After you have finished your last minute Easter shopping, fill your time and your kids' time up with fun filled Easter crafts. Make this Good Friday not just good, but excellent! We have the most beautiful Easter centerpiece that would be a good challenge for kids and adults. Then you can fill your homemade basket with Easter goodies and place on your Easter Brunch Table. Here are the supplies and instructions.
Egg Shaped Easter Basket From String
• "Stiffy" fabric stiffener or Elmer's Liquid Glue
• Crochet thread (max. 1,000 yards) any color you like
• Plastic Wrap
• Aluminum cupcake tray
• Ziploc bag
• Beans or rice
• Glue Gun
• Fake green grass
Line your bowl with plastic wrap and tape down the edges. Inflate a balloon to an enlarged egg shape. Make sure to not over inflate. Drop your string into your bowl and cover it in Stiffy/glue. Let the strong saturate in it. Wrap the end of the string around the top of the balloon to get it started. Continue wrapping your egg until you've got complete coverage. Add more Stuffy/glue along the way when needed. When complete, set on cupcake tray and let dry for 24 hours, turning to get all sides completely dry. Now make a delicious snack with the kids! (See our Peeps Pudding Cups below).
The next day, take a pin and pop the balloon inside the yarn basket. Remove what you can without any force (you will have a chance to get the rest). Grab a Ziploc bag and put some rice or beans in it. Now, cut into the egg with your scissors. Make the circle large enough so you can stuff. Start small, you can always go bigger. Grab the remains of the deflated balloon. Place bean Ziploc bag in the bottom of the basket and place fake grass over it. The weight from the bag keeps the basket standing straight. Take out the glue gun and start getting crafty by decorating the edges by lining it with ribbon. Get as crazy as you want and then fill your basket and place on your table.Peeps Pudding Cups
• Chocolate pudding cups
• Oreos (1 for each cup you make)
• Peeps (1 for each cup you make)
• Orange Starbursts
• Rips Candy (green) or any other string candy
First step is to make the candy carrots. They are MUCH easier to work with when they are warm. I heated up a rice bag in the microwave and set them on it to get them warm. You could microwave them for a few seconds but you need to be VERY careful cause the hot candy can burn you (that is why I went with the rice bag method). Cut your Starburst in half. Flatten the top of one end and make the other end pointed. On the flattened end add some green Rips, wrap the flattened end around the Rips and then roll the whole thing to form a carrot shape. Crush one Oreo for every pudding cup, I put them in a bag and smash them with a soup can. Open your pudding cups, place a Peep in the middle of the pudding cup. Sprinkle the crushed Oreos around the peep and then add the candy carrots. Simple and easy Easter or Spring time treat that will make your kids smile! Enjoy.
It got a big response, and almost all guessed it was of cider making. Ewww. Actually, it was a picture of deputing peaches. Having done many of these farm jobs for so long, I just take some things for granted, and making cider is one of those jobs. So I thought I would provide a few pictures and a little description of our process.
There was a huge change in the apple cider industry in the early nineties. Two E. coli outbreaks brought in federal regulations in the form of a required Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for all mills. A HACCP plan requires you to follow set guidelines to assure the safety of your product. Basically, you evaluate your process, look for potential contamination sites (biological, physical, and chemical), and set guidelines to control them. In the case of our cider operation, it meant
pasteurization, along with the creation of a "clean room" for all equipment, and the equipment must be made of materials that will not harbor any potential pathogens.
Before that time, there were well over 100 cider producers in the state. The number today is about 10 percent of that. For most producers, it became cost prohibitive because the volume produced did not justify the cost to upgrade. Due to this, some big players got out of the game. Lyman Orchards, for one, no longer makes their own cider. Bishop's Orchards put well over $100,000 into our mill, and we had already updated much of our equipment before these regulations came down. Albert Bishop was very proactive in upgrading after the first outbreak, so we were a step ahead.
For those who wished to stay in the cider business, there were three ways producers could continue: heat pasteurization, ultraviolet pasteurization, or no pasteurization at all.
There are several reasons for choosing each method. Traditional pasteurization (which we use) involves utilizing a minimal time/temperature method, and most will contract with a dairy for this process. Cost and space requirements coupled with the relatively limited volume make it cost prohibitive to put in a processing facility.
Those that choose ultraviolet pasteurization are usually, but not always, smaller growers. This is a more cost effective way to allow very small markets to process their own cider in-house. Those that choose to not pasteurize must not wholesale, and must label their cider with a "hazardous for your health" label.
We make cider every week during the fall season, producing about 5,000 gallons a week in a two-day production run. The cider is trucked in a tanker to Mountain Dairy and returned the next day ready to sell. Ironically, Mountain Dairy is a small family farm in Storrs that started the same year as Bishop's Orchards (1871), so it ties in well together. Our total annual production is over 70,000 gallons depending on the apple availability for that season. Ninety percent of the cider is made using our own apples.
I have run the cider operation since Albert retired and have followed his guidelines ever since. There are "base apples" (Macs, Staymans, Ida Reds, and a few others) that I try to have as half the blend, and I work from there based on availability. Then there are apples I must limit either for flavor or settling issues. I also can't use too many sweet apples in the "sweet" cider. There needs to be an acid/sugar balance for good flavor. Every batch is different, but we strive for consistency. The biggest variations are from fall cider to late winter/early spring, when the acid/sugar balance changes naturally in the apples and the cider becomes much sweeter. I don't really track what I put in, and I know there is a mental process to it, but basically I make by "feel."
