Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
With just a week and a half to go before this year’s Brewer’s Plate, we and our partners at Rolling Barrel Events are a flurry with last-minute preparations. There are program booklets to finalize, layouts to map, schedules to coordinate, and all the little details and odds and ends that will make for our best event yet.
Brewer’s Plate was created in 2005 by Victory Brewing Company’s Bill Covaleski and Fair Food’s Executive Director, Ann Karlen, as a way to pair local craft brews with fine, local food–all while raising funds to supportFair Food’s mission and ongoing programs. The first Brewer’s Plate hosted a handful of local breweries and restaurants, and as word spread, more connections were made, and the local food and beverage scene grew, this event evolved into the premier food and beverage festival in the Mid-Atlantic. On Sunday, March 8, at the Kimmel Center, the 11th annual Brewer’s Plate will feature nearly 100 of our region’s outstanding chefs, farmers, food artisans, brewers, distillers, and winemakers. We’ve come a long way, and we can’t wait for you to meet this year’s line-up of participants–veterans and newbies alike.
Thirsty for more info? While I can’t give up all the sudsy details, here’s some insider information to hold you over till the 8th:
If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, hurry up and visit BrewersPlate.com before they’re all gone. (Or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in volunteering at the event.) We can’t wait to see you next Sunday!
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
When snow and record-low temperatures drive us inside, we might as well fill our homes with the aromas of rich stews and hearty soups, am I right? Good thing we just received a massive frozen soup order from Good Spoon Seasonal Foods. With recipes like Thai Sweet Potato Soup, Senegalese Chicken & Peanut Stew, Grass-Fed Beef Chili, Moroccan Vegetable & Chickpea Stew, and more, Good Spoon will satisfy your craving . . . without any of the fuss.
Of course, if you’re more of a DIY type, the Farmstand has all the ingredients you need to make stock, soups, and hearty seasonal stews from scratch. Below is my very basic recipe for beef or chicken stock, which can be made on the stove top or in a slow cooker–you’re choice. (And here’s a great recipe for vegetable stock, for all you vegans and vegetarians out there.)
Not only is homemade stock delicious, it’s also packed with nutrients that can reduce inflammation in the body and stave off disease. Drink a steaming cup on its own, or use it in any of these recipes:
Basic Homemade Beef or Chicken Stock
To make beef stock: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place the beef bones in a roasting pan and roast them for 25 to 30 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the bones to a large stockpot, along with the onions, carrots, celeriac, and garlic. Scrape any juices from the roasting pan into the pot. Pour in about 1 gallon (4 quarts) of cold water (it should cover the bones by 1 to 2 inches) and add the herbs and peppercorns to the pot. Set the pot over high heat, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 4 hours, or until the stock has reduced to about 2 quarts. Check on the stock occasionally as it simmers, and skim off any foam or fat that accumulates on the surface. When it is done, strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into another large pot or bowl.
To make chicken stock: Place the chicken carcass or bones in a large stockpot, along with the onions, carrots, celeriac, garlic, herbs, and peppercorns. Pour in about 1 gallon (4 quarts) of cold water (it should cover the chicken by about 1 inch). Set the pot over high heat, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 4 to 6 hours, adding water as needed to keep the bones submerged. Check on the stock occasionally as it simmers, and skim off any foam or fat that accumulates on the surface. When it is done, strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into another large pot or bowl.
To make stock in a slow cooker: For beef stock, follow the roasting instructions above, then transfer the bones, vegetables, herbs, and peppercorns to a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker. Add cold water until the slow cooker is three-quarters full. For chicken stock, place all the ingredients in a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker and add cold water until the slow cooker is three-quarters full. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 5 hours. When it is done, skim off any foam or fat that has accumulated on the surface of the stock, and strain it through a fine-mesh sieve into another large pot or bowl.
