Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The beginning of inspirational winter eating....

I am absolutely inspired most days by my surroundings and what I can create with what we produce on the farm. Currently we do not sell our farm`s fresh eggs at market, but yet another project to look into. Making the time to basket my eggs and head to a grading station never seems to make it into my schedule!  I can have bragging rights though, as the following pictures are of my roosters, hens, my eggs and the most yellow yolks (just call them orange!) because of their healthy diet!
It was chaos around the farm this morning as I went into the barn before dawn to catch the new, free range birds to clip wings and put in the outside pen with the others.  Snow is coming, it`s better for them to get used to the coop area. Also, I seem to have a 5 month old German Shepherd with a taste for chicken! Fresh, organic, free range eggs in your diet is such a good thing! Your own meat birds are good too! And I can`t wait to sample the first of our own rabbit meat.  I never seem to get sick of eggs or meat but storage vegetables....man, I`m already sort of dreaming for spring!  I`m making a mission this winter to create different types of foods and share recipes (specifically within market newletters) to combat what can turn into 'boring storage crop winter eating'.  After long discussions with market customers and learning about different shows and chefs I have found one I am completely in love with:  Jamie Oliver and his show 'Jamie at Home'. Though I miss almost all the recipes on TV, I get them online and have to share one today. This is simple, nutritious, yummy, proper way to eat!  I love how his kitchen is simple and pretty tiny, he's got a very rustic garden and an even more rustic gardener that grows his ingredients for him.  He often takes the time to meet with and learn from the producers of the ingredients within his recipes, such as a hunter who caught his fresh rabbits.  I am very relieved to see so many cooking shows now inspiring women to feed their families properly!  Out with the processed boxed, convenience foods and in with lots of fresh veg and real food!  There is just no more time for excuses!  I love how it is becoming mainstream now...  This is very, very exciting...
I'm sharing a picture of our storage beets and carrots atop my great grandmothers cutting board.  These crops will definitely be available this winter at most markets.  Within his episode entitled: 'Winter Salads' I found this gem. Go ahead and try Jamie`s Roast Carrot and Avocado Salad with Orange and Lemon Dressing It is delicious, nutritious and sooo colourful! I'm also inspired at market each week.  I never leave Toronto without basic staples: Olive Oil, Real Good Cheeses, MUSHROOMS.......soo many kinds....
 Well, there is just too much good stuff at market.  Time for me to grab my camera and take it along with me for an 'inspirational market journey' and showcase some of my fellow vendors this winter.  I feed them, they feed me.  It's such a win-win for everyone!  Ali needs some bulk potatoes, she in turn gives me some Walnut Bread.....
Fresh Ginger and Garlic are also staples within my kitchen. Simply cooking pieces of ginger rendering it down into a simple spicy tea makes the house smell awesome and gives your taste buds a kick! It now also reminds me of my market friend Toshimi, who often drinks hot Ginger on cold Saturday mornings at market!  Garlic, oh I love you!  Here comes winter, here comes fresh garlic & cooked garlic a plenty!  Stay tuned for some great, great winter blogging and lots of recipes all tried and true!!  ; )





Sunday, November 14, 2010

Prepared Food Time!

