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3 Ways to Get in a Pickle, and More Pickling Tips

Jul 2, 2017 | 2 Comments

Sarah Voiland and Steve Munn canning pickles. Having a pickling party can make time fly by! Be sure to swap recipes, too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of pickling! Whether you’re a vinegary veteran or just learning about pickling, we hope this page has some new and interesting information for you. We include a couple basic pickling tips, a breakdown of 3 different types of pickling – from canned pickles to refrigerator quickles to lactofermented foods – plus a few recipes, and resources.

Order in Bulk for Preserving

If you’re planning on pickling in large batches, you can place a Bulk Order with the farm. Please place your order by 12 pm two days before your preferred pickup date. Check our bulk order page for new kinds of produce available as the season progresses!

 

Basics of Pickling

–Always use the freshest quality produce possible.

–Do not use any produce that is discolored or rotting. Pare down to the good parts only.

–Sanitize your equipment and jars as required by each recipe, and maintain a clean workspace.

–Recipes and ratios are important. Never alter the vinegar/salt/water/produce ratio of a pickling recipe for canning. This is what keeps the pickle preserved, and a weaker brine could result in harmful bacteria growth. Only use canning recipes for canning, as Quickles recipes will likely not be strong enough. Salt to vegetable ratio is key for ferments, so make sure you attend to your salt when lacto-fermenting.

–Pickle new things! Bet you never thought about pickling snap peas, rhubarb, peaches, mustard greens, or garlic scapes, did you? Don’t forget about foraged wild foods too– ramps and fiddleheads in spring make popular pickles as well.

Here’s a rundown on some basic pickling facts and a few recipes from Colorado State University.

A Couple Good Tips:

Trim the Ends
The blossom end of a cucumber contains enzymes that will make your pickles less crunchy, so cut 1/8 inch off that end. It usually has a teeny brown spot, and the other end has the stem. If you don’t know which end it is, do both ends 🙂 True for all three types of pickles!

Save the Brine
You can save the brine from favorite vinegar pickles (yours or store bought), boil it, and pour it hot over more vegetables to make quickles with very similar flavors. Store in the fridge. This can make one feel like a kitchen wizard.

Use the Picklers
A word on types of cucumbers.
While you can pickle any type of cuke, pickling cucumbers (aka kirby) are built for it. They have thinner skin that is more permeable to flavor and smaller fruit size for fitting into jars. They also strike me as a little less juicy, which is good for retaining structure. Slicing or salad cucumbers are okay for pickling, but better for salads and such. Also of note, some grocery store cucumbers may be sealed in a little wax, so it is better to get yours at a farmers market or to ask and make sure you are not getting waxed fruit at the grocers.

What to Pickle

Garlic scapes make a lovely, spicy pickle! Though when packing they always want to e-scape the jar.

Cucumbers, carrots, beets, green beans, garlic scapes, radishes, sweet or hot peppers, snap or snow peas, summer squash, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, green tomatoes, mustard greens, shallots, daikon, melon, onion, okra, apples, peaches, rhubarb, basil, and more!

Pickling flavor combinations:

While you can’t alter the ratios of vinegar/salt/water/produce in canned pickles, you can alter the spicing of pickles to be what you like!

For dill flavor on any produce, cukes, green beans or other: Dill, white vinegar (for vinegar recipes), salt, garlic, peppercorns. Add celery seed and mustard seed for more flavors. Dill seed can be used in the winter season when fresh dill is unavailable.

For spiced sweet pickles: Cider vinegar (for vinegar recipes), sugar, salt, mustard seed, celery seed, turmeric. Add ground cloves, peppercorns, cayenne for more flavors.

Add kick to any pickles with crushed red peppers, cayenne powder, or a whole fresh hot pepper or so in the jar. Whole peppers make your jars good-looking too.

More spice ideas to play with: cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, coriander, fennel seeds, whole cloves, allspice, anise, curry powder, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, ginger, fresh oregano, thyme, savory, tarragon, basil. You get the notion 🙂

 

3 Ways to Pickle….

1. Quickles or Refrigerator Pickles

Quickles made with red radish and kohlrabi. You can see the pickling spices there on top!

Quick pickles don’t need to be canned– you just mix them up and put them in the refrigerator. They are good in the fridge for a week or a few months, depending on the recipe. These are a great way to start making pickles. While some people say to wait x long in their recipes, you can always start tasting them right away and know that the flavors will keep developing.

Upsides to quickles:

  • They are very quick and easy.
  • You don’t need to be as concerned with your brine recipe–while you should always be careful in preparing your recipes and using the correct amounts of salt and vinegar to preserve the product, refrigeration will help keep quickles preserved.
  • Because you can make them in small batches, quickles can be a good way to test out different flavor combinations before undertaking a larger canning project.

Downsides to quickles:

  • They take up valuable fridge space.
  • They won’t last nearly as long as a well-canned pickle.

Try some of these Recipes:

Dill Quickles from Red Fire Farm

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas from Smitten Kitchen

Easy Japanese Pickled Cucumbers from The Kitchn

You can also use any canned pickle recipe you find for quickle making, and just put it in the fridge instead of canning it.

 

2. Canning Pickles

Bread & Butter Pickles, canned. These things take any sandwich to the next level.

At least one summer day spent over a hot, humid stove is a small sacrifice to make for a stocked pantry of homemade preserves and pickles. Be on the lookout for recipes that only make small batches or single jars, of which there are many in The Pickled Pantry book listed below. This way, it will be a lot easier to whip up a patch of pickles when you don’t have much time, want to try a new recipe, or are working with a limited amount of produce.

