as I think I’ve eaten it all, I get a fresh supply.  So I will admit that I have fed kale to my chicken.  But, there really are lots of things you can do with kale.  You can find (literally) millions of recipes for kale chips on the Internet.  You can add kale to smoothies.  You can chop kale and add it to soups or stews.  I’ve even steamed it, ground it up and added it to chocolate cakes without being discovered by my family.  Those cakes were the most moist, delicious cakes you could imagine.  To my daughter’s great disgust I added chopped kale to curried garbanzo beans.  First she whined.  Then she begged to pick the kale out.  Then, she came back for seconds.  

 Collard greens are delicious, but so far I’m the only one in my house that will eat them.  I thought for sure Mr. Hippie would like them cooked in bacon, but he wanted them to be saltier.  Next time I think I would add garlic to the end sauté.

Collard Greens and Black-Eyed Peas 

Medium-sized bunch of collards
2-3 slices bacon
1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas, soaked overnight 

  • Boil black-eyed peas in seasoned water 60 -90 minutes.  (I added salt, pepper and minced garlic.)   
  • While peas are cooking, cut stems out of collard greens and feed to your chickens (or compost if you don’t have any chickens yet).  Once the stems have been removed, chop the collards into 1/2″ strips and add to boiling salted water.  Cook for about  30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook bacon in a very large skillet and let cool on a paper towel.  Reserve 1-2 Tablespoons of bacon fat but pour most of it into your fat jar to make soap with later.  Or, if you want to make your dog really happy, drizzle it over his kibble or add it to homemade dog food or biscuits
  • Once the bacon has cooled, chop it into bits and return it to the pan with the bacon fat you saved.
  • Drain the collards and the black-eyed peas and add them to the skillet with the bacon bits and fat.  Sauté until heated through and season to taste. 

In addition to the veggies and greens there was, of course, freshly-baked bread.  Yum.  Mostly we just slice it and eat it with butter, but sometimes I toast it or make French Toast.  French Toast is really delicious with Jen’s bread. 

Week three looked very similar, but included some new items.  

Week Three Cream of the Crop Share
My week three Cream of the Crop share from 9 Bean Rows.

Homemade bread is a given although the loaves were oblong rather than the roundish loaves we got the second week.  More kale, more collard greens, more radishes and Arugula.  Mixed salad greens made a comeback this week which is great; I’ve been eating salad for lunch most days.  This week’s  herbs were chives, Oregano,  tarragon and parsley.  I kept some of the parsley because I don’t have any growing, but gave the rest of the herbs to Stephanie again.  I’ve never grown parsley because I’ve never been a fan of it.  That all changed last year when I started getting it in my CSA box from Providence Farm.  I started making tabbouleh and now I’m addicted to the stuff so I’ll definitely be planting some parsley this year.

New this week were ramps or wild leeks.  When I got these ramps, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with them.  I usually harvest some from the woods when I’m foraging for morels, but never this many at a time.  Then I found this post about wild leeks and thought hmm. . . pickling them would be fun.  I think maybe I’ll use my jerked onion recipe from last month’s Can Jam challenge.  But then, Stephanie said that she was using her leeks in fajitas.  What a great idea!!  I cleaned up the leeks, cut the bulbuous white part off and saved them for canning and cut up some of the leafy parts to use in my fajitas.  You can chop the leeks up into salads with the rest of your early spring salad greens.  I just had an inspiration!  My grandma makes “ham roll-ups” at Christmas time.  I think a leek would work in lieu of a scallion:  Lay a thinly sliced piece of ham on a plate.  Spread the ham with cream cheese.  Place the leek along one edge of the ham slice and roll it up.  Cut the ham cylinder into one inch spirals.  I never eat them except at parties, but even if I pickle the bulbs of my leeks I’ll have a lot of greens leftover.  I think even my son would eat the leeks in roll-ups.
This week I couldn’t pick up the share because I was at the Family Wisdom Conference ALL DAY on Saturday.  It was great, but exhausting.  So, since I couldn’t make it to the market, Stephanie picked up the box and split it for me.  Since Stephanie already split the produce, this is only my half of the share. 

