1405 SW Vermont St.
Portland OR 97219
United States

503-475-6555

Articles5

Filtering by Tag: preserves

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter September 13 2015 Market

Sarah West

Back in the days of John Cage and Frank Zappa, and Stephen Sondheim finding his voice, there were families who had an uncle or neighbor who owned this weird car called a Citroën DS, maybe they owned one themselves. Viewed with either love or distain, the car grabs the eye and mind. The philosopher Roland Barthes in Mythologies (1957) discerned something profound about the car: "It is obvious that the new Citroën has fallen from the sky inasmuch as it appears at first sight as a superlative object." The 1964 Car and Driver review for the car had it parked under a billboard for Carl Reiner's Enter Laughing. Ultimately, Barthes could not fully accept the Déesse's divinity whereas automotive critic was converted. The two of us both come from families who had an uncle with a Citroën, and count ourselves among the faithful. Our courtship 39 years ago started with the purchase of 1972 Citroën DS21 Pallas. So what the devil does this obsession have to do with farming?

The connection starts in 1936, when Pierre Boulanger, the chief of Citroën, started a project coded TPV for toute petite voiture, or a completely small vehicle. It was conceived as a car for farmers. The design team included Citroen's Italian sculptor, Flaminio Bertoni, and André Lefèbvre who arrived at the company with a background in engineering airplanes. The team was under the stern direction of Boulanger.

The so-called War to End All Wars had decimated the male population, a whole generation of French farmers were buried, so the efforts of women and their children were important for feeding the nation. Boulanger's design brief called for a car that could be "drivable by a woman or by a learner driver." The brief also called for vehicle that could haul four people and a 110 LB sack of potatoes at 36 mph, and travel 78 miles on a gallon. The sculptor was told that appearance didn't matter, merely an umbrella with wheels would suffice. Most importantly and famously, the suspension had to be gentle enough that the farmer could carry market basket containing a gross of eggs (144) to market without breaking a single one, even after passing over the roughest farm roads and cobble stone streets. A fabric top could be rolled back to accommodate bulky items such as a ewe or calf. Early brochures featured livestock in the car, as well as eggs and baskets of vegetables.

The design was driven by a economy, practicality and simplicity. The original was minimalist in every respect. The prototype started out with a two-cylinder BMW motorcycle engine. After several other sorts were tried, the air-cooled engine based on the BMW design was adopted, giving the car its characteristic whine. Every part was repeatedly weighed and pared to make sure it was as light as possible.

The gearbox reflects Boulanger's fixation on farmers. He was insistent on a three speed gearbox, but his design team developed a four speed box. He was indignant, what does a farmer need with so many speeds? Stymied for a while and on the verge of loosing the argument, the team came up with a farmer's story. After market, the load is light but a farmer needs to get back to feed the chickens and milk the livestock; night is hastening and she needs a supplemental speed to reach to her farm by the last shred of light. The chief relented and the early models were marked 1, 2, 3, S, retaining a modicum of deference to his plan. The lawn mower style starter cord was dropped in favor of a starter, preferred by the team, when the women testers complained. Bertoni created a spacious car with an abundance of constant radius curves friendly and gentle in spirit, not an inkling of aggression. In various languages it quickly became known as the snail or duck.

Development was interrupted by the war, and the first 2CV (Deux Cheveaux) was finally introduced in 1948. The models in the 1950s had a 14-horsepower engine. The French authorities taxed cars by the engine's fiscal horsepower – equivalent to seven horsepower in the US and elsewhere – so at two fiscal horsepower it was very cheap to license. Despite the design emphasis on the farmer, the car was universally accepted and produced continuously until July 1990. That final car was still effectively an umbrella with wheels, with hammock seats and an underpowered, whining two-cylinder engine. Along with that artfully tuned suspension that would never hurt an egg. The car was still easy to service and repair.

There was a collective groan from 2CV owners when Richard Dreyfus in American Graffiti could not start his 2CV. All he had to do was open the trunk and pull out the hand-crank that Boulanger insisted should be included, and was until the very last car rolled off the line. When James Bond ignores the switchbacks and careens straight down a slope in a 2CV, escaping his would-be assassins in their fancy, high-powered cars, we chuckle approvingly. Indeed, Citroën produced a limited edition 007 model, and ignored the Dreyfus faux pas. A 2CV, a farmer's car, without a hand-crank, never.

Although Citroëns are singular cars, ownership is not always so. In our case, a 2CV edged its way into our lives 25 years ago, and is still used by us at the farm. Chances are, the tomatoes, onions or other vegetables you all bought at market were hauled out of the field in that 'tin snail', keeping Boulanger's vision alive in Gaston of all places. On occasion we make delivery runs to Portland in the car. Even though we use a piece of history to bring your tomatoes from the field, you still get them at the same great price. Imagine that.

Times have changed, though. The first decade we had the car, veterans would come up to us and recount a similar warm memory. They and a buddy borrowed or rented a 2CV, packed some sausage, bread and wine and took a trip into the European countryside with a couple of . . . the memory trails off into a wistful smile when it no longer relates to the car, nor did it ever. Shades of the Gary Gentry classic The one I Loved Back Then " . . . the old man scratched his head, and then he looked at me and grinned, he said son you just don't understand, it ain't the car I want, it's the brunette in your Vette . . . "

__________________________________

Again, you can pre-order the 20# lugs of Astianas ($35), as supply permits. Yep, the price hasn't changed even with the touch of the classic. Weather has been kind so we have a good number. Please try to place your order before 3:00 PM Saturday. We will not confirm, but we will tell you if we cannot fill your order. That seems to work all around.

We will also have grapes, tomatillos, hulless barley, chickpeas, onions, beets, a few plums. We will have preserves as well, we promise.

Until Sunday,

Carol and Anthony
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter February 22 2015

Sarah West


If you have a pesky stepson roiling your domestic plans, send him off on a fatal errand. Such as it was with Theseus when his father was convinced to send him off to the fields of fennel where he was to kill the Cretan Bull. On the way to Marathon, the youth stopped by the hut of a devotee of Hecate, the goddess of potions and herbs for sustenance. She simply fed him a big bowl of Sonchus, or sow thistle greens. On this fare alone, he captured the bull that Hercules had thoughtlessly left to terrorize the countryside, and led it back to Athens. Subduing the massive bull required sagacity and serenity, not strength, and that is what the sow thistle provided. In kinder times before crates, it was fed to nursing sows to keep their milk flowing and disposition calm so they wouldn't roll over on the nursing piglets. Tomorrow, we will have a good quantity of this exceptional late winter pot herb, related to lettuce and chicory. It is time-consuming to harvest and clean, which is why few people gather it. We found a good patch in the Chesters that lent itself to the task, so if you all need a moment of sagacity and serenity, we have the green for you.

