Market Musings Blog

Hoppin’ John for good luck in the new year

New Year’s Day in the American South is celebrated in many families with Hoppin’ John, a stew made with black eyed peas. Some people add a penny or other small trinket to the beans when serving them. Whoever finds it is promised especially good luck in the new year. As many recipes can be found for Hoppin’ John as there are cooks who make it, so use this one as a foundation for creating your own version. Read more …

Citrus Paradisi – The Grapefruit

Citrus is a promiscuous family: witness the grapefruit (pomelo x orange), the Meyer lemon (lemon x orange), the Persian or Bearss lime (Mexican lime x orange or lemon). Most citrus fruits we eat were initially spontaneous crosses that an alert orchardist noticed and improved upon. Grapefruits are one such cross, first appearing on the island of Barbados in the 18th century, a hybrid of the imported pomelo and orange. Grapefruit trees are true to their name: the fruits cluster, rather like vine grapes, though in spreading, densely shady and thorned trees. First brought to the U.S. in the 1820s, grapefruit didn’t exactly take the country by storm; initially no one could figure out what to do with them. This isn’t surprising, for compared to other members of the citrus family, early grapefruit had very thick and bitter pith, the genetic gift of their pomelo ancestors.

00152-9-13MMMediumsize
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Season’s Eatings

We get excited around here during the holidays. We love how the holidays bring people together and we love playing a part in people’s celebrations by providing fresh, delicious foods for their holiday spreads.

C

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Thanksgiving Central

Cranberry_Pecan_Skillet_Stuffing_vertictal web

photo courtesy of strongertogether.coop

Digging through dozens of recipes? Reading Thanksgiving recipes until your eyes weep? We’re keeping it simple! Here’s what we think every memorable Thanksgiving meal needs: Read more …

Meet the persimmon

My first fall working at Mississippi Market, just over three years ago, I first discovered what has since become my favorite autumn fruit—the humble little persimmon. More so than apples, the arrival of the little orange fruit is the sign that winter is just around the corner. If you haven’t had one yet, let me try and describe this fruit. The texture of a ripe persimmon is akin to that of an over-ripe plum–but in a very good way—and the flavor I can only describe as a mix between plum and pumpkin…I even taste a just hint of cinnamon or nutmeg. The perfect fall flavor? I think so!

Persimmon Fuyu web

Fuyu persimmons in the sunlight at the Selby store.

Tempted to try one yet? We have two varieties that come in, fuyu and hachiya. The Hachiya are bigger and more egg-shaped, and they ripen to be very tender and sweet—handle them gently as possible!—and the softer they are, the sweeter they will be as long as they are still red/orange (brownish means they’ve aged too much). Fuyu are flatter and you’ll find these at their ripest when they are just barely soft (again, think plums). A word of warning; under ripe Hachiya persimmons can be *incredibly* astringent, and can really dry your mouth out; there’s no harm in it, but this makes for a significantly less pleasant eating experience. Act fast, though; persimmon season only lasts two or three months! Read more …

Warm breakfast ideas

I had a realization this week. I looked down at my staple summer breakfast -a bowl of fruit, yogurt and granola- and was no longer satisfied. It just wasn’t what I wanted anymore. I wanted something heartier. I wanted something… warm.

Luckily I work here, where everyone is talking about (or eating) food, all the time. Apparently, I wasn’t the only craving something different for breakfast. As I strolled around the office, I noticed that Lauren had unpacked her Oatmeal-in-a-jar and Luke was eating a hot breakfast sandwich at his desk.

Beyond those two stand-bys around here, I was also pointed to these two recipes, both warm & hearty, yet satisfying in different ways. Read more …

Crabapples

crabapple treeThey’re one of the glories of spring, those small, broad trees decked out in glorious blossom. Come winter, many of them enliven otherwise-bleak gardens with tiny fruits loved by overwintering birds. But few people bother to seek out crabapples for eating or make crabapple jelly anymore, and that’s a shame. The fruits can usually be had merely by knocking on doors—most people are only too happy to have their crabapples put to use.

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Extreme Local – Wild Foraging

Before I start: wild foraging can be very dangerous. The amount of mushrooms that are fatally poisonous are relatively small, but there are a great many that will make you wish you were dead and cause serious illness. You should never eat a mushroom unless you are 100% confident in identifying it. There are a great many resources if you would like to get into wild foraging, but it should be approached with a healthy respect and only after much study. DO NOT EAT WILD MUSHROOMS ON A WHIM.

Chicken of the woods on tree

Chicken of the Woods, too old, but still pretty cool.