To store homemade stock: Let the strained stock cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it overnight and skim the fat from the surface. Transfer the stock to airtight containers or zip-top freezer bags. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
Valentine’s Day is only two days away, and if you’re still scrambling to find the perfect gift for your sweetheart, just take a deep breath and head to the Farmstand. From candies and chocolates to beauty products, honey, coffees, and cheese, we’ve got you covered.
Does your sweetie have a sweet tooth? You’ll be sure to satisfy with a gift box from John & Kira’s Chocolates. Pick up a 3-pack of salted caramels, Honey Caramel Bees, or Praline Ladybugs, or go all out with one of their 9-piece boxes–the Lovebug box of assorted Bees and Ladybugs, or the Valentine’s box of assorted chocolate butterflies (filled with hazelnut-almond praline) and hearts (filled with coconut rum caramel).
Is caffeine more his/her thing? Pick up a tin of loose-leaf tea from the Random Tea Room or a bag of locally roasted coffee beans from ReAnimator, Square One, or Philly Fair Trade Roasters. Paired with some honey from The Honeybee Shoppe, a bag of Patterson Farm’s maple sugar, or a container of Spring Hills’ or Emerick’s maple syrup, it will make for the perfect gift.
For your favorite cheese lover, you can’t go wrong chèvre hearts from Shellbark Hollow Farm, which come in two different flavors: Red & Pink Peppercorn, and Lavender & Herbes de Provence.
Still stumped? Why not pamper your honey with some all-natural Rose Body Powder and Beet & Hibiscus Lip Stain from Stinky Girl or a few sumptuous goat milk soaps from Misty Creek Goat Dairy? Or make a delicious care package with Maple Walnut Butter from PB & Jams, Sunflower Butter from The Lancaster Food Co., and Raspberry Chocolate Sauce or rosy-hued preserves from Tait Farm Foods.
To sweeten the pot even more, we’ll throw in free gift wrapping* if you purchase $25 or more of the items mentioned in this week’s newsletter. So go on and spread the (locally-sourced) love!
(*While supplies last, now until Saturday, 2/14. Mention the “Sweets for my Sweet” promotion at the register to get your free gift wrapping.)
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
Ever since the winners were announced for the first annual PA Cheese competition last month, we at Fair Food have been feeling mighty proud. Not only did three of our producers dominate the Best in Show category (The Farm at Doe Run‘s Seven Sisters won first place,Yellow Springs Farm‘s Cloud Nine won second place, and Birchrun Hills Farm‘s Tomme Molé won third place), but others also placed as finalists in 10 of the 16 categories of the competition.
In addition to their Best in Show awards, Doe Run brought home a blue ribbon for Seven Sisters and second place prizes for Hummingbird and Bathed in Victory; Yellow Springs received a blue ribbon for Cloud Nine; and Birchrun Hills cleaned up with three blue ribbons for Tomme Molé, Birchrun Blue, and Red Cat. Meanwhile, Keswick Creamery snagged a second place prize for Blue Suede Moo, Calkins Creamery won a blue ribbon for Noblette, Shellbark Hollow took home second for Sharp 2 Chevre, andHidden Hills took home three awards–first place for Allegheny, second for Boltonfeta, and third for Buttercup. Not bad, eh?
So this week, inspired by our cheese case full of winners, I decided to take home a tub of Caputo Brothers’ frozen Cagliata Curds and try my hand at (semi) homemademozzarella. Caputo Brothers Creamery is one of the very few producers of cultured/fermented cheese curds that can be stretched into fresh mozzarella. In fact, their production process is so unique that it recently won them a spot in Samuel Adam’s micro-lending and business coaching program.
The instructions are printed right on the tub, but I highly recommend watching Rynn Caputo’s cheese stretching demo (available on their website) before you get started.You’ll need a few stainless steel mixing bowls, a pot or kettle of hot (190°F) water, salt, and a spoon or spatula. That’s it. And the whole process takes less than 10 minutes! In the end, I made an 8-ounce ball of the freshest mozzarella my kitchen has ever seen, which I then paired with garlic oil, preserved lemon, and basil for this week’s pizza. (Check out the recipe atThursdayNightPizza.com.)
