Monday, November 23, 2009

Spelt snacks & bread, wood fired and true

Tell your Uncle Lew that he looks great in plaid and offer hard cider, the new wine, to all. West County is from Colrain, nice and sold in most area liquor stores like liquors 44 and ryan and casey. Spelt crackers (left) are the perfect foil for cheerful cheeses brought by guests.
The kids over at Hungry Ghost in Northampton are also firing up sourdough rounds in their stove. Bread made with Wally's wheat from Hadley is good for sopping up gravy and this year's cranberry entry.
Last year it was cranberry sauce in a jello mold shaped like a human brain. The year before, jalapeno and tequila cranberry jelly. This year, cranberry will be in the manner of the pilgrims. This recipe is from an open hearth cooking demonstration at Old Deerfield: Wash and stew your cranberries in water; add almost their weight in clean sugar, just before you take them from the fire.

Fresh bread baked in a wood fired, hand made beehive oven, and crackers with local grains available at Hungry Ghost in Northampton on State Street all day Wednesday.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday Sale @ Small Press Apple Orchard

Small batch cider, pesticide free, is made at Small Ones and this time of year they have cider, apple cider vinegar and lovely pies made by a relative in Vermont -- nice gifts to oneself and others. 

The annual holiday sale is Sat/Sun/Mon (11/21-23/09) at the farm stand from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

 To place an advanced order contact them at or call 413-253-6788.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Recipe of the Week: Polenta Cheddar Squares with Cranberries

Forage for:

1-C fine or coarse cornmeal
2-C milk
1/2 -C cranberries, raw and sliced in half
1/2 stick butter
3/4 C cheddar cheese
1/2 hand fresh sage

Make polenta the way you typically do (2C water, 2 C milk, 1 C cornmeal at med. boil till hard to stir--around 30 min). When cooked, place in loaf pan. Gently blend in 3/4 cup cheddar cheese and around 1/2 cup split-in-half cranberries, (Paradise Cranberries from the Cape are nice and full, not too sour.)

Let sit in fridge until set. When ready to serve, cut into slices and saute in butter or olive oil and top with fresh sage in brown butter.

The cheddar from Granville, MA and cranberries from the Cape can be purchased at Bashista Farm in Southampton, MA, an orchard open throughout the winter.

Wild Turkey

Not all turkey's are meant to be eaten. Wild turkey may not have been eaten at the original Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock. Accounts vary about what was actually consumed in the 1600s. Some say corn, which we obtained from the natives, and oysters, as well as clams since they were on the Cape. Turkey came along as part of the story. If early settlers did ingest turkey with or without the help of natives Indians, they might have used a brine on the turkey, after shooting it with a musket or wrestling it to the ground.

To brine is to take an entire bird, sans feathers and head, and submerge it into salty water before roasting. A wild turkey is almost all dark meat and as we know, dark meat needs to cook a bit more. This is a good method, the salt submersion, for local turkey as well because it brings out the inherent flavor of the bird and insures that it will cook evenly.

Turkey is a big creature. White and dark meat that respond to different cooking times. If the dark meat is succulent, the white could be compromised. The opposite is true if the white is cooked to perfection. Some cooks get around this by guarding against too much heat with a protective tent of tinfoil over the breast or they inject the white breast meat with liquids such as wine and then some begin the roasting process cooking the turkey with the breast side down (don't even ask about the stuffing) all so that the dark meat gets its chance to cook. Then some cook in a plastic bag but that seems to have gone out of favor. To have a harmonious roast, where white and dark meats are treated equally in the oven, brine ahead of time. The result is a big, juicy bird that will please all of the carnivores at your table.

