Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple Harvest Time in Virginia

Warm days, cool nights and a rich deep soil nurtured by consistent rainfall makes Virginia's climate ideal for growing many apple varieties. The apple harvest in Virginia begins in July and extends through early November with the majority of Virginia apples harvested in September, October and early November.

Virginia apple country includes the mountainous region of the northern Shenandoah Valley through the Roanoke Valley, the rich countryside of Albemarle and Rappahannock counties and the southwest counties of Patrick and Carroll. The majority of apples trees are grown in the Shenandoah Valley.

Virginia is the sixth-largest producer of apples in the United States. Virginia has more than 150 commercial apple growers and this year’s harvest should be normal, even if slightly off the five-year average of 5 million to 5.25 million bushels, according to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Most orchards are expecting a larger crop than last year overall. There has been plenty of good rains here lately ... the water makes the fruit big and then the sunshine makes it sweet and you need both. Problems with insects and stinkbugs in particular were not as bad this year from a state perspective.

ALBEMARLE PIPPIN, the most famous of Virginia apples, originated in 1700 near the village of Newtown on Long Island, New York. Col. Thomas Walker of Castle Hill brought scions of the variety back to Albemarle County as he returned from service under General Washington at the battle of Brandywine in 1777. It was grown widely in Virginia by the end of the18th century by agriculturists, including George Washington, John Hartwell Cocke, and Thomas Jefferson. The crisp, juicy, firm flesh and very distinctive taste, along with its excellent keeping qualities, made the Pippin the most prized of American dessert apples from the early 18th century. It grows especially well in the Virginia Piedmont. It is difficult to find today, but when well-grown, remains one of the world's finest apples. Unfortunately, the Pippin is not easy to grow, and as its export market shrank, and food distribution came to be dominated by large chains, it was superseded by easier to manage crops such as the now ubiquitous Delicious varieties. For the connoisseur who prizes a rich, complex flavor and firm, juicy texture, this apple has few peers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Old and New Favorites

It's October, which means new products, some old favorites in new sizes, some old favorites coming back, it's cool enough to ship chocolate again, and it’s not too early to start thinking about holiday entertaining and gifts. Check out our website:
For the chocolate lovers, there's a new gift tin : Chocolate Lover's Tin with extra-large Virginia peanuts covered in creamy milk chocolate, along with plump Cashews and Almonds panned in rich milk chocolate for luxurious sheen.
The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg's old world map chest is now filled with all your favorite nuts choices: Handcooked Virginia Peanuts, Cashews, Chocolate Covered Almonds and Praline Glazed Pecans.
There's a new Nutcracker Tower from The Peanut Shop of Williamsburg with a 32 oz. tin of handcooked salted Virginia Peanuts, a 20 oz. tin of old-fashioned Peanut Crunch, topped off with a 12 oz. tin of Chocolate Covered Peanut Brittle. A thoughtful gift to share with friends, family or business associates.

There are some new tempting Holiday Dessert choices:
Paula Deen Peppermint Layer Cake -Three layers of moist yellow cake with a double thick layer of icing with a hint of peppermint flavor. Decorated with crushed candy cane for a festive holiday finish.
Paula's Pumpkin Gooey Cake - One of Paula's favorite gooey cakes just in time for your seasonal gatherings. This creamy flatcake is bursting with all the holiday flavors you just love!
Bourbon Barrel Cake - A moist brown sugar cake with pure maple and chocolate, soaked in Kentucky bourbon, and topped with walnuts, chocolate and caramel bourbon icing. No alcohol remains after baking, but you can really taste that Bourbon essence! Packed in a handmade wooden barrel gift box.

On the savory side , Smithfield's Cooked Boneless Country Hams is now available in a smaller size - 3.5 lbs. These milder flavor hickory smoked country hams are like a "second cousin" to the Genuine Smithfield Ham, but the curing process has been shortened to allow for a milder, less salty flavor. These country hams are aged to perfection for a minimum of three months but are still dry salt-cured to retain a distinctive country-style flavor.
Sliced Genuine Smithfield Ham with Sweet Potato Biscuits is now available in a larger size: 1 lb. of Ham and 2 dozen Sweet Potato Biscuits. Just stuff these plump sweet potato biscuits with our thinly sliced, salt-cured Genuine Smithfield Ham slices and gently heat for a sweet and salty taste sensation.

