Every fall, a funny thing happens. The flip flops and sundresses and tans disappear, but in their place returns the familiar smell of vegetable soup, the warmth of my favorite sweater with the moth holes, and “The Fireplace Channel” cranking on my TV. Classy, I know. I find that my personality also changes from the carefree, “let’s eat dinner on the beach and go swimming and never grow old”, to Betty wannabee Crocker. Well, if Betty Crocker had a love of bourbon. There’s something about the cold weather that makes me want to cook, and cook large batches of things that are completely unnecessary and too big for a 22 year old woman living alone (not counting the damn mouse that ate through my candy stash). Nothing sounds better than staying in on a Friday night to make a batch of tomato sauce. And banana bread. And maybe a few dozen cookies, but of course some spice chai needs to accompany them. And hell, might as well make another banana bread, everyone like banana bread.
Since my itty bitty apartment doesn’t have air conditioning except for a window unit in my bedroom, and living on the 3rd floor of a house and that whole “heat rises” thing (thanks Bill Nye), cooking in the summer is extremely limited. We found that the best way to eat something other than salads in the summer is to cook on the grills at the beach, which worked great until it somehow turned into December and it’s not socially acceptable to be at the beach in the winter, attempting to grill a steak.
We are lucky enough to live in an area that has farms, farmers markets, and water access. What this means is that not only do I get to hug cows and walk around with a chicken under one arm when we visit, but there is access to fresh and local vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat, and seafood. The prices are actually cheaper than the local grocery store, but the quality is unmatched.
For a nice breakfast this morning, Justin treated us to some goodies from Sherwood Farms in Easton, CT. One of the best parts of shopping at farms is being able to get products from other farms that you could never get at the crowded, miserable grocery store either. Fresh pasteurized and unhomogenized milk, fresh cut bacon, and very fresh eggs. If you have never had good quality, smoked, farm bacon, it is truly a life changer. The marbling in the bacon resembles a good steak, certainely a far cry from the thin microwaved “bacon” most of us grew up on. Despite what you might think, the fat expelled when cooking the farm bacon isn’t any more than normal thick-slab bacon, but the taste is what really sets it apart. Not overly greasy or chewy, when cooked it takes on an almost jerky like consistency. My usual 3-piece-portion was cut back to 1 1/2, and even that was filling when paired with our eggs, making breakfast seem more of a “Woman vs. Food” then a casual meal.
Fresh eggs make such a difference, and if you have access to them, or room for chickens, then get them! These were around $3.50 for a dozen which isn’t far from the grocery sore prices, but the flavor is unmatched. The color of the yolks is striking, as is the occasional blue egg in the mix. (The color of the shell only changes with the breed of chickens, and has no affect on the flavor).
Opposed to the faded yellow eye usually staring back at you, prepare for a brilliant orange yolk, standing tall from the white of the egg due to the membrane not having time to break down. If you are going to get them occasionaly, be sure to use them in a dish that features them such as omelets or frittatas. The same goes with fresh milk, drink it up! Unhomogenized milk doesn’t break down the fat particles in the milk so that they are more “aesthetically pleasing”, which is the only real benefit from homogenization. A simple shake of the bottle and everything gets mixed right back up.
So, the moral of the story here? Well, one food coma later, I can highly recommend any of the previous in copious amounts. And look past the word “organic” to the heart of the operation.
Buy smart, buy local, support family farms, drink whole milk, and eat bacon.
Eggs – Sherwood Farm – Easton, CT (only available at farm)
Raw (Unhomogenized) Milk – Ronnybrook Farm – New York (available at certain stores) – They also have a great explanation of the benfits of their milk, and the differences between raw milk and “organic” milk in relation to how the cows are treated
Bacon – Mountain Products Smokehouse – Langrangeville, NY (online purchasing availabe)