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Never Mind the Soup Nazi, Here’s Some Soup for You!

As we finally move toward autumn (not to be confused with Indian Summer) the first thing I think of (when thinking of food) is not how much I’m going to miss all the fresh vegetables and salads but how I’m going to make the transition between cooking light and cool salads to hearty and warm soups and stews! Ok, well I do still have to consider my health, caloric intake, cholesterol, triglycerides, fats, sugars and all that stuff but of course now I have to also start reading labels more thoroughly again as well since I’ll be unable to use quite as many fresh ingredients. Sure, I wish I didn’t have to read any labels and had a pantry well stocked with preserved delicacies from the field and garden however I do not have that luxury. I do have many friends who do have that luxury and I will work for food! Ha! Seriously though, I won’t have to give up all those things entirely, I simply have to take advantage of all the summers bounty by way of canning, pickling and preserving.

Whether it’s by using the many value added items available at the market or by using my favorite grocer, I will inevitably be utilizing the things that we keep in our cupboards a little more frequently. Yes I think we can all agree that it is a little disheartening at first but I believe that if we approach this change in the same manner in which we look forward to the changing seasons then we can begin to appreciate the offerings in a similar fashion. For example: Now I can pull out that batch of trout that I froze in the spring and dip them into something crunchy and into the frying pan, or I can thaw that last leg of venison and cook up a pot of stew. Heck, I still have one more wild turkey in the freezer to turn into Coq au Vin as well! I think you get the picture, and once we really think about it we begin to realize these changes can also be refreshing.

Although grilling has been one of the most elemental and enjoyable cooking techniques for eternity, I find braising and stewing very rewarding and just about as much fun as the summertime ritual of the barbecue. It’s extremely gratifying to take a potentially tough piece of meat or a slew of vegetables and turn them into something tender, flavorful, and filling. Take soups for example. One can essentially take any ingredients and turn them into a meal with a few knife skills and a little imagination. Well, a little stock too. I don’t know what it is besides the sheer simplicity but I think I find it somewhat therapeutic to make soups. I enjoy making them just about as much as eating them; I guess it’s a chef thing. But whether it’s a brothy vegetable laden chicken soup or a velvety rich and creamy mushroom soup, I don’t think there’s anything better than a good bowl of hot soup on a cool afternoon or evening.

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Chicken Consomme

What makes a great soup? Well, generally like anything else they’re made with the freshest ingredients. However, many of my favorites have come from using leftovers in my refrigerator from the previous day’s dinner or meal. Turkey and Rice Soup after Thanksgiving right! And the list certainly goes on and on! I keep all my shrimp and shellfish shells throughout the year in bags in my freezer so I can make bisque over the holidays. That’s right you actually use the shells to make Shrimp Bisque. I like to roast them first, pulverize them and then complete the bisque with things like thyme, shallots, tomato, brandy, sherry, herbs, and cream. That’s not the full recipe of course but think about it, you make the best beef vegetable soup by using the bones to make the broth or stock first right? Chicken too, you’d have to be nuts to throw away the bones from a roasted chicken and not use them for stock. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the concept, but I freeze stocks all the time and pull them out when I’m ready to make a Mean Bean Soup or Pasta Fagioli! One of the greatest soups ever invented is also one of the easiest, French Onion Soup! It really is easy but I do recommend you buy onion soup crocks if you’re going to make it. And please use Gruyere, Jarlsberg, or Swiss cheese not those other imitations; they just don’t produce the proper gratin! I also use a combination of beef and chicken stock when making mine.

And here’s a somewhat exotic recipe for a soup you can make with some fresh pumpkin from the Market, a creamy Lobster Pumpkin Bisque.

We can hardly step into the month of October without mentioning this most popular autumn soup; Roasted Butternut Squash Soup seems to be the rage lately and there’s a good reason for it too! It’s just about one of the most delicious comfort foods to hit the shelves in years! Not like it’s anything that hasn’t been done for eons but it has had its appeal of late. I am going to share with you a soup recipe that I’ve been doing for many years I think you’ll really enjoy. Butternut Squash & Black Bean Eclipse. It’s actually two soups that when made separately and served together are quite exquisite and well worth the time, especially when entertaining. You’ll see why when you see the picture I’ve included.

