Thank you for participating in this years Buy Fresh Buy Local challenge.  It was a great success, we surpassed our 500 goal and had 750 participants this year!!  We hope that you will continue to support local producers and small business owners throughout the rest of the year! 

End of season…tomato sauce for the winter

Tomato season is quickly coming to a close so we wanted to share a great way to make the most of those last vine ripened tomatoes.

Roasting tomatoes brings out a caramel taste that provides endless depth to this sauce. If you are canning, be sure to get advice about using garlic. Elizabeth recommends roasting the tomatoes and bringing them to a boil with whole basil leaves to have a perfect tomato base that can be used for sauce or soups or poulet provencal or curry; We like the flexibility of a flavorful but unspiced jar of sauce. 


1 lb. favorite pasta 
2 pints cherry tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
olive oil
1 medium sweet onion
fresh basil
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (omit if going vegan)
salt and pepper, to taste

Set your broiler to high or preheat oven to 500. Begin to boil water for the pasta.

Yes, they should look exactly like this…
Separate the garlic cloves from the head but do not remove the paper from the individual clove. Cut the tomatoes in half and toss with the garlic cloves, olive oil and salt. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and spread tomatoes and garlic to form a single layer. Broil or roast until tomatoes begin to caramelize, approximately 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven, flip tomatoes and broil again until browning begins.
Meanwhile, cook your pasta. This is important because you want some of the pasta water for your sauce!

While the tomatoes are roasting, dice the onion and sweat them in a large pot with olive oil and salt. (You can even leave them with the lid on for 10 minutes and they will be perfectly cooked.) Be sure not to allow the onion to brown. Add the cooked tomatoes and roasted garlic (don’t forget to peel the cloves after they are cooked!). Use a wooden spoon to mash everything together and throw in a handful of fresh whole basil leaves. When your pasta is done cooking, add one cup of the pasta water to your tomato sauce. Bring sauce to a good simmer/slow boil, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add grated cheese, stir, add pasta, stir, let sit for a few minutes.


Thai (inspired) Green Curry Paste…A Sauce to Remember.

House made green curry paste, once you make this, you’ll never go back to the jar. For those of you lucky enough to have already completed the first Challenge (Pecks of Piquant Peppers), the rest of this is in the bag (or processor or mortar and pestle).


Cilantro, lemongrass and ginger!
Piquant Peppers
3-4 stalks fresh lemongrass, cut into rings
2-3 inch fat ginger stem
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1-2 bunches cilantro, stems included
juice from 1 fresh lime
Pulse lemongrass, ginger and garlic in a food processor until well blended. Add peppers, cilantro and lime juice and pulse into a paste. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
To prepare: Green curry paste can be used in a wide variety of ways, it is a fantastic marinade on it’s own or a great sauce base. Thai green curry is usually made with coconut milk—add a bit of oil to the bottom of a sauce pan, add green curry paste, fry for a minute or two, add coconut milk and stir in a bit of fish sauce (for depth of flavor, use a bit of amino acids as a vegan option) and another squeeze of lime juice. Simmer and pour over favorite stir fry.


Elizabeth takes us through a two-part recipe that begins with Leek Relish and ends with Leek Ketchup. Leeks are a member of the allium family.  In the wild they are known as ramps, a delicacy only available for a few weeks in the spring. Leeks aren’t hearty like onions, though, and must be pulled before the first frost. Read more about leeks with great tips from Elizabeth’s blog. 

Leek Relish

2 Tbs. olive oil

4 lbs. fresh leeks, cleaned and cut into rings
3 lbs. tomatoes, peeled and diced
3-4 Tbs. vinegar (your choice, I used malt)

3 Tbs. sweetener (I used honey, you can use sugar, syrup, whatever is handy)
salt and pepper to taste 
fresh thyme

Additional ingredients for Ketchup

1/2 tsp. allspice
2 Tbs. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. red chili flakes

Relish: Preheat a deep skillet and add olive oil, stir in leeks and allow to caramelize, stirring. Add tomatoes and stir, allow tomatoes to soften. Add remaining ingredients and cook till soft. Serve warm or cold.

Leek Relish or Leek Ketchup? Why choose, make both!

Ketchup: When relish is soft, add additional ingredients, cooking over medium high heat and stirring until thick. Use an immersion blender or pour into a food processor and blend until smooth. If a completely smooth texture is desired, pass through a strainer until desired consistency is reached.

Garlic, Garlic Everywhere! Pickle it Sugar Style…

So, most garlic pickling projects require a pressure cooker.  The reason why garlic must be pressure cooked is because it is high in moisture and low in acid. When it comes to canning, this is a fatal combination…high moisture + low acid = botulism. We don’t want to mess with that.
The recipe that follows is safe because it involves the use of a lot of vinegar (high acid). Read the rest of Elizabeth’s post for more tips about preserving garlic.

