Wednesday, July 30, 2008

CSA, Week 6

July 29 was the sixth week of our CSA (Waldingfield Farm, pick-up point Sandy Hook Organic Farmer's Market). Our bounty included:
- mixed salad greens
- sugar snap peas
- green beans
- Swiss chard
- patty pan squash
- cucumbers
- green bell peppers
- Chinese eggplant
- sun gold cherry tomatoes

Our local dinner (no challenge) was:
- patty pan squash (from Waldingfield) stuffed with sauteed pork sausage from Ox Hollow farm, peppers, garlic, onions (from various farms), and cheese from Sankow's Beaver Brook.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I finally made a decent raw milk yogurt! I had the flavor I wanted, but couldn't get the consistency. I kept getting something that would properly be called a yogurt shake. The problem was that I wasn't heating the milk enough. Heat destroys the enzymes and natural good bacteria in the milk and I wanted to keep those. Otherwise, why not just use pasteurized milk? But it turns out that the milk's bacteria was competing with the starter culture! So, do you lose the benefits of using raw milk if you heat it to 180 degrees (as many yogurt recipes suggest)?

According to Linda Joyce Forristal (care of the Weston Price site):
Whatever temperature the milk will be heated to, in my opinion it is best to begin with raw milk. It is not homogenized so you get a wonderful cream on top. It has not had milk solids added to it, so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Most important, raw milk has not been pasteurized, which is a violent, rapid-heating process that has a very detrimental effect on the proteins in the milk. A slow, gentle heating on your stove top will more effectively preserve the integrity of fragile milk proteins, especially if you remove the milk from the stove as soon as the desired temperature has been reached.
Here's my recipe:
1 quart of raw milk
1/4 cup of good commercial organic yogurt as a starter (I used Seven Stars)

Measure out the starter and allow to come to room temperature while heating the milk. In a saucepan, slowly bring the milk up to 180 degrees, stirring periodically (it took me one hour). Allow the milk to cool back down to 110 degrees, again stirring periodically. Put the milk and starter into jars, twist on a lid, and place in a dehydrator for 8 to 10 hours. (I did 10.) Refrigerate the jars. Since the milk had not been homogenized, there is a lovely cream line.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Local Meal, No Challenge

Last night's local meal is not a part of any of the ongoing organized challenges, but a local delight nonetheless.

Rib eye steaks from Stuarts.

Home made pasta, using:
- all purpose wheat flour, wheat from Lightning Tree Farm, milled and sold by Wild Hive Farm, both in Millbrook, NY (local wheat!!)
- eggs from Arno's Farm in Kent, CT
- olive oil from Italy
tossed with a sauteed medley of:
- tomatoes from Mitchell's Farm in Southbury, CT
- arugula from Newtown Cedar Hill Farm
- garlic from Smith Acres Farm, Niantic, CT
- shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, from Italy

Delicious and fun to make!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bluestone Farm

To cap off a perfect day, we spent Saturday evening with the Sisters at Bluestone Farm, where we sampled many of their delectables as they were puttin' 'em by.

The Sisters had harvested some Nero Italian kale and some rutabagas. I learned that rutabagas can be cut into strips and deep fried, like French fries. I also learned that Sister CG makes an excellent Habanero hot sauce (not to mentioned those pickled jalapenos).

I got to witness the great wall of garlic and regret not having the foresight to snap a photo of it. Numerous varieties of garlic (all neatly labeled) cover about 10 linear feet of wall space, from top to bottom. They need to dry out before they can be braided.

I also got to have a visit with the duckings, who are currently at the adorable stage. And I had the opportunity to admire their prolific fields.

The Sisters sent us home with Italian Kale (nero), Bok Choy, Habanero hot sauce, and pickled jalapenos.

New York Breadbasket

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) know that I have been complaining periodically (or maybe incessantly) about my inability to find local wheat. Well, have I got news for you--I found some! Lightning Tree Farm in Millbrook, NY grows several varieties and I saw it with my own eyes and tasted it in my own mouth. It's real.

Yesterday, over 80 people showed up for the Growing Bread Locally workshop, which was well over the expectations of the organizers. They'd initially expected a smaller audience of farmers and bakers but were pleasantly surprised to see so many consumers take an interest in local wheat and local wheat products.

