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Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Featuring Master of Kung Moo: Dan Moore of Ninja Cow Farm

by Taylor Fish, Wake County Farm Bureau, member of the Capital Area Food Network Farm Advocacy Circle

Ninja-Cow

New residents to the Triangle area are often surprised to learn that Wake County, a mostly urban community, is home to over 750 farms and contains around 530,000 acres of farmland. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is hoping to introduce you to a few of the sustainable, local farms in Wake County on their Eastern Triangle Farm Tour September 23-24, 2017 from 1-5PM. Reserve your tickets here.

One farm on the tour you do not want to miss is Ninja Cow Farm. Located just 15 minutes from downtown Raleigh, it’s easy to miss the entrance to this farm hidden off Old Stage Road. Driving up this country lane you will find yourself teleported to a small farm oasis in the heart of Wake County.  You will learn how owner/operator Dan Moore uses his proximity to the city to his advantage in this sprawling urban county. Moore, the self-proclaimed “hippie farmer” will share the many environmentally friendly practices on his farm – from rotational cattle grazing to eliminating food waste. I can almost guarantee you have not visited a farm like it in North Carolina. There is also no other farm in NC that has a name quite like Ninja Cow, the story is very much worth the read.

Ninja Cow

Dan Moore’s family moved to this plot of land in 1980, it was then that he started learning about farming. Growing up in Garner, NC, dreams of the future never included life on the farm. After working 20 years in corporate America, Moore saw an opportunity to farm full time in 2015 and traded his old career for a more family oriented business. Farming is in Moore’s blood. Before relocating to Garner, his family had been farming in Flat River, NC dating back to 1793. He and his wife decided it was important to eat healthy food and wanted a sustainable product they were happy feeding their family of five. Moore claims that his “number one customer is still his wife.” Now Ninja Cow Farm has turned into a popular attraction for those truly interested in knowing where their food comes from. Unlike many farmers who choose to have multiple outlets to sell their product, 95% of sales are directly to his consumers from a small store open at Ninja Cow Farm Wednesdays and Fridays 2-6pm and Saturdays 8-5pm.

Ninja CowNinja Cow Farm offers a very unique meat product. His animals have a diet unlike the any other. In an effort to supply his animals with the best feed available and reduce food waste, Moore feeds his animals left-over produce from the Raleigh Farmers Market. Many customers have become regulars because there really isn’t another meat like it available on the market. His top sellers fluctuate between the beef and pork. Most often it is beef and his ribeyes are all presale. There are only 24 ribeyes per cow; so many times you will find a waiting list for that superior cut of meat.

Moore’s favorite product from his farm is his Boston Butt Steaks. Ironically, the way he discovered them was by mistake. Moore had ordered a Boston Butt from the butcher but when he received it, it was not cut the way he had requested. Moore stuffed it in the back of his freezer and had almost forgotten about it until his wife cooked them one night just like a pork chop. Come to find out, they are tender like a porterhouse or ribeye, had great marbling, and seemed to resemble a steak…Moore ate it up, licked the bone, and then ate the kid’s unfinished portions. They became his favorite cut sold at the farm.

It is no secret that farming comes with a lot of challenges. Every operation is different, and you can learn from those trials over time. After talking with Dan Moore about his operation and what challenges he faces he states, “I have been blessed with good people working here.” With any business employing the right people makes all the difference. Luckily, he has retained almost everyone that he has hired over the years.

Ninja Cow logoMoore’s biggest challenge continues to be marketing and learning how to bring more customers in, because once they are hooked on his product customer retention is easy. His second daily challenge is production. Moore’s production method is different than all others. He cannot call upon an expert from NCSU about his feed, because no one knows how to get cows to eat onions, carrots, and bananas like Dan Moore does. Many of his practices result from trial and error, and this can be very expensive. There is little to no research on the way he has chosen to care for his animals. For example, he learned that certain produce will make the cows bloat after having to perform an emergency surgery at 6 am. While managing life on a farm, there will always be something that you are recovering from or constantly improving.

What advice would Dan Moore give to new farmers? Financial planning is a must before starting any operation. Moore listened to a presentation last fall at the CFSA’s Sustainable Ag Conference, by Scott Marlow from RAFI titled “Why Farms Fail:” the answer is poor financial planning. Moore claims that it should be required before opening an operation to attend a farming “How to not go bankrupt” seminar. It is important to know your numbers, your expenses, to set your prices, and research the market.

What are attendees of the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour going to love seeing on Ninja Cow Farm? Many attendees will be impressed by the personal attention you receive when visiting Ninja Cow. Everyone who works on the farm lives on the property and has a direct connection to the farm. Especially in small groups, the customer service and time spent with employees will be the most valuable.  As stated many times above, this is not your typical farm. Set aside a few hours to get to know Dan Moore and his family at Ninja Cow Farms.

 

Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Sept. 23-24, 2017
Visit Ninja Cow Farm and other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

Buy Now

Hayrides and Horses at Hilltop Farms

by Janie Hynson, member of the Capital Area Food Network Farm Advocacy Circle

Hill Top Farm Photo by Mary Kay Flick

Hill Top Farm
Photo by Mary Kay Flick

Down a beautiful road in Willow Springs, you’ll find Hilltop Farms, run by Fred and Virginia Miller. Virginia was born and raised on this land, which used to be family-owned JC Rowland Farm, and many of their family members still live close by. As a 44-acre certified organic farm, Hilltop Farms is committed to using no chemicals on their crops and only uses non-genetically-modified (GMO) seeds. I talked with Fred about how they got into farming and what they hope to share with visitors during the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, Sept. 23-24 from 1-5PM.

 

How did you get into farming?

