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

Comfort Food

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I’ve been all about the comfort food lately, probably because it’s fall and even though it’s not all that cold outside when the temperature dips below 50 my 100+ year old house gets cold. And honestly, we’re a bit too cheap to turn on the heat when the days are still in the 70s. So comfort food it is, and most of it’s on the unhealthy side with lots of meat and cheese. But it’s still local!

My husband was thrilled that I’ve made Sloppy Joes with beef from Meadow Run farms (is that in the meat list on the sidebar?), and tomatoes and hot peppers from our garden. I think he may have actually pumped his fist in the air and shouted yes! when I served patty melts made with local beef, cheddar, and caramelized onions served on Le Bus bread with oven fries from local potatoes on the side. Getting away from the ground beef, I cooked a big sweet potato enchilada casserole with homemade enchilada sauce using all local veggies and cheese (though I did cheat with the black beans and tortillas) and a few days ago with homemade tomato sauce, local eggs,  freshly ground breadcrumbs from a day old loaf of local bread, basil from my garden and eggplant from Red Earth Farm, I made Eggplant Parmesan using an America’s Test Kitchen recipe.


The recipe is pretty similar to the ones I’ve used in the past, only it calls for baking the eggplant on preheated baking sheets rather than frying it, and dotting the top layer with sauce instead of drenching it so the eggplant stays crispy. I’ve made Eggplant Parmesan dozens of times before, but I’m definitely sticking to this recipe. A little bit of crunch goes a long way.

Eggplant Parmesan
from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

2 globe eggplants sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 cup flour
4 large eggs
4 cups plain dried breadcrumbs
3 oz Parmesan cheese grated
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups tomato sauce
2 cups shredded mozzarella
fresh basil leaves, torn

Toss the eggplant with 1 teaspoon of salt and let drain for 40 minutes. I take Lidia’s advice, and line the eggplant up the sides of the colander, place a heavy bowl over the eggplant, and weigh it down with a couple of cans of tomatoes.

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower middle positions, put a baking sheet on each rack and preheat the oven to 425. Combine the flour and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a large ziploc bag and shake to combine. Beat the eggs into a shallow dish. Combine the bread crumbs, 1 cup of Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in another shallow dish.

Rinse the salt off the eggplant and pat dry with paper towels. When the eggplant is thoroughly dried, place a handful of slices in the ziploc bag and shake to cover with flour. Shake off excess flour, dip in the egg, then coat with breadcrumbs and let drain on a wire rack. Work in batches until all of the eggplant has been dredged in flour and breaded.

Remove the preheated baking sheets from the oven. Spread 3 tablespoons of oil over each sheet, tilting the sheet to coat evenly. Spread the breaded eggplant in a single layer over the hot sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the first side is brown and crisp. Flip the slices over and return to the oven until the second side is browned, about 10 minutes more.

Spread a cup of the sauce over the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Put half of the eggplant over the sauce, overlapping. Cover the eggplant with a cup of sauce, a few torn basil leaves, and half of the mozzarella. Layer the remaining eggplant in the dish and dot with a cup of sauce leaving most of the eggplant exposed so it stays crisp. Sprinkle with 1/4 of Parmesan and the remaining Mozzarella.

Place the dish on the bottom oven rack and bake for about 15 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Remove from oven, top with the remaining basil leaves and let sit for 10 minutes. Pass the rest of the sauce and Parmesan around when you serve.

Posted by Jackie on 10/17 at 07:46 PM

Local foods volunteer opportunity!

Now that dragonboat season is almost over, I find myself with more free time than I’m used to.  I’ve been on the look out for ways to volunteer my time to organizations that I have a passion for.  Most recently, I signed up to be a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood (you walk patients into the clinic past the throngs of protesters).  And today another potential opportunity presented itself: volunteering at the Fair Food Farmstand.

FTP contributor Joanna has been volunteering there for quite some time, and today Sarah Cain, the supervisor for the Fair Food Farmstand, let me know they’re looking for more volunteers.

Volunteering at the ‘Stand is a 3-hour a week commitment, you get to work with all this great local product, and as we go into the busiest part of the year (with all these ‘food’ holidays), there’s the added bonus of getting a 30% discount at the ‘Stand once you’ve completed your training. As we’re open year-round, it also is a place where people can get their local food ‘fix’ once the farmers markets close down for the season.

I really think I may try to work this into my volunteering schedule, and I hope you’ll consider it, too.  I buy quite a bit of my food at the Farmstand - it’s an important resource for those of us who care about the quality of our food and care about supporting local farmers.

To download a volunteer application form or find out more about the Fair Food Farmstand, visit the Farmstand website.

Posted by Nicole on 10/17 at 01:45 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Blooming Glen Farm

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


(Click photo to read notes at flick’r regarding names and quantities of this week’s share.)

