Valley Shepherd Creamery, Long Valley, NJ

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Yesterday my husband, Ben, took a personal day from the office so that we could go on a little autumn excursion. After lunch in historic Lambertville, NJ, we headed for the Valley Shepherd Creamery, where we had heard that very good cheese was to be had.


Some of Valley Shepherd’s cheeses are in fact available through Williams-Sonoma, and they’re all available at the farm, which also hosts educational farm tours tailored for ages K-4 and all the way up to college level, featuring specific tours in food sciences, entrepreneurship, animal management and biology. Valley Shepherd’s cheeses are East Friesian sheep and Jersey cow milk cheeses, some mixed milk, some pure. The farm will continue to make cheeses over the next few weeks into November, when the cheesemaking stops for the winter, but cheeses aging now in the farm’s hillside cave will still be sold through the farm’s shop. (Fresh lamb meat begins to become available in the shop right around the time of year when cheese production ceases.)

We purchased a mixed-milk blue, a very sharp Provolone-like cheese called Fairmount, a ball of ricotta, and a wedge of a soft, orange-rinded wheel that I pulled indiscriminately out of the back of a refrigerator. We were sorry that no cream cheese was available that day, and Ben drew the line at the cheese with the stinging nettles in it—both of these, I will perhaps get another shot at on a future visit. In addition to cheese, sheep’s yogurt, and aracauna eggs (naturally light blue in color and naturally lower in cholesterol than white or brown eggs), the shop features many sheep-themed gifts (I actually got some sheep chopsticks) and fiber items. I also purchased yarn from the farm’s alpacas, and for those who are not knitters, blankets woven from the farm’s fibers are also for sale.

In the time we were shopping, someone came in and asked if any raw milk was for sale; they were, of course, told that it was not, but Valley Shepherd supports Garden State Raw Milk, a grassroots campaign to legalize the sale of raw milk in New Jersey. Tours of the cheese caves are only available on weekends, so we did not get to see the caves this time around… but we will be back, for sure, and not only for the cave tour—for the day-long artisan cheesemaking class that is offered, where participants can make their own wheel of artisan sheep’s milk cheese and leave it to age in the hillside cave, then return for it when it is at its best. What an amazing gift! (The classes, or a wheel of handmade cheese!)

Regular weekend tours include, in addition to the visit to the cave, the Ewe Barn (where, depending on the calendar, baby lambs may be seen), and North America’s only rotary milking platform, which can milk over 300 sheep an hour.


Ben and I left the farm armed for the long drive home with a lot of very earthy-smelling cheeses. Our ride was blindingly bucolic—the Garden State is awash in color right now, and it was a windy, blustery day. We tried all of our cheeses except the ricotta on the ride home, at least one of which—that orange-rinded devil—was not meant to be opened in a damp, closed car under any circumstances. All things being equal, however, it was one of the most enjoyable “stinky cheeses” I have ever had, and the Fairmount—the sharp Provolone-like hard cheese—was the clear winner of the day.

(guest posting by Amber Dorko Stopper)

Posted by Guest on 10/27 at 07:37 AM

CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm

Friday, October 26, 2007

The CSA is winding down for the season. There are only two weeks left after today. It’s the end of October but you wouldn’t know it from the variety of peppers still available on the order form. The order for next week is the first order in months that doesn’t have some sort of tomato on it. Here’s what was in this week’s box.


1 lb of green snap beans
2 large sweet potatoes
1 bunch Lacinato (dinosaur) kale
5 mixed sweet peppers
2 heads of broccoli
1 bunch Fuyo Shumi (baby Pac Choi)
1 bunch Swiss chard
2 8 oz bags salad greens mix

This week was a fruit share week and the bag had 8 or 9 each of apples and pears and a quart of apple cider.

Next week we get butternut squash. Finally.


Posted by Jackie on 10/26 at 01:50 PM

An apple a day


Last weekend my husband and I made the mistake of trying to visit Linvilla Orchards. We sort of forgot that it was the Pumpkinland Harvest Festival.  It was wall-to-wall people.  All we wanted were a couple of apples!  And we did walk away with a bag of Stayman-winesap apples after much negotiating of traffic and people.

