February 14th, 2014, by Lisa
October 23rd, 2013, by Lisa
Do you feel like this:
When faced with this:
Have no fear! I, too, felt daunted by winter squash of all kinds. Oh, the time and effort and pre-planning required to use it. And how to use it?? Well, fear no more: here’s the super-duper, easy way to start dealing with your mountain of squash….
Microwave it! Simple and fast, nuking squash essentially steams it in anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes…alleviating that need to pre-plan and have the oven on for an hour.
Here’s the steps:
1. Wash the squash and poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork (make sure to go through to the center)
2. Put the squash on a plate in the microwave and cook on high. (3 minutes for a larger heftier squash, 1.5 minutes for a smaller individual)
3. Flip the squash over an repeat.
4. Check for tenderness with a fork. The squash is done when a fork slides easily into it in all areas. If that’s not happening yet, continue to flip and nuke the squash for a few minutes until it does.
5. Allow to cool (or use caution when handling)
6. Easily slice off the ends, cut the squash down the middle, and scoop out the see cavity.
7. Scoop out the tender cooked squash, and do with it what you will!
Here’s some ideas:
-add butter and seasoning you like and just start eating!
-top it with some Asian pear butter for a sweet side dish to accompany roasted meat!
-make it into soup!
-get creative! In my case, I used this squash to make fritters of a sort. I mixed the squash with eggs, added some sweet corn, seasoned it with curry, cumin, salt, and pepper, fried it up and topped it off with a dab of Asian pear butter. Yum! (PS. gotta get me some of that again tonight)
Hope these tips helped, and that you are now feeling like this:
October 11th, 2013, by Lisa
Last week, the Chester County Food Bank stopped by to pick up a whole lot of apples to distribute to the many people in our county who struggle with hunger.
The reality of farming and marketing as we do is that sometimes we have less of what we’d like to have, and sometimes we have more than we know what to do with. The best laid plans and all that….
Farming is not factory (although there is ‘factory farming’). We cannot ‘make’ the exact amount of what we want or need. Unlike commodity apple growers (who focus on just a few varieties like Honeycrisp, Gala, and Red Delicious), we cannot just ship off our oddball varieties via a wholesale channel. Stores have no interest in purchasing varieties they’ve never heard of (we tried many years ago and learned that the hard way). So when there are extras (in this case, a bumper crop of Florina and Royalty apples), we are happy the Chester County Food Bank will happily use these delicious apples. They are able to educate their clients about the varieties (well, really, just one bite will do that).
So, thanks to Larry, Steve, Nick, and everyone at the Chester County Food Bank. When we have extras of fine delicious fruit, it is thrilling to know they’ll be enjoyed by those who worry about their next meal….rather than have the fruit languishing at a produce auction because no one is willing to bid on them.
October 3rd, 2013, by Lisa
The 2013 Applepalooza Saturday (October 5th) saw kids and adults alike enjoying all things apples!
Farmer Ike had a number of really rare apple varieties on hand and did a tasting/Q&A session with the group, followed up by a tasting tour down a couple rows of apple trees.
Kids of all ages enjoyed face painting and apple scratch art, as well as guessing the weight of apple crates and guessing how many apples were in a crate.
CSA member Jim Donsky and his friend Tom Zartler entertained us with fantastic music on guitar and upright base (see more info about their band, “The Bent Benjamins” here). Thanks, guys!
And the highlight, of course, were the apple dishes everyone brought to share! We were amazed at the variety of yummy things to eat, and were thrilled to find there were more ‘savories’ than ‘sweets’ in the mix. Awesome!
Stealing the show visually were Shannon and Carolyn’s caramel apples, which were true works of art. It was great fun to watch the kids eat them. Some little ones studied their apples carefully before each bite in order to decide which spot to chomp into next, and one little one was thrilled with her M&M-covered apple, as she’d not had M&Ms before (she quite approved, btw!). A sticky, beautiful delight – thanks Shannon and Carolyn!
The other dishes were devoured by all who attended. The voted crowd winners were the “Butternut Pasta Salad w/arugula, pepitas, bleu cheese, and apples” by Dan Borkoski (still waiting on the recipe, Dan!) and the “Fruit and Nut Chili” by Pam Bojanoski (recipe below).
Other major crowd favorites were the “Apple Sausage Sweet Potato Delight” by Peter Rossi (recipe below) and the “Caramel Apple Bacon Crisp” by Rachael Auchenbach (recipe below).
Delicious eats, fabulous fun, and great company….thanks everyone for coming to visit!
