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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.

Almost August

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Summer is just rushing by. Really high heat. Really heavy rain. Humidity. All those endearing aspects of living here in the MidAtlantic.

August is here. Summer is halfway over. Thankfully. But, we have favorite activities staring us down. Like the county fair. I am working on my submissions for herbs, vegetable display, heirloom tomatoes and more. Daily visits to the garden to plead with the heirlooms to ripen in time.

My calendar has more days with activities than blank days.

CSA. Food bank harvest. Fair. CSA picnic. Howard County Conservancy activities, like the BioBlitz and the “Bugs, Bees and Daiquiris”.

Processing the garden. There are days when I harvest three pounds of cherry tomatoes and a couple more pounds of larger ones. Time to fire up the canning pots and get busy.

Add a few family commitments and we may be in event overload.

Will we see you at the fair? Or, maybe the happy hour with Mike Raupp and Paula Shrewsbury?

It’s the height of summer. Enjoy it!