New York Berry Growers, Buying Tips and Recipe

Jane Feldman Photography

Life is berry tasty in the Hudson Valley

Big Business

Berries are a big business for wholesale, retail and u-pick farms in New York state.  Nationally New York ranks in the top ten for strawberry production, which accounts for more than $7 million in revenues.  Blueberries bring in an estimated $2 million yearly and another $2 million comes from other berry production. Three nutrient packed berries that continue to gain in popularity in New York include Currants, Aronia, and Sea Buckthorn. The berry season in New York is fairly short – from about May to the end of July.

Surprising is the number of fruits and vegetables that are and are not technically considered berries. Blueberries and cranberries are not scientifically true berries.  Botanical berries include tomatoes, grapes, avocados, guavas, chili peppers, and persimmons. Blackberries, raspberries and boysenberries are not technically berries but are actually considered what is known as aggregate fruit.

Berries are most often classified as any small sweet, juicy and brightly-colored fruit. Berry colors are pigments, and are where the nutritional supplements, such as flavonoids, polyphenols, anthocyanins, tannins, and antioxidants, are concentrated.

Some buying tips from New York berry growers:

Gently Clean. When you are ready to eat the berries, line a bowl with a colander and fill it with water. Dip the berries into the water and gently stir. Lift the colander out of the water and remove the berries. Gently pat the berries dry with a paper towel.

Buy berries that are glossy, plump and the deepest shade of their type.

Moldy berries taste bad.  Don’t buy containers of berries that have even the slightest touch of mold. A few moldy berries can make all the berries around them taste like mold. Also, they’ll make the whole batch mold much faster.

When you buy berries, spread them out on paper towels and discard any that are crushed.

Store the berries unwashed between paper towels.

When, how and what to do with popular berry varieties

Blackberries – Blackberries are usually ripe around June. They are very tart and make great pies and preserves.

Strawberries – Strawberries are typically the first berries to hit the farm stands in the late spring and early summer. Wash strawberries as minimally as possible and as close to eating as possible. Also don’t remove the caps until you are ready to eat them. Removing the caps shortens their shelf life. Strawberries obviously go well with cream but other interesting pairings include red wine and orange. Strawberries dry well, freeze well and make great puree. They aren’t as suitable for canning as other berries. Strawberry juice from a commercial juicer is delicious.

Gooseberries – Gooseberries are a very round berry and are typically as big or bigger than large blueberries. Some varieties may be more oval in shape and the size of some varieties can be as large as a quail egg. Varietal colors range from white, gold, purple-red, burgundy, rose and the ever-common green. They are usually available from June to August. When they are perfectly ripe gooseberries can be eaten out of hand but they are typically cooked with some sugar and make great puddings, tarts, and pies. Gooseberries freeze well and make delicious preserves.

Blueberries – Blueberries are usually ready around June and are sweet enough to be eaten out of hand. They make great pies and preserves and can be dried like raisins. Pick plump dark berries that have a whitish film. The film or “bloom” preserves the moisture in the blueberries and helps extend their shelf life.

Currants – There are many varieties of currants – black, red, white, and yellow. They are extremely tart and are most often cooked. They make great preserves but their hard seeds make it necessary to strain the cooked pulp.

Farms that are great places to get delicious berries:

