Learning at the farmers market

If you read this column often, you know I love farmers markets. I’ve spent most Saturday mornings in the past 10 years standing in the weekly peace vigil on the Greenfield Town Common.

When we started the vigil, we intentionally scheduled it to coincide with the Greenfield Farmers Market, knowing that’s a particularly lively time in town.

Now, I think of my Saturday mornings in Greenfield as “my Greenfield office hours.”

Farmers markets are wonderful places to buy great, fresh food and peace vigils are opportunities to express our hopes for peace in a violent world.

And they’re so much more.

At the farmers market and vigil, I see friends, catch up on what’s going on in town, plan events and meet new folks. I also learn a lot.

Here’s what I learned at a recent Greenfield Farmers Market:

April Weeks from Gray Dog’s Farm encouraged me to take pork fatback and turn it into lard, saying “There’s a lot of this on each pig, we should use it!”

It makes sense not to waste the parts of a pig that aren’t meat.

April said it’s a great local source of fat for cooking. Except for butter and sunflower seed oil produced by a few local folks, we don’t have many local sources of cooking fat or oil.

Also, cooking with good quality animal fat may be healthier than using vegetable oils. April said she hasn’t bought cooking oil for years except for some olive oil for salads.

Want to make pork fat into lard? See below for April’s suggestions. I’m going to try out making lard soon. Have you ever made lard? Any suggestions for cooking with lard? Please let us know.

Then, while picking out leeks at the Lyonsville Valley Farm booth, I noticed the GORGEOUS young ginger for sale.

Instead of the brown, dried-outside ginger that is grown far away, this is a fresh-looking root that’s white with tinges of pink and yellow.

The sign said it freezes well, so I asked farmer Maria Topitzer how she uses it. She said that you can just put the root in the freezer, and when you want to use it, pull it out and shred the frozen root like you would an unfrozen root. Sounds great!

Also shopping at the Lyonsville Valley Farm booth was Jill Fenner from Greenfield. She told me of a great way to preserve basil.

She said she puts the leaves in ziplock bags, then forces all the air out and rolls the bag tightly so it makes a cylinder of basil. She freezes the bag, and when she wants some basil to use, she chops a chunk off the end of the basil.

Jill says freezing it this way keeps the taste of fresh basil. What a great idea!

I also learned that Saturday, Oct. 27 is the last farmers market of the weekly Greenfield Market summer season. There will be a special pre-Thanksgiving market on Saturday, Nov. 17 and monthly Greenfield Winter Farmers Markets on the first Saturday of the month during December through March (Dec. 1, Jan. 5, Feb. 2, March 2).

The location of the November to March markets hasn’t yet been set. Stay tuned! I’ll pass along that information when I get it.

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This week we’re. . .

Rendering Lard

By April Weeks, Gray Dog’s Farm, Huntington

April said to cut the fatback into one-inch strips, put it in a large pot with a little bit of water, and cook it over really low heat for a really long time (8-16 hours).

You’ll end up with a pot of melted fat and browned cracklings. Strain the fat into jars. It will turn white when it cools and it keeps in the freezer for a long time.

The crispy cracklings are good for snacks. For more details on how to render lard, check out this website:

http://keepingthefarm.blogspot.com/2011/03/rendering-lard.html

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