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Category Archives: Food

Home for the Holidays

Yesterday we took a trip back to my husband’s home town. Mainly because we hadn’t been there in 18 months, and we wanted to check in on some things (and buy some of his favorite kielbasy). Most of the family is gone. Moved, passed away. A few friends still in the area, but not many.

It’s a deeply depressed coal mining town. We found my husband’s old house on the market again. Like hundreds in the area. We were lucky to sell it quickly 12 years ago when my MIL moved to a retirement community in Pottsville.

The cemetery. Covered in fog and snow. Too wet, windy and cold to try to take pictures. We were there to check on the gravesites, before paying our yearly maintenance fee to the man who the church uses to maintain graves for those who are no longer local. The cemetery is on a huge hill outside of town. At 1800 feet elevation according to our GPS.

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This picture, taken last year shows the wind turbines installed on the ridge. Yesterday we couldn’t see them, the fog was so thick.

As for getting that kielbo, we forgot that Kowalonek’s gets really crazy at the holidays. Lines out the door, through the parking lot and around the corner. Not our idea of what to do in the rain and wind. We decided to head south to Manheim and look for fresh kielbasa at the Roots Country Market and Auction.

We found some at Hummer’s meats. A three pound ring of fresh, not smoked kielbasa. It almost is as good as his hometown version but not quite. We also picked up some of Hodecker’s celery, a real delicacy harvested in the fall and early winter. The web site is from the Bed and Breakfast at the farm where the celery is grown.

Some of that celery went into stock tonight. The leaves were frozen for later use.

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We took the back roads up and back. On the way up, we stopped at the Peters Orchards to get some gifts like this one.

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Cranberry salsa. Made in PA. Peters carries a nice selection of hot pepper jellies, all sorts of jams, honey, syrup and much more. They are open year round and are on the way to Carlisle on Rte 94. My husband couldn’t resist the molasses cookies either.

All in all, on a rainy blustery day, we had a good time, even though traffic was awful on the way home. I have to admit, I don’t miss that commute in really bad weather up I-81.

Now, off to bake cookies and other goodies using things I picked up at the market.

Local Butchers

It’s almost the holidays. For us that means celebration food. Like crown roasts. Osso Buco. Tenderloin for my birthday and maybe New Year’s Eve.

As far as I know, there is only one butcher left in Howard County. Boarman’s. We get so many special orders there. Like the osso buco.

Not too far away we do have lots of choices.

Mt. Airy. Wagner’s.

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Oella. JW Treuth’s. They did change hands recently but the quality is still there. They were a major source for our Zahradka winter CSA a few years back.

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Northern PG County in Laurel. Laurel Meat Market and Beiler’s in the Amish market on Rte. 198.

I have tried all but Laurel Meat Market. I should try them as Howchow loves them, and I respect his opinion.

If you want to buy small business and local for your main course at any holiday meal, you can’t go wrong with these choices. I mean, how good looking is this?

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The Dark Days

The time of year when the sun is in the opposite hemisphere, and our daylight hours get shorter and shorter. On December 21st, we here in Howard County only get 9 1/2 hours of daylight. Then, thankfully, the days get longer after that day.

A few years back, I did a food challenge. Called the Dark Days Challenge. The challenge, simply, was to make a meal once a week in the winter that used almost completely regional, seasonal items, and/or items you preserved from the summer.

I found out we had lots of sources here in Central Maryland. I didn’t have to eat food flown halfway across the country or halfway around the world. I learned about the Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and DuPont circle year round markets. I found farmers in the area where I could procure local meats.

I found a year round CSA. Bottom line. I changed how I ate. I changed how I cooked. I reduced my carbon footprint by using more and more local foods.

Last night, I made dinner. Afterwards, I realized how that dinner would have rocked the Dark Days Challenge. Almost all of it was local. And I didn’t even work hard to do it. I had just changed my food sources over the years.

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My lamb stew dinner. Using Mt. Airy Meats lamb. CSA potatoes, turnips, onions and carrots. Friends and Farms kale, garlic and rosemary. Trickling Springs butter. Secolari’s olive oil and balsamic. Wayne Nell’s bacon ends.

And the wine.

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A 1999 Linden Glen Manor from Virginia. Like inhaling cherries. Dark, delicious. Nowhere near its peak. A bargain back when we bought it. A treasure to be savored with the lamb.