Whew!  What a ride this year and it’s not letting up!  I know, I know everyone waits for a long time for the years first batch of perogies and one day I hope to keep them going year round.  It’s just impossible at this time due to time constraints with growing a ton of seasonal fresh veg! When we can afford to employ more field labour and grading/market staff I will be able to look into prepared foods year round.  Believe me, I’m working on it!  Don’t I say this every year? This week was the introduction of our Organic Sauerkraut.  Made from our own certified organic cabbage and certified organic onions and course salt,  it is the real deal.  We make huge batches and they are left to ferment in the hall kitchen for just shy of two weeks.  The kitchen is kept warm to aid in the fermentation process.  During this time each morning and evening it is essential to ‘check in’ with the kraut and clean off any foam and check brine levels.  I still have not mastered the ‘taste’ technique and leave it up to 85 year old kitchen manager Anne to ‘taste’ and let me know when it has ‘soured’ properly for packing.  We pack into tubs and the kraut is then frozen.  Frozen kraut does not kill the good stuff!  This is how my grandpa had his kraut - in a barrel, frozen out behind the house!  Chip off what you need!!  I may look into a non-pasteurizing jarring method for the future, but for now our customers are loving it this way!  The majority of Sauerkraut you find in the grocery store is No.1 made with conventional sprayed cabbage, No.2 pasteurized with wine or some other brine.  Ours is raw, non-pasteurized containing all the beneficial bacteria!  Loaded with minerals and nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C & Vitamin K!  It is a super, super food!

And we are changing the recipe for SAUERKRAUT! I did a trial run with UNREFINED SEA SALT!!  The ladies at the hall scowled at it.  It was mentioned that the unrefined salt 'looked dirty'.....LOLOLOL!  The old ladies obsessed with 'white'!  I've learned a lot about salt and how crappy regular table salt is!  The 'anti-caking' agent, iodine, bleached etc.  Did you know that the refining process removes all the good natural minerals contained in the salt?  Ah ha!  'They' just sell those minerals back to you in the form of supplements.  May as well buy 'real, dirty salt' to begin with!! The kraut fermented with the unrefined sea salt turned out excellent.  I need to use more salt in the recipe and the result is slightly more sweeter.  Rave reviews so far.  Next batch - ALL unrefined! 
So yesterday at market I found myself surrounded by a Romanian woman, a Polish woman, and a Jewish woman.  Sounds like the beginning of an awful stupid joke, but we were all discussing our heritage and our different ways to make borscht while they shopped for their vegetables at our table.  I love to cook and am constantly inspired by my customers and I know I have a hand in inspiring others as well!  All cannot wait for my perogies!  While many of them make them all by themselves, they like ours ‘once in a while’, as hell, anyone who makes these European foods knows the work involved!  So today while I do my bag labelling, work out the cost of production,  do this blog, cook a big roast (to feed my crew tomorrow and Tuesday) I can’t wait to find out what I am going to learn this week from my well seasoned crew of women!  Tomorrow is prep day.  Cooking and mashing the potatoes with the cheese, boiling the sauerkraut and mixing it with rendered down onions in butter.  The most savoury and luxurious flavour inside a dough pocket! Hands down my favourite and each year I convert more and more people who seem stuck on just potato cheddar!  Tuesday I will unlock the Ukrainian Hall kitchen and be re-mashing potatoes and cheddar by 6 am, then making the dough by 7am.  We’ll have unbleached white and whole wheat dough this year for both kinds.   I have labelled my bags this year with ‘ingredient integrity’.  We will be using our own farm grown certified organic produce as ingredients wherever possible.  Beyond that every other ingredient (other than the sea salt….working on getting unrefined sea salt for all my cooking very shortly) will be certified organic and locally produced, nothing from outside of Canada.  I’ve sourced excellent flour and Sunflower Oil (Canola is out!), along with organic FREE RANGE eggs! Dairy items including Butter used and the Old Cheddar Cheese  will be Organic Meadow and perhaps some ‘Harmony’ brands soon, as our organic neighbours now ship to Harmony, so I like the idea of perhaps having their milk within our products!  So then I start wondering how I can improve business.  Next step will be doing the actual paperwork and paying the fees associated with getting the product certified so I can sell to a couple stores.  I’ve got family ties with regards to working out proper nutritional labelling, so within the next few years the product line can move forward!  OMG, will I have enough time?  No time to worry now, head down, focus. For now, all we can manage is the farm markets!  Retail sales are the best for these time consuming homemade products.  I start thinking that I could get the women to begin an hour earlier to up production.  Ben insists that I cannot push the older ladies and that we can’t do more than we already do.  I think we can and am going to try.  THEN I am reminded of Ben Stiller’s nurse character from the Adam Sandler movie “Happy Gilmore”"My fingers hurt...." …… LOLOLOLOLOLOL, ok, I don’t want to mistreat my ladies! My youngest is 65, oldest 85.  We’ll be a crew of 12 on Tuesday.   Eight ‘pinchers’, one ‘roller’, one ‘cutter’, one ‘cooler’ and me, the lone ‘cook’! My mother in law, my grandmother, Polish friends & Ukrainian friends.  It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and ALWAYS a learning experience for me!  Just when I think I’ve got the recipes down pat, Anne lets me in on another secret.  So here we go again folks!  Potato/Cheddar Perogies, Buttery Onion & Sauerkraut Perogies, Raw Sauerkraut, Frozen Sweet Corn, Frozen Green Beans, Frozen Peppers, Vegetarian Cabbage Rolls, Beef Cabbage Rolls….I don’t even have to say ‘enjoy’!  I know you all do - as you drive me crazy about WHEN the food is coming! :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fall at Sosnicki's farm....

