Category Archives: Cooking

Restoring the Family Table 1.2

Lunch consisted of a Brined Turkey, scalloped potatoes, corn on the cob, grilled zucchini, purple beans stir-fried with garlic and onions, Homemade Peach Salsa and local bakery bread.  Dessert- Honey sweetened homemade yogurt with blueberries and blackberries and ginger mint.

It was nice to share lunch with family- 2 aunts, my mother, daughter and husband.

Brined Turkey- I had put a Restoration Farm Non-GMO fed heritage turkey in the brine Saturday about noon. The brine consisted of a Naked Apple Hard Cider, local peaches diced up, salt and peppercorns, rosemary and sage from the herb garden and an Italian herb mix from Meanwhile Back in Saluda, which is where I got the cider and salt.  The salt has been my most exciting find so far. It is from a company called Dickinson Salt Works in Malden, W Va.  Apparently in the early 1800’s an ancient sea ( Iapetus Ocena) was discovered deep below the Appalachian Mountains.  Today, two 7th generation descendants of William Dickinson are capturing this seawater, evaporating and hand harvesting a finishing salt. Very exciting to have an Appalachian Mountain salt.   I also found a wonderful condiment at Manna Cabanna in Saluda. It is a Caramelized Onion and Garlic jam from a local business- Happy Wife, Happy Life. Don’t you just love the name???   Just a touch really gave a pop to the brined turkey.

All vegetables and fruits were found at local farmers markets.- Tryon, Saluda and Columbus or Manna Cabanna in Saluda ( I got onions here), or my garden.  Butter and Milk for the potatoes from the Mill Spring Farm Store.  The Non-GMO wheat Bread came from Cool Mamas Bakery in Green Creek. Since I started making my own yogurt several years ago I have cut the cost of this purchase by at least 75%. It is easy to do and makes me feel very accomplished. We have bees on our farm and the honey, well…’s awesome too.   You can find local honey at most farmers markets, Meanwhile Back in Saluda, Manna Cabanna in Saluda and the Mill Spring Farm Store.

Cooking Local and Seasonal for Thanksgiving

This week marks the last Columbus tailgate market until the spring.  It is also the weekend before Thanksgiving, and a great time to stock up on necessities for your Thanksgiving feast.  The market accepts EBT and Debit, and even doubles your EBT dollars (spend $10.00 on your EBT card, you recieve $20.00 in tokens).

Often there is a perception that purchasing from the farmers market is more expensive than your local grocery, but in actuality, when things have had a good season, they can be much more affordable when purchased from a local farmer.  Additionally, local produce often boasts greater flavor and nutrition since it has not spent a week on a truck, and is often harvested the day before.  Once produce has been harvested, it begins to lose nutrients, so the sooner it is eaten after harvest, the greater the vitamin and mineral content.

At the Columbus market you will find kale, turnips, sweet potatoes, apples, artisan breads, honey, cider, butternut squash….and the list goes on an on.  Many of these items can be purchased ahead of time and will keep until Thanksgiving.  Local breads can be frozen and defrosted the night before the meal, and there are so many great ones to try!  So, for your Thanksgiving gathering how about trying a local, seasonal recipe that will impress your family with your magnificent cooking skills.

Below I have posted a few recipe ideas I found that seemed simple, tasty, and had a majority of their ingredients in season now.  Local meats and eggs can be found at the market or at the Mill Spring Farm Store.  Feel free to post your favorite recipe in the comments below!

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are good on their own, but if you’re looking for a unique way to utilize them in your meal, here are a few ideas.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes: Here is a twist on a twice baked potato that is usually made with russets (typically a late spring/summer crop)

Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup:  This soup would be a good hearty addition to your meal, and could utilize local sausage and sweet potatoes.

Butternut Squash

Butternut squash can be used for sweet or savory dishes.  It is great roasted with a little honey and cinnamon, or made into a pie or soup.  Here are a couple recipes I thought would be good for Thanksgiving.

Spicy Butternut Squash Meatloaf:

Traditional Butternut Squash Soup:  this is always a favorite, and is pretty simple.  It’s sweet and savory and gives you a lot of soup for very little money.


Of course you have apple pies, apple cobbler, apple crumble, etc.  I decided I would post another option for utilizing apples which would add a healthy, light side to your meal.