Tomorrow, when the bell rings at 10:00 AM, we will have a robust selection of late winter greens. Sorrel, chervil, cress, horned mustard, rocket, rape, sow thistle, kale, chard, late Treviso type chicory and Catalogna chicory. The last two weeks have pushed their growth along nicely.

We will also have spuds, sweet potatoes, preserves, frikeh, soft red wheat, beans, popcorn, cornmeal, cayennes and the last of the pumpkin seeds.

This is our last market until the 12th of July, when we return laden with fruit. If you need preserves before then, they are carried by the following stores:
City Market, 735 NW 21st Ave.
Food Front, both Hillsdale & NW Thurman
Foster & Dobbs, 2518 NE 15th Ave
Our Table, 13390 SW Morgan Road, Sherwood
Pastaworks, 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Vino, 138 SE 28th Ave.

Hope to see you all tomorrow,

Carol & Anthony
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter January 25 2015 Market

Sarah West

The ringing cowbell announcing the opening of the Hillsdale Farmers Market at 10:00 AM tomorrow also heralds another installment of last summer's sunshine carefully stored by nature in the first instance, and by us in the second.

Loganberries and raspberries harvested following the summer solstice still glow in the jars of preserves, and on your toast next week. Likewise the frikeh was harvested and roasted on the longest days. The currants and gages finalized their flavor in the midsummer sun, when people still take the season's heat for granted, waving it aside. The corn, cayennes, squash, beans and pumpkin seeds entered their maturity as the yellow of school buses reminds us to linger a bit longer before the warmth is truly precious. When we bring in the fiori d'inverno, the flowers of winter, this week, the roots that create those beautiful chicories fattened up around the autumnal equinox. Likewise the sweet potatoes and spuds, and the leaves that form the onions. The quinces and grapes captured their summer moment a bit tardy, ripening in the last rays of sun after the equinox.

The diversity of organs that store the sun's energy is also striking. There are seeds, fruits, leaves and stems all in the mix, all accomplishing the same storage function. With time, they are continuing to mature and their flavors are changing. This week, we encourage you all to try a slice of the hard-skinned Sibley squash and the purple sweet potatoes, both of which reach their prime in terms of sweetness and flavor in late January. For those on quest for ever more anthocyanins in their diet, the purple sweet potatoes have intense concentrations of these desirable pigments.

Finally, a nod to that great perennial root, the horseradish, which accumulates several years of summer light before it is ready for harvest.

With that, we hope to see you all anon,

Carol & Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter January 11 2015 Market

Sarah West

When the bell opens the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday morning at 10:00, it will herald a kinder market. The board has decreed that henceforth, or at least through April when the climate softens, the market shall close at 1:00 PM sharp.

We hope the market will establish 1:00 PM as a permanent closing time, a sentiment that is gathering steam among the dusty-footed vendors, the piepoudres. After 12 years (245 market days to date), both summer and winter, on the pavement at Hillsdale, we know that 70% of our sales consistently take place in the first two hours of the market, and the last hour accounts for less than 5% of our sales. If the day is rainy, cold or hot, the market is dead as a smelt by noon. No wonder, produce quality is best in the first two to three hours, especially in the summer heat, as most of you know. A 1:00 PM closing time year-round is sensible.

The board should consider other changes over the next year. When market moved across the highway to its current location, it grew substantially and went from a summer fling to a year-round relationship. The ease of access to arterial streets and good parking have been critical assets in attracting farmers and customers. Unfortunately, the addition of bike lanes on Vermont Avenue had a negative influence on traffic at the market by eliminating a long stretch of parking spaces. Rather than grousing about the clumsy transportation planning by the city, as easy as that is to do, it is much more productive to rethink how the market uses the site.

Currently, the market stalls occupy more than 70 parking spaces. It is possible to free up these parking spots by creating a space for the vendors on the flat area to the west of the lot – between the lot and the slope leading down to the soccer fields. This would make shopping at the market much easier. There are minor challenges reconfiguring the area, but none insurmountable. The parking lot is unlovely and in need of repair, so it is a good time address improved utilization of the site. Hillsdale is one of the few markets in the region, if any, that is so well poised for improvement.

As the market has developed into a year-round enterprise and is no longer an experiment, safer shelter is warranted as well. A simple 45' by 180' freestanding structure covered in rip-stop polyethylene costs $30,000, with some bells and whistles available for an additional pittance. (Here is a link to an example: Structure ) Simply put, the neighborhood can have a safe and comfortable covered market for roughly the same price as a plain vanilla family car.

Farmers use these durable and utilitarian structures for a wide variety of uses, including as shelters for farmers' markets, so we recognize them as our preferred habitat. Not particularly posh or elegant, true, but they are engineered to survive heavy snow loads and wind. The sunshine passes through while providing shade and shelter for the fruits and vegetables below. As you will note from the link, these structures are manufactured in 14 days, the cover is warrantied for 20 years, and the frame for 50 years. They are assembled in a matter of days as well. From a farmer's perspective it is a very good value. Aside from leveling and preparing the site, there is no foundation or excavation required, a massive cost savings relative to any other cover option. When the market isn't using the shelter, it can be available for school functions or neighborhood events. In other words, it will be a general community asset rather than a dedicated market space.

Hillsdale has an experienced cadre of farmers, some of whom, like us, have been part of the market since it started in 2002. Having adequate parking and a sturdy covering for the market will make it a preferred destination for both farmers and customers for years to come. With some vision and cooperation on the part of the Hillsdale Farmers' Market board and the neighborhood, the rag tag assembly of tents set up on Sundays can evolve into a defining neighborhood fixture. We hope you all encourage Eamon and the board to think creatively about the future of the market. You voice, encouragement and participation is important.