9 Bean Rows CSA Share Week 4
My half of the 9 Bean Rows CSA Share from week 4.

First, let me say that Jen’s Brioche was so delicious that I started eating it before I remembered to take a picture.  My husband loved it so much that I’m afraid he’ll never eat regular bread again.  I’ve already researched brioche recipes.  As soon as I figure out which one is the best, I’ll do a post so you can share in the bliss.  (Or, head on over to the Mercato next week and buy a loaf or six.)

In addition to the brioche I found more chard, more leaf lettuce, more salad greens, more kale, more ramps, sage and oregano.  However, I also got the first turnips of the season.  I’ve never cooked mine, but they can be cooked like potatoes and added to soups.  I add turnips to salads with the rest of my salad-y vegetables.  I also found the first spinach of the season (yay!), baby potatoes and peas shoots. 
I don’t eat spinach raw.  I almost always saute it or throw it in the pan when I’ve finished cooking the meat until it wilts in all the delicious drippings.  I like the taste of raw spinach, but there is something about the way it feels on my teeth that I just can’t handle.  Potatoes are pretty easy.  I still have 20ish pounds of Russets in storage, but my Yukons and Redskins are on their way out (in both quantity and quality).  I like new potatoes like these boiled then tossed in yogurt with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh chives or dill (or, minced ramp leaves if that’s what you have around). 
Pea shoots can be chopped into salads, but I’m thinking of adding them to a stir fry at the very end instead of pea pods.
What do you do with your CSA Share?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

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Down with Dark Days

Spring has officially been here for twelve days now, but the Dark Days Challenge didn’t culminate until yesterday.  It seems as if Michigan wanted to end the Dark Days Challenge with an exclamation point rather than a period.   Seventy degrees and sunny the last day of March?  This isn’t spring, it’s summer but I’m not complaining. 

I wanted my Dark Days to go out with a bang too.  The grill had its inaugural run Tuesday but it seemed fitting on such a lovely day to stay mostly out of the kitchen.  This menu screams, “summer” and practically wrote itself:  Buffalo, corn on the cob, redskin potatoes, tossed salad, grilled bread and strawberry shortcake with homemade ice cream.

The buffalo steak came from Oleson’s farm and grocery.  Corn on the cob came from the Farmers’ Market.  I froze a bushel of it last summer for days like these.  My potato supply is dwindling, sprouting and starting to get mushy but I picked through the redskins, cut off the roots sprouting from the eyes, and sliced them into an aluminum pan with some olive oil, garlic from last year’s CSA share, salt and rosemary.  I have never successfully wintered a rosemary plant.  I always manage to keep it until February or March before it dies but mine is thriving and enjoying a day out in the sunshine.  My tossed salad greens and “easter egg” radishes came from my brand new 9 Bean Rows share.  I made a new dressing.  I know, what a shock, right?  Instead of the usual feta-garlic-yogurt dressing I tried a “Greek” vinaigrette.  I didn’t actually measure anything, but here’s the ingredient list:

rice wine and Balsamic vinegar (because I didn’t have any red wine vinegar)
olive oil
fresh minced oregano (several sprigs)
2 cloves chopped garlic
about an ounce of crumbled homemade feta
some honey
Shake well (Keep the lid on if you don’t want it exploded all over the counter like I did.)

The vinegar and oil weren’t local, but everything else was.

The grilled bread is something I make almost every day all summer long.  Dylan wanted me to make it Tuesday but it is a leavened bread and couldn’t be made on short notice.   The original recipe comes from “The Barbecue! Bible” but I modified it.

2 1/2 tsp. yeast
5 T. honey
1 C. warm water
1 egg, beaten (fresh from the coop if you’re lucky :) )
3 T. milk
2 tsp. salt
5 ish cups spelt flour
1 T. olive oil

Combine yeast, 1 T. honey and 1/4 C. warm water in mixing bowl.  Let stand ten minutes until foamy.  Stir in the remaining honey, remaining water, the egg, milk and salt.  Add 4 cups of flour and mix until dough is soft but not sticky.  Knead in the mixer 4-5 minutes adding flour as necessary.

Use half the oil to grease a large bowl.  Put dough in greased bowl, drizzle with remaining oil and cover with a damp cloth. 

Soon to be flatbread

The dough ready to rise.

