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Feb. 19, 2014

Posted 2/22/2014 3:48pm by Don Kretschmann.


Feb. 19, 2014

Greetings from the Kretschmanns,

   This was the week to wake up, open our eyes, and enjoy the wonders of winter in Pennsylvania. With the option of extending our season in greenhouses and hi-tunnels, we can easily get caught viewing all those trillions of glistening hexagonal crystals of H2O as merely impediments to the prospects of convenient vegetable production year 'round. But glancing outside, there's an abundant crop of soft white beauty which will not be outdone by mere green plant growth! One tipping point to the attitude adjustment was one of the late evening walks before bedtime to check on the greenhouse and load the wood burner for the night. The stillness, sparkling stars overhead, full moon illuminating a white fantasy world, and the soft crunch of new fallen snow underfoot was a stroll in wonderland. Then on Sunday, deciding to go with the flow rather than resist, I located my wool socks and trusty cross country skis and ventured into the progressing blizzard. The world shrunk to a womb of just a hundred visible yards. Mitten warmth, rhythmic exertion, and soundlessly smooth glide spoke not of exposure to harsh environ but delicious harmony and grace across field and hill. Pausing on the woodsy trail, awareness dawned of trees growing peacefully amid the wintry afternoon. What else would they be doing? If life is always characterized by the change we call growth, and these trees were certainly not dead, they must be growing...somehow.   Though "dormant", leafless, wordless, they were alive, growing. And so was I--contemplating--changed in attitude.   

   Generally at about this time in the winter, we see the mesclun and other greens in the greenhouses start to re-grow. But this winter some things were just plain frozen out back when it got below zero in January, and others have survived, but not grown particularly well with the prolonged cold and snow cutting down the sunlight into the houses. Not much we can do about it, but we're still hopeful that things will recover sufficiently in the next two weeks to have some greenery for the final box in two weeks.

   We hope you are enjoying the crunchy Goldrush apples bursting with flavor. Personally, I'm getting very spoiled and snobby about apples. I find myself thinking it's hardly worth trying the mushier, blander, and mildly sweetish ones you are generally offered elsewhere.

   We've continued to add pictures at the farm in this unusually snowy year. Beautiful, though the colors can tend toward monotony. 

Hoping you are staying warm and keeping up with the white clean-up,

Your farmers,--Don, Becky & the Farm Crew

Identification: Bag of hard black orbs are black walnuts. These are native treats from the trees near the wagon shed and barn. Hulls are very hard and our suggestion is to use a vise or even vise-grips. A hammer works as a last resort. The flavor is strong and distinctive. A little goes a long way. It's one of our favorites to crack open two or three and sprinkle a few walnut meats atop vanilla ice cream. They also can hold their own with strong flavors like bleu and gorgozolla cheeses.

There are many ways to prepare these, and nearly all are quick, simple, and tasty

Stuffed Mushrooms: Trip any discolored tips of stems from about a dozen medium to large mushrooms. Then carefully cut or scoop out the stem and a portion of the gills leaving a cavity to stuff. A sharp paring knife or teaspoon works well.   Finely mince all these stems and removed mushroom parts. Add 2 tbs. finely mince onion, 1 tbs. finely mince garlic, 2 tbs. finely mince sweet red pepper, 1/4 c. bread crumbs, 1/4 c. grated cheddar cheese, 2 tsp. finely mince parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Stuffing should stick together. Add a little more cheese if not. Brush mushrooms on the outside with melted butter, then stuff, placing then in a pie pan or on cookie sheet. Bake @350 deg approx. 20 min. You can vary as you'd like, using little bits of leftovers, or spicing it up with some hot pepper. One favorite is using sausage, hot or sweet, in the mix with bread crumbs, garlic, cheese, and parsley. It's not complicated; very delicious. Keys are 1. Butter 2. Cheese to make them hold shape.

Please, don't dare use the scrumptious golden ripe Goldrushes for baking, but there are invariably a number of greener ones which can accumulate and are great for pies. Cider is a nice addition for a juicy pie. Great for a lead up to fat-Tuesday--Marti Gras.

Apple pie--Quarter, remove the core and cut up about 2# apples into chunks the size of a sugar cube. (You needn't peel them.) Option: a handful of raisins. Mix with about 1/3 c. sugar or honey, 2 tbs flour, cinnamon to taste, (and perhaps some mace or nutmeg too) and 1/3 c. apple cider. Fill with apples, pressing them to get in as many as possible. One can also forget the flour and sprinkle a little tapioca in the bottom of the shell before adding the apple mix. Make dough and line piepan with crust. Cover with the topcrust and pinch the top and bottom together with your fingers. Cut off excess with knife. Poke a few holes in the top to let the stream out. Bake @ 375 deg until inserting a sharp knife reveals the apples are cooked.

Mom or grandma might have sworn by lard, margarine, ice...and invariably they say one can't make a good crust without white processed flour. But those methods predate the invention of the blender. This hotwater pie crust has been in the Encyclopedic Cookbook published by the Culinary Arts Institute for at least 40 years! My old book says to use shortening and water. But it's ideal for using a blender to mix oil and the hot water. Also, you can work with any oil, and use any flour. Anyone can make a good pie crust quickly and easily with this method. The worst results we've had were actually with white flour, for some reason.

Hotwater Piecrust-- Sift 2 c. flour (100% wholewheat or any mix of flours), 1/2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt. Blend 2/3 c. oil and 1/3 c. boiling water. Mix with sifted ingredients and roll out while warm. Makes 1 double crusted pie. (Roll out dough between two layers of heavy plastic for easy handling and less mess--just peel off the top layer of plastic, put the piepan upside-down on top of the rolled dough, then, putting one hand below the plastic and one above the piepan flip the crust into the piepan and peel off the other layer of plastic.)