Tuesday, October 30, 2012

CSA Wrap Up

There's no need to call food hoarders.  Really.
I can stop any time I want!
What I really need in the day is about four more hours. Just four more hours per day.  That's all I ask.  I might spend part of it sleeping.  I'm not trying to be greedy.

It seems like I have a few too many things on my plate these days.  Between work being busy (not that work would affect my blogging in any way, because I would never blog at work, because that would be wrong), teaching and attending dance class, and trying to put a real (and interesting) meal on the table, I seem to have no time for blogging.  Oh, right, and attending culinary school.  And also taking a free class online through coursera.com (Principles of Obesity Econimics).  I guess my problem is I just try to do too much.  I would have though that now that canning season is over I would have more time - but that's just been replaced with trying to clean up the garden before the first frost... which I'm pretty sure was last night.  Come on, clock. Just four more hours!

Last Friday (yes, over a full week ago.  Stop your judging) was my last CSA box delivery.  Full of fall goodies like parsnips, potatoes, carrots, spinach, and buttnernut squash, it was a good way to say goodbye to a good year.

So, I did this as an experiment to see how a CSA works. I've never done it before.  Would I do it again?


I expected that the whole thing was a bargain. It seems like I was getting far more than the $19.25 that it averaged out for each week ($385 total for 20 weeks of delivery)And I do love a bargain. On the other hand, there was the opportunity for a lot of waste. I tried my hardest, but I know I lost several bunches of leafy greens, and a few bags of green beans.  If you're not willing to spend the day after you get your CSA pickling, freezing, or drying, you'd better be prepared to eat a lot of vegetables. I think that I'm pretty much stocked for the winter, though. Hopefully I'll  just end up buying some Growing Power lettuce.

The one thing that I like more than getting a bargain is PROVING that I got bargain.  So, to that end, here's what I think I received all year long, along with a breakdown of what those items cost on Peapod. Now, I realize that Peapod costs more than going to the grocery store, so these prices are slightly inflated - but on the other hand, I did get these groceries delivered so there are some similarities.

Item Times Received Price on Peapod Total price (peapod)
Arugula 5 3.99 19.95
Baby Beets* 2 3.99 7.98
Basil 10 2.49 24.9
Beet Greens* 7 4.99 34.93
Beets (regular) 8 3.99 31.92
Blueberries 1 3.99 3.99
Bok Choy 3 2.79 8.37
Broccoli 3 3.99 11.97
Cabbage 6 3.99 23.94
Cantaloupe 3 3.29 9.87
Carrots 9 2.99 26.91
Chard 7 2.99 20.93
Cilantro 4 0.69 2.76
Cucumbers 3 1.99 5.97
Dill 8 1.09 8.72
Edible Flowers* 2 1.99 3.98
Eggplant 5 1.99 9.95
Garlic 2 0.89 1.78
Garlic Scapes 4 0.25 1
Hot Peppers* 1 4.99 4.99
Kale 8 2.99 23.92
Kohlrabi 4 2.49 9.96
Leeks 8 2.99 23.92
Lettuce Mix 16 3.99 63.84
Mushrooms 6 2.99 17.94
Onions 7 1.09 7.63
Parsley 7 1.69 11.83
Parsnips 2 1.69 3.38
Pea Shoots 2 3.99 7.98
Potatoes 3 4.99 14.97
Radish Sprouts* 1 1.99 1.99
Radishes 5 1.99 9.95
Scallions 3 1.29 3.87
Spinach 6 2.79 16.74
Sugar Snap Peas 3 3.99 11.97
Summer Squash 9 4.49 40.41
Sunjewel Melons* 1 3.29 3.29
Sweet Peppers 9 4.99 44.91
Tomatoes 31 4.99 154.69
Turnips 2 1.49 2.98
Watermelons 5 4.49 22.45
Winter Squash 6 1.99 11.94
(*these items were not available on PeaPod.  So I basically just made up a price based on the price of similar things there, or how much they were at the farmer's market.)

Not bad... But there were still more things I needed. Canning requires onions, and four garlic scrapes are just not enough for this girl. The other thing I found was that things didn't necessarily come in the combinations I might have wanted. So if I got a bunch of tomatoes, for example, I might not get the onions, peppers, and garlic I needed to make spaghetti sauce.

The biggest problem I had, though, was that I always felt like I had to eat the things I couldn't preserve first, as opposed to the things that I wanted to eat. We got so much lettuce, I was making regular salads during the time that I would have preferred to be eating tomato mozzarella salad. But you can preserve a tomato, and you really can't preserve lettuce (except for my delicious lettuce pesto... But how much of that can I really expect to eat over the winter?). I really feel like we ate very few tomato mozzarella salads, which is sad because those are my favorites and I can eat regular salad all winter long.

