Thursday, November 21, 2013

Talkin' Turkey

Locavore: Talking Turkey
For Thanksgiving, an Advocate Exclusive
Thursday, November 27, 2008
By Mary Nelen

Local turkeys sold out this year up in
Wendell. At over $3 a pound, it's hard to
believe that fowl such as this would be in
such high demand. But there's a reason to
pay top dollar and there's a reason you're
eating Butterball. Tom, a turkey from
Wendell, agreed to talk turkey about life on the farm in Franklin County.

ValleyLocavore: So are you a male or female?
Turkey: You talking to me?
VL: Yeah, I'm looking at you, aren't I?
T: I'm a tom, a male turkey, also known as a gobbler. They named an
entire country after me. Ever been to Istanbul?
VL: I'm doing the interviewing here. So tell me about the farm.
T: Where's my doughnut?
VL: How did you learn to talk?
T: How did you? I'm up in Wendell right now at a turkey farm where they
sell chickens, pies, turkey pot pies and eggs, plus some other local stuff
like cider donuts.
VL: What's a typical day like for a free range turkey?
T: Get up early, do some reading. I like Michael Pollan. Go out and range
a bit with the other birds, eat some feed, drink some spring water, go
VL: You seem to have a lot of time on your hands. Are you free ranging?
T: We're in and out of the "free-roam" coop. I can't complain.
VL: Pretty crowded?
T: Not bad. I get out, but nobody sees me.
VL: What do they feed you?
T: We get water from a spring in Wendell, grain and some corn from
Williams Farm in Deerfield. No growth enhancers or hormones.
VL: So you guys go for over $3 a pound, whereas a supermarket turkey is
under a dollar a pound and sometimes turkeys are given out free at work.
T: Where do you work?
VL: Back in the day, factory workers were given a turkey every
Thanksgiving and every Christmas.
T: Yeah, and they sold mashed potatoes at the automat.
VL: Nice attitude.
T: I'm just glad I didn't make the cut this year.
VL: How come you didn't make the cut?
T: I hid under an old Ford out back where I can pick up wifi from the
neighbors' house.
VL: Nice. Don't they count the birds before slaughtering them?
T: It's called "dressing." No time for that... around the holidays it's pretty
busy and they run this place very well. You might want to read some
Michael Pollan if you want to learn more about turkeys and how food is
produced in general.
VL: I've heard of him. Didn't he write about being an omnivore? A skinny
guy, looks kind of like a tur—..skinny guy?
T: Michael Pollan teaches journalism at Berkeley in California. He
wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma in 2006 and then this year he wrote In
Defense of Food. The first book explains what it is we're eating by
looking at four ways to eat: industrial food— McDonald's, for example—
organic food, alternative food, and foraged food. The other book is a
straight-talk approach to figuring out what to eat. He says that we should
eat food, not too much, mostly plants, and don't touch anything your
grandmother's never heard of, like "whole grain white bread" or
VL: Why do eaters need a manifesto? I like to forage as much as the next
person, but "manifesto" is a fighting word.
T: Pollan calls it a manifesto because we have to take food, literally,
into our hands and out of the hands of agribusiness, factory farming, the
"man," whatever you want to call it. That crap will either poison you or
make you fat or both.
VL: Tough talk.
T: I'm a turkey, a tom. If you want to hear a bedtime story, talk to a
VL: Right. If you had to use one word to say why local turkey is better
than Butterball, what word would that be?
T: Blood.
VL: Blood?
T: Yes, blood.
VL: In terms of slaughter?
T: "Dressing!" And, no, that has nothing to do with it. When turkeys or
any animals get a lot of exercise, the blood is closer to the bone, which
makes the dark meat. And that is where the flavor is. With the snowy
white breast, there's not so much taste, not to mention it's squishy. But
the dark meat... that's where we keep it real.
VL: Are you pumped about the new administration?
T: Michael Pollan for food czar. In another paper of record, Pollan told
the incoming U.S president, "..... like so many other leaders through
history, you will find yourself confronting the fact—so easy to overlook
these past few years—that the health of a nation's food system is a
critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your
VL: Go green.
T: Go blood.
VL: Who do you like on Sunday?
T: That's easy. Dallas and Tennessee.
VL: You think Tennessee will remain unbeaten?
T: If Detroit beats the Titans, I'll write your next column.

© 2012 The Valley Advocate

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why should you attend this biochar symposium?

