Sunday, July 20, 2014

Catching Blueberries

The warm summer breeze rustles the mass of blueberry bushes. The lanky branches sway and the berries dance playfully, like toddlers impishly attempting to escape the embrace of a parent. It is a game. Who can be more nimble, who can stay just out of reach? In the end, we know it is inevitable we will collide and collapse in an unruly pile of hugs and giggles. 
It is what I like to call Blueberry Jam Day, that one day in July when the sun is just right, and the blueberries are that perfect shade of ebony blue. I head out early to Patty’s Berries and Bunches on the North Fork of Long Island with basket in tow. My goal is to collect enough berries for jam and baking to last me well into the winter.
Patty’s blueberries are planted in long corridors that seem to stretch on for an eternity. I’m told the best options for picking will be well into the field so I head deep into the heart of blueberry world, with only the palpable whisper of the breeze, the cotton candy clouds, the swishing of the branches, and the chirping of a red wing blackbird to keep me company.
It is a game of skill, attempting to grab these blueberries that hope to elude capture. 
But, I am the blueberry catcher, and within time, I am victorious, with a mountain of blue orbs in hand. Immediately, I return to the kitchen to begin jamming.  

It is such a satisfying thing, capturing that thrilling moment in the field within a quilted glass jar. The sugar, lemon juice and pectin are added and the berries simmer and pop and transform into thick purple syrup. 
Now you can actually taste the sun, the breeze, the sound of the birds and the excitement of the chase.
Slathered on a warm muffin or piping hot slice of toast, my North Fork Blueberry Jam can evoke smiles, giggles and delicious memories of catching blueberries for some time to come.

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Visit to Historic Kerber’s Farm

If you’re a Long Island resident, you may realize that your home likely sits on property that was once farmland. When first settled, some three centuries ago, Long Island was a farming community. But today, split-level homes, strip malls, pharmacies and fast food restaurants have overtaken much of that fertile land. 

Kerber’s Farm is one of the last remaining, original farm stands in the heart of suburban Long Island and it has a new lease on life. I’m fortunate that through my association with Edible Long Island, I continue to make new discoveries about the area I call home. 
I first learned of Kerber’s Farm through a story by Meredith Shanley in the Summer 2014 issue of Edible Long Island.  
Established as a family farm in 1941, Kerber’s sold eggs, produce and pies on West Pulaski Road in Huntington for decades before falling on hard times.  The property was slated for development but was purchased last year by Nick Voulgaris III who had grown up in Huntington and had visited the farm as a child. Voulgaris completely renovated the building and reopened Kerber’s Farm in the autumn of 2013.  

Just moments from the busy main strip in Huntington Village, a visit to Kerber’s is like an escape in time to Long Island’s agricultural past. We make a Saturday excursion for a leisurely lunch and a touch of romantic rural nostalgia. 

We enter the screen door and marvel at the luscious jams and pastries in the bakeshop, and the vintage photos of an earlier era at Kerber’s.  The mellow sounds of Frank Sinatra fill the room.  
At the lunch counter, we place an order for two fresh lobster rolls and explore the vintage items on sale, which Kerber’s describes as “found objects.”  
There are weathered birdcages, rustic oars, a battered saddle and an oversized antique bread bowl amidst the summer vegetables.   

With nowhere particular to go, we sit for some time in the back garden, enjoying the shade of towering old pine trees, the silky lobster rolls and the bucolic summer afternoon.
Chickens frolic in a coop not far away. 

What better way to finish the meal, than with a Salted Caramel ice cream cone?
It’s enough just to watch the purple hydrangeas sway in the summer breeze. Kerber’s Farm has served us up a perfect July afternoon, and we’ve not strayed far at all from home to find it.
“In summer the song sings itself.”

-- William Carlos Williams

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Edible Long Island Welcomes Summer with Sexy Pub Food in Point Lookout, Long Island

The summer is sizzling hot, and Edible Long Island welcomes the lazy, hazy days with some smokin’ hot, drool-worthy, burgers on its Summer 2014 cover. Read about Burger Man George Moatz here, and his penchant for smoked burgers.

Once again, I go “Back of the House” to get the back story on J.A. Heneghan’s Tavern in the hamlet of Point Lookout, Long Island. Learn about J.A. Heneghan, an Irish patriarch who inspired his family to open a tavern in his honor, and get to know Nicole Roarke, the talented Executive Chef who’s serving up fresh seasonal dishes in the dining room and making pub food sexy.  Read my story of the Heneghan clan and their local homage to a legendary dad here.

And, visit Chef Nicole Roarke in the kitchen for her zesty take on citrus here.    

Happy Summer!  

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Strawberry Jamboree

True strawberries – and by that, I mean strawberries that are locally grown and begin to ripen to perfection in early June – are just a fleeting moment in the landscape of summer. Lasting only two to three weeks, they are deeply red to the core, and drenched with sweet, sunny flavor.
More and more I realize that these ephemeral moments are something to protect and preserve.  Perhaps that’s why I have gravitated towards home canning.  A spoonful of homemade jam from a jar evokes a whole raft of memories.  It goes far beyond capturing the sweet flavor of the fruit. 
It recalls the sun on your back and the sweat on your brow as you walk through the fields at Restoration Farm. It’s the buzzing of honeybees and the glimpse of a red-winged blackbird.  It’s the conversations with friends in the field, and the reminder that despite the fact that a growing season is always advancing towards an autumnal finale, time just seems to move a little more slowly at the farm.     
It’s been a glorious start to summer, and a strawberry jam project was inevitable.  The strawberries come from Restoration Farm’s Glenn Aldridge, who this year cultivated a separate field of strawberries at the Old Hewlett Apple Orchard in Old Bethpage Village Restoration, which he’s been restoring and cultivating for several years now.  
It is hardly hyperbole to say that you can taste Glenn’s caring nature in these beautiful berries.  He gives me far more berries than the recipe requires, so my kitchen becomes the site of a strawberry jamboree.  
To prepare the jam, I use my Ball Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker, which is calibrated to cook at just the right temperature.  The reduced sugar recipe is formulated specifically for use with this device, and contains more fruit and more intense strawberry flavor.  

As the jam simmers, my memory is at work.  The aroma of warm strawberries instantly transport me to summers past, enjoying hot popovers slathered with jam on the banks of Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park.  
The final yield is eight jars of memories in two varieties – Strawberry Vanilla Jam infused with vanilla bean, and Strawberry Lemon Jam spiked with lemon zest. 
I leave you with this poem – given to me by my mom – written by Bea Lotz, which nicely captures the essence of strawberry jam in a quilted crystal glass jar:  
Homemade Jam

Sugared Summer in a jar,
To spread on Winter nights,
Rich layerings of sunshine
Of golden day delights.
Preserved now…lazy afternoons
With droning bumblebees,
Heavy berries bending low
And weighted, swollen trees.
Preserved for when the snow drifts,
When wind howls at the door –
Within each sticky spoonful,
Bright Summer lives once more.

-- Bea Lotz

©2014 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved