Friends, Food & Family

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Nine Pin Cider Works

By Barbara Pinckney

It took one conversation with some Vermont hard cider makers for a plan
to grow in Alejandro del Peral’s mind.
It took a new state law to put the juice into that plan.
The result was Nine Pin Cider Works, the first business licensed under the New York Farm Cideries bill enacted in January. Nine Pin, based on Broadway in downtown Albany, is now flourishing with three varieties of hard cider available in more than 200 stores, bars and restaurants across the state, a fourth available by bottle at farmers’ markets, and others on tap in its tasting room.
“Sales are great,” said Joshua Whelan, sales manager for Nine Pin. “We are excited every day about the reception we are getting. We did not expect to be doing as well as we are at this point.”
Nine Pin, which employs seven, will produce about 60,000 gallons of hard cider this year, all with fresh fruit grown within 30 miles of Albany. Its cider is described as an “off-dry” blend, meaning it is neither too dry nor too sweet. It is made to drink, not sip.
“We have come up with a cider that is user-friendly,” Whelan said, noting that many people are new to the concept of cider as an alcoholic drink.
The Nine Pin story began when del Peral, who grew up on a small farm in Ghent, Columbia County, was doing graduate work at the University of Vermont in Burlington. One day, he met some cider makers from Burlington-based Citizen Cider, and they got to talking.
“By the end of the conversation Alejandro had developed a plan in his head,” Whelan said. “Citizen uses all local apples and their tasting room is in a city.  So he is thinking ‘I am from New York, and there are probably 10 times as many apples in New York as in Vermont, and probably a bigger market for cider!’ So he developed an idea to make his own business out of it.”
But del Peral, who was studying hydrology, did not know the first thing about cider making. So he joined Citizen – which was on board with his plan – and worked there for three years.
Last summer, at the age of 27, del Peral returned to the Capital Region to start his own cidery with backing from his mother, Chatham attorney Sonya del Peral, who serves as manager of Nine Pin.
He found a former marble cutting warehouse at 929 Broadway, right next to the brick wall where his father, Casiano del Peral, had painted a 32-foot rose in 1997. The 5,000 square-foot facility was cleaned out to accommodate the production of cider. He hired two cider makers, shopped the area for local fruit, and went to work.
He chose the name Nine Pin for his new business because the story of Rip Van Winkle has him playing the Dutch bowling game and drinking hard cider, before his long sleep.
While the young del Peral was forming his business, the New York legislature was passing the Farm Cideries bill. That measure created a special license and tax breaks, for hard cider makers whose products are made exclusively from fruit grown in New York. It also allowed for a tasting room and the sale of other items, such as beer, wine and jams, made from New York produce.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill on October 17, and it took effect on January 17. By this time, Nine Pin was ready to bottle its first variety, called its Signature Cider. It applied for a farm cidery license and was the first in the state to receive one. The business held its grand opening on February 28, but bottles of Nine Pin Signature were already in stores, distributed by Guilderland-based Remarkable Liquids.
Two additional bottled ciders, ginger and Belgian, have been introduced since June. All three varieties are available in bars, restaurants and retail stores in every part of the state except Long Island
The company began bottling a new blueberry cider in mid-August, but that variety will be available only at farmers’ markets and in the tap room. Whelan said more varieties will be bottled in the coming months, but “I can’t say what they are yet.”
He said Nine Pin has actually developed about two dozen different ciders, but only certain ones will be bottled. New varieties are first put on tap in the tasting room, where customer reaction helps decide which ones progress to mass production.
It is Alejandro del Peral who selects the fruit and comes up with the recipes.
“Our main concern is local agriculture,” Whelan said. “Everything comes straight from the farm. We use nothing from concentrate. I think the sourcing we are able to do really helps us. A lot of orchards that make cider just use their own apples.”
Most of the apples Nine Pin uses come from Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook. Some apples, and other fruits such as blueberries and strawberries, come from Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont and Lindsey’s Idllywood Orchard in Clifton Park.
The company also uses the apples and pears grown on the del Peral family farm in Ghent to make its La Casa cider, which was named for Casiano del Peral, although La Casa also means “the house” in Spanish.
The orchards press the fruit for Nine Pin and blend it to specific ratios as requested. The juice ferments with the yeast chosen for that particular formula for a few weeks.  During that period, the natural sugars in the fruit are converted into alcohol. The cider is then allowed to age for at least three months.
“Once we deem the cider is good quality it is ready to be bottled or put into kegs,” Whelan said.
While the tasting room, which is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, helps Nine Pin test its new ciders, Whelan said its value to the company is greater than that. It also serves as a retail store, where people can purchase cases of the bottled cider, Nine Pin apparel and other alcohol products made in the region. On select Thursdays, Nine Pin teams up with the Slidin’ Dirty Food Truck to host “Sliders & Cider” in the loading dock area behind its Broadway building.
But Whelan said the best thing about the tasting room is that it gives Nine Pin an opportunity to educate the public about hard cider.
“It is really new to a lot of people,” he said. “They don’t know cider can be alcoholic. So not only do we have the difficulty of getting the Nine Pin name out there and building brand recognition, we have a two-part fight. The other part is to explain to people what hard cider is.”
This is one reason Nine Pin strives to make its cider “user friendly.”  Whalen said some hard cider brands are bone dry while others a super sweet.  Nine Pin has found a happy medium.
“When cider is too dry or too sweet you sit there and sip it,” he said. “Ours you can drink. Like a beer.”
Cider could serve as a gluten-free alternative to beer, albeit with a bit more alcohol. While the average beer has 5 percent alcohol by volume, Nine Pin ciders are above 6 percent.
Whelan said the company has been surprised by how well the community has taken to its products. “Demand is off the charts,” he said. “We are struggling to keep up. It is a good problem to have.”
He said the company plans to keep growing, but will never compromise quality and will never stop using farm fresh ingredients. “We will go as big as that can take us,” he said. “If that means we can’t be a billion dollar company, so be it. But with the amount of apples we have in New York state I think we can grow pretty big.”
The Farm Cideries bill does limit licensed businesses to 150,000 gallons a year, a mark Whelan said Nine Pin should reach within a few years. He said the limit might be raised before then, but, if not, the company will find other ways to grow, perhaps by expanding the retail end of the business.


