Local Ingredients for the week of July 22, 2018

Grilled Veggie Pita Pockets with local ingredients from Narragansett Creamery, Green Mountain Creamery & Middle East Bakery

Grilled Veggie Pita Pockets with local ingredients from Narragansett Creamery, Green Mountain Creamery & Middle East Bakery

Each week, we strive to include as many local ingredients in our meal kits as possible. This often means we source ingredients just a few days before delivery. If you’re a regular customer, you’ve seen our lists of local ingredients in your box letters. Now, we’ll be publishing the list each week as we source. Please note: ingredient sources are subject to change due to last-minute availability!

  • Organic Carrots from Next Barn Over Farm in Hadley, MA. – Cauliflower Fried Rice
  • Organic Scallions from Next Barn Over Farm in Hadley, MA. – Shrimp and Creamy Orzo, Poblano and Corn Chowder, Cauliflower Fried Rice
  • Broccoli Rabe, Garlic, and Cheese Sausage from Bianco and Sons in Medford, MA. – Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta
  • Cream Cheese from Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT. – Shrimp and Creamy Orzo
  • Cage-Free Eggs from Maple Meadow Farm in Barre, VT. – Cauliflower Fried Rice
  • Feta Cheese from Narragansett Creamery in Providence, RI. – Grilled Vegetable Pita Pockets
  • Greek Yogurt from Green Mountain Creamery in Brattleboro, MA. – Grilled Vegetable Pita Pockets
  • Pita from Middle East Bakery in Lawrence, MA. – Grilled Vegetable Pita Pockets
  • Bay Leaf from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Cuban Picadillo
  • Cinnamon Stick from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Chicken Biryani
  • Crushed Red Pepper from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta
  • Cumin from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Cuban Picadillo, Poblano and Corn Chowder
  • Curry from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Chicken Biryani
  • Paprika from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Poblano and Corn Chowder
  • Sesame Seed from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Cauliflower Fried Rice
  • Fresh Spaghetti from Maria’s Gourmet Pasta in Malden, MA. – Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta
  • Sriracha from Kitchen Garden Farm in Sunderland, MA. – Cauliflower Fried Rice

Support Local Farms this National Ice Cream Month

Did you know that ice cream was originally called “cream ice” and dates back to the 17th century? It seems to have a much smoother ring to it with its current moniker. Whether the phrase “ice cream” means just that, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, gelato or sorbet to you, this cold, refreshing treat can be consumed in its simplest form via cup or cone, or as a unique addition to a variety of delectable desserts. With the wealth of flavor combos that has come to fruition over the course of its evolution, don’t be surprised that vanilla and chocolate still reign supreme in North America.

Crescent Ridge Ice Cream (Photo courtesy of Boston Magazine)

In honor of National Ice Cream Month, we’re coming to you with the scoop on the best local spots in the area. Beat the heat as we cruise through July at one of these flavorful and festive farms:

  • Bedford Farms: This hometown fave has been whipping up and scooping award-winning ice cream since 1880. Yup, that’s over 100 years and an expansion of over 60 flavors of fresh made, locally sourced ice cream, frozen yogurt and soft serve. With locations in Bedford, Burlington and Concord and 22 flavors always on tap with a rotation of others, PLUS custom cakes, pies & ice cream sandwiches, Bedford Farms has something to satisfy anyone’s creamy craving.
  • Crescent Ridge: “Serving Smiles Since 1968”, the Crescent Ridge Dairy Bar in Sharon, MA offers over 40 flavors of premium ice cream. From the tried and true like chocolate, chocolate chip, strawberry and vanilla to unique fusions like Black Bear, Graham Central Station and Cow Prints, each flavor starts with the Parrish family’s 50-year old recipe that has withstood the test of time.
  • Kimball Farm: With its flagship location in Westford, MA, the Kimball name has been legendary to the local ice cream industry since 1939, and expanded with the addition of 3 other locations in the late 1980s. Jack and Clara Kimball kicked off their legacy with 3 original flavors: maple walnut, frozen pudding and peppermint stick. Today, their rich and creamy offering features over 50 fantastic flavors. And the Westford location now offers a variety of exciting activities for families to enjoy including, but not limited to: batting cages, mini golf, bumper boats, restaurants & more.
  • Richardson’s Farm: These are listed in no particular order, but is there truth in the saying ‘save the best for last’? Located in Middleton, MA, the Richardson family has been operating the dairy farm for over 300 years. The ice cream stand came to fruition in the early 1950s with the idea of creating “one perfect ice cream”. Today, Richardson’s award-winning ice cream stand offers over 50 flavors and has been featured on the Phantom Gourmet.

