Walvoord Farm Berries July 20, 2013

Red Jewels of Summer

Red Jewels of Summer

Honestly, who doesn’t love strawberries? A luscious, ripe berry just tastes like summer. I wait for that first sweet, juicy bite all winter and spring. I often drive Hwy A on my way to work everyday, anxiously watching for signs that Walvoord Strawberries are ready and picking has begun. You can pick your own berries and peas from about Father’s Day until about the 4th of July. Or you can drive in and buy the pre-picked quarts for sale along with honey from bees on the property. Sometime I will have to pick my own, but more often I just drive in.

 

Entrance to Farm

Entrance to Farm

My usual purchase-one to eat and one to freeze!

My usual purchase-one to eat and one to freeze!

Gary Walvoord was kind enough to take me on a tour of the farm and tell me how the strawberries are grown. It takes a lot of labor and a lot of water to get those red jewels of summer planted, weeded and picked for the short season they are available. But Gary’s been doing it for 20 years, with a minimum amount of help and limited chemicals (once in the fall for weed seeds) so that visitors can eat right out of the field. (Who can resist tasting as they pick?)

 Gary mulchs the field with straw to keep the fruit off the dirt, reduce mildew and keep the berries clean when watering. Which he does quite often to the tune of an inch an hour from 3 wells and his irrigation pond; approximately 280,000 gallons or the equivalent of 10 swimming pools every 2-3 days! 

New Strawberry Field

New Strawberry Field

He planted 61,500 plants this year, replacing 1/3 of the plants each year as strawberries produce their best fruit for just 3 years. His farm can supply you with 1 qt. to 200 qts. And no pre-ordering is necessary. He sells berries to several specialty stores in the area including: Sendick’s, Elegant Farmer, Borzynski’s, Woodman’s and Grasch’s.

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Removing First Berries

Removing First Berries

“If you don’t like it, I eat it,” is his policy.

Convenience for his customers is a top priority, and he makes sure that you won’t have to walk far to get into the field and get picking!

The farm also sells pumpkins, gourds, squash and Indian corn in the fall at farm stands and the above markets. They will offer Asparagus for the first time next spring as well. I’ll be watching even earlier next year for that!

 Walvoord farm stands are located at:

 Franksville Mart on Hwy K

Hwy 20 and Hwy 36, Waterford

Hwy 50 and Hwy 75, Salem

Hwy 142 and Hwy 45, Union Grove

 

Or stop at the farm: 21632 Plank Road (Hwy A) Kansasville, WI 53139

(Between Hwy 45 and Hwy 75)

(262) 878-0488

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Back to Basics-Cutting Up a Whole chicken

Fresh Eggs

Fresh Eggs

     Aren’t these eggs from Homestead Hens beautiful? I thought they were so natural looking and just lovely. They also tasted very good, too. Something about seeing where your food comes from that makes it taste so good. I get that feeling from my home garden as well. In this piece, the egg comes before the chicken, only because I had to show you how pretty they were.

     So I got two chickens from my visit to the farm, one I plan to roast, the other I decided to cut up and make into Oven Fried Chicken. Now I grew up in a household where my mother would cut up a chicken before cooking on occasion. (We ate fried chicken often.) I had carved enough Thanksgiving turkeys to know what the basic parts were. I knew that you had to cut the legs from the thighs at the joints. And I figured the wings were easy enough. But then what? I knew the breast pieces and back were one, how to separate them?

     I asked my friends on facebook, and most also had no clue. Chickens came already cut up in the grocery store, usually without skin on the breast, ready to cook. I decided to just go for it! Well, what I did to that chicken would make a gourmet chef cringe! I got the pieces apart, but ended up with only a small piece of meat for the breast and a lot of bones that I could at least make into stock.

     So how was it really done? I wanted to find out, so I went on You Tube and looked it up.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW5BFvCmV7k   This is how to cut up a chicken by Gourmet Magazine. Seems so simple when they do it! I’m going to try it again with my other bird. I guess I have a lot to learn yet about food (just when I thought I knew it all!)  A side journey in my quest for local food. I love to learn, so I think it will be fun!

Oven Fried Chicken

Oven Fried Chicken

     One thing I have learned, some flour and seasoning will cover up a lot of mistakes!  This cage-free bird was moist and delicious! Thankfully this recipe is super easy:

Oven Fried Chicken

1 Chicken cut up

1 c. Flour

2 Tablespoons Seasoning (I have a bottle from Zehnders in Frankenmuth, MI, but any combination of bouillon, sage or marjoram, etc. will work. Add some paprika for a little color if you desire.)

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Combine the flour and seasoning in a large Ziplock bag. Coat each piece of chicken, then brown in the hot oil on both sides. Transfer to a baking sheet on a layer of aluminum foil coated with cooking spray. Cook at 375 for 30-40 minutes.

