Archive | Summer Harvest 2012

lastBite

LAST BITE SUMMER HARVEST 2012

LAST BITE

WHAT’S YOUR ‘LOCAL’?

Jack and Anne Lazor with Anne’s faithful companion and herder dog Rosie (Photo by Shawn Henry)
Jack and Anne Lazor with Anne’s faithful
companion and herder dog Rosie

(Photo by Shawn Henry)

W

hen we bought our farm here on the Canadian border back in 1976, we were a couple of young homesteaders who wanted to grow all of our own food for ourselves and our livestock. We grew our first crop of wheat for bread flour in 1977 and were astonished that our local food coop was more interested in sourcing Whitmer wheat from Montana than flour produced in its back yard.

However, this notion that food from away was better (and cheaper) wasn’t too upsetting. We persisted in our quest over the years, learning how to make dairy products on our wood cook stove and save our own cereal grain seeds. We started delivering yogurt, cottage cheese, butter and raw milk to our neighbors in 1979. We were very pleasantly surprised that our community (especially older farm families) was more than willing to buy what we had to offer. As a matter of fact, our old time native Vermonter neighbors were our best customers.

This initial good reception and our early success reaffirmed our will to become producers of local food for local people long before it was fashionable. We received a milk handler’s license in 1984 from the Vermont Department of Agriculture, which allowed us to legally put our dairy products on store shelves.

Over the past 35 years we have witnessed a steady progression towards a truly local food economy. Farmers markets have proliferated along with a steady increase of vegetable producers, and dairy farms that have begun to process their own milk into delicious cheeses and other products. The intensity of this movement of farmers and eaters has increased in the past five years to the point where I can say that we live in paradise here in Vermont.

People want to eat the corn meal, oat groats, spelt and wheat flour and the flax oil that we process here at our farm. There is also a ready market for the kefir and buttermilk that we now produce in our small dairy plant. We are quite happy to be more self-sufficient than ever and there seems to be a ready market for whatever we can produce.

The true beauty of the local food movement that has flourished in our state lies in the fact that opportunities exist for everyone who wants to grow and market good food. Another generation of young farmers is going back to the land to nourish themselves and their fellow citizens. Beginning farmers needn’t worry about markets as much as we did all those years ago. The will to eat locally and pay a fair price for food is there even the most rural remote parts of the state, like the Northeast Kingdom where we live.

So, let’s put our collective creativity together as eaters and farmers, enjoy this new reality and continue to make it happen. I am so overjoyed our society has embraced eating close to home.

—Jack Lazor

Butterworks Farm
421 Trumpass Rd.
Westfield, VT
802-744-6855
Butterworksfarm.com
Butterworks Farm
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smallStep

SMALL STEP FARM

SMALL STEP FARM

On the Road to Recovery

BY NICOLE L’HUILLIER FENTON
PHOTOS BY BRE NT HAREWYN

Jillian Abraham on her tractor
Jillian Abraham on her tractor

On a sunny Sunday morning in May, Abraham wanted to turn the ugly memory of Tropical Storm Irene into something inspirational, functional and beautiful.

N

early a dozen volunteers crowded around 27-year-old Jillian Abraham to get their assignments for their work-trade day. They stood in front of a two-acre field littered with large rocks and stones that the Mad River carried with it when it flooded its banks and obliterated Small Step Farm last August. On a sunny Sunday morning in May, Abraham wanted to turn the ugly memory of Tropical Storm Irene into something inspirational, functional and beautiful.

“Today, you’ll help me to create perennial and herb rock gardens with the rocks left all over the fields from the flooding,” Abraham cheerfully explained to the group. Her unbridled enthusiasm is part of what keeps volunteers and customers coming back to support Abraham and her small farm.

In only her second year farming, Abraham lost everything when Tropical Storm Irene came crashing down on Waitsfield and the land that she leases from Claudia Becker and Eugene Jarecki just south of town on Route 100. The efforts to bunker down the greenhouses, store away equipment and pick up any debris that could have been blown around did nothing to protect against the powerful river that weaves its way along the property lines. Small Step Farm didn’t stand a chance.

“My first reaction when I saw all of the devastation was ‘Well, the season’s over. There goes everything,’” said Abraham. Looking out over her farm she not only saw all of her hard work and business destroyed but also watched as over 70 community volunteers spread out over the fields to begin cleaning up the mess. “I took a moment to take it all in,” she recalled. “All of my material was gone, my equipment was ruined and the crops destroyed; I was so overwhelmed by the possibility of starting over and the amount of work that it would take to rebuild. Yet, there were all of these people who’d come to help. I think the support of the community after the storm was almost as astounding as the storm itself.”

Meghan Myrick was the volunteer coordinator at the Mad River Valley Flood Relief headquarters for two weeks following the storm. She went out to Small Step Farm and saw the damage firsthand. “We needed a lot of hands—people who could use wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes, and who could drive tractors. We told folks who wanted to help that they needed to bring boots and gloves because it was a mess,” said Myrick.

scenes from Small Step Farm

The Mad River Valley Flood recovery team quickly created a Facebook page where clean up events were posted and updated daily. The majority of the volunteer mobilization took place through social networking. “People would go to the website and then they would show up at the location, do whatever was asked of them and needed to get done.” Myrick said that, oftentimes, there wasn’t a project manager or point person at the locations so that role fell to a volunteer who stepped forward or to the owner of the property.

