All posts by papaspuds

Culinary Sleight of Hand – Recipe Substitutions that Could Save Your Meal

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You know that feeling when you’re about to make a recipe – or worse, you’ve already started – and you realize you’re missing a vital ingredient? Maybe someone finished off the eggs even though there were some half an hour ago when you checked. Maybe, like me, estimating how much of something you have left isn’t your strong suit. Maybe something got knocked off the counter and exploded. No matter the reason, whether guests are on their way, the birthday cake needs to be in the oven, or a snowstorm has stranded you at home, don’t panic. There’s hope for your recipe. With this handy list of ingredient substitutions, you may be able to have your meal while avoiding a snow-soaked hike to the grocery store.

Dry Ingredients:
• Baking Powder- 1 tsp = ¼ tsp baking soda + 5/8 tsp cream of tartar, or ¼ tsp baking soda + ½ cup buttermilk (reduce liquid by ½ cup)
• Brown Sugar – 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tbsp molasses or dark corn syrup
• Cornstarch (for thickening) – 1 tbsp = 2 tbsp flour (simmer for around 3 minutes after thickening for prevent raw flour taste)
• Cream of Tartar – ½ tsp = 1 ½ tsp lemon juice or vinegar
• Flour, Cake – 1 cup = 1 cup minus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour, sifted
• Flour, Self-Rising – 1 cup = 1 cup minus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour + 1 ½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt
• Flour, Corn – 1:1 ratio all-purpose flour
• Flour, Pastry – 1 cup = 7/8 cup all-purpose flour
• Flour (for brownies) – 1 cup flour = 1 cup black bean puree
• Sugar (for baking) – 1:1 ratio unsweetened applesauce (reduce liquid by ¼ cup for every cup of applesauce)

Dairy:
• Butter – 1:1 ratio unsweetened applesauce (Works for sweet breads, muffins, and box mixes. Best as a partial substitution, if you’ve got some butter but not enough), or pureed avocado 1:1 ratio, or 1 tbsp chia seeds + 9 tbsp water (let sit combined for 15 minutes)
• Butter, Melted – Oil, 1:1 ratio (only for melted butter)
• Buttermilk – 1 cup = 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar + enough milk to make a cup (let sit combined for five minutes before use)
• Cream, Half and Half – 1 cup = 7/8 cup milk plus 1 tbsp butter
• Cream, Heavy – 1 cup = 1 cup evaporated milk or 3/4 cup milk plus 1/3 cup butter
• Cream, Light – 1 cup = 1 cup evaporated milk or 3/4 cup milk plus 3 tbsp butter
• Eggs – 1 egg = 2 tbsp mayonnaise or, 1 tbsp chia seeds + 1 cup water (let sit for 15 minutes)
• Sour Cream – 1 cup = 1 cup plain yogurt, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar + enough cream to make 1 cup, or 3/4 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/3 cup butter

Assorted Ingredients:
• Bread Crumbs – 1:1 ratio finely crushed cracker crumbs, corn flakes or quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
• Corn Syrup – 1 cup = 1 ¼ cup sugar + 1/3 cup water, or 1 cup honey
• Dry Mustard – 1 tsp = 1 tbsp prepared mustard
• Ketchup – 1 cup = 1 cup tomato sauce + 1 tsp vinegar and 1 tsp sugar
• Lemon Juice – 1 tsp = ½ tsp vinegar, or 1 tsp white wine, or 1 tsp lime juice
• Mayonnaise – 1:1 ratio sour cream, or yogurt, or cottage cheese (pureed in blender)
• Oil (for baking) – 1:1 ratio unsweetened applesauce
• Saffron – 1:1 ratio Turmeric
• Tabasco Sauce – 4 drops = 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or ¼ tsp black pepper
• Tomato paste – ½ cup = 1 cup tomato sauce cooked uncovered until reduced to 1/2 cup
• Tomato Sauce – 2 cups = 3/4 cup tomato paste plus 1 cup water
• Tomatoes, Canned – 1 can = 2 ½ cups chopped, peeled fresh tomatoes, simmered about 10 minutes
• Wine – 1 cup = 1 cup chicken or beef broth, or 1 cup juice + vinegar (use grape or cranberry for red, apple or white grape for white)
• Worchester Sauce – 1 tsp = 1 tsp bottled steak sauce or 1 tbsp soy sauce, 4 drops tabasco sauce, 1/8 tsp lemon juice, dash sugar

Whether you’re baking, cooking, frying, or even grilling, there are plenty of ways recipe substitutions can be a huge help in a pinch. The best part is substitutions can, at least theoretically, be combined Inception style. Need self-rising flour, but you’ve only got all-purpose? Substitute it. Don’t have the cream of tartar for that? Substitute that, too. I can’t promise about the outcome when substitutions get stacked since I haven’t tried it, but it works on paper. The possibilities are as vast as one’s bravery or desperation. If you’re still unsure about some of the substitutions above or how they may turn out, know that others have substituted weirder. Chia seeds instead of eggs may not be your thing, but I’ve heard from multiple sources that Richard the Lion Hearted’s chef substituted captured enemy for pork. Compared to the shutter and nausea inducing thought of (alleged) cannibalism, black beans in brownies sound pretty good. (Cannibalism is not good, but black bean brownies actually are).

