Eat Fresh – What’s in Season NOW! September

Here is a quick run down on Eating Fresh – What’s in season now, September 2014.

Every where you look, people are trying to eat better.

To be an educated eater, you need to be aware or what fresh #fruitsandvegetables are available according to season.
Simply going to the grocery store or that busy farmers market on the corner isn’t a good way to determine what is in season. Food gets shipped in from all over the world so the availability seems season-less.

Eggplant and Okra

Eggplant and Okra

Knowing what is in season and that winter would be the “bleakest” food season; you can prepare and plan to have a pantry full of amazing things. But that’s another discussion.

Summer is winding down, days are getting shorter. Tomatoes are in full swing, melons are ripening on the vines.
Okra is growing over your head the plants have become so tall!

Here's what you can buy fresh from the garden in September:

Click on the hyperlinks to get fun, interesting ideas and recipes.

  • Apples- are coming in, crisp and fresh! Look for more varieties in the market as fall progresses.

    Apples on display

    Apples on display

  • Blackberries– soon to be gone! Make some Blackberry Sage Jam for a cold winter morning.
  • Cabbage – a good winter staple
  • Cherry Tomatoes – great for salads, snacking, roasting or sauté – abundant now through first frost
  • Collards – Simply an amazing green to simmer and eat with beans and cornbread, ’nuff said! Don’t forget the hot pepper vinegar!
  • Cucumbers– until first frost, time to make some pickles. Here’s a primer to get you going.
  • Figs–  get them quick! They are almost gone. Fig and lemon jam will capture their essence, or simply do whole figs in syrup. Wrap them in prosciutto. . .
  • Green Onions I find they winter ok if you grow them yourself. For fun, try sprouting the root end again by putting it is a small glass of water, it grows!
  • Greens– Easily available, get baby varieties to eat raw
  • Herbseasily available in most varieties. Mint may be dying back, Basil is trying to seed. Freeze fresh herbs in ice-cube trays for winter use.
  • Indian Corn– begins to hit the market through October
  • Muscadine Grapes– Short season, all-time favorite regional treat. Freeze some for Halloween, use them as ‘eyeballs’ in the punchbowl or drinks.
  • Mushrooms– Late summer varieties rich flavors!
  • Mustard Greens– start coming in mid-September. Try some for a spicy different taste.
  • Peaches– leaving the market soon. Get your fill now! Make some fresh peach ice cream this weekend and serve it over warm peach cobbler or pie.
  • Peanuts– a year round favorite, raw, roasted or boiled.
  • Pears– the best pears are just starting to show up. Pears will only be here a short while, through October.
  • Persimmons– tricky to get just right, those who do love them!
  • Pumpkins– YAY! I adore pumpkins, eating and decorating and carving, flesh seeds and all! (Check out the links! You’ll have fun, promise!)
  • Raspberries– Almost gone until next year. Freeze some.
  • Snap Beans– Coming to an end of the season. I adore green beans and freeze some for winter. I think canning them makes them to soggy.
  • Yellow Squash– I know some aren’t sorry to see these go. Still available through mid October.
  • Sweet Corn– the symbol of summer, gone by the middle of the month. If you haven’t yet, grill you some corn on the cob for dinner.
  • Sweet Potatoes– Available year round although some specialty varieties come and go. I adore the garnet type from mid summer.
  • Tomatoes and Tomatillos– Through first frost. Be sure to get the green ones at the end of season to make chow-chow!
  • Watermelon– Another summer classic about to depart as fall descends.
  • Zucchini– only through the end of September. Shred some and make some Brownies!

I hope this helps. If you’re at the market and see things that really don’t seem right, like strawberries in September, ask where they came from and how they were grown. Leave them behind if you don’t like the answer.

Use your dollar to vote for better food and health with every purchase you make.

How do you eat, do you follow seasons? Buy Local? Please comment below and tell us how you plan your meals.

The What to Eat Now – October will be out soon. Subscribe to Spoon Feast so you are sure to get it! Use the subscription button on the right.

Massaged Kale Salad

Massaged Kale Salad

#eatfresh #seasonaleating #localfood #fruitsandvegetables #foodinseason #supportfarmers #eatlocal #seasonalfood

 

Make Half-Sour Pickles

Have you ever had one of those delicious pickles from a Jewish Deli and thought it was the best ever? Good chance it was a Half-Sour Pickle!

Half Sour Pickles are some of my favorite pickles. The best part is they are ready to eat only a few hours after making them.

