Announcing Our 2017 Farmers’ Markets!

Mercurio Farms and Eleanor’s Best are excited to participate in the following regular Farmers’ Markets:

The Farmers’ Market at the Mid-Hudson Valley Children’s Museum in Poughkeepsie every Monday June – October.

The Farmers’ Market at New York-Presbyterian / Hudson Valley Hospital every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month May – November.

The Farmers’ Market at Todd Hill TasteNY every Friday June – October.

We hope to see you there!

Presidents’ Week (and Two Maple Syrup Cocktails)
Gardening GUSTO
Katherine Whiteside
Putnam County News & Recorder

We’re now in the middle of Presidents’ Week. It is a tumultuous time in America. But this is not our beloved country’s first tumult nor will it be our last. It is often said that “Democracy is messy.” I say, “God bless this mess.”

My favorite past president is #3, Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826.) Jefferson was a powerful writer, a bon vivant, a happy traveler, and he adored his home and garden at Monticello.

Today, much of his writing is, according to the cliché that originated during his lifetime, “fresh as a daisy.” One of Jefferson’s famous daisies that fits neatly into the current, imperfect arrangement was sent to his friend Lafayette in 1823:
“The only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.”

Here’s a suggestion for navigating the present muddy waters of political unrest: give yourself a break and get away. Jefferson’s house and gardens at Monticello (outside Charlottesville, Virginia) make a wonderful destination for a family vacation. The trip from Putnam County to Charlottesville is straight down I-95, an easy seven hour drive that can be broken up with a stopover in Washington, DC.

You can easily spend a couple of days visiting museums, monuments, and government buildings in America’s capital. A day trip to nearby Mt. Vernon, house and garden of #1, George Washington, is sited beautifully on the Potomac River and is open every day of the year. https://www.monticello.org, http://www.mountvernon.org, https://washington.org/

This clamorous political era is a good time to experience another part of America, to think about how our diverse country works as a whole, and to be inspired while revisiting our young country’s history. Kids, especially, need thoughtful conversation and broad perspectives about our political process. We grownups are examples for the next generations of voting and governing Americans. To guide us on that lifelong journey, consider something else Jefferson said (although the attribution is murky, the words ring true): “Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

Action is messy, but “necessary to keep the waters pure.” And, as with any good political discussion, let’s now change the subject and share some friendly cocktails.

Two Maple Syrup Cocktails

Jennifer Mercurio, local farmer and owner of Eleanor’s Best, (http://eleanorsbest.com) is currently in the middle of maple syrup making. She evaporates her maple tree sap over a wood fire and recently told me that the syrup coming out now has a delightful smoky tinge. WOW!!

This tasty revelation, the current political climate, and it being maple syrup season here in the Hudson Valley converged to make me think: “Maple syrup cocktails! Yes!!”

When you google maple syrup cocktails, you quickly realize how far from the farm those dandy, waxed-mustachioed mixologists have wandered. First of all, those citified experts say that maple syrup cocktails are for autumn. Sorry, but February is maple syrup time and the moment to celebrate the rising of the sap. Secondly, most of their citified maple cocktail ingredient lists are ridiculous (St. Elizabeth allspice dram, Germain-Robin brandy, Velvet Falernum, huh?) And the required equipment is just too darn fussy (martini strainers, swizzle sticks, cut straws, silver cups? Naw.)

When you have been out since dawn tromping through the snow, lugging sap buckets, and getting up in the middle of the night to keep the sugar house fires burning, you want a refreshing, tasty, easy to assemble alcoholic beverage with lots of ice and you don’t mind one bit if it’s in a Mason jar. Here are two recipes that you can organize with one trip to your local grocery store and village booze store.