(PPSSSSSSSTTT: For a 68 picture tour of our farm during fall time, head to our public page on Facebook: SOSNICKI ORGANIC PRODUCE  ; )
Okay, so we've had a beautiful fall.  We are still playing catch up for last year's tomato disaster, but all in all, much better.  We are getting very good at holding our own.  I think it has to do with something called pride.  We've recently witnessed the horrible downfall of a neighboring farm and it made my heart sink.  To think, that could be us.  It is not easy making a living farming just 60 workable.  It seems expenses and even wages keep heading skyward, but no one seems to want to pay more for veg.  Ben and I will not pirate our produce either, meaning we know it's top notch quality, but will never charge $5 for a bunch of carrots.  So a lot of other ideas are in the works to amplify earnings here at the farm.  Changes implemented will take a 10 year plan to take effect and grow this farm into something spectacular!  There is a lot of love that goes into growing this stuff and well, just to run your own business and display such magnificent produce, hell, I feel like the richest woman in the world!  Ben and I both love what we do, and I think that makes all the difference in the world.

  
 The picture above was taken on the day Ben turned 40.  We were out by good ol' field 101, where Ben plowed up the old pasture.  October 19th was a warm day and the sun felt especially nice.  To have a crop of peppers still thriving at this time of year is something special!

Peppers were excellent this season!  Golden Beets were awesome!  Sweet Potatoes were the newbie on the farm this year.  Super easy to grow, we'll be doing sweet potatoes every year from now on.  Having Evergreen come for a tour was really great!  Considering a lot of folks are soo far removed from where their food comes from and how it's produced, farm tours are very important - and THAT is where we come in!! I was proud of Ben - he embraced the visitors instead of hoping on a tractor and being 'busy'.  Below is Ben digging up some fresh sweet potatoes to show the Evergreen Crew.....
We were able to wrap up the season over at Riverdale Farmer's Market with a gorgeous display!  We had the most colourful Radish bunches ever! Peppers, Brussel Sprouts, Green Beans, Coloured Beets, Potatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Onions, Carrots, Leeks, Squash etc as the picture below shows....
To wrap up October of course we have to celebrate HALLOWEEN!! Carving pumpkins, like doing Easter eggs is a must around this farm! A lot of customers enjoyed the pumpkins and took lots of pictures at market!  I only felt bad when one tiny sweet little girl asked me very, very concerned:  "Why is the big pumpkin eating the little pumpkin?"  All I could reply was:  "Well, he's hungry!".....
The Jack-O-Lantern with the big toothy grin was nicknamed 'Kera' after our vegan helper!  At market it proudly displayed a huge carrot sticking out of it's mouth!  I'll blog as much as possible during the winter months...thanks for bugging me at market to keep blogging!!!  ;)