A Spotlight on Salami

Salami also known as salame has a history that predates ancient Rome. Salami as a term refers to any form of encased meat, but is most commonly a pork sausage, pork blended with pork fat and a variety of spice mixes. Different types of salami can not only vary in flavor but also the part of the pig that is used to create it. Salami can be in fresh, cook, or dry-cured varieties and should look compact with a red or pink dominant color with speckles of white fat throughout. When cut, the fat should stay within the slice and not separate. Seasonings can vary and may include salt, pepper, garlic, fennel, wine, cinnamon, and many more. All the ingredients are mixed together and formed into the shape of a sausage, it is then encased and stored in a dark, cool place to age depending on the variety. Once stored, fermentation begins and that is how the salami continues to gain its flavor. When kept in a dark cool place, the salami can have a long shelf life. Another way to increase shelf life is to add coriander as a spice to the salami mix.

When preparing to eat, soft or cooked varieties should be sliced thin and hard or aged should be cut thick.  Depending on the variety, salami can be served in a number of ways including on a pizza, in a sandwich, on a charcuterie board, as antipasto, and many other ways. Different types of salami include but are not limited to chorizo, ciauscolo, finocchiona, genoa, kulen, pepperoni, and soppressata. The United States even has a salami capital, San Francisco. This is because the humid weather is the perfect environment to cure meat. Salami is both high in fat and protein, and the carbohydrate content depends on the additives in the mix. B vitamins are plentiful in salami however, it has a very high amount of sodium so it should be consumed in moderation. Similar to other fermented foods like kimchi or kombucha salami offers beneficial bacteria to the diet. You can purchase salami from Short Creek Farm and at some of these local markets.

A Spotlight on Honey

Honey has been around since the start of written history and most likely before that however there is not records prior. Since 2100 B.C.  it has been recorded as the first commonly used sweetener by humans. The first record is in Sumerian and Babylonian cuneiform writings and writings from Egypt and India. In years past it was used as currency, to make cement, polish and varnish, and in medicine.

Honey does not spoil and is best kept in a cool location out of sunlight. It is mostly sugar but does have some antioxidants depending on the bees and plants is comes from. There are different types of honey depending on the type of flower the bees go to. Some examples include lavender, clover, acacia, chestnut, sage, and many others. Honey can go threw different production and can be created into liquid in raw and pasteurized varieties, it can be in honeycomb, and also whipped. Honey can be used in many different recipes including baked goods, marinades, and can be added to tea.
Honey begins as nectar collected from flowers by bees. The bees then store the nectar in their honey stomachs. Those bees regurgitate the nectar into the hive and give it to worker bees. The worker bees then evaporate the water in the nectar by swallowing and regurgitating until the water content is lower. Once the water content of the nectar is lowered it is considered honey.
Honey can be found at you local farmers’ markets and from these farms.

A Spotlight on Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is made by tapping maple trees and collecting the sap. The sap is then boiled until it becomes thicker and resembles a syrup. The sap is clear and looks almost like water but when boiled the brown color comes out. Once boiled the syrup is then filtered to remove any sediment, and that is how the smooth textured maple syrup is created. North Eastern Native Americans were the first known to make maple syrup. European settlers learned how to tap maple trees from indigenous tribes.

Maple trees make sugar in the summer and the starch is stored in the roots over the summer. The trees are then tapped for sap in mid-February to mid-March. Sap collection ends when temperatures stay above freezing or when the trees start to produce buds. 80% of the world’s maple syrup is actually made in Quebec, Canada. Maple syrup can be either grade A or grade B depending on the color of the syrup. Grade A can be either light amber, medium amber, or dark amber. Grade B is the darkest maple syrup available and is created from sap that is collected later in the season. It has a stronger maple flavor and is commonly used in baking, whereas grade A is usually drizzled over food like pancakes.

Maple syrup isn’t only a sugary treat, it is a great source of manganese and riboflavin. It also contains calcium, thiamin, copper, and potassium. However, the sugar content is very high, 1/3 cup supplies about 60 grams of sugar! With this high of a sugar content, maple syrup should be consumed in moderation. You can find maple syrup at your local farmers’ markets.