To make 5,000 gallons of cider in two days, the press operator works hard to make the batches. There is a flow that a good operator will develop, and the steps become very efficient. I was never particularly very good at it. I have done it enough to recognize the best operators, and know I wasn't one of them. Cider is made in batches of a little over two bins (35-40 bushels). If you're efficient, a batch will take about 20 minutes, or five batches every two hours. If you are not efficient and your time is 30 minutes a batch, you just made your day much longer. Do the math at twenty batches a day or more. The day is done when the required production is achieved, not when your eight hours is up.
A normal cider day in the fall is usually 10-11 hours including cleanup. Just a couple of word on cleanup: no fun.
The quality of the apples greatly affects how long the process takes, as well. Different varieties have different yields. In general, I like to see a 125-gallon batch average. Soft Macs might get 100 gallons per batch, while Honey Crisps with their extra thin cell structure will yield 150 or more per batch. With fresh apples this time of year, we are able to get good yields, and as the season goes on and apples get softer, we will see yields drop. Fortunately we will see those drops when maximizing production is not an issue because our product needs are less.
Of the cider we make, about half is sold for private label to growers that don't have cider facilities. I like our production size and don't want it to grow because I can still manage the product that goes into creating a great cider (I think). Once you make the shift to large production, you lose all control of the ability to mix varieties that will make a quality product. Kind of like the CSA in a way. Figure out how much can be done and still maintain the quality, find that point, and stop. Feel free to ask any questions.
The United States and Europe are currently locking horns in a heated trade battle...over cheese. Yes, you read that correctly. In an attempt to defend and expand its piece of the growing global cheese market, the European Union wants the United States to ban the use of certain cheese names that have become ubiquitous for consumers.
The proposal, part of ongoing E.U./U.S. trade talks, would ban American cheese makers from using terms like Parmesan, Asiago, feta, Gruyère, Neufchatel, Gorgonzola, fontina, Muenster, Romano, and others that refer to European regions from which the cheeses originate. If enacted, this proposal means that domestic cheese producers would be forced to drop those well-known names and rebrand their products, potentially ceding a major edge to their European competitors. Their argument is that the American-made cheeses are shadows of the original European varieties and cut into sales and identity of the European cheeses.
The widespread usage of European nomenclature has been an issue since the mid 90s, when the E.U. released its geographical indication registry, which sought to restrict some category names to the regions most associated with them, like Scotland and Scotch whisky or France's Champagne region for its namesake bubbly.
Though it has not laid out a public proposal, the E.U. is expected to make similar attempts to restrict marketing of U.S.-made cheeses. The European Union would not say exactly what it is proposing or even whether they discussed it this past week in Brussels during a new round of talks on free trade agreements.
In recent agreements with Canada and Central America, certain cheese names are already restricted unless the cheese was imported from Europe. Under the Canadian agreement, for example, new feta products manufactured in Canada can only be marketed as 'feta-like' or 'feta-style', and they can't use Greek letters or other symbols that evoke Greece.
The trade negotiations are important for the E.U., as the region tries to protect its share of agricultural exports in the midst of a crippling recession. The ability to exclusively sell some of the continent's most famous and traditional products would prevent others from cutting into those markets.
John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, told TIME Magazine he believed the move would be "a clever trade barrier," and that "there would be a lot of uphill work to do for cheese makers to convince consumers that their 'salty white cheese in brine' is feta. They would have to market it all over again"
So, would you care for a little "hard-grated cheese" on your pasta? Yikes. Sure doesn't have quite the same ring as Parmesan.
Additionally, there is certainly a whole lot of cheddar involved, here: In 2013, the U.S. cheese industry brought in $22 billion and produced 11 billion pounds of cheese, according to the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. In case you were wondering about the breakdown, $10 billion of that is in Wisconsin alone. It seems likely that a deal would not only give Europe an advantage in foreign markets, where American cheese exports are booming, but would affect domestic consumers, too.
The problem, according to some American cheese producers, both large and small, is that people will be confused by the change. The names we're so accustomed to seeing, in addition to indicating country or region of origin, also indicate the method of preparation. In other words, consumers have come to understand these names as representative of a type of cheese rather than rooted in a certain place, and upsetting that would have serious financial ramifications, for both small and large-scale operations.
Concerned about the possible impact of changing the labels on those popular foods, a bipartisan group of 55 senators wrote U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week asking them not to agree to any such proposals by the E.U. The members wrote that in the states they represent, "many small- or medium-sized, family-owned businesses could have their businesses unfairly restricted" and that export businesses could be gravely hurt.
They also mentioned the fact that artisanal cheese production is a growing industry across the Northeast. It is, of course, already well known around these parts that artisanal and locally produced foods help support local economies while offering shoppers unique items at the same time. Many consumers may actually prefer the American brands, opting to "shop local". So, how would this trade agreement adjustment affect the region's cheese makers and dairy farms? It's difficult to say, but we might want to start preparing ourselves for a whole different cheese shopping experience.