Monday, August 16, 2010

Slipp Farms Organic Celebration this Saturday

Here's an opportunity for a farm visit this weekend. Slipp Farms - known for its organic meats and poultry - is hosting an organic BBQ and celebration event this weekend, starting Saturday the 21st at 1 and you can even stay over night and camp out on the farm. Just bring your own tent (and dishes and cutlery for the bbq). Check out their info at:

There will be Speerville baked goods, Picaroon's beer and Slipp Farms meat on the bbq of course. (Sounds like someone took my NB bbq idea seriously). There will also be live music and you can go for a swim in the Saint John river. Sounds ideal. Slipp Farms is in Central Hampstead, so close to Saint John, Fredericton and Sussex.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Kingston Market update : Going for Greens

It seems like quite a while since I've been to the Kingston market so I finally made a journey over there this morning to catch up on the goings-on. Good thing I did since I bumped into one of the chefs for the Hampton locavore dinner and he was hinting that he was going to do some pretty interesting things to Terry Mierau's chickens (Cedar Lane farms). There seems to be a theme among the chefs of using as much of the beasties that are going to be presented as possible - so a great learning opportunity for all of us. There are only 100 spots though, so get your tickets now.(see the bbq post below for the link).

Things are in full swing of course so I was able to load up on all sorts of things, including my beloved lamb's quarters (the greens on the far right of the photo). Whaelghinbran farms (OCIA certified - i.e. certified organic) brings these lovely things to the Kingston market. You've really got to try them - Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food - lists them as one of "the most nutritious greens in the world" (check it out: In Defense, p.170 - sorry, can't help footnoting). And they have a marvellous nutty flavour - great raw in a salad or cooked. Not only did Whaelghinbran have lamb's quarters they also had goose foot greens (in the centre of the photo) - which are very similar, but prettier because of their pink centres - and New Zealand spinach (not from NZ directly, but originally grown there, just in case you were wondering about the food miles) which is a nice "fat" spinach (far left) - perfect, I was told, for making spinach based dishes with, like Spanakopita, since it holds together better.

Chestnut Acres was also there with a cornucopia of irganic stuff - organic potatoes, kale, carrots, blueberries, salad greens, herbs, cabbage (red and green) cucumbers, zucchini, purple and green beans (and a groovy bag of mixed purple, green and yellow), snow peas, fava beans and on the list goes. They are excitedly awaiting their appearance on SmartEat TV - so keep checking on that website for updates: ...SmartEat TV (Smart Eat TV also has great hints on finding local foods and excellent recipes)

I was also able to stock up on some new NB cheeses from the "Cheese Shop" (Linda Nadj-Homestead is bringing in artisanal NB cheeses) and chicken from Cedar Lane Farm (which also carries lovely pork and, if you get there early enough, free range eggs - as well as Dave Bunnett's grass-fed beef).

I came away pretty stocked up (and could have stocked up more except I'm travelling next week, so didn't want to over-do it) but there are always those other things you need to pick up that you can't always get at the Farmer's market so I popped into Cochran's in Quispamsis on the way home and was delighted to find early pears in from Gagetown as well as Oberly apples and Yellow Transparents (also known as August Apples I believe). I was also able to pick up the Armadale parmesan that had sold out at the market already (I really have to get up earlier on Saturdays) and scooped up some black currents they were selling off at 2.99 a pint (more black current sauce for me, mmmm, maybe on some Cedar Lane pork, mmm...) I also made a note of the other local goods available there like Gagetown cider and sparkling juices, local free range chicken, Slipps farms beef and Jolly Farmer chicken, Armadale's butter, yoghurt and other cheeses, Degenhardt sausages, Covered Bridge Chips, that mustard from Jolly Farmer I mentioned in my BBQ post and a whole host of Speerville stuff. So really, lots of local to be had there. *And* there carry something that for sometime I didn't believe existed - organic milk from NB. Yup. Our very own Northumberland Dairies makes an organic milk. Who knew?

