All the Best of All Things Local

Inside Scoop

  1. Preserving the Harvest…options beyond canning

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    Making Sauerkraut

    It’s that time of year.  Bountiful harvests, cooler weather and shorter daylight hours all trigger my nesting instinct.  I begin to gather (some say hoard) the last of the season’s produce hoping to make it through the winter months with shelves and fridge and freezer stocked full of picked-in-season produce.  But how to tackle the preservation of that bounty?  I admit I do love canning, but often the thought of the entire process is daunting.  Fortunately, there are other ways of preserving the harvest that are much more simple and far less time consuming (and some, like making fermented sauerkraut, are nostalgic and worth the wait) .  I joined Paul Guggenheimer on WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh to run through some of my favorites.

    You can listen HERE as well as find tips, some of my favorite resources and a few recipes to get you started.


  2. Farmer’s Markets are opening!

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    Markets are open for the season!

    Markets are open for the season!

    It’s spring!  Farmers’ Markets are springing up like mushrooms after a heavy rain.  We talked about tips for making the most of the season on today’s Essential Pittsburgh.

    Listen HERE

  3. It’s Maple Season!

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    Listen HERE

    Cold winter days are when the sap starts flowing and the sugar shacks heat up with the sweet scent of maple.  Check out local maple festivals across the Northeast US … and especially in the great state of Pennsylvania!

  4. Holiday Entertaining Local Goodness Style!

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    Makings of a Perfect Local Bloody Mary

    Rhonda joined Paul Guggenheimer on Essential Pittsburgh (WESA 90.5 FM) to talk about bringing local flavor (and spirits) to your holiday entertaining.

    WESA recently updated their website, so this link is currently not available…sorry!

  5. Eating Locally all Winter Long

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    Roast Vegetable Stew in Pumpkin

    Rhonda joined Paul Guggenheimer on Essential Pittsburgh (WESA 90.5 FM) to talk about eating locally throughout the long, cold winter months.

    WESA recently updated their website, so this link is currently not available…sorry!

  6. Foodie Gifts — Local Goodness Style!

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    Whether a stocking stuffer, host(ess) gift or THE BIG item, it’s easy to fill your foodie gift-giving needs from local sources — even at the grocery store!!  Had a blast finding items for all the foodies on my list.  Check out our finds in our Local Foodie Gifts Shopping List where we found tasty treats and gifts of good taste that are not onlyfabulous gifts, but support local farms, producers, merchants and companies.

    Happiest of Holidays … may the spirit of the season be with you now and throughout the New Year!

    Be sure to watch again on December 15 for a special Local Goodness segment on Gifts that Give Back!


    Our Shopping List & Links

    Gifts of Food

    Isadore Foods- Fresh from the Farm – gift of an Isadore Foods one-time box or CSA Subscription

    Pittsburgh Public Market

    Giant Eagle Market District – Robinson

    • Italian Dinner – Fede pasta, DelGrosso sauce, Mediterra bread and Delallo bruchetta spread

    Gifts of Good Taste

    Ceramic Grillworks:

    • Grillin’ & Chillin’ – Small Grill Dome, perfect for tailgating or steaks on the patio!  Medium and large sizes also available!

    CRATE Kitchen Store and Cooking School:

    • Kitchen Must-Haves – All Clad, USA Baking Pans, Fiesta tableware + gift certificate for a cooking class or other goodies

    TABLE Magazine:

    Check out our special segment from last year — Gifts from the Strip — for more tasty gift ideas!!!

  7. Tis the Season…For Brussels Sprouts & Chestnuts!

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    One of the first to be planted and of the last to be harvested, Brussels sprouts are truly the holdout crop for local farmers!  Best picked after the first hard frost, Brussels sprouts come into season just as the holidays begin to roll around…and they pair nicely with another fall and holiday favorite – the chestnut.

