winter csa and farm produce options

IMG_5405 Since I grow a garden most of the year and buy in bulk for preservation projects, I don’t opt for a summer CSA (community supported agriculture farm produce share). But since I get extremely busy in the fall and extremely cold and wet in the winter, I happily rely on winter CSAs to get me through.

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IMG_4010For the past few years, I’ve bought a share in Open Oak Farm’s winter CSA because they grow vegetables I like, plenty of escaroles, and offer a bean and grain supplement with locally grown dried beans and whole grains and flours. Alas, they have decided to stop the CSA this year, and you can see why from the photos above of their seed development activities at a recent farm open house. All these vegetables need to be cleaned and turned into seed over the wet months.

Alas, winter CSAs are few and far between.  I’ve also enjoyed Good Food Easy from Sweetwater Farm in the past, which has a flexible CSA paid monthly, and a variety of good vegetables and fruits through the winter.  Farm management has recently shifted from Farmer John and his lovely partner Lynn to their wonderful manager Erica Trappe, so we’re expecting even more good things.  Note to low-income folks: they even accept foodstamps!

To branch out a little, I have chosen Telltale Farm this year, a small woman-run concern out River Road owned and managed by Tatiana Perczek.  They offer some wonderful options, including wildcrafted mushrooms, a Deck Family Farms egg supplement (much appreciated now that my egg trade friend has divested from his chickens), and, best of all, a “small” option just perfect for one cook.

Another welcome winter CSA is the Lonesome Whistle Farm bean and grain share CSA.  They don’t seem to have a link on their website, so here is some information and a link to their Facebook page.  (Again, I implore local businesses to make announcements in a concise paragraph that’s easy to cut and paste for social media — you will get more free advertisements if you make it simple for others to help your PR):

As a “shareholder” in [Lonesome Whistle’s] Grain and Bean CSA, you pay upfront and share in the harvest – getting a one-time distribution of 64 pounds of various heritage grains, polenta, popcorn, and heirloom beans. The crops have been planted, harvested, processed, and cleaned by December. Shareholders get to choose between a Farmer-Ground Share, or a Home-Millers Share. This year’s Farmer-Ground Shares will include:

Red Fife Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Dark Northern Rye Flour : 8 pounds
Steven’s Soft White Wheat Flour: 8 pounds
Abenaki Corn Polenta: 12 pounds
Corn Flour: 4 pounds
Dakota Black Popcorn: 8 pounds
Emmer berries (AKA Farro): 8 pounds
Heirloom Beans: 8 pounds

Home-Millers Shares will be the same as above, except it will be all in the whole grain form for you to mill at home. […]Shares will be ready for pick-up at our CSA Distribution Farm Party on Saturday, December 14th between noon -5pm at the farm. Grain & Bean Shares cost $292.00 each. More information: jeffandkasey@lonesomewhistlefarm.com or 541-234-4744.

Looking for other fall farm produce this winter?  May I suggest apples, squash, and frozen berries for fall canning from Hentze Farm in Junction City?  It’s a century farm open until Christmas, and like Lonesome Whistle, they’ve had a hard year.  Gordon Hentze is a major supporter of Lane County Extension programming, donating bushels of produce to Master Food Preserver classes, which are essential in keeping costs low to serve our community.  Join them for a hot air balloon ride, wagon rides, and live music at their Fall Festival on October 12 and 13!

On your way up River Road, be sure to check out the new Groundwork Organics farm stand across the street from Thistledown Farm.  It’s a renovated dairy building that I understand will be open for a short while to test out the possibilities, then will reopen next year.  Check out photos of a recent CSA open house in the building and information here.

IMG_4052IMG_4050 IMG_4047And last but not least, help the grain farmers at Oregon-Innovators-award-winning Camas Country Mill, who give so much to our community by donating local beans to food banks and have played a dramatic role in reviving local grain production in Oregon, raise money to restore a one-room school house on their property.  The school house will be used for community programming.  Flexible funding campaign details for the School House Project here.  It’s really moving — check it out!  We dined on farm grains at a fundraiser a few weeks ago (cover photo).  Delicious food courtesy of Party Downtown (above, sprouted lentil and basil cheese spread on wheat crackers and sun-dried tomato flax crackers (served with salami bruschetta); barley risotto carbonara). And that’s Farmer Tom Hunton being sweet to his mother, if you weren’t convinced already.

