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Fresh Market: Rhubarb


By Vicky Babcock

DIG-Fresh-market-rhubarb

It is January. In an old shed near Wakefield England, a group of men move carefully among the rows of rhubarb, plucking the pink stems by candlelight.  Most of the shed is in darkness and the atmosphere is hushed.  There is an air of reverence here, as if some rude cathedral.  If one listens quietly, states the farmer, Janet Oldroyd-Hume, one can hear the rhubarb grow.  Is this some sacred rite from pagan days gone by—some obscure celebration of the solstice?  No.  It is the harvest of the forced winter crop, cast in darkness to encourage rapid growth.  Oldroyd-Hume relates the tale that led to this remarkable scene.  In 1817 or thereabouts, the legend goes, workers digging a trench in Chelsea inadvertently covered some rhubarb roots with soil. Upon removing the soil, they discovered that the rhubarb, seeking daylight, had grown long pink stems. “Luckily, it was Chelsea,” Oldroyd-Hume quips, “so they tasted them.”   Ian Jack-the Guardian, January 2008.

Welcome to the Rhubarb Triangle—a 9 square mile area between Rothwell, Morley and Wakefield famous for its forced rhubarb.

Most rhubarb, as is Michigan’s crop, is grown naturally and harvested in the early to late Spring.  The bright red stalks, native to China and dating back over 5,000 years, add a festive look to pies and jams and its tart distinctive flavor makes it an excellent choice for sugared desserts. Rhubarb was given the sobriquet, “pie plant” as it is a vegetable, but is treated as a fruit.

Before sugar’s introduction to the world, rhubarb was treated primarily as a medicinal plant—its roots are a powerful laxative that is still used today.  As sugar became more available and popular to Europeans, so too did rhubarb.   The vegetable lost favor during wartime sugar shortages—people grew tired of eating the plant with little or no sugar and so turned to other more costly fruits to round out their diets. It’s been reported that, for a brief time during WWI*, it was advised to use rhubarb greens as a food source in Briton—this was quickly rescinded as it became abundantly clear that the leaves are toxic to both humans and animals.

Ben Franklin was said to be responsible for the introduction of rhubarb to North America in 1772.  And Marco Polo wrote extensively about this medicinal herb.  In the late 1800’s, Russians brought the stalks to Alaska to treat scurvy as the plant is rich in vitamin C. Rhubarb is low in calories and high in fiber, making it a highly desirable plant for our diet as is.  However, few of us can tolerate the bitter stems without a touch of sugar.

*Note:  Although many sources state WWI, others state WWII.  I even found a reference to Americans being advised to eat the leaves as opposed to the British.  One of the sources that I would have trusted most contradicted itself within the same article.

Rhubarb Bread Pudding

3 cups bread cubes

3 cups chopped rhubarb

1 ½ cup sugar

¼ tsp. salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 stick melted butter or margarine

Combine—spoon mixture into 8×8-inch pan.  Bake at 375º 40 minutes.  This is delicious warm from the oven, but can be reheated or eaten cold.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

 

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Fresh Market


DIG-RhubarbBy Vicky Babcock

With asparagus season nearly behind us, it is time to consider other vegetables to round out our diets. Look for sugar peas and zucchini soon at your local farmers markets. Another vegetable that enjoys a fairly long season is the mixed-up and often misunderstood rhubarb. Rhubarb is a vegetable high in vitamin C. It is also a good source of magnesium, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin K, calcium, potassium and manganese. It is low in saturated fat and sodium, and very low in cholesterol.

Only the stalks are used in rhubarb as the rhubarb leaf contains oxolates and anthraquinone glycosides making it poisonous to humans and other animals.

While rhubarb lends itself most often to recipes you would consider the property of fruit, it is also a great base for relishes. Try the following with grilled brats or pork chops. We think you’ll agree that it’s a great choice in your diet.

Rhubarb Relish

2 quarts chopped rhubarb

3 lbs. brown sugar

1 qt. vinegar

2 tsp. allspice

2 tsp. salt

6 small onions

2 tsp. pepper

Cook together rhubarb, onions and vinegar for 20 minutes.  Add spices and cook slowly for one hour. Place hot into clean canning jars and seal.

Fresh Market is brought to you by Solon Township Farmers Everything Market located at 15185 Algoma Avenue.  For more information call 616-696-1718.  Like us on facebook for updates.

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From IRISH pastures comes a pot of gold


Family Features

Yes, there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s found in each blade of grass growing in Ireland’s lush pastures. Small herds of cows graze freely, and the milk, rich in beta-carotene from the grass, produces butter and cheeses of an exceptionally golden hue.
Thousands of years before the Irish discovered potatoes, dairy cows, milk and butter were being woven into the fabric of Irish society, according to the Cork Butter Museum in Cork City, Ireland. The Cork Butter Exchange, a market created by the merchants of Cork City in 1769, was in its time, the largest butter market in the world, exporting as far away as Europe and America.
Today, dairy products continue to play an important role in Irish cooking. Cooperatives of farmers, creameries and cheesemakers provide delicious Irish butter and cheeses throughout the U.S. under the Kerrygold label.
Here are some iconic recipes from some stars of Irish cooking, using Kerrygold cheeses and butter. To learn more about Kerrygold, and for where-to-buy information, visit www.kerrygold.com/usa.

