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Month: May 2009

Beat the Drum

hooke-up-002The Charter Fleet at South Jersey Marina continued to “beat the Drum” this week. Many trips were made by several boats and a few of the highlights are noted below:

On Wednesday, Capt. John Sowerby went out with a group on the Hooked Up II and got into them very well. The largest of the catch (63 pounds) was released.

Another group went with him on an all night venture on Friday and this time they returned to the dock with 9 keepers in the 45-60 pound class and reported several releases.

Capt. Bill Bittmann of the Top Shelf went to the Bay on Thursday and he had 6 keepers. They fished on the incoming afternoon tide for only 6 hours and did very well during that trip. Another satisfied customer went home with bags of fish for several Memorial Weekend dinners.

Capt. Joe Lechner on the Charter Boat Slammer fished for Drum on Thursday this week and caught a total of 15 keepers.

928-drumAs the weekend progressed, several fish were brought in but, none as big as the one brought in on Sunday. Mark McPherson of North Cape May went out on the Cape May Lady for a night fishing trip. He is shown, right, with his daughter and an all-time Marina record-breaking Black Drum at 92.8 pounds.


Water temperatures are warming up

The water temperature in the Bay has finally started to warm up. We have reports of 62 degree water. The Drum fishing has really turned on and the following were two noteworthy reports I received:

Joe Pritchard on the “Big Game” went out on Wednesday last week and brought 8 Drum to the boat. They were all in the 30-35 lb. class….just right for table fare. On Saturday, he had 9 catches with one weighing in at 68 lbs.

The Captain of the Charter Boat “Slammer” also went out Saturday and he too had a great evening. He had 15 fish with one weighing 80 lbs.

The time is now to start hitting these Drum fish.


Sweaters on Legs: Alpaca Farming in West Cape May

This is an abridged version of A Different Kind of Farm, which was first published in the Spring 2007 issue of Cape May Magazine. Text by Karen Fox.


Ever since she was a little girl in Ohio, Barbara Nuessle wanted to live on a farm. It would be 50 years before Barbara – with a stroke of luck – found the farm of her dreams. “I really thought I was going to raise horses,” she says. Instead she raises alpacas with her husband Warren. alpacas-groupshotNow 14 years later, the gold and green sign on New England Road says, “Bay Springs Farm Open.”

There’s a long clamshell lane that bridges over a spring-fed pond, and at the end sits a handsome cedar-shake farm-style house that Warren designed with wrap-around porches. Warren can be seen moving quickly to his commercial mower that he operates about three hours a day to keep up with the fast-growing lawn and pasture.

Barbara is standing at the fence on her 10 acres in the Cape May countryside admiring her alpaca herd – especially the new-born babies on wobbly legs. The other members of the herd are kicking up their heels in the meadow sprouting green in the warm spring sun. The delights of this perfectly picturesque setting are the alpacas walking, their heads up high. The little ones break away, necking and rollicking along the fence row. Barbara loves hanging out on the fence. The alpacas are mesmerizing. They are so quiet. The color of their thick fleece has a wide range: white, beige, light fawn, dark fawn, light brown, dark brown, rose gray, silver gray and black.

Why alpacas?

“My first impression was sweaters on legs,” says Barbara with a chuckle. As a serious knitter with an understanding of excellent yarn, salpacas-ewokhe knew alpacas grow a fine fleece that rivals cashmere in luxurious feel and durability.

The year was 1993, and the Nuessles decided to buy 10 acres of the old Doug and Carol McPherson farm, one of the last working dairies in Cape May County, which in 1993 grew lima beans.

Instead of planting lima beans, springtime at Bay Springs Farm now means shearing time when professionals are called in. Each alpaca produces five to ten pounds of fleece. The fleece is sorted and prepared to be spun into yarn for knitting, crocheting and weaving. Eventually the Nuessles’ homegrown fleece is available at their Farm Store at the rear of their home. Artfully arranged are skeins of alpaca yarn in soft colors plus items that Barbara has knitted herself. There are alpaca blankets, sweaters, socks, booties, mittens and scarves handmade in Peru.