My husband declared I now make a braised lamb stew that rivals those that Marc Dixon used to make at Iron Bridge. Falling off the bone lamb. Simply cooked in the oven at slow cooker setting, with the potatoes, turnips, carrots and onions in a chicken stock I made last month.

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Yes, I know I need to clean the oven. Ignore that. I did the stew in one pan. Seared it first, added the vegetables and stock and cooked it for four hours at the 250 degree setting in the oven.

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The kale. Started out with scallions from Laurel Amish Market. Olive oil. Bacon ends. Added the kale and garlic. Sautéed until wilted.

So easy to eat fresh food around here.

Blurring the Lines

Between markets, delivery services, cooperatives, and CSAs. I can’t help but notice as a result of being part of most of those choices that things keep changing. To keep customers. Take for example.

The presence of my CSA cooperative’s items in my Friends and Farms basket.

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Yes, that’s an LFFC sticker on my butternut squash in this week’s Friends and Farms basket. Just like the sticker on my carnival squash in my LFFC CSA pick up basket.

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And that Bowman Mountain applesauce in my fruit share. Was in the refrigerator at F&F when I got there.

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And, yes, Mother Earth mushrooms were in both deliveries. So was LFFC garlic.

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Here’s this week’s F&F individual basket. I am also pretty sure the leek was from Lancaster Farm Fresh Coop, too. I do like their use of a mostly organic non-profit Amish cooperative to give us great produce and fruit.

Just like I am thankful that our LFFC CSA share keeps going into the fall. And, hopefully into the winter if we get enough interest.

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This was my half share, and my fruit share. Anyone know a killer recipe for rutabagas? The one “weird” item in our share this week.

As for cheese.

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Lancaster Farm Fresh continues to give us artisanal cheeses at much more reasonable prices than Roots, Wegmans, and Whole Foods. We generally get 24 ounces for $25. Check out the per pound price of the best cheese at any of those retailers and you will see what a good deal we are getting.

So, where am I going with this post? I see a shift in my CSA. Giving more options. More individual choices. I see a shift in Friends and Farms. Using more and more reasonably priced organic items. And, more flexibility there too.

The old model, one farm CSA isn’t doing as well as those who broaden their sources. Consumers have lots of choices around here. A one farm CSA with limited veggies won’t survive against the cooperatives and regionally sourced food services like F&F.

I also see the value in these current choices. Better pricing. Fresher foods. I like Friends and Farms comment from a recent TV show. Wegmans and Whole Foods quality at Giant and Safeway pricing. We can get really great food around here. Year round.

The trick in all this? Knowing how to use it. Staying home and cooking. What have I done with the above, and what will I do this week with the rest of it?

One of the carrots went into tonight’s dinner. There will be a post tomorrow about that dinner. It was simply an awesome local meal. Spinach and mushrooms went into a salad yesterday taken to a friend’s house for dinner. Same with the garlic, in a potato casserole. Taken to that dinner.

As for LFFC, one of the onions in that potato casserole last night. Red cabbage in a salad tonight. I am making apple bread this weekend to give as Christmas gifts. Same for that jar of applesauce. One of my mom’s favorite treats, it will be in her “stocking” from me.

The lines may be blurred these days from my food suppliers, but I still can make flavorful meals and use these items over a two to three week period. Can’t say the same about grocery store produce, which wilts and slimes in less than a week. Fresh food is amazing. We are very lucky to have the choices we have here in Howard County.

A Peek at the Week

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In food. From my two local, seasonal, regional food sources here in Howard County. It may be December but with the advent of high tunnels and the use of greenhouses, you can still get very tasty fresh foods without them being flown from all over the globe.

A basket of vegetables and fruit from Amish country, for example. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, delivered to our pick up site.

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This is what $30 a week got me for a half share and a fruit share. Last Thursday’s delivery. A salad spinner’s worth of young arugula. Three small heads of specialty lettuces. One large leek. Three parsnips. A small stalk of Brussels sprouts. Two yellow onions and a bag of white potatoes. The fruit share was a mix of apples and two humongous Asian pears.

As for Friends and Farms individual share. Also picked up on Thursday.