Here is what we are bringing Sunday:
We still have good supplies of preserves, beans, popcorn, cornmeal, cayennes and pumpkin seeds. The onions, sweet potatoes, spuds, horseradish and black radish fill out the bulbs and roots section. We will be slicing Sibley and Musqueé squashes. This week we will have more chicories. At the moment they are the speckled Lusia types. We have had trouble with the quality of the seed, so there is a lot variation in the field, and we are only able to harvest about 10% of what we planted, which is way below the 90% harvested in the past. We are not happy with the state of seed, to put it mildly. In February, we will have longer meditation about the genetics of chicories, and what we are doing to address the problem.
As with Bette Davis and the lyrics of Sondheim, the bitterness in chicories is always a matter of interpretation and taste, some revel in it, others recoil. Varieties and individual plants vary as well. The bitter compounds are in the white latex of the sap and are water soluble, so the problem is easily addressed. Tearing the leaves lengthwise and immediately soaking them in iced water draws out the latex and eliminates almost all of the bitterness. Soaking for 20 minutes or so is generally enough. If you are planning to braise the chicories, quarter them lengthwise and immediately soak in ice water. As with latex paint, if the plant's latex starts to set up and dry, it is no longer water soluble, so have soaking water ready before you tear or cut the heads is important. The ice is critical to the process because the cold shrinks the vascular tissue, forcing the latex out of the leaf. Luke warm or cool water is useless for the task, so don't skimp on the ice.
For a salad, a lemon-based dressing adds a bit sweetness. Cutting vinegar with a bit of orange juice also works. An anchovy fillet squeezed through a garlic press and mixed into the dressing is another fine addition. As a forage crop for livestock, chicories have higher protein content than even legumes such as alfalfa, as well as a hefty dose of minerals. As a result, in recent years seed companies have been offering a greater range of forage chicories, apparently with better seed quality than we see in the varieties grown for human consumption. Regardless, you can't go wrong eating these fine winter greens, right Elsie.

We will see you all Sunday,
The Boutards of Gaston

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter December 7 2014 Market

Sarah West

Back as a couple, we will return to that quaint hamlet of Hillsdale this Sunday, ready to meet some of your many late autumn needs when the market bell rings at 10:00 AM.

We will have our gift boxes of preserves. This year, the mix is raspberry, loganberry, green gage and Veepie grape, along with a biographical sketch of each fruit.

If the prospect of crating and mailing preserves is daunting, you can pass the job off to the expert hands of Gwen Vilches at Give Portland Gifts or Rebecca and Fred Gerandasy at Cooking up a Story. Links are:

giveportlandgifts.com
cookingupastory.com/store

We will have popcorn, corn & lime for preparing hominy, cornmeal, cayennes, dry beans, frikeh and hulless barley. We will also bring spuds, sweet potatoes, squash, onions, fennel, knob celery, black radish, horseradish and perhaps some other morsels.

_________________________________________

Myrtha Foradori studied in southwestern Germany for two years. During that time she signed up for a weekly produce box that provided, among other vegetables, black radishes. Made aware of our insecurity with respect to cooking black radishes, she mentioned how much she enjoyed a simple soup prepared using the root. Myrtha kindly sent along the recipe.

Potato - Black Radish soup

4-5 medium sized potatoes, chopped in cubes
half of a big black radish, thinly sliced
1 big yellow onion, chopped
some garlic, minced
olive oil
about a glass of white wine
enough vegetable or chicken broth to cover while simmering
optional: sour cream

Heat the olive oil, sauté onions and garlic. Add the potatoes and stir on medium heat. Add white wine and after it evaporated cover the potatoes with a fair amount of broth. Cover with a lid and let cook on medium heat. When the potatoes are almost done, add the black radish and cook for a short time until tender. Purée and season with salt and pepper. Serve with some sour cream.

The farm chef, Linda Colwell, prepared the soup today substituting butter and leeks, reflecting her northern European orientation. We sprinkled grated horseradish over the top. It is a very fine soup and, with specks of black skin from the radish, very attractive as well. Recommended. (printable recipe here (link).)

Tasting our grapes hanging in storage, Myrtha recounted how her mother loved to go into the family's attic where they hung their grapes for winter use and enjoy the intensely flavored, half shriveled fruit. We will have some at market this week, thanks to our patient brother-in-law who took the time to hang the clusters when visiting us in October.

________________________________________________

Escape from Vineland

The late Lon Rombaugh was amiably acquisitive when it came to fruit, especially grapes. Parsing his 2006 catalogue, we noticed he highlighted a new entry called 'Veepie', a quirky name that captured our eye. Veepie was not in his book on grape growing and he had not suggested it when he advised us on our vineyard selections. The entry noted that it is a "tart grape especially for pies." All this and a quirky name, too. We purchased 15 cuttings and rooted them. At the lower end of the vineyard, they grew with little attention for a few years.

Table grapes have an elven quality; we savor them at the moment, tarrying in the vineyard on a late afternoon enjoying the range of flavors that breeders have teased forth. Wine grapes are tasty with subtle differences, but their character develops after living underground in a dwarfish fashion, deprived of the sun for a long spate. Missing in the modern mix of commercially available varieties is the hafling, or hobbit, of grapes, a culinary fruit domestic in character, whose flavor opens up with the heat and knife of the kitchen. At one time, these grapes were an essential part of the kitchen garden. For example, John Evelyn notes that a special grape was used for verjus. Recipes from the Middle East, Persia and the Caucasus specify sour grapes as a matter of course. Yes, unripe table or wine grapes are sour, but they lack the flavor gained in the ripening process. Veepie is one of the few grapes, at least on this side of the Atlantic, that is a true culinary grape, tartly ripe and conveniently seedless.

There is a parallel here with apples. Cox's Orange Pippin or Spitzenburg are great dessert apples overwhelmed in a pie, whereas no one could ever relish the bitter, tannic cider apples such as Kingston Black or Yarlington Mill outside of the barrel. On the other hand, Rhode Island Greening, Northern Spy and Reinette Gris are excellent culinary apples for pies, tarts and sauces, yet on the tart side for enjoying out of the hand. Notably, people do not select an unripe apple for a pie, and thus it should be with grapes.

Veepie is officially 52131, a numbered seedling originating from a cross pollination made in 1952 by Oliver A. Bradt at the Vineland Experiment Station in Ontario, Canada. The mother plant was Seibel 8357, also known as Colobel. It is a teiturier, a type of grape with intense pigmentation used in small quantities to strengthen the color of wine. Albert Seibel was a French grape breeder who developed a large number high quality hybrids between American and the European wine grapes, seeking resistance to a pest called Phylloxera that had devastated the vineyards of Europe. The pollen-bearing parent was Bronx Seedless, a highly regarded but temperamental table grape prone to splitting, that is still cultivated in California. Bronx is also a hybrid with a seed parent of American lineage and Thompson seedless, a raisin grape dating back to the Ottoman Empire, also known as Sultanina.

