39 in the Shade

This is the kind of day you dream about all winter. Mid afternoon, thirty-nine celsius in the shade and not a cloud in sight. Was it ever winter? Can’t even imagine snow on the ground nor fruit trees without luscious foliage and budding fruit. It is an early season. Chelan Cherries are already coming off…

Chelan Cherries

Chelan Cherries

… and the first heirloom tomatoes are available from Harker’s Organics in our fair town of Cawston, BC. The ubiquitous fruit stands are bursting. Yet summer in the Similkameen is amazing if not a contradiction. Part of Canada’s only true desert, the Similkameen is made up with sagebrush, cacti, tarantulas and rattle snakes. No kidding. See…

Rattle Snake

Rattle Snake

…Wes Makepeace photographed this little fellow caught by Walter Makepeace at Hugging Tree Winery on Highway 3 midway between Cawston, BC and Nighthawk, USA. Its okay, Walter insists rattle snakes have never been known to get close to Hugging Tree’s tasting room… Yeh. However, with a little and sometimes a lot of irrigation the dry ground provides the Similkameen with an abundance of lush fruits and vegetables.

Irrigating Garlic

Irrigating Garlic

For us this means an abundance of the best Russian Red Garlic and Garlic Scape. Today was our first day ‘scaping’ a term we use to describe removing the flower stalk (scape) from the garlic plant. Aside from rewarding us with the raw material for the Original Garlic Scape Salt, removing the scape diverts stored energy down to the bulb, which is the money maker. Scapes are collected by hand…

Removing Scapes

Removing Scapes

… and set into clear plastic bags for cold storage.

Bags o' Scape

Bags o’ Scape

There they will wait for the secret proprietary process to turn it all into Scape Salt. In the meantime… Cheers!

39 in the Shade

39 in the Shade


Thats Fair – Risk Guide for Produce

While it is easy to paint with a big brush is it always good to do so? No, not always. Too easy to cover up details with one thoughtless stroke. Lines get blurred and the balance becomes skewed like those between the organic and conventional farming industries.

Risk Guide for ProduceJustice Scale

Organic farmers have witnessed a dramatic increase in awareness and consumer support. Support exacted to a large extent at the expense of conventional farmers who have been taking it in on the chin lately for everything from pollution to cancer to God knows what…biological terrorism. Seriously? Not fair.

farmersdotter will never adopt conventional farming practices but that is our choice. Does that mean we are superior to all conventional farmers? No. No it doesn’t. Even if we like to think it does it definitely does not.

We could bore you. Rehash statistics and details. Regurgitate broad brush hyperbole linking conventionally farmed produce to a prolonged, tumor riddled, cancerous death. Not fair. There are radical factions within the organic industry who are as adept at peddling and spinning their ideology as the best zealots out there.

Courtesy Consumer Reports

Courtesy Consumer Reports

Having said that we think it important consumers make informed choices. We recently came across a Consumer Reports article about pesticides in produce that seems sensible, fair and balanced. Well worth consulting. Cheers!


5 Fresh Garlic Recipes for Life

Among the first to be recognized as a medicinal herb, garlic has a history that dates back some 5000 years.

Fresh Garlic

Fresh Garlic

A CBC article suggests eating raw garlic twice a week can cut the chances of lung cancer by almost half. In addition to cancer fighting properties consuming fresh garlic is a wonderful way to boost your immune system. The jury is out whether or not similar results can be achieved with cooked garlic.

Your challenge then becomes how to introduce fresh garlic into your daily diet for a long and healthy life. We know a few garlic devotees who carry fresh garlic with them and routinely chew on a few cloves a day the way some people chew Chiclets. Both difficult to swallow and one should be avoided altogether. So how best to consume fresh garlic?

Add fat. Adding a little fat to fresh garlic better facilitates the uptake of garlic’s goodness, in this case the allicin.

And isn’t just about everything better with a little fat?  Be it butter, pork, your significant other, or olive oil, how can you possible go wrong? Fat is good. Yes, yes it is. In moderation fat is good. We need fat. Just not a ton of it. Dirt is better with butter.

Here are five easy ways to add fresh garlic into your daily diet.

