Sunday, November 22, 2015

One Recipe: Roasted Pear, Cheese, & Honey Scones

This post is another in the “One Recipe” series in which, in between destination visits, I am sharing recipes featuring previous Local Choice ingredients.

Roasted pears, sharp cheese, and golden honey is a combination I enjoyed in everything from pasta to gelato while visiting Florence, Italy. This sweet and savory scone recipe is my way of sharing these flavors with you while giving you a recipe that is perfect for the upcoming holidays. It’s great to snack on while waiting for the dinner bell or hearty enough to serve for breakfast to satisfy your overnight guests.

A basic scone recipe made with Bird’s Haven Farm farm fresh eggs and Snowville Creamery milk is amped up with the addition of roasted pears, aged Kokoborrego Owl Tomme and naturally sweetened with HoneyRun Farm honey.

I recommend using Bosc, Anjou or another pear suitable for baking and if you don’t have access to Kokoborrego choose a local cheese that is similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Fruit of His Labor

Branstool Orchards

In 1983, young Marshall Branstool graduated from high school and, given Ohio’s temperamental climate, took a risk in planting 1,500 peach trees on his parent’s farm in Utica, Ohio. His risk paid off once the trees matured and began producing fruit. Branstool took advantage of the farm’s proximity to Amish country, selling his produce right in the front yard and after years of successful peach sales he was able to purchase property of his own.

I met up with Marshall Branstool on his farm, Branstool Orchards, to discuss why he chose to focus his efforts on growing fruit in Central Ohio and what sets his orchard apart from the rest. In 1992, Branstool began planting his signature peach trees along with the addition of apples on his newly acquired land. Today, Branstool Orchards’ 43 acres are home to 25 peach varieties and 30 apple varieties. When it comes to apples, you can find the traditional Gala, Honeycrisp, and Red Delicious, but it’s the unique varieties like the Japanese Tsugaru, known for being sweet and crisp, the Rubinette, a modern variety developed in Switzerland possessing a sweet and sour taste, or the Idared which has a mild flavor and is perfect for baking that separates this orchard from the customary fruit farm.

Although the growing season at Branstool Orchards lasts a mere four months, work on the farm continues well beyond this short timeframe. Branstool explained how in March he begins the tedious task of pruning trees and repairing any machinery so he is ready to take on the upcoming season. In addition to the manual labor necessary to keep his farm running, during the “off” months he researches sustainable techniques and new fruit varieties with which he can experiment. Branstool Orchards is not certified organic, but Branstool reduces his use of insecticides by implementing processes such as disrupting the mating of certain pest species by releasing a pheromone to inhibit males from finding the females. In addition to his decades of hands on experience, he travels abroad with the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) to study orchards in Europe, absorbing all the knowledge and techniques he can. Branstool shared his belief that the European approach to growing is “far more advanced” than what one would typically find back in the States. When I asked how so, he responded that because farm land is limited, they are planting more trees per acre and ultimately get a higher yield, which is important to any farmer, regardless of what they grow.

You can find Branstool Orchards fruit at the Clintonville, Granville, Westerville, and New Albany farmer’s markets starting in early July through late October, but I highly recommend taking a trip and hand selecting your fruit on their u-pick farm. The property is particularly eye-catching in the fall, when the leaves begin to change color and the onsite market is overflowing with pumpkins, gourds, squashes, and other seasonal produce purchased from neighboring Holmes County (Amish country). Depending on when you visit, you may even be lucky enough to witness just picked apples being pressed into fresh apple cider. The cider, which is made of a blend of the currently in season apples, is non-pasteurized, raw, and delicious! From its humble beginnings on his parent’s farm, Marshall Branstool has aimed at providing quality, locally grown peaches and apples to Central Ohioans and beyond…and he can certainly be proud of the fruit of his labor.

Apple Cider

The Branstool Orchards apple cider (pictured left) traveled 40 miles to Columbus, while the apple cider (pictured right) traveled over 331 miles.


