Saturday, November 19, 2011

Melt Cheese Like the Swiss Skillshare

by Elaine Siew

A couple weeks ago, I invited Slow Foodies over to my house to explore the decadent world of fondue and raclette. I spent a year in Switzerland as an exchange student in 2005-2006, and was very fortunate to learn about the sweet melty-cheese-magic of fondue (not just for chic 70’s parties anymore) and raclette (stinky cheese heaven). For the first time two weeks ago, I ate BOTH in one night with my fellow Slow Food cheese-lovers!

So Swiss cheese fondue (French for “melted”) is a delicious combination of Gruyere cheese, Emmental cheese (what we would commonly know as just Swiss cheese – with the holes in it), white wine, and lemon juice, with a couple subtle spices. I cooked this on the stove and then poured it into a garlic-rubbed fondue pot over a flame, but traditionally you would cook this in a heavy stoneware or cast iron “caquelon” and eat right out of it. Also, in Switzerland, you would normally just eat this with bread cubes – oh yes, carbs and cheese all night long – but at the skillshare we added grapes (and you can really dip anything that you like covered in cheese!). And we drank wine with the fondue of course, because many a Swiss person will tell you that you can only drink wine or hot tea with fondue – or you will die (seriously).

To double-dose on cheese, we also prepared raclette – my FAVORITE Swiss meal. It is basically melted raclette – a pungent-smelling, soft cheese abundant in Switzerland – over boiled potatoes and cured meats, sprinkled with cracked pepper and garnished with cornichon pickles. Traditionally, the Swiss would take a massive half-wheel of raclette and prop it over an open flame, then take a big knife and scrape off the melted layers onto the accoutrements on your plate (it’s amazing to find a raclette hut mid-mountain when you’re skiing the Swiss slopes). Today, you can buy special raclette grills – with mine, you can grill veggies on top (to also get covered in cheese, of course) while you melt slabs of raclette on little paddles in cubbies under the grill.

For dessert, we enjoyed Swiss “carac” tarts – which are tartlet shells filled with chocolate ganache and fondant, as well as bars of Cailler chocolate – the most amazing chocolate in Switzerland that they sadly do not export (but were shipped to me by a very sweet friend in Geneva).

All in all, a beautiful evening celebrating everything that is good and right about Swiss cheese, and proving yet again that you can never, never have too much cheese.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Mobile Poultry Processing with Pete and Jen

By Elliot Hohn 
This Fall I was lucky enough to be able to join Peter Lowy and Jennifer Hashley, founders of Pete and Jen’s Backyard Birds, on their beautiful farm in Concord, MA to help with the harvesting of their flock of chickens.  Jen and Pete regularly invite volunteers to come out and get their hands dirty (or rather, bloody), and to get an up-close look at our food system in action. 
Jen and Pete started raising chickens in 2003, and the farm is now home to over 600 hens, as well as pigs, rabbits, and sheep. All of the animals on the farm are pasture-raised, with humane and sustainable practices being essential aspects of Jen and Pete’s farming philosophy. Additionally, Jen and Pete are state licensed to slaughter their birds using something called a Mobile Poultry Processing Unit (MPPU), which is a custom-built trailer outfitted with a killing-room, a feather-plucker, and set of processing and cleaning stations.

The long day of chicken harvesting starts early, with volunteers arriving before 7am for coffee, home-baked bread, and a quick briefing from Jen on evisceration techniques and hygienic practices during the handling of freshly killed birds. Joining me for the day were a handful of other Tufts students, a half-dozen students from the Cambridge Culinary Institute, and a random assortment of folks from the Concord community and from around Boston. 
For the next six hours, we worked hard to process around 375 birds, including capons, Freedom Rangers, Cornish Rocks, and even one large (and handsome, I might add) turkey. Surrounded by good company and the feeling of being a part of what is, in my opinion, one of the more impressive and respectable operations that exists within our food system, we enjoyed a long day helping put tasty, humanely-raised  chickens on the tables of Jen and Pete’s loyal customers.
To anyone who is interesting in getting gaining a deeper understanding of where the food they eat (or don’t eat) comes from, I would highly recommend making a trip out to Jen and Pete’s place. They are a wealth of knowledge, and the experience just might change the way you look at the food on your plate.