Note: Do not panic if your first ball of home-stretched mozzarella doesn’t look quite as smooth and shiny as the one in Rynn’s demo. It takes a few tries to get it right (as I discovered), but no matter what it looks like, the flavor will blow you away. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m hooked on these Cagliata Curds for life. Get yours before I buy them all myself!
Alex Jones, Farmstand Product Manager
It’s an afternoon in early January, and snow is falling outside the University of Vermont’s Davis Student Center. In a classroom inside, Michael Rozyne poses a logistics problem to a roomful of students.
Given the trucking company’s rate and the palletization table for different crops, what’s the unit freight cost for 5 pallets of lettuce bought from one source, using trucking company A? What’s the cost for 5 pallets of tomatoes? How about kiwiberries?
Rozyne isn’t an academic. He’s one of the founders of Red Tomato, a Massachusetts-based source-identified regional produce distributor (also known as a food hub). And the students aren’t traditional college students. They’re professionals who work or volunteer at food hubs in communities from New Mexico to Maine. Many are able to be here because their tuition has been funded by their employers, their state’s agricultural extension agency, UVM scholarships, or their own crowdfunding campaigns.
The cohort of 25 students — of which I am one — is here in Burlington for a weeklong residential session of The University of Vermont’s first Food Hub Management Certificate Program, part of the school’s continuing education department. Fair Food’s executive director, Ann Karlen, serves as Faculty Director; she has worked closely with the university to develop the curriculum and currently coordinates the residential week’s programming and student engagement during weekly online coursework.
The program — FHMCP for short — is unique not just because it’s the first to offer training to position the next generation of food hub managers (and their hubs) for success. The instructors are professionals in business and logistics, food safety and marketing, and some run food hubs or farmer advocacy organizations. And the students’ backgrounds range from business to nursing, front-of-house service to farming; a few are straight out of college and others are closer to retirement age, building a second career farming or working to build a sustainable local food system in their communities.
The FHMCP isn’t meant to be a starting point for a career in food hubs, it’s meant to build on the on-the-job experience of food hub managers and fit more easily into their professional lives than an academic degree. Bookended by a residential week at the start and end of the course, most of the learning is done through online course modules and an action project to be completed at a food hub.
A business background or a past life working in kitchens can serve as a foundation for a career in food hub management, but it doesn’t capture the scope of skills needed for success. Food hub managers need training in business planning and logistics; in grant-writing and managing staff; in marketing and food safety. And often, food hub managers have succeeded on the kind of mettle you can’t get from an academic background: learning on the job, making quick decisions based on instinct and experience, putting in long hours, and improvising solutions with limited resources.
During the residential week in Burlington, students had a chance to connect and network with each other between lessons from the likes of Rozyne, Karlen, RAFI Executive Director Scott Marlow, and Regional Access General Manager Dana Stafford. We learned the difference between an LLC and an S Corp and played with land use modeling software to gauge the environmental impacts of farm and food hub planning — and that was just classroom time.
Our cohort spent two days on site visits to Intervale Food Hub, a nonprofit with an onsite incubator farm within the city limits of Burlington; Mad River Food Hub, which specializes in provising production space and storage for value-added producers; multimillion-dollar dsitributor Black River Produce and its new venture, Vermont Packinghouse, which processes sustainably raised local meats; and Farmers To You, a unique farm-to-consumer online store that brings Vermont farm products to customers in the Boston area.
The cohort has already worked through our first two online units on business planning, fundraising, and financial forecasting. I’ll be sharing a few more updates from my work in the program before it concludes in October. To learn more about the FHMCP, check out UVM’s website — and feel free to send me questions at email@example.com.
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
It’s no secret that winter is the hardest time of year to eat local. Frigid temperatures can negatively affect egg laying, cow’s milk production, and the harvesting of some herbs and greenhouse-grown produce . . . and blizzards and nor’easters can make it nearly impossible for farmers to get what they do have to market. (While Storm Juno may have underwhelmed us here in Philly, it delayed Farmstand deliveries from Blue Moon Acres, Common Market, LFFC, and the Gehman family, all of which were rescheduled for either later this week or early next week.)