On the other hand, I like to plan big days of pickling to get things dirty once and come out with a lot of pickles for eating and presents. If you are doing this method, here are some steps to plan your day:

  1. Set a date in the season of the produce you want to preserve, invite friends if you like
  2. Choose your recipes and figure out where you will get your ingredients ahead of time, aiming to get your produce as fresh as possible
  3. Inventory your equipment and jars a week beforehand so you can get more of anything
  4. Set up your kitchen the night before, imagine where you will put things, and plan for an easy lunch the next day
  5. Start early on your designated day, because I can’t count the numbers of times I took longer than I thought 🙂

If you are new to canning, I recommend finding a friend who has done it before, or a local group, to can with, as the process has many little steps, and it will just be more fun to learn in person than by reading a book. That said this Complete Guide to Home Canning by the USDA is a pretty good resource for learning, as are the books in the section below.

Make sure you use a recipe designed for canning, as getting the right vinegar/salt/produce/water ratio is key for safe preservation. Also make sure to use vinegar that has a measured acidity of 5% labeled on the bottle, as that is the acidity expected for canning recipes.

Recipes to Try:

Classic bread and butter sweet pickles from Red Fire Farm

Fiddlehead Pickles from the University of Maine

Basic Pickled Jalapeno Peppers from Food in Jars

Here’s another great resource for canning recipes and methods: The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

3. Lacto-fermented Pickles

Lacto-fermenting cucumbers with garlic scapes and a couple wild harvested grape leaves to help keep them crunchy. You can see my methods here for keeping the cukes under the brine :)… Another canning jar full of water on top and a plastic bag twist-tied over all to limit air flow.

These are easy and really good for you. Fermentation preserves foods without cooking out the beneficial enzymes and probiotics. When you boil your jars in canning, that’s just a simple way of pasteurizing the contents. However, as you boil away potentially harmful bacteria, you also lose some of the really helpful microbes that your body needs to function and digest.

You can create a context for those beneficial bacteria to thrive, one that is also safe to eat. Thats how lactofermentation works. By submerging vegetables in a salty brine, you create anaerobic conditions that make wonderful, flavorful foods!

For more information on the health benefits of fermented foods, check out this page from Greenfield’s own Real Pickles. And there is new news that fermented foods may help reduce anxiety, which is lovely.

How to make them:

Wash and prep your vegetables to whatever size you like for eating. Weigh them out, and then weigh out salt at 2.5% of your vegetable weight. So for 1 lb of vegetables you would weigh out .025 lb of salt. Massage the vegetables with salt and pack into a very clean non-metal food-safe container, like a quart glass ball jar. Mash down with a weight of some kind, cover to prevent flies or dirt getting in (the less airflow the better), and let sit a few hours to bring out juices. If juices do not submerge the vegetables, add a little water until vegetables are fully submerged. This liquid is called brine. Let sit covered and weighted in a cool spot out of the sun for 3 weeks or so checking every couple days to skim mold off the top of the brine. You can taste them as they go and stop the ferment at any time you like it by putting it in the fridge. Read more details in the recipes and books below.

I have also had good success making a brine of about 2-3 Tbs salt per quart of water, mixing the 2 Tbs into some water and pouring that over cut vegetables in a quart jar, filling to cover the vegetables. This method is less exact. Half-gallon ball jars are pretty great containers for doing a batch for my family of four. In summer, lean towards more salt in the brine, especially for cucumber pickles.

Basic Tips:

  • Use only sea salts or kosher salts that do not contain iodine or caking agents that could mess with your bacteria.
  • Use non-chlorinated water.
  • Keep vegetables submerged in brine at all times.
  • You can ferment pretty much all produce and combining is fun, as is adding various spices and herbs.
  • Add a few grape leaves, oak leaves, or horseradish leaves to your cucumber ferments to provide some tannins to help keep them crunchy.

Fun with your Brine:

Use your leftover brine, after eating your ferments, in mixed drinks and other food. Probiotic dirty martinis anybody 😉 Also great for adding to salad dressings, and anywhere else you can think of.

Fermenting Recipes:

Daikon Ginger Pickle from Red Fire Farm

Homemade Sauerkraut from Nourishing Kitchen

Fermented Sour Pickles from Wild Fermentation

Fermented Nettle Kimchi from The Fermentista’s Kitchen

Books We Like

Consider supporting your local book store if you purchase these titles! Most allow you to pre-order for pickup.

The Pickled Pantry: from Apples to Zucchini, 150 Recipes for Pickles, Relishes, Chutneys & More by Andrea Chesman

Asian Pickles: Sweet, Sour, Salty, Cured, and Fermented Preserves by Karen Solomon

Put ‘Em Up! A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Wild Fermentation: the Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz

Fermented Vegetables: Creative Recipes for Fermenting 64 Vegetables & Herbs in Krauts, Kimchis, Brined Pickles, Chutneys, Relishes, and Pastes by Kirsten and Christopher Shockey

 

It can get rather silly in the kitchen.

Happy pickling! We’d love to see photos of your final products and swap recipes: send them to recipes@redfirefarm.com, or share on our farm Facebook or Instagram.

You can get ingredients for preserves by ordering in Bulk from the farm. We update our bulk order page frequently to reflect what’s seasonal and available. Or visit our farmers’ markets and produce stands for daily selections of organic produce. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you around the farm!

Beets

Beets

Mar 25, 2016 | No Comments

Basics

Early season beets come bunched with greens. Later season beets come just as a root. We have three different varieties of beets: classic deep red beets, gold beets with a rich yellow interior, and pink-skinned Chioggia beets with pink and white candy-stripe circles inside.

Chioggia beets are an heirloom variety from an Italian town of that name. Beets and Swiss chard are in the same plant family.

Cooking Tips

You can eat the beet greens and stems from all the varieties, and there are delicious dishes that incorporate your whole beet plant.

Try sauteing beets, and then greens with garlic and onion,  and mix it all together with fresh goat cheese over pasta.

Roasted beets, just tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper are great – really brings out the sweetness.

Cooked beets make tasty cold salads with a little vinegar and onions.

Try them juiced raw (mixed with some other veggies or fruit) or grated raw on salads for beautiful color.

Wintertime Pickles, Jams and Preserves

Dec 7, 2015 | No Comments

Many of us think of the height of summer as prime time for canning, but there are plenty of savory and seasonal goodies to put up during the colder months. Root vegetables like turnips and beets are plentiful, as are alliums like onions, garlic, and shallots. These recipes are wonderful to have on hand for quick and flavorful meals, holiday entertaining, or as presents for foodie friends. Most recipes are easily adaptable for either a few jars to put in the fridge or a bevy of small gift jars to hand out.

To find ingredients for these recipes in the winter months, you can visit us at our various Winter Farmers’ Markets, join our Deep Winter CSA, or order winter produce in bulk for discounts.

Note: Please read each recipe thoroughly– some are meant only for refrigeration and are unsafe for canning and long-term storage. The National Center for Home Preservation Resources has some great tips for food safety when making holiday gifts.

Pickles

Before you start, check out this guide for the lowdown on pickles and fermentation, and here’s a very adaptable recipe for pickling spice.

Beets

Canning Pickled Beets

Pickled Beets with Honey

Radishes 

Japanese Pickled Daikon (Tsukemono)– In Japanese cuisine, pickles are considered a palate cleanser between dishes.

Sweet Pickled Daikon

Indian Daikon Pickle (Mooli Ka Achaar)

Vietnamese Daikon and Carrot (Do Chua)– This quick traditional pickle is a staple of banh mi sandwiches.

Multi-Colored Carrot and Radish Pickle– Instead of the green radish in this recipe, try it with white daikon or colorful watermelon radishes.

Pickled Watermelon Radish– You can adjust the spiciness of watermelon radishes depending on how thick you slice them. This would also be good with black radishes, which are typically the spiciest of winter radishes.

Carrots and Parsnips

Simple Pickled Carrots

Bloody Mary Carrot– A real pick-me-up!

Picante Pickled Carrots

Parsley and Parsnips– Parsnips and parsley are in the same Umbelliferae family, so they may go better together than you think!

Parsnips and Carrot Pickles with Chile

Kohlrabi

Shredded Kohlrabi Pickle– This one is fascinating! Almost like coleslaw, nice and crunchy.

Curry Maple Pickled Kohlrabi

Turnips and Rutabagas

Lebanese Pickled Turnips (Kabees El Lift)– Tinted pink with beets.

Cabbage and Turnip Turshi with Curry

Pickled Turnip with Kombu (Senmai-zuke)– Super thin slices of turnip layered with kombu seaweed.

Smokey Pickled Rutabaga– With cumin seeds, cayenne, and smoked paprika.

Pickled Rutabaga Strips

Alliums

Pickled Ginger– More than just a sidekick for sushi!

Sweet and Sour Pickled Red Onions– Inspired by the classic bread and butter pickle.

Pickled Onions with Tarragon and Allspice

Pickled Garlic– Great for chopping up and finishing off veggie dishes. The spiciness of raw garlic is tamed by vinegar, so the flavor shouldn’t be too strong to eat on its own.

Winter Squash

Pickled Butternut with Sage and Cardamom

Middle Eastern Spiced Butternut Pickle– With lemon, coriander, cinnamon, rosemary, and cloves.

Butternut Squash Two Ways– With garlic and peppercorns or brown sugar and apple juice.

Lacto-Fermented Squash– Probiotic and delicious.

Krauts and Kimchi 

Mirepoix Kraut– This kraut uses the classic French base of carrot, onion, and celery along with herbs like thyme, sage, and bay leaves. Try replacing the celery with celeriac root for a similar flavor but totally seasonal.

Small-Batch Sauerkraut– For when one jar is just enough.

Watermelon Radish and Bok Choi Kimchi

Savory Jams

These delicious spreads are wonderful with crackers, on a cheese plate, as a topping for burgers or sandwiches, with potato dishes, or in tarts.

Onion Apple Ale Relish

Onion Marmalade– With black mustard seeds, ginger, and coriander.

Three Onion Jam Recipes– Onion & Rosemary Confiturra, Balsamic Onion Jam, and Sweet Onion Jam.

Balsamic Onion and Roasted Garlic Jam– You really can’t go wrong when you combine these classic flavors.

Caramelized Shallot Jam– Shallots have a delicious delicate flavor with a hint of garlic.

Caramelized Shallots– With rosemary and balsamic vinegar.

Roasted Garlic Jelly– With pectin or without? You decide.

 

Sweets 

Apple-Ginger Jam

Carrot Cake Jam– Surprising and fun! Would be delicious on crumpets or muffins.

Ginger-Spiced Pickled Pears– A nice twist on a popular holiday fruit.

Sweet Potato Butter– With apples. Perfect for slathering on toast!

Four Farmers’ Favorites for Thanksgiving

Nov 8, 2015 | One Comment

We have so much to be grateful for this year at Red Fire Farm! We had a successful summer season and we’re making a smooth transition into the colder months. Each season brings more reasons to get excited about bringing fresh veggies into the kitchen: leeks, shallots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, Brussels sprouts… so many possibilities to serve at the table! A few of our staff have shared their time-tested recipes that they love to eat during the fall. It’s more than likely that these delicious dishes will wind up on their Thanksgiving menu!

Find our produce at Winter Farmers’ Markets, at the Granby Farm Stand (which is open through the day before Thanksgiving!), in our Fall and Winter CSAs, and as Bulk Orders on our website.

Megan Randall, Harvest Manager

Maple-Browned Brussels Sprouts

Megan loves these skillet-browned Brussels sprouts, which she makes for Thanksgiving when she’s cooking a big meal with friends and family. This year she wants to try adding shallots to this recipe

View the original recipe at Outpost Natural Foods.

Ingredients

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, rinsed, cut into quarters, and patted dry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 ounces butter, cut into 4 pieces

4 tablespoons dark maple syrup

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

salt to taste

Directions

1. Heat large skillet over medium high heat. Add vegetable oil. When oil begins to ripple, carefully add Brussels sprouts (oil my splatter). Brown undisturbed for 1-2 minutes.  Shake pan to turn sprouts, and then turn heat down to medium.