And an extra view this week:


Posted by Mikaela on 10/16 at 09:38 PM

Valley Shepherd Creamery Carameaway

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Valley Shepherd Carameaway

The latest of the local cheese acquisitions is Carameaway by Valley Shepherd Creamery.  It’s a mixed, raw milk (sheep and cow) cheese with caraway, and is cave-aged for a few months.

So far, this is my favorite of the Valley Shepherd cheeses.  It’s very creamy with an excellent texture, and the caraway definitely gives it a ‘wow’ factor.  I’m not sure if the pungency is provided by the caraway or is part of the cheese - maybe both.  Either way, it’s delicious.  I have been unable to stop eating it!  And that’s sort of funny, considering caraway is used in folk medicine to relieve loss of appetite.

The Carameaway can be had at the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market.  If you know of other Philadelphia locations where it’s sold, please let me know!

Posted by Nicole on 10/14 at 09:13 AM

Wonton soup for the soul

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I’m not overly familiar with Asian vegetables like bok choi and joi choi.  I grew bok choi last year in the garden, but never got very creative with it.  In the past couple of weeks choi has shown up in the CSA share and it seemed like a good idea to try something a little different with it.  I came across a recipe for wonton soup and instantly decided to make it.  And, better yet, I was able to source the a lot of ingredients from local growers!

The recipe itself takes a lot of time to make.  Not active time, mind you.  But you’ll need eight hours, start to finish, if you choose to make it all in one day.  Stock can certainly be made on one day, and the wontons can be made in advance and frozen.  Don’t let the idea of an eight hour soup throw you - it’s easy to make and the end result is well worth the hour of active time this recipe calls for.

First off, you’ve got to make soup stock and this is what takes the longest.  Sure, you could use premade chicken stock but it wouldn’t have the depth of flavor in homemade stock.  Homemade stock is to ready made stock as Brie de Meaux is to Cheese Whiz, OK?  There’s just no comparison.  Gather the following:

2 lb country-style pork ribs
2 lb chicken, a combination of thighs, legs, and wings (picked up from Godshall’s Poultry at Reading Terminal Market)
3 heads of baby bok choi, coarsely chopped (from the CSA share)
4 scallions, coarsely chopped (found at the Fair Food Farmstand in RTM)
1 (2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
14 cups water (good old Philly tap water)

Throw it all in a giant soup pot and simmer the crap out of it for five hours.  Go knit or watch television or play with the dog or something.  Come back in five hours, pour the stock through a sieve to remove the solids (discard the solids), and refrigerate the stock for about two hours.


Unless you’re making the wontons in advance and freezing them, I recommend making the wontons about half an hour or so prior to the end of the stock refrigeration period.  The wontons will get a little sticky in places and dry out in others.  To make the wontons, you will need:

1/2 lb ground pork or turkey (turkey, from Harry Ochs in RTM)
1 large egg yolk (from Fair Food Farmstand)
2 scallions, finely chopped (from Fair Food Farmstand)
1 (1 1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
salt and pepper
About 30 wonton wrappers

Combine pork or turkey, yolk, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, salt, and pepper in 1 direction with your hand until just combined (do not overwork, or filling will be tough).


Put 1 wonton wrapper on a work surface (keep remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap). Spoon a teaspoon of filling in center of square, then brush water around edges. Lift 2 opposite corners together to form a triangle and enclose filling, pressing edges firmly around mound of filling to eliminate air pockets and seal. Moisten opposite corners of long side. Curl moistened corners toward each other, overlapping one on top of the other, and carefully press corners together to seal. Make more wontons in same manner.

When your wontons are all made, break out the chilled chicken stock.  Skim the fat off the top and bring to a simmer.  Grab another bunch of choi, maybe a pound or a pound and a half, and chop it all up into bite sized pieces.  Put the choi in the soup pot and simmer for four minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add wontons and simmer three minutes.  Cut open a wonton to make sure the filling is cooked through and, if it is, serve!


The soup turned out delicious - a true comfort food!


Posted by Nicole on 10/13 at 08:00 AM

If the shoe fits

Friday, October 12, 2007

cutpumpkin roastedpumpkins pumpkinpuree

I know this is very un-local eating of me, but it has never really occurred to me to make pumpkin pie from scratch.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made many a pumpkin pie…but only using canned pumpkin puree.  And there’s nothing wrong with it - pies made from the canned stuff taste just fine to me.  But since I’ve never tasted a pumpkin pie made from homemade pumpkin puree, how would I know the difference?