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One large pork chop. One small whole chicken. One half pound of hickory smoked bacon. A dozen eggs. Thyme. Hydroponic tomatoes. Four Bosc pears. One red onion. Four potatoes. Fresh curly kale. One small hydroponic leaf lettuce. The pumpkin ravioli was an add on. From the always stocked refrigerator on site.

All the meat from Friends and Farms has been used. Half the eggs too. This was the last week for free range pastured eggs from Miller Farms. We will get Nature’s Yolk eggs in the winter.

Lots of soups on the menu these days. All the fixings that go easily into the crockpot.

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That chicken? Became dinner Friday night with the leftover breast meat being part of a cream based soup today. Soup was a perfect dinner after getting that perfect tree from Greenway.

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Now, I have to go decorate a tree.

In Search Of Kielbo

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Our search for a local source of fresh kielbasa continues. For my husband, who grew up in a town where kielbasa was made a certain way, we have looked near (and far) to find a source for “kielbo” that tastes as good as his hometown favorite.

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Fresh. Just like this one. From here.

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The closest we have come is from some local farms, but it isn’t quite the same.

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You can see the difference in the texture. And, they are different. Last Friday we decided to check out the meat department down at the Amish market in Laurel. Beiler’s price list includes Polish style kielbasa, but they didn’t have any. Just garlic kielbasa grillers, and smoked kielbasa. Which is not the same thing. Not bad, but not fresh and garlicky like his hometown style.

We did find some other goodies at the market, which is open Thursday through Saturday weekly. This market moved to Laurel from Burtonsville. It is much busier, and bigger, in its Laurel location. I hit the bulk food vendors for some ground coriander, which isn’t easy to find, and some apricot jam to use on an Asian pear tart I want to make for the holidays. At the meat vendor, we did find “hot half smokes”. Anyone working in and around DC knows about half smokes. We also brought home a very small piece of garlic ring bologna and a pound of bacon ends.

Unique items, including bison, are available at the Beilers meat stand in the market. The market also boasts a pickle vendor, with vats of different varieties.

We have to return for a longer visit sometime this winter. This close to home Amish market reminds us of the ones up in PA on the way to my husband’s hometown.

Giving Thanks Again

Today. Instead of mindlessly spending money at crowded shopping centers. Like a number of my local counterparts, I completely avoid the downtown mall in Columbia and any of the megastores between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tomorrow I will go out and get the beginnings of our Christmas decorations, namely the garland and the poinsettias. From our local farms. I may head up to Breezy Willow to get some presents, but with the Howard County Conservancy holiday natural crafts fair next Saturday, the 6th, I may just do all my shopping there. Making my presents to friends and family completely locally sourced.

Today, though, we had our private Thanksgiving. Where we gave thanks for continued good health. For 35 years of Thanksgivings together. For friends who we will be seeing over the next few weeks at holiday parties. And family who will get together again for Christmas eve.

Yesterday we went to a family dinner, like we have done for most of these 35 years. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that I made my first turkey as we were always in PA for Thanksgiving.

Now, we stay home. With no close relatives left on my husband’s side of the family, we no longer deal with the congested, sometimes icy and snowy trip up I-81. Watching the weather Tuesday night into Wednesday, I could understand the thoughts and actions of those trying to get home in bad weather.

Still, my MIL did the turkey in PA. My brother does the turkey here in MD. I never cooked a whole turkey in my life until 2006. Our second Thanksgiving after moving here. Our first without a trip to PA. We do Thanksgiving on Friday for us. Just a small “hen” from Boarman’s. This year was 12 pounds.

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This year I “did good” on the brining and the browning. Not so good on the gravy.

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Even though I washed off the brine before baking the bird, the pan drippings were too salty to make gravy. Happily, the turkey was moist enough not to need gravy and the stuffing was moist as well. We did a simple meal. Turkey. Stuffing baked on its own. Brussels sprouts. Dinner roll. And, I forgot to bring out my homemade cranberry relish.

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Served with a light pinot noir. Leftover pumpkin roll for dessert. As for that cranberry relish. It will get used with all the leftover turkey.

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I have a whole container full of breast meat to make meals. I also have the carcass and the innards in the crockpot making stock.

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Turkey soup next week on the menu definitely. Here’s to the holidays! Full of friends and family, and great local food.

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