A Spotlight on Garlic

Garlic is often used to flavor food, but has had many uses in the past including medicine! The flavorful bulb has antibiotic properties and has been used since the Egyptian times. In Ancient Greece the original Olympians were given garlic to “enhance” their performance. Garlic is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and can act as a natural blood thinner.

Garlic is related to onions, leeks, and chives and is thought to have origins in Siberia. Garlic can maintain its shelf life in a dry, dark place with air circulation. If stored correctly a whole bulb can be stored for up to 6 months, however if peeled it will last a few days to a week in the fridge. You can tell if garlic has gone bad if you see brown spots and the clove is no longer firm to the touch. The smell garlic produces is actually from an enzyme called alliinase. The alliinase breaks down a chemical called alliin into allicin. Allicin has sulfur molecules and that is where the pungent smell comes from.
Whether you enjoy garlic as a flavoring agent or on its own there are so many recipes out there. If your looking for inspiration here are a couple recipes that put garlic at the forefront. Garlic can be found at your local farmers’ markets and from these farms. What is your favorite way to use or eat garlic? Let us know in the comments.

A Spotlight on Hot Sauce

Everyone has heard of hot sauce in one form or another.  Hot sauce has been around for a long time and can even be tracked back to Mayan culture! Hot sauce became bottled and industrialized by the Tabasco company in the 19th century, and almost all cultures have their own rendition of hot sauce. The chemical that gives the sauce its spicy flavor naturally occurs in peppers, and is called capsaicin. Capsaicin has been shown to be beneficial to one’s health, it has anti-inflammatory properties and promotes a healthy metabolism. Peppers are ranked on the Scoville scale, a scale that measures the amount of capsaicinoids in the pepper. Scoville units range from zero, sweet bell peppers, all the way to 5,000,000 units, law enforcement pepper spray. You can tell how hot a hot sauce is based on its Scoville units.

Most commonly hot sauce consists of chili peppers, vinegar, and salt but there are many different combinations. Some sauces can be fermented to give a more tangy flavor. Naked hot sauces has many different varieties of hot sauces and can be found at some farmers markets, to learn more you can go to their website. The hot sauce I tried is called The One, and it is both spicy and savory. I used the hot sauce by making crispy breaded tofu and tossing it with this sauce, it was a tasty treat! What is your favorite variety of hot sauce? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

A Spotlight on Camelina Oil

Camelina oil comes from the pressing of the camelina plant, also known as false flax. The oil was first used hundreds of years ago in Northern Europe for food, lamp oil, and medicine. However, after World War II, Camelina was replaced with higher yield crops. The Camelina plant is classified as a Brassicaceae and is related to broccoli and cabbage, the smell of the oil is similar to a subtle broccoli scent. The plant grows well in cold and arid climates and the rain fall and air temperature can have drastic effects on the oil content of the plant.

When compared to other oils like olive, canola, or sunflower, Camelina oil has a healthier balance of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. It’s generally recommended for individuals to consume more Omega-3s than Omega-6s, and over consumption of Omega-6 fatty acids has been linked to heart disease and inflammation. The average western diet contains higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 oils are commonly found in fish and flaxseed, soybean, and canola oil and include EPA, DHA, and ALA (which Camelina oil is high in). ALA, alpha-linolenic acid, has been linked to a protective effect on heart health and proper nervous system function. The higher level of omega-3 fatty acids in this oil have also been linked with improving blood lipid profiles and reducing the bad cholesterol, known as LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein).

Camelina has a high Vitamin E content in the form of tocopherols. These tocopherols allow the shelf life of the oil to be up to 18 months and also prevent rancidity and oxidation. The oil has a high smoke point which makes it perfect for cooking. The smoke point of Camelina oil is 475 degrees Fahrenheit! Vitamin E also acts as an antioxidant and assists in preventing free radical damage. The benefits of Camelina oil are not limited to the diet. The oil can be used in skincare as a moisturizer that improves skin tone and it can be warmed and used on the scalp to reduce dandruff and keep hair moisturized. Camelina oil is also used for biodiesel and renewable jet fuel production. This oil has so many uses from cooking to jet fuel, it comes as a surprise that more people don’t know about it. Coppal House Farm in Lee, NH is a local producer of cold-pressed, non GMO Camelina oil and they can be found at the Seacoast Eat Local Farmers’ Markets this winter.

