Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Incredible Edible Egg

The snow is finally gone and the chickens can get out and peck at all the fresh new greenery.  Its very relaxing to watch them meander around looking for tidbits.  As one friend said, "Its the same kind of relaxing as watching fish in a fish tank."  Their eggs are always good, but the fresh additions to their diet make the eggs they lay taste and look phenomenal. 

Here is an egg quality chart from the "Incredible, Edible Egg" website.  

Egg Quality

Grade AA
Grade AA
Grade A
Grade A
Grade B
Grade B
Break Out AppearanceCovers a moderate area.Covers a moderate area.Covers a wide area.
Albumen AppearanceWhite is reasonably thick, stands fairly high; chalazae prominent.White is reasonably thick, stands fairly high; chalazae prominent.Small amount of thick white; chalazae small or absent. Appears weak and watery.
Yolk AppearanceYolk is firm, round and highYolk is firm and stands fairly highYolk is somewhat flattened and enlarged.
Shell AppearanceApproximates usual shape; generally clean,* unrboken; ridges/rough spots that do not affect the shell strength are permitted.Abnormal shape; somem slight stained areas permitted; unbroken; pronounced ridges/thin spots permitted.
UsageIdeal for any use, but are especially desirable for poaching, frying and cooking in shell.Good for scrambling, baking and use as an ingredient in other foods.

Here is a Fitzgerald's Family Farm egg freshly broken into a frying pan.  Look at the thick high white, the firm, round, and high yolk and the incredible color.  These eggs have a rich, divine flavor.  They are truly an "Incredible, Edible Egg"!

Is there a Grade AA+?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What A Day! PA Flavor

Wow.  The PA Flavor festival was amazing!  

I left at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning and drove about four hours to Harrisburg, PA - to the Farm Show Complex - and set up for the big festival.  But not with out a few mishaps.  The night before I noticed on the website that the show was open to "Over 21" only.  There went my plans of bringing the kids as helpers!  Luckily my booth was located close to where I unloaded.  My car got about 2/3 of the way to Harrisburg and the back wheel started making a grinding noise.  I'd been told that it would need new rotors soon.  Now it definitely does.  And when I got to the complex I couldn't find the PA Flavor festival!  If you ever get to the Farm Show Complex you'll know why.  The place is enormous.  I walked in one door and was greeted by about a thousand alpacas in pens.  Judging from the smell, I didn't think the festival was near that.  Finally I found PA Flavor on the far side of all the buildings.  

Here are a few photos of my booth.  I hadn't set out my samples on the colored maple leaves yet.  I used paper souffle cups (like the little cups you get ketchup in at McDonald's) with a bit of maple syrup and a pretzel stick in each.  

The map gives an idea of the festival's large number of breweries, restaurants, and vendors.

Being the first festival of this type that I've attended, I wasn't sure what to expect.  What I found was that the VIP folks came in an hour before everyone else and were served fancy appetizers by tray-carrying servers.  The VIPs went to the different booths and tasted the vast variety of beers and foods at each one without the press of many, many people.  I had thought the entry to be pretty expensive ($75 for the VIPs and $50 for the general public) but when I found what people received for that price I found it to be very reasonable.  

About 40 artisan breweries set up at the festival.  Each brewery brought about 3 to 4 different specialty beers.  As you came into the show you were given a small glass and you went to each brewery and tried all the beers you liked.  That gave you the opportunity to try at least 120 different beers!  This didn't include all the platters of wonderful chef-designed foods sitting out and each vendor with samples of their wares.  I couldn't leave my booth (to be sure I will be bringing helpers next year so that we can tour the event!), but the breweries on either side of me had each brought three different beers so I was able to sample six really unique and tasty beers.  A food table with cheeses, figs, sandwich fixings, homemade cookies, olives and more, set up right in front of me.  Lunch!    

Setting up for the show. 

The crowd was really fun (maybe due to the large amounts of beer?)!  The festival handed out real glasses to people and with a concrete floor you would occasionally hear the smash of a dropped glass.  When this happened the whole place erupted with people saying, "Ooooooooh!"  I was told by people from Canada and Vermont that they had to taste test my maple syrup and that it was excellent. Kudos to Fitzgerald's Family Farm!