The resulting grape has the intense pigmentation from its teiturier ancestor combined with the seedless trait and propensity for splitting, albeit much attenuated, from its pollen parent. It produces unfilled seeds which confer an additional pleasant component to its texture. As you look at the preserves, you will notice the little brown seedlets. The berry's tartness is it defining characteristic. Sugars and other soluble solids are measured using a refractometer, yielding a number given in degrees Brix (°Brix). When we harvested the grape for preserves this year, it measured 11° fully ripe. The Canadice grapes harvested at the same time for fresh eating were at 26°. As a reference, a lemon is around 8°. In its flavor, the European ancestry is evident. Bradt, as well as Seibel, selected against the "foxiness" that marked grapes with pure American lineage.

Vineland formally released numerous varieties resulting from Bradt's work. Public breeding programs used to have their own naming protocols, a custom that has faded recently. In the case of Vineland, their releases usually started with a V, such as Veeport, Vivant, Vanessa, and Vincent, with Festivee as a consistent variation on the theme. Selection 52131 survived the culling process, yet was never officially released. The vine somehow hung around long enough to catch the attention of the station's biochemist, Tibor Fukei Tibor Fuleki. He saw the grape's culinary potential for pies and preserves.

The late D. C. Paschke, a grape and chrysanthemum farmer from North East, Pennsylvania, was an insatiable collector of grapes and mum varieties. He tracked the breeding programs at Geneva (Cornell) and Vineland, and acquired a large collection of varieties. The farm was also known far and wide for his wife's grape pies, and it is likely Fukeli tipped him off to the exceptional qualities of 52131, over a slice of pie we hope, and it slipped into the vineyard at North East. With two champions in its court, the grape informally acquired the name Veepie, consistent with the naming style of the station. Rombaugh and Paschke knew each other from their shared interest in grapes, and at some point 52131 ended up in Oregon as Veepie. Instead of being released, Veepie managed to slip away from Vineland in the nick of time disguised as a release, escaping the flaming pyre reserved for seedlings deemed unworthy for release. Apparently no living trace of it remains at the station today. The numbered seedling that escapes is unusual, but SIUS 68-6-17 accomplished the same feat. That unnamed blackberry evaded the bulldozers that leveled the fields of Carbondale in 1973 by hitching a ride and hiding out in the Zych family's backyard until 1985. That is the year when it was finally released as our most beloved "Chester Thornless."

With its two primary champions dead, this hafling grape, perched between a number and a name, has attached itself to our farm. Like Fukeli, Paschke and Rombaugh, we think it is a singular grape that belongs in any well-rounded vineyard. Personally, we wish there were a greater diversity of culinary grapes, but 52131 is a good start. It certainly deserves a formal release someday.

Dr. K. Helen Fisher, Bradt's successor at Vineland, helped us sort out this story. We appreciate her willingness to provide the history of the grape, allowing us to acknowledge Bradt's role in developing it, and Fukeli as its advocate at the station. Thank you Helen. That said, any errors or flights of fancy in the above account are ours alone. We hope you all enjoy the Veepie Grape preserves.

Until Sunday,
Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

The original post misspelled Tibor Fuleki's last name. That error has been corrected. 

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter November 16 2014 Market

Sarah West

I will have van loaded for tomorrow's Hillsdale Farmers' Market, set up with winter shoes in case of ice.  The market opens with the bell at 10:00 AM.

Monday, we processed most of the plum preserves, leaving just the green gage after Thanksgiving. The jar were still too hot to handle when Carol left for  Branchport, NY, perched at the tip of the middle finger lake, offering a few weeks of postpartum companionship for our daughter. 

The cold weather has forestalled plans to harvest greens, they are fine but are too delicate to handle. It is a waste of time to even try. Nonetheless, I will have fennel, spuds, sweet potatoes, knob celery, onions and black radish. A couple of other odds and ends as well.

I will also have on hand a splendid assortment of legumes and grains. Cayennes and pumpkin seeds as well. As noted earlier, there is a good selection of preserves ready.

Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter December 15 2013

Sarah West

Winter Melon (ash gourd)We are back to slipping and sliding about in the mud today, and the Hillsdale Market tomorrow in time for the opening bell at 10:00 AM.

We will come well-stocked with preserves, including gift boxes, dried cayenne peppers, dry beans, popcorn, cornmeal and kernels for hominy. We will also have spuds, yams, knob celery, beets, cabbage and other sundry vegetables as well. A few good looking turnips as well.

We will also have squash and ash gourd. The ash gourd is also called wax gourd and winter melon. A more apt name would have been winter cucumber, as it it has the same fresh, crisp quality as a cucumber. At the Thanksgiving market, Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans of the Farmer's Feast (thefarmersfeast.me/) sliced the fruit thinly and dressed it with rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and some toasted sesame seeds. A fine side dish.

Our best,

The Boutards

Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter November 17 2013

Sarah West

Tomorrow morning, we will pull ourselves together and make slow ascent up Bald Peak, the first leg in our voyage to Hillsdale. Hope to see you all there after the 10:00 AM opening bell.

Ayers Creek Farm PreservesPreservesPreserve production is when we reprise our summer, the good moments and the disappointments. All of the fruit we use, with the exception of lemons, comes from the farm. Many farmers contemplate preserve production as a way to capitalize on surpluses and low grade fruit, throw some sugar and pectin into a big pot and you have something to sell. Extension people call it "value-added." As we warn other farmers, the notion that making preserves is "value-added" is simply poppycock. We must purchase the jars, organic sugar, organic lemons and pay for the use of Sweet Creek's kitchen and staff. We have added an investment and value is added only if and when you sell the preserves for a profit, so there is no sense poking some low grade fruit in glass.

We started making preserves from the opposite end of the harvest. The very first berries to ripen in the field are the highest quality fruit. They set up well without any added pectin and the flavor is brightest due to their higher acidity. For us, taking the better part of the day to deliver ten flats of berries is a waste of time and fuel. So early in the morning, we bring in a few flats each day and freeze the berries. We never crush them; they are packed into buckets whole when frozen. This gentle treatment preserves the aromatics and acidity of the fruit, as many of you know because you handle our berries the same way.

Our preserves are very farmer-ish, just one type of fruit and no secret ingredients or surprising combinations. The preserves are cooked in 2½ gallon steam jacket pots, so the cooking surface is a gentle 270°F (132°C). We cook about a gallon at a time. Paul Fuller has three 275-gallon pots, but at that volume, you have to add pectin in order for the fruit to gel. Several years ago, Carol's brother, Bill, visited the farm and walked us through a series of very carefully documented variations. Tasting the various versions, it was clear to us that adding pectin robbed a vital part of the fruit's spirit, inconvenient and indisputable. Sweet Creek has just two of these small pots, but Paul is adding two more so we can increase production next year. There is no other co-packer in Oregon that would put up with our fussy demands, so as long as Paul and Judy own Sweet Creek welcome us back, we will make preserves.

