Sunday, March 18, 2012

City Island (Daytona Beach) Farmers' Market

Under the palm trees
Today it's Bike Week, Spring Break and St Patrick's Day in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the beautiful weather has everyone outdoors. My sister and I checked out the City Island Farmers' Market set up in a spacious lot between the city's library and the Jackie Robinson Ballpark. The long tables display a bountiful selection of fruits and vegetables from meyer lemons to brussels sprouts, and there are a few non-farm vendors in the mix.

They grow on a stalk!

Shoppers carry away trays of luscious red ripe Plant City strawberries (I can vouch for how good they are). Plant City, located between Orlando and Tampa, is famous for its strawberries and hosts a yearly festival where you might like to compete in a strawberry shortcake eating contest

Organic Alternatives
Ravi and Rich opened their Access to Organics stand to offer a selection of certified organic fruits and veggies. Ravi was so friendly and informative about the quality and freshness in sourcing organic produce. I bought some of their cucumbers for the new pickle recipe I plan to try. See Ravi's schedule of Spring activities here.

Sunny and Warm
I was surprised to learn that only one farmer there grows his own produce to sell. The other vendors buy from distributors for resale and much of the produce is trucked up from south Florida, or from further away. I found that farmer proudly hawking the biggest broccoli heads and the crispest chard that I had ever seen. His farm is in Samsula, a mere 15 miles west. His comments on the season so far,"pretty decent, a little hotter and a little drier than I'd like, but who's complaining". Asked about tomatoes, he doesn't grow them for market, only for his family - the economics of it favors the south Florida farms.

Midtown Ecovillage
At the citrus stand, there were samples of grapefruit and pineapple orange to taste. We bought some meyer lemons, as big as tennis balls, to make lemon curd. Feeling thirsty, we stopped by Ravi's friend's booth, for a smoothie. Omar and Camille have a good time doing what they believe in, creating a delicious drink and educating the public on good food and healthy lifestyles. A good idea - Smoothies and Movies . 

Ocie's has so many good flavors
I was excited to find a table full of jams, etc, by Ocie's Gourmet Preserves. Gloria and her sister carry on the business of canning and selling a whole line of jams, jellies, pickles and relishes begun by their mother. They grow some of their raw materials, and purchase some from their neighboring vendors in this market. So many treats I was eager to try: muscadine grape jam, mulberry jam, mango jalapeno jelly, hot pickled okra, the raw honey, sigh; I bought the sweet onion relish. They will ship their jars to you, write to them at
I enjoyed this Farmer's Market a lot, and I hope you clicked on the links to learn more. In my next post I'll report what I made with the produce I bought today.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Canning from the 21st Floor and a Book Review

One World Trade Center rises across the Hudson.
Hello friends, I am writing from our new home in Jersey City. As 2011 ended, hubby and I downsized from our suburban split level in Edison to a 2 bedroom apartment in a high rise. In anticipation of a much smaller kitchen and storage area, I had packed away all my canning equipment like the water-bath canner, jars and utensils, and left them at my mother's house, along with dozens of jars of jam and pickles. Little did I imagine then, that I would be cooking up new recipes and canning within a few months. I am making do without the aforementioned equipment, for example, using the same large stock pot that I cooked the jams in, (washed clean) to process the jars. Filling the jars without the wide funnel and holding them with tongs and not the special jar lifter is rather clumsy, but can be managed. Actually, I think I will order a set of those utensils from, and probably the steam canner as well, because it can double as a water-bath canner for pickles and relishes. Anyway, I found that I had a more than adequate kitchen stove, and prep area, to do it again. It's kind of amazing to look out the window at the very urban Manhattan skyline and be chopping oranges for a new marmalade.

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving 
Much of the inspiration for this winter canning came from the books I received as Christmas gifts and I'd like to share my impressions with you of each book, with mentions of a recipe I tried. First is "The Complete Book of Small-Batch Canning" 2nd edition, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard, published by Firefly Books, over 300 recipes for sweet spreads, pickles and relishes, flavored oils and vinegars, and intriguing recipes for foods made with these products as ingredients. I recommend this book for its solid introduction to preserving food and canning it. One great feature is that the recipes are fun and easy to do - they take just an hour or two and make a half -dozen jars or so, therefore, you are not killing yourself in the kitchen. And there are beautifully styled color photos - one of a teapot, jam and scones started me dreaming. 
Of course, since it is winter I have had to make a few allowances in my self-styled blog. In February and March, there is no "farm' or "farmer's market" to buy my produce. Do you mind too much that I am using imported fruits like oranges, citruses and pineapples from the supermarket?  How else will I get to make marmalade ?!
Here are two recipes from the book:  Microwavable Curd and Tangerine Grapefruit Marmalade I had cooked up a batch or two of orange marmalade, and was ready to try using tangerines in these ways. 

You make this recipe (page 111) for curd in the microwave, and may substitute tangerines for lemons. There are only four ingredients and cooking time is 5 minutes! I used a microplane to grate the rind. It did a fine job (pun intended). I had everything ready to go, and then found that my microwave cannot be set to reduced power. Therefore, I brought up the saucepan and cooked it whisking continuously until thick. I was hoping to give you a report of making curd in the microwave but I'll ask you to try it and let ME know.

Microwave Lemon Curd
2-3 lemons, ( or tangerines, or limes)          3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter ( 4 tablespoons)                  2 large eggs

Finished Tangerine Curd ready to spread on a scone 
Finely grate zest of lemons. Squeeze lemons and measure 1/2 cup juice.
In a microwavable container, like a quart canning jar, combine the zest, juice, and butter. Microwave on high for a minute until the butter melts. Remove and stir.
In a bowl, beat eggs. Then slowly add the juice mixture to the eggs, stirring rapidly. Return the mixture to the jar, and cook at 50% power for 2 minutes,STOPPING every 30 seconds to stir it well. It should get thick like a cream sauce. Do not let it boil. Transfer to a storage jar or container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks ( not likely, it's really good) or freeze it.

Tangerine Grapefruit Marmalade, page 83
2 or 3 tangerines, to make about 1/2 cup peel           Seeds from all these fruits
2 lemons, to make about 1/2 cup peel
1 small grapefruit, to make about 1/3 cup peel
3 cups water
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Steaming mixed citrus fruits for Tangerine Grapefruit Marmalade
Peel the rind from the tangerines. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind from the lemon and the grapefruits. Slice all the peels into very thin strips, and add to a saucepan.  Put the seeds in a tea ball-they are very high in pectin. Add the water and bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the white pith from the fruit and discard. Chop the fruit pulp in a food processor. Add this pulp to the saucepan and cook another 20 minutes. Remove and discard the seeds. (At this point, I would let this stand overnight, I think it makes a much more tender peel, but this book doesn't call for it) Add the sugar to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook, at a fast boil, uncovered and stirring, until the mixture forms a gel. Ladle into hot jars, seal and process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes, or refrigerate. Frankly, I prefer to use a pouch of liquid pectin for a consistent texture of my product, and I do recommend it. This book has recipes without pectin, and in fact, has a recipe for making your own at home from apples.