One more thing before I go.  We're working on a little project here that I had hoped to have ready for the festival... but the flavor wasn't quite where I want it to be yet.

Stay posted!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PA Flavor: Saturday April 26

We are excited to announce that you can visit Fitzgerald's Family Farm at the PA Flavor show in Harrisburg, PA, on Saturday, April 26!

PA Flavor

"This event brings together up to 40 Pennsylvania breweries along with 20 PA Preferred food producers and 20 PA Preferred restaurants in a unique sampling event with all vendors intermingled in a 45,000 square foot space. Attendees will be able to sample from all vendors and be able to purchase take home items from all food producers, as well as sample the numerous beers brewed from around the state and partake in restaurant samples."

Here is the list of vendors expected to attend:
(This does not include the restaurants and breweries who will be attending) 

American Healthcare Group / Farm to Table
Arooga's Grille House & Sports Bar
Big Chippers BBQ
Blind Spot Nutbutters
Brewery Gift Shoppe
Chocolates by Tina Marie
Chocolate Moonshine
Crazy J Ranch
Excetional Foods
Fitzgerald's Family Farm, LLC
God's Country Creamery
Kiss Quintessence
Lancaster Fine Foods
Lang's Chocolates
Limestone Springs Preserve
Little Specialty Foods LLC
Mama's Famous BBQ Sauce
Mike Dawg's Sauce LLC
MoMo's BBQ & Grill
Mushroom Growers of PA
North Mountain Popper Works
PA Mug Co.
Rachel's Soft Pretzels
Red Lion Spicy Foods Company
Righteous Felon
Saint Obnoxious
Sandi's Breads
Sous-per Chef / Cocona Inc.
Sweet Granny's Kettle Corn and More
Sweet Jubilee Gourmet
The Beekeeper's Daughter
The Sunshine Tomato Company
The Vineyard & Brewery at Hershey
Three and a Half Peppers
Torchbearer Sauces
Uncle Henry's Pretzel Bakery
Village Eatinghouse
The Whip Tavern
Yellow Springs Farm LLC

Come to the show, then sample and purchase the different grades of maple syrup, made from the sap of locally tapped trees that we boil and bottle at our small family run sugar shack located in the heart of Potter County, PA "God's Country."

We are attending PA Flavor as a member of the PA Preferred program.  
Sample the marvelous taste of Pennsylvania maple syrup!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Quiche: Dinner From Odds and Ends

I thought quiche was sooo elegant a few years back when it started making the rounds of the restaurants.  Little did I know how simple and versatile this dish can be!

You can make quiche with a store bought crust, but to me those crusts taste kind of like cardboard.  I want a real crust and I think I found the perfect crust recipe.  I can't remember where I found this, so I heartily apologize if I've stolen your recipe. This recipe makes five single crusts.  You use one and roll the other four into a ball, wrap them in plastic wrap, and throw them in the freezer.  When you need to make a quiche, pie, or whatever, you pull one out of the freezer about an hour ahead of time and let it thaw.  This piecrust is more sticky to work with, but it bakes into a wonderful crust with an almost puff pastry quality to it.  

Pie Crust

4 c. flour
1-3/4 c. shortening (I use lard)
1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
1 T. vinegar
1 egg
1/2 cup water

1.  Using a fork or pastry cutter, mix together the first four ingredients.
2. In a separate dish, beat the remaining ingredients.  Combine the two mixtures and stir with a fork until moistened.  Divide into five equal balls.  Chill for 15 minutes before rolling out or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.  

Quiche is one of those recipes that you can make when you have just a few odds and ends in the refrigerator.  You can pretty much mix and match the ingredients with anything.   I like to go onto Allrecipes.com to see all the different types of quiche.  This recipe is a bacon and swiss quiche.  But if you don't have bacon, you can put in ham, or sausage, or other meats if you like.  If you don't have swiss cheese, you can use cheddar, provolone, or any thing else you may find lying around in the 'fridge.  When I made this I added some chopped spinach to get some veggies into it.  You can add chopped broccoli, asparagus, peppers, different herbs or anything that suits your taste buds.  And finally, the milk component doesn't have to be evaporated milk.  You can use cream, half and half, or regular milk.  You'll find though, using regular milk changes the richness of the final product.   