In 1999, Fred read an article in the News and Observer about organic farming and community supported agriculture (CSAs). At that time, there were only about seven CSAs in North Carolina. The article inspired Fred to leave his job working in corporate sales to begin farming. In his first year, his CSA had two members. In the second year, membership rose to seven then 16 in the third year. When Fred became a member of CFSA in 2002 and was also featured in another N&O article about CSAs around the same time, his CSA grew from 16 to 84 members in one month!

 

Number of years farming?

Fred Miller, Hilltop Farms.

Fred Miller shows off his organic fields on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour in 2010. Photo by Addie Ladner.

Fred has been farming for seventeen years and full time since 2002. He primarily runs the produce side of the farm, while Virginia manages their eight-stall horse barn.

 

Most unique product/top seller?

Hilltop Farms’ top seller is tomatoes though Fred says they are not easy to grow! Their most unique product is organic strawberries. Since 2004, Hilltop Farms has been the first and only certified organic farm in Wake County, so this makes the farm very unique and a must-see on the tour.

 

Where you can buy

Hilltop Farms sells their produce at the Raleigh Downtown Farmers’ Market, Apex Farmers’ Market, and through their CSA. They also have an on-farm produce stand, though it’s not open this summer.

 

What advice would you offer new farmers?

Before getting into farming, Fred recommends that new farmers get experience working on someone else’s farm.

 

What are people going to love seeing on your farm?

HillTop-Farm---Hayride

Photo by Addie Ladner

When you come for the farm tour, be sure to check out the organic fields at Hilltop Farms. They’ll be offering hayrides about every half hour, which will take you by the fields. Visit the horse barn to see the horses up close and learn about them from Virginia. You can also feed the goats and say “hi!” to the chickens, if they’re not hiding!

 

What do you love about farming?

Fred considers himself very lucky to have the opportunity to have a job he loves. Farming motivates him to get up every morning and to feel that he has accomplished something every day.

 

What have been your biggest challenges?

It’s important to remember that the produce in the grocery store or at the market is the very best that a farm has to offer. What customers don’t see is all the hard work that goes into produce which never makes it to a market. Just because it may not be pretty enough or ends up in the compost, a lot of work is put into growing every fruit or vegetable on a farm.

 

Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Sept. 23-24, 2017
Visit Hilltop Farm and other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

Buy Now

Saving the Delaware Chicken and Other Rare Breeds at Chickcharney Farm

by Emily Mueller, Wake County CES

Chickcharney Chicken Coop

Dr. Julie inspects her flock at Chickcharney Farm in Wake Forest, NC. Photo by Emily Mueller

How it all got started…

Walking from one vivacious, active pen to next, it is hard to imagine how Dr. Julie Gauthier, owner of Chickcharney Farm, initially got started over eight years ago. Driving up to the farm entrance, I didn’t find any showy marketing signs, nor any of Hansel’s or Gretel’s breadcrumbs to lead the way. Just a few acres of green pasture with a variety of poultry herds healthily grazing within electrically fenced-in custom-built “mobile homes.” Not many people get the chance to see this beautiful farm in Wake County, but, you’ll be able to visit on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM!

Being a single-person farm operation, Dr. Julie quickly guided us into what was happening at the farm. As she introduced me to the individual poultry breeds, I asked how she got interested in raising birds. It was clear that Dr. Julie strived to farm with a purpose; and that purpose, she later explained, is driven by a strong commitment to conservation. Growing up on small suburban lot in Michigan, she and her family raised much of their own food, growing organic vegetables and raising domestic animals for either meat or eggs. Looking back, Dr. Julie reflected that her concept of conservation farming didn’t come to fruition until she peered at some “old” heritage livestock breeds depicted within the pages of a picturesque coffee-table book that attracted her eye during her tenure at the College of Veterinary Medicine of Michigan State University (MSU). From there, more than eight years ago, Dr. Julie began nurturing her agricultural skills – raising micro-greens, growing mushrooms, and raising heritage poultry and thus, Chickcharney Farm was born.

 

What is “Chick-Charming” about Chickcharney

Chickcharney--goats

Photo by Emily Mueller

Heritage preservation. More than eight years ago, Dr. Julie began raising Delaware chickens as an effort to conserve this rare breed from the brink of extinction. Since then, she has taken on multiple other breeds categorized, beginning with most endangered criterion first, as “critical”, “threatened”, “watch”, “recovering” or  “study” on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List. Currently, the farm raises Delaware chickens (Watch), Magpie ducks (Threatened), Saxony ducks (Threatened), Pilgrim geese (Threatened), Narragansett turkeys (Watch), Beltsville Small White turkeys (Critical), dark Cornish chickens (Watch), Delaware blue hen (beyond ‘Critical’), Aylesbury ducks (Critical), and Myotonic fainting goats (Recovering). More information about these breeds can be found on the Chickcharney Farm or Livestock Conservancy websites.

Providing alternatives to the standard commercial poultry fare. Simply put, Dr. Julie states, “I like choices” when it comes to food. She then explains in detail the importance of these heritage breeds and how they all “play their part in the food system.” Many folks ask her why the traditional breeds are so expensive and the reasons are many. First of all, they are not a “food for the masses,” meaning that it will take longer for these birds to put on weight than the average commercial hybrid type. These breeds are meant to naturally forage in pasture and they gradually increase in size, which provides a better flavor and more interesting culinary qualities than industrial breeds. Furthermore, the heritage breeds are selectively bred, which means that Dr. Julie selects the best performers within each generation to pass on their genetic traits to future progeny. Such selective breeding in few generations can quickly lead to top-performing herds that are best-adapted for their local environment.

Chickcharney coops

Photo by Emily Mueller

Minimal environmental impact. Dr. Julie continues to follow the sustainable principles she learned in childhood. Contrary to many commercial poultry standards, Dr. Julie does not use medicated animal feed for her birds but allows them to naturally graze on what they were originally bred to eat. This allows the animals to naturally build up their immunity to local diseases and infectious pests. Those that naturally succumb to infection or are not ideal representatives of the breed are culled out of the breeding population. Heightened sanitation is required to maintain healthy animals in this system. Such a management system is more labor-intensive but helps build up a hardier breeding stock that becomes better adapted to overcome adverse local conditions.