Indeed, if I were going to suggest a Saturday circuit for people out Kennebecasis Valley way that would pretty much cover all your grocery needs, that's all you'd have to do, start at the Kingston market and then finish off a Cochran's, (and don't forget Kuinshoeve meats just a few doors down) or go the other way through Hampton and stop at Kredl's. Pretty easy really and you're fridge will be full, believe me, I'm having trouble closing the door ...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Locavore BBQ

I was just reminded of the locavore's dinner in Hampton on Sept. 24 (advance tickets required, see the info at Hampton )and it made me think of how easy it would be, right now, to pull off an NB or NS or "Maritime" BBQ with almost all locally sourced ingredients. Now we're into high "Down Home" season and the weather is begging us to be outdoors, it's time to invite everyone over for a bbq. And if I had a bbq in the city where my friends are, I'd do it - but hey, thought I'd give everyone else ideas from my perch. So here it is:

To start, of course, you need munchies - which is the other thing that got me thinking about this. Covered Bridge chips are now showing up in a variety of locations. The company is run by the Albright family - 4th generation NB farmers - in Hartland,NB and they're really good (the chips I mean, although I'm sure the family is very nice). The chips are kettle cooked so they have that extra bit of flavour and they've come out with some great flavours like: Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper, Sweet Potato and Brown Sugar and the newest (and my personal favourite) Lobster (it's great, mild loberstery flavour). They also have really good tortilla chips. You can check out their products at: Covered Bridge. In Saint John you can find them at Baleman's (see the photo display above), and I've also found them at that little Bate's Landing convenience store (at the ferry) on the Kingston Peninsula. They show up unexpectedly in a variety of places, but they're hardest to find in the big grocery stores since either they're not stocked or they're off in some display separate from all the other chips (go figure - shelf space costs big time). So keep on the look out for them. Anyways, with your chips, of course, comes your beer, and on that front NB has no problem: Picaroon's and Pumphouse are easily available - or Moosehead if you're not a craft brew person - as are the NS independents. There's a new Picaroon's out "melon head", which oddly features a cat wearing a melon helmet on its label, that I'm dying to try but I need help since I often can't justify drinking an entire Picaroon's pint bottle on my own. So only a party where I could split a beer with someone would work (hint, hint...)For the non-drinkers, you could stock some apple cider from Gagetown.

Then there is the main feature: the grill. I'd feature things like buffalo sausage from Boutouche's Seawind Buffalo farm (Dieppe market) and wild boar sausage from outside Sussex (Kredl's, Sussex market, Shediac Coop) and some local grass fed ground beef for burgers (Kingston Market, Kuinshoeve Meats, Dieppe market, Goddard Farms in Berwick). Local chicken and seafood are other options of course (did you know we shrimp farm up Caraquet way?). And there's lots of great veggies now in that go on the grill beautifully: sunburst squash, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, the list goes on. So the grill part is actually quite easy - just go to your best source of local food and get some protein/grilling veggies.

What about the traditional bun and fixings for the meat products? Well, you could go whole hog and make your own from Speerville flour. But if you're not that ambitious there are a couple options I can think of: use pita bread from Mother Nature's (made in Saint John) or just go to your local independent bakery. Studies on salt in Canadian food showed that bread made in actual bakeries had lower salt than both commercial store bread and homemade. Go figure, bakers probably just know what they're doing.

Fixings? Well, believe it or not, Speerville has a marvellous organic old-fashioned mustard made right there in Speerville in "Nancy's Kitchen" - you can order it from them or look for it in markets etc. I picked it up from Dave Bunnett in Dieppe Market. Relish? Well that's just pickles right? So make your own with the pickling cukes that are now all over the place or buy some from the market or get them from friends who pickle (my favourite option). You can jazz it up with Lady Ashburn's and chow chow and all sorts of other homemade pickled goodies available in church basements and farm markets everywhere. Now ketchup I admit, I find disturbing. Mostly sugar no? So, just use tomatoes, or whirl some tomatoes with sugar and a little vinegar and voila! Ketchup.

Okay now really, salad is you only other issue and that is dead easy given local greens and veggies are everywhere. *And* like I said earlier you can now get organic canola oil both from NS and Quebec in a number of healthfood stores here. And Boates' organic apple cider vinegar from NS is really good... Or use those herbed vinegars from Erb's Herbs in Cambridge Narrows or Tansy Lanes near Moncton. Just think of the options here!

For dessert? Blueberries of course? Blueberry grunt, blueberry crisp or go easy on yourself, run down to Pennfield and buy youself a couple of those amazing pies from everybody's favourite blueberry stand... Oh, but don't forget to top it off with some icecream from Sussez Ice Cream.

Sounds good yes? So, if you try to pull this off, let me know how it goes. Or better yet, invite me....