1. Maple Bourbon Smash (by Robb Turner of Crown Maple)
Here’s What You Need:

• Maple Syrup: 1/2 ounce
• Orange: one, cut in half, to make ½ ounce fresh juice and one orange slice
• Lemon: fresh juice, ¼ ounce
• Angostura bitters: four dashes
• Bourbon: two ounces (go local! Hudson Valley bourbons are delish!)
• Seltzer: 1½ ounces

Just Do This:

Mix the maple syrup, orange juice, lemon juice and bitters in a tumbler (or small Mason jar.) Add the orange slice and muddle. Add the bourbon, stir, seltzer, stir, and fill the glass with ice. Ahhhh…..

2. Lumberjack Julep (by Josh Durr)
Here’s What You Need:

• Mint sprigs: four (fresh mint is available all year in most grocery stores)
• Bourbon: one ounce
• Rye: one ounce (Try the Hudson Valley ryes!)
• Maple syrup: ¼ ounce

Just Do This:

Place three of the mint sprigs in a strong glass (or small Mason jar) and muddle. Add the bourbon, rye and maple syrup and stir well. Fill the glass with ice and garnish with the last mint sprig. Refreshing!

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Eleanor’s Best – Jams, Jellies, Preserves & Marmalade
The Style Gourmande
August 1, 2016

I was so excited when I received a box with two jars of Eleanor’s Best. I love sweets and I love jams. I especially love real fruit jams. But this one has something special. When I opened the box, I got a Raspberry Jam and Hot Pepper Jam.

As soon as I saw the jar of Hot Pepper Jam I got scared. I don’t eat foods that are too hot/spicy. So I very carefully opened the Jar and took a small spoon and scooped a small amount owp-1470070556839-e1470071764242ut to taste. The flavor was surprising. It wasn’t spicy at all. It leaves you a kick at the end but that’s about it. It could also be that I didn’t get the seed, but I’ll be sure to not touch the seed as you know the seed is the hottest part. You can do a lot with this Hot Pepper Jam. You can put it on top of meats to baste or to glaze, click here to see some of their recipes!!

 

Next I tried the Raspberry Jam with my scone and clotted cream. I love it! I can still taste the freshness of the fruit. I know it has been packed awhile but I still taste the freshness of it. It is very hard to hawp-1470070564838ve jams made of real fruit and still taste the freshness of it. So I have to give Eleanor’s Best two thumbs up for their uniqueness and being made out of real fruit. I can’t wait to buy their other Jams and use them to glaze some meats!!!

 

 

 

To buy Eleanor’s Jam click here. They are also sold at stores like Whole Foods and Foodtown. I strongly suggest everyone to go out and buy some of their jams or order some right away! You won’t regret the deliciousness!

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Westchester Magazine
&
Hudson Valley Magazine
August 2016

HV EDC Ad Hudson Valley Magazine 7.13.16

Lady Marmalade: Eleanor’s Best Get’s Its Jam On
Mary Shustack
WAG Magazine
July 2016
this-one-4

From the moment we first heard about Eleanor’s Best, we were intrigued.

A blurb on the Cold Spring Area Chamber of Commerce’s website not only describes what the company does but also hints at the manner in which it does it:

“We are a scrappy business that makes and sells artisanal handmade jams, jellies, preserves and marmalade in Philipstown, N.Y., which lies in the heart of the Hudson Valley. We started this adventure to share the awesome and intense flavors that we grew up with.”

And the company is doing just that — with a clear vision and a bit of attitude to spare — which we learn during a mid-afternoon visit with fDSC_0085ounder Jennifer Mercurio as a recent day’s work is winding down.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” she says with a warm smile, welcoming us into her commercial kitchen, a short hike beyond the Cold Spring shopping district. “This is our Jammery with a capital ‘J.’”

Mercurio, who grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Rhode Island, has tapped into her own — and many a family’s — traditions.

“Growing up, it was ‘women’s work’ making jam,” she says. “It was women’s work to make things and preserve things.”

But, at first, it wasn’t to be Mercurio’s work. No, she spent years as a successful intellectual properties and corporate lawyer in the video-game world before the switch.

“Everyone sees me as this really serious Darth Vader attorney,” she says with a laugh, though now her days are more often filled with raspberries and rhubarb, ginger and grapefruits.