 

A constant roller coaster ride for any resident farmer…

Photo by Emily Mueller.

Photo by Emily Mueller.

When I asked Dr. Julie what her main challenge was in maintaining the farm, she quickly answered (in a particularly disgruntled expression), “PREDATORS.” She always tells any poultry enthusiast to invest in electric fencing – it is well worth it. It was a hard-learned lesson that she wished she had learned years before. She also brought on board Louis, a guard donkey, who is a fierce deterrent of ground predators. In addition to Louis, Pilgrim Geese are additional herd guardians that help protect the birds against aerial predators: hawks and owls.

On a good note, Dr. Julie is known for her quality breeds and word-of-mouth marketing has led to increased sales over the years to buyers from many states. The initial threatened breed that the farm began rearing, the Delaware chicken, has since moved off the “threatened” list and is currently under “watch,” indicating a significant increase in numbers in recent years. Dr. Julie got a sparkle in her eye as she told me, then smiled as said, “I’d like to think that Chickcharney Farm contributed to that rise [in the Delaware chicken population].”

 

Eastern Triangle Farm Tour Sept. 23-24, 2017
Visit Chickcharney Farm and other amazing sustainable farms on the Eastern Triangle Farm Tour, happening Sept. 23-24, 2017 from 1-5 PM. Plan your tour route and buy your carpass today! CFSA members save $5 on advance tickets! 

Buy Now

Resources:

Current Conservation Priority List of Poultry Breeds, the Livestock Conservancy; https://livestockconservancy.org/index.php/heritage/internal/conservation-priority-list

Raising Chickens – Breeds to Consider, P. Allen Smith Home Garden; http://pallensmith.com/2016/02/11/raising-chickens-breeds-to-consider/

The American Poultry Association; http://www.amerpoultryassn.com

The Virtual Grange and Growing Farmers Initiative, http://www.virtualgrange.org/about/

Chickcharney folklore, http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2014/07/cryptids-of-the-caribbean-part-2-the-bahamas/

Falling for Fall: What’s coming from the farms and a great fall recipe!

Guest Blog by 
Pumpkin spice is in the air…can you smell it? We can! Just as the cooler weather starts to envelope the warm, we see a change over on the farms. All of that summer bounty will begin to move out in the coming weeks and you will see a brand new rotation of fall produce begin to show up at market and in your CSA boxes. Here’s a preview of some of those awesome fall goodies that are just around the corner:

Fall Squash - Acorn, Spaghetti, Butternut and Butterkin, oh my! Whether you’re making a soup or pasta dish or stuffing them with sausage and apples, these are some of the most versatile and delicious squash out there. They have a fantastic shelf life so don’t be scared to stock up for use through the winter. The health benefits of winter squash can’t be beat. They are packed with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and insulin regulating properties. And don’t forget the seeds! You can toast those up in the oven for a healthy flavorful snack.

Broccoli - Talk about healthy, this guy can’t be beat. Broccoli is packed with nutrients. High in Vitamins A and K, broccoli is also a great detoxifier and helps lower cholesterol. Broccoli freezes well for later use so be sure to stock up for your stir fries and soups.

 

Green Beans - Last but not definitely not least, green beans are high in Vitamin C, Manganese and Vitamin K, and make a great side dish to any meal. You can cook them up with bacon and onion or make a casserole. Such a versatile little bean packed with flavor. Of course, you won’t want to miss the pumpkins, pears or chestnuts so hold tight, it’s going to be a great fall ya’ll!

Butternut Squash Bake

Butternut Squash Bake
by: Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut in 1-inch cubes (3 cups)
  • 2tablespoons olive oil
  • 8ounces dried extra-wide noodles
  • 4tablespoons butter
  • 6shallots, chopped
  • 1tablespoon lemon juice
  • 18 ounce carton mascarpone cheese
  • 3/4cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2cup fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, snipped
  • 1cup panko (Japanese-style) bread crumbs or soft bread crumbs

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In bowl toss squash in oil; place in oiled 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes, until lightly browned and tender, stirring twice.
  2. Meanwhile, in Dutch oven cook noodles according to package directions. Drain; set aside. In same Dutch oven melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add shallots; cook and stir over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until shallots are tender and butter just begins to brown. Stir in lemon juice.
  3. Add noodles and squash to shallot mixture. Stir in mascarpone, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Transfer to greased 2-quart oval gratin dish or baking dish.
  4. In small saucepan melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter; stir in bread crumbs, remaining Parmesan, and parsley. Sprinkle on noodle mixture. Bake, uncovered, 10 minutes, until crumbs are golden. Serves 8.

 

The Produce Box supports more than 70 farmers and 90 artisan food businesses across North Carolina by helping our neighbors in the Triangle, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Charlotte and the Triad eat healthier by delivering weekly CSA boxes to their doors! Sign you up as a new member for Fall and get $10 OFF your first Box!

Summer Bonfire Cocktail

by Clark Barlowe, Owner of Heirloom Restaurant in Charlotte and Bartender, Dexter Dunan 

Summer bonfire

Photo from sailespiritu.blogspot.com

Heirloom Restaurant is my dream. I opened Heirloom’s doors in early February 2014. My vision for the restaurant is to showcase the plethora of ingredients and producers that North Carolina offers by serving dishes that do justice to the dedication of the over 70 farmers and producers from which Heirloom sources. Changing the menu daily to reflect the availability of the farms and what North Carolina has to offer, my staff and I prepare a 12 course tasting menu utilizing local ingredients. But we constantly seek to expand the perception of what local can entail, as we work year-round to preserve ingredients in their purest form, and thus have the capacity to offer the bright flavor of blueberries in December, tomato soup in February, and carrots in August. Guests’ palates are also treated to unique ingredients, such as  reindeer moss, hen of the wood mushrooms, strawberry tops, oak leaves, and other delicacies in their purest form and re-imagined through innovative vinegars, pesto, and broths.