 

Locavore

Nominees have been announced for the fifth annual Victoria A. Simons Locavore Awards, which recognize notable achievement in bringing together local farmers and consumers in support of locally grown products.
Awards are presented at the Columbia County Fair on Monday, September 1 – Agriculture Appreciation Day at the Fair. The ceremony takes place on the North Gate Stage at 3:00 p.m. Each nominee receives an engraved commemorative award. The three winning nominees each receive an additional plaque as well as $1,000 cash.
The word locavore was coined in San Francisco at the 2005 World Environment Day to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of food harvested within a 100-mile area. The locavore movement encourages people to grow their own food; buy from farmers’ markets, CSAs (community supported agriculture), and other local food programs; and to patronize restaurants, caterers and other food preparers that feature local ingredients.

The 2014 Award nominees are:
• Liz Baldwin: After years of working a conventional dairy farm, Liz took the risky and complex step of converting her Millbrook, NY operation to sales of raw milk. It has proven to be such a success that she is now regularly increasing the size of her herd in order to meet demand.
• Berkshire Co-Op Market: Founded in 1981, the Great Barrington Co-op is known regionally for its natural food policy, commitment to local agriculture, support of the local economy and dedication to environmental stewardship. In addition to selling fresh organic meats and fish, cheese and produce, the Co-op sponsors farm tours, runs children’s workshops, and conducts outreach and education programs for area schools, camps and the community.
• Berkshire Organics: Aleisha and Brian Gibbons have shown a solid commitment to local and organic foods over the six years that their Berkshire Organics has been in business. This year, they collaborated to place several purveyors of local products under one roof on Dalton Division Road in Massachusetts, creating a one-stop shop for those interested in a locavore diet.
• Tessa Edick: Founder of the Farm On! Foundation and Friends of the Farmer, Tessa Edick raises funds for scholarships in agricultural studies and engages the community to support local farms through a variety of innovative programs, all of which foster the connection between producer and buyer, and introduce Hudson Valley residents and visitors to local farmers. She was instrumental in bringing Hudson Valley Fresh milk into the Taconic Hills School District.
• Fish & Game: All products at this Hudson, NY restaurant come from local farms that are sourced at a 40-mile maximum. (The only exception is fresh North Atlantic fish.) All animals and fish used at the restaurant are raised humanely and slaughtered in-house. Great attention also goes into preserving the bounty during winter months so that the restaurant doesn’t need to order products from outside sources in order to compensate.
• Lauren Giambrone: The founder of Good Fight Herb Company, Lauren creates tinctures, tonics and ointments from herbs grown at or near her Germantown home, where she collaborates with local grower Sarah Monteiro of Farmhand Flowers. This spring, in addition to on-farm classes and plant walks, Lauren began offering subscriptions to her CSH (community supported herbalism).
• Nancy Fuller Ginsberg: As host of the Food Network’s “Farmhouse Rules,” each week Nancy introduces TV audiences to local area farms and foods. Prior to joining the Food Network family, Nancy operated her own Columbia County catering business for 25 years, always featuring farm-fresh local ingredients in her recipes. Ginsberg’s, the family business, sponsors the Columbia County Fair’s annual cooking contest, which requires that contestants use at least one locally sourced ingredient in their entries.
• Grazin’: Dan and Susan Gibson (owners of Grazin’ Angus Acres in Ghent), opened their Grazin’ Diner in Hudson in 2011, along with daughter Christine and son-in-law Chip. The restaurant’s grass-fed and finished beef, grass-fed dairy, pasture-raised eggs, chicken and pork all take a short 7.2-mile ride from farm to table; most of the other ingredients are sourced from local farms within 12 miles of the restaurant. Grazin’ also holds the distinction of being the first Animal Welfare-approved restaurant in Columbia County.
