Almanack Contributor Annette Nielsen

Annette Nielsen

Annette Nielsen is a noted local food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life. A native of Northville, (she now lives in Salem, Washington County with her husband and son), Nielsen writes about Adirondack foodie culture with an eye toward locally sourced foods from forest, orchard, and farm. Annette Nielsen can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Native Foods: Adirondack Ramps

Following the maple run, ramps – also known as wild leeks – are one of the first harvests available from the our north country earth. Using a serving spoon or just your fingers, you can easily and gently loosen the bulb and roots from a ramp cluster in rich (and usually moist) forest soil.

You’ll find bright-green aromatic leaves around 4 to 6 inches high that look like those from a lily of the valley, as it’s of the lily family. Be careful not to remove an entire cluster, as you want the ramps to rejuvenate the following year. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Annette Nielsen: Wrapping up Winter Cooking

Every year since I’ve met my husband (that would be 19 years ago), I’ve prepared cassoulet. It’s a winter or cold weather dish. It’s heavy, filled with cannellini beans, pork, lamb, duck confit (duck cooked and preserved in duck fat), duck stock, herbs and garlic. It’s a great dish to eat when the winds are howling, the last blizzard of the season is in the making, and you’re still stoking the fire in the fireplace or woodstove.

Typically, I prepare this dinner at the end of March or the beginning of April. The origin of this dish is from the Toulouse-region of France, and I first tasted it when I worked for a Manhattan caterer. Our office manager had requested the chef make this dish for her birthday lunch. At first, I didn’t understand what the big deal was about a casserole of pork and beans. So while you may not want to engage in such a lengthy preparation, I think it’s worth the effort. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The First Adirondack Harvest: Maple Sugaring

This year, the sap flow has arrived a little sooner than usual, and some began tapping in and boiling in January – but most maple producers (at least near where I live in Washington County) are having or have had a decent run. Some have even boasted a banner year for production. Others at higher elevations are reporting production down a third or more.

This past Friday, the ceremonial tapping of the sugar maple took place at Mapleland Farms in Salem, NY. As soon as I left my car, I could smell (and feel) the heavy sweet-smelling steam flowing out of the sugar house as it filled the air. » Continue Reading.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Community Supported Agriculture in the Adirondacks

It isn’t always easy to imagine farming in the Adirondacks with factors like a short growing season, or faraway markets – but you can find a thriving and vibrant community of farmers and producers here and maybe not as far away as you might think.

One way farmers are able to have a more predictable revenue stream is through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Before the growing season begins, customers are able to purchase a share in the season’s harvest – your up-front investment typically entitles you to a weekly box of vegetables or fruit produced by the farm over the course of 4 to 5 months — and often times you pick up the share at the farm. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Adirondack Foods: Venison Chili for a Chilly Day

Like many others in the Adirondacks, I grew up with venison incorporated into many meals. In sausage form, we had it prepared with peppers, the ground version made meat sauce for spaghetti, steaks were cooked on the grill no matter the time of year, and various cubed cuts made kebobs, sauerbraten and various stews. As a child, I can remember trading half of my daily peanut butter and jelly sandwich for half of a friend’s venison sandwich.

As I slipped into adulthood and urban living, I found that many of my friends weren’t sold on the idea of eating game of any sort – even found the idea foreign. While at that point, I realized that I didn’t know anyone in these circles who had grown up with family members that hunted, I also realized that part of the reason my family enjoyed so much venison throughout the year was because of the positive impact it had on the weekly grocery bill. » Continue Reading.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Maria Speck: Going with the Grains

Every year over the last decade, I’ve compiled a list of cookbooks or food-focused books for holiday gift-giving. This past holiday season, ‘Ancient Grains for Modern Meals’ by Maria Speck was one of my favorites (subsequently listed as the Washington Post’s 2011 Top Ten, as well as the New York Times’ 2011 notable cookbooks) – a real gem of a cookbook. While many might think of cooking with grains as a healthful focus, Speck tempts us to try her rustic and creative recipes because of exquisite flavor and taste.

Those in the upstate New York region are lucky to be able to meet Speck in person and take a cooking class with her on Saturday, January 28th at the Battenkill Kitchen in Salem, New York. Speck will teach a hands-on cooking class inspired by her best-selling cookbook (for further information visit or call 518.854.3032; email at » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Annette Nielsen: A Roasted Squash Bisque

For most of us, the growing season is fairly defined by months benefiting from late spring to early autumn sun, unless we have a green house set up for year-round growing. So for vegetables and fruits, we might can, freeze or dry them to use during the winter, or store varieties like winter squash in an appropriate cool and dry place, keeping them fresh for many months. After reading Peter Brinckley’s recent piece on the Adirondack brand, I started to think more about how we cook here, and what the flavors taste like sourced near home.

During the winter, our meals are often marked by stews and soups, using various cuts of meat and vegetables that benefit from slow cooking. I could probably make a soup a day during the winter, content to enjoy the slow-simmering aromatics on the stove. Sourcing from my pantry instead of my garden, I typically prepare soups with dry beans, grains and also root vegetables and squashes. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Spirited Adirondack New Year Beverages

Often you’ll find bartenders creating inspired cocktails – using seasonal ingredients, herbs from the garden, and from-scratch syrups that range from the simple sugar to berry purees – usually a nice complement to the restaurant’s menu offerings.

