Sunday, November 15, 2009

In Season NW: Back in Balance

I try to walk the walk even as I talk the talk. But, darn it, I have to admit that, down deep, I really hate not being able to have my favorite things simply because they're not in season.

So this morning the dogs scattered like a flock of startled birds when I leapt out of bed with uncharacteristic speed, slammed down some coffee and dashed out the door to be at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market when it opened. You see, it's been weeks since Anthony and Carol of Ayers Creek have been at the market, and every store in town was out of Carol's incredible preserves.

Not only that, ever since I started making polenta from their heirloom Roy's Calais Flint corn, every other polenta seems pasty and flat in comparison. And I haven't had the heart to subject myself, not to mention our guests, to the disappointment I knew would be in the cards from making any other kind. Which explains my desperation to get there, right?

When I saw on Anthony's e-mail bulletin that they'd have a full complement of preserves along with the first of the season's polenta, there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to snag some. Of course, when I got there and saw the Aci Sivri Hungarian peppers that swept me off my feet last year, I grabbed a couple of bags of those, as well.

Now that there are six pounds of polenta sitting in the freezer, and with preserves and peppers in the cupboard, I feel so much better about winter. But maybe I'll have to get just a couple more pounds of polenta next week. Just in case.


EcoGrrl said...

c'mon, share your polenta recipe girl!!!

Jim said...

I take a case of olive oil to the Hillsdale market every winter to trade for my annual supply of Ayers Creek beans and corn meal (which needs to kept in the freezer). Here’s how I make it....

First, ignore every single polenta recipe that tells you to slowly pour the corn meal into a pot of boiling water. If you want a lumpy mess and like spending half an hour trying to smooth it out, then go ahead. But you’ll get better results by mixing cold water into the polenta instead, about 2.5 to 3 times as much water as polenta. Toss in a healthy pinch of salt, too, then put the pot on the stove over medium low heat.

At the same time, set another pot of plain water on the stove and heat it up. When it’s close to boiling, turn off the burner.

Stir the polenta regularly, but it’s not necessary to stir constantly. When it’s bubbling gently, reduce the heat to the lowest setting possible. It’s best to keep it under the boiling point, but not always possible. Stir every 5 minutes or so, and be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot where it thickens more quickly. Add a bit of the hot water from the other pot every now and then.

Keep this up for at least 45 minutes, better an hour. The Ayers Creek corn makes such good polenta that you don’t need a ton of butter or cheese.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Thanks, Jim, for your polenta recipe. I'm planning on doing a post about this Italian delight soon.

And, EcoGrrl, my method is slightly different than Jim's, using 3 cups of chicken stock (never milk…it covers up the taste of the grain) to 1 cup of polenta. Basically, I bring the stock and a tablespoon of butter (or margarine) and some salt to a bare boil. Then, stirring with a whisk, I pour in the polenta, whisk a bit more, then turn down the heat as Jim does to its lowest setting. When it gets thick, I stir in about a half cup of finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino, turn off the heat, cover the pan for ten minutes or so and serve.

And Jim's totally right, the Ayers Creek polenta doesn't need any tarting up (unlike most store-bought brands).