As luck would have it, the opportunity to find out has presented itself.  Last week there were two baby pie pumpkins in the CSA share, and this week there was one (grown by Green Acres Organics and Countryside Organics).  Pie pumpkins in hand, there was only one thing to do: roast them.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  While the oven is preheating, cut the pumpkins in half and remove the pulp and seeds.  While you wouldn’t use a big jack-o-lantern type of pumpkin for a pie (they’re too watery), you can save the seeds out of pie pumpkins and roast them - so hang on to those seeds!  Place pumpkin halves cut side.down on a baking sheet, and roast them for about an hour.  Peel off the skin, puree in a food processor, and voila: pumpkin puree!  It’s all ready for the addition of sugar and spices for a pie.

My three baby pie pumpkins yielded about four or five cups of puree.

Posted by Nicole on 10/12 at 10:10 AM

Don’t be a turkey

Last year I ordered an organic, heritage breed turkey for Thanksgiving dinner through the Fair Food Farmstand.  Even my in-laws, who admittedly are not foodies and don’t care so much about eating locally, commented on the great taste and juiciness of the turkey.  We even discussed the benefits of eating meat that isn’t drenched in growth hormones, something a little too serious for Thanksgiving at my house usually.  I can’t promise that eating an organic, heritage breed turkey will guarantee a discussion of anything other than grandchildren and the various Philadelphia sports teams at your own house, of course!

Thanksgiving is fast approaching (I’ve already started deciding what to cook).  I’ll be participating in the 100 Mile Thanksgiving again this year, but you don’t have to be involved in that to want to try a locally grown turkey!  There are quite a few options available, the easiest of which for me is ordering through the Fair Food Farmstand.  I was recently alerted that they’ll be taking orders starting next week.

You might be able to find locally grown turkey at Whole Foods, and the farmer’s market in Collingswood, NJ definitely takes orders.  To get straight to the source, though, try Woodsong Hollow, Bolton Turkey Farm, or Rumbleway Farm.

Posted by Nicole on 10/12 at 06:19 AM

CSA Weekly Report: Lancaster Farm Fresh

Thursday, October 11, 2007


It seems strange that today is my very last share of the season from Lancaster Farm Fresh.  It’ll be sad not to bring home a bevy of vegetables every Thursday.  I guess this means I’ll be seeing the inside of a grocery store a little more often.  Yuck.

So what’s in the final share?

    1 head Joi Choi grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm 1 head Verona radicchio grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm 1 head cabbage grown by Farmdale Organics 1 bunch celery grown by Farmdale Organics 1 bunch carrots grown by Riverview Organics 2.5 lbs red creamer potatoes grown by Green Valley Organics 3 lbs Beauregard sweet potatoes grown by Busy Bee Acres 1 baby pie pumpkin & 1 small butternut grown by Green Acres Organics
    2 heads lettuce grown by Scarecrow Hill Farm 1 bunch collard greens grown by Farmdale Organics

I’ve never had joi choi before, but I understand it’s pretty much like bok choi.  With the cooler weather, I’ve been craving soup - so I decided to use the choi to make won ton soup.  It’s going to be a multi-step and vaguely time consuming thing, but it’ll be something I’ve never done before.  You know, making the won tons from scratch and all that [not the won ton wrappers, mind you - I bought a pack at the H-mart in Upper Darby a few weeks ago].  By some strange stroke of luck, I have been able to source nearly all the ingredients from local growers.  Hooray!

Posted by Nicole on 10/11 at 04:26 PM

Get Asian pears now!

North Star Orchard is in the midst of an Asian pear boom!  If you love Asian pears, now is the time to seek out at the Orchard’s various market locations - Clark Park, Rittenhouse Square, and Headhouse in Philadelphia, and a bunch of other suburban locations.

North Star is currently producing the following varieties of Asian pear: Hosui, Yoinashi, and Olympic.  The Hosui is slightly acidic but mild with a crisp, juicy, off-white flesh.  The Yoinashi has the highest sugar content of all Asian pears and is extremely juicy with a lovely butterscotch flavor.  The Olympic has an outstanding storage life and flavor actually improves with storage.  They’re sweet with an earthy flavor.

And don’t miss out on North Star’s apple harvest!  You can find Florina, Golden Russet, Stellar, and Sugar Snap apples at market. 

North Star Orchard is located in Coatesville, PA.

Posted by Nicole on 10/11 at 08:39 AM

CSA Weekly Report: Red Earth Farm

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

CSA 2007 #12

This week’s share:
Mixed tomatoes- most likely the last of the season for me.
Italian basil- to go with the tomatoes in a panzanella.
Breakfast radishes- I have plans to eat these with just salt and butter.
Sorrel- new to me. I like the sour taste.
Mixed bell peppers
Arugula- tonight’s dinner, as will be shown in my next post.

Posted by Yoko on 10/09 at 11:49 PM

Headhouse Market extended

headhouse square date change

After several weeks away, I finally got a chance to stop into the Headhouse Square Market this Sunday.  It’s been nearly a month since my last visit and I noticed a few changes.  A couple of farmers who products I had bought and enjoyed were absent.  The abundance of tomatoes was replaced by apples as far as the eye could see.  And the closing date of the market has been extended until the end of the year.  Oh happy day!  We now have until December 23rd to buy our meats, cheeses, breads and produce from the growers, makers and bakers. 