Alpaca farming is an everyday commitment to nurturing. The barnyard chores come first, no matter how severe the weather. One 18-degree morning this past February, Barbara was up with the first streaks of dawn to see snow blowing sideways. “No golf for Warren today,” she said at breakfast. The bay winds cut icy swaths across their fields and into their layered barn clothes. Warren rides the golf cart, juggling buckets of warm water for the boys in the front pasture, but finds they have taken shelter in the barn. Barbara totes pails of hot water to the girls and their young ones snuggled inside. “Alpacas love the cold, but they don’t like wind and snow,” she said. Barbara mucks the barn and puts down fresh sawdust for the girls.

alpacas-barbaraIt’s 10 o’clock, time for alpaca breakfast: Barbara pours 10 pounds of feed into a large bucket, mixes in some minerals, and parcels out a cup or two into individual feeders. She scatters some hay, and a top dress of alfalfa, a gourmet treat. By 10:30 a.m., Barbara is peeling off her chore clothes, then ordering a case of kale and carrots for the herd. She’s off to the grocery store to pick up provisions, making a stop at the post office to mail fleece samples for a national yarn competition. Before a lunch of produce from last summer’s garden, Barbara and Warren bundle up again to check the alpacas, all snug and humming, as they do when they are happy, and stock up the many birdfeeders dotting the landscape.

Before and after 4 p.m. chore time, Barbara catches up on computer work: ads and photos for studs for hire, and for sale. She preps for an alpaca association teleconference from 8 – 11 p.m. She takes a look out at the barn at midnight. All is well, though the Bay winds howl. She curls up with a book and can’t wait to do it all over again tomorrow. Alpaca farming is a labor of love.

Mild-tempered and gregarious as alpacas are, they have their eccentricities. It’s true, they spit, Barbara confirms, rarely at humans – but occasionally at each other. alpacas-restingThe spit is chewed up grass, odorous, but harmless. It’s their immediate defense system. They are herd animals but like their own space, especially when lounging in the barn.

Though located off the beaten path, Bay Springs Farm plays host to more than 3,500 knitters, spinners, tourists and families who want their children to see the alpacas. The farm is located in one of the only remaining natural dune forests, bordered by the 1,500-acre Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area on one side, and the preserved Hidden Valley Ranch on the other.

“We just never know who might be dropping in,” says Barbara. “And you never know who is knitting these days. A lot of young people are taking up knitting because they appreciate handmade things, and they knit for social reasons. They call their groups ‘Stitch ‘n Bitch.’ Boys, too, are knitting. I had an 11 year-old customer who was totally into fiber and interested in becoming a designer.”

Planners that they are, Barbara and Warren have taken steps to preserve their dream-come-true for future alpacas-babygenerations. Bay Springs Farm is now part of the New Jersey Farmland Preservation Program, which protects it from development. Their 10 acres joins the hundreds of preserved acres on their boundaries. The goal is to keep the fields and forest as they are forever.

Dreams? Well, Barbara got a horse of her own at age seven. He was a brown and white Pinto named Chuck-A-Luck, which she rode every day. “My horses were my loves,” she says thinking about those days. Today, when she walks out and gazes upon her herd, it’s easy to see who her new loves are.


Visit Bay Springs Farm online at www.bayspringsalpacas.com


N.J. Food Romance – From Ewes with Love

Farm photographs by Macy Zhelyazkova. Valley Shepherd Creamery photograph courtesy of Chef Vincent Tedeschi, ACA Chef Educator.


Spring is a time to celebrate rebirth and renewal. Soon the farmer’s markets will re-open and fresh local produce will abound.

In the age of a global economy, where you can go into any superstore and buy any item at any time of the year, I ask myself, is this a positive trend? As a chef I enjoy being able to use fresh tuna from Hawaii or Barramundi from Australia and wild strawberries from France. But should I? This is the real persnick-cabbagequestion. With a few keystrokes on the computer or a couple of cell phone calls I can order anything from around the globe. But has this caused the food world to lose its soul? Have we grown so used to excess that we have lost touch with food and its origins? And finally, do we appreciate the sacrifices that are made to put food on our tables?

I recently had the opportunity to see one of my favorite foods being produced from start to finish. Dean Kelly McClay, CEC, CCE, of the Academy of Culinary Arts at Atlantic Cape Community College in Mays Landing, where I teach and otherwise known as my day job, arranged for us to visit an artisanal cheese maker in Long Valley, New persnick-1Jersey. The scenery on the two-plus hour trip changed from coastal to Pine Barrens to rolling hills. At Valley Shepherd Creamery we were greeted first by goats and sheep and then we met Eran, the cheese maker. It is lambing season at the creamery and the birthing barn was busy with activity. Eran is a man who lives the old adage, “Find your passion and never work another day in your life.” Working by sights, smells, sounds and textures, not formulas and spreadsheets, he transforms raw milk into wheels of creamy bleus and crumbly Gouda.

He sells his products to Manhattan’s finest chefs, at farmers’ markets and in his shop at the creamery where everything from lamb soap to lamb sausage is available.