 1 (9 inch) frozen pie crust, thawed
 1 pound sliced bacon
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
 3 eggs, lightly beaten
 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
 1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard
 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

Place bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
In a bowl, mix eggs, milk, mustard and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, toss bacon with flour to lightly coat. Spread 3/4 bacon mixture and Swiss cheese over bottom of pie crust. Pour egg mixture over bacon mixture. Top with remaining bacon mixture.
Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before serving.

I found that if you put a tablespoon of flour in the bottom of the pie crust before adding other ingredients adds extra crispness to the crust and that it took only about 45 minutes for my quiche to be cooked through.  


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Ticks, Yuck!

Although its been quite cold, the ticks have already made their appearance here in Potter County.  I found the  nasty, "grey grape" on the dogs today.  Blecch!  Just looking for a picture of ticks made me gag.


Make sure your pets have been treated!  I use Frontline Plus on my dogs and have good luck with it.

I've also ordered guinea hens who are supposed to eat a lot of ticks.  I hope I can raise the keets who are coming in June and get them out onto the grass before the worst of tick season.  But besides the guinea hens being great tick vacuums, who can pass up that awesome prehistoric head? 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring 2014: Moving "Flower," Planting Seeds, A Fig Tree, Maple, And Bees

It's been a busy week on the farm!

We moved Flower, our Idaho Pastured Pig, into her own stall yesterday.  We're pretty sure she's pregnant, but we're not sure when the piglets will be coming.  She's showing some pretty definite signs of an impending farrowing and we didn't want to leave her penned with Tigger, our Idaho Pastured Pig boar.  We were very worried that the move would turn into a piggy rodeo.  We were lucky.  With the help of some plywood to guide her, a bucket to get her to step across the line from the pen she and Tigger have been living in, and my hubby and friend helping, we had a fairly uneventful move.  Now, we'll see how long it is until the babies come!

My fig tree has started to get leaf buds!  This is the second winter that I've put it into the basement after it went dormant and then looked at it all winter and thought, "I bet its dead."  But I looked at it the other day and voila!  I've moved it back upstairs into the light and maybe, maybe, this year I'll get some figs from it!

Its pitiful now, but just wait!

Its been warm enough for the bees to go out and take their cleansing flights.  You can see by the picture above that there is nothing for them to eat.  On one warm day last week, I decided to feed the bees and give them a quick check.  I cooked up some sugar and water to make a spring strength syrup and then got out the bee hive top feeders.  I like the top feeders because I don't have to completely open up the hives to feed the bees.  I just pull off the top and pour in the syrup.  I had put some pollen patties on the hives a couple of weeks ago and was happy to see that one hive had worked its way through about half of the patty and there was some brood.  The other hive hadn't touched the pollen, didn't have a bit of brood, and the bees were pretty nasty.  It looked like they don't have a queen.  Soooo, I spent hours calling around for a queen to buy.  I called Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, even Hawaii!  Nobody had queen bees for sale until May.  So when it warms up next week, I'm going to combine the two hives and then when they start to build up again later in the spring I'll split the hives again.  

Finally, I got my tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and all my other seeds started.  Sadly, I'm behind the gun on this.  I would have liked to have started them about two weeks ago!  Check out my new plant growing shelving.  Its plastic shelves and grow lights from Walmart.  They're easy to clean and at the end of the growing season I can break it all down, put it in a box, and store it away.  

My plan this next week is to get the high tunnel cleaned out, spread with compost, rototilled, and ready to go.  This flat of gorgeous mixed greens is ready to go outside!

We finished our maple season.  It was quite a dismal season this year for everyone here in north central Pennsylvania.  The temperatures stayed cold, cold, cold, and then we had a wee bit of warm weather with cold nights for good sap runs, and now its going to warm right up and the trees will bud and the sap will get slimy.  Next week the kids and I will be pulling taps.  

Now we're just waiting for the beautiful warm weather the weather forecasters are promising.   I don't even care if it rains... as long as its warm!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

New Farm Banner!

After hours and hours of fooling around with logos and getting everything lined up I've finally put together and ordered the banner for our farm stand! 

The borders will be cut closer to the images, but this is how it'll pretty much look.  I decided to go with simplicity.  I think it makes its point.  Now I have to make sure our website is up and running!