Week 16: Aug. 20, 2014

Ready to join the 2015 Snead’s Farm CSA? Download the contract here.

In this week’s box:

1 flat peaches

2 quarts Concord grapes

1 quart okra

1 dozen eggs

1 spaghetti squash

2 bags tomatoes

small quantity of summer squash

4 watermelons

1 bag green bell peppers

1 bag cucumbers

2 2-lb bags white potatoes

1 bag yellow onions

The following pick-your-own opportunities are an optional bonus for CSA members only:

On Wednesday, Aug, 20, from 8am to noon:

4 half-pints PYO raspberries

2 quarts Concord grapes

On Sunday, Aug. 24 from 11am to 2pm:

8 half-pints PYO raspberries

2 quarts Concord grapes

Total retail value of goods in this week’s box: $143

Total retail value of goods distributed so far this year: $1,471.50

Emily’s notes:

Let’s talk about Concord grapes. They are so much faster to pick than raspberries because they come in bunches, but unless you are into spitting seeds and chewing through their tough skins, they will take a little more time in the kitchen. Rest assured that the effort is well worth it, though, as these grapes taste a lot more grape-y than the seedless varieties you find at the supermarket. (As an aside, I was at the grocery store today and saw grapes that said on the package they were “cotton candy” flavor. What the…Well, these are not cotton-candy flavored grapes. They are grape-flavored grapes.)

What to do with them? Read this post from last year about the process of turning them into freezer jam. I just finished off the last of my 2013 Concord grape freezer jam a few weeks ago, and boy does it make a great PB&J. It’s also great on good bread for breakfast and in waffles.  You could also turn your grapes into pie filling to make a Northern classic, Concord grape pie. Find a recipe from Saveur here.

Spaghetti squash can make a quick meal that is kid-friendly. To cook, simply slice in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash face-down on a sheet pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until tender all the way through. Allow the squash to cool enough so you can handle them, and use a big fork or spoon to scrape out the flesh, which has a spaghetti-like appearance when cooked. Toss with marinara or, better yet, a rich meat sauce like a Bolognese (Try this recipe for a quick one, I make it with beef.).

With bell peppers, don’t forget one of my favorite ways to serve them: stuffed. This recipe for stuffed bell peppers recognizes what a forgiving dish this can be, incorporating whatever you have around. It will also use some of your onions.

As for okra, I am really intrigued this week by this Southern Living recipe for okra and potato hash. Happy eating!

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Week 18: August 28, 2013

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

1 flat of peaches

4 heads of garlic

1 pint of blackberries

2 pints of raspberries

4 eggplants

4 peppers

3 pounds of butter beans

*Optional Pick-your-own between 9am-12pm only*

2 pints of raspberries

1 quart of grapes

Total retail value of this week’s box: $100.50

Total retail value of goods distributed this year: $1,117

Emily’s notes:

It’s hard to believe this is the last pickup before October!

One possibility for your eggplants and peppers is a caponata. This is a Sicilian dish made of chopped cooked vegetables dressed with olives and capers. You can alter this recipe to suit your taste, but here’s the basic idea:

Eggplant and pepper caponata

2 eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil

juice of one lemon

one garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained

handful pitted olives (kalamata would be nice) optional

juice of half a lemon

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 cup feta cheese (optional)

Place the eggplant and peppers on a roasting tray. Sprinkle on oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until all vegetables are coated. Roast in a 450-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until vegetables are cooked and slightly browned.

When vegetables have cooled slightly, toss them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Just in case you have trouble getting though your berries before they begin to spoil, here is a recipe I adapted last week from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook. It’s a great way to get a little more mileage out of your berries, as these muffins will keep for about a week in the fridge, or you could freeze them for longer storage.

Summer Berry Muffins

Makes 18 muffins

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups whole wheat and 1 all-purpose)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk (substitute any mix of yogurt, sour cream and milk if you are running low on milk)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1 1/2 cups sugar

In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Throw in the salt (if you use kosher salt it usually won’t go through a sieve). Stir this mixture lightly to ensure all the ingredients are mixed.

In another bowl, combine milk, eggs and butter. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix by hand to incorporate but don’t overmix. This batter will have lumps.

Add berries and sugar and stir gently until combined.

Spoon into lined muffin cups and bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean (A cake tester in my house is a dry spaghetti noodle.).

If you’ve only ever had canned butter beans, you are in for a treat. The fresh version is much better! This post from the blog A Taste of Carolina has some helpful tips and recipes for cooking fresh butter beans. It also tells you how to freeze them to eat later in the year.

Enjoy this last boxful of summer. I’ll be back later for some tips on using fall vegetables!