The most important tool for us is Paul's Omega HH1501AJK digital thermometer. In cooking, the fruit goes through a series of temperature steps. The critical range is 220 to 222°F (104.4 to 105.5°C). The fruit sets up in that range, if you allow it bounce up to 224°F (106.6°C) the fruit has an over-cooked flavor and texture. One year, the cord to the thermometer frayed and we had to use a different one for the last run of the day. The calibration was off and the fruit over-cooked slightly. We now have our own Omega, so if one goes we have a back-up. It also allows us to conduct test runs at home.

As we noted earlier, we see the season reflected in the fruit. The heat wave that came through during our ramble in June destroyed much of the black currant, boysenberry and blackcap crop. We have some, not enough to for the stores. The early raspberry and loganberry crops preceded the heat wave, so they are in good supply. We have done an even better job with the tart cherry preserves, though they are inherently lower in pectin than other fruit and on the runny side. We have yet to perfect pit removal, so there will be an occasional pit in the jars. This preserve is an even greater labor love than the others and we should drop it but we like too much. This year, we have added a small run of grape preserves from the Veepie grape. The goal is a grown-up grape flavor with skins in the mix. The golden gage and mirabelle are back as well.

Speaking of labors of love, Aphrodite is often portrayed holding a quince. Our two small quince trees had such a heavy crop that the trees largely collapsed. We have a small run of quince jelly in memoriam for the efforts of those two unfortunate trees. They will recover eventually and we are planting more because we cannot imagine life without a bit of quince jelly. Eventually, we will add more jellies to the mix. We have several crab apples which should bear good crops in a year or two. The jellies will test Paul's patience even more, which should him some level of beatification among fruit lovers. Though we promise him that we will stop at 19 different preserves, a good prime number, so there are just two more types to go.

In addition to our 17 different fruit preserves, we will have a good supply of beans for the next two markets, as well as Roy's Calais Flint cornmeal and kernels for hominy. No popcorn yet, needs more time to dry.

We will also have a good selection of greens, including sorrel, which is virtually the same as lengua de vaca, the type of sour dock green used in traditional posoles. Kathryn will be demonstrating the fine points of posole construction at this week's market demonstration.

Winter squash has cured nicely and we will also bring in ash gourds, also known as winter melon, for the first time.

The cayenne peppers, Joe's Long and Aci Sivri are ready.

The roots include Yellow Finn spuds, knob celery, black radish, beets and the star of the farm, fresh horseradish. For those disposed towards a libation with Sunday brunch, imagine a Bull Shot or Bloody Mary with good dose of freshly grated horseradish. Might not even need the vodka to enjoy such a fine beverage. The salad and seafood are also improved with a grating of horseradish.

Finally, we will have some chestnuts. Remember, you have to pierce the shell to let the steam escape. There is no need to make a cross unless you want to, a slit is sufficient. When the chestnuts have finished roasting, generally when the kitchen smells like roasting chestnuts, put them in a bowl lined with a wet dishcloth. Cover and let them rest for a few minutes, and then shell while they are still hot. The task is easiest when it is a painful experience. If they get cold, the pelicle or inner skin, is harder to remove. Chestnuts are perishable, difficult to use once they dry. We cure them in our root cellar at 90% humidity where the sweeten up, they will last a few days on the counter, or longer in the refrigerator.

Enough, we will see you all tomorrow.

Carol & Anthony
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter February 17 2013 Market

Sarah West

Our amorous flickers will be up and drumming on the side of our house as we pour our coffee and tea and prepare to depart for Sunday's Hillsdale Farmers' Market. If we could only train some flickers to drum upon the market bell at 10:00 AM.

Our great horned owl laid her first egg early in this morning, fittingly on Valentine’s Day, and she will spend the next few weeks brooding. Last year, her first egg was laid on the 15th, so she has this thing timed carefully. The second egg will follow in a few days, and that chick will be the smaller of the two. We also getting a bit broody and need to attend to things about the farm, so this is our last market of the winter season.

A few administrative details.

We will return to the market on the 7th of July. If all goes well, we hope to have Field Day at the farm the week before, on the 30th of June. We will send out an email providing details and confirming the event.

No market farmer wants to experience the sting of a disappointed borlotto or popcorn eater. Yet it is hard to predict how many beans, corn or preserves we should bring. For this market, if you want to stock up on corn, popcorn and beans, we will hold six packages/jars or more of your choice. Send an email before noon on Saturday with your request and we will have it set aside.

Here is our annual disclaimer regarding these emails: If you tire of hearing rustic prattle, send an email requesting that we cease and desist, and we will drop you ever so gracefully from the recipients' list.

If you run short of summer's essence in a jar and Brand X disappoints, remember our Ayers Creek Farm preserves are carried at these fine establishments that do not require a UPC code:

Cheese Bar, 8031 SE Belmont St.
City Market, 735 NW 21st Ave.
Foster & Dobbs, 2518 NE 15th Ave
Foxfire Teas, 2505 SE 11th Ave., #105
Gaston Market, Gaston, OR
Pastaworks, 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Peoples Cooperative, 3029 SE 21st Ave.
Vino, 138 SE 28th Ave.
Give Portland (www.giveportlandgifts.com), puts together stylish gift baskets with our preserves and other foods prepared in Portland.

Here is what we will bring, more or less:

Greens: Chic late Treviso-type chicories and any other gratifying greens the field will yield for this last market. The first of March is Saint David's Day which is celebrated by wearing a leek about the neck. We will provide suitable raiment.

The late Treviso-type chicories are considered the very finest of the tribe. With their elegant arching leaves, white ribs and dark red leaf blades, and a distinct flavor with a hint of nuttiness, they are in a class of their own. Split in half, they grill or sauté well. For a finger salad, we quarter them lengthwise and dress them simply with oil and vinegar, maybe a bit of anchovy or lemon. Or you can break apart the heads, dress and add a little bit of chopped hard boiled egg. Keep the dressing subdued, sotto voce.

Sunday, you will notice a fair amount variation in the heads of this chicory. The people producing the seeds for this variety are doing a poor job of selecting their breeding population, or grex. They are just banging out the seed. As we harvest these chicories, we are carefully selecting our own grex with more tightly drawn characteristics. These we have marked with flags and we will retain them for seed production. We will save around 100 plants for the purpose. Because chicories cross-pollinate, we will root out any other varieties and off-types. On field day, you will see this work in progress.

