Gunthorp Farms and Leftover Cranberry Sauce: A Small Thanksgiving Post-Mortem

A Word about the Bird

This may have been my best turkey ever! Delicious flavor that didn’t NEED gravy (although gravy certainly wasn’t turned down!) This year’s bird was a Gunthorp Farms turkey, a fine-looking, pasture-raised 15-lb bird. Gunthorp Farms raises meat and poultry naturally, as opposed to an industrial model, and provides turkeys (and chicken, duck, lamb, and pork) to some of the best restaurants in the Midwest, including those of Rick Bayless. Starting out with quality poultry is one of the keys to a delicious Thanksgiving turkey.

I also roasted the turkey breast-side DOWN. The breast meat was unbelievably moist and the dark meat was perfectly cooked. Granted, you don’t get the Norman Rockwell picture-perfect bird, but I’d much rather have a good TASTING turkey than one that is dry, but photogenic. Which is why there’s no picture here.

Too Much Cranberry Sauce? Ideas for Using Up Leftovers

It happens. With your cranberry bounty from Wisconsin, you made plenty of cranberry sauce, like this one. But there is plenty left over, too. So, what can you do with leftover cranberry sauce? Lots of things!

  • Stir it into yogurt or oatmeal
  • Thin it with a little juice (or even a little water) and use it as a topping for ice cream, pound cake, cheesecake, or waffles
  • Make thumprint cookies (here’s a classic recipe), replacing the jam with cranberry sauce (which is, basically, a jam).
  • PBandC_Sandwich

  • And here’s a personal favorite of mine—use some in a peanut or almond butter and jam sandwich. I especially like natural peanut butter (crunchy!) on good homemade or artisanal bread with cranberry sauce
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Iowa—The Farmers Market State?

Increasing attention is being paid to local food, as evidenced by the proliferation of farmers markets. Ostensibly where producers come together to sell their meats, cheeses, produce, etc., farmers markets connect us to the bounty surrounding us, acting as a respite from the sterile environments of a supermarket or megastore. Many of us—perhaps even MOST of us—have at least weekly access to a market where we can buy local goods. For me, it’s party of my weekly routine. I take my reusable bags and fill them with beets and salad greens from Christopher Farms, pork and Oyster mushrooms from Eli Creek Farms, honey from Dale Scheidler, grassfed beef from To Tend and To Keep Farm, apples from Richie Stegmaier, lamb from Russell Sheep Farm and so on. Farmers markets are certainly landmarks on the terrain of the Flyover States.

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So, Who Has the Most Markets?

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), there were over 8000 farmers markets across the country in 2013, a 5-year increase of nearly 40%.1 The 10 states with the most markets are:

  • 1. California (759 markets)
  • 2. New York (637)
  • 3. Illinois (336)
  • 4. Michigan (331)
  • 5. Ohio (300)
  • 6. Pennsylvania (290)
  • 7. Massachusetts (289)
  • 8. Wisconsin (286)
  • 9. Missouri (246)
  • 9. Virginia (tied with Missouri) (246)
  • 10. Iowa (229)
  • 10. North Carolina (tied with Iowa) (229)

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Well, if you’re a geographer, you’ll recognize that there is another factor at play here—the number of people living in these states. California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina are also among the United States’s 10 most populated states. In essence, we are looking at a list of the most populated states. So we really can’t compare these states directly. Well, what do we do now?

In Which We Normalize Our Data

To enable use to compare our states, we need to look at the number of farmers markets relative to population, which we do by normalizing our numbers. Normalize , in our case, means that we are going to take our raw numbers (count of farmers markets and the absolute populations of the states) and generate values for the number of farmers markets per population. Here’s how we do it:
Number of farmers markets in a state/Population of state
This will give us the number of farmers markets per capita (or per person). However, that’s going to yield a small number. So, we will multiply that value by 100,000, which tells us the number of farmers markets per 100,000 people.

So, NOW Who Has the Most Markets?

Surprise, surprise—looks like Iowa is the clear winner! Yes, the Hawkeye State has an astonishing 7.41 farmers markets per 100,000 people! If we look at the top farmers market states on a per population basis, the list looks quite different!

IowaGglE

  • 1. Iowa (7.41 markets per 100,000 people)
  • 2. Wisconsin (4.98)
  • 3. Massachusetts (4.32)
  • 4. Missouri (4.07)
  • 5. Michigan (3.35)
  • 6. New York (3.24)
  • 7. Virginia (2.98)
  • 8. Illinois (2.61)
  • 9. Ohio (2.59)
  • 10. North Carolina (2.36)
  • 11. Pennsylvania (2.27)
  • 12. California (1.98)

Wow! California actually drops to the bottom of the list (remember, though, that I’ve only examined the states with the most farmers markets). But still—an truly incredible showing! In another post, I’ll explain why I’m not all that surprised that Iowa is at the top. But it certainly is surprising to me the magnitude of this! And the Flyover States fare quite well here–4 out of the top 5 (Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Michigan)!

1Farmers market data sourced from here. Population data are from the US Census Bureau.

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A Rainbow of Pumpkins (and the Wizard FROM Oz)

The Pumpkin Color Spectrum

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Last week, you learned about the Flyover connection to pumpkins, so this week we’ll turn our attentions to different kinds and colors of pumpkins. Although pumpkins are a type of winter squash, I’ll keep this week to the Non-Orange Ones We Actually Call Pumpkins (I’ll examine non-pumpkin winter squashes some other time). Most of us may be familiar with the traditional orange-skinned varieties, the stuff of Jack-O-Lanterns and pies; however, pumpkins can be found in other colors as well, particularly green, red, white, and blue. A look at my local Hoosier farmers market yielded pumpkins in an array of colors. Why not see what’s available at your local market?