 Let rise in a warm place until double.  Punch down the dough and pinch off two-inch pieces.  Roll the pieces into balls and place on a floured sheet or plate.  Recover with a damp towel and let rise until puffy: about 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill on high.  Use a rolling-pin to roll each ball on a floured board.  I oil and salt the rolled balls before placing them directly on the grill.  Flip them when they start to bubble.  They are done when browned on both sides.

Grand Finale

The Grand Finale of my Dark Days Challenge.

These flatbreads go great with everything.  They also make excellent crusts for grilled pizzas, or platforms for sandwiches (I love grilled veggies and cheese.  Homemade feta or raclette are lovely.)

Dessert was a true tribute to summer.  Spelt shortcake with berries from the freezer and homemade vanilla ice cream with Shetler’s milk and cream.  Yum! 

Maybe this should have been the entree.

Spelt shortcake, local berries and homemade vanilla ice cream.

It was so yummy that I let the kids eat leftover shortcake and berries for breakfast today.  Sans ice cream of course.

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To CSA or Not to CSA?

When I first started “blogging”, I wasn’t actually blogging.  I was using the ‘Notes’ tab on Facebook to journal.  I started out with weekly updates of my CSA share from Providence Farms and included recipes and anecdotes.  Partly it was a way for me to share with friends what I was doing, but in the back of my mind I was writing a book and I needed a place to keep notes that could be eventually incorporated into my book.  My book dream hasn’t died, but the Master Plan has evolved along the way.  So have the notes. 

The notes are now this blog and it is so much more than a diary of my CSA share.  In fact, because I didn’t sign up for a winter CSA share I haven’t blogged about a CSA much at all.  Why didn’t I sign up?  First of all, Providence didn’t offer a winter share.  Second, I had convinced myself that I wasn’t going to do a CSA share because I would be growing more of my own veggies this year.  I still plan to grow more veggies, but in the past I haven’t had a lot of luck in my garden.  I’m hoping that I can remedy that this year, but I’m nervous about doing it all on my own.  Plus, at the moment I don’t have a greenhouse, or a hoophouse, or even a cold frame.  I have a plastic seed-starting tray.  This limits the winter and spring growing I can do.

I started seeds two weeks ago, but so far only the onions and cauliflower have sprouted; old seeds will do that to you.  I’ll purchase some fresh seeds and try again, but crop failure is always a risk when you are a farmer or a gardener or even an urban homesteader which I think is what I’m aiming to be at the moment. 

When a friend asked if I wanted to split a CSA share, I hesitated.  Then I did a little research and decided to go for it.  We started a share with 9 Bean Rows Saturday morning.  We decided on 9 Bean Rows for a few reasons. 

First, their timing was perfect.  Instead of offering “summer” shares starting in June and running through October ike most the CSAs around here do, they offer four sessions that start and end with the changing of the seasons.  Since we just celebrated the Vernal Equinox, Stephanie and I were just in time for a spring share. 

Beacuase the sessions are shorter than most CSA shares, the initial expense is less too.  Most CSA shares run $450-$500 for the season.  At $350 for 12 weeks, the weekly cost works out to be about the same as the longer shares only in a smaller dose.  Plus, they let us pay in four installments; I’m paying two, Stephanie’s paying two.  It hurts less that way. :) 

Another nice thing about 9 Bean Rows is that they offer three different tiers of shares.  The Herbivore share is for salad lovers.  Each week you receive a variety of greens, herbs and edible flowers to make interesting salads year-round.  Tastes of the Garden is the basic share.  It is probably the best value and if I do a summer share, I might downgrade to this share. It has whatever is in season picked fresh each week.  The Cream of the Crop share that I’m splitting with Stephanie is the “premium” share.  Each week you get the basic share plus a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs and frequent “value added” products.  These could be wine from Blackstar Farms, jams and jellies in their season, morel mushrooms, syrup or herb butters like the chive butter tucked into my share this week.  My logic on springing for this share may be twisted, but here it is:  It’s spring.  Not a lot of things are growing yet.  As they start to come into season, the Cream of the Crop shareholders will get the first of those newly emerging products.  That means that as rhubarb, asparagus, wild leeks and even morels start poking their heads up from the cold earth, (Stephanie &) I’ll be the first to enjoy them.  We’ll also get more of these goodies than the standard shareholders and as the season runs out on these goodies, we’ll get the end of the run too.  When pickin’s are slim it seems worth the extra investment.