Guaranteed they won’t be around for long!

As they age, they move into full sour pickles but that’s just because the cukes get to stay in the brine longer. Honestly, they never last that long in my home.

Half-Sour Pickles

  • Servings: 1 quart
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

These are considered a “fresh” pickle

  • 1 quart wide mouth canning jar with new 2-piece lid. Sterilize the jar in the dishwasher, NOT the 2-piece lid
  • 2 pounds pickling cucumbers, cut into spears or leave whole if desired
  • Ingredients for Half-Sour Pickles
  • 1/4 oz dill sprigs
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, smashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • For the Brine:
  • 32 ounces water
  • 3 ounces salt- use a scale and weigh it!
  • 4 ounces white vinegar

Boil 1 quart water. Place the 2-piece canning lid in a mixing bowl; pour boiling water over the canning lid; set aside until ready to use

Place the dill, garlic, and bay leaf into the bottom of a 1 quart wide mouth canning jar. Pack the cucumbers on top.

Bring the water, salt, and vinegar to a boil, pour directly over cucumbers. Place the canning lid on the jar, turn upside down and cool. Refrigerate. Allow pickles to steep 24 hours before eating. The pickles will change from half cured to a fully cured pickle the longer they sit in the brine.

They are good until they are gone, which won’t be long.

Place seasonings in clean, sterile jars

Pack cucumber spears into jars

Pour boiling brine into jars; fill to top

Secure lids and allow to cool

Adding dried onion flakes and jalapeno slices to the seasonings will add flavors as well. If you like your pickles spicy, try it.

This brine can also be used to pickle an excess of jalapenos and zucchini spears can be substituted for cucumbers if you like.

This is a quick and easy pickle. Try making some soon.

There’s nothing quite like a fresh pickle along side a sandwich or any kind of  charcuterie.

Enjoy!

Related Articles:

A Pickling Primer

Pickled Beets

Pickled Cauliflower

Pickled Turnips

Sweet Pickle Chips

 

 

Organic VS. Conventionally Grown Vegetables

Vegetables ready to pickle!It can be confusing to shop for vegetables these days trying to figure out whether to buy organic vs. conventionally grown produce.

Some say if it has a thick peel organic doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does.

Here’s a couple of lists: One of foods you should always buy organic and the other a list of produce that is alright to buy conventionally grown items.

Always Buy Organic:

Why? These foods have been found to have high levels of pesticide contamination.

Always wash all fruits and vegetables just before cooking and preparing.

Fruit:

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Imported Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries

Vegetables:

 farmers market radishes

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cherry and Grape Tomatoes
  • Corn – to avoid GMO
  • Cucumbers
  • Collard greens
  • Hot peppers
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Sweet Bell Peppers

OK To Buy Conventionally Grown:

Why? These crops are safely grown with the low usage of pesticide resulting in lower pesticide residue on your fruits and vegetables.

Always wash well before preparing.

Fruits:

Fresh Blueberries

  • Cantaloupe
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas – Check it for GMO
  • Pineapples

Vegetables:

  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Cabbage, all varieties
  • Eggplant
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Sweet Potatoes

This list features the most pesticide contaminated foods which are advised to purchase organically whenever possible. The conventionally grown foods on the list are the ones grown with the least amount of pesticide contamination.

if it’s not on the list, you’ll have to do some research and decide for yourself whether to buy organic or conventionally grown.

Most produce in the USA will come with a PLU number on it. It is not required by the government but the PLU system was designed to streamline things for processors and pricing, not consumers.

Here are a few basic guidelines for selecting fruit and vegetables using PLU codes.

Conventionally grown produce will bear a 4-digit number in the 3,000-4,000 range

Organic produce will bear a 5-digit number starting with 9

Supposedly GMO produce bears a 5-digit number starting with 8, but you don’t see it  because they really don’t use those PLU codes to identify GMO grown foods. Why don’t they use the 8-digit code? Growers are afraid consumers won’t buy if it bears a code starting with an 8, so they choose to leave the code off the product. Use of the PLU code is optional, not required.

So the best thing to do is not totally depend upon PLU codes but know who grows your food and know where it comes from.

 

I hope this helps all of us eat better this next year!

How to Make Mustard

Learning how to make mustard can be as simple as mixing a few things together or as complicated as soaking a few seeds. It’s not hard at all to make.

Make Your Own Mustard

While there are many different kinds of mustard you can make, this is a kinder gentler mustard, not too pungent.