That’s exactly how Abraham remembers it. Derrick Martens, a local businessman from Brothers Building in Waitsfield, naturally stepped into a supervisory role directing the team of volunteers and coordinating the projects at her farm.

“When I got there the morning after the storm, there were trees everywhere—in the yards and fields—and it became apparent that step one was to start organizing the mess and working from there to get rid of it,” said Martens. “I was just walking around looking at the damage and people just kept showing up, asking what they could do to help.” Abraham continues to receive help from community members and one volunteer, Ned Kelly, who is active in her farm and seems hell bent on seeing her succeed. “I think I’m like a daughter to him.”

Today Abraham is not only grateful for all of the community support but also hopeful. When we met at the farm in the early spring, she was busy cross referencing her seed map with the layout plan for the fields. The warm, almost steamy, heated greenhouse held sprouted seedlings of just about every type of vegetable she grows. Kale, chard, fennel, herbs, heirloom tomatoes, onions, potatoes, several varieties of lettuce, carrots, beets, cabbage, edible flowers and list goes on. The next step is a process called hardening-off the seedlings, in which the young plants are moved out of the warmth of the heated greenhouse into an unheated greenhouse to get them ready for planting. It’s a smart move that Abraham learned as a farmer apprentice since it can be quite shocking for the plants to go directly from warm potting soil into the cool, dry ground. The more that she can do to toughen up the plants the better their chance for survival.

 

Tilling the soil.

When the farm was in full operation before the storm hit, Abraham sold primarily to the local restaurants and grocery stores in the Valley and supplemented the wholesale business with a few stints at area farmers markets. “I have worked in restaurants since I was about 14, so I understand and speak the chefs’ language. I think this actually gives me an advantage because not all farmers understand the restaurant business or what chefs need.”

When she started farming in 2010, Abraham proved that her business sense was on target and that the land could grow food. She saw that the demand was there and she was able to deliver. It was a promising start for a new business. Year two of her small operation started out great. She felt like she was getting into her groove and really understood how to make the farm work. That was until Irene came along.

“I discovered a lot about myself,” Abraham says. “If you are going to be a farmer, you have to be OK with the fact that sometimes you don’t have the option to stop working. You have to keep going, especially since the season is so short in Vermont. When everything is growing, I have to be full-throttle all the time. I figured out that I really do enjoy that.”

 

scenes from Small Step Farm

Unfortunately, several of the larger accounts that made up a good portion of her business aren’t buying this year since they, too, were destroyed by flooding. The popular Green Cup Café and the 1824 House in Waitsfield and the Alchemist in Waterbury have either closed their doors or are still working to reinvent themselves in another way. Abraham is forging a relationship with the owners of the Prohibition Pig, which replaced the infamous Alchemist and she plans to attend the Waitsfield Farmers Market to generate more income.

Plus the farm crew is shifting a bit this year. In addition to an expanded work-trade program, Abraham’s fiancé, Asa Twombly, will be more instrumental in the farm operation after Abraham gives birth to her first child in August. And Alison Lavit has joined as a co-farmer. Even as Abraham gives a warm smile and … Read More

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rising

RISING AGAIN

RISING AGAIN

Reinvention and renewal where
Green Cup Café once stood

BY EMILY MCKENNA
PHOTOS BY BRENT HAREWYN

scenes from Green Cup Cafe

scenes from Green Cup Cafe

“W

as it Sunday or Monday?” I was surprised to hear Jason Gulisano, the chef and owner of the Green Cup, ask when I sat down with him in April. I first heard about the Green Cup Café about a year ago. I was living in Brooklyn, New York, at the time, and my husband and I decided to move to Vermont. Sadly, I never got to the beloved eatery in Waitsfield. I moved on Saturday, September 30, almost one month to the day after Tropical Storm Irene had hit, destroying the café and much of the state, including many farms, restaurants and local businesses.

Jason recounted the events of that day—August 28, a Sunday— with little embellishment: The Green Cup was open for lunch service. It was raining and Jason knew that the Mad River had started to rise. Word trickled in that other businesses in town were closing. By 11:15 am, Jason realized “we were screwed.” Nevertheless, he kept the café open for another hour. By 1pm, he and his friend, Gamal Buhaina, who was helping at the café that day, decided to close.

When Jason went outside, he saw the local fire department helping his mother and her dogs out of her apartment. By the end of the day, the floodwaters carried the building next door, Birke Photography, into the side of the Green Cup. Then, the foundation caved in and the alleyway between his building and the one next door became a massive water vortex. Jason says that it sounded like being inside the ocean.

By now, the extent of the damage caused by Irene has been well documented—some 1,400 families lost their homes, 1,500 state workers were displaced from their offices, six Vermonters died and hundreds of acres of farmland washed away, stripping farmers of their crops, greenhouses and precious healthy soil at the height of the growing season. In the Waitsfield area, American Flatbread, the Pitcher Inn, Mint and the Green Cup were destroyed.

Despite the destruction, the town of Waitsfield pulled together almost immediately after the flood hit. Volunteers took to the streets as early as Tuesday to help local businesses clean up. “It was like an army of ants descended on the building,” says Jason. He remembers seeing a line of people pulling the contents of his restaurant out onto the street. “Everybody swarmed, and what started out as a massive attempt to help businesses recover turned into a huge block party with kegs of beer and a pig roast. We had to force people to stop working!”

