Someone Else's Farm

June 04, 2011

To Renew, or Not to Renew?

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , — Melissa @ 15:01 PM

Today, I got an e-mail from the CSA farm, letting us know that the signup deadline for this year’s CSA is next Wednesday. The e-mail specifically requested that those who were not renewing give their reasons. Below is what I sent them:

We will not be signing up for the CSA this year. This was not an easy decision for us. Every week, we got a collection of produce, mostly of very high quality. In particular, the radishes we got early in the season were superb. Nonetheless, we had issues.
One issue we faced was the inability to stop our share for a week or two when we went on vacation. Our family schedule revolves around the academic calendar: we take most of our vacations during the summer, when my husband is not teaching and we can find a week or two free of meetings and conferences. Thus, we travel during the CSA season. Because we could not put a hold on our share, we’d have to find a neighbor who wanted our share for the weeks we were gone. And more than once we had to hurry back from somewhere in order to make sure we got our produce before the drop point closed for the night. The ability to cancel our share ahead of time, for a week or two when we knew we’d be away, would have made a tremendous difference to our stress level.

Another issue we faced was that of quantity and timing. We are a family of two. The amount of produce we’d get each week was such that we had more vegetables than we were capable of eating before the next pickup. Unfortunately, some of what we’d get would not keep for more than a couple of days. This meant that we’d either have to wait to meal-plan for the week until we picked up our produce and made sure that what we got matched the list in the newsletter, or we’d have to make sure we blanched and froze, or otherwise preserved, the more fragile items each week so that they wouldn’t go bad before we got to them. About halfway into the summer, it seemed like we had a lifetime supply of kale in the freezer. Perhaps we would have been better off with a twice-weekly pickup, to ease the time factor, but I recognize this isn’t practical for the farm. Or maybe it would have been better if we could have split our share with another family, to only get half as much produce each week, or to only get our part of the share every other week.

We also felt somewhat guilty each week walking through our community’s farmer’s market after picking up our share, and realizing that we’d have to tell some of our other favorite farmers that we weren’t going to buy anything that week. This is our eighth summer here, and over the years we’ve gotten to know the vendors at the market, and figure out where we like to get corn, or who has the good tomatoes, or which stand has our favorite peaches. But with the produce from the share, we’d realize that because we had a lot of greens, we probably wouldn’t need any corn that week; the radishes we got in our share dictated a meal or two which precluded eating the fresh shelling beans which show up briefly early each summer, so we couldn’t buy any beans. I hated to have to walk on by, knowing that anything we bought would mean having more food in the house than we could possibly eat. I don’t think we bought a single peach last summer, because we had already paid for too much other stuff in the share. While we strongly believe in buying local food, we also believe in supporting as many farmers as we can, and the CSA made it difficult for us to do that last year.

Which brings up probably the biggest point: variety, or varieties. I understand that CSAs around the world like to include kale and other greens, probably because they are easy to grow and take up lots of space in a delivery box or tote so that each week’s share looks bountiful rather than skimpy. While I enjoy eating greens once in a while, and have many different preparations from many different cuisines around the world, after the first couple of months I felt like we had greens coming out our ears, and got to the point where I wouldn’t even bring the greens from our share home, but instead gave them away or donated them to the soup kitchen. And after a while, we even got sick of radishes. We are both very good and creative cooks, but over last summer, we both realized that we prefer to plan our meals around what we feel like cooking, not necessarily around what we got in the share this week and needs to be used in the next two days before it goes bad.

Thus, we cannot sign up for the CSA this year in good faith. While we appreciate that one is available, we tried it last year and discovered that it just doesn’t work for our family.

Wishing you a good growing season,
(sig)

So, that’s it. We’re looking forward to this year’s market season, and being able to go back to our favorites. We may even buy the occasional bunch of kale from the CSA’s stand at the market. But in a way, the lack of commitment feels like a relief, to know that I won’t have to deal with a seemingly never-ending parade of greens unless I specifically want to.