What’s the Difference Between Apple Cider and Apple Juice?
International Fruit Tree Association

Oatmeal Cider Baked Apples

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Berries are My Jam

Ann’s Raspberry Farm

I vividly recall my grandparents’ basement. It was a place we explored as children, full of forgotten possessions that afforded our young imaginations hours of entertainment. One side of the room housed my grandfather’s work bench; a surface that wore a coat of wood chips and was covered with a rusted menagerie of tools and spools of wire. The other side, entirely my grandmothers, showcased a hefty chest freezer, an additional refrigerator/freezer combo, and a stove that served as a back up when the upstairs range couldn’t handle the magnitude of the meal being prepared. The real treasure, however, was hidden under the stairs. Here, amongst the tin cans of beans and corn, were shelves brimming with an assortment of glass mason jars, their contents including homemade tomato sauce, Concord grape jam, pear preserves, and pickled vegetables. As a child I took it for granted that these foods were available throughout the year, even when their main ingredient was not in season, but then again I thought it was normal to have multiple refrigerators and two stoves under one roof. Having such fond memories of these homemade fares, I was intrigued when I discovered similar products made using locally grown produce, and I couldn’t wait to compare them to those from my youth.

For this journey, I headed North of Columbus, to Ann’s Raspberry Farm and met with owners Daniel and Ann Trudel to help them celebrate an important anniversary. The Trudel’s knew that after a decade of growing food and selling their made-from-scratch goods they wanted to do something big to commemorate this milestone. They enlisted the help of OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) and turned their celebration into a community event, attracting visitors from around the state of Ohio. The event, A Taste of Knox County & Farm Tour, showcased Knox County growers and producers, cooking demos, guided tours, and a forum discussion led by Ann. For me, the real highlight was all the samples! I tasted local maple syrup poured over ice cream, buttery cheeses, Amish made cinnamon rolls and breads, fresh fruits, and wine. Unsurprisingly, I helped myself to all of Ann’s offerings, ranging from her traditional Red Raspberry Jam to her new Mojito Raspberry Jam and, of course, her Savory Brussles Sprout Artisan Relish.

Amidst the chaos of the day, I managed to find time to sit down with Daniel Trudel and listen to the story of how the farm was founded a decade earlier. Trudel shared that his wife grew up in Akron, and as a young girl she would accompany her mother and sister to a local u-pick farm, harvest fresh raspberries, and make homemade jam. It was her love of this family tradition and her craving for fresh fruit that led the Trudel’s to start growing their own raspberries in Central Ohio with the goal of commercially producing the jam that Ann has now been making for over 40 years. Over time the farm has expanded, but one thing has remained the same - the berries are harvested in the morning and Ann heads to the kitchen to make her jam that same afternoon. Daniel insists that the freshness of the berries makes a world of difference, and seeing how they have won a slew of Good Foods Awards, I am convinced he knows what he is talking about. Today they produce 12 jars at a time, using two varieties of raspberries with naturally high pectin levels. The use of this fruit means they do not need to add any additional thickening ingredients, so the end product is simply fruit and sugar. Despite their name, Ann’s Raspberry Farm is more than just raspberries. Brussels sprouts, kalettes (a kale-Brussels sprouts hybrid), and several varieties of peppers that are used in their relish are also grown on the farm. Daniel credits his eye for beautiful things as the reason he started growing Brussels sprouts, as they grow they resemble mini palm trees and are the first thing you see when pulling up to the farm. Thanks to the huge demand for their products, the Trudel’s farm has grown from an original 25 plants to over 7,000 today.

Besides a small amount of hand-selected wholesalers, such as Williams Sonoma, you can find Ann’s Raspberry Farm products at the Granville, Clintonville, New Albany, and Worthington farmer’s markets. They also supply Brussels sprouts to Third & Hollywood and Kenyon College. The Trudel’s have reached a point that in order to grow more they literally need to grow more and hope to scale up their operation through the purchase of additional land. Even though they are currently selling up to 10,000 jars of jam a year and hope to expand upon that number, I have a feeling that the attention to detail and focus on quality will remain in the forefront…just like at my grandma’s house.

Raspberry Jam

The Ann’s Raspberry Farm Raspberry Jam (pictured left) traveled 55 miles to Columbus, while the raspberry jam (pictured right) traveled over 2,400 miles.