Eight months later, the sprawling 1845-era building that housed the Green Cup, two apartments upstairs and two retail spaces on the ground floor still looked like a construction site. There were floorboards ripped up and equipment was out of place. The gas range was nowhere in sight, yet the ventilation hood that had stood over it was still in place. The familiar Green Cup sign that welcomed customers inside from Bridge Street was down, leaning against a wall in what used to be the café’s back dining room.

But there were clear signs of renewal. Jason, with his parents Barbara and Sam, his sister Sarina Gulisano and her husband John Vitko, and his younger sister Lisa Curtis, are each involved in the rebuilding process. Sam built a sturdy red-brick sidewalk along the front of the building and there were new cement floors with radiant heating inside. Jason installed spray-foam insulation and paperless sheetrock, which will not rot if it gets wet—two precautions that should minimize damage if another flood hits.

The Green Cup will not return, but the Gulisanos are not leaving Waitsfield. At the end of April, a secondhand clothing shop, the Green Closet, opened in the building. It is the first of four new businesses confirmed to open in the building over the course of the summer. Sarina and her husband opened an ice cream shop, Scout’s Honor, named after their 6-year-old daughter Scout, in a production and retail space that they share with Sweet Simone’s, a bakery run by Lisa.

Jason Gulisano (top); John Vitko and Lisa Curtis
Jason Gulisano (top); John Vitko and Lisa Curtis

Sarina and John are glassblowers by trade and they run a studio, Moving Mud, out of their home in Warren. When Sarina, who was the primary server at the Green Cup, and John moved to Vermont in 2004, they started a small farm with a few chickens and blueberry, raspberry and strawberry bushes. Quickly, those few chickens became 100 chickens and John and Sarina needed to find a useful outlet for all of the eggs. So, they started making ice cream: “The Green Cup needed a consistent supply of high-quality ice cream and we needed to use all of the beautiful eggs that our chickens were producing.”

John and Sarina start every batch of ice cream with local milk and cream that they combine with their farm eggs to make a custard base. “My eggs totally change the ice cream,” John says. “They make the base a rich, deep yellow color.” He and Sarina like classic flavors like vanilla and maple, but also have an adventurous side that they express in fun flavors like orange creamsicle, cherry chocolate chip and sweet-tart lemon-blueberry (recipe on page 25) made with the blueberries that they grow at home. This summer, they will install a freezer in their 1976 Volkswagen van—the Moobile—that will deliver their high-quality ice cream to the Waitsfield Farmers Market and swimming holes in the area.

Lisa was the bookkeeper and front-counter person at the Green Cup. She learned to bake from her mother and brother. “I spent a lot of my life playing around in the kitchen with my mother,” she says. “Now I let my own daughters, Liv and Charley, bake with me.” Lisa does not have any professional culinary training but always knew that she wanted to make food a prominent part of her life. She offers freshly baked cookies, cupcakes, scones in such flavors as lemon-basil (recipe on page 24), and muffins at Sweet Simone’s.

The final new business in the building, to occupy the former Green Cup space, will be run by Chris Alberti, a friend of Jason’s. It will be Chris’s first restaurant—Peasant—and will open in August. Like Jason, Chris’s life was dramatically altered by a tragedy. “I traded equities on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for 25 years. On 9/11, I walked out of the World Trade Center about 20 minutes before the first plane hit. I spent the next six hours not knowing if I would see my family again. When I finally got home, my wife and I looked at one another and knew it was time for a change.” Soon after, they moved to Vermont.

Chris met Jason at the Green Cup last summer and realized quickly that he and Jason were kindred spirits. They grew up near one another in northern New Jersey, both in big Italian families. They shared a passion for food and family. Chris worked with Jason at the Green Cup for a few nights last summer and was … Read More

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currant

CURRANT EVENTS

CURRANT EVENTS

Tiny flavor bombs
making a sweet comeback

BY LAURA GLENN PHOTOS BY CAROL SULLIVAN

farm
Left to right: John Hayden standing among his currant bushes;
barn at the Farm Between; the Farm Between Black Currant Syrup

B

eautiful crimson, black and ivory pearls fill green half pints on my table at the farmers market. The swath of iridescent colors is so dazzling it stops pedestrians walking by.

“What are those?” is the repeated question.

And then I hear an accent. It is generally European: German, French or sometimes English.

“Currants!”

The wide-eyed fan invariably tells me of the currants she ate as a child in her homeland. Then she buys the red ones, pops one in her mouth and a broad smile spreads across her face.

Currants are the best-tasting berry you’ve never tried. Considered a common and cherished fruit in Europe, currants are all but unknown in the United States today. This has not always been the case as European settlers brought cultivated currants with them to the New World and planted them as they expanded west. Production was halted early in the 20th century, however, when they were thought to be a threat to white pine and other conifer species. The currant bush, as well as other species of the genus Ribes, can harbor a fungus called White Pine Blister Rust (WPBR), which can weaken and sometimes kill White Pine trees. In the 1920s currant production was shut down in all 50 states to stop the spread of the disease and protect the forest industry. With the exception of imports of currant jelly, they had disappeared from the American diet by mid-century.

