Honeycrisp Apples on Tree

Where have all the organic apples gone? This is a question I hear a lot. People expect a place such as Whole Foods Market to be stock full of organic apples but if you have been there lately you probably didn’t see a lot of them. Organic apples are hard to come by right now. Not impossible just not in the quantities people are expecting. Is it because stores don’t really care about bringing them to their customers? No.

In this day and age people expect to have everything available to them all the time. It doesn’t always work that way. The problem here is that more and more people want organic. The supply is not meeting the demand. (Check out this report in the Packer, a produce industry newsletter). This is particularly the case with apples this year. The domestic apple crop was not big enough to meet the amount of people that wanted them for the 2013-2014 season.

Organic Michigan Strawberries

Now if more people want organic kale, then farms could try and plant more organic kale for the season. Not so with apples. It takes about 5 years for an apple tree to begin bearing any fruit. So if demand increases it will take time to meet up with that demand. Also you really only have one state that is growing most of the commercial organic apple crop, and that is Washington. You make see other states pop and now again, I have seen organic Michigan apples at Whole Foods, but most of the time we are relying on just Washington, so however their season goes will dedicate how the organic apple season across the country goes.

What Time of Year Can I Find Organic Apples?
We begin seeing organic apples out of Washington in September. As the harvest continues more varieties become available and a steady stream last into the winter. In late winter is when things start getting sketchy. In 2014, supplies start running low around late February to early March. Once organic apples begin harvesting in Southern Hemisphere you may seem them hitting U.S. stores in April and May. Not in the same amounts as the Washington crop. June to August you will find it even more of a hunt to find any organic apples before the new crop out of Washington arrives again.

Where to Find Ojai Pixie Tangerines in 2014

in Fruit & Vegetables

Ojai Pixie Tangerines 2014

Shopping in the produce department can be depressing in the winter when you live in a northern climate. Local fresh produce is long gone. Which is why I am so thankful that I have citrus season to help me deal with the winter time blues. As we head deeper into spring, it means that citrus season is coming to a close. While that is disappointing, the good news is that one of the best tasting pieces of citrus is one that you will find right at the end of the year. For the last several years, I have enjoyed the Pixie tangerine as the last piece of citrus I will have until the cold weather returns. Talk about going out with a bang, these are so rich in flavor, and sweet on the tongue. If you have not tried them before you really need to seek them out.

The 2014 crop wasn’t the largest. There was some damage due to December freezes and California experienced a drought in January. While the size is mammoth this year, the availability and prices are not as good (I paid $2.69/pound without no chance of any sale prices this year). That is why it’s even more important for me to share with you where you can find these tangerines. Lucky for us the Ojai Pixie Growers Association posted the stores where you can find their Pixies this year on their website. For your convenience I have re-posted the list below. I buy mine at Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the first couple weeks they were only getting them on the weekends, however now the supply has improved. Don’t hesitate to pick them up in bunches if you see them as there are no promises you will be able to get more.

Here are some grocery outlets that carry Ojai Pixie Tangerines:

Southern California

Ojai:
Rainbow Bridge, 211 E. Matilija, 805-646-4017 www.rainbowbridgeojai.com
Starr Market, 131 West Ojai Avenue, 805-646-4082
Westridge Market, 802 E. Ojai Ave. 805-646-2762.

Santa Barbara:
Lane Farms, 5091 Hollister Avenue, 805-964-3773
Lazy Acres, 302 Meigs Road, 805-564-4410 www.lazyacres.com
Tri-County Produce, 335 South Milpas Street, 805-965-4558 www.tri-countyproduce.com

New Frontiers Natural Marketplace
1531 Froom Ranch Way San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
1984 Old Mission Dr Solvang, CA 93463

Malibu
Vintage Grocer

San Gabriel
Howie’s Ranch Market

Orange
Pacific Ranch Market

Northgate Markets

http://www.northgatemarkets.com/

Gelson’s Markets – 18 Southern California stores

http://www.gelsons.com/

Bristol Farms – 13 Southern California stores

http://www.bristolfarms.com/

Northern California

Berkeley:
Monterey Market, 1550 Hopkins Street, 510-526-6042 www.montereymarket.com
The Berkeley Bowl, 510-843-6929 www.berkeleybowl.com

