News You Can Use
Susan Wallace of Midtown Herbs is this week's guest blogger. Her yard is a haven for pollinators of all types, but Monarch butterflies in particular. Here, Susan shares her observations of the beautiful orange and black butterflies that found their way into her yard on their annual migration south for the winter:
"This is just one of the monarchs seen stopping in the yard for a fuel stop, and presume to be headed to Texas and Mexico. Last week I counted 4 at one time, 3 a few days later, and single ones here and there. This fits into the norm that peak migration here in the midsouth is October. Monarchs laying eggs, and the life cycle of egg-caterpillar-chrysalis-adult peaks here in September. Few adults are seen in spring and summer, with a few spotted in August. I had several caterpillars going and growing in the net butterfly cages. Those things are eating machines, spending their days and nights growing, eating and pooping! 12 made it through to maturity and were released. 2 had succumbed (most likely) to OE, the dreaded protozoan disease. Just from casual observation, the adult monarchs will nectar on a number of different flowers. Favorites in my yard are zinnias, Mexican sunflower and tropical milkweed, though none are native to this area. I need to find native flowers they like! I did let some goldenrod grow and bloom in several spots of the yard, and never saw a butterfly on one. The caterpillars only eat milkweeds (Asclepias sp). I have some planted in ground and pots, plus a number of starts in various stages for the market. One native for this region is swamp aka rose milkweed (Asclepius incarnata). It blooms by 2nd year, is lush and pretty, blooms in July, and goes south after that. By late August -September when the adult is looking for places to lay eggs, is about over. The tropical (Asclepis curassavica) is still pretty with good foliage. Butterfly weed (Ascepius tuberosa) has striking orange blooms and can be a host plant. The blooms attractive to the various butterflies and bees, but the thin coarse leaves not a choice for egg laying."
What does the term “hydroponics” mean? Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without the use of soil. Instead of growing plants in dirt, plants are held up in some type of growing medium, such as vermiculite, coconut coir, perlite, etc., and fed continuously by an irrigation system that delivers water and nutrients directly to the roots.
There are some distinct advantages to growing plants hydroponically. First of all, since hydroponic systems have to be sheltered from the elements, plants can be grown year-round, in any climate. There are even mini-systems that fit on a countertop, so even people who live in small urban spaces can grow their own plants. Plants grown in this method grow bigger and faster than their soil-grown counterparts because the plant doesn’t have to focus its energy on growing a bigger root system to find water; all the water and nutrients it needs are already provided. Because hydroponic systems are enclosed, they use less water than soil-grown plants due to less evaporation in the air, and insects are much easier to manage and control.
There are a few drawbacks to hydroponic systems, however. These types of systems are much more expensive than dirt and require constant monitoring to make sure the pH levels and nutrient levels stay balanced. The biggest drawback though is the chance of equipment failure, such as a clogged irrigator or a pump failure. Without the equipment to maintain the proper water flow, plants can die within a few hours.
There are several types of hydroponic systems. A common system is called Deepwater Culture, where the plant roots are suspended in a nutrient solution. Another type is called Nutrient Film Technique, where the roots are enclosed in a long container and a continuous flow of nutrient solution feeds the roots. Aeroponic systems spray nutrient solutions directly onto roots suspended in the air, while Wicking systems pull nutrient solutions from a reservoir into the growing medium. An Ebb and Flow method uses a pump attached to a timer to flood the plants with nutrient solution and then allows them to dry out before flooding them again. And finally, a Drip system provides the growing medium with a constant slow drip of nutrient solution.
Hydroponic growing can be great for those with limited space or who want the ability to grow plants year-round in a climate controlled environment. Setups can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make them, depending on what and how much you want to grow.
Ahh fall- there's a new crispness in the air, the leaves are starting to change and the days are getting shorter. It's the perfect weather for toasting marshmallows outside on the fire pit, getting all those pesky leaves out of the yard, and throwing a couple of logs on the fire. However, all of those activities present new opportunities for fire accidents to occur. Here are a few tips worth remembering to help you keep your family and home safe from fires.