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Butternut Squash and Black Bean Eclipse. Click here for recipe

 

I could go on for hours about soups; as a matter of fact I’ve been called many things in my life including Gourmand Geek and Soup Guru! But I prefer to think of myself as an “Appicurean” you know, half epicurean and half Appalachian. Yes, I think I like that!

As our summer season at the market comes to an end and we begin to prepare ourselves for another autumn and winter I hope we will all take time to give thanks to the numerous individuals who have made another great season at the market all possible. From the incredibly generous folks at Genesis Partners and Bridgeport Conference Center to all the vendors, musicians, guest chefs, helpers, and Board of Directors who have dedicated their time to the success story that we’ve come to know so well as the Bridgeport Farmers Market. As you also know, it is unlike any market we’ve experienced here in West Virginia and we’d like to think that makes it pretty special. We’re fortunate for all these things to fall into place to make it such a fun experience and we also owe it to those of you who continue to support the cause. Please keep us in mind over the winter season and stop by and see us at the Conference Center, same friendly people, music, value-added products and food so we hope to see you there! Pierpont Culinary Academy Pastry Chef Allison McCue and students will be making Beignets along with Quantum Bean Coffee serving samples, so don’t miss our outdoor season finale Sunday, October 9th, same place, same time!

Bonne cuisine!  jay

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Tis the Season for Pumpkin

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

-Anne of Green Gables, L.M.Montgomery

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Assorted winter squash from Green Acres

The seasons, they are a-changing. After a splendid Harvest Moon last week, the transition into fall is in full swing. The changes are becoming apparent at the market as well. Yes, there are still plenty of peppers and tomatoes at the market. But, signs of fall are slowly creeping in. It started a few weeks ago with the appearance of the first butternut squash. This was followed closely by a wagon load of pumpkins and corn stalks. And pie pumpkins. And gourds. And plenty of fall squash – Delicata and Long Island Cheese just to name a few.

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Check out all those pumpkins and corn stalks from Jason Poth Farms

The pumpkin has been around for centuries. It is of course most famous for gracing our tables at Thanksgiving as a pie. And the first pumpkin pies were made by slicing the top off of a pumpkin, removing the seeds, and filling the insides with milk, spices, and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes. It sounds delicious to me! Now, of course, we have pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice Cheerios, pumpkin cream cheese…pretty much anything food manufacturers can put pumpkin into, they do.

If you are like me and enjoy to bake with pumpkin, there’s a more economical way to get your pumpkin puree than to buy it in the cans at the grocery store. Pick up a pumpkin at the market – Long Island Cheese is my pumpkin of choice. Once you get it home, admire it for a few days because it is beautiful! When you get the courage, cut it in half (or have your husband do it if you are prone to cutting yourself or have gotten stitches in the past for a cut from a…butter knife…). Scoop out the seeds and put them in a colander to rinse them off. You can roast the seeds, too!

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A Long Island Cheese Pumpkin from my garden – also available at the market from The Vegetable Garden

Preheat your oven to 350. Lay the pumpkin halves cut side down on a baking sheet with some water as well. Pop it in the oven and keep an eye on it over the next hour or so. When the pumpkin starts to fall in on itself and you can easily pierce the skin with a fork, it’s ready to go. Place the baking pan on a cooling rack to cool. Once cool, scoop out the roasted meat of the pumpkin from the skin and whiz it up in your food processor or blender. Place it in a cheesecloth lined colander over the sink to let some of the water drain off – pumpkin has a lot of water! Once drained, measure out into freezer bags and freeze for future use. Or maybe whip up a batch of these . When I roasted a Long Island Cheese from my garden a few weeks ago, I got 7 cups of pumpkin! Take that Libby’s.

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7 cups of pumpkin frozen in quart freezer bags. To get the bags to lay flat in your freezer, freeze the bags on a baking sheet first!

Pumpkin isn’t the only fall squash that deserves our attention. We are also fans of butternut around our house. My six year old is especially fond of this. Paired with a loaf of fresh bread and you have a rocking dinner. Delicata squash is another great fall squash. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and stuff it with your favorite stuffing. Perhaps you like quinoa, cranberries, and pecans. Or maybe some sausage and kale. No peeling required and you can even get away with no dishes!

So, whether you are a pumpkin spice latte fanatic or a delicata squash lover, be sure to get out to the market and grab some. There are only three regular season markets left! Oh, but the great thing about all these wonderful squashes is their storage quality! Don’t want to use that delicata this week? Great! Toss it in your pantry and save it for a few weeks. See you on Sunday!