Alameda
Dan’s Fresh Produce, 2300 Central Avenue www.dansfreshproduce.com

Draeger’s Gourmet Food & Wine www.draegers.com
Los Altos, 342 First St., 650-948-1563
Menlo Park, 1010 University Dr., 650-324-7700
San Mateo, 222 4th Ave., 650-685-3700

Lunardi’s www.lunardis.com
Los Gatos, 720 Blossom Hill Road, 408-358-1731
San Jose, 4650 Meridian Ave., 408-265-9101
San Jose, 4055 Evergreen Village Square, Suite 140; 408-528-6940
San Bruno, 100 Skycrest Center, 650-952-2851
Belmont, 1085 Alameda de las Pulgas, 650-591-5768
Walnut Creek, 1600 Palos Verdes Mall, 925-939-6477
Burlingame, 1825 El Camino Real, 650-697-5306

Other Bay Area:
Sigona’s: Redwood City and Palo Alto
Rockridge Market Hall: Rockridge
The Wharf Marketplace

Outside California

Whole Foods Market stores across the country (Check store for availability)

Central Market www.centralmarket.com
Austin, TX – Central, 4001 North Lamar
Austin, TX – Westgate, 4477 South Lamar
Dallas, TX – 5750 E. Lovers Lane
Fort Worth, TX – 4651 West Freeway
Houston, TX – 3815 Westheimer
Plano, TX – 320 Coit Road
San Antonio, TX – 4821 Broadway
Eastern US

Wegman’s Markets – 80 stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland
www.wegmans.com

The Orchard, 1367 Coney Island Boulevard, Brooklyn, NY 718-377-0800, www.orchardfruit.com

Mail Order Sources

Directly from the farmer, at Friend’s Ranches:
www.friendsranches.com, 805-646-2871

Farm-direct certified organic Ojai Pixies from Churchill Orchard:
www.tangerineman.com, 805-646-4212

From Melissa’s World Variety, at
www.melissas.com, 800-468-7111

How to Make Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

in Salads Salads & Dressings

Blue Cheese Dressing

Have you ever made your own salad dressing before? Not a lot of people make their own dressings or condiments. I can understand not taking the time to make your own ketchup or mayo. If there is anything you can make yourself from scratch make it salad dressing. It is so simple to make and you can customize it so easily to your liking. A simple combination of vinegar and oil is enough to flavor your favorite greens. Today I want to show you how to make a more complex, yet still very easy to make salad dressing – blue cheese.

Smokey Blue Cheese Dressing

The Building Blocks to Good Blue Cheese Dressing

There are four main things need to build your blue cheese dressing – vinegar, mayo, dairy, and of course blue cheese.

Vinegar
I like to use really flavorful vinegars like red wine, balasmic, champagne, or apple cider when making my dressings. However in this case you want something mild. I opted for rice wine vinegar. It is very mild but still gives enough punch. The blue cheese is the star of this show, so let it stand alone as the strongest flavor.

Mayo
This is the base of the dressing. Use real mayonnaise, no Miracle Whip please!

Dairy
This is where you can control how much fat you want in your dressing. You can make it with heavy cream, which I have done before. However I don’t have heavy cream on hand at all times. I love recipes that call for ingredients that are all stables. What I always have on hand is whole milk. When I made the last batch of dressing I used it. I had a little bit more mayo to make it thick enough. You could use a lower fat milk but then again the thinner it is the thinner the dressing will be. I would go with either whole milk, half and half, or heavy cream.

Blue Cheese
Roth Moody Blue Cheese

The most important part is of course the cheese. Good news is that a lot goes a long way. The recipe you find below only calls for 2 ounces of cheese. Which is enough to make that amount of dressing you see at the photo at the start of this post. Pick something that is really good and flavorful. Look for sales. Shop at a store that will cut you a piece of exactly how much you need. Get a sample first. Find one that you like. The flavor may be too strong on it’s own – this is a good thing you want it to stand out in the dressing.

