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Category Archives: Food

Processing

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This is the time of year where I spend days reaping the benefits of the garden harvest. It’s quite a bit of work, sometimes more than I expect. But, it is worth it in the dead of winter when I am pulling pints of tomato sauce out of the freezer.

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Real tomato sauce. That spends hours simmering on the stove. I have been perfecting my technique these days. Learning how to best extract the “meat” of the tomato from the seeds and skin.

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I blanch my tomatoes after cutting the tops off of them. Let them cool down before peeling and seeding. The batch I made yesterday used 24 tomatoes. Yielded two quarts of sauce.

I did get lucky with some “gleaned” tomatoes.

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Split and damaged tomatoes. We were harvesting from one of the community gardens while the plot owner was away. These tomatoes weren’t in the best of shape. Not good to use for food bank harvest. For an avid gardener though, these tomatoes could make some awesome sauce. I cut away quite a bit of them. You need to get the infested areas out of the tomatoes, or risk a ruined sauce.

My sauce is easy to make, in terms of work. It just takes patience.

I start with onions, celery, carrots, sweet peppers, garlic. Sweated down in olive oil. Add the meat of the tomatoes to the pan. Add salt, pepper, Italian seasoning. A pinch of sugar.

I like my tomato sauce to be chunky. So I don’t blend it at all. Right now I have a dozen containers in the freezer from three sessions of sauce making.

If you have never made your own sauce, you do need to try it. At least once. To see just how much time our ancestors spent putting up food for the winter. It does make you appreciate what we can buy instead of make. Even though I have found that making my own food yields greater flavor.

Here’s to harvest, and the fruits of our labor.

Melon Season

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Here we are again, in the abundance of summer Community Supported Agriculture world, where all of a sudden a fruit or vegetable dominates your weekly allocation. These past two weeks? Melons.

All sort of melons.

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Last week there were three of them. This week, four. YES, FOUR!!!!

Those melons in the picture above included an heirloom cantaloupe. A “modern” cantaloupe. A yellow seedless watermelon.

As for the difference between heirloom and modern cantaloupe. Just a touch different in terms of acidity.

And, a soft fragile rind.

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I remember from my childhood, only having cantaloupe in the summer. Getting them fresh from the fields on the way to or from the ocean. Maryland Eastern Shore cantaloupes. They were a breakfast treat. Sliced into quarters. Sprinkled with salt.

Now, we get more creative with melon. I have become enamored of this recipe lately. It is very similar to my watermelon, feta and mint salad, but with a more complex dressing.

As for what we are doing with this week’s watermelon. I am thinking melon margaritas, if the weather stays this hot.

This week’s basket included four melons. A French Chanterais. An heirloom cantaloupe. A “baby doll” watermelon. A regular cantaloupe.

Anyone have other ideas for what to do with all this melon?

This Weekend

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Two very different interesting programs out at Mt. Pleasant. Howard County Conservancy.

Heard of the Perseids? These meteors will streak across the dark sky for the next few nights. Peak viewing should be Friday night. Dr. Joel Goodman (star doc) and Dr. Alex Storrs from TSU will be at the Conservancy talking about the meteors and along with the dozens of attendees (this is a well attended event) will be hanging out in their lawn chairs searching the night skies and counting meteors.

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The sky above the Conservancy is one of the nearest non light polluted places here in the county to watch the meteors. Event is 10pm until 1:30am. Details here.

Then on Saturday morning I will be leading an event with another program volunteer, Wendy Ng. The two of us have been following the progress in the community gardens. Watching the diversity in plantings. Seeing how what was just a traditional European influenced mix of plants has now evolved into many different cultures.

Come wander around with us. 10am on the 13th. See some interesting plants. Learn how they are used. Take home a few recipes.

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This program combines nature, gardening, history and more.

You’ll even get to see some of the more interesting fermentation ideas, the best way to preserve the fruits of your garden.

Frustration

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That would be how this week has been. One that frustrates me. Why? Premature replacement of very expensive appliances.