EARLY DAYSDSC_0098

“I started making jam when we moved up here to the Hudson Valley,” she says of the efforts shared with family and friends. Soon, “people we didn’t even know starting showing up at our home and began asking for it.”

She began formally selling it — the first sales coming from six jars at The Country Goose in Cold Spring — near the end of 2013.

Since that first success, Mercurio has maintained her focus creating products “slow stirred in small batches,” by a staff that has grown to 10.

“We do it all very purposefully. The jam is literally what you would dream of having, made by your great-grandmother or aunt.”

There’s an inherent respect for ingredients, with Mercurio buying fruits and vegetables from family-owned farms, fields and orchards whenever possible. And that includes her family’s own, Mercurio Farms in nearby Garrison, her husband Joseph’s domain.

There’s also a dedication to creating a product free of additives, dyes or fillers — all those things that crowd a typical jam label. The products, Mercurio notes, are also naturally vegan and gluten-free. “We don’t want the big chemical load.”

Each of the 14 flavors contains just four ingredients except for the strawberry-rhubarb, which has five.

FROM FARM TO TABLEDSC_0179

Though the company gets its natural ingredients at their peak — from farms and farmers markets — they are often frozen to maintain a steady supply throughout the year.

The recipes, which take anywhere from a couple of hours to up to three days to finish, yield a product that is then — no big machines here — ladled into jars by hand.

The commitment to a pure approach extends to the packaging, with Mercurio sourcing jars and lids from historic American companies. The products are packed in fully compostable boxes, with all packaging designed to be recycled and reused.

And more than just local followers, including chefs who collaborate with Mercurio on custom blends, appreciate the results.

Eleanor’s Best is now sold in “31 states and D.C.,” Mercurio says, with outlets including fine cheese shops, butchers, gourmet stores and larger specialty retailers such as Whole Foods Market, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market and Hannaford.

MEMORABLE MOMENTS

Mercurio says a big part of her work also reinforces the idea that food should be about more than flavor.DSC_0160

It should, Mercurio says, transport you.

Quince jam, she shares, turns the spotlight back on a onetime Hudson Valley favorite, while other customers tasting Eleanor’s Best might have their own family associations with flavors such as blueberry or hot pepper.

The tastes and the preparation, Mercurio says, often take her back to her own earlier years.

“When I make flavors, I’m recalling the memories.”

And that’s something she hopes to pass along, with her young daughter already taking an interest in the business. But, Mercurio stresses, making jams and jellies goes beyond the day-to-day efforts and traditions being carried on.

It’s about offering healthier options for families, something she touches on during the small classes she leads. It’s also about giving back, a key element of the company.

Eleanor’s Best and Mercurio Farms donate to many local charities and organizations, working to support organizations that fight childhood hunger, support family farms and promote the use of real and nourishing food. Mercurio and her husband are also local volunteer firefighters.

Throughout, she wants her daughter to see, “This is the way we live in a community.”

Eleanor’s Best, Mercurio explains, is not only named after the 150 years of “Eleanors” in her family but continues to build on their legacy of creating something special.

“It’s real, and real food is just better… It’s accessible gourmet food.”

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Forum Focuses On Entrepreneurism In Valley
James Walsh
Times Herald-Record
June 22, 2016

NEW PALTZ – Hudson Valley craft brewers worry more about pesky out-of-state crafters getting a tap at the local bar than they do about beating back the Budweisers and Millers of the beer-making world.

That concern was shared Wednesday by Paul Halayko, CEO of the Newburgh Brewing Co., at the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corporation’s third annual economic forum at SUNY New Paltz.

The program, which drew about 175 business people, focused on entrepreneurism in the Hudson Valley: the spark that ignites it, and the laborious attention to detail needed to keep a new company alive.

It also took a stab at profiling the region’s self-employed, who represent just 11 percent of the Hudson Valley’s population – with the largest number being foreign-born residents, according to state figures showcased by keynote speaker Paul Harrington, director of the Center of Labor Market and Policy at Drexel University.