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A Wild and Wonderful Table: The Recap

Last Saturday dawned bright and beautiful, a great day for a Wild and Wonderful Table. This year the Market decided to change things up a bit for our fundraising event. First off, the event is now branded with a spiffy new name and logo. Secondly, we decided to take it on the road. To Sutton, WV, to be exact. And lastly, we decided to up the ante by inviting chefs from all over the region to participate. Using the freshest, local ingredients available from the BFM they created some amazing dishes. Wild and Wonderful, indeed!

 

So now you’re asking, why Sutton? Good question. One that even I asked when it was first proposed. I think it partly has something to do with the Market becoming recognized as one of the finest, if not the finest, farmers markets in the state. Couple that with the fact that the Market has grown to become much more than just a farmers market for folks in Bridgeport. Any given Sunday we see folks from all over the region. And we have vendors from at least 15 counties. And since Sutton is the geographic center of the state (who remembers 8th grade WV History class?) it made sense. At least we think it did and everyone who attended agreed! We are also fortunate to have two major fans in Anthony Majestro and Jennifer Meinig. Tony and Jennifer opened up their beautifully restored Sutton home, known as The Kelly House, and played host and hostess for the evening.

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Our gracious hosts for the evening, Jennifer Meinig and Tony Majestro. Tony was also our Chief Lighting Technician!

As for the chefs I think I will let the following pictures of their dishes speak for themselves. All of the chefs donated their time and dishes and for that the Market is eternally grateful.

Starting in the upper left and going clockwise we start out with Chef Michael Diethorn from the Country Vintner of WV and his beautifully presented and yummy Smoked Ham & Rosemary Biscuit Sliders. Next is Chef Jay Mahoney and his Pierpont Culinary Academy students’ Duck, Pistachio, and Dried Fruit Terrine (for those following along at home this is as fine an example as you’ll find of Garde Manger that Chef Jay talked about here two weeks back.) Our third dish is Bridgeport Conference Center Chef Joe White’s scrumptious Pork Rillette Crostini followed by the lovely Melody Urbanic of Cafe Cimino in Sutton showing off Chef Tim Urbanic’s delectable Eggplant Involtini.

Again clockwise from the upper right we have Chef Cody Thrasher of Cody’s in Bridgeport putting the finishing touches on his surprisingly rich Cantaloupe Gazpacho. Chef Geoff Kraus of Thyme Bistro in Weston contributed his Rabbit Hand Pie (this blogger’s personal favorite) and to end the meal on a high note we had a decadent Cape Gooseberry Bavarian Jaconde prepared by Chef Pamela Delaude of Mia Margherita in Bridgeport. Of course, no great meal would be complete without a few craft cocktails, in this case shaken and stirred by mixologist Rilley Lydon of Tin 202 in Morgantown.

And this is just a sampling of the dishes as each chef presented one and in a few cases two more dishes than what is shown here. And I can speak the gospel truth here as I had at least one of everything (and seconds on most!), it was truly a gourmand’s delight in Sutton that night.

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Let’s hear it for our chefs! L-R: Chef Joe White, Cody’s Sous Chef Anna Estenson, Chef Cody Thrasher, Chef Pamela Delaude, Chef Jay Mahoney, and Chef Geoff Kraus

And two that missed the group shot: Chefs Michael Diethorn and Tim Urbanic

Now, if you think the dishes are works of art then wait until you see a backyard transformed into a rustic yet somehow elegant outdoor banquet hall. Perfectly fitting for our theme, A Wild and Wonderful Table.

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Ready, Set, Go!

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It’s a full house!

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Feathered’s Quinn Edgell designed the decor and here she puts some last minute touch ups in place. Our beautiful flowers were all courtesy of Market vendor Rising Moon Farm.

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And it’s a wrap. A very successful first Wild and Wonderful Table.

And, again, going hand in glove with our theme was the pure, authentic bluegrass sound of two folks who are quickly earning a place in the Market’s heart and our pantheon of great musicians, Hillary Kay and John Posey. Hillary and John will be back at the Market next Sunday so you can come out and hear what I’m talking about.

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And no fundraising event is successful without people attending and having a great time. Here are just a few folks having way too much fun. I know I did. If you like what you see here watch for the 2017 edition of A Wild and Wonderful Table around this time next year.

