The expression “life is a bowl of cherries” translates to life is wonderful or things are going very well. For the sake of simplicity, let’s change this slightly to “life is a bowl of peaches” so I have something to write about this week and can experience first hand how truly wonderful this new block editor is supposed to be.
This months recipe is a peach galette. Galette (from the Norman word gale, meaning “flat cake”) is a term used in French cuisine to designate various types of flat round or free-form crusty cakes, with a combination of sweet or savory fillings. A fruit galette is a French tart made with one flat piece of pastry that is wrapped around a fruit filling. Being free-form it’s easier than pie and for those of us not adept at making rich flaky pastry, a store bought pie shell is perfectly acceptable. The aim is to make it look rustic, like something you would serve under the shade of a tree in Provence.
As my favorite vendor is no longer at the Farmer’s Market, I made the trip to their farm to pick up a box of peaches for making jam. I’d ordered ahead and specified over-ripe seconds as I had already sanitized the jars in the dishwasher that morning. As in years past, the seconds were a bargain at $10 for a big box of peaches.
Except….I’d already paid for them and the clerk had put them in the trunk of the car before I realized they were small, cold and nowhere near being ripe. Where were their usual big juicy peaches? I might have gone back in to inquire but the storefront was crowded and there was absolutely no attempt at social distancing. (How much effort would it take to mark the floor with tape and only let so many people inside, especially with the higher COVID numbers in some of these agri-food areas?) So I grumbled and left and five days later they were starting to spoil and get soft and spotty on the outside while the insides were still not quite ripe, but cut up they were, and two batches of freezer jam produced, with extra sugar to make up for the lack of juicy peachy flavor. It hasn’t exactly been a stellar year for most fruit here, with everything behind due to the cold late spring and snow in May.
After making the jam I still had 24 peaches left so a small peach crisp was created and then some peach trifle, both with good results and more sugar (but no pictures as I forgot before they were consumed), and then the “piece de resistance”, the famous French galette, and there were still a few left over for eating. It was the box that kept on giving…..even if it wasn’t a vintage year.
Now the head chef (moi) was not above borrowing a recipe from another source, said source being the Lifestyle section of the local paper, so here’s the recipe.
The filling called for 5 peaches cut in half, pit removed and sliced, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tbsp flour, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and ground ginger. I doubled the sugar but it still could have used more. I left out the ginger as it had expired in the last decade. I made this at my mother’s and her spice rack is suspect and her oven temperamental, but she enjoyed peeling the peaches as it reminded her of life on the farm and canning every summer.
The Tenderflake deep dish pie crust I bought, did not look any too deep to me, as by the time the fruit was piled in the middle,
there was not much pastry left for crimping the border.
The pastry is folded over the fruit, aiming as I mentioned, for the rustic, not too perfect look.
The finished product was not pretty, the filling having bled a bit around the edges, and gotten rather burnt in spots while trying to brown the pastry, having to be scraped off by a kitchen knife before any photo-ops ensued. Plus the lighting in her kitchen is not good at all, not flattering to anyone, least of all a French galette. It did however taste better with some French vanilla ice cream.
It was by no means a Michelin five star job, but the best I can say is I tried and the end result was certainly rustic. Maybe next time with apples? The same can be said for the block editor. It’s certainly doable – but do I want to do it? I think I’d rather stay with the classic.
(This is the first post I’ve drafted in block and I seem to be using a hybrid of block and classic, with things popping out at me and the draft itself shifting from right to left to center for no discernible reason. If it was closer to Halloween I’d swear it was haunted.)
I was looking at my big fat beefsteak tomatoes the other day and it struck me how very green they were, so I thought I would do a photo essay of summer ending – by color. Color my world – just like we used to back in grade school, with the big 64 pack of Crayolas. I just happened to have a box with my craft supplies in the basement and they have the same waxy smell I remember.
The Crayola company first began selling crayons in 1903 and since then they have made over 200 distinctive colors. (Wikipedia link) Although many of the original colors are still around, I believe they are a bit more inventive with the names now, so I’ve decided to help them out, (see brackets).