Love Apple Farm
1421 Route 9H Ghent, NY 12075
(518) 828-5048

Samascott Orchards
5 Sunset Avenue Kinderhook, NY 12106
(518) 758-7224

The Berry Farm
2304 Route 203 Chatham, NY
(518) 392-4609

Thompson Finch Farm
750 Wiltsie Bridge Road Ancramdale, NY
(518) 329-7578

Greig Farm
223 Pitcher Lane Red Hook, NY
(845) 758-1234

Micosta Enterprises
3007 Route 20 Hudson, NY 12534
(518) 822-9708

Strawberries Romanoff

Strawberries Romanoff

Strawberries Romanoff is a dessert with murky origins that is typically made with strawberries and cream. It is thought that Marie Antoine Careme, chef to the Russian ruler Nicholas I from the Romanoff family, originally conceived of the recipe. Strawberries Romanoff is meant to be a light dessert, an ideal finish to heavy meals. The strawberries are prepared for the dessert by hulling and washing, as well as quartering or slicing them. The prepared berries are then marinated and chilled in the refrigerator for several hours. Most Strawberries Romanoff recipes call for orange-flavored liqueur for adult variations, however fruit juice can be substituted for children or adults who do not drink alcohol. Although the dessert is simple to prepare, it’s important that the prepared strawberries be marinated in the sugar and liqueur (or juice if using) and refrigerated for at least three hours. The berries should be very cold to compliment the chilled whipped cream and sour cream. Some recipes call for ice cream in addition to the whipped cream and sour cream. Try serving Strawberries Romanoff over crepes with a sprinkling of crushed vanilla cookies.

Strawberries Romanoff

4 cups quartered strawberries (approximately 2 pints)
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur
½ cup Cabot sour cream or Ronnybrook Farm Diary crème fraiche
3 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon brandy
½ cup heavy cream

In a medium bowl, combine quartered strawberries, confectioner’s sugar and Grand Marnier liqueur. Stir gently and mix well. Allow to sit for 20 minutes to macerate.
While the strawberries macerate, in a medium bowl, mix sour cream, brown sugar and brandy. Stir to combine until the sugar is fully dissolved. Set aside.
In a separate chilled metal bowl, whip heavy cream into stiff peaks. Fold heavy cream into sour cream mixture and blend well.
When ready to serve, spoon macerated strawberries into individual serving bowls. Spoon whipped cream mixture over the top.

Apple Jelly Recipe using Golden Harvest Farms’ Apples

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Golden Harvest Farms, great apples, donuts, vodka and more

Perhaps one of the best road side farm stands in the Hudson Valley is Golden Harvest Farms on Route 9 in Kinderhook. The farm has more than 200 acres of apple varieties, makes the best cider donuts to be found anywhere in the Hudson Valley, and even has a distillery that is making applejack and apple vodka. In the fall the parking lot is lined with pumpkins as far as the eye can see and the weekends become feverishly busy as weekenders stop to buy Halloween pumpkins and sample vodka. Like any great farm market there are not only bushels of apples, donuts, pies, turnovers, and cider, but also fruit preserves, produce, and local cheeses. The distillery has won several awards for its high quality spirits which are distilled entirely from local fruits. For the vodka, distiller Derek Grout ferments a batch of Golden Harvest apple cider which is then distilled into his signiture Core Vodka.

Chef Ric Orlando and five recipes for garlic

JANEgarlic

Chef Ric Orlando and five recipes for garlic

Chef Ric Orlando shares five creative and very different recipes for garlic, including raw, roasted, braised, pickled, and even a black garlic caramel dessert sauce. Neo-Greek Garlic-Walnut dip is a rich creamy variation of the classic garlic-potato dip Skordalia. Affordable and easy, Roasted Garlic Bread Pudding is a great alternative to potatoes, rice or pasta on hearty meat, game and poultry dishes.  While there are dozens of recipes for Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup), the rendition below is Chef Ric’s go-to favorite.   Try stuffing Chef Ric’s Spicy Pickled Garlic cloves into large queen olives for the perfect martini garnish.  Aged and fermented, black garlic with its pronounced sweet flavor makes the perfect addition in Chef Ric’s Black Garlic Caramel Sauce.

“I first heard of Puttanesca when I worked at Justin’s in Albany.  Ric Orlando was the chef, and he gave a lusty description of this sauce of the whore that I wasn’t quite sure how to deliver to customers.  A woman is out all day with her lover and she comes home and makes this sauce in five minutes, Ric said.  I don’t remember making this sauce for Jack but surely I must have at least once in our sixteen years.  I think it is going to come back into favor, at least for Jack, Francis and me.  And especially now, since we have a lot of garlic, plus olives, capers and anchovies from Sahadi’s, when Jack and Francis took a trip to New York in January.” – Amy Halloran, Metroland author and blogger

Raw – sharp

Neo-Greek Garlic-Walnut dip

This is a variation of the classic Skordalia, or garlic-potato dip.  It is rich creamy and sharp.  Packed with garlic and super healthy it combines whole wheat bread crumbs, walnuts, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. POW!
Serve with crudites, pita or chilled shrimp!