But before you download that “countdown to spring” app on your smartphone and give up completely on the current season, let’s take a look at the motley crew of vegetables that actually thrive in colder temperatures. Did you know that Brassicas (cabbage, collards, kale, kohlrabi, radishes, rutabagas, turnips) and Umbelliferaes (carrots, celeriac, parsnips) develop sweeter flavors after a few good frosts? When temperatures plunge below the frost point, kale and other winter greens produce extra sugars to fortify their leaves, and hearty root vegetables convert their existing starches to sugars that function like natural anti-freeze. That’s why roasted parsnips are especially delicious in the colder months–those excess sugars make for even more caramelized goodness!
Lucky for you, this week the Farmstand is overflowing with these earthy-sweet winter gems. So come on down, support local farmers when they need it the most, and celebrate the unique flavors of the season!
Parsnips & Carrots
Just when we thought the winter doldrums would get the better of us, Primordia Farm arrived at the Farmstand on Tuesday with boxes of frilly maitake, bristly hedgehog, bright-stemmed yellow foot, and fanned oyster mushrooms. Located in Lenhartsville, PA, Primordia specializes in growing chemical-free shiitake, oyster, maitake, and lion’s mane mushrooms and foraging for the many other uncultivated varieties that grow wild throughout the region. Perfect for everything from simple sautés and roasted medleys to stir fries, braises, pizzas and more, these mushrooms will give your winter cooking rotation the shake-up it deserves. Get ‘em while they last!
Maitake Mushrooms (Chemical Free):
Also known as hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, maitakes grow in ruffled clusters, usually at the base of trees. Their texture is tender and semi-firm, and they have a fruity-earthy-spicy flavor that pairs well with other mushrooms, potatoes, bitter greens, garlic, shallots, thyme, eggs, cheese (especially Gruyère and Parmesan), beef and shellfish. Try them raw, roasted, grilled, baked, sautéed or stir fried for best results.
Oyster Mushrooms (Chemical Free):
Oyster mushrooms have scalloped, fan-like caps ranging in color from pale gray to brown. They are very fragile and delicate in texture, and their mild, sweet flavor is the perfect complement to seafood and white meats. Try them raw, fried, braised or stir fried for best results.
Hedgehog Mushrooms (Wild Foraged):
Hedgehogs are upright mushrooms with wide indented caps that conceal an underside of projecting bristle-like “teeth”. Like chanterelles, they have a hearty, meaty texture and a nutty-peppery-fruity flavor, delicious with butter, garlic, cream and fresh herbs. Try them sautéed, roasted, or pickled for best results.
Yellow Foot Mushrooms (Wild Foraged):
A variety of chanterelle, the Yellow Foot mushroom is petite and vase-shaped, with wavy ridges that run partially down the stem and vibrant coloring that ranges from rich yellow to burnt orange. They have thin skin, soft, moist flesh, and a delicate, fruity flavor. Try them sautéed with bacon, eggs, chicken, steak, or potatoes and plenty of fresh herbs (especially sage, rosemary, tarragon and thyme).
In case you need some more inspiration, here are a few recipes to show off these amazing ‘shrooms:
It’s almost officially summer, and the Farmstand really reflects the variety of produce we’re seeing as the cool season transitions into hot weather. While we’re stocked with all your local meat, dairy, and pantry needs, produce is really poppin’ this time of year. Here’s what’s fresh this week and what we’re looking forward to as the new season begins.
FRUIT: Delaware berries are done for the season, but we’re still stocking ORGANIC STRAWBERRIES in pints from Taproot Farm while they last. Don’t despair – IPM BLUEBERRIES from Blueberry Bill are slated to arrive on Friday! And we’re also hoping to get in a late-season variety of CHEMICAL FREE BLUEBERRIES from Paradise Hill Farm’s Pine Barrens location – we’ll keep you updated as the season progresses. If you’re tired of pies, cakes, scones, cobblers, crisps, and roly polys (as if), try making blueberry buckle, a free-form sort of cake-cobbler-crumble. How could that not be delicious?