Homestead Hens June 8, 2013

freshfromthevine-rooster      For some time I have read about the trend toward raising chickens and harvesting your own eggs, even in the city. I have picked up fresh cage-free eggs from various places, but I wanted to know, what does it take to raise your own chickens? How hard is it? Is it worth the effort?

To get the lowdown, I visited Homestead Hens in Burlington and talked to Jared Brever. Jared raises 7 or 8 breeds of chickens plus some Guinea Hens on his farm on Brever road, outside of the city. He also has several show quality birds that were donated from 4-H projects, etc. These do not lay well, but he likes having them around. Some breeds that he keeps for laying include: Dixie Rainbows,  Bantams and Araucana or Easter Egg. He sells primarily white and brown eggs and some blue and green eggs from the Easter Egg breed. They all taste the same and there is no difference in price. (Don’t be fooled into paying more for the pretty colors!)

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The darker the yolk, the higher the Beta Carotene and healthy Omega 3’s from eating green matter and living food like plants and insects. They eat bales of clippings in the winter and even pumpkins! They not only love pumpkins, the seeds are a natural antiseptic for intestinal worms.

Contrary to what we may think, you do not need a rooster to get eggs. Roosters do, however, make good eating birds. Jared raises several types for meat, Rhode Island Reds being one. Roosters also watch out for hawks and will collect all the hens and keep them in the coop until the danger is past. Other predators on the chickens are raccoons, mink and even Great Horned owls!

Moving to Fresh Grass

Moving to Fresh Grass

Jared keeps the different chicken breeds separate in pens that allow them to move around to eat and he moves the pens a couple of times a day so the birds can eat fresh grass, weeds and insects. He feeds them little corn so that they have to move around and build up more meat. It is illegal to feed chickens hormones. Large bird houses feed more antibiotics because there are so many birds close together. Jared medicates his chicks only during the 1st week against Coccsidiosis that is naturally in the environment. Otherwise he does not medicate his birds unless they get sick.

Jared sells eggs and frozen chickens. Please call ahead so that he can have your order ready. He is in the process of getting a license to sell off the farm at the farmer’s markets.

Homestead Hens

6221 Brever Rd.

Burlington, WI  53105

(262) 949-3420

freshfromthevine-chicken   So you’ve decided raising chickens sounds like something you’d like to try. How to start? First, you need to find out if you can raise them in your local community.

— Milwaukee and Madison, yes.

— Mount Pleasant allows it on at least 2 acres zoned agricultural.

—  The Town of Waterford requires a permit or approval from the Town board.

—  Racine or Caledonia, no.

No clear cut information was readily available with this quck search online, so the best thing would be to check with your municipality before you begin. If you can’t start a coop of your own, eggs are sold at the farmer’s markets and there are many farms to choose from that we will be visiting in the near future!

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Edible Plants Hike June 4, 2013

Cattails in Summer

Cattails in Summer

          This post I am calling a kind of “Aside” because it is not the type of post that I typically do, but does tie into the “Local Food” topic in a way you may not have thought of before. I enjoying hiking and studying plants and flowers, so when an Edible Plants hike was offered at Richard Bong State Recreation Area this spring, I was intrigued.

On a sunny, warm Saturday in May, about a dozen people of all ages met for the short hike. Our naturalist seemed very knowledgeable and began our exploration right outside the Nature Center with the lovely Blue Violet or Wood Violet. These are easily recognizable, very common and so pretty, but did you know they can be eaten? Toss them in a salad or they can be candied with sugar and used as edible decorations—cupcake aficionados take note! Rose petals also can be used in this way. Bonus: violets are rich in Vitamin A and C.

Wild Cherry

Wild Cherry

           Many well-known fruits such as wild cherries, raspberries and strawberries grow wild just about everywhere. These are usually smaller than commercially grown varieties, but are delicious. Eat them raw or cooked or make tea from their leaves. A lot of the plants we saw can be made into tea by steeping the leaves, which often have medicinal properties. Wild Willow bark also can be made into a tea and is a pain killer similar to aspirin!

            We learned about the multi-purpose Cattail, which can be eaten at different stages throughout the year in the form of young shoots in the Spring (rather like celery,) the young “tail” that resembles corn on the cob in summer, and when the flower opens later in the summer, the pollen is like corn meal and can be added to flour to make pancakes.

            Plants that we now consider to be “weeds” have been eaten for centuries. You may have heard about Dandelion tea or greens, but did you ever eat the flower? These can be dipped in batter and fried as fritters. At the end of our hike, we had a special treat as our guide prepared these and several other items for us to taste. The Dandelion fritters were quite good! (Maybe these will be the next deep-fried item to show up at the State Fair!) We also tried Water Cress and cream cheese on rye, Elderberry and Sumac jelly, Bergamot tea and a Berry Flummery (or fruity pudding) that was so easy and yummy. (See the recipe below.)