October 07, 2010

Week 16 List

Filed under: pre-pickup — Tags: , — Melissa @ 09:04 AM

Here’s what we’re supposed to get this afternoon:

  • Cortland apple
  • Arugula
  • Purple eggplant
  • Red potatoes
  • Cherry Belle radish
  • Buttercup squash
  • Carnival squash
  • Tatsoi
  • Cherry tomato

I really hope the prediction about eggplant is correct. We haven’t gotten any all summer, and it’s feeling as though summer is over.

October 03, 2010

How We Used Our Chickens

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , — Melissa @ 15:45 PM

As I posted earlier, we got two chickens. We picked them up last Saturday, 25 September. That night, we roasted one, naked except for a lemon and an onion tucked inside and some salt and pepper and a smear of butter outside. I couldn’t take any pictures before, because my hands were a mess, but here’s what it looked like when it came out of the oven:

Whole Roasted Chicken

I don’t usually truss birds, but this one was a little differently shaped than a supermarket bird. It insisted on lying on its back with its legs pointing straight up at the ceiling. So I tied the legs together, to help bring them down a smidge and make the bird fit into the oven better. I followed Tony Bourdain’s roasting temperature guidelines: white wine to cover the bottom of the roasting pan, about half an hour at 375 degrees F, and then another half hour at 425 or until done. I didn’t baste. But alongside the bird, I did cook one of the winter squashes, which I halved, scooped out the seeds from, and put cut-side down in a glass baking dish with a little water in the bottom. And when I turned the temperature up, I slid in a tray of the little red potatoes, which I’d cut into wedges and tossed with a bit of olive oil and seasoned salt.

Casey carved the chicken, because he usually does a better job than I do:

Cut up chicken

We decided that the flavor was terrific, but we weren’t so sure about the texture, particularly in the leg and thigh meat, which were tougher than we were expecting.

Of course, we saved the carcass!

Chicken carcass

The next day was Casey’s turn to do something with a chicken. He cut it into pieces, again saved carcass and wings, and put the breasts and leg quarters into the Dutch oven to brown.

Chicken parts browning in the dutch oven

And then he flipped them over to brown the other side.

Fully browned chicken parts in dutch oven

And from there, he went on to follow Julia Child’s recipe and turn out a fabulous coq au vin. The vin in question was actually more properly a viño, specifically a Spanish Jumilla. It might not have been classic Julia wine, but it worked nicely in this dish.

bowl of coq au vin. yum.

We decided that braising was a more appropriate use of these chickens, as the texture of the meat was easier to appreciate than it was in the roasted bird. About the only thing we’d do differently next time is remove the skin from the chicken before serving, as neither of us is a fan of flabby wet-cooked chicken skin. (We both think it needs to stay on the bird during the braising, as the browning adds too much flavor to lose from the pot that early.) We had leftovers, which we stripped the skin from before storing. We ate the leftovers the next day over cooked egg noodles, and they were just as good on the first day.

And then, Chicken, Act III:

The night we ate the original coq au vin, we cooked up both carcasses and all the wings into stock. Two nights later (the night after the coq leftovers), we had chicken soup for dinner. I browned some carrots, celery, and onions in a soup pot. I then added the carcass stock, the leftover roast chicken meat (cut into bite-size pieces), and the very few leftover roast potato pieces (also cut down smaller). It came up to a boil, and was ready to eat. I had just enough left over for the next day’s lunch. And that was the end of our two birds.

But wait, there’s more!

When I found out that whole birds, with feet that they walked around on, would be processed, I put in a request for chicken feet. I’ve enjoyed them braised in Chinese restaurants, but Casey’s not as fond of them as I am. Nonetheless, I like to include a couple of feet when I make stock, especially from a roasted chicken carcass. (Roasted chicken carcass stock always seems a little thin in body to me, probably because there’s no gelatin left in the bones.) And I came home with five pounds of chicken feet. I rinsed them in cold water, and packed them in baggies in pairs, and put them in the freezer. I wound up with 25 baggies of chicken feet. I thought about blanching them all, and trimming the center and chopping off the claws, but decided to wait and do that when I use each pair. That all happened the same night we roasted the first chicken, and I wanted to get the feet out of the way before starting to deal with roasting prep. I think when I use them, I’ll do so without telling Casey. Don’t tell him, please.