2. Add butter and shake pan while butter foams. When butter is entirely melted, add maple syrup and mustard. Toss or stir gently to coat.

3. Continue to cook Brussels sprouts until they are tender but still firm, about 10 minutes. Remove the sprouts from the pan and reserve sauce.

4. Add cider vinegar and salt.  Cook the sauce for 1-2 minutes more, until the sauce thickens, and then pour over Brussels sprouts. Best served immediately.

 

Andy Skiff, Tractor Operator and Delivery Driver

Mashed Squash and Sweet Potatoes

Andy loves this simple side dish as a complement to everything else that goes on the table during the fall season.

Ingredients

2 sweet potatoes

1 medium butternut squash

2 TB brown sugar

3 TB butter

a pinch of salt

Directions

1. Bake squash and sweet potatoes in their skins until easily poked with a fork. Let cool slightly and then scoop out insides.

2. Mash with butter, brown sugar, and salt. Yum!

 

Brekton Drougas, Packing Barn Assistant

Curried Carrots

Brekton is a carrot enthusiast who recommends a dish that his family makes every year during the fall. He says it’s great with some broccoli added, too!

Ingredients

half a yellow onion

1 TB butter

four large carrots

1 TB brown sugar

1 tsp curry powder

1/4 c. water

salt to taste

Directions

1. Dice onion and saute in butter, curry powder, and sugar in a large pan.

2. While onions are cooking, slice carrots into rounds. When onions are translucent, add 1/4 c. water and carrots. Cover to cook.

3. Saute until carrots are flavorful and tender.

 

Emmett Wald, Wholesale Assistant

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

What could be more divine than roasted garlic combined with rich and creamy mashed potatoes? Emmett is looking forward to serving up a big batch of these potatoes for their “Friendsgiving” celebration later in November.

Here are some great tips for roasting garlic, using whole heads or cloves. Make mashed potatoes according to your usual recipe and mash in a few cloves with your butter and milk. Some of the best potato varieties that we grow for mashing include Purple Viking, Yellow Haze, Yukon Gem, Satina, Nicola, and Salem.

See more seasonal recipes on the blog.

We hope everyone has a delicious holiday filled with fresh and tasty New England vegetables!

 

In Blog

The Winter Squash Guide – Tips, Tricks and Types

Oct 11, 2015 | 2 Comments

With so many varieties of Winter Squash in abundance at this time of year, it can be hard to decide which one to take home. It is very worth getting off the beaten path of the most commonly known Butternut and Acorn Squashes to try the delicious Delicata, Kabocha, and many other types we grow. Savory or sweet, squash is very versatile for fall and winter cooking needs, and winter squash hot out of the oven is one of the best comfort foods to warm up with. This guide will provide tips and tricks for picking the right squash for your recipe.

If you are not sure what your favorite kinds are yet, we recommend having a tasting with your friends. Choose a selection of winter squash to taste. Then you can halve them, put cut-side-down on a baking sheet, and bake at 375 until soft to the tines of a fork. Spooning the seeds out after they bake is very easy. Then cut each person a piece of each type and talk about it over dinner. Dress simply with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper so the flavors of each are easy to taste. We do this many times each fall and it is good clean fun.

Read on for…

  • How to Store Winter Squash
  • Variety Descriptions with Photos
  • Recipes to Try – click the links in the descriptions!

You can find our seasonal selection of Winter Squash at our farmers’ markets and produce stands in the fall and into winter, and through Bulk Order online too for good deals for parties and stocking up for winter.

Quality Control and Storage Tips

It’s ok for your squash to be bumpy! Minor surface blemishes won’t affect the quality of the squash. Squash can get scrapes and such when growing which heal over. Squash with soft spots, holes, or fresh/unhealed gouges should be eaten right away and not stored – just cut away any soft spots and use the rest. If you have ordered in bulk and are keeping a bunch of squash, it helps to check them periodically for the start of any soft spots, and to use those squash then if you find them.

Winter Squash, a tropical crop with origins in Mesoamerica, doesn’t like cold, despite its wintery name. It stores best at about 55 degrees. Below 50 degrees will cause chilling damage and reduce its storage life, so warmer than 55 is better if that is all you have. The old stories say that farmers stored their butternuts under their beds, as farmhouse bedrooms stayed pretty cool, right around 55 degrees. You can likely find a creative spot in your household where they will be happy.

Don’t scrub your squash until right before use as that could scrape the surface and introduce germs to spoil the squash more quickly. Do wash them just before cooking to get off any dirt, and especially if you are going to eat the skins (which are all edible).

Preparing Squash and Pumpkins – Tricks for your treats

A few tricks can make preparing Winter Squash much easier!

  • Use a large chef’s knife, not a serrated knife or one that is too small. You can knock the stem off with a few whacks with the dull side of your knife.
  • If you want to peel for a recipe, do it with either a knife or vegetable peeler, depending on the shape of the squash, thickness of skin, and how well you are able to grip it.
  • If the squash has a rounded bottom that won’t sit straight on your cutting board, trim off the stem end or slice in half once so that it rests flat first before peeling or chopping.
  • If the squash is too dense to cut through, bake it for 10 minutes at 375 or microwave briefly to let if soften before trying to cut it again.
  • Don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting!
  • If you need the baked flesh for a recipe, baking it and scooping it out of the skins when soft is easier than peeling and chopping when raw.
  • You can de-seed squash after baking a little faster than when raw, so just slice in half and bake with the seeds inside, then scoop them out.

Butternut

This popular winter squash type was originally developed in Massachusetts in the 1940’s! From a cross between the giant flavorful Hubbard squash and the Gooseneck squash, came what is now known as Butternut, raised by a chap named Charles Leggett in Stow, Massachusetts.