Sweet Underground: horseradish, spuds, white Swedes, sweet potatoes.

Cornmeal: Amish Butter and Roy's Calais Flint

We put the cornmeal in a glass mason jar, and it is fine in the freezer for a few months. The glass protects it from picking up the flavor of other foods in the freezer.

Popcorn: Amish Butter.

Pulses: Chick peas and the following beans: Zolfino, Tarbais, Borlotto Lamon, Purgatorio, Dutch Bullet, Cranberry

Winter Squash

Preserves: Pozegaca Prune, Italian Prune, Damson, Green Gage, Tart Cherry, Purple Raspberry, Red Raspberry, Loganberry, Gooseberry, Red Currant, Black Currant 

The Measure of a Farm

Farm income and deductions are declared on the Schedule F of the personal income tax form. Every five years, the USDA conducts a census of people who file a Schedule F or a corporate return indicating farming as a business activity. Last year, 2012, was a reporting year for the Census of Agriculture, and we submitted our report on the 4th of February, right at the deadline. A response is required by law, and we are now spared a visit by a determined census enumerator.

The author of the first book on agriculture (De Agri Cultura) from around 200 BC was Cato the Censor. It is a good book on farming. As his title indicates, he also served a term as censor, the person responsible for maintaining a census of citizens. The censor was also responsible for public morals, hence the modern definition. Although modern census enumerators have no role in determining public morals, they are also not so well versed in agriculture as Marcus Porcius Cato was, so it made sense to send our answers in on time. Old Marcus was also a pecuniary and heartless s.o.b., as well as a nativist concerned about the encroachment of all things Greek, so we might have sent in the census even in his day to avoid hearing his extreme political views. Even today, the libertarian Cato Institute, its name and character derived from the Roman's family, still has its shorts twisted up about Greece. La plus ça change . .

Aside from avoiding pesky enumerators, we willingly submit our farm data because the Census is used by government agencies and advocacy organizations to shape agricultural policy. If small market farms such as ours under-report, we lose visibility and a place at the table in policy debates. It takes a few hours to assemble the information and fill out the form. For highly diversified farms such as ours, it is a daunting task easy to put off until the very last minute.

Filling out the 24-page form is also frustrating because the structure of the questions reflects commodity farming where the production is sold as just so many widgets grown and harvested in standard units. Everything is reported in acres, whereas we measure our plantings in row feet or trees planted. For example, we planted 20,000 row feet of corn, and have no idea how many acres that is. Grains are reported in bushels, and legumes in hundred-weights harvested. The list of crops mirrors a suburban Safeway, not a vibrant urban market. With 72 different crops, tracking their individual yields is an utter waste of time; what is important is the picture that emerges from the mosaic, and the bank balance on the 31st of December. In many cases, we can back-out the numbers, others are wild guesses, and how on earth do you report frikeh?

There are signs of progress. For example, the national census now includes questions about organic certification, community supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers' markets. Nonetheless, the data garnered from those questions will give only a rough idea of how farming is changing. The balance of questions are grounded in the past, and will not provide a good sense of how agriculture is changing.

The USDA also manages field offices at the state level. As a matter of principle, we refuse to participate in those surveys that do not include the question of whether or not the crop is certified organic. Before the National Organic Program (NOP) was implemented, we were sampled in a detailed survey assessing chemical use on fruit crops. Press releases accompanying the survey's results lauded a drop in chemical usage on fruits as though farmers were using fewer chemicals across the board. Knowing that our organic farm was part of a small sample that drove that conclusion stuck in our craw. When we complained, we were told there was no generally accepted definition of organic so they couldn't collect that information.

In 2006, four years after NOP adoption, we were again included in the sample of the chemical use survey. Even though there were now legally binding national standards of what constitutes organic farming, the survey still did not collect that information, so we sent a letter explaining our refusal to answer. The director wrote back stating that it wasn't important to the survey on chemical usage to separate out farms that "have non-traditional production practices." The letter chided us for not participating and noted that "we will use computer models to estimate your information." A textbook case of bureaucratic insouciance. With a well-practiced script, we still carefully explain the enumerators who visit or call why we refuse to participate. Amazingly, a survey of Oregon farms issued in December 2012, a decade after the NOP adoption, still collects no information about the organic certification of the state's crops. It sits, untouched, on the desk.

Agricultural statistics are mired in the late 20th century industrial model of agriculture. The practices and marketing the USDA quaintly considers "non-traditional" are as old as agriculture itself. Heck, we still heed Cato's advice on a wide range of farm practices, even though his politics were obnoxious. With time, fresh ideas will creep into the census, but it is a slow process that needs some obdurate farmers to nudge it along.

See you all Sunday,

Anthony & Carol Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter February 3 2013 Market

Sarah West

We are taking a moment off from filling out the 2012 Census of Agriculture to fill up the van for Sunday's Hillsdale Farmers' Market. We expect the market will start around 10:00 AM because it always does. Ho hum.

For Saturday, the 9th of February, Anna Stulz of Slow Food Portland together with Friends of Family Farmers has put together an evening at the Vintage Design Collective (7126 SE Milwaukie) centered on corn and wine. We will be joined by our good friends Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans and Mark Doxstader, who will cook up some corn treats, and Shari Sirkin of Dancing Goat Farm will enhance the evening with their vegetables. Arcane Cellars will be pouring wine for tasting. It will be a fun evening. Here is a link to the details:

http://blog.oregonlive.com/my-portland/2013/02/slow_food_portland_event_satur.html

Earlier the same day, we will be at Pastaworks, 3735 SE Hawthorne Blvd, from 3:00 to 5:00 for a Beautiful Corn event co-hosted by Powell Books. A busy day.

Here is what we will bring tomorrow:

Cornmeal: Amish Butter and Roy's Calais Flint
Acres USA is a national magazine for farmers dedicated to "eco-agriculture." The term encompasses organic, biodynamic and permaculture. This month featured an interview with Anthony and it has been interesting fielding the calls from kindred spirits in the corn world. They are scattered across the country, working with traditional varieties similar to ours. We are at the cusp of a re-localization of this wonderful grain. It is also encouraging to hear how our gentle approach to managing the land resonates with other growers.

On Monday, we gave a tour to 170 members of the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association. They were a more skeptical audience, though over the years we have made a modicum progress with people at Oregon State. Nonetheless, they still regard Chesters as an unattractive and unpleasant fruit, and remain mystified that we are able to sell them. The problem is that they push their Chester for high yields as opposed to limiting the fruit and drawing our the best flavor. Funny how people understand the idea of limiting fruit load in wine grapes but reject the notion in berries. The same principle hold for corn as well where high yields and high quality are mutually exclusive outcomes.