The threat of WPBR did not turn out to be as dire as predicted, however, and in 1966 the nationwide ban was lifted with restrictions left to the discretion of individual states. Today in the Northeast, Vermont, New York and Connecticut do not consider it enough of a danger to ban the growth of Ribes of any type. In addition, there are plenty of new WPBR-resistant varieties to choose from, which has put growers more at ease with introducing them to their farms. Nevertheless, fresh currants have yet to make their big comeback on the American plate. Thus it was mostly Europeans who gushed over my berries while the Americans were scratching their heads asking, “So what do you do with them?”

I became intrigued with currants after reading their description of easy growth and great taste, not to mention seeing those glorious colors. They are not picky about soil and actually prefer a little shade so I did not have to sacrifice a prime spot on my farm to try them out. Plus, they fare best in northern climates and would not actually do very well south of New England. (It is a childish aspect of my grower’s nature but given how many luscious fruits we cannot grow up here, I am always pleased to find something so good that is exclusively ours.) I planted 15 bushes, five of each color, and waited in anticipation to try them for the first time.

My small plot produced well its second season after planting and by its third season I had a bumper crop. Each of the varieties has its own unique flavor. Trying to describe them would be as difficult as describing what makes a strawberry unique. Black currant syrup tastes to me like a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry. The red currants are tart but not so much that they cannot be eaten fresh. The white or “champagne” currants are even sweeter and have a delightful, floral taste. When people ask how to use them I tell them for the red and white use them wherever you put blueberries or raspberries; in yogurt, on cereal, in fruit salad, in a drink or on a fresh fruit tart.

Black currants are generally cooked with sugar and then strained for syrup or jelly. They may not have enough of their own natural sugars for fresh eating but their other attributes more than compensate for the extra effort in preparation. Black currants are loaded with anthocyanins, the much touted compounds found in dark fruits that are believed help fight cancer, inflammation and neurological diseases. They have four times the vitamin C as an orange and contain substantial amounts of vitamin A, iron and manganese. Their taste is also delicious, and if you have the syrup on hand you can use it in cocktails, pastries, sauces or a gorgeous, plum-colored sorbet. A note for those who want to use them in jelly: They are naturally high in pectin, thus little if any additional pectin is needed.

My little currant patch was mostly for fun but John Hayden, a farmer in Cambridge, Vermont, is making currants an integral part of his business. Hayden started growing currants in 2002 as part of his diversified farm. He and his wife, Nancy, raise everything from sweet corn to cherry tomatoes to Muscovy ducks. Over the years he has run a CSA and farm stand on his place, aptly named The Farm Between, in reference to being on Route 15 between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. In the past few years, however, he has shifted toward planting more perennial crops such as raspberries, blueberries and, especially, currants.

The currants started with a SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant, which he received to determine the viability of growing and selling currants commercially in our area. He planted about a half acre of mostly the black Titania variety, which thrived on his river-bottom soil. As soon as the bushes started producing, he found a market for them at the Boyden Winery for production of their cassis, which is a traditional currant liqueur. He also sold them in bulk to the Intervale Food Hub and opened the farm for pick-your-own.

Many farmers nowadays are looking for a value-added product that can be worked into the overall scheme of their farm and its crops. With this in mind, Hayden and his wife started making currant syrup and jam to retail. During the winter months they cook up batches on their wood stove using the berries they have harvested and frozen over the summer. The syrup has proven quite popular mixed with seltzer to create a soda or drizzled over shaved ice for the ultimate locavore snow cone. The bottled syrup and summer snow cones have done so well that Hayden has planted additional acreage to black currants and is experimenting with red currants and gooseberries as well. At present, he estimates sales from the syrup and fresh berries is about 20% of his farm’s gross revenue and he expects that percentage to grow as the new acreage begins to mature.

I expect John Hayden is ahead of the curve with reintroducing currants to American menus and marketplaces. With the combination of great taste and high nutrition, I would not be surprised to see them alongside other recently celebrated super-fruits such as pomegranates and acai berries. The nice thing about currants, though, is that we can grow them right here in Vermont. Or if you live close to a berry farm, you may be able to convince … Read More

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bolting

BOLTING TOGETHER

BOLTING TOGETHER

Baker’s needs help miller
grow bigger, better

BY AMY HALLORAN


Ben Gleason. (Photo by Merritt Gleason)

B

olted flour may sound like an ingredient from Frankenstein’s bakery, but it refers to the process of sifting bran from stoneground flour. The term comes from using bolted cloth, and earns a new layer of meaning as it bolts together two Vermont businesses: Gleason’s Grains and the Red Hen Baking Company. Ben Gleason has been growing and milling wheat in Bridport for 30 years. He sells his flour at co-ops and health food stores, and to bakeries like Red Hen. Red Hen’s Randy George was using Gleason’s Grains whole-wheat flour and thinking of setting up a sifting operation at the bakery so the flour would better suit his needs. When Ben Gleason heard the seriousness of the baker’s intent, he decided to expand his operations.

“I needed more height and I needed more floor space,” says Gleason. “In order to really have the thing work efficiently I needed the sifter to be up on the second floor.”

