Archive for July, 2008

Country Living in the City

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Guest Post by Clara Lee Sharrard

We live in an old Victorian home on a 50 x 125 foot lot in Springfield, MA. As I look around the yard, I am amazed at how many different foods we are managing to grow in this small amount of space. I sometimes hear people claim that they live in the suburbs because they need a big yard to be able to do anything with it. Taking an inventory of what I’ve got on my small patch of land, I’m not sure I agree.


It Was Too Sweet—What Can I Do?

Friday, July 25th, 2008

I made a chicken breast with a citrus glaze and it was too sweet what can I do to cut the sweetness? I thought rice vinegar and something along those lines. Any help would be appreciated.

Without seeing the exact recipe, I’m not sure I can offer specific advice: much of what I could tell you would have to do with specific ingredients being used, and the exact application of the glaze (is it applied at the beginning or the end of cooking; is the glaze also being used as a sauce at the table?) If you happened to have an electronic copy of the recipe that you could forward to me, I could take a look at it and see what I might suggest.

In general, though, I’m a bit wary of relying on sourness or bitterness to cut sweetness. If you get the proportions wrong, it can backfire on you. Also, it could interfere with how the glaze sets up on the chicken. If you’re using leftover glaze as a table sauce, I’d actually recommend cutting the sweetness in those circumstances with some fat, whether in the form of butter or cream. Even if not using the glaze as a sauce, fat might be the answer: serve the glazed chicken with a rich cream sauce and that will cut through the sweetness a bit. I’m a big fan of blue cheese, and I’m thinking citrus glazed chicken with a little Gorgonzola sauce might be nice.

Another answer might just be to cut back on the amount of sugar used in the recipe—but again, if you can provide me with a copy of the recipe, I can give you some more specific advice.

If you have a culinary question, email me and I’ll try my darndest to get you a worthwhile answer.

Western PA Farm Tour

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

On Saturday, July 26, you can visit thirteen local farms and find out more about what they grow, how they do it, and why they do things the way they do as part of the PASA Buy Fresh Buy Local Summer Farm Tour.  The cost is $10 per car, payable to the first farm you visit.  That farm will provide you with a pass that will admit you to events at all other participating farms.

If you’d like to see a list of all the farms participating, and find out a little bit of background information about each of them before you embark on the tour, check out this map.

Where Giant Eagle Milk Comes From

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

Around the time I visited Turner Dairy, I noticed an announcement from Giant Eagle that all milk sold under their brand name was sourced from farmers who certify that they do not use rBGH (aka rBST) in their milk production—which is fantastic; anyone who has read descriptions of the udder sores and infections that cows given the hormone suffer must realize that there is a price to be paid for the 10% increased milk production the hormone causes. While the FDA says that there is no significant difference between milk from cows given the hormones and milk from cows not given the hormones, I’d disagree—even if the two substances appear the same in laboratory tests, the comfort and well-being f the animal providing the milk is of definite concern to me.

I also like to buy my foodstuffs from as local of a source as possible, which led me to ask, where does Giant Eagle milk come from? I finally heard back about where Giant Eagle milk comes from: Dean Dairy. I got a phone call from Annie at Dean, who reported that the processing plant for the milk is in Sharpsville, PA; and that 85-90% of it comes from farms in Pennsylvania, with the balance being sourced from Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin. She says that there is no difference between milk sold under the Giant Eagle label and the milk sold under the Dean label—Dean just acts as the provider for Giant Eagle’s store brand.


If it’s Legal, Is it Still Moonshine?

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

There’s a certain mystique (at least in my mind) about the production of spirits. When it comes to homemade, I haven’t yet even dabbled in wine or beer. In this venue, I appreciate the efforts of others. I have no deign of trying to replicate the results. I’ve visited several wineries and nodded appreciatively at aging tanks; at breweries I have gazed at networks of tanks connected by pipes and valves, following their path through the assistance of diagrams. I haven’t really felt like I’ve left those places with an understanding of how they have worked, yet I’ve wanted to someday try my hand at making my own, perhaps.

Whiskey, on the other hand, is something that I’ve never pondered making on my own. The act of distillation adds a level of complexity that I don’t want to try on my own. Somehow, though, seeing a working small-time still (even if not at work when I saw it) condenses in my mind how spirits are made in a way I hadn’t grasped before. Then again, the tour guide probably has at least as much of a role in that understanding as anything else.

Last week, I visited Belmont Farm Distillery in Culpepper, Virginia, and received a whirlwind of a tour from its very hands-on, quick speaking proprietor, Chuck Miller, who provides many such walk-throughs at his “living museum.”

His operations should by no means be assumed to be the only working still in the hills of central Virginia. His work draws heavily on the history of moonshining in the area, and Miller even touts his product as “legal moonshine,” operating with “the blessing of the Commonwealth of Virginia because we pay them taxes.”

Truth be told, the still also has to comply to other regulations in order to maintain that blessing: the product reaches fruition at a natural strength of 150 proof, but Miller must dilute it to 100 proof in order to comply with the law. Even so, despite having produced spirits for sale since 1988, it’s only since 2006 that Mr. Miller has been able to make sales of his product on his farm—the first time since George Washington that anyone’s been legally able to do so in Virginia, as Mr. Miller points out more than once.


Great Tips on Making Popovers

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

My experience with popovers is minimal, I must admit.  I make them maybe once a year  The first time i tried making them, I didn’t realize how many factors are at play and did a shoot-from-the-hip chocolate filled popover that was spectacular.  I melted some baking chocolate down with a touch of butter and some brown sugar, let it cool, and divided it into chunks.  I filled the muffin cups halfway, added a chunk to each, then finished filling them.  I had the idea to make it again, and then fill the cavity of the finished popover with pastry cream for an even more decadent dessert, but I could not replicate the original effort.

Since then, I’ve made basic popovers no more than a couple of times, and each time they’ve come out differently.  I could never quite explain why, but I stumbled across a website that provides a very thorough and well written list of tips and tricks that should help get you on your way to making the perfect popover in your own kitchen.