Texas-style Linguiça and Kale Stew

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Portuguese Linguiça sausage from the Weeping Radish Butchery comes together with black eyed peas, bold spices, chiles, and fresh local kale in a slow cooker dish that is super easy to make, but full of flavor. The ingredients take just a short time to prepare, then toss them in the slow cooker, and come home to a meal that will feed the whole family! A delicious Fall stew! Prep time: 20 mins / Slow Cooker Time: 5-6 hours / Serves 4-5

• 6 oz. black eyed peas, dried
• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 lb. linguica sausage, sliced
• 2 ribs celery, chopped
• 1 cup yellow onion, chopped
• 1 dried guajillo chile, stemmed and seeded
• 1 dried New Mexico chile, stemmed and seeded
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 tsp. dried thyme
• 1 tsp. paprika
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. pepper
• 2 cups chicken broth or substitute water
• 1 cup water
• pinch of cayenne Pepper, optional
• 4 oz. kale, stems removed, sliced into bite-size pieces

1. Prepare your black eyed peas by soaking them in water overnight (8 hours). Or, cover them with two inches of water in a pot. Bring the pot to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let them soak in hot water for 1 hour. Drain black eyed peas and pick through them.

2. Prepare your chiles by cutting off the stems, then cutting down the side to open the chile and remove all of the seeds and membrane.

3. Heat oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook sausage slices until well browned on both sides. Remove sausages from heat. Add chiles to the pan, and toast for 2-3 minutes.

4. Put black eyed peas, sausages, celery, onion, chiles, garlic, bay leaf, cumin, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chicken broth, and water in the slow cooker, mix well. Turn slow cooker to low, and cook until black eyed peas are soft, 5-6 hours.

5. As you near the end of cooking, remove the chiles from the slow cooker, put them in a blender or food processor, along with a few tablespoons of the stew broth. Blend until pureed, then return chile paste to the slow cooker. Mix well.

6. When the stew is done, add kale pieces, mix well and cook for 5 minutes.

7. Serve stew in bowls with a side of rice.

The Quest for NC Apples

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When I started researching apple production in North Carolina, I wasn’t sure what aspect would catch my attention for the weekly update. I expected the subject to fall somewhere in between production numbers and why apples are grown where they’re grown. Then someone pointed out that you never see North Carolina apples in the store. Why doesn’t one see NC apples in the store? I decided this was the line of inquiry to follow.

My great grandparents had an apple orchard when I was growing up, so I never questioned the fact that North Carolina produces apples. Maybe we don’t produce as many apples as I assumed. It turns out NC is in the top ten states for apple production, usually falling around 7th . Of course, if the US doesn’t produce that many apples or almost all come from one state, then seventh place may not be that many. I started digging through the first of many documents, charts, and Excel files to find some actual numbers. In 2010, North Carolina actually produced around 134 million pounds of apples . So a lack of apples shouldn’t be the reason for their absence in box stores.

Perhaps the reasons are geographic. If the area for apples is clustered, they may not get distributed evenly throughout the state. Apple production in the state clusters into five major areas: Henderson, Haywood, Mt. Mitchel, Northwest, and South Mountain areas . The areas aren’t massively spread out, but the spread is big enough and transportation accessible enough that geography shouldn’t be a problem. The reason for the clusters actually dates back as early as the 19th century. Apples have been grown in thermal belt areas of North Carolina since pioneers in the 1800’s discovered that growing apples on hill slopes instead on mountaintops or the bottom of valleys made for a longer growing season . In southwestern NC, there is an average rainfall of over ninety inches (versus an average of forty to fifty-five inches east of the mountains) because a barrier formed by the mountains forces moist, southerly winds over it . Overall, the thermal belts make an excellent place to grow apples.

So if North Carolina has plenty of apples and geography doesn’t prevent them from being moved around, what’s the problem? Poking through some more USDA spreadsheets, I found that in 2010, 50.7 million pounds of NC apples were used for canning. That’s a decent chunk. Excel file revealed that an additional 21 million pounds get turned into juice or cider. So, around 72.1 million pounds of the 134 mil don’t even reach the final consumer as a whole apple (most of this comes to you in the form of juice or apple sauce). What about the 40-ish percent that do reach the last step of their journey still intact? One-fourth of US apples are exported to other countries , and since a breakdown by state isn’t readily available, let’s just use the average. So 30% of 134 million pounds equals a lot of apples still unaccounted for (around 40.2 million lbs.).