I finally got to use those apples in a very yummy apple cake.  My family is not big on passing down the family secrets or having special family recipes, but apple cake is an exception.  My mother routinely made stellar apple cake every Fall, and finally gave me the recipe when I moved into my first apartment many years ago.  Everyone loves the apple cake.  I have no idea where she got the recipe from, and it’s not like she protects it with her life or anything.  So today I’m sharing it with you:

2 c. sugar
1 c. butter
2 eggs
1 c. milk
3 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
8 medium apples, cut into small chunks [not quite diced]

4 Tbsp flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 c. brown sugar
4 tsp melted butter
1 c. chopped walnuts

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-Cream the sugar and butter; add the eggs.  Mix in the milk.  Sift together the flour, soda, salt, and baking powder; add to mixing bowl and beat to combine.  Stir in apples by hand - if it looks like you have more apples than batter, the ratio is right.
-Combine topping ingredients; stir to combine and spread over top fo the cake.
-Bake for one hour and ten minutes.

A good portion of the ingredients are locally sourced.  The apples, of course, were from Linvilla.  The eggs were from Hendricks Farm.  The butter and milk were local.  I used Daisy Flour.  And the walnuts were local.

The walnuts!  Let me just say a few words about these things.  Last week I bought a half pound of black walnuts from the Fair Food Farmstand.  I had no idea what I was in for.  I ended up out on my backporch with a hammer to open them.  Pieces of walnut blasted across the porch.  It took forever to collect all the pieces and then pry the meat out of the shells.  Black walnut shells have to be harder than diamonds, people!  Surely there must be an easier way to open them?  Granted, it was worth all the effort - my apple cake is extra good with the black walnuts in the topping!



Posted by Nicole on 10/26 at 12:42 PM

Upcoming events!

wine glass

Crossing Vineyards in Washington Crossing, PA has a fun event coming up if you’re interested in locally-made wines.  Head out to Bucks County on November 10 and 11 for their Nouveau Festival, which celebrates this season’s wine harvest and the release of Crossing Vineyards’ 2007 “Le Nouveau”.  The festival is from noon to six.

If you’ll be in the York, Pennsylvania area on November 17 and 18, consider hitting the York Expo Center’s Toyota Arena for the Pennsylvania Food and Beverage Show.  A few PA wineries will be showcased.  Admission starts at $11.

Hurry up if you’re interested in the White Dog Cafe American Artisan Cheese Dinner - it’s Monday, October 29 at 6pm.  Executive Chef Andy Brown will prepare a four course dinner revolving around local cheeses and some other local foods, while Jeffrey Roberts, author of Atlas of American Artisan Cheese, leads a discussion.  The cost is $45 plus tax & gratuity.  Reservation are required. Please call 215-386-9224.

If free is more your style, mosey over to the United Tabernacle Church at 3700 Chestnut St. in Philly on October 30 for the “Faces of Fair Trade” Farmers Tour.  There will be a food tasting and discussion led by Ann Karlen, founding director of the Fair Food Project.

And here’s something for you to consider for next year: The Brewer’s Plate.  The fundraiser for the Fair Food Project will be held on March 9, 2008 at the Independence Visitor’s Center.  As part of Philly Beer Week 2008, chefs from Philly’s top restaurants will put together food and wine pairings.  It promises to be a good time for a good cause!

Posted by Nicole on 10/26 at 08:35 AM

Cranberries in the crannies

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Cranberries are in season right now, and plentiful at local farmer’s markets.  If you look hard enough, you can even find the white variety (shown here).

If you’re like me, the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘cranberry’ is cranberry sauce.  I cook a full Thanksgiving dinner every year, and cranberry sauce is always on the menu.  Rather than settling for that crappy canned stuff, I always opt to make my own.  It’s easy and way, way better.  Last year I made a fantastic bourbon cranberry sauce.  This year I’m making cranberry sauce with blueberries.

That said, there are about a billion other things to do with cranberries.  In that spirit, below is a list of five things to do with cranberries that doesn’t involve cranberry sauce:

  1. Cranberry Milk Chocolate Truffles (recipe).  There is nothing I like better than the combination of cranberries and chocolate. Yum!
  2. Cranberry Pancakes (recipe).  The addition of tart cranberries in your pancakes is sure to wake you right up!
  3. Cranberry liquer (recipe).  Old grandpappy would be proud if I made my own bootleg liquor!  Well, maybe it’s not quite like that, but you’ll be able to offer guests something unique.
  4. Cranberry Orange Bread (recipe).  I just love quick breads, and this one is lovely and flavorful!
  5. Cranberry Granita recipe).  Think of this as high class water ice, yo.

Posted by Nicole on 10/25 at 08:41 AM


Two Dark Days challenge meals in one week?  I guess I’m off to a good start and feeling motivated.  Of course, now that my dragonboat season is over, I find myself with a bit of extra time!  What better way to spend it than cooking?

Last night’s dinner was local Cornish hen stuffed with the dregs of the garlic from my garden, along with mashed potatoes (local potatoes, milk, and butter) and carrots glazed in balsamic vinegar and butter (local carrots, butter, and chives from my garden).  The only things not local: pepper and grey sea salt with lavender (used to season the chicken), sugar and balsamic the carrots.

