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Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on January 5, 2015 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

In Germany, pigs are a symbol of good luck and prosperity. These gingerbread pigs have their own part in our family history:

The cookie cutter for these my grandpa made in 1949 out of the tin of a 2lb milk powder can that came in a CARE-package. My grandma used it ever since for her gingerbread until she didn't do gingerbread anymore and it came down to me to keep up with this family tradition.

Usually we're too late to ask our parents questions about the past. I'm very thankful to my father, that he has such an excellent memory of his childhood and was able to share the history of the cookie cutter with me. He also remembered that my grandma would coat the piggy head and back with chocolate and the mid section with lemon icing to resemble a pig breed that was very popular in Germany at the time: the Haellisch Swine.

This breed was known for it's high fat content and for having a lot of piglets. Perfect for the scarce times after WWII.

Elderberry time

Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on June 20, 2014 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

end of harvest for rhubarb and sorrel

Summer solstice back in Germany meant the end of harvest time for rhubarb and sorrel (rumex acetosa), because the content of oxalic acid in the edible parts had become too high for safe consumption.

elderberry flower uses

But this time also meant that the elderberry bushes were flowering and it was time to harvest the flower sprigs to dip them  in pancake batter and fry them to enjoy a delcious treat fresh from the pan, dusted with powdered sugar.

Usually I started a covered bucket of sugary water with white wine vinegar, lemons and elderberry flowers to let it ferment over the span of a few days to have a refreshingly bubbly additive for cold water on hot summer days.

Some flower sprigs I'd spread on clean kitchen towels over cooling racks that were set up in the uninsulated attic of our cottage. There the delicate flowers would dry and after a week I could strip the flowers from the fibrous stems to put them in airtight containers for use in herbal teas. They render a nice aroma and are supposed to promote sweating when you have a fever.

elderberry: Sambucus nigra versus Sambucus canadiensis

For the past seven years I have smelled on the locally growing elderberry flowers of North Central Florida and very often I didn't detect a scent at all. The elderberry of Europe, Sambucus nigra, has a very strong scent that some people even compare to cat urine! I don't know, if the North American elderberry, Sambucus canadiensis, has the same healing properties as it's European counterpart and I actually don't care, because I'm happy to announce that ,like with other flowers and herbs, the flowers of the local elderberry have to come close to fermentation to develop a delicate flowery aroma!

recipe for elderberry syrup

To extract the flavor, gather about 40 sprigs of elderberry flower on a late morning, after the dew has dried off and the sun has had time to get the scent flowing. At home bring 1/2 a gallon of water to a boil. Take off heat and dissolve about 4lbs of sugar (in metrics that would be 2 liter of water and 2 kg of sugar). Cover and let cool off to room temperature. Then add the juice and halves of 6 squeezed organic lemons and your elderberry flower sprigs. Stir well, cover and let it sit on your kitchen counter (or any other warm place) for at least 24 hours. Stir about 3 times a day. After a day, take a spoonfull of syrup and try if you detect any flavor. If still too week, let sit for another day. Once you like the flavor, pour syrup through a handkerchief into bottles and keep in the fridge. Mix with cold water for a refreshing drink or use the syrup for jelly.

about organic lemons

Usually I'm not very particular in the use of certified organic versus conventionally grown ingredients. But with lemon peel it's different. If the lemons aren't grown by myself or a good friend, certified organic lemons are the only option when I want to use the peel. Usually citrus fruit is waxed to keep the oils and water from evaporating to extend shelf life. Organic lemons wither and dry up fairly quickly. So only buy as many as you know you'll use in a week.


Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on February 27, 2014 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

At home in Germany's Southwest "Fasnet" took off today:

The "night before lent" is the crazy time between Epiphany (January 6th) and Ash-Wednesday celebrated with parades and masked balls to show off elaborate costumes alongside a cornucopia of unique local traditions that usually include: people coming together,making fun of each other, music, singing, dancing, greasy food and alcohol. Does that sound like Mardi Gras?

As a small child I used to be afraid of the "Maeschgerle", the people in costumes with their wooden handcarved masks that take part in parades or come to school on "Fatty Thursday" (Schmotziger Dunschtig) to free the students from their teachers until regular classes resume on Ash-Wednesday, if the rest of the week isn't off for a winter holiday to go skiing!

The whole dressing up in costume, decorated houses, music and dancing in the streets can be a much needed diversion to those clammy, grey and rainy winters when everybody is waiting for spring. During that time a lot of romantic relationships are born (and probably others cease to be!).

Do I miss it? No. I cherished it, while I lived in the cold.

Here in North-Central Florida, it makes me happy to share the Fasnet-tradition of home-made, jam-filled donuts, one of which contains mustard, but nobody knows which one - not even I, the baker.

The good thing about biting into mustard is: you'll get a jar of jam for free, if you're the "lucky" one :)

So come and join me for the fun at the farmer's market of Town of Tioga on Monday, March 3rd -  3pm-6,30pm

and the Union Street Farmer's Market in Gainesville, Downtown on Wednesday, March 5th - 4pm-7pm.


Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on October 15, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (1)

Hibiscus sabdariffa is the botanical name for the "Cranberry of the South" that grows into a bush in one season in Nort Florida.

The fleshy red leaves beneath the flower grow and enclose the developping seed pod once the flower has been pollinated.

