Farm Fresh RI blog

Musings about locally grown food in the ocean state

Spring in bloom at Indie Growers

by Pia Peterson for Farm Fresh RI

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An array of blossoms ready to be packaged at Indie Growers

        Indie Growers, based in Bristol, RI, is owned and operated by Lee Ann Freitas. Freitas describes Indie Growers as a “nano-farm” and explains that. “I needed a term that defined what I’m doing, both nano-scale farming and nano-scale products. I don’t have space to grow gargantuan 3-lb heads of broccoli. It’s important that the scale of what I grow match the restaurants that I work with.  Most are small, which fits perfectly with what I am able to produce.” Lee Ann says that the term ‘small farmer’ is used a lot these days, but it’s all relative to where the farm is and whether that small farm is 1, 10 or 1000 acres. A visit to Indie Growers quickly illustrates that Indie Growers focus is just as unique, colorful and multifaceted as Lee Ann herself.

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Arugula blossoms at Indie Growers

         Indie Growers operates at multiple locations in Bristol- their winter home is a 4,590 sq. ft greenhouse at Mount Hope Farm. In the summer, they branch out to three different spaces at Stony Hedge Farm, Weetamoe Farm, and a high-tunnel at the Freitas residence. All of these add up to about an acre on which Lee Ann grows her specialty items. With such a small space, she maintains that her crops be high-yield, unique, and multi-use.

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The greenhouse and volunteers at Mount Hope Farm 

          Lee Ann, a native of Rhode Island, has a background in horticulture and says that she started out on the “pretty side of things,” with landscape plants and landscape design. Now she enjoys going out to eat and seeing how the plates were  created, “It’s an art form- architectural design on a plate, what chefs do.”

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A volunteer picks blooms in the greenhouse

             Lee Ann has a degree in horticulture and graduate work in soil ecology, yet when she graduated, she did not head straight to farming. Lee Ann worked in the nonprofit sector with her work centered on helping people with asthma. She assisted families with asthma to decrease environmental triggers and change behaviors that might cause asthmatic episodes. When she started farming, she knew she had a lot to learn. Her previous greenhouse experience hadn’t prepared her for the challenges of growing vegetables in the field. It was difficult at first, and continues to be a learning experience, says Freitas. “It whups my butt every season!” But she attributes it all to the “beauty and addiction of farming- if you’re not learning about the soil, you’re learning about the microcosm of what is going on with each plant, each row of broccoli.”

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Greenhouse starts

            Restaurants reach out to Indie Growers asking for specific edible flowers and other plants. “I have a very specific list of folks I work with. I don’t have room to grow a thousand squash and find places to buy them, in order for me to succeed, I need to know exactly how much of each vegetable to grow for each chef.” In the past people have reached out and asked Lee Ann to plant specific varieties such as Armenian cucumbers, charantais melons, red carrots, papalo and other varieties. With her greenhouse bursting with smells and color, Lee Ann isn’t ready to reveal all of the unique varieties of veggies and herbs she grows. She says that she loves the mystery that her products allow her to imbue in things such as garnish boxes, “I want to surprise chefs, in a positive way, with the different varieties of edibles I send them. It’s part of the gratification of farming- it’s like sending out presents every week!”

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Packing a box of blooms   

           Aside from selling to restaurants through Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Market Mobile, Lee Ann also sells at Mt. Hope Farmer’s market in Bristol, RI and does home delivery through her new produce delivery system, Indie-a-Go-Go. She enjoys making things for people to try at the farmers markets, saying that people are often unsure with what to do with a green like frisèe. Working with interns from Johnson and Wales University and volunteers help her create simple, fast, versatile recipes to sample each week to help her customers increase ways of cooking and using veggies. “Frisèe salad with cranberries and walnuts is super easy, and delish-” Lee Ann says -“you can use the salad in a variety of ways, by adding bacon and a poached egg for breakfast, or add goat cheese, or serve it with fish for dinner.” She also receives consistent interest in her blossom salads, created in mason jars and ready to eat, suggesting that they are “a great salad for people to experiment with and or to use as gifts.”

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Nastertiums in bloom

    On farming and her volunteers, Lee Ann is effusive with gratitude. “I wouldn’t be here without my volunteers, I am so grateful to them. I am always looking for help and anyone is welcome!” Lee Ann says that people end up coming on their own after hearing about Indie Growers via word of mouth or a farmers market, and that they often stay and become part of her extended family. She believes that you should not only support your farmer, but really get to know them. Most farmers are so passionate about what they do. There are big odds every day to grow their crops and get it to your plate- and they love to talk about that process.

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    Next time you see Lee Ann at a market, ask her about her farm, her blossoms, her volunteers, or her soil composition! No question (or farm!) is ever too small.

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The Bats and The Bees

by Pia Peterson for Farm Fresh RI

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Bats of Bedlam sugarhouse, crankin’ out the good stuff!

Driving through the wooded areas of New England this time of year, you might pass a small structure in the trees, a shack really, with steam pouring from its windows and roof. Is that a small barn on fire? Nope- that’s just a sugar shack in the midst of syrup season. Maple syrup is one of the more magical components of our local food system. The sugaring process, the woods in winter, and the unique flavor are all part of an experience and should be truly appreciated when we drown our waffles in the morning.

We talked to Bob Dubos of Bats of Bedlam syrup near the end of this sugaring season; he and Pat were on their ninth straight day of boiling and he sounded happy to take a breather. His morning routine includes checking the holding tanks in three different sugar bushes in Chaplin, CT. The Dubos’ live on 13 ½ acres in Chaplin and have 440 taps in trees. They have another sugarbush (a stand of sugar maples that grow close together, making it ideal for tapping) down the road, where they lease 47 acres with 1,000 taps, and a third stand on land belonging to a friend with 110 taps.

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Look closely- there’s taplines in them there woods!

Most sugaring today is done with pipelines and vacuum pumps instead of the old metal bucket and hook taps; the vacuum pumps facilitate sap moving along the lines and reduce the atmospheric pressure at the tap hole for the sap to flow. The pipelines keep the sap a lot cleaner, and sap emerging from the taphole is sterile. Upon contact with the air, the sap begins to deteriorate.  Within this closed system microbes develop at a slower pace and the system remains free of insects. At the end of the season the taps are removed, and the cambium (inner bark) grows a layer right over the tiny hole; the tree essentially begins to heal itself.