I am an outdoors person. I love hunting and camping, and when morel season hits in spring I am in the woods nearly every weekend. This year, I have decided to enjoy some of the local foraging that can be had in mid-summer months.

Ok, morel season is easy: little undergrowth, very distinctive mushrooms, little to no mosquitos and hardly any ticks. All of these things have made it a trendy thing to do, amateurs beating down trails to every dead elm tree in state parks around Minnesota. And with good reason, morels are delicious.

Mid-summer mushroom hunting has been about as far from that as possible. Minnesota mixed hardwood forests are hot, full of bugs, poison ivy, buckthorn, wild berries, stinging nettle, and a fair amount of other hidden pitfalls. I have found mushrooms that I have picked, learned to do a spore print, and identified them with some confidence. Only then to throw them out because doubt about my knowledge crept in (this is normal and a healthy thing). I have worn poison ivy rashes with pride for a good portion of the summer. I have invested in what I call a hippie basket, a bandaloo (which I have already lost), spent a small fortune on gas driving to state parks, and shirked some responsibilities.

Chicken gnocci with chicken of the woods

Chicken gnocci without the kale, subbing thyme in its place, and with whole wheat gnocci

Despite this, the exhilaration that I felt when I saw my first mass of orange Chicken of the Woods* was just as exciting as any morel patch I have found. Finding lobster mushrooms buried in leaves was worth the mosquito bites (technically my lovely wife found our first lobster). And wild mushroom gnocchi shared with friends and family? Good grief.

*Mississippi Market carries wild, foraged mushrooms from time to time, so it is possible to cook with them without foraging. Call ahead before making a special trip.

Here is the recipe:
Wild Mushroom Gnocchi, serves 2-3

ingredients
1 med onion, diced ½ inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
A large mass of wild mushroom, your choice on variety, all have been excellent – usually around .5 lbs, or you could use button, but the earthy flavor of the wild mushroom is what makes this dish. Tear/cut/break the mushroom into bite size pieces. Be sure to clean the mushroom, ideally using a brush of some kind, not in water. Mushrooms really soak up liquid and it is ok to wash them in water, but it will alter how this dish cooks and you may need to cut the rest of the water out of the recipe entirely.
2T Olive oil – you may need a little more if you are frying a large amount of mushroom, they tend to soak up liquids
1 package of Cucina Viva gnocchi
1 half of a bunch of dino kale, or a sautéing green of your choice, rough shred/julienne
1 table spoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Stock
1.5 cups water

Equipment:
1 14” sauce pan, with 1.5 inch sides, or some equivalent
1 stock pot to boil gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Fry the onion, garlic, mushroom together stirring often on medium high heat until your onion just starts to become translucent. Dissolve the Better Than in 1.5 cups of water and pour that mixture into your sauce pan. Cook until reduced, but not dry. There should be some liquid left in pan to provide a ‘sauce’ for the dish.

At this time add the gnocchi to the water. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom. When it rises to the top it is done. Add your kale to your frying pan and stir it in. The gnocchi will cook quickly in a rolling boil (4-5 minutes tops) and will overcook just as fast. Scoop out the gnocchi leaving as much water as possible behind and put it right into your mushroom mix. Stir and serve.

At this time I like to shred a little Pecorino Romano on top, but that is completely optional. There are gluten free gnocchi’s in some grocery stores, so it is possible to make this dish gluten free as well.
Eat and enjoy.

Chicken of the Woods

Chicken of the Woods

James Talbot is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. As the grocery manager at Selby, you’ll find him in the ailes stocking the shelves, answering questions and figuring out how to make space for more awesome products. 

Damson Plums!

How lucky can we be?—our recent heat and humidity pale when late August brings damsons to Mississippi Market from Jim Barnard in Michigan, as they have this week.

Damson plum-jamDamsons are right up there with unicorns for their rarity, yet almost every year, Jim manages to bring us a small quantity of these exceptional and rare gifts. For those of you who enjoy making jam or who aspire to make jam, there’s no better fruit than damsons, for they’re very rich in pectin and therefore gell readily. Though small and unprepossessing—they’re round, blue-purple on the outside, a shaded chartreuse within—they produce a shockingly magenta jam.

Damsons are the wee European descendants of wild plums from Damascus, Syria (hence their name). They have a very short harvest season, and because they aren’t eating plums—they’re very tart (mouthpuckering might be a more apt description)—they’re grown only for preserving. We are lucky to offer them at Mississippi Market—they are available to very few American and Canadian cooks!