Apple Sausage Sweet Potato Delight
From Peter Rossi
2 Tbs brown sugar
1Tbs all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c cold water
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 medium apples, peeled and sliced
Brown & drain the sausage
Blend sugar, flour and cinnamon, salt, and cold water, and pour into crock pot.
Layer sausage, sweet potato, and 3 apples in crock pot.
Cook on low up to 6 hrs until apples have almost dissolved.
Remove sausage, apples, and sweet potato from crock pot and pack
firmly into a baking dish, the liquid may be discarded.
Peel, core, and slice the final apple. layer on the top of the cooked
Dot the top of the uncooked apples with butter, and sprinkle with
additional cinnamon & brown sugar.
Bake uncovered @ 400° for 30 minutes, or until top apples are fork tender.
From Rachael Auchenbach
1 package bacon
Reserved bacon drippings ( should be about 1/2 cup if less add butter to equal to 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used sucanat)
8-9 tart apples
For the crumb topping:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used sucanat)
Preheat oven to 450
Peel core and slice apples and place in greased pan (I used a stoneware oval baker)
Cook bacon til crisp, reserve grease
Set aside to cool
Prepare crumb topping by mixing flour and sugar and cutting in butter until you have a sand like texture…crumble up bacon and mix into crumb
In a sauce pan add bacon grease and butter equal to 1/2 cup
Add sugar, flour and water
Bring to a boil, stirring often
Reduce heat and simmer for a bit
Pour over top of apples
Sprinkle on topping
Bake at 450 for 10 minutes
Reduce heat to 350 bake for 30 minutes
Fruit & Nut Chili
From Pete & Pam Bojanoski
“a highly modified recipe based on original Fruit & Nut Chili recipe from http://www.bhg.com/recipe/meat/fruit-and-nut-chili/ on the Better Homes & Gardens website”
1 lb ground meat (pork, beef, turkey, chicken all work)
28 oz can diced tomatoes (use liquid too, do not drain it off)
2 cups chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
3 green, red or yellow bell peppers, cored & chopped
1 lb fresh tomatillos, hulled & chopped in quarters (or leftover green tomatoes out of your garden)
1 lb diced turnips (leaves & small roots removed and turnip scrubbed leaving skin on)
8 oz diced green chili peppers (these are in 4 oz cans usually & are sweet peppers)
4 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp unsweetened Hershey’s cocoa powder
1 Tbsp sweet curry powder (if you don’t have it substitute a mix of ground coriander, cumin and turmeric)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
15 oz can black beans, drained
15 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained
2/3 cup chopped or slivered nuts – such as pecans or walnuts since they’re softer nuts
4 large apples- cored and chopped into ½ inch dice
½ tsp ground chipotle pepper flakes (a bit zippy)
½ tsp ground Aleppo pepper flakes (very mild pepper & good flavor)
4 shakes of Tabasco sauce (a bit zippy)
1 tsp dried oregano (if fresh herbs, then double the amount)
1 Tbsp dried thyme (if fresh herbs, then double the amount)
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp Professor Phardtpounder’s Colon Cleaner (medium heat pepper sauce, not real hot but is interesting flavor)
Optional ingredients: raisins, chopped dried fruit of any kind or dates, diced eggplant, carrots, cauliflower, parsnips
Note- I get a lot of my spices from Penzey’s Spices (www.penzeys.com retail store and online ordering)
In ceramic-coated gallon sized cast-iron Dutch Oven, brown meat and onions together until meat is cooked and onions are softened. Add fresh garlic & rest of chopped vegetables and bring back to boil cooking for 15 min. Add chicken broth and herbs & spices. Don’t add the beans or nuts yet.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer on med-low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Add beans and nuts. Heat through for 10 min and serve.
I make my chili ‘medium spicy’ heat. You can adjust to low heat by taking out chipotle pepper and Tabasco sauce.
October 1st, 2013, by Lisa
Got your attention, eh?
The other day, I came across an article online which I found really interesting. As Ike (who normally doesn’t even peruse the internet unless he absolutely has to) was passing by, I said, “Hey – there’s a picture online I want to show you.”
He gave me a funny look, presumably because he was thinking, ‘oh great, she wants me to look at a computer…’. I responded to that look by saying, “Hey – it’s apple porn!” – which quickened his step in my direction.
Turns out there’s a fellow in the UK who has a tree (a SINGLE tree) onto which he has grafted – get this – 250 varieties of apples!
