Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fall Fruit Galette Recipe

Last Saturday was a beautiful, warm autumn day at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market--the sort of day when you feel blessed to be living in the Bay Area and hard-pressed to imagine living anywhere else. The market was bustling with people filling their baskets with fresh produce for the upcoming holiday: ruby pomegranates and sunset-orange persimmons, shiny acorn-brown chestnuts and big leafy fans of red Russian kale.

Strolling up to the market, we overheard many snippets of conversation, all focusing on one thing: pie!

Yes, it was Pie Day at the market, and pies--apple, pecan, pumpkin, and more--seemed to be on everyone's mind. The good folks at CUESA, who administer the market, had set up a really nice and informative pie-making display, with everything you'd want to know about fillings, crusts, baking implements and more, including useful little maps showing what stands were selling fresh, local pie ingredients from lard and cultured butter to eggs, nuts, fruit, and sugar-pie pumpkins. At the Frog Hollow Farm stand, we had quinces and 3 kinds of pears for sale: Taylor's Gold, Bosc, and some deliciously slurpy Warrens.

Back at the demonstration kitchen, volunteers were passing out samples of pumpkin tart and a Fall Fruit Galette made at the Frog Hollow Farm Cafe, full of big, tender apple chunks on a flaky crust. If you didn't get a chance to taste it, you can still make your own. Here is Becky's recipe, as handed out by CUESA. Happy baking!

Fall Fruit Galette

Rebecca Courchesne, Frog Hollow Farm
Note that the crust recipe makes twice as much dough as you'll need.

Galette Dough
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
6 oz. butter (12 tablespoons, or 1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 cup ice water, or as needed

1. Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Cut butter into 1/2" chunks, and place in a separate bag. Transfer both bags to the freezer for 30 minutes.

2. In a food processor, briefly pulse flour mixture to combine. Add butter chunks and pulse until butter is incorporated but some chunks still remain. Add water while pulsing. You should be able to barely hold the dough together in your hand.

3. Form the dough into 2 disks, wrap in plastic and let one rest in the refrigerator for 45 minutes; freeze the other for later use.

Fruit Filling
3 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup fresh cranberries or huckleberries
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (use the larger amount if using cranberries)
3 tbsp flour

1. Combine fruits and vanilla.

2. Stir sugar and flour together and gently toss with fruit.

To make galette
1. Preheat oven to 400F, or 375F if using a convection oven.

2. Roll dough into an 11" disc. Spoon fruit filling onto tart disc (don't overfill your pastry, or your crust will become soggy). Fold edges of the tart over onto the fruit. Brush edges with melted butter or water and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of sugar.

3. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until edges are light brown and fruit juices are bubbling. Serve tart warm out of the oven with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Olives and Their Golden Oil

Homer called it "liquid gold." and that name seems apt.

This week we will start the olive harvest here at the farm. Farmer Al told me this morning that the yield looks great and the fruit quality high. We are expecting to bottle a record amount of the beautiful golden oil.

It's amazing to me that from the little black olives hanging heavily on our trees right now that we will receive such a healthful and versatile oil. And so much of it! I mean, really, the fruit is so small. Olive tree yields depend on the number of trees per acre, proper irrigation, fruit set, pruning and age of trees. But, fruit yield and oil yield do not directly correlate. It seems like the most telling statistic is the leaf-to-fruit ratio. With a high leaf to fruit ratio, the trees produce more oil. Anyway, the bottom line is that a higher fruit yield does not guarantee a higher oil yield. We'll have to wait and see.

The health benefits of olive oil are documented pretty well, however. According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming olive oil reduces your risk for heart disease. Cool! And according to recent research, olive oil also reduces your risk for stomach ulcers. For more on the health benefits go to this link.

Throughout history, olives and their precious oil have been revered and we at Frog Hollow are carrying on in that tradition.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Problem with Pears

We all know what they are, yet pears are as old as anything in our collective cultures and remain a very unappreciated fruit--except by a dedicated few. As I begin a journey to where my pomological eye will be turned back again to stone fruit, and for the first time towards pears, I have begun to truly appreciate the unappreciated pear. More importantly, I have started to ask, Why? So why is it that the pear is such a misunderstood fruit? Is it geography? Culture? Religion? Or do they just taste bad? In my next few blogs, I will explore several pear quality-related topics in hopes of coming to some conclusion to my query of, What is the Problem with Pears?