The most commonly grown apples fall into one of four types, but there are actually over forty other types grown in the state; however, these are almost exclusively found in roadside stands . Any others will generally be found at the farmer’s market. That’s the ‘where’ of finding North Carolina apples, and the ‘why’ has been answered to a certain numerical degree, but for the bigger ‘why’ one can’t find NC apples in stores, I don’t have an exact answer. With the apple production in North Carolina being spread over around three hundred orchards, maybe it’s easier for stores to import apples instead of dealing with multiple suppliers. Stores may think apples sound more exotic if they come from places that are usually cold. Or perhaps history plays a role. Thinking on the roadside stands and stories of how my great grandfather used to get on his bike and peddle apples, maybe NC likes to keep things old school. Or maybe North Carolina likes to keep its local apples truly local.

Carolina apples may not be as convenient to find as imports in the store, but NC apples are worth looking for. The weather in North Carolina’s apple growing regions is ideal for producing apples with a great combination of crispness, juiciness, and sweetness. Finding North Carolina apples may not always be easy, but like the overlooks and hiking trails in the land where they grow, a bit of effort pays off.

Delicious Duos – A La Carte Desserts from Contrarian Farm to Your Table

The term ‘duo’ may bring a variety of pairs to mind. Some are fictional, like Batman and Robin. Some are famous, like Simon and Garfunkel. Some are infamous, like Bonnie and Clyde. Yet no matter what one thinks of, a duo is a pair (dictionary.com says so). But what about other kinds of pairs? Say, poached pears with ice cream? Or farm and table? Or fruit and tarts, hazelnut flourless chocolate cake and ganache, or even chocolate mocha layer cake and crushed toffee topping? If anything after “Bonnie and Clyde” comes to mind, or you want it to, Duo may be just the thing for you.

At its core, Duo is the team up of a chef, Cino Donati, and a farmer, Brittany Kordick of the sustainable Contrarian Farm. Cino was an executive chef at Noble’s Grille and has embraced local produce and the farm to table process for the last 25 years. Even when shipping produce in from all over was the norm, Donati was devoted to using local produce from the Carolinas. Now the dietary director at an assisted living facility, he met Brittany Kordick while they were working a part-time gig at a restaurant. They formed Duo, which takes its name from both combining the elements of farm and restaurant and the fact that Duo is a team of two.

Duo (duodoescatering.com) brings food from the farm to your table in two ways. The first is through catering. Duo’s catering is steered by what the customer desires, though sample menus are available on the website. Duo also provides the delicious service of desserts a la carte. Duo takes dessert orders a la carte, because, as they say, “Why wait for the excuse of an event?” While Duo now makes phenomenal desserts, Cino actually used to hate baking. This changed when he began working as the dietary director for an assisted living facility. He found that freshly baked goods added a nice touch, provided something special for the residents, and even gave a nice smell. Through this, Donati has comes to terms with the joys of baking, and now Duo not only offers a la carte desserts, but will also customize your order to your taste preferences.

Providing catering and desserts a la carte isn’t the only cool thing Duo does. Whenever possible, Duo uses produce direct from Brittany Kordick’s own Contrarian Farm. Much, if not most, of their produce comes from Brittany’s farm. That means that, not only is your dessert specially (and possibly custom made) for you, but much of it is under the care of Brittany and Cino from seed to package. In the event that an ingredient needed isn’t currently available at Contrarian Farm, Duo seeks to stay as local and sustainable. So, if something you order requires saffron, it might come from the belt running from Spain to India as there’s not a lot of other options; but any other ingredients will be as local and sustainable as possible.

So, knowing Duo’s origin and where they are now, one may wonder where Duo is headed; and the truth is, it may not be where one expects. Despite the awesome set-up of bringing food from her farm to their kitchen to your table, Duo isn’t planning to take the corporate world by storm. Actually, they want to stay small and use what they can from Contrarian Farm’s growing season. They’re a duo, and it works. Changing it would be like adding horseradish to “chocolate chip” and “cookies.” As Cino told me, they’re a duo, and that’s all they’ll ever be. They’ll remain just the two of them. And really, who can blame them? After all, three’s a crowd.

Shepherd’s Pie

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This classic British dish is the perfect meal for Fall! Local, pasture-raised ground beef from Firsthand Foods, cooked with onions, carrots, and fresh herbs. The flavors come together for a balanced, delicious filling that’s not too heavy. Topped with mashed potatoes and roasted in the oven for a golden crisp! This dish hits all of the food groups and is very easy to prepare. With 4-5 servings it’s a perfect family dinner, or make it for yourself and a friend and you’ll have plenty of leftovers!

