Monday, September 19, 2011

Nice view, beans. Enjoy it.

Margot, Zingerman's Deli's chocolate maven, is traveling Italy and Sicily with Gioacchino, our source for many Italian foods. She took time away from sweets for this shot: a shipment of lentils from Ustica waiting for a boat to take them to America. Are these beans in for a shock. They're leaving the island where it's 80 degrees, bright white sun, to arrive in Michigan sometime in November where, I promise, they will experience neither of those things. 

The lentils are an old crop on Ustica but new to America. Brad is bringing a batch in for the Culinary Adventure Society shipment this December.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vintage Fruitcake, Ready To Get Dressed


The Vintage Fruitcake packaging is done. It's a vellum wrap over an archival box. The shot of Robert on the car circa 1970 is screened behind the title. I think it looks kinda hot. Thanks, Nicole, Brad and Kristie. 

Robert has sent the cakes so they'll be here next week. Meanwhile, he's finishing up this year's cakes. Here's some orange peel soaking up cognac in his kitchen.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Recipe: Fried Pickle

Earlier this summer I had a long drink with Rick Field of Rick's Picks and he told me how much he'd been loving frying pickles. Why don't we make a Rick's/Zingerman's fried pickle kit? Maybe for the Superbowl? I don't usually trust ideas hatched under such conditions and, for some reason I can't explain, I've never had a fried pickle. So last Friday night we got to work.

A jar of Rick's People's Pickles has about 30 thick-cut slices. We fried all of 'em, save the six his daughters snagged for dinner.

Fried (People's) Pickle Recipe
  1. Lay a paper towel on a plate. Put each slice on the towel and top with another paper towel. Let sit for at least ten minutes. (Reuse the leftover brine. Drop in a peeled hard boiled egg or green beans or some thinly sliced carrots. Refrigerate for a couple days before eating.)
  2. Heat two inches of vegetable oil in a ten or twelve inch pan. We used a  cast iron skillet.
  3. Dust the pickles with flour on each side.
  4. Beat two eggs in a bowl.
  5. Dip the pickle slices in the eggs then roll in cornmeal. We used cornmeal Rick bought in Vermont, but I'm thinking they'd also be good with Marino's Polenta.
  6. Fry for about ten minutes, or until they turn golden brown.
We'd been drinking wine so the timing could be off—watch the color for your cue.  Also, it'd probably be helpful to know what temperature the oil was at but we didn't have a thermometer. (I pretty much suck at recipe development.) We threw some water in and it popped. The first pickle went in and Rick said, "That's a good fry." I took his word for it.

Later he explained, "You don't want to kill the pickle. Too many fried pickles are annihilated. We want to keep it juicy inside." Spoken like a man who's eaten a lot of fried pickles.

Douse 'em with a bit of hot sauce (I like Cholula, though I bet the new Piment d'Espelette hot sauce we just got in would be scrumptious) and eat 'em while they're hot. I thought they were pretty good.

If any of the crew at ZMO—or any other readers—try this, let me know how it turns out. I'm still thinking about it as a gift kit this winter.

A good fry.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Is there something wrong with farmers markets?


Why would someone who makes things worry that there are too many places to sell it?

The answer lies in what makes farmers markets tick. They are limited quantity events that allow farmers to sell food at a premium. 

In general, though you can find lots of exceptions, farmers market food is slightly more expensive than standard grocery store food. I won't get into whether that's good or bad or what's behind it, but from what I've read it seems to be mostly the case. The big deal for farmers, though, isn't that their prices are higher than at Kroger. It's that they get a chance to charge retail prices, period. Usually they are stuck being wholesalers. Selling wholesale, farmers can only charge 50-60% of the price they get to charge at a farmers market. So they're making more profit at the market than they would wholesale.

The prices that farmers get to charge are a big reason why there are so many new markets cropping up. It's classic economics, a lesson taken straight from the upward-sloping supply curve. When prices go up supply increases. In other words, where there's an opportunity to make money, business will follow. It's kind of like how nature abhors a vacuum. Business abhors big profits. Where they exist they will be swallowed whole.

Since farmers can get higher prices at a market than wholesaling more farmers want in on the action, hence more farmers markets. So far the growth in markets hasn't meant an oversupply. But the farmers are right to worry that they might. Textbook economic says that would result in lower prices and lower profits. After all, there are only so many people who can afford—or maybe want to pay?—six dollars a pound for heirloom tomatoes. That's the reason you can find ten farmers markets within a fifteen minute drive of downtown Ann Arbor (pop: 114,000, median income $46,000) but only nine in all of Detroit (pop: 714,000, median income $30,000).