Posted by Marisa on 10/09 at 10:43 PM

CSA Weekly Report: Blooming Glen Farm


My sister and I split our share each week, and it only recently occurred to me, the extent of our literalness.



Posted by Mikaela on 10/09 at 09:25 PM

Autumn Leaves Artisan Cheese & Foods Festival

Monday, October 08, 2007

After discovering existence of the Autumn Leaves Artisan Cheese & Foods Festival to be held at the end of September at Valley Shepherd Creamery and pouting because I wasn’t able to attend, I was delighted to find out an FTP reader was going and was more than happy to serve as our eyes and ears for this awesome-sounding event!  What follows is Athena Fotiadis’ report on the festival:

Back in July, I was at my local farmer’s market (Montclair, NJ), and I noticed a new cheese vendor, Valley Shepherd Creamery.  I perused the
selection, and I decided to try their manchego-style cheese.  It was great! While waiting for my cheese to be wrapped, I picked up a flyer for the Autumn Leaves Artisan Cheese & Foods Festival on Saturday, September 29, 2007.  I was so excited!  I immediately lined up a friend to come with.

We arrived about noon after a very pleasant and easy drive down Route 78. It was warm with a slight nippy breeze, my favorite weather.  The leaves are
already barely starting to turn colors and the drive took us through some beautiful landscape.  When we made it to the entrance, we were directed to
drive on a bit to the middle school.  They had parking and a bus to take us to the farm itself.  Already, we could tell, it was pretty busy!

So, the cheese.  There were quite a few farms/cheesemakers represented. Some were from New Jersey, many were from further up the northeast,
including Quebec.  My friend and I tasted cheeses from Meadow Stone Farm from CT (cheese with chocolate liqueur and tobacco wrapped cheese), the
well-known and TV-featured Bobolink Dairy from NJ (Jean Louis and Drumm, if you like your cheese stinky, here’s where to go), Artisan Made-Northeast from CT who distribute some of the other cheeses there (five different blue cheeses, my favorite being the Benedictin, and handmade chocolate turtles that were orgasmic), Seal Cove Farm all the way from Maine (really creamy and nice goat cheeses and a couple of interesting washed rind cheeses), Cato Corner Farm from CT (our favorite, we tried everything he brought and this was the cheese we bought for our baguettes), and Beltane Farm from CT (the *freshest* goat cheese I have ever tasted!).

There were other cheesemakers there, but it started getting very crowded. So, we were at Cato Corner Farm and decided to buy our slices for the baguette table as mentioned before.  They had a really neat thing that you could buy a slice of cheese from whomever you liked for $2 and then go to the baguette table and pay $2 for a generous hunk of baguette and some olive oil and/or balsamic vinegar to make a nice sandwich.  We got the Fromage d’O'Cow, a creamy and stinky cheese.  We were lucky to have gotten the last of the baguettes (although, they started using the rounds of bread from one of the purveyers there, which for some reason, we didn’t visit).  So good!  The olive oil was such a nice green fruity counterpoint to the cheese.

We dived back into the tent, it was starting to approach mob levels.  It wasn’t even 2pm at this point.  We decided we need desert, so we headed to
the Bent Spoon table for the Lavendar Mascarpone ice cream.  You know, the cheese was awesome, but I think the ice cream was divine.  We never made it to any of the wine tables.  At this point, you couldn’t get near them in under 10 minutes, and I noticed some of the other vendors were starting to run out of stuff.  I don’t think they anticipated the turnout (I think their website mentioned 1,500 people!), which is actually a great thing to me.  That many people care about quality, handcrafted food!  We headed back to a few tables and got some apricot honey from Gooserock Farm from NJ, and tried the handmade chocolates by J. Emanuel, also in NJ. We totally missed the Quebecois cheese.  It was starting to get really really crowded.  We took a break and took some photos of the sheep, and headed to our final destination—Valley Shepherd’s own table outside their shop.  We tried the Fairmount, a nice swiss style, mentioned by Nicole in a previous post, and the Califon Tomme, a beautiful gouda-style cheese, which actually, this was my favorite.

Whew!  Can you believe, we were actually cheesed out at this point.  It was just about 2pm, so we headed back.  The cheeses that I know that can be
found in the Philly area are Valley Shepherd and Cato Corner Farm.  Everyone had a website, and quite a few ship their products.

All in all, it was a perfect September day with really great food, and I can’t wait for next year!

My mouth is absolutely watering!  Thanks, Athena, for such a great report - I’m completely jealous!  To see more photos from the festival, click here.

Posted by Nicole on 10/08 at 11:09 AM

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