Prep time: 45 mins
Cook time: 35 mins
Serves 4-5

• 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
• 2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled, cubed
• 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup milk, any fat
• 1/2 tsp. salt & 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1 lb. ground beef
• 1 yellow onion, chopped
• 1 carrot, chopped
• 1 cup beef or chicken broth
• 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, minced
• 1 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, minced
• 1 green bell pepper, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add russet potatoes and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain once they are done. Add milk, butter, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mash with a fork until smooth. Add additional salt to taste.

3. While the potatoes cook, heat vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add ground beef, chopped onion, and chopped carrot. Cook until ground beef is browned and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

4. Drain the fat from the pan, then add broth, tomato paste, rosemary, Italian parsley, bell pepper, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Stir and simmer until the liquid thickens, about 10 minutes. Add additional salt to taste, remove from heat.

5. If your pan is oven-safe, you can bake the Shepherd’s Pie in it. Otherwise, transfer meat filling to a baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes over the filling, crosshatching and spreading them evenly with a fork.

6. Bake Shepherd’s Pie in the oven for 30-35 minutes until potatoes are turning crisp on top. Turn on broiler to high, and cook additional 1-3 minutes until topping is golden brown. Keep a close eye on the potatoes while broiling, so as not to burn them.

7. Remove Shepherd’s Pie from oven and allow 5 minutes to cool. Serve!

When Oil and Vinegar Mix – Creative Cooking Tips from Glenda Keenan of Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar

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Imagine looking into your pantry or fridge and, other than a few staples and garnishes, finding nothing but fish, plums, and vinegar. Unless one was feeling especially imaginative, one may not have even found a dish to prepare, let alone a meal; however, Glenda Keenan, Pap Spud’s customer and owner of Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar, saw the beginning of a recipe book. Personally, these ingredients coming on the tail of a long day at work could very well result in take-out. For Glenda Keenan, these ingredients came on the tail of an unexpected divorce, a flood, the death of a beloved pet, and, let’s not forget, cancer . For her, the result was seared tuna with plums (p. 48 of her book, Cooking with Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar). And just like the creation of this recipe, Keenan’s book uses the principles of health, quick preparation, minimal ingredients, creativity, and topping with flavor to create dishes that are mind bogglingly tasty.

So what exactly is Glenda Keenan’s book Cooking with Olive Oil and Vinegar? At its core, the book is a collection of recipes and advice for creating delicious yet astounding simple dishes using only a few ingredients along with flavorful balsamic vinegars and olive oils of the highest quality. But deeper than that, the book teaches principles of preparing amazing meals through creativity and adapting to what one has on hand.

Her inspiration for the book started with people coming into Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar and, staggered by the variety and selection, wondering what all the olive oils and balsamic vinegars could be used for. Looking at her book, I’d say everything from appetizers to desserts plus pickling and anything between. Glenda has used olive oil and balsamic vinegar in her cooking every day for the last five years, and she pairs this with her personal philosophy of cooking to create a book that anyone using it can be excited about.

Keenan wanted to base the book on how she cooks at the end of a long day at work: combining the elements of health, quick preparation, topping with flavor, and only a handful of ingredients. When it comes to these few ingredients, Glenda finds seasonal and local produce to be best. Availability may be an issue with seasonal and local produce, so adaptability in cooking plays a big role in Glenda’s kitchen. As Keenan says, what she makes is based around what she has and how’s she’s going to use it. If tomatoes and arugula are what’s available, Glenda has around 30 options for making salad dressing at the ready. If sweet potatoes are in season, she’ll bake them with maple balsamic vinegar.

While what one has on hand plays a big role in cooking Keenan style, adaptation comes into play in more than just the ‘main ingredients’. Imagination, options, and substitutions are all emphasized in her book, including advice about substituting fennel for water chestnuts at the rarer end of ingredients, to a table for subbing olive oil for butter on the everyday end. The book even contains suggestions for repurposing leftovers, like turning leftovers from the Brussels sprouts and fennel salad on page 72 into a cooked dish.

On the subject of adaptive cooking, I asked Keenan what it was like cooking from a Papa Spud’s box. To her it’s “nirvana”. But the joy of cooking from a box goes beyond the convenience of not having to go grocery shopping after a long day at her store. One aspect is sharing boxes with her daughter, the executive chef at Olio & Aceto Café in Chapel Hill. I asked Glenda whether she plans her meals before she orders her box or orders her box and what she orders inspires her. For her, it’s both. A great example is her Sunday afternoon cookouts with friends. She keeps brats, hotdogs, and ground beef on hand in the freezer, and forms her sides based on what’s locally available. If she gets extra of something in a box, Keenan has a plan for that, too. One option is to make and freeze individual dinners with the ingredients. The other is to pickle them in a favorite balsamic vinegar.