All photos courtesy of Daniel E. Raines who is pictured in the red shirt above. Wait a minute, who took that picture then?! Thanks Daniel!

Before signing off I just want to give a shout out to the Greater Clarksburg Kennel Club who will be having their annual “The Market Goes To The Dogs” day at this Sunday’s Market. And we also have the return of our most eclectic musical performers, Ancien, for their annual stop at the BFM.

Until next week, Stay Fresh!

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In Their Own Words: Jennings Brae Bank Farm

Bob’s Note: Today we’re featuring another BFM vendor in their own words, Farmer John Jennings of Jennings Brae Bank Farm in Wetzel County. John and his wife Mollie are long time vendors at the Market and offer a wide range of fresh produce as well as pasture-raised pork and grass-fed Scottish Highland beef. Check them out at the Market today and at http://www.jenningsbraebankfarm.com/

Farming is a hard profession. There are days where I have questioned my sanity for quitting my day job, and its steady paycheck, to toil away in fields with my hands in the dirt. I have seen freshly planted fields sitting under 6 inches of water. I have felt helpless as sick calves die under my care. I have cursed after finding my 600 pepper plants, just starting to blossom, munched back to the stem by invading deer.  I have spent more time working on fixing equipment than I ever will working on farming with it. There are some days that all of this seems not worth the effort. Mother Nature can be a cruel boss.

 

On the days where farming seems too tough and I start feeling a little sorry for myself I have to focus on the rewards I’m granted being a farmer. Cherry tomatoes right off the vine are my favorite summertime treat. A newborn calf trying to find its legs for the first time is adorable. The view from our fields at sunset could be on a postcard. A barn full of hay gives me as much satisfaction as money in the bank. Generally, though, my greatest reward every week is attending Farmers Markets.

Farmers Markets give me an opportunity to put our hard work on display. Providing food for people provides me a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Talking with other farmers about our successes and failures makes me feel less alone in this challenging endeavor. The gratefulness of the customers who buy our products provides me with the energy to keep going. An afternoon at the market is time well spent.

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Proof that farming is not always work, work, work! John and Mollie goofing on their farm. See more of John and Mollie on their Facebook page.

 

Living in West Virginia I sometimes feel disheartened by the constant barrage of negative news about the struggles of our state and its people. It can feel a little hopeless. Farmers Markets help restore my hope for our state, communities, and farming. The action of traveling to market to purchase local and quality ingredients takes a little effort. There are so many of you making that effort every week at the Bridgeport Farmers Market. It is uplifting to see all of the Farmers, small businesses, customers, and organizers working so hard to create a wonderful community. Thanks to all of you who organize and attend the market, your support keeps me farming.

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Thanks, Farmer John!

Just a reminder that there are still a few tickets left for Saturday’s fund-raising dinner, A Wild and Wonderful Table. Click the link for ticket purchases thru PayPal. The list of WV chefs who are participating is quite impressive and their menus may be even more impressive. Check it out:

And stay tuned here next week for a follow-up blog with pictures from the dinner!

Until then, Stay Fresh!

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Pickling, Preserving, and Garde Manger

Editor’s note: As we went to publish this blog it was announced that Chef Jay’s school, Pierpont Culinary Academy, was listed in a national publication as the fifth best culinary school in America. A great achievement for our local folks! Congrats to Chef Jay and the school’s Executive Director Chef Brian Floyd and all who contribute to the Academy’s success!

Well that most wonderful time of the year is nearly upon us. Already! What? Tomato season has come and gone and now we begin to prepare for “the harvest”! It is an exciting time to say the least. You can almost feel the energy in the air! I haven’t been as fortunate this summer to be as close to the gardening as I was last summer although it’s not as though I didn’t have the opportunity; rather I simply didn’t have the time. And I certainly don’t need to tell any of you how consuming it can be to raise livestock or tend a garden for a livelihood, do I?