Here are just a few reasons (adapted in part from Albert Bates book, The Biochar Solution)
  1. Because you understand your dependence upon agriculture and want to better understand how biochar benefits soil by stimulating microbial activity, attracting fungi and distributing nutrients to the roots of plants, much as a coral reef supports the ocean. You'll also want to know how the micropores in biochar provides a "reservoir and conduit for soil moisture, soaking up water from over-saturated areas and giving it back to dry areas"
  2. Because you care about sustainable agriculture and want to learn from others addressing the complex challenges of preserving ecosystem services, enhancing soil fertility, increasing water absorption while decreasing the amount needed, employing human and animal labor, as well as sequestering carbon.
  3. Because you worry about the complicated and unsustainable use of fossil fuels and want to explore energy alternatives. You want to see solutions that successfully address a rigorous life cycle analysis with full disclosure and transparency.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

If you're into the hard stuff......

Cider Days, November 2 & 3, 2013

Vintage calvados and signature ciders in Deerfield. Standing room only in The Cider Salon tent. 

Why? If you're into the hard stuff, the world's largest hard cider tasting with more than 60 individual cider brands from across North America in the big tent across from the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls. Two sessions — 3 to 4:30 and 5:15 to 6:45 (Saturday) BUY TICKETS

Where is Biochar Bob?

Biochar Bob

Where is he today? Haiti. Where will he be in October? Amherst.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

a boy's love affair with food........

this story concerns a guy who shook up his high school and won the right to bake with the boys......

"So began my love affair with cooking. I was given the keys to the castle, the ability to satisfy my largest appetite. It was like the power some kids feel when they get a driver’s license..." 

Click on link below for entire article.

"Cooking is Freedom!"

Thursday, August 29, 2013

RECIPE: Verrill's Corn and Tomato Tart

Verrill's Corn and Tomato Tart
(Ellie's Cookbook 2009)

1/2 chopped onion
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 T olive oil
5 ears of corn, kernels cut off
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C grated cheddar cheese
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 scallions, chopped
2 large eggs
1/2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream

Directions Filling
Heat to 375. In a medium sauce-pan over medium heat, sauté onions and garlic of olive oil until onions are translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and cook about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put half of the corn mixture into Baked Pie Crust. Layer grated cheese evenly on top. Add remaining corn mixture. Scatter cherry tomatoes and scallions on top. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and cream; pour egg mixture over tart. Bake 30 minutes until tart is golden brown. Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Baked Piecrust

This recipe is for a 9x10" pie pan (or use a tart pan)
3/4 C flour
6 T unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
2 T cold water

Directions Pie Crust
Heat oven to 375. In a food processor, pulse together flour, butter and salt until mixture resembles corn kernels. Add water & pulse just until the mixture forms a ball. Roll out dough and place in pie pan. Cover with parchment paper and a handful of dried beans or pie weights. Bake 15 minutes. Let crust cool, remove beans/weights, add filling. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

RECIPE: Cream of MFK Fisher Potato Soup Locavore Version

David Levine Image
Just because I love her and just because you asked, dear reader, I present MFK's recipe for Potato Soup. This in lieu of a chowder recipe. This is a good way to use Idaho potatoes.

If you really want chowder, which is a bit thinner, skip the roux part (i.e. don't bother with flour) of the recipe and add either 1 C shucked clams or corn.

Cream of potato soup
Serves 4

From M.F.K. Fisher’s How To Cook A Wolf.
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (Idaho or Hadley--Idaho is best)
2 mild onions, sliced thinly (Pioneer Valley)
2 tbs flour (Wheatberry in Amherst ground by you)
4 tbs butter (Pioneer Valley)
salt and pepper (up to you)
1 cup potato water (local from sink)
3 cups rich scalded milk (local in fridge)
1 tbs chopped parsley, 1 tbs chopped chives (backyard)

Stew the onions gently in one-half the butter for 15 mins. Add the potatoes and cover with a small amount of water, about two cups. Cook gently until tender. Drain, saving one cup of the water, and put the vegetables through a strainer.

Make a roux of the remaining butter and the flour (a roux is a cooked mixture of flour and a cooking fat that is used to thicken sauces and gravies), add the potato water and the seasoning, and stir in the scalded milk. Combine the mixture with the strained vegetables and heat thoroughly, beating with an egg beater for several minutes. Add the chopped herbs and serve at once, or chill and serve as Vichysoisse the next day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

RECIPE: Figs for now, for later, for lovers....