The most self-employment in the region, Harrington found, is in the professional, scientific and technical services sector, which accounts for 20 percent.

An assembled panel of entrepreneurs made products ranging from beer and hard cider, to artisanal jam. There was the founder of a solar energy research and development company, the chief executive of an office furniture dealership, and the designer of software useful in the healthcare industry.

“It’s not all young millennials,” Laurence Gottlieb, CEO of the Hudson Valley Economic Development Corp., said of the region’s budding entrepreneurs before the program began. “For some it’s a second or third career.”

The aim of the forum, Gottlieb said, was to gain an understanding of what led people toward entrepreneurism, the challenges they face and how to make it easier for them to launch their businesses.

The issue of finding and developing a sustainable workforce was raised by panelist Kale Kaposhilin, who runs Evolving Media Network in Kingston, and co-founded Hudson Valley Tech Meetup.

The latter has grown to 1,300 members from just 40 two years ago, Kaposhilin said. New businesses have formed from networking at meet-up events, and existing companies have found workers.

“There are students who don’t know there are jobs here,” he said, “and tech companies that can’t find people. There’s a disconnect.”

As for entrepreneurial inspiration, sometimes it’s a simple as finding out that people like the jam you give away to friends.

Jennifer Mercurio was a corporate attorney before launching Eleanor’s Best, a jam and preserves company in Garrison.

“Eleanor’s Best was started as a hobby.” Mercurio said. “Then people we didn’t know started showing up at our house looking to get our product. I was pulled into this simply because people wanted it.”

Halayko, of the Newburgh Brewery, was a CPA who assisted clients investing in fledgling businesses. He was a big-company guy enchanted by small-company culture.

“I was going to small companies with 10 people,” Halayko recalled, “where the woman at the front desk answering the phone was as passionate about the business as the guy who started it. I fell in love with that.”

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6 Local Blackberry and Apricot Jams

Hudson Valley magazine
May 2016

This season is all about the fresh fruits — especially blackberries and apricots, our two newest obsessions — that are ripe for the picking at the Valley’s many orchards and farms. And there’s a way to enjoy all that bounty when the temperatures begin to chill, too. Here, we list some of our favorite local jams (and where you can find them).

Eleanor’s Best Blackberry Jam

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What Do You Do When Life Gives You (Forty Pounds of) Lemons? (and Meyer Lemons: Pasta and Pie!)
Gardening GUSTO
Katherine Whiteside
Putnam County News & Recorder
April 20, 2016

Picture from Whiteside article 4.20.16

In March I discovered that, here in the freezing northeast, a small Meyer lemon costs nearly $1. I wanted some to try some Meyers in a few recipes, so I decided to follow Chef Alice Waters’ advice. In her excellent Chez Panisse Café Cookbook (1999) Alice wrote about this common California backyard fruit tree: “Meyer lemons are sweet, thin-skinned, and famous for their ethereal perfumes…. Ask your friends or relatives in California to send you some.”

Our relatives in Venice, California, have fruit trees in their yard and, whenever we visit, there are always a few oranges and tangerines to bring home. I decided to send a Meyer lemon request westward and, the next thing I knew, I got this email: “Hi! I flew in to visit the kids. I’m at Kennedy Airport and I have 40 pounds of Meyer lemons for you!” Ohhh- kay!

So what do you do with 40 pounds of large, perfumed, perfectly ripe, organic Meyer lemons personally grown, harvested, and carried across America on a plane by a sweet, generous relative? Of course — you make some lemonade, then concoct some lemon pasta, bake a lemon meringue pie (recipes below)… and, voila! You’ve only got 35 pounds of lemons left.

Next I called Jennifer Mercurio at her Cold Spring jam kitchen, “Eleanor’s Best”, (eleanorsbest.com/. See the feature by Tim Greco in the March 23, 2016, PCNR.) I explained my now-35-pound dilemma and she answered: “Great! please bring them over!” Soon, my relatives’ home-grown Meyer lemons will be available as locally-made marmalade and available locally at all the usual places.

