Thursday, September 16, 2010

Vampires beware!

It's always an epicurian adventure when I visit my cousin Caroline in the Poconos. It was here that I first made pumpkin ale, first tasted venison meatballs, where I made a crown of garlic scapes and scape pesto, and where I have visited in the late summer months in time to help clean garlic for sale at the fall festivals.

For a few years now cousin Caroline has been dating Gary, an outspoken and passionate organic garlic farmer. During their courtship she's been involved in the planting, harvesting, and selling of organic garlic. For her, autumn means garlic season. For my part this September marks the first time I have had the opportunity to help out at one of the garlic festivals I had been hearing about for years (during the aforementioned garlic cleaning sessions). Over Labor Day weekend -- obviously this post is, like my library books, a little overdue -- my friend Mike and I drove up for a visit and learned more than I ever thought one could know about garlic. And we ate lots of it. Raw.

The weekend turned out to be quite a family affair. My Aunt Martha -- whom I hadn't seen since Ollie and I made our way through Queens over a year ago -- was there, along with a couple of Caroline's friends and Gary's sister, all of whom had come to help out at the festival. Here's a pic of Caroline and Aunt Martha midway through the bustling Sunday morning. Check out the snazzy garlic corsage, fashionably affixed using a handy binder clip. No doubt you'll be seeing them in GAP ads soon.

The most popular items for sale at the Mountaindale Farms stand that weekend turned out to be the garlic chocolate chip cookies. (Yes, you read that right. And I have grand plans for garlic truffles and chocolate covered roasted garlic next year. Yes, maybe with a little sea salt. Yum.) There were also four varieties of garlic bulbs and something called "Garple Elixir" (which was an intensely flavorful and healthful tonic of apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, and, of course, garlic, and which I have constantly been incorporating into salad dressings since Caroline sent me home with my own bottle of it). Aunt Martha's garlic shortbread flew off the table as well -- I must get my hands on that recipe. When I wasn't refilling platters with cookies, I spent most of my time at the raw garlic tasting station explaining to curious festival attendees the differences between German White and Music (both longer storing, milder porcelain varieties) and the spicier Siberian Red. Nibble, nibble... "Oooh, that is spicy...." Some of them asked me for cooking recommendations (and got more than they bargained for in some cases: I can talk recipes all day long, but it may have been my garlic breath that they walked away remembering). In the late morning, I wandered over to watch part of a cooking demonstration put on by high schoolers enrolled in the culinary program at MCTI (a local technical school). You know by now how I have a soft spot for youth cooking programs, so I dropped a few bucks and bought some garlic rolls from the MCTI fundraising table (a treat I hoped would placate the hungry, hardworking team at the Mountaindale Farm booth that I had abandoned for nearly an hour to watch the cooking demo). By evening, we were all exhausted and returned to Caroline's for much-needed rest and lots of food, including, wouldn't you know it, a big bowl of pasta with some garlicky cashew and basil pesto and a few of the garlic chocolate chip cookies that were mysteriously broken during transport and thus unsellable. (Darn.)

After a Monday morning visit to Jeff and Mary Jean's farm with my friend Jim -- lots of exciting new developments since my visit a year ago June, including the addition of a hilarious herd of dairy goats and construction of a cheese making facility -- Mike and I hit the road, bound for DC. The car was riding a bit lower thanks to the bags and bags of produce from Caroline. Pumpkins, tomatoes, potatoes, shallots, and lots and lots of garlic. As if it wasn't already leaking out of our pores... Vampires beware!

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