Monthly Archives

February 2016

Food, Recipes, Winter

Castle Valley Mill Redux

February 26, 2016

Cornbread in a cast iron skillet.

Since visiting Castle Valley Mill I have been having fun finding new ways to use their wonderful products. In the past baking had been intimidating for me, but a few classes at Drexel, especially the one I am taking now with Marc Vetri and his baker Claire Kopp McWilliams, have brought me around. I now enjoy the whole process of baking a loaf of bread or a batch of rolls. Kneading it until it is just right and watching it rise is fascinating. Since I have been using the flour from Castle Valley I have developed a new respect for the different textures and flavors that whole grain products bring to the bread.

Rolls in a basket.The flours that I bought were rye, whole wheat and a strain of corn they call Bloody Butcher. This flour is ground from a strain of corn that is red, and it gives the cornbread a tinge of color. Castle Valley has quite a few recipes on their website to help you get started using their product. I made their cornbread, two different ones, and they were both delicious. I enjoyed the one that uses dried rosemary just a bit more and I can envision swapping out the rosemary for thyme or sage depending on what I am eating it with.

I also made a rye bread from a recipe on David Lebovitz’s website. It is hearty and chewy with great rye flavor. No, it doesn’t taste like caraway, which is what most people think of when they think of rye bread. It’s fine to want that flavor — for example, these rolls from Martha Stewart are delicious — but I also think it’s important to appreciate the rye for what it is on its own.

I think my next venture with this flour will be pasta. I just ordered Mastering Pasta by Chef Vetri and then the fun will begin.

Culture, Food

Castle Valley Mill

February 18, 2016

exterior of Castle Valley Mill.

For most of us who ascribe the term locavore to our lifestyles, we usually only mean it to a certain degree. Sure, we might only buy local meat and produce, eat our asparagus and strawberries when they are in season, and employ strategies for preserving food such as freezing and canning. But what about common household items such coffee, sugar, and exotic spices? We are usually willing to grant ourselves special dispensations when it comes to these necessities. I am firmly in this camp, but last week I took flour off of the list of special allowances. From now on I will only buy my flour locally. Why? The usual reasons — I want to know where my food is coming from and I want to support local businesses. But also because it tastes great, it has better texture, and the variety of options is so much wider than what I can find in my supermarket and food co-op. It all began with a fieldtrip to Castle Valley Mill in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a requirement of one of my Drexel University courses.

The course was called Wheat Lab and was taught by renowned Philadelphia chef Marc Vetri and baker Claire McWilliams. It covered the history of the history of wheat, how to use it culinary, and how commercially milled wheat differs from the fresh product. The fieldtrip was intended to demonstrate the latter.

millerThe man in the photo is Mark Fischer. Mark is the owner of Castle Valley Mill. The mill has been here since 1730 using water from the Neshaminy Creek to power it. The mill grinds grains the way it was done for hundreds of years before the Industrial Revolution. The property was in poor condition when Mark’s grandfather, Henry, acquired it in 1947. He restored the building and collected much of the milling machinery that they use today. Mark has continued to restore the machinery that his grandfather acquired and also hopes to get back to using the power of water to run his operation.

The flours that you get from this mill are nothing like you get in the supermarket. They are fresh and flavorful and all whole grain. Mark gets his grain from local farmers everything from wheat to rye to spelt. I drove up a second time to buy some more (They also ship; just contact them.) Supporting businesses like this and local farmers is an important way to keep a piece of history alive.

Next week I will share some the goodies I make with this wonderful product.

Food, Winter

Smoked Turkey

February 9, 2016

Smoke Turkey.

Eating locally doesn’t mean that all I eat are vegetables. Vegetables are a large part of our diet, but the carnivore in us does come out now and then. When we do buy meat we look for local, humanely raised animals. When we visited the Chestnut Hill Farmer’s Market a couple of weeks ago we came across some folks from Canter Hill Farm. This farm is located in Malvern, PA and they have everything from chickens to lamb. Their animals are pasture raised with no chemicals. At Canter Hill they raise what are called heritage breeds. Unlike modern industrial farming that breed animals for traits like bigger breasted chickens or pigs that bulk up faster so they can get to market sooner, heritage breeds are the breeds that were raised by generations of farmers long before modern agriculture. You do pay more for animals that are raised this way, which is why we don’t eat that much meat, but it’s definitely worth it.

We purchased a turkey breast with plans on smoking it in the new electric smoker that Dan got me for Christmas. It came out delicious. Here’s how we did it:

Everything we read said that brining is the way to go. The brine recipe and the recipe for the rub that goes on prior to smoking is adapted from a book called Real BBQ: The Ultimate Step-By-Step Smoker Cookbook by Will Budiaman.

Ingredients for the brine

  • ¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 2 tablespoons white peppercorns (I used black)
  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ cup kosher salt


  • In a dry saucepan toast the seeds until fragrant, 1-2 minutes
  • Bring the juice, water and salt to a boil to dissolve salt
  • Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate to chill

We brined it overnight in a Ziploc bag, but any container will work, just make sure the turkey is submerged.

After it comes out of the brine pat it dry and put on the dry rub. The rub has 1 teaspoon each of toasted and then crushed peppercorns, coriander seeds and mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons toasted and crushed cumin seeds, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1 tablespoon ancho chili, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar.

Let this sit on the meat for an hour or two and then smoke at 225 F for 4-5 hours until the internal temp is 155 F. Let it rest for at least 20 minutes and then dig in.

Food, Recipes, Winter

Brussels Sprout Salad

February 4, 2016

Brussel Sprouts Salad

When you are at the farmer’s market and you see local brussel sprouts, buy them! I know, you think you don’t like brussels sprouts. Your mother cooked them to death and they are mushy and they smell bad. I used to think so too. That’s the reason I didn’t eat them until much later into adulthood. Then I discovered if you roast them in a hot oven with just some olive oil, salt and pepper (and yes bacon does make everything better) they are delicious and no funky smell.

If you are still not sure then I have a recipe that will change your mind, and ease you into the delicious world of sprouts. This recipe is a take on a salad that I had at Iron Hill Brewery shortly after Thanksgiving. My son, who was a brussels sprout hater, works there and was raving about it. I traded out some ingredients and tweeked it a bit to my tastes and believe me it will make you a brussel sprout lover. The Iron Hill recipe called for dried cranberries, but I like the fresh pop of the pomegranate seeds.

Here is what you will need

  • 2 pints of brussels sprouts
  • 6 green onions
  • 5 ounces of marcona almonds (you could use regular almonds, but marconas are so good)
  • 4 ounces of pomegranate seeds (yes, not local, I know, but sometimes you have to be a little flexible)

For the dressing: (this dressing will make more than you need for the salad, but it keeps and is just as good on a green salad.)

  • 5 ounces shallot
  • .5 ounces minced garlic
  • 1 ounce Dijon mustard
  • 3 ounces sugar
  • 4 ounces red vinegar
  • 3 ounces balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt and pepper mix
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup canola oil

Method for the dressing

  • In a blender puree shallots, garlic, mustard, sugar and vinegars until fully blended.
  • Transfer to a stainless steel mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in oil until blended.

For the salad

  • In a food processor, fitted with the thin slicing blade, slice your brussel sprouts
  • Slice your green onions thinly
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and add dressing to your taste

If this doesn’t make you a brussel sprout lover, I don’t know what will.

If you are already a sprout lover, what is your favorite way to eat them?