Keenan’s favorite recipe in the book is the Chicken Marbella on page 30. Unfortunately, this is one of the least attempted recipes due being the most complicated. So if time constraints bar the way or olives aren’t in your flavor profile, Glenda recommends the Chicken Picata on page 32 or the lemon chicken with dried cherries on page 38. If one pursues a vegetarian way of life, the main dishes section contains options like the Portabella Tacos on page 46 or the sweet potato gnocchi on page 52.

In her book, Glenda Keenan takes her personal philosophy of cooking and uses it to teach principles that everyone can use in the kitchen. Cooking with Olive Oil and Vinegar not only gives tried and tested recipes for any occasion, but it also teaches people to cook on their feet and perhaps even flying by the strings of their apron. You can borrow Glenda’s book through the Papa Spud’s cookbook swap, we will have 5 copies available for circulation starting next week (October 27th/28th deliveries) – or from her store, Blue Sky Oil and Vinegar in Chapel Hill (www.blueskyoilandvinegar.com), where you can get the oils and vinegar for any recipe in the book! I’m fairly certain we’re all familiar with the adage about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish; in a way, Glenda Keenan’s recipe book does both. If you find yourself in a predicament with a few random ingredients, remember that without imagination and creativity, none of our favorite recipes would exist. Knowledge comes from experience and experimentation, though if you’d rather reserve said experimentation for when guest aren’t coming over, we understand!

The Journey toward Organic Certification

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If one were to start naming off illegal activities, using the term ‘organic’ improperly probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind. As it turns out, in regards to agriculture, it really is illegal to use the term ‘organic’ unless one is certified. While it’s perfectly legal to employ organic practices without official certification, one has to stick to terms like “sustainable.” Down2Earth Farms has always used sustainable methods since they began growing produce in 2012, but they’ve now made the jump to official organic certification.

One may wonder why a bit of terminology is such a big deal, but the truth is, being organically certified involves much more than abstaining from chemical pesticides. According to the USDA, organic agriculture involves practices at the cultural, biological, and mechanical levels and the promotion of ecological balance, preservation, biodiversity, and cycling resources. Of course, there’s also a list of no-no’s, including the use of sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, irradiation, and genetic engineering. Down2Earth Farms has always employed these principles, but Cecelia Redding of Down2Earth Farms has been on this path since college.

Cecelia Redding started out in mechanical engineering, but switched to agricultural engineering because her love for the combination of the biological sciences with the mechanical aspects of engineering. She watched from afar until deciding that she was going to farm using only sustainable and ecologically conscious practices. Eventually it all came together and culminated with finding the perfect piece of land to start Down2Earth Farms. However, this land had been used for farming with conventional methods. Organic certification requires one to wait three years after land has been used for conventional agriculture before applying for certification. During this time, one may only use approved materials and keep careful records of one’s agricultural practices. The three years are finally up, and Down2Earth Farms is now officially organic.

Organic agriculture does come with its own set of difficulties, and I don’t mean the yearly inspection. Two of the biggest difficulties come from pests and weeds. The primary way of dealing with pests is crop rotation. Certification actually requires a four-year rotation schedule, but Down2Earth doubles that with an eight-year schedule. If the same crop grows in the same place for too long, the relevant pests will build up in the area, some even living and growing in the soil. With a plentiful food supply growing in their proverbial living room, pests flourish and populate to increasingly problematic amounts. Rotating crops each year reduces the risk of a pest population boom, making farming without pesticides a little easier and helping to preserve environmental balance.

Creatures may cause their share of headaches, but plants share in the guilt. Weeds torment every farmer, but with organic agriculture, one can’t turn to Roundup for a solution. Organic herbicides do exist but have the drawback of being less effective. In addition, to use even an organic herbicide in organic agriculture, one must prove a problem currently exists. Even then there are strict controls, including only being able to spray some organic herbicides at certain times a day to avoid harming natural pollinators. Cecilia’s solution is to use her knowledge of engineering to combat weeds. By designing equipment to help fight weeds, she can control the problem in an ecologically responsible way. As an engineer, this is something she loves to do; however, it’s still a lot of extra time conventional farmers don’t have to spend. Organic agriculture takes time.

If farming organically involves so much time and trouble, why do it? The reasons may vary from person to person, but for Cecilia Redding, environmental aspects are at the core. She believes conventional farming practices are taking farmers away from where farming should be. With the use of conventional methods, people have “lost the science of building notorious soil” and wandered away from solid ecological practices. On the other hand, she feels that organic farming is a way to, “bring back the principles all farmers were taught to use,” and bring back good environmental practices as an essential part of that. For Redding and Down2Earth Farms, employing the ecologically sound practices of organic farming seems to be the responsible and logical choice, just as the name implies. When it comes to the motivation that makes the extra time and effort worthwhile, it seems to come down to the earth.