What’s the one local ice cream spot that you can’t live without and the flavor that makes your mouth water?

 

Local Ingredients for the Week of July 15, 2018

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Each week, we strive to include as many local ingredients in our meal kits as possible. This often means we source ingredients just a few days before delivery. If you’re a regular customer, you’ve seen our lists of local ingredients in your box letters. Now, we’ll be publishing the list each week as we source. Please note: ingredient sources are subject to change due to last-minute availability!

  • Organic Baby Bok Choy from Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT – Beef Stir-Fry
  • Organic Baby Spinach from Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT – Spinach and Goat Cheese Risotto
  • Lettuce Mix from Fresh Box Farms in Millis, MA – Maple Glazed Pork Chops
  • Shiitake Mushrooms from Mousam Valley Mushrooms in Springvale, ME – Quinoa with Shiitake Mushrooms
  • Pollock from Red’s Best in Boston, MA – Mexican Pollock
  • Butter from Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT – Mexican Pollock
  • Goat Cheese from Vermont Creamery in Websterville, VT – Spinach and Goat Cheese Risotto
  • Sour Cream from Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT – Sweet Potato Flautas, Chicken Chili Verde
  • Chili Powder from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT – Mexican Pollock, Sweet Potato Flautas
  • Dried Sage from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT – Maple Glazed Pork Chops
  • Nutmeg from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT – Spinach and Goat Cheese Risotto
  • Dried Oregano from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT – Mexican Pollock
  • Corn Tortillas from Vermont Tortilla Co. in Shelburne, VT – Chicken Chili Verde
  • Flour Tortillas from Cinco De Mayo in Chelsea, MA – Sweet Potato Flautas
  • Maple Syrup from Square Deal Farm in Hardwick, VT – Maple Glazed Pork Chops

Local Ingredients for the Week of May 13, 2018

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Each week, we strive to include as many local ingredients in our meal kits as possible. This often means we source ingredients just a few days before delivery. If you’re a regular customer, you’ve seen our lists of local ingredients in your box letters. Now, we’ll be publishing the list each week as we source. Please note: ingredient sources are subject to change due to last-minute availability!
  • Organic Carrots from Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT. – Quinoa Fried “Rice”
  • Mesclun Mix from Lef Farms in Loudon, NH. – Corn Cakes with Cheddar
  • Shiitake Mushrooms from Mousam Valley Mushroom in Springvale, ME. – Quinoa Fried “Rice”
  • Organic Yellow Onion from Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT – Quinoa Fried “Rice”, Shrimp and Grits
  • Cheddar from Grafton Village Cheese Company in Grafton, VT. – Corn Cakes with Cheddar
  • Cage-Free Eggs from Maple Meadow Farm in Salisbury, VT and Perfect Circle Farm in Barre, VT. – Corn Cakes with Cheddar, Quinoa Fried “Rice”
  • Greek Yogurt from Green Mountain Yogurt in Brattleboro, VT. – Black Bean Burger by Mark Goldberg
  • Monterey Jack from Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT. – Shrimp and Grits
  • Sour Cream from Cabot Creamery in Cabot, VT. – Steak Fajitas
  • Hamburger Rolls from Nashoba Brook Bakery in Concord, MA. – Black Bean Burger by Mark Goldberg
  • Cayenne Pepper & Cumin from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Black Bean Burger by Mark Goldberg
  • Chili Powder from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Steak Fajitas
  • Sichuan Peppers from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Crispy Sichuan Pork
  • Southwest Seasoning from The Spice Mill in Manchester, CT. – Shrimp and Grits
  • Corn Meal from Four Star Farms in Northfield, MA. – Corn Cakes with Cheddar
  • Flour Tortillas from Cinco De Mayo in Chelsea, MA. –  Steak Fajitas
  • Hot Sauce from Alex’s Ugly Sauce in Boston, MA. – Shrimp and Grits
  • Maple Syrup from Square Deal Farm in Hardwick, VT. – Crispy Sichuan Pork