So will I do it again?  Probably. I might try somewhere else, not because I had any issues with the RCVC, they are lovely people and amazing farmers, but I would assume different farmers would provide a different mix of vegetables, and variety is always a good thing. I also think I would like to work with a farmer that includes chicken as a part of their CSA. I miss getting a chicken delivered each week, and I find that we have been eating less chicken because of it. So much so that I needed to BUY chicken necks in order to make stock. Totally unacceptable in my mind.
I guess I've got the full winter to think about it. I will be back at the local farmers open house next spring, looking through the brochures and trying to decide what's what. For now, the pantry is stocked with canned goods, the freezer is full, and I've got three boxes of winter squashed stored under the back porch. I'm not sure why I never thought of using that as a root cellar before.

The Winter Farmers Market starts next week. There should still be a good selection of fall crops, so if you're not as stocked as I am, you might want to swing buy. I'll be there seeing if there are any chicken feet to buy, because so help me if I need to buy chicken necks again from Whole Foods!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


One of the joys of eating locally and seasonally is that moment in time when one perfect food appears, then quickly disappears again.  Morels, strawberries, and dandelion leaves in the spring; that first, sun soaked, still warm on the vine tomato in the summer; in the winter, for me, it's the first homemade pickled thing, popped out of a jar, with just the perfect amount of brine clinging on it; and in the fall - pumpkins and squash, pears, and quince.
Our tasting at the Aeppel Treow Winery, next
door to the Orchard
Two weekends ago, Jeff and I went to Brightonwoods Orchard, in Burlington WI.  In addition to many pounds of apples for eating and drying, and a case of apple related booze from the Apple Winery next door, I picked up about five pounds of quince.

This is our second trip to Brightonwoods Orchard, and I'm a big fan.  They don't have that much, it's not a pick your own deal, so if you've got kids and you're into all that stuff they might not be right for you.  But for us, it's perfect.  We walk around the orchard for about 15 minutes, look in their cute little market, then head next door to the Apple Winery (I want to call it a Cidery, but spell check keeps telling me that's not a word...) and get drunk.

Quince is not, I've learned, a particularly popular product.  So much so that I usually need to repeat it 5 or 6 times before people understand what I'm saying:

ME: Quince
Person: Quint?
ME: Quince.
Person: Quints?
Person: Quimp?

Quimp?  Really?  That's not even almost a word.

After some quick research on Wikipedia: Quince was once a popular fruit in the United States, being brought over by English Settlers.  In England, it is appropriate to have one quince tree ta the lower corner of a proper garden, and two in a well stocked orchard.

So even then, when it was "popular," people were getting at most one or two trees.

I have no clue why.  If anyone wants to do more research than I did (I looked it up on Wikipedia on my phone, so it wouldn't take much to be "more" research than I did) I would be happy to hear it.  If you would like to write a report on quince, I will totally post it and link to your blog or thing you want to promote.  Shoot me a message on Facebook (see how that makes you like me on Facebook?  I'm such a scammer!)  The trees appear to be nice - little pretty trees with gnarled bonsai like branches and large pink flowers.  It is also (per my extensive Wikipedia research) a useful plant.  Quince is high in pectin and therefor is good to add to jams and jellies.  The plant itself is strong and can be grafted on to other plants in the rose family (apples, pears, peaches... all roses.  If you know me personally, that might explain why I really want to have an orchard) to dwarf the plant and increase the yield.

So why aren't we growing it?

No demand.

I blame you personally.  When's the last time you went and asked for quince at your neighborhood grocery store?  And why not.  It's a perfectly fine fruit - somewhere between an apple and a pear, with a bit of a pineapple aroma.  Okay, sure' you've got to peel it and cook it before you can eat it (raw quince are inedible), but there are lots of things you cook before eating and it's not stopping anybody.  Rhubarb, for example, not so hot raw.  But people are still making Rhubarb pies.  Why no quince pies?

So, go out and demand some quince!  Get the farmer's growing it.  And when you plan your orchard, or well stocked garden, remember to plant at least one or two quince trees.  No "quimp" trees, because that's not a thing.
This is neither a quince tree nor a quinp tree.  It's an apple
If you would like to see more of the orchard trip pictures, Like "Home Grown, Homemade" on Facebook!

Beef Short Ribs with Quince
(this recipe is modified from several I found for lamb shank.  You can do this with lamb shank as well - but you may want to reduce the cooking time depending on the size of your shank.)

(Anyone else giggle at "size of your shank"?  No?  Just me.  That's fine.  I'm a child.)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs Beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 or more garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp freshly ground ginger
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 quinces, peeled, core removed, and quartered
  • 3 cups chicken or beef stock
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon rind
  • Cilantro and Couscous for serving
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. 

Season the short ribs generously with salt and pepper.  Heat oil in a large ovenproof casserole or french oven over medium high heat and cook the shanks in batches until well browned.  Transfer to a plate.  Reduce the heat to low.  Add the onion and sweat until softened - about 10 to 15 minutes.  Turn the heat back up to medium high, stir in the garlic and spices and cook, stirring, for one minute or until fragrant.  Do not let the spices burn!

Return the meat to the pan, add the stock and honey, bring to a boil then cover with the lid and place in the oven.  After 30 minutes, stir in the quince, and continue to cook for another hour.  Add the lemon rind, taste and adjust seasonings, and continue to cook for 30 more minutes (2 hours total).

Serve over couscous with freshly chopped cilantro.
I also made curried cauliflower.  The orange
stuff in this picture is the quince.

Quince in Syrup
  • 2 lbs quince
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups honey
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 2 whole cloves (optional)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (optional)
Peel, core, and slice the quince.  In a large pot, combine water, honey, and any desired spices, and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the quince (the plural of quince is quince, by the way), and allow to simmer until just tender 20 minutes, or less depending on the thickness of your slices.

Remove the quince from the pot and raise the temperature to high.  Allow to boil until reduced in half.

From here you've got a few options.  You could serve the quince and syrup over ice cream or a pound cake.  Or, you could take just the fruit and substitute it for half of the apples in your favorite apple pie or crisp or crumble or whatever.  I went the crisp method.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Put Up or Shut Up Episode 7: Green Tomatoes

And just like that, the glory of fall is over, and the furnace is on.

I told you it wouldn't last long.

We had our first risk of frost last night, and while we didn't actually get any at my house (I do live a block away from the lake, after all), the forecast this morning showed the nights looking pretty cold for the next week.   And so I panicked.  I picked all my green tomatoes and brought them inside.

This is not even almost all of them. 

It was probably too soon.  I should have waited.  I look at the forecast now and there's nothing below 40.  But, on the other hand, I'm going to be out of town all next weekend, and Wisconsin weather is consistently inconsistent.  Besides, while the low is now up from 32 to nothing less than 38 over the 10 day forecast, the highest high is 63, and really nothing is getting ripe at that temperature either.

So what's done is done, and with the exception of the cherry and yellow pear tomatoes (which are too small to pick without pulling down the whole plant), there will be no more fresh off the vine tomatoes.  I've got a row on the windowsill, hoping to turn ripe, and a small box of about 15 lbs on the back porch staying cool.  They might get canned, or if the windowsill ones ripen they might get brought it to have their chance.

I couldn't pull down the plants, because they have pumpkin and buttercup squash vines all wrapped around them, and I didn't want to see those get damaged.  They're not coming in until there's actual frost.  So there's probably a good chance that I missed some tomatoes in there, too...

I've got a few recipes picked out for the week, and did a bit of canning tonight.  Green tomato pickles are one of my personal favorites.  They're great for just snacking, but they're also fantastic in a "winter caprese salad."  I was at a restaurant one time, I don't remember the circumstance, but it was a group thing and the chef came out and was talking to us.  He was talking about eating locally and seasonally, and I remember he said "If you want to be a respectable, responsible chef, you'd better not have a caprese salad on your menu in January."  And I remember thinking to myself, "not the way I do it!"  Pickled green tomatoes and sundried tomatoes replace the fresh tomatoes, and I add a bit of honey to sweeten the whole thing up a little.  Fantastic!

Picture taken last winter...
I made seven pints of pickled green tomatoes today.  I could probably stand to make a few more.

This year, I also made a green tomato and apple "jam."  It was called a jam, but I feel like that's a bit of a stretch.  The directions said to cook for two hours, or until it became "jammy."  I cooked for almost four hours, and it never became jammy.  I don't feel like there's enough pectin in green tomatoes for them to ever become jammy...

Then again, no jam I've ever made has ever set up properly, so I probably just don't know what I'm talking about.