After collecting the sap, either by pipeline on the Dubos’ land or by truck pumped from the two remote sites, the sap is placed in a 1,200 gallon holding tank. From there it is put through a reverse osmosis machine (RO) that takes ¾ of the water out of the sap. In the RO machine, the sugar content of the sap will go from 1.5-2% to 8% before it enters the wood-fired evaporator. Real maple syrup in all its thick, concentrated goodness usually measures in at a minimum of 66% sugar.

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The evaporator working, boiling all the water out of the sap

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Pat Dubos and the fuel for the fire- wood to burn for the evaporator

An interesting fact, for those concerned about levels of sugar consumption, is that maple syrup contains fewer calories than an equal amount of white sugar or honey. It also contains naturally occurring nutrients and minerals not found in other sweeteners as well as antioxidants. A recent study by URI scientist Navindra Seeram went global when he discovered 54 beneficial compounds in maple syrup, five of which had never been seen in nature before. In Canada some syrupers sell sap right out of the tree as a nutritional beverage, referring to it as “nature’s Gatorade.” For the moment, however, the Dubos’ stick to the good stuff.

The season is wrapping up now in early April, as sugar maple trees only produce tappable sap when the syrup “runs,” meaning that it goes from the roots to the branches of the crown and back again. This occurs during a time of year where the nights are still below freezing but the daytime temperatures rise above 32 degrees F. If the sap stayed in the branches during the freezing nights, the water in the cells would expand and they would burst. This year the Dubos’ collected 30,000 gallons of sap, for production so far of 450 gallons of maple syrup. They have a small pond outside the back of the sugar house, and Bob says that when you can hear the wood frogs when you step out the back, that is a pretty good indication of the season winding down.

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A view through the window of syrups and syrupers

The Dubos’ interest with syrup is professional- Bob is the Vice President of the Maple Syrup Producers Association of Connecticut, with close to 200 paid members. Every year Bob & Pat attend a joint conference on syrup. This meeting of the North American Maple Syrup Council (made up mostly of producers) and the International Maple Syrup Institute (mostly middlemen who sell huge volumes of syrup to grocery stores around the world) is held in annually in a different state or Canadian province where maple syrup is produced.  Connecticut hosted in 2012; this October the meetings will be in Nova Scotia. There is a contest that goes on during the conference where syrupers from all over can submit samples of their syrup to be judged and ranked, and yes, there are prizes and tastings. Bob says that one year after the judging, they held a giant pancake breakfast with the syrups from the contestants for sampling; each one had a different taste. The differences are mostly due to the environment of the sugarbush- the soil, the soil microbes, and the weather.

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Pat & Bob Dubos

The Dubos’ seem to love what they do, as Bob tells tales of tromping through the snow to get at taps. He is a biologist by profession, a vertebrate zoologist, and previously a manager of the vertebrate scientific collections at UCONN. Of his current life, he says: “It’s the best time to be outside, in winter. You hear the rebirth of the world every spring. The redwing blackbirds come in; you’re watching the robins move through. If you’re not there to see it, you miss it, and that’s where the real roots are.”

Recipes from Pat Dubos

MAPLE GRANOLA

Mix in a roasting pan:

4 C  Rolled Oats (Oatmeal)

2 C Wheat Germ (not toasted)

1 C  Sunflower Seeds

½ - 1 C  Chopped Walnuts (optional)

Blend together and add to above stirring to evenly distribute:

½ C Canola Oil

½ C Maple Syrup

2 Tbsp Vanilla

Toast in 325 degree oven, occasionally stirring to avoid sticking, until mixture seems dry and lightly toasted (usually about ½ hr). 

When cool, add some dried fruit. Store in

an air tight container.  It’s great sprinkled

on yogurt.

MAPLE BASIL MUSTARD

Combine in food processor/blender:

1/3 cup yellow mustard seeds

2 Tbsp dry mustard

½ cup water.

Blend 30-60 seconds.  Scrape into bowl.  Leave uncovered for at least 2 hrs. to release bitter components.  Return to food processor.

Add:

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1/3 cup maple syrup, ¾ tsp salt,

1 tsp dried basil.  Process til slightly smooth.  Scrape into double boler.  Simmer ten minutes stirring often.  Cool.  Taste.  Add seasonings to taste.

(Maple Syrup Cookbook, Ken Haedrich, Storey Books, N. Adams, MA)

MAPLE FUDGE

Combine:  2 cup granulated sugar,

1 cup maple syrup, ½ cup light cream,

2 Tabsp butter.  Cook while stirring to 238 degrees,  Cool to 110 degrees.

Beat with wooden spoon til it begins to set.

Press quickly into buttered 8 inch buttered square pan.  Cut into squares when firm.

Harvest Kitchen at the Farm

With the send-off of our graduating class from Session 9 of Harvest Kitchen, comes new and exciting things happening with Session 10!

First off, a visit to the Schartner Farms greenhouses in Exeter, RI. image

Harvest Kitchen Session 10 at Schartner Farms

Rich Schartner, the farm manager at Schartner, talked to the Harvest Kitchen youth about spring as a production season for farms. Even if the ground is frozen outside, that doesn’t mean that things aren’t starting up indoors. He spoke about the scientific and technical skills required of farmers such as crop planning, soil cultivation, composting techniques and experimentation with crop rotation and new plant varieties. He also spoke about living the life of a farmer and his connection to the season, weather and the land.

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Rich, the master farmer, with this years fledgling tomato crop.

The feedback from the new youth in Session 10 was great; for a lot of them it was their first time out on a farm, and they had many questions about the greenhouse, the plants, the process- and the smell.

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Small forests of kale in a Schartner greenhouse.