Prominently displayed in Jennifer’s “Eleanor’s Best” Jammery are photos of four generations of the Eleanors that gave her business its name. Jennifer gets it about family. So do I. So buy some of her Meyer lemon marmalade for your family and tell my family story behind it. There’s a lemon in every jar! Thank goodness!

Quick and Easy Lemon Pasta

This recipe is adapted from an original by Chef Barbara Kafka, who formerly had a house in Garrison. I have added some ingredients to Barbara’s original, and you should adapt as you prefer, too. The leftovers are great the next day baked in the oven.

Here’s What You Need:

• Egg noodles: wide, one big bag

• Olive oil: enough to coat the skillet

• Garlic: 2 cloves, peeled and sliced very thinly

• Scallions: the green tops from 6, sliced thinly

• Italian parsley: ¼ cup, thinly chopped

• Meyer lemon: one; juice and zest cut into thin strips

• Regular lemon: one; as above

• Heavy cream: one cup

• Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper: to taste

Just Do This:

1. Cook noodles as directed on packet for al dente. Drain, return to cooking pot with heat turned off. Stir in a tiny pat of butter to avoid sticking. Set aside.

2. In a skillet, sauté the garlic, scallion greens and parsley until soft.

3. Add the lemon zest, cream, salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat until the cream boils, about two minutes.

4. Pour cream mixture and lemon juice over cooked noodles. Stir to coat. Cook over medium heat until all liquid is absorbed (about 2 minutes.)

5. Serve with garlic bread and fresh green salad. YUM!!

Lemon Meringue Pie

This easy recipe is fantastic with Meyer lemons! Everyone will want to know your secret. Share!

Here’s What You Need:

(For crust)

• Cinnamon sugar graham crackers: enough to make 1½ cups crumbs

• Light brown sugar: 1/3 cup

• Butter: 6 tablespoons, melted

(For pie filling)

• 3 large eggs: separate yolks from whites

• Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk: one 14 ounce can

• Meyer lemon juice: freshly squeezed, ½ cup

(For meringue topping)

• Egg whites: 3 (as per above)

• Cream of tartar: ¼ teaspoon

• Vanilla extract: ½ teaspoon

• Sugar: white granulated, ¼ cup

First Do This:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Make graham cracker crust by mixing graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar and butter and pressing into a 9 inch pie shell. Place in freezer for a few minutes to harden, then set on counter.

3. To make filling, beat egg yolks in a large bowl. Add sweetened condensed milk and lemon juice and mix. Pour into crust.

4. Bake for ½ hour or until set.

Next Do This:

5. To make meringue, increase oven temperature to 350 degrees.

6. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form.

7. Beat in white sugar one tablespoon at a time until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form.

8. Spoon onto pie filling and seal edges with moist fingers.

9. Bake for 12-15 minutes until meringue is golden.

10. Cool and then refrigerate about 3 hours before serving.

YUMMY!!

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An Egg-cellent Gift for the Food Pantry
By Tim Greco

Putnam County News & Recorder
March 23, 2016

 

 

Saturday morning, the Philipstown Food Pantry received a wonderful gift from Mercurio Farms in Garrison and young parishioners of Our Lady of Loretto Church, who gave of their time to help out.

Just in time for Easter, a flock of first graders was bright eyed and bushy tailed at 8:30 in the morning at the Philipstown Food Pantry to live out a “corporal act of mercy,” in this case helping to feed the hungry. Jennifer and her husband, Joe Mercurio, and their sweet daughter, Ellie, have been gathering eggs from their many chickens on their farms. They’ve also been diligent in making the highest quality jam for the pantry.

Mercurio Farms is donating dozens and dozens of eggs this year for families to have high quality eggs for Holy Week, and for kids to have eggs to color. Some first graders from Loretto will be helping to deliver them as a corporal act of mercy, which they are learning about right now in their religious instruction. This annual donation is built upon Eleanor’s Best, which donates cases of jam every year at the beginning of the new school year so that families will be able to give their kids high quality PB&J in the new school year. All the little helpers and their parents were more than eager to give of their time and talent.

Picture: Jennifer Mercurio and her helpers of all ages, as they deliver their gifts of love to the Church of the Open Door on Saturday morning, where the Philipstown Food Pantry is located.

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Jamming on Main Street at Eleanor’s Best
Doing Business in the Hudson Valley

By Tim Greco

Putnam County News & Recorder
October 7, 2015

 

Just up the road in Nelsonville, the most heavenly aromatic smells are wafting from the Kitchen of Eleanor’s Best. Inside, on a large stainless steel industrial stove, a pot of raspberry jam was on a low slow boil.

Jennifer Mercurio, owner of Eleanor’s Best, is a woman of many talents. She grew up with a family who made jam, marmalade and preserved pickles, “They ate what they grew,” she recalled.

However, she went to college and became a lawyer specializing in intellectual property in Manhattan. She and her husband Joseph moved to Garrison to start a family. They both soon became firefighters in Garrison.

Mercurio soon discovered the phenomenal locally grown fruits and vegetables of our neighborhood. She started making little amounts of marmalade just for her family.
Mercurio started giving out jars of preserves for Christmas presents and soon, friends of family and then friends of friends started to ask for the jarred spreadable fruit.

About a year later Mercurio incorporated the jam making into a full-fledged business. Later a friend who owns a shop in Cold Spring offered to carry the jam.

“We thought we would sell about six jars,” Mercurio said, but soon things really had taken off and big box stores like Whole Foods started selling the product; locally, Foodtown, Cold Spring General Store, and Vera’s are among shops who carry the products. They make 13 flavors in all include ginger, grapefruit, Meyer lemon, sweet onion, quince and old favorites like grape, and blackberry.

Eleanor’s generally sources all ingredients locally, when possible. All products are naturally vegan and gluten free. They pride themselves on not using additives, dyes nor fillers and all products have five ingredients or less.

The new commercial kitchen in Nelsonville is immaculately clean with shelves lined with all natural ingredients. Eleanor’s Best opened at the location in April.

You might be asking who is Eleanor? There are a number of Eleanors in the family. Mercurio’s Great Grandmother, Grandmother, Aunt and Godmother all shared the name Eleanor – as now does her daughter. “We are proud of our heritage, and the recipes handed down through our family. Many of our products are based on some of their best recipes. Thus, Eleanor’s Best.”

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Taste NY Market at Todd Hill Offers an Abundance of Agricultural Products for Travelers This Holiday Season

Agriculture News

December 19, 2014

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today highlighted the abundance of seasonal products now available at the Taste NY Market at Todd Hill, located on the Taconic State Parkway in the Town of LaGrange. The market provides a unique Taste NY experience for travelers on the Parkway featuring a variety of New York State foods, beverages and agricultural products for sale, many of them arriving just in time for the holiday season.  As many as 50 New York agricultural producers sell their products at the Market at any given time.

“Nothing hits the spot during the holidays more than fresh food or beverage products made right here in New York State,” said Commissioner Ball.  “The Taste NY Market at Todd Hill, which is perfectly situated between upstate and downstate New York, is an opportunity for people traveling on the Taconic State Parkway to buy products on-the-go for the entire family to enjoy.”

For the holiday season, the store is bustling with motorists and vendor deliveries alike.  Arriving daily are fresh cheeses from Coach Farm, The Amazing Real Live Food Company, Old Chatham Sheerpherding Company, Five Spoke Creamery, and Sprout Creek Farm.  To accompany your cheese board, choose from many varieties of Saratoga Crackers, Eleanor’s Best Jam drizzles including Quince or Liberty Orchards Concord Grape Jelly or Apple Butter.  The meat section is stocked with fresh hams from Full Moon Farm (Gardiner, NY), round cuts of 100% organic beef from Sawkill Farm, (Red Hook, NY), as well as bone-in, leg of lamb (Point-of-View Farm, Bangall, NY).  Also just in are miniature sausages for delicious quick bites (Jacuturie, Ancramdale, NY).  To round out a celebratory feast, pick up some freshly made eggnog from Hudson Valley Fresh Dairy, as well as fine potions from which to craft a delicious cocktail, including Dutch’s Spirit Bitters (in three flavors) or The Hudson Standard’s Shrub.