For more info, visit their website at


Monday, November 7, 2011

Formaggio Kitchen Cheese Cave Tour & Tasting

by Tina Galante
Last week, 12 Tufts Slow Foodies visited Formaggio Kitchen, an artisanal cheese and specialty foods store in Cambridge, for a private tour and tasting event. The event started off with a tour of the store’s “cheese caves,” which are small underground rooms kept at the precise temperature and humidity ideal for aging young cheeses and maintaining moisture in older cheeses. Our cheese-monger, Julia (a Tufts alumn!), told us all about the store’s process of buying and importing cheese and went into great detail about the special relationships Formaggio builds with its small-scale producers.

After the tour, it was tasting time! We each got to sample a sizable hunk of 6 different cheeses, each carefully paired with a unique and delicious condiment. Arguably the biggest hit was a local raw cow’s milk Landaff cheese with an out-of-this-world tomato jam (I was hesitant at first, but I think this is my new favorite jam!). Another amazing combination was “Inspiration,” a washed rind, raw milk cheese from Vermont, paired with a piece of local dark chocolate (produced by a man who roasts his cacao beans in a toaster oven in Western Mass!)

Each cheese and condiment came with a story that gave us an even greater appreciation for the craftsmanship and care that went into each of these delicious products. It was truly the epitome of a Slow Food experience, and given that most of the group went home with at least one purchase from the store…I’d say the event was a success. :)

Thanks to Julia Hallman and Erin Weber of Formaggio Kitchen for making this event possible!

(And thanks to Rachael Kirk for the great photos!)

If any of you are interested, I’d highly recommend attending one of the upcoming events and/or classes hosted by Formaggio. Click here to check them out!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Last week, the nation celebrated its first Food Day. October 24th marked a day to bring awareness to our food system and Tufts was not exempt from the festivities. Mayor Menino delivered a talk at the Sackler School about nutrition in Boston and the Friedman School screened the documentary Forks Over Knives.

Where was Slow Food among the day's events? Serving up delicious snacks! Slow Food popped New Jersey-grown organic popcorn for movie-goers to munch on. Because what's a movie without popcorn? And what's Slow Food without healthy, environmentally conscious food?

Food Day was certainly a success. People from different fields gathered to find solutions to important nutrition and agricultural problems. And Slow Food was there to fuel people's brains with delicious popcorn. Thank you to all those who attended events throughout the day, we hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tour of Shaw Dairy: Dracut, MA

Written by Glennon Beresin

This Monday, we had a GREAT time visiting Shaw Farm, a 103-year-old, fully operational Dairy Farm located in Dracut, MA. When we first arrived, we pulled into the parking lot of their pasteurizing facility that doubles as a beautiful retail space/ice cream stand. The building, we later learned, was newly constructed to incorporate epoxy flooring for pasteurizing that deters bacterial growth and is heated and cooled geothermally! While we waited for our tour leader to arrive, we excitedly scanned the ice cream coolers for post-tour purchasing. I was happy to see they carried seasonal flavors like pumpkin and apple strudel, AND had coffee Oreo, an all-time personal favorite.

Our tour leader, Warren, is the owner and manager and represents the fourth consecutive generation of their family on the farm. With his son following his footsteps, he lends the farm’s success and longevity to planned self-sufficiency and innovation. When many of his friends in the dairy business chose to opt in to cooperatives to sell milk to industrial processing, the Shaw family made the decision to remain autonomous. Like the fancy farm stand, their barn was also recently renovated with state-of-the-art ventilation to keep herd healthy. They are also always looking to expand business ventures in and around Boston, have a souped-up milk delivery truck and even a facebook page!

As we walked across the street to see the cows, we passed two gigantic trailers for raw milk storage. One tanks is for conventional milk and the other is for organic milk. Yet another reason the Farm is doing so well is that they have the ability to manage both kinds of herds successfully. By keeping the organic herd very small and in-line with the minimal demand in Dracut, they are able to fill stores in wealthier areas with their organic product (We were happy to know that even in for the conventional cows, he doesn’t use rBGH or regular antibiotics.).