The very green tomatoes. (Lean Green Tomato Machine, because what tomato plant isn’t this time of year)
The purple clematis is blooming. (Purple Rain, as in the Rock Star Formally Known as Prince).
The neighbors yellow Black-Eyed Susans nodding hello over the fence, (so very Mellow-Yellow).
The orange tones of fresh summer fruit – melons, nectarines and peaches. (Fruit Salad Palette)
Ripening tomatoes. (Red Hot Salsa)
The Last of the Pinks. This Dipladenia was the best plant I bought this summer, water and drought resistant (we had both) and no deadheading. It’s still hanging in there as if it was in the tropics, which it felt like some days. (Caribbean Dream Pink).
The first bouquet of fall flowers – yellow and green and pink.
White for the clouds of late summer, towering and cumulus, but looking fall-like. (Cumulus Cloud White)
Blue for the water and sky and sailboats. (The original Sky Blue can’t be beat).
And beige for the sand and the last trip to the beach. (Sandblaster Beige)
Let’s say goodbye to the last (Psychedelic Sunset) over the lake.
The first signs of fall are already here – the sound of crickets at night, sometimes on the hearth – the first drift of wood smoke in the air – the maple tree with it’s leaves dipped in paint – that first chilly morning when you have to reach for your chenille housecoat and it’s not because of the A/C – and that dreadful/wonderful/your pick pumpkin spice which saturates the season!
Class dismissed – put the crayons away and go outside and play while the sun is still high in the sky! (Sky High Blue-Green)
PS. Red for the apple for the teacher and for the harvest coming in at the farmer’s market. Speaking of farmer’s markets, I’ll be doing a restaurant review soon on a locally sourced Harvestfest Dinner (link) – so get your forks ready to join me. I hear there will be pie – as in (Very Cherry Red)!
After the Harvest – An Update on the Potager plus what to do with a twelve pack of snakes.
I had high hopes for The Potager back in June, but there may have been a reason my dad planted his garden in the corn field where it could sprawl among the rows of corn. Sprawl is the key word here. My potager was a testament to good soil, it was so prolific, but then it was a hot humid summer with lots of rain, ideal conditions for a rain forest.
Where are the monkeys?
It rained every weekend, and during the week, every few days in fact. This made the mosquitoes plentiful, and some new species of tiny black bug called no-see-ums appeared and left bites which itched for days. I had never seen a no-see-um before, but they left a lasting legacy of scratch marks. I gave up and refused to go out. Luckily, I did not have to water as Mother Nature did it for me, even as she left us bereft of any beach days.
The romaine lettuce was bountiful, and after the first crop, I replanted and it was bountiful too.
Three cucumbers sprouted from the small-garden plant, just the right amount for a Greek salad, with some tomatoes if only I could find them, and when I did find them, many had split from too much rain.
The tomatoes threatened to strangle everything so in early August I gave it a haircut. By mid-Sept it had grown back, requiring a regular trim every 4 to 6 weeks.
I untangled the sole squash, mistakenly uprooting it’s lifeline, and leaving the fruit to wither on the vine. Not deterred, it re-blossomed, producing a final harvest of five smallish orbs.
I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the multi-colored carrots, and so were the bunnies. We were both disappointed.
While the tops were luxurious, the carrots were sparse, spindly and white, (and maybe useful for the Simply White Dinner). They say you reap what you sow, except I planted three seed potatoes, and got two.
In mid-October (no frost yet, leaves barely changing), I dug up the rest of the russet gems. Not bad for a first crop, but hardly enough to get me through the winter like my Irish ancestors.
Luckily the orange carrots were plentiful, if somewhat deformed from being crammed into too small a space. The bunnies were delighted, as God is my witness, they would never go hungry again. (Scarlet O’Hara – Gone with the Wind). Due to the intricate web of netting I set up, the birds didn’t get as many of the strawberries, but then neither did I – it was too much of a hassle to open and re-close all those wires to pick one or two berries. While reading about another bloggers garden adventures, she recommended rubber snakes be set among the strawberry plants and moved every few days in order to fool the birds. Thank god she told me Walmart sells them online, because I don’t know where you would buy a twelve pack of snakes, and also thank god, those birds aren’t too bright. I’ll keep that in mind for next year, or maybe I’ll just freeze some of the carrots. I also wish I had put spacing and gravel around my boxes like Empty Nest Adventures did, for easier access.