Handmade, on-the-farm gift items include beeswax candles (Hummingbird Ranch, Staatsburg, NY), knitted woolen mittens, scarves, hats, ornaments and felted cat toys (Dashing Star Farm, Millerton, NY), along with scented goat milk Soaps (Wil-Hi Farm, Tivoli, NY).  Chocolates handspun using local ingredients whenever possible are available from Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, NY.  Hand-woven baskets are also available, as well as fine porcelain from local potter Davistudio, to elegantly adorn your holiday table.  Staff at Todd Hill are even available to help consumers wrap their holiday gifts.

Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) Dutchess County operates and manages the Taste NY Market at Todd Hill.  The State Department of Agriculture and Markets provides oversight to CCE on the operation and also works with them on promotion of the facility.

There are currently ten Taste NY stores across the state generating revenue for agricultural producers.  They are located on the New York State Thruway (New Baltimore and Chittenango Service Areas), the Taconic State Parkway (Taste NY Market at Todd Hill), the Empire State Plaza Concourse in Albany, airports (LaGuardia, JFK, MacArthur), and train stations (Grand Central Terminal).  In addition, the Taste NY Marketplace is open during the 12-day Great New York State Fair.  Another Taste NY store is also open during events at Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City.

For more information about Taste NY, please visit http://www.taste.ny.gov.

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Jammin’
The Valley Table
Summer 2014

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Eleanor’s Best: Garrison-made Jam, Jelly and Marmalade
Stepping back in time through taste
By Alison Rooney

The Highlands Current
January 12, 2014

 

Once partially relegated to the “time-consuming, outdated” way of doing things, canning and preserving, along with similar traditions once handed down generation to generation, have returned to favor. More people are rejecting heavily processed foods, seeing value in using unaltered ingredients to feed themselves and their families.

Jennifer Mercurio

Garrison’s Jennifer Mercurio grew up in a family with these traditions. Her great-grandmother taught all of her daughters how to preserve “everything.” Her great-aunt’s home had a “huge canning basement.” But Mercurio “didn’t think much of it” – until fairly recently. Her career as an attorney in the tech world demanded many hours and it wasn’t until she and her family, including young daughter Eleanor, moved to Garrison that she revisited the ways of the women who came before her, and decided to learn what they once could have taught her.

After years of educating herself and experimenting, constant requests from friends for the jams, jellies and preserves she creates has led her to begin a new business, called “Eleanor’s Best,” after her daughter as well as many other Eleanors in her family. An initial line of four products debuted a couple of weeks before Christmas. Stocked solely by Cold Spring’s The Country Goose, the spreads have been “flying off the shelves” according to proprietor Leonora Burton, with re-stocking going on every few days since their first appearance.

Having chosen this area to move to in part because of its “more rural feel and the fact that the community connected nature in a way not found in other places,” Mercurio felt at home with the back-to-earth, locally-grown food ethos she found, and “saw that it impacted my family directly; we wanted to feed ourselves, so along with joining a CSA, I started to grow things for our consumption. I noticed my friends canning and asked them if it was easy, and their reply was: ‘It’s not too difficult, and it’s fun.’”

On a shelf at Country Goose: three of the first four of Eleanor’s Best flavors: Blueberry Jam, Grapefruit Marmalade, and Meyer Lemon Marmalade.

Regretting that the equipment that her elders had used was long-gone, she took the plunge and bought her own, then researched heavily, learning, first and foremost, how to proceed safely and properly. “It’s almost a lost art,” she says, “and it can be scary knowing that doing one thing wrong can have drastic consequences.”