New from Smithfield: 24 Layer Square Sweet Potato Cream Cheese Biscuits - With just a hint of cinnamon, the aroma of these baking biscuits will fill up your home... and then your mouth! The new must-have for holiday dining. Serve warm with country ham or dipped in honey or maple syrup. It's Thanksgivng every day of the year with these sweet potato biscuits. All Natural. Two dozen.
Basses's Choice Breakfast - A medley of tasty breakfast fare fit for a King... and selected for the Captain! Country Ham Center Slices 8 oz., Dry Cured Bacon Slices 1 lb., Country Grits 2 lbs., Biscuit Mix 1 lb., and Breakfast Blend Coffee 2 oz. – all nestled in a Basse's Choice wooden logo serving tray. A perfect gift for anyone on your list!
Sides for holiday and other meals: Sweet Potato Casserole - Nothing pairs better with ham, than sweet potatoes. Just like homemade! The season's freshest sweet potatoes are gently mashed and topped with a Dutch crust blend of brown sugar, walnuts, and pecans.
Seasoned Green Beans in a made-from-scratch cream sauce with flavors of mushroom and chicken broth. Topped with sharp cheddar cheese

Welcome Back to Some Old Favorites:
Virginia Country Buffet - An entertaining combination with a Southern flare - our dry salt-cured 3-4 lb. Country "Hamlette" cooked, boneless accompanied by a 5 lb. tender smoked turkey breast. Includes the perfect condiments to complete your entree presentation - 5 oz. of famous Fuller's Natural Mustard and 8 oz. of our own Dunkin' Sauce.
Smokehouse Sampler - We found just the right combination: Half 8-10 lb. Honey Cured & Honey Glazed Spiral Ham complemented by a 5 lb. breast of Smoked Turkey and 5 oz. of Fuller's Mustard. Both ready to eat for casual buffet entertaining or formal dining. Another perfect gift for friends or family.
Check out our website:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sept.13 is National Peanut Day

National Peanut Day is the peanuttiest of days. FYI, peanuts are not nuts. They are "legumes", like peas, beans, and lentils.

Peanuts are one of America's favorite snack foods. Americans consume more than 6 pounds of peanuts and peanut products each year," according to the American Peanut Council Peanuts are more than just a snack food. Peanuts are the main ingredient in peanut butter. Peanuts star in a variety of recipes, and is a topping for countless foods and desserts. Many Chinese recipes use peanuts in main menu items. Peanuts once took the rap as a not so healthy food. More recent research suggests that peanuts can reduce cardiovascular disease and lower triglycerides in the body. Peanuts are high in protein and fiber and are now believed to help curb hunger, and therefore help in diet control.

Other Peanuttiest of days of the year:
National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day on April 2and.
National Peanut Butter Lover's Day on March 1st

Celebrate National Peanut Day by eating peanuts wherever and whenever you can during that day. Eating peanut butter counts, too.

Check out our vast selection of Virginia Peanuts and Peanut Gifts or The Peanut Shop of Williamsburgs all Natural Peanut Butter made with Virginia Peanuts.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why Do We Have Labor Day?

Hope you' all had a great Labor Day! FYI: The first big Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882, by the Central Labor Union of New York. It was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882.
Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday in 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor day. Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. Military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date is observed by all U.S. States, the District of Columbia, and the territories which have made it a statutory holiday, the first Monday in September.
The holiday is regarded as a day of rest and socials. Traditionally, Labor day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. In high society, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable for women to wear white.
In U.S. sports, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons.
And one of the last, but not least, in the U.S. most school districts that started summer vacation in early to mid-June will resume school near this day.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