 Making Dandelion Fritters

I was surprised at how many common plants were edible, like Sheep Sorrel, Burdock, Plantains, Thistle and Lamb’s Quarters. Other plants you may have seen or heard of include Mustard and wild Onion.

The main thing to know is that most of these should be young plants for the best flavor, otherwise they are bitter. Some need to be cooked, so do your homework or take a class such as this one. Do not pick plants in State Parks, or roadsides that may have been sprayed with chemicals. Don’t eat any white berry and always beware of Poison Ivy! After munching on flower fritters, I will never look at Dandelion fields the same again!

            Here is the recipe for Berry Flummery, which can be made from any type of berries or combination of berries:

 3 cups of Berries                                2 cups of Water

¼ cup of Cornstarch                         ¾ cup of Sugar to taste

 Cook these ingredients until thickened. Then refrigerate. This is wonderful with a little cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream or frozen custard.

Berry Flummery

Berry Flummery

Richard Bong State Recreation Area

26313 Burlington Rd. (Hwy 142)

Kansasville, WI  53139

(262) 878-5600  

           Interestingly enough, shortly after the hike, I happened to come across an old cookbook, “Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930’s,” by Rita Van Amber, copyright 1986 by Van Amber Publishers. I was thumbing through it when I read how mothers valiantly struggled through the Depression to feed their families. During dry years when gardens did not do well, but weeds like Lamb’s Quarters flourished, they were canned to have something on the cellar shelves for the winter. When I first read this I was shocked. But after the edible plants hike, I came to realize that it is all a matter of what you are familiar with.

Lamb's Quarters

Lamb’s Quarters

Mustard

Mustard

Native Americans knew the value of native plants and came to know how to use the entire plant. They had to, to survive. Settlers that came later did the same. With the convenience of grocery stores and commercially grown food we have gotten away from that knowledge, but learning even just a little about the native plants made me feel that I would never really be hungry if I was lost in the woods, because food is everywhere, Hickory nuts, Rose hips, Sumac lemonade, and more. If you want a different perspective on truly “Local” food, take a class or pick up a book on our edible plants. It will change how you think of your backyard!

Piper Farms May 11, 2013

Klinkert Barn, Racine, WI

Klinkert Barn, Racine, WI

Several local food consumers suggested we talk to Scott Piper of Piper Farms on Lathrop Ave. just north of County KR. Since we left the honey bees pollinating Basswood trees at Hwy 31 and County KR, it seemed natural to head on over to the Piper homestead. Scott met us at his self-service road stand north of the Historic Landmark, The Klinkert Stable. Ernst Klinkert built the Kentucky-inspired stable in 1889 for his sulky racehorses. He did not live in the large house next to it, previously owned by Scott’s grandfather, sold along with much of the land that is now subdivisions. It is now privately owned and maintained.

Scott explained that he is the 4th generation of farmers of the 43-45 acres surrounding the property, farmed by him and his dad. You can tell he loves the land and farming, and takes great care in how he treats the soil, using organic practices and would rather destroy an infected field than use pesticides.

First Asparagus Shoots Coming Up

First Asparagus Shoots Coming Up

He is interested in producing crops for the restaurant and specialty market and offers a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, selling at the Racine Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, to restaurants and to other growers. When stopping at the stand, the first thing you’ll notice is a young vineyard of 5-7 years of age beyond it, unusual in this area. He does not plan to make wine however, but plans to sell the fruit and also use it in his homemade Bar-B-Que sauces. He is growing cherries, also for his sauces. He sells them along with homemade ketchup at the market.

Young Grape Vines-3 Varieties

Young Grape Vines-3 Varieties

Some other unique vegetables you will see him selling are: asparagus, particularly purple asparagus, fingerling and other specialty potatoes, a variety of colors of carrots, including purple, and sweet potatoes, not often found here. He also grows everyone’s favorites, sweet corn, tomatoes, onions, garlic, shallots, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, peppers, beets, watermelon, pumpkins, popcorn, rhubarb, etc.!