All it takes is mix the ingredients together, heat until thick, bottle and cool.

Simple!

Make Basic Mustard

  • 1/2 cup dry mustard powder, Coleman’s is my favorite.
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark doesn’t matter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (non-iodized)
  • 1/2 cup good quality white wine vinegar

Measure and mix everything in a heat-resistant bowl until a thin smooth paste forms.

Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water to make a double boiler, heat the mixture until it becomes thick. As the mustard thickens, whisk so it remains smooth.

Use a silicone spatula to get all the mustard in to a clean glass jar.

Allow to cool, cover, label and store.The mustard needs to sit for at least 2 hours before serving. The mustard will also “mellow” as it ages in the refrigerator.

Homemade Ketchup, Mustard and Relish

Homemade Ketchup, Mustard and Relish

I haven’t had a jar around long enough to tell you how long it lasts.

Use it as you would any mustard but be warned, it will spoil you from buying  processed store-bought mustard.

Dip a tasty sausage into mustard!

Dip a tasty sausage into mustard!

Decorate your hot dog the homemade mustard

Decorate your hot dog the homemade mustard

More mustard recipes coming soon such as whole grain mustard, Dijon style, champagne honey, and pear/apple mostarda.

Learning how to make mustard is an easy thing to do to reduce your consumption of processed foods.

Basic Mustard

Basic Mustard – Got a Pretzel?

Onion Scapes

This post is about the beautiful onion scapes growing in my garden.

Enjoy the photos.

IMG_5639 IMG_5638

Things to Make with Mint

Mint Leaves

Mint Leaves (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mint leaves.

Mint leaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oh my! The mint in my garden has taken off! If you have an overgrowth of mint here are a few ideas on how to put the mint to good use.

  • Mint Pesto
  • Mint Mojitos
  • Mint Ice Cream

    A scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip, Baskin-Robbin'...

    A scoop of Mint Chocolate Chip, Baskin-Robbin’s most popular flavor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Mint Simple Syrup
  • Mint Liquor
  • Add mint to agua fresca
  • Make chocolate mint leaves by painting clean mint leaves with melted chocolate, let dry and peel the leaf away leaving a chocolate mint leaf!

These take more patience than I have, surely you have more than I do and therefore are able to make en entire tree of chocolate mint leaves.

Personally I don’t care for working with chocolate. I find it far more messy than  worth it. I’ll gladly pay for fine chocolates which are also far better than I would have the patience to make. Temper chocolate? Meh, I’d rather not.

  • English: Too young for mint sauce A very young...

    English: Too young for mint sauce A very young lamb in the wildflower meadow beside the church of St George. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Make mint sauce for lamb! Not mint jelly. Although that would be good too, but the vinegar, sweet mint sauce like Crosse and Blackwell make. I love this sauce on so many things – lamb, shrimp, pork . . .

  • Mint jelly

    Mint jelly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Make Apple Mint Jelly. Put that on a biscuit with some butter. Slap on a bit of salty ham, maybe some brie and chow down!

  • Make Moroccan Mint Tea – Make a large jar full because this will disappear on you so fast!
  • Mint Ice cream with chocolate shavings, or frozen mint chocolate yogurt
  • Rub your temples with mint leaves to help relieve headache and general stress. Breathe deep.
  • If you have large mint plants, cut long thick branches, tie them together and hang them in your shower. The scent will be released from the essential oils in the leaves by the warm water of the shower and be exhilarating. Best first thing in the morning as it can be quite stimulating.
  • Make Tabbouleh
  • At the end of the day make Mint Juleps!

Ah, an over growth of Mint can be heavenly!

Eating Local

This is my interpretation of “eating local“:

Local Fare

Local Fare

The multi-grain bread was made by me and cooked on the grill. The sourdough culture I use is nearly 2 years old and came to me from a friend.

I grew the lettuce.

I made the goat cheese from milk from local goats. I could find out the names of the goats if I wanted. I buy the milk from our organic farmers market who bring it in fresh. Low-temp pasteurized, yeah buddy!

The tomato is from a farm just down the road whose family has been growing vegetables and operating a working farm on the land since 1775. These tomatoes are the first to ripen with any flavor, just perfect for the goat cheese!

So there you have it. Local food for lunch.

A Basic Fresh Goat Cheese: Chevre

I made Fresh Goat Cheese!

Fresh Goat Cheese!