It looks like a flower bud, but grows larger as the seeds inside mature and is called calyx. This part of the plant is being harvested to make red punch or to dry it and use it like herbal tea. I made my crops into jam:

Here's the recipe:

You need about two paper grocery bags full of calyces. Wash them twice and discard the water. Drain and break the fleshy leaves off the seed pod. That's a lot of work and you might get red fingers. Also be careful, if aphids are on the plant you might have ants inside the calyx. In this case rinse the leave junks again before filling them in a kettle. For 2 lb of calyx leaves add 1lb sugar, 1 cup apple juice and the juice of half a lemon. Cook down on medium heat until the leaves are soft. Now crush 3 whole cloves, 1 stick cinnamon and half a teaspoon anise seed and fill them in a small cotton bag or tea bag. Hang into roselle "soup" and let simmer for half an hour.

Now add 2 tsp of calcium water from Pomona's Pectin and bring to a rolling boil. Then add another 1lb sugar with 2 tsp pectin mixed under. Again, bring to a rolling boil and boil for 2 minutes. Then fill into sterilized jars and cover with sterilized lids.

It's a lot of work, but totally worth it. The flavor is amazing!

This is what I did with the jam:

Cinnamon buns filled with roselle jam and apples.

You can also use the young leaves of the plant, the ones that grow at the end of a branch and cut them in thin stripes to add to salads or soups. They substitute the tangy sorell (rumex acetosella) which isn't available at this time of year.

Stuffany is back!

Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on October 6, 2013 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

What a year so far - but that's life!

Sometimes there are more important things to do than to write blogs;) ....but now that I succsessfully finished a dream of mine: an old fashioned market stand, I just have to share my happiness on this site and, of course, a picture of it!

It took me a week to get the wooden part done, another week to sew the awning and the cost for all the materials necessary was $256, 54.

Because the wood is lightweight and all pieces just slide into each other in a very old fashioned way it is easy for one person to set up. No screws required. Sandbags in the saw horses and gallon jugs tied to the back fabric will hold this stand on the ground even in Floridian thunderstorms. However,  I won't stay dry. But that isn't possible in the climate here anyway: it's either rain or sweat.

So now I'm all set for another market season.


Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on February 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Christmas time

Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on December 4, 2012 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

It's a busy time. Not that other times wouldn't be busy either. I guess, it feels more busy, because we think it should be a quiet time of spending time at candle light with good friends and family singing Christmas carols and eating cookies.

Well, here in North Central Florida it doesn't feel really Christmassy anyway. Last night I took a strool around town with my dear husband and aside from the lighted Christmas decoration it could have been spring as well: the crickets were chirping, we could see the Swan and Cassiopeia up in a clear sky and we didn't need jackets - a wonderful night.

Of course, temperatures being this warm makes it hard to keep the traditional German Christmas cookies in traditional tin cans without them getting ranzid or starting to mold before Christmas is over. So I haven't done a lot of baking, yet.

This Wednesday I'll offer another batch of my signature pumpkin cookies: Last week I butchered the big pumpkin that decorated my entrance. Nothing edible should go to waste.

Next week I'll offer a German Christmas staple - at least in my family: Linzertorte. It's dough made primarily from almonds and the filling will be Kumquat jam that I kept for this purpose. German with a Florida twist. Like everything I offer. :)

For other Christmas specials check out the photo gallery!

apple experiment

Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on November 23, 2012 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (2)

In spring a lady at the market asked me, if I would make aplle jelly. She'd been introduced to that during a visit in Austria. I told her to check back with me in apple season: fall.

To be honest, although I grew up with a big apple tree in the back yard and picking apples each fall -  be it picking them up from the ground or actually climbing the tree to get really pretty ones harvested unbruised - no one in my family ever made apple jelly.

Every female relative enjoyed the berry season and each one cooked her own delicious jams and jellies and we would trade different flavors. But apples seemed to be solely for apple sauce or apple juice - or for the pigs, if the apples were too rotten.

Since apples don't grow in Florida - at least I've never seen any - I had to use the generic sources: grocery stores. You can tell it's apple season by the special offers and the availability of fresh apple cider. So that's how I set out to cook my very first apple jelly. The 24 jars of my first batch sold fast encouraging me to cook another batch. It probably won't last until I can start with the citrus jams in January. But there will Christmas cookies filled with jam to fill that gap :)

times change

Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on November 11, 2012 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (0)

A huge article today in the Gainesville Sun about Dudley Farm State Park and the kids program I started there 3 years ago:

Every second Saturday of the month exept during the hot and humid Florida summer from June to September I've been offering little old-fashioned crafts or hands-on activities for kids. It got more popular as word got around and as a publicity commity for Dudley Farm was formed and got effectively busy. The attendance of the kids program increased from 5-10 kids per Saturday to 25-50 kids.

At the same time my little business at the market is picking up, too. So now I really have to increase market presence. That means that the 2nd Saturday  10am-2pm kids program has to be moved to be a  first Sunday noon-2pm program. Times change.

Slow, but steady

Posted by Stephanie Bartsch on October 27, 2012 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

A week has passed. The pumpkin cookies sold out right away. Will have to find a good source for pumpkin in order to get enough pumpkin cooked next early summer to be able to make a bigger batch next year in fall. Where could I put a big freezer? Maybe I need to join somebody with a certified kitchen?

Checked out the Macintosh Festival today. I think I could sell a lot there. Nobody offers what I can offer. But that means I will have to produce a lot and store it well to have enough products.

Also will have to check out the Saturday farmers market between Micanopy and Macintosh......ooooooooh lots to doooooo!