Apple Grape and Celery Salad:


Kale is so nutritious and versatile.  You can make really any kind of variation of a kale salad you would like.  I wanted to post my recipe, but I realized I play it by ear and have no idea how much of any ingredient I use.  Below is a recipe that is similar to mine.  The cinnamon is surprisingly delicious.  (I usually roast my pecans in the oven with coconut oil, honey, cinnamon, and cayenne)  They’re tasty on their own, but really make the salad complete.


Turnips are one of those forgotten vegetables, that are actually amazing!  They are great simply roasted with other root vegetables, or added to soups, roasted meats, etc.  Here is a simple recipe to give a try.

Cider Glazed Roots with Cinnamon and Walnuts:

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a personal favorite of mine.  The bitterness that is associated with the vegetable can be taken out by quickly blanching the heads before cooking them.  This recipe looks so good, and is another semi-healthy option.

Brussels Sprout Apple and Bacon Hash:|/275510/brussels-sprout-recipes/@center/276955/seasonal-produce-recipe-guide|953631

Acorn Squash

Acorn squash is as versatile as butternut, and I personally like them cut in half and roasted with brown sugar or maple syrup.  You can also make an acorn squash pie!  Here are some recipes I thought looked tasty.

Acorn Squash and Kale Soup:|/275063/acorn-squash-recipes/@center/276955/seasonal-produce-recipe-guide|257064

Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar|/275063/acorn-squash-recipes/@center/276955/seasonal-produce-recipe-guide|261881


I hope these recipes have inspired you to include at least one seasonal recipe to your Thanksgiving meal!  Don’t forget about the final Columbus Tailgate Market this Saturday, November 22nd from 9 am-12 pm in front of the the Courthouse.  See you there!




All about Pumpkins!

This week, in honor of October’s finest fruit, we will be talking about pumpkins.  

We are also celebrating the pumpkin by giving away pumpkins at the Polk County Tailgate Markets!  Don’t forget to stock up on other great seasonal fall produce, eggs, meats, and crafts after you score your pumpkin!  The Pumpkin Giveaways will take place:

  • October 16th-Tryon (Palmer and Trade Street) 4-6 pm
  • October 17th– Saluda (West Main Street) 4:30-6:30 pm
  • October 18th– Columbus (Courthouse Square) 8-12 pm


  • Pumpkins originated in Central America and were cultivated before Maize.
  • Pumpkin seeds have been found at archaeological sites in the American southwest dating back six thousand years, as well as at sites throughout Mexico, Central and South America, and the eastern United States.
  • The word pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon meaning “large melon.”
  • The popular Jack-be-little pumpkin is actually a gourd, not a pumpkin.
  • Eighty percent of the pumpkin supply in the United States is available in October.
  • North Carolina pumpkin acreage has been estimated between 3,000 and 4,000 acres.
  • The origin of pumpkin pie occurred when the colonists sliced off the pumpkin top, removed the seeds, and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. The pumpkin was then baked in hot ashes.  The pumpkin actually served as the crust!
  • Native Americans dried strips of pumpkin and wove them into mats.


Health Benefits of Pumpkins

  • Pumpkins are a great source of beta-carotene
  • Pumpkin seeds are anti-parasitic!
  • Accoring to the National Institutes of Health, a cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A, which aids in vision, especially in dim light.
  • Nuts and seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are naturally rich in certain plant-based chemicals called phytosterols, which have been shown in studies to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
  • Pumpkins are rich in beta-carotene, which has been shown to help prevent cancer and wrinkles too!
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in the amino-acid Tryptophan, which is important in the production of serotonin.  So they may make you happier!!
  • A serving of pumpkin has more potassium than that of a banana!

A Unique Pumpkin Recipe

(Pumpkin Pickles)

  • 1 lemon
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 sugar pumpkin (3 to 4 pounds), seeded, peeled, and cut into 1 1/2 × 3/4 × 3/4 -inch pieces
Directions: (45 minutes):
  •  Using vegetable peeler, remove strips of zest from lemon. In large nonreactive saucepan, combine zest, sugar, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, peppercorns, and salt. Simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar, 5 minutes. Add pumpkin. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until pumpkin is crisp-tender, about 15 minutes.
  • With slotted spoon, transfer pumpkin pickles to sterilized canning jars (you will need about 8 half-pint jars or 4 one-pint jars). Pour in cooking liquid to within 1/4 inch of top of each jar. Seal. Refrigerate and use within one week, or sterilize jars following canning jar manufacturer’s instructions for longer storage.

giant_pieThe largest pumpkin pie ever made was over five feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds. It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took six hours to bake.