August is National Picnic Month

A picnic is a pleasure excursion at which a meal is eaten outdoors ideally taking place in a beautiful landscape such as a park, beside a lake or with an interesting view and possibly at a public event such as before an open air theatre performance, and usually in summer. Picnics are often family-oriented but can also be an intimate occasion between two people or a large get-together such as company picnics and church picnics. It is also sometimes combined with a cookout. A picnic basket and picnic blanket are usually brought along.
A fun place to picnic in Charlottesville is Carter Mountain Orchard. Carter Mountain has always been synonymous with pick your own peaches and apples and is absolutely the place to go if you want the best views in Charlottesville. Now, add yet another reason for making it up the breathtaking 1,150 feet to the peak - the Carter Mountain Wine Shop. Carter Mountain Orchard has partnered with Madison County’s Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery, which has held a dominant presence in Virginia for over 26 years. Prince Michel has been using Carter Mountain grapes to create their award-winning wines for years. The venture to open a tasting room at the very site of the vineyard is now a successful reality! In 2010, they started the “Sunsets on Carter Mountain” summer series! From mid-June through mid-September, visit Carter Mountain until 8PM on Thursdays for live music, wine and food, and spectacular vistas.
Some picnic foods include include Virginia Peanuts, Specialty Nuts, Peanut Butter Straws, Seafood Dips, Pork Barbecue and Gourmet Cakes from Rowena.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Smithfield, Virginia - Hams, History, Hospitality & HeART

Soon after the town of Smithfield, Virginia was established in 1752, the succulent amber colored dry-salt hams made from peanut-fed hogs started a tradition that would make Smithfield, Virginia famous the world over. Smithfield is located on the Pagan River which feeds directly into the James River. A short trip along the scenic Colonial Parkway to the Jamestown/Scotland Ferry, a relaxing 20-minute free ferry ride across the beautiful James River, and a lovely country drive through Surry County brings you to the heart of downtown Smithfield, Virginia. The Historic District is the hub, where bustling art galleries and specialty shops, town offices and historic buildings coexist peacefully among the quaint Gothic, stately Colonial and sprawling Victorian homes. The river takes center stage at the entrance to the historic district where area icon, Smithfield Station, holds the spotlight with its replica Victorian Coast Guard Station hotel, restaurant, marina and lighthouse. Just across the street, is one of three convenient entrances to Smithfield's newest attraction - Windsor Castle Park. This gorgeous, 209-acre park includes over 4 miles of scenic woodland trails., a state-of-the-art kayak/canoe launch, a dog park, picnic areas and a mountain bike path. Other historic attractions include St. Lukes (c 1632), Boykin's Tavern, the Old Courthouse of 1750, Fort Boykin, Historic Fort Huger, and the Schoolhouse Museum, an African-American History Museum of Public Education.

And of course, Smithfield is the Ham Capital of the World so great dining abounds with something to please every taste bud, from the Historic Smithfield Inn, riverside dining at Smithfield Station, to a gourmet bakery, international tea shop and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor. Be sure to stop by the Isle of Wight Museum with its overview of local history and most notable artifact - the oldest cured ham.

Plan a trip around one of the many weekly events the area offers -from free outdoor concerts to a monthly arts stroll. The ferry crossing, which connects Jamestown to Scotland is a great introduction to the area. When you stand at the bow, it's easy to imagine the excitement felt by our early colonists as they sailed the James River. We're hoping to take this trip later this summer. You can always order some Smithfield Ham from our website,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Elegant Way to Celebrate National Ice Cream Month

While flipping through Food & Wine magazine the other day I came across a recipe for Apple-Butter Ice Cream served with Gingersnap cookies. Mmmm, I thought, that sounds interesting. It reminds me of the wonderfully delicious satisfying combination of Apple Pie and Ice Cream. If you crave the combination but don’t want to turn on your oven to make an apple pie in this hot weather, you might find this a great summer substitute. Also, by the way, July is National Ice Cream Month, so here’s a treat to celebrate it. Ronald Reagan designated National Ice Cream Month in 1984. He recognized the popularity of ice cream in the United States and also appointed the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day.

Try this recipe using our incredibly smooth and perfectly spiced Graves Mountain Apple Butter: Apple-Butter Ice Cream with Ginger-Chocolate Ganache
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup apple butter
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
Gingersnaps, for serving

Soften the vanilla ice cream in the microwave at high power for 10 seconds. Transfer the softened ice cream to a medium bowl and flatten it with a rubber spatula. Spread the apple butter on top and fold the ice cream over the apple butter 2 or 3 times. Freeze the ice cream until it is firm, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, melt the chopped chocolate at high power in 10-second bursts. Whisk the heavy cream into the chocolate. Put the grated ginger in a fine strainer set over the chocolate ganache and press to extract as much of the ginger juiced as possible. Whisk the ginger juice into the chocolate ganache. For a caramel-like sauce, substitute dulce de leche for the melted chocolate.