Hello Apples, Welcome Fall!

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For next week we will have some exciting new North Carolina apples varieties from Deal Orchards!

Deal Orchards is located just outside of Taylorsville, North Carolina in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains. The Orchard has been operated by the Deal family for three generations. They started in 1939, when Brack Deal and his wife Thelma Isabelle planted their first fruit trees. The Deals started with just 15 acres of orchard, but have grown over the years to over 100. Today, the orchard is run by Bracke and Isabelle’s son Lindsay and his son Alan, who oversee orchard operations along with their family.

Available from the Deal’s we expect:

Rome Beauty Apples: Rome Beauties are a great all-around apple. They are very crunchy, and have nice firm skins, which enhance the crunch. They keep very well, and are great for fresh eating, but aren’t overly sweet, making them a good choice for baking as well.

Golden Delicious Apples: Golden Delicious apples have a nice yellow/gold color that is good for both fresh eating as well as cooking. Its flavor is sweet and the flesh tends to be on the softer side, typically used in fresh eating over baking.

Jonagold Apples: Jonagolds were developed as a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious apples. They are a crisp apple with a sweet flavor, but a lot of acidity keeps them from tasting overly sweet. They are good for both fresh eating and baking.

Fuji Apples: A newer variety of apple originating from Japan. They are attractive, crisp, juicy apples, with a refreshing and sweet flavor. Fuji are widely grown and available early and late in the season. The later season variety is considered juicier and more flavorful. Fujis are typically a fresh eating apple.

Stayman’s Winesap: Stayman apples were developed in Kansas in the 1860’s, and continue as popular local cultivars today, especially in Appalachian Virginia and North Carolina. They are a very crunchy apple, with firm thick skin. Their skin is often textured, and start with greenish-yellow skin that develops a deep red blush. Their flavor is but tangy, making them a good fresh eating apple, but also great for baking and cooking.

Food Waste in America

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Just over a week ago on the 27th, the moon had a lot on its plate. It was a super moon, a harvest moon, and a full lunar eclipse. Was it stunning? Probably, but to be honest, it was hard for me to see with all the clouds. Unfortunately, there’s another shadow on the metaphorical harvest that’s difficult to see. A third of our food in America is lying on the ground, rotting and uneaten, and the problem far pre-dates apocalyptic moon happenings. While we normally may only see a few scraps thrown away here or a few spoiled products disposed of there, in reality, a whopping 31% of available food in the US goes uneaten(around 133 billion lbs.), and that’s only on the retail and consumer levels. So how does all this food go to waste? It’s a process that starts in the field and ends in the trashcan, losing more and more along the way.

The first part of the waste process begins the same place food does – wherever it’s grown. One aspect comes from over-planting as a way to hedge against weather and disease. The other is an issue of aesthetics. If produce doesn’t fit our idea of a perfect (insert name of produce) in color and shape, then we tend not to buy it. If, say, an apple fits the criteria for a perfect apple and is the epitome of apple-ness (think Plato’s forms), then it gets graded as grade 1. If not, it will be graded as grade 2 and lose up to 2/3rds of its value. This means the given piece of produce may no longer be financially viable to harvest, and stays on the vine or on the ground. In the end, around 7% of produce gets left in the field , which doesn’t even get counted toward the USDA’s estimated 31%.

The next wave of waste happens at the grocery store and retail level. Each year, stores toss around $15 billion worth of fruits and vegetables. Rather than appear understocked, groceries stores routinely overstock and dispose of the extras. “Sale by” dates and their relatives do their own part to heartily contribute to waste. Stores throw away an average of $2,300 worth of product due to the date printed on the box. Most of this food is still edible.

Restaurants and other food services are part of the waste machine as well. In order to ensure that every item on the menu is almost always available, more food than can be used is kept on hand. Customers are involved as well, as an average of 17% of food is left on the plate unfinished, and it doesn’t always seem worth taking home. Rules and policy dictate disposal as well. At McDonald’s, fries are allowed to bask in the glowing light of a heat lamp for seven minutes before they’re deemed too old to benefit society and trashed. All fast food is literally decimated this way, given that it’s the fate of one tenth of all the food produced.

With all of this food going uneaten up to this point, the consumer gets away guilt-free, right? Actually, the average American household throws away around 14-25% of the food and beverages they buy, equaling a tidy $1,365-$2,275 annually. Part of this is due to overstocking the pantry, as things don’t get used up because there’s no way to eat it all. The other factor is disposing of things because they’re past their expiration date. Thanks, expiration dates, for keeping us safe .

