Simply Grazin’ Organic Farm Opens Its Own Market, Complete with Custom Butchering
The 100% grassfed organic beef, pork, and poultry from Mark & Lynne Faille’s Simply’ Grazin’ has drawn loyal customers to their Hillsborough farm for years now. And some of it is carried by Whole Foods markets up and down the Eastern Seaboard. So why did the Failles feel the need to open Mallery’s, their brick-and-mortar market just up the road in Skillman? And why did about 1,000 people show up on opening day? I tell all in the August 22nd issue of US 1.
Black Walnut Love
My favorite ice cream flavor growing up was black walnut. Looking back that seems like a pretty sophisticated choice, since the Eastern Black Walnut (Juglans nigra, to biologists) has a particularly robust, rich, earthy flavor and, to my mind at least, an attractive fermented quality.
You don’t come across black walnuts much these days. They somehow became old-fashioned, losing ground to the more common English walnut. By rights they should be a darling of the current craze for foraging because the American Black Walnut is a 100% natural, wild, sustainable crop that grows naturally in the woods, pastures, and yards of the Midwest. It is virtually unchanged since the days it was a staple of the Native American diet.
Each October when the nuts naturally fall to the ground, local residents collect the nuts and sell them to hulling stations, like those of the Hammons Company of Stockton, Missouri, now in its fourth generation. You can imagine my delight when while trolling the aisles at this summer’s Fancy Food Show I came across Hammons, a.k.a. “the black walnut people.” When I asked what stores in New Jersey carry their bags of raw, chopped nuts, they mentioned Wegmans. Alas, only their stores south of Princeton carry them. Undaunted, I ordered two bags of Hammons chopped raw nuts over the company website, and began experimenting.
By the way: black walnut trees grow in New Jersey, too. In fact, the one in my neighbor’s yard when I lived in Hightstown branched over into mine. But Miss Embly, my elderly neighbor, warned me that trying to crack the shells was almost impossible and would result in my hands being stained black. Which is why Midwest foragers take them to Hammons, where the nuts are run between large steel wheels to crack the hard outer shells.
I have to admit that straight out of the bag, raw black walnuts don’t taste very good. Once they meet heat, though, it’s another story. Ice cream and baking are traditionally where the black walnut shines, as it does in the buttery cookie recipe below. It’s from my favorite baking book: I have probably reprinted more recipes from Jim Fobel’s excellent tome than any other over the years.
Here are even more reasons to embrace the American black walnut tree (figuratively speaking, of course). Black walnut shells are eco-friendly, inert, nontoxic, and biodegradable, which is why they’re used in the industrial blasting industry to clean brick, metal, and wood, especially in historic preservation projects. The oil industry uses the shells as a filtration media. And in a completely different sphere: black walnut wood is among those used to make wands in the Harry Potter series. (American black walnuts were transplanted to Europe in the 1600s.) A wizard with such a wand should have “good instincts and powerful insight.” I submit that home cooks with good instincts and powerful insight might want to give black walnuts a try.
BLACK WALNUT COOKIES
Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book (Lake Isle Press)
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup (4 ounces) chopped black walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup milk
1. Position two racks so that they are evenly spaced in the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Grease two baking sheets.
2. In a medium bowl combine the butter and sugar. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg until blended. With a spoon, stir in the black walnuts and vanilla.
3. On a sheet of waxed paper stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and then stir in half of the milk. Stir in half of the remaining dry ingredients and then the remaining milk. Stir in the remaining dry ingredients to make a sticky dough.
4. Using 1 level tablespoon of the dough for each cookie, drop it onto the prepared sheets, leaving 2-1/2 to 3 inches between them (1 dozen per baking sheet). Bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer with a spatula to racks to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.
Makes about 30 cookies.
(Reprinted in part from the August 21, 2012 edition of The Princeton Packet.)