Scoop the apple-butter ice cream into bowls, drizzle with the ginger-chocolate ganache or caramel sauce and serve with gingersnaps.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fourth of July

Variously known as the Fourth of July and Independence Day, July 4th has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-83). In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighed a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 until the present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence. This most American of holidays is marked by parades, fireworks, concerts and family gatherings and backyard barbecues across the country. If you’re gearing up for the 4th of July weekend, you might want to think about stocking up on some picnic and barbecue staples.
The Virginia Marketplace has lots ideas in our Fourth of July section. Start with extra large Virginia Peanuts, salted, unsalted, seasoned, sweet, in-shell in bags or bushel baskets and peanut baskets. Continue on with Southern Pork Barbecue, Chicken Barbecue, James River Barbecue Sauce, Virginia Gentleman Barbecue Sauce, Pork Baby Back Ribs, Seafood Dips from Blue Crab Bay. Finish your feast with an Almond Star Pound Cake or Rowena's Island Kissed Lime Pound Cake.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Graves Mountain Festival of Music

Graves’ Mountain Festival of Music opened last Thursday and ran through June 4 on the grounds of Graves’ Mountain Lodge near Syria. Fiddles, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers and guitars got new strings in anticipation of one of the biggest weekends of the year for bluegrass music. Thousands of fans turned out in droves to listen to some of the biggest names in the genre. There were perennial favorites like Seldom Scene, the Grascals, Lonesome Highway, the Lonesome River Band, Dailey and Vincent and Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. The festival also has earned a reputation for staying fresh and current by including acts that are creating a buzz in the bluegrass industry, or have never played this particular venue before. Much of the credit can go to bluegrass musician and producer Mark Newton, who books the acts every year. He helped found the festival in 1993, along with Jimmy and Rachel Graves and Sonny Ludlam. This year there was a Rural Rhythm Records CD for sale, "The All-Star Jam - Live at Graves' Mountain" which was recorded last year in celebration of Rural Rhythm Records’ 55th anniversary. It was named one of the top 10 bluegrass CDs of 2010. One of the tracks on the recording, “Graves’ Mountain Memories,” written by Carl Jackson, made it to the top 20 on the national Bluegrass Unlimited chart. Bluegrass Music Profiles magazine did a feature on the record for its recent issue. For 19 years, something special has occurred around this time of year at Graves' Mountain Lodge.

Graves Mountain uses their home-cooking genes to produce the Graves Mountain Brand, specializing in Apple Butter and also Preserves. The Virginia Marketplace offers many Graves Mountain Preserves and Delicious Apple Butter and Green Pepper Jelly in 9 oz. Jars . We also feature them in gift sets, gift boxes and Virginia Marketplace Gift Baskets.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Strawberry Season in Virginia

One of the sweetest seasons is underway in Virginia, with strawberries ripening and ready for picking. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says growers in Tidewater and Southside saw strawberry picking first for Mother's Day, followed by central and the rest of Virginia. In Charlottesville, strawberry picking is going on right now! Strawberry season usually lasts through June in cooler parts of Virginia. While Virginia only has 250 acres of strawberry fields, each acre produces a significant amount of fruit. On average, an acre yields about 18,000 pounds of strawberries.

Growers say a relatively cool spring has been good for their berries. The recent hot spell has been the finishing touch on what they're calling a sweet berry season.

Most strawberry seasons last four to five weeks, depending on the heat. If the days get too hot, the plants quit producing berries. Hot weather makes the plant want to shut down, and we don’t want that because we want the season to last as long as possible.

Strawberries are a good source of vitamins A and C and are packed with other nutrients, including calcium, potassium and folate. At only 50 calories per cup, they’re a good-for-you spring food.

Strawberries are well represented at the Virginia Marketplace by Graves Mountain Strawberry Preserves. Graves Mountain Lodge is nestled deep in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Syria, Virginia. Graves Mountain Lodge established its cannery in 1980. They use family recipes to make their old-fashioned preserves unmatched for their quality and goodness. They cook their preserves in open kettles. The batches are kept small and each product is made as needed. They use the finest quality fruit, pure cane sugar and all natural seasonings in creating a product they feel is as good as "Grandma used to make."