 

How We Source New England’s Most Local Meal Kit

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If you’ve been listening in to the chatter at Just Add Cooking on our social accounts, in our emails and box letters or even at our in-person events, you’re sure to have heard about our local sourcing mission and our promises around sustainability. If you receive Just Add Cooking boxes each week, you’ve likely caught on, but for those of you who are still wondering what it all means, we wanted to pull back the curtain on our sourcing process.

Our mission is to build a local, sustainable food system for the future. In the 5+ years since Just Add Cooking was founded, this mission has come a long way, and we continue to improve on it every single week. We can attribute the increase in local ingredients that we can procure for our boxes both to the increase in our customer base and buying power, and to the incredibly vibrant local food scene in Boston, where innovations abound that allow us to get things like fresh greens in any season or local fish caught by small fishing fleets.

So, how does it all work?

Internally at Just Add Cooking, we have a sourcing team that knows New England’s food scene inside and out, and is always on the hunt for new ingredients. This team collaborates with our recipe developers to create menu lineups that they expect they’ll be able to get a maximum number of local ingredients for. It’s easy to predict local in many cases, like bread, and tougher in others, like produce, where crops and availability can vary.

In choosing partners, the sourcing team here at Just Add Cooking is very conscious about environmental practices, sustainability and quality. These are carefully examined before taking on a local partner to ensure that aside from quality, we’re delivering a product that our customers can feel good about.

Once the menu is set, the team gets to work sourcing the right number of ingredients for each box. In fact, these sources aren’t set in stone until the Tuesday before the delivery date as the team watches the order numbers come in and works with our vendors to figure out what they’ll be able to provide. As Just Add Cooking has grown, we have been able to provide a steady revenue stream for many of our partners, and work with them hand in hand to figure out what ingredients we’ll need for upcoming sources. We expect that our sourcing will be even more local and effective as we continue to grow and become a significant source of revenue for our partners!

Orders are placed, and ingredients are delivered to our local packing facility throughout the rest of the week. Eventually, they’ll be packed and shipped same-day by car or bike, which brings us to our sustainability promise. Just Add Cooking’s goal is to be as green as possible in delivering meal kits. We are constantly improving our packaging for a minimal environmental footprint, and since none of our food travels more than 40 miles from its packing facility, we have no need for the heavy duty packaging of cross-country shipping. Two recent innovations were the elimination of freezer bags and ice packs in favor of a compostable box liner and frozen water bottles, for example.

If you live in New England, you probably know that it’s tough to get local products for every single ingredient. We’re all about balancing what’s local with creative recipes, so you’ll occasionally find a non-local ingredient in your box, mostly where it isn’t available or feasible for us to get in New England, or we haven’t yet found the right local partner. We do try to work with local suppliers for these products anyways, ensuring that we are giving back to the local food economy. And chances are if it’s not local now but is eventually available as a local product, we will figure out a way to source it.

If you are receiving a weekly box, you get a newsletter each week describing the local ingredients in your recipes. We also often share these ingredients on our blog and in our weekly emails.

Feedback from our customers has been key in developing Just Add Cooking to the local product it is today. We always welcome your thoughts and ideas at customersupport@justaddcooking.com.