Catching Up

In other words: Week 13, Week 14, and Week 15 List, Suggestions, Haul, and What We Did With Some Of Our Good Stuff.

You’ve already seen the list and suggestions for Week 13. Here’s what we got, in the rain:

Broccoli, carrots, tomatillos, apples, tomatoes

Lemon basil, tomatoes, grape tomatoes

  • Macintosh Apples: half a dozen.
  • Lemon Basil: a big bunch.
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley: a bunch.
  • Baby Carrots: a baggie, the real thing, little tiny carrots that are that size and not cut down from big ones!
  • Cherry Belle and Easter Egg Radish: nope, although we weren’t sure at first.
  • Early Hakurei Turnips: a bunch. They look like little white radishes, which is why we were so confused.
  • Patty Pan, Zucchini, or Yellow Crook Neck Squash: two zucchini.
  • Tomatillos: a bagful.
  • Heirloom Tomatoes: four biggish ones.
  • Sungold Cherry Tomatoes: Not sungolds, but a pint of red grape tomatoes.

This came just as work started to get crazy for me. Probably the most notable thing we did with the produce from this week was a pasta dish that Casey concocted, with a sauce of tomatoes, zucchini, and parsley and lemon basil.

Week 14’s list, and what I picked up on 23 September:

Peppers, turnips, tomatoes, apples, greens, squash

apples, turnips, greens

  • Macintosh Apples: four apples.
  • Green Italian Basil: I wish, but no.
  • Green Kale: a big bunch. Of course.
  • Red Potatoes: a net bag full of spuds a little larger than salt-size.
  • Acorn Squash: three of the tiniest I’ve ever seen.
  • Patty Pan Summer Squash: no.
  • Heirloom Tomatoes: a bunch of smallish plum-shaped tomatoes, two large red bashed-up tomatoes that were unsalvageable, and a green zebra or something similar.

And also a bunch of peppers, some jalapenos and some sweet orange and pale yellow varieties. And for good measure, two batches of leeks from another farmer’s market vendor. Leeks grow in dirt, in case you wondered.

The newsletter suggested this week that we make kale with apples and mustard, sauteed baby patty pan squash with basil and feta, and linguini with basil, kale, and tomatoes. We did none of these. Casey concocted another fresh tomato sauce for pasta, which did not have kale in it but did contain peppers and (shhh!) an anchovy, which worked very well.

The Macs from these last two weeks, I made into apple butter. I’m not a fan of mushy apples, and I couldn’t think of anything else to do with these but they were taking up more fridge space than I could afford to give them. So I rinsed and stemmed them all, cut them into quarters, tossed them into a pot with a splash of water and the juice from a leftover lemon half, and let them cook until they were mush. (It didn’t take long.) I then ran the cooked apples through the food mill to get rid of the skins and seeds. If I’d wanted applesauce, I would have stopped here, but then I would have had to put it into jars and process them right then and there, and I probably wouldn’t have finished that until way too late at night. So instead, I put the applesauce in the slow cooker (there was about 3 quarts, based on the markings of the bowl I ran the food mil into), added sugar (both brown and white), cinnamon, nutmeg, and a couple of whole cloves until it tasted defiantly sweet and spicy, cocked the lid of the slow cooker just slightly ajar, and let it cook on low overnight, stirring whenever I thought of it. By morning, the applesauce had cooked down quite a bit and turned brown, and there was a rather thick skin on top. I stirred the skin back in, and let it cook another couple of hours. (The skin broke down and cooked in until I couldn’t detect any pieces of it. The cloves must’ve broken down, because I couldn’t find them.) During the last bit of cooking time, I sterilized four half-pint jars and simmered the lids to match. I had enough apple butter to fill the four jars plus a little more to eat on waffles right then and there. I processed the apple butter-filled jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. All four jars sealed, so we’ll have apple butter for the winter.