You can get Graves Mountain Strawberry Preserves
in a set of three and in preserve samplers

in gift boxes

and in gift baskets.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Virginia Foods for Memorial Day

It's almost Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. Observed every year on the last Monday of May, it is a U.S. federal holiday that began after the Civil War as Decoration Day. It was first enacted to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers who died while in military service. After World War I it was extended to honor Americans who have died in all wars. Memorial Day has since also become a long weekend increasingly devoted to barbecues, family get-togehers, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 (since 1911) and the Coca-Cola 600 (since 1960) auto races. Here are some Virginia food ideas from The Virginia Marketplace for your Memorial Day get-togethers:

Carolina Syle Pork Barbecue

Blue Crab Bay Seafood Dips

James River Barbecue Sauce

A Peanut Shop Sampler of Virginia Peanuts

In-Shell Virginia Peanuts

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Virginia's Finest Products

Virginia made foods and beverages that have earned the Virginia's Finest trademark distinction of quality make tasteful and unique presents for personal and business occasions. Discover sauces, soups, baking mixes, fruit preserves, cakes and other gourmet foods and beverages all made in Virginia, plus classic favorites such as Virginia hams and Virginia peanuts. What is Virginia's Finest? The Virginia's Finest trademark signifies that agricultural and food products have met quality standards established by industries and approved by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Looking for Virginia gift baskets? The Virginia Marketplace has many to choose from filled with Virginia's Finest products. Some have received awards for gift packaging such as Blue Crab Bay's Nautical Gift Pack for their seafood soups. Some have been featured on Rachel Ray's Snack of the Day such as Feridies Salted Virginia Peanuts. Many Chincoteague Seafood Soups have been Awarded the American Taste Award of Excellence Certificate. We create our own unique gift baskets filled with Virginia products that make great gifts for clients, family members, friends or collegues!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Easter Recipes Using Virginia Foods

Easter is April 24 this year. In the United States, ham is a traditional Easter food. In the early days, meat was slaughtered in the fall. There was no refrigeration, and the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were ready around the time Easter rolled around. Thus, ham was a natural choice for the celebratory Easter dinner. Here's some tasty recipes to try.

Southern-Style Peach Honey Ham Bake is a great way to dress up Smithfield's Spiral Ham for a special occasion. 1 fully cooked, Smithfield Spiral Ham, 1 cup peach preserves, 2 tbsp. spicy mustard, 2 tbsp. peach nectar, 1 1/2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup honey. In a small saucepan combine all ingredients and bring to a simmer. Brush 1/3 of the mixture over the ham and bake uncovered for approximately 1 hour or until a meat thermometer reads 130 degrees F., brushing with the glaze every 20 minutes. Let the ham stand 10 minutes before carving. Serve with any remaining sauce.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Easter Eggs is a fun dessert the kids with love to help make and the adults will love to eat. 2 cups The Peanut Shop of Willamsburg Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, 3/4 cup butter, room temperature, 3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted 3 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal, 1 1/2 packages (18 ounces) dark chocolate chips, 2 tbsp. vegetable shortening, 1/2 bag (6 ounces), white chocoalte chips (optional) Coconut (optional). In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine peanut butter and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sifted confectioner's sugar. Reduce the speed to low and add the crispy rice cereal just until combined. Cover and place the bowl in the refrigerator for about an hour (do not skip this step). Line a baking tray with wax paper. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Shape the mixture into egg shapes and place on the wax lined baking tray. Recipe makes approximately 20 eggs. Place baking tray in the freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Spring is Here

Spring has arrived. Some spring vegetables we look forward to are peas and asparagus. Here are some recipes to try using these spring vegetables and Smithfield products. Spring Pea, Mint and Bacon Salad: This bright spring green salad of sugar snap peas and sweet green peas is loaded with crispy bacon and tossed in a lemony vinaigrette. Ingredients: 1 lb. Smithfield bacon, cooked until crisp an roughly chopped 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas 1 lb. sugar snap peas, strings removed 2 tsp. sugar 2 tbsp. Champagne vinegar (can substitute white wine vinegar) 3 tbsp. olive oil Juice and zest from 1 lemon 1/4 cup fresh mint Steps: Prepare a medium bowl of ice water. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the mint to the peas and drizzle with the dressing. Toss to coat. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add chopped bacon. Toss and arrange attractively on serving plates. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve with grilled pork or lamb.