1. 60% of house fire deaths occur in homes without a working smoke detector. Make sure your home has a smoke detector outside of each bedroom and near the kitchen.
2. Test your smoke detectors once a month to make sure they are in good working order.
3. Once a year, replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. When the batteries go dead, smoke detectors make a telltale "chirping" noise to let you know they need to be replaced.
4. Replace your smoke smoke detectors every 10 years. If you can't remember how long it's been since they were replaced, just look at the manufacturing date on the back.
5. Once or twice a year, go over the emergency plan with your family- make sure everyone has at least two ways to escape from the house, that children know how to call 911, and that you have a safe meeting point outside of the home.
6. When using an outdoor fire pit or campfire, make sure the fire is completely out by pouring water over the hot coals. Never start an outdoor fire on a windy day and make sure there is a water source handy.
7. Dispose of leaves and yard waste by either adding them to compost or by bagging and placing them on the curb for pick up. Burning yard waste is not only dangerous, but it also adds pollutants to the air.
8. If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, collect ashes in a metal ash bucket with a lid and wait a few days before emptying the ashes outside. Hot coals can ignite a fire up to 24 hours after being dumped outside, and can be hard to see when mixed with the ashes.
9. Keep at least one fire extinguisher in your home (preferably in or near the kitchen) and make sure everyone knows how to use it. Just remember PASS- Pull the pin, Aim the hose, Squeeze the trigger, and Sweep back and forth across the fire.
10. Always keep things like lighters and matches out of children's reach and make sure they understand just how dangerous fire can be.
11. If a grease fire starts in the kitchen on the stove, the best course of action is to cover the pan with a lid and turn off the heat. Never try to put water on it- it will make the fire spread.
12. If your clothes catch fire, the best thing you can do is Stop, Drop and Roll to put out the flames. Never run- it will only make the fire worse.
Genetically-Modified Organisms, or GMOs, is a hot-button issue in both agriculture and food consumption. Here are some facts, both positive and negative, to help you make an informed choice about what you eat.
1. Better overall quality and taste.
Through the modification of foods, the flavors can be enhanced. Peppers can become spicier or sweeter. Corn can become sweeter. Difficult flavors can become more palatable.
2. More resistant to disease.
Plants and animals that have been genetically modified can become more resistant to the unexpected problems of disease. Think of it as a vaccine for that plant or animal, except that the vaccine is encoded into the genetics instead of a shot given to the immune system.
3. More nutrition benefits.
GMO foods can have vitamins and minerals added to them through genetic modifications to provide greater nutritive benefits to those who eat them. This is especially common in developing countries that don’t always have the access to needed resources.
1. Environmental damage.
By growing plants or raising livestock in environmental conditions that normally wouldn’t support them, there is the potential of irrevocably damaging that environment. This is often seen through GMO crossbreading – weeds, for example, that can be crossed with GMO plants can often become resistant to herbicides, creating the need for more GMO efforts.
2. There is no economic value.
GMO foods take just as long to mature and take just as much effort to grow, meaning that there is no real economic value to growing GMO foods when compared to non-GMO foods.
3. A growth in allergic reactions in the general population.
Time and time again, studies have shown that the consumption of GMO foods increases the risks of food-based allergies in people. If someone develops an allergy to soy because of GMO efforts, then if livestock eats that GMO soy as well, that person would have a high probability of an allergic reaction from eating the animal meat.
What is compost? Compost is made when plant materials break down and become part of the soil. This process of decomposition is important because that’s how nutrients are added to soil, which make plants grow healthier. Here are some tips to make your own compost:
Have a container. There are several different types, from a simple 3-sided bin to containers on a stand that turn with a hand crank. Do a little homework and decide what works best for you and your space.
The contents of your container should be about 50% brown material and 50% green material. Brown material includes shredded newspaper, wood chips and dry leaves. Green material includes grass clippings and kitchen scraps.
Do not put meat or dairy scraps in your compost. Animal fats don’t decompose the same way that plant matter does and it attracts pests such as raccoons and other meat-eaters.
Place some sticks on the bottom of the pile to create some airflow.
Alternate layers of green and brown materials and give the pile a good stir about once a week to create pockets of air and to help facilitate the decomposition process.
Every time to add material to your compost pile, check to see if it’s damp. If the pile is too dry, there will not be enough moisture to decompose the materials. If it is too wet, the pile will be slimy.
With just a little maintenance, your compost will turn into crumbly, rich soil that your plants will love!
Why do plants like compost? Decomposed plant matter produces fulvic acid, which is Mother Nature’s “Miracle Gro”!
Colony Collapse Disorder is what happens when the majority of worker bees in a hive suddenly die off, leaving behind the queen, nurse bees to feed the young and plenty of food. There are many theories as to what causes a hive to collapse, but in all likelihood, colony collapse is due to a number of factors.
About 10 years ago, beekeepers started reporting large numbers of hive collapse that didn’t suggest any known causes. One cause of sudden bee death is by acute poisoning, such as when a homeowner intends to kill a bee swarm, or if certain poisonous pesticides were accidentally introduced into the hive, or if there was insufficient food to feed the hive. In those cases, the telltale sign would be a large number of dead bees near the hive. In the cases reported by the beekeepers, the worker bees were suddenly gone with very dead bees near the hive, and the queen, nurse bees and young bees were still intact. A hive without worker bees to continually bring food back for the colony cannot survive.
Several factors are being investigated by scientists as to why colony collapse occurs. Some of those factors include the varroa mite which invades bee colonies; new diseases such as Israeli Acute Paralysis virus and the gut parasite Nosema; pesticide poisoning; the stress bees are placed under while being transported across the country from farm to farm for their pollination services; changes to the local habitat where bees forage for food, and an inadequate forage supply. Colony collapse could even be a combination of several of these factors.
Both the EPA and the USDA are working to find solutions for colony collapse. Bees play a vital role in our food system by pollinating plants so that the plants can produce food. About one-third of the food we eat, such as beans, almonds, fruit, avocadoes and more, depends on pollination by bees and other insects, so if bee populations are in danger, so is a substantial portion of our food supply.
So what can you do to help bees stay healthy? First of all, use extreme caution with pesticides and avoid using them on blooming flowers or in places where you see bees and butterflies. Bees are normally inactive in the evening and at night, so it’s best to apply pesticides in the evening so it can dry overnight. Powdered pesticides are particularly harmful because the fine particles stick to bees just like pollen and can poison the entire hive. Do not apply pesticides on a windy day because the poison may drift onto neighboring plants that provide food for bees. If at all possible, try to use organic pest control methods that don’t rely on chemicals. Make sure the product you are using is right for your specific need and don’t apply more than what the instructions call for. Finally, provide good forage for bees with colorful, attractive flowers in your yard or in pots. Not only will they be good for the bees, but they’ll also add beauty to your home.
Beginning in the 1990s, the USDA sought to standardize what constituted as “organic farming practices”. Up until then, each state and even individual growers had their own ideas as to what was an organic practice and what wasn’t. By 2002, clear guidelines were established in order to make uniform all the different standards and growing practices. In order to meet the minimum qualifications to be considered a certified organic farm, producers must:
Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
Support animal health and welfare
Provide access to the outdoors so that animals can exercise their natural behaviors
Only use approved materials
Do not use genetically modified ingredients
Receive annual onsite inspections
Separate organic food from non-organic food
These standards were established by Congress in the Organic Foods Production Act and cover every aspect of growing and production, from seed to table. Having these clear guidelines protects consumers by making sure the integrity of the organic farm products going to market stays intact. If a producer wants to use the “organic” label on his or her product, they must adhere strictly to the guidelines and submit to farm inspections which include observations of their growing, storage and processing procedures, as well as soil and water sampling. The Organic Foods Production Act also provides the USDA the ability to investigate consumer complaints and bring judgment on producers and processors who break the law. Even small farms and processors (who sell at least $5000 in organic product) who want to use an organic label on their products must be inspected and certified.
Why is the “organic” label such a big deal? The term organic means that producers are held to a different standard of practice that does not rely on certain chemicals, like pesticides and fertilizers, that have been linked to environmental damage, or on genetically-altered substances whose long-term health effects are unknown. Organic practices rely instead on natural deterrents to pests such as companion planting, natural soil fertilizers such as compost, and overall practices that are more eco-friendly and sustainable. Certified organic farms also have to keep records of which substances have been used on the soil for the past three years, so that inorganic chemicals won’t have leaked into production by accident.
You may have heard the acronym “CSA” thrown around lately, or seen bags full of vegetables ready for pickup at the farmers market and wondered what it was all about. CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture, and is another way to connect farmers and consumers. The farmers join a collective where they agree to bring a certain amount of certain foods to the distribution point, and the CSA divides the produce equally among the subscribers. In Memphis, there are two CSA groups – the Bring It Food Hub and Roots Memphis.
So how do you join a CSA? All you have to do is go online, sign up, and pre-pay for the number of shares (bags) you’d like to order. Then each week, go to the farmers market and pick up your bag of weekly produce. For those that typically spend a lot on fresh produce at the grocery store, or who prefer knowing that their produce is locally and organically grown, a CSA subscription can be a real lifesaver. Each bag contains $20 of fresh fruits and vegetables, and you can even get deluxe versions that include eggs, bread, honey, coffee, fresh cut flowers, and more.
If that sounds a little out of your budget, the Bring It Food Hub also has CSA subscriptions for those with limited incomes who receive SNAP benefits. Each SNAP box contains $10 of fresh produce and can be paid for on a week-to-week basis. SNAP box participants can even still use the Fresh Savings incentive, which is a program of AARP that doubles your SNAP dollars at the farmers market. To join a SNAP box CSA, simply fill out a short application, pay onsite for the next week’s box and receive $10 in Fresh Savings tokens that you can spend immediately on fresh fruits and vegetables at the farmers market.
There are other advantages to joining a CSA, apart from the pre-packed convenience. Both the Bring It Food Hub and Roots Memphis have options for you to “pay it forward” to a family in need by buying a gift subscription. And what about the bags that don’t get picked up at the market? Don’t worry – they get donated to charities that feed the homeless. Roots Memphis also has a unique farmer training program to assist new startup farms, helping to ensure their early success.
Both CSAs have a pickup point at the Overton Park and Cooper-Young Farmers Markets, so while you’re picking up your weekly bag, you can also pick up locally raised meat, eggs and dairy, fresh baked breads and pastries, jams, jellies and honey, a different assortment of fruits and vegetables, locally roasted coffee, and unique gift items such as handmade soap and jewelry.
Come see what’s “growin’ on” at the Farmers Market!
Farmers Markets are an integral part of the community. It is a place where producersand consumers can meet face-to-face, so that the consumer can know who is growing his or her food, and the farmer can the impact his or her work has on those who eat the end product. Farmers Markets are also places where artists and artisans can have a platform for their individual crafts and trades, where local musicians can entertain shoppers while showcasing their talents to the public, and overall people can meet up with friends. The Farmers Market is not just a marketplace; it’s a community gathering place.
Farmers Markets give back to the community in several ways. Economically, they keep local dollars from going to big chain stores and encourage patronage at nearby shops and restaurants. Environmentally, they add usefulness to urban hardscapes, increase nearby property values, and ensure that green spaces are conserved for farming. Socially they encourage people to get out of their homes and interact more with their neighbors, provide a safe place for children, and reduce crime in that immediate area. Despite all of that, most people are unaware that Farmers Markets also give back to local causes.
It is a little-known fact that Farmers Markets provide free space to other community non-profit agencies, so that they have the chance to reach the public in no other way possible to spread their message and mission. Everything from homelessness causes, environmental causes, pet adoptions, disease awareness, children’s causes, and on and on have found a unique way to do community outreach through the goodwill of the Farmers Markets.
So the next time you come to the market to pick up your fresh produce, groceries, and unique gifts, be sure to seek out the community partnership booths as well and see what good things are happening in your neighborhood.