• Susan Wolfe-Hill: Since 2010, Susan has been Executive Chef and caterer at the Columbia Golf & Country Club in Claverack, where her menus feature healthy local food. A Columbia County native, Susan reached out to a local Girl Scout troop to help her develop an herb and vegetable garden at the Club. For many years, Susan also lent her expertise to the Hudson Salvation Army Mission, where she cooked a weekly dinner using food donated by local farmers.
• Hudson Farmers’ Market: Now in its 17th year, the market is open from early May to late November, with an additional indoor season for part of the winter, giving it one of the longest seasons in the area. The market continues to support new farmers who are just starting out, along with multi-generational farmers who have been growing produce in the County for decades. It was one of the first farmers’ markets in New York to accept WIC coupons from its customers, ensuring accessibility to everyone seeking fresh, wholesome food. Today, some 30 vendors supply everything from eggs, pies and mushrooms to gluten-free products, while a weekly e-newsletter keeps patrons informed with recipes, special events and available produce.
• Chef Josh Kroner: A driving force behind the Hudson Valley’s farm-to-table movement for the past 16 years, Chef Kroner’s Rhinebeck restaurant Terrapin supports local farms, uses local ingredients wherever possible, and encourages diners to eat local through promotions at seasonal farm dinners. His innovative “Kids Taste & Talk” program turns Terrapin into an interactive food classroom on several weekends throughout the year, helping to spread locavore principles to the younger generation.
• Saint Peter’s Gleaners: Over the past two years, the Gleaners have established a presence at both the Chatham and Kinderhook Farmers’ Markets, where they collect donated food and deliver it to local food pantries. So far, more than 2,500 pounds of fresh, healthy food has been donated. In winter months, the Gleaners buy shares in the Chatham Co-op and donate them to the food pantry.
• Dan Smith: Chef Smith has been the chef/owner of John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant in South Egremont, MA since 1990. His long-standing commitment to fresh, sustainable food has always been the starting point for the restaurant’s menus, where approximately 50 percent of the total food purchases come from the Berkshires and Hudson Valley. Last year, John Andrews was named one of the World’s Best Farmstead Experiences by the Daily Meal – the fast-growing internet food site with more than 7 million visitors.
Previous Locavore Award winners have included Joe Gilbert at The Berry Farm in Chatham; Brian Alberg, executive chef at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA; Amy Cotler of West Stockbridge, MA, writer, blogger, cooking instructor, and founding director of Berkshire Grown; the Osofsky Family of Ronnybrook Farm Dairy in Ancramdale; Laura Pensiero of Gigi Hudson Valley in Red Hook; and Liz Beals of Stuyvesant, a long-time local food advocate.
Vicki Simons – long-time editor of The Independent Newspaper, executive director of Columbia County Bounty, and sparkplug for many causes targeting community improvement – was a strong proponent of locavore activities as part of her commitment to see greater use of locally produced food and to keep agriculture an integral part of the community experience.
As a writer and editor, she documented the shift to organic and niche farming activities locally, and as a moving force of Columbia County Bounty helped bring farmers together with chefs, restaurants and caterers to facilitate greater, more creative use of local food products. She also helped establish the Bounty model in Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties as steps toward a Bounty program covering the entire Hudson Valley. Simons died in 2010.
Charitable contributions to the Victoria A. Simons Locavore Award Fund can be made c/o Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation, P.O. Box 1189, Hudson, NY 12534.
 