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Purple Haze

Blackberries have been found! Yes, right next to the blueberries at Baleman's in the Saint John market. While apparently blue or purple is the least common colour of food, right now we are in a purple/blue season (for those of you who adhere to the old rule about four colours on your plate - turns out that's not a bad starting point). There are blueberries, blackberries, eggplants, purple cauliflower *and* these fabulous purple beans the Balemans are growing and bringing in to the market (they turn green when you cook them but they're great to look at while they're raw). The beans are very high in antioxidants I'm told. So go to it. Now's your time to eat as much purple as possible.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The devilishly good local tomato

The lowly tomato has a lot to answer for apparently. Many locavores were launched on their locavore journey by the sad, sad condition of the grocery store tomato. Either they've just come back from Italy, or eaten their own garden tomato, and it hits them: why, oh why, do we buy these tasteless things *called* tomatoes that are so far from the real thing. And every summer I go through the same revelation. Today I ate my first (and so far only) ripe tomato from my roof top garden (okay, my handful of containers plopped out on the roof). Boy was that tomato good. "Mountain Princess" it was called and I had bought the seedling from David at Amarosia farms a couple months back. Today was a veritable feast of tomatoes since I had also bought a quart from David on the weekend and today I turned some of them into my favourite quick pasta dish which was almost entirely made up of Maritime ingredients: you boil some rotini (okay, not Maritime - although there are sources of handmade pasta here, Sisters in the Saint John market, and another pasta maker in Dieppe market); sautee some tomatoes (Amarosia's tomatoes, beautiful, small, sweet, a hint of lemon flavour?) in oil (organic canola from Quebec) with garlic (Amarosia's organic), and toss the pasta and tomatoes with feta (from Homestead in NS - and available at the Super Store), and basil (from my rooftop, organic, plants from Northern Arrow farms, Kingston Market), and finally throw in some olives (okay, on this one I admit defeat but hey, the point is to source as *much* locally as possible not absolutely everything, unless you're a real diehard.) To die for. The whole dish was accompanied by a salad of local greens, cukes and cilantro dressed only with the most amazing canola oil I've ever had. I cracked open a new bottle of Fox Mill Organic canola oil from NS that I had picked up at Winterwood in Sussex (but also available at True Foods in F'ton). It has the most beautiful flavour, almost walnutty. Really, hunt it down and try it out.

It really is a great moment when the tomatoes start coming in and we are reminded so forcefully of why local is better - it *tastes* so much better to start with. When I checked on canned tomatoes and pesticide residues using the "what's on my food" button above - the canned variety came out not too bad, in comparison to the fresh (which had 30+ residues, while canned had 8). So canned doesn't look like a terrible option until you investigate the salt question. You may have noticed that the government just brought in "voluntary" guidelines on salt in Canadian processed food since we discovered that most of us are getting 2-3 times the recommended daily allowance, which in turn is contributing to heart disease, stroke, etc. But some 77% of the salt we're getting comes from processed foods (including innocent looking things like breakfast cereal, and "healthy" soups). In other words, we don't have a lot of personal control over our salt intake. So, back to the tomato question. If we don't go for canned, what do we do? My "Beginner's Guide to Preserving Food at Home" says you can freeze them (wash and core them and freeze them on a cookie sheet before packaging) but canning is much better, although I've also heard that this can be dicey unless done right. You have to add acid (citric acid or lemon juice) to tomatoes to can them for starters or they will definitely go off. Drying them is another option if you have one of those dehydrator thingies. And my guidebook also has a way of making those "last of the season" green ones last for up to 6 weeks ripening under layered newspaper and kept in a cellar. Maybe I'll just try canning some tomato sauces this year and see how it goes. But if you have hints, let me know. The basil is just going wild as well so I guess I'll also have to learn to make pesto too.... (and now that I've discovered that both Armadale and Jolly Farmer make parmesan I can make a pretty local variety too!)

Strawberries redux in Shediac

So there I was all sad that strawberries were so done when out of the blue, another late batch of local strawberries showed up in my Shediac Co-op this weekend. So, keep your eyes peeled. These things happen. Now, has anyone seen the blackberries yet?

I also had the most gorgeous organic blackcurrants from Gaetan, who provides organic produce and foraged foods to Les Digues in Shediac/Grande Digue. Black currants need to be cooked into a sauce or something with sugar because they're so sour, but the taste is amazing. I made them into a sauce and poured them over bbqd wild boar from Brabant's in Knightsville (and carried by the Shediac Co-op - along with buffalo meat from Bouctouche). Beautiful! It all went very nicely with the organic veggies I picked up from David's stall on his farm (Amarosia) also in Grande Digue - beautiful Japanese eggplants, tiny little yellow squash (which all went on the bbq) and lovely mixed salad greens. He has lots more including tomatoes, herbs, purple cauliflower and weird and wonderful varieties of beans.