At Heirloom we are also committed to creating a sense of community and sharing the joy that comes from a deeper understanding of an ingredient or appreciation for where one’s food is sourced. We hope you enjoy this spicy, summer cocktail; perfect for sipping by a bonfire, surrounded by friends.

Ingredients:
2 Cherry Tomatoes
1 Garlic Clove
1 Oz Olive Brine
2 Oz Topo Vodka
10 Dashes Dusty Foothills Hot Sauce (Subsitute Texas Pete if Dusty Foothills not available)
2 Bar Olives
1 Slice Crispy Bacon

Method of Preparation:

1. In a pint glass muddle tomatoes and garlic.
2. Add olive brine, Dusty Foothills, and vodka.
3. Shake with ice and serve cold in a pint glass.
4. Garnish with olives and bacon.

 

Check out Heirloom’s full farm-to-table menu at www.heirloomrestaurantnc.com/menu.

 

Home Brew How-To

Brewing is fun, educational, and easier than you think

by Brad Hughes, President of Cabarrus Homebrewers Society

CABREW brew session

CABREW members offer to host public brew sessions each month which allow new brewers to learn by doing.

The allure of home brewing, which attracts me and many of the brewers I know, is the freedom to craft a beer to taste and look exactly the way you imagined it would. It is easier than you think to make good beer and the satisfaction of sharing your beer and seeing your friends eyes light up when they taste something you created is what drives our passion for home brewing.

 

Water, Grain, Hops and Yeast

During each step of the brewing process, the brewer can make choices which affect the look, smell and taste of the finished beer. It may be a subtle flavor of cloves or fruit, an earthy smell or an intense hop aroma; this flavor experience was specially crafted by the brewer.  Drinking a well-made beer is an experience for the senses.

Beer has been brewed for thousands of years with the same basic ingredients: water, grain, hops and yeast. The oldest known beer-making equipment from prehistory is still recognizable to modern brewers. In the past, beer was produced at home and all members of the family drank beer as an alternative to drinking water, which was known to be unsafe.

Water, grain, hops, and yeast; these four items can be combined in a nearly infinite number of combinations to produce beer. Additionally, the brewer has the option of adding other ingredients, such as spices, fruit, vegetables, sugar, or herbs, often locally sourced for freshness.

Home brewers can choose to make batches of beer from one gallon on their countertop, using everyday kitchen items, to as much as twenty gallons at a time with equipment for that purpose. Brewing can be as simple or as complex of a process as the brewer chooses.

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Most brewers use water right from their tap, optionally the brewer could filter water or alter the composition of the water by adding minerals to make the water taste a specific way. One example is to add Gypsum to the water to harden it or change the pH. Some brewers choose to add minerals to water so they can reproduce the taste of water from a specific brewery or from somewhere in the world. Many brewers rarely worry about water composition.

 

Choosing Your Grain

The brewing process starts with the brewer deciding which kinds of grain and in what proportions they want to use. The combination of the different grains are what make all of the many styles of beer possible. Each kind of grain provides a slightly different flavor or sensation and by combining these the brewer can create a unique flavor profile or reproduce an existing beer. The profile can be either complex or simple depending on what the brewer wants to emphasize in the finished beer.

 

Making a Tea

The next step to make a tea with the grain. This is accomplished by crushing the grain, which exposes the starch in the kernels of grain and then adding the grain to water at a temperature of around 152 degrees Fahrenheit. Once well mixed and left to sit for an hour the starches in the grain are converted to sugar. This is called mashing the grain and the amount and type of grain used will in part determine the alcoholic content and look of the finished beer.

A few degrees of temperature difference in the water while mashing will vastly change the character of a beer once it is finished. A beer made from grain steeped at 150 Fahrenheit will taste different from grain steeped at 155 Fahrenheit. The difference will be noticeable on the tongue in the form of sweetness or thickness. Choosing the mash temperature and thickness is a choice the brewer makes to control how the finished beer tastes.

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Once converted the water, which is now called wort, is drained from the grain into another pot or kettle. Extra water is used to make sure the sugar is washed from the grain into the kettle.

Once the wort is in the kettle it is brought to a boil for about an hour. The goals of boiling the beer are to 1) sterilize the wort, 2) decrease the amount of water in the wort to raise the sugar level, 3) to remove unwanted proteins from the beer.

 

Adding Hops

During the boil, the brewer has the option to add hops or other ingredients to the boiling wort. Choosing when to add and what to add can vastly change the taste of the finished beer. Hops added early will impart a bitter note, while late additions will add an aromatic smell.

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Hop plants are an antibacterial vine grown all over the world and have flowers that contain a resin called lupulin, which is what adds bitterness to beer to offset the sweetness of the sugar from the grain. Some hops provide a bitter taste and some provide a citrus, floral or piney taste. Combinations of hops are often used to create interesting flavors and aromas and are probably one of the most recognizable aspects of beer.

Historically other bitter plants and flowers were used to provide balance but hops are predominant in contemporary times.

 

Adding More Flavors

When the wort nears the end of the boil the brewer has the chance to add additional ingredients to the wort to flavor the beer.

Once the heat is removed the next step is to cool the wort as quickly as possible. This can be accomplished by several methods ranging from high tech plate or immersion chillers to an ice bath or nearby snow bank. Chillers all do the same thing: using cool water to remove the heat from hot wort. Some chillers are placed into the wort, some chillers have the wort pumped around cool water.

