Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cheese, Vat's a Great Idea!

File this idea under "Truly Awesome":

My buddy Brian Schlatter of Canal Junction Farmstead Cheese (home of the delicious Parmesan-style Burr Oak cheese and the fabulous Gruyere-like Flat Rock) has a new project: a community-supported cheese vat.

OK, you've heard of Community-Supported Agriculture by now, right? This takes that concept of locally-financed food production in a new direction. Brian's old cheese vat is apparently a real energy vampire, and he's looking to purchase a new, energy-efficient model. Takes big bucks to make cheese, though, so his idea of inviting customers and friends to participate in this microfinance model -- put money in, get great local artisan cheese out -- is a great way of involving other folks in the business.

I'm definitely going to take a look at my finances -- tight though they are -- to see what I can do to help out one of my favorite cheesemakers.

And hey, even if you're not interesting in participating, pass along the idea. This could be the next big thing in supporting local businesses!

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Independence Days 2011-6: Too Darn Hot


I don't know about you, but that massive heat "dome" that settled over the eastern half of the country this past week just about knocked the stuffing out of me. Even with waking at 2 AM to get most of the baking out of the way before the day really got unbearable -- even with lower sales making extra baking unnecessary -- even with camping out at Local Roots in the afternoons to enjoy a bit of air conditioning -- even with lots and lots of liquids! -- I was a wilted mess by the end of the week.

In my book, that means it's just too darn hot.

It's hard to force myself to get out and work in the gardens in this heat, but I have tried to get to garden #3 on Sunday evenings to check, weed, and harvest. But even with irrigation there, even the plants looked droopy in this weather:

Broccoli raab

Squash, pac choi, golden chard, Soldier beans

Still, it's good to see that things continue to grow even when I don't bother to pay attention to them. This garden alone has yielded more than enough greens for filling my vegetable rolls for the past month, and I still need to put some in the freezer. And now the cucumbers are coming on, and you know what monsters those can be!

Little by little, though, I'm adding to my Independence Days challenge:

1. Plant something: nothing

2. Harvest something: Bonanza!!! Picked dill, basil, LOTS of golden chard, pac choi, LOTS of broccoli raab, purple pole beans, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, nasturtiums at the Contradance Callers'; dill, basil, parsley, golden chard, green beans, sugar snap peas, garlic at the Southern Belle’s; garlic, spearmint, lemon balm, oregano, first tomatoes! at the Renaissance Man’s

3. Preserve something: dried lemon verbena, basil, dill, cherries, spearmint, lemon balm, oregano; froze more garlic scapes, blueberries, green beans, snow peas, basil pesto; strained and bottled nasturtium vinegar and borage vinegar; cured and cleaned up garlic for storage

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): trying to use produce a little more quickly as it comes in! and stepped back baking a little bit during the hot weather

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): picked up more flours for baking

6. Build local food systems: baking for market and for the Local Roots Café; taught class on cooking with blueberries at Today’s Kitchen Store; picked blueberries with My Adorable Nephews; traded leftover bread for carrots, herbs, cookies; gratefully received a jar of a new red raspberry glaze from the Syrup Guy in thanks for showcasing his syrups in my TKS class; baked for the Innkeeper and enjoyed a Sunday breakfast with her after helping at the Inn

7. Eat the food: quinoa with first tomatoes and pesto; pecan ring; cucumber slices and Swiss cheese for snacks; roasted vegetables (beets, carrots, potatoes, squash, broccoli); leftover vegetable rolls; Asian cabbage wrap (at the Local Roots Café!); fresh corn on the cob and fried okra; blueberry-lemon verbena pound cake

How are you keeping cool these days?

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Summertime Blues

A long time ago, I started working on a doctorate in history, thinking that I wanted to teach college. I discovered fairly soon after starting my program that I wasn't really cut out for teaching history and that I worked better one on one with people or with small groups.

