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Feb. 5,2014

Posted 2/13/2014 1:24pm by Don Kretschmann.

Feb. 5, 2014

Snowy Greetings from the Kretschmanns,   

Closed down for the day, not even able to get out the driveway to meet with a group of guys from church at dawn. The phone was also on the blink, so no internet either. Great day for a long morning meditation and appreciating the pristine white beauty we've been blessed to receive overnight. Quite a contrast to the surge of activity yesterday packing up all the veggie boxes for the week in the morning and getting out after noon as the day warmed to prune in the orchard. We're making great progress and the crew have many of the trees well tamed--for now. It's always a battle. The trees responding to the sun, earth, and water with as much growth as they can; we, trying to turn as much of that growth as possible into fruit. Pruning is that necessary effort to balance the two. Each cut is a complex calculation, an art resembling wisdom.   

We hope you have enjoyed the Goldrush apples as much as we have this winter. It was a bumper year. This variety ripens the very last in the season and have the habit of not ripening all at once. So this year we were pushing right up to Thanksgiving hoping the last ones would ripen before they would be damaged from freezing. Thus, you'll see that there are some which are much more golden-yellow than others.   These are truly gems of flavor, no matter whether they are spotted from sooty blotch or not. This "disease" is only skin deep and can actually be rubbed off, if you want to spend the time. It's a great shame when I hear people see the sooty blotch on a scrumptious yellow Goldrush and say, "O, they'll make great pies." What a waste! The greener Goldrush don't have quite the flavor, but are just as crisp. They make great cooking apples. The other nice thing about these apples is that they store incredibly well and even if they have a small spot of rot, it rarely progresses to the rest of the apple. Paring this out is a simple solution and loses very little of the apple. Last year we ate the last of the 2012 Goldrush in Sept., 2013 and they were still better flavored than many of the new apples!   

This is just about the nadir of all things green for our northern clime. The particularly cold winter has even taken it's toll on what we had planted inside the greenhouses and hi tunnels. Even with sufficient warmth, the lack of sunshine in December and January keeps green growth severely limited. And this year, whatever growth occurred previously was set back by really low temperatures. Hopefully in the next few weeks, with a few sunny days and warmer temps, the mesclun and chard will have time to regrow and be again included in the boxes.

We've posted pictures from about the farm in this cold time of the year. There's certainly a beauty in the snows, the work, and the wildlife.

Hoping you are staying warm and not too bothered by the snowy weather,

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

FYI: Don't know if you saw it, but last weekend there was a prominent op-ed piece in the Post Gazette in which the author makes the case that organic produce and products are no better for us or the environment than conventionally grown. What was unusual with a controversial topic like that is that there was not opposing view.   I submitted one which has yet to be published, but have posted it on our website. There's a lot bigger picture than meets the eye. (see below)

Beets are loaded with vitamins--A, B1, B2, B6, and C--as well as calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium, cobalt, and iron. They sweeten juices and color everything they touch! Large beets can sometimes be offputting when one just thinks of cooking them like you would younger beets--they will take a long, long time. We deliberately let them get very large for winter storage because they don't get "flabby" like the smaller ones would. They store well into the spring. These large roots are in many ways preferable for many uses and yield so much more beet goodness to the table.

Beet Salad: Peel one or two large beets with a regular potato peeler. Then grate it the way you would grate carrots in a box grater. Dress with your favorite, and add a few raisins and nuts for chewy and crunchy textures.

If you've never made this, you'd be surprised how much it tastes just like pineapple upside down cake.

Apple Upside-Down Cake: Melt ½ c. butter in 9x13” metal cake pan and brush sides. Add 1 c. brown sugar and spread evenly on bottom. Slice about 4 apples into ½” thick slices across the core perpendicular to the stem. Remove the seed cavity with a paring knife. Place apple slices on top of the brown sugar and cook atop stovetop at medium heat until they are slightly caramelized. Remove from heat. Sift 1 ½ c. flour (I use 50-50 whole wheat) with 1 ½ tsp. baking powder, ¼ tsp salt. Separate 3 eggs. Stiffly beat whites. Beat yolks and add 1 c. sugar beating well and then add ½ c. cider and beat until fluffy; add flour mixture. Then fold in egg whites and pour batter over apples. Bake @ 375 deg. 30 min. Allow to cool very slightly and then turn upside down on a cake plate or cookie sheet.

We've always enjoyed keeping a jar of pickled beets in the refrigerator for use in salads or just by themselves. This type of "pickle" needn't be limited to beets. There are all sorts of pickles appearing up as additions by creative chefs all over the country. Here's just a suggestion... Pickled Carrots, Celariac, and Turnips: Scrub the roots well; celariac will need to be peeled. Slice into wedges or sticks about 3/4" thick. For variety, some can be cut on a diagonal. Make about 4 c. total. Combine 1/2 c. vinegar 1 c. water, 1 tbs honey, 1 clove garlic thinly sliced, 1 tsp. fennel seeds, sprig thyme, 1 tsp. olive oil, 1 tsp tumeric, 1 tsp salt. Bring this to boil and add roots simmering about 8 min. until just tender--not too much. Allow to cool and put in a mason jar in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

We're just getting the feel for our newest vegetable--celariac--that rather large hairy root in with the turnips. It has a much subtler flavor than it's relative celery. This is a takeoff on a recipe in Deborah Madison's highly recommended cookbook-Vegetable Literacy.

Wild Rice With Celery Root--While wild rice is cooking, peel one celariac root and dice about 1/3". (you can temporarily keep it from darkening by keeping it in a bowl covered with water to which you've added a little lemon juice) Bring water to boil, add celariac and simmer for about 3 min until just tender but still chewy. Add to rice. Toss with butter and a little salt.

I'll agree, you might be tiring of rosemary. But we have it in profusion. Just saw where the somewhat woody stems could be used to good purpose as skewers to lend some subtle herb flavor to lamb, beef, or shrimp kebobs. Also making a paste of garlic, rosemary, and sage for under the skin of turkey or chicken. And it's always a great counterpoint to roasted roots like potato fries or turnips. Just a little, finely chopped.

Rosemary Focaccia with Garlic and Onions: Saute 1 med. coarsely chopped onion and 2-4 cloves finely chopped garlic in 2 tbs olive oil until tender and golden. Set aside. Make recipe of your favorite bread proportioned to use 1 c. liquid. When preparing the liquid ingredients add the sauted onions and garlic and 1 tbs. finely minced rosemary. Add the flour, knead and raise the first time. Punch down and roll into a flat rectangular shape. Oil a large baking sheet and dust with cornmeal. Lift focaccia onto sheet and press dough out to cover. Allow to rise again, and before baking (400 deg) press a number of indentations in the top with your fingers. Brush with 2 tbs. olive oil and sprinkle with another tbs finely minced rosemary and grated Parmesan cheese. Bake approx 20 min until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped. Serve hot! Note: Easy bread recipe is Don's basic 1-1-1 in the breadmaker. 1 c. water 1 tbs honey, 1 tsp salt in first. Then 1 c. white and 1 c. whole wheat bread flour with 1 tbs dry yeast in a cavity on top of the flour. Put it on the dough cycle. Turn out when done onto floured surface and knead in a little extra flour if too sticky.