It is now mid-June and I, along with most people who raise vegetables here in the Adirondacks, have finished getting the plants into the garden. At this point, it is pretty much a waiting game. We already have some lettuce and herbs, but otherwise it will be a month or two before serious vegetables start rolling in. In the meantime, different fruits and berries will be ripening at regular intervals, the first of which has already made its appearance – rhubarb.
Actually, rhubarb is a vegetable, but in the United States, it was decided by the courts back in 1947 that since rhubarb was used in the United States as a fruit, it would be considered a fruit for the purposes of regulations. Not that most people have to buy rhubarb. It is a hardy perennial that comes up with little effort year after year, and almost everyone either has or knows someone with a patch in their yard which yields more stalks than someone could ever use. » Continue Reading.
With Thanksgiving looming on the horizon, my thoughts the past few days have been centered on my favorite part of the holiday preparations- pie making. I’ll admit, I can spend hours upon hours in the “pie zone”- slowly but carefully making the pastry, rolling it out, crimping the edges and then finally filling the pie and baking it up.
There is just something that is so satisfying about baking a pie from scratch. The taste and flavor of a homemade pie are one bonus, but I think the best part is taking the pie out of the oven and beholding the beautiful creation you have spent hours making. » Continue Reading.
This past spring I was making the rounds of some local garage sales when I stumbled on a great find- a barrel meat smoker in pristine condition for only 20 bucks. This particular smoker is a really basic, just a metal barrel with three racks, a pan for water to keep the meat tender, and an electric element at the bottom on top of which you place the wood chips.
Serious barbeque enthusiasts out there would probably scoff at my little smoker, but given the the dirt cheap price and the fact that I had never smoked anything in my life, I figured it was a good way to get started. I followed this purchase by buying a copy of The Joy of Smoking and Salt Curing by Monte Burch. If you have any interest in tackling the art of smoking meat and fish, I highly recommend this little book. The instructions are very clear and concise, and it covers all the most basic points of the science of meat preservation.
» Continue Reading.
Last weekend I stopped in at a little roadside vegetable stand down the road. I was hoping to get a couple of end-of-season bushels of tomatoes to can for this winter’s tomato sauce. Unfortunately, I was a little too late for the larger saucing tomatoes. Luckily, there were still a few long rows full of cherry tomatoes on their last legs – and free for the gleaning!
Thirty minutes later I walked away with a bushel of beautiful red cherry tomatoes. After the excitement of having acquired so many tomatoes for free wore off, I was suddenly struck with the cold, hard reality of a full bushel of cherries needing to be used quickly. » Continue Reading.
For the past few weeks I just simply have not been in the mood for cooking. It has been hot and sunny, and sitting in the kitchen and standing over a stove – much less turning on the oven – holds about zero appeal. A lot of salads have been hitting the table, as we’ve had a bumper crop of lettuce this year. Herbs have also been plentiful, which makes for fun experimentation with different types of dressings.
Mostly I have been spending a lot of time outdoors with friends and family, bringing along a variety of Oscar’s ready-made salads, smoked meats and cheeses for picnicking. Ready-made has held a lot more appeal than actually whipping up my own potato salad or barbeque after a long hard day of relaxing. » Continue Reading.
Ever notice that during the period of May through mid-June there is a blitz of food articles, expounding upon the wonders the rhubarb? These stories make plentiful use of words like “abundant” “grandmother” “delightful” and “cherry red”. Words like this about a food make me feel pretty excited. Particularly when the food in question practically grows wild all around me. So I was pretty excited to really dive right into some rhubarby adventures this year. » Continue Reading.
When I was a little kid, Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent at my grandparent’s house. The one memory that is crystal clear (other than opening presents part) was celery stuffed with cream cheese. My grandmother would make a platter or two, and it was my job to run around carrying said platter and offer it to the adults who were hanging around waiting for dinner to be done.
The reason I mention this is not to talk about holiday meals in the middle of May, or the delights of stuffed celery, but rather because on top of that celery were tiny tasteless dried green specks. These were chives. Freeze-dried and shaken out of a spice bottle, utterly devoid of flavor, they weren’t anything to write home about. Chives, by the time I was toddling around in the 1970’s were firmly entrenched in popular culture, along with paprika and curly parsley, as food stuffs that were “strictly for looks”. » Continue Reading.
Take a drive through any little town or along the back roads in the Adirondack Park and you are sure to encounter handmade signs bearing the words “FRESH EGGS HERE”. As people have become more interested in eating healthy locally-grown food, raising chickens for fresh eggs has exploded, and it is truly a welcome change to our food landscape.
I won’t launch into a diatribe here about the evils of factory-farm eggs, as I am sure most people are already aware of the horrific conditions in which large-scale producers keep their chickens, the nasty chemicals and antibiotics which these “farmers” use and the incredibly detrimental effects large-scale farming has on our environment. » Continue Reading.
Last Saturday we decided to make a stop at our friend and local young farmer Jack Leggett’s place to pick up some fresh eggs. Got myself a dozen beautiful brown speckled free range chicken eggs, and stayed for a bit to chat with Jack and his friends about our upcoming project, a half dozen piglets arriving in June.
As the guys stood there and debated the relative merits and disadvantages of various styles of sties (pigsties, that is), I was looking around, soaking up the bucolic environment. In other words, staring at my feet. Mid-stare, something caught my eye. Violets. There were violets everywhere! Parts of his sweeping front yard lawn were a carpet of the little purple flowers. » Continue Reading.
Since I have taken up the business of growing, canning, and preparing all kinds of food from scratch, I have found that life becomes hectic at certain times of the year. Summertime is just mayhem, with berries and summer fruits demanding attention, as well as the garden crops coming in.
In the fall there is pork and venison sausage making, and apples – we spend several weeks brewing hard cider every year. That’s followed by the fermented goods (sauerkraut, kimchi, and the like).
Then the holiday season comes, with its cookies, pies and feasting, followed shortly thereafter by citrus fruits which just scream “I need to be a marmalade!”. » Continue Reading.