And finally, Week 15, the most recent pickup, again in a drenching rain:

garlic, greens, squashes galore, apples, peppers, turnips, radishes

greens, greens, garlic, peppers, squashes, apples

  • Cortland Apples: four.
  • Arugula: a bunch.
  • Collard Greens or Brussel Sprout Greens: a bunch of collards, I think.
  • Garlic: four heads.
  • Green Peppers: three.
  • Hot Hungarian Wax Peppers: three, that didn’t taste very hot.
  • Jalapeno Peppers: a handful of tiny ones. I hope that means they have some heat in them.
  • Cherry Belle Radish: a bunch.
  • Hakurei Turnips: a bunch.
  • Delicata Squash or Spaghetti Squash: we got three pale green pattypan squashes and another of what looks like the carnival squash from Week 12. Nothing looked like either delicata or spaghetti squash.

The newsletter noted that they grow lots of greens because “we need them and most folks love them.” As I’ve said before, we enjoy greens, but not in the quantities we’ve been getting them. Maybe it would be better if we had a bigger household. But they did give us a suggestion for traditional southern-style collard greens with a ham hock or smoked turkey leg, or cooked in soup, and an idea for using collards (and sweet peppers and cabbage and a few other things) raw as a wrapper with julienne-cut vegetables and a nut pesto inside. And the turnips can go into miso soup. I could go for that, and it’s definitely turning into soup season.

We have a baguette and both Brie and Vermont Butter & Cheese Company Cultured Butter, to go with the radishes. For the turnips, I’m thinking a Korean-style pickle, to eat with dol sot bi bim bop this winter. All the tomatillos and many of the jalapenos will probably become mole verde, which will go in the freezer for later.

September 25, 2010

Chickens

Filed under: pickup — Tags: — Melissa @ 17:01 PM

I just want to say that I am very glad there are farmers who grow and slaughter chickens so I can eat them. I greatly appreciate that they do the dirty work so I don’t have to.

September 24, 2010

I’m still here!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Melissa @ 16:42 PM

I haven’t gone anywhere, except for deep in the world of work. But I have two weeks of haul to show you, and tomorrow we get to pick up a couple of chickens that we ordered! So, look for a complete rundown in a few days, when I have time to surface and breathe again. But until then, it’s back to work for me!

September 16, 2010

Week 13: list and suggestions

Filed under: pre-pickup — Tags: , , — Melissa @ 15:25 PM

It’s raining. I really hope it dries up before we go downtown tonight, to pick up this week’s share! We’re supposed to get:

  • Macintosh Apples (Knapp Farm) (probably my least-favorite apple variety, but oh well.)
  • Lemon Basil
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
  • Baby Carrots
  • Cherry Belle and Easter egg Radish
  • Early Hakurei Turnips
  • Patty Pan, Zucchini, or Yellow Crook Neck Squash
  • Tomatillos
  • Heirloom Tomatoes
  • Sungold Cherry Tomatoes

Loving the herbs on the list. If we get the basil and the tomatoes, I may need to get some fresh mozzarella for salad in the near future. And if we get parsley, I can add some to the salad that went with yesterday’s mujadarah!

Hakurei turnips are one that I’ve not heard of before. Fortunately, we got suggestions for using them, and their greens in the newsletter, which says, “Hakurei turnips are mild in flavor and hold incredibly well in stews and soups…. Hakurei turnips are milder and sweeter than purple top turnips, and are best eaten raw. They taste a little bit like very mild horseradish.” The turnip recipe suggestions  are for a gratin and a chicken salad. The greens recipe is an Asian-style treatment with citrus. And as far as non-turnip recipes go, we got one for a summer squash, tomato, and basil risotto.

Finally, there was a note in the newsletter that chickens will be available soon. I am eager to try their chickens. The first one, we’ll simply season and roast, so we can really taste it. (The carcass will then become soup!) After that, we’ll figure out what to do with others we get. We’re also contemplating the turkeys that will be available come holiday time.