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3.

A Spotlight on Microgreens

Microgreens are the young version of a vegetable or herb that are cut just after the first leaves develop. They are not the same as sprouts, sprouts are simply germinated seeds. Sprouts are grown in water whereas microgreens are grown in soil or peat moss. Most microgreens grow in 1-2 weeks, but some can take 4-6 weeks. The taste varies depending on the variety of microgreen, but it can be said that the flavors pack a punch. You can purchase microgreens from farms including Andy’s Edible Gardens and Stout Oak Farm. Microgreens can be grown year round, making them easy to find no matter the weather, and they are very easy to grow at home.

Microgreens are great to mix into a salad to up the nutrient density, sprinkled over avocado toast, or placed on the top of crostini just to name a few ideas. My favorite variety are cilantro microgreens, they taste amazing on top of a crostini with Baba Ganoush. Microgreens have not been around for very long, they actually originated in San Francisco in the 1980’s and didn’t gain popularity until the 90’s. The first varieties grown included beet, arugula, cilantro, basil, and kale. The different types of microgreens continue to increase and there are different varieties every year. They may have a shorter shelf life than their fully grown counterparts, but the nutritional value is much higher. Microgreens are high in vitamins C, K, and E and they also contain powerful antioxidants called carotenoids and polyphenols. This makes them a perfect snack during the peak of cold and flu season. What is your favorite variety of microgreen?

A Spotlight on Pierogi

This past Saturday at the Exeter Farmers’ Market located in Exeter High School, the pierogi being sold by Jaju stood out. Believe it or not, locally produced pierogi are rare if nonexistent in Seacoast New Hampshire, a google search even shows that not many local restaurants offer them on their menu. Jaju, out of Lynn, Massachusetts is the closest producer of them and offer a variety of fillings (vegan pierogi can even be special ordered according to their website), you can purchase them from these local stores. I was extremely interested in the varieties offered by Jaju and decided to purchase the sweet potato and caramelized onion variety, yum!

That led me on a search to learn more about them, their origin, and how they are made. Pierogi are a thinly rolled dough dumpling (similar to a ravioli or gyoza) and can be filled with a variety of fillings. Pierogi can be filled with savory foods like meats, potatoes, caramelized onions, cheese or even sweet foods like berries for a tasty dessert. The only variety I have ever tried are the common frozen potato, cheese, and onion variety that come to many people’s minds when the word pierogi is spoken. The common potato and cheese pierogi that many people are familiar with are actually referred to as “ruskie” pierogi.

Pierogi are one of the national foods of Poland and the word pierogi is Slavic for the word festival. It’s actually incorrect to call them “pierogies,” because the word pierogi is already plural. The tasty dumplings first popped up in Poland around the 13th century however, recipes didn’t start to appear in literature until the 17th century. Polish immigrants first brought pierogi to the United States over 100 years ago. The largest pierogi ever created was 92 pounds, and there is a Guinness Book record for making pierogi (in 100 minutes, 1663 dumplings were created)! Pierogi also spelled pyrogy are so popular in Canada, there is even a statue located in Glendon, Alberta dedicated to the dumpling!

Nutritionally, the pierogi varies depending on the filling, but the majority of the pierogi is carbohydrate. To be honest, most people are not eating pierogi because of their health benefits, mostly because of their flavor. Pierogi can be part of a balanced diet. When preparing the dumplings they can be pan fried or boiled depending on your preference and the filling. I pan fried the sweet potato and caramelized onion pierogi in a garlic butter sauce and served with shrimp and they were extremely tasty. Pan frying gives a nice airy, yet crispy texture to the dough which is a treat to bite into. It can be both difficult and time consuming to make these delicious treats from scratch if you are not experienced in the kitchen, but here is a recipe for homemade pierogi if you want to give it a try.