    Seasonality, freshness and proper cooking techniques make the difference between the nasty sprouts of your childhood and ones that you will look forward to on your dinner table.  On today’s segment we cook up two tasty Brussels sprout recipes, one a Simple Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts dish from our friends at Harvest Valley Farms(where we also got our fresh Brussels sprouts) and a more elegant side dish of Bronzed Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Shallots & Chestnuts.

    Luckily in Pennsylvania, there are still some chestnut trees on local farms where we can get fresh, American-grown chestnuts.  We took advantage of some from Enon Valley Garlic’s chestnut tree an cooked up a silky Roasted Chestnut Bisque.

    Stock up on these two seasonal treasures for YOUR holiday festivities!

    Brussels Sprouts – Buying-Storing-Preparing

    Chestnuts – Buying-Storing-Preparing

  8. Time to Preserve the Harvest-before it’s too late

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    Watch today’s Local Goodness segment HERE.

    Peaches and tomatoes are still aplenty at farm stands and farmers’ markets….but not for long!  Stock up and use two simple preservation techniques to have these farm-fresh, local ingredients available until there back next year.  Check out McConnells’ Farm for the best peaches ANYWHERE!

    Water bath canning and freezing are two methods perfect for these summer fruits (yes, botanically tomato is a fruit!).

    On today’s Local Goodness segment we gave you a sneak peek at these two techniques. To delve further into these and other preservation methods, join me at the Market District Cooking School on Sept 13 and 20 for my “Preserving the Harvest” classes.  Come to one or both…each will be different, but will show you a variety of methods for preserving seasonal ingredients to enjoy during the cold months ahead.



    Water Bath Canning Method — How-to

    Canned Farm-fresh Peaches in Light Syrup

    Raw-Packed Canned Farm-fresh Tomatoes


    For Peaches visit McConnells’ Farm

    For Tomatoes visit Dillner Family Farm

    USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning

    University of Missouri – Guide to Freezing Fruit

    University of Missouri – Guide to Freezing Vegetables


  9. It’s MAPLE Time!!!

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    Tapped for Maple


    One indicator that that spring is just around the corner is when maple trees are tapped to capture the sweet sap that flows when frigid nights awaken to warming days.

    It’s maple season in Southwestern Pennsylvania and the sap is flowing abundantly.  In Brady’s Run State Park in Beaver County they are rapidly collecting sap, the sugar shack is open, the evaporator is steaming along and fresh, local maple syrup will be the reward at the 34th Annual Beaver County Maple Syrup Festival the first weekend in April.

    If you don’t want to wait that long, you can stop by Fern Hollow Nature Center in Sewickley, PA on March 5 for their Pancake Breakfast and Maple Sugaring Festival, featuring maple Syrup from Brady’s Run.

    Pennsylvania’s largest maple festival, held in Somerset County, runs for three weekends beginning in late March.  And in northwestern Pennsylvania, you can tour a number of independent sugar shacks during their annual “Taste & Tour” event.

    So, get out for a fun (and tasty) adventure and find a maple festival (or two) to learn all about the maple production process from tree to table and enjoy the the many uses of this gift from Mother Nature.

    Maple Festival Links:

    Annual Beaver County Maple Syrup Festival (Beaver County, PA)

    Annual Pennsylvania Maple Festival (Somerset County, PA)

    Northwest Pennsylvania Maple Association Taste & Tour (Erie County, PA)


    Cooking with Maple:

    Maple Cooking Tips

    Spinach Salad with Maple-Orange Vinaigrette

    Maple & Black Pepper Poached Salmon

    Fun with Maple – from Cornell

  10. (land of) Milk & Honey!

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    When waking temperatures are below freezing and snow blankets the ground, it seems eating locally and seasonally will be months away.  But looking beyond the obvious notion of “seasonal” brings into focus a view of items we take for granted yet are available year round, each with seasonal variations that take their culinary applications beyond the obvious – Milk and Honey.