If you’ve been to the farmers market lately, you may have seen some signs and pamphlets advertising the AARP Fresh Savings Program. But what is the program about? It is a program designed to help those with limited incomes gain better access to fresh, healthy foods by doubling the value of their SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called “food stamps”) benefit cards. Here are the answers to some of our most frequently asked questions.
Q: The sign says AARP. Is this just for elderly people?
A: No, anyone with a SNAP card is eligible for Fresh Savings. The program is sponsored in part by AARP, as well as some other large corporations, who are concerned about enabling those with limited incomes to access fresh food.
Q: What are the tokens for?
A: Our vendors don’t have the ability to accept SNAP benefit cards, but the market itself does. A person with a SNAP card can come to the market manager and swipe their SNAP card in exchange for tokens which can be used just like cash at the farmers market on the same goods one would buy in a grocery store. The market will also match the SNAP tokens with Fresh Savings tokens, so that person has twice as much money to spend at the farmers market.
Q: What can I buy with the Fresh Savings tokens?
A: If youlook closely at the Fresh Savings tokens, you will notice that the writing on them is green and says “Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Only”. That means that you can use the green Fresh Savings tokens to purchase produce so you can save the blue SNAP tokens for purchases of meat, eggs, dairy, bread and prepared foods, as well as produce.
Q: Can I use the tokens at other farmers markets?
A: No, the tokens should only be used at the market where they were purchased. A lot of bookkeeping goes into the issue, collection and reimbursement of tokens, and when you use one market’s tokens at another market, it means the market that issued the tokens can’t be properly reimbursed for the program by the USDA, which provides funding for the Fresh Savings program.
Still have more questions? Please feel free to come to the info table and ask the market manager!
In 2009, the USDA launched the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, a program started to increase the supply and demand of locally raised food products, raise interest in agriculture, and provide more access to fresh foods. Here are some quick facts about the initiative, and the impact it has had in the last 7 years:
Local farm systems are creating an average of 13 jobs per $1 million in sales
Small farms ($49,000 a year in sales or less) make up 79% of the farming businesses in America, and 10% of local food sales
The number of farmers markets across the country increased 54% from 2008 to 2011, bringing about 7,000 new opportunities for farmers to interact directly with consumers
Local and regional food infrastructure, such as cold storage facilities, sorting and grading facilities, mills, processing plants and refrigerated trucks provide jobs and growth for the local economy
Since 2009, over 700 local and national groups have established community and school gardens nationwide
Between 2010 and 2011, the USDA helped finance construction of about 4,500 high tunnels (greenhouse-like structures) to help farms extend their growing seasons
Farms and ranches of all sizes are helping to conserve our natural resources and greenspaces
The increased demand for locally raised meat and poultry has caused an increase in supply-chain jobs, such as meat processing, packing and trucking.
The number of schools participating in farm-to-school programs jumped from 400 in 2004 to over 2,300 in 2011
A lack of access to fresh foods contributes to obesity, vitamin deficiency and many health problems. Local farm markets bring fresh foods to under-served urban areas to help bridge the fresh food access gap.
In 2010, nearly 900,000 seniors and 2.15 million WIC recipients gained access to farm fresh foods with help from the USDA
Between 2010 and 2011, the number of farmers markets authorized to accept EBT (food stamps) grew by over 51%, to over 2,400 markets nationwide
In 2009, 29 Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development projects were funded, and around 5,000 new producers were trained. By the next year, 40 projects were funded.
As time goes on, more and more people are recognizing the value of knowing where their food comes from and of eating locally raised foods, and your farmers markets are proud to serve your neighborhood. We encourage you to come down to the market and meet out farmers face to face and ask them questions about how and where their food was grown and raised. After all, we want you to “Know Your Farmer and Know Your Food”!
For more information and interactive maps, go to http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/knowyourfarmer?navid=KYF_COMPASS
Have you thought about how much impact a farmers market has on the local economy? Probably not. Most visitors to a farmers market are there to find fresh, in-season, locally grown, organic produce, along with other fresh local goods such as meat and eggs. You can also usually find an assortment of fresh-baked breads, pastries, jams, honey, and even plants and unique artisan gifts. But what does the farmers market have to do with the economy?