 

1  Fresh Garlic Bread / Toast:

Fresh Garlic Bread / Toast

Fresh Garlic Bread / Toast

A slice or two of sourdough rubbed with a fresh garlic clove will lend a mild garlic flavour to the bread. For better allicin uptake mince a fresh clove of garlic and combine with a fat-pat of butter or a teaspoon of cold pressed olive oil. Now spread that on your toast and feel the heal. Fast food to help cure your ills. Unlike McProcessed McGarbage.

 

2  Aioli with Fresh Garlic:

Dip everything in garlic aioli; fresh veggie sticks, taco chips, bread, your finger, whatever.

To make garlic ailoi mix crushed garlic with some simple homemade mayonnaise. Really? Okay.

In a nutshell – Simple Homemade Mayonnaise:

Simple Mayo Ingredients

Simple Mayo Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Up to 1 fat cup of olive oil

Combine the egg and lemon juice in a food processor and blend while slowly pouring in olive oil until emulsified and thick. That will basically do.

Add good stuff like chopped fresh Italian parsley, basil, savory, chervil, tarragon, pickles, or combination thereof to personalize this incredible dip.

 

3  Pesto with Fresh Garlic:

Freezer Pesto

Freezer Pesto

Every summer farmersdotter scoops up fresh basil from our garden and those of our neighbours. The basil gets washed and dried and is then processed with fresh garlic, parmesan cheese, olive oil and pepita (pumpkin) seeds. Pine nuts are awesome but way to expensive for the amount of pesto we consume.

farmersdotter concludes your money is better spent purchasing the best of the rest and if you want to splurge on pine nuts then sprinkle them on top at serving time. Besides, if you toast the pepitas you will achieve a lovely well balanced nutty flavour.

farmersdotter prepares enough pesto to last all year. After processing, the pesto is divided into small batches, enough for a few days, and placed into a container appropriate for freezing.

Some recipes will caution against processing the parmesan and olive if you intend to freeze your pesto but honestly farmersdotter says do it all at the same time. We eat pesto in February and it is as wonderful as pesto freshly prepared in July.

  • 1 pound (6 cups packed) fresh basil
  • 1 – 1/2 cups virginy fat olive oil
  • 1/2 cup roasted pepita (pumpkin) seeds
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 4 – 8 cloves fresh chopped garlic
  • Salt to taste

This is such a versatile recipe. Experiment with fresh or dried chili peppers to add a layer of interesting heat. Substitute a portion of the basil with Italian parsley for an earthy overtone. In season farmersdotter will use our fresh garlic scape in place fresh garlic cloves.

Regardless of which combination of herbs you choose as your base, a good quality olive oil and parmesan cheese processed with fresh garlic and nicely toasted seeds and or nuts will yield a very satisfying pesto appropriate for freezing. Just what you want in February.

 

4  Guacamole with Fresh Garlic:

Guacamole Ingredients

Guacamole Ingredients

In a bowl mix all ingredients with a fork until smooth and dip your way to long life and good health!

  • 3-4 cloves of minced garlic.
  • A couple of nicely fat-ripe avocados.
  • 1 medium finely chopped red onion
  • 2-3 seeded Roma tomatoes finely chopped
  • Half bunch of chopped cilantro or Italian parsley.
  • Fresh squeezed lime juice to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Lime zest (optional)

 

5  Hummus with Fresh Garlic:

Basic Hummus Ingredients

Basic Hummus Ingredients

Simple is best when it comes to preparing hummus with fresh garlic. This is one recipe where you want to resist adding weird shit for the sake of personalizing it. No one cares. Do it simple and do it right.

The only oil used to prepare traditional hummus comes from tahini. If you want to be a purest you can roast off and blend your own sesame into tahini but commercial tahini is just fine. If you desire olive oil then drizzle a little on top of your hummus at plating time. Nice.

For best results use small grained chickpeas. Avoid canned chickpeas and the larger garbanzo beans as they will rarely produce the soft and fluffy texture you want.

Regardless, to achieve a soft and fluffy texture simply soak chickpeas overnight in fresh water enough to cover plus an inch or two. In the morning drain chickpeas and place them in a cooking pot. Again cover with fresh water enough plus an inch or two only this time add a pinch of baking soda. Place pot with chickpeas on a burner and slow boil until tender.