Gravity is a useful tool in milling operations, and Gleason built a new building, extending from his original millhouse, which he now uses to clean grains. The cost of the project was significant, even with grants from the Vermont Farm Viability Enhancement Program and the Vermont Department of Agriculture. However, the expansion dramatically boosted his output: In 2010 he milled and sold 60 tons of grains—some of it grown by neighboring farmers—compared to 35 tons the previous year. So far, he’s been able to meet the challenges of a larger operation without changing the family scale of the farm he runs with his wife, Theresa. Overall, they are pleased with the effort.

“I think the quality of my flours is better,” he says.

The quality of his flour has always been high. He’s always used a stone mill, which, if the stones are big enough, keeps the wheat berries from being heated in the milling process. This preserves vitamins and minerals. Stone mills create large particles of bran and much finer particles of endosperm and germ. Sifting is not inherently a part of stone milling, but the new bolter allows him to remove a portion of the bran without stealing the germ, too. Another benefit is that the coarser set of sifter screens allows him to clean straw and stray seeds from the wheat prior to milling more thoroughly than either the combine and cleaner.

The Gleasons have named their bolted flours Snake Mountain and Lemon Fair Sifted flours. Snake Mountain is made from hard red winter wheat, and Lemon Fair is pastry flour made from soft white winter wheat. These two types of flour are also available unsifted, and retail outlets still sell more of these than the sifted varieties.

“It’s a hard product to promote because people don’t understand what I mean by sifted, or what I mean by bolted,” says Gleason. People perceive whole-wheat as the most sanctified flour, even though many home and commercial bakers mix white flour with wholewheat to make the dough easier to handle, and the bread less heavy. Using a stone-milled sifted flour instead of this combination would be more nutritious because the germ, and some of the bran, remains with the flour.

“We live in this whole-wheat-or-white world. In the United States we’ve been told to eat whole grains, which is of course a good thing to do,” says Randy George. “But anything less than whole is out the window.”

With the emphasis that the FDA has put on whole grains, a lot of products list whole grains as a selling point, regardless of how little whole grain a food contains. Bread made from 100% bolted flour, however, could not be labeled whole grain, even though nutritionally it would have far more going for it than a box of whole-grain Cheerios. The consensus on whole grains leaves little room for curiosity about flour. Even if people were hungry to know more, however, all of the advantages of stone milling and sifting won’t fit on a tag in a bakery.

Randy George with a loaf of the Cyrus Pringle. (Photo by Mark Bateman)
Randy George with a loaf of the Cyrus Pringle. (Photo by Mark Bateman)

“In France and pretty much every European country, they have a system for expressing how much bran is in the flour, and it’s sold at varying levels,” explains George.

For example, French consumers know their flours by numbers that name the mineral content, which is read by burning a portion of the flour. The percentage of ash is an indication of how much bran a flour contains.

So how to spread the word to an informationsaturated public? Neither baker nor farmer has an easy answer. Gleason’s sells a limited amount of flour in three-pound bags, and these have labels that tell a little of the flour’s story. Staff at Red Hen, both the bakery and café, educates people as questions arise. George goes to the farmers market himself on a regular basis and talks to people about the bread and its ingredients.

“There are people who go for this bread,” he says of loaves made from bolted flour. “They know what they like about it.” Red Hen has always used some bolted flour—it just hasn’t come from local farmers. He’s been interested in this flour since he started baking naturally leavened hearth baked breads that have a percentage of whole-wheat flour, about 16 or 17 years ago.

“I felt—from my own baking, and also from the reading I was doing about this style of bread—that it was really best made with a high percentage of this type of flour,” says George.

Bolted flour is a critical ingredient in Red Hen’s starters. Prior to getting it from Gleason’s Grains, Red Hen bought bolted flour from Heartland Mills in Kansas, an organic operation famous in flour circles for helping develop a heritage variety of wheat called Turkey Red. Quebec mill La Milanaise is another supplier of high-quality flour.

Though Vermont is a tough climate for growing grains, Red Hen also uses flours from Nitty Gritty Grains of Charlotte and Butterworks Farms of Westfield.

Red Hen has more than doubled the amount of flour it uses from Gleason’s Grains. In addition to the starters, Snake Mountain Sifted Flour is also used in the Vermont Miche and Crossett Hill round and batard. “And it’s gotten better,” George says. “It’s absolutely a better bread than it’s ever been.”

WHERE TO FIND THEM

Red Hen Baking Co.: redhenbaking.com and on Facebook

Gleason Grains: gleasongrains.com

A cut loaf of the Erin Crossett Round.
A cut loaf of the Erin Crossett Round. (Photo by Erin Ruddell)

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farmPesto

EDIBLE FARM SUMMER HARVEST 2012

EDIBLE FARM

PESTO CHANGE-O

New approach to organic
basil at Bella Farm

BY TRACEY MEDEIROS
PHOTOS BY PATRICK ROWE

Bella Farm greenhouse
Rachel Schattman working in one of the greenhouses.

R

achel Schattman did not grow up on a farm. Her only connection to agriculture was through her maternal grandfather, who had spent his early years living on a truck farm. As a child, the closest she ever came to working the soil was finding the tomato hornworms in her mother’s garden.

Rachel got her first taste of farming when she attended the Putney School, a boarding high school located on a dairy and small vegetable farm in Putney, Vermont. While there, students were required to be on work crews that were rotated three times a year. Her favorite was farm duty. She found the peaceful early morning to be the time when she did her best thinking.