So, last summer the fortune I speak of was the fact that a little reunion of sorts reconnected me with a friend in St. George, WV, (that’s up in Tucker County in case you didn’t know) who was totally enthralled with her gardening. She claimed she had so much produce that she wanted someone to cook for her while she canned the rest, which was not really true at all but it became obvious to me just what a major task it can be to try and save all the amazing things from the garden by canning, cooking, curing or pickling. Dear God what a tremendous amount of work, I don’t know how she did it! I gained the most incredible respect for her and all those who are willing to take on this labor of love. It’s all about preservation baby! We’ve got to find a way to make those things last throughout the year. As a matter of fact, that’s what one of the culinary classes I teach at Pierpont Culinary Academy is all about as well. Preservation of food, Garde Manger!

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A high end version of Garde Manger! Pate, Terrine, and Galantine with Swiss cheese & Fennel Slaw prepared by the Garde Manger students at Pierpont Culinary Academy.

Garde Manger (gard-mahn-zhey), what the heck is that? Well it means many things. To a cook or chef it means “the art of cold food cookery and preservation”. It was also the storage area or larder in the beginning, usually a cooler place. And then it soon became the pantry or the person in charge of the pantry. We also refer to the cooks and chefs who prepare these cold foods as Garde Manger chefs, who share in a long culinary and social tradition that stretches back to the dawn of recorded history. That’s right! For example: fish were likely preserved by soaking in salty water and drying on the shore or smoking by the fire. Preserved meats and smoked hams were developed with the use of salt to keep them from spoiling. The first cheese making efforts took place in Mesopotamia around 6000-7000 B.C.E. from simple efforts to preserve milk solids from curdled goats and cows’ milk, one of the more fascinating foods at the disposal of the Garde Manger Chef. The list of preservation techniques just goes on and on, most of which rely on salt, cooking, or fermentation to help in the process. There’s an ongoing controversy as to whether the first method of preserving food was bread or beer. What do you think?

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Another form of food preservation, sausage-making. In this case, Chef Jay’s students prepping bratwurst.

 

Anyway, let me get back to St George if I may. I was absolutely astounded at the amount of fresh produce from the garden that had to be dealt with immediately or lose it! A multitude of tomato and bean varieties, okra, corn, onions, peppers, pears, apples, etc., etc.! I’ve been using these ingredients all my life but never had I been exposed to such an abundance and variety of product that all had to be fabricated in some manner immediately and fast! When the time comes to harvest, there’s no time for anything else. I didn’t have a clue of the undertaking of events that precluded the consumption of all these goodies. Well, that’s not entirely true. But even as a kid when I visited my Aunt Mac down in Summers County and she would break out jar after jar of preserved fruits and vegetables at both the breakfast and supper tables I must have thought it all just magically appeared. But now that I was seeing this production come straight from the garden to the prep counters, piling up quickly and right in my face it really sank in! I’m a prepping maniac too! Ha!

Each year about this time we are all so fortunate to have access to this harvesting of wondrous flavors at our local markets and it just blows me away how much the local food economy in our region has progressed over the last decade. One would think as a chef I might have a better understanding of what it takes to prepare all of these things for future use, but until you’re face to face with the possibility of losing what you’ve worked so hard for all year, it’s difficult to understand what our farmers go through on a daily basis or at harvest time. I don’t presume to know either what the life of a farmer is like, I can only imagine. I can however begin now to understand the dedication and total involvement it takes to maintain this beautiful bounty year after year.

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A Garde Manger Cold Food Platter prepared by a student at Pierpont Culinary Academy.

Those of you who work so hard to bring us all these products that have come from your blood, sweat, and tears over the seasons deserve a colossal thanks from those of us who rely on you to supply our families with the foods to help us stay healthy. We can only pray that we may help to sustain the movement, and your efforts. With a little luck and your perseverance we just may be able to pass these good practices and habits on to our youth.

Please show your Bridgeport Farmers Market Vendors how much they are appreciated by supporting them this fall and throughout the seasons.

We hope you will all join us in celebrating our first Annual Wild & Wonderful Table fundraiser September 10 in Sutton for a showcase of our local products by area chefs and entrepreneurs.

In the spirit of the harvest I leave you with my best pickled green bean recipe! Handed down to you the old-fashioned way in this case, HA!

Bonne cuisine!

Chefj

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Getting Down and Dirty About Soap

I think it goes without saying that we all enjoy being clean – at least once in awhile, right? And I think most of us use some sort of soap. But, do you know soap?

 

If you take a glance at the back of a bar of soap in the grocery store, you probably notice sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as one of the first ingredients. SLS is considered a detergent and can be an irritant to the eyes. If continue down the ingredient list, you may feel like you need a chemistry degree to understand what in the world is in it!  And detergent cleans my clothes, not my body.

