This is our second year at the produce auction. We have a permanent number: 274. We go every other week so we are regulars now. We are two of the faces the auctioneer looks for when he’s watching for bids. There is a “usual crowd” and we are becoming part of that crowd. This week one of the older women greeted us saying: “Here come the girls!”. We laughed. At our age, the only thing we have in common with “girls” is gender. But it felt nice to be remembered and to be welcomed.
Over time, it’s become apparent that there are three groups of people circling around the produce: ringers, experts and amateurs.
RINGERS: The ringers are men who have produce stands elsewhere. They may have a farm, but they buy a lot of what they sell at the produce auction and they drive up the prices. Their stands are in spots where the demographic will pay top dollar for produce. These men hold court. The farmers who bring their produce to the auction stop by to shake a hand and pay their respects. We know who they are now and if they raise their cards, we don’t bother bidding, because they will always raise that card one more time and out bid us. But we’ve also come to understand how important they are to the farmers. A fair price for 20 crates of corn or tomatoes or squash is a fair price. The farmers depend on it.
THE EXPERTS: These people stride through the auction floor with pads of paper at the ready. They’re always writing. What they’re writing is a mystery to us. They can copious amounts of produce and they all own pressure canners. They can small and they can large. They can things we’ve never thought of and they can things we’d never want to. Their pantries must be the stuff of legend. The first year, we eavesdropped. When they lingered over a flat and scribbled on their pads, we took note. They knew the score. This year our faces are familiar. We don’t have to eavesdrop. Now we can ask. But we still listen too.
THE AMATEURS: We include ourselves in this category. We’ve come a long way since our first visit. We arrive confident that our minds are open and we’re going to let price and availability determine our purchase and our project. Once or twice down the rows of beautiful fruits and vegetables and we’re befuddled again. This week we let crates of sweet corn go for $10 a crate because we weren’t sure if we’d have the patience to shuck it all. We didn’t take a crate of onions, fresh from the ground because it wasn’t in our mental roladex of recipes. We then suffer buyers remorse in reverse-the whole way home-ad infinitum. But we are also hampered by the fact that we have to work. Most of the people who leave with crates and flats are going to start canning and preserving the next day. We have two more days of work. That is a big factor in determining what we load in to the back of the car. We’ll probably be amateurs until next year – or at least until we figure out what those experts are scribbling on those pads of paper and we are scribbling on one of our own.
TOMATOES THREE WAYS:
We walked away this week with 10 pounds of small Roma tomatoes and 25 pounds of canning tomatoes. We divided the plum tomatoes up and used five pounds to make a savory tomato jam and we slow roasted the other five pounds. We have two canners now, thanks to Ace Reward points (never though we’d write that phrase) and we bought an additional burner. We canned in four hours what had taken us almost eight hours last summer. We are very pleased.
THE MENU: PORK LOIN MARINATED IN FIG AND VIDALIA ONION SAUCE, SAUTEED CHARD, OVEN BROWED POTATOES, AND BLACKBERRY COBBLER ala THE AD HOC COOKBOOK
PORK LOIN MARINATED IN FIG AND VIDALIA ONION WITH OVEN BROWNED POTATOES
- 2-3 lb pork loin
- one bottle Stonewall Farms Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce (this we will try to replicate when figs are available at the produce auction)
- 1 pound small red potatoes, cut in bite sized pieces
Marinate pork loin in the Vidalia Onion Fig Sauce for 6 hours or longer.
Coat potatoes in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, arrange in baking dish around the pork loin. Cook at 425 for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 150. Remove pork loin from oven and tent for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to keep potatoes warm.
- one bunch chard-ours came from our garden
- zest of one lemon
- 2 gloves garlic, minced
- 2 tblsp. olive oil
- two tablespoons vinegar – we used a cucumber infused balsamic.
Wash chard. Cut stems in small pieces, remove rib from leaves, cut in small pieces and put aside with stems. Cut leaves into bite sized pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in saute’ pan over medium heat, until soft. Add stems and ribs, cook until tender. Add leaves and lemon zest, stir until the leaves are wilted. Remove from heat and add vinegar and stir.
BLACKBERRY COBBLER – We used the recipe from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc cookbook. It calls for eggs so it is more of a cake-like cobbler than a traditional cobbler but it is perfect with blackberries.