Ann’s Raspberry Farm Red Raspberry Jam is so delicious that after trying one bite I said out loud that it’s like eating a handful of freshly picked raspberries. What I love most is the list of ingredients: Red Raspberries & Pure Cane Sugar and nothing more. Raspberries are high in Vitamin C, Manganese, Fiber, and Vitamin K and exciting new research is being done to prove that raspberries increase metabolism…as if you needed another reason to consume this delicious fruit!


Why You Should Be Eating More Blueberries & Raspberries

Stuffed Pork Loin with Raspberry Jam

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Knee-High by the Fourth of July

Wishwell Farms

If you live in Ohio, finding locally grown sweet corn during the dog days of summer is hardly a challenging feat. Visit any farmer’s market, grocery store, or roadside stand and you are bound to find ears of this beloved vegetable piled high. Although most of what you see lining our highways and byways are rows of field corn, not the variety we slather in butter and sprinkle with salt, Ohio has a well-earned reputation for growing its share of the sweet stuff too. My husband grew up with old adage that a farmer’s crop should be “knee-high by the fourth of July”. I questioned his theory, and in order to prove I was right, I mean…determine if knee-high is truly an acceptable height by our Nation’s birthday, I went straight to the source.

Northwest of Columbus, in Bellefontaine, I met with Jason Wish of Wishwell Farms. Wish is a fourth generation farmer whose great grandfather turned a handful of milk cows into a fruitful dairy business. The company expanded as they established their own bottling facility (known as Hopewell Dairy) and added a traditional grain operation into the mix. As Wish got older he aimed to leave his cow milking and hay bailing days behind him and set out to offer something new to his loyal customers. In the mid-90s, he decided to take a slightly different approach from his dairy-centric ancestors and plant a few acres of sweet corn to offset some of his college expenses. By the time he returned to the farm with his degree from The Ohio State University, focusing on Agricultural Business and Animal Science, he was ready to concentrate solely on growing produce.

As Jason Wish took me on a tour of his 75+ acre farm, 35 of which is planted with sweet corn varieties, I asked him the question to which I was so eager to hear the answer. He chuckled at the saying from my husband’s youth and explained how most years they hope to be picking sweet corn by the beginning of July and continue their harvest until the first frost in October. Thanks to new technology, sweet corn farmers can start planting much earlier in the season, and so he suggested the phrase should be altered to “head-high by the fourth of July”. We continued our tour (with me being satisfied that my suspicions were indeed correct), driving through the perfectly parallel rows as he described the numerous varieties of sweet corn, which types he chooses to grow, and how to tell when it’s ready to be harvested. Surprisingly, most sweet corn varieties only produce two ears of corn per stalk and commercial growers typically can only harvest one ear per plant because it is more developed. For this reason, a lot of acreage is needed to grow sweet corn, and although its footprint is large the reward is worth it. Wish ripped off an ear of his super sweet bi-color corn and let me sample the season’s bounty, raw and full of flavor.

You can find Wishwell Farms handpicked sweet corn at most farmer’s markets in Central Ohio. In fact, they participate in over twelve markets stretching five counties and accounting for ¾ of their business. In addition to the countless markets, you can also find their produce at the Wishwell Home Farm stand open Monday through Friday 9:30am-5:30pm and located just a few miles north of Bellefontaine. Besides sweet corn, they offer green beans, tomatoes, seedless watermelons, cantaloupe, peppers, eggplant, and in the fall pumpkins, gourdes, and squash varieties. In order to be streamlined and more efficient Wish said that he hasn’t added to the lineup of crops he grows to include any root vegetables, but mentioned as his 12 year old son becomes more curious about the family’s business to keep your eyes peeled for future offerings from the next generation of Wish farmers.

Sweet Corn

The Wishwell Farms sweet corn (pictured left) traveled 60 miles to Columbus, while the sweet corn (pictured right) states that it is a Product of USA, so its origin is unknown.

Sweet corn is at its peak during the most sultry days of summer and is packed full of fiber, potassium, and vitamin A. It is a phytonutrient-rich food that provides us with antioxidant benefits that vary within the varieties. White, yellow, or bi-color, my favorite way to eat it is raw and straight off the cob.


Benefits of Eating Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn Donuts with Salted Butter Frosting

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