Our 400 or so varieties here at least have one tree apiece. Sometimes there are two of each, and sometimes 200 (like Gold Rush!).
So this fellow’s 250-variety apple tree is quite an amazing feat. And quite a sight for the eyes (hence the “apple porn”).
You can read all about it here.
September 27th, 2013, by Lisa
You’ve been asking for a fall farm event, so here it is!
Saturday, October 5th from 4 to 7 PM
Plan to join us for the whole timeframe, as it’ll be chock full of fun (and apples!)
(you can arrive anytime between 3:30 and 4 and have plenty of time to get your apple on – facepaint that is – before further activities start)
Apple face painting for kids of all ages
Apple-of-a-different color art (also for kids of all ages!)
Feats all can enjoy:
Apple packaging competition (in groups, with prizes!)
Pass the apple
(and if the kids are rowdy, an applehead race)
An Awesome Apple Tasting Tour of the orchard with our resident apple-head, Farmer Ike!
The Apple Concoction Contest! (Yes, this is an apple-themed potluck)
Things to bring:
1. Your apple concoction (see below)
2. Your own dishware and utensils (beverages will be provided)
3. Pocket knife, if you have one, for the Apple Tasting Tour
4. Chairs or blankets to sit on while you feast!
Volunteers Wanted: (please let us know if you are interested!):
1 or 2 photographers willing to take and share some shots of the afternoon!
1 or 2 acoustic musicians willing to play for part of the time
UPDATE: The Bent Benjamins will be providing some musical entertainment! CSA member Jim Donsky and friends will entertain us with acoustic Americana folk rock! They plan to start at 4PM, so they can later join in on the festivities and good eats! Come out and give them a listen as you enjoy some simple games and other activities.
1 or 2 face paint helpers to help our in-house artist. Simple art – an apple with stem and leaf!
Location: 3226 Limestone Rd. Cochranville, PA 19330
Parking: Watch directional arrows for parking when you arrive. Please negotiate carefully. There will be an area for unloading and special needs parking for those with disabilities.
Contact: If you have trouble finding us, call Lisa at 610-406-1780. If you have other concerns or questions, please call 610-593-0314 or email us: Lisa@northstarorchard.com
THE APPLE CONCOCTION CONTEST!
Bring a dish, be it sweet or savory, containing apples in some way.
(If you’re really stumped, you can bring something which doesn’t have apples in it, but we hope you’ll try!)
Judges: Everyone who attends!
Sweet – including any desserts, sweet breads, jams, etc.
Savory – including all main dishes, side dishes, soups, casseroles, salads, etc.
Most Creative – that which the crowd judges to be the most interesting and creative (maybe in presentation, ingredient pairing, etc.)
Prizes per Category: 1 bag of Gold Rush in fall (or another apple variety of your choice) + 1 bottle of cider at the Applepalooza.
Recipe Request: We would like to start a webpage on the NSO site for recipes from this year’s Applepalooza and future events. It would be great if you could bring your recipe with you, or email it to us.
September 25th, 2013, by Lisa
Farmer Ike walked in last Tuesday at noon with 21 new-to-us apple varieties to try!
I prepared for the tasting (which was held at 3:30) by eating a protein and carbohydrate-heavy lunch, as I knew I’d soon be filling up with juicy fruit sugars!
Ike had all of the apples labeled, which was kind of cool-looking, and it was neat to exclaim about the name before we took a bite: “Crown Prince Rudolf? What kind of name is that?” and “Junaluska – you gotta wonder!” So while it was fun, it maybe would be better to do it as a blind tasting. Apples named “Cinnamon Spice” and “Nutmeg” definitely give us pre-conceived notions about what they’ll taste like. In some cases it was correct, such as with “Green Sweet” and “Spice of Old Virginia”. But with the aforementioned “Cinnamon Spice” our hopes were dashed as we tasted a rather bland apple. We’ll give it another try, though…sometimes great flavor comes along as the trees mature.
We got through all 21, with Ike taking notes on our consensus about the merits (or not-so-meritorious virtues) of each variety.
I believe our favorites were Pixie and Fiesta (which, honestly, was like having a party in your mouth!)
And that was it for me for the day – no more fruit, please!!
However, I’m looking forward to the next tasting. And I’m looking forward to next year (2014), when we plan to host tastings that YOU can come to as well. It’s great fun…and I promise I’ll have some carbs handy to balance the fruit!