Once everyone signed in and checked out the literature and grain samples, the organizers made their introductions. Al Earnhart is the farm manager at Lightning Tree Farm. Jeanine Connolly is also from Lightning Tree. Eli Kaufman is with the Wheat Heritage Conservancy. Elizabeth Dyck from NOFA-NY is the coordinator of the Northeast Organic Wheat Project. Don Lewis is the owner of Wild Hive Farm, a micro-mill and bakery exclusively using local grains.

Left to Right: Don Lewis, Jeanine Connolly, Eli Kaufman, Al Earnhart

Al Earnhart gave us a demo of the combine, an indispensable machine in wheat farming. A combine, according to Wikipedia is "a machine that combines the tasks of harvesting, threshing, and cleaning grain crops." First you drive the combine around the field to harvest the wheat. Then the combine threshes the wheat, separating the grain from the straw. The straw is left on the field as compost. Then there are multiple phases of cleaning and filtering. We saw a demo of the seed cleaner, where screen sizes are based on the grain as well as the year. Then there is the drying. The wheat must be dried properly to prevent molding yet retain viability. Once dry, grains destined for human consumption are stored in a metal-lined storage facility.

Lightning Tree Farm uses the COWS method of farming. They rotate corn, oats, wheat, and sod (clover) on each field in the 425 acres. In the late 1700s, wheat was over-farmed on this land until the soil could no longer produce anything. Those farmers moved west. Today, because of these sustainable farming practices, the land is fertile and able to produce wheat once again.

Elizabeth Dyck spoke about the Northeast Organic Wheat Project, which among other things is looking for folks to keep the heritage seeds going simply by growing the wheat and saving the seeds. Eli Kaufman travels the world researching and growing wheat. She spoke of the resurgence of some of the ancient wheat, such as emmer and spelt.

Then we got to the audience participation portion of the program. Don Lewis (of Wild Hive Farm) brought his mobile oven and baked bread samples with AC Barrie, Triticale, Frederick (soft white winter), and Red Fife wheat. His oven is his own design, crafted by Fletcher Coddington of Arrowsmith Forge. It is a mobile, wood-fired hearth oven. It has seven dampers to control the hot spots. It is a thing of engineering beauty indeed.

The bread was delicious. It was interesting to taste the differences between the different grains. It was intensely satisfying to finally eat bread made from local wheat. The butter was out of this world, locally made and as far as I know, not commercially available. Oh yeah, we had corn on the cob too, roasted in Don's oven.

I left the event with a ton of information, several bags of flour and grains, a loaf of bread, and great hope for the future.

For those looking to do something, here are some actions you can take:
Farmers and Gardeners: "adopt-a-crop" of rare heritage wheat, trial commercial wheat varieties and partner with local bakers
Artisan Bakers: work with local farmers to test wheat varieties for flavor and baking quality
Regular People: Buy and eat the products created by the artisan bakers. Buy the grains and flours and experiment with some recipes of your own.

Elizabeth Dyck
Eli Kaufman

Heritage Wheat Conservancy
SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education)

In case you want to grow your own wheat, here's the math to produce one loaf of bread per day. Consider that it takes about 1-1/2 lbs of sifted milled flour to make the loaf. Since you lose about 20% of your weight in the sifting, you need to mill about 1-7/8 lbs of grain. In a year, you'd need 685 lbs of grain. If you save and sow your own seeds, the ratio of seeds to yield is 1:10, so you need to produce 760 lbs of wheat to take some seed off the top for planting. You can get about 900 lbs of grain from 1/2 an acre. So, you'd need to plant just under 1/2 and acre to make a loaf of bread a day.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Grains at Last

It looks like I may have found local grains!

Lightning Tree Farm is offering a free workshop tomorrow (Saturday, July 26, 1-4 p.m.) called Growing Bread Locally. The event is a cooperative effort between Lightning Tree and Wild Hive Farm (a micro-mill and bakery). Here's the description from the NOFA NY site:
Get an in-depth look at an innovative enterprise we hope will soon become common: a working partnership between an organic grain farm and a baker producing artisan breads for local markets. At Lightning Tree Farm, tour the fields to see modern and heirloom wheats that produce high-quality bread flour including Red Fife, a classic hard red bread wheat developed by a Canadian farmer over 150 years ago. Follow the bread-making process through harvesting and milling and taste loaves baked in a traveling wood-fired hearth oven. Farmers Alton Earnhart and Jeanine Connolly and baker Don Lewis of Wild Hive Farm will be on hand to discuss the ingredients and know-how needed to make this type of enterprise a success. This workshop is made possible through the NE SARE funded Northeast Organic Wheat project.
Lightning Tree Farm is located at 132 Andrew Haight Rd, Millbrook, NY (Dutchess Co.) For more information, contact Elizabeth Dyck (607-895-6913).
DIRECTIONS: From Taconic Parkway South Take US44 Ramp to Poughkeepsie/Millbrook. Turn left toward Millbrook taking NY-44A which becomes US-44 Turn left onto N. Mabbettsville Rd (CR-98).
I'll be attending this workshop and will report back my findings.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