 

I started making soap for several reasons, the main one being that it fills my need of applying my chemistry experience with something useful and fun for my family and friends (and now customers at the market!). I love talking about making soap. I love making soap. I love using soap. I pretty much just love soap!

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House on the Hill Soap Co set up at the market.

There is evidence from 2800 BC on a Babylonian tablet of a soap like substance being produced. And there is also evidence that the ancient Egyptians bathed regularly with a substance made from animal and vegetable oils combined with an alkali salt. So, it seems clear that soap has played an important role in history, helping to keep people clean and reduce the spread of disease.

 

I’ve had some really enlightening conversations with some older gentlemen who have stopped by my tent telling me that they remembered stirring the soap for their mothers and grandmothers. Rendered fats from butchered animals on the farm and lye made from wood ashes were used by many of our ancestors to make soap.

 

I have also had some interesting conversations with other people on what soap actually IS. I’ve had people ask me if I make lye soap or goat milk soap. And I’ve had to explain that lye soap is NOT bad and will not harm your skin. And lye is really quite benign to work with, given you use the proper precautions.

 

Ok, ok…now what is lye? In modern soap making, lye is sodium hydroxide, or more commonly seen as drain cleaner. It’s somewhat difficult to obtain in a store and many stores require your driver’s license information because, well…lye is also used in the making of methamphetamine. But, have no fear – the lye is completely transformed in the soap making process. As a soap maker, I use proper protective equipment, namely safety glasses.

 

In chemist jargon, soap is a salt of a fatty acid. There is a reaction of fats, whether they be animal or vegetable in nature, and a strong base, which is lye. This reaction is called saponification. In the soap making process, the fats are heated until melted and mixed with a lye and a liquid, generally water or milk. During the process, the lye reacts completely with the fats and is transformed into the end product, which is a hard soap.

 

There are generally two methods for making soap, cold process and hot process. Each method has advantages and disadvantages and it is generally the preference of the soap maker as to which method is employed. The choice of which fats to use can be fun and a chemistry experiment within itself. If you see “castile soap” – know that it is completely olive oil based. Each fat gives a unique property to the end soap – moisturizing, hardness, and lather just to name the main attributes.

 

I choose to employ the hot process method. For me, the biggest attraction to using the hot process method is the fact that the soap is ready to be used the day after it is made. In cold process soap, the soap needs 6 weeks to “cure” or to allow the soap to come to a reasonable pH as to not be harmful to skin. Because hot process uses heat to speed this curing time, the soap is ready faster. In order to test for safety, I use phenolphthalein to ensure the soap is no longer caustic and safe to use.

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Lemon Poppy Seed soap before being put in a mold. It looks like muffin batter!

There are numerous fats that can be used in soap making, but I have chosen to keep my soap more local. I obtain fat from local cows and pigs and then further render the fat down into tallow and lard. When an animal was butchered on the farm, every last piece was used. Lard was used for cooking and often times tallow was used to make candles. Nowadays, however, the fat is just a waste product of the butchering process. Rendering adds an extra step to the process, but I appreciate knowing where the fat comes from.

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Melting down fats before the addition of lye – olive oil, beef tallow, lard, and coconut oil.

If you come to the market, you’re already a fan of local food. So, why not  try out some local soap! See you at the market!

 

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In Their Own Words: Indian Creek Farms

Bob’s Note: This week we feature another BFM vendor, Indian Creek Farms, in their own words on Let’s Get Fresh. Jeff and Nadia Myers of Indian Creek are new to the Market for this season. Those of you following along at home will recall that this is the promised follow-up blog to last week’s Price Survey. Specifically, Jeff and Nadia address the uphill battles faced by small chicken farmers.

We at Indian Creek Farms LLC are a veteran-owned small business farm operating out of Harrisville, WV, in Ritchie County. After serving our great nation both in the US Armed forces active duty for 20 years and then going back to Afghanistan and Iraq for another 10 years we had the opportunity to get a taste of both global travel and cultural diversity. Although this experience cannot be fully expressed in words alone we have come to realize that our second career needs to be back to “ground zero” meaning where our heritage started; beautiful country living and raising clean, wholesome food products which are free from all those synthetic additives that I cannot even begin to pronounce.