 

Zucchini cookbook treasure

By The Grateful Traveler

There are two things in life that relax me more than anything else – perusing thrift and antique stores and reading old cookbooks.  When I find some cookbook treasures that lovingly contain notes, comments and private family recipes scribbled throughout the book…well that’s the thrift store jackpot!
I found one such culinary personal masterpiece in Connecticut while visiting the Vanderbilt Grace Inn & Spa. You can read about the Inn in the March issue of Capital Region Living Magazine online. It was an old Zucchini Cookbook produced by Garden Way in Troy. I had this cookbook already, like many in this area who either worked or had relatives at the tiller manufacturing company. I frankly picked it up because it was in better shape than my batter splattered relic but, to my delight, it was full of browned papers from age and painstakingly written notes and comments.
For the price of fifty cents, I found myself traveling into this lovely unknown woman’s kitchen to try endless squash recipes.  I imagined that her family was never short of squash, perhaps from one of our local country home gardens. From the old newspaper clippings with recipes for zucchini, family notes and recipes for many of the same dishes but altered ever so slightly to reflect that relative’s taste buds, I learned much about this woman we will call Fran and her family and friends.
One of Fran’s recipes (there were 13 just for Zucchini Bread) was on an old note card from someone named, “mean Kathleen.” Mean Kathleen loved to spice up her Zucchini Bread.  MK must have been a pip!
Many of the recipes were noted with ingredient quantity reductions so I imagine that cooking and baking needs reduced as her family aged and left the imagined country homestead. Sadly, I also notice a decline and shakiness to the notations on some cards tucked lovingly in the cookbook as well as in the book margins.
I would imagine that Fran loved to entertain, too. Her recipes from the ‘50s, before this particular cookbook was even published, indicated a woman looking for ease yet beauty in her finished dishes.  One such recipe was for Imperial Garden Pie.  She notes in parentheses that it is “soooo simple” and lovely to serve. It is made in a nine-inch pie plate and should only be cut when “entirely cool” to preserve the lovely slices.
The zucchini casseroles look filling and plentiful – some with meats and many just vegetarian delights.  Bisquick was certainly a staple in Fran’s home too and used often in her cooking. I picture several of the tall boxes sitting in the pantry for her dumplings, pies and fritters.
Her Zucchini Crabcakes, however, are misleading as there is no mention of crab in the cakes. If I had a chance, I would let Fran know about this. As a fellow recipe collector and cooking dabbler, I would call them Zucchini Cakes.  Oh that Fran!
I have grown to know Fran in many ways as I have all the other ladies who write in cookbooks for people of the next generation(s) to relish.  I admire her cooking prowess and her meticulous manner in organizing recipes for future usage. And that Fran knew her way around the zucchini patch!
 

Zuccini and Italian Sausage
Serves 4
1 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced
6 oz. crumbled sausage
1/3 cup seasoned breadcrumbs plus extra for topping
½ cup grated parmesan
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp ground fennel
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
2 egg yolks,slightly beaten
2 egg whites, stiffley beaten
4 roasted and cleaned poblano peppers, chopped
¼ cup onion, chopped
½ cup mushroom pieces
Olive Oil
• Cook zucchini in small amount of boiling salted water about 5 minutes; chop.
• Brown sausage and drain.
• Combine bread crumbs, parmesan, seasonings, parsley and egg yolks and sausage.
• Fold in egg whites. 
• Slowly add veggies and place in heavily greased casserole.
• Sprinkle with bread crumbs tossed in oil. 
• Bake 325 for 45 minutes

Here are some of “Fran’s” recipes as well as one great one brought up to date by our Food Editor, Michele Rowe

Fran’s Zucchini Crabcakes
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup seasoned
   bread crumbs
1 TBL mayonnaise
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
2 small eggs
• Mix into patties
• Fry until brown

Imperial Garden Pie
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup tomatoes (drain well if not fresh from the garden)
½ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped
green peppers
1 cup shredded
cheddar cheese
Season with salt and pepper
Blender Mix
1 cup milk
2 eggs
½ cup Bisquick
• Place the chopped veggies and cheese in the pie plate. 
• Mix the blender ingredients and pour over all.
• Bake for 30 minutes at 350.