Forget the whole chickpeas have a weird-texture skin-thing going on. The baking soda has taken care of that.

Once your chickpeas are cooked tender, drain and rinse then set aside.

Process tahini, lemon juice, and garlic into a paste. Add chickpeas and process until smooth. Add the necessary salt to taste.

If desired, though not totally necessary, add the cumin and parsley to taste reserving olive oil and paprika for plating.

  • 2 cups chickpea
  • 4 big fat tablespoons of tahini
  • 4 cloves chopped fresh garlic
  • 4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  •  Coarse sea salt to taste
  • Ground cumin to taste (optional)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed chopped parsley (optional)
  • Olive oil for drizzling (optional)
  • Pinch paprika sprinkled on top after plating (optional)

 


On Mussels, Clams and Oysters… Oh My!

There is a aquaculturalist well known throughout Southern BC to sea-foodies, and in particular to us shell-fishies as the Oyster Man. His passion for bivalves is intoxicating, and isn’t that just what you want from your aquaculturalist?

Oyster Man is pretty much everything you’d expect from a man of the sea. Solid stature, sparkling sky blue eyes, sea-salt grey and pepper black full beard crowned with the requisite maritime chapeau. Very satisfying. Everyone loves the Oyster Man.

During the Cortes Island shellfish season Oyster Man can been seen from shore hand harvesting his wonderful bounty at low tide. In Oyster Man’s world “when the tide is out, the table is set.”

Photo Credit: Oyster Man

Photo Credit: Oyster Man

We lucky few who live in the Similkameen have access to Oyster Man as he meanders from the Gulf Islands through Manning Park up the Crowsnest Highway to the Kootenays loaded to the gills with fresh mollusks.

It will be 9:00am when Oyster Man temporarily sets up shop at our neighbours organic poultry farm in Cawston. In attendance will be local farmers, foodies and vintners lucky enough to be included at this semi-secret rendezvous.

Imagine sampling and discussing beautiful ocean fresh oysters at 9:00 in the morning. An impromptu tailgate party ensues with Riesling and Chardonnay graciously shared by Little Farm Winery lacated down the street. Orofino Vineyards from up the street will be along in a moment. Talk about bookends. Oyster Man shuck another!

Tailgate Oysters with Little Farm Winery

Tailgate Oysters with Little Farm Winery

Our standing order from Oyster Man is ten pound mussels, five pound clams and a couple dozen small oysters. Upon my return farmersdotter gets right to work debearding the mussels, scraping the clams and shucking the oysters.

The oysters are consumed raw in accordance with Oyster Man’s recommendation: Unadulterated, swimming only in their own nectar. But seeing how Oyster Man is probably past Osoyoos by now farmersdotter can not resist adding finely chopped shallots, from yet another neighbour and fellow shell-fishie, plus fresh squeezed lemon. No honey and, for this one time only, no hot sauce. Thou shalt let the Oyster be.

Oyster Plate

farmersdotter Oyster Plate

The plan is always the same. Feast on fresh steamed mussels tonight and with the leftovers farmersdotter makes the best, and we mean without a doubt the best chowder anywhere. Ever. Period.

The secret to good chowder is simple and begins with the preparation of your mussels and/or clams for steaming. Going forward, and bless you for making it this far, we’ll defer de facto to mussels but the same could be said for clams or combination thereof.

Steaming Mussel Bowl

Steaming Mussel Bowl

Preparation for Steamed Mussels:

5 lb – Mussels

2 – medium red onion, finely chopped

2 – shallot, finely chopped

4 – 6 garlic cloves, minced

4 – roma tomato, seeded and chopped

2 oz – butter, salted

2-3 tablespoon – olive oil

1 cup – dry vermouth or half-decent white wine

Handfull – chopped parsley

To taste – salt and pepper

Lots – lemon/Lime wedge. Hey, Vodka/Gin/Tequila optional

In a huge pot melt butter and olive oil together over medium-high heat. Add garlic, shallot and red onion and saute until translucent.

Now you are going to add the mussels but just before you do tip in the vermouth or half-decent white wine. Or both, what the hell.