 

Vendor Highlight: Five Way Foods

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Credit: Desiree Currie

Meet John Hopkins! He’s the founder of Five Way Foods, a local bone and veggie broth company, and our current featured vendor. His flavorful broth can be a stand-alone sipper but it also brings any dish it’s used in to new levels. He currently offers four different broths: beef bone, chicken bone, fish bone, and vegetable.

We’re featuring his broth in four of our recipes throughout January so be sure to try them out (Italian Wedding Soup, Chicken Cassoulet with Chorizo, Asparagus Risotto, and Butternut Squash Soup with Cacao Nib Crisps). We’re really excited to partner with him! Keep reading to learn more about what he does and how he does it.

JAC: Please talk to me about bone broth….for starters what is it exactly? How does it differ from stock or non-bone broth?

JH: The Five Way Foods broth is all-natural and fresh. Fresh meaning no additives or preservatives, made from real bones. There are nutrients such as collagen that are produced by slow-simmering bones. Collagen has proven health benefits including: boosting one’s immune system, improving digestive health, strengthening joints, and enhancing skin health. Non-bone broths are typically water with flavorings (beef, chicken, veggie) crafted to last on store shelves for years. We use vegetables and herbs to craft flavorful broths for cooking or drinking as a beverage. Our broths are refrigerated items, packaged in 16oz glass bottles.

JAC: Why did you start making bone broth? Who taught you how?

JH: As a home chef, I started making broths years ago. I found most broth/stocks sold on the shelf in supermarkets to be high in sodium, and weren’t healthy nor tasted very good. I wanted an all-natural product made from real bones that would complement the healthy produce and meat/seafood we ate as a family. Ideally, a broth that tasted as good as I made at home. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find such a brand.

About 3 years ago, I decided to make a career change and follow my food passion. After conducting a significant amount of market research and working with a local chef, I started Five Way Foods in November 2015. We launched the products (chicken and veggie) at local farmers markets in January 2016. I didn’t know if anyone would buy the products. To my joy, at our first farmers market we sold every bottle. Over the next six months sales continued to grow. In June 2016 I moved production to a larger facility (Commonwealth Kitchen in Boston) and got our state wholesale food permit. Over the next year and a half our sales expanded to retail stores, including Whole Foods, Roche Brothers, and other specialty food stores across New England. Our broths now include: Fish, Beef, Chicken and Vegetable.

JAC: As this is a very niche market, what is your response to the comments that bone broth might be a short-lived fad? Why should it/will it stick around?

JH: Bone broth is actually an ancient food/beverage. Humans have always used the bones from animals to make stocks/broths for soups, stews, and cooking. We don’t believe bone-broth will be a short-lived fad. Consumers want fresh, healthy foods made with real ingredients that taste good. Most shelf-stable broth/stock brands don’t taste good, aren’t made from real bones, and have limited health benefits. We’ve grown rapidly over the past two years with customers buying our broths year-round. The combination of healthy cooking and health benefits makes for a powerful offering. Another interesting fact: the market for fresh bone broth is expected to be an $800 million market segment by 2020 according to SPINS market research.

john with broth

Credit: Desiree Currie

JAC: What are your thoughts on New England’s food system and how do you fit in/contribute to it?  

JH: Over the past two years, we’ve really enjoyed becoming part of the New England food system. As a food producer, we source as locally as possible. Our meat bones are from Walden Local Meats, which has relationships with farms across New England. We source our fish from Red’s Best, which works with local fishermen. Our produce comes from New England farms (when in season). We produce our broths at Commonwealth Kitchen in Boston a commercial facility with 35+ other food companies. Our partnership with Just Add Cooking brings our broths to customers that value locally produced food products. In short, a great community of local food producers, providers, and consumers.

JAC: What is the significance for you of working with local vendors?

JH: Sourcing locally is one of the founding principles of Five Way Foods. We very much want to support healthy food and eating local. There is such abundance of local produce, seafood, and animal products. Sourcing locally helps with sustainability, reducing carbon footprint, and supports regional farms.

