Facebook | Tremont Farmers’ Market

Facebook | Tremont Farmers’ Market.

On Tuesday I became the Tremont Farmers’ Market’s first Customer of the Week.  Jody Lathwell, the TFM’s head honcho, interviewed me and even took my pic for the Facebook page.  I guess this is my fifteen seconds of fame.  If you are a fellow Clevelander, please check out the market.  Jody has brought together an awesome group of vendors and created a great  community there in Lincoln Park.  Friendly folks, great food, live music and (so far) perfect weather make for a wonderful experience.

Putting Things By

The canning continues, as the produce is coming fast and furious right now.  The morning was spent picking red currants from the bush in the back yard.  With a sore back from bending and swooping around the bush, I took my stash inside and began the process of putting them by.

After a quick dunking in cold water, they all get stripped from their stems.  This is a tedious process that seems to go on and on and on.  (Listening to NPR, I managed to hear all the salient points of President Obama’s Oval Office speech analyzed at least three times!)  The resulting pile of stems helps to explain the cramping fingers.  All told the bush put out a gallon of fruit this year.

The year's harvest

One Gallon of Red Currants

Red Currant Stems

This is the pile of stems from the red currants.

There are actually a small quantity of berries that were not yet ripe, left for a later harvest.  The fruit gets crushed with a potato masher, then goes into a pot with a small bit of water to get the juice flowing.  Bring it to the simmer; cook slowly for about ten minutes, then strain it through a jelly bag.  A JELLY BAG???  All these years of canning and I’ve never bought a jelly bag.  I improvise with a clean floursack towel, some string and a dowel rod, hanging the whole contraption from the kitchen cupboard handle.  In a couple of hours, I’m rewarded with  a precious few cups of crystal clear juice of the most outstanding garnet hue.  I manage to stretch out the clear juice into more than a dozen jars of  Red Currant Jelly.  They appear like jars of liquid rubies.

My research has strenuously warned me not to squeeze the bag in the hopes of extracting more juice.  It has also brought to my attention the possibility of making red currant curd.  This seems too delightful an opportunity to pass up.  After securing my clear juice for jelly, I go ahead and squeeze away, extracting two more cups of liquid that will be perfect for curd.  It’s cloudy with fruit solids.  I taste and find it’s also full of flavor.  This lagniappe is my dirty little secret.  It just seemed a shame after all those hours spent stripping the currants to walk away with such a small harvest of usable product.

The other project this weekend has been pickled carrots.  In past years, I made a green bean and carrot combo.  Word got out and these became one of my most requested canning projects.  Word got back to me, as well, that folks really preferred the carrots over the beans.  Easy enough…they’ve morphed into jars of pickled carrots.  This year, the jars all have a slice of Vidalia onion for flavor;  some of  them also have a split serrano pepper for heat;  there are even some with a garlic scape wound around the inside of the jar.  The scapes were a find at last week’s Farmers’ Market.  I wasn’t sure what to do with them, until a fellow shopper mentioned that she liked to pickle them.  BINGO!  I was already planning on making the carrots and these turned out to be the perfect addition to the jars.

I feel like production is just now ramping up.  There are still gooseberries coming in about two more weeks.  I’ll probably attempt jelly with them, too.  Other recipes on my agenda include Bread-n-Butter Pickles, Giardinera, Raspberry Jam and Pear-Applesauce.  Of course, this is not even accounting for whatever the Farmers’ Market might throw into my path.  Having three things already put by gives me a sense of momentum.  When I started this season, I had five cases of empty jars in the basement and I thought that’d be plenty.  Clearly, they’re not going to be enough.  I’ve learned to buy more jars than I think I’ll need because the stores generally don’t restock their supplies once the initial shipment from Ball gets depleted.  I love doing this work; even moreso, I love opening the jars in the middle of the winter and tasting a bit(e) of summer.

An Evening in Tremont

It’s only recently that I am really taking advantage of all that nearby Tremont has to offer.  It’s basically just up the hill from the house, less than ten minutes away.  I have been coming here all along to eat dinner in the myriad restaurants the neighborhood has to offer, but there is so much more.  I am making myself a regular at Civilization, where the lattes are excellent and the vibe is consistently mellow.  As much as I am a fan of Starbucks, they are generally a high energy environment.  Bright lighting, loud music, lots of hustle and bustle all combine to make for lots of distractions.  Civilization, in contrast, is quiet and low-key.  The music is set so low that it can barely be heard.  When the place is nearly empty, the only sound is the tapping of laptop keys (thank you for free Wi-Fi!) and the quiet conversation of the staff.  I feel very comfortable here.  There is a constant stream of neighborhood people through the door and everyone seems to know everyone else.

Yesterday, Tony and I walked through the Tremont Farmers’ Market.  There are about thirty vendors this year.  There are farmers with produce, although it’s so early in the season that some of them were still featuring starter plants.  We did see plenty of lettuce, scallions, radishes and a few vegetables.  There were baked goods, hot sauce, cheeses, teas, flowers, spices, pierogies and meats.  There was live music, a chef demo, knife sharpening and even a Reiki practitioner!  Although it’s not as extensive as some markets I have been to, it scored big points for accessibility and friendliness.  The vendors were not swamped with hundreds of customers; they actually had time to stop and talk about their products.  We bought only some radishes, but the weather was beautiful and we had a great time.  We’ll be back!

Afterwards, we walked over to Prosperity Social Club for a bite to eat.  The barroom is a treasure from the past.  It is preserved with its original 1938 decor, a real piece of Cleveland history.  There are tables up front and a game room behind that, complete with pool table, a tabletop bowling machine and scads of board games!  The patio out back was drawing a big crowd while we were there, too.

I ordered a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, a cooling blend of Goslings Rum, ginger beer and lime.  It was perfectly refreshing after the heat of the afternoon.  Our food arrived shortly thereafter.  Tony had the Tavern Cheeseburger, a $5 special on Tuesdays.  It was a decent burger, topped with American cheese, tomato and lettuce and served with hand-cut fries.  I chose the Bratwurst Sandwich.  A toasted brat bun was filled with a split, griddled sausage.  The whole thing was topped with a distinctive red sauerkraut studded with bacon.  Nothing like some pork with your pork!  There were also fries on this plate, a bit soggy but perfectly salted.  (What is up with restaurants being afraid to salt their fries properly?  If they are not salted straight away when they come out of the fryer, no amount of salting when they hit the table is going to help.)  The food was good, the service was friendly and the room had an awesome feel to it.

Making these discoveries so close to home makes me want to branch out in Tremont.  Going to the Farmers’ Market every week will give us an opportunity to try out some different Happy Hours around the neighborhood.  The area has a good vibe; parking is easy and it feels good to be supporting local merchants.  Look for more from this area in the future!