It is delicious roasted, in soups, mashed, in lasagna… the possibilities are endless. Put the halves face down in a baking pan with half an inch of water, or cut all the flesh into inch-size cubes and toss with olive oil and herbs. Blend the best of fall with this creamy Apple and Butternut Bisque, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, or Golden Autumn Soup. This is an excellent storage squash – typically the longest lasting of all of our squashes.

The Oh She Glows Butternut Mac ‘n Cheeze is excellent too. I don’t see the need for peeling the squash in this recipe though, just bake in the skin and scoop out the flesh after for an easier life.

Delicata

Oblong, with pale yellow skin and green stripes, Delicata is a delicious early winter squash. It doesn’t store as long as other heartier varieties, so eat this one while you can! Its thin skin is edible– simply slice the whole squash in half, de-seed, and then slice the halves into half-moons. Roast, saute or steam and dress with salt, pepper, and herbs and you’ll be surprised at how flavorful Delicata is. Delicata is fun to roast because it makes such a great little boat and the skins hold everything together. Try it stuffed with goat cheese, walnuts, and rice.

Kabocha

Also known as Japanese pumpkin, this variety is sweet and starchy with very thick flesh that can get almost flaky when baked. The rind is edible, although it gets a bit tough when baked. It is popular in soups, tempura, and sometimes desserts. Try making pumpkin pie with it! We grow two varieties: traditional kabocha is dark green, while sunshine kabocha is a bright orange. The flesh is similar to Buttercup but a little more dry (which is why it holds up so well when fried).

Spaghetti Squash

This oblong, sunny yellow squash seems like a miracle among vegetables. By slicing it open raw, you wouldn’t know that its texture when cooked will completely change into delicious, noodle-y strands. After baking, simply run your fork horizontally across the squash’s interior flesh and it will split into the “spaghetti” that it’s named after.

Try it with fresh tomato sauce while tomatoes last! Or use them like rice vermicelli and try this Pad Thai recipe.

Acorn

Acorn squash are especially fun to stuff because of their size and edible skin. Their nutty flavor pairs well with quinoa or other hearty grains, and their creamy texture mixes well in a quesadilla. For an especially sweet treat, bake with butter and maple syrup. Also a great pie squash! Try baking stuffed with chopped apples, cinnamon and a little butter and honey or maple syrup.

 Buttercup

This squat, dark green squash with a little cap on the blossom end has thick, creamy orange insides. The texture of the flesh, when cooked, is melty without much of the soft fibers or strings you find in other squash types. You can use it in the same ways as the Kabochas, which are very similar.

Pie Pumpkin

These are culinary pumpkins that have been selected and developed for the best taste for cooking uses. Making pumpkin pie from scratch is well worth the reward! Roasted and pureed with cinnamon, cloves, and cream, this doesn’t taste like anything out of a can. For a savory alternative, try Afghan Sweet Pumpkin Kadu  with spices and garlic yogurt sauce!

Sweet Dumpling

Another great squash for roasting, stuffing, or soups. These are little with golden flesh, and are perfectly sized to make pretty single servings of baked and stuffed halves of squash. Their striations and cuteness make them great for decorating too – with the perk that you can eat them later.

Honeynut Squash

Honeynut look like mini butternuts. They have a similar texture but higher sugar content, perfect for dessert! Try adding a Honeynut to a mixed squash soup or baked into a pie along with pie pumpkins or acorn squash. Or dare to serve it baked hot and topped with a bit of vanilla or maple ice cream…

Jack ‘o’ lantern

Big and bright, jack o’ lantern pumpkins are the ones you want to carve and display. Be sure to save the large seeds for toasting! They’re the perfect snack to accompany an afternoon of pumpkin fun.

Jack ‘o’ lantern pumpkin flesh is watery – these guys are bred for size, not flavor. It is edible, but not very tasty.

Decorative Gourds and Pumpkins

Although not recommended for eating, decorative gourds can add great color to a fall or winter landscape. Use them to dress your table, peek off of window ledges, on the front stoop, in door wreaths, and other displays. Kids love to paint them and put on googly eyes!

A Couple More Recipes

These are with Butternut, but you can use any other squash too.

Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree

Hearty Autumn Stew

And lest baking should be forgotten, as you can make all kinds of baked goods with winter squash puree, here is a recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls. And then some pie…

Please let us know  at recipes@redfirefarm.com if you have questions or favorite ways that you like to cook them that others might appreciate trying.

Highlights from Tomato Festival 2015

Aug 30, 2015 | No Comments

Weisnicht’s Ukranian, the variety that won 1st place in the state for best heirloom this year, from Red Fire! Let’s see what won in our tasting at the farm…

 

 

Here we have some reports from the 15th Annual Tomato Festival for you, including recipes, best tasting tomatoes from the great Tomato Tasting, and our top finishers from the race. It was a lovely sunny day with many joys to be had with all of our visitors!

Tomato Recipes: Sides, Salads, Soups, and More   (Bulk Order Tomatoes Here)

Tomato Tasting Results from the Festival: The votes are in…

Tomato Trot Race Results: Top Contestants by Age Category

 

Read on for more…

We just wrapped on Tomato Festival 2015. Thank you to all who came out – we had just about 2,000 guests! Though the fest has passed, we are still swimming in tomatoes – it’s the peak of the season! Our farmstands and markets now have tons of heirloom, red, cherry, and paste types for you to try. And you can also order heirlooms, slicers and pastes in bulk for preserving.

What happened at the Festival? Check out the photo album.

Our wooden crates were bursting with seasonal goodies! Hot peppers, peaches, eggplant, summer squash, and so many other types of organic produce was at the Festival.

Tomato Recipes for the Peak Season

Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite tomato recipes. Do you have a recipe you’d like to share? Email recipes@redfirefarm.com to tell us your favorite ways to celebrate the tomato.

Sarah Voiland giving a demonstration on how to preserve tomatoes, farmer-style. See for the recipe below.