Next years orange snakes?
After the Harvest is a time to reflect on lessons learned….next year plant less, no matter how much you may anticipate the early specimens being carried off by nighttime woodland creatures.
Plant one of everything, one squash, one cucumber, if it’s something you don’t want to breed like rabbits or possibly two like Noah and the Ark, two tomatoes, two potatoes, but no zucchini – ever.
Or just buy more boxes……the New England Arbor charity sale is coming up…..
After the Harvest
PS. There is nothing so wonderful as a golden field of wheat being harvested, or so awful as After the Harvest when you would have to bale all that straw into small bales, with a baler which was forever breaking down, and then load them into the hayloft, a process which was hot and dusty and took hours. Now every time I pass a field with those really big bales that are scooped up by a front end loader, I wonder, why didn’t someone think of that sooner?
If you have ever dreamed of packing in city life and moving to the country then this book is for you. Canadian author, Brent Preston turned fantasy into reality in this account of starting an organic vegetable farm and ten years of trial and error and back breaking labor before finally achieving a profitable outcome.
A must read manual for city dwellers and lovers of the organic food movement about a family who chose to leave the rat race and follow their dream of running a profitable organic vegetable farm. Dust off those fantaseeds and learn the gritty reality of where your food comes from.
Although he might have started out with a simple plan in mind, by the end of the ten years he had mechanized his operations, hired agricultural co-op students for summer labor, perfected a delivery service and marketing campaign, and ended up specializing in just three crops, one of which was lettuce. One of the things he did initially was to participate in the local farmer’s market every Saturday morning, but after a few years of this he packed it in. If you think about it, never a weekend off for you or your kids, up at 4 am to load up the truck and then later in the day unloading the unsold produce. Plus, while he said while he enjoyed the social aspect with the regular customers and the other vendors, there just wasn’t enough profit in it to continue. Better to cater to the fancy restaurants who would pay premium for anything fresh and organic.
There is no doubt we are what we eat and organic food is in – food in it’s natural state. Ask a person who has been lucky enough to live to be over ninety and chances are they grew up on a farm. So farmers markets are booming because organic food is so popular, but are the farmers doing well? I grew up on a farm, 100 acres, so I know how hard it is to make a living on one and how much work is involved. We had a dairy farm with Holsteins when I was a child and my dad had a small herd, three milking machines and a cream contract. He got up at 4:30 am every day to milk the cows, then he would come in, shave and have breakfast (bacon and eggs and perked coffee), as we were getting up for school, by 7:30 he would have left for his other job, home at 4:30, early supper, then milk the cows again, and he would be in bed by ten or falling asleep while reading the paper. On the weekends there were all the other chores to do. Even back then you couldn’t quite make a living on a farm without a second job, and with a growing family, he finally switched to beef cattle instead and cash cropped corn, soybeans and wheat, and while that was a lot of work too, we were finally able to take a family vacation without being tied to the milking schedule. Now farming is big business, a thousand acres or bust. There was an article in the local paper recently about the International Plowing Match which listed a combine as worth $500,000, and a tractor with GPS the same. My dad’s first tractor in 1948 cost $1000 and had a side seat upon which we kids would ride – heaven forbid, no one would let kids do that now. My elderly grandfather who died in 1951, was against the new-fangled modern machinery, as they had to sell his beloved Clydesdale horses in order to buy it. The last tractor my dad bought came equipped with air conditioning and a few years after he died, they had CD players, now they are steering themselves. While farming may be mostly mechanized now, organic vegetable farming is still labor intensive, especially during the harvest. It’s not a job many people want to do, and often the farmers must hire seasonal workers from Mexico or Jamaica to help out.