Dubliner Shepherd's Pie

Dubliner Shepherd’s Pie

Makes 4 to 6 servings
“Our family loves a hearty shepherd’s pie after a long day working on the farm. Because our cows produce milk to make Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese, we like to add some shredded Dubliner to the potato crust.”
— Donal Murphy, Kerrygold dairy farmer, Bandon, County Cork, Ireland
Potato Topping:
1 1/4     pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2     tablespoons Kerrygold Irish Butter
1/3     cup milk
1     cup shredded Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese
1/2     teaspoon salt
Filling:
1     pound lean ground beef
2     tablespoons Kerrygold Irish Butter
1     medium onion, chopped
4     small carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2     tablespoons flour
3/4     cup Guinness Stout
3/4     cup beef stock
1     teaspoon dried thyme
1/2     teaspoon salt
1/2     cup frozen peas, thawed
Preheat oven to 375°F and lightly butter an 11- x 7-inch baking dish. Cook potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes or until very tender; drain well. Mash with butter and milk until smooth, then stir in cheese and salt and set aside.

Crumble beef into a medium skillet and cook until no longer pink; remove from skillet and set aside. In same skillet, melt butter. Add onion and carrots; cook for 10 minutes over medium heat to soften, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute more.

Add Guinness, stock, thyme and salt; cook and stir until mixture is slightly thickened then stir in peas and cooked beef. Spoon into prepared baking dish then spread potato mixture over the top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until top is lightly browned.

Brown Soda Bread, Roasted Root Vegetable Soup, and Cheese Toasties.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Serves 4 to 6
“You can substitute pumpkin, turnip or celeriac for the swede (rutabaga), or just use a mixture — this is a very flexible recipe.”
— Neven Maguire, chef/owner of the renowned MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, County Cavan, Ireland; popular TV cooking star and cookbook author
1     small swede (rutabaga) cut into cubes
2     carrots, cut into cubes
1     parsnip, cut into cubes
3     tablespoons olive oil
4     tablespoons (1/4 cup) Kerrygold Irish Butter
1     onion, finely chopped
2     celery stalks, finely chopped
1     garlic clove, crushed
1     teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1     quart (4 cups) vegetable stock
1/2     cup single cream (or substitute half and half)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place swede, carrots and parsnip on baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season generously and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and tender, shaking baking sheet occasionally to ensure even cooking.

Meanwhile, heat remaining tablespoon olive oil and butter in large heavy-based pot, and add onion, celery, garlic and thyme. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally.

Add roasted root vegetables to pan and then pour in stock. Bring gently to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes until completely tender, stirring occasionally. Purée with a hand blender until completely smooth.

To serve, stir cream into soup. Gently heat through and season to taste, then ladle into warmed bowls.

Note: You don’t have to add the cream if you’re watching the calories, but you might need a little extra stock to thin the soup.

Cheese Toasties

Serves 4 to 6
4     tablespoons (1/4 cup) Kerrygold Irish Butter
8     slices firm, country-style white bread
1     package (7 ounces) Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese, grated
1     tablespoon snipped fresh chives
Salt and freshly ground black Pepper

Butter bread and arrange cheese over half of the slices, buttered side down. Sprinkle with chives and cover with remaining slices, buttered side up.

Preheat a griddle or large non-stick frying pan and cook sandwiches two at a time 2 minutes each side until golden brown and cheese has melted. Keep hot.
To serve, cut the cheese toasts into fingers.

Brown Soda Bread

Makes 2 loaves
“This is an all-purpose and relatively foolproof recipe based on several I collected while researching ‘The Country Cooking of Ireland.’”
— author Colman Andrews, whose Irish cookbook won the 2010 James Beard Foundation award for Best International Cookbook and Cookbook of the Year

3 1/2     cups stone-ground whole wheat flour, preferably Irish or Irish-style
1 1/2     cups unbleached white flour, preferably Irish, or pastry flour, plus more for dusting
3/4     teaspoon baking soda
1     teaspoon salt
1    teaspoon softened Kerrygold Irish Butter, plus more for greasing
1 3/4     to 2 cups room-temperature Buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix wheat flour, white flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Work butter into mixture with your fingers.

Form a well in the middle of flour mixture and pour buttermilk into the well. Form your hand into a rigid claw and stir dough slowly but steadily in a spiral motion, starting in the middle and working outwards. Dough should be soft but not too wet or sticky. (Start with 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, gradually adding, if necessary, to achieve the right consistency.)

Turn dough out onto a floured board. Flour your hands lightly, then shape dough into a flat rectangle about 2 inches high. Cut dough in half lengthwise with a wet knife, then gently push each half into a lightly greased glass or foil loaf pan. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the tops of the loaves are nicely browned.

Serve this bread with plenty of Kerrygold Irish Butter.

Rhubarb Crumble

Rhubarb Crumble

Serves 6
“Crumbles are the ultimate comfort food. Vary the fruit according to the season.”

— Darina Allen, founder of the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland

Filling:
1 1/2     pounds rhubarb, cut in
1/2-inch slices
1/2     cup sugar
Crumble:

4     tablespoons (1/4 cup) Kerrygold Irish Butter
4     ounces (scant 1 cup) white flour, preferably unbleached
1/4     cup superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. In bowl, mix filling ingredients; turn into a 1-quart (4 cups) capacity pie dish.

Rub butter into flour just until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, then stir in sugar.

Sprinkle this mixture over rhubarb in the pie dish. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until topping is cooked and golden. Serve with whipped cream and soft brown sugar, or try stirring a little Amaretto into your cream.

Recipe adapted from the “Ballymaloe Cookery Course Book” published by Kyle Cathie.

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