Green

You may have seen green pumpkins adorning front porches as part of an autumnal tableau. Those are likely immature or unripe orange pumpkins. They certainly add a nice color accent to seasonal décor but, given that they are not ripe, shouldn’t be used for eating.

White

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A rarity no more, white pumpkins, such as the Lumina, Casper, or Cotton Candy varieties, have an other-worldly look to them. These ghostly gourds are quite cook-able. However, their flesh is light-colored, so this is not the one to pick if you are looking for the traditional deeply orange pie. Best to leave this one for recipes like muffins or pumpkin bread. You can also use the light chunks in a richly spiced pumpkin curry.

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Red

Well, red-orange. The gorgeously saturated Rouge vif d’Etampes pumpkin (a favorite of French cooks) has a squat shape, akin to the carriage that Cinderella (of fairy tale fame) would have ridden in. In fact, the other name for this variety IS Cinderella pumpkin. It’s of the Cucurbita maxima species (like buttercup squash). Because it’s called a pumpkin, I’m including it in this post and not a winter squash post.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see these at my local farmers market this year (it was a very cool summer). Better luck next year!

Blue

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I’ll have a Bloooo Halloween without you…sorry about that. But yes, Virginia, there IS a blue pumpkin (wrong holiday, I know). In fact, there are several varieties of them. The one shown here is the Jarrahdale pumpkin, an heirloom from Australia. Shaped like a drum, this ribbed pumpkin feels very heavy for its size, with dense, sweet flesh. It is said to be an excellent variety for pies.

Beige

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The Long Island Cheese Pumpkin, a beige variety, is also known for being an excellent choice for pie baking. Popular in Long Island (surprise, surprise), the name “Cheese Pumpkin” is owed to its appearing like a wheel of cheese. Although noted for pies, the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin is equally at home in a soup. Cheese pumpkins are of the Cucurbita moschata species, which differs from the Cucurbito pepo of your more common orange pumpkins. Other moschata varieties include crookneck or neck pumpkin (elongated and curved) as well as zucchini, butternut squash, and acorn squash. I’m including the cheese pumpkin here because it is called “pumpkin”.

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Ground Cherries—Undiscovered Fruit Gem of the Midwest

Until this summer, I’d never eaten a ground cherry. In fact, I didn’t even know what they were. But my local farmers market had baskets of them for sale and the grower gave me a sample. Pleasant sweetness, with flavors of mango and melon—I thought they’d be nice in a jam or in muffins. I bought a couple of boxes, a ground cherry virgin no more.

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Ground cherries in need of some husking!

Ground cherries, also known to some as Cape gooseberries or husk tomatoes, aren’t cherries (and they aren’t gooseberries, either.) A perennial native to the Americas, ground cherries are fairly common; in fact, the plant is considered to be a weed by many and might be found growing along roads or other disturbed areas. They can grow in fairly poor soils, too. The ground cherry is part of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae), which also includes potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplants, and tobacco. Indeed, the ground cherry resembles a tiny tomatillo, as it is encased in a heart-shaped papery husk. Once ripe, the ground cherries fall to the ground. The husk can then be removed and the fruit eaten or incorporated into a recipe.

Ground cherries should only be eaten ripe. You’ll be able to tell if they are, as the color will be a golden orange-yellow. Unripe ground cherries, which are green, are said to be somewhat toxic, no doubt due to the presence of solanine, a type of natural defense common to nightshades (and the reason you shouldn’t eat the green parts of potatoes). Ripe ground cherries, with their myriad tiny (edible) seeds, however, can be safely eaten.

While they were a Midwestern favorite of yore (older cookbooks have recipes for ground cherry pies), they seem to have fallen out of favor. I assume it’s because of the work involved husking them. You have to remove the papery husk which, since they are small, can take some time and yield you less than you’d expect looking at the carton. But the task isn’t all that onerous and you do wind up with, well, ground cherries!

HuskingGroundCherries

Unhusked (left) and husked (right–in the bowl) ground cherries.

In my next posts, I’ll share with you my recipes for Ground Cherry-Coconut Jam and Ground Cherry-Lime Muffins. The coconut and lime are nicely complementary to the flavor of the ground cherries.

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Michigan’s Second Most Popular Cherry—the Balaton™

Tart (sour) cherries are much beloved in many parts of Asia and Europe. So it’s not surprising that the second most common cherry grown commercially in Michigan has its ancestral roots in Hungary. The Balaton™ (yes, that’s a trademark symbol!) comes to Michigan via the hard work of Dr. Iezzoni at Michigan State University.1

Dr. Iezonni, Professor of Horticulture, is a specialist in cherry genetics and the breeding of tart cherries. Working with researchers and breeders in Hungary, Dr. Iezzoni did testing of varieties of tart cherries. Much hard work later, the Balaton™ was introduced (and trademarked), named after Hungary’s beautiful Lake Balaton (a big tourist attraction).

Lake_Balaton

Now, there is a very interesting agreement regarding the Balaton™: For every Balaton™ tree sold in the US, 25 cents goes to support tart cherry breeding research in Hungary. I think that’s fabulous—a way of using the present to ensure the future.

I’ve not had the Balaton™ fresh, though perhaps next year I’ll take a trip to Michigan during harvest season. But until then, I’ll make do with the delicious dried ones I have!

And until then, a big “Thank You” to Dr. Iezzoni!

Balaton_Cherries

1 A excellent history of this cherry can be found at www.hrt.msu.edu/faculty/Iezzoni/Balaton/HistoryBalaton.html

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