Sugar Pickled Garlic, Persian Style
4-6 heads garlic (head broken up, cloves peeled or unpeeled)

2 cups vinegar (white, red wine or cider)

2 cups water
1 cup sugar (I used raw, I also added 3 Tbs. honey as the liquid cooled)

6-10 cloves (the spice)
sprig of herbs (marjoram, thyme or tarragon)

coriander seed
Put all of your ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow to cool. When cool, store in lidded jars in your refrigerator. I opted for several smaller jars as I’m thinking these might be nice holiday gifts (did I just say that out loud?).
*Note: Some variations encourage you to mix all of the ingredients and put directly into jars, no cooking required!

Pecks of Piquant Peppers!

How many pickled peppers can you eat?
Read Elizabeth’s post for tips of what to do when you are totally overwhelmed by pepper abundance. She provides step by step instructions on how to make a basic chili sauce—one that serves as a foundation for many many other chili based sauces (hint, we’ll be using this basic sauce to make a few others later this week).
You can also string your peppers up with a needle and thread. They look beautiful and will dry on their own. After they are dry they make a terrific addition to sauces or pickling solutions. You can also grind them up and use them in powder form.

The Final DIY challenge: sides and condiments

Leeks, Thyme, Garlic, Tomatoes, Spicy Green Peppers (several varieties), Basil, Oregano and Curry

We are nearing the end of summer growing season and Elizabeth from Slow Cooked Pittsburgh and Let’s Blog About Food gathered up some of the last of the goodies to see if we can find something new and different to do with the wonderful foods we’ve been eating all season.

This week’s focus is on condiments and sides! We’ll do a bit of sweet, some savory, some spicy and a few things that hit every spot in between for a variety of ideas to take to your next fall BBQ or to bring to PASA’s fall community potluck!

And, guess what…more giveaways!

Stay tuned!!!

The 3rd DIY Challenge announced! Preserve the harvest!

Hal B Klein, a graduate of Chatham University’s Food Studies program is helping us with our 3rd DIY challenge this week with tips on how to freeze, can, dry, shrub, and ferment the harvest!

Leave a comment here or on Hal’s Blog at by Sunday, September 23rd, with your favorite food preservation story–or any recipes/tips you have in your playbook. Winner will be picked at random and will receive a signed copy of Marisa McClellan’s remarkably informative book Food in Jars and a $25 gift certificate to the East End Food Co-op

We have a WINNER!!! Sarah Leavens of Braddock, PA!

Congratulations Sarah, we will be in touch about the prize!

Still time to WIN! Get quarking!

Okay, the weekend is here. If you haven’t bought your cream line milk yet, you still have time to take part in this week’s local food challenge.  Here’s the link to part 1 where we challenge you to get out there and find yourself some locally produced cream line milk. Come on – I’m dying to hear about your experience with that rich, creamy, un-fooled-around-with nectar. Add a comment with your thoughts to this post and be eligible to win a copy of Shannon Hayes’ ever useful book, Grassfed Gourmet.
  • You’ll be entered to WIN a Buy Fresh Buy Local T-shirt and a $25.00 gift certificate from our friends at the East End Food Co-op – a perfect place to visit when you’re on a dairy exploration mission! 

What do we want to know? * How did your quark making go * Did you learn anything valuable we can all benefit from * How did you use your quark * Flaming failures are always entertaining * What did you think of the money savings and/or quality difference. * Anything else you found interesting and relevant *

Jackie also shares a few tips and tricks to get the most from your farm fresh milk on her most recent post, answering many of the questions you may be wondering about!

What are you waiting for?!?

Give it a try and share your pictures and stories with us!!

Carrie Hahn, shared: Milk Money

Our new pastor wrote a small piece in our local paper concerning our community milk buying club.  The title of this piece was “Milk Money.”  He had recently moved to the area from Seattle and was astonished that our drop site location was based on an honor system; put your money in a can and take your milk. “Were they serious?  Was I expected to put my five-dollar bill in the jar and just leave the scene?  I was convinced that there was a hidden camera on me and a crowd onlookers hiding, just waiting to jump out laughing because I fell for the bait.”  In the end, my pastor friend realized what a blessing it was to find a community of like minded individuals where trust and respect are the norm.  But, that’s how it goes when you begin to appreciate your food and where it comes from.

Buying local milk has changed my life – literally. I realized 10 years ago how important it is to purchase milk directly from small independent farmers and we have never looked back. The quality of the milk, the connection with the farmer and all the hard work and dedication they put into producing their milk, and the ability to see exactly how they care for their animals, is priceless. And speaking of price, I pay 30% less for cream line milk from pasture fed cows which are basically raised organically, than the Ultra-Pasteurized, homogenized, organic milk at the local grocery store. Ultra-Pasteurized milk, by the way, does not even need to be refrigerated (until after opening). It’s completely lifeless; no good bacteria and none of the important enzymes our bodies require. Try finding any commercial brand that is not Ultra-Pasteurized; they just don’t exist.