There is a man who lives around an hour from me due north.

He grows figs under glass. Comes from the eastern part of the state and before that the southern part of Italy.  He has the presence of a Mountain goat, more like an animal than a person, can grow just about anything….

Milo, first and last name, brought with him some culture -- how to stucco a barn or coax figs from New England soil.  I say, "hey, what kind of figs?" or "where are the seeds from?" and he says, "Maybe it was there in Italy, from my dad, or maybe my brother gave them to me to grow for my dad.....not sure." 

He is around 40 maybe 60. He has eyes the color of bottled mineral water and a long ponytail down his back. He wears old sweat pants and sleeps in a crows nest on the top of his house. He goes to sleep with the sun and rises with the sun. Milo's body is slight, brown and pliant like a fig when it falls, ripe to the ground.  

When I went to meet with him, it was to buy some figs and because I just stood there staring, he gave me a tour of his place.  We started with some news clippings about him and he served me a little a snack at the kitchen table of his oregano and tomatoes. When I finished eating, very good, astoundingly good oregano, he asked, "Back hurt? Sittin on the computer?" Hell yes. He pulled out a hassock and said to lie on my back and elevate my legs while he went off to do some errands. 

Milo's house is in the middle of town and can be entered through a gate, an elaborate creation of color and iconography. The primary hues of tie dyed t-shirts adorn the outer perimeter of his estate, a tangle of hearts and peace signs carved into the stone walls.

A tour of his place revealed spring-fed pool dug out of stone and heated with wood. His walls, the stucco barn walls are soft curves, "all by hand" he says, petting the walls. "No power tools." And the work, smooth stone inlaid with glass, mica and shells, is intricate, like cave paintings. "This one," pointing to a mandala on the wall of the entryway of the house, "is made from a buncha glass given to me by some guy who thought I would like it....I don't know.”   We leave the explosion of dinnerware. 

Next we climb hand hewn stairs toward a trapeze leading to the cows nest where our interview will take place. He takes a step up the ladder, grabs a nearby trapeze and hoists himself feet first, into the crows nest. He offers the trapeze to me.

"Are you sure you want me up here?" I say.

He smiles and shakes his head imperceptibly. An unnecessary question perhaps.  I ask him if he drank coffee. He laughed. Wine? No, at night he hikes and gets as close to where the sun is setting as possible. He discusses gravity and western medicine. “The best way to live life is to be like a plant-- just keep growing up ward!" He says and straightens his spine.

"Gravity is always trying to pull you your mother," he said, pulling at my hand down to the earth. How does he know about her?  He looks into my eyes and wraps his hands around my rib cage, hoisting it like a small calf, upward.  "Like your mother." He takes a look at my soul and shrugs. 

Glassed in greenhouse where he grows the figs. They’re not ready to eat yet. He splits one open anyway with a knife, cupping it in his hand. I swoon.


about 24 figs or 2 egg carton's worth
small jar, about 2 ounces

Peel and cook down figs over medium heat until they are reduced by about 20%. This will remove moisture and concentrate the fruit. Spoon into clean  jars and process in canning bath for 15-20 minutes. Store in cool place. When opened, keep refrigerated. For more information on canning, go to

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Recipe: Politically Incorrect Chowder in Boise

Spuds to take a bullet for  ...
Morning in Boise
Coffee: Vacuum Pump Daily Special: Pink Titty Wake Up Juice

Afternoon in Boise
Store selling cigarettes and sandwiches with big electric sign out front: "If you have to habit, we have it!"

Evening in Boise
Liquor store big electric sign out front: "Livers are evil and must be destroyed." Then chowder that you would take a bullet for. Due to the spud.

Note to Self: When in Idaho order anything with potato especially chips and chowder with beer.

RECIPE: Chowder

All the usual suspects: Milk, cream, celery, clams, butter, bacon and most important, Idaho potato, cooked al dente. Sweat onion in bacon. Peel and cube potato, soak in water for one hour to remove starch and cook in chowder consisting of 1C clam juice 3 C water plus celery and onion for around 30 min depending. Remove bacon and serve in white bowl.

Monday, June 10, 2013

RECIPE: Hadley Grass Soup

RECIPE: Hadley Grass Soup

Asparagus has a lifespan in the Valley of four to six weeks. We are on our fourth week on June 10 so try this recipe on for size.