 

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Be sure to check out the broth from Five Way Foods and help support the local food community. Happy cooking!

Visit them on social media:

Just Add Cooking’s Food Lover Gift Guide

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Looking for the perfect gift for the food lover in your life? How about someone who loves to support small local businesses? Our staff at Just Add Cooking shares these passions and we’re here to help you out with this gift guide! We’ve polled our staff on their go-to gifts this holiday season. They came up with some unique gifts for both the locals and for friends and families outside of town who love to cook or eat (who doesn’t?)!

Jan, Co-Founder & CEO

Fish Spatula

This is a great stocking stuffer and one of Jan’s go-to’s because it makes cooking fish–one of his favorite foods–so much easier! For a recipient who eats a lot of fish, a fish spatula can be a game changer in making it easier to cook!

Red’s Best Gift Card

At Just Add Cooking, we use Red’s Best to supply fresh, local fish for our recipes, but you can also order it online or buy it in various locations around Boston like the Boston Public Market or local farmer’s markets. What’s amazing about a Red’s Best gift card is that they’ll ship fresh fish anywhere in the continental US, so it’s the perfect way to give someone a taste of what makes Boston seafood so delicious.

Fredrik, CFO

Rubber Spatula

One of our Chief Gastronomic Officer’s essential cooking tools, Fredrik loves a rubber spatula as a stocking stuffer for anyone who’s in the kitchen. It makes cooking nearly any recipe easier to cook.

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Source: 4A Coffee

Coffee from 4A in Brookline

An avid coffee lover, Fredrik loves the java at 4A in Brookline. It’s roasted in small batches locally, and a perfect gift for someone who loves to try new and interesting brews.

Amanda, Chief Gastronomic Officer

Sous Vide Machine

This is one of Amanda’s new favorite kitchen tools to use at home. Sous vide is a pro technique that’s increasingly making it into home kitchens and is perfect for a foodie who likes to experiment. It delivers restaurant quality results by using precise temperature control. The process vacuum seals the food into a bag and cooking it in a water bath.

Jam Sessions Jam

As a nod to her previous career in the music industry, Amanda’s selected Jam Sessions Jam, a locally-sourced, small batch jam company for the perfect hostess gift or stocking stuffer. The company’s local owner also has a music career and founded Jam Sessions Jam from her love of all things pickled and preserved. The awesome sweet and savory spreads feature local New England ingredients and for a larger gift you can check out their gift collections.

Dan, Head of Recipe Development & Meal Planning

20160922-knife-steels-vicky-wasik-3Sharpening Steel

As the recipe development guy, Dan knows that a sharp knife is a must. Sharpening steel is a perfect way to make time in the kitchen more enjoyable and ensure knife safety too–a sharp knife is a safe one!

Immersion Blender

This small kitchen tool doesn’t take up a lot of space, but it’s super helpful for making soups and purees. While it’s not a requirement for Just Add Cooking recipes, you’ll find yourself saving time and dishes with it as opposed to using a regular blender. As the name says, just immerse it right into the liquid and go, no separate blender required.

 

Katie, Customer Success Manager

Microplane

Another great stocking stuffer, a microplane is a small, inexpensive tool that does unlimited duty in the kitchen. Use it for grating ginger, citrus, cheese and more to add flavor to any recipe without a lot of effort.

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Source: Taza Chocolate

Taza Chocolate

You can’t go wrong with this delicious, locally made chocolate out of Somerville. Taza Chocolate is organic, stone-ground chocolate with bold flavor. It’s high quality and a step above your typical “stocking stuffer candy,” and who doesn’t love a hit of chocolate for an afternoon snack? They’ll ship your gift and have some lovely gift sets available.

Kevin, Director of Operations

Whiskey

An avid whiskey drinker, Kevin recommends this bottle as a special occasion gift for the whiskey lover in your life.