During the chilling process, cleanliness is of highest importance so as not to contaminate the beer. The goal is to cool the wort to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It generally takes about 30 minutes to cool the wort to the proper temperature. Actual time varies based on the equipment and temperature of the cool water.

 

Fermentation
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When the wort has been chilled it is transferred into a sanitized vessel for fermentation. Once transferred the vessel or carboy is placed into a cool, dark area where it can be allowed to ferment without unexpected temperature changes.

Fermentation can not happen without the most important ingredient, yeast. Yeast is a single cell microbe which turns the wort into beer by consuming the sugar and converting it into alcohol. It is a similar process by which bread and cheese are made.

Fermentation can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks and is what many consider to be the hardest part of brewing: the waiting. All of the brewer’s efforts and dreams have gone into a carboy which sits quietly bubbling in a closet, dependent upon a microorganism to perform a simple chemical reaction and no amount of effort will significantly change the course of it’s future. The brewer can only wait and watch in expectation of beer to come.

Brewing yeast today is manufactured by a few companies who provide hundreds of yeast strains for all different styles of beer. A brewer can choose yeast cultured from a specific brewery in Belgium or a strain designed to provide a specific flavor to the beer. Yeast is capable of leading the flavor in beer or lying quietly in the background as a supporting flavor. In addition to the yeast strain, the temperature at which the brewer chooses to store the wort while fermenting will also change the flavors produced by the yeast.

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A yeast sample properly introduced into wort will multiply in about 12 hours and form a layer of foam called krausen, which indicates healthy yeast growth. Over succeeding days the krausen will grow and retreat as the yeast consumes the sugar and expels carbon dioxide. Visually the beer will begin to clear as the yeast and proteins from the brewing process settle to the bottom of the carboy and the bubbling will come to a stop.

 When the yeast is done fermenting, the wort can now be properly called beer. It is an alcoholic beverage almost ready for consumption. What needs to be done is to transfer to the beer from the carboy to bottles or kegs and to introduce carbon dioxide or nitrogen into beer which gives beer its classic foamy head.

Most commonly, beer is either force carbonated or bottle conditioned. Force carbonation is when beer is placed into a sealed metal or plastic container and carbon dioxide is forced into it by pressure. Bottle conditioning is when beer is added to a glass or plastic bottle, a precise amount of sugar is added and when capped the remaining yeast consumes the sugar and produces carbon dioxide which then gets absorbed into the beer. Force carbonation can be accomplished in a couple days and bottle conditioning can take a couple weeks. During which the brewer is once again at the mercy of chemistry while the beer finishes.

Whichever method of carbonation is used, the beer is next chilled and ready to be enjoyed with friends. Drinking beer at different temperatures will enhance and highlight various flavors in the beer. Ice cold beer has a muted flavor, but by allowing beer to warm to 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, new flavors can emerge creating a new experience.

Home brewing is an experience of the senses. The look, taste and sounds during the process inform an experienced brewer as much as any measurement taken with instruments.  Documenting how you made beer is an important part of brewing so you can recreate successes later.

 

 

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Reading about how to make beer is like learning to swim on dry land. The best way to learn to make beer is to go watch someone and join in by lending a hand with the process. I welcome you to come to a meeting with Cabarrus Homebrewers Society (CABREW) or attend a brew session with us and learn what home brewing is all about. It is fun, educational, and easier than you think it is. We are all passionate about brewing and love talking about all aspects of making beer and it makes us happy to share beer with new and old friends.

CABREW meets the 2nd Thursday of every month at Red Hill Brewing Company in downtown Concord at 7:00 pm.

Let’s make some beer together.

Road trip! 10 NC Craft Breweries Committed to Using Local Ingredients

by Margo Knight Metzger, former director of the NC Craft Brewers Guild

Fullsteam Beer

Fullsteam’s Common Good originally included NC corn and grain and Pippin apples from Foggy Ridge Cider. From http://www.bitandgrain.com/stories/best-nc-beer Photo by Sandra Davidson

North Carolina boasts the largest number of craft breweries in the South, with 203 breweries and brew pubs. And, craft brews are growing quickly – NC had the 2nd largest increase in barrels produced in the US in 2015. With over 50 more breweries planned in 2017 and beyond, that’s a lot of beer! How to choose your next favorite? We propose a road trip (a pour tour!) to check out the top 10 breweries across the state that have a strong commitment to using local ingredients. From sweet potatoes, kumquats, sorghum, blueberries, blackberries, and persimmons to barley, wheat, rye and hops, these craft breweries are connecting with their local farmers to bring you tasty, one-of-a-kind suds. Bottoms up!

 

Trophy Brewing Company stretches across West and South downtown Raleigh and has two locations. Locals refer to the original brewpub serving creative pizzas as “Little Trophy” and the new location with its large taproom and shiny new brewhouse as “Big Trophy”. Brewmaster Les Stewart succeeds at the full gamut of styles, from Berliner Weisse with housemade syrups to “Milky Way,” a salted caramel sweet stout. For summer sipping, the Trophy Wife Session IPA fits the bill.

 

Steel String Brewing in Carrboro features a hip industrial vibe indoors plus a spacious outdoor deck. Patrons can hop across the street to Neal’s Deli and return with a sausage and fried apple biscuit. Try the salty and slightly sour Picklemania or Zupfin Gose and replenish some electrolytes after Sunday morning yoga in the brewery (or a sweaty session of lawn mowing at home).

 

Mystery Brewing once eschewed flagships in favor of four quarterly releases each season but has recently launched Golden Hind, a year-round Pale Ale that’s brewed with different hops each season. Summer beers include “Gentleman’s Preference” blonde ale and “Evangeline” Rye Saison. Their Public House is a stone’s throw from the brewery and features live music many nights and a full-service restaurant for lunch and dinner.

