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Staying Sane

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It’s been over a hundred days since we’ve been anywhere. Except for curbside pickups and a few quick trips to grocery stores and markets. Oh, and the hardware store.

Thankfully we have enough space around here and enough to do to keep busy. Plus, my garden. It gives me peace and quiet while dealing with the squash beetles and the weeds. And harvesting asparagus.

I did get my first four yellow cherry tomatoes yesterday. No squash yet, and the cucumbers don’t look great. Lots of asparagus though.

The peppers? Hanging in there but the weather isn’t cooperating either.

I have been cooking quite a bit. Making the most of my Vegetable share. Particularly all the greens. I have been cooking from Toni Tipton-Martin’s book Jubilee, this month’s cookbook club selection.

Collards with cornmeal dumplings. This was a serious undertaking. Many steps. But the result was delicious. Those dumplings were awesome.

Island banana bread. Transports me back to Jamaica. Full of spices, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, with dates and pecans. This cookbook is full of absolutely flavorful trips down Memory Lane for me.

I found lots of new favorites along the journey. Like this broccoli and cauliflower salad with curried dressing. You assemble and dress this salad and let it marinate in the fridge for hours. These are the spices from the deep Caribbean, like we encountered in Trinidad.

I found that cooking from this book allowed me to reminisce about travels from decades past, while staying “safer at home”.

I downloaded the iBook version of the book. No trips to stores for much of what I made here. Thankfully Harris Teeter has curbside pickup and could provide us with many of the needed items. They also waived the pickup fee for senior citizens so kudos to them for their accommodation to us while we are taking care of ourselves.

The Book? It is written by Toni Tipton-Martin and is titled Jubilee, Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking. Paired with my other iBook from the exploration of the South, Deep Run Roots. Together they explore the rich history of Southern cooking through two separate perspectives but with very similar results in many recipes.

Vivian Howard learned how to prepare numerous items by watching Mrs. Mary and Ms. Lillie who cooked in Southern homes for decades. If you get a chance to record and watch Somewhere South or A Chef’s Life on PBS, both of her series delve into recipe origins and the complexities of Southern cooking are revealed.

Are you a collard eater or a turnip greens eater? What are the differences between Creole and Cajun? How did rice and okra and sweet potatoes get into the Southern diet? For me with my interest in cooking, baking and gardening I find that cookbooks with history in them give me a deeper understanding of life in the past.

To summarize from a very long story today, I have been staying sane by “traveling” and learning in the comfort and safety of my kitchen. I have also been supporting local small businesses for ingredients to do so. Not ready for restaurants yet, but farmer’s markets and farm stores have returned to our lives.

Thanks to Jenny’s market drive thru when I need something quick. To Breezy Willow and Mary’s Land Farm stores when I need meat or fish. To the Wheelhouse Market. To TLV and the other farmers at the markets here in HoCo.

I am staying sane by gardening, cooking and baking. What are you doing to stay sane?

Farm Shares

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What a difference a year makes. Last spring we barely had enough members to get our pick up site renewed. Now, Community Supported Agriculture is booming, with twice the number of people at our site. Lancaster Farm Fresh is showing on their web site that some of the shares are sold out. Including meat, chicken and cheese shares.

My monthly meat share provider, Evermore Farm in Westminster, is also slammed. The owner was telling me that they aren’t accepting CSA shares right now because of the demand. They also suspended sales of sides of beef and pork. We are lucky that we have locked in a medium share for the foreseeable future.

Now if I can find a local source for flour that would be nice. I am baking twice a week and can’t find bread flour or yeast. I may end up buying the grinder option for my KitchenAid mixer and grinding the wheat berries and rye berries from our winter CSA pantry share. They are in my basement fridge. I have been experimenting with a mix of whole wheat flour and some soft winter wheat which isn’t the best bread flour but it seems to be working.

Also, did you know there are local restaurants offering meat bundles, produce bundles, and packages to help with the much larger demand for fresh foods? We have replaced restaurant eating with home cooking and the once adequate supplies in the stores are quickly gobbled up. Walker’s Tap to Table up the road from us is offering these. Using JW Treuth for meat.

Jenny’s just opened their farm stand, giving us really close access to fruits, veggies, plants, and more. The farmer’s markets are back, as drive throughs. I think I can minimize my once every ten day visits for curbside pickup from Harris Teeter. Maybe drop back to biweekly. For the staples, like oils and vinegar, spices, and cleaning supplies.

Thanks to my meat share, and my vegetable share, I had everything to make a big pot of bean soup today. Because of course the weather isn’t cooperating and it’s cold out. Not grilling weather at all, but stay inside, make bread and soup, and cover the plants at night weather. I hear that Western Maryland had snow flurries last night. Not your typical Mother’s Day weather at all.

So, here’s to the wonderful bean soup.

Ham hock from Evermore. Seared with onions from CSA. Add six cups of water. Simmer a long time. Add pepper, oregano and thyme. Celery, carrots, green cabbage. A large can of white beans with the liquid to make it creamy. This soup spent six hours on the stovetop on low heat. It was awesome with my homemade bread. Who needs to go out? We can enjoy good food at home. Fresh from the farm to table.

Zero Point Seven

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Degrees. Fahrenheit. The lowest temperature here in the boonies, measured just south of us in Dayton at the RIMPO weather station. This was Thursday morning at 4:52 am while we were still all bundled up and warm, sleeping.

I am so glad I don’t have to commute in this weather. At that hour, before retirement, my husband would have been leaving to catch the commuter bus.

We haven’t ventured out much and we have been taking care of the birds and squirrels that live in our pine trees. I did find out that my bird bath heater doesn’t do ZERO degrees. The water was frozen Thursday. It was OK this morning so it hasn’t bit the dust.

attic pics, meat and birds 093

This is what it should look like. It was a solid sheet of ice and I did not try to take pictures in that temperature.

It does pretty well in snow, like during Snowmageddon a few years back.

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Having fresh water is the most important service I can provide them.

Since I have been stuck at home, I have been following social media using the neighborhood pages. Many requests for plumbers, or HVAC people. I have to say that periods of bad weather are not the time to go looking for immediate help if you haven’t already established a relationship,  A plumber who knows you and your property will fit you in. Ken Griffin did a same day service call when we had a bathroom pipe freeze and break five years ago. Environmental Systems Associates has come in less than 24 hours when our heat pumps have failed. We use both of these local businesses for work when it isn’t an emergency so we aren’t looking for recommendations on line during a crisis.

Right now it is still snowing. There’s at least three inches out on the benches. This wasn’t predicted to happen. Looks like tomorrow we will be clearing the driveway and the cars. I have to go pick up my monthly meat share delivery at the Wegmans parking lot at noon. Evermore Farm has about 20 of us on their delivery route throughout the area and I am fresh out of eggs. Looking forward to the chicken too. I pick up three dozen eggs, a chicken, and 7-8 pounds of Angus beef and Berkshire pork. I could have home delivery but this gives me an excuse to shop once a month at Wegmans.

I think I will stop by Mother Natures in Snowden for bird seed. My supplies are dwindling. They are right down the road from Wegmans.  Might as well make this an efficient trip.

Stay warm everyone.

The Buck Stops Here

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Literally.

Six point?

Down by our old garden. Actually for a while he was in it.

There are also two young fawns with him on this visit. The next time we saw him he had two does, and four fawns following him around.

He isn’t shy either, as he came within four or five feet of our deck.

He has been here most days. Some days he comes all the way up past the house, but he mostly stays down in the meadow.

Many more deer around the property this summer. They have to be dislocated from all the road construction down on Rte 32, and they are venturing into the properties north and west of there. Major amounts of trees have come down, and the woods are shrinking.

For us, we have less hunters in the area, as the farms are disappearing and the tree stands taken down. We will reach a critical point again soon, as the fields become barren and the winter sets in.  We can tell when they are desperate. They start eating the pine trees.

Shopping Small

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Small towns. Small businesses. Small eateries.

Do you just do that American Express thing the day after Black Friday? Or, do you support your local businesses all year round?

It drives me nuts when people come looking for suggestions on social media, and they are directed to chain restaurants and big box stores. When Home Depot is the recommended site for Christmas trees, for example.  Really????

OK, everyone who reads this blog knows I frequent locally owned businesses as much as I can.

Take this weekend. Friday we made the trip to pick up my meat CSA share in Westminster and combined it with stops for food and supplies at three different small businesses.

I like to find new places to have lunch. Places off the beaten track. Like PORK and BEANS. A store attached to a factory that processes pork. With artisanal coffee beans. And, one very good ham sandwich.

Yes, I know, the view isn’t spectacular, but the ham is awesome. They also have bacon and that local favorite, scrapple. We brought home some ham for lunches, but I need to go back when we need a ham for a dinner.

After lunch, we headed down to Evermore Farm to get my meat share, then a detour to New Windsor. To Homestead Farm, just southeast of town and not far from Rte 27. They are building greenhouses and expanding their business to include hydroponically grown produce. Grand opening in May.

I discovered Homestead a few years back, on one of our day trips. They offer dairy from Trickling Springs and Pequea Valley, and very good bakery items from local bakers. This trip? Plants and bakery items were our purchases.

Red cabbage and rainbow chard for my garden. Along with a bag of gladiola bulbs.

My husband snuck these in the basket. Killer macaroon and scone from a Westminster small business. Rare Opportunity.

We then headed home but stopped in Sykesville for onion sets at the local Southern States. How many places can you go where a lovely gray cat snoozes on the counter where you check out? Sykesville is my favorite local small town. Full of small places to shop.

Do you have those special family owned places near you? Do you give them the business they need to survive? I hope so. They are so much better than those crowded crazy chain places.

 

 

Summer in the Winter

The weather here has been crazy. Short sleeve weather. Open the windows and eat outside.

Tuesday, we just decided we needed a road trip to our favorite flea market, farmer’s market and lunch stop. Manheim PA. The Roots market and auction.

It’s a throwback to the large markets once common across the country. Not that far off from some of the best markets we found on our trip to the Mediterranean.  Lots of local stuff. Some not so local stuff. Many vendors selling goods. Used items.

Everything and anything. Even a live poultry auction in one of the buildings.

Flea markets are fun. I found a treasure trove of Time Life cookbooks of the world here a few years back. This year, wandering around we did find a book seller that had many of the westerns that my mom loves. In large books, without faded print.

We had lunch. Did a bit of shopping. I picked up some of my favorite celery. Some herbs. A couple avocados to go with the Tuscan kale in my CSA share.

A lazy day in almost perfect weather.

This celery was the real reason for the trip. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Head up to the area just west of Lancaster, on any Tuesday. Find Hodecker’s. Their celery is so sweet, and so different from that in the stores. The family sells their home grown product part of the year, and the rest of the year imports the same variety from California. It’s different. It’s awesome, and a treat for those of us who enjoy the best produce we can find.

We must be crazy. Driving for two hours just to buy celery. And have PA sausage subs. And home made cookies for dessert. Maybe pick up a shoo fly pie.

 

Turkey All Ways

Thanksgiving is over. That 14 pound turkey is history. Or, is it? Quite a bit of it is in the freezer in some form or another. Stock. Soup base.

This year my local Maple Lawn Farm turkey was the subject of an experiment. How best to cook the big bird.

I did three different preparations. Using The Food Lab as inspiration. I cut the turkey in half. Cut half of it in half. That gave me three blank canvases to use. Half of it I dry brined. Mixture of salt and Provencal herbs. Massaged under the skin.

It went into the oven on 300 degrees for the first 45 minutes and was finished at 400 degrees to crisp it up.

The verdict? This was by far the best turkey I have made for the holidays. Dry brining is the way to go. It took 24 hours in the refrigerator to brine this turkey. We ate the wings, thighs and drumstick for dinner, and broke down the breast meat to make a simple turkey Bolognese for two nights of dinner this weekend.

Take your favorite Bolognese recipe and substitute turkey for beef.