September is the best time of year to visit a farmer’s market as it is bursting with the last of the summer produce and the early fall harvest. While the peaches and berries may be almost done, the plums, pears, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, new potatoes and onions are coming in.
Our local market is open Wednesdays in the summer and Saturdays year round. Even in the winter, the inside of the old building is full of root vegetables and cheese and butcher shops, but in the nice weather the outside stalls see the most action. They really need more space, but it’s been in the same place for eighty plus years and you don’t mess with tradition. Located in an older residential part of town, there is one small parking lot and you have to drive round and round waiting for someone else to leave. With about 50 spaces for 200 people it’s kind of like musical chairs for grownups. Luckily, no one lingers long. While you can get a pour over coffee with freshly roasted beans, there is no cafe to sit in or cooked food available. We don’t see a lot of homeless people here but one day a woman with her cart piled high with all her worldly possessions asked me for some money, and with my hands full I shook my head no, but then after putting my produce in the car, I went to find her, and gave her ten dollars, which I suspected might go to drugs but who knows? A friend of mine keeps Tim Horton’s coffee shop gift cards to hand out for this reason, but there is something so very sad about begging in front of a place with so much plenty.
Even in the winter I will visit about once a month, because there is still cheese, and apples and oranges to buy, but I’ve often wondered why they open at 6 am. All the vendors are yawning by noon, or closing up early as they have been up since four loading their trucks. Wouldn’t 8-2 be more civilized hours? If they are supplying restaurants do they need to buy that early? If I don’t get there by 11:30 (or I’m still playing musical chairs), I may miss my favorite cheese stall or they might be out of Gouda.
The cheese wars can be fierce. There are two cheese vendors, right across from each other, and the Battle of The Gouda got so bad last year, they both decided not to post their prices. They will glare across the aisle if they think you have abandoned camp, but if they have run out, what is the alternative? My grandmother was Dutch, so I grew up on Gouda, the mild form, not the spicy seeded variety she bought from The European Shop.
The market cheese is better than at the grocery store and they will give you a sample if you are undecided. Even if you know you will like it, a sample will often tied you over if you got up early and missed breakfast. Buying cheese at the market is also much cheaper than in the grocery store so I usually stock up on aged cheddar as well as the Gouda. The one cheese vendor has recently retired and been bought out by the egg lady beside them, who I don’t think has gotten the hang of the weigh scale yet as she is very generous with her pounds, or kgs. I don’t buy eggs from her though as I can’t stomach those brown eggs with the bright yellow yolks. It reminds me of the eggs growing up on the farm, but I know free range chickens are all the rage and I am sure they are full of omega-3’s.
I like to look at the flowers, the glads are out now, but I seldom buy as I have lots of flowers at home.
I have my own semi-successful potager, so I don’t feel the need to buy tomatoes, cucumbers or lettuce, but one whiff of the dill brings back memories of my mother canning dill pickles. You can get a free bunch of dill with every large purchase.
The early apples are starting to come in, which will soon mean spies and pies. I can smell the cinnamon now.
My favorite time of year is when the summer fruits are available, the strawberries and peaches. You can get a bushel of overripe fruit for ten dollars and make a whole batch of jam for what you might pay for two jars. There is a jam vendor also, for when you run out, who also sells homemade fruit pies. So definitely there is a cost savings, and the food is so much fresher and better tasting, not to mention not loaded with tons of preservatives and artificial ingredients.
Not everything is better at the market though. Sadly, it is home to the world’s worst bakery which sells the most tasteless bread ever baked, not to mention tarts with uncooked dough and a scant quarter inch of fruit filling. The next time I walk pass, the owner asks if I want something so I venture a tactful complaint – I figure if no one tells him he can’t fix it. He tells me he hired a new baker so I bought butter tarts this time. Same thing. I gave up. There must be an art to making play-doh like that? Butter tarts are a national institution in Canada but I have a fine recipe inherited from my mother. We have much better bakeries in town but I suppose once a vendor has tenure in the building, it’s for life, and so many people don’t know what good pastry tastes like. But the bread – there’s simply no excuse. Bread is the staff of life, but so is good nutritious food. If you ate today, thank a farmer!