CSA, Week 5

July 22 (today) is the fifth week of our CSA (Waldingfield Farm, pick-up point Sandy Hook Organic Farmer's Market). Our bounty included:
- mixed salad greens
- sugar peas (or are these snap peas?)
- kale
- Swiss chard
- yellow summer squash
- patty pan squash
- broccoli

Our local dinner (no challenge) was Stuarts beef filets, tossed salad with Waldingfield dressing, and Brussels sprouts. The wine: McLaughlin.

We also put by the Swiss chard, sauteed with olive oil and garlic scapes.

Outsourcing Locavores

This NY Times article about lazy locavores proves that just about anything can be outsourced.
For a fee, Mr. Paque, who lives in San Francisco, will build an organic garden in your backyard, weed it weekly and even harvest the bounty, gently placing a box of vegetables on the back porch when he leaves.
As a result of interest in local food and rising grocery bills, backyard gardens have been enjoying a renaissance across the country, but what might be called the remote-control backyard garden — no planting, no weeding, no dirt under the fingernails — is a twist. “They want to have a garden, they don’t want to garden,” said the cookbook author Deborah Madison, who lives in Santa Fe, N.M. (Emphasis mine.)
Is anybody doing this in Connecticut?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Puttin' By

When I started this local eating thing, I had no intention of puttin' food by (storing it either by canning, freezing, drying, or some other method). I was to be a grasshopper, patron of the ants of the world. It turns out that there are not enough ants to feed locavore grasshoppers. While we made it through the winter, we did so with lots non-local veggies. You can get meat and dairy products all winter long, but fruits and veggies are hard to come by. No offense to Two Guys from Woodbridge, but hydroponic salad greens start to get to you. And you want something you can eat hot.

So, the plan this year is to freeze and dehydrate as we go. We may even explore canning.

This weekend, we cooked and froze:
- two bunches of beets
- beet greens from said bunches (sauteed with garlic and olive oil--pretty much how I cook most greens)
- corn off the cob (two ears)
- summer squash melee (from Simply Recipes, but without the cheese).
- roasted peppers
- kale (sauteed with olive oil and pancetta)
- a head of broccoli (blanched)

We store it in freezer bags using the FoodSaver home vacuum-packaging system. It sucks out the air and seals the bag. Nice (except when the food has a significant amount of liquid).

Looking back over the list, it doesn't seem like as much now as it did while we were preparing it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Foraging, 7/19/08

Today's forage was a solo effort. I packed up the cooler, camera, and a notebook. And coffee. Can't forget the coffee. (Yes, I'm the kind of locavore that consumes things that don't or won't grow here.)

The first stop was the Bethel Farmer's Market. The season opening was last week, but I missed that one. As you can see from the photo, the place was humming. Since I belong to a CSA, I really don't need much more food, but I like to see what's available and you never know, someone could be growing something that my farmer isn't. I scored:
- arugula from Newtown Cedar Hill Farm (Hi Frank!)
- blueberries from East Windsor and eggs from Arno's Farm in Kent, both from Maple Bank's tent.

Goatboy soaps (with the kids) and Vaszauskas Farm from Middlebury, CT were also there.

Additionally, there were some tents with locally produced handcrafts. I generally go to these looking for food, but locally crafted merchandise certainly fits in with the basic idea.

Then it was off to New Morning in Woodbury to get my raw milk and a few other sundries. I really like their dried organic mangoes better than anyone else's (even Trader Joe's). Theirs actually taste like mangoes. No, they're not local and I suspect mangoes will never be (well, as long as the climate in zone 6 doesn't change).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CSA, Week 4

July 15 was the fourth week of our CSA (Waldingfield Farm, pick-up point Sandy Hook Organic Farmer's Market). Our bounty included:
- lots of beets (with the greens)
- red leaf lettuce
- sugar peas
- kale (a lot)
- swiss chard (a lot)
- pattypan sqash
- zucchini
- leeks
- an heirloom cucumber

Mostly local dinner: I'm cooking some of the kale with pancetta. They don't make pancetta locally, so I have no qualms about importing it. This is an experimental dish and I hope it works out. We'll be having that with boiled (then cooled) beets, and porterhouse steaks from Stuarts.

