Links: Farmers market links: new crop apples, fresh fruit sorbet and lazy Ohio chickens
Every week I go to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturday to get fresh produce. Here's a write up of some of the things that I saw this past weekend.
USDA standards are aimed at mechanical processing of fruit; you want fruit firm enough that it can go through a canning machine. Second-quality fruit at market has to be handled by hand, in most cases, so there is no ready wholesale market for it. The USDA standards for peaches are aimed at the fruit processing industry, and you are looking for second-quality fruit that would qualify as "culls" under their standards, but are still delicious enough to eat.
Michigan State University has information on peach growing in Michigan, including a lot of detail about the varieties of pests and infestations that can cause fruit to end up blemished or imperfect. ItsÂ food preservation flyer for peaches recommends that you only use best-quality fruit for canning, and that you be careful to bag fresh fruits separate from meat, poultry and seafood products to avoid cross-contamination.
Linda Diane Feldt's recent column on ugly apples gives the apple perspective on the same question of understanding and appreciating second-quality fruit. Be prepared to do an "Iron Chef Apple" on the fruit, with your paring knife cutting out all the bad parts before you use it for food.
Fruit preparation tips
Always wash your fruit before eating. Refrigeration stops ripening, so if you get your produce cool when it gets home it is less likely to spoil. Cut off the bad spots as soon as it's practical, perhaps right when you get home from market. Second-quality fruit should be treated as much more perishable than first-quality, and if you buy a bag of very ripe fruit at market and leave it in a hot car all day it might spoil before you get home.
Making sorbet with your fresh, very ripe fruit
I can't think of a better August recipe than fresh fruit sorbet. It's incredibly easy, and very cheap if you can negotiate a good deal on overripe fruit fresh from the field. A dollar spent on an overripe cantaloupe, or two dollars on a bag of overripe peaches, can be turned into a delicious dessert.
The simplest recipe that could possibly work involves cutting the fruit to pieces, removing the bad spots, the stone, and the skin in the process. When you have a bowl of cut fruit, sweeten it with a little sugar or a simple syrup, and put it in the blender until it's well blended. Take the blended mixture and pour into an ice cream machine, and freeze until it's cold enough to serve. If it's a little underfrozen, you can keep it from melting by freezing the bowls as well.
It probably is unreasonable to say this to an experienced cook, but I will repeat it in case you aren't an experienced cook: it's easier to peel a whole peach than a cut peach. You don't need to peel the peach, but if you're cutting off bad spots, you might as well. The traditional way involves a dip in boiling water; this recipe for peach upside down cake from Quinn's Baking Diary includes pitting and peeling instructions with photos.
Apples at farmers market
We routinely buy apples from Wasem Fruit Farm, located on Judd Road in Augusta Township north of the city of Milan. They regularly bring apple seconds to market, and will sell you a mixed bag of seconds for sauce if they have them.
It's too early in the fruit year for me to be making sauce from apples, but we did get half a peck of Prime Red apples, and they were wonderful - crisp and sweet and tart all at once. A little searching and I found that Prime Red is also known as Akane. This description is from Orange Pippin, an encyclopedia of apple varieties:
"Akane is an excellent crisp apple with a good balance of sweet and sharp flavours. It was developed in Japan in the 1930s, and represents an unusual marriage of the classic English early variety, Worcester Pearmain, and the excellent American heritage apple variety, Jonathan."
I don't have enough words in my fruit-tasting vocabulary yet to describe all of the flavors in this apple. If summer is almost over, it means that fall has started, and glorious local fall apples are there.
Grandma's okra from Delta, Ohio
Donna Puehler from Grandma's Kitchen in Delta, Ohio brought only about 80 dozen eggs to market on Saturday. I told her that her chickens were being lazy, since it's more typical that she brings 110 to 120 dozen. Her okra is not lazy, though, and she's picking okra every day.
An easy way to cook okra is to slice it into rounds, sprinkle on cornmeal and flour seasoned with salt and pepper to coat it, and then fry in a little oil. Okra is also known as bhindi, and some recipes from Crack the Plates for bhindi masala look great. Another name for okra is ladyfinger, and that's a good guide for shopping - look for okra the size of a woman's little finger, and skip the ones that look more like midwestern zucchini.