Let me first clear the table by stating that pears are one of the, if not the, most satisfying fruits on the planet. It is true, they are more difficult to deal with in terms of storage, ripening, and determining when that pear is ready to eat. Too soft and they taste like mush; too hard and they have no aroma or mouth-feel; just right and you are in heaven.

The pear has been around for a long, long time; some even believe it was the pear, and not the apple, that was the fruit in the Garden of Eden. Horticulturally speaking, the pear is just about as difficult (or easy) to grow as any other tree fruit. And were it not for its susceptibility to fireblight (a bacterial disease) its production, domestically at least, would still be pretty strong. But what was the journey the pear traveled to get to where it is today?

The first written evidence of pears, was in Homer's Odyssey in the 6th century BCE: "Therein grow trees, tall and luxuriant, pears and pomegranates and apple-trees with their bright fruit, and sweet figs, and luxuriant olives. Of these the fruit perishes not nor fails in winter or in summer, but lasts throughout the year."

From Wikipedia: The genus is thought to have originated in present-day western China in the foothills of the Tian Shan, a mountain range of Central Asia, and to have spread to the north and south along mountain chains, evolving into a diverse group of over 20 widely recognized primary species. The enormous number of varieties of the cultivated European pear are without doubt derived from one or two wild subspecies, widely distributed throughout Europe, and sometimes forming part of the natural vegetation of the forests. In England, where an ancient pear tree gave its name to Pirio (Perry Barr, a district of Birmingham) in Domesday, the pear is sometimes considered wild; there is always the doubt that it may not really be so, but the produce of some seed of a cultivated tree deposited by birds or otherwise, which has germinated as a wild-form spine-bearing tree. Court accounts of Henry III of England record pears shipped from Rochelle and presented to the King by the Sheriffs of London. The French names of pears grown in English medieval gardens suggests that their reputation, at the least, was French; a favored variety in the accounts was named for Saint Rule or Regul', bishop of Senlis.

The records of pear culture (the growing of..) go back nearly 3000 years, including a famous book written by Chia Shi-Yi in the 6th century that chronicles pear culture for the previous 1500 years. For the past 3000+ years, pears have been considered a delicacy for the wealthy along with the peach and the apricot. And yet today, even though they hold a prominent place in global cultures and have been considered a culinary treasure, their production worldwide has dropped off, as well as their consumption in favor of the numerous other fruits.

I believe, however, that the pear is making a comeback (or will, in any case) as our eating habits become more European in the new tradition of the Slow Food movement. As our eating habits shift more to smaller portions of higher quality, provincial, and artisanal foods, we will once again rediscover the beauty of the pear. As we discover, rediscover, and appreciate the icons of culinary cultures, pears will once again appear in fruit baskets everywhere.

Here at Frog Hollow Farm, we grow both European and Asian pears. Our most provincial and best tasting is the Warren pear--truly a culinarian's delight. We also grow Golden Russet, Taylor's Gold, and numerous Asian types collectively known as nashi. As Homer wrote in the Odyssey, "These were the splendid gifts of the gods in the palace of Alcinous," so they shall be once again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Happy Children and the Holidays

One of my goals at Frog Hollow Farm (and in my daily life) is to connect people with their local farmers. Working on the farm, I have a great opportunity to do just that while having my finger on the pulse, so to speak. I think it's just as important to know your farmer as it is to know your doctor or your child's teacher. After all, we eat every day! I want to know how the food I'm putting in my mouth and in the mouths of my family got to my table. I have been a member of a CSA for 8 years and I love the excitement of seeing what's in my box each week as well as the comfort of knowing that a farmer I know grew, picked and packed that food with care.

Frog Hollow Farm has some great ways for eaters to connect with us directly. One way is our Happy Child CSA, another is our mail order business and a third is through local farmers' markets. As the holidays approach, I'd like to suggest some great ways to use these to achieve multiple goals: support local, organic family farmers, buy outstanding gifts and give your friends and family something they can feel good about.