1 bunch asparagus with stalks trimmed
1 C yogurt
2 C chicken stock
1 C water
1 t white pepper
1 t salt
3-5 scrapes nutmeg
Slotted spoon

Trim tips off asparagus and set aside. Chop remaining stalks into 1-inch pieces.  Bring stock and water to boil. Add the asparagus stalks, salt and pepper. Simmer for   30 minutes. Add several scrapes of nutmeg. Process in food mill or food processor and return soup to pan. To cook them, add asparagus tips and simmer for five minutes.  Remove soup from heat. When still warm, stir in the yogurt. Serve in individual bowls with a dollop of yogurt speared with an asparagus tip as garnish. (You will have to fish them out of the soup.) Disclaimer: If you are the sort of person to share a bit of human food with your cat, resist the temptation with this dish. Asparagus soup has a similar impact on the feline digestive system to the female human digestive system.  Hadley Grass is an imposing crop and pretty much retains its character post consumption in soup or any other form!

Friday, June 7, 2013

RECIPE: Rhubarb Vinaigrette Salad

RECIPE: Rhubarb Vinaigrette Salad

Four Ingredient Salad: Lettuce (1 head), Onion (1/2), Rhubarb (2 cups) Vinaigrette (1/4 cup)
Remove leaves from lettuce, wash and trim stems and brown edges if any. Thinly slice onion. Trim ends of rhubarb stalks and boil in 3 C water for 20 minutes to. Remove rhubarb and reduce liquid by ½. Strain into bowl and mix in one to two teaspoons of plain vinegar.  Whisk in 2 tablespoons of oil to emulsify. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. In large bowl, combine lettuce leaves with onion and dress with rhubarb vinaigrette. Serve with broiled chicken.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Rhubarb ... the new lemon....

Right now, rhubarb is just about everywhere you look. Although you can still pick rhubarb later in the summer, like most things early on the scene in spring, it loses its flavor after a month or so.

Tart like a lemon, rhubarb is New England's answer to citrus. It's just a matter of getting to the essence of rhubarb. Once you can do that, you'll have a gateway drug to: rhubarb gastrique (La Sauce) for meats, rhubarb shrub (fruit flavored drink) for cocktails, rhubarb (pie) pie with strawberries or 'fool,' clouds of whipped cream laced with rhubarb.  

For starters, infuse some vinegar with rhubarb by cooking it down in a one to one ratio. Use a strainer and funnel for best results. And the next step might be to pickle. It is a bit of a commitment ceremony but you well worth it due to an unusual crunch and character of flavor.  In winter, you'll be glad you did and have the opportunity, more than once, to say, "Why look, here is my pickled rhubarb." No need for a trip to the store. Rhubarb could be New England's answer to citrus, right there in the ground, right where you left it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Easter Recipe of the Week: Avgolemono Soup with Fungi

Mushrooms in the wild or at the co-op:

This classic Greek soup can be made with your own local stock, a local egg, lemon not local, rice not local and locally foraged mushrooms from the woods or the co-op. Typically, the soup does not call for fungi, but the smoky woodsy flavor of fungi creates a nice balance for the lemon.

4 C chicken stock or vegetable (or poach an entire bird and skim off fat.)
2 C water
1t salt
1/4 C long grain white rice
3 local eggs
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
1 to 1-1/2 C thinly sliced foraged mushrooms - either crimini or oyster but not hen-of-the-woods or portabella.
S&P to taste
4 T chopped green for garnish such as parsley or chive or the green outgrowth from an onion, chopped fine.  
1 T chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)


First, identify a local forager (first generation Eastern Euporeans or Italians are good) or go to the woods and forage for local mushrooms with a guidebook and a friend.