Ingredients

3 slices hearty toast, white, whole wheat or oatmeal.
1/4 cup walnuts
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Place the toast in a food processor and process into fine crumbs.  With the motor running, add the walnuts and garlic and process until they are ground fine. 
Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth, adding more water if the mixture seems too thick. Scrape the mixture into a bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Roasted – sweet and creamy

Roasted Garlic Bread Pudding

Published in: “Recipes from America’s Small Farms” 
by Joanne Lamb Hayes and Lori Stein
 Copyright 2003 Used by permission from Villard Books

This recipe uses tons of mellow roasted garlic.  It is easy and affordable to make and is a great alternative to potatoes, rice or pasta. Serve it as a side dish to hearty meat, game or poultry dishes.

Ingredients

24 large garlic cloves, unpeeled, about 4 heads
Olive oil
Salt and freshly milled black pepper
8 cups 1-inch cubes fresh Italian or French bread
5 large eggs
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoons bourbon or brandy (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme, or a slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, or a slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon dried

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Snip off and discard the tip from each garlic clove.  Toss the cloves with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until softened. Let cool to the touch and gently peel.  Meanwhile, generously grease a 13- by 9-inch baking pan or dish with olive oil. Arrange the bread evenly in the pan.  Mash the garlic cloves with a fork in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until slightly fluffy. Beat in the milk, cream, cheese, bourbon, if using, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and the middle is set but still soft. Best served hot or warm, but it can be reheated in the microwave or for a few minutes in the oven.

Braised – soft and mellow

Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)

There are some good Garlic soup recipes out there but this one is my favorite. Garnish with plenty of chopped parsley.  Parsley has chlorophyll which helps control that sweet garlic breath that many of us fear.

Ingredients

4 cups blanched, sliced almonds
16 peeled cloves of garlic, sliced into thin chips like the almonds
1 1/2 cups medium dry sherry (Amontillado is best here)
8 cups chicken or veggie stock (you may sub canned broth, cut salt in half)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 tablespoons dry
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or to taste
Generous grinding of black pepper
1 cup heavy cream at room temperature
3 cups stale peasant bread (not whole grain or sourdough) torn in small pieces
1 cup green grapes, sliced in half

Instructions

Use a heavy bottomed pot for this recipe. Put the garlic, olive oil and almonds into the pot, turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic and almonds are golden and smell great.  Add the salt, pepper and thyme leaves and stir well.  Add the sherry, turn the heat up and reduce the wine reduce by half.  Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and let boil moderately for 10-15 minutes.  Reduce the heat on the soup again, this time to a upbeat simmer.  Add the bread and break it up by pressing it with the back of a wooden spoon against the side of the pot. Add the heavy cream in a slow steam while gently stirring. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer until you are ready to serve.  Garnish the soup with chopped parsley and white grapes that have been cut in half.

Pickled – tangy

Spicy Pickled Garlic

After you stock up on your annual garlic at the garlic fest, try pickling a jar or two for winter treats. You can also stuff the cloves into large queen olives and drop a few in a martini.  Just sayin’.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs garlic, peeled, large cloves cut in half, about 2 cups
5 fresh hot peppers
4 cups white vinegar
1 sprig of dill or 1/2 tsp dry
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons salt
1 sweet red pepper, cut in strips (Optional)

Instructions:

Combine vinegar, salt and sugar over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil for five minutes.  Add the garlic and hot peppers.  Also add sweet red pepper if using.  Boil another five minutes.  Place a hot pepper into each sterilized jar.  Add the garlic cloves to within 1″ of the top of the jar (add the sweet red pepper if using). Fill the jars with the boiling sugar/vinegar mixture to within 1/4″ of the top of the jar.  Make sure the jar rims are clean and seal the jars.  Let the pickled garlic rest for 2 weeks before enjoying.