Here’s how to make damson jam. If you’re already an experienced jam maker but haven’t worked with damsons, all you need to know is that their pits are deeply embedded, so it’s best to soften the fruit before attempting to remove the pits. You probably want to include their beautifully, luridly colored skins, despite most recipes’ recommendation that you discard them, but be sure to allow the skins to soften up fully before you add sugar; otherwise, the skins will stiffen and refuse to soften.The jam will gell almost immediately after the sugar has dissolved, so be vigilant in observing and testing it.

Damson Jam

This could not be simpler. Damsons are packed with pectin, so don’t even consider using commercial pectin as an additive. Some recipes will tell you to peel your Damsons, or pit them before you cook them but that’s daft: the skins are where the color (and much of the flavor) dwells.

The instructions below are for anyone who hasn’t jammed before. Damsons are the kindliest and most accommodating of fruits for jam making, so your first effort should be a success.

Equipment needed:

            5 1/2-pint jars

            5 bands and new lids

            small bowl in which to soak the bands and lids

            large, lightweight pot big enough to accommodate 5 1/2-pint jars with 1 inch between

                        them and equipped with either a folded towel or a trivet on which you can place

                        the jars

            jar lifter

            heavy, preferably broad pot for making the jam

        food mill, food processor, or bowl and potato masher for homogenizing the cooked plums

            4–6-cup glass measure

            stainless-steel canning funnel

Ingredients:

            2½  pounds of Damsons

            1/4 cup of water

            2/3 cup of white sugar per 1 cup of prepared plums (see below)

Makes about 4 half pints.

1. Place a saucer in your freezer to cool.

2. Before you heat up your jars, lids, and bands, stop for a minute and put a lid atop one of the jars. Then screw on the lid, but not as tightly as it can go: just firmly enough that you would need to use three fingers to unscrew it. Now take a look at the center of the lid: you’ll see that it’s slightly raised, like a little out-y belly button. Push a finger down on it: you’ll see and hear that it flexes. That’s how an unsealed lid looks, feels, and sounds. Make a note of it, because after you’ve canned one or two batches, you may discover that one of your jars fails to seal, and you now know how to identify an unsealed lid. Now put your uncovered jars on a trivet or a towel in the large, thin pot and cover with 2 inches of water above the jars; set on high heat and cover. Once the water comes to a vigorous, rolling boil, set a timer for 10 minutes to sterilize your jars. Or simply get the potful of water very hot, including the jars, without bringing them to a rolling boil.

3. Put the lids and bands in a bowl and cover them with hot water (tap water is fine). You aren’t trying to sterilize the lids and bands; all you’re doing is softening up the rubber seal on the lids.

4. Put the plums in the heavy pot and add about ¼ c. water. Cover and and simmer on MEDIUM-LOW, for about 15–20 minutes. When you lift up the lid, you’ll receive quite a shock: those rather dull-colored little plums have turned a shocking magenta. Continue simmering them with the lid off until the skins become very soft and burst open, another 10 minutes or so. (If you do not have a heavy pot for this part of the operation, you’ll need to keep the heat very low and stir often so your plums do not stick to the bottom.)

5. You will soon have a batch of soft whole plums, pulp, skins, and pits. Ladle this mixture into a food mill equipped with its coarsest disc and grind away over a 6-cup measure, stopping occasionally to scrape the milled mixture from the underside of the disc. If you don’t have a food mill, you can scrape everything into a food processor and buzz it for 2 seconds several times. Then, sad to say, you must remove all of the pits by hand (if you had used a food mill, the mill would have taken care of this for you). Or you put everything into a meshed sieve over a mixing bowl and press the pulp through with a potato masher. Then scrape any liquid (it will already have thickened!) from the heavy pot into the measure, give everything a stir, and read the volume on the side of the cup. You will probably have about 4 cups.

6. Put the pulp and its liquid back into the heavy pot, turn the heat back to MEDIUM-LOW, and gradually add 2/3 c. of white sugar for each cup of pulp. Pour each sugar measure into the center of the pot, stir it in, and wait for it to completely dissolve before adding the next one.

7. Once all of the sugar has dissolved completely, turn the heat to MEDIUM or MEDIUM-HIGH, whatever brings the plum mass up to a gentle boil. Bring the plums to a boil, and as soon as the mixture looks as if it’s cohering, test it for gelling. To do this, remove the pot from the heat, lest you overcook it. Please understand that gelling is reached while the mixture is still liquid.

8. Test for gelling by taking a tiny drop of the jam—no larger than the head of a thumb tack—out of the pot with a spoon and placing it on the saucer you’ve kept in the freezer. If the drop mounds and doesn’t run after you’ve allowed it to sit on the plate for about 15 seconds, your jam has gelled, despite the fact that it still looks very liquid. It will thicken up considerably while it cools, so please make the leap of faith and believe it will thicken up without further cooking. If you keep cooking it, you will end up with Damson marmelada, a paste akin to membrillo, not a limpid, juicy Damson spoon jam.