Our tour ended, of course, back at the stand, where we all bought a bunch of delicious ice cream to take home! If you want to learn more about the Shaw Farm, look them up on Facebook! Bailey, their pet donkey, who we all befriended during the tour, regularly updates the site. Aside from all the great info, meeting him (he is a real donkey, very loving) was one of my highlights, along with being licked by a dairy cow.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Visit to the Cranberry Station

By Katrina Brink

A small group of 5 of us Friedman students, plus one intrepid medical student, drove down to the UMass Cranberry Station in East Wareham, MA. We were soon to find out it is the only one of its kind in the world.

We were welcomed by the Integrated Pest Management Specialist, Hilary Sandler, who taught us that there are only about 55,000 acres of cranberry production worldwide, with about 14,000 acres in Massachusetts. Our guide taught us about the typical pest management and harvesting techniques used for cranberries. We also learned about some of the difficulties organic growers face in the humid climate of New England and the competition they encounter from newly minted organic cranberry growers in Quebec.

Hilary informed us that the average cranberry farmer is about 58 years old, but that fortunately there has been a recent resurgence of interest from young people getting into growing cranberries. The Director of the station, Carolyn DeMoranville, explained to us how the Ocean Spray Cooperative works and which berries get packaged fresh in bags, which get dried, and which ones are used in concentrate.

After we learned all we could about cranberries we followed Hilary out to a bog to get a first-hand look. The growers had already left for the day, but we got to enjoy the results of their work, knocking all the berries loose from the vines, so they float on the surface of the water.  It was a beautiful scene of a field of floating red berries. The growers will return another day to harvest the berries by gathering them with a large boom to contain them and scoop them up so they can be packaged and/or processed. 

Ms. Sandler suggested we come back next year over Columbus Day Weekend for the Cranberry Harvest Festival, so we can enjoy all the fun festivities associated with this delicious, tart fruit that is native to New England!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Afternoon on Hutchins Farm

Curly Red Russian Kale

By Kyle Foley

Hutchins Farm is a family-owned and –operated organic produce farm less than 30 miles west of Boston in Concord, MA. Two brothers, Gordon and John Bemis, have been running the farm since 1973, and are now joined in the farm’s operations by Gordon’s daughter, Liza, and John’s son and daughter-in-law, Taylor and Andrea. When a Slow Food group drove out to visit the farm recently, we were given a tour by the farm manager, Brian Cramer, and Liza Bemis (also a Friedman student!) joined us, too. Hutchins grows a wide variety of certified organic vegetables, as well as a handful of fruit crops. They are particularly known for their greens (lettuce, kale, chard, arugula, escarole, collards, etc), but (full disclosure: I also work for the farm once a week, but no bias, I swear!) everything they grow is delicious. Currently, it’s apple season on the farm, and root crop season, and more greens as the weather cools. Apples (as well as some other crops that Hutchins grows, like sweet corn) are particularly tricky to grow organically in New England because of pest pressure and the humid climate here (which is ripe for fungus). Because of this (not to mention because of how crunchy and tasty they are), Hutchins apples are in high demand.

Hoeing the lettuce planting
Brian showed us around several of the fields, talking as we went about the different challenges and benefits of growing organically. We learned a lot about the incredible variety of bugs that like to make their homes in the fields of different crops, and were able to see up close some potato bugs and Mexican bean beetles, in addition to the beneficial insects that roam the fields. Weeding takes up a good portion of the farm crew’s time and energy, and we saw a handful of crew members at work hoeing a fresh lettuce planting. Brian also showed us some fallow fields planted in cover crops, and talked about the importance of good soil quality as a key component to the farm’s success. And on our way back to the farmstand, we were able to get a good look at some tractors and cool farm implements that make the work of planting, weeding, irrigating, and harvesting easier.

Farmstand produce
Walking through the fields was a perfect way to spend part of a beautiful fall afternoon, and I don’t think any of us left without picking up some vegetables (and apples) to bring home!

If you’re interested in purchasing Hutchins Farm produce, you can find them at the Central Square farmers’ market in Cambridge on Monday afternoons, the Belmont farmers’ market on Thursday afternoons, and the Union Square farmers’ market in Somerville on Saturday mornings. And if you get the chance, head out to Concord to visit the farmstand at 754 Monument Street!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Potluck of the Year!

Members of Slow Food got together for our first potluck of the year. In the vein of Slow Food International's $5 meal challenge, all dishes brought had a budget limit of $5/4 people. Some recipes from our wonderful feast are attached!

