In my last column, I wrote about my adventures at Dilmun Hill Organic Farm, a student-run farm that practices sustainable agriculture on Cornell University’s campus. That afternoon, my friend (and a student farmer at Dilmun) Teddy Matel introduced me to the paw-paw, scooped me wild-bee honey and gifted me a batch of their produce. We left Dilmun on a mission: To make a delicious meal of out these ingredients — and, more broadly, out the terroir of New York.
Our first step was to get our friend Jonah Helmer ’22, a plant sciences major, on the team. It turned out Jonah had an adventure in his back pocket: A trip to a local bog to harvest cranberries. This particular bog possesses several unique habitats. Among them are marl ponds, small ponds containing deposits of mudstone with high amounts of calcium, and a peat bog, an area where dead vegetation has been compressed by water pressure creating a wetland environment.
We walked on and found tons of cranberries, growing unrestricted, in the thick layers of sphagnum moss floating in the bog. Circles of red deliciousness, these cranberries were unlike anything I had ever seen before. Unlike the store bought kind, which are uniform, puny and tempered, these wild cranberries were colorful, large and unleashed. They were also bursting with flavor. We collected about 10 pounds of cranberries and boiled it down to make a thick, delicious cranberry sauce.
At this point, we all agreed that ice-cream was going to be the dessert. The best ice-cream has three qualities: creaminess, sweetness and flavor. Dilmun Hill’s paw-paw, with its soft and fatty interior, gave us the creaminess. These cranberries gave us deep flavor. Now we needed sweetness.
However, unlike the paw-paw and the berries, this last ingredient — sweetness — was not going to be found in the wild. While we could have used Dilmun’s wild-bee honey, our minds were set on maple syrup, which flows out of trees in the spring. So, we visited the Ithaca Farmers’ Market this Saturday with one farm in mind: Schoolyard Sugarbush. Schoolyard Sugarbush grows maple syrup on their 800 acres in New Hope, New York. Donald Reed, the owner, told us: “I like maple syrup because it is the one sweetener that doesn’t give me the spike-high. If you are going to have anything sweet, maple syrup is what it should be sweetened with.”
Before heading back to the kitchen, we purchased some ingredients for our entree. The father-son duo of Bob and Theo from Nook and Cranny Farm, a 3.5 acre farm in Caroline, NY, sold us onions, garlic, carrots and broccoli. “It’s very laid back. I can just eat vegetables, and not have to worry about anything,” said Theo, the ten-year old farmer.
We then walked over to Straight-Way Farm, and the owner Dennis Bauchle sold us 21-day dry aged minute steak. Our last stop was Glenhaven Farm. When we told John Tamberelo that we were thinking of making a stir fry with these ingredients, he recommended the Vidal Blanc.
“The sweetest of the whites in our 2019 line-up, this wine presents a good balance of sweetness and texture. A great choice for summer sipping with your favorite cheeses.” We were about to leave when the most beautiful stalk of Brussel sprouts caught my eyes. The green balls of goodness were all different shapes and sizes. We had a dish in mind. We paid Mary Newman, the co-owner of Buried Treasures Organic Farm, for the produce and we rushed home.
We unloaded our ingredients onto the counter. We washed our stalk of Brussel sprouts and then sliced each sprout in half, placing them in a baking tray. We then ran olive oil and maple syrup over the sprouts and massaged the oil and syrup into the sprouts. We threw the tray into the oven for 40 minutes at 400° Fahrenheit. They came out sizzling. Some of the sprouts were browned, and all were crispy and sweet. We finished them with a dash of salt. The appetizer was Helmer’s Roasted Sprouts.
The team had grown to five, and it was all-hands-on-deck as we prepared our feast. Daniel Barenson ’22, another friend, was chopping vegetables for the dish, Jonah was monitoring the sprouts, Teddy was making our rice, I was preparing our wok and Paul Agbaje ’22, the last friend on the team, was eating Insomnia cookies. We first fried chopped garlic in 2 tbsp. of oil until slightly brown. Then we added onions and curry paste, cooking slightly until the onions were slightly translucent and the paste was broken into small pieces. Then we added carrots, which cooked for about two minutes. Afterwards, we added minute steak, broccoli, mushrooms, peppers and cooked for another two minutes. We finished it off with beans, tamari, chili sauce and maple syrup. The entree was Levitsky’s Stirring Stew.
We turned our focus back to our paw-paw, cranberry jam, and maple syrup. Because we are college students, and college students aren’t known to own fancy ice cream makers, we got out forks and started smashing. We kept smashing until we got our ice-cream. The dessert was Teddy’s Paw-Paw Ice Cream. It was time to dig in.
We dug in. The Brussels sprouts had the crispness of a potato chips, the freshness of a just-picked summer strawberry and the energy density of a cut of meat. The vegetables, meat, rice and seasonings created a flavor profile for our stir fry that was delicious, satisfying and complete. And, finally, the paw-paw ice cream left us sitting there smiling and laughing. Creamy, sweet and flavorful. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jack Waxman is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Dig In runs every other week this semester.