Elegant Ham, Sausage and Asparagus Brunch Bake Ingredients: 12 oz. Paula Deen Ham Sausage 1/2 lb. fresh Asparagus 1- 1 1/2 cup seasoned croutons 2 tbsp. butter, melted 1/4 cup green onions, sliced 1- 1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar 2 tbsp. parsley, chopped 4 eggs, beaten 1 3/4 cup milk 1/2 tsp. dry mustard 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper Directions: Cook ham sausage according to package directions. Drain and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Set aside. Cut asparagus into 1-inch diagonal pieces. Cook in boilng salted water 2 minutes or until just tender. Drain and set aside. Grease a 13X9X2 inch baking pan. Place half of croutons in dish; drizzle with half of butter. Layer with half of the cooked ham sausage, asparagus, green onions, cheese and parsley. Repeat layers. Beat together remaining ingredients. Pour over casserole. Cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Uncover casserole and bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and set. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Trip to Puffenbarger's Sugar Orchard

Went to the Highland County Maple Festival this weekend to pick up jugs of maple syrup for our gift baskets and gift boxes and get my maple doughnut fix. We get our syrup at Puffenbargers Sugar Orchard on Route 637 (Maple Sugar Road) outside Monterey. The Puffenbarger's have rebuilt their sugar camp following a devastating fire in 2008.

The Puffenbarger's Sugar Orchard has been in continuous operation for over 100 years. When a fire destroyed the Puffenbarger's Sugar House on Feb. 26, 2008 they rebuilt with the help of family and friends. Ivan started helping his father when he was too little to do much. He tied him on a horse with his belt to keep him out of everyone's way. When Ivan's father, Melvin, operated the orchard he drilled trees with an auger operated by hand, collected the sugar water in buckets, and carried those buckets by horse to the sugar house. He would make about 10 gallons of syrup a day.

When Ivan bought the business from his father in 1959 and started to make changes. They began using a tractor ato tow barrels of sugar water back to the sugar house. They went from 250 buckets collected each day to more like 1000. This took about eight men most of the night to collect all the water. Ivan had an idea that would change his maple production. He began using plastic tubing rather than buckets to collect the maple ssugar water. The first year they connected about half the trees by plastic tubing and were able to see how well it worked. The following year they went to all plastic tubing and collected water by the flow of gravity. At that time, Ivan had only one evaporator but soon bought another. Ivan got a big idea to hook up the milking machine, used from the dairy, to the trees. Everyone made fun of him and thought he'd lost his mind. The milking machine would typically milk from four to eight cows at a time, but when he connected it to the trees it was effectively milking 800 trees at once. By the end of the year, he cut eight men from his labor force and upped the production by 25%. In 1980 they added another innovation, the reverse osmosis machine. It would help keep the concentrated sugar water and throw away the purified water. The machine took out about 35 gallons of water of the original 50 gallons of sugar water. That would save him time in cooking the water down. About 30 gallons of syrup is made per hour compared to 10 gallons made a day when his father made syrup many years ago. They soon outgrew the production of their own 800 trees and started leasing more trees from other farms. They tap over 2000 trees with over 11000 taps.

Depending on the sugar content, it usually takes about 50 gallons or more of sugar water to make one gallon of maple syrup. Ideal conditions for syrup production are nighttime temperatures below freezing and daytime temperatures rising between 40 or 50 degrees. The syrup producting season usually ends by the end of March.

Friday, March 11, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

When we think of St. Patrick's Day, we think of eating Corned Beef and Cabbage. Here is an interesting fact you may not know about Corned Beef and Cabbage. Corned Beef and Cabbage is the traditional meal enjoyed by many on St. Patrick's Day, but only half of it is truly Irish. Cabbage has long been a staple of the Irish diet, but it is traditionally served with Irish bacon, not corned beef. The corned beef was substituted for bacon by Irish immigrants to the Americas around the turn of the century who could not afford the real thing. They learned about the cheaper alternative from their Jewish neighbors.

