Time has once again flown by at light speed. It is once again my happy job to post with my friends at 5 Star Makeover.
The topic this time around is one that is dear to my heart and to Lazaro’s heart as well: farmer’s markets.
I am going to begin at the inconceivably grand Chatsworth House. Believe it or not, I went there with this post in mind.
I know, I know, at first glance it seems an unlikely pairing… farmer’s markets and one of the great houses of England… be patient, there is a connection.
I have wanted to visit Chatsworth ever since I saw this photo in an Architectural Digest in the 1985. In it, my favorite architectural photographer, Derry Moore (a blue blood himself since he’s the 12th Earl of Drogheda and a genius behind the lens), shot the house from just beyond the bridge … glowing golden against the greens and blues of the Derbyshire countryside. This is how I will always think of it. I copied the image from the old magazine to show you–– like a dream, isn’t it? I had so wanted to take my own shot of the house and was terribly disappointed when I arrived to find it cocooned in white plastic for renovations (they were cleaning the stone to restore it to its golden glory). Ah well –– I will always think of it in that Derry Moore shot and that’s not such a bad thing. Check out his book In House for a treat.
Chatsworth was built by a favorite of mine, the brilliant and strong-willed Bess of Hardwick (cut from the same cloth as her friend Elizabeth the First), with a garden installed a little later by England’s master garden designer, Capability Brown . It is one of the great houses of England and so much more.
What, you may rightly ask, does Chatsworth, one of the grandest houses in England, have to do with farming and farmer’s markets ...
a place that has rooms like this
… bedrooms like this
… halls like these
… libraries like this
… a statue gallery like this
…full of glorious marble beasts like my lion friends below
that you can walk through and gaze wonderstruck at –– following in the footsteps of Keira Knightley (Chatsworth was Pemberly in her Pride and Prejudice). It is unfathomably grand, there’s no denying. But there is more.
I was just as thrilled with sights like these…
For you see Chatsworth also has a really laudable farm. They sell their own produce, meats and even beer as well as promoting local products from neighboring farms. They even give credit to their suppliers on their website –– celebrity farmers! Great houses were always supported by their lands, now the farmers are getting due credit for their labors and they are as much a part of Chatsworth as the great house and its riches.
I know when I got to know the farmers at my own Union Square farmer’s market in NYC there was a real sea change in my attitude about food. The change had begun when I had my own garden and raised fruits and vegetables. I got to know how the land worked and it gave me fresh eyes on the ways of the natural world … I came to understand the rhythms of the seasons and most certainly what went into making things grow. Knowing farmers takes it to another level. At Chatsworth you watch the farmers at work, you see the animals, you watch the sheep grazing contentedly on the rolling lawns. It changes the way you feel about food to look it in the eye, and I think that was the idea from the start. You also know there is no misery meat or factory farming. That is as it should be.
One of the things that has always endeared me to Chatsworth is that Deborah, now Dowager Dutchess of Devonshire, started thinking about local, sustainable farming and sharing the bounty of the estate 40 years ago. That’s a big reason why I wanted to visit here.
1699 view of Chatsworth
She began selling the products of her 35,000-acre estate in the 1970s (it was 83,000 acres before the family had to sell off chunks for death duties in 1950). It is hard to conceive how big this place is, honestly (roughly twice the size of Manhattan if that helps you).
The beautiful farm and store employs hundreds of locals, supports English agriculture and is magnificent. In a way, the Dowager Dutchess is just as far-sighted as Bess of Harwicke who built the house in the first place.
Admittedly, Union Square isn’t as fancy as Chatsworth Farm Store, but the energy behind it is not too different and they began at virtually the same time.
Why buy from a farmer's market? Aside from freshness, by buying directly from farmers, you give them the opportunity to actually make a little money. Many of us don’t realize that a farmer selling to a middleman gets less than half of the value of his crops, meat or dairy. So often they make little or nothing on the deal. For some, it cost more to grow the products than they get for them. At farmer’s markets it all goes to the farmer and not to agribusiness or giant food chains. You can actually meet the people who grew the products and get to know their methods and even visit their farms to see what they do (if you can you should… it is a real treat). Farmer's Markets should be supported by all of us in the food community.
Now, what to make with the summer’s bounty from my Union Square Farmer’s Market that would pay homage to my visit to Chatsworth? Well I fell head over heels with a dessert I had in England. It was a gooseberry elderflower syllabub and it was a revelation. I could even imagine eating it with the Duchess in the Chatsworth dining room
…sitting at this place at the table
I’ve told you about syllabub before and made the early version of it in its drink form I wrote about HERE that was spectacular. Most syllabubs these days are pudding-like and descend from the 18th century ‘solid’ or ‘everlasting’ syllabub that was in turn the precursor to the English trifle. What’s the thing that stays the same? The cream has wine in it –– just less than in the more liquid version, although it is sort of like having an after dinner drink and dessert all in one… not a bad thing in my book. I think what I loved about it was that the cream was sweet and the berry layer wasn’t, so you could make your own ratio of tart to sweet with each spoon… this is my idea of nirvana. I believe the waitress misconstrued my groans of pleasure as gastrointestinal distress at first… I do hope I didn’t embarrass myself completely!
Wanting nothing but the best for this recreation, I made this lovely dessert with my favorite cream… the best cream I’ve ever used, hands down.
So, how about some introductions? My cream for the syllabub comes from Milk Thistle Farm. They are a small grass-fed operation up in Ghent, NY and their milk and cream is unbelievably tasty. The day I found it at Union Square Farmer's Market (NYC) I stopped drinking anything else at home.
As I may have told you before, cows are ruminants. That means they were born to eat grass. By feeding them corn, you are making them sick... like feeding someone with celiac disease bread. Cows fed on this diet live short lives. The grains make them sick. Added to this, by eating foods they were never meant to eat, the vitamins in their milk and meat are diminished because they don’t digest it properly. Feed them grasses and you have healthy cows and improved products. Win Win! I won’t lie to you –– the milk does cost a bit more. The milk is half again as much as factory farm organic… but I think it’s worth it. And they believe so much in their product and their special low heat pasteurization technique (that makes the milk taste better) that they’ve added a bottling facility to their farm… I know it will pay off.
My gooseberries came from Locust Grove Fruit Farm in Milton-on-Hudson, Ulster County, NY. The Kent family has been farming there since 1820, yes, 1820, and they were one of the founding farmers at Union Square with berries, apples, grapes and baked goodies. Gooseberries are slightly rare (they only had one left after I bought 2, sitting between the blueberries and currants) but they had them. I would say currants or blueberries would be a good substitute… gooseberry season is short and over by August in the NE. If you’ve never tried them you will love them, they have a taste somewhere between a grape and a berry. Gooseberries come in green and red... they are both delicious!
Gooseberry and Elderflower Syllabub, serves 4 small or 2 large
1 c gooseberries (save some for garnish)
2 T sugar (I like the tart berry with the sweet cream idea, if you want it all sweet make it 4 T sugar in the berries)
1 T gooseberry jam (from the farmer's market, of course!)
1 T St Germain, elderflower liqueur
1 cup heavy cream from Milk Thistle Farm
1/3 c sweet white wine ( I got a small moscato at Trader Joes for $6)
1 T St Germain elderflower liqueur
¼ cup sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
½ t vanilla
pinch of nutmeg
Put the gooseberries in a pan with the sugar. Cook slowly until berries soften… just a few minutes.
Add the jam and liqueur to the berries and put the mixture into the blender. Strain if you want a more elegant sauce… otherwise it has small seeds. Allow the sauce to cool.
Whip the cream fairly stiffly with the sugar, lemon zest and vanilla then add the wine. This has a good deal of liquor in it… although it is milder an hour or so later… if you have any alcohol issues… make it with elderflower syrup and skip the sugar… whip the cream less
Layer the cream and fruit in glasses… ending with the cream
Please go visit my friend Laura Kelly at her blog, Silk Road Gourmet
She's hosting a cooking challenge. You get to make your own version of
ancient recipes... it's a great idea.