Friday, May 27, 2011

The Flavors of Summer

We have finally finished off our last meal of potatoes, had our final round of baked squash, and are savoring the last of our carrot stick crunches. Salad has replaced sauerkraut, and shiitakes are now flavoring our foraged greens. We are on the cusp of the season of fresh produce. Oh the flavors, the lushness, the beauty of summer! Fleeting and fantastic, these are the months to savor the richness of local products.

Fortunately, our area is rich with local producers. From a plethora of fruits and vegetables, to eggs, dairy, meat, and baked goods, local farmers provide quite an array of goods to our region. And on June 4th, join us to celebrate this remarkable selection at the 2011 Pemi-Baker Local Food Fare. Held at Prospect Hall on the Plymouth State University Campus, 10am-3pm, this community event will be the season’s foremost opportunity to meet area farmers and sample some of their tastiest morsels.

And not only that, the crew at D Acres will be handing out the fifth edition of the Pemi-Baker Local Goods Guide. D Acres began publishing a local food guide in 2007, the beginning steps to cultivating a thriving local food network. Since then, we’ve expanded the guide each year, now totaling 42 farmers. New to 2011, we’ve included 31 local crafters, artisans, and pre-loved/second-hand retail shops. The guide also includes a map pinpointing farms, studios, galleries, and shops listed in the publication, as well as information on summer and winter farmer’s markets throughout the Pemi-Baker region. Stop by the Local Food Fare June 4th to pick-up your free copy!

Why such excitement over local foods? Well, for one, we at D Acres are remarkably interested in food. Everyone needs to eat, and the better the food, the better the health and the well-being of both people and land. Local food specifically increases individuals’ connection to a region and its landscape, while decreasing dependency on national and international systems of production and distribution. Furthermore, strengthening local food networks is a direct means of providing local income to local people, a means of investing our money within our own community. To quote farmer and author Wendell Berry, “without prosperous local economies, the people have no power and the land no voice.”

So knowing your farmer is vitally important, and not just in the summer. Eating is a year-round endeavor, and so is buying food. Do your part to strengthen our community! Join us June 4, 10am-3pm, at PSU’s Prospect Hall and meet your local farmers (admission $3-10 sliding scale). Pick up your copy of the Local Goods Guide – a sustainable community starts with your next meal.

as published by North Country News

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cooking with the Seasons at D Acres

We are well into Spring time now, but I have many recipes tucked away from the Cooking with Seasons classes being held here at D Acres.

We embarked on a fun potato-stuffed pastry originating from Eastern Europe. Here is a recipe for Piroshkis:

This simple pastry can be filled with anything really. The traditional filling is potatoes, cabbage, onion, egg and cheese, but on a cold night in February we went all out!

For Pastry
Unbleached White Flour or Whole Wheat Pastry, 3 cups
Salt, 1/3 tsp
Butter, 3/4 cup
Ice Water, 1/4 to 3/4 cup

Prepare the pastry by thoroughly mixing the flour and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles course cornmeal. Using a fork and a minimum number of strokes, mix in the ice water until the mixture can be formed into a ball. Chill the dough for 15 minutes. Form into balls and refrigerate for up to one hour.
(Pastry recipe taken from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks for a Crowd)

Our base for the filling was mashed potatoes. We then added various other ingredients to fancy up the piroshkis:
-Sautéed Sauerkraut
-Garlc Scape Puree
-Shredded carrots and beets

Divide each ball of dough into four pieces. Roll each piece into a 6-in. diameter circle. Preheat the oven to 350°. Place 1/2 cup filling in the center of each circle. Brush the edges with an egg wash (one egg beaten with 4 Tbsp of water) and fold over to form a turnover, pressing the edges together with a fork. Place the piroshkis on an oiled baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg wash. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until lightly browned.

Look forward to more great seasonal recipes from the cooking class! We've been having a lot of fun with nettle this spring.

Eat well,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Piles of Dirt

In light of a forecast filled with heavy downpours and dark skies, the weather wasn’t so bad. For each intermittent bout of showers, there were equal hours of warmth and almost-sunshine. The day began with trellis building and pea planting in our upper field, a warm-up before we headed to the bulk of our day’s labor: compost turning.

Now, compost is nature’s process of decomposition. It’s happening all around us. Maintaining compost piles is simply a means of harnessing the nutrients in various “waste” products, then using the natural breakdown of organic matter to our benefit. Compost becomes soil – plant food - that then becomes human food. Turning compost is part and parcel of planning ahead for your next dinner gathering.

So it was to this task that we turned our attention. Here at D Acres we have a handful of disparate compost piles that have accumulated over the fall and winter months. Some are small, needing the addition of more material to successfully become a steaming pile of compost (…rather than lumpy conglomerations of odds-and-ends detritus harboring the last of the snow and ice beneath their loads). Some, however, loom large.

These blue-ribbon piles are full of microbial action. Wisps of steam rising from the piles’ zenith are modest indicators of internal decomposition. If we want to talk science, compost can be understood in terms of two elements: carbon and nitrogen. In layman’s speak, this is the “brown” and the “green.” Regardless of linguistic preferences, a healthy compost pile should offer a robust mix of woody materials (woodchips, straw, old hay, dry grass clippings, woody debris) and fresh matter (food scraps, weeds, manure, fresh grass clippings). In combination with oxygen introduced into the pile through frequent turning, a hot, active microbial environment is fostered, essentially “cooking” the pile’s contents. Decomposition happens fairly rapidly in this manner, providing quality soil for use in the gardens within a season or two.

And this process is essential. Finished compost releases nutrients slowly over time, preventing soil from becoming depleted and helping to ensure plant health. Compost, therefore, is a key component to a healthy garden system.

So back to that looming compost pile. (Are you familiar with our ox hovel? Well, the oxen have had a lot to eat. Check out their heaping, steaming compost mound on your next visit to the farm.) At the time, heaving pitchforkfuls of partially-aged ox manure overhead, the mental mantra isn’t more than a rhythmic scoop-and-pitch-and-scoop-again. With this round of turning completed, though, it sure is satisfying to think of the plants it will grow and the meals it will provide. Just a few more turnings to go between now and then…

And the thing is, this tale could be your story, too. Start a compost pile! Already have one? Build it up, turn it regularly – it will only be to your benefit. With soil on hand, any plant will be more willing to grow.

as published in North Country News