What else is out there for winter farm produce options?  Please help out and share your favorites in the comments.

fermented sichuan green beans or long beans

IMG_4042 IMG_5314Even the most stalwart food tinkerer can fixate on a single dish; indeed, it’s our calling card to cooking.  For me, it was fermented green beans.  I couldn’t resist the soured, greenbeany niblets of long beans in a Sichuan dish I had in Cambridge’s Kendall Square (the now sadly defunct Thailand Café) last spring.  Long beans are what string beans fantasize of being.  Sometimes called yard-long beans, they are good in Thai and Chinese stirfries.  I often use them in curries.

So sour grapes, er, rather, sour fermented beans were definitely a goal.  Minced pork with sour beans is a well known Sichuan dish, so as soon as I returned home, I made quicklike for my Fuchsia Dunlop library and immediately put up a quart of the beans in the manner she suggested: full of warm spices and punchiness like rice wine, ginger, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, etc.

Complete failure.

The alcohol inhibited the fermentation, so it turned olive grey and salty, but never achieved the sourness I was seeking. The ginger tasted weird.  The other spices were a distraction, but I wasn’t sure if they were the problem.

So I tried again without alcohol and ginger.  Still bad.

So I tried yet again, but this time sticking with the pure flavors of beans and salt.  Much better, but I had been keeping the beans whole, which created an odd, rubbery texture.  I had thought that it would help them stay intact and not quite so salty, but the tradeoff was not worth it.  And since Germans slice and pound beans in the fermentation process for sour string beans (and when have the Germans done anything wrong?), I thought I’d give it a try.

In the final batch, I chopped the beans into small pieces.  I added quite a bit of garlic, and there they were: delicious, sour, flavorful beans.  They were indeed a bit salty, so rinsing or soaking them before stirfrying them and declining any more salt or soy sauce in the dish is a good idea. The longer they sit in the refrigerator, the saltier they will get.  I ended up quickpickling more beans in the remaining brine, and they were good, too.

The soured beans were stirfried with some fresh green beans, ripe red pepper, and a beautiful variety of burgundy leafy greens sourced from Good Food Easy and Adaptive Seeds along with the minced pork.  No other seasonings needed except for a cube of frozen chicken stock for sauciness. Delicious.

Fermented Green Beans

  • Enough beans to fill a quart jar half to 2/3 full when chopped into small pieces
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of whey, sauerkraut juice, kimchi juice, or any other similiar live ferment to help along the process (optional)

Chop beans and peel and smash garlic.  Add to jar.  Mix up a brine with one quart of hot water and sea salt, stirring to dissolve salt.  Pour brine over beans, add optional fermented juice, weigh down beans with a weight or similar so they are submerged in brine, and let sit on the counter for 5-7 days.  Taste for sourness.  When they are sour enough for you (I probably went for 9-10 days, in all honesty), refrigerate and let cure for a week before enjoying.  Rinse or soak beans to remove some of the salt before using in a stirfry.

halloween came early in vegas, glad to be home

It’s been an intense month, but I’ve got a bit of breathing room.  It’s been a struggle to reorganize my priorities to spend more time strengthening my leg as I learn how to get full range of motion again, but it needs to be done.  I do less in a day so I can spend more time exercising and going to the gym.  But that’s ok for now.

Walking and taking photos has been a pleasure.  Since I’m so slow, I can see a great deal.  Walking downtown has been thrilling, seeing all the new food businesses emerge (a long overdue restaurant post will come soon, I promise). I’m also really excited to have been part of a team studying some possibilities for a food studies program at University of Oregon.  We went up to OSU to meet a number of Oregon scholars interested in a food studies coalition of sorts, then hosted several eminent food studies faculty from other institutions back at home.  I hope something good comes out of it all.

I’ve been planning some events with my food research group on campus, including the visit from Sandor Katz on November 16, too.  Then I spent a half-week in Las Vegas at a literature conference last week.  I’m still haunted by the Strip, where I saw Dora the Explorer and Freddy Kruger mingling among the tourists outside the Flamingo.  And don’t even get me started about what was inside.  Halloween came early!