September 18th, 2013, by Lisa
Adventures in Flavor…One Apple at a Time
Flaunt your apple geekery in style with this colorful new tee from North Star Orchard. Loaded with a just a sampling of the nearly 400 apple varieties grown here at NSO, this stylish shirt will have people staring at your chest…and belly…and back.
No worries though; they won’t be checking out your physique, but rather studying some of the fascinating apple names on this colorful, must-have shirt of the harvest season.
Some of the varieties listed include:
Favorites such as Florina, Esopus Spitzenburg, Sugar Snap, Winecrisp, Stellar, and Gold Rush.
Rarer varieties such as Kandil Sinap, Cinnamon Spice, and Tsugara.
And real oddball attention-grabbers such as Incarnation, Bloody Ploughman, and Westfield Seek-No-Further.
Shirts are available on white or navy blue in S, M, L, XL.
They are available at the farm and at all farmers’ market locations except the West Chester Grower’s Market. (West Chester Growers’ Market prohibits the sale of items which were not directly grown or produced on the farm. To get a shirt (or one of our totes or hats), you’ll need to pre-order and pre-pay online, and we’ll simply ‘deliver’ it to you on market day: Click here to pre-order.
Off-farm CSA members can pre-order them for delivery with their share!
Shirts were printed by ooshirts.com, who have been easy to fabulous to work with!
September 12th, 2013, by Lisa
Although some folks don’t seem to remember, this year has been one overloaded with rain here in Chester County. We farmers are still feeling the effects of a delayed spring, super-soggy weather, a major hailstorm, and yet more soggy weather.
The latest casualty is our Yukon Gold potatoes, following closely on the heels of the dry onion crop.
The onions were off to a great start this year, and we had high hopes for them. However, the hailstorm tore holes in their tender leaves, which let water (and too much of it) trickle down into the onion bulb itself. We have been constantly battling, since we harvested the onions, to ascertain which individuals made it through unscathed and which experienced just too much ‘weather’. The latter are usually sniffed out (quite literally – they stink!), but we do miss some that aren’t quite to that point. So, if you receive onions with some (or a lot of) rot, that’s thanks to the hailstorm and rain. We’ll continue to try and sort out the bad ones, and hope you’ll end up with some usable onions yet this year.
The potatoes are quite another story, a very sad one indeed.
The Red Norland potatoes were awesome this year, as were those lovely purple potatoes. Yukon Golds are a bit fussy however. We grow them because they are so gosh-darned tasty, even though they don’t yield all that much compared to other varieties.
When we dug the Yukons, they looked to be in great shape. They were placed in our potato room as usual, to store them for the next several months and supply CSA members with a roughly bi-weekly or monthly supply through January or thereabouts.
Last week, to everyone’s horror, we found that they have begun to exhibit some not-too-nice break-the-potato-down-before-its-time types of rot. There are two things showing up: one type of rot around where the potato was attached to the plant, and a different type of rot around the eyes. You can see both in the picture here.
So, in order to supply you with potatoes the last time you got them in the share, we had to throw in the compost a full 2/3 of the potatoes we sorted through! As with all types of breakdown issues, nothing will improve from here. So, next week’s share will see us sorting through them again and composting between 2/3 and ¾ of them. While we’d rather keep them longer so we can put them in the CSA in November, they would just continue to break down, to the point where we’d have none left.
So, potatoes will continue to come your way over the next few weeks, and then they’ll be gone…mostly happily being digested by our compost pile rather than by you!
Losing the potatoes is a big bummer, I’m sure you’ll agree, as that’s one of the staple crops we all count on for late fall and winter comfort and family favorite recipes. But this is the nature of raising vegetables organically in a super-soggy year.
On the bright side, the butternut squash are still looking great, and we have a LOT of them curing on racks. We will also have sweet potatoes coming along.
As for onions and potatoes? Well, we’ll all have to purchase those elsewhere later this year. I’m hoping to find organic potatoes and onions if I can, and I plan to eat a lot of squash!
August 28th, 2013, by Lisa
How awesome would it be to work in a dark chocolate factory? How about a bakery? Winery?
Wherever your guilty indulgence(s) takes your dreams of being supplied with never-ending streams of the item(s) in question, I guarantee there’s likely a few people on the other end who perhaps feel not so enamored.
I worked at the Penn State Creamery one year as a Work-Study student, and while I loved ice cream then, and still do today, there were times, particularly at the end of a busy home-game weekend, where I couldn’t stand the sight or smell of the stuff.
Then there was another college year when I did a two-week stint at Burger King (hey, didn’t we all??). Unlike ice cream, however, that experience “cured” me for life. No more Burger King for this girl.
