Fall is (has been) in the air and Limburger cheese

Fall has been in the air for a couple of weeks now. The locust trees have been turning yellow and raining down their leaves and now the maples are getting quite a bit of color. We got out of town Saturday for a little while and on the way back home we went through Monroe, Wis. It’s a nice small town and has an interesting and attractive town square. One place you have to stop, if you’re in that area, is Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern. What a combination, beer and cheese. It’s pure Sconnie! Baumgartner’s has to be one of the few places where you can still get a Limburger and red onion on rye sandwich. By the way, it comes with a safety warning: “Do not eat this with your nose!” The Lady of Ladybird Lane said it was outstanding and I can attest to that; we didn’t kiss until she got home and brushed her teeth and gargled. Whew!

The only cheese plant producing Limburger in the U.S., Chalet Cheese Co-op, is located a little ways North of Monroe. HuffPo had a nice little article about the Limburger, Chalet and Monroe if you’d like to know more. The cheesemakers of Green County say there are a dozen plants making over 50 different varieties of cheese in the county. And, when you go to a cheese store there you’ll find lots of other varieties as well. Anyway, back to our lunch and fall. I had a Reuben, as you can tell from the picture. I’m not quite as daring my mate. Around the courthouse the trees were just beginning to get some color. It was a pretty scene.

Supersteak!

It’s been tomato season here at Ladybird Lane for about a month. They started ripening slowly, a few grape tomatoes, then some cherry tomatoes followed up by some really sweet cluster tomatoes and now the Supersteaks are ripening. Boy, oh, boy, are they big! The ones in the photo were a pound and a half each. I say “were” ‘cuz they are no longer! ;-) Anyway, I weighed them with a metric scale and that comes to 600 grams for the small one and the two larger were 650 grams. Yes, that’s just three supersteak tomatoes on a single dinner plate. You can get a dozen regular tomatoes on a dinner plate. And they are fantastic tasting especially when eaten with some salt and pepper and a thick slice of fresh mozzarella. I like putting a little olive oil on them, too, then sprinkling them with some grated Parmesan cheese, maybe some balsamico. Mmmm, mmm good! One disadvantage of the supersteaks is that they are a bit more fragile than other tomatoes. They get over ripe quickly so eat them not too long after you pick them. It’s also interesting how they grow. Instead of beginning with a small globe the supersteak begins as a small flat, ribbed button. Kinda cool.

This year I planted six different types of tomatoes, a cherry, a grape, a plum, an heirloom named Burgundy, two supersteaks and two cluster tomatoes. And then, any volunteers that decided to grow I tried to find a place for them. I love surprises. One turned out to be a San Marzano plum which makes a really nice, thick tomato paste. Anyway, they’re not ripening yet.

The second best reason to visit Hawaii

The 100% Kona coffee! At Foodland it was affordable. At Whole Check Foods it was outrageously priced, I think, $14 for a 7 ounce bag. I think I paid $10.50 at Foodland and it is just as delicious! I just didn’t get to carry around the Whole Check Foods bag. Here in Madison you can’t even find the 100% Kona. Such is the sad state of the People’s Paradise on the Shores of Mendota. ;-)

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Bacon!!!

Not too far from Ladybird Lane is a local watering hole, Bennett’s Meadowood Country Club, with one amazing burger. We stopped by there a couple weeks ago for a quick sandwich and a beer. The menu just lists it as the “Bacon Swiss Burger” but you could truthfully rename it the “Heart Attack Bacon-10X Burger” and not be exaggerating a bit. I counted TEN slices of bacon! And the fries were darn good, too. All washed down with a draft Capital Maibock, it’s a treat.

The owner is a libertarian, it seems, who doesn’t mind taking on the downtown elites and telling them exactly what he thinks of the way they run our fair city. If you’ve been to Madison you know there are more than a few places to quench you’re thirst. So, how do you know you’re at the right place? If you can’t see the US 12-14-18-151 highway signs from inside you’re at the wrong place. Finish your beer and get to Bennett’s for the bacon swiss burger. Check ’em out if you’re in the Madison area (anytime it seems except Sunday mornings!)

The Square, Monroe, Wisconsin

We drove down to Monroe, Wisconsin again a of couple weeks ago and whenever we go there I have to visit the town square to take a few pictures. At the center of the square is the Green County courthouse and around the square you find some nice shops and places to eat. One of the shops’ windows offered a nice reflection of the courthouse so I snapped it. People in Green County are very proud of their Swiss immigrant heritage and their cheesemaking. In fact, this coming weekend, Sept 19-21 is the 100th Cheese Days festival. If you’re feeling a little hungry I definitely recommend Baumgartner’s (if you’re not planning to kiss anyone the rest of the day go for the Limburger with a thick slice of red onion on rye) and Pancho and Leftys (don’t pass up the nachos with smoked pulled pork).

