ReLocavore: Redefining "local"

A locavore moves from Wisconsin to New Hampshire and rediscovers what "local" means.


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Science gizmos to the rescue! 


Sam and I made salsa tonight. 12 pints from 10 lbs tomatoes, 2 lbs tomatillos, 1 lb peppers, 1lb onions and spices.

Don’t know if you know this, but I got a digital pH meter for my birthday last year. Why would anyone want a digital pH meter? Here’s why…

Because they’re awesome when canning salsa. So useful. 

Some background… Nasty microbes like botulism can’t survive at high temperatures or in acidic foods. Canning kills off the microbes with heat and seals the jar so no more microbes can come in. The acid in the food keeps any remaining microbes from breeding. 

There’s two kinds of canning, waterbath canning which uses 220°F water to kill off any microbes in the jars and to seal the contents. The second method is pressure canning whereby I use pressure to raise the boiling point and kill off any super-nasty microbes. You choose the canning method based on two factors. First, if the product contains meat or seafood, you have to pressure can because meat isn’t acidic and nasty microbes thrive in meat. Second, if the pH of the food is above 4.6 (less acidic) you have to pressure can because there isn’t enough acidity to keep the nasty microbes in check. 

There are a number of foods that have pH levels at or around 4.6, most notably tomatoes. Ripe tomatoes have a higher pH, are less acidic. With tomato products, it’s always been a guessing game as to whether I can water bath or pressure can. 

Salsa does terribly in pressure canning because the extra high temps turn the tomatoes into mush. In previous years, when I have made salsa, I have always needed to add 2 cups of lemon juice to ensure that the pH of the salsa is low enough to water bath can. 

Not any more. 
This year, I was able to use the digital pH meter and record the baseline acidity of the salsa- 4.7, just above the threshold for waterbath canning. But instead of adding two whole cups of lemon juice to ensure the pH dropped considerably, I instead was able to add lemon juice a little bit at a time and recheck the pH. The final pH of the salsa was 4.38, well with in the safe zone for waterbath canning. 

Science! And tasty salsa. 


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Blueberry haul 2016

I headed to Noda Farm to pick blueberries. The bushes were laden with fruit and picking was easy. Noda Farm is a lovely place to pick berries because their bushes are large and well kept. Picking is easy because you don’t have to crouch down and the large bushes provide shade.  I was able to pick 8.5 lbs of berries in about 45 minutes. I would love to share pictures with you, but my phone was dead. 

Back home, the blueberries went into some blueberry jam (9 half-pints), and into a recipe for Blueberry Boy Bait from Cooks Illustrated. I also froze a bunch for pancakes and smoothies this winter. 

Blueberries and maple syrup are two New England food trends that I can really get behind. 


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Dog Mountain Financiers


We spent the afternoon at the Dog Mountain Summer Party. There were 50+ dogs, and ripe blackberries all over the mountain. 

Some background, Dog Mountain is the former home of Stephen Huneck, an artist that did woodblock prints and sculptures with dog themes. His black Labrador retriever, Sally, featured prominently in his work. He bought land in St Johnsbury Vermont, built studios and a home. He built a dog chapel and designated the land as an off leash dog park. Dog Mountain is pretty darn awesome. 

We took the dogs for a long walk around the mountain and found hundreds of blackberry bushes with beautiful, plump, ripe berries. What is a locavore to do? Pick berries into any available container and make blackberry financiers!


(Blackberries in the dog’s collapsible water bowl.)

Blackberry Financiers (they’re rich!)

7 tablespoon unsalted butter

1¾ cup sliced blanched almonds

½ cup granulated sugar 

½ cup powdered sugar

5 tablespoon flour

⅛ teaspoon salt

4 large egg whites

½ teaspoon almond extract

6 ounce blackberries (or raspberries or blueberries

1. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven
to 400 degrees. Butter a 12 cup muffin tin. (I use mini muffins instead.)

2.
In a skillet, heat the butter until it begins to sizzle. Continue to cook  over low heat until the edges begin to darken and the butter gives off a  nutty aroma. Remove from the heat. 

3.
In a food processor, grind the almonds with the granulated and
powdered sugars, the flour and salt. While the processor is running, gradually pour in the egg whites and add the almond extract. Stop the  machine, and add the warm butter, pulsing as you pour until the batter  is just mixed.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the buttered muffin cups and poke 3
or 4 berries into each cake. Bake for 18 minutes, (14 minutes for mini muffins) until puffy and deep
golden brown. Let stand a few minutes then remove them from the
pan and cool on a rack.