Even though I left a teaching career way behind, I've found ways to teach over the years, mainly in the kitchen. It started with my Granola Girl and the fabulous Phoenix and a handful of other wonderful and eager student assistants who wanted to learn how to cook, bake, preserve, and generally become more proficient at making their own food.

Once Local Roots opened, I was gradually persuaded to offer the occasional cooking demo, featuring either my own products (such as my pita bread, in making pita pizzas) or seasonal produce. Though I found those experiences to be less about teaching and more about cooking for an audience and answering questions, they led me to my latest venture:

Teaching a real cooking class at Today's Kitchen Store.

This came about as part of a hopeful partnership between Today's Kitchen Store and Local Roots, in which TKS wanted to support Local Roots and Local Roots folks wanted to showcase seasonal eating. Fits my bill, right? So I pondered class ideas and finally signed up to teach "Summertime Blues," a class that demonstrated the many ways you can cook with blueberries.

If you've been following this blog for a while, the menu won't come as a surprise to you, since I pulled most of the recipes from my experiments here:

--Luscious Lavender Berry Soup
--Blueberry Chutney
--Berry Blue Salad with mixed greens, blueberries, hazelnuts, bleu cheese, and blueberry vinaigrette
--Blueberry-Date Bars

Six people turned out for the class, including an enthusiastic Local Roots supporter, and we had a great time. It didn't all go smoothly -- the dough for the date bar crust turned out too soft, the date bars came out a little gloppy, and both the soup and the chutney needed a little tweaking -- but it did allow me to show how recipes can be manipulated and adapted and adjusted as needed, and everything still turned out very tasty!

Since I was busy the entire time, I didn't get to take any photos of the finished dishes, but thanks to Rick Davis and the Today's Kitchen Store Facebook page, you can get a peek at the class elsewhere online. Everyone enjoyed everything and pretty much cleaned me out!

I had a lot of fun, so I will need to think up some other class ideas and get scheduled with them.

And what better way to beat the blues -- than to cook with 'em?

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Independence Days 2011-5: The Heat Is On

Oh, good grief, it's July already?

And since it's July, the weather must be into its summer cycle of heat, humidity, occasional storms, and occasional cool spells. Yep, we've definitely had all of that lately.

I did pretty well on the Independence Days front for a while, and then the first weekend of July rolled around, and I ran off to The Farm for a long weekend at the start of the annual Farm Gathering. (Boy, that was a much-needed spot of vacation!)

Time to catch up, though:

1. Plant something: ground cherry seedlings at the Contradance Callers’

2. Harvest something: chamomile, lavender, oregano at the Renaissance Man's; dill, basil, golden chard, pac choi, LOTS of broccoli raab at the Contradance Callers'

3. Preserve something: dried raspberries, lemon verbena, bronze fennel, basil, oregano, lavender, dill, chamomile, zucchini chips; froze more garlic scapes, black raspberries; started nasturtium vinegar and borage vinegar

4. Reduce waste (Waste not): reducing the number of cheeses I buy for cheese-herb breads, as sales have slowed, and making a conscious effort to use each cheese completely before getting more; cleaned out a few vegs from the fridge for an easy curry

5. Preparation and storage (Want not): restocking herbs for baking (see Preserve something) and herbal tisanes; put in another two flour orders

6. Build local food systems: baking for market; attended a “cheese sensory evaluation” workshop and cheese sampling at Local Roots; tweaked the content for the Fiddlin’ Farmer’s new web site; bartered with three other producers after market; spent an afternoon weeding (not just my own beds) at the Contradance Callers'; baking more regularly for the Local Roots Cafe; baked hot dog buns and shortcakes for the Farm Gathering; weeded vegetable and herb beds at the Farm

7. Eat the food: French toast with shagbark hickory syrup; roasted vegs (new potatoes, green and gold zucchini, carrots, red onions, parsley salt); fava bean dip with goat cheese, and leftover pita bread for dipping; an amazing rhubarb-cardamom-lime frozen yogurt from Jeni’s

Looks like July will be another busy month -- hang on to your hats!

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