    With Pennsylvania the nation’s fourth largest milk producer, home to 10,000 commercial dairy farms cranking out more than 1 billion gallons a year, it’s easy to drink locally produced milk.  But for milk that reflects both the locality and the season, you will want to seek out fresh raw milk.  Available locally from a handful of diary farms that have a ‘raw milk permit’, raw (or fresh) milk is just that – whole milk fresh from the cow.  It hasn’t undergone pasteurization or homogenization so in addition to getting the full nutritional benefits from downing a cold glass, it is a preferred ingredient for any recipe calling for milk. Dairy-based items like cheese, butter, yogurt and even ice cream made with raw milk will likely reflect subtle regional and seasonal variations and complexities due to soil composition and vegetation of the cows’ diet throughout the year. Our Homemade Ricotta Cheese is just one easy way to enjoy this fresh seasonal diary product year-round.

    Like raw milk, raw unprocessed honey varies according to season and what’s in bloom when the bees gather their nectar.  According to the National Honey Board, there are more than 300 unique varieties of honey available in the U.S. It is estimated that more than 2000 beekeepers across Pennsylvania are producing a variety of honey, from clover and wildflower to lavender and highly prized buckwheat. Like wine, varietal honeys reflect the effect annual climactic changes have on the nectar source and like milk, local honey’s characteristics change with the seasons.  Honey varies in color and flavor from light and mild to dark and robust, all with myriad culinary options beyond drizzling on toast or sweetening your tea. Close to a dozen jars inhabit my pantry, gathered from farms and market in different seasons and locations. Since honey never goes bad they are always available for dressings, marinades, baking or any time I want a unique, flavorful and natural sweetener.

    Milk and honey are also legendary beauty treatments, especially for softening skin.  Try this Milk & Honey Hand Soak for a relaxing treat.

    Some other tidbits of information:

    – Honey will last virtually forever…raw milk on the other hand should be consumed in a few days.

    – Recently, honey has been recognized for its antioxidant properties with the darker honeys generally having higher antioxidant content.

    – Store honey in a dark pantry…refrigeration will cause it to crystallize.

    – If honey crystallizes, it has not gone bad.  Simply place the jar in a pan of hot water until the honey liquefies again.  Cover and store.

    more info on milk and honey:  (to find local raw milk producers) (all about honey!) (about beekeeping in Pittsburgh)



    (information for this post was originally developed for Rhonda’s Simply Seasonal column for TABLE Magazine and appeared in the Spring 2010 issue)

    November 9, 2011:

    See the following information provided to us by Karen Plansis, a registered dietitian and nutrition communications manager with the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, a regional affiliate of the National Dairy Association.  Thank you, Karen, for this important information on some of the  common misconceptions surrounding organic and raw milk!

    “…both organic and conventionally produced milk must meet the same stringent safety standards. Research shows that conventionally produced milk does not contain more antibiotic or pesticide residues than organic milk. If a tanker of either type of milk tests positive for pesticides or antibiotic residues, it is immediately dumped.  All milk naturally contains very small amounts of bovine hormones (bST) and science shows there is no difference in hormone levels between organic an regular milk. Whether or not a cow has received supplemental bST (rbST) to increase milk production has no bearing on the level of hormone present in the milk itself. Also, because bST is a protein hormone and is species specific to cows it’s completely digested when consumed and has no biological effect on humans.

    The Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, many health professional organizations as well as the dairy industry itself recommend that no one consume unpasteurized milk. The FDA recently reported that during the 27-year period between 1987 and September 2010, there were at least 133 outbreaks of food borne illness due to the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products. These outbreaks caused 2,659 cases of illnesses, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages. Because not all cases of food borne illness are recognized and reported, the actual number of illnesses associated with raw milk is likely greater.

    In spite of an abundance of urban legends to the contrary, there is no scientific evidence to support the position that raw milk is more nutritious than pasteurized milk. Research clearly shows that there is no meaningful difference between the nutrient content of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. In addition, there are no beneficial bacteria in raw milk that aid gastrointestinal health or digestion; raw milk does not enhance the immune system, nor does it contain natural antimicrobial components that make it safe.”

    Raw Milk Misconceptions and the Dangers of Raw Milk Consumption:

    Q & A Raw Milk:

    Real Raw Milk Facts: