Happy New Year to you all!
We hope you are all enjoying your holidays and also eating very well! We are still hard at work this winter bringing you lots of fresh local produce and other locally created foodstuffs.
Even though we are moving into January, we are thrilled to be able to bring you a large selection of items.
We thought you might enjoy a little look behind the scenes of what goes on to bring you this wonderful food. We still have access to fresh “cool” and “cold” weather produce such as kale, arugula and braising greens. There are also lots of locally grown root vegetables and winter squash that are being carefully stored by our farmers – some still pulled freshly from the ground and some in “root cellars.”
High tunnel or hoop house produce is also harvested every week and you may not even be aware of the vegetables you are eating that have been carefully tended in a high tunnel. These “houses” take advantage of passively collected heat during the day that warms the soil enough to produce some growth and keep things alive during cold nights, even in the darkest days of the winter solstice. In this way, we can provide you with very fine produce in the dead of winter. High tunnel real estate is at a premium, of course, and of great value to farmers trying to make a living through the winter. You may feel as though you are paying a bit more for some of this produce, but the quality is unsurpassed.
In addition, any produce you do buy through our service will have received the kind of post harvest care that will maximize its shelf life. The vegetables you buy from Hattie’s Garden and our produce vendors are absolutely as fresh as you could possibly find anywhere.
We harvest our own vegetables and immediately wash and chill them. For our other produce vendors, vegetables are harvested, washed, cooled and then transported to us the same day (usually just an hour or two after harvest). They are immediately placed in the shed we maintain at 38 to 40 degrees and we begin to process one box at a time in our very cold garage area where we often work with cold fingers!
For our products from prepared food vendors, similar care is taken, by both those vendors and by us as caretakers of their wonderful products. We do not get our fresh bread from Old World Breads until early Saturday morning to obtain the freshest product that we can. Patty’s Deli delivers her freshly made gourmet delicacies often still warm from the oven Friday night. We quickly cool them and bring them to you the next morning. Krista Scudlark from Backyard Jams and Jellies creates jams each week and frequently brings some as warm jars, not yet topped with their signature colorful cloths.
I spoke to Bruce Pape from Deep Grass Nursery and he and his wife Carmine are putting the finishing touches on a new batch of Italian Herb Vinegar, while the Tarragon and Red Basil were made just a couple of weeks ago.
Bruce also grows potatoes on a different time schedule than many farmers in the area, taking advantage of a fall harvest so that he can provide nice Norland and Yukon Gold potatoes during the winter when many produce farmers would not have them. And, of course, Deep Grass produce is certified organic.
Chesapeake Organic always provides us with great produce and often has items that are little known today, although they have a long history. If you have never had a rutabaga, you will find those from Chesapeake Organic taste nothing like a bland store bought rutabaga, but are sweet and delicious. Rutabagas originated as a cross between a cabbage and a turnip. You can roast, bake, boil or add rutabagas to soups. We like them simmered until soft, and mashed, either alone or with potatoes, cream and butter.
The high quality frozen meat you buy from Greenbranch and Pure Harvest is kept at temperatures well below 0° Fahrenheit in order to maintain quality, and is rotated out according to date of harvest so you receive the freshest cuts possible.
And fresh cheese? We feel so lucky to have a source of really good cheese in our backyard. You don’t often find something as versatile as Chapel’s Country Creamery cheddar cheese. Not too sharp and made from raw milk from cows grazed on well-managed pastures of clover and rye grass. There are no chemicals in the cheese and the cows are fed no antibiotics or hormones.
The eggs we receive from Twin Post Farm and Pure Harvest are only days old, and never weeks old. They are fresher than anything you would find in the supermarket and their quality can be maintained for weeks.
Honey? Yes, of course. We’ve got honey. What we sell is raw honey from Dave Baues (Baue’s Busy Bees), a beekeeper we trust and know. The honey is filtered only with a coarse filter to be sure to leave healthy particulate intact, and is not heated. This means your honey will crystallize quickly, especially in the winter – that is how you know it is really raw honey! To keep all the goodness, but make it liquid again, heat it, but only to 100 degrees or so and never above 115 degrees. Store it in the warmest place in your kitchen. Bees keep the honey in a hive around 90 degrees and it remains in liquid form. You can do the same by maintaining it around 80 degrees.
Finally, let’s not forgot the delightful oysters we are so happy to provide from Chinky Oyster Co. We receive the oysters on Friday afternoon. They have been pulled from the water that day, chilled immediately and quickly delivered to us with mud still clinging to them (I don’t like that part–but they are surprisingly easy to wash off). You absolutely will not find fresher oysters.
And if you are unsure how to deal with opening them, take a look at this video. Be sure to get yourself a good oyster knife. We became oyster “shuckers” overnight and were astounded at how easy it was.
Are you hungry yet? We hope so. Thank you for helping us survive the “Persephone” months. (And that is a Greek mythological story worth telling you next week!)
As always, order early. Some items will always be limited. Deadline is Wednesday noon and feel free to add items to your initial order by filling out a second order form or emailing Hattie, if you have forgotten something.
Best wishes for a happy 2015.
Yours in the high tunnel,