Blue Heron Local Cuisine

Cooking, Eating, and Drinking on the North Shore (and beyond)

Pie! September 26, 2008

Filed under: Book Review,In Season — blueheronlocal @ 7:20 pm
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Wondering what to do with the twenty-five pounds of apples you just brought home from the orchard?


I heartily recommend the book: Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie by Ken Haedrich. It’s 600+ pages and worth it. Recipes for every kind of pie on earth and an encouraging and down-to-earth author to boot. He skips the pie snobbery and shows you how to make pie by hand, food processor, and electric mixer. With fresh or frozen fruit. A good investment!


[Ed. note: Put out by a local, independent publisher, too!]




Honeycrisp Apples and the Lost Cultivar September 24, 2008

Filed under: Agriculture,In Season — blueheronlocal @ 8:24 am
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If it weren’t for David Bedford, there would be no honeycrisp apples. The honeycrisp trees (then known as MN 1711) were tagged for removal at the University of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station’s Horticultural Research Center, when Bedford, head of the apple breeding program, noticed that these trees were in a terrible growing spot. He thought they would have promise in a better site, so he let them live. It was a good thing he did. The honeycrisp has become an exceedingly popular apple. It has the perfect apple texture and its flavor is subtle and sweet. The apple grows to large proportions and stores well. And the trees love the cold weather.


Creating new apple cultivars is a long process and many cultivars never make it to the stage where they get nice names like honeycrisp. It took the honeycrisp thirty years to be released as a cultivar after it was grown from a seedling at the U of M in 1961. There are many reasons for this: The trees need to grow big enough to produce significant fruit, they need to produce fruit consistently from year to year, they have to survive the harsh Minnesota winter [Ed. note: Take it from me, North Shore natives, the Minnesota winter is intense. The snow never melts and when the wind blows you can feel aching sinus cavities you weren’t even aware of.], and for this particular cultivar, the U of M was treading lightly. In the late 1970s they had three cultivars metaphorically crash and burn. The regent and honey gold didn’t survive the winter (see above) and the red baron mysteriously turned yellow and orange and stayed yellow and orange. Oops! However, the honeycrisp was a clear success.


Originally it was thought that the honeycrisp was a cross between the Macoun and honey gold; however, when the U of M folks tested its DNA, they realized that it was a cross between keepsake and another cultivar that did not survive the testing process. Apple fanatics everywhere must be wondering “What other apple varieties were grown and destroyed that I will never taste???” (That wouldn’t be me, of course.)


You can buy and pick honeycrisps at Russell Orchards in Ipswich.



(Thanks to Minnesota Harvest for the fascinating, detailed account of the growing and creating process.)


On Definitions September 22, 2008

Filed under: Agriculture,Ethical Eating — blueheronlocal @ 3:10 pm
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This may be my favorite semi-wordy definition of a sustainable food system.  
From the 2025 Vision Statement for Michigan Food and Farming
Sustainability as it applies to food means that societies pass on to future generations all the elements required to provide healthy food on a regular basis: healthy and diverse environments (soil, water, air, and habitats); healthy, diverse, and freely reproducing seeds, crops, and livestock; and the values, creativity, knowledge, skills, and local institutions that enable societies to adapt effectively to environmental and social changes.

Biodiversity, knowledge & skills, ecosystem health, strong communities, self-replication across generations, and the ability to adapt.  The inclusion of creativity is particularly rare—as our surrounding and systems change, we do need to be creative to maintain healthy systems.  Growers, cooks, bankers, lawyers, and politicians all need to be able to think within and also outside “the box” in order to adapt to new conditions.  My only complaint is that it does not explicitly include economic sustainability, although you could easily argue that the last section could include fairly valuing the work of those who work in our food system.




A Tale of Sausage and Fairy Tale Eggplants September 18, 2008

Filed under: In Season,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 2:02 pm
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So, you have fabulous artisan sausages from the farmer’s market – pork, portobello and asiago, or – our favorite at the Marblehead Farmer’s Market — lamb, red wine and feta sausage.

This is a special meat product – better sounding than scrapple (the Queen Mother of breakfast meats), a bit drier than pork sausages, juicy without being too greasy, and with the suggestion of feta cheese and wine.  And the little fuzzy sausage donors are raised in Vermont, where natural food was invented.

When I lived in Philly a decade ago, I used to go to fantastic markets and get really nice sausage; here’s a great way I learned to enhance the flavor and preserve the juices.  Sausage itself is a flavoring agent – the juices and even the glaze on a pan from browning them add vital meat essence to otherwise poisonously boring vegetarian sauces.

No Egret’s Beautiful Wine Sauce

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lb. sausage
1 cup decent Merlot or dry red wine (Spanish wines are really nice in this)
¼ cup (mixed) of fresh oregano, fresh basil, fresh rosemary
2 cloves of garlic
½  cup chopped heirloom tomatoes
½ cup chopped red peppers
8 oz. feta cheese or goat cheese
Your favorite Pasta

Lightly brown the sausage in the oil, and then add herbs and garlic (add more oil if necessary).  When it’s sizzling, deglaze with the wine and simmer for 10 minutes or so.  Then, add the feta (we used Israeli sheep’s milk feta from Trader Joe’s, because we forgot to buy local goat cheese from the goat cheese folks at the farmer’s market) and cut the heat.  Serve with raw tomatoes and peppers sprinkled overtop.  Serve with Pasta and fried fairytale eggplant.