Creepy, no?  The talking animated tree was at the Bellagio and the talking Neptune posed between the Nike swoosh and a Cheesecake Factory logo was part of an inaudible animatronic show depicting the fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace.  The eyebrow-raising relief of Roman soldiers raping naked women, also Caesars Palace.  Check it out and its companion piece of Roman soldiers beating men when you enter the slot machine area.  No fucking joke.

I did enjoy seeing colleagues at the conference, where I presented my work on sexual modernity and on modernist food, and the Flamingo wasn’t a bad place to stay at all.  My room was very clean and the hall was absolutely silent.  Couldn’t ask for more, especially in the middle of the decline of Western civilization.  Great meals, too, at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon and Lotus of Siam, a hole in the wall place off the Strip in a mini-mall, made famous by Jonathan Gold a few years ago.  I had a noteworthy lamb leg with apples and blanched rutabaga cubes with a wonderful bottle of wine at the former, a pounded Northern Thai jackfruit and pork “dip” and a puffed rice and sausage dish at the latter.

But now I’m home sweet home, and couldn’t be happier to see my friends and neighbors and farmers at the market this weekend.  I walked around on my own for the first time in months, and it was a little hard, but I managed, even in the rain.

I skipped the zombie Thriller in Kesey plaza.  I had seen enough Halloween.  Instead, I reminded myself of how dazzling our fall produce is.  The hard winter squashes in yellows, oranges, reds, and slate blues are gorgeous, especially with the multi-hued peppers that remain, but I more stimulated by baskets of quinces and huckleberries at the gourd guy’s booth, brilliant red and gold flint corn polenta at Lonesome Whistle (their first go at flint corn!), and tiny American persimmons at Grateful Harvest alongside Concord grapes and the rest of the Italian prunes and fall strawberries. The weird weather created a stellar apple crop.  I bought some huge, delicious Pippins from Hentze farm, and drooled over Dave Biancalana’s description of his apple cider pork sausage with rosemary and apples.  There were golden raspberries and juicy Napa cabbage and new ginger (!!) at Groundworks Organics.  My favorite White Russian kale was available at Ruby & Amber’s Organic Oasis (I hope I’m remembering this one correctly). Cider from River Bend farm and roasting peppers were enticing us at the front of the market.  Someone whose name I forgot was selling local sweet potatoes, an important item of note for Thanksgiving.

As for what’s coming:  the mushrooms are sprouting up, especially golden chanterelles.  Beans and grains are being sorted and cleaned right now: expect the new crop very soon.  I’m pretty sure the hazelnut crop got swept up before the rains, too, so that means great plump filberts.  Walnuts should be here soon, and cranberries.  Time for homemade cran-vodkas, my favorite fall drink!

I love this little valley, this great state.  I’m so glad I’m here to share it with you.

a pisgah sight of palestine, or the parable of the pig

Joyce’s Ulysses is layered with Biblical motifs, one of my favorite being the messianic hope of a new day.  (I bet you didn’t know someone wrote her Master’s thesis on this very topic, didya?)  There’s an ongoing theme of being thwarted at the last minute before arriving in paradise, like poor old Moses who led the Israelites all the way to the promised land of Palestine, only to die after spying it from atop Mt. Pisgah.

The moral of that story is the darkest hour is before the dawn.

The moral of this story is FIX YOUR DAMN EQUIPMENT, ACTION RENT-ALL, BEFORE RENTING IT OUT TO PEOPLE IN THE FOOD SERVICE INDUSTRY WHO ARE JONESIN’ FOR SOME PIG ON A SPECIAL DAY.

Our friends had 80 pounds of pig to smoke yesterday, and we had our own Pisgah sight of paradise.  They found the rotisserie broken and something weird about the heating innards.

They did their best, being experienced smokemen, and so we waited, and drank, and reveled, and waited, and watched, and hoped, and sniffed, and shivered, and waited, and drank, and waited, and drank some more, and our mouths watered, and we talked about the glorious moment in which we’d open the smoker and all god’s glory would come tumbling out and we would sup from the milkiest honeyed pig you might possibly see.  Buddha would jump the wall, the Imam would faint, and vegans everywhere would come gaily skipping up into the South Hills at the smell of the Pig Piper’s porcine perfume.