 

Mary Nelen, the Valley Locavore, showed her audience how to fry green tomatoes in cornmeal and roast little cherry tomatoes.

Recipes for Preserving Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Tomato Sauce Farmer-Style – the recipe Sarah Voiland did for the Tomato Canning Demo at the fest.
Canned Plum Tomatoes

We have half bushels of heirlooms, reds, or paste tomatoes that you can order for pickup in the Boston area and around Western MA at our farmstands, markets and CSA pickups. Everyone is welcome to order.

Fun Recipes for Fresh Tomatoes

Roasted Tomato Basil Salad Dressing
Fresh Tomato-Corn Salsa
Tomato Basil Salad  
Panzanella: Tomato and Bread Salad 
Dekal’s Tomato Bean Soup
Gazpacho
Husk Cherry and Cherry Tomato Salsa
Ratatouille Outside the Box
Garlic and Herb Ratatouille

And what we’ve been waiting for….

The Famous Tomato Tasting  ~ Results 2015

Green Zebra tomatoes are this year’s overall winner!

 

There they were – the many many varieties of tomatoes, ready to taste.

If you came to the tasting at the Tomato Festival, you received stickers to assign to your favorite tomatoes in any way you like. As the tasting goes along you can see which ones are working it by the collection of stickers on their card.

It is hard to taste all the varieties laid out there anyway, so the outcome is skewed by which tomatoes people choose to taste more. And I would say the tasting also favors those tomatoes with fresh eating qualities, as opposed to cooking or saucing qualities.

The votes are in…The public has spoken!

Overall Top 20 in Heirloom and Cherry Varieties – Type, Variety Name, Total Votes

Heirloom Green Zebra 42
Heirloom Mexico 39
Heirloom Chef’s Choice 29
Heirloom Brandywine 29
Heirloom Ispolin 29
Heirloom Pink Beauty 25
Heirloom Janet’s Jewel 23
Heirloom Orlov Yellow Giant 23
Heirloom Gary Ibsen’s Gold 23
Heirloom Juanne Flamme 22
Cherry Sungold 16
Cherry Black Cherry 15
Cherry Rosita 14
Cherry Sunlemon 12
Cherry Pink Princess Gene Pool 7
Cherry Mt. Magic 7
Cherry Jasper 5
Cherry Jelly Bean 5
Cherry Sweet Treats 4
Cherry Blush 4

Thanks very much to our tomato chopping volunteers and staff who spent hours slicing and dicing all of these samples for us to try.

Tomato Trot 5K Race Results

Into the finish! Patrick Homyack, last year’s third place winner, placed first just seconds before Joanna Johnson, who won first place in 2014.

And they’re off!

Top Results for Ages 1-12:

Aidan Messier (#60), first place male

McKenna Childs (#56), first place female

 

Top Results for Ages 13-19:

Orion Cable (#16), first place male

bib #73 – whose name we are missing :), first place female

 

Top Results for Ages 20-59, Women’s Category:

Joanna Johnson (#23), first place in this category and overall

Biliana Mihaylora (#31), second place in this category and overall

Christine Leonard (#26), third place in this category and overall

Julia Merton (#40), fourth place

 

Top Results for Ages 20-59, Men’s Category:

Patrick Homyack (#93), first place in this category and overall

John McCarthy (#109), second place in this category and overall

Erick Line (#24), third place in this category and overall

Jared Buckley (#25), fourth place

 

Top Results for Ages 60+:

David LeFrancois (#14), first place male

Peggy Kocoras (#17), first place female

View more photos of the Tomato Trot on Facebook.

Congratulations to all runners for a great race!

 

 

Thanks to all of our crew for making this huge event run smoothly!

Thanks to all for a great festival! It will happen again next year, round the same time, when the tomatoes start to weigh heavy and ripe on the vines.

Stay tuned for more recipes, stories, coupons and events from the farm with our e-news – you can sign up here.

~ Sarah Voiland

 

8 Ways to Enjoy Fresh Herbs

Jul 20, 2015 | No Comments

Garlic, onion, and parsley.. this looks like the start of something delicious! Read on for a green sauce recipe.

Out in the fields and in our gardens we have an amazing local resource of flavor that can elevate snacks and meals to a whole ‘nother level! Culinary herbs are so fun to use and they open up worlds of new combinations of tastes. Come read on and learn eight different ways to enjoy and make use of them.

If you have a CSA farm share with us, we have plenty of herbs in the Pick Your Own Patch that you can harvest for your personal use, fresh cooking and drying or other preserves. We also stock these fresh herbs at our farmers’ markets and produce stands to pick up along with your produce. Get a bunch and use some fresh, then dry the rest for winter!

Beyond the pleasures of cooking, many of the classic culinary herbs also have medicinal uses that you can explore more and incorporate into your cooking for health benefit.

Herbed Butters, Oils & Spreads

Herb butters, also called compound butters, are a deliciously easy way to preserve fresh herbs as well as quickly add flavor to whichever dish you’re making. The basics of herb butter involve combining softened butter with a small handful of finely chopped herbs as well as some salt and pepper. When thoroughly mixed, scoop out onto waxed paper and tie up the ends, or pack the butter into a lidded container. It should last for about a week in the fridge, or several times longer when well-wrapped in the freezer.

Use on hot bread or biscuits, steamed veggies, scrambled eggs, or grilled meats and fish. Virtually any herb can be used to make a compound butter, with popular recipes including rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, chives or dill.

I still remember the first time I went to an Italian restaurant that served hot bread with an herbed olive oil. Dipping fresh bread into a tasty flavored oil was so fun and just perfect for when you are waiting for a meal. If you can rip the bread, even more fun in my experience. This is very easy to make at home, and works well with both fresh chopped or dried herbs. Combine your desired herbs with about as much oil as you think you will eat up for that meal in a pretty little bowl that makes room to reach your bread in. If you have leftovers you can cook with it later. I use about a quarter cup of oil and a tablespoon of fresh herbs or quite a bit less if dried herbs. One combination I like is basil, garlic, oregano and hot pepper flakes. Sprinkle a little coarse salt in there and mix that in too to help pull out the flavor when you eat it. Make your oil as the first step of making dinner so it has time to infuse. Chopping the herbs small and crushing dried ones a little in your hand before adding will help release the flavors.