Chef Deb White of Blue Heron brines a lot of the meats served at the restaurant. On Thanksgiving, all of the birds served as part of the Thanksgiving feast at Blue Heron in Sunderland are prepared in the following manner:

How to Brine a Turkey
by Deb White, Blue Heron Restaurant

15-20 pound free-range all natural turkey, giblets removed and washed

8-10 quarts water
2 cups kosher salt
2 cups maple syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar
8 cloves of garlic, split in half
6 bay leaves
2 bunches of thyme
10 sage leaves
6 bay leaves
1 TB black peppercorns, crushed
2 TSP allspice berries, crushed
1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Line a 5 gallon bucket or bowl with two turkey bags. Place turkey in bags.*
3. Pour brine over the bird, and draw up the bag to remove as much air as possible then secure with tie.
4. Brine for 24 hours.

*Be sure to use food safe bags.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hard Cider Hangover

This hangover was the result, and complete fault of a tasting a couple of weekends ago
at the Cider Salon in Old Deerfield where I volunteered to give samples away. The
Salon was in an old white church where vendors were offering a swallow of fermented cider. Over 50 outfits showed up with their wily offerings. Hard cider is a sub culture of fans who treat it with wine-like reverence. It is made in small batches and sold mostly where it is produced. As a result, the proof and the content are as vast as the Mt. Tom Range.

At one of many hard cider laden tables for tasting, I stood in a
bright yellow "Cider Days" T-shirt next to Joey, also wearing the "Cider Days" T-shirt
and pouring three Oregon ciders that come from a company named after a Yates poem.
We looked like dorks and followed direction. We were instructed to taste and analyze the ciders,
to properly display their qualities. The Wandering Aengus had three offerings; the Heirloom (good nose), the
Oregon Dry, (hardly a finish) the Oregon aged in whiskey barrels,
(fruity, intense, profound, inspired but without pretense.) The place was
packed like a keg party yet with a more discriminating crowd. A guy from Boston came by and photographed one of the bottles
to text a tweet.

I took a break and went around to check out some of the
other talent. There was a "Perry" (made from pears) which was delightful and a hard cider
made with hops by a brewer with a safety pin in his ear. His
provenance, Nantucket. "Where exactly is your
orchard?" I asked, listing starboard. There are no orchards
on Nantucket. They bring in the juice.

Back at our pouring station, Joey was filling glasses and
talking up the Yates. When the crowd
drifted off to dinner, I learned Joey is a graduate of the first class of a
Tibetan Medical School. There was no one
left in the place, just other tables with boxes. Were we allowed at
least one bottle for our efforts? "What would a Buddhist do?" I asked him.
Without hesitation he responded,______

This is as far as I got when I heard from the Valley Advocate that they would no longer be using columnists.....just staffers from here on in. So much for ValleyLocavore in print, at least in the form of that column. Blogs, on the other hand....not so dependent on advertising.

"Enjoy!" he responded and we walked out into that Old Deerfield good
night carrying two bottles each in our coats.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's What's For Dinner

Inventory for winter with housemate includes 24 jars tomato sauce, 12 jars peaches (some strange looking) bag onions, bag potatoes, squash, frozen goat meat, wheat (Hadley) for bread, cornmeal (Hadley), also for bread, apples in basement, (not that you can't get them all winter....), membership in the 'garlic of the month club,' membership in co-op, frozen blueberries but not enough, and frozen beans plus eggs from the boyfriend of housemate.

Believe it or not, that will keep us going. I know, I tried it last year with a lot less.

The Store-Free Life.

We only go to the store now for paper stuff, olive oil, booze, coffee and batteries. This here, the homey scene pictured above with actual steam coming off of the bread, is dinner. So the j-chokes on left will become "Jerusalem Artichokes Roasted in Garlic with Thyme and Cranberry Vinegar," and the turban squash will be "Autumn Root Cream of Turban Soup" and the pear will go with curly red lettuce from the Farmers' Market, goat cheese feta and some nice fat sprouts somebody gave me will be, Fall Field Salad au Poive." For desert, the apple will be served in the form of "Baked Orchard Apple Collapsed with Chestnut Filling."

