Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sumac Lemonade

We've been making a little project here of eating fresh and local. What could be more fresh and local than finding wild food and making it delicious?
Wild sumac lemonade has been on the list for a while. Our bees definitely enjoyed the sumac flowers this spring. Now that they've gone to seed, it's our turn.

See the seed heads up there? Pinkish brown spikes.
Jason bringing some over. The limbs are very soft, so it's easy to bend them down and pick them.

Here's an up close look. We just filled a big bowl, poured cold water over the top, closed the lid, and let it steep for 2 hours.

Then strain the water off and sweeten to taste. We used sugar syrup. This was really tasty and refreshing! Yumm.

Fresh, summery, quencher.


It's raspberry season. We finally made it to the pick your own farm for the final days of summer berries and the beginning days of fall berries. Pick your own farms are HUGE in Connecticut.
We brought home 6 pounds of berries. Enough for jam and some to eat.
The berry juice stained my wedding ring. I think I could get behind a pink diamond.

Berries reserved for eating.

Boiling jam
This jam is so good that I could turn into Joey Tribiani and take a jar to the movies with a spoon!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

CSA week 1: my reintroduction to some very red meats

This is CSA week one: veggies--romaine lettuce, snap peas, beets, asparagus, dill; meats--1 lb ground pork, 2 pork chops, beef short ribs; cheese--Bloomsday (raw cow's milk, aged): bread--rye; anxiety--5 lbs of meat cuts that I've never in my life prepared and some I've never eaten.

The meats were frozen, so I made a toasted cheese and dill sandwich with a lettuce and dill salad.  Then I spent 2 days looking for recipes online.

First family meal: pork chops sprinkled with 1 tsp of lemon pepper each, pan fried in olive oil with conventional red onions. Beat greens, asparagus, and conventional mixed mushroom couscous. First family reactions: pork chops and couscous eaten by all, veggies eaten by adults, quote from husband, "I was really skeptical about this, but you have no idea how happy/excited I am to have you cooking and eating a pork chop. ... Part of me is really mad that you're eating my meat."

Everything I saw online said to cook the short ribs forever, either braising in the oven or crockpot. Jason wanted to use the dry rub we usually use for salmon and smoke them for hours on the Weber Smokey Joe. I said fine, wrap the beets in foil and put them on too. 3 hours later, the food came in: Perfect roasted beets, and inedible meat. It was impossible to separate the muscle from the fat. A couple ribs were wasted in our first attempt to eat them.

The next morning, I put the remaining ribs in the crockpot with a quart of chicken broth. After 4 hours, the meat was perfect. The broth became a rich, dark, hearty liquid that I made into French onion soup the next day with more toasted cheese sandwiches. I used more cheese and dill making omelets. The yogurt went into smoothies, the milk is always drunk effortlessly.

At the end of week 1, we have remaining:  1/2 of the cheese, lettuce, yogurt, and the dill; all of the peas; 2 cooked ribs, and the frozen pork. After week 2, we have remaining from week 1: part of the cheese. Wasted from week 1:  2 ribs we didn't know how to cook properly.  All the rest was [eventually] consumed.

Jason is mildly annoyed that my new meat adventures are culinary successes and his attempt didn't quite work out, but mostly he's happy to have new meats on the table. Next time lets hope we have universal success.

Community Supported Agriculture: A Summer Food Adventure

This summer, I threw in the towel. With 3 kids, 5 and under, I just accepted that I have absolutely no hope of even pretending to grow a garden. There's no tending a garden with an infant around. And even in the best years, we've struggled to get actual food from our garden. Year 1 was especially wet, I planted a lot of carrots and beats and other root veggies, and they drowned. Year 2, we raised ground level by 4 inches with soil, compost, and spent mushroom medium--we had tremendous success with greens that year. Filled an entire freezer with beat greens, but not much else. We tried alpaca manure (amazing stuff!), but that was the year the whole East Coast got late blight and the tomatoes and peppers shriveled away.  The next year, we tried planting the whole garden in an early pea crop. The plants were supposed to be 18 inches tall, and Jason convinced me trellises were unnecessary (OK, I agreed easily. I had an infant). The plants grew to 6 feet tall, the weather was cool, so the pea season was looong, and I picked peas wading through vines like sysiphus pushing his rock up the mountain. 
We've had moderate successes with 1 plant at a time: the beat year, the pea year, occasionally a good tomato week before the hornworm army, or a few zucchini before the stink bugs get them, but we have yet to have a really good diverse season of food. So this year, I'm buying someone else's good diverse season of food. I've joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). It's farm direct with an annual commitment to take whatever crops are successful.  I wanted to join one a decade ago when we first moved to Connecticut and lived in a tiny landless apartment, but I couldn't find one. Since then, several have turned up, compiled here by NOFA. The one that really caught my eye is Highland Art Farms.  Last year, Kelly Baker ran it as a meat CSA of pastured, heritage breed beef. Over the winter, she lost her land lease. So this season, she's set out to provide a Whole Diet CSA, aggregating the fruits of others' labors. There are fruits and veggies, meats, dairy, grain, and coffee. She gives the option to mix and match full or half shares. 
I signed up for 1/2 shares of produce and meat, a loaf of bread, 2 gallons of milk, a pint of Greek yogurt, and a cheese, picked up weekly. My commitment signs me up for a big adventure in eating. It's an adventure because I have no way of knowing what or how much will be in my box. It could be a variety of fruits and veggies, or it could be a big box of cabbage. For me, an even bigger adventure is the meat. I gave up red meats 16 years ago. No beef or pork, and only goat or lamb as a rare novelty. I quit eating it for environmental reasons. I learned it takes 100 lbs of grain to produce 1 lb of beef, I learned how unnatural a grain diet is for cattle and how it leads to new diseases like life threatening e. Coli, I learned about the deforestation of the Brazilian rainforests to graze cattle, I learned about overuse of antibiotics and synthetic hormones and other pharmaceuticals, I learned about the damage to the deserts grazing causes, I learned about the constructed seas of hog sewage, and I decided it was time to opt out. I don't want to be a consumer and therefore a contributor to all of that.
So I gave up red meats on the spot and spent about half that time as a vegetarian.  I've been a vegetarian for years at a time, and then a trip to the coast would start me eating fish; Or the difficulty of getting good vegetarian options from my corporate American workplace would drive me to eat chicken.  Since I've been either pregnant or nursing for most of the last 6 years, I've been craving protein. The whole diet CSA offers meats raised in a holistic way, on pasture without pharmaceuticals, so I'm giving it a try. I know, 20 weeks is a helluva try, but I think I'm up for it.