We headed out to Essex Farm this afternoon for our first pickup from the CSA. We were both a little nervous, I think, not knowing what to expect. We loaded up the car with our bags and glass dishes and plastic storage containers, and Tom brought the largest cooler we own.
It took a few minutes to find someone who could show us around, but finally, a lovely woman in her early 20s named Jen helped us get signed up and then showed us around.
The pickup area was set up with three refrigerated trailers. The first one was Dairy World.
In Dairy World, we picked up a half gallon of skim milk, a container of butter, a container of yogurt, two dozen eggs, and because we were new, buttermilk, two quarts of sour cream that wasn't being offered to the general membership this week. The place was freezing cold, and I'm sure it will feel great in the heat of August, but on this chilly May evening, my teeth were chattering.
Next we went over to Vegetable World, where we saw what was being offered. The veggie pickins were slim this week, but we picked up some beets and potatoes, a couple of huge red onions, two handfuls of the thickest, purplest asparagus I've ever seen, a few pounds of sorrel, and a huge handful of green onions. I was too chicken to put on a glove and grab a few handfuls of stinging nettles, though. (Maybe after I get a little braver.)
I asked Jen, our tour guide, about the sorrel. I've never eaten it before, and I was curious as to how it tasted, so she told me to take a nibble.
I crunched on a green leaf, fresh from the field, and tasted a wonderful, zingy, citrus tang. It was probably one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. And now I can't stop thinking about how I'm going to cook this stuff up!
We moved on to Meat World, where I didn't really see anything that interested me, but Tom loaded up with some spicy sausage, spicy ground boar, pork chops, and a couple of packages of thinly sliced beef.
Our last stop was the container shed where they also stored the grains and dry beans. There were two kinds of dry beans, which we didn't take because we have so many dried beans stored in our cabinet right now. But there were five or six different kinds of flours, soft and hard wheatberries, corn meal, popcorn, and some kind of cracked soft wheat with the directions to soak 1/2 cup in 1 1/2 cups of water overnight, boil the next day, season, and enjoy.
We stocked up on some of the flours, all of which were milled right there on the premises. I'm looking forward to baking with those this week and practicing my muffin and biscuit making skills.
So. The bottom line. Our cost: $130. Was it worth it? I don't know. We certainly didn't get nearly as many veggies as we get at the store, so for this week, I'm going to have to dive into our own stores of canned vegetables from the garden, which is probably what everyone else is doing.
I'm also more than a little nervous about the idea of giving Colden raw dairy products like milk and butter and yogurt. Tom and Mark both reminded me that Mark's kids, about Colden's age, have had nothing but raw dairy from the farm their entire lives. Mark and Kristin have been doing this for seven years, and no one has ever gotten sick or died from any of their food. It's just as safe, if not safer, than the food we get from the grocery store. Tom said that he has no problems giving Colden raw dairy from the farm. And I know I need to get used to the idea, because it's something so completely different from what I know.
The dairy products are completely unlike any dairy that I've ever seen or tasted before. The sour cream? It's like toothpaste, thick and creamy and so much tangier than any other sour cream I've ever tasted. The skim milk tastes like our regular milk. The buttermilk? Forget about pouring it - I think this is going to be what I end up baking with all week. Even the yogurt is thicker and zestier than the stuff we've had from the store. Even the stuff labeled "USDA Organic" can't hold a candle to this stuff, fresh from the farm. It's definitely going to take some getting used to, particularly for me, the girl who doesn't like terribly rich food.
Because we have so much stuff stocked in our pantry right now (hoarded?), I don't think we'll have to do any grocery shopping this week, and I'm starting to realize that weaning ourselves off processed food is going to be more of a gradual process, instead of the leap off the cliff that I had imagined.
On our way out, we stopped in to leave some additional information for Mark, and we stopped at the plate of snacks they had out. One a large plate was sliced cheese, labeled, "Barbara's Mozzarella". We each took a piece to try it.
Well. That was the richest damn mozzarella cheese I've ever tasted. You could taste the milk fat in every bite, and it stuck in our throats to the point where we stopped at the first gas station/convenience store we found in Essex and bought a box of saltines to try to wash it down.
We now understand why people drink wine with *real* cheese: because the wine is really the only thing that will cut that taste of thick milk fat once you've swallowed the cheese!
And to celebrate our new commitment to local food? We went back to Tom's parents' house tonight to celebrate my birthday with pizza and cake.