Some of the students said that they understood the planting process a little better after walking through the greenhouses, especially with regards to tomatoes. Other youth on the trip were impressed with the high-tech tomato growing set-up, and remarked that it was more complex than just planting a seed and letting nature take its course. There’s a lot of work involved in being a farmer, and some were afraid that it would be too much work to give anyone a good life. But Schartner’s business sense impressed them, as one youth pointed out Rich was not the farmer that they were expecting, they were prepared for “a really old guy with a cane and hunchback.” Not so! Rich has worked on the farm since his childhood, and has a love for the farm, the lifestyle and the land.
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Questions continue out of the greenhouse and into the field.

The Harvest Kitchen youth are connecting to this place, as well. Schartner tomatoes grown in this greenhouse will be used to make Harvest Kitchen stewed tomatoes at the Harvest Kitchen site in Pawtucket, which will in turn be sold back in Exeter at Schartner Farm Stand.

Farm fresh veggies, an insight into the local food world, and field trips aren’t the only thing to look forward to with Harvest Kitchen Session 10. The group is also working on developing new recipes, with Coordinator Ryan Reeves and AmeriCorps VISTA Claudia Espaillat.

Also in the works for this spring and summer is a collaboration with Providence’s own Genesis Center.

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Genesis Center and Harvest Kitchen have more than a common goals for Providence, including educating people for job skills training and in food culture. Genesis Center also has a 2,000 square foot garden plot on site which they use to grow produce then utilized by their culinary arts program through the Adult Workforce Culinary Education Program. Just last year, the garden produced 350 lbs of plants, vegetables and flowers. The main beneficiaries of this bounty are the children who attend programs at the Genesis Center, and receive healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners that is grown in the backyard and cooked in house.

Harvest Kitchen youth will be working with the Genesis Center this coming season to help the center expand the garden and have a chance to help with composting, seasonal work, even the planning of the garden for maximum efficiency. It’s an incredible opportunity for Harvest Kitchen to be able not only to utilize locally grown veggies in their retail products, but also to raise vegetables themselves, learn the process, and expand their knowledge of the food system. 

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Pea seedlings at Schartner Farms.

Interested in helping out? Genesis Center will host a Garden Kick-off Day in late April, and it’s a great time to grab a pair of gardening gloves and pitch in! Exact date is TBD, but make sure to check out the Facebook page or contact chef and Culinary Arts Leading Facilitator Joshua Riazi at jriazi@gencenter.org if you’re interested or want to know more!

Many thanks to Josh, Ryan, Claudia, Chef Jenn and Rich for all the good news!

Spring Recipes - Try it & Dry it

Pia Peterson

The weather is getting wet this weekend over here in little Rhody, but maybe spending some more time stuck inside is an excuse to try some new recipes. At least, that’s how I try to look at it. It’s a good rainy Sunday if I’ve got a pot of coffee, an evenly-heating oven (very. important.), and delicious smells permeating throughout the apartment.
Instead of baking pastries this weekend, however, I’ll be working on taking some of the accumulated Farm Fresh bounty in my kitchen (oranges from Countryside Citrus, apples from Cooks Valley, and some conventionally grown strawberries).

This weekend’s mission and the fate of all this produce is making snacks that I can throw in my backpack for work, that will keep me going through the day and the bike ride home, and that don’t include multiple trips to the grocery store for obscure ingredients. The solution? Dehydrating to make quick snacks, fruit leathers, and…jerkies?!

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Dehydrating food can be done in an electric dehydrator, a homemade dehydrator, or in your plain old oven (I’m an advocate of the oven, as long as you know you’ll be home and keep an eye on it, because it does take its sweet time.)

It’s a great way to use fruits and vegetables that you may not get to while they’re in their prime. It’s also the oldest way of preserving foods, without unnatural preservatives, and when you remove the water you concentrate the taste- yielding incredible pure flavor!

Here are some recipes for dehydrated fruits and vegetables easily found at the markets this time of year, though you can transfer these skills onto dehydrating almost anything, even beef jerky! (baby steps, people!) Locally raised products available at the Farmers Market every Saturday at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket. What follows are more like ‘suggestions’ than recipes, because they can all be infinitely tweaked and spiced up according to your tastes.

Dehydrated Apple Slices - A Primer

If you’re just trying to figure out whether or not you would even LIKE dehydrated foods, apple slices are a good start. You can actually buy dehydrated apple slices made by Harvest Kitchen youth in our commercial kitchen at the markets on Saturday, and if that inspired you you may try your own.

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Dried apple chips from artandanise

Ingredients

Apples! Any quantity, any kind. Ripe but not overripe- should be firm.

Hill Orchards and Barden Orchards are just a few of the apple vendors at the Pawtucket Markets!

Directions

Preheat your oven to 200°, or as low as your oven will go. Wash the apples, removing any bruised parts. You may cut them any way you like (in slices or rounds), aiming for a 1/4-1/8 inch thickness. Make sure that you are removing the stem, core and all the seeds.

Arrange the apple slices on a cake/drying rack or a cookie sheet. *Reusable silicone cookie sheet liners are helpful for clean-up if you are using a tray, but absolutely not necessary.

Put in the oven! Most apples should dehydrate in seven hours, and while you should be home and keep an eye on them, they don’t need constant attention. The exact amount of time will depend on how thick the slices are, how well the air can circulate, and how much water those apples were holding on to to begin with. When done, the apples should be dry but flexible (think like a raisin out of the box).

And congrats! These will store well in a plastic bag or a jar for a few months- if you plan on keeping them around longer than that, just throw them in the freezer!

Chewy Dried Orange Slices

recipe from Karen Solomon of Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It

 Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

4 large oranges (Farm Fresh and Countryside Citrus sell at the market)

1 tsp. salt (optional) 

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Chewy orange slices on a plate from the Williams Sonoma blog

Directions

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper, and pour the sugar into a bowl or small plate. Preheat the oven to 200°.

Slice all of the rind and pith (white inside the peel) from the orange, a serrated knife works best. Thinly slice the fruit (horizontally works best here, instead of wedges) into slices about 1/8 inch think. Lay the slices on a clean paper towel, and press gently (gently!) to absorb just some of the juice.

Dip one side of the orange into the sugar and place it onto the baking sheet sugar side down. Do the same with all of the oranges until the tray is full – it’s ok if the oranges touch one another, but don’t let them overlap.