 

Fullsteam Brewery in Durham is the state’s original Plow to Pint brewery. Owner Sean Wilson is on continual quest to make uniquely Southern beer by integrating the region’s culinary and agricultural heritage into his beer offerings. For his Forager series he enlists the help of our community foragers to collect pecans, persimmons, scuppernongs and more to brew barrel-aged beers with hyperlocal terroir. A new on-site restaurant features a local menu of small plates whipped up by Chef Kyle McKnight.

 

Haw River Farmhouse Ales in Saxapahaw is nestled in a renovated textile mill overlooking its namesake river. Patrons in the 12 seat taproom enjoy Belgian style ales with a local angle. All beers are made by collaborating with neighbors who grow native ingredients like figs, elderberries, maypop fruits and muscadine grapes. A lovely summer quaff is the Mille Fleur rustic saison.

 

Free Range Brewing in Charlotte is situated in the up-and-coming NoDa neighborhood and brews small batches for an endless rotation of recipes made with local ingredients. You’ll know you’re there when you see the antique farm tractor out front. Unique hybrids are commonplace like “Awesome Possom,” Carolina Hoppy Wheat, and “Rice Rice Baby” Rice Milk Stout.

 

Wooden Robot in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood focuses on thirst quenching beers brewed in the Belgian farmhouse style. They recently committed to using 100% North Carolina malt in all of their beers. A stationary food truck collaborates with the brewer and offers changing fare that pairs with the homegrown beers on tap at the moment. “Thicket as Thieves” Blackberry Sour Ale is made with a pound of local blackberries per gallon.

 

Legion Brewing in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood is a neighborhood gathering spot with a warm and cozy vibe. Hundred-year-old white pine boards in the taproom soften the steel of the brewhouse, which can be viewed via balcony. The brewhouse is helmed by Alexa Long and a favorite offering is the Peppa King Porter featuring Riverbend Malt from Asheville and local chocolate habaneros.

 

Fonta Flora in the small mountain town of Morganton strives to create an Appalachian style of beer, brewing solely with local grains and flora. Its “Beets, Rhymes and Life,” a saison brewed with bulls blood beets won a gold medal in the newly-created Field Beer category at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Most beers can only be had on draft at the taproom with the occasional limited bottle release. Due to a recent law change allowing farmhouse breweries in dry counties, they will soon open a second location in Burke County.

 

Editor’s Note: One of the 10 breweries in this feature changed ownership and was removed, so we’d like to add Sierra Nevada in Mills River, NC. Check out another blog post about their LEED-certified brewery and commitment to sourcing locally in their taproom restaurant.

 

About the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild
The North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild is a not-for-profit industry trade organization whose mission is to advance the interests of the craft breweries of North Carolina and to promote North Carolina craft beer. North Carolina has the largest number of craft breweries in the American South, with more than 215 breweries and brewpubs. For more info, visit www.ncbeer.org.

Sierra Nevada: Local Brews, Local Foods

by Kate Renner, Sierra Nevada’s on-site gardener

Kate Renner

Sierra Nevada’s on-site gardener, Kate Renner

Founded in 1980, Sierra Nevada believes that the best beers begin with the best possible ingredients. With an eye toward the environment, responsible farming and our agricultural future, they continually work with growers to foster and support sustainable farming practices to produce the highest quality crops. Despite the company’s relatively small size, they use more whole-cone hops than any other brewer in the world. Additionally, they only brew with hops bred using traditional methods and non-genetically modified barley.  At their brewery in Chico, CA, there are 11 acres of hops and nearly 100 acres of crop space for barley, all Certified Organic by Oregon Tilth. The Estate Homegrown IPA, brewed with the hops and barley grown at the Chico brewery, was their first certified organic beer and remains one of the only estate ales in the world.

 

Sierra Nevada's garden

Chefs plan their menu around what’s ripe and ready in Sierra Nevada’s garden

When it comes to the produce and herbs used in the brewery restaurants, they could not get more local. Both in Chico and their second brewery in Mills River, NC, ingredients featured on the menus are harvested right from the onsite gardens (mushrooms, microgreens and honey, as well) that follow organic and sustainable farming practices (The Organic Certification of the Estate gardens in Mills River was facilitated by knowledge and resources gained through attending the annual CFSA Sustainable Agriculture Conference’s all-day intensive seminar.) and sourced mainly from local, conscientious suppliers. While most of these ingredients end up on the menu, some also find their way to the pilot brewery, such as lemon-thyme and cucumbers both from onsite and from CFSA’s Lomax Incubator Farm, brewed as a collaboration saison for the Chef and the Farmer season premiere in September.

“We source locally because it’s the right thing to do,” says Executive Chef Jessie Massie. “It’s right for the environment, our community, the company, and my conscience. I have a great passion for seeing local farmers not only survive, but prosper in such a hard business. I believe our food should be made from the finest and freshest ingredients, just like our beer!”

Sierra Nevada kitchen

Sierra Nevada kitchen sources locally and from its own on-site garden

As it is not uncommon to spin out 2,000+ plates at the brewery restaurant on a Saturday night alone, sourcing enough local food to support this volume takes planning and coordination. Taproom chefs work with local farmers and myself, the onsite gardener, to plan crops/proteins/dairy/other products with forecasting capacity to meet demand, while seeking relationships with additional farmers to expand the diversity of their network of local suppliers (attending the annual CFSA Conference is a great venue to expand this network).

To quantify this initiative, the percentage of local purchases from the total purchases of menu ingredients are tracked. In 2016, The Sierra Nevada Mills River Taproom and Restaurant set a goal of sourcing at least 55% of total purchases locally in 2016. The percentage goal was not only achieved but also surpassed; translating to nearly one million food dollars spent locally this past year. The 2017 goal is to average 60%, which we are trending to reach.

