Chris is roaming the Northwest with his family this week, so I’m stepping in to write our blog. Which gives me a chance to reminisce on an enlightening trip I took with our produce managers a few years ago.
We visited some of our growers in California, including G&S Farms where our favorite summer corn is grown. There’s no better way to understand why one ear of corn is better than another than to chomp on one in a corn field just after dawn while the farmer who grew it explains why it’s so darn good. Except maybe to read a blog post by someone who did!
Third-Generation Farmer Glenn Stonebarger
Glenn Stonebarger is a third-generation farmer growing a variety of crops in southern California. Among them is sweet corn — or rather, THE sweetest, tenderest, plumpest and juiciest corn I’ve ever eaten. Even better than the corn I remember eating in U-pick fields in Florida when I was a kid.
Great eating qualities like that don’t happen by accident. To get such great corn into our markets, Glenn has applied decades of family farming experience and years of testing varieties and perfecting harvesting and packing methods to how he runs his farm.
It starts with the right varieties. Glenn and our produce guru Joe Pulicicchio have worked together for years testing white, yellow and bicolor strains to find those that have the best eating quality.
When planting, Glenn has the corn spaced closely enough so that if a second ear grows on a stalk it won’t grow much, thus forcing all of the sun’s energy and soil’s nutrients to one sublime ear. Then the corn is harvested by hand to avoid damaging the tender kernels.
Glenn Keeps it Cool – Which Keeps it Tender
After corn is harvested, the heat that’s stored inside the cob begins to radiate outward to the kernels, causing them to get tough and starchy before they ever make it to a grocery store. To preserve optimal eating quality, Glenn’s corn is iced immediately after harvest in a giant contraption that I won’t even try to describe except to say it was very cool. Literally and figuratively.
If you now have a hankering for corn on the cob, how about serving it with some grilled chicken? The Skagit Red Heritage Chickens we introduced in March are back this week and featured on our Big Board Buys. This is a program is exclusive to our markets and is the culmination of a year of visioning and planning between our Director of Meat & Seafood Mike Fodness and the good folks at Draper Valley.
I think it’s fair to say that just about any positive characteristic one would want from a chicken is inherent in these birds. They meet the stringent Step 5 standards of the Global Animal Partnerships’ 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating program.
Not only are they free-range and humanely raised, the Skagit Reds spend most of their time on pasture and are provided what they need for natural chicken behaviors, such as perching, roosting and foraging.
They also have Salmon Safe and Non-GMO certifications, never receive antibiotics, and are air-chilled during processing to preserve best eating quality. Because the Skagit Reds are a heritage breed, they aren’t bred for mass production so are smaller than most chickens on the market and are rich with flavor. And they’re on Big Board Buys right now for $3.28 lb. (that’s $1.71 off per lb.).
Mike tells me that their smaller size makes them a great chicken for grilling because they’ll cook more quickly and evenly. If you do plan to grill this weekend, ask our butchers to spatchcock them for you—which means to cut so they can be cooked flat, increasing the surface area to absorb flavor from your seasonings and the fire.
Or stop by one of our chicken cutting shows this weekend! Our meat staff will be custom cutting and wrapping Skagit Reds while sharing the story of these chickens and offering up cooking tips. Here’s the schedule:
- Friday, July 19, noon to 4 p.m. at Central Market Poulsbo
- Saturday, July 20, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Central Market Mill Creek
- Sunday, July 21, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Ballard Market, T&C Lakemont, and Central Market Shoreline
For more information about these and other market events, “like” your market’s Facebook page for event notices.
Our very own cheese whiz, Shauna Howell, offers up a cheese worth discovering.
Brebirousse d'Argental: When crusty bread smeared with ooey-gooey cheese is “just enough” for a meal try one of my favorites Brebirousse d’Argental.
Don’t let the red-hued rind fool you, this is not a washed rind (stinky) cheese, rather a brie-like, French, soft-ripened sheep milk cheese from France with a touch of natural annatto on the rind.
Just complex and interesting enough to satisfy the cheese snobs among your friends and still approachable enough for Aunt Mary.
Brebirousse means, literally "red sheep." Now you have a party factoid.
Marketing Manager Sue Transeaux joined Town & Country Markets more than 23 years ago, working in Bulk Foods at the market on Bainbridge Island. She’s always watching for what’s fresh, delicious and inspiring in our markets.