When Rachel returned home for school break, she would work at a nearby farm. During that time her passion for growing things continued to bloom, along with her love for Vermont’s tight-knit farming community. Rachel found great joy in being outdoors, working in the rich soil. After earning a master’s degree from the University of Vermont, the budding farmer and a college friend started a certified organic farm at the Intervale in Burlington. The Intervale’s farm program offers farmers the opportunity to keep their initial costs low by providing not only an area to farm but also shared space in their greenhouses and coolers, as well as the use of tractors and farm implements.

They christened their new venture “Bella Farm.” The name just seemed to fit their three tidy acres of organic farmland. Soon seven varieties of garlic, eight types of basil and an intriguing assortment of culinary herbs were springing up through the Intervale’s rich organic soil.

Rachel and her friend decided to use some of their garlic and basil crop to create a dairy- and nut-free pesto, consisting of olive oil, chopped basil and garlic. The two partners thought that pesto, which freezes well, was the ideal product because it could be made during the summer, frozen and sold throughout the winter.

The Intervale enabled Rachel to gain technical and business skills, as well as the experience needed to start a farm of her own. Bella Farm may now be found in its new location in Monkton, Vermont. It took Rachel five years to find her new home, which consists of about 20 acres of southfacing slope. Rachel and her new partner, Patrick, have a beautiful view of the hills from their newly constructed home and fields. Right now, they are planning to utilize four of their acres for vegetables, herbs and cover crops. Rachel believes in using cover crops such as buckwheat as a way to manage weeds, pests and soil fertility. The new farm is certified organic.

basil

When not farming, Rachel also works at the University of Vermont. “Sometimes I feel like I’m leading split lives,” she says. She has discovered that much of farming is involved with building projects and machine repair. “I’m still gaining knowledge, my learning curve is steep,” she says. With help, the busy farm owner continues to make her signature pesto in a home certified kitchen. On a typical day, the basil is picked in the morning and processed by afternoon. Most of it is frozen and stored onsite in a walk-in freezer. The hard-working owner feels that the short lag time enhances the pesto’s flavor. Bella Farm produces between 2,500 and 3,000 six-ounce units of pesto per season. The product is sold frozen at the Burlington Farmers’ Market or thawed at the “Hippie Cooler” at Onion River Co-op, and City Market in Burlington.

For Rachel, the quality of the food that she produces is of the utmost importance. Making that food accessible to all members of the community is a challenge that she has eagerly embraced. With the help and support of family, friends and her partner, she welcomes each day’s challenges with an unswerving dedication and optimism that she is truly making a difference. Rachel explains, “Farming is a fascinating and continuously challenging process that is extremely rewarding for me. I think that we often find occupations we love because the people we enjoy, or look up to, also love those occupations. My body may get tired, but I am never, ever bored!”

RECIPE

Sage and Cherry Tomato Polenta

BELLA FARM’S MISSION

“Our mission is threefold: To continuously seek information, knowledge and experiences that help us to improve our ability to care for the land and community. To manage our land in a way that ensures the future health and vitality of the soil. To actively work against hunger in Vermont by making sure that food is available, and accessible, to all members of our community by supporting the efforts of other farms and organizations that seek to do the same.”

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homemadeCheese

HOMEMADE CHEESE STRAIGHT FROM YOUR KITCHEN

HOMEMADE CHEESE STRAIGHT
FROM YOUR KITCHEN

STORY AND PHOTOS BY LYNN GRIEGER

making cheese in the kitchen

C

heese making seems like a mysterious and technical endeavor. It’s not something you find in most cookbooks, or likely learned from your mother or grandmother. On a sunny April morning I joined a group of 12 in a raw-milk cheese making class sponsored by Rural Vermont, where we learned to produce three delicious types of cheese in our family kitchen.

Why make your own cheese when a wide variety of interesting cheese is available locally at farmers markets and grocery stores? For the same reasons that we bake bread, make pasta from scratch and freeze or can vegetables and fruit from our garden: to feel closer to the land, enjoy the satisfaction of producing healthy food for our families, and know the excitement of watching simple and pure ingredients come together into a delicious product.

Rural Vermont is a nonprofit founded in 1985 that advocates and educates for thriving farms and healthy communities. According to Shelby Girard, the group’s outreach coordinator, they’ve hosted over 45 cheese making classes for approximately 500 people during the past three years. She explains the four primary goals for the classes: to generate exposure and increase income for the host farmers by teaching people to use raw milk to make cheese and other products; to highlight the barriers and obstacles facing small farmers selling their products locally; to broaden the network of Rural Vermont supporters and volunteers who learn about the organization by first attending a class; and to help generate income for the Rural Vermont organization. Girard says that “Rural Vermont hopes that by attending a class, local folks will be inspired to do some dairy processing at home and therefore buy larger quantities of raw fluid milk from their local farmer to support their new hobby – or obsession, in some cases!”

Elizabeth Moulton, owner with her husband, Daryl Gustafson, of Popplewood Farm in Andover, invited us into her sunny, friendly, open kitchen in their 1879 farmhouse to learn the art and science of cheese making. Elizabeth is a self-taught cheesemaker, enjoying using the fresh milk from her three dairy goats to produce a variety of flavorful cheeses.

“I’m never certain exactly how the cheese will turn out,” she told us as she warmed goat’s milk for our first cheese on her kitchen stove. “I’ve made some really awful cheese, but none that I couldn’t give to the pigs or chickens. I want you to leave the class feeling that you have the knowledge and confidence to go home and make cheese yourself.”