Fava beans from our garden

My wife loved the color of these purple fava beans when we saw them in the Rare Seeds catalog so we gave them a try in our garden. I had never planted fava beans and some of the garden websites made it sound as if it would be difficult to get the plants to bear pods if we didn’t plant them really early in the season or if it got too hot. I planted 25 seeds around May 25th and picked these August 18. A few of the pods were ready to pick a week earlier and there are still a few pods to pick but that’s the bulk of the harvest.

It turned out to be pretty interesting to watch them grow. I thought I had taken some photos of the plants growing but I can’t find them right now. The plant itself is fairly tall with strange leaves for a bean, with small white and black flowers. The stem is square rather than the usual round shape.

If you have any suggestions for how to cook these I’d love to have the recipe. I’m thinking … uhhhh … something with bacon! :-)

Help!!!!!! What’s this mushroom?

What’s this mushroom? I found it in my yard. It looks like a morel from what I’ve seen at our local farmer’s market. But, then again I’m not an expert. Will I die if I eat this??? (Please, only friends answer that question!)

Blackberry bread

Blackberries are in season and there are a lot of them here at Ladybird Lane. I’ve made quite a bit of jam so far and was looking for something else to do with them when I ran onto a recipe for Blueberry Loaf from Marie at People Treats. So, I thought, why not replace the blueberries with blackberries in this recipe. I got a bit of time today to try just that and it worked out pretty well. I didn’t take the time to nicely document how I made the blackberry break. Marie does a nice job of that and since I’m kind of a naturally messy person documenting my baking would be an embarrassing moment for my wife. So, to see photos of the process visit Marie’s blog.

The taste of the blackberry bread is terrific (I added a bit of cinnamon that wasn’t in Marie’s recipe). The blackberries are a bit sour but combined with the sweet dough it is a great combination. And the bread looks good in the pan. One problem I found was that I put too many blackberries into the dough. The blackberry is a bit different in structure from the blueberry and falls apart without too much pressure. There was a pretty high concentration of blackberries in the middle of the loaf. When I removed the loaves from the pans they tore apart a bit in the middle leaving some of the bread on the bottom of the the pan even though it wasn’t really stuck to the bottom of the pan. All of those blackberries are a big plus for flavor but they make it difficult to remove the loaf from the pan without some of the dough in the middle tearing away. I’m thinking the next time I try this I’ll use fewer blackberries and I’ll use one of those cake pans that have the removable bottom. And, next time I’ll lightly flour the bottom of the pan just to make sure there’s no chance of the cake sticking. Hopefully that  will let the blackberry loaf separate from the bottom of the pan a bit more easily.

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Midwest-raised hazelnuts are ripening!

Who’d a thunk it? Hazelnuts raised in the Midwest. I just saw a note from Phil Rutter at Badgersett Research Farm (in Canton, Minnesota) that the hazelnuts they’re growing are starting to ripen. I love hazelnuts but most come from Oregon or some far off place. If you’re living in the Minnesota-Wisconsin-Iowa border area consider a trip to Badgetsett farm for some hazelnuts. Check them out! Here’s a snippet from the note.

Very quick post here, we’re into urgent hand harvest TODAY; still some days before machine harvest will be sensible.

Besides the hazel plants we sell, if you grow hazelnuts you got from Arbor Day, or “Wisconsin” – chances are over 90% you’re actually growing Badgersett genetics; and there’s something you need to know- today.

Some Badgersett hazels – DO NOT TURN BROWN WHEN RIPE.  In particular, the G-029-N tissue culture clones will ripen when entirely white- then vanish as animals eat them while you wait.  We’ve found some seedlings in all breeding lines that share this characteristic, some of which obviously took their pollen from a G-029-N somewhere.

These nuts are FULLY RIPE:

Tasty blackberries

This isn’t too bad for a first grab at the blackberries after taking a few pictures of them yesterday. We had a nice thunderstorm this morning, about six-tenths of an inch. That’s what we needed. Still, we’re about two inches short of the monthly average for August at this point. And, by the way, I even thought of a good thing about the big seeds in these blackberries. Unlike the smaller seeds in the raspberries, these blackberry seeds don’t get caught between any of my teeth. How’s that for finding the silver lining? :-)

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