Do you ever visit the local farmers' market? Several weeks ago, I was watching our PBS affiliate station, and they ran a half hour show (after Masterpiece Mystery) where the host interviewed a woman who was intrumental in starting some of our local certified organic farmers' markets. She and another woman, a local chef, have written two cookbooks organized week by week and featuring recipes using local produce that should be at its best each week. For instance, last week's menus included lots of tomato dishes, baby potatoes, green beans, and blackberries. Yes, as you've probably figured out, I bought one of the books after the program aired. The one I purchased is called Placer County Real Food from Farmers Markets (by Joanne Neft with Laura Kenny).
I've been having a box of organic produce delivered to my home once every three weeks, and although I like getting that produce and the surprises it can bring, I've found that I'm not using all of it, partly because it's not what I selected and partly because I'm just not putting enough time into cooking these days to make the effort to figure out what to do with it and how to cook it. So a couple days ago, I cancelled the next couple deliveries and looked into where and when there were farmers' markets I could check out. Today, Sunday, was my first RECENT produce shopping excursion. (I've been to farmers' markets before but haven't been to one for a couple years.)
I took my camera along so I could take photos but do you think I remembered to take photos? No! In fact, I locked my purse in the trunk of my car and only took my keys and my cash with me. Yep, the camera was in my purse.
I really had a wonderful time though! If I hadn't had to be somewhere else afterward, I would have stayed there much longer and really looked at everything they had to offer. The market I attended is a large one with many growers offering everything from flowers to produce to bread to meat and fish. One grower had some unusual mushrooms--I would have loved to buy some if only I knew what I might do with them! I guess that's something I can think about next time I go. And I loved the guy with all kinds of herbs and micro greens in bunches--$1.25 a bunch.
So what did I buy?
Some herbs--thai basil and oregano as well as chard micro greens--potatoes, corn, gypsy peppers (I had some before in my produce box and stuffed them with corn and cheeses--that's what I want to do again), peas, string beans, and jalapeno peppers. (Yes, these are many of the items featured in last week's menus from the farmers' market cookbook.)
A small loaf of bread--I can't remember what it was called, darn it!
And lovely, lovely fruit: peaches, strawberries, and blackberries.
The fruit was my main goal for the market; I was itching to make some jams, for one thing. I had even gotten out my canning jars and started sterilizing them before I left to go to the market.
After I came home, when I was sorting out the produce and cleaning out the fridge, I realized I had a small bag of plums (two different varieties, it seems) as well as a few pluots (a cross between a plum and an apricot) that had arrived in the last produce box. So the first jam out of the pot and into the canning jars was a plum jam. As you can see, I wasn't planning to make huge batches--just enough for us and maybe a couple jars to give away.
After that, the strawberries were next up. But what's that green stuff in the pot?
Ah, that's minced jalapenos! I found a strawberry and jalapeno recipe online that sounded pretty good, and since I had a whole bag of jalapenos . . . well, yum! It's much like a mild pepper jelly but with a strawberry taste to it.
Finally, I finished off the day with a blackberry jam. As you can see, it was a fairly productive day, and I still have some strawberries and blackberries left for other treats. What about the peaches? I'll make peach jam another day. The peaches were so firm I know they'll last until I can get to them.
I'd like to get in the habit now of visiting the farmers' market every week or two. Once I'm more familiar with what's available, I'm sure I can cut down on my grocery store shopping and it will mean we'll probably be eating food that's better for us too, since it's certified organic and very fresh.
The one drawback? I haven't spent any time in the Sweat Shop this weekend! But I'm sure I won't be making and canning jam every weekend. And I think I just needed this weekend to catch up and recharge after the long jury trial anyway. Besides shopping and cooking, I finished reading one book and began another, I had my hair cut, I saw a movie (Moonrise Kingdom), and I cleaned house . . . a little. No sense overdoing it. Now it's bath and bed for me with a book, and back to work--and my normal routine--tomorrow.