How about trying something different like Country Ham and Cabbage - Smithfield Style!
2-3 chunks of Country Ham, cooked
1 quart of fresh water
2 Bay Leaves
1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
2 slices Country Bacon, chopped
1 medium Onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon Mustard Seed, toasted
8 small red-skinned Potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons fresh Parsley, chopped
1 large head of Cabbage, quartered then halved
Combine first four ingredients in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and add cabbage. Simmer for 3/4 to 1 hour. Saute bacon with onion, garlic, and mustard seed. Add to pot, along with potatoes. Continue to simmer for 30-45 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with hot cornbread.

And for something else different, if you have leftovers, try this Corned Beef and Cabbage Casserole recipe using Blue Crab Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer. To make this, you need leftover sliced potatoes, and leftover sliced or shredded boiled cabbage. The quantity you make depends upon how much of these ingredients you have on hand. You need a Pyrex baking dish large enough to hold at least one layer of each of these leftovers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat bottom of Pyrex dish lightly with olive oil. Arrange single layer of potatoes, followed by a layer of corned beef, followed by a layer of cabbage. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. celeryt seed and 1/2 tsp. basil then add another layer of potatoes. Drizzle Sting Ray Mixer over the top of the top of the casserole and along the sides of the dish. Sprinkle the top with Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foilo and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Monticello Reserve Ale

Big news in Charlottesville's world of microbrews. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation and Starr Hill, a microbrewery that started in Charlottesville and has won 14 prestigous awards for its craft beers, have teamed up and here is the Feb.01,2011 Press Release from the Starrr Hill website:

Introducing Monticello's new microbrew, just in time for President's Day!

Monticello Reserve Ale will be sold in 750ml bottles at Monticello and Starr Hill's Tasting Room ONLY. It will be brewed and bottled locally at Starr Hill Brewery, in Crozet, Virginia, by Master Brewer Mark Thompson.

A revolution is brewing in the artisanal beer worlk, inspired by the taste of Thomas Jefferson and what was brewed historically at Monticello. The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, in collaboration with Starr Hill Brewery, announces the launch of Monticello Reserve Ale, the official beer of Monticello.The public is invited to a free tasting to celebrate the launch of Monticello Reserve Ale, Presidents' Day, Monday February 21, 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. -in the Thomas Jefferson Visitor Center Museum Shop at Monticello. The launch will include the tapping of the first keg. Free tastings will be provided.

Monticello Reserve Ale is inspired by what was produced and consumed regularly at Monticello. It is made from a combination of wheat and corn, lightly hopped. Brewing beer was an important plantation activity at Monticello. Beer, one of the "table liquors" served with meals, was a staple of the Jefferson household. Records go back to 1772, when Jefferson's wife Martha oversaw the periodic brewing operations, producing 15 gallon casks of small beer - beer with low alcohol content - about every two weeks.

In 1815, Jefferson writes in a letter to Joseph Coppinger (himself a brewer):"I am lately become become a brewer for family use, having had the benefit of instruction to one of my people by an Englishh brewer of the first order."

Large-scale brewing began with the appearanace of a British brewer detained in Albemarle County during the War of 1812. Captain Joseph Miller improved upon the quality and quantity of Monticello beer, introducing ale, stronger beer suited to storage. While at Monticello, Joseph Miller trained the enslaved Peter Hemings in the arts of malting and brewing. Hemings - a brother of Sally - carried on the brewing operations, making 100 gallons of ale every spring and fall.

Jefferson wrote in 1821 that he had "no receipt for brewing," doubting "if the operations of malting and brewing could be successfully performed from a receipt." Using ingredients grown on the Monticello plantation, Jefferson's brews varied based on the grains that were available at any given time, including barley, and larger quantities of corn and wheat. At Monticello, about three-quarters of a pound of hops were used for every bushel of malt.