Reaping a bumper crop of raw materials from her growing labors, she began experimenting with recipes, particularly for jams, jellies and marmalades, all of which pleased the eager tasters around her.
“I started getting requests from friends, then friends of friends, and family for the stuff I was making,” she relates, “so it became a natural extension to offer it to others.”

Mercurio secured a New York State Department of Agriculture Home Processing License and got to work. Using seasonal produce, Mercurio developed a range of four flavors to start. By seasonal, this can mean a week-to-week output, for instance this is “Bitter Orange” season; however the fruit doesn’t turn orange until January — the taste is the same regardless of the color, but the hue is green. And while citrus in general rules the roost in winter, Meyer Lemons will likely phase out in February this year because of unusual cold blasts in California. Fall was filled with apple, pear and quince and spring brings stone fruit.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade, from the initial line of Eleanor’s Best products

Mercurio works hard to locate growers who grow completely naturally, not using gases to alter their fruits. She has found growers very receptive. “It’s very difficult to grow crops in this country competing with huge agricultural businesses. I like to work with people whom I consider artisans — local farmers who are artists in crop maintenance, seed-saving and in producing heirloom varieties. Everyone we use is either certified organic or without certification only because the certification process can be expensive and onerous and not everyone can afford it.”

Giving broad definitions to her four mainstays, Mercurio says jam “has some fruit in it; think of it as lots of fruit, squished and processed.” A preserve, on the other hand, “is a lumpier version of jam, usually using bigger fruits.” With marmalade, “one uses all of the fruit to make the product: juice, cut-up peel, just about everything.” Even the pieces of pith taken away are put in a cloth and boiled to make the pectin, which thickens it.

For jelly “you’re using liquid condensed from the fruit, but no part of the fruit except for that liquid; you’re collecting the juice, processing it, adding sugar and pectin,” she explains. Mercurio has “learned a lot of science on the fly” since becoming expert in preserving. She has “been more or less forced to re-engineer both a bitter orange and a grapefruit marmalade because I found serious issues with things found elsewhere.”

With the first few products selected (blueberry jam, grapefruit marmalade, Meyer Lemon marmalade and Blood Orange marmalade — more flavors to appear in the future), the next stage, which Mercurio is just embarking on, is marketing.

“It hasn’t been difficult reaching out to people over the last few months, finding places in the Hudson Valley where Eleanor’s Best will be stocked imminently,” she said. With the soft opening for the products at Country Goose bringing largely unanticipated success, Mercurio has been catching up with all the daily re-stocking needed, while making plans based on this initial demand and more. “There’s been tremendous demand thus far, but I’m taking it one step at a time, talking to caterers, restaurants, farm stalls and other places, and now the emphasis will be on facilitating this. We’re really at the front end right now.”

Mercurio is lavish with praise for Leonora Burton — “I don’t know how to thank her enough for her support in all of this; she’s been amazing.”

Fueling all of this effort is Mercurio’s belief that there is a real desire out there from many to eat “real, good food. Believe me, this stuff is good and it is real. It takes time to create it. If I’m going to have a slice of toast or oatmeal, I don’t want a schmear of empty calories on it, or things engineered to taste like food. I want to have an experience that is true. I think a lot of people desire access to that. Making it requires time, patience, knowledge, equipment and a sense of humor. Not everyone has all of these (except the sense of humor, hopefully!), but I really like doing it. We take the work out of it and try to make it economical.”

To share the marmalade-making wisdom, Mercurio will be teaching two classes next week at the Philipstown Rec Center: one is Monday, Jan. 13, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and the other is Wednesday, Jan. 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. The cost is $50 for Philipstown residents and $65 for others. Call 845-424-6418 to register.

As of now, all of the Eleanor’s Best products can be found solely at Country Goose, 115 Main St., Cold Spring. Follow the newly-made Facebook page as they develop further and expand both the range of their products and where they are sold. A website is under development.

Photos by A. Rooney

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