The carrots, coincidentally, were the star of the meal.  I’ve been sort of hoarding the last batch of multi-color carrots I received from my final CSA share, and used them last night.  My husband was a little weirded out by the purple and white carrots…until he tried them.  Corporate farmed, grocery store carrots taste like carrots….until you try carrots that have been grown organically by a small farmer.  They just taste…I don’t know, carrot-ier.


Posted by Nicole on 10/25 at 07:27 AM

(Peruvian) farm to Philly

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

ICC logo

This entry employes an international interpretation of ‘Farm to Philly’, but I hope the topic is still interesting and relevant!  (After all, even in meals made almost completely with locally-produced ingredients, there are usually still spices or oils from other regions or countries.  I’ve heard it called the ‘Marco Polo exception’...)

The Independents Coffee Cooperative is a ‘group of independently owned coffeehouses [in Philadelphia] focused on increasing the sale of fair-trade and organic coffee, while making a positive impact in our communities, on the environment, and in the lives of the people who produce the products we sell’.  You can view a map of the members’ locations here.  (E.g., the Mugshot, Green Line, and Infusion cafés, as well as the West Philly Metropolitan café and joe coffee bar.)

This week—appropriately during October, which is Co-op Month AND Fair Trade Month—a coffee farmer and a farmers’ co-op representative, both from Peru, are visiting Philadelphia!  The farmer lives in the Andes mountains, apparently about 10 hours’ drive from Cusco, and he is one of the grower-owners of the Cooperativa San Fernando, for which the other Peruvian visitor is a representative. 

This afternoon, the farmer and the co-op rep, as well as a representative from Equal Exchange (the cooperatively-owned fair-trade buyer that has facilitated the purchase of San Fernando Cooperative coffee by the ICC), translators, and some ICC store owners, held an informal discussion/Q&A session at my local coffee shop, the (original) Green Line Café @ 43rd & Baltimore.  I stopped by for about half an hour, browsed the display of pictures, and admired the distinctive Mayan clothes worn by the Peruvians.  I couldn’t think of any particular questions about coffee production, although I was happy to observe that the fair-trade model seemed to be effective in providing a fair, beneficial revenue for the coffee farmers.

Instead, I actually spent my time talking with the person from Equal Exchange, then one of the owners of Mugshots, concerning various issues of co-ops, fair trade, middle men, and buying choices—all things that I feel I’m currently studying in a practical, urban-focused way by observing why and how individuals make choices to buy local food.  At any rate, if any of the remaining events happen to be convenient for anybody tomorrow, I’d recommend stopping by.  There’s breakfast (08.30-10.30 am) at the Manayunk joe coffee bar, an afternoon session (03.00-05.00 pm) at the Fairmount Mugshots, then an evening event (07.00-09.00 pm) at…hm…one of the InFusion locations.  I know this entry doesn’t provide much advance warning, and I apologize, but I only found out about this whole visit yesterday!

Other links:
Here is a brief press release, and here is a Daily Pennsylvanian article on the breakfast hosted at the 40th St. Metropolitan Bakery & Café on Tuesday.

Posted by Joanna on 10/24 at 05:32 PM

Exploring the perimeter


Having participated in One Local Summer and other challenges, where the perimeter definition of ‘local’ is 100 miles, and being a frequent visitor of the 100 Mile Diet site, I naturally consider my own local eating perimeter at 100 miles.  I’m not sure what other contributors to FTP consider local [feel free to jump in here, guys].  But the 100 mile perimeter surrounding Philadelphia is what makes eating locally grown food so easy here.

Directly to the West, we have Lancaster County and all of the awesome farms out that way, not to mention the various Amish products.  Directly to the East is New Jersey.  Make all the jokes you want about Jersey, but the Summer produce is killer and it’s practically the cranberry capital of the States.  And let’s not forget the seafood.  We have access to scallops, monkfish, tuna, ocean quahogs and surf clams, fluke, crabs, squid, lobster, mackerel, and a host of other things.  Then there’s Kennett Square out in the PA burbs, which supplies 51% of the nation’s mushrooms.

I often forget, though, that just about all of Delaware and part of Maryland fall within the perimeter.  It’s exciting to think of all the Delaware and Maryland products that I just haven’t discovered yet.  I’m excited to say that Rachel, a Baltimore resident, has offered to clue us all in on all good, local things in the Baltimore area every now and then.  Hooray!