Fall is a great time to check out a farm, sip on some warm cider, and pick your own apples and pumpkins.  Even though NC isn’t a huge grower of pumpkins, we have some pick-your own pumpkin farms not far from Polk county.  To find these farms I utilized a great site:  With this website you can search counties or broader regions for specific crops, farms, farm stands, etc.  I did a simple search for pick-your own pumpkin in Western NC, and got a list of several farms to choose from.

One thing to note is that many of these farms do not allow you to actually go out and pick a pumpkin, though there are a few near us.  Instead they let you choose from a variety of pumpkins they have purchased from another farmer and have on site.  The best way to know is to call the number listed before driving out there.

 Enjoy pumpkin season!!


Adventures in Jelly Making

I grew up in the foothills of North Carolina, in Hickory, but for some reason I never tasted a Muscadine until my recent move to Polk County.  Now when i’m hiking or driving I notice that these things are everywhere!  Living on an Americorps budget makes free food from nature very, very exciting.  Last weekend on a crisp Sunday morning I harvested seven and half pounds of these grapes from a wild vine by my house.  I was so excited, but then I realized, what do I do with these???

The answer: Jelly

My first attempts at jelly were successful, I followed all the steps of boiling the jars, adding the pectin, etc. etc.  But I realized I could of saved myself some time and effort, after helping process 46 more jars for the upcoming Friends of Agriculture Breakfast.  So, for those of you out there who have not made jelly, or given the wonderful Muscodine a chance, i’m dedicating this blog one of my new favorite hobbies: Making Jelly!

Step One: Harvest Your Grapes

You want to pick grapes that fall easily off the vine.  When it comes to making jelly, the softer the better.  For a small batch you are going to need about 3.5 to 5 pounds, it’s better to have too many than not enough, because you can always save the juice, which is really tasty.  Make sure you wash the grapes before you begin to make the jelly.  You don’t really need to worry about taking off the stems, unless you’re a perfectionist, the juice will be strained to keep out the seeds, skins, and stems.


Step Two: Prepare Your Jars

First fill a canning pot halfway with clean water, enough to cover the jars with 1-2 inches of water, and get it started to boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, wash all your jars with soap and hot water.  You can also place them in the dishwasher if you would like.  After the jars are washed and the water is boiling, place the jars in the pot and let them sanitize for ten minutes.  When they are done, take jar grabbers and place the jars top-side down on a clean rag and out of the way.  This way bacteria won’t fall into the jars.  Some people place them in an oven, top-side down, at about 170* until they are ready to use them, but the hot sugar works as a preserver, so this really isn’t necessary.  You will also want to boil your lids.  You can re-use rings, but never lids.  These can be left in the hot water until you’re ready to use them.


 Step Three: Prepare Your Grapes! 

warning…this is the longest part of the process

Boil the washed grapes in water until the skin just begins to split, this helps you extract the juice and pulp.  Another way to tell they’re ready is if the grapes begin to float.  Once the grapes are boiled you have several options, some will mash the grapes then strain the juices with a cheese cloth, but this seems pretty daunting.  There are lots of neat tools out there to utilize!  We used a tool that Dawn calls a “Berry Crusher Mill” and her great Aunt called a “Do Hicky.”  I looked it up and it is just called an Old Fashioned Food Colander/Strainer.

It looks like this:


This handy tools allows you to grind the grapes to a pulp while the juices fall out into a bowl or pot below.  We used a big pot, since we were making a large batch.  When I made jelly at home we used a steamer, but I think this method gives you a lot more juice per pound of grapes.  If you don’t have one of these, don’t go spending your money, get creative!


Now, you are ready to get cooking!

Step Four: Make Your Jelly


  • 1-1/4 qt. (5 cups) prepared juice (about 3 1/2 lb. fully ripe grapes)

  • 1-1/2 cups water

  • 1 box of pectin (or 6 tablespoons if you have a large jar)

  • 1/2 tsp of butter

  • 7 cups sugar, measured in a separate bowl

*you can use less sugar if you would like, the recipe I used for my jelly at home only used 5 cups of sugar, but it was a more runny consistency.


We used a recipe from Kraft for Concord Jelly:

Stir the pectin into the juice in a saucepot.  Add the butter; this helps reduce foaming.  Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.  Stir in the sugar.  Return to a full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Skim off any foam with a metal spoon.  We transferred our jelly into a metal pitcher to make it easier to pour into the jars.

There are no pictures for this part, because once you get the jelly cooked, you want to move quickly so it doesn’t set before you can it.

Fill the jars to within a 1/4 inch of the tops.  Be sure to wipe around the rim to ensure that there is no residue, otherwise they will not seal properly.  Once you have put the lid and ring on, flip the jar upside down and leave it alone for at least 1 to 1.5 hours.  With jelly/jam you don’t need to process the jars, since the sugar is so hot, it acts as a preserving agent.  (However, this is an old process, and may not be considered “food safe”)  

If you do want to process the jars, you boil them for 5-10 minutes.  10 minutes is a good safe processing time.  Processing simply means, putting the jars back in boiling water after they have had their lids placed on them.


You can flip the jars right side up after about 2 hours, and they should be good to go!

Step 5: Enjoy your jelly!!

These can make great gifts, or can be stored for jelly year-round.  What’s great about home-made jellies and jams is that you can avoid all the weird things they put in store-bought; such as high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial food coloring.  Additionally you actually save money in the long-run, and it is a great way to involve your kids in a fun after-school activity.  (Just be sure you are wearing aprons or clothes you don’t mind getting stained).

So has you interest been peaked??  There are still muscodines to be harvested and jelly to be made, you just have to go out there and do it!


We will be using them to decorate the tables and our plates at our next Friends of Agriculture Breakfast on:

October 15th

7 am

4-H Center in Columbus

*If you’re interested in saving a little money, we also have coupons for pectin at the ag-center, thanks to our Ball Canning Grant.  Stop by Mon-Fri 9:00-4:30 to pick some up.


Author: Sydney Klein  (AmeriCorps Project Conserve Member at the Polk County Office of Agricultural Economic Development)

Pressure Canning Chicken at Farmers’ Market

A very special thank you to Dawn Jordan for doing a great job at the Columbus Tailgate Market on Saturday. Dawn shared her pressure canning and poultry expertise with market customers as part of the Discover You Can grant.

A lot of people are intimidated by pressure canning, but the experience seems worthwhile. Dawn slow roasted four chickens to yield six quarts of meat and one quart of broth. At market, Dawn sampled turkey that was pressure canned two years ago. Now, it is easy enough to open the can of turkey, combine with a mirepoix, noodles, and cook to make an easy turkey soup. 

Thanks to Dawn for her canning inspiration! For more on pressure canning chicken, Ball has some great information:


Ag Center Collects Used Cooking Oil for Blue Ridge BioFuels

The Ag Center has been proud to host a used cooking oil collection unit for almost a year now. Please remember to bring any used cooking oils that you can over to the Ag Center to the lower parking lot.

Here are some reminders of what cannot go in the bin from Blue Ridge BioFuels:

  • Grease trap waste
  • Water
  • Hydrogenated Oils (lard or shortening)
  • Large volumes of animal fat (small volumes ok)
  • Food Solids
  • Motor Oil, Chemicals, Paints
  • Trash

Find out more about Blue Ridge Biofuels.

Chef Richard Ruben at Farmers’ Market Tomorrow

I have had the pleasure of meeting Chef Richard Ruben and discussing with him the fine art of cooking which directly preceded having the sudden realization of how terrible I am at cooking. What gets me very excited though is that Richard is willing and wanting to share his knowledge of cooking, preserving, and making the most of our meals.

Tomorrow he will be at the Columbus Farmers’ Market and will lead a guided tour of the market starting at 9 am, looking at fresh produce and expanding the possibilities of how that food can be prepared. In talking with him he opens up another level of cooking that oftentimes can seem unattainable. More Alton Brown and less Wolfgang Puck.

Richard is also the author of The Farmers Market Cookbook which can be purchased online at Amazon

Richard will also be kicking off the Farm Class Series for the Ag Center on Thursday, September 18th from 6 to 8pm. The class is Puttn’ Up, a chef’s guide to learn new preservation techniques. Participants will make and take: Smoky Pickled Okra, Minted Beets, Summer Savory Salt, Sugared Apples, & Tarragon Red Wine Vinegar. Sign up information will be on the Polk County’s Farm website so hurry as only 14 slots are available.

$500 Cookbook

Nathan Myhrvold

It’s always been a puzzle to me what makes something art or just scribbles, I am by no means an artist other than the crafting and sculpting I can manage with a weedeater but I suppose one type of art is making an ordinary everyday object have a new perspective.  Nathan Myhrvold is the author of Modernist Cuisine and he has photographed food in a whole new way. 

See his TED talk here:

See his website here:

If you are going to order his cookbook, why not order another one for the cookbook library at the Ag Center? Just saying….

Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold
Nathan Myhrvold