Tri-Color Pasta with Kale and Sun-dried Tomatoes by Tina Galante

2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves chopped
8 ounces tri-color pasta
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Fresh basil to taste
Salt & pepper
Soak sundried tomatoes in hot water to cover for 15 minutes to soften them, then drain and thinly slice.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. In a separate large skillet, sauté the onions and garlic. Stir in kale and reduce heat to medium, cover and cook until tender.
Add pasta to the boiling water and cook according to the package instructions. Drain pasta and add kale, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.

Vegan Truffles by Geeta Bhasin

This was taught to me in India by Micah Stanek who used to work in a raw-vegan café. We managed to get the ingredients together and made these truffles in the kitchen at Navdanya farm!
I think it works for a $5 recipe because of the 4 ingredients, 3 can be purchased at CVS for low cost. Coconut oil is a low-cost import, readily available at ethnic grocery stores.
I already had oats and sugar at home. I went to Shaw’s and picked up a $4 container of cocoa powder and bought a large bottle of coconut oil from Patel Brothers for $7.99. I will be able to make these many times over with the ingredients that I now have in my pantry.
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup oats
½ cup coconut oil
Thaw the coconut oil ahead of time so that it is easy to work with. Between solid and liquid is the easiest state for this recipe.
Mix dry ingredients. Add coconut oil and combine thoroughly. Roll into balls and place on floured baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour or until serving time. Best if removed shortly before serving. Makes 16 bite size truffles.
Note: If mixture is too liquidy to roll into balls, add more oats or put it all in the fridge for 5-10 minutes.

Curried Cauliflower and Carrots by Kyle Foley

2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for topping
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red onion, cut into eighths
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Whisk together the curry powder, cumin, salt, pepper and olive oil in a medium bowl.
Spread the cauliflower, carrots, and onion in a single layer on a large baking sheet-lined with tin foil. Drizzle with the
dressing and toss so it is thoroughly coated.
Roast the vegetables in the oven until tender and browned, about 40 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking. Remove to
a serving bowl and sprinkle with parsley and a drizzle of olive oil on top. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Brownies Recipe by Ryan Kring

½ lb (2 sticks) sweet butter, 4 eggs, 4 oz unsweetened chocolate, 2 cups sugar, ¾ cups all-purpose flower, 1 tsp vanilla, 2/3 cup walnuts

Melt chocolate & butter together, cool to room temp. Mix sugar, eggs, & vanilla together. Add chocolate mixture to egg mixture in thin stream while beating. Add flower. Mix well. Add nuts. Bake in greased pan for 30 min at 350.

Bean Salad by Meghan Johnson


* 1 (15 ounce) can green beans
* 1 pound wax beans
* 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
* 1 onion, sliced into thin rings
* 3/4 cup white sugar
* 2/3 cup distilled white vinegar
* 1/3 cup vegetable oil
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon celery seed


1. Mix together green beans, wax beans, kidney beans, onion, sugar, vinegar, vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Let set in refrigerator for at least 12 hours.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hello Slow Food Tufts!

Its a brand new academic year and we would like to welcome new and returning Tufts Slow Foodies. Your Slow Food Tufts board has a bunch of exciting events lined up to celebrate local, fair, and delicious food. Get excited for visits to a cranberry bog and local farm, potlucks and skill shares, and an end of the semester bake-off featuring Friedman's sweetest.

We will be holding our first meeting on Tuesday September 13 2:30-3:30, Location TBA

Join us for our first pot-luck of the semester where we reclaim the value meal. Bring a dish that costs under $5 to make and the recipe for the dish. Your Slow Food board will compile the recipes into a cookbook of cheap, delicious meals! This event is part of Slow Food USA's challenge to take back the value meal. More information can be found at

Welcome to Slow Food Tufts- we're excited you joined us!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sharpening Up on Knife Skills

by Jessica McGovern

About a month ago Tufts University Slow Foods Student Organization approached me to host a skillshare at my apartment to discuss knives, I gladly obliged. The evening began with some basics that included an overview of knives and knife skills and ended by using all of those meticulously cut vegetables in a tasty vegetable and herb soup. Here are some of the topics that we discussed:

Overview of Knives
You don't have to be a trained chef to produce a great meal. Knife skills are one of the fundamental components to becoming an exceptional cook. Knives come in many shapes and sizes, each having its own specific purpose. Many people become discouraged by all of the different options that are available, but it really is not necessary to have more than the four basic types of knives.