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Source: PieBox

Wood Pie Carrying Box

If you’re always toting treats around, these boxes will make life 20x easier (and look a million times better than tupperware). We’re lucky at JAC that Kevin’s girlfriend owns local pie company Pie Curious, and he’s always bringing us samples to the office. For family or friends who are avid bakers, this is a great gift.

Katerina, Chief Marketing Officer

Just Add Cooking Gift Card

As our head of marketing, Katerina is a big believer in spreading the Just Add Cooking love! By giving a gift card, you’re providing family and friends with fresh, local ingredients delivered right to their door, a week off of grocery shopping and fun dinners to bring their family together. Perfect for people who love to cook or those who are learning.

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Source: Formaggio Kitchen

Formaggio Kitchen Gift Basket

Supporting small local businesses is part of the fabric of our staff and Formaggio Kitchen is a great example. With locations in Boston and Cambridge, this local specialty shop ships delicious gift baskets around the country. They’re available at many different reasonable price points starting at $55, but if you really want to go wild, check out their “Formaggio Kitchen’s Best” Luxury Basket ($400) featuring a $100 bottle of wine, high-end cheeses, foie gras, truffle honey, locally made truffles and more.

Rachel, Marketing/Development Intern

Source: Worst of All Design

Source: Worst of All Design

Sweet Lydia’s Treats

This local treat maker is one of Rachel’s favorites, particularly the artisanal s’mores and potato chip toffee! These are great for elevated stocking stuffers. Or, try a gift box to give someone a sampler of all Sweet Lydia’s deliciousness.

Bites of Boston Gift Card

For locals who love an experience gift, a gift card for Bites of Boston food tours is a perfect idea. They’ll get to explore the neighborhood, taste food from local shops and restaurants and enjoy a walking tour of the area. (Make it a gift card for two and join them!)

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Caroline, Product Development Intern

Kitchen Scale

Caroline’s been testing recipes for a long time, and a kitchen scale is a “must” for anyone looking for precision in their recipes.

Mei Mei Sauce

The Mei Mei food truck is a staple on the Boston University campus, where Caroline is a grad student, and their sauce is the perfect gift for food lovers looking to spice up their recipes. Put together all three–the Apple Hoisin, Cranberry Sweet & Sour and Smoked Maple Ginger Sauce–made with local ingredients, for a great gift pack.

Livin’ La Vida Locavore

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In today’s food and culinary culture, there are a lot of buzz words bandied about–so many it can be downright dizzying. One you may have heard, especially if you are a patron of your local farmers market, is locavore. Although it sounds a bit like a type of rail transport, it is actually a word used to describe a person who eats food grown locally, generally within a 100 mile radius. This loose definition most often refers to produce (fruits and vegetables) although it can include meats and dairy products.

Eating locally is not a new concept. For centuries it was the only concept. What one needed to eat one grew, hunted or harvested oneself. In communities goods were traded and shared. By the mid-1800’s with the advent of the US railway, it became possible to transport agriculture within the US and then internationally. We now live in an age where taking a trip to the supermarket is like visiting the United Nations. Our food is trucked, shipped and flown in from all corners of the world.

While finding exotic fruits and vegetables at the supermarket is fun and having access to strawberries year-round is a nice convenience, eating locally and in-season provides us with an array of foods that are fresher, tastier and more economically sound. Foods that are locally grown or produced are generally minimally processed and harvested within a few days or hours of selling or packaging (meats, dairy products, cheeses, etc).

Eating local makes sense for many reasons. It has the power to boost the local economy by keeping dollars in the community and providing employment opportunities. It helps to reduce our carbon footprint by keeping the transport to a minimum. It allows us to connect with the people who grow our food, and provides occasions for us to meet and talk with them and learn about their farming practices. It enables us to take control of our health and well-being through conscious choice and selection. And it just feels – and tastes – good.