From what I tasted, it was pretty good - jammy or not.  Both sweet and tart, it would go well on toast, or on a cheese tray... it would be amazing with a baked brie.  Damn, now I want a baked brie.  I got seven jelly jars, because that's how many I had, three pints, and one slightly smaller than a pint jar that originally came with mayonnaise in it.  (Side rant: it makes me Hulk style angry that all jars that you buy things in the store do not come in standard canning sizes.  Why the crap not?  What can a company possibly gain by not allowing me to reuse their jar for canning purposes?  I guess I can understand if you're going to cheap out and use plastic, but if you're using a glass jar, why not make it one that can be re-used?  I'm talking to you specifically, Milwaukee's Pickles.  You have the best pickles.  I don't even bother making pickles, because yours are so good, EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE NOT EVEN REALLY LOCATED IN MILWAUKEE! I can look past your being located in New Jersey.  I can look past that, because you're giving us a shout out and your pickles are so good.  But you know what, your jar mouths are almost the correct size for canning.  Almost.  That's probably more annoying than not at all.  Because I keep trying to put a canning lid on there.  They keep looking like it should work, and it almost works, but it doesn't work.  What's your deal?  Why do you hate me, Milwaukee's Pickles?)

What was I talking about?

Ah, yes.  Green tomatoes never get jammy.  Baked brie.  So on and so forth.

There is only one week left of the South Shore Farmer's Market, and I will miss it.  Yesterday's market was pretty darn cold, but if you're willing to tough it out I would recommend heading out and picking up some green tomatoes.  They had big baskets full of them for pretty cheap.  I suspect that most people don't know what to do with them, except frying them.  I've made fried green tomatoes before, and they're fine, but they're not at the top of my list.  I may or may not make them this year.

I talked about the Pickled Green Tomatoes a few weeks ago.  Check out the link above to see that recipe.  Here are a few other non-fried green tomatoes recipes to try:

Green Tomato and Apple Jam
Makes 5ish Pints
(**IMPORTANT!  This is my recipe, which I put together based on three different canning recipes.  I am confident that the acid level is good for keeping these, but I want to make it very clear that this is not a professional canning recipe.  You should always be cautious of any canning recipe you find on the internet - especially ones posted by random bloggers.  Botulism is a funny word, but it's not funny.)

  • 4 lbs green tomatoes, cut into small dice (they're not going to break down much, so whatever size you cut them to will be the size they are in your jam)
  • 4 lbs apples, cut into small dice (same deal as the tomatoes)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup candied ginger, minced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp cloves
  • 2 vanilla beans, cut in half
Place all the ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil slowly over medium low heat.  Cook until it gets "jammy," or until you give up on that ever happening, two to three hours.

Fish out the cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans.  Ladle into clean, sanitized, hot canning jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool and check the seals.

Cheesy Green Tomato Muffins
Makes 12
(While it's no longer required in my diet, I want to point out that this recipe can be made with 99% local WI ingredients.  Everything except the baking powder and salt, unless someone knows something I don't.)

(Sacred Circle friends, you can expect to see some of these when I see you on Saturday at Belly Dance Camp!)
  • 2 cups flour (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp honey (preferably buckwheat)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups chopped green tomatoes
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, plus additional for topping
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup melted vegetable oil  
  • Fresh cracked black pepper (optional)

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bow.  Make a well in the center of the flour.  Beat the egg, then combine with remaining ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and stir until just combined, about 15 strokes.  It's okay if the batter is lumpy.

Grease 12 muffin cups (or line with paper cup liners).  Fill each cup 2/3 full of batter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until well browned.

While muffins are baking, combine remaining cheese with pepper if desired.  As soon as you pull the muffins out of the oven, sprinkle the cheese and pepper mixture on top, so it just melts in a little.

Green Tomato Gratin
Makes 4-6 servings

This is my favorite kind of side dish, because it's a vegetable so that means it's healthy, right?

  • 1/4 lb bacon (we're off to a good start!)
  • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (fresh or panko - makes no difference to me!)
  • 1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, etc.), peeled and thinly sliced, keeping the rounds as intact as possible
  • 4 large green tomatoes, sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Render the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat.  Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate.  Add the onion rounds to the skillet in batches and cook, still trying to maintain the rounds as much as possible, until they are golden, about 5-6 minutes per side.

As you are cooking the onions, start assembling the gratin.  Overlap the green tomato slices in one row in a large baking dish.  Next, make a row of onion rounds.  Repeat until all onions and tomatoes are used.  Season the onions and tomatoes with salt and pepper.

In your original pan (hopefully there's still some bacon fat left.  If not, add some more (what?  You don't keep a jar of bacon fat in your fridge?  Why not!  Start saving that shit; it's gold!) or add some olive oil.  In the end, you want about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat or oil in the pan.  Saute the garlic gently, about 3 minutes, until just fragrant.  Turn off the heat and add the bread crumbs, and gently stir to combine.

Crumble the bacon over the tomatoes and onions, then sprinkle the cheese over that, then top with the breadcrumbs.   Bake until the cheese is bubbly - 35 to 40 minutes.  If the top is getting brown, cover with aluminum foil.