You’re probably wondering why I’d pay extra for a share that offers eggs when I’m harvesting my own now.  Well, I’m not.  Stephanie and I both have chickens and didn’t want the eggs, so the folks at 9 Bean Rows swapped out the eggs for an extra loaf of bread each week.  This is perfect for us because now we each get a loaf every week instead of splitting a loaf.  It’s actually a better value for us too, because even when I was buying eggs, I was paying less for a dozen local eggs than they charge for a loaf of their delicious bread.  I bake a lot of my own bread, but it’s nice to change things up once in awhile. 

And, the last reason I decided to go with 9 Bean Rows this season?  Well, you may remember that I’m on the Family Wisdom planning comittee this year.  Jen from 9 Bean Rows is speaking at the conference this year.  She’s agreed to do a session on how to cook from your CSA share or from what’s in season at the Farmers’ Market.  It seemed like the right thing to do.  You know, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” 

Our share was short a couple things this week because I signed up at the very last minute and they had already harvested and sorted everything, but Jen said she’d catch us up next week.  So, if you need one more reason to try a CSA, here it is:

9 Bean Rows Cream of the Crop

My Cream of the Crop share: Spring Week 1

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Dark Days Week Thirteen?? (or, No More Roosters in the Henhouse)

This week was an incredibly busy week for me. 

To begin the week I had a late meeting Monday evening after school.  On top of that, the second fundraiser for the Family Wisdom Conference was Thursday night and I had to do a lot of things to prepare for it.  I had to collect all the silent auction items from my friends that had agreed to donate items (A handmade basket, Barefoot Books, and abi*bags) and finish building the worm bin that I agreed to donate.  Then, I had to bake cookies.  I made delicious marmalade thumbprints using my homemade blood orange marmalade.  I also baked chocolate chip cookies and hand rolled truffles until all hours of the night Wednesday. 

After preparing for the fund raiser I got to actually attend it!  The evening was wonderful, we had a pretty good turn out and we raised money to cover the expenses of the upcoming conference, but it meant spending all night Thursday out of the house. 

Plus I had a sledding birthday party Friday evening with a meeting for the Road Rally scheduled right in the middle of it. 

Knowing that I had to attend all these functions and complete all these tasks, I set out to cook my Dark Days Dinner early in the week.  I started out with a local sirloin and some potatoes from my “root cellar”.  I whipped up a batch of homemade feta-yogurt dressing for my salad of local butter lettuce and then. . . I burned the potatoes beyond recognition.  Boiled potatoes mind you.  I boiled the pot dry and then waited for the smell of burning potatoes to signal the downfall of my dinner.  Steak and salad alone do not a dinner make.  So, I had to pull a bag of gnocchi out of the cupboard to round out our meal.  Mostly local?  Yes.  Dark Days local?  No.

So yesterday I started over. 

I started my journey as an urban chicken farmer in September.  If you’ve been following me since then you are aware that three of my four chicks turned out to be roosters.  The City doesn’t allow roosters in town so something had to be done.  Last week I dropped off the roos at Olds Farm to be processed.  We picked them up cleaned and bagged the next day and last night I pulled one of them from the freezer and roasted him for dinner. 

Our official Dark Days Dinner this week consisted of our homegrown rooster roasted with onions, celeriac and garlic from Providence Farms, butternut squash also from Providence, corn on the cob from the Farmers’ Market via the freezer,

Dinner was much more succesful the second time around.

The "Official" Dark Days Meal for the week.

butter lettuce salad with homemade yogurt-feta dressing

Local lettuce with homemade dressing.

Local greens with my old standby dressing: Homemade feta, homeade yogurt and local garlic

 and homemade biscuits from locally grown spelt flour. 

Local organic spelt flour makes yummy biscuits!

Dylan helps me roll the biscuits for our Dark Dinner.

Dylan helped me roll out the biscuits and I even drizzled a little honey from Millie Hathaway’s bees on mine.  Yum!

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