Okay, quickly add the mussels, stir and cover to let steam for about five minutes.

Immediately prior to serving add and stir in the tomato and parsley.

Empty everything from the steam pot into a nice crockery serving bowl and crush citrus over the top. Keep some citrus on the side and use liberally for brightening things like your drinks or the mussels at the bottom of the bowl.

It goes without saying that viable mussels will open during the steaming process. Mussels who choose to remain closed should be avoided for being antisocial and potentially toxic.

Enjoy with fresh focaccia or naturally leavened bread for dipping.

It is vital to retain the liquid from the serving bowl in order to make farmersdotter chowder. Next time. Cheers!


On Caramelizing the Humble Onion

Onions are part of the Allium genus which includes lilies, chives, leeks, and garlic. Onions are indispensable in cookery and especially in soup stock. A myriad of onions are cultivated worldwide; white, yellow, red, sweet, and so forth.

At this time of the year you’d be forgiven thinking we’d all be exhausted of going through a winters worth of stored onion sacks. Nothing could be further from the truth. We love the humble onion, its sibling the potato, cousin carrot, aunt beet and weird uncle parsnip but we don’t talk about him much.

Anyway, have you come across the cipollini onion? Its a bite sized popper great for roasting. The cipollini is small like a shallot only more squat. In an onion choir cipollini sings alto. It sits between the richness of the cooking onion and the zing of the shallot. Mellow and benign all on its own. Cipollinis are arguably the best onion to caramelize.

Cipollini Onion

Photo credit reluctantgourmet.com

Caramelized onions of any kind are magnificent. Caramelizing is simply sauteing except on low heat for longer periods of time. The process slowly breaks down the starch in the food giving it the opportunity to migrate and caramelize, which in the end magically and sweetly encrusts the pile o’ goo left at the bottom of your saute pan.

Side note: Avoid non stick pans. They’re convenient but no more so than a well seasoned skillet. Which is traditional and honest. farmersdotter uses an enameled iron pot to caramelize onions to perfection. Besides, where do you think your non-stick coating goes as it wears off your pan? Hmm? Celebrity chefs who use them have probably endorsed the hell out of them. Get them out of your kitchen.

To prepare: Roughly chop a few onions then lightly saute with butter and olive oil on low to medium-low heat until nicely brown and tender. You’ll begin to see the little blackened bits of fond stuck to the bottom of your saute pan. This is when you know you’re so close to ooh la la gooey goodness time. This is what you’ve been waiting for. That, and for it to be five o’clock somewhere. Cheers!

This is the time to scrape up the fond and incorporate its essentialness. Yes, it is not a word but it works. Essentialness. Scrape up the fond and incorporate with a little vermouth, oyster sauce, pinch of salt, and a squage of cracked pepper… Dunno, look it up.

farmersdotter Sautes Onions with Good Stuff

farmersdotter Saute Onions with Good Stuff

You can add pan roasted spices, herbs and all sorts of good stuff but don’t overdo the seasoning or additives cause honestly, caramelized onion prepared with just butter is simply sublime. farmersdotter keeps a store of caramelized onion handy in the fridge so she can…

Okay, at this point I should (avoid litigation says the pointed headed guy in the three-piece) point out that onions are a low acid food, and as such safe preservation requires pressure canning and a safe recipe from a qualified source and blah blah blah…

…so she can add them to a recipe at a moments notice because when you are in a rush to prepare a dish the last thing you need is to slow cook onions on low heat… after peeling them… and crying… with guests walking up the drive… I digress. Simply put, use them anywhere you would use a condiment.

Onions love mushrooms. For the preparation above add chopped mushrooms to the onions. Just prior to plating add a healthy amount of freshly chopped spinach, Chinese broccoli, asparagus, bok choy, and parsley or any combination thereof. When in season we love to add our garlic scapes from the Russian red garlic grown on our farm. Continue to saute but for only for a moment or two. The vegetables need to retain a crunch. At plating top with lime zest.

Saute Onion with Mushroom

Photo credit: juliasalbum.com

Behold the steaming bowl of goodness that ups the umami game to a whole new level. Like most dishes in a bowl farmersdotter adds a dollop or ten of our organic crushed chilli and garlic to take goodness to greatness.


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