Fried Fairytale Eggplant

 [Ed. note: Fairytale eggplant won the All-American Vegetable Selection in 2005. The last time an eggplant won that award was in 1939. You think I make these things up?]

Halve about 10 fairytale eggplant – the little light-purple ones – and coat in egg.  Roll in corn flour and fry until crisp and brown on each side.


-no egrets

(photos by Mike Martin)


They tried to kill us, but we survived! Let’s eat! September 12, 2008

Filed under: Ethical Eating — blueheronlocal @ 7:32 pm
(thanks, tinyfarmblog!)

(thanks, tinyfarmblog!)

I found this post on The Jew and the Carrot really interesting.
Here is (part of) what Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster writes:


This summer, knowing that drinking Diet Coke does not fit in well with the rest of my sustainable, environmentally friendly food values, I tried to do teshuva (repentance); I tried to give up Diet Coke….[Drinking Diet Coke is] only sustainable if what you are trying to sustain is corporate profits. And then there is the carbon footprint. As Grist wrote in response to the pleas of another environmentally tormented diet pop addict (apparently I am not alone), drinking several cans of soda a day for a year is equivalent to flying round-trip from New York to Cleveland.


What does it mean to do teshuva for the food we consume? Right now, we are in the Jewish month of Elul, the time of year when we are supposed to consider our actions, repent for what we have done, and make amends so that we can start over. The word teshuva means to return—to go back to the beginning to try again. The daily morning sound of the shofar this month is a constant reminder that each day we have a chance to change our lives just a little bit.


She speculates about what would happen if we regarded nonsustainable eating or drinking as a sin on the level of cheating or stealing. We would probably stop drinking carbonated sugar-water much more quickly than we would now in our collective addicted and consumerist states. However the flip side of making eating nonsustainably more of a sin is that we would feel a lot more guilty about what we consume. (more…)


Not Canning (easy, easy, easy jam) September 9, 2008

Filed under: Preserving the harvest,Recipe — blueheronlocal @ 4:15 pm
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(thanks,, for the photo!)

(thanks,, for the photo!)

We ran out of jam the other day, which constitutes a crisis in our household, as we are major consumers of the stuff. Being low on both funds and the energy to go out and buy jam, I decided to make some at home.


This is an easy way to make jam without canning. You can store it in the fridge for about a month in a closed container. It’s also a great way to use summer berries that you’ve frozen or just gathered. You will need:


4 cups of your favorite berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc., or a combination)
1 cup sugar
A few tsp of fresh lemon juice

Combine the berries and sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer over med-high heat. Turn down to medium and cook until the mixture thickens. This can take about an hour for fresh fruit, longer if you’re using frozen fruit. Stir in the lemon juice when done. Yum!


Canning! September 8, 2008

Filed under: Ethical Eating,Preserving the harvest — blueheronlocal @ 11:13 am
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Ping!  Ping!  Ping!  Every time I hear the exclamation of a fully sealed jar of pickles, preserves, or fruit, it fills a neglected corner of my heart with the classic warm and fuzzy feeling familiar to all people who gain a great deal of satisfaction from producing truly useful things.  The line of jars full of sweet-and-sour cauliflower, lemon pickled beans, spiced plums, and dill pickles will not only allow me to eat a bit of local food in February, but the mere act of producing them is pure rebellion. (Right, chant that over and over as I scrub the burnt plum syrup off the stove. It boiled over…)


In America today, consumption has become the king of all driving forces.  We are told to buy, buy, buy and then, oh, go buy some more.  Because the economy is failing.  Because it’s good for national security.  Because your three-year-old won’t stop screaming at the grocery store until you buy the box with the cute blue puppy on it.  Preserving your own food is one step toward short-circuiting the glorified gore of consumption.


You can flummox the marketers, minimize packaging waste, avoid (some of) the horrors of the modern grocery store, have instant solutions for what to take to the potluck, and have handy presents for sudden occasions requiring gifts.  Wedding gift?  Give them a jar of jam and the promise of a fruit tree or two come spring.   Birthday?  A jar of pickled beans, a bar of homemade soap, and a couple of jars of dried herbs.


Plus, joining the legions of Americans who have preserved food gives you a connection to the past and a mildly esoteric skill set that may be needed again someday.  Maintaining such skills is a vital and often neglected area of food culture. Like saving seeds (and field dressing a moose), saving culinary traditions can give us insights into the past and provide inspiration for new ways (and survival—your home-canned food plus a few cans of tuna can be your emergency stash).


For anyone who has limited freezer space, canning can be a good way of preserving local food for the dark and cold winter months.  The only real problem with canning is that many recipes that can be made without a pressure canner tend to be a bit high in salt, sugar, or both.  Decreasing the salt and/or sugar is generally not an option since the salt and sugar maintain an environment hostile to microbial growth.  Also, keep in mind that if you are using an old recipe, you should check a more modern source for processing times as guidelines have changed. 


Joining my shelves soon: crunchy Asian cabbage, pears, more plums, and maybe applesauce.