This year for the first time, Happy Child CSA is now offering gift certificates. If you know someone who would like to try a CSA, this is a great opportunity. In addition to getting a weekly box of "legendary fruit" CSA members receive other benefits. Frog Hollow products can be had at a great discount. Our CSA coordinator, Karen, goes out of her way to meet the needs of all members. For more about CSA see: USDA-Community Supported Agriculture or Local Harvest CSA is great for the farm. We value the fact that members are willing to invest up front to support our ongoing operations. We are on the front lines of the battle to conserve farm land in the Bay Area and we love to know that we have neighbors who want us to succeed. The "dividends" you receive as an active investor and supporter are weekly boxes of the most delicious organic fruit from us and our neighbors.

This year for the holidays we have contacted some great artisans to compliment our fruit and fruit products. Josh and Carolyn at Rustic Bakery in Marin County are baking some amazing whole grain sourdough lavosh to compliment our Asian pear chutney. When paired with San Joaquin Gold cheese from the Fiscalini Cheese Company these are a wonderful autumn treat. The Fiscalini family make farmstead cheeses we were sold on from the first bite. We are also offering their extra mature bandage-wrapped cheddar with our creamy and juicy Warren pears. This is an unbeatable combo! All these great foods will soon be available on our website along with some new pastries and our holiday gift packs. We hope that when you buy the combinations we have created you will appreciate the artisans we have invited to join us and seek them out.

Farmers' markets are the most direct of all direct marketing options. When I'm at a market, I love to see the shoppers' faces when they bite into that perfect fruit or taste summer in a little spoon of conserve. Here in California we go year round. Right now, we are selling Bosc pears, Warren pears and some Taylor's Gold pears. When May comes, everyone is excited to see cherries and apricots but now is the time for fruits that keep. These pears will nourish my family right through the winter. I like to poach them and keep them on a visible shelf in beautiful glass jars. Along with my jars of tomatoes, pickled peppers and olives, they remind me of our bounty. Isn't that what this time of year is about?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Persimmons & Pears

Wondering what to do with this week's pears and persimmons? Check out KQED's Bay Area Bites this week for some delicious info and recipes using the Fuyu persimmon, including a savory persimmon, fennel, and almond couscous and a luscious-looking pear, persimmon, and walnut strudel.

The San Francisco Chronicle also has a handy round-up of tasty pear recipes. And a great-looking walnut and pear tart recipe can be found on Chow.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Welcome to the inaugural blog for Frog Hollow Farm's Happy Child CSA. To get things off on the right foot, we know many of you already buy Frog Hollow Farm Fruit at farmers' markets. But our Happy Child CSA differs from the farmers' market in that you can get locally grown and produced farm products delivered year-round to your home (or local drop off point) even in the dead of winter. OK, you can't get our peaches in January, but we've teamed up with many local farmers to also bring you avocados, citrus, and much much more. How does it work?
  • We deliver weekly boxes or 1/2 boxes to a pick-up spot in your neighborhood. Usually, the amount of fruit in a delivery will supplement a family of four's requirement for a week.

  • There are never any obligations. You pick your schedule: weekly or every-other-week. Going on vacation? No problem, we will put your delivery on hold until you return.

  • Weekly newsletters--now including this blog--inform you of farm news, recipes, varietal notes, storage and handling recommendations and more.

  • Visits to your neighborhood by Farmer Al and other members of the Frog Hollow family. Invitations to visit the farm for in-depth farm tours by Farmer Al, potlucks, "tastings," guest speakers, and Harvest Celebrations featuring great chefs from around the Bay!

  • Year round supplies of fruit that we may not grow ourselves but get from other local, organic growers we know...e.g., Great, incredibly sweet Valencia oranges, or navels, or rare antique apple varieties, kiwi, cherimoyas, sapotes, avocados & the list goes on...

  • We make payment easy too! We take checks, Visa, MC, American Express. For your convenience, you can arrange an automatic payment through us. Order Here.

  • Please join the entire Frog Hollow Farm family- a vibrant community of farmers, farm workers, and people like you who eat the fruits of our labor - to form a powerful force creating a new vision for food and farming here in California and beyond...

  • In Good Health,

    The Folks at Frog Hollow Farm
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