Check the oranges after about two hours. They should be tacky on top but not fully dry. If not, check them every half hour for doneness.

Eat them warm or pack the oranges in a single layer separated by sheets of wax paper in a plastic bag or jar. Can store refrigerated for several months.

Sweet Potato Dehydrated Chips
Recipe from minimalistbaker.com
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Image from minimalistbaker.com

Ingredients
2 (or more, depending on how much you want to yield) sweet potatoes
Available at Langwater and Wishing Stone at Winter Markets!
2 tablespoons olive (or canola, or other) oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Directions

Preheat oven to 250°.

Rinse and dry your sweet potatoes and slice them as thin as possible (without losing a finger).

In a bowl, toss slices in olive oil, then sprinkle with salt. Lay out in a single layer on parchment paper and gently transfer the sheets directly onto the oven racks. This will allow for more air circulation. Alternatively you can place your parchment on baking sheets and achieve a similar result.

Bake for about 2 hours, flipping chips once at halfway point to ensure even cooking on both sides.

Remove once crisp and golden brown. Some may feel a little tender in the middle but take them out and let them rest for 10 minutes or so to crisp up before sampling.

Bonus: Nutrition Information for Sweet Potato Chips provided by Minimalist Baker-
Serving size (with two sweet potatoes): 3 servings; per serving Calories: 198 Fat: 9.5 g Saturated fat: 1.4 g Carbohydrates: 27 g Sugar: .5 g Sodium: 9 mg Fiber: 4 g Protein: 1.5 g

After this, do you think you’re ready to try beef jerky??

Harvest Kitchen Graduation!

by Ryan Reeves, Harvest Kitchen Coordinator

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Harvest Kitchen 9 Graduating Class!

On a blustery Thursday evening in early February, six proud students graduated from Harvest Kitchen’s 9th session. Even with the snow, we had a full house of family members and staff to witness the occasion and eat a fantastic dinner. HK 9 was a session marked by a number of incredible firsts for us. With the help of AmeriCorps VISTA Claudia Espaillat, we were able to plan and execute a variety of enrichments and field trips, notably to Schartner Farm, Edesia Industries, Danielle Foods, and Steere Orchard. The six youth who graduated are all continuing on with their training as interns at RISD University Dining Services, The Cable Car Cinema and Café, Farm Fresh Markets, the AFIA Organization out of Matthewson Street Church, with one graduate even serving as our Teacher’s Aid for the newly arrived youth of session 10. We are very excited and proud of the growth and commitment shown by these graduates and hope that whatever they carry away from their time with us continues to support them as they move confidently into adulthood. Congratulations Cody, Joel, Angel, Gladymar, Devan and Paulie. You did it.

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Harvest Kitchen Jars for Sale at a Saturday Winter Market

Expect more news to come this week from Farm Fresh and Harvest Kitchen with our new session, new projects, new recipes and more!

The Perks of Being a Good Neighbor- Free Beer!

by Pia Peterson

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Bucket Brewery, Pawtucket, RI

The Farm Fresh RI office teamed up this past week outside of the office! We banded together and headed down the street to visit our neighbors on Main Street in Pawtucket, just a few blocks from us over here at Hope Artiste and the site of the Winter Farmers Market.

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Farm Fresh Co-Director Jesse Rye awaits the tasting

There’s a great Kurt Vonnegut quote from Breakfast of Champions about a character who writes a short story about two pieces of yeast, having a conversation about the possible purposes of life and trying to answer the age old question, “Why are we here?” As they carry on this conversation, they eat sugar and eventually are snuffed out. They never came close to guessing their true purpose in life- they were making champagne!

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Fermenters working hard at Bucket

Who knows what the yeast are discussing over in the fermenters at Bucket Brewery, but we can say that their lives were well spent. The slow and steady gurgling of the fermenters can attest to that, as well as the homey smell in the air.

Bucket Brewery grew from backyard homebrew in 2010, to a small 375-sq-foot space in Pawtucket, and now inhabits a much larger space on the first floor of the mill at 575 Main Street in Pawtucket. Brewing for the masses began in November of 2013 and is going strong!

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Kegs at Bucket with their messages to the masses

We met up with owners Nate and TJ for a tour and a tasting. They also let us take lots of pictures, ask lots of questions, and make lots of bad jokes.


Here’s a quick question and answer with Nathan, ⅕ owner of Bucket Brewery.

What is some common/uncommon beer-brewers jargon that laypeople should know to find a beer they like?

I’m not sure there is much brewer’s jargon for this. IBUs or International Bittering Units are often listed on a beer bottle to give an idea of how bitter a beer will be. Hopheads looking for the hoppiest IPA they can find might want something approaching 100 IBUs. For those avoiding it, our Rhode Scholar comes in at a gentle 22 IBUs.

The “Grain Bill” and “Hop Bill” are the amounts and types of grains and hops in a beer. It’s not often on the bottle, but one might state generally that a beer has a “big grain bill”, or is a “big beer” if it has a high alcohol content and/or a very rich body to it. A “big hop bill” would indicate a lot of hops, usually also indicating bitterness.

 

You mentioned hearing this question before, “I’m interested in brewing but I don’t have a beard. CAN YOU HELP?” Seriously though- what would you say to folks who are whizzes in the kitchen and maybe experimental in baking or other cooking, but are intimidated by brewing? (I’m raising my hand, here)

For me the biggest thing was understanding the process. When I first started brewing beer, I followed the instructions to the letter, fretted about anything deviation, and finally ended up with beer. As I figured out the purpose of each ingredient and what each stage of the process did, I got better at going off-script. On tours I try to explain those steps, since they were so interesting for me to learn. The cool part of all of this is that you can learn the basics and make good beer, but you can always go deeper and learn even more.

For the kitchen whizzes, I’d say it’s like baking more than cooking in general. It’s hard to go beyond following instructions at first, because the end result can be way off if you don’t know what you’re doing. As you start to learn about what an egg does versus baking soda, or why a high-protein flour may be preferable to all-purpose, you can really tweak things to get the result you want. Brewing is almost exactly the same, and often using the same science.

What were your first memorable beers, drank and made?

When I was in college, like most students I was drinking cheap beer. Bud was an extravagant treat, and those coolers with the weird looking bottles barely even registered. I started a work-study job, and my supervisor introduced himself to all of us new hires by saying “I’m Jeff and my favorite beer is Sam Adams.” A year or two later I finally turned 21 and celebrated by heading out to an actual decent bar, and remembering those sage words from Jeff, I ordered a Sammy. Oh man, I had no idea such flavors could come from a beer! The floral notes, the richness… it was amazing! From there it was a world of craft beer and new horizons!

This is a big one for us, because we field this question a lot. But a brewery is a little different- so why local?

Local people make local products. I know and like a whole lot of local people, and I want them and their ventures to thrive. Say we’re ordering shirts and need a rush order. I can go with a national scale printer and pay for a rush on the order, if they offer that. Or I can call the guy down the street and say “I’ll owe you a beer if you can make some shirts up for me by Friday.” 

Local business watches out for local business too. We have had a lot of generous businesses help us get started because they like what we do. They are the ones we send people to when they ask for a suggestion. We all build each other up.

Local business is also watching out for the community. We live here and we want our home to thrive! Go to any local fundraiser, and the businesses you see helping out are the ones run by those of us who live here.

I heard you guys mention during the tour that you reused the water used in the brewing process. Could you elaborate on that for me?

Beer starts with hot water and ends with it coming out in the form of cool wort, or unfermented beer. Cooling that wort means getting its heat to transfer to cool water. Now we have cool wort flowing out, and piping hot water as well. Rather than let that run down the drain, it is stored in our insulated hot liquor tank (HLT) for use in the next brew. On the next brew day we only have to heat it up another 30ish degrees and it is ready to go. This is called the heat exchange process.

And the grain- where from and why does it matter what area it’s from?

The type of grain matters more than where it’s from. Crops are blended and standardized, so a 2-row pale malt will be more or less the same, which is important for consistent beer. Because so much grain is needed, it is sourced where available. Hops are more interesting. They grow all over the world and the conditions of the region can make a huge difference. If you want something with a spicy taste, you might want it from more acidic soil, for example. Because they are so versatile, though, there are actually some available locally. Many home brewers actually grow their own in their yards.

You guys host a brews and music night called Sound Check, every 1st and 3rd Fridays? What’s a typical night like? 

We have not yet defined a typical night. The first show was moderately busy, then the second was such a huge success that we decided to move if for a while while we readied ourselves for more people in the brewery. It will be returning to the brewery in April. The common elements are great beer, great music, local art and artists and local food available.

How do you come up with the names of the beer?

There is an informal rule that the beers should relate to something RI related, be it history, trivia, a location, etc. We also let the brewer who created the recipe choose the name, unless we all hate their choice. Pawtucket Pail Ale is a result of my love of wordplay and puns. 13th Original Maple Stout reflects Erik’s appreciation of putting a clever twist on history.

If we were to brainstorm local ingredients and turn them into names of beers, what can we come up with on the spot?

Our cranberry orange farmhouse will probably be named in this way actually! This is a tough question until I have a better idea of who has what, I think.


The brewery has a comforting, definitely something-working-in-here smell- could you explain what that is?

It’s all the same great smells from baking, but boiled together to create a big cloud of vaporized, steamy temptation! Let’s not forget all of those volatile oils we release from the hops that fill the air with their own kind of amazing aromas. One thing I miss about my early days of home brewing on the kitchen stove, is the smell that permeated the house for the next day or two.

I hear that there is some physics involved in the filling of your kegs.

I know, there is science everywhere in this business! I should have paid closer attention in high school. Now here I am worrying about enzyme contents, starch conversions, pressure differentials, etc.

So, you dump a beer into a glass. It goes from being in a pressurized container, to being agitated and under no pressure, so the carbon dioxide that makes is fizzy can easily come out of solution and escape, leaving the beer flat.

We want to minimize this. The beer is sitting in a tank, carbonated at around 12PSI. We hook up a keg we want to fill, also at 12PSI but filled with CO2. We slowly drop the pressure in the keg, just a little bit, and the beer starts flowing in gently, displacing the CO2 which is vented out. This minimizes the agitation that can shake the carbonation out, and keeps it under enough pressure that the CO2 can’t come out of solution.

This is called counter-pressure filling. We use the same process to fill growlers, which is why our growlers will stay fresh for weeks as opposed to a growler filled from a tap.


I heard tell that you all are accepting volunteer applications to fill bottles each week? How many bottles go out/do you sell? Also, can you send me a link to the app? 

We have applications on hand at the brewery, but not online. We want people to see the non-glamorous job before they get too far into the process! We fill between 400-600 32oz and 64oz growlers per week and even a few hours of assistance is very much appreciated. The work isn’t exciting, but we try to make it worth our volunteers’ while however we can.

Cool. Thanks!


Want to find great local beer and local food in one place?
Below is a partial list of restaurants where you can find Bucket Brewery behind the bar, and meats, dairy and veggies sourced with our local Market Mobile on your plate! A bigger list of liquor stores and restaurants serving Bucket Beer can be found online at http://bucketbrewery.com/whos-serving-bucket-beer
Dewolf Tavern
Farmstead, Inc
Figidini
Flatbread
Garden Grille
Local 121
Rogue Island
The Grange

Eating Local on the Road

This week, we again feature a blog from guest blogger Susan Walker, a Farm Fresh RI volunteer and grad student at Brown University. She takes us through her experience preparing local foods on a budget for a weekend out of town!

While I was packing up for the 29th Annual Joe Val Bluegrass Festival in Framingham last weekend, I realized that I was going to be in a hotel for 2 nights and 3 days, and had no idea how I was going to eat. I can’t eat at a restaurant for 3 days.  Eating high quality local food has ruined going out to eat for me and many others who refuse to give another dollar to corporate food.  You can eat higher quality, more nutritious food for less money at home. So I called a friend to ask what to do, and found out that everyone packs coolers and crockpots at the event.  I decided to cook everything in the house last Thursday.



It started with roasting vegetables. Now I know it’s too late to buy native peppers and eggplant and freeze them, but I really want to demonstrate how much freezing a few bags of veggies this fall improved my winter. I would definitely recommend doing this during this upcoming summer/fall season. 

I bought these peppers and eggplant for $.50/lb! I bought 18 pounds of peppers, sliced them, towel dried the extra juice off. I use them just about every day. Also, I bought about 12 large eggplants, sliced them, rubbed them with olive oil, and roasted them pretty fast - then froze the  roasted eggplant.  The butternut squash was $10 for a bushel this fall, and it is still just fine sitting out and looking pretty on my shelf.  I got the beets for free when I volunteered packing Veggie Boxes for Farm Fresh. (Farm Fresh never promised me or any other volunteer free vegetables, but last time, there were extra beets, and I got to augment my grocery supply for the week.)  The sweet potatoes were the really expensive component at $5 for 3lb. Total cost of all the above food: $6.


I started with the beets. Slice off the top and bottom, then just quarter them. I was super happy to discover a few striped beets. I tried to grow a variety of beet called “guardsmark” this summer that was supposed to be striped, but critters got to them.  I was so excited to see the pretty stripes! I coated the beets in my own rosemary oil I made in September and threw them in the oven. I added water to the roasted beets after about 35 minutes. It fluffs them out, and they get chewy like craisins.  


I peeled the squash and sweet potatoes and chopped them up. I normally don’t even bother to peel either of these.  Coat in rosemary olive oil and bake.  The cooking times vary on these veggies, but you can do them in one pan. Things roast best when they’re not touching each other. 



Same thing for the frozen veggies, except that they were already chopped. I was sure happy I put that effort in way back in October - I am not a fan of peeling and chopping.  I actually thawed these out, put them in a strainer and then rolled them around in a towel. Excess water is the enemy of roasting. I can hear Julia Child in my head, “If you have too much water in your pan they will steam, and you don’t want them to steam, you want them roast.” You can get the Julia Child DVDs on Netflix, and I highly recommend them.  She goes to farmers market in nearly every episode.  I added my rosemary olive oil to the eggplant and peppers and roasted them up.  At the end I mixed them all together and they fit in a nice quart tupperware container.  Also, you can get those aluminum foil roasting pans for free any time you volunteer to work at any community dinner sort of thing.

This is my new friend the celeriac bulb, or celery root.  I also scored these bulbs by volunteering at Farm Fresh. I think I just got lucky that day, but volunteering always pays off in unexpected ways.

I had no idea what to do with it, so I punched it into my favorite online recipe site and decided to make soup.   My trusty potato peeler handled the rough, hairy, rooty skin just fine.  I chopped it up, along with 3 sad-looking native potatoes that needed to get cooked, and put it in the pan with some onions and homemade chicken stock. (Note: My next post will be devoted to homemade bone stocks. They will cure what ails you.)  I only had a little stock in the fridge, so I took a quart of turkey stock from Thanksgiving out of the freezer to defrost.  The recipe I read said that if you use a vegetable stock you will overpower the delicate flavor of the celeriac. I don’t know what they were talking about -there is nothing delicate about the flavor. It tastes a lot like celery (minus the stringy business), but it’s warm, smooth, a little sweet, a little spicy…. I don’t even know. I never made the soup. I mashed it up, tasted it, and ate a whole bowl of mashed celeriac right there on the spot.  The banjo players were fighting over it up at Joe Val.  I ate it hot, served it cold, and when I got back there was some still in my fridge that I made omelets with.  Next time I’ll make the soup.  It’s ok to make it up as you go when you cook.  



Every time I travel, I make a frittata.  I did this one with Farm Fresh collard greens.  I was worried the collard greens would be too watery but it worked out. I slice my washed greens by rolling them up and making diagonal chops. You end up with short little ribbons. This is a 10-egg pie above.  If possible, take your eggs out and let them warm up. They have a better texture if you warm them up to room temperature (works for omelets, quiche, souffle, and popovers.) This is also where the ends of all the cheese go.  I actually put the end of the brie in the celeriac mash.  My poor friends who didn’t show up at Joe Val until 2:00am on Saturday morning, and who had a 10:00am show the same day thought I was a breakfast angel when I produced frittata  from my cooler. No plate required.  I know I sang the praises of frittata in a previous post, but I’m just trying to show that a few easy techniques are so versatile, and work with our local foods every time. And that everybody likes them!

Don’t forget to check out my next blog on making stock from leftover bones coming soon!



An Interview with Pawtucket Wintertime Market Vendor Essentially Coconut

Essentially Coconut is new to the Pawtucket Wintertime Market  this season, and they offer a product we’ve never had before — Coconut butter! While coconuts are not grown in Rhode Island, learn about what local products she uses and how her business as grown over the season! Stop by and say hello to Sophia every Saturday until May 10th!

1. Company name and location

Essentially Coconut. We live in North Kingstown, RI, but use the Grange Kitchen in North Dartmouth, MA. 

2. Tell me more about your company - any unique features?

Well, coconut has become pretty trendy—for good reason—and a lot of people are familiar with coconut oil, but I’m finding out that not many people are familiar with coconut butter.

And YES, it is edible (I get asked that a lot)!

Coconut butter is the whole meat of the coconut, dried and ground up, so it’s like a nut butter. I use a stone grinder and grind it for several hours which gives it that silky, smooth, melt-in-your mouth consistency that people seem to be loving. Also, stone grinding is said to preserve the nutrients in food, so that’s cool, especially since coconut has some pretty big health benefits.  

Right now Essentially Coconut is just me, but I’m hoping to expand and be able to hire some more people. I have big visions of someday being able to employ folks who wouldn’t necessarily be able to find work otherwise (there are many populations that come to mind that I would love to work with)…

3. What product(s) do you have available at the market?

Right now we have 3 flavors of coconut butter available:

Original, which is just stone ground coconut meat—nothing else added

Creamy Cashew, which is a blend of cashews and coconut

Sweet Almond, which is a blend of coconut, almonds, and honey

4. What other products do you make - and where else can we find them?

My grinders are just big enough to supply me with enough coconut butter for this farmers market every week so I’m looking into some bigger grinders. Hopefully, this will allow me to offer products in stores. Also, because so many people have asked, I’m looking into the possibility of offering coconut oil as well. I’ve also been playing around with different flavor combinations of roasted coconut chips, which are a great snack-y type food; spicy, sweet, maybe with some dried fruit or chocolate added. I’d like to be able to offer a variety of products at some point. 

 
5. What local farms do you feature in your products? Have you formed any cool relationships/synergy with other growers or producers by participating in the market?

I wish coconuts grew in New England. That would be cool. And convenient. Virginia & Spanish Peanut Co is my neighbor at the market and I’ve been getting my almonds and cashews from them. It’s so great to be able to stand next to the people that are supplying me with the materials for my product and chat with them every weekend. It’s so much more personal that way and really makes me feel good about what I’m offering. I’ve also been experimenting with a variety of local honeys and I’m working on a blend that incorporates maple syrup, which I will also buy local. 

6. What’s one thing you really want us to know?

This is my first time at this market and I’ve really enjoyed it.  I love having people come up to me and tell me all of the cool ways they’ve been using the coconut butter and how much they enjoy it. It’s very inspiring and makes me want to keep doing this. I have met so many really awesome people and I love talking to everyone that stops by my table. We don’t even have to talk about coconuts, I’ll talk to you about anything! So thank you to everyone for making this a great first season for me and hopefully I’ll be around for many more!

 

Winter Farmers Market Opens in Woonsocket

This past Wednesday, the Woonsocket farmers market kicked off its first winter season at Thundermist Health Center.  This market, the newest winter farmers market to hit the Rhode Island scene, will run every Wednesday from 3-6:30pm until June 18th inside the lobby of Thundermist, located at 450 Clinton Street.  The market will feature locally-sourced produce including carrots, apples, beets and potatoes, as well as other fresh favorites like peppers, cucumbers, strawberries and oranges sourced from regional farmers spanning the East Coast.  Shoppers can expect a different assortment of fruits and veggies each week in addition to local eggs, cheese, yogurt and various Harvest Kitchen products.

As a city with limited access to fresh fruits and veggies, Woonsocket is currently without a grocery store within its city limits.  The winter farmers market will provide residents with consistent access to fresh and healthy food options at a reasonable price.  Customers at the opening market excitedly filled their shopping bags with an assortment of goodies, ranging from crisp Empire apples to brilliantly colored carrots, hearty winter squashes, and more.  Prior to the start of the market, several excited shoppers waited for the three o’clock hour delighted to be the first to shop at the new market.  ”You guys didn’t come last week because of the snow but I’m glad you made it this week,” one woman said.image  Word of this new market is spreading fast throughout Woonsocket, and it is expected to become increasingly popular in coming weeks.  Join us at the market next Wednesday, February 19th, for more fun at the market and the official ribbon cutting ceremony.

The Woonsocket winter market is made possible by the Blue Cross, Blue Shield Blue Angel grant and partnership between Thundermist Health Center and Farm Fresh RI.  The market is open to the public and accepts cash, debit/credit, and EBT.  Customers shopping with SNAP receive a 40% bonus to spend on fruits and veggies at the market.  The winter market will run every Wednesday until June 18th.

                                      image

 

An Interview with Humble Pie Co.

This is the first in a series highlighting farmers and producers who are new to the Pawtucket Wintertime Market this season. We’re kicking off the series by chatting with Daniel Sheehan, owner of Humble Pie Co of Providence, RI

 

Tell me more about your company, Dan. How many folks work at Humble Pie? Anything unique about your business plan/operations?

We began baking pies last fall. Our first sale was actually made at the Wintertime Farmer’s Market. At the moment I am the owner, baker, driver, web developer, DJ. But, I have had some great help from many people, my girlfriend Alex in particular.

Our business plan has a couple of cool features that make us unique. First, we are extremely seasonal. Our menu is always changing based on what is fresh and available from Rhode Island farmers. I guess we’re trying to be like a restaurant that prints its menu on a weekly basis. Lots of new flavors, with a foundation that stays constant. For us, that foundation is crust and quality.

Second, we are working with Crossroads RI to expand food programming for their organization. We bake in their beautiful kitchen and enjoy connecting with their great staff, volunteers, and residents. Humble Pie has plenty of taste testers.

 What products do you have available at the market?

We have pies in two sizes. Mini pies for one person or whole pies for about ten people. Pretty soon we’ll be fooling around with rhubarb, chocolate from Ghana, and cheese. But, I’m most excited about developing Quiche for this spring.

What other products (if any) do you make - and where else can we find them?

We tinker all the time. We’re developing “micro” pies that are the same size as a chocolate candy. We are looking into mass producing our crust for folks who want to get our flakiness at home. Oh and we’re going to be taking on weddings and other special events this year!

We’d like the foundation of the business to be direct sales but we’ve been approached by a couple of Providence businesses that want to offer our pies to their customers. They’re great spots, so I really can’t say no.

What local farms do you feature in your products? Have you formed any cool relationships/synergy with other growers or producers by participating in the market?

I have been fortunate enough to get to know some really great farmers. Humble Pie Co. gets a lot of ingredients from these folks. One of our coolest ingredient sources is Kenyon’s Grist Mill in Usquepaugh, RI. We get stone ground whole wheat flour from them. The grain for this flour is grown on Long Island. That’s local!

What really sets you apart from other folks?

Well, we’re really into working with raw ingredients. Lemon juice is squeezed fresh from whole lemons. Apples are peeled and chopped by hand…that was 600 pounds in November and December. I don’t think we will ever own a can opener. We really geek out on laborious production techniques.

What’s one thing you really want us to know about your company/product?

We’re looking for a delivery vehicle. Something classic. Things like old chevys, milk trucks, and econoline pickups have been driving circles inside my head lately.

Check out Humble Pie Co. at the Saturday Pawtucket Wintertime Market after drooling over their pictures below! YUM!

Dan & Alex selling pie on opening day of the Pawtucket Wintertime Market!

Pies for one. We bet you’ll want to eat more than that…

Cooking Winter Vegetables

Today, Farm Fresh features a blog from volunteer and Brown grad student Susan Walker. Thanks for the great tips, Susan!