But alas, it was not to be. No pig that night.  Rumor has it that the pig was still cooking into the early hours of the morning.

Luckily, we had grill-roasted spicy green beans and tandoori chicken, rather ingeniously marinated in salmon-colored yogurt in a big beverage cooler.  I have to get myself one of those for brining turkeys.  I brought along some lacto-fermented hot sauce and pickled cherries for the pig.  Needless to say, these were NOT CONSUMED WITH SMOKY, STICKY, FALLING-OFF-THE-BONE PORCULESCENCE, ACTION RENT-ALL.

Nevertheless, I’m pleased to say we had a triple-grill weekend with many friends and meats, and new horizons of vegetable possibilities for the barbie, as well.  And if you missed our show full of great alternative grilling tips from Eugene restaurant chefs on last Sunday’s Food for Thought on KLCC radio show because you were struggling with your own smoker, it’s available in .mp3 here.

What did you end up grilling, Eugeniuses?

fast food lunch

Tacos with arugula from my garden and Open Oak Farm purple barley and ‘Marfax Swedish Brown’ beans sauced in a rich deep mole poblano from Barcelona Sauces out of Bend, OR.  I love these beans.  They’re beautifully plump and round, and they hold their shape well for recipes like frijoles de olla or baked beans.

improvised smoky bean and root vegetable soup

Campbell’s Bean with Bacon soup was one of my favorites growing up.  Quivering beige sludge with an occasional bean or mysterious fat cube, it was condensed.  You’d add a can full of water and slosh it around in a pot on the stove, then it would become soup.  It would cook up hot and salty, just how I liked it, and perfect with saltine crackers.

Even after leaving home, it was comfort food.  I remember with fascination and trepidation a particular old sandwich shop in Ann Arbor that would sell a bowl of it, sans attribution, for college student prices.  Maybe a buck fifty a bowl?  Perfect for a freezing day walking around without sense in Michigan.  (Drake’s closed a few years after my last visit in the late 80s, but there’s a wonderful photo set from that era here.)

I wouldn’t say no if someone put a can in front of me now, but I’d probably seize up over the salt content.  Actually, maybe not, since even Campbell’s realized it was over the top and reformulated the stuff into a “heart healthy” version (whatever that means) a number of years ago.

There are many ways to make your own bean-smoky-meat soup that are way more healthy than anything processed in a can, but if you’re lucky, they’ll still bring on that rush of nostalgia when you smell them in the pot.

I had a surplus of root vegetables from the CSA thanks to this frosty month, and thought I’d experiment with a bean soup that was as much about the veg as it was the legume.  This soup is more than its parts, so feel free to add more root vegetables than you think possible.  It will look like too many roots, but you’ll cook half of them down into the broth.  Don’t do anything ridiculous, like add beets, though. Stick with mild potatoey- or carroty-type roots.

Smoked ham or bacon or turkey is really not optional for this recipe, as it forms the broth.  Start the night before you’d like to serve it.  Flavor improves as it sits.

Improvised Smoky Bean and Root Vegetable Soup

  • Several pounds of mixed root vegetables: rutabagas, turnips, potatoes, celery root, etc., chopped
  • One large yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • a half dozen good-sized carrots and/or parsnips
  • Several cups of country ham (or a couple of ham hocks/shanks if you have those instead)
  • Greens: a bunch of kale, collards, green cabbage, head of parsley, escarole, etc.
  • Fresh herbs if you have them (I used a bay leaf, a couple sprigs of sage, and some thyme)
  • 2-3 cups of dried soup beans, which might be Hutterite soup beans, Vermont cranberry beans, Navy or Great Northern beans, etc.
  • salt and pepper

Soak your beans overnight and prepare the stock. Dice the onion, celery, and carrots or parsnips into small pieces.  Over medium heat in a medium-sized stock pot (5 gallons, perhaps), sauté ham (if using), chopped onion, celery and carrots/parsnips until they turn golden brown.  Add enough water to fill the pot about halfway, and add half of the chopped root vegetables, herbs, and the ham hock/shank (if using).

Do not add the beans or the other half of the vegetables yet.

Simmer stock on a low heat for a couple of hours, then cool and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, bring stock up to a simmer, then add the beans and cook until they are soft.  With a potato masher, mush some of them up to thicken the broth.