Yet more fruit from New Jersey: David Siller is bringing us a mix of WILD FORAGED MULBERRIES in dark and white. These drupelet-studded fruits are super-sweet and juicy, but their season is short – don’t miss out! If you keep your eyes open (and notice some squishiness on the sidewalk), you can also find mulberries growing in many streets and yards around Philadelphia. Unfortunately, it’s not all good news in the fruit world: We’re hearing that this season’s CHERRY crop – both SWEET and SOUR – has been really poor, between deep-freezes this winter and hailstorms this spring. There’s a chance our orchards will have enough to supply us, but so far it’s not looking good. (That doesn’t mean you can’t get cherries anywhere – Three Springs Fruit Farm and Beechwood Orchards are hoping to have enough to supply their farmers’ markets, so you can catch them there. Watch this space for cherry season updates!
VEGGIES: Oasis at Bird-in-Hand brings us CHEMICAL-FREE GREEN BEANS, and IPM PICKLING CUCUMBERS from Buzby Farm are in season too! These petite, curved cucumbers – called knobs by growers when they’re at this size – are awesome for pickling, and they’re a great deal at $.99/lb. Paradise Organics has brought us FENNEL for slaws, salads, sautees, and grilling. Our friends at Zone 7 are bringing Brenmar Farms’ CHEMICAL FREE PATTYPAN SQUASH in a variety of sizes along with Formisano Farms’ crinkly, curly-leafed SAVOY CABBAGE – amazing in this super-simple, spicy slaw.
Emily Kohlhas, Fair Fooder
Lugging seeds, starts, jars, bags, loaves, wedges, you name it, the families and friends behind nearly 150 farms, artisan products, and sustainable businesses arrived bright and early at the PA Convention Center for the 3rd Annual Philly Farm & Food Fest this past Sunday. And that includes us at the Fair Food Farmstand!
Sandwiched between the handcrafted breads of Metropolitan Bakery on one side and the ayurvedic tonics of Down Dog Healing Café on the other, we featured some of our favorite local cheeses from Keswick Creamery and The Farm at Doe Run. Across the way, Christina Maser showcased her own line of natural, homemade bath and beauty products. Behind us, students from the UDel College of Agriculture and Natural Resources served up cones of the ice cream they produce with milk from the university’s herd of grass fed cows. Down the aisle the Fehon family sampled tastes of the BBQ sauce they make according to their father’s tried-and-true recipe, donating part of their proceeds to research the condition that keeps him from making the sauce himself.
Case in point, Philly Farm & Food Fest has a wonderful way of bringing to life the amazing diversity of our local food system – literally! We learned the stories behind some of our favorite farms and products, making meaningful connections that just aren’t possible through an online order form or on the shelves of a grocery store.
What else did we learn at Fest? Oh, you name it:
>> Oysters grown in the Delaware Bay don’t just taste amazing, they have ecological benefits too, restoring water quality and biodiversity to the bay.
>> You can grow rice in South Jersey! Blue Moon Acres is growing certified organic Arborio rice right across the border.
>> There’s such a thing as locally grown tea. Healcrest Urban Farm in Pittsburgh is growing and blending their own artisanal, healing teas!
>> It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of Spring Hills Farm’s maple syrup.
>> People love Keswick Creamery Wallaby! We sold out of this creamy, slightly citrusy cheese well before the day was out.
But the coolest thing we learned from Fest is that good food isn’t just a passing trend. It’s here to stay. In a panel discussion hosted by Clark Wolf featuring some of the region’s coolest advocates for real food, the conversation was decidedly upbeat. Doctors, bakers, chefs, entrepreneurs, professors, and enthusiastic eaters…we were all in agreement: it’s time to start eating real, eating well, and eating local. And, as the throngs of visitors at this celebration of food from seed to table confirmed, we’re ready to take on the challenge!