1. In a large saucepan, combine the stock with water and bring to a boil and lower the heat.
2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil and add rice. Cook the rice for 12 minutes or until tender and drain into colander.
3. Skim off and discard the fat from the broth. 
4. In a soup pot, return the broth to a boil.
5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, lemon juice, and pepper.
6. Add a ladle of the hot broth to the egg mixture while mixing. Continue to gradually add broth until fully mixed.
7. Add mushrooms.
8. Return the soup to the medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes or just until the mixture thickens slightly. Do not let it bubble, even at the edges. Add the rice stir well. Serve with garnish.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Indian Line Farm, S. Egremont, 2012
photo by John Dolan
Outstanding in the Field’s first visit to the Berkshires took place in 2012 at Indian Line Farm of South Egremont. Tickets sold out the day they were announced.
This year, fans of  farm-to-table-in-the-field extravaganzas have two such events to choose from: 

On Saturday, September 7, Lila's Farm in Great Barrington will host a five-course meal. Dan Smith, chef-owner of John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, will man the field kitchen with his crew on Saturday beginning with 3 pm with hors d’oeuvres and followed by opening remarks, a farm tour and dinner for 150. Tickets are $220 per person.  

The day after, Chef Brian Alberg of The Red Lion Inn presenting a five-course farm dinner on Sunday, September 8, at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield.
Outstanding in the Field describes itself as a roving culinary adventure that serves up local food in fields, gardens, vineyards, beaches and so on. They donate to a umber of farm and food related groups and have been in operation since 1999. 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

RECIPE: Pickled Cranberries but why?

This is the kind of morning when you wish you made preparations. Now we're in the midst of March. Not much in the way of local fruit except for a bag of dried mango we bought last year in Las Vegas at the airport for a snack. Local because its in the house.

According to the doctor we must have fruit with oatmeal for breakfast, no excuses, but what fruit? We froze local blueberries last summer but those ran out at the end of 2012. Didn't get a chance to put up peaches but the good news is that local apples (from the Valley) are available year round. 

But we don't have any apples so Vegas mango gets a pass. I reconstitute it by pouring boiling water on the leathery strips. What results is a sweetish, flaccid fruit with a distinct airport flavor. But it is fruit and soon I'll purchase cranberries, not from the Valley but not from Vegas either. A bag of cranberries from nearby Cape Cod can be pickled passively (blanch in water then steep in honey and cider vinegar) in a jar and kept in the fridge for a month. This summer, I'll try to put up more fruit for next winter. For now, we're rolling with Hadley Grouts (whole oats) and Pickled Cape Cod Cranberries, hold the mango.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

RECIPE: DF was here

RECIPE: Irish Shepherd's Pie

The night before New Year's Eve and all is quiet. Except for the thing in the oven -- a dish containing all that you get after a long career of herding sheep. It's a pie of ground lamb with carrot and onion plus green beans with a good two inches of mashed potato cover and top of that plus a hoar frost of parm.  That last bit is most likely an embellishment because since when did Irish shepherd's have access to products from the Parma region of Italy?

The last supper of 2012 is DF's finest of year, vegetables sliced with precision and the layer of fluffy potatoes, not unlike the layer of fluffy snow outside on cars and trees. But his fluffy layer has the touch of man. The potato top has a graded surface, like the upper "T" at Mt. Tom doing nature one better.  "DF was here."

Traditional Irish Shepherd's Pie (with sources)
Serves Four


1 tablespoon olive oil (trader joe's)
1 teaspoon black pepper (cupboard)
1 lb ground lamb (Chestnut Farm)
1 large onions, finely diced (Brookfield Farm)
3 -4 large carrots, finely diced (Brookfield Farm)
1 cup beans (the store)
3 -4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped (grown by yours truly in south hadley)
2 tablespoons flour (store)
1 tablespoon butter (store)
1 glass red wine (store)
2 tablespoons tomato paste (substituted with V8 juice)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (fridge)
1 cup stock (lamb stock saved six months ago from Chestnut Farm lamb)
1 large quantity mashed potatoes ( estimating 1L or 6 cups, fresh or leftover) (Brookfield Farm)
1 eggs, beaten (lady from Chicopee)
grated parmesan cheese (optional - the store)

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400°F.

Saute carrots in the olive oil until starting to get tender.
Add in the onions and saute for a minute or two then add the meat.
Season with black pepper and thyme.
Cook until browned then drain fat.
Add the butter and beans
Sprinkle with flour and stir through.
Add tomato paste, wine and Worcestershire sauce.
Let this reduce slightly then add the chicken stock. Allow to reduce down until you have a thick meaty gravy. Season to your taste.
Remove from heat. Grease an oven proof dish, big enough to feed 4 (see photo) with butter and add the sauce.
Spoon the mashed potatoes over top. Brush with egg, drag a fork across the potatoes with to create graded effect.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until the potato is nice and browned on top.
Serve to loved ones, one per customer.