According to the 2015 Locavore Index, which culls information from all 50 states in regards to consumers’ commitment to eat local food, Massachusetts ranks in the top 5. That means that a large percentage of people in Massachusetts consistently choose to shop at local farmers markets and farm stands, cultivate a back or front yard garden or are a member of a community garden, participate in community supported agriculture (CSA) or patronize companies or services (like Just Add Cooking) that engage local farms and purveyors.

That’s pretty great. And Just Add Cooking is proud to be a part of that by committing to source our ingredients from local farms, vendors and purveyors. Want to learn more about our local philosophy? Check out some of our featured vendors here, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get the scoop on the local ingredients we’re featuring each week!

 

 

Tomato Tips from Red Fire Farm

Tomatoes are some of summer’s best treats. While they’re available all year round in grocery stores, the short window that they’re in season here in New England is by far the best they taste. You’ve only got a few weeks, so how do you capitalize on the bounty of tomatoes at farmer’s markets here in the Boston area? We checked in with our friend Sarah Voiland at Red Fire Farm for her tips on making the most of tomato season.

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JAC: Let’s talk tomatoes. Most of us are used to seeing them year-round at the grocery store, but now’s the time to hit the farmer’s market to get some while they’re in season. What’s the difference between off-season tomatoes and what we can find locally right now?

Sarah: Since starting farming, I pretty much don’t eat tomatoes out of season anymore. What you can get from a locally vine-ripened tomato is worth the wait. The mealy, bland winter tomatoes look pretty, but that’s not where it’s at! I want a tomato with some juice and flavor. Most tomatoes in stores are varieties not built for flavor, but built to travel long distances and ripen on the trucks. So they’re harvested green and don’t have well-developed flavor profiles, and that’s why you often get the grainy texture issues.

When you grow the tomato in the ground (as opposed to hydroponically) and let it ripen fully on the vine, you can get the best flavor – but you then have a tender fruit prone to bruising and cracking that just can’t travel well. That’s why buying tomatoes from local stands is your best bet for flavor. In late July in Massachusetts you will start to see the first field-ripened tomatoes coming to stands – cherry tomatoes and early red slicers. As you get into August and beyond, more of the heirlooms ripen.

JAC: How long does tomato season last in New England?

Sarah: Once it gets going in late July, tomato season will be with us until the fall frost, which comes around early to late October. Some recent years in our area have had shorter seasons because of the now prevalent Late Blight disease that kills off tomato plants, so we are never quite sure how long they will be abundant anymore.

JAC: What kinds of tomatoes will we see? Any recommendations for varieties that are tougher to come by, that we should purchase if we ever see?

Sarah: The breadth of variety of tomatoes is truly astounding. At Red Fire Farm, we grow over 150 types, and that’s just a selection of what’s out there. You can find tomatoes in a rainbow of colors from yellow and green to purple and chocolatey brown. We have field and taste tested them every year and over time picked out our favorites. Some of the best for taste are Green Zebra, a little green tomato with green striations and a yellow blush when ripe. Brandywine, which is a pink beefsteak type, has beautiful color and a depth of flavors that kind of take you traveling. Sungold Cherry Tomatoes ripen to a bright golden orange and have an excellence balance of bright and tang. Matt’s Wild Cherry Tomatoes are little cherries, almost the size of currants. They were found growing wild along a trail in Mexico and now they win contests for flavor in Massachusetts! There are many kinds and all are worth trying if you love tomatoes.

JAC: Do you have any recommendations on which kinds are best for which uses? 

tomato sauce recipeSarah: For tomato basil salads, my favorite thing to do is get a rainbow of colors and sizes, then slice them up and arrange them together, sprinkle a few whole cherry tomatoes on there. Then you can taste each one and enjoy the beauty.