Finally, even disposal plays a role in food going uneaten. A plethora of food that could be donated gets disposed of instead. Some of this is due to difficulties of getting the food to where it can do some good, some due to donating food not being financially viable for business, and a lot just has to do with the fear of being sued. It turns out, you can’t get sued for good faith food donations thanks to the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act , but this isn’t common knowledge. Of what gets thrown away, regardless of the reason, only 3% gets composted. Of the rest, what isn’t incinerated ends up in a landfill. Food waste makes up a fifth of landfills, and the conditions in which it decomposes result in methane gas, a big player in the global warming game. In fact, food in landfills is the source of a quarter of the U.S.’s methane emissions.

What does it all mean? Locally, food that could go to starving families instead wastes away uneaten. Globally, food waste contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming in a big way, not to mention all of the water and other resources that go to producing food that won’t be eaten. Together, it’s kind of like allocating a portion of natural resources to slowly poisoning the earth. On a personal level, it costs a lot of money to waste food. Now, I know a nice, neat summary doesn’t change the difficulty of dealing with an issue of a national, if not global, scale. What about a summary of the two biggest factors that directly relate to the consumer?

Issue one: the aesthetics of food. In America, our food has to look delicious. This may not even be entirely our fault. It’s what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the grocery store. But no matter where this got started down the line, it can be unlearned like bad grammar. If what sales is dictated by the consumer (there’s probably a big discussion there I’m choosing to avoid), then opening our hearts to produce that’s pretty on the inside could be a first step. It starts with the decision to give a peach a chance, even if it is shaped more like a heart than a butt.

Issue two: expiration dates. Fun fact – with the exception of infant formula and baby food, no sale by or expiration date is federally mandated. Laws in most states require milk and perishables to be pulled from the shelf by their sale by date, but other than that, these dates are strictly advisory. Most stores feel it looks better to stock products that are in date, though most are still edible after. In fact, the dating on products pertains to quality, not safety. For canned goods, the date is generally based on the warranty on the can, not the longevity of the food inside it.

So if the dates are not required, why include them at all? It could be out of the goodness of companies’ hearts to protect our safety, or at least, our enjoyment of our food. Perhaps it’s just to keep the manufacturer from being sued. However, the more suspicious among us may feel that the sooner one has to throw away a product, the sooner one has to buy another to replace it. Of course, the obvious choice is to do what you feel is best for your health and the health of your family; but if one feels like bucking the system, there are ways to do so in a relatively safe manner. The key is information, and while there are a myriad of resources at one’s disposal, websites like this one can help you determine the longevity of individual foods, storage advice to increase aid longevity, and how to tell if something really has gone bad.

So, what do I think? If you answered that you don’t care what I think, you’re on the right track. Issues that affect things on a personal, local, and global scale are too big to be based on someone else’s opinion. For issues of this gravity, one has to make one’s own informed decisions (and I do hope I’ve been informative) and then act on them. Do what you feel is right. You don’t have to explain why you ate pasta that was a month past its best by date or an avocado that wasn’t perfectly symmetrical to anyone. But if you do, it may just cause a ripple. Your friends and family will care more about your opinion than that of the guy that wrote the blog or newsletter you read. Whatever path you choose, I leave you with this advice (which I admittedly got from a Spiderman cartoon), “be the change you wish to see.”

Fall Produce Storage Tips!

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Arugula (5-7 days): Arugula is actually an herb in the mustard family. It is generally used similarly to salad greens, either as a substitute or as a complement. Arugula should be kept in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss, and refrigerated. It will keep for just a few days. Arugula tends to be gritty, so don’t forget to wash it just prior to using. If cooked, it should be added in just the last few minutes to prevent flavor loss and overwilting. Arugula makes a great pizza topping!

Cabbage (2-3 weeks): If possible, do not remove outer leaves from cabbage. Outer leaves protect interior from damage and from moisture loss. However, if refrigerator space is an issue, you can remove the outer leaves, and will have a smaller head of cabbage, just know that it won’t keep quite as well. Cabbage can be used in portions, but once you cut into the interior of the cabbage, you will need to wrap the remaining portion tightly in saran wrap. Cabbage is a versatile vegetable that can be used raw as in coleslaw or cooked in a variety of ways. Cabbage is a food staple and is used in many types of cuisine.

Cucumbers (1 week): Cucumbers should be refrigerated and kept relatively dry. Over exposure to moisture can cause premature deterioration through mold. This is why English Cucumbers are commonly shrink wrapped, and grocery store cucumbers are often finished with a coat of wax. You can check the life of a cucumber by squeezing the ends. The ends generally turn squishy before the rest of the cucumber, so if they feel soft or start to look wrinkled, the cucumber is coming to the end of its storage life.