Now here I am, in a similar sort of position, when it comes to fruit. “How bad can that be?” you may well wonder.
Well, let me tell you – when you (or more accurately, your farming partner) decides to plant an additional 300 varieties of apples when you already have about 100, it can get pretty bad. Top it off with dozens of plums, pears, and peaches, and you get well over 500 varieties of tree fruit alone which, well of course, must be sampled.
All was well along the first 20 years or so of this farming journey. There were particular days when we had lots to sample, but it was manageable. But this year, we have quite a number to sample each day, and it’ll only get worse in 2014 and 2015 as more new trees come into production. Let me see…500 varieties divided by about 80 days (because that’s the time frame most of the fruit ripens during) equals tasting at least 6 varieties a day.
Six may not sound too bad, but of course it doesn’t really work that way. There will be many days when there are 15 or 20 to try. And of course, we can’t try just one of any given variety. We have to taste it when:
1. It’s just a wee bit green, to help determine when will be the best time to pick it.
2. It’s spot-on ripe, so we can describe it properly to folks.
3. It’s over-ripe, to determine just how bad it may get, of course!
Therefore, we must multiply our original tasting number by at least 3 to account for those timeframes. But let’s multiply by 4 to be more realistic, as we’ll try the varieties at least twice during the pre-pick stage.
So we’ll be tasting, come 2014 & 2015, from 24 to 80 varieties PER DAY (here I am reminded of customers who only purchase 2 pieces of fruit to “keep” them for an entire week. Really?)
Some of our helpers (who don’t “suffer” through all of the tasting) likely wonder why we order pizza so frequently. Sure, we don’t have a lot of time to cook during fall harvest, but we also just need some bread and stuff to balance all the freakin’ fruit we have to eat!
You know all the wine people who taste and spit? They do that (presumably) so they don’t get rip-roaring drunk in short order. In our case, we taste and spit fruit to avoit fruitosis. I’m sure I made up the term, but it’s certainly a real ailment – I’ve felt it. Those are the times when I do not, under any circumstances, want to taste yet another piece of fruit.
But of course, after dinner (pizza??), when we’re enjoying a fun movie and relaxing, I’ll dig right in to a big bowl of assorted fruits of the season.
At least fruit is more like ice cream than Burger King in that regard – I’ll always love it.
One may wonder how on Earth an apple variety ended up with a name like Monolith. The apples are neither tall nor imposing in appearance in any way. They are, however, imposing in flavor. This is one apple which demands attention while it is eaten.
Monolith is the result of an apple breeding project we farmers (Ike and Lisa) started way back when we were in college. We had a number of trial apple seedlings (offspring of the variety ‘Liberty’) which started out their lives growing in pots in our college apartment (which was certainly a conversation starter at parties).
To differentiate the individuals, we gave them working names based on characters from the films 2001 and Alien (hey, why not?). That first apple breeding project eventually resulted in our apple “Monolith”, which is, you must admit, a more interesting apple name than the others had. Apples “Hal”, “Floyd”, “Ripley” and “Bishop” had definitely less-interesting names and apples, but “Monolith” is still a conversation starter…both by name and by flavor.
Monolith was a long time coming, what with us graduating from college and then moving several times over the next five years before we started North Star Orchard and could give it a permanent home.
The young variety showed great promise as far as its growth habit and overall hardiness. The first apples were interesting, to say the least. But we still had a waiting game with Monolith. The apples on young trees tend to vary greatly in flavor and quality from those on mature trees, so a few more years passed before we could taste what Monolith could really do.
Several years ago, we found out. Wow! We quickly grafted and planted more trees.
The apple is a mix of a gorgeously shiny cherry-red with green on the opposite side. The cheery color might lead one to believe it is going to be deliciously sweet. But wait – grab it before the kids take a bite. This is an apple to be reckoned with.
Monolith is quite tart but has the most amazing complex flavors we’ve ever tasted in such a tart apple. People who like tart apples are stunned at the complexity of it and are quickly drawn in to Monolith adoration (like the proto-humans in the film/book?).
Forget Granny Smith, tart apple lovers – Monolith blows her away (or maybe towers over her??)
Enjoy this impressive apple. It is available only a short time around the end of August/beginning of September, and it is available nowhere else.
Like the Monolith of the movie and book: it’s stunning, imposing, and one-of-a-kind. Unlike the Monolith of story fame, this one tastes amazing! (not that I’ve tasted the original, but it certainly doesn’t look very appetizing…)