A quick herbed spread can be perfect party food with veggies, or a simple dinner when paired with good bread and a hearty green salad. Try this creamy spinach and herb dip shared by CSA member Amy Eichorn. Thank you Amy! She recommends refrigerating overnight so that the flavors can mix, and then serving on toasted, crusty bread.

Green garlic is the young garlic plant. You can use it like a scallion all the way up to the green tops. The white part is most tender raw. Green better for cooking. Use it anywhere you want garlic flavor.

Creamy Spinach and Garlic Spread

8 oz cream cheese softened

Splash milk

1 Tbsp butter

1 green garlic shoot chopped (or 2-3 cloves of garlic)

6 – 8 oz spinach chopped (or Swiss Chard without the ribs)

In sauté pan, place last 3 ingredients and over low heat, soften until garlic is cooked and spinach is wilted. Add all ingredients together and mix well. Chill overnight in the refrigerator to let flavors combine, if you have time.

From CSA member Amy Eichorn, 2015.

 

Sauces with Herbs

Make sauces ahead of time and keep in the fridge or freezer for ease in cooking later on. If making a stovetop sauce, add herbs a minute or two before serving– delicate herbs like basil and dill are at their most aromatic when just warmed.

I like to listen to podcasts, and I often play the weekly episode from NPR’s Splendid Table while cooking dinner. (As well as America’s Test Kitchen, which is made in Massachusetts!) I heard a few recipe tips for a fresh herb sauces while listening, and they are very adaptable to other herbs too.

Fresh Oregano Sauce from an episode of Splendid Table is wonderful for lamb, eggplant, sliced tomato salad, and more! Pulse these ingredients in a food processor until well mixed and chopped: a bunch worth of oregano leaves, a little bit of capers, a couple cloves garlic, some lemon zest, a good bit of olive oil, and salt to taste.

Green Herb Sauce from the South of France
This is also from that Splendid Table episode, though I have been making a variation on this for a while. Take capers, fresh mint, parsley, oregano, basil, a little garlic, olive oil, almonds (opt), anchovies (opt), and pulse in a food processor until chopped and mixed. Salt and more olive oil, to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon juice right before serving. Use this on roasted potatoes, grilled vegetables, anywhere.

I like to make that sauce in the mortar and pestle with the garlic and salt in there first, then adding the capers, then chopping the herbs up small and putting them in, with olive oil last. Being as I love parsley I often do it with just parsley. I also sometimes put in some chopped onion or shallot, which is especially nice if it sat in some red or white wine vinegar for a few minutes.

Fresh Dill Cream Sauce
That there Splendid Table just tossed out a bunch of fun ideas in a matter of seconds and I have yet to try this one. Chop up your fresh dill fronds, mix with some dijon mustard add a bit of heavy cream to get to a sauce consistency, add a little chopped shallot or onion. This sounds like it would be awesome on anything from the grill.

Try this recipe too for Cilantro Peanut Sauce:

This green herb sauce was made using what’s on hand– we advocate for flexible recipes that use what’s seasonal and available.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey (or other sweetener)
3 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs cider or rice vinegar (or other light vinegar)
2 tbs lemon or lime juice
2-4 tbs olive oil
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 tbs sesame oil (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional) – or green garlic
1 tbs minced fresh ginger (optional, or a little ginger powder)
a little of your favorite spicing agent (cayenne powder, chili flakes)

    Mix everything together. You can mix it in a pouring container or the container you’ll store leftovers in later. Add a little water to get desired consistency. Salt to taste.

Also try Scallion-Cilantro Chutney or Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde.

 

Salad Dressings  

Winter Savory is an excellent seasoning for beans. Try it in a bean salad with sweet onions and green pepper.

A simple vinaigrette can do wonders to a salad of greens, grains, or pasta. The best part is that just about any herb can find a home in a salad dressing! Whether you’ve got fennel or oregano, there’s a blend of oil and vinegar that will match the flavors of your herbs.

The classic rule of thumb for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid (lemon juice or vinegar), but this all depends on taste. Adding fresh herbs, shallots, garlic, strawberries, or extra citrus zest will change the balance of your dressing, so be sure to sample often.

Here is a tasty Fresh Dill Dressing: take the fronds from a bunch of dill and puree with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 3-4 cloves of garlic, and salt to taste.

Try any of these four seasonal dressings: Herb Vinaigrette, Rosemary Vinaigrette, Strawberry Vinaigrette, or Creamy Roasted Tomato Dressing.

 

Marinades 

Here are some of our fresh herbs at the Montague farm stand!

Whether for vegetables or meat, a marinade can add subtle flavors to enhance the dish. Acids in the marinade will help break down and tenderize your ingredients, and oil prevents drying out during cooking time as well as gets seasonings to stick.

Try a basic marinade with equal part oil and vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, a few minced cloves of garlic, and a heaping handful of minced rosemary, thyme, and parsley.

For eggplant and summer squash, we love to add soy sauce, olive oil, the spice blend garam masala, garlic, cilantro and parsley to marinades before cooking. Maybe some cayenne pepper flakes for heat.

It’s not quite a marinade, but adding sprigs of rosemary under the skin of chicken before roasting is phenomenal.

Try Lemon Herb TofuGrilled Chive Chicken, or Cilantro Lime Marinade.

 

Pesto

Pestos are probably the first thing that come to mind when thinking about what to do with a fresh bunch of basil, but have you ever tried making pestos with other types of herbs? In addition to mixing up the type of nuts (walnuts, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, cashews) or cheese that you might use, different herbs and greens can bring a variety of flavors and colors to your pestos.