For one thing, farmers markets provide income for farmers and producers. Without an avenue in which to sell their goods, those same people would have no incentive to do what they do, except for just the sheer pleasure of growing vegetables or making a product. Farm market vendors are entrepreneurs and small-business owners, sometimes working alone, in a co-op, and may even have employees. They are job creators whose purpose is to provide a homegrown or handmade product to their local community.
Secondly, economic impact studies indicate that patrons who attend a farmers market will also patronize other nearby stores and restaurants about 60% of the time. What that means is, not only are the farm market vendors creating jobs and income for themselves, they are also indirectly helping other nearby venues increase their profits as well. Patrons will often stop at another nearby store on their way either to or from the farmers market, so in effect, the farmers market is helping to drive traffic to those other locations.
In a more indirect way, farmers markets are also partly responsible for farmland conservation and urban development. Land that is used for growing crops is protected from being used for commercial purposes, which has a huge positive environmental impact, and the location of the farm market in urban areas benefits from an increase in property values.
So the next time you visit the market to pick up your weekly produce, think about how different life would be without our farmers markets!
Winter time is tough for a variety of reasons, but especially when it comes to produce withdrawal. For those of us who try to eat as close to seasonally as possible, it means a whole of lot of root vegetables and preserves.
This afternoon, as I was about to open an umpteenth jar of jam to get my sweet fix, I was reminded of a Winter season French dessert which also comes in a jar, but is actually made with something that grows during these cold seemingly endless Winter months: Crème de Marron, literally Cream of Chestnut.
This may sound like just another boring soup recipe, but is actually a simple, delicious and incredibly easy to store (lasts for a year!) French dessert.
I have seen chestnuts offered during the holiday season in the States, but never really any other time. In France, they are pretty much ubiquitous, roasted as street food, candied for an after school snack, ground as a base for soup, chopped into pâtés and more!
Here is a perfect way to introduce marrons into your cooking repertoire. I give you the simplest, most delicious marron recipe ever: Crème de Marron façon Marmiton.
- 2 Kg of chestnuts (roughly 4 1/2 lbs)
- 1 1/2 Kg of sugar (just under 3 1/2 lbs)
- 2 glasses of water
- 1 vanilla bean
Make a round incision at the top of each chestnut. Place in pot. Cover in cold water. Bring to a boil and let it cook for a few minutes.
Remove chestnuts from water a few at a time and peel off shell, then place chestnuts in 1/2 litre of warm water over medium flame. Cook for a few minutes, until the chestnuts can be smushed with a fork.
Drain the chestnuts then pulse in food processor until quite fine. Keep warm.
Make "petit boulé" simple syrup. This means that as the water and sugar begin to boil, you simply dip a hand held sieve in the liquid, pull it out, and blow, forming big bubbles in the syrup. Add the warm chestnut puree, then the vanilla.
Warm gently and keep stirring. Let boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove vanilla bean.
Now scoop the unctuous cream into jars, cover and turn upside down. The cream will store for up to a year!
Try it on fresh cheese, ice cream or on its own!
The French galette des rois, or “king’s cake” (not to be confused with the Southern cake of the same name) is probably my favorite of the holiday desserts of y childhood, which makes it all the more upsetting that I haven’t been able to find it anywhere in Memphis...till now. But more on that later.
First, let me explain why galette is so special.
It is a dessert served on January 6th,the feast of the Epiphany (when the three Kings visited baby Jesus) and every Sunday afterwards for the rest of January.
A month long feast ? Now that’s a tradition I can get behind! As a little girl, I remember wearing pretty smock dresses and spending Sunday afternoons at friends’ houses, hoping I would find the ‘feve’ in my slice of cake.
Let me explain : the youngest child hides under the table and calls out the name of each guest, as portions of galette are handed around. Then, the children feverishly tear at their pieces of cake to find a small porcelain charm, called a “feve.” When it’s found, the lucky owner becomes king or queen and gets to pick a consort. Paper crowns are distributed, hearts are broken, flakes from the buttery crust cover everything.