Our group included people like Brian, an ex-mechanic with no farming knowledge; Chris, a retired commodity futures trading specialist who loves farming and farm life; and Tom, who simply finds cheese making fascinating. Sarah, Carol and Betsy own or work on farms and are interested in branching out into cheese making. Mario is a Gouda cheesemaker at nearby Taylor Farm and wants to find out about other types of cheese making. Marion lives on an organic farm down the road, and Elizabeth is her goat mentor. Connie’s passion is making goat milk soap, which led her to meeting Elizabeth at a craft fair. Most of us live in southern Vermont near Andover, but Bruce and his wife, Virginia, traveled south from Stowe on their journey to attend a number of Rural Vermont cheese making classes. Their long-term goal is to produce and put up their own food just as Bruce’s grandparents did on the 1800s farm where they currently live.

Elizabeth started with the simplest recipe, which uses only milk and white vinegar to produce farmer’s cheese, also known as vinegar cheese or queso blanco. After the milk reached 185°–195° F., she added ¼ cup white vinegar and stirred thoroughly as the milk started to curdle and separate into defined, soft curds and the liquid whey. Little Miss Muffet, sitting on her tuffet eating curds and whey came into my mind as we gently cut the curds and drained the finished cheese. Farmer’s cheese is utilized in all sorts of recipes including lasagna, cheesecake, cracker spreads, pizza, even whoopie pie filling. Made throughout the world, its plain flavor and creamy texture combines beautifully with savory or sweet seasonings to reflect local taste preferences.

Emboldened by our success with farmer’s cheese, Elizabeth coached us through the process of making chevre and Brie. Producing other types of cheese starts with the same basic process of warming the milk, and we learned that using various types of bacteria cultures and acidic ingredients produces different textures and flavors. Elizabeth demonstrated how to gently stir the curdling goat’s milk side to side and top to bottom to thoroughly mix rennet and cultures into the milk. She cut the curds into small, uniformly sized pieces with a knife, and then switched to using her hands to scoop the curds in a process Tom described as “cheese massage.”

The chevre and Brie curds are scooped into molds and allowed to drain until they reach the desired consistency. Elizabeth and her husband drill holes into just about anything to make a cheese mold, including sippy cups, pet dishes and plastic food containers. Store-bought molds are readily available, but using materials from the kitchen somehow makes more sense when you’re heating milk on your stove, scooping curds with your hands and draining cheese into your heirloom lasagna pan. Nothing goes to waste on a farm, and the liquid whey fills an important role watering plants, feeding the pigs and adding tart flavor to home-baked breads.

goats

While we let the cheese drain in the colorful molds, we took a quick tour of the farm. Elizabeth compares farm acres to closets: We never seem to have enough, and the ones we do have are full to overflowing. Pigs, chickens, rabbits, quail, ducks, sheep and goats share space in the barnyard with a greenhouse packed with bright green herbs and vegetable plants waiting for warmer weather before they’re placed into the freshly tilled garden beds. Although they only moved to Vermont four years ago from Rockport, Massachusetts, Elizabeth and Daryl embody the do-it-yourself spirit of Vermonters by diversifying their farm to produce as much of their own food as possible.

By this point we’d worked up an appetite, and were ready for the final part of the class: tasting a variety of cheeses, including the farmer’s cheese we’d made earlier that morning along with chevre and Brie made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk or a combination of the two. We tasted smooth and creamy Brie; chevre sweetened with maple syrup for the filling in whoopie pies; and farmer’s cheese mixed with horseradish, chives and salt that we spread on locally baked bread.

The three-hour class provided a hands-on lesson in cheese making, along with the opportunity to share tips on favorite sources of organic foods, local farmers markets and stories of how we ended up living in Vermont and pursuing delicious locally grown foods. I can’t wait for the class on making ice cream!

RECIPE

Elizabeth’s Farmer’s Cheese Recipe

RESOURCES

Rural Vermont
RuralVermont.org

Elizabeth Moulton
popplewoodfarm@gmail.com

Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll
The first book Elizabeth used to learn

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escoffier

THE ESCOFFIER QUESTIONNAIRE

THE ESCOFFIER
QUESTIONNAIRE

BY MARISSA GUGIANA

escoffier
Photo by Mira Zaki

I

created this questionnaire for my second cookbook, Off the Menu: Staff Meals From America’s Best Restaurants, to satiate my own curiosity about the inner lives of chefs. Though I have posed these questions to many, the answers are as varied as their recipes. I’ve chosen to begin with Max Mackinnon, a young chef with a new restaurant, in the spirit of all things rising toward the summer light.

“It’s French but it’s not old French,” explained Max Mackinnon, 26-year-old chef and co-owner of Pistou in Burlington, which opened in December 2011. “We are in a college town and we know it.” Max started cooking in Burlington and, after a stint in New York kitchens and a butcher shop, he is back. “I just wanted to work in food, in whatever capacity I could. Which turned into this.”

When I spoke to Max, he was hauling a borrowed cooler back to a vendor at the farmers market. “We use a lot of local purveyors and today is the first outdoor farmers market. There’s a very extensive farming community in Vermont. We wanted to take all the great produce, dairy and meat that is raised here and do something different with it. We have a tiny kitchen so it allows us to really focus and keep a small, talented staff. The menu changes every day. The food is very focused and straightforward. It’s classic, in its own way.”