Popcorn: Amish Butter.

Pulses: Dry beans and chick peas.

Cayenne Peppers: whole dried.

Winter Squash

Greens: various and chicories.
Treviso types, with their beautiful arching leaves and unsurpassed flavor. Also, some of the Catalogna types with their long green leaves bearing a crisp center rib. If you cut them lengthwise in linguini-sized strips and plunge the strips into ice water, they curl up corkscrew fashion. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil with a couple of anchovy fillets mashed into the mix.

Preserves: The tart cherry is now labeled and we will have it tomorrow.

Sweet Underground: horseradish, lots of beets, spuds, daikon, sweet potatoes, parsnips.

No more dithering, otherwise the van won't get filled.

Our best,

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter January 20 2013 Market

Sarah West

The van will be redolent with the fragrance of roots and leeks as we crawl over Bald peak on our way to the Hillsdale Farmers' Market this Sunday. We have the able assistance of Sam O'Keefe, a family friend who will make sure we are ready when the old cowbell tolls at 10:00 AM.

Monday, we will give a presentation before a joint meeting of the Avid Gardeners and the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition. It is open to the public and will take place at the Garden Club at 1645 High Street in Eugene. We will be sharing our thoughts on growing fruits and vegetables at the 45th parallel, replete with various digressions. The meeting starts at 6:30. Please stop by if you are in the neighborhood.

Here is what we will bring to the market:

Cornmeal and Popcorn  

Pumpkin Seed Project, Year 3:

Three years ago, we planted a row of naked pumpkin seeds as a trial. The hulless or naked pumpkin seed originated in Styria, a region of Austria. Pumpkin seeds are roasted and pressed for their oil, a characteristic food of the region. In the late 19th century, an observant Styrian farmer found a pumpkin where the tough hull was reduced to papery covering. Apparently, Austria is not considered a sexy land of origin in the seed catalogue land, so some seed companies list them as unique Japanese pumpkins. Echos of calling prunes from Germany "Italian Prunes."

The mice quickly volunteered as tasters, eating every last seed and leaving naught but a hole. Obviously, the mice had decided pumpkin seeds were tasty, so we hastily set out a few more as seedlings and harvested six or seven fruits. Upon harvest, we agreed that mice have a good palate.

We repeated the trial in 2011 and discovered the seed companies have done a poor job of managing the seed. Most of the fruits had various undesirable characteristics, including a tendency to have tough, split or bitter seeds. More than half the pumpkins had to be discarded, their seeds inedible. Bulk naked pumpkin seed costs about $80 per pound - more in the 1/4 pound lots we usually buy - and should produce a reliable crop. Unfortunately, we are encountering similar seed quality problems for other crops.

Last spring we ordered seed from several sources and picked through thousands of seeds, finding just 100 with the characteristics we wanted, discarding the rest. Cost was about $1.00 per seed, plus labor. We planted them and all but two of the plants produced good seeds. Ten of the pumpkins yielded beautiful plump, dark seeds easy to separate from the fruit pulp. We have reserved these for this year's planting. When we harvest the pumpkins in the autumn, we will again carefully select the fruits for seed.

Our goal is to produce a pumpkin that produces flavorful, high quality seeds that are easily removed by hand from the fruit's cavity. It will take a couple more years before we iron out all of the genetic kinks, but we are making progress. This year, we have the flavor nailed, even if the seed removal remained tedious.  These Austrian pumpkin seeds are delicious raw or roasted in a dry skillet until they pop. Wonderful addition to soups and salads. Supply is limited.

Pulses: Dry beans and chick peas.  

Cayenne Peppers: whole dried.

Winter Squash  

Greens: leeks, chicories and mustard/turnip/radish greens.

Preserves:  Full complement, including some gift boxes. We are waiting for the cherry preserve labels. We will have them by the next market.

Sweet Underground: horseradish, lots of beets, spuds, daikon, knob celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips.  

Colwell's Marriott Krensuppe

There is not much horseradish lobby, so its wonderful health benefits are barely explored and publicized. For example, digging it offers wonderful cardiovascular stimulation. In addition, it is clearly an aphrodisiac as we love putting it on all manner of foods. Linda Colwell, who shares our affection for this mulish root and helps us dig it for the farmers’ market, recreated two krensuppe recipes from lasting memories of a soup we enjoyed years ago.

A strike at Charles DeGaulle Airport had thrown the European airline schedules out the window, necessitating a layover in Frankfort, Germany. We were given a room in a Marriott Hotel miles from anywhere and quite late in the evening. The dining room did not look promising at first, but reading the menu we relaxed. The fare was simple German cooking using local ingredients. Among the soups offered was krensuppe. It was actually two soups; a red and a white soup served in the same bowl.

Although they can be served on their own, the red and the white versions together in a soup bowl make a striking visual display and, with the shared horseradish, harmonize wonderfully on the palate. The colors, by coincidence, are those of the Austrian flag, and horseradish soups are part of Austrian cuisine. Served hot or cold, they provide good vegetarian fare. The third version is from an old Romanian cookbook of Linda's. It uses beef stock, roux, and a very generous quantity of horseradish. The grated root is cooked with the flour, softening its flavor in the soup; the flavor is peppery and mellow.
 
Red and White Horseradish Soup
 
to make the horseradish and potato soup
 
30 gr (1 ounce) butter
½ medium onion, diced
600 gr (20 ounces) potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 liter (6 cups) water
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons, more or less, freshly grated horseradish
 
In a large enameled pot, melt the butter and cook the onion in it over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the onion is translucent and soft but not brown. Add the potatoes, water, and salt. Simmer over low heat until the potatoes fall apart, then cool them to room temperature.
 
Purée the ingredients through the medium plate of a food mill. Bring the soup to a simmer, taste, season accordingly. Add freshly grated horseradish to taste.
 
to make the horseradish and beet soup
 
900 gr (2 pounds) beets
500 ml (3 cups) water
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons, more or less, freshly grated horseradish
 
Cook the whole beets in their skins in heavily salted water until tender. When cool enough to handle, peel and cube them. Pass them through the medium plate of a food mill into a large enameled pot. Add the water, vinegar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, taste, and season accordingly. Add freshly grated horseradish to taste.
 
to serve the soups
Ladle the beet soup into one side of a shallow soup bowl and the potato soup into the other side, so the soups meet in a line down the middle. Serves 6.
 