*Photo credit: Foobooz
It’s finally feeling like spring – and with the warm weather and rainy days come the new season’s goodies! Our forager friend David Siller has brought us the first precious RAMPS, and we expect another delivery of PATIENCE DOCK, NETTLES, and new FIDDLEHEAD FERNS by this weekend! Foraged food comes and goes out of season quickly, so hurry to the market to make sure you get your fill of these rare, once-a-year wild foods.
We’re also adding in big bunches of I.P.M. BROCCOLI RABE from Petrongolo Farms, and ORGANIC FRENCH BREAKFAST RADISHES from Landisdale Farm. And Blue Moon Acres brings us their first certified organic field crops, BABY SPINACH and BABY HEAD LETTUCE, on Friday. Make sure you save space for these spring goodies on your Easter table, along with new soft-ripened cheeses like Keswick Creamery’s FROSTY MORNING, King’s Kreamery’s RING OF FIRE, and Doe Run’s super-limited, Neufchatel-style bloomy rind, DRAGONFLY. Read more about local spring cheeses in this great piece by Madame Fromage!
For you Easter celebration, we’ve still got a few pastured, nitrate-free smoked HALF HAMS from Meadow Run Farm, as well as Griggstown DUCK BREAST, Brooke-Lee RABBIT, and Jamison Farm’s BONELESS LEG OF LAMB as your mouthwatering centerpiece. And of course, EGGS of all kinds – emu, goose, duck, brown and multicolored chicken, and maybe even some rare TURKEY EGGS.
But before Sunday’s celebration, I want to report back on some of the amazing new products I spotted at our own spring festival, the Philly Farm & Food Fest! Read on to see some of my favorite locally produced items from last week’s event – and be sure to give them a try if you see them at the Farmstand this season.
Our friends at Blue Moon Acres, growers of immaculate, organic microgreens and salad mixes, made me and other local food nerds gasp with the debut of a new product they’d been sitting on since last fall: ORGANIC ARBORIO RICE grown in their Pennington, NJ fields. For now it’s only available at their farm store there, but it should be available for wholesale to outlets like the Fair Food Farmstand after the Fall 2014 harvest. I’m going to use this batch in a ramp risotto.
Happy Cat Farm is in the tea game, too – I first tried their fragrant, healing HOLY BASIL tea blend when our Programs Coordinator, Annemarie, brought some to the office. I couldn’t leave Fest without a tin of my own, and I hope to get it on the Farmstand’s shelves this season.
Healcrest Urban Farm came all the way from Pittsburgh with their teas, tisanes, and frozen tea pops to be at Fest, and I’m so glad they did! Not only because I believe that when it comes to farm food and small, artisan products, Pennsylvania’s east and west coasts should work together more – but also because Healcrest grows its own culinary and medicinal herbs on a 1.5 acre urban farm. This COCONUT GREEN CHAI is one of the few blends that includes actual tea and makes for an excellent afternoon sip.
John and Sukey Jamison of Jamison Farm supply some of the country’s top chefs and hobnob with culinary legends – but the thing Sukey made sure I didn’t leave their table without was a pack of their new LAMB HOT DOGS. Made with pastured, grass-finished lamb, they’re a new twist on a summertime standby.
Farmer Donna Howard of Spotted Hill Farm makes something a little different with the milk from her herd of goats: A wide array of SOAPS in dozens of scents that include organic herbs and oils. I love the fresh scent and astringent qualities of tea tree oil, so I picked Tea Tree & Seaweed to try out. If you see me around and I smell extra-good, that’s probably why.
Small Valley Milling grows and mills organic grains near Williamsport, PA and supplies some other local mills, like Daisy Flour and Castle Valley Mill. This PURPLE CORNMEAL – from a GMO-free hybrid variety called Suntava – is packed with free-radical-fighting anthocyanins, even more than blueberries when compared cup for cup.