What was your favorite food as a kid?

To be honest, I was kind of a pasta-with-red-sauce kid.

What was the first meal you made that you were proud of?

Fresh pasta for my family

What three adjectives describe your cuisine?

Simple, fresh and (hopefully) delicious

What book most influences your food, cookbook or otherwise?

There are too many to single out just one, but a cookbook that tells a story carries a lot more weight than a book full of recipes.

What chef do you most admire?

All chefs who I meet who are genuine and continue to push themselves.

What is your favorite ingredient?

Pork—fresh, cured or smoked.

What music do you like to hear when you cook?

I tend to like a quiet kitchen, but will listen to hip-hop sometimes.

What is your favorite hangover meal?

Coffee

What is your favorite midnight snack?

Ice cream

What restaurant in the world are you most dying to try?

Bras in Laguiole, France

What kitchen utensil is most indispensable to you?

A good spoon

Who do you most like to cook for?

Friends and family

If you could do one other job, what would it be?

Something involving traveling and eating

What do you most value in a sous-chef?

Hard work and high standards

What food trend would you most like to erase from the annals of history?

Overly processed food

What one food would you take with you on a desert island?

Bread

What is your favorite guilty pleasure treat?

I don’t think it’s fair to feel guilty about food.

What most satisfies your sweet tooth?

Soft-serve ice cream

What would you eat at your last meal, if you could plan such a thing?

Oysters, sweetbreads and a plate of charcuterie followed by plenty of fresh seafood, all with a lot of good wine

Cheeseburger or foie gras?

Depends on who’s cooking, but why not both?

What’s your favorite place to go for (and what is your favorite thing to order)…

…happy hour?

Somewhere with fresh oysters and crisp white wine

…a splurge meal?

Eleven Madison Park during white truffle season

…breakfast?

Locanda Verde in NYC for whipped ricotta and eight-hour tripe or Huckleberry in Los Angeles for pastries and eggs with whatever market vegetables they are serving

…pastry?

Croissants and Canelés in Paris

…a late-night/after-work meal?

Liverpool House in Montreal for oysters, sweet and sour sweetbreads, rabbit with foie gras and whatever Chris and James are pouring that night

…a cup of coffee?

Macchiato at Myriad in Montreal or Intelligentsia in Venice, California

…a greasy-spoon meal?

Double double animal style from In-N-Out Burger

…groceries?

Farmers market in the summer

…kitchen equipment?

JB Prince in NYC

…ice cream?

Van Leeuwen in NYC for their hazelnut ice cream

…chocolate?

Something dark from Askinosie Chocolate next to a coffee at Intelligentsia

And lastly but not leastly…what is your favorite local wine or beer for the season?

I have to go with The Alchemist’s Heady Topper Double IPA because I can usually find it, it’s delicious and as the weather gets warmer, it’s hard not to like drinking straight from the can.

PISTOU
61 Main St.
Burlington
pistou-vt.com

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seasonalCooking

SEASONAL COOKING

SEASONAL COOKING

BY BOB TITTERTON

squash blossom
Photo by Carole Topalian

O

f all summer produce, squash blossoms rank among the most delicate and subtly flavored. Brilliant yellow to orange in color, the flowers enliven any garden and can be harvested all season. If you have space to grow a few plants, using the flowers will diversify your harvest and also help to curtail the inevitable flood of squash. The blossoms are not always available at farmers markets due to a shelf life lasting just one day. Growing your own is the best way to ensure a season-long supply.

The flowers open with the first rays of the sun as they have a long day ahead pollinating and producing squash. The flowers are male and female with the males greatly outnumbering the females. Both genders serve equally well for cooking. Females are distinguished by baby squashes attached to the base ends of their flowers, males by the stamen or reproductive organ inside the blossom. The stamen has a slightly bitter flavor, use a pair of tweezers to reach into the flower and twist it out. Pick squash blossoms first thing in the morning; the flowers shrivel in the afternoon heat.

Squash blossoms grow near the ground and pick up dirt and natural debris. Rinse them under cool running water and leave on a towel to dry. Like any cut flower they have a short shelf life, and should be used the same day you pick them. Wrap the flowers in damp paper towels and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Blossoms from both summer and winter varieties may be used. Larger flowers have more capacity for stuffing, but do not get over enthusiastic and overstuff them—a couple of teaspoons for large flowers will suffice and only a teaspoon for small flowers. A gently flavored stuffing is recommended to enhance the delicate blossoms.

RECIPE

Squash Blossoms Stuffed with
Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

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whatsInSeason

WHAT’S IN SEASON SUMMER HARVEST 2012

WHAT’S
IN
SEASON?

July – August – September

Blueberries
Cherries
Raspberries
Beans
Beets
Broccoli
Cabbage
Carrots
Cauliflower
Celery
Corn
Lettuce
Peas
Potatoes
Radishes
Rhubarb
Spinach
Squash
Tomatoes
Turnips
Apples
Melons
Pears
Plums
Cucumber
Eggplant
Onions
Peppers
Pumpkins

from: Vermont Agency of Agriculture

asparagus
Photo by Carole Topalian

RECIPE
Grilled Corn on the Cob

with Parmesan and Cilantro

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