If you’re making sauce, there is a whole class of tomatoes that are bred just for that purpose, to have more flesh and fewer seeds for cooking down into a thicker sauce. They are often called paste, saucing or plum tomatoes. Look for varieties like Plum Regal, Amish Paste or Federle. We have a recipe for how to make big batches of canned tomato sauce here on our recipes page: http://redfirefarm.com/recipes/preserves.html

At the farm, we grow a couple tomato varieties that are especially perfect for stuffing, and you’ll find that they have empty chambers in the middle like a pepper. Cherry tomatoes are very easy to add to salads and keep on hand for snacks. For sandwiches, I like a tomato that can be the feature, so I look for a variety with a lot of flavor and a good-sized slice. Striped German, a later season type, is so big you can cut one slice and It will cover the bread!

JAC: Many of us are going to run out and buy a boatload of tomatoes before they’re gone for the season. What are your recommendations for storing them fresh so they last longer, and do you have any recommendations for preserving them if we over-buy?

Tomatoes should never be refrigerated – they lose flavor and change texture when chilled. Store out of the sun in a coolish spot, ideally 55 degrees, though kitchen counters are fine. There are a plethora of ways to save your tomatoes for future eating, from making sauces to freeze or can, to roasting them in the oven. Roasting is one of my favorite methods of preserving – you slice them about ¾ inch thick, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in the oven at 325 degrees until the edges start to caramelize. Then freeze. If you have no time and a bunch of tomatoes about to go past, you can stick them whole in the freezer and thaw to make sauce later.

JAC: I hear that Red Fire Farms celebrates these fleeting gems with a Tomato Festival each summer. Can you give us some information about that?

Every August in the peak of tomato season we hold a tasting of over 100 varieties of organic tomatoes. A big farm festival has built up around that core idea, with chef demos of recipes, workshops on making sauce and other skills, wild edible walks, a 5K fun run through the farm fields, tons of vendors with things like roasted sweet corn and wood-fired pizza, live music, Pick Your Own tomatoes and more. This year we have Erin McKeown and Her Fine Parade Coming to Play.

The festival will be held on Saturday, August 2 from 12-6 pm. Read more on our website at http://redfirefarm.com/news/tomatofestival.html

Runners and walkers can register for the 5K through the farm fields here: http://redfireform.com/formstack.com/forms/tomato_trot_5k_registration_form

For making sauce and salsa in bigger batches, we offer bulk orders and half bushels of tomatoes in late August here: http://redfirefarm.com/farmers_markets/bulkorders.html

We hope to see you out at the farm in peak tomato season!

 

Interview with Local Vendor, Red Fire Farm

red fire farm

At Just Add Cooking, we source all of our produce from local New England farms in order to bring customers the best possible quality and taste. Red Fire Farm, located in Montague, MA, is a farm and farmer’s market stand where we source many ingredients that go in to our weekly meal kits. This week, consumers had the option to receive our Spaghetti Bolognese and Poached Salmon with Avocado Sauce, both of which included carrots from Red Fire Farm.

We spoke with Angie Lavner, manager at the farm, to gain a first-hand perspective on their values and why we all should be eating farm-bought produce. See her insights below!

  • Producing local and organic produce is important not only because it is the best for you, but it’s the best for the environment. At Red Fire Farm, Angie and her team plant cover crops in order to manage soil erosion, soil quality and weeds. This practice will preserve the land for future generations and produce the best quality food.
  • Red Fire Farm hosts a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program where families can participate to receive a weekly farm share of their harvest. There are about 1,600 members in their CSA program from western, central and eastern Massachusetts.
    • Customers love the convenience of receiving their share of fresh produce each week, and, not to mention, it is cost-effective. Families save 35% in a week when using a CSA program vs. buying in-store produce.
  • Organic = quality taste. Red Fire Farm’s produce has 3x the taste of store-bought produce. In addition, there is a difference in texture. Store bought vegetables tend to be limp, and therefore may cook a little quicker than farm-bought produce.
  • Angie advises against peeling the skin of your vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc.), as that’s where most of the nutrients are.
  • Red Fire Farm is hosting a tomato festival in August which will include live music, beer and a taste test of over 100 varieties of tomatoes – click here to see more! http://www.redfirefarm.com/news/index.html