Recipe of the Week: Baked Orchard Apple Collapsed

Apples, as many as you have people for dinner, cored out. Fill with chopped chestnuts (Amherst or Ashfield), butter, thyme, just a sprig, and grade b. maple syrup. Bake at 372 until they collapse, around 55 minutes. Enjoy with vanilla ice cream or fresh raw milk ricotta.

100-Mile Thanksgiving, November 6, 2009

Ashfield is all things to some people. Last
week, Senator Kerry's staff saw fit to cross the worn threshold with the intent to find out, what the
people want, according to an in-store announcement. If Kerry's team
choose to show up early, they would find
regulars discussing a one car traffic jam, (reason: cow)
tourists having the pancakes made famous by Yankee Magazine and a
woman writing a novel or a very long love letter.

An active bulletin board does a lot of the talking for a town:

"Wanted, a home for two fuzzy brothers: 11 month old
kittens," "Pet Portraits, Painted," "Yoga at the Ashfield Library,"
"Yoga at Kripalu Center," "Massage Therapy for Women" and "Drum
Lessons," "Drum Repair," and "Elmer's First Annual Grateful Harvest,
100-Mile Thanksgiving. Reservations only."

The food at Elmer's is good, famous in certain respects, and when they get revved up for a party, they swing for the fences. This menu will be interesting because the 1-horse town is rife with grass fed cows, heirloom pigs, foraged mushrooms, chestnuts, pears and other specialty delights. Also, the famous, only in Ashfield, Chocolate Chevre Truffles. Amazing. Click here for the Thanksgiving Menu at Elmer's.

ValleyLocavore Interview with Elmer's owner Nan Parati:

VL: So why the local Thanksgiving Dinner?

Nan Parati: The whole country is trying to claw its way back to
something authentic and we live it every day right here in Western
Massachusetts! That's why I decided to call it "Grateful
Harvest"--because I am so grateful and happy that we have the means to
grow all this food and can harvest it and appreciate it actually quite
easily! Easy for me to say because I have a restaurant with a chef!

Why are you hosting Grateful Harvest two weeks before (11/6/09)
two weeks before the actual date of Thanksgiving? Catering to folks who want to beat the traffic?

Nan Parati: One of the things I'm grateful for is that we close on
Thanksgiving Day. Running a restaurant, even one the size of Elmer's
takes about 100 hours/week and so we did not want to do this on
Thanksgiving the Day, itself. We also wanted to do this to give
people ideas about local foods they can cook for their own
Thanksgiving dinners. I think we should all wear big hats with buckles on them during the dinner.

How might have noted Ashfield residents have spent Thanksgiving in
the old days?

Nan Parati: I think that all of those notable nineteenth century scholars who
came to Ashfield for their recreation time would have sat around by
the fire philosophizing while their womenfolk were outside wringing
the necks of their pet turkeys and being not as grateful that they had
to cook the food from absolute scratch by themselves. In the
un-insulated house.

What are some of the farms contributing food to your locavore menu?

Nan Parati: We get a lot of our dinner food (and what we sell in our retail
section) from Paddy Flat Farm, Sangha Farm, Springwater Farm, Sidehill
Farm, Williams Farm, Manda and Steady Lane Farms. Then there are a
number of people like Tom and Sandy Carter whose farms I can't
remember the names of, but we get food from them, too.

What is your favorite dish on the locavore thanksgiving menu?

Nan Parati: Jim could cook local truck tires and they would be good. I am
serious! That boy can cook! So I look through the list and, not even
knowing how he's going to prepare these things, I am all warm and
happy just anticipating what he might do. The only thing on that list
that I don't care for in the real, non-Jim world is mushrooms----but
just a couple of weeks ago he did a whole dinner out of various
mushrooms, specifically Hen and Chicken of the Woods and I could not
believe that was how mushrooms actually tasted! So I don't care what
he cooks. I'm going to eat it and dream about it later on.