* Chef's Knife
- The most versatile of all knives, with a wide blade that is 8" to 10" long. It is best to choose a knife that feels good and balanced in your hand. The knife should have a full tang (this means that the blade should go all the way through the handle for the best wear and stability).
* Paring Knife
- Paring knives are generally 2-1/2-4" in length. It is ideal for peeling and coring fruits and vegetables, cutting small objects, slicing, and other hand tasks.
* Boning Knife- 
This type of knife has a more flexible blade to curve around meat and bone. Generally 4-5" long.
* Bread Knife
- Bread knives are usually serrated (having teeth like a saw). Most experts recommend a serrated knife that has pointed serrations instead of wavy serrations for better control and longer knife life. You must use a sawing motion when using a serrated knife.

Knife Cuts
The main point I stressed when discussing knife cuts was uniformity. If all of the pieces are about the same size the vegetables will cook evenly. One of the best ways to learn, besides doing, is by seeing. Check out this video by Bobby Flay to see how to cut red peppers and garlic (his favorite).

Knife Safety Tips

1. Chop slowly and carefully.
2. Always cut away from your body.
3. Make sure your hands are dry.
4. Make sure that you curl your fingers under on the hand holding the food. This takes a while to get used to, but will become second nature with practice. If your fingers are curled under, the chances are good you will never cut yourself.
5. Watch what you're doing at all times.
6. Using your dominant hand, hold the knife firmly and using a rocking motion, cut through the food. The knife should not leave the surface you're working on. Move your hand (with the curled under fingers) along as the knife cuts the food.
7. Always make sure that your cutting board is secured and will not move while you are cutting. Try placing a wet paper towel or dishrag underneath your board.

Sharpening and Truing
A chef once told me "a sharp knife is a happy knife." It's a little sentimental for my taste. I prefer the saying "a sharp knife is a safe and efficient knife." Having a sharp knife ensures that you have even cuts. Dull knives can become dangerous when you apply extra pressure while pressing down on the knife, the extra pressure leads to less control. There are several ways to sharpen your knife such as using a wet stone, a handheld sharpener and an electric sharpener. Personally, I prefer the handheld sharpener because it is cheap, effective, light and safe to use.

Another tool used to keep your knife sharp, but it does not actually sharpen your knife, is called a truing steel. This long, round object keeps knives sharper by straightening out the edge. To use a steel hold the knife in your dominant hand and the steel in the other, with the steel point pressed into a solid waist-high surface. Hold the knife base at the top of the steel at a 20 degree angle. Slowly draw the knife down the length of the steel, pulling the knife back so the entire blade, from base to tip, moves against the steel, as if you were slicing off pieces of the steel. Repeat on the other side. Do this five or six times.

Simple Vegetable Soup Recipe

5 medium red potatoes- cut into medium cubes
2 red onions- cut into a large dice
4 carrots- peeled and cut into a large dice
1 cup mushrooms- cleaned and roughly chopped
Slow Foods members cutting up vegetables.
1 large yellow squash- cut into a large dice
1 head of garlic- peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cups vegetable stock
5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 fresh sage leaves
4 sprigs fresh rosemary

1. In a large saute pan heat the olive oil and add the onions, carrots, mushrooms and yellow squash.
2. Cook the vegetables on medium-high heat for 4 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
3. Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large sauce pan. Add the potatoes and cover with the vegetable stock.
4. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add the thyme, rosemary and sage and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
6. Season with salt and pepper if necessary and serve hot.

Check out Jessica's blog: Great Eat-spectations!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Brew-off and “Beer Luck”: What More Could You Ask For?

by Nicole Tichenor

As a devoted beer drinker, I can safely say that yesterday’s Brew off and Beer Luck was my favorite SFT event of the year. A lot of other people probably agree, because those two rooms full of homebrewed beer were packed with people (over 100 members of the Tufts graduate community attended!) Here’s how the night went: everyone brought a glass, and we were able to choose 6 -7 beers of the 19 (!) to try, just to make sure everyone got enough tastes. Meanwhile, there was an esteemed panel of judges tasting each beer and scoring them. From Cambridge Brewing Company we had Will Meyers, Brewmaster and Megan Parisi, Head Brewer. The other judges were Dave Lytton, who works at the Modern Homebrew Emporium and James Nicholson, who runs Mystic Brewery.

The homebrewers were from several schools at Tufts: the medical, dental, urban and environmental policy and planning program, Fletcher school, and nutrition schools. The diversity of backgrounds matched the diversity of beers entered in the competition – everything from Black Saison and India Pale Ales to American Style Black Ale. It was really interesting to hear the brewers (fellow students) describe their beers like seasoned professionals. One of the pairs of brewers told me that their Oatmeal Stout was made with a real bowl of oatmeal with all the fixins in it. It’s my new favorite breakfast!

At the end of the night, the winners were announced. The students picked Kristin Irvin and Greg Saia’s Pale Ale as the 2nd place winner and gave the gold to Melissa Page’s “Vitamin Apri-Hop.” The judges’ pick was the Gluten Free Pale Ale brewed by Friedman student Alyssa Koomas. The judges also picked favorites in the different beer categories. For Classic Styles, 2nd place went to Sam Barber’s IBU-tiful, and 1st went to Scott Recksiedler for his California Common lager. Scott also took 2nd place in the specialty category for his Pumpkin Ale, which was like fall in a glass. 1st place specialty beer went to Alyssa’s Gluten Free Pale Ale. For darks/lagers, 1st place went to Kate Abowd Johnson, who brewed a powerful wood-aged beer, called Bourbon Trail Stout. 2nd place in that category went to Sarah Kasten’s American Style Black Ale, which was one of my favorites of the night.

Many thanks to our judges, donors, brewers and participants. Thanks also to our sponsors who donated wonderful prizes: Modern Homebrew Emporium, Redbones BBQ in Davis Square, Christopher's Restaurant, Cambridge Common, Mystic Brewery, and Cambridge Brewing Co.

We’re looking forward to Brew-off 2012 already!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cambridge Brewing Company: A Tasting and Tour

Cambridge Brewing Company: A Tasting and Tour

by Sarah Kasten

Last Saturday, a group of us gathered at Cambridge Brewing Company in Kendall Square for a tasting and tour led by CBC head brewer Megan Parisi. She and fellow CBC brewer, Jay Sullivan , gave us through a full introduction to the art of brewing and a tasting of CBC's diverse beers. We walked through CBC's brewing facilities, learning all about how this brewery makes and stores its many varieties. A great way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. Here are some highlights:

-Megan showed us three malts that they use in varying combinations to create a variety of beers: Regatta Golden, a light, crisp Kolsch-style beer, the cararmel-like Cambridge Amber ale, and the Charles River Porter loved by the coffee fiends among us. Malts can add a range of flavors and colors to the finished beer. The malts are all created from the same raw grains (usually barley, but sometimes wheat or oats) and then roasted. The different flavors and colors the different types of malts are created entirely by the temperature and length of the roasting process. Megan was keen to highlight that brewing really is about taking a raw agricultural product and turning it into something entirely new. CBC works closely with its suppliers to maintain consistency through growing seasons and sources, adjusting their own recipes in some cases in order to stay true to their well-known beers.

-CBC was started 22 years ago, before the model of the brew-pub had become popular in the U.S. Not knowing whether the restaurant would be a success or not, the main brewing kettle was stationed in the center of the dining room. The gas burners and the kettle of steaming wort generate so much heat that CBC's brewers are up at the crack of dawn to brew so that the dining room has cooled down by the time the restaurant opens for lunch.

-When asked about current brewing trends, Megan and Jay were thoughtful in their responses The industry has definitely benefited from a surge in consumer interest in microbreweries. On the one hand, this has led to some consolidation in the industry as large beverage corporations seek to expand their market share. On the other hand, the brewers named several examples of start-up breweries in Massachusetts alone, noting a trend towards nano-breweries, who typically produce just one or two barrels at a time. Either way, it seems like an exciting time for beer in America with high-quality beers becoming increasingly available to consumers and a new generation of producers striking out on their own!

Thanks to Cambridge Brewing Company for hosting the event! Check out their website for more information about their beers:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Olive Oil: How Much Do You Know?

For SF Tufts April meeting, Olive Oil Importer and Governor of Slow Food New England Rosemary Melli came to teach our group how to properly taste olive oil, and tips and tricks for purchasing good olive oil (even on a budget). Here's a little taste of what we learned at the event!

