Stuff and Nonsense


Gresczyk Farms' 2019 CSA

Every Friday in the summer I stop at the Southington Farmers Market and pick up my CSA partial share from Gresczyk Farms. Sometimes I take a leisurely stroll around the market, stopping for empanadas or roasted garlic three-grain bread or even more vegetables, but usually I'm tired out and just grab my share and run. It's a pity, because the Southington Farmers Market is really a nice little market with a good variety of eats and other products. There's usually music of some kind and everyone is just so friendly.

And you're thinking "That's all well and good, but what the heck is a CSA?" CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and the idea is that a farm can sell shares of its anticipated crops to people within the local community. Those people, in turn, receive a weekly box of what the farm grows in exchange for advance payment (and, in some cases, a set amount of volunteer hours on the farm). Some farms include items like jam, pickles, bread, meat, cheese, eggs, wine, etc in their shares. Gresczyk Farms offers eggs -- my partial share provides me with a half dozen most weeks and I don't expect to buy any eggs for the rest of the summer.

Most CSAs offer early bird subscriber discounts and I subscribed to Gresczyk Farms CSA program back in January at a 5% discount. This is my second year with Gresczyk Farms and I imagine I'll stick with them next year. The farm offers a flexible pick-up schedule, allows me to skip weeks or reschedule my pickup day without penalty, and (this is important) allows me to swap parts of my share if there's something I don't want that week. Last week, for example, I was offered cilantro, but as I didn't have any immediate plans for cilantro that weekend, I swapped it for the price equivalent in beets. I also receive an email from the farm every Thursday night with a detailed list of what my partial share will contain and suggestions for using those items which certainly helps when it comes to menu planning.

If you want to try find a CSA near you, LocalHarvest maintains a great index!


#WordlessWednesday: Coreopsis

Happy yellow Tickseed (Coreopsis) blooming in the afternoon shade.


Homemade Raspberry Jam

Buoyed by my success making strawberry jam, I turned my hand to raspberry. I followed the recipe for reduced sugar berry jam (raspberry or blackberry) in the booklet that came with my Ball freshTECH Automatic Home Canning System. According to Ball, the recipes included with the canning system were specifically formulated for it and should be foolproof. I'm new enough to canning that I'm happy to stick to official recipes and not experiment.

The only difference I could see between the traditional and low-sugar recipe was that the low-sugar recipe only used three cups of sugar, while the traditional used five. The amounts of berries and pectin were exactly the same. They both included the option of using a half teaspoon of butter, which I took because folkloric Internet wisdom told me it would stop the jam from foaming. While the jam did not foam, I am not sure that had anything to do with the addition of butter and will simply have to make more jams to test the butter's efficacy.

I don't mean this post to be an ad for the freshTECH canning system, but I do love mine a lot. Having grown up with stove top hot water canning, I like how little energy and effort the canning system requires. The house doesn't heat up or become muggy, I don't worry that things are not at the right temperature, or not at the right temperature long enough, and it uses much less water than the stove top canner. Most importantly: Every. Single. Jar. Sealed.

But, hey, if you're already using a big enamel stove top hot water canner and are comfortable with that method, then stick to it. Especially if you like to preserve large batches. The freshTECH can process three quart jars, four pint jars, or six half pints, which is fine for a small household, but I know some of us like to put up jams by the dozen. Mom, certainly, would not have wasted her time on such small batches.

(Also, the $299 list price is ridiculous. I was lucky enough to buy mine last autumn on clearance BJ's Wholesale Club for around $80. For an $80 appliance, it is an excellent value. If you're interested in buying one, I'd recommend using a price tracker and holding out until you find one priced around $100 or less).

The reduced-sugar raspberry jam is completely yum. Just sweet enough, boldly raspberry, nicely thickened but not gloppy. Pretty damn fine for my first raspberry jam. I've been spooning it into plain Greek yoghurt and granola for a simple, flavorful breakfast. It's also nice on a turkey sandwich with baby spinach, red onion, and spicy brown mustard. And, of course, there's always peanut butter and jam crackers.