Seacoast Eat Local is holding an open meeting for all those interesting in supporting local foods and agriculture at 7pm on Tuesday, April 10th, at the Portsmouth Public Library. Seacoast Eat Local will be hosting the Eat Local Challenge in September and is looking for individuals who would like to help make this year’s challenge an overwhelming success. For more information, visit www.seacoasteatlocal.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most recent newsletter of the NH Center for a Food Secure Future linked to The NH Farm Viability Task Force Report: Cultivating Success on NH Farms [Large PDF file].An executive summary is on pages 2-3; each of the recommendations is further developed in the report. I particularly appreciated the recommendations for keeping land in agricultural use through a “Farm Viability Program, investment of $3 million annually to buy permanent conservation rights, a Lease of Development Rights program, authorization of Agricultural Commissions that would identify barriers to the viability of farming in each municipality, and removal of rules and regulations burdensome to agriculture and identify ways the State of NH can assist (eg. new rules for homestead food license to simplify food licensing for residential, non-commercial kitchens.) This report will be of particular interest to those interested in seeing more vitality in NH agriculture!
Alison sends notice of this visit to Durham by Michael Ruhlman, a nonfiction writer and journalist who has done some excellent work on the world of professional cooking. His books “The Making of a Chef” and “The Soul of a Chef” are among my favorite books on food.
The UNH Department of Education invites You to A Public Lecture by author Michael Ruhlman
The Pursuit of Excellence in a Throwaway Culture: Lessons From Learning to Cook
Tuesday, April 3, 2007
MUB Theatre II
Michael Ruhlman is author of six non-fiction books and co-author of three cookbooks. In his non-fiction works, he has written about the preparation and practice of a wide range of professionals, including the education of chefs at the Culinary Institute of America (The Making of A Chef, 1997), life at a plank-on-frame boatyard in Martha’s Vinyard (Wooden Boats, 2001), a year in the life of a private boys’ school outside Cleveland (The Boys Themselves, 1996), and the education and work of pediatric heart surgeons (Walk on Water, 2003). Described in one review as a “food poet,” Ruhlman’s style has been variously characterized as “engaging,” “free flowing,” and “light and unobtrusive.” Mr. Ruhlman is currently working on a number of new projects, most chef-related. He is also a contributor to the New York Times and has written a food column for the Los Angeles Times. Michael Ruhlman’s books will be made available after his talk by the Durham Book Exchange
It’s one of the first signs that spring will soon be bringing fresh produce. Since it’ll soon be abundant, now’s the time to learn about this traditional and versatile veggie. The Rhubarb Compendium contains everything a layperson would ever, ever want to know about this classic New England spring food.
Maple syrup, that is. New Hampshire Maple Weekend is the annual open house celebration of New Hampshire’s maple syrup producers. The state’s dozens of maple producers — some large, some small — will pause to welcome guests as they complete the production of more than 90,000 gallons of syrup, all in six short weeks or so of round-the-clock labor. Visit the website to view event locations by county or learn how maple sugaring is done. Maine is also in the game with Maine Maple Sunday on March 25th. In Massachusettes, one weekend isn’t enough, so March is Maple Month as far as the Bay State is concerned. You’ve got plenty of opportunities to be part of this year’s sugaring-off!
No matter where you go, taking part in the sugaring season is a fantastic goodbye-to-winter, early-spring experience across the Northeast. Sparkling bright days are great ones to get out into the last snows and traipse around a sugarbush, inhaling vast clouds of maple-scented steam rolling from the evaporator, mixed sometimes with the scent of woodsmoke from the firebox.
Even if you grew up pouring maple syrup on your pancakes, you may not be aware that the more concentrated, solid form of maple sugar has played an important role in New England’s history.
White European settlers in the 1600s learned from Natives that maple sap, already discernibly sweet to the taste, would grow sweeter and eventually crystallize when most of its liquid was boiled off. According to the Mass. Maple Producers, early diaries recorded instances of Native Americans making three different types of maple sugar: grain sugar, cake sugar, and what we know today as ‘sugar-on-snow.’
Colonial Americans found that this skill came in handy during the American Revolution, when they increasingly boycotted products associated with England (like cane sugar from its West Indian colonies) and strove for self-sufficiency as an independent nation. Americans who favored the abolition of slavery turned to maple again in the years before the Civil War; cane sugar was a product of slave labor, and anti-slavery activities promoted the idea of using maple syrup and maple sugar as an alternative sweetener. Abolitionists like Levi Coffin even sold maple syrup in “Free Labor” stores, which dealt only in spices, foods, textiles, and goods produced by free people – cause marketing well before pink ribbons and Bono’s GAP campaign. The picture above is one of a series by painter John Eastman, an abolitionist who saw maple sugaring as an expression of free and independent work.
Maple sugar remained the more important maple product until an import tariff on cane sugar was dropped in 1890, making cane sugar a cheaper grain and cake sugar than maple. At that point, most producers switched over to making and selling maple syrup, which is far more flavorful than cane-sugar syrup. Today, it’s syrup that’s the main event.