While this isn’t a post to encourage drinking, it is one to think about flavors we associate with the region and the season – like cider, maple, cinnamon, nutmeg – in the form of beverages, non-alcoholic and hi-test, warmed or refreshingly cold.

A raised glass to all Adirondack Almanack readers and safe travels – and many thanks to our designated drivers! » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Local Food: An Inspired Adirondack Holiday

Holiday gift giving offers many opportunities to support locally owned and run businesses – maybe tickets to a show or an annual membership to your local arts organization, a contribution to your local library in someone’s name, public radio station, or even a subscription to a regional publication. A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share works here, too, in that your local farmer benefits as well as the receiver. In addition, you might need some last minute ideas for the teacher, mail delivery person, or the relative on your gift list who seems to have everything. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Annette Nielsen: Lofty Thanksgiving Leftovers

Tamar Adler’s op ed piece in the New York Times last week struck a chord – eating like we eat during Thanksgiving all year round: “Thanksgiving Thrift: The Holiday as a Model for Sustainable Cooking” (November 22, 2011). Her premise is simple – we prepare a nice holiday dinner (typically with lots of leftovers), and spend many days eating and recreating turkey and many side dishes, ‘shopping’ our refrigerator for breakfast, lunch and dinner options.

So while we’re inspired on Thanksgiving, as well as other upcoming holidays, to eat with enthusiasm from our leftovers, we can use that mindset throughout the year – each week, in fact, if we’re creative. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Local Food: Adirondack Cranberry Compote

While most people associate Massachusetts as cranberry bog haven, wild cranberries can be found on low-lying bushes throughout the Adirondacks up through to Canada near streams and ponds. Harvested in the fall, this vibrant fruit is a rich source of vitamin C and a welcome staple at many holiday tables.

Native Americans were probably the first in our region to use cranberries as food, especially in their preparation of high-energy pemmican, made by drying a mixture of venison (or other meats) and fruit. Now, we not only see cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving, but bake with the fruit, adding them to cakes or muffins, and snack on the dried, sweetened variety. » Continue Reading.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adirondack Kale: Last Vegetable Standing

Each winter, I start perusing the seed catalogs, dreaming about what will be planted when the snow recedes and the sunlight lingers longer. While I’ve planted kale over the past few seasons, this year I strayed from my favorite Tuscan or ‘dinosauer’ kale and put in some lovely Russian Red kale. I’ve been using the harvest throughout the summer and fall, adding to fresh vegetable soups, sauteed with garlic and other leafy greens as a nutritious side, and sometimes added raw to a vibrant garden salad. The warm weather gave me a bounty, but kales, in general, end up being the most flavorful and tender during the colder months.

And then the snow. Luckily, most of the garden had been put to bed, but there were plenty of hardy greens remaining, curly leaves and light purple stems holding up clumps of white slushy stuff. I rescued more than a few bunches this past weekend prior to the next snowy onslaught and heavy frost, and decided to use a portion making ‘chips’ — brought along to a dinner party hosted by our friends Charlie Burd and Suvir Saran. » Continue Reading.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Summer’s Last Gasp: All Those Tomatoes

Each year for close to three decades, I’ve canned tomatoes. Even while living in a fifth floor walk-up in Manhattan (without air conditioning), I’d hop the subway down to the Union Square farmers’ market and load up with about 40 pounds of tomatoes and huge bunches of basil. My subway ride back to my apartment was pleasantly aromatic during those hot August days – more than can be said for my trip out to market.

I’d ‘put up’ many jars of cooked tomatoes, sauce, and puree, and this process always signaled the easing into summer’s end. The benefit of this heat-filled project has always been the bright red-orange glass jars sitting on the pantry shelves, especially during a bleak day in February, when it feels as if the summer sun ran away for good. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Absolutely Adirondack Apple Season

Pairing a crisp autumn day with the first crunch of a freshly-picked apple is my idea of perfection. During my teen years good times with friends might include a drive up from Van Nostrand’s Orchard in Mayfield (now Lake View Orchards, 518.661.5017), munching on crisp and sweet Macs while taking in the foliage.

While the rain of the past weekend dampened my enthusiasm to go out apple picking, I was invited to be a judge at the Cambridge Valley Apple Pie Bake-Off at the Cambridge Hotel, said to be the home of pie à la mode. The cast of judges included the hotel’s own Chef Rich, Sara Kelly as representative of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, Sally King, a decades-long baker and former owner of the King Bakery in Cambridge, and Chloe, an 11 year-old pie aficionado. » Continue Reading.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Almanack Welcomes Local Food Writer Annette Nielsen

Please join us in welcoming our newest contributor to Adirondack Almanack, Annette Nielsen. Nielsen is a noted local food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life.

A native of Northville, (she now lives in Salem, Washington County with her husband and son), Nielsen will be writing about Adirondack foodie culture with an eye toward locally sourced foods from forest, orchard, and farm. Her first post will run shortly. Annette Nielsen can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.