It was during the summer of 2006 that we watched the brilliant documentary, Food, Inc., which not only changed our mindset on how we wanted to live but moreover motivated us to become producers of “Beyond Organic” chicken and eggs.

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Nadia and Jeff Myers of Indian Creek Farms

Moving forward, we were fortunate to find a small farm plot here in West Virginia and immediately started farming. With little background experience in farming I like to call it “Feeding from the Fire hose on-the-job training”. Literally, we just jumped feet first into it. We quickly realized that the consumer market was screaming for good wholesome farm-raised food and we decided that “Chicken, Brown Eggs, Lamb, Rabbits, and seasonal Turkeys” would be our primary focus.

After doing a little research we found Non-GMO feed for our birds and already had good well water as well as green and clean pasture in which to raise our livestock. At present we are into our second year and the lessons learned are quite immense. Between figuring out rotational grazing, putting up hay, preventing predator issues, and keeping our livestock healthy through the winter we definitely had our hands full.

Thank goodness we didn’t have to invent all the rules by ourselves. By continually reaching out to both our extension office and our local friendly farmers as well as doing some late night reading we have done quite well. However, there are always the unexpected bolts of lightning that occur when we least expected it; such as the 9 inches of rain within 2 hours one early morning at 3 am that washed away 60 of our fully grown broilers and their 8×8 chicken tractors or the sly red foxes that always come unannounced for free chicken dinners, etc!

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Franky the Rooster at Indian Creek Farms

All that aside we continue to enjoy what we do and look forward to continuing a “Beyond Organic” farm production model which supplies the demands of our customers here in West Virginia.

I would like to conclude by leaving a message with our fine customers and patrons which is this; “If you demand it the Farmers will produce it”. Let’s get back to basics and demand good, wholesome food from our local farmers. Let’s stay away from the vicious circle of Big Pharma. Let’s ban GMO products and foods that contain preservatives, pesticides, and herbicides. And, finally, let’s make the conscious decision to support local production and know where our food comes from.

We strongly believe that everything we need to stay healthy in mind and body is provided for on this wonderful green earth, it just requires a little blood, sweat, and tears to make it available. Educate yourself and remember you really are what you eat. Live healthy and stay vigilant. Have a wonderful happy and healthy life from Indian Creek Farms LLC.

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Thanks Jeff and Nadia! I would also add my take on another of Indian Creek’s products that they neglected to mention, their merguez sausage. If you’re not familiar with this lamb sausage that’s native to North Africa and the Middle East get yourself to Indian Creek’s tent today and get yourself some then thank me later!

We have some big doings at the POP Club tent this week with the arrival of Mountaineer Therapy Dogs. See the flyer below and make sure your kids get entered in the drawing for a free set of Laura Baldwin books. Dogs and free books! Does it get any better than that?

therapydogs

 

PRICE SURVEY

Our 4th Annual Pricing Survey

That’s right, loyal Marketeers, it’s that time of the season again! Time for our annual price survey. And this year it’s bigger and better than ever! For those of you new to this, 2016 is the 4th year that your fearless blogger has taken on the task, very unscientific mind you, of gathering pricing data at a peak-of-the-season Market day (last Sunday to be exact) and then crunching all of those numbers thru the BFM Supercomputer to arrive at a BFM average price.

That being done I then hit the streets (somehow avoiding detection and possible arrest and incarceration) and made it to two popular, local supermarkets where I (again, very unscientifically) recorded prices for the same items. I use the term “same” very loosely in this instance. As you will see below this is very much an apples-to-oranges comparison.

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A selection of produce from Green Acres Farm

Now, the point of this exercise is not to show that a Farmers Market is going to be cheaper than a SuperDuperMegaStore. Although in some instances we are indeed less expensive, there is no way for small producers such as those found at the BFM to compete across the board with these behemoth corporations. Instead farmers have to depend on that age-old axiom, “You get what you pay for”.

At this point I could go into all the reasons why you should shop at a Farmers Market, healthier and fresher food, keeping your money in the local economy, etc., but we have preached all of that ad nauseam in these pages. So, without any more commentary from me here is the 2016 BFM Pricing Survey:

BFMPrices2016con

Behold, this year’s Price Survey. Click here for an easier to read and printable version.