Week 17: Aug. 21, 2013

Concord grapes

Concord grapes

In this week’s box:

1/2 dozen eggs

2 watermelons

1 flat of peaches

14 ears of corn

1 pint of blackberries

1 1/2 pints of raspberries

2 eggplants

2 peppers

3 lbs of string beans

*Optional*

Pick-your-own bonus available only between 9am – 12pm

2 pints of PYO raspberries

1 pint of PYO blackberries

1 quart of PYO grapes

Total retail value of this week’s box: $105.50

Total retail value of goods distributed this year: $1016.50

Emily’s notes:

What a feast of watermelon we have had this year! If you’re looking for a new way to serve it, try pairing it with corn in a salsa. Simply chop the watermelon into a small dice, add an ear or two’s worth of corn kernels (No need to cook them, but sometimes it makes it easier to cut them from the cob if you zap the unshucked ear in the microwave for a couple minutes.). Throw in chopped red onion, some minced jalapeno pepper if you have it, olive oil, lime juice and chopped cilantro, parsley or basil (My rule on herbs is to use whatever’s growing best.). Sprinkle with a little salt and black pepper. This would be great with some hearty blue corn tortilla chips, and would make a pleasingly colorful appetizer at a party.

Turn your peaches and blackberries into a quick and relatively healthy crisp for dessert. For this recipe, I would use two peaches and about a half dozen of these giant blackberries. It’s fairly forgiving, though, so adjust it as you see fit.

Peach and blackberry crisp

2 peaches, peeled and cut into 8 slices each

half-dozen (or so) of Snead’s giant blackberries

cooking spray

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour (All-purpose is fine, but I feel like I can pile on more ice cream if I use “healthy” whole-wheat.)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1/8 cup chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)

Spray a 1.5-quart baking dish with cooking spray and arrange peaches and berries in dish.

Combine flour, sugar, oats, cinnamon, salt and butter in a medium mixing bowl. Use your fingers to work the butter into the dry ingredients until just about all of the dry ingredients feel coated with butter. Lightly mix in the nuts, if using. Spread this mixture over the fruit and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the top is browned. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Those grapes are something else. Such strong, true grape flavor. It’s hard to eat grocery store grapes after this. But they do have a lot of seeds. Last week I made freezer jam out of mine. It took about an hour, and I did it after the kids were in bed, but it was worth it. I have made a lot of freezer jams that haven’t jelled, but this one worked. I think that’s because grapes contain a lot of natural pectin. I have three jars in my freezer, but kept one in the fridge to eat right away. It was great on buttered toast and, of course, in peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. If I have time this week I’d like to take it to the next level by putting the jam between two layers of peanut butter shortbread crust and making PB&J bars. Like I said, if I had time. Here is the process I used to make jam out of my grapes. I highly recommend doing this, so that you can go enjoy a great big spoonfull of that glorious grape-y goodness without stopping to spit seeds.

Concord Grape Freezer Jam

Ingredients:

2 quarts Concord grapes, washed

3 8-oz canning jars made specifically for freezer use (I used Ball plastic freezer jars with green lids), plus one more container for the jam you will use right away and store in the fridge (This does not need to be canning-quality. I used a recycled glass jelly jar).

2 tablespoons instant pectin (I used Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin)

2/3 cup sugar

*You’ll also need a food processor, a medium saucepan, a medium mixing bowl and a fine sieve or strainer.

jamMethod:

Set up the counter so that you have your sauce pan and your food processor right next to each other.  Skin the grapes by holding them, one by one, with your fingers so that the stem end is pointing into the sauce pan. Squeeze so that the flesh and seed pop into the saucepan, then throw the skin in the food processor. This takes a while. Maybe put your setup in front of the TV so you can stay occupied.

Place the saucepan of grape flesh over medium heat until it starts to boil. Cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 1/3 cup of the sugar to the grape skins and whir them in the food processor until smooth. 

When you’re finished cooking the grape innards, place your sieve over your mixing bowl and pour in the hot grapes. Use a wooden spoon, a ladle or a potato masher to mash the grape pulp until most of the pulp and juice is in the bowl and you are left with just the seeds in the sieve (It is nearly impossible to separate all the flesh from the seeds, so don’t sweat it.).

Mix the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with the pectin in a small bowl. Add the strained grape pulp back into your sauce pan, along with the pureed grape skins and the sugar and pectin mixture. Place over medium heat and stir for about 3 minutes. 

Pour this mixture into your clean jars. Leave 1/2 inch of space at the top of the freezer jars to allow for expansion. This should fill the three freezer jars, plus leave a little extra to store in the fridge for immediate use. Let the jars sit uncovered on the counter for 30 minutes. The jam will seem very runny when you put it away, but after a night in the fridge it will thicken.

Store in the fridge for up to 3 weeks, freezer for up to a year.