The Pawtucket Wintertime Farmers Market has been around in this state for a few years, and I think it’s great.  I rarely go to the summer markets because I have my own garden, and it’s easy to find farm stands and honor system stands on the side of the road.  The farmers who sell at the  Wintertime Market do an amazing job with their winter vegetables - between hoop houses, greenhouses, hardy root vegetables, and just keeping up a supply of the old New England winter standby, butternut squash.  

The actual act of buying locally takes a bit more effort for me, but I’ve committed to it, and it is now my lifestyle. The tradeoff for working a tiny bit harder at acquiring locally-sourced food is that I really simplify my cooking.

It all comes back to a few really simple principles.  I buy what I can afford, look for deals and buy what’s in season. I cook whatever ends up in the fridge in the easiest, most time-efficient manner with the least dishes. So here are the highlights of about a month of cooking food almost entirely from vendors at Farm Fresh markets.  You’ll notice a theme here: wash, chop (or not), apply heat, enjoy, repeat.


Frittata: 6 eggs, 1 potato, whatever vegetables you have, whatever cheese you have, and optionally any kind of meat (already cooked). 

I used kale (frozen from my garden), peppers (I froze 8 pounds this fall when I found local peppers for $.50/lb at the end of the season), potatoes from the Pawtucket Farmers’ Market, and Narragansett creamery Queso Blanco (best deal on local cheese). Breakfast for 3, it travels well, you can eat it room temperature or cold, and it cost about $3.50. Chop, crack, stir, bake for 40 minutes. Frittatas are a staple around here.



Grapefruit: Slice and eat.



Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes: Prick with a fork and put in the oven. If I turn the oven on at all, I bake a few potatoes or sweet potatoes. Then I warm the house up when I’m done cooking by leaving the oven door open.  That’s thrifty New Englander behavior right there.

Mustard Greens: Wash, slice, put in a big pan. Add olive oil and a ton of garlic if you want. Watch them shrink.  Anticipate the concentrated nutrition. It’s the same process for collards, chard, turnip greens, baby bok choy, or any bag or “braising” greens you can find a deal on at the market. I consider greens a conduit for garlic and olive oil. The mustard greens cooked in about 5 minutes.

Butternut Squash: Slice in half. Scoop out the seeds. If you have a melon ball scoop, you can take 2 or three scoops out of the neck of the squash, and put the balls into the big seed cavity. Set them up in a casserole or roasting pan with some water in the bottom.  My mom always filled the wells with maple syrup - that is the absolute best.  I use butter and brown sugar when I don’t have maple syrup.  Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. You can take the baked squash and serve it for dinner, or make soups or add it to other recipes.

I never do any more slicing than this with butternut squash.  I bought 25 pounds of butternut squash from a local farmer in October for $10.  The same local farmer told me that a big source of revenue for his farm was the peeled and sliced butternut squash that you see at the market.  The moral of the story is that whenever you pay anyone to do any preparation to your food, the price jacks up. I’m happy for the farmer who peels and slices the squash and makes a profit.  But the corporate food industry is laughing all the way to the bank because they’ve realized that people don’t want to wash, chop and put things in the oven.




Beets: Scrub with a scrubby pad you reserve for root veggies, or an old mesh onion bag (great scrubbers). Slice, rub with olive oil, bake at 325 for 40 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts: Wash, trim the stem, peel some leaves off if you think you need to (I always feel guilty about throwing out good green sprout matter), slice in half, rub with olive oil and bake at 325 for 40 minutes.  I did this in the same pan as the beets, and at the same time as the sweet potatoes. Now I have my dinner, and a great room temp lunch for tomorrow. 8 minutes of prep for all 3 veggies, and one pan.



Braised Grass Fed Short Ribs: Put the ribs in the oven-proof pot. Chop your locally-sourced carrots, onions, potatoes, turnip and parsnips (I go easy on parsnips. I love them but they can take over the flavor of a meal.) Or really, you can put whatever you have in the pot.  Add some liquid. I used about a cup of lemonade actually, applying the “Whatever I have and ought to use up” approach. It was delicious. I also rubbed the ribs down with Spike seasoning, but you can use whatever you like. Throw the covered pot in the oven for 3 hours. No more than 10 minutes of chopping. I got my grass fed beef cheap by ordering 100 pounds at once (See previous guest post from Susan), so this meal cost me about $13. 

The Food Project visits Harvest Kitchen

As the start of a new initiative to collaborate with other food-centric youth empowerment agencies, Harvest Kitchen hosted The Food Project (TFP) for a day of collaboration on January 11th. An established non-profit from Boston, TFP utilizes working on farms in much the same way that Harvest Kitchen uses the production of applesauce — as a means to engage youth and begin conversations around food systems, real work, food justice and workers rights.

TFP youth presenters lead us through a workshop, showcasing who they are, what they do, and why they do it.  TFP youth and Harvest Kitchen students also had the opportunity to tour the Pawtucket Wintertime Market, chat with farmers and vendors, and learn more about Farm Fresh as an organization.

Then our Harvest Kitchen trainees had the exciting opportunity to put knives in their hands and teach what we know best: making applesauce.

With the dedicated help of new AmeriCorps VISTA Claudia Espaillat, Harvest Kitchen is seeking to establish meaningful relationships with people or organizations working on parallel paths. This visit was an excellent and promising start.

Don’t forget about Local 121’s Real Swell Feed! An evening of delicious food & great music that supports both Providence residents in need and local farmers and producers.

Abundance at Wintertime Market

The most common question we get from folks interested in visiting our Pawtucket Wintertime Market is “What is available at a winter market in New England?”

Without almost 70 farmers and producers, the Wintertime Market has more diversity than you could imagine throughout the winter. Below is a small snapshot of some of the abundance you’ll find each Saturday. For even more pictures, check out our Facebook Album — or just stop by the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket on Saturdays between 9am and 1pm. 

**If you have any pictures you’d like to share with us from the Pawtucket Wintertime Market, we would love to share them on our Facebook page. Please email them to Sue AnderBois at Sue@farmfreshri.org.