The other breast was dry rubbed. Just a variation by using spices instead of herbs.

The dry rub included cumin, coriander, paprika, oregano, cinnamon, cayenne and salt.

This part of the bird became salad. So tender and juicy. We mixed it with cherries, celery, pistachios, mayo and pickle juice. It has been lunch for most of the past week. Never getting tired of this mix.

As for the other quarter, I followed my old wet brine recipe. Cider, oranges, and brown sugar, boiled with a healthy dose of salt. I do agree with the Food Lab assessment. It made the meat mushy instead of sharp and flavorful. Most of this meat went into my soup base.

We ended up with two containers of soup base in the freezer. When I bring them out, they will get heated with egg noodles and a bit of stock to thin them down.

Also done this weekend, a large pot of stock. Two quarts in the freezer.

That one 14 pound bird will be yielding 16 meals for the two of us. Not a bad return on investment. Besides, who gets tired of turkey? Not us.

Gobble Gobble

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Here in the #hocomd world, Maple Lawn farm’s turkeys are nearing the end of their solar panel shielded sun bathing.

We are so lucky to be able to get fresh turkeys, for a fraction of the cost of some of the options out there. Many places have heritage birds for 5-9 dollars a pound. Here, we can get fresh turkey for $2.29 a pound, $2.30 to pick it up right at the farm. With its own reusable bag.

You have many options around here to get their turkeys. Boarmans. Roots. David’s. MOM’s. Whole Foods. And, I hear, maybe at Harris Teeter, but that isn’t confirmed. For the full experience, at least once, you should pick up at the farm. For the craziest experience, do it on Tuesday or Wednesday. Lines out the door, but it does move fast. I go on Monday, so I can let the turkey stay in the fridge one day, then brine it for 24 hours. This year, I may try something different for cooking it. There will be a follow up if this method works.

This weekend I also picked up my favorite other seasonal items, like the pumpkin ice cream from Baugher’s.

I can’t emphasize how amazing this farm is. They have a bakery, if you want pies for the holidays. They make their own ice cream. They make apple butter, peach butter, all sort of jellies and jams. You can pick your own fruit in summer and fall, and their fruit market is open year round. Worth the trip to Westminster. I go every month after picking up my meat CSA at Evermore Farm. Yesterday I got pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cookies and a peck of gala apples. On Small Business Saturday, you could knock off quite a bit of your Christmas shopping there, and have lunch at the restaurant. Order the tuna melt, and the CMP sundae. And, a side of apple fritters. Heaven.

So, now you have the turkey. You can get the pie and the ice cream, and maybe some cider, at Baugher’s. Next post, in a few days, the wines and the special items.

Those pumpkin cookies are calling my name. They won’t last until Thanksgiving.

CSA Tidbits

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It’s been a while since I talked about my farm share from Lancaster Farm Fresh. Our spring/summer 26 week season is about to end next Tuesday, and then fall shares begin. We have already transitioned to fall vegetables, which I love, but the official “seasons” are off by a few weeks.

Some of the favorite things we get these days.

Radishes.

Exotic ones, like the watermelon radishes. I swapped this week to snare some of these. The medium shares got them, and we didn’t. Radishes come in spring and fall, and some of the hardiest ones, the daikon for example, come in the winter. These more delicate radishes can be enjoyed raw, with a sprinkling of salt. Those daikons, and the really heavy black radishes of winter, they have to be roasted to bring out their flavor.

Turnips.

Hakurei are my favorites. They can be eaten raw, and unpeeled, but I like to roast them or cook them with their greens, like Vivian Howard, of the Chef’s Life fame, has in her cookbook, Deep Run Roots. The “pot likker” alone is worth it. Yesterday I cooked up a mess of greens and added these roots to the pot. Nothing like intensely flavored greens, and buttered turnips. No pictures of those. They weren’t that photo worthy.

What is photo worthy? This.

Restaurant quality, if I say so myself. Greens from the CSA. A Cherry Glen Monocacy Ash cheese, picked up at Evermore Farm when I got my meat share. The blackberries? From Baugher’s in Westminster, right down the road from Evermore Farm. I love to stop there after getting my monthly allocation of meat and eggs. The blackberries were end of season, and a bit mushy, but still bursting with flavor. I ended up mixing some plain yogurt with lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper and mint, for the dressing.

There are a few slivered almonds there, too.

Finally, the first soup of the season.

Lentil soup. Made using some fresh stuff, some frozen stuff and a bag of French lentils. Started with celery, a leek, carrots and onions, all from the CSA. Added a quart of turkey stock made in the spring and frozen, using Maple Lawn farm turkey drumsticks. The bag of lentils. A bay leaf from my plant. French thyme from Penzeys. Salt. Pepper. After it cooked about an hour, I blended part of it to make it creamy. Added a cup of milk at the end of cooking.

Enough for at least three dinners. One Tuesday night. One this weekend. One will be frozen for later this winter. It was the first time I made lentil soup and it won’t be the last time.

Before I sign off on this CSA update, I have to include the picture from Tuesday.

$33 a week. All organic. If I priced this out at Roots, I know it would be much higher, even if I could find all these items there. Watermelon radishes are hard to find. So are Hakurei turnips. French breakfast radishes.

I love getting the tops of the radishes and the turnips, too. They made that dinner last night. Rainbow chard, radish greens, turnip greens, all cooked down for a long time. The lettuces will be gone by the weekend. Salads at lunch and dinner. I will be roasting cauliflower this weekend. Tuscan kale. Destined for a salad on Sunday. The sweet peppers? Stuffed with goat cheese and Canadian bacon. Served with short ribs this Sunday night. With a little planning, a CSA share can give us a week of healthy eating.

 

A Record Year

On the garden yield. The 2017 tomato crop has blown away all my previous yields.

This was probably my heaviest harvest in August. Over 20 pounds. So far this year my grand total has exceeded 171 pounds, and the cherry tomatoes are still producing.

My previous personal best was 139 pounds the first year I moved to a community garden plot. I thought that was an immense amount and now I am dealing with another 30 some pounds. The freezer is full. I have been gifting a half dozen friends regularly. The food bank and the Wine in the Garden auction basket winner have benefitted from my harvest.

I keep extensive records. By variety. Number of tomatoes. Number of ounces. Every time I pick. I sort. I weigh. I process.

Doing this allows me to decide what to plant again. What to give up. This year? The last of the pineapple tomatoes. They disappointed me for the last time. I love how they look, and how they taste, but they are fickle and fragile.

My replacement for them. Striped German. In the top picture, they are the very large yellow tomatoes with the green stripes. Those were picked a bit early, just before a predicted rain. If I left them on too long, they would split.

In this picture, you can see what happens when the rains come and split the tomatoes. My other favorite from this year, the small cherries with the darkest color, are prone to splitting too. These, the black cherry heirlooms, and those Striped Germans were bought from Love Dove Farms. I bought a market pack of four Striped Germans, and two plants of the black cherries. They will most certainly be grown again next year. They were superior in taste and both produced well.

San Marzano and large cherry tomatoes also did well.

I had two San Marzano plants that produced more than 20 pounds of tomatoes. The red cherry and tomato berry plants also went crazy in late July.

My freezer has dozens of containers of oven roasted cherry tomatoes. All winter long, I will be enjoying them over pasta or mixed with couscous or rice. I freeze them in single dinner size. Enough for the two of us to share.

The plants this year were spectacular.

Ringed by rebar and string to keep them upright. Many reached over six feet high eventually. I put in 32 plants this year in two long double rows in the garden. I lost two of them early in the season. Thirty plants. Averaging almost six pounds per plant. Since eight of the plants were cherry varieties, that’s a healthy return on “investment”.

One other surprise. The purple bumblebee hybrid, which isn’t purple at all.

Do they look purple? Not to me. They do have a great taste. Next year, they will return with the black cherry, striped German, and the San Marzanos. I will probably also repeat the Brandywine and the Rutgers.

It may be the end of the season, but the planning never stops. And, let’s see if I can get to 175 pounds before the first frost.