Galettes are basically layers upon layers of buttery pate feuilletee (puff pastry), stuffed with frangipane (sweetened almond paste.)The cakes are very labor intensive, and for that reason rarely made at home. Rather, they are purchased from one’s neighborhood patisserie. Which is why I have been galette-less for all these years: if I am not making one, who is?
Ladies and gentlemen, a savior has emerged in the heart of Midtown. Authentic, no froufrou, handmade galettes are now available at market favorite Tart Memphis on Cooper St !
So go on, get yourself an authentic galette, and see who is crowned king (or queen !) in YOUR house this Sunday.
For as long as I can remember, Christmas has meant oranges displayed around the house, smelling sweetly acidic and smoky, mixed with cloves and evergreen branches. Grand-mere and I would stay up late during my lengthy French Christmas vacation (almost a month!) and make my favorite holiday decoration: orange peel candles. Clementines are easier to peel, so we would tart with those and work our way up to the thicker navel oranges.
We began with a small incision that grand-mere always had to make because the pith would get stuck under my nails, and I didn't like that. Then, the tricky part: peeling the entire fruit in one movementRead More
Rainy cold weather has finally arrived, and I am reminded of the ubiquitous French soup that traditionally precedes even the most informal meal.
Every French child remembers visiting their grandparents or older relatives and inevitably being served a small bowl of soup, made with whatever vegetables were left over from yesterday's dinner.
Because French housewives (and working women alike, I might add) have plenty to worry about, between the choice of cheese, wine and main course preparation (yes, even for an informal lunch), the soup is always very simple and easy to make.
Soupe au potiron was always my favorite. I remember visiting American cousins who stared at me in disbelief as I described my favorite dish - a SOUP made of... pumpkin?! In recent years, however, pumpkin and other hard squash dishes have become more and more popular stateside, to my delight.
In honor of the slow cooked, multi-course lunches that marked my childhood Sundays, I am sharing with you today my recipe for Soupe au Potiron:
1/2 pumpkin, 8 potatoes, 2 chicken bouillon cubes, 200g of creme fraiche, nutmeg, parsley, saltand pepper.
Remove skin and seeds from pumpkin. Chop into 1 inch cubes. Peel potatoes.
Steam pumpkin and potatoes. While they are cooking, warm chicken stock.
Blend pumpkin and potatoes. Slowly add hot stock while blending.
As soon as the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat. Serve with roughly chopped parsley and a pinch of nutmeg.
Like most of us, the memories of my childhood, especially the ones surrounding food, have more to do with smell, feeling and nostalgia than clear flavors or precise recipes.
In this season of apples and pears, I am reminded of making preserves with my grandmother in her giant copper pots at her house in rural Western France. Truth be told, most of those preserves were red currant jellies, made from the bright red berries in her garden, but every so often, a friendly neighbor would drop off a basket of pears on the doorstep (why they didn't ring the bell and give them in person, I never really understood.)
Grand-mere was a fiercely independent woman who refused to follow recipes, and so in the memories I have of our preserve making afternoons, grand-mere is more akin to Fantasia's the sorcerer's apprentice than Julia Child, pouring immeasurable amounts of sugar into giant boiling cauldrons.
One recipe that even the most timid and unwizard-like of us can follow, however, is the one for Pear Sauce (which I use as jam) found in the latest issue of Edible Memphis. So here is, in grand-mere's honor, and in honor of one of my absolute favorite seasonal fruits, Melissa Petersen's Pear Sauce recipe:
3 lbs of pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
In large saucepan over medium heat. cover pears with just enough water to prevent sticking. Simmer until tender. Using a food processor (or potato masher if you like it chunky), puree pears. Return pear puree to saucepan and add 1/4 cup of sugar per pound of fruit. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved and desired consistency is reached. Cool and refrigerate. covered, for up to one week.
Optional spices: You can add ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom or ginger to the sauce during the last few minutes of cooking.