New Recipes

Filed under: what we did — Tags: , , , , — Melissa @ 15:15 PM

We made some new dishes this week with our CSA share. We even made two recipes for the same little squash!

The squash started out in a recipe from the most recent issue of Fine Cooking, for a braised acorn squash with rosemary. The squash was the little carnival or sweet dumpling or whatever it was, and the rosemary came from the next-door neighbor’s bush. Casey made it, we tasted it, and it was pretty much meh. We aren’t sure whether this particular squash variety doesn’t have a huge potent flavor to begin with, or if it wasn’t cooked as much as it should have been, but for whatever reason it didn’t float our boat. Instead, we put the wedges of (par-)cooked squash in the fridge for later, and went out for dinner that night.

A couple of days later, it was time to do something with the squash. I cut it off the rind, and cubed it. And then I cooked a pound of whole-grain shells (Barilla brand), mixed them and the squash cubes together with a cheese sauce that I zinged up with plenty of cayenne, and baked up a mac and cheese with squash. This worked well. My mac and cheese recipe is mostly from Cook’s Illustrated, but I never bother with a crumb topping. In this case, I topped the pan with caramelized onions, which worked really well with the dish. And although I’m not generally a fan of most whole-grain pasta, it worked fine in this dish.

We also found something new to do with mustard greens! This recipe came from the December 2000 issue of Fine Cooking (and I apologize for the locked link; I couldn’t find the recipe elsewhere.

Noodle soup

We used a package of sirloin strips that we’d found marked down at Wegman’s that morning as the meat, some somen noodles from the Asian market in Syracuse, and the mustard greens. We used some boxed chicken broth as the base for the soup, but next time we might try using some of the Thai broth to further Asianify the flavors with no extra effort on our part. We also think this would probably do well in a shabu-shabu type treatment with thin strips of beef, or possibly like some kinds of pho where very thin slices of raw meat are placed in a soup bowl and very hot broth is poured on top. Either variation would be a fun dish for the right kind of company!

And finally, last night I made mujadarah (or megadarrah, or whatever name you want to call it). We first had this dish at the Aladdin’s restaurant in Hudson, OH, with our friends Dan and Emmy. I followed Claudia Roden’s recipe, which I have in both her New Book of Middle Eastern Food and her Book of Jewish Food, and is also available on line. It’s basically lentils and rice, with lots and lots of caramelized onions. I used green French lentils, because I like the way they hold their shape when they’re cooked, and basmati rice, because I love the flavor and texture and it’s what I keep on hand. And caramelized onions are always good. Aladdin’s serves their mujadarah with a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, green onion, and parsley, with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. I did the same, except for the parsley because I didn’t have any and I forgot to get some when I went shopping. I even went so far as to get really good yogurt…which I then forgot about in the fridge. I guess that means we have it to eat with the leftovers this weekend. Oops.

September 11, 2010

Week 12 Haul

Filed under: pickup — Tags: , , , , , , , — Melissa @ 08:23 AM

It rained on Thursday night. Here’s what I picked up, compared to the list:

  • Rainbow Chard: no. I’m not complaining.
  • Mizuna: I don’t think so?
  • Mustard Greens: Maybe. We got some kind of cooking green, but without a label I can’t tell exactly what it is.
  • Yellow Onions: yes, a double handful of little ones.
  • Sweet Green Peppers: 2
  • Hot Pepper Mix (Frying, Hungarian Hot Wax, Jalapeno): a few jalapenos and some bigger yellowish-green ones
  • Cherry Belle Radish: nope
  • Carnival Squash: 1, which looks exactly like last week’s squash.
  • Tomatillos: yes, about like last week.
  • Heirloom Tomatoes: yes, much less beat-up than last week, both plum and round shapes.
  • And also, a box of orange cherry tomatoes, and a few apples.