Chef Ric at the Garlic Festival in Saugerties on YouTube

Garlic photo by Jane Feldman

Scones, the delicately delicious breakfast bread

Scones, the good and the bad (mostly the bad), and a recipe from the Joy of Cooking

Scones, the delicately delicious breakfast bread, may be surprisingly simple to whip up but most often are a dry crumbly and mediocre disappointment in the commercial bakery world. Despite  hundreds of recipes, each with its own formula of ingredients and additions, there are very few that successfully deliver the tender and moist high notes that make for a great scone.

The most prominent warning sign of a bad scone recipe is an overly  fussy ingredient list.  Butter, buttermilk, milk, eggs, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, maple, honey.  There are dozens of ingredients that you might find on the ingredient list of a scone recipe.  Beware of recipes with more than six ingredients.  Scones are a simple food and should be prepared with as few ingredients as possible. One of the lightest and richest variations to be found is the cream scone recipe from the Joy of Cooking.  There are only four main ingredients in the recipe.  Cream is the magical ingredient that provides consistently moist, flaky and tender results.  Add lemon zest, dried fruit, vanilla or almond extract to mix things up.

Serve cream scones with Beth’s Farm Kitchen’s fruit jams and jellies, honey from Ray Tousey, and crème fraiche from Ronny Brook Dairy.  If you are looking for local flour try Wild Hive Farm, or the Honest Weight Food Co-op who stocks locally grown and milled flour from the Champlain Milling Corporation.

Scone photos by Amy Halloran and Ellie Markovitch

Mint recipe ideas

mint

“When all is complete deep in the teapot, when tea, mint, and sugar have completely diffused throughout the water, coloring and saturating it…then a glass will be filled and poured back into the mixture, blending it further. Then comes waiting. Motionless waiting. Finally, from high up, like some green cataract whose sight and sound mesmerize, the tea will once again cascade into a glass. Now it can be drunk, dreamily, forehead bowed, fingers held wide away from the scalding glass.”
– Simone Jacquemard, Le Mariage Berbere

The diversity of mint

Mint is a hardy perennial herb that never entirely dies during the winter and is the first of all perennial herbs to return in the Spring.  In the garden mint takes over empty space at an impressive rate.  Ideally it requires a dedicated space of its own – confinement and isolation are the best ways to manage sprawling and crowding of surrounding plants.

julepAs an essential ingredient, mint is the star in dozens of recipes, sweet and savory.  Crushed mint gives the mint julep its refreshingly distinctive flavor.  Tabbouleh, a Middle eastern salad made with couscous or bulgur, is delicious with tons of garlic and lemon juice, but not quite the same without a large dose of chopped mint.  Whether it’s mint jelly or mint in the marinade, lamb is rarely served without its herbal companion (look for locally prepared mint jelly from Beth’s Farm Kitchen).

As an herbal remedy mint is thought to settle an upset stomach and to alleviate the pressure of headaches.  A cup of mint tea before bedtime can be calming, acting as a mild sedative.  The menthol properties of mint make it especially soothing as a treatment for burns and as an aid in the relief of congestion.

Simple mint recipe ideas

Mint tea
Mint is easy to dry.  Clip clusters of mint with scissors and dry them on a newspaper in a cool dark place, like the basement.  Steep the dried mint sprigs in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, then strain.

Mint simple syrup
Bring one cup of water and one cup of sugar to a boil.  Add one sprig of mint and let steep for 20 minutes. Remove the mint sprig and strain the syrup.  Use the syrup to sweeten iced tea, to macerate summer berries or as a garnish for desserts.

Mint pesto
Mint can be used to make pesto the same way that basil is.  Blanch the mint leaves in boiling water first before making the pesto.  Mint pesto is a perfect marinade or rub for any lamb roast.

Feta and tomato salad
Toss heirloom cherry tomatoes with cubed feta, olive oil, cracked black pepper, a dash of red wine vinegar, chopped garlic, and chopped mint.

Minted onion rings