For example, using one part minced rosemary to three parts parsley in a pesto will result in a bright green, robust flavor with just the right amount of rosemary. Add parsley to your basil pesto to keep it green, or mix with radish tops for a spicier take on a traditional sweet basil pesto. Even blending hearty greens like kale with a handful of herbs can make a simple smooth pesto.

 

Classic Basil Pesto:

Basil growing in the field.

 

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1 cup parsley sprigs

1/3  cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese

1/3  cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put it all in a food processor and blend until you like the consistency. Sometimes it is nice to stop before everything is completely pureed to get little chunks of texture and flavor.

If you love pesto and like to have it often, you can freeze pesto for the winter. During July and as long as the Basil season lasts we offer basil in bulk orders from the farm.

Pesto is very forgiving and can easily be vegan. I must admit that I never buy pine nuts any more because they are so expensive. I have found that sunflower seeds and cashews make great pesto, and I usually don’t add cheese either. Enough olive oil, garlic and salt make it so good. Sometimes a touch of lemon juice is really good too. It is a great place to use up pretty much any type of green you have from spinach to kale to arugula to garlic chives to mustard greens.

Also try Green Garlic Pesto in season. Not sure what else to do with a fridge overflowing with pesto of all kinds? The Kitchn has tips for creatively using pesto in a variety of dishes.

Teas

Fennel fronds make a delicious tea that’s soothing for indigestion.

Herbal teas can be a great way to warm up on a chilly day, as a natural supplement to your diet, or for medicinal purposes. Drying your own herbs is the best way to save seasonal flavors for later on in the year. A typical ratio for brewing tea is 1 teaspoon of herbs per 6 ounces of water, but this is dependent on the freshness of the herbs and how strong you’d like to brew it.

I am very fond of thyme tea on cooler summer mornings and all fall and winter. For this tea, put a good sprig of thyme (one with 4 or so little branches on it) per mug of tea into water and then boil for a few minutes. The taste is warm and aromatic. You can add honey if you like. Word on the street is that thyme has immune boosting properties and is great to help out right as you start to feel sick. Though I enjoy it at any time.

Mint and Fennel Tea

Chamomile Tea

 

Cocktails with Herb Simple Syrups and More

Flowering thyme can be processed in a liqueur.

Farm to Table drinks can be a fun way to enjoy fresh produce with a variety of delicious combinations. A simple syrup is an effective way to flavor beverages: mix equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, along with your herb of choice, until the sugar dissolves. If you don’t want want any particulates in the syrup, bundle the herbs with food-safe twine or place herbs in a linen re-usable teabag.

Blueberry Basil Infused Vodka

Flowering Thyme Liqueur

Sage Brush Cocktail

Five Cocktails with Basil

 

Preserving Herbs

Having access to fresh herbs year-round can be a challenge, and buying bunches of herbs when they’re in season will ensure that you get the highest quality product at peak flavor. Drying or freezing your own herbs is easy and rewarding! For more information, read our blog post on Drying Herbs.

You can save them to enjoy all year-round! Another great way to save herbs is to chop them up, mix with olive oil, pack them in ice cube trays, and freeze. Once frozen take them out of the cube tray and put into freezer storage bags to store in the freezer. Then they are ready to pop into the pan to start flavoring anything when the snow is on the ground.

 

Do you have any favorite recipes that feature herbs or good ideas for using them? Let us know in the comments or at recipes@redfirefarm.com. Enjoy the season of fresh herbs!

In Blog

Meet Your Farmers: Haley and Aina

Jul 6, 2015 | No Comments

We’ve got quite the crew here at Red Fire Farm: at peak season there are between 60-100 people in total working at our Granby and Montague locations on any given day.

We’ve created this ongoing series of Meet the Farmer posts as a way to share a little bit about some of our crew who help sow, grow, and harvest the food that goes out to our farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and CSA sites around Massachusetts. These folks do a great job and are keeping local farming alive!

Haley Norris

Crew Leader

Haley does some heavy lifting around the farm. This time of year we are putting away the protective row covers that kept bugs like flea beetles from devouring new brassica transplants this spring.

On the Farm:
Haley first started farming eight years ago in New Hampshire, and has now worked at Red Fire Farm for three seasons. She is currently a crew leader, which means that she manages a small group of crew members as they all harvest produce, control weeds, and make sure that fields are in good condition.

Here’s one of her favorite times on the farm:
“I just remembered my favorite farm memory! We were picking beets in the Mitchell field and some neighboring corn farmers who were all Hispanic and barely speaking English started whistling and tossing us corn. The Somali women got so excited that they ran over with a bunch of beets and we all traded. It was a really beautiful moment to see so much culture in one spot all together because of farming.”

Favorite Vegetable:
Her favorite vegetable to harvest and to eat is eggplant. Their shiny purple color brightens up the harvest. Haley likes to eat it roasted it with tomatoes, Turkish style.

Try these other recipes when they come in season for Thai Eggplant Stir Fry, Ginger Garlic Eggplant, or Garlic and Herb Ratatouille.

Off the Farm:
When she’s not out in the fields, Haley enjoys a well-deserved rest and a cold craft beer. Since she’s from eastern New Hampshire, she’s likely as not to be drinking Smuttynose Finestkind IPA.

Aina Sullivan

Field Crew

This is Aina’s first season on the farm.

On the Farm:
Aina started farming because of her experience WWOOFing in Iceland last year. She also wants to homestead her own land one day.

As a field crew member in Montague, most of her day is spent harvesting produce, loading crates, weeding, hoeing, and performing crop-specific tasks like staking tomato plants.

Vegetable Favorites:
Her favorite vegetable is asparagus, which she likes to eat baked in the oven.

Off the Farm:
Aina also goes to massage school and makes art in her spare time.

 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned to hear from more folks about their time on and off the farm.