Speaking of Stuarts, their new farm stand hours are:
Tues - Fri: 12-5 PM
Sat: 10 AM to 4 PM
Sun: 12-4 PM

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

CSA, Week 3

July 8 was the third week of our CSA (Waldingfield Farm, pick-up point Sandy Hook Organic Farmer's Market). Our bounty included:
- bunch of large beets with the greens
- zucchini, green and heirloom
- pattypan squash
- sugar peas
- mixedgreens
- brocolli heads
- swiss chard
- leeks

Eating locally, no challenge:
Most of our meals for the week have been mostly local (except for the usual suspects: olive oil, grains, beans & legumes). Meat, dairy, and veggies are around 90-95% local. The highlight dish of the week was escarole from my own garden, with cannelini beans (like I used to have when I was a kid). Yum.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Foraging, Sunday 7/6

We tried out a new Farmer's Market, the Sandy Hook Village Farmer's Market (Glen Rd). This one's not restricted to organic farms, although the area's organic farms are well represented here.

- Mitchell Farms, Southbury, CT
- Smith Acres Farm, Niantic, CT
- Shortt's Farm, Sandy Hook, CT
- Beldotti (baked goods, cheese, prepared foods), Stamford, CT

Apologies for not listing all of the items I got from each vendor, but I did not take great notes and the memory isn't what is used to be. Off the top of my head, green beans, zucchini (and zucchini flowers), and greens were most prevalent.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

CSA, Week 2

Today was week two of our CSA with Waldingfield Farm. This week's bounty was beets, mixed greens, yellow squash, zucchini, and sugar peas.

Our pick-up point is the Sandy Hook Organic Farmer's Market, where we also got some prepared pesto, fresh mozzarella, and whole wheat flax seed bread. These delectables were made by a company based in Stamford, CT (deepest apologies for not getting their name).

So, with all of that good fresh food in the house, we went out to dinner tonight to Sal E Pepe, our local favorite. Apart from the excellent food and service, Angelo (the owner) makes a point of having local items on the menu.

Sunday Dinner, No Challenge

On Sunday, we invited a friend over to help us plant a tree (a white pine) and enjoy a meal. She ended up getting on the roof and cleaning our gutters! Now that's a friend!

For dinner, we fed her pork ribs from Ox Hollow, with a curry dry rub, ribeye steak from Stuarts, salad from the numerous greens from Waldingfield, with some slice fennel from Riverbank on top. The dressing was from Waldenfield. We also had spinach from Holbrooks, sauteed with garlic and olive oil and Wave Hill bread. The wine was from McLaughlin's. She was drinking Mojitos with mint she brought from her own garden.

Fair trade?

Saturday's Forage, 6/28/2008

We packed up the cooler and the camera and headed north to the New Milford Farmers Market. We got:
- bread from Wave Hill Bread
- pork cuts from Ox Hollow Farm
- beets and fennel bulb from Riverbank Farm
- blueberry/raspberry jam, strawberries, and shortbread from Rose's Berry Farm
-strawberry jam and scallion scapes from Mountain View Farm.
-more soap Goatboy Soap (My purple sweatshirt is in, but not at this location this week. No worries--given the temperature lately, I'm not in a big rush.)

Waldingfield Farms was there and this week's offerings looked good...can't wait for Tuesday for our CSA drop.

Goat Boy's brother with some of the kids:

Mountain View Farm, from Kent, CT

Rose's Berry Farm, from South Glastonbury, CT

Seriously, the folks at supermarkets will not take the time to explain to you how things grow or how to cook something new to you like these folks will. Where have I been all my life?!

Okay, enough time marveling...back on the road and off to Stuarts to pick up our order. Jim was his usual jovial self and we made off with several thick ribeye's porterhouses, a few packs of burgers, and several other items to see us through the next few weeks.

That night, we enjoyed some burgers with fresh mozz (from New Pond), some greenhouse tomatoes from Maple Bank Farms, lettuce from Waldingfield, all on Wave Hill bread.