By no means do I insist on eating locally grown food every day at every meal.  I don’t berate people for eating pineapples or lemons.  But for myself, it feels like a challenge to eat locally grown foods as often as possible.  And it makes me happy knowing that I’m supporting local farmers.  And there’s that whole issue of trusting your food sources.  It’s great to live in a place with such a wide variety of choices.

Posted by Nicole on 10/24 at 12:45 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm


We’re winding down for this season. The last two weeks of shares have brought fall items, despite the unseasonably warmer weather. I’ve gotten turnips, potatoes, cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower.

I’ve also decided to try some Asian greens that are new to me. Hon tsai tai was a mild green, similar to spinach, that I used for a stir-fry. Fuyo shumi is a variety of bok choy, and I will make a simple saute from this. The tot soi I have will most likely be incorporated in a stir-fry as well (yeah, my wok is getting a lot of use lately!). I have some komatsuna (pictured above, from Evergreen Seeds) that I have yet to try.

Two weeks of shares to go.

Posted by Yoko on 10/24 at 11:15 AM

Luck of the pot

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Philadelphia is a food town, and the number of food bloggers bears that out.  And never let it be said that food bloggers don’t know how to party!

Invite to all Philly food bloggers to the first ever Philly food blogger meet-up and potluck dinner to be held Friday, November 2.  If you consider yourself a Philly food blogger and want to join this group for this event and future events, please send your name, blog url, and email contact to taylorhigh24 (at) hotmail (dot) com.  An invite will follow with event details.

It’s not an event dedicated to eating locally grown food, but considering FTP’s own Marisa is hosting this first event at her place I’m sure there will be a dash of locally grown flavor in the house! 

If you can’t attend this inaugural event (like me), don’t fret - more potlucks will follow!

Posted by Nicole on 10/23 at 06:47 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Blooming Glen Farm

We got some pretty cool radishes this week.  Our choice of Daikon, watermelon, or the mysterious Nero Tondo, which is described as “round, black, hot” by our farmers.

CSA crop share 2007 #19 - 1023 - 01

CSA crop share 2007 #19 - 1023 - 02
(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names and quantities of this week’s share.)

My sister thought the kale was looking especially happy this week, and I have to agree!

Posted by Mikaela on 10/23 at 03:18 PM

Dark Days: Rabbit Pot Pie

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I put the garden to bed today.  Well, most of it.  The brussels sprouts are still out there growing.  It seemed crazy to tear up almost all the plants, though.  We’ve had an incredibly warm Autumn here in the Philly area and I had fresh buds on my tomatoes and lima beans, the herbs still looked good.  But I know what will happen if I don’t take the garden down now: it’ll go directly from 75 to 35 and I won’t want to get out in the garden.

The big highlight of the day was digging up the potatoes.  We have fairly heavy clay soil out here in my part of Delaware County, so I wasn’t sure if potatoes would grow for me without a lot of work.  Yes, I dug up the bed and amended it with all sorts of things.  All for naught, apparently: out of the 12 hills of potatoes I planted, we only got five potatoes.  Yes, really.  Five.  Weirdly, it was at least a sampling of all the varieties I planted. 

I was heartbroken over the sad, five potatoes, but it made me determined to use them well.  I started thinking about what else I pulled out of the garden today - lots of herbs and a few teeny little baby carrots.  I also had a single head of garlic left from my garden, and onions from the CSA share.  And a rabbit from a local source.  What else could I make but pot pie?  A Dark Days Challenge meal is born!

1 rabbit, cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
5 potatoes, diced
a bit of dill and basil, chopped
pizza crust (no, the crust wasn’t local - it was store bought)

Soak rabbit in equal parts of water and vinegar overnight.  Remove rabbit from water/vinegar mixture and dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste and roll in flour (I used Daisy Flour from Lancaster County).

In a large skillet, heat a little oil and brown the rabbit quickly on both sides.

Add enough water to cover the rabbit. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender.  Add in herbs.

Roll out pizza crust and press into a greased baking dish.  Bake for five minutes at 375 degrees.

Ladle the filling into the crust, and top with another layer of crust.

Cook at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

I know the idea of eating rabbit is unappealing to many people, but farm raised rabbit is really very mild and not in any way gamey.  It was tender and delicious, and the pot pie was fabulous!  It could only have been improved with a cooler night and a fire in the fireplace.

Posted by Nicole on 10/20 at 08:32 PM

Seasonal fare

Friday, October 19, 2007

Many of us FTP have spent some time putting food up for the Winter - be it canning, drying, or freezing.  Even though corn isn’t in season in the February here in the Philadelphia region…well, it doesn’t mean I can’t eat locally grown corn!

