Posted March 26th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

I’m delighted to report that the first signs of green are popping up at the Farmstand! Just yesterday we received spring garlic from Landisdale Farm (Jonestown, PA), Valley Milkhouse‘s “Clover” (fromage blanc rolled in herbs) is back in the cheese case for the season, and jewel-toned emu eggs will arrive from Boody Mill Ranch (Sewel, NJ) by the weekend. We’re also eager for next week’s delivery of blue-green eggs from Meadow Run Farm (Lititz, PA) . . . plus whatever springy surprises our growers might have in store. (Though asparagus won’t hit the ‘stand until mid- to late April, we’re told that our daydreams of fresh leeks, scallions, and fiddleheads might soon become reality.)

Oh, and did I mention that we’ve got eggs? Just in time for the spring holidays, our dairy fridge is overstocked (eggsploding, if you will) with eggs of all shapes, sizes, and colors–from colossal emu and oblong goose, to duck and multicolored chicken. Of course, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already opened a new tab in your browser to research recipes for custard dessertsquichesfrittatas, and deviled eggs, but don’t forget to set some eggs aside for dying, too. Even the brown ones can be transformed into vibrant gemswith natural dyes made from beets, onion skins, cabbage, coffee, and tea.

For your cooking adventures, here’s a handy guide to the different kinds of eggs:

  • 1 duck egg = 1 extra-large chicken egg; great forbaking–higher fat content will help cakes rise higher and keep meringes more stable
  • 1 goose egg = about 2 large chicken eggs; higher yolk-to-white ratio makes for richer texture and flavor–great for homemade pasta and richer, denser desserts (if using goose eggs for lighter, fluffier cakes, you can offset the richness by tossing in a chicken egg white)
  • 1 emu egg = about 8 large chicken eggs; higher yolk-to-white ratio makes for even richer texture and flavor than that of goose eggs–best used insavory egg dishes (they will take about 2 hours to hard-boil)

**Are you excited yet to plan your spring holiday feast?The deadline for pre-ordering ham and brisket is quickly approaching (5pm on Sunday, 3/29), so make sure you don’t lose out on these delicious, naturally raised meats!**

Posted March 19th, 2015

I can’t think of a better time than early spring to sing the praises of heritage breed and naturally raised meats. For home cooks all over the country, this is the time for traditional feasts of ham and brisket and leg of lamb. And for farmers who raise their livestock the sustainable way–on pasture–this is prime birthing time, when new growth in fields and foraging areas ensures ample nutrients for the young.

Unlike commercial livestock that are confined to stalls and plumped up with hormones and cheap grain, heritage breeds and other sustainably raised livestock roam free with access to the diets their ancestors have been eating for centuries. “Heritage” refers to traditional livestock breeds that have not been genetically altered for commercial gain and display the same attributes as their breeds did hundreds–or even thousands–of years ago. These attributes, such as good maternal instincts and foraging abilities, cold (or heat) tolerance, and disease and parasite resistance, make heritage breeds much hardier than their commercial counterparts. And their natural diets of grass and bugs and other organic materials, paired with their active lifestyles, make them much more flavorful, too. Though it takes longer for these traditional breeds to reach their market weight, and raising them is therefore more expensive for farmers, the benefits of taste, texture, nutrients, and humane treatment far outweigh the cost.

Basically, what it comes down to is this: When you choose heritage breed and naturally raised meats, everybody wins. You get to experience some of the most flavorful, exceptionally marbled meat there is, the farmers get the money they need to keep raising animals the way nature intended, and that gives these heritage breeds a consistent purpose in our agricultural system. (This is a favorite subject of mine, if you haven’t already guessed.)

So this year, if you’re hosting an Easter or Passover dinner, or any other big gathering, may I suggest ordering a naturally raised brisket or heritage breed ham? Or why not swing by the Farmstand for legs of heritage breed lamb from Jamison Farm, and other naturally raised/heritage breed cuts and roasts from Sweet StemStrykerCountry TimePhilly Cow Share, and N.S. Troutman & Sons.

For more information about heritage breeds, click here or here or here.

And if you need some planning help, check out these menu ideas for Easter and Passover gatherings:

Posted March 12th, 2015

Fresh & New
Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)
 

St. Patty’s Day is less than a week away, and whether you’re dusting off your shamrock headband for the annual bar crawl or planning to stay as far from the hoopla as possible, I think we can all agree that a bowl of corned beef and cabbage sounds pretty good right about now. Traditional Irish cuisine is what comfort food dreams are made of. From lamb stew and braised brisket to shepherd’s pie and Cornish pasties, these dishes can warm our bodies and satisfy our hunger with only a few simple ingredients and flavorings.

The most famous mainstay of Irish cooking–and Irish history, for that matter–is the potato, but other hearty vegetables like cabbage, carrots, and onions share equal billing, typically paired with fish, lamb, pork, and beef. For dessert, cheeses, breads, and puddings are old classics, served, of course, with whiskey or beer.

Hungry yet? This week the Farmstand is brimming with all the beef, lamb, pork, potatoes, carrots, and onions your Irish (or not so Irish) heart desires! Check out the recipe roundup below for lots of traditional recipes to get you in the spirit of the holiday!

Dinner:

Dessert:

 

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Posted March 5th, 2015

Peggy Paul Casella, Resident Wordsmith (and Farmstand Associate)

 

Thanks to new deliveries of steaks and beef roasts from N.S. Troutman & Son’s and Philly Cow Share, our meat freezer is stocked and ready for the slow-cooked roasts, stews, and braises we all crave this time of year. Whether you’re a traditional pot roast aficionado or a culinary MacGyver, you’ll be blown away by the robust flavor of these humanely raised, grass-fed chuck roasts, rump roasts, rib eyes, and NY strip steaks. Plus, in anticipation of spring–and the big lamb delivery we’re expecting next week from Jamison Farm–we’re selling our remaining stock of Jamison bone-in legs of lamb at a 30% discount, while supplies last. (See below for a round-up of beef and lamb recipes!)

(photo from Food.com)

We also received Lion’s Mane and  White Trumpetmushrooms from Primordia Farm this week, and we’ve got loads of kale, tender lettuce, and micro greens to brighten these last winter meals. The new growing season will be here before you know it, and we can’t wait to see what our farmers have in store!

(photo from Epicurious)

Chuck Roast
Rump Roast
Bone-In Rib Eye Steak
NY Strip Steak
Bone-In Leg of Lamb

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Posted February 26th, 2015

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 info@brewersplate.com if you’re interested in volunteering at the event.) We can’t wait to see you next Sunday!

Posted February 19th, 2015

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

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds beef bones [marrow bones, short ribs, oxtail, hooves, knuckles, skull] or chicken bones/bone-in pieces [whole carcass, feet (nails snipped off), wings, legs]
  • 2 medium onions, halved and peeled
  • 4 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium celeriac roots (or 1 large), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 8 whole garlic cloves
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh parsley with stems (optional)
  • 8 whole peppercorns (optional)

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.

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Posted February 12th, 2015

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 ReAnimatorSquare 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.)

Posted February 5th, 2015

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.

caputo curds in tub

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.)

caputo curds in bowl caputo curds with water caputo curds stretch

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!

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Posted February 5th, 2015

Alex Jones, Farmstand Product Manager

Photo credit: Erica Housekeeper

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 alex@fairfoodphilly.org.

Posted January 29th, 2015

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!

Cabbage

Celeriac

Kale

Kohlrabi

Parsnips & Carrots

Radishes

 

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