Anyone who comes to our house and tries our milk raves about how incredibly awesome it is. Every Tuesday I drive to Pasture Made Creamery and bring milk and cheese back for my family and 14 other families as well. I don’t charge for this service; it is my philanthropy and my pleasure to help provide this outstanding milk for my friends and my community.

One requirement to join our buying club is that everyone must first go out to the farm to meet Adam, see his beautiful farm, and how they do things there.  This summer was particularly busy for me as my family purchased a new home, so members took turns making “the milk run.” 

Yes, buying locally and connecting with my community; this is truly a blessing.

the challenge continues… make fresh cheese at home with no special equipment or ingredients

We began our 2nd DIY challenge on Monday with a quest to find local milk.  Not to worry if you missed that part, you can still make quark with your regular milk, but the yield and the curd may be negatively impacted. To learn more about the best milk choices for home cheesemaking and how to adapt when the best choice isn’t available, this is an excellent article from our friends at New England Cheesemaking Supply.  They wrote the book on home dairy, literally.

Better yet, you still have time to complete the first part of the challengeget out there and find some locally produced cream line (non-homogenized) milk – that is the point, remember?

Quick Overview of the Process:

  • Heat the milk and add the culture (15 minutes)
  • Allow it to sit covered (12-24 hours unattended)
  • Drain the curds (15 min. of your time plus 4-8 hours unattended)

What you need:

  • 1 gallon milk – whole, 2% or skim. Not ultra-pasteurized. Non-homogenized cream line milk is the best.
  • 2 TBS – ¼ cup cultured buttermilk – this is the culture
  • Stainless Stock pot large enough to hold a gallon of milk
  • Kitchen thermometer
  • Spoon or ladle
  • Colander & clean tightly woven cloth. This can be an old pillowcase, dress shirt, paper coffee filter (for smaller batches) or non-terrycloth dish towel. Nylon Tricot from the fabric store also works well. What does not work well are the packages of cheesecloth you can buy at the grocery store.
  • Large bowl to nest the colander in – be sure there’s some space between the colander and the bottom of the bowl or the cheese be sitting in the whey and won’t drain.

The everyday, mundane cheesemaking supplies in my kitchen – nothing scary here.

Before you start:

  • Clear space for your bowl & colander in the refrigerator
  • Wash your equipment in hot, soapy water rinsing thoroughly
  • Wipe down your counters & sink with 2 TBS bleach in 1 gallon lukewarm water
  • Wash your hands well with soap and warm water

Heat the milk to 86ºF. You do this by placing the pot of milk directly on the burner. Make sure to heat the milk slowly and stir it gently as it heats.  Pay close attention at this step – it’s not exciting, but burning the milk will flavor the cheese and not in a good way.  Once the milk is at 86º, stir in the buttermilk and remove from heat.

Find a cool, quiet place in your house that’s not too humid or too damp and be aware that any powerful odors will be absorbed by the milk.  Leave the pot of milk covered and undisturbed for 12 to 24 hours while the culture in the buttermilk works to produce acid and coagulation of the curd. The temperature should be allowed to slowly drop to 68-71F during this time. 
The actual amount of time will vary depending on your milk, temperature & humidity  and how firm you want your final Quark. Note the time you started – I just write it on a post-it and attach to the lid of the pot.

You can tell when the curd is right when one or both of these happen:

  • A thin layer of yellow liquid (whey) forms on the surface and the curd begins pulling away from the sides like soft gelatin.
  • When you insert a knife blade flat side up at a 45 degree angle into the curd and lift up gently, the cheese will split & break cleanly, like softly set gelatin.

The curds can now be transferred to a colander lined with butter muslin. Simply pour the contents of the stock pot gently into the cloth-lined colander.

your quark will drain from this —- to this, as soft or stiff as you like

The 4 corners of the cloth are brought together and tied off to form a draining bag. If you like, this can be opened at intervals during the draining and the curds scraped from the cloth to the center for better draining although I rarely bother.

Your draining bag can now be suspended from a hook or even from your faucet.  Make sure you hang the bag over a pot, sink or bowl to capture the draining whey.

Confession: I rarely hang my draining bag anymore.  It is messy and awkward so I just empty the whey bowl early on – it fills quickly, then slows – leave the colander nested in the bowl, fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the top, weight it with a small plate and leave in the fridge. It is slower, but tidier and I don’t have to adjust my schedule to check on my cheese.  If you want to get a sustainability gold star, save your whey for fermenting, add to soups, breads, or baked goods. It’s got about half the nutrition of the original milk, so it’s a shame to pour it down the drain…

Allow to drain for 12-24 hours (or longer if you like your cheese really stiff) in a place where the temperature is at 68-72F.  If you drain in the fridge, it may take longer, but will still get there. The actual draining time will determine the dryness of your final cheese.