Tracking the percentage of food sourced locally can provide quantitative incentive for local farmers to invest in season extension practices, as Taproom Chefs are eager to chase higher percentages in 2017 and beyond.

Sierra Nevada chefs in the greenhouse

The Sierra Nevada Mills River location also makes efforts to get their chefs onto the farms in which their ingredients are grown and raised. To do this, they hold quarterly farm tours in which their chefs swap out slip proof kitchen shoes for boots, load into the company van, and spend a day touring a handful of local purveyors. Since the van can only hold so many, they also bring farmers to the Taproom. A “15-minute farmer feature” series is held the first Friday of each month, in which a local grower is invited to the Taproom to tell their story with both front and back of house Taproom employees.

Having these face-to-face interactions allows for employees to better relay these stories to the patrons of the Taproom restaurant, allow cooks and chefs to better relate to their ingredients, and provides a greater passion for, and sense of pride behind, what the Taproom Restaurant and the whole of what the sustainable values Sierra Nevada Brewing Company stands behind.

To tour the LEED certified-Platinum Mills River Brewery and see first-hand the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s sustainability initiatives – from energy, resource recovery, transportation, water and biogas recovery, packaging, outdoor spaces, and of course local, sustainably produced food on their restaurant menus, visit http://www.sierranevada.com/brewery/north-carolina/brewery-tour.

5 Great Tips to Make Affordable Local Food for a Crowd

by Elizabeth Figgie, Durham Co-op Marketing Associate

Durham Co-op's $3 Dinners. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Durham Co-op’s $3 Dinners. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Who doesn’t like an affordable meal?  Nobody!  That’s who.  In Durham, the proof of that fact is seen every Thursday evening at Durham Co-op Market’s $3 Dinners.

Every Thursday, the co-op (1111 West Chapel Hill Street) puts out a spread where customers get a plate of good food for just three bucks.  Just last week the menu was Barbecue sandwiches with classic coleslaw.  Customers got to choose from BBQ pork or tofu on a bun and all the slaw they could eat.  And they liked it!  Over five hundred attendees come every Thursday.  And they leave with smiles on their faces and good food in their bellies.

What makes these nights so special?  It’s not just the price, it’s the community. Anyone can go to a fast food restaurant and eat cheap food. The co-op is offering affordable, simply-made dinners with real, wholesome ingredients, in a setting that celebrates diversity, fun and community. And, as it says over the entrance of the store, everyone is welcome.

Summer gives us the chance to combine lots of things we love: local produce, healthy food, and affordability. A bounty of local organic cabbage last week led to delicious coleslaw and happy customers. The volume needed to make dinner for 500 allowed us to support a local farmer with more product than he could sell, and offer really high quality ingredients to our customers.

$3 Dinner customers take of advantage of the deal for all sorts of reasons.  It’s a fun night, featuring live music when the weather is right, local food and beer demos, and lots of happy people. Groups of friends make it their thing, meeting every week to enjoy a meal together. Other customers come in to get to-go meals for their families, some buy ten or more dinners at a time. And others still, come in because there’s always a vegan friendly option.

While the reasons for their attendance vary, $3 Dinners customers have at least one thing in common; they’ve got Thursday night covered.

What about the rest of the week?  Read on for some tips on affordable ways to make food for a crowd!

 

Go Veggies

This time of year, the produce can be the star! No need to run up the bill with expensive proteins when veggies can be a tasty and wonderful crowd pleaser. Local yellow squash and zucchini are fresh and affordable for the summertime.  If you’re cooking out, try coating chunks of them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Once grilled, they’ll be a little sweet and a whole lot of good. Great veg means you can keep the proteins simple, maybe something like chicken thighs in a spicy marinade.

Have you ever tried grilling peaches?  Local peaches are too good to miss these days, and a little fire makes an impressive presentation. Peaches Foster anyone (see recipe below)?

 

Couscous is Your Friend
When you’re entertaining on a budget, you want to choose foods that fill folks up without emptying your wallet.  Couscous is absolutely one of those choices.  It can be served hot or cold.  It can be combined with just about anything you have in your kitchen. It’s easy and quick to make. And it’s a more unique starch than just plain rice. You can also buy it in the Bulk section at the co-op to get only what you need at a much lower price than the packaged version. Mix in chopped nuts, dried or fresh fruit, or sautéed onions.

 

Be a Doctor
Don’t be afraid to doctor up simple items to make remarkable dishes!  You can take all-beef hot dogs, add some roasted veggies and Moroccan seasoning and people will think you’re fancy!  Mac & cheese can be a perfect platform for a certified food M.D. You can add everything from crumbled sausage to sautéed spinach to turn a basic meal into a treat for everyone!  Sweet corn on the cob is a seasonal summer treat that can be doctored all sorts of ways.  Try grilling it and making a seasoned butter with cilantro, lime juice and cumin!

 

Have fun!
No one needs a formal meal when it is this hot out. Keep it fresh, pile on the produce, and be sure to thank a farmer!

 

Peaches at the Durham Co-op. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Peaches at the Durham Co-op. Photo by Durham Co-op.

Grilled Peaches Foster with Gelato

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 fresh local peaches, halved (on sale at the co-op for $2.99/lb)
1/4 cup dark, spiced rum
4 scoops Talenti gelato (on sale at the co-op 2 for $7)

Directions:

Cut peaches along the seam all the way around and twist halves off the pit. Brush cut sides with coconut oil or vegetable oil.

Cook cut-side down on a hot grill until fruit has grill marks, 3 to 4 minutes. Brush tops with oil, turn over, and move to indirect heat. Cover grill and cook until fruit is tender, 8-10 minutes.

While the peaches are cooking, scoop gelato into serving bowls and set aside (or in the refrigerator)

Stir the butter, sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow sauté pan or frying pan over low heat. Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the rum. Return the pan to the heat and cook to warm the rum. If you have a gas stove, tip the pan to ignite the rum. If using an electric stove, use a long match or fire starter to ignite the rum.