Intro facts about olive oil:
*Most of the olive oil in the United States is actually vegetable oil (either canola/other vegetable oil or olive oil made from lower quality olives) mixed with up to 30% real olive oil to impart the signature color/taste of olive oil.

*Extra-virgin olive oil has an acidity of less than 1%. Good EVOO will have an acidity of around 0.3%. The acidity comes from a certain amount of oleic acid in the olives. EVOO olives will be picked and then taken to the mill between 24 hours to 3 days after being taken off the tree.

*It takes 3 kilos of olives (about 6.6 pounds) to produce one bottle (about 1 liter) of olive oil.

*Olive trees take about 20 years to become mature enough to bear fruit.

*The California olive oil industry is growing, and is starting to produce high quality olive oil. Look out for this oil in the future!

*The National Organic label in Italy is called "Biologica"

The life of an olive oil importer
Rosemary goes back to Italy every year to check in with olive oil growers and producers to see how their product is made. She shared pictures with us of beautiful olive trees, families working in the field, and the Italian countryside. But the best olive oil does not always have to come from Italy-- it depends on what tastes you look for in olive oil. Spain exports some great olive oil, and Rosemary mentioned that she has started to explore Turkish olive oils as well!

Rosemary has noticed that the olive oil industry has become more mechanized. The children of families who used to pick olives now all work in cities in the IT industries, so olive oil producers now hire Slavic workers or purchase machines to pick the olives.

Tips for purchasing/storing olive oil
1. Look for the harvest date on the bottle. Olive oil has the best nutritional and taste properties when consumed less than 18 months after harvest. After that, the oil will lose some flavor and antioxidants.

2. Pure olive oil will congeal when stored in the fridge-- this is an easy way to find out if your olive oil is pure or not!

3. Store your olive oil away from oxygen, light, and heat. Metal containers imparts a certain flavor to the oil, so store your olive oil in ceramic, glass, or even plastic. Olive oil should be stored away from the stove. Good places to store oil are cool cabinets, a basement, or the fridge.

Steps to tasting olive oil
The International Olive Oil Council will have a tasting yearly to test different varieties of olive oils from around the world. Here's how they do it (notice the similarities to tasting wine).

1. Color: Look for a fresh green or golden color. In a real competition, a blue cup would be used to mask the color of the oil so that the judges aren't biased by a brighter color.
2. Circulate the olive oil in the tasting cup to release odors.
3. Add a little bit of heat to the oil by rubbing the cup on the palm of your hand.
4. Smell (enjoy this step!)
5 Sip the oil out of the cup by breathing air in as you sip. The oil will hit your tongue-- swallow!
6. You'll notice a peppery flavor at the back of your palate. This flavor is stronger after harvest and can be overwhelming for people who are not used to the flavor. What you're tasting is the antioxidants in the oil!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Friedman and the Chocolate Factory

by Ellen Cynar

A group of Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition students recently had the sweet pleasure of touring the Taza Chocolate Factory located in Somerville, MA. The tour was a combined force of Slow Foods Tufts and Tufts Food Works, looking to see good, clean and fair business in action. We began our tour by learning about the history of Taza and its production philosophy. Taza, which means cup in Spanish, was started by Alex Whitmore and Larry Slotnick who wanted to get back to the roots (or the beans) of chocolate making. Emulating Mexican-style artisan chocolate, Taza crafts 100% stone-ground chocolate with a unique, slightly gritty texture. The company considers itself ingredient obsessed, using only high-end, organic chocolate.

DID YOU KNOW: Taza is one of the few “bean-to-bar” chocolate companies in the United States? This means Taza makes their chocolate in the Somerville factory, beginning with raw cacao beans.

While sampling Taza’s delicious chocolate, the group learned about the process of growing and harvesting cacao beans. Taza works directly with farmers in the Dominican Republic through a Direct Trade Agreement, which seeks to provide fair compensation to farmers in exchange for high quality, environmentally conscious, cacao crops.

DID YOU KNOW: Cacao beans come from pods grown on trees and vary in color from yellows to greens to reds? Different colored pods can grow on the same tree.