Now taste and salt the broth (salt needed will depend on the ham you’re using).  If in doubt, err on the less salty side, since you can add more later. Add the greens and the rest of the vegetables, and simmer another half hour or so until tender.

Adjust seasonings before serving with a hunk of country bread.

Serves many hungry people and freezes well.  Cats who appear to be innocently looking out the window from a far corner of the table so they won’t seem interested also enjoy it when your back is turned.

baked beans made fancy, sort of

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a while now, and now that it’s finally breaking 80 degrees for a glorious July 4 weekend, it seems like a perfect idea to turn on your oven for four hours.  Yeah, sorry.

But if you’re yearning for a better class of baked beans, baked beans with a difference that are simple as turning on the oven, read on.  And what better for your Independence Day BBQ?

Growing up, we didn’t eat many pulses since my Mom doesn’t like them.  But one thing we did eat was pork-n-beans straight from the can (thanks to my Dad).  I liked the sweetness and the mushy, starchy texture of the beans.  They often came with a funny, rubbery piece of fat in them that was as intriguing as it was unpleasant.  I always ended up with the fat piece, somehow.  I’d ponder it while I ate: is that the pork? Why doesn’t it have any meat on it? These beans don’t taste like pork.  Is that real pork or fake?

These are not the questions one should be asking while eating food.  And they won’t be questions you’ll be asking when you make this recipe.

I recently bought a sweet little flame-colored vintage Descoware cocotte, thinking it would be perfect for cooking à deux, as I do.  Turns out it’s a perfect bean-baking pot when you don’t want enough beans to fuel a party.

And I also happened to have some Ayers Creek-grown tarbais beans, a glossy, large white dried bean used in the winters in France for cassoulet.

I had molasses and extra-smoked (he’d say over-smoked, but I disagree) bacon from my friend Del’s smokehouse operation out at Laughing Stock Farm.

A perfect storm for baked beans.

The tarbais hold up beautifully with long cooking, and they were meatier than the regular navy beans we’re used to in Heinz’s cans.  Finally, I had a pork-n-beans that was less about the sweet tomatoey sauce and pork fat than the beans themselves — toothsome, dense, creamy beans.

You’ll need to soak the beans for a few hours or overnight, so start now.  This recipe is much smaller than the usual baked beans recipe, calling only for a cup of beans, so you’ll have to use a small dutch oven or lidded casserole.  Feel free to double the recipe, but cooking times may need to be longer.  Another option is to cook the beans in your slow-cooker, then reduce the sauce in the oven.  I haven’t done this because my slow-cooker is too large for such as small amount.

Note: in Eugene, you can buy tarbais at Provisions.  Lonesome Whistle has slightly greenish flageolets and yellow arikara beans that would be excellent.  Also consider steuben beans, or similar yellow-eyes or soldier beans, all of which are classified as an early American bean used for baked beans.

Baked Heirloom Beans with Pork and Molasses

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 1 cup dried large white beans (tarbais, flageolet, Great Northern, navy, yellow-eyes)
  • 1 piece whole very smokey, thick-cut bacon, chopped finely (vegetarians may want to use liquid smoke, I suppose)
  • 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (optional — I like the crunch of the seeds)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of ketchup (optional — I use my homemade stuff for another layer of flavor)
  • salt to taste (try 1 teaspoon first)

Soak beans for several hours or overnight in water to cover.  Preheat the oven to 325.  Brown chopped bacon and onion until onion is golden brown; drain excess fat and place in your dutch oven or other oven-safe casserole.  Drain beans, and add to dutch oven and cover.  Add rest of ingredients to pot, then add enough water to cover the beans by about two inches.

Place in oven and cook until beans are tender, about 3 hours, depending on how old the beans are.  This year’s crop will take significantly less time.

When the beans are tender but not falling apart, raise heat to 350 and remove cover.  Taste liquid and adjust salt (it shouldn’t be too salty, as the liquid will be reducing, but shouldn’t be completely bland, either.)  The increased heat will boil away excess liquid to a syrup.  Watch the beans at this point so they don’t burn in the process.  Let cook for 30 minutes, then check in 15-minute intervals until the beans are a consistency you like.