Horseradish Broth Soup
 
30 gr (1 ounce) butter
200 gr (2 cups grated) horseradish
30 gr (2 tablespoons) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 liter (6 cups) beef broth, heated to a simmer
120 ml (½ cup) heavy cream
bread and butter for croûtons
 
In an enameled cast-iron pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the horseradish, and cook until wilted and soft, about 4 minutes. Add the flour and salt and cook thoroughly without browning. Add the hot broth slowly, whisking to prevent lumps. Simmer 10 minutes. Add the heavy cream, taste, and season accordingly. Serve hot with croûtons — cubes or slices of bread fried in butter or fat until they are golden brown and crisp — prepared at the last minute so they sizzle as they are scattered on the soup. Serves 4.

Cheers, see you all Sunday

Carol & Anthony

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter January 6 2013 Market

Sarah West


Sakes alive, that was a short break! At least the days are getting longer.

We will scrape the frost off the van and navigate our way over Bald Peak this Sunday morning, setting up in time for the opening of the first Hillsdale Farmers' Market of AD 2013. Business starts at 10:00 AM sharp, or a bit earlier if someone's phone chime perfectly resembles Molloy's market bell. When it is cold and windy, it actually takes a little less than perfection to convince us that the ringing in our ears is a cow bell.

At this month's Friends of Family Farmers InFarmation(link), forest owner Peter Hayes and wine-maker Rudy Marchesi will join Anthony in a conversation about the way the Tualatin River links our efforts and lives. Montinore Vineyard, Hyla Woods and Ayers Creek Farm are located along the headwaters of the river. Peter and Pam Hayes started this conversation with us five years ago, later Rudy joined in, and we hope the audience will participate in the conversation as we progress. Bit experimental, but with a good brew in hand what can go wrong?

InFarmation starts at 5:30 at the Holocene Brewery, 1001 SE Morrison, with the program getting under way around 6:30. It is free, good fun and a convivial introduction to an organization working to improve the state's policies regarding family farms. Oh yes, you can join us in a good glass of beer to keep the evening cheerful. Their website is: http://www.friendsoffamilyfarmers.org

Thursday afternoon, Anthony will teach a class at the Native Seeds / SEARCH Grain School in Tucson. Native Seed / SEARCH is non-profit that promotes seed conservation. In the evening, from 6:00 - 8:00, there will be an open house at the organization's Conservation Center, where he will talk about corn, the book, and maybe why his favorite Goldberg Variation is #30, the Quodlibet, or why a good log collection makes the farmer. If you have friends in the Tucson area, they are welcome to visit with Anthony. Here is the link: http://www.nativeseeds.org/index.php/events/other-events/164-beautiful-corn

Here is what we will have on Sunday:

The Calendar: As an expression of our gratitude to all of you who brave the elements on Sunday mornings, we have published a simple farm calendar for several years. We will have a stack of them for the coming year at this week's market. Tad tardy but with cause. All of the photos are taken at the farm by us during the month they appear. A bit of rigor unobserved by most calendar makers. If there is a theme to this year's calendar, it is a nod to the creatures who labor with us at the farm. Central to our farming philosophy is the idea that the unpriced bounty of the land is just as important as the fruits and vegetables we sell. We have even found a shapely bunny for the centerfold. Please be sure to grab one as they are only useful on your wall, perhaps an extra for your kid's dorm room.

Cornmeal: Roy's Calais Flint and Amish Butter. We will also have some whole kernels of the flint and blue corn with slack lime available for hominy.

Popcorn

Pulses: Dry beans and chick peas.

Cayenne Peppers: whole dried.

Sweet Underground: horseradish, beets, spuds, daikon, knob celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips, and the tail end of the Hamburg parsley and black radish.

Winter Squash: A good year for the squash.

Greens: leeks, chard, chicories and fava greens.

Preserves: Full complement, including some gift boxes. The Ayers Creek gift box deftly resolves that awkward exchange when you show up for dinner, and your host is uncertain whether to open that $20 bottle of wine you brought as a gift. For the same price, you can bring an attractive package with a jar of raspberry, loganberry, boysenberry and greengage. Your hosts will remember that evening over many breakfasts. As they scrape out the last bit of green gage plum, they may even think about inviting you over again.

Cheers, see you all Sunday

Carol & Anthony
The Boutards of Gaston & Ayers Creek

Ayers Creek Farm Newsletter 16 December 2012

Sarah West

For the fourth market in a row, we are expecting some sogginess at the Hillsdale farmers Market. Soggy or not, the market bell rings around 10:00 am.

Here is what we are bringing to Hillsdale, more or less:

Cornmeal: Roy's Calais Flint and Amish Butter. We will also have some whole kernels of the flint and blue corn with slack lime available for hominy.  

Popcorn: Last Friday, we tried popping some and it was still tough. One week later, the kernels pop to a beautiful, billowy flake. Reason enough pull on the boots and raincoat.

Pulses: Dry beans and chick peas. Full complement.  

Cayenne Peppers: whole dried.

Horseradish, beets, spuds, knob celery, gobo, sweet potatoes:  At Ayers Creek, it was a crappy year for most roots, especially the sweet potatoes. They will be small, and in short supply.

Winter Squash: A good year for the squash.  

Greens: Fennel, chicories and fava greens.

Apples: some sort of russet.

Preserves:  Full complement, including the gift boxes. These are attractively packed with a jar of raspberry, loganberry, boysenberry and gage at $20 each.

The last two weeks we have been occupied with myriad tasks, including making the preserves. Happy to say, everything went smoothly. Paul Fuller and his staff at Sweet Creek Foods are fun to work with. Making preserves for a single fruit type with no added pectin at a commercial scale is a challenge. It takes us about thirty hours to make the preserves – three ten-hour days – in two gallon batches. Adding pectin would cut the processing time to a short day, but the added pectin also dulls the flavor of the fruit.

Every fruit has it year, and this is the year of the raspberry and plums. With the raspberry, we started cooking it to 221° and it set up very firm because there is large amount of pectin in this year's fruit. We decided to ease off and run it up to 220°, and it still jelled beautifully. Consequently, there is a bit of variation in the set between the jars. We will have four plum jams: gage, Italian prune, Pozegaca prune and damson. And Robin, we did a better job of chopping up the skins of Pozegaca. We have gooseberry and jostaberry as well. After the New Year, we will have some tart cherry preserves, this year's experiment.

Carol and Anthony Boutard
Ayers Creek Farm