After donning very stylish hairnets, we made our way back into the factory where we checked out the roasting and winnowing (de-shelling) machines to learn how to process cacao beans. We sampled cacao nibs, which are the little pieces of roasted cacao beans that can be covered in chocolate and used for snacking, baking or toppings.

DID YOU KNOW: Roasting cacao beans give off the smell of brownies? This brings new meaning to the idea of “occupational hazard”.

A few additional samples later, we made our way into Taza’s shipping and packaging room and learned how Taza lovingly wraps those perfectly round Mexicano chocolate disks. Taza works to create a sustainable product starting with sourcing all the way to packaging and delivery. Shipping is kept to a minimum with direct sourcing and Taza utilizes UPS carbon neutral shipping for long journeys.

DID YOU KNOW: Taza chocolate is delivered locally via pedal power? Taza partners with Metro Pedal Power for Boston, Cambridge and Somerville deliveries.

Hairnets removed, the group moved back into the Factory Store area to finish learning about the chilling and molding process of Taza chocolate, and of course, try more samples. Some favorites included Guajillo Chili, Salt and Pepper and for the pure at heart, Cacao Puro.

Slow Foods Tufts and Tufts Food Works would like to thank Taza and its generous staff for coordinating such a delicious event. Visit Taza Chocolate's website for more information about the company, their chocolate or to go on a tour of your own. Don't worry, we left some samples behind. For more information regarding nutrition and agriculture private sector connections, please visit Tufts Food Works' website.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

All About Lobster

(This post written by Slow Food Tufts member Bridget McElroy)

Lobster was the topic and the guest of honor at the March 17th Slow Food Tufts meeting. Jim Lynch took time out of his busy schedule at the Lynch Lobster Company in Beverly, MA, to speak to the group about the different aspects of the lobster business including catching, sourcing, marketing, shipping, sustainability issues, and some tasty recipes. With him, he brought two live lobsters to teach us about the legal lobster size and to give us a little lobster anatomy lesson.

Jim and his two brothers represent the third generation of their family to work in the lobster business, as their grandfather started his own company in the industry in 1925. In 1994, the three brothers branched out to start their own small, hands-on, local live lobster distribution business with a national and international scope. According to Jim, the lobster industry produces 200-225 million pounds per year and does about a billion dollars worth of business annually. In general, the industry is divided up into small companies like Lynch’s, which do about $1-5 million in sales annually. Many of these companies are primarily involved in buying from lobstermen along the coast in New England and Canada and then distributing the product to various points along the supply chain. Lynch Lobster Company sells directly to consumers, restaurants, retailers, processors, or larger distributors, and can process between 5 and 10 thousand lobsters per day.

Although not one himself, Lynch personally knows many lobstermen (the only contracts his company has with lobster fishermen are based on a handshake) and he is very familiar with the political and environmental factors that affect them. We learned that in recent years, catch numbers have gone up significantly, partially because of regulations that have increased the stock. Policies have continued to raise the minimum size of lobsters that can be caught (meaning more lobsters are thrown back and allowed to keep growing and breeding) and they also require larger escape vents on traps (releasing lobsters from any traps lost by fishermen). Another very important factor that Jim pointed out is the reduced number of cod and haddock due to over-fishing. These fish are a lobster’s natural predators, and lobster populations have thrived since fish numbers in certain areas have dwindled.

Despite increased catch numbers, lobstermen in New England continue to face price fluctuations that sometimes pay them an unsustainable wage, especially during the off season (November-May). Additionally, in most cases, lobstermen don’t have much choice about where and when to sell their catch, and just sell to local middlemen at that day’s market price. Regulations in New England that limit the processing of whole lobsters are unfavorable to those who might want to start a value-added enterprise of their own – especially as value-added products like lobster tails and lobster meat have grown in popularity in recent years. Competition with Canada’s government-subsidized lobster processing industry is also a formidable challenge.

Jim Lynch’s many years of experience in the lobster business made him quite an enlightening guest to have. His enthusiasm for his family business, the industry, cooking, and lobsters in general made it a thoroughly enjoyable talk. At the end of his presentation, we all got to put our names in a hat for the chance to bring home two Lynch lobsters. Maggie Holmes (pictured left with the catch) was the lucky winner and I’m sure she prepared a delicious dinner that night.

Thank you to Jim Lynch and the Lynch Lobster Company, and to the Slow Food Tufts officers for organizing this fun talk!