I will admit, it is a little disconcerting going from holding a newborn lamb to buying lamb chops, but this is the cycle of life. Then the thought hit me – as chefs we are part of this chain. We in the culinary profession have an obligation and responsibility to honor the sacrifices of the living entities, both plant and animal, that are the building blocks of our craft. Our place in the chain, from soil to market persnick-homegrownto table, is to use our best techniques, skills and talent to honor the ingredient. I am reminded of the opening scene in The Last of the Mohicans when Hawkeye chases down the deer and after killing his quarry, praises his brother deer asking for the strength and virtue of the deer to be transferred to him. Walking the aisles of the local mega mart and seeing the endless packages and piles of food, it is easy to forget the origins of foods.

Even in tough economic times we have so much more available to us than previous generations. Even though we have more, we have lost contact with the source and soul of food. We expect our food to always be there when we desire it. But it comes with a price. Locally we have seen the sacrifice of fisherman, most recently the crew of the Lady Mary.

As you prepare your next meal think of the long days the farmer or the fisherman who worked to the food to your table, and of the sacrifices made so you can eat. Take time and persnick-squashcare in preparing the meal. Slow down. Savor each bite. Appreciate all the work that went into the plate that gives you sustenance.

As you prepare this month’s recipes, consider the source of the food. Go to a fish market for the scallops, a farmers market for the produce, a local cheese store or butcher or baker. These craftsmen are also part of the chain of food, and too many of these skills are disappearing for sake of convenience and cost. This month prepare Warm Goat Cheese and Strawberry Salad, Grilled Lamb Chops with Morbier Polenta and Scallops with Grilled Asparagus Lemon Chardonnay Cream. Take your time and raise a glass of local wine to the craftsmen whose passion keeps these skills alive. Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Warm Goat Cheese and Strawberry Salad

For the salad, blend frisee, Boston bibb, red oak leaf and romaine lettuces (Or your favorite lettuces. Don’t buy a factory mass-produced field green mix). Toss gently with freshly sliced strawberries or whatever berry is local and seasonal

For the dressing

  • 1 lime, juice and zest (maybe not local, but use organic)
  • 1 orange, juice and zest (maybe not local, but use organic)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest (Maybe not local, but use organic. Do you hear an echo?)
  • 1 minced shallot
  • 1 cup good olive oil.
  • 1 sprig thyme

Whisk gently. Season with salt, pepper and a sprig of chopped fresh thyme. Toss with lettuces, dressing, strawberries and a handful of lightly-toasted almonds. Top with warm goat cheese.

Goat cheese

  • Goat cheese, 1 ounce per person. Find a local cheese or one from an artisanal cheesemaker.
  • Flour, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
  • 1 local egg, beaten lightly, with one teaspoon water.
  • Fresh bread crumbs from day-old bread with fresh chopped parsley.

Dip goat cheese in seasoned flour. Shake off excess and dip in egg wash then breadcrumbs. Refrigerate until firm. Heat small sauté pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil on medium heat. Fry goat cheese until golden brown. Turn. Cook other side. Serve on top of salad. Enjoy with a local Pinot Grigio or Riesling.

Lamb Chops

  • 2 four-ounce loin chops from your local butcher
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 minced shallot
  • ½ cup zinfandel wine
  • 1 cup veal stock
  • Sprigs of rosemary

Season with salt and pepper. Sear in sauté pan with a little olive oil. Cook until medium rare. (The lamb has sacrificed enough; don’t cook it until it is dry and tasteless.) Remove lamb. Keep warm. Add 1 minced shallot to pan. Sauté lightly. Deglaze with local Zinfandel wine, approximately ½ cup. Reduce. Add 1 cup veal stock. Reduce. Add a few sprigs rosemary. Reduce. Season. Serve with lamb.

Morbier Polenta

  • Polenta
  • Chicken stock
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Salt
  • Shredded Morbier or artisanal Gruyere

Polenta should not be thought of as a recipe, but as a ratio. For soft polenta, one part dry (the polenta) five parts wet. I prefer chicken stock and milk with a little butter. Season with salt. Bring to a boil. Whisk in polenta. Lower heat and whisk to avoid lumping. Cook until mixture thickens and is smooth. Fold in a good handful of shredded Morbier or artisanal Gruyere. Taste. Add cheese until it tastes good, whisking to incorporate seasons. Serve with lamb.

Scallops

  • 5-6 U-10 (size designation) local Cape May scallops per person
  • Sea Salt and fresh black pepper
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 cup chardonnay
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and zest from the lemon
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 5 tablespoons butter

Season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Sear 4-5 minutes per side in a little clarified butter. Remove scallops. Add 1 shallot, minced. Deglaze with 1 cup local chardonnay. Reduce. Add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon fresh thyme. Reduce by half. Whisk in 5 tablespoons butter, a little at a time whisking off the heat until butter is incorporated. Serve with scallops and grilled local asparagus.