I think we all understand the variety of fruits and vegetables that are season in the Spring and Summer.  But going into Fall and Winter, does anyone really truly know we might consider seasonal throughout the colder months?

Beth at the Sustainable Food Blog has laid out a handy (though partial) list:

    Apples Pumpkins & winter squash Potatoes Carrots Onions Garlic Cabbage Turnips Celeriac Milk Butter Cheese Eggs Meat

And let’s not forget my favorite: brussels sprouts!

Posted by Nicole on 10/19 at 01:47 PM

A peck of pickled… cucumbers!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

To supplement my garden and CSA tomatoes for canning, I bought a box of tomatoes from the Shoemaker’s road side stand.

A side note here, that the link will take you to the Shoemaker’s machine shop. The family has run their welding and machining business and lived on Leidy Road since the 1950’s. It’s been as long as I can remember that they’ve sold their garden crops out front. Out here in the ‘burbs, among all the McMansions and age-restricted townhome developments, there are occasional glimpses of realness that reflect the area’s agricultural, small town roots. The several front yard road side stands in town are probably my favorite of those reflections smile

While I was there, I couldn’t pass up a few delicious-looking cucumbers. I don’t usually see cukes so late in the season, and my mouth was watering at the thought of a crispy cucumber sandwich.


Shortly after, when my tomatoes and I headed over to my dad’s for canning, I was surprised with a bunch of local kirby cucumbers. Thanks pops, but yikes - what to do with them all? Naturally, pickles seemed out best option, though neither of us have preserved them before.

Thank goodness for the Pickle Preservation Society (seriously, who knew?!). They have several recipes on their site, and I copied the one we used below. We went with an easy, traditional kosher recipe that required no hot-packing, and also one that utilized local ingredients we had on hand. The recipe called for dill and garlic, which I received in my CSA share that week (though the dill was not flowering as the recipe recommends). Man, I just love it when things work out like that!



Kosher Pickles: The Right Way
From Mark Bittman, New York Times

1/2 cup kosher salt
1 cup boiling water
2 pounds small Kirby cucumbers, washed, and cut into halves or quarters
5 cloves or more garlic, peeled and smashed
1 large bunch dill, if desired, fresh and with flowers OR 2 tablespoons dried dill and 1 teaspoon dill seeds, OR a tablesoon of coriander seeds

1. In a large bowl*, combine the salt and boiling water; stir to dissolve the salt. Add a handful of ice cubes to cool down the mixture, then add all remaining ingredients.

2. Add cold water to cover. Use a plate slightly smaller than the diameter of the bowl and a small weight to hold the cucumbers under the water. Keep at room temperature.

3. Begin sampling the cucumbers after 2 hours if they are quartered, 4 hours if they are halved. In either case, it will probably take from 12 to 24 hours, or even 48 hours, for them to taste “pickly” enough to suit your taste. When they are, refrigerate them, still in the brine. The pickles will continue to forment as they sit, more quickly at room temperature, more slowly in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 30 pickle quarters.

*We went with pickling in one of those giant industrial-food-sized jars instead of bowls. We tried the bowls, the jar was just way easier to manage.



These turned out quite garlicky, so next time we’d probably use only three or four cloves. I can totally see how people get into making their own “special recipe” pickles. With slight adjustments to so many different and easy-to-find ingredients (garlic, hot pepper, peppercorns, mustard seed, onion, celery, sugar), there are endless taste possibilities. This is definitely a project we’ll be doing again next season!

Posted by Mikaela on 10/18 at 02:59 PM

Dark days ahead!

Several of us here at FTP participated in the One Local Summer project, and now comes a new way to get motivated: the Dark Days Eat Local challenge!

The rules are simple: make your own damn rules!  Suggested guidelines are:

  • We have to cook one meal a week with at least 90% local ingredients
  • We have to write about it - the triumphs and the challenges
  • Local means a 200 mile radius for raw ingredients. For processed foods the company must be within 200 miles and committed to local sources.
  • Keep it up through the end of the year, and then re-evaluate on New Year’s Day
  • The challenge starts now, or whenever you sign up.

If you’re interested, sign up at Urban Hennery.

I have chosen to participate only because I find that I tend to eat less locally grown foods in the Winter.  This will be a good, motivating factor for me.  My own rules will be similar, but I reserve the right to use non-local oils, vinegars, spices, and things like that.  Anyone care to join me?

Posted by Nicole on 10/18 at 10:52 AM

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Support a local farmer, crave the freshest produce, worry about what's in or on your food - whatever your reason for eating locally grown and produced food in the Philadelphia area, Farm to Philly is probably writing about it. We're focused on where to find it, how to grow it, and what to do with it!

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