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This would be my seven year old fancy fridge. Which decided to fail a week ago. You know you are in trouble when this is the temperature in your freezer.

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With the setting at -2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thankfully, I have a chest freezer in the basement. Not particularly full at the moment because we haven’t started the food processing from the garden. I managed to salvage all the local meat, and cram it into the chest freezer.

The verdict from the repair person. Somewhere there is a seal leak. Typical in these refrigerators. Could be over one thousand dollars to fix. If we can pinpoint the leak with injected dyes.

Not happy. Our older, not fancy refrigerators lasted decades. All of them. Not seven years, like this one. Spending close to 50% of the purchase price to attempt to fix it is not an option.

So, today a new behemoth came into our lives.

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I use a large refrigerator because I have large amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables.

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I want room for salad spinners. Fruit. Vegetables. Fresh dairy and deli. This is not a repository for a few processed items. It is the storage unit for a CSA basket, and for farmer’s market finds.

This past week we did quite a bit of frantic cooking. Those items I thought may have been defrosting, as they were in the top of the old freezer.

Some bison. Some bacon. A hanger steak. Catfish. Most of it local. Good for the Buy Local Challenge.

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I did do a very good frittata with local bacon and eggs. My tomatoes.

Overall, I suppose it’s not the most traumatic of weeks. Not a bit annoying. Refrigerators shouldn’t fail after seven years.

Oh, by the way, Bray and Scarff is awesome, when it comes to recommending good repair people and when it comes to absolutely fantastic delivery and set up teams.

Low Hanging Fruit

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The Maryland Buy Local Challenge began yesterday. An annual event that encourages people to buy from our local farms and small businesses that support farmers in the state.

With all this heat around here, who is in the mood to cook? Still, you can participate in the challenge in cooler, creative ways. Like visiting local wineries.

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We visited a new one for us, last weekend. Up in Thurmont. With weekend music. Catoctin Breeze.

A bonus up there is the relatively close location to a covered bridge over a babbling brook. A perfect place to get you toes wet, and cool down.

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On your way to or from the winery, you could stop in at Catoctin Mountain Orchards for some fresh fruit and other homemade goodies. Made with mostly local fruit, they have all sorts of desserts you could bring home.

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Or, you could head out on the Maryland Ice Cream Trail.

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Other options. Visit a brewery.

Or, pick berries at Larriland, or another pick your own place.

Hmmm, berries, ice cream, wine, beer, desserts, do you need anything else?

Film Feastival

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The 7th annual festival at Clark’s Elioak Farm. Next Tuesday night from 6-8 pm. This year’s film is “Just Eat It“. Focusing on food waste. The film will be shown in the barn at 7 pm.

The event is free, with a suggested donation to support Days of Taste. The Howard County program is held at the Fairgrounds usually. Every spring. A very worthwhile immersion for our school children.

So, come out to the farm Tuesday night, the 19th.

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Wander through the old Enchanted Forest. Visit the petting area. Sample foods from local restaurants. See the film.

Going for the Green

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In wineries. Black Ankle Vineyards is an amazing place to visit if you want to see a “green” winery.

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Sitting there on the patio, looking up at the living roof.

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Noting the solar panel, on your way down to the building. Once inside you can see the straw construction, and the reclaimed material in their counter tops, along with many other examples of how they continue to reflect their love of the land, and their dedication to sustainability.

We hadn’t been there in a while. It is one of the closest wineries to our home. One of the priciest in Maryland as well. They tend not to participate in festivals. They do a very good business with sales on site. In the past, we found very few wines available year round. They often sold out of the most popular varietals.

Friday night music, with hundreds picnicking on the patio and the lawn.

This visit, we went on a Sunday. Still, one very busy place.

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They are adding a new outdoor tasting area, to handle the crowds on popular days.

We did a tasting, and rejoined their wine club.

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Sat outside and enjoyed a glass of rose and of the Reserve Chardonnay. With a local cheese, from Cherry Glen. One of the two great goat cheese producers in Maryland.

Glad we took a day trip out there and reconnected. They are still making outstanding red and white wines from estate grown grapes.

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