Fun with Herbs

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are some of the most popular herbs of all and almost everyone is familiar with them. Herbs are fun. They smell good and they are useful. They make me think of a peaceful sunny garden of long ago, and they are among the oldest plants grown by man. Herbs are garden-basiltimeless! Early man used them for medicines, food and pleasure. People have always been fascinated by the fragrant, medicinal and culinary qualities displayed by many of these plants.

An herb garden can be as small as a barrel or window box, as fancy as a bricked path knot garden, or as casual as some generous rows planted among the tomatoes and beans. But an herb garden is so essential to a home and family. There is lavender for love and fragrance. Make potpourri with it or tie it into bath bags. There is basil for all the Italian dishes, sage for immortality and Thanksgiving dinner. How about using rosemary for remembrance and for the pork roast for Sunday dinner? Fragrant mint for tea. Chives for the baked potato. Dill to toss with sour cream on cucumbers. And lots and lots of parsley for just about everything you serve. Sweet woodruff can go in the May wine with strawberries. Thyme has many uses too. The list goes on and on and on and on.

garden-monardaAlthough most culinary herbs do best in sun, there are a few exceptions that can take less than full sun if they get good sun at noon. A lot of this placement is trial and error. Some spreading herbs such as mints, lemon balm, monarda, and even woodruff are all best grown under trees where they become a useful ground cover. Try mowing mint before a picnic and the whole yard smells nice and is said to be insect-free. This is a good reason to grow mint beneath the picnic table.

To start your herb garden now, choose a sunny spot in which to grow your favorite herbs. Landscape ties (8x8x4) filled with a good, well-drained soil work very well. You can edge this with thymes, parsley, nasturtium and viola. As you move toward the center, use the shorter herbs and then plant the tall ones in the center. Try sage, lavender, rosemary, basil, Italian parsley, lovage, garden-nasturtiumchives, tarragon, dill, cilantro, lemon verbena, lemon grass and scented geraniums for a few that will be fun to grow and use. Save the mints, lemon balm, bergamot and oregano for a spot outside the raised bed where they can spread readily. I use many of these under tress as a ground cover that is fragrant and easy to grow to keep weeds away.

You may mix your herbs in a wonderful tapestry of design or you may pick a theme for one or more herb gardens. Some folks like to have all culinary herbs together or grow tea herbs in large pots by the back door. Others like to have a Shakespeare garden or a Bible garden. Close-up on these theme gardens in coming months. Try a few herbs now, they will grow on you!

garden-fancyLet me give you a little history on the Herb Society of America. In 1933 group of women in Boston first met in a garden to share their knowledge and enjoyment of herbs. This was the beginning of the Herb Society of America. Their mission states: The Herb Society of America is dedicated to promoting the knowledge, use, and delight of herbs through educational programs, research, and sharing the experience of its members with the community. This national society is open to all and has local units in many areas.

I have been a member of this group for over 27 years. Twelve years ago I founded the South Jersey unit of the Herb Society of America, which has members from Cape May, Gloucester, Camden, Cumberland, Salem, and Burlington counties. This group meets throughout the region with some meetings in counties. Meetings range from teas to garden visits to programs with speakers on herbal lore, crafts, food, and garden-lorrainehistory. Many of the members have an herb garden ranging from a large pot or barrel to a large plot. Some members volunteer to work on public herb gardens as helpers and many do educational projects such as talks and demonstrations at public events. The group plants and maintains a garden at Scotland Run Nature Center. Folks interested in herbs are always welcome and should contact membership chairperson Andrea Sporano at 856-346-0426 or email her at onaraps@comcast.net.

The group will have an information table at the Annual Herb Weekend at Triple Oaks in Franklinville, New Jersey May 30-31. They will answer questions on herbs, do presentations, and sell teas and cookies to raise money for the Barbara Bruno Scholarship that is given each spring at Cumberland County College to a student majoring in Agriculture or Horticulture.

The above information is just a bit of the many interesting facts that will be presented at the Herb Festival May 30-31 There will be free herbal talks both days, as well as a tea garden program. One paid event will enable participants to make herbal vinegar in a hand blown, Clevenger Jersey, green bottle and sample other herbal beverages. Visit our website or call for a detailed schedule of events.

For more information, email Lorraine at Lorraine@Tripleoaks.com or visit www.Tripleoaks.com.