Asian Cuisine

Bring global flavor to your table with pork
Explore new flavors and cuisines and take a tasty trip around the world with pork – all from the comfort of your own home. Pork’s versatility and savory taste make it the perfect pairing with global ingredients and dishes, giving you a passport to delicious mealtimes you will want to share with family and friends.
Need some inspiration? Create a Pork Bucket List and fill it with ideas for global-tasting meals with pork. Try:
• Making your own marinade using a new ingredient from a far-off place, like chiles.
• Visiting a new ethnic restaurant that serves dishes like dim sum or Korean barbecue and then find recipes at PorkBeinspired.com to replicate your favorites at home.
• Discovering pork dishes from all seven continents, starting with Asia and these Thai Ribeye Pork Chops.
For Thai Ribeye Pork Chops, mix up a slightly tangy Asian-inspired marinade before grilling. And remember, for juicy, tender results that you, your family and friends will love, grill your pork chops to an internal temperature between 145 F (medium rare) and 160 F (medium), followed by a three-minute rest.
Serve these chops on top of a bed of noodles for a Thai pork noodle bowl, or alongside an herb salad of fresh basil, mint, scallions and cilantro for a meal packed with a world of flavor.
Keep your grilling and cooking fresh and exciting with more global recipes. Visit www.PorkBeinspired.com and www.Pinterest.com/PorkBeinspired for recipes, ideas, tips and more.

Thai ribeye pork chops
Servings: 4
1/4  cup soy sauce
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped or 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
3 cloves garlic, crushed
(about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lime, juiced
4 boneless ribeye pork chops, about 3/4- to 1-inch thick
• Whisk together soy sauce, cilantro, garlic, brown sugar, vegetable oil and lime juice in bowl.
• In large baking dish, arrange ribeye pork chops in even layer. Pour marinade over pork chops, reserving about 1/4 cup of marinade in refrigerator for later use.
• Marinate pork chops for 20-30 minutes.
• Heat indoor grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high heat. Remove pork chops from marinade, discarding excess marinade. Place pork chops on hot grill for 4 minutes on each side, flipping once until internal temperature of pork measures between 145 F (medium rare) and 160 F (medium) on meat thermometer.
• Transfer grilled pork chops to cutting board and let rest for 3
   minutes before slicing against grain.
• Pour reserved marinade over sliced pork before serving.

 

Tackle a winning taste with Korean pork skewers
It’s not just a Spanish, tapas-style thing anymore. At all different types of bars and restaurants across the United States, you’ll find menus that continue to explore ways to feature favorite foods – like pork – in more bite-sized, snack-able ways. Beyond the walls of those eateries, street vendors, food booths and food trucks also are featuring portable, easy-to-eat dishes like kabobs and sliders.
One of the great things about street food is that it’s typically an easy way to sample a variety of dishes and global flavors without having to travel far or sit down to a formal meal – which is what makes these on-the-go options the perfect choice for your next tailgate, especially if juicy, tender pork is on your menu.
Whether at the game or in your backyard, a tailgate party is the perfect opportunity to share small but tasty plates with your neighbors, friends and family – perfect bites to enjoy while keeping a close eye on the action on the field.
Spicy Korean Pork Skewers deliver snack-sized game-winning flavor without a lot of preparation time, and without messy plates and silverware, the clean-up is something to cheer about, too. Marinated in an Asian sauce that gets a bold kick from chili garlic, soy and fresh ginger, bite-sized cubes of pork ribs are skewered and then grilled for an unbeatable addition to your game-day spread.
If you want to keep your menu authentic, serve these Korean pork skewers with white rice. Combine them with other small-plate pork dishes to offer your guests a variety of great-tasting choices. 
Need more pork inspiration? Visit www.PorkBucketList.com to learn how to create a personal #PorkBucketList and see what tasty adventures pork fans across the country are taking with pork. You can also find more ways to integrate flavorful, juicy pork into your next tailgate or backyard gathering at www.PorkBeinspired.com and www.Pinterest.com/PorkBeinspired.
 

Spicy Korean pork skewers
Servings: 4
2 pounds boneless country-style
pork ribs, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup chili garlic sauce*
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 inches fresh ginger root, skins removed and chopped (or substitute 2 teaspoons ground ginger)
4 tablespoons filtered sake or dry sherry (optional)
2 tablespoons sesame oil*
3 tablespoons brown sugar

• In large bowl combine chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, ginger, sake, sesame oil and brown sugar and whisk to form a marinade. Add pork to marinade and let sit for 20 minutes.
• Heat indoor grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high heat.
• Thread marinated pork on skewers, about four to five pieces per skewer. Transfer skewers to grill and cook uncovered, turning to brown evenly every two to three minutes until tender, about 10 minutes total. Serve immediately.
*You can find chili garlic sauce and sesame oil in the ethnic or Asian section of most major supermarkets.
Quick Tip: Make sure to leave plenty of room on the grill between each skewer to avoid overcrowding the meat and to ensure even cooking.
 

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