Lettuce, heads (5-7 days): Lettuce loves moisture. Remove any wilted leaves, and dampen interior remaining leaves. Place in plastic bag, and store in refrigerator. Hearty lettuces like romaine tend to keep the longest, thinner leafed lettuces tend to wilt faster. If lettuce becomes wilted, you can revive it to an extent in a cold water bath. Fill a sink with cold water and a little ice, and submerge the lettuce for 10-15 minutes. The water will be absorbed by the plant, and can revive leaves that are starting to dry out or wilt. However, watch the lettuce carefully to guard against oversaturation and wet-rot.

Spinach (7-10 days): Spinach should be stored in a plastic bag to retain moisture. Spinach is generally rinsed by the farm, so it should have some moisture, but check the bag to make sure that it is not sitting in water. If it is, punch holes in the plastic bag, and drain any excess water. Store spinach in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to a week.

Radishes (1-2 weeks): Remove tops from radishes to prevent moisture loss. Radishes should be stored in the refrigerator, and will keep for up to a week. Radishes have a peppery flavor that usually goes well in salads or in appetizers. The peppery flavor stimulated the production of saliva and rouses flavor, making them a good addition to pre-entree dishes. A simple radish appetizers includes sliced radishes served with melted butter and salt on the side. The peppery flavor is most concentrated in the radish skin, so they can be peeled for a milder flavor. Radish greens can also be used raw in salads, or cooked as you would other greens.

Bell Peppers (7-10 days): Bell peppers come in many varieties and colors. Most bell peppers start out green on the vine, then turn red, yellow, orange, etc. as they ripen. They can be picked early as green bell peppers, or they can be left on the vine and turn color. Since green bell peppers are picked at an earlier stage, they tend to keep longer than do colored peppers. Since colored peppers are left on the vine longer, they tend to have a sweeter more mature flavor than green bell peppers. Bell Peppers should be stored in the refrigerator, and kept dry to prevent mold growth.

Tomatoes, Slicing (1-2 weeks): Tomatoes are best stored at room temperature. Refrigerating causes them to become mealy and lose much of their flavor. Check tomatoes occasionally for softening, and use softest tomatoes first. Softness is a sign of ripeness. In good condition, tomatoes will keep for 2+ weeks, but keep an eye on any bruised or dinged spots, as these will deteriorate faster than the rest of the tomato.

Broccoli (5-7 days): Broccoli should be stored in the refrigerator where it will keep for 4-5 days. Like most vegetables, broccoli will lose moisture as it ages, which you want to protect against, but you also want the broccoli to be able to breathe, so it is not a good idea to enclose it in plastic. A perforated plastic bag, or just an open plastic bag are usually the best options. During commercial transport, broccoli is packed on ice which keeps moisture level high, and temperature as close to freezing as possible, while still allowing the broccoli to breathe. However, this usually isn’t practical at home. Broccoli takes very well to freezing (if blanched first), so you may consider freezing broccoli if unable to use it within a few days.

Baby Bok Choy (5-7 days): Bok choy is a very versatile green that is commonly steamed, boiled, or stir fried. Full sized bok choy stems should be removed from the leaves and discarded, but baby bok choy stems are usually tender enough for cooking. Baby bok choy stems will likely require a little longer cooking time than leaves, so it is usually a good idea to separate them and cook stems a little longer than bok choy leaves which will just need a few minutes. Boy choy should be refrigerated and will keep for 1-2 weeks.

Carrots (2-3 weeks): Carrots are hearty vegetable that will keep for an extended period of time. They will keep best if you can avoid moisture loss. Do this by storing carrots in a plastic bag, and by cutting off the greens about an inch or two above the carrots. Carrot greens will suck moisture out of the roots if they are left on. Carrots should also be stored away from fruits, which emit ethylene gas that may cause carrots to develop a bitter taste over time.

Beets (2-3 weeks): Like carrots, beet roots will keep best if the greens are separated from the bulbs. However, the greens will keep longest if kept on the bulb, which will provide the greens with moisture. It’s a judgment call as to whether you will do best to remove the greens, or leave them on depending on your uses and timeframes for each. Beet greens will keep for up to a week, whereas bulbs will keep 2-3 weeks, so if in doubt you are probably better off keeping the two together. Beet greens can be used similarly to spinach or chard, and are the most nutritious part of the plant.

Greens, Collards, Kale (7-10 days): Greens should be placed in a plastic bag, and stored in the refrigerator. If greens start to look wilted, you can revive them by snipping the base of the stems, filling a tub with ice, cold water, submerging the greens in the water, and placing the water tub in the refrigerator for 6-8 hours. The freshly snipped stems will soak up the cold water, and revitalize the greens. Grocery stores commonly use this trick before placing greens on their produce shelves.