Fresh Goat Cheese!

Actually I was surprised at how quick and easy it actually was to make. Having the right equipment and getting good milk are key.

I get most of my supplies from The New England Cheese Making Supply which is a great resource for everything cheese.

Ever since I returned from the cheese making workshop a few weeks ago, my hands have been looking forward to getting into some milk.

First I had to find a source for good, clean, fresh goat milk for goat cheese and I still need to source Jersey cows for their milk for other cheese. For now, I have goat!

I LOVE the “barnyard” flavor of a strong goat cheese. While in France, I fell in love with Pouligny St. Pierre goat cheese which is a creamy smooth aged amazing bit of heaven to put into your mouth. It is my goal and intention to make some of that here, but obviously with the “terroir” of North Carolina.

OK, so here’s how I made this batch of Fresh Chevre:

I started with one gallon of fresh Goat Milk from Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain, NC. The milk comes in glass bottles, which I love!

Order a batch of CHEVRE culture from New England Cheese Making Supply. One packet will culture one gallon of milk, so plan what you want to make. I never seem to order enough.

Additionally if your milk is pasteurized (PLEASE find milk that is low temp processed as Ultra-Pasteurized milk does not work for making cheese) you will need 1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride per gallon of pasteurized, cold-stored milk.

In my next batch, I want to ripen it for a few weeks so I will be adding other cultures for different effects.

Equipment needed:

2 large pots; the small one holds 1 gallon easily. I can use the larger pot for larger batches. Just need to find a pot to nest it inside of for a reasonable price.

2 large pots; the small one holds 1 gallon easily. I can use the larger pot for larger batches. Just need to find a pot to nest it inside of for a reasonable price.

2 large stock pots: the one the milk goes into needs to be stainless steel (Non-reactive)

The second one needs to be large enough to make a double boiler or bain marie, the first needs to nestle into the large one so you can heat the milk easily and slowly.

A good thermometer: You NEED to be in control of temperatures, not too high or too low.

Cheese Muslin, butter muslin, closely woven cheese cloth– the normal loose woven is way too loosely woven. Invest in a yard or two, wash it and use it over and over.

Use cold water to remove any cheese particles, then hand wash. Rinse and boil it in a pot with some baking soda for 5-10 minutes, rinse and hang to dry. It will be fresh and good to go for the next round of cheese!

Here is how to make the cheese:

Wash and sanitize everything!! Have a pot of boiling/simmering water to drop cheesecloth, molds, tools into to sanitize them before they come into contact with cheese.

Pour the milk into the pot, place it over the water (about 80°F). Warm the milk to 72-78°F.

Please be aware that this will feel cold to the touch, this is not warm milk, just milk warmed from refrigeration to 72-78 degrees.

Open 1 packet of the Chevre culture and sprinkle it over the top of the milk. Allow it to hydrate for 2-5 minutes before stirring it into the milk.

Goat milkAdd 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride is using cold-stored pasteurized milk.

Allow this to sit undisturbed for 6-12 hours. This is the hardest part as you want to go see what is happening and you want it to hurry up and do its thing. But be patient, it takes time.

This batch sat for 8 1/4 hours before testing the cleave of the curd. When it is ready to test, you should see a thin layer of whey over the curd and a slight separation from the sides of the pot.

Testing the cleavage break

Testing the cleavage break

Insert a knife or a spoon, slightly on the surface, the curd should cleave clean and the whey that floats into the separation should be clear.

Carefully lift the curds with a strainer into a colander lined with cheese muslin. Be sure to place the colander over a large bowl to catch the whey.

Gently fold the cheesecloth over the curds and allow them to drain for 6-12 hours again, depending upon your desired finished texture. Less time for sweeter cheese, more for tangy cheese. The longer the whey stays in contact with the curd, the more tangy it gets.

You must be very careful NOT TO PRESS the curds. Allow them to drain gently at this point. The whey should be clear dripping, if it is cloudy, you are losing milk fat and your cheese will be dry.

You can also put it into molds at this point if you are using a mold. It will result in a smoother sided end product.

Control the room temperature and the curd temperature to maintain as close to 72-78°F as possible. I let the curds form while still in the bain marie as the water in the host pot will maintain the temperature of the curd mass.

I usually let this happen overnight while sleeping. The next day is such a surprise!

Unfold the cheesecloth and reveal your fresh cheese! Now it is time to salt. For this batch, 1.5-2 teaspoons of non-iodized cheese salt.