Presidents' Day Tasting
Monday, February 21, noon to 3:00 p.m.
12:15 p.m. Tapping of the first keg
Free public tasting

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recipes for Entertaining With Virginia Country Ham Slices

Here are some ideas for entertaining with Virginia Genuine Smithfield or Country Ham Slices just in time for Super Bowl:
Fruit Picks: Wap thin ham slices around melon balls, fresh figs, or pear slices. Serve with picks.
Honey Blues: Spread softened Blue Cheese on baguette slices, top with ham slices, and drizzle with honey.
Party Rolls: Mix softened butter with brown sugar, Dijon mustard, ground cinnamon and ground cloves to taste. Spread on tiny yeast rolls and stuff with thinly sliced ham. Wrap in foil and heat until warm.
Country Ham & Sweet Potato Crescents: Add a spoonful of cooked sweet potato and a slice of country ham to a flat refrigerated crescent and roll before rolling into shape. Lightly sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar before baking.
Chicken Smithfield: Stuff boneless butterflied chicken breasts with ham slices and white cheese. Sprinkle with olive oil and chopped herbs, wrap with bacon and bake.
Caesar Salad Smithfield-Style: Just add strips of thinly sliced country ham to a savory Caesar Salad

Monday, January 24, 2011

Entertaining With Blue Crab Bay Crab Cheese Ball Kits

We all love the seafood dips of Blue Crab Bay, but if you need something more elegant, then try their Crab Cheese Ball Kits. We just got in some Blue Crab Bay Crab Cheese Ball Kits, just in time for Super Bowl. Also, we are less than two months away from National Cheese Ball Day, April 17. National Cheese Ball Day is a day to stuff yourself with cheese balls! Celebrate any day with cheese balls. Serve them after dinner, during your favorite television show, or whenever it's convenient. Blue Crab Bay's Crab Cheese Ball Kit comes with a tin of premium crabmeat, crab seasoning and a packet of crushed Crab House Nuts (Extra large gourmet Virginia peanuts cooked in peanut oil and seasoned with spicy Chesapeake Bay Seasoning). Each kit makes two 6.5 cheese balls.

Here's a tip about making cheese balls. Don't think big...large cheese balls have several problems. First, after a few people dig in, a large cheese ball looks entirely unappealing. Second, because large cheese ball sits around longer than smaller versions, there's more time for the nuts to get soggy by absorbing moisture from the cheese.

We are featuring Blue Crab Bay Crab Cheese Ball Kits in some new gift baskets: Tasteful Treats Galore! , a smaller version, Tasteful Treats ! with Blue Crab Bay Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer and one with Alpenglow Sparkling Apple Cider, and Party at the Beach!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Super Bowl Snacks

Super Bowl is upon us. Celebrate the great American holiday with foods from Virginia. It's time to enjoy those extra large crunchy Virginia peanuts you may have left from the holiday. If you have gone through them and need some more, we have them....salted, unsalted, seasoned, sweet, chocolate covered, in-shell, and boiled. The pistachio basket and peanut basket are perfect for your nut loving friends on game day or anytime company comes to enjoy snacking around the house. Some great party foods for the day are Calzones, Vegetable Torta, Ribs, or how about Sweet Potato Biscuits with Ham. These and lots more ideas are in our Super Bowl Snacks section, so celebrate the Super Bowl with Virginia Foods.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Happy New Year!

We want to wish all our customers a Happy 2011! and thank you for helping us have a successful holiday season. Thanks for your support of Virginia products! Now back to blogging. It has been a cold, blustery winter in Virginia. now has been falling regularly. A great time to warm your tummy with a cup of Steamer Hot Cocoa or some James River Brunswick Stew.

Now that the new year is here, we have some winter-themed gift baskets that can be used long after the Virginia treats are gone. The Seafood Lover's Gift Basket! and Snow Day! are in a basket decorated with cheery snowmen. The Seafood Lover's Gift Basket is filled with a variety of seafood soups, Crab Town Chesapeake Bay seasoned Virginia peanuts, a clam dip kit and Blue Crab Bay Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer. The soup to warm you, the clam dip and Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer for comfort and the peanuts remind us that warm days will come again.

Snow Day! is an assortment of Virginia foods to be enjoyed on a snowy day. Pancakes and apple butter or honey to start the day. White Chocolate Flavor Steamer Cocoa and First Colony Coffee to wash them down. Crab Dip and Peanut Straws to snack on after shoveling or playing in the snow.

Let It Snow! With Blue Crab Bay Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer is another basket decorated with frolicking snowmen. This basket includes a variety of Blue Crab Bay seafood soups to enjoy through the winter and Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer with Crab Town peanuts and Clam Dip for munching.

Winter is a great time to enjoy Virginia foods!!!