When the flame dies out, place the peaches over the scoops of gelato and top with some of the pan sauce.

Serve while warm.

 

You can visit the Durham Co-op Market at 1111 West Chapel Hill Street in Durham, NC or at their website.

My Eat Local Challenge: Compost in my Shoe

by Libby Williams, Plate South blogger

Reprinted with permission

For the month of April, I signed up to participate in the Eat Local Challenge. Run by the folks over at Lowcountry Local First, this challenge was designed to as a month long initiative to eat locally-produced food. For me, this was a no brainer. It accomplishes MANY of my goals in life like A) talking with farmers in the area; B) eating all the local foods; and C) eating at as many local restaurants as I can lay my paws on through the month of April. Pretty much all of my life goals in one challenge.

 

Compost in my Shoe – the farm!

Compost in my Shoe – the farm! Photo by Libby Williams.

 

As I started getting closer to this challenge, my first and most obvious choice of eating all things local was to share one of my favorite parts of local food culture – the farmers and food shares around the area. It is absolutely imperative to me that I have a daily dose of farm in every meal I make (I swear on my daily smoothie, this is not an exaggeration…I eat local eggs with whatever green I can sauté up for breakfast each day). And since I actually eat at home more than this blog makes it look like I do, I decided that featuring my weekly CSA farm share from Compost in my Shoe is a win for me. And that’s really what this blog is about. Me. Winning.

 

Compost in my shoe's CSA box

Compost in my shoe’s CSA box. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

If you are unfamiliar with Farm Shares (aka CSAs – Community Supported Agriculture), let me enlighten you to the many benefits of this. Basically it’s farmers that are farming directly for you and delivering you the freshest product you can get. According to statistics, our food travels an average 1,500 miles before it reaches our plates.

 

That.is.insane.

 

I don’t even see close relatives that live far away. And while agribusiness is SC’s largest industry, over 90% of our food is still imported. I just can’t even with those numbers. If we can tip those scales – even a little bit – then we have done a better job at not only supporting local farmers and our local economy, but helping the environment as well. Bonus points for seeking out organic farmers!

 

Hoop House, Compost in my Shoe

I love the hoop house tunnels! Photo by Libby Williams.

 

So all of this leads me to tell you, supporting farmers is a no brainer in the efforts of eating local.

 

As for me, I get my farmshare from my local farmer, Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe. If you aren’t familiar with Jim….well take a seat, because I have got a lot to say.

 

Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe.

Jim Martin of Compost in my Shoe. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

I have known Jim for about 10 years or so. I have watched him farm for most of that time – first in his backyard, then on to the fields and pastures of our lovely barrier islands. After a few moves, Jim is now settled into a lovely farm out on Johns Island where he grows and cultivates some of the most beautiful organic produce you will ever see. I have spent the past years photographing his process, and I can tell you why his produce is so good: it’s because he cares for it meticulously. They plant without heavy machinery, harvest by hand, and wash (actually, more like bathe. Those lucky plants get bathed!) every piece of produce that comes out of his farm. Everything is cultivated by organic methods – which is not only better for you…it’s better for the whole planet, people! It’s an entire process that yields the most tender and delicious vegetables I have ever tasted. This isn’t an exaggeration. Even my 14 year old knows the difference between his vegetables and everything else.

 

From hand planting seeds…

From hand planting seeds…Photo by Libby Williams

 

…to fresh lettuce! Get in maaa belly!

…to fresh lettuce! Get in maaa belly! Photo by Libby Williams

 

Compost in my Shoe’s shares runs year round. That means year-round veggies delivered straight to your door (or a pick up location if you should choose). Other benefits include the ability to put your farm share on hold for vacations and times when it might make sense to do so in your household. You can choose whatever size suits your family best – from Full Share (1-2 people) or Deluxe Share (3-4 people) are the options within each level of Grand Grocer, Budding Chef or Giddy Gourmet tiers of membership. They also offer a la carte items that can be added weekly as well as honey, flowers and chocolate for those of you who really want to be impressed.

 

More delicious stuff from Compost in my Shoe.

More delicious stuff from Compost in my Shoe. Photo by LIbby Williams.

 

With each share, Jim places a little sheet in your box to tell you what you have in your box this week. And with it, he includes a recipe or two for inspiration (just in case you aren’t as passionate as I am about kale chips or kale, cranberry and pecan salad each week). Today’s share came to me as inspired as any. I usually assess what we have and then start unwrapping items in the freezer to accompany my fresh veggies for the week. I start with what spoils quickest, like lettuce and herbs, and work my way to the end of the list with things like onions, carrots and cabbages that seem to keep a little longer. Last night we had steak fajitas with spicy coleslaw from our cabbage that has kept well for the past week. Tomorrow we are eating homemade barbecue with the rest of the slaw and some sweet potatoes on the side.

 

This is what was in my CSA box this week. Photo by Libby Williams.

This is what was in my CSA box this week. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

Shares start at $29 a week and go up from there. Each share has a hefty array of vegetables and culinary herbs along with offerings of chocolates and the occasional arrangement each week – depending on your level of participation. And the veggies are all fairly familiar so you aren’t pulling out mystery veggies or something you’ve never heard of. It’s all stuff you can use.

 

Eggs with swiss chard from my weekly box from Compost in my Shoe. Photo by Libby Williams.

 

I always feel good about my farm share with Compost in my Shoe. It’s the best way for me to shift some of our weekly household spending to something good, local and healthy! WINNING!

To find out more about Compost in my Shoe visit their website. They offer year-round shares of fresh, local, organic produce as well as honey, chocolates and fresh flowers. To ready more of Libby’s adventures in local eating in the South, visit her blog, Plate South.