 

So why do I say this is an apples-to-oranges comparison? Well, for starters the majority of the produce you will find at the BFM is grown using chemical- and pesticide-free practices. And some BFM farmers even have differing degrees of organic status. While none are “USDA-certified Organic” (see an old blog of mine for more info on that) the beauty of a Farmers Market is just that, The Farmer. He or she is there, alive and in-person, so you can simply ask them what practices they follow. Can you do that at the supermarket?

And when it comes to meat, as you can see above, the farmers of the BFM are, with the exception of chicken, very competitive price-wise. The major difference here, of course, is that all of the beef you purchase at the Market is grass-fed and hormone- and antibiotic-free. If you don’t think that is a premium check out the price of the only grass-fed beef item I found at either supermarket, the 85/15 Ground Beef at Store B.

In this same vein the pork and lamb products listed above are all GMO-free and pasture raised. New to the survey this year are rabbit and farm-raised venison. While the Market has almost always had a vendor or two that offered rabbit this is the first year, due to some new state regulations, that venison has been available. For more info on rabbit meat stop by either Indian Creek Farm or Sweet Wind Farm. Laura Morgan of Sweet Wind Farm is also our one venison farmer.

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Heirloom tomatoes from Harmony Farm

 

As noted above chicken is the one area where a small farmer really has a disadvantage when it comes to price competition. For many reasons, the unfathomably large scale and destructive behavior of the industrial chicken processing corporations not the least, it is extremely difficult for a small chicken farmer to turn a profit. To me, who’s obviously not a chicken farmer, it must come down to finding a niche and just loving what you do. For my family it’s also about quality and taste. For more on this topic stay tuned here next week as two of our newest farmers, Jeff and Nadia Myers of Indian Creek Farm, will tell you the story of how they came to be involved in the chicken business.

As in most things in American life it comes down to individual choices. Pure and simple, choices. And I think you know what I’m talking about when I say we probably have too many choices. All we can do is perform some basic research which, hopefully, will lead us to decide what is most important to ourselves and our families. At the very least, I hope that my little exercise here will help you make some important decisions when it comes to feeding your family.

Until next week, Stay Fresh!

wildwonderfultable

A Wild and Wonderful Table!

First off the BFM, its volunteers, and vendors want to wish everyone a Happy National Farmers Market Week 2016! For more information on the celebration click here. And while you’re clicking on things click here and recommend the BFM in all five categories of the American Farmland Trust’s Farmers Market Celebration. As you can see we currently sit at the top spot in WV for all five categories. Let’s keep it that way!

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Graphic courtesy of the Farmers Market Coalition

We are also pleased to announce our latest fund-raising event, A Wild and Wonderful Table. In the past the BFM has held 3-4 events a year, usually Community Dinners, but this year we decided to hold one big event and make it really special. Here’s the official press release since it explains it better than I ever could!

The Bridgeport Farmers Market is leaving Bridgeport…for one night only.  A Wild and Wonderful Table is a premier dinner and fundraising event featuring fresh and delicious food from our finest local farms prepared by the states’ top culinary artists. The September 10th dinner in Sutton WV takes you to the heart of our state.

Join your friends and The Bridgeport Farmers Market for live music, craft cocktails and specially curated wines for this first time ever dinner celebration.

“It’s the perfect time to wrap up the 2016 growing season, share remarkable food and drinks and celebrate the good things sourced here in our Appalachian home.”, said Deb Workman, Board Member of the Bridgeport Farmers Market Association.

All proceeds from this extraordinary night will benefit The Bridgeport Farmers Market. Tickets are $75 per person or $140 per couple.  Seating is limited.  Tickets can be purchased by going to www.bridgeportfarmersmarket.com.

Dinner will be prepared by these West Virginia chefs:

Richard Arbaugh – South Hills Market

Pamela Delaude – Mia Margherita Coal Fired Pizzeria

Michael Diethorn – The Country Vintner

Geoff Kraus – Thyme Bistro

Jay Mahoney – Pierpont Culinary Academy

Cody Thrasher – Cody’s and Hash Browns & New Grounds

Tim Urbanic – Café Cimino

Joe White – Bridgeport Conference Center

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We hope to see everyone there!

Stay tuned here this Friday for our 4th annual Price Survey. Our expert researcher (that’s me!) has rounded up the average price for the most popular veggies, eggs, and meat at the BFM and then went out and compared those prices to our two largest supermarkets. The results may surprise you.