43-45 Acres in the Process of Planting

43-45 Acres in the Process of Planting

Fortunately he had some asparagus for me today, the first of the season! I plan to come back frequently and see what else he has throughout the summer and fall.

freshfromthevineblog-asparagus

Piper Farms is open from 8:00-5:30

Organically Farmed

Also sold at:

  Racine Farmer’s Market

Brightonwoods Orchard 

Some background on the owner of the beloved Klinkert Stable. Ernst Klinkert came to the Racine area from Frankfurt, Germany. He started out working with Phillip Schelling in City Brewery, later buying his partner out and starting E. Klinkert Brewery, Racine’s largest brewery, according to the Racine Walking Tour Guide of 1994. Klinkert never lived near the stable that housed his sulky racing horses, but preferred to live in town.

klinkert02He built several hotels and taverns, selling only his beer of course! When Prohibition came, he converted the taverns into commercial buildings. Several are well-known in the area, 500-504 6th St., that still bears his name, the former Uptown Theatre in West Racine and a hotel next to the railroad station in Sturtevant. He was married, had 6 children and lived to be 92. The buildings near the stable were featured in the 2012 Preservation Racine Tour of Historic Places, and a nice video outlining the buildings can be found at Preservation Racine Home Tour-George Meyers Show September 23, 2012.

Homemade Bread with Honey Butter

I was considering what I might make with the delicious honey I recently purchased when Bob reminded me that I had promised to make him homemade bread with honey butter, a favorite of his. I’m not a great bread baker. I had tried making some whole grain and wheat breads recently that were marginal. I guess they don’t always rise nicely, at least mine don’t. I have a bread machine, and I am determined to use it, so it shouldn’t be too hard, right? I looked up a recipe that I thought would work and saw that it called for “bread” flour. Ok, maybe that would help. So I got some bread flour, substituted honey for the sugar and yes, it actually turned out good! (Amazing what following the recipe correctly can do!)

The recipe I used was from Taste of Home’s Complete Guide to Baking. Here in Wisconsin, Taste of Home is right in our backyard in Greendale, near Milwaukee, so most of us have one of their cookbooks. This one is wonderful covering many baking categories, has lovely photos and of course they are recipes submitted by regular cooks.

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Home-Style White Bread

1 cup water (70-80 degrees)

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar (honey)

2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk powder

3 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

Honey Butter

1 stick of butter, room temperature

2 tablespoons honey

Combine and spread on warm bread.

In bread machine pan, place all ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select basic bread setting. Choose crust color and loaf size if available. Bake according to bread machine directions (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed.) Yield: 1 loaf (about 1-1/2 pounds.)  –Yvonna Nave, Lyons , Kansas

East Troy Honey

     Our first adventure turned out to be one where we never left our chair, but as vines often do, it started in one spot and made a circular path that returned close to where we began! I had an allergic reaction to Tupelo honey once, a shame because it is the best stuff you ever tasted! Since I take honey every day, I realized that what everyone says about local honey was really true, that it is the best kind of honey to take and I’ve sought it out where I can find it ever since. That led me to a wonderful honey shop in downtown Racine, Sweet Flame. They sell all kinds of honey from all over the world and they also sell a local honey from East Troy Honey.

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I wanted that to be our first stop on the journey, and placed a call to William Palmer, the beekeeper to see if we might stop in. He told me that he is a wholesale producer, was busy making a sugar solution to feed the bees, and he sounded like he didn’t really want a visitor just then. But he was willing to chat, so I let him tell me about his business.

 Bill retired from Twin Disc and started with one hive as a hobby and now has 100 colonies that he trailers to different crops depending on what flowers are in bloom. They pollinate apple trees, squash, strawberries, etc. One spot that he visits for his Basswood honey is the area near KR and HWY 31. (Back to Racine again!)

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He told me that he does not take his bees down south for the winter as some do. The bees cluster together to stay warm in the hive, he said. In the fall, the honey made is used as food for the winter, so he does not collect it after Labor Day. At this time of year he makes the sugar/water solution to supplement the bee’s food supply that is running low. He mixes 50 lb bags of sugar in a 55 gal concrete mixer! The bees become active again when temperatures reach 45 degrees, so they will be moving about now.

 East Troy Honey does not add anything to their honey. Commercial producers often heat the honey and add sugar to extend the shelf life, but pure honey will last indefinitely, he told me. If it crystallizes, simply warming it gently will make it liquid again, as most of us may remember from grade school science experiments.

You can find East Troy Honey at:

 imagesCA0NXX4K imagesCA4T3Y3I imagesCA2V9XSJ imagesCA9EG28J     Shortly after talking with Bill, I read an article in Terry Kovel Antiques about antique honey pots, many shaped like “skeps.” Skeps were made of straw and bees would build their hives inside. I decided to see what types of pots were made to store honey. There are many as you can imagine, the most interesting being made of silver! Most have a dipper to make it easier to add honey to tea. I rarely drizzle my honey, and use it fast enough that I’m not sure I would waste time transferring it to a pot, but do like the unique designs I found, so if a honey pot comes my way while searching a flea market or antique store, I may have to try it out anyway! From the above article I found out that honey tarnishes silver, and tarnish destroys some of the nutrients of the honey, so if you can afford a silver pot, make sure it has a glass liner!imagesCAMP3VB8