You can consider the cheese finished at this point but this is also where you can be a bit creative.IMG_6161

As you fold in the salt, also consider adding other flavors like herbs, minced garlic or shallots or onions, crushed peppercorns, ash, use your imagination.

IMG_6171Store your fresh goat cheese in a bowl or tub and consume within 10 days. Refrigerate the cheese, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving to allow all the wonderful flavors to come through.

A Word About Seasonings:

Please use dried seasonings and herbs due to the risk of bacterial contamination that may be introduced by using fresh herbs and seasonings. If you use fresh, be sure to eat the cheese soon. It can’t hang out for a while like plain cheese.

A Word About Food Safety:

The temperature the milk gets processed is in a temperature range that is smack dab in the extreme temperature danger zone. Everything you use needs to be “sterilized” in the boiling water bath before it comes in contact with the curds or milk. I cover my curd formation and the curd draining with a glass lid (so I can see what is going on!) to prevent anything falling or flying into the curd mass.

Since my kitchen is FULL of wild yeast from all the bread I make, the introduction of wild yeast is totally possible. This could have a spoiling effect on the curd. This is another reason I boil things before they touch the milk/curds.

The hardest part is WAITING! I strongly suggest you get to a farmers market and buy some goat milk and try this. It is easy, very tasty and you will feel so good about making a tasty goat cheese you’ll make more.

If you do make any cheese, take notes on the temperatures, conditions, milk etc so you can repeat successful processes. Most of all remember DO NOT USE Ultra-Pasteurized milk!

So that’s Fresh Chevre in a nut shell. There is a lot of information out there on making cheese. I’m really just starting and am looking forward to making more!

Please let me know how you do if you make some fresh Goat Cheese!

Jacques Pepin: How to Debone a Chicken

The best video I have ever seen on how to do this process.

Buy some chickens, do it and practice!

Cooking time is about 2 hours at 350°F is a roasting pan.

Place a small bit of stock in the bottom of a pan with a couple of chopped carrots, onion and celery for flavor.

Use your favorite stuffing. When practicing, I make and donate the cooked chickens to Ronald McDonald House so we don’t get sick and tired of eating skills practice.

As Jacques says, you can do this with all birds.

What fun!

Simple (And Great Tasting!) Bean Burger

Bean Burger

Bean Burger; Can you see it under the mushrooms and onions? I had to take the picture before Robert got to the table and didn’t have time to “present” the burger for photos.

This simple and great tasting bean burger is quite simple to make and is versatile enough to become many things besides burgers.

  • 1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans
  • 2 cups cooked old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon dried vegetable flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced onion
  • 1/2 cup ground pistachio or almond meal
  • 1 tablespoon Bragg’s liquid aminos (the salt)

Start by cooking the oatmeal. Include the garlic, onions and dried vegetable flakes if using for flavor.

Drain the beans, rinse and add to the oatmeal.

Combine the oats and beans and all the seasonings

Combine the oats and beans and all the seasonings

Process the mixture in a food processor until things are coarsely chopped up. You do not want to make a paste.

Coarsely chop

Coarsely chop

Form burgers using a scoop for even sizes.

Scoop for even size

Scoop for even size

Pat the burgers with additional pistachio or almond meal to ‘dry’ the outside of the burger. This will allow it to become nice and golden brown.

Using a very small amount of coconut oil or olive oil in the bottom of a saute pan (or use a non-stick pat and go fat-free) place the bean burgers into the hot pan, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.

Saute them until golden brown on one side, flip and cook on the other side until golden brown too.

You can finish cooking them in the oven or hold them in the oven until you are ready to eat.

Delicious Cooked Bean Burgers

Delicious Cooked Bean Burgers

Remove the burgers from the saute pan and then add sliced mushrooms and sliced onions, saute for 2 minutes, then add 1-2 tablespoons of water, continue cooking until the water is evaporated.

Serve the sautéed onions and mushrooms over the bean burgers.

This evening, we served them on a bed of fresh spinach with a side Caesar salad. I couldn’t eat it all!

If you have leftovers, you can saute the  crumbled burgers with some diced onions, chili powder, cumin and diced tomatoes to make “taco meat”. Fill corn tortillas and finish with your favorite taco toppings.

I find this can be used nearly the same as you would ground meat. Make chili, tacos, casseroles etc.

Enjoy!

Bean Burger topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms

Bean Burger topped with sauteed onions and mushrooms