September 08, 2010

Week 12: List and Suggestions

Filed under: pre-pickup — Tags: , , — Melissa @ 16:53 PM

We got a lengthy newsletter this week. First, the best guess list of what we’ll pick up tomorrow:

  • Rainbow Chard
  • Mizuna
  • Mustard Greens (Oy! Three kinds of greens again?)
  • Yellow Onions
  • Sweet Green Peppers
  • Hot Pepper Mix (Frying, Hungarian Hot Wax, Jalapeno)
  • Cherry Belle Radish
  • Carnival Squash (maybe this is what we got this week?)
  • Tomatillos
  • Heirloom Tomatoes

The newsletter also contains a number of notes of interest.

One note is that their greens are doing well. I’m really not sure how I feel about this. I understand that big batches of greens help to “bulk out” our shares, and make it look like we’re getting lots of stuff each week. However, I would happily go with a smaller amount of stuff if it meant getting less of the dreaded greens. I understand that they’re very healthy, and I understand that they grow well. I almost wish I still had pet guinea pigs, who would go wild over such things. But if there were one vegetable type that I were doomed to eat in vast quantities each and every week, greens wouldn’t be it. Apparently most of Oswego feels the same way: over the last few weeks, as we’ve walked up and down the farmer’s market on Thursdays, we’ve taken note of the number of vendors who sell greens. And they must not be big sellers here, as there’s only one vendor that typically has them—Grindstone Farm, one and the same with the CSA. So either nobody else is growing them, or everyone has discovered that they just don’t go here so there’s no sense in bringing many of them. I could certainly deal with getting a bunch or two, every other week or so. I think between what we’ve stored in the freezer and what we’re still going to get, I’m greened out for at least the next year.

Another note is that there are more potatoes to come. I like potatoes.

Looks like we’re starting in with the second crop of some vegetables. We’re anticipating more beans when they’re ready. And I hope the radishes come; my mother-in-law will be visiting and I want to make her a radish sandwich.

I’m waiting to see the prices on turkeys and chickens. We opted not to reserve a hog this year, as we don’t have enough freezer room. If we had, I’d happily give our greens to our hog.

And finally, there was a note about the quality of the tomatoes, as I noticed last week. The issue they face is a common one: if they let them ripen all the way before picking them, they get beaten up on their way here, and don’t last more than a day or so. Back in the days when my family had a garden, we’d pick the tomatoes as they ripened (if the groundhogs didn’t get to them first) and use them almost immediately. I guess this is one of the issues when tomatoes have to travel even a few miles, and when they’re delivered only once a week. Too bad it’s not practical to have a three-times-weekly CSA delivery, to help spread out some of the produce.

We got recipe suggestions this week. One is an Asian-inspired recipe for mizuna with chicken or tofu. It looks like a pretty standard stir-fry: The protein is velveted and set aside, the vegetables get stir-fried, a sauce gets added, and the protein is returned to the wok at the very end.

There’s a recipe for a cooked salsa verde. It, too, looks pretty standard. I prefer to use homemade cooked salsas as a sauce for other cooked things, and make raw salsas to eat with chips. This one could work nicely on grilled meats.

We got a fish recipe this week, for tequila-marinated mahi mahi with avocado-tomatillo sauce and grilled tomatoes. I was pleased to see that U.S.-caught mahi mahi is either a “best choice” or a “good alternative” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

I was also pleased to see a mustard green recipe, which would probably work with other greens as well. This one looks fairly standard, braised with bacon and shallots. Boiled egg and cranberries are suggested as a non-pork substitute. I’ll take the bacon, although I could see where cranberries might be nice, sort of like a suggestion of the classic spinach with raisins and pine nuts. I’ll take dried cranberries over raisins any day.

And finally, a vegan recipe for winter squash/garlic ravioli. (I guess you can get pasta sheets that are made without eggs around here?) I could totally see doing this when I’m in the mood to make something fiddly, but I’d use egg pasta, and real butter instead of vegan spread.

We’ve gotten lots of rain lately. I hope the beans appreciate it.

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