9. Once your jam has gelled, remove the preserving pan from the heat. Empty the jars, two or three at a time, and move them from the canning pot to your wooden cutting board or a countertop covered by a double thickness of kitchen towel. Move the towel or board as close to the potful of jam as you can get it.

10. Place your canning funnel in the first jar and use a ladle to load jam into it to 1/4 inch from the top. (¼ inch is the top embossed band on the outside of the canning jar.) Use a cloth or paper towel dipped in water to wipe the top and sides of the jar’s lip clean.

11. Place a hot, wet lid atop the filled jar. Then screw a band onto the jar, tightening it with only three fingers—the aim here is not to tighten the band as much as possible but to keep the lid firmly in place while the vacuum is being formed. If you feel compelled to tighten the band all the way, then back it off about 20°.

12. Fill all of the the jars. If the last jar isn’t full, cover it with a plastic lid, place it in the fridge, and use it first—that’s your cook’s privilege! (You need a full jar to form a vacuum. Partial jars are yours to enjoy right away.)

13. Using the jar lifter, place the jars in your canning pot, making sure that they are covered by at least 2 inches of water with at least 1 inch of space between them. Turn the heat up to HIGH and cover the canner.

14. When the water starts boiling vigorously, turn the heat down just a bit—it should still boil—and start the timer: boil the jars for 10 minutes if you heated but did not sterilize them first, or for 5 minutes if you sterilized them first.

15. At the end of the time, use your jar lifter to lift out each jar and move it to the wooden or towel-covered surface. Do not tilt the jars to sluice off the water when you remove them from the canning pot—simply lift them straight up. Yes, it’s very tempting to tilt them to get rid of that water, but by doing so, you may break the seal. The water and the contents of the jar are so hot that the water will evaporate within a couple of minutes. You will probably hear most of the jars immediately ring forth with a piiiing!—the audible sign that a vacuum has formed and the jar has sealed. Seals can take up to 12 hours to form, so don’t worry if you don’t hear all of them at once; for that matter, you may miss hearing them entirely.

16. The sound is less importance than the appearance. You already know what an unsealed lid looks like: its center is slightly convex and fairly elastic. When a vacuum forms, the center of the lid is  pulled downward by the absence of air and becomes taut. Don’t press down on the center of the lid to test it. Simply compare the appearance of the lids on jars that have pinged and look taut, and you’ll know if you have one that hasn’t sealed.

17. If one or more of your jars does not form a seal within 12 hours, you have two choices: you can refrigerate your jam and use it from the fridge, or you can put it back in a boiling water bath for another 10 minutes.

Your jam will be somewhat loose and syrup-y for about 24 hours; thereafter, it will become firmer. This recipe is designed to produce a spoon jam, meaning that it will have a fairly loose texture equally good on bread/toast or spooned over ice cream or custard. Or directly into your grateful mouth!

If you have questions about using damsons, email me at jzgrover@gmail.com.

Locally-raised goat? Perfect for stew!

While my role at the Market is the Frozen and Bread Buyer for the Selby store, I was also raised as a meat-and-potatoes guy…and with the freezer doors right next to the meat cases, my eye always catches on sale signs and discount stickers.  This week, I saw the Shepherd’s Song ground goat meat marked down, so I thought I’d give it a try.

local goatMy project for this afternoon was to find something I could do with the goat and our large selection of CSA produce before leaving town for the weekend.  Peppers and onions were plentiful on our counter and we had almost a fridge bin full of a variety of greens, so a simple stew came to mind.

Four diced hot peppers (jalapeno and Serrano), a pair of bell peppers, three small sweet onions, and a few cloves of garlic made for an aromatic kitchen once cooked in with two packages of the goat meat, some salt, a few diced tomatoes, and a healthy dose of garam masala.  This cooked for about an hour or so on medium low heat.

My wife turned me on to sautéed greens…the preparation for I’ve come to really enjoy: fold the leaf, cut the spine off, stack a couple leaves, roll, and slice into strips.  Fill a large pot, we usually use a 2-gallon model (I’m not even joking), with the green ribbons, a bit of extra water, and a pinch of salt (sometimes I’ll add onion, garlic, or turmeric to the greens, too), and wilt it all down to al dente.  To add a third color to the meal, we halved then sliced four summer squash to salt and sauté. Enjoy!

Ben Zamora-Weiss is a staff member and blogger for Mississippi Market’s Eat Local Challenge. You’ll also find him at the Selby store keeping the shelves stocked with the best locally baked breads we can find.