Eat quark!  spread on bread, top with olives & drizzle with olive oil or go sweet and sprinkle with cinnamon & drizzle with honey. Good with fruit or crackers.

The beauty of making your own cheese is that you can make it exactly the way you like it.  Choose a buttermilk you enjoy to use as a culture, because your cheese will taste like the buttermilk. If you drain it longer, your cheese will be drier. If you use low-fat milk, your cheese will be more tart and yield less.

Quark does not traditionally have salt, but since it’s my cheese, I can make it any way I want.  I stir in ¼ – ½ tsp kosher salt before storing my quark in a recycled 32 ounce yogurt container.  The container is usually nearly to very full.

One gallon should yield a nearly full 32 ounce container, although yield will be affected by the firmness of your curd and the amount of fat in the milk (higher fat content typically yields more cheese).

Quark also has a slightly lumpy texture – you can whip it smoother if you prefer.

Aside from the fact that you should be very proud of yourself for having made quark, if you’d like to win prizes for your effort, here’s how to complete your challenge:

Visit us here and leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a $25.00 gift certificate from our friends at the East End Food Co-op – a perfect place to visit when you’re on a dairy exploration mission!  To be eligible, comments must be posted by midnight Sunday, September 16.

What do we want to know?

  • How did your quark making go
  • Did you learn anything valuable we can all benefit from
  • How did you use your Quark
  • Flaming failures are always entertaining
  • What did you think of the money savings and/or quality difference.
  • Anything else you found interesting and relevant

Okay, people, you have your mission:  Get Quarking!

Quark?? What’s Quark?

Quark is a traditional cultured or soured-milk soft cheese enjoyed all over Germany, Poland and Austria. You can eat it straight like cottage cheese, as a spread on bread, for dessert with fruit and you can bake with it.

It’s great sprinkled with cinnamon & drizzled with honey, or mixed with fresh herbs & drizzled with olive oil or as an ingredient replacing sour cream, yogurt or mayonnaise in dips, dressings and spreads.

Quark can be made either low-fat or extra creamy by adding cream back in at the end. I like mine best made with whole, non-homogenized (cream line) milk.

Quark is a great cheese to begin with since it’s so easily made with simple ingredients found in any kitchen. The culture which causes the milk to sour & thicken is in the buttermilk so be sure you buy buttermilk specifically labeled as having live cultures or you will get the wrong kind of bacterial growth.

2nd DIY challenge: Let’s talk about local dairy… Ready, set, GO!!!

This week, Jackie Cleary of Auburn Meadow Farm brings us a fantastic challenge with tips of how and why we should all seek out local dairy and what it means to our regional farmers. 

Read Jackie’s full post on her farm blog, continuing the conversation about one of the most important issues in our lives — food, and the farmers that produce it.

In a nutshell, supporting local dairies has never been more important.  The Local Food challenge is an awesome opportunity for us to muddle our way through home dairy-ing together.


  1.  Expand your thinking about milk. Trust me, you’ll be surprised to learn how much you don’t know when you begin to consider milk from the farmer’s perspective.  Get to know the folks at New England Cheesemaking Supply – they’re an excellent resource for learning more about dairy & cheese starting with this excellent article about milk choices.

  2.  Find yourself some cream line milk made by a Pittsburgh area farmer.  Trust me, it’s out there. And it’s not that hard to find. You’ll have to step out of your usual big grocery store and look for smaller alternatives like your local farmer’s market, the Pittsburgh Public Market, a farm store like Harvest Valley or Soergel’s, or McGuiness Sisters.  The Buy Fresh Buy Local site is an excellent place to begin.

  3. Better yet, go directly to a farm like Pasture Maid Creamery where on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays you can get cream line milk straight from the cows, pasteurized at low temperatures and sealed into glass bottles.

  4. Share your milk buying experience with us here and you’ll be entered to win a special prize – a copy of Shannon Hayes’ great book, The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook. What do we want to know about your quest?  Did you find an awesome and unexpected source? Did you go direct to a farm and what did you think/learn? Tell us what you think about cream line milk.  

What to buy for the next part of the local dairy challenge?  You’ll need a gallon of milk and a small container of cultured buttermilk.

Come back Wednesday when we’ll be using your milk to make a soft European style cheese.  I promise you won’t need any special equipment or ingredients and you’ll be amazed at how easy and udderly delicious it is.

Okay, what are you waiting for? Get out there and find that milk.. ready, set, GO!

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