So if you're in the Shediac area - say, on a visit to Parlee - check out the Co-op's local holdings, and then try the "other side" of the Bay - Shediac Bridge/Grande Digue area (Rte 530 off 134) - and you can load up on organic and local foods (including lobster of course.) And, with so much shopping to do, you may want to stop for the perfect organic and fair trade iced coffee (they have actual barristas, they're from Vancouver, what can I say?) at Inn Thyme on Main Street in Shediac and try their local cuisine. (You can tell what I've been doing all summer....)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shaking the hand that feeds you - farm day at Amarosia

Had a marvellous day this weekend when Amarosia farms in Shediac/Grande Digue opened its doors for a farm visit. A number of the organic farms have visit the farm days and I highly recommend them. A gaggle of us, kids, dogs, parents, foodies, followed David around his farm, learning all about what he was growing and how he was growing it. David had all sorts of lovely organic vegetables and herbs growing. He showed me how to identify those lamb's quarters I've been after (I may have to volunteer some weeding just to get my hands on some more....). I learned that red peppers are just green peppers that have matured. Did you know that? Okay maybe you biologists and gardeners did, but I certainly didn't and it was really nice to find organic peppers of any colour - since peppers are, again, one of those heavily pesticided but frequently used vegetables. It was an eye opening experience to realize how much work these farms are and what a labour of love. David and a handful of helpers (literally, I think there's three) manage acres and acres of organic farm and its attendant weeding and picking and de-slugging and god knows what else requirements.
(I highly recommend Brian Brett's new book "Trauma Farm" for a loving, poetic and realistic view of running a sustainable, mixed-use farm in Canada.)David was taking all these demands in stride, even growing things like fava beans, which are a pain in the butt, "because people love them". See? Again, this is where knowing your farmers gets you. David will grow things just because other people love them. Now that's farming.

Besides meeting the farmer, it's also really great to hang out with other locavores. We shared information like where to get free range chicken and who was selling free range chicken carcasses for stock (JP at Springbrook Farms in the Dieppe Market has them for a couple of dollars). Some of us reminisced about things their families used to grow and how good they tasted and we delighted in seeing a farm going back to these "old ways". We shared recipes and knowledge and a lovely afternoon in the sunshine on a farm. And one woman gave me a great new "rule of thumb" - since you can't always tell whose organic or sustainable just from looking at the product, talk to the farmer, and if they invite you to come to the farm you can be pretty sure you're going to like what you see..

So, keep an eye out for other farm visits - often posten on farm websites, talk to your favourite farmers at the market, and pay them a visit some time.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I scream, you scream

Lucky happenstance took me to the Sussex Farmers' Market again this Friday (it runs Fridays from 11.m. to 6pm) just as the ice cream craving was coming on. Well, actually I was driving to Shediac from Saint John and realized it was 5:30 on a Friday as we came through Sussex and then I began having visions of Dave Freeze's Sussex ice cream (was the peanut butter and chocolate on? Would there be new flavours?) I got there just in time to dig into a to-die-for pistachio ice cream (with actual pistachios in it) and to be told that Dave was hard at work mixing up new batches for the Dieppe market the next day. I immediately made plans to go to the Dieppe market in the morning and indeed, we found Dave in the Dieppe market scooping out all sorts of flavours (blueberry crisp was the latest addition). Now here's one of the many pleasures of shaking the hand that feeds you... Dave and I had a great chat (I finally got my hands on the pb and chocolate) and I mentioned that people had been asking me about ginger ice-cream. It's apparently a flavour that a lot of Maritimers remember from their childhood. A friend currently living in Boston was with us and chimed in that there's a Boston ice-creamery that does molasses and ginger ice cream. Dave was immediately on the case; we could see him thinking out recipes in his head. So stay posted, ginger/molasses icecream may yet appear on the roster. See? Another reason to get out there and meet our local producers - they might even begin making things for you you've been looking for. So remember, summer is short, ice cream is one of its highest pleasures, if you're in Sussex on a Friday or the Moncton area on Saturday - go to the markets and find Sussex icecream. You'll thank me later...