I recommend Roth Moody Blue Cheese. It is made in Wisconsin in small batches. The best part about it is that is smoked over fruit woods to give it a smoky undertone, which is a wonderful addition to the dressing. It is a salty blue cheese, no additional salt was needed in the dressing. I found it on sale at Whole Foods Market during one of their weekly 3 day cheese sales.

The Recipe
The recipe itself is a take off of Ina Garten’s Blue Cheese dressing. I have made that in the past but there were a few things I wanted to change. First was to cut the recipe in half because this isn’t a dressing that will keep all that well. I made too much the last time that didn’t get used up. I have also read reviews of her recipe of people complaining that the dressing gets runny after a couple days. It’s best enjoy as fresh as possible. The recipe also calls for tarragon vinegar. I don’t feel the necessity of buying another vinegar when I have dried tarragon (fresh when my herb garden is in season) and mild rice wine vinegar. If you have not used tarragon before it’s one of my favorite herbs, it adds a licorice like taste, different from fennel also has that kind of flavor. It really rounds out the dressing, do yourself a favor and don’t skip it. The other change was using whole milk and a little more mayo in place of the heavy cream.

Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing
 

Ingredients
  • 2 ounces quality blue cheese, chopped into pieces
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dried tarragon or 1 teaspoon fresh tarragon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
  • kosher salt to taste

Instructions
  1. Combine all the ingredients into a food processor. Process until the dressing is smooth. Taste. Add salt to taste. The amount you need depends on how salty your blue cheese is.
  2. If you find the dressing is too thin, add more mayo a little at a time and re-process until thick. If you find the dressing is too thick, then add a little milk at a time and re-process until thinner.
  3. Best enjoyed the day you made it or within a couple days.

 

Small Batch Strawberry-Blood Orange Jam

in Small Batch

Strawberry Blood Orange Jam

Last Summer, I introduced you, the blog readers, to small batch jam making with my Strawberry Vanilla Jam recipe. It’s a wonderful way to try out new flavor combinations with a very small commitment. Also a great way to take an advantage of seasonal produce. While we are still months away from the Michigan strawberry season, late winter is also a good time for strawberries for me. It’s when the Florida strawberries are at their peak. With both Mexican and California strawberries also available it creates the lowest prices of the season due to the volume on the market. Strawberries can be had for $1 a pound, I even found some for $1 for a 2 pound container. What a great opportunity to add to my jam supply to help me through to warmer days.

Strawberry Blood Orange Jam

One thing that is not in season when my Michigan strawberries are, is blood oranges. In June, I doubt the only place I will find a blood orange is if one rolled underneath a store’s produce display. I took the opportunity to add some blood orange juice to my strawberry jam. I was very pleased with the results, so I wanted to share it will all of you! I never combined strawberries and oranges together, but the flavors do play well with each other, particularly the blood orange.

The recipe below makes enough jam to fill a 8 oz Ball jar

In case you were wondering that cool yellow container holding the strawberries was picked up my wife on the cheap at our local Michaels craft store. It’s a fun piece of decor for our room as well as a prop for my strawberry recipes. That’s a multi-tasker for ya.

 

Small Batch Strawberry-Blood Orange Jam
 

Ingredients
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from about 2 blood oranges)
  • 1 cup pureed strawberries
  • 1 tsp classic powdered pectin
  • enough sugar to equal the weight of the strawberries

Instructions
  1. Prepare the strawberries. Weight them out. Add equal amount of sugar by weight.
  2. Allow the berries to macerate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  3. Juice enough blood oranges to get to ¼ cup of juice. Add to the strawberries.
  4. Heat a large/wide frying pan over high heat.
  5. Pour in the fruit mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of pectin
  6. Place a plate into the freezer.
  7. Bring to a boil. Continually stirring until the jam thickens about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  8. Place a little bit of jam onto the plate in your freezer. Place back in the freezer, wait 1 minute. If